Monday, June 18, 2007

Random Thoughts for a Monday

On Sunday the New York Times ran a story on the Oakland Athletics' new stadium in Fremont, CA. (Don't even get me started on "Oakland's" new stadium in "Fremont" -- as someone once said, Fremont is a parking lot with a mayor) The article stated that the goal of the new stadium was to generate a consistent revenue stream for the team, allowing general manager and MoneyLaw Patron Saint Billy Beane greater flexibility in acquiring and keeping talent:

“If we can get a ballpark the way we’re trying to do it, with the management talent we have,” Lew Wolff said, “we can have a consistent cash flow that would allow us to have a shot at being a little more like a dynasty like they used to have, at least a semidynasty.”

In his third season as owner of the Athletics, Wolff looks forward to the construction of a revenue-producing park in Fremont, Calif., expected to be completed by 2011. Put money in the hands of the team’s general manager, Billy Beane, and it could become a dangerous weapon.

In his 10-year tenure as general manager, Beane has not known what it is like to have money to spend. The prospect of suddenly having money, in fact, raises the question of what effect it could have on Beane. Will he know what to do with it? Will he react to it like a child let loose in a candy store and go wild, snatching one of everything in sight? Or will he shun the money and go on doing his business in his tried-and-true way?

A couple of things struck me about this story:
  • First, the clear concern of the author that a general manager who is exceptional at making something out of very little might not be the right fit for a team trying to make a lot out of a lot. Much as Beane has been criticized for putting together a team that can win in the regular season but not in the playoffs, it may be that building a team of high-priced free agents is simply not what his skills are best suited for. In the same way, it would be crazy to think that the same dean would be able to turn around a failing school and be able to turn a mediocre school into an excellent one. Those are such different tasks that success in one area would not necessarily translate into success in the other.
  • Second, I was reminded of Bill Henderson's post on ELS last week in which he argued, not for the first time, that the only way for a dean to truly turn around a school is to increase the size of the pie available to her to distribute. While a manager can overachieve with a limited budget for a while, he argued, in the long run a school needs more resources and that the way to get them is to graduate happy graduates who will give back to the institution.
So the A's will have money (following Bill's advice, one can only assume) and will have to find out if the general manager who saw them through small-market poverty is the one to lead them back to the glory days.

(Man, I never get tired of that image. Those were truly simpler times.)


Blogger Nancy Rapoport said...

I don't think money's the only component of the MoneyLaw answer, although having a larger pie certainly helps. (That's why deans spend so much time raising money.)

Money is, let's say, a necessary but not sufficient component of a MoneyLaw school. The community has also to want to spend some of its time devoted to the common enterprise. In other words, faculty members must work HARD on committee work and on sharing ideas in teaching and scholarship.

Money without community just exacerbates the feeling of independent contractors, IMHO.

6/18/2007 9:32 PM  
Blogger sam kamin said...

I couldn't agree more. Necessary but not sufficient seems exactly right. A school cannot become great unless it has the resources to meet its goals. But unless everyone is moving in the same direction, you're exactly right, money can't buy hard work.

This got me to thinking. What's the legal academic equivalent of this year's Yankees or the Baltimore Orioles of about 10 years ago? Who's squandering a wealth of resources with little to show for it? Maybe anonymous posts here would encourage honesty?

6/19/2007 12:30 PM  

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