February 25, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

An off-topic rant about a local business

By Derek

I worked for AT&T Wireless for five years, when were in Kirkland, Remond, and when IT went to Bothell. I was there when it was a great company, innovative, and led by Dan Hesse. I think we all loved Hesse… he was a guy who’d leave company-wide voicemails like “Hey, I’m in Chicago– and it really is windy here. We’re out here because…” or to tell everyone it was the first sunny day of the year so anyone not on a critical project should go enjoy it, and those people left behind would get the next sunny day off.

I was annoyed when they put one of AT&T’s lawyers, John Zeglis, in charge of the place, and kept working after Hesse left and they appointed a former CFO in Hesse’s old job. Zeglis remained in New Jersey with his own mini-staff even after AWS spun off from AT&T, which was nice: we weren’t important enough to have our leader work at HQ with the rest of us slobs. I stuck it out as things got worse and worse, as we lost our way, our leadership, and we made bad decision after bad decision about the business, did things everyone knew at every level were stupid. I stayed through the constant outsourcing (and despite what you may have read, Wireless has been sending jobs to India for a long time, but quietly, one product or service at a time), because I really liked the people I was working with. I finally moved on, and now they’re going away as a company.

John Zeglis, for taking the best cellular company in the country and driving it into the ground, will make millions of dollars. On a recent company conference call he told those who were annoyed about their options being rendered worthless after the takeover that he felt their pain, because he had a lot of options underwater.

You can go look up the insider trading records, though, and ask yourself this: if Zeglis made (say) $11m in salary, stock grants and super-low priced options he exercised, how painful is it for him that some portion of his options didn’t pan out?

Is that more or less painful than someone making $40k who is now out a job in a crappy economy for Seattle IT workers?

Can Zeglis, so well compensated, really empathize with all my friends who worked their ass off to make him that money, and saw their dreams fail and their company fade away despite their best efforts?

I can at least understand arguments that truly succesful visionary leaders deserve great compensaion. I never understood how the board of AWS could in good faith grant Zeglis so much money, over and over, lower his performance targets so he could get his bonuses when the company struggled. It’s thievery.

I kept my Wireless service after I left, maybe in the hope that one more subscription would help everyone I left… force of habit?

And today, despite my repeated requests to knock it off, Wireless spammed me with a “Service notification” that I could vote for American Idol on my phone. So next chance I get, I’m switching services.

Screw you, Zeglis, and your millions. Never has such ripe incompetence been so richly rewarded. I hope your conscience wakes up and chokes you.

February 25, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

You’ve probably already found it by now, but everyone’s favorite unofficial M’s publication, The Grand Salami, now has its very own blog. As both the minor league editor and a columnist I probably should post over there too, but I’m having trouble finding enough time to post over here, so who knows. Perhaps once the season starts and the magazine is being published, I’ll tease what you can expect from the Minor League Wrap before it hits the streets. No guarantees, but stay tuned. I also know Jon is planning to get other magazine-related stuff, such as subscription and advertising information, up once Blogger lets him upgrade to Pro (apparently they’re re-working their ordering/billing system currently and aren’t set up to do upgrades), so look for that too.

February 25, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

The stathead (and I really hate that word) party line about closers gets both blown out of proportion and taken out of context. James and company never said a team didn’t need good relievers, just that you don’t necessarily need one specific guy to pitch the ninth. Further, using your best reliever to get three outs in the 9th when you’re up by three runs just doesn’t make sense; it’s a waste of resources.

As for the 2003 Red Sox, which is where this all stems from, it didn’t work there for a couple of reasons. First, they gave up on it after about a month, before the relievers in question were comfortable with how things worked. Second, the relievers weren’t all that good in the first place, as evidenced by the Sox turning over most of their pen between April and September (thanks to friend of the USSM and all-around good guy Bill Wilmot for the background info).

February 25, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

I’ve come around from believing Bob Melvin was pretty much an idiot to thinking that like most managers, he’s a mixed bag, and that there’s potential for growth. So enter today’s comments, quoted in the PI:

“There is a huge difference between the eighth inning and the ninth,” Melvin said. “The ninth is the toughest inning. I don’t believe Bill James and the stat guys who say you don’t need a closer. It’s a special guy who pitches in the ninth. Eddie is a special guy.”

This is stupid. I just finished writing something about bullpen usage for Baseball Prospectus that’ll run tomorrow, but quickly:

For almost all of baseball’s history, there was no importance attached to the ninth inning. Teams used their best pitchers when they needed them most.

The invention of the save created the closer, and the closer brought us the closer mystique.

Teams that have stayed with traditional usage patterns have made much better uses of their resources than teams that have fallen into the rigid closer/set-up roles.

Sure, you can talk about how different the ninth is, but it’s because people believe the ninth is special. It’s a kind of shared hysteria. Like in Japanese baseball, there’s an incredible value put on scoring the first run, and if you manage it it’s almost game over — because everyone’s so huge on it, their morale breaks, their heads explode — they turn their weird obsession into a reality. Similarly, because people believe that pitching with a 3-run lead in the ninth requires some kind of special makeup, they select closers with that makeup and perpetuate the myth. But look at how many accidental closers are made each year — Hasegawa, for instance — and the common success of good pitchers without closer stuff — Hasegawa, for instance — when forced into a closer role.

Last year Melvin ended up using his best relievers — Sorianio, Mateo — in the situations where they were most valuable: tight games, regardless of inning, and it paid off for him and the team. That a supposedly smart guy like Mevlin is unable to recognize the meaning in that and to draw lessons from the historical record leaves us little cause for optimism that he’ll think his way out of his situational obsession, to name one drawback.