Monday, April 03, 2006

David Littlefield extended


In a nauseating move, Kevin McClatchy has extended David Littlefield's contract through the 2008 season. This is wrong on so many levels. At LEAST, KM should've waited until mid-season to see how the team looks.

This is also depressing because it indicates that the current ownership group does not plan to sell.

Heaven help us.


The joy that usually accompanies opening day is tempered today by this unfortunate announcement.

I had hoped that, with McClendon gone as a scapegoat for all that has ailed the Pirates the past few years, the pressure would now be squarely on Dave Littlefield to deliver this year or to follow McClendon off the plank. But the announcement of Littlefied's extension makes me realize that the real question is, to deliver what?

We the fans, and more specifically the tiny minority of fans who care enough about the Pirates to write about them almost every day on blogs and message boards, are what would be called "stakeholders" in business terms. We are a group of people who hold a stake in the enterprise. We care almost exclusively about one thing: the team's won-lost record. We want them to win so that we can experience a real baseball pennant race and post season. Our mistake is to assume that all stakeholders have the same goals. It's simply not true.

Presumably, the men who own the team--principally the Nutting family of West Virginia--want the team to improve its won-lost record too, but that is by no means their only goal, and other goals, such as profitability, are no doubt as important or more important to them. The Nuttings are not Mark Cuban, and the Pirates are not their plaything; the Pirates are a part of their business portfolio, and they expect all of their holdings to perform profitably.

So what does a successful general manager need to do to satisfy his employers? What constitutes success for Dave Littlefield? It's more than just to improve the won-lost record; a big part of Littlefield's job is public relations--successfully convincing the large majority of the populace that the team and its ownership also care about improving the won-lost record, even when there is credible evidence to the contrary. That Littlefied has largely succeeded in this important part of his job--save for the rantings of a handful of disgruntled fans like me, Zeke, and those of you who are reading this--is, when you think of it, remarkable in light of our now 13-season run of futility. I would say that this constitutes some form of success for Dave Littlefield, just not the form that I would like.

Hence, the contract extension.


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