In which I wonder if Howard Lincoln is being duplicitous, being duped, or lying

DMZ · June 15, 2008 at 2:22 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I wanted to give this comment from sodomojojojo in a previous thread some discussion.

They wrote:

Howard Lincoln knows exactly how I feel when it concerns this year’s team.

I sent back a pair of tickets a Boston game with a letter that I would not be spending ANY of my money at the park this year. I told them that anyone with more than a passing interest in baseball could not seriously believe this team was constructed to compete this year and we’d be lucky to see a .500 win team on the field this year. I also hit them with a “we don’t care about your bobble-head giveaways and knitting nights,” and they might “want to join the 21st century” when it comes to evaluating talent.

I received a response from Mr. Lincoln, dated the 30th of May, he says that like me, he’s frustrated and disappointed by our team’s performance, especially given the high expectations we had at the beginning of the season and our high Major League player payroll. Also I’m simply not correct about saber metrics, they employ two people who are highly skilled in all aspects of saber metrics.

Also it was this ownership group that saved the Mariners for Seattle and has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the team here. We didn’t do that for profit… (Really, then why would you do it?)

Sometimes I am so frustrated this year, I really don’t know if I should laugh or cry. This also makes we believe this front office really has no clue how to evaluate or make adjustments in regard to any aspect of the game. ARRRRRGHHHHH

First, there’s the possibility that Lincoln is lying, and the team doesn’t have two statheads on staff. Who are these two people who are highly skilled in all aspects of sabermetrics? You might ask. If they’re awesome enough that they’re highly skilled in all aspects of sabermetrics, they’d be pretty high profile, most likely — or at the very least you’d want to trumpet their presence and qualifications. If they exist, wouldn’t we or our readers know who they are?

Let’s assume the best, though, and say that Lincoln believes that he has two statheads, skilled in all aspects of sabermetrics, on staff, and they’re stealth hires. There’s another possibility, that he’s been conned: he’s hired two former Andersen consultants with statistical backgrounds who gave a great sales pitch, and now have brought in a whole group of their friends, all charging $500/hour to build a set of Access reports that measure clutchiness or something.

Because the next possibility is that he’s by omission glossing over the important part: that whoever these two are, if they’re competent, they’re certainly having absolutely no effect on the team’s moves. Not the way the team is managed on the field, not the way the lineups are built or how players are evaluated, and in no way did they have any sway over this last off-season.

So I have a couple of follow-up questions for the Mariners organization:
- Who are these two statheads you have on staff, and when did they join?
- Where did they come from? What other work have they done?
- What are they working on? What’s their involvement in the team’s decision-making?
- Where have they disagreed with the team on a major decision, and how was the disagreement resolved?
- If you have two statheads, skilled in all aspects of sabermetrics, why aren’t they involved in any of the cutting-edge research on things like Pitch f/x in the same way the Indians, Rays, and other teams are?
- How did they think the team was going to do this year?

Comments

51 Responses to “In which I wonder if Howard Lincoln is being duplicitous, being duped, or lying”

  1. ASUBoyd on June 15th, 2008 2:31 pm

    Good post. Too bad the organization is about as transparent as a muddy river because I would love to see the answers to these questions.

  2. ASUBoyd on June 15th, 2008 2:34 pm

    Also, the statement about keeping the Mariners here is one of the most asinine things I have ever read. They absolutely did it for profit, and the Ownership group has made a shitload of money. Way more than they would have made in Tampa Bay.

    Seattle lead the league in attendance for years when the club fielded a competitive team.

    I hate that kind of bullshit posturing – “we did you guys a favor..” No, you got paid for everything you did. Fuck you.

  3. tomas on June 15th, 2008 2:35 pm

    There is a reason why the words lawyer and liar sound so similar.

  4. MattThompson on June 15th, 2008 2:36 pm

    This is just so frustrating to hear.

    Assuming Lincoln is not telling a bald-faced lie, this just points to another example of the franchise’s incompetence. They’ve either marginalized and ignored guys who could help the team, or they’re so blind to new areas of baseball research that they hired a couple of stiffs and think they’re doing the cutting-edge thing.

    Honestly, every single piece of news coming from the M’s adds to the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

  5. Teej on June 15th, 2008 2:42 pm

    And if the M’s did have two statheads, that would not include Mat Olkin, correct? Because he no longer works for the M’s?

  6. Rusty on June 15th, 2008 2:49 pm

    DMZ, if neither you nor Dave have personal knowledge of these two mystery people, is there really much of chance that they really do exist? I mean, both of you are pretty plugged into the sabermetrics community.

  7. DAMellen on June 15th, 2008 2:49 pm

    They really did have two extremely competent, experienced statheads. They hired them to long term contracts that are very difficult to get out of and immediately turned them into janitors. If you’ve ever seen the guy who cries while he mops up pee, he’s one of them. The other one actually made a deal with the team where he agreed to never work for another team and gave up all of his worldly possessions except his guitar and a tie-dyed Mariners shirt in exchange for his freedom. Legend says he still lives in an alley not too far from the Safe and comes out to sing his sad song to the fans on their way to the game. Unfortunately, most of us just mistake him for the ghost of Jerry Garcia.

  8. ASUBoyd on June 15th, 2008 2:53 pm

    Could one of these mystery people be Duane Schafer

  9. PaulMolitorCocktail on June 15th, 2008 2:54 pm

    I hear they work through Point B.

  10. 300ZXNA on June 15th, 2008 3:00 pm

    by saying that they employ two highly skilled statheads, they’re probably referring to the two guys who run the hand operated scoreboard in left field . . .

  11. edgar for mayor on June 15th, 2008 3:25 pm

    I am apauled.

    I really would love to believe the Mariners are being conned, but I just think the man is lying. If those two guys had any influence on the team, why is the team liek this.

    It just simply can’t be true. Digusting

  12. RallyFried on June 15th, 2008 3:32 pm

    My guess would be that the M’s DO pay a consultant fee to two guys who have sabermetrics knowledge, but don’t listen to any of their advice or read any of the research they provide.

  13. fetish on June 15th, 2008 3:35 pm

    The Mariner’s are multi-million (billion?) dollar enterprise – OF COURSE they have people that analyze on-field performance, just as they have people that analyze concession performance, advertising performance, etc.

    Show us a Mariner’s org chart and “find” these missing people before you come up with a baseless accusation that the CEO is lying or that these people (whose names you don’t know) are essentially embezzling from the team.

    This is trash journalism. If you’d like to stick to analysis of facts, be my guest, as much as I typically disagree. But if you’re going to make an assertion based on a letter you haven’t read written to a reader you haven’t met based on non-facts you can’t verify, fuck you. I’m as critical of the M’s FO as anyone, but this is over the line.

  14. John in L.A. on June 15th, 2008 3:45 pm

    Give me a break, fetish. There were no “baseless accusations.”

    Are you not able to understand the post? It’s not complex. If you believe that DMZ said that it was either lying or “embezzling,” then you are really not fit to make comments.

    Just ban this guy, please. He’s a waste of time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him contribute anything worthwhile to the discussion.

  15. RallyFried on June 15th, 2008 3:56 pm

    #14 I think you need to re read Fetish’s post. I’m not a supporter of telling people F off everytime you disagree, but Fetish makes a good point. Which is, we should first verify the evidence (the letter from Lincoln) that is the cause of the accusation (that Lincoln is a liar) before we can make that claim.

  16. gwangung on June 15th, 2008 4:01 pm

    This is trash journalism.

    Blogs and journalism are not the same.

  17. scraps on June 15th, 2008 4:02 pm

    I think fetish’s 13 is one of the funniest comments I’ve ever seen here. Like a spittle-flecked flailing marionette. I’m sure he intended it that way.

  18. Jeff Nye on June 15th, 2008 4:03 pm

    I don’t even know what to do with that post.

    I’m torn between deleting it and leaving it as a monument to how much people can lose any social skills they may have the moment they go online.

  19. John in L.A. on June 15th, 2008 4:09 pm

    RallyFried… I think you need to re-read the original post.

    Fetish is… not awesome. He wrongfully characterized the original post as a dichotomy between lying and “embezzling.” This is foolish on a couple of counts…

    One, there were more than two possibilities given his example is a pretty obnoxious strawman.

    The irony here is that fetish’s accusation that DMZ used a fallacy – forced dichotomy – was itself an actual fallacy – the strawman.

    Second, the “embezzlement” label is a really ignorant description of “wasting money.”

    Fetish consistently makes the site a worse place to visit. He drags down the quality of conversation. He doesn’t have good reading comprehension skills. And he isn’t self-aware to realize any of it, so he instead says “Fuck you.” to someone who wrote a perfectly legit reaction piece.

    If your point is as simple as “How do we know the letter exists,” then… duh. The whole thing is pretty obviously predicated on that assumption. So if you whole point is that he should add yet another possibility, that sodomojojojo was lying… then ok. If you need that spelled out to you… ok. But all the other possibilities are still valid.

  20. soggys on June 15th, 2008 4:09 pm

    FWIW: It’s duplicitous not duplicious

  21. DMZ on June 15th, 2008 4:12 pm

    Show us a Mariner’s org chart and “find” these missing people before you come up with a baseless accusation that the CEO is lying or that these people (whose names you don’t know) are essentially embezzling from the team.

    If you have a Mariner org chart, please share, so I can do so.

    I didn’t make a baseless accusation that Lincoln’s lying. I’m pointing out that there are several different ways to approach those comments. Should I omit the possibility that he’s lying because it offends someone? I mean, I even move forward on the assumption that he’s telling the truth. I’m not sure what more you want there.

    If you’d like to stick to analysis of facts, be my guest, as much as I typically disagree. But if you’re going to make an assertion based on a letter you haven’t read written to a reader you haven’t met based on non-facts you can’t verify, fuck you. I’m as critical of the M’s FO as anyone, but this is over the line.

    If I’ve been burned by taking a reader’s account of Lincoln’s letter at face value, then I’ll be happy to revisit this. But I’m not sure why I’m supposed to not trust someone who’s been a good commenter for almost four years now.

  22. DMZ on June 15th, 2008 4:13 pm

    added the “t” to the title

  23. ASUBoyd on June 15th, 2008 4:21 pm

    Good point John in LA.

    It was a total straw man argument.

  24. RallyFried on June 15th, 2008 4:21 pm

    I’m pointing out that there are several different ways to approach those comments.

    Thanks DMZ… I took my own advice and re read your post! I see that you are indeed not making the accusation the Lincoln is a liar (which he very well could be) I think I was preoccupied with yet another awful M’s inning when I first read the post.

  25. msb on June 15th, 2008 4:32 pm

    Also I’m simply not correct about saber metrics, they employ two people who are highly skilled in all aspects of saber metrics.

    I’d love to know what kind of stats they are calling sabermetrics these days :)

  26. DMZ on June 15th, 2008 4:35 pm

    Cleaned up the title, too

  27. joebob540 on June 15th, 2008 4:41 pm

    I’d love to know what kind of stats they are calling sabermetrics these days :)

    I believe DMZ has left out one other possibility. That is that Lincoln and the stats community are talking about two different things.

    Lincoln means they’ve got two people who work at looking at the metrics of sabers. Perhaps some kitanas or other assorted blades as well.

  28. bratman on June 15th, 2008 4:43 pm

    This is a very interesting post – I have to believe Lincoln wants to win. Bavasi will be out of here by the years end.

    they employ two people who are highly skilled in all aspects of saber metrics.

    The same saber metrics the BoSox and A’s use? This definitely opened up a Pandora’s Box of questions.

  29. qwerty on June 15th, 2008 4:43 pm

    Is there a Jose Vidro or Horam of the Sabermetrics field?
    Perhaps they hired someone who at one time was high scorer on Space Invaders…and he’s their consultant.

  30. qwerty on June 15th, 2008 4:46 pm

    [ot]

  31. f2aler on June 15th, 2008 5:07 pm

    I am a lawyer like Howard Lincoln. In my opinion, Lincoln’s answer is a classic attempt to answer a question different than the one asked. Presumbably the fan who wrote the letter, said something to the point of “any rational statisical analysis would have demonstrated this years incarnation of the Mariners would not come close to 88 wins”. Lincoln responded by saying, you are incorrect, we employ persons highly skilled in sabermetrics. Notice Lincoln never said if he listened to these people, what these people said, or even who they were (all pointed out in post and many responses). If someone wants straight answers from Lincoln, you have to ask him questions like he is sitting in the deposition chair. Such as -

    1. Do you know what on base percentage is?
    2. Do you know what slugging percentage is?
    3. Do you know what *fill in the blank* stat is?

    Lincoln would give various responses, but eventually you’d pin him down to agreeing he was cognizant to the existence of these stats and there basic computation.

    Next you’d ask him, in his opinion what is the correlation between various the aforementioned stats and winning teams. Lincoln would probably try to hedge on this and talk about clutchness or other non-stat stuff.

    But the way away around this, is the show the deponent documents. For example, I’d show Lincoln documentary evidence prepared by some sabertician demonstrated the correlation between good obp, slg etc. and winning. At this point, you’d force Lincoln to either admit he had some other data or he was a fool.

    Too bad we can’t sue the Mariners for sucking, and depose Howard Lincoln. It’d be way cooler than Clay Bennet’s depo.

  32. killer_ewok18 on June 15th, 2008 5:43 pm

    f2aler, 31:

    Okay, so now we just have to convict Lincoln of something so you can prosecute him.

    Any ideas?

  33. gwangung on June 15th, 2008 5:48 pm

    Okay, so now we just have to convict Lincoln of something so you can prosecute him.
    Any ideas?

    Impersonation of a sports team executive?

    Wait a minute, there’s Dan Snyder…

  34. Breadbaker on June 15th, 2008 6:06 pm

    The one time in his life when Howard Lincoln didn’t try to spin something was when he said, some years ago, “winning is overrated.” While I am glad that, having accepted the huge subsidy the citizens of this region gave them, plus their court-sanctioned monopoly status, the owners of the club invested in keeping baseball in Seattle. But, having made a ton of money from all that, it is crass, to say the least, to throw it in our face all the time.

    I’d love one person with the Mariners simply to admit, “we blew it.”

  35. Osfan on June 15th, 2008 6:44 pm

    So, if Lincoln has statheads and if Bavasi is listening to them, we should be able to figure out what statistics they are using to judge talent by looking at the current team and by looking at past decisions. From what I see, they are using grittiness, versatility, height, and statistics from the 2002 season to evaluate talent.

  36. f2aler on June 15th, 2008 7:00 pm

    Well we need to find a cognizant cause of action against Howard Lincoln. Unfortunately, almost all of us lack standing to sue the Mariners. Those who bought season tickets based on Lincoln’s assertions the Mariners would be good, would be probably be unable to sustain an action for fraud as one of the elements of fraud is “justifiable reliance”.

    We could try negligent infliction of emotional distress, but I doubt Lincoln has a duty to us (duty in a legal sense).

    If any of our posters, are investors in the Mariners they may have some sort of cause of action against Lincoln under a variety of theories, especially if the team’s poor baseball decisions are correlated to poor financial performance. Even then, you’d be stuck bringing a derivative suit, and Lincoln and the other directors could hide behind the business judgment rule which essentially states the court will not second guess business decisions made in good faith.

    Let’s just hope Lincoln, Armstrong, Bavasi et al get fired.

  37. coasty141 on June 15th, 2008 7:24 pm

    DMZ re:21
    The closest thing I can find to an org chart is on the Mariners MLB website…
    Click on roster then front office.

    Possible statheads

    Dave Wallace Special Assistant to the Executive VP, Pitching Development
    Duane Shaffer Special Assistant to the Executive VP, Player Personnel
    John Boles Special Assistant to the Executive VP, Player Personnel
    Ken Madeja Special Assistant to the Executive VP, Player Personnel

  38. coasty141 on June 15th, 2008 7:33 pm

    Its not Shaffer, he was a scout for the White Sox in 07.
    Its not Boles, he’s an ex-manager (Marlins) old school evaluator of talent.
    Its not Majeda, old school scout
    Its not Dave Wallace, he’s the head of Pitching Development

  39. Badbadger on June 15th, 2008 8:10 pm

    I would like to ask one general question: If you have statheads to help evaluate talent, why do we have so many players who don’t have the skills statheads value? Why Carlos Sliva? Why Washburn? Why Jose Vidro? Why no one who takes a walk or has power?

    I guess that’s more than one question, but this is why I don’t believe that they have a stathead they listen to.

  40. jsa on June 15th, 2008 10:26 pm

    #38 What their title is may not be indicative of their duties or talents.

    We’d need to know if any of these (or others) have learned anything over the years.

  41. jro on June 15th, 2008 10:48 pm

    I’d say there are two possibilities here:

    1) There are a couple of dudes who sold themselves as statistical analysts, and basically made it their job to find stats to support the current team structure.
    2) There are a couple of dudes who are tasked with printing out Crystal Reports of current statistics: batting average, rbi, home runs, w-l records, saves, etc.

    The Mariners are an old-school type of organization. No way does anyone in the management structure listen to some bean-counter tell them how their gut-feel for grittiness amounts to shit.

    Lincoln is no moron. He’s just full of shit.

  42. PADJ on June 15th, 2008 11:29 pm

    Assuming for the moment that Lincoln’s comments aren’t just a steaming pile, to state that your organization employs two people who are highly skilled in all aspects of saber metrics does not mean that you…
    a) have them working on saber metrics (he doesn’t say that they’re working on it, but that they’re skilled in it).
    b) listen to them if they are working on saber metrics.
    c) have them working with any kind of current statistical methodology.

  43. byronebyronian on June 16th, 2008 1:23 am

    Matt Olkin is one of these fellas. Bavasi credited him with drafting Dickey in the Rule 5. Outside of that it appears nobody listens to him.

  44. DMZ on June 16th, 2008 1:52 am

    That’s not true, as we’ve said a couple of times now, Mat Olkin works for the Royals now. When he was with the M’s, he consulted, and was not on staff.

  45. yteimlad on June 16th, 2008 3:33 am

    My guess would be that he is referring to 2 people who once gave a presentation based on statistical research, sometime in the 2006 off season, the major points of which were:

    “If you pair groundball pitchers with a great infield defense you can get very good run prevention for a fraction of the cost of paying for strikeouts. You can generally get strikeouts relatively cheaply from relief pitchers from your farm system, so don’t bother paying top dollar for relievers when you can help it. You can leverage those same cheap relievers in trades for other pieces and get back more than they are worth to you, especially if you excel at developing relievers yourself.”

    These are all sound concepts that the organization has embraced wholeheartedly, and they can all be said to have relatively recent sabermetric origins.

    The problem is the information they don’t have, not the information they do have. They very well may have staffers who are statistically inclined, but are simply not the best in the business. They obviously do not employ anyone who understands how to analyze defensive value with any of the new metrics- either that or they are simply ignoring these statistics. They obviously do not understand how to asses a team’s position in the win cycle, or are also ignoring this information. The pitching assessment issues are complicated, and are further exacerbated by the fact that the people in charge of these decisions are usually working on a year to year basis and cannot afford to look to the future too fondly if they want to keep their jobs, and the fact that the team has enough money and general support to pay these non-marquee free agent prices to starting pitchers without losing much sleep. Keep in mind that $10m a year is technically a fraction of $18m a year. Throw in the general manager’s complete inability to get value in trades even in a vacuum and you have a kind of winner’s curse meets apocalypse meets perfect storm of suck scenario.

    They do honestly think they’ve done everything right.

  46. Max Power on June 16th, 2008 9:03 am

    I would think it would be a generally sound business practice to have someone outside of the baseball operations department who audits the performance of baseball ops. You’d have a group chartered with auditing the department so to speak and highlighting concerns with how the department is being run without having actual input on individual player decisions.

    No clue if this is actually what they do but it wouldn’t strike me as terribly unusual if they did.

    To put it another way, the department or individual wouldn’t say “don’t sign Carlos Silva because he’s not good” they would be communicating that the signing reflects the current thinking of management and here are the reasons why it’s risky.

  47. et_blankenship on June 16th, 2008 10:27 am

    It makes absolutely no difference whether or not The Two Saber Dudes exist in reality and whether or not they are competent, because the three possible outcomes of The Two Saber Dudes all result in suck. Behold:
    1) Lincoln lied about the presence of The Two Saber Dudes, the result of which is suck.
    2) The Two Saber Dudes are incompetent, the result of which is suck.
    3) The decision-makers are completely ignoring The Two Saber Dudes, the result of which is suck.

  48. Max Power on June 16th, 2008 10:50 am

    It makes absolutely no difference whether or not The Two Saber Dudes exist in reality and whether or not they are competent, because the three possible outcomes of The Two Saber Dudes all result in suck. Behold:

    Trying to be an optimist with my last post, continuing on that theme there is a 4th possiblity:
    4) Two saber dudes were recently hired not to evaluate individual players but to evaluate baseball ops overall decision making and are in process of providing recommendations to clean house.

    This possibility would of course, not suck. It strikes me as possible, but not likely.

  49. et_blankenship on June 16th, 2008 11:19 am

    4) Two saber dudes were recently hired not to evaluate individual players but to evaluate baseball ops overall decision making and are in process of providing recommendations to clean house.

    That, my friend, would freaking rule . . . which is why it’s not very likley because it actually makes sense. But I like your optimism. It beats my optimism, which is “Hey, the Nats swept the M’s! Perhaps somebody who actually deserves to get fired or DFA’d will finally get fired or DFA’d!”

  50. ridertc on June 16th, 2008 11:36 am

    Howard Bleeping Lincoln is the problem, not the solution. His insistence on signing only players who might be candidates for the Roberto Clemente Award automatically precludes anyone who might lead this club out of this quagmire. He who has the unmitigated gall to try and tell Lou Pinella what he doesn’t know can only expect in return the ugliest form of karma that the baseball gods can and will unleash on you. And Mariner fans, we surely are witnessing it. I have only one suggestion for you Howard, put the old powder blue polyesters with the Mariner Trident back on this team because they tarnish the uniforms of the proud Mariner teams of Pinella, Griffey, Martinez, Johnson and Buhner.

  51. Max Power on June 16th, 2008 11:40 am

    which is why it’s not very likley because it actually makes sense

    It’s just really hard for me to belive that Lincoln’s statement was anything other than the facts – if the M’s are like any other company I’ve worked for, the CEO doesn’t speak off the cuff ever – anything like the letter would’ve had to go through levels of PR and been vetted for internal/external reactions if and when it got out.

    So at any rate, I assume it highly likely that they’ve got two ‘saber dudes’ on the payroll somewhere. The question is just whether they are low-level/churning out reports that get ignored or whether they actually have some visibility. I’d guess the former.

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