One of the common complaints about the Glass family's management/stewardship of the Kansas City Royals franchise is that they "Run it like Wal-Mart". What silliness. The fact is that the way the Royals are managed is about as far from how Wal-Mart is managed as it possibly can be, as anyone who has done business with Wal-Mart can attest.
Of course, the philosophy behind the criticism is that the Glass family has kept tight purse strings on team payroll. That's true, of course. But that has precious little to do with the way Wal-Mart is managed. In fact, if the Royals were "run like Wal-Mart," the team would be different in three vital ways:
1. Statistical Analysis Would Be Paramount. Few companies are as statistically astute, or run as tightly by the numbers, as Wal-Mart. In fact, the amount of information that Wal-Mart managers (and other management staff, and vendors) have at their disposal about store performance is dazzling. Pick any square foot in the store, and a Wal-Mart manager can tell you the annual sales for that square foot, not to mention gross profits, inventory turns, return on investment, and a hundred other measurements of retail sales performance.
Granted, Wal-Mart can sometimes take this to an extreme. One of the favorite stories that I heard is of Bill Long, at the time the Vice President for General Merchandise, walking into a meeting of Lawn and Garden department managers, tossing a report down on the table, and saying, "Lawnmower sales were down 30% yesterday. What the hell happened?" Still, a Wal-Mart store is one of the more statistically-managed stores in the retail business, and that's no accident.
The implications for baseball are obvious. From Dayton Moore to Ned Yost to the coaching staff, the Royals continue to reject basic statistical analysis in their decision making (not to mention advanced stats), and we continue to suffer for it. It would be great to see David Glass hire a General Manager who was as statistically savvy as the average Wal-Mart store manager.
2. The Team Would Not Be Managed By Emotion. The Royals are, if nothing else, a cuddly organization. They're cuddly because, given the reason for hard-nosed decision making, GMDM and the rest of the Royal staff will quail every time in favor of platitudes about "good Christian people," "great work ethic," and of course general purpose "grittiness." I've said for years that I would have fired Dayton Moore the moment that he publicly broke into tears over firing Trey Hillman, a manager who perhaps deserved to be fired more than any other manager in Royals history.
Emotions rule decision making at Kauffman. The emotional investment in Mike Moustakas delayed his demotion to Omaha by at least a year, and perhaps a year and a half. Emotions dictate a 'small ball' strategy of bunts and steals when it's proven that these are a failed strategy. Emotions dictate the constant excuse-making over the Royals' continued boycott of the extra-base hit instead of finding ways to have hitters that will actually, you know, hit for power. Emotions ruined Gil Meche's arm.
Wal-Mart is not an emotional company, and its management decisions are not ruled by gut feel or emotional investment. Their loyalty is governed by usefulness to the company and personal productivity.
3. The Royals Would be Committed to Constant Talent Development. If there's anything that has distinguished the Royals in recent years, it's the lack of player development and progression. We have watched virtually every important Royal regress this year, and it appears that it isn't of particular concern to anyone in management. Wal-Mart is a company that offers it employees opportunities for advancement and increasing responsibility.
Now, based on this, you might think that I'm a huge fan of doing business with Wal-Mart. However, I'm not. Being a vendor to them was not a fun experience; however, it was easy to recognize what they do well. And if there's anything that the Kansas City Royals could use, it's a dose of Wal-Mart management culture.