Why did the Mets hire CRG Partners? Beats the hell out of me.
Intuition — which is often fallible — strongly suggests it isn’t just to tinker with bookkeeping, or to draw a couple of lines differently on the org chart. The nature of the Mets’ situation and the kind of business companies like CRG do both make you suspect something more is going on.
It also doesn’t help that, to be blunt, the last few years have trained me to automatically discount anything the Mets say about their own business affairs.
But the nature of that something more that might or might not be going on? You got me. And this is where I start to worry about how the world we live in has changed, and might be making us all a bit nuts.
I love all things digital. I made my bones as a journalist and writer in the digital world. My daily work life is almost entirely digital. Heck, Greg Prince and I began as digital friends, and our collaboration wouldn’t exist without a whole bunch of digital magic. Not so long ago, I used to listen to a Mets game a week by parking my car next to the Potomac River and cranking the scratchy radio, and my fondest hopes were for 30 seconds of Mets highlights on SportsCenter and the Washington Post to run two paragraphs from the AP instead of just the box score. Now, I can hear the Mets on my phone anywhere in the world, watch them on my iPad for a fairly modest amount of money, and I can absorb as much Mets news and opinion as I have time for, even on Jan. 9.
This is beyond a dream come true — we’re the fricking baseball Jetsons, even if we barely realize it.
But there is a downside, and I think you can see it at work with whatever’s going on with the Mets.
Between all this information, and all these voices, and the fact that the news cycle never stops, our habits for consuming information have changed. And so too have our expectations, which are curdling into demands. Between comment sections and Facebook status updates and text messages and Twitter, our vocabulary is increasingly dominated by two words:
This isn’t the end of the world, but it does leave us with a problem we don’t know how to solve yet. Our increasing voracity for information — summed up by those two little syllables — can leave us out of step with how inquiries get made and issues get solved. You see this, increasingly, with both people and organizations when they’re confronting allegations and potential scandals. We want to know why (followed, as always, by more whys), and we want to know now, and if we aren’t satisfied on either score, we will be inundated by voices accusing someone of incompetence, bad faith, or venality.
But what we’re in danger of forgetting is that sometimes it takes time to get to why. And that telling some stories now, before they’re complete, changes what happens.
Which brings us back to the Mets.
Let’s try a scenario: Suppose you were facing legal jeopardy that might be grim but survivable, or might mean your financial ruin. You’d need to be prepared for both eventualities. And that would mean hiring someone whose job was to think of the unthinkable, and figure out how you’d navigate that. It wouldn’t mean that you’d made up your mind to do something, just that you had accepted that you might be forced to. If you were in that situation, there would be a host of reasons — from deepening your own legal peril to not wanting to endure more distractions to distaste for the whole spectacle — for not discussing it publicly.
In 1995 this wouldn’t have been an issue. Today it is.
Here’s another scenario: Suppose you were the czar of a sports league, and you had accepted that one of your premier clubs was in such financial distress that its owners — who’d been your supporters in a lot of knife-in-the-back political fights — needed to step aside. Having reached that unhappy pass, would you move quickly, or deliberately? Quickly means likely legal strife, a blizzard of embarrassing press coverage, wrecked personal relationships and a cloud of suspicion the next time you have to do such a thing. Deliberately might land you in the same fix, but your chances are better.
Such a thing was never easy. But today the ceaseless choruses of why and now make it a lot harder.
(If this is too baroque for you, substitute firing the incompetent, litigious guy down the hall. Yeah, a public stoning is justified. But it’s probably smarter, if a lot less satisfying, to let his contract lapse or start filing the paperwork to eliminate his position.)
I don’t know if either of the above baseball scenarios has any basis in reality. I’m glad we know about CRG, and proud that one of our blog brethren ferreted out the news. And I understand that being discreet and deliberate can be a cover for perpetuating rotten institutions and hiding gross misconduct. But sometimes things take time and take place behind closed doors. That’s something we increasingly have trouble accepting, because we’re being trained to demand the opposite.
Hat tip to this Will Leitch post, which covers somewhat different ground but got me thinking.