Brogna On Baseball: MLB Needs To Take Cues From NFL

By Rico Brogna
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There is a chain-of-command in the structure of the corporate business world. Companies may have a different method; a different means of showing what their chain looks like, but each business has some sort of order that almost always stretches vertically. The eventually landing in the owner’s chair … or as we say, “the boss’ boss.”

Baseball teams (big businesses) are not any different than businesses in the corporate world. In fact, due to the gigantic economic income streams (baseball is a BILLION dollar industry) within MLB, each team must rely on capable, strong leadership structure to make their company (team) not only extremely profitable, but a winning program as well.

The normal economic sports world profit comes from “the more you win, the more you make” principal. This is slightly true in MLB. There are however probably more “near the ballpark” business that profit at a higher percentage (not intake amount) due to the team’s on the field successes. Entities such as nearby restaurants, bars, clothing stores, museums, etc. make a huge rate of profit when a big league team is winning. Ok, Wrigleyville in Chicago does well even when the Cubbies are not in the pennant race. Chicago is a special and unique place, it is an AWESOME CITY, very loyal to their Cubbies and I love that!

Now back to the story: This equal distribution business method is due to what the MLB Basic Agreement calls revenue sharing. Television, Internet profits, merchandise, and other streams of MLB revenue, make for an umbrella profit that covers the entire landscape of MLB. In other words, think of MLB and their Central Office as one team and all of the MLB teams branches of that one business. Easy right?

Still, each team, despite being a large piece of the pie in the MLB corporate structure, has to have order. There must be organized structure within a business, or a chain-of-command, which allows that particular branch of a company (team) to flow. This chain-of-command flow has directions. Most often the direction is either up & down. There are some horizontal communication lines within most companies and businesses but mostly the lines of communication stretch vertically.

This leads to my main point and my main opinion on the matter: Leadership comes in many forms. We have all been to the Barnes & Nobles or our local public/school library section that has miles of “how to” books and literature written on the broad subject leadership. Everybody has an opinion on this theme. Some of them are good and some of them not so good, but there are oh so many opinions on how to do it. If each MLB team is one branch of a one large company (MLB), which it is, each branch must put into action a corporate business flow through an orderly business structure (i.e., the chain-of-command). I have experienced baseball’s chain-of-command on many different levels because I have been a major league player, a minor league player, a pro scout, a minor league field manager, and I’ve also been a front office baseball operations person (most recent). Having been in these unique positions to see baseball’s structure and top-down leadership from all of these different angles, it’s given me clear perspective on things should operate.

It’s crazy for me to say it’s all wrong because MLB makes more money that than anyone can possibly imagine, but generally speaking, yes, they chain-of-command within most of the branches (teams), if not all, is done incorrectly. Now please understand, MLB is set up the way it is to make money, big money. So from that perspective, baseball has it correct, no doubt! However, from a competitive angle looking from on the field view (which would eventually lend a hand in the overall wealth of the industry), baseball should take a committed look at the NFL or football in general and how they operate.

Football has their head coach run things. Just about every critical decision is made by or at least run by the head coach. The owner of a club gives the head coach the power to lead the entire organization because the head coach knows in his mind what he is after. The head coach should have a short-term and long-term vision/plan for the team and their franchise. Bill Belichick is the perfect example of how an organization should operate. Bill uses a foundation once established by the best ever, Paul Brown. Bill is a close second, believe you me. But if if was not for Mr. Brown, the current NFL structure in many capacities would not be what it is. By having one person leading the charge there is harmony throughout their community. Ahhhhh, what god leadership can produce. BB even writes out job descriptions for every person in his charge and he asks that all of their employees, players and coaches included, to just “DO THEIR JOB.” It’s an intelligent and efficient way to do things, believe me, it works!

In baseball, there are too many levels of leadership that always seems to lead to a breakdown at some point. People within an organization do not always know what their jobs are and therefore under perform or they step on other people’s toes because they try to do too much. Again, leadership is the key! If at the end of the day the team is struggling mightily and the vision is not taking hold after a period of time (often too well too short nowadays), the team’s owner may decide to make a change at the head coaching position. General managers, one’s that really do a dynamic and super job, understand that the head coach, or field manager in MLB, has the pulse of what needs to be done and how to execute the entire operation.

One may ask, how will an MLB team’s field manager know who to draft, when to draft him and all the like. There are many areas of operation outside of the manager’s arena that he cannot see every day. This again to me is very easy to answer, simple in fact. Allow the manager to lead, design, develop and ultimately execute his overall business plan. If the person being interviewed for a field managerial position does not have this type of overall plan and scheme to work this method, than don’t hire him. If a person is given a description of what the company (team) is looking for in a field manager and/or leader, they should most certainly come to the dance prepared. Or they don’t land the gig, right? C’mon man! Get some knowledge here!!

There are many ways to drive this blog’s theme. I intend on coming back to this here in the near future. It’s an intriguing topic, one that Yankees and Mets fans will most definitely identify with. I will dive in to some examples of MLB’s incorrect business structure. MLB makes plenty of coin and they understand at many levels how to operate on that end. Ok, I GET THAT. I am speaking from a competitive point of view. One that the baseball fan wants to hear about and read about. The angle here is from an eye on the field.

Rico Brogna

  • Stephen Luftschein

    The problem Rico is that in the NFL, the head coach spends much of his time doing exactly what you are talking about. During the week he is supervising, and thus evaluating the organization as a whole. A major league manager spends his days working only with the major league talent – all day every day. He spends half the season away from the majority of the baseball staff, exactly the opposite of the NFL head coach.

    Now, the GM or VP of Baseball Operations (whichever title is actually in charge) in baseball COULD fill that role, and often does.

    The issue is less with the organizational structure as it is with the ownership approval process. There is a reason why the same teams win, and the same teams lose most years (the Mets are a perfect example of this). Ultimately it comes down to the “CEO”, the owner, and how well he chooses his operational people.

  • Larry-the-Bartender

    NFL is super model for all sports! Can it get any better, well yes, get rid of new rules, 35 yard kick off and replay of every TD. boooooo. Besides a few exceptions like Big Al in Oakland and Jerry in Big D football coaches do run the show, securing assets and the operations on the field.

    Brings up an interesting question about the Mets…?

    Does Sandy now have full reign to run the show and make all trade and roster decisions with no persuasion from “ownership”? I guess we will find out very soon…

    Sandy’s Big Decision: Jose Reyes!

    Will fans have any impact on Sandy’s decision – to keep Reyes (or not). I for one believe we (die hard Met fans) can make a difference…

    Please Vote to KEEP Jose Reyes. Final Fan vote will be mailed to front office:


  • Rico

    Great point Jeremy, excellent observations you make in my opinion. I agree, the Angels and Twins do a marvelous job of running a team under the Field Manager’s vision and plan. My favorite of all the teams are the Twinkies. Minnesota does it the best and they are the most consistent. The reason in my opinion is that they hire and KEEP staff, at all levels of the organization. Hire the right people and keep them with you for the long hail. Too many teams change personnel, and new people means new “ideas” … a little knowledge can be dangerous as the saying goes. But if leadership is strong, the parts will flow as they must. Thanks Jeremy.

  • brotherd

    Great to hear from you Rico! In baseball, Mike Scioscia comes to mind as the best example of a Bellichick head, as does Ron Gardenire with the Twins, where players do not graduate to the next level without learning to run the bases a certain way. And players are not drafted unless they have the potential to fit into a vision of a championship team. There are a few options to a championship team FROM WHICH TO CHOOSE, I imagine. And I get the impression that some organizations NEVER MAKE A CHOICE.

    Am I correct? Are there other examples of proper organizational vision and structure other than the one’s I mention above?

    Many Thanks,


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