The "Wal-Mart Symphony" In Kansas City

Jordan BrattCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2010

"Baseball is too much of a sport to be called a business, and too much of a business to be called a sport." 

~ Philip Wrigley

As Thomas L. Friedman outlines in his book The World is Flat, Wal-Mart produces nothing; its existence is based solely on the ability to efficiently and effectively distribute materials to those that require them.  While this seems like an easy process, it is far from that.

When you pick out your new 55" flat-screen LCD at Wal-Mart and walk it up to the register, you set a symphony in motion.  The scanning of the bar code in Kansas City sends an electronic signal to the product manufacturer—typically in China—and triggers the need for another product to be built.  After production, the item is shipped to a Wal-Mart hub here in the United States where a machine sorts the merchandise and loads it on to trucks according to store inventory needs.  This is, in essence, why the world is "flat"; communication and consumerism can spread across the globe with little effort.

According to Friedman, the major challenge of this symphony is "coordinating disruption prone supply with hard to predict demand." (p.152)

In baseball terms, that is scouting and drafting.

If Wal-Mart runs out of inventory, they lose business, and their bottom line is adversely affected.

If the Royals fail to properly scout for future needs before they become iminent needs, the farm-system cupboard becomes bare—this is what happened under Allard Baird and is the reason the Royals have stepped up their commitment to the draft since general manager Dayton Moore's arrival.

Another result of this negligence is an abundance of one type of player due to executive predisposition.  In the Royals' case, they had a stock pile of first base eligible players last season because of poor inventory maintenance—Billy Butler, Kila Ka'aihue, Alex Gordon, and Mark Teahen all in the system developing together—and poor demand coordination throughout the organization—purchasing Mike Jacobs with this existing issue.

All the while the Royals still had deficiencies at several spots on the diamond; shortstop* and right field were two neglected positions due to poor inventory maintenance.  As a result, players who have no business starting at those positions did so quite often (Pena/Betancourt at shortstop and Bloomquist/Maier/injured Guillen/etc. in right).

* The Royals did have Mike Aviles—who got hurt—but nobody expected an encore to his 2008 season.  It was largely expected that he would regress, and the Royals should have had a better contingency plan than Tony Pena, Jr.

If the product manufacturer is equated to the scouting department, supply equated to prospects, and demand equated to team needs, then Dayton Moore is to the Royals what team owner David Glass was to the Wal-Mart Corporation.

David Glass played a major roll in the expansion of Wal-Mart, earning Retailer of the Year honors twice (1986 and 1991) and getting inducted into the Retailers Hall-of-Fame in 2000.

Wal-Mart is in every major city these days, but when Glass was hired, they had less than 130 stores.

He turned a good business into the New York Yankees of consumerism.

Running a sports franchise is far different than running a Forbes 500 company, but many of the same ideals are there.  You must stay ahead of your competition, and that only happens through intelligence and proper planning.

Bringing in Dayton Moore—who has a great pedigree—and opening up his checkbook for young talent is a good first step for Glass, but he knows as much as anybody that this process takes patience.

Fans are understandably irritated, but the good word being preached at 1 Royal Way should be heeded.

It is a process.  Be patient.

No matter if you love or hate the Podsednik/Teahen/Anderson/etc. deals, it doesn't matter. 

The franchise is just biding it's time until their supply catches up with demand.