On September 14, 2020, the A’s and Mariners split a doubleheader. The A’s had a 5-0 lead in the first game, but let it slip away with an unusually wild performance by Joaquim Soria, and lost 6-5. The A’s won the nightcap handily, 9-0. But no one is going to remember this wingding for the games themselves.
What will be remembered is that these two teams played a doubleheader in Seattle — a doubleheader!!! — when the air quality index was between 221 and 283. Winning or losing in that environment doesn’t matter. The key word is survival.
I have a few pet business management theories, and this doubleheader being played showed off a couple of them.
As I’ve said before on Twitter, I believe that most human organizations can effectively only be dedicated to at most three things, and anything else they say they’re committed to is just lip service.
MLB may say that they’re dedicated to the health and safety of their employees, but playing that game in that air clearly shows that any statements to that effect are just lip service. MLB is not dedicated to the health and safety of their employees. Anyone dedicated to the health and safety of their employees doesn’t play that game.
The other theory I’m fond of actually comes from my wife’s former boss at UC Berkeley, Russ Ellis, who once said, “Nothing gets done unless somebody does it.” Which means, unless there’s a specific person whose job it is to make sure something gets done, that thing won’t get done. People can be aware that a thing isn’t getting done, but they all assume it’s someone else’s responsibility to get the thing done, so it doesn’t get done.
I first complained about the air quality that players were playing in on August 19. An organization that is dedicated to the health and safety of its employees would be proactive, prepared to meet the challenges that arise before they arise, and would have figured out some sort of air quality policy if not in advance, then certainly within days instead of weeks. But they do not have that dedication, so they did not have the right dynamic to do anything but be reactive to problems after it’s almost too late to fix. Hence there is no policy that dictates what the definition of safe air quality is. There is nobody on the staff of the Mariners or the A’s whose job it is to decide if the air quality is or isn’t safe enough to play.
And so they played, and added one more row of data to the growing database table of American imcompetence.