It has taken most of the day for me to sort out everything that has rushed through my mind since about 11:48 PM last night when the Houston Astros recorded the final out to win their first World Series. For probably everyone outside of Houston and Los Angeles, Game Seven was an anti-climactic finish to a great series. The Astros scored five runs off Dodger starter Yu Darvish by the second inning and Darvish headed to the showers. The game was basically over at that point but it did not make things any less tense watching it through.
What did it mean to the City of Houston? Probably more than I can articulate. Of course, this summer’s disaster of Hurricane Harvey is foremost in everyone’s mind. But as I heard fan after fan talk about going to Astros games as young boys with their fathers and grandfathers, I thought about my grandfather who was a season ticket holder when the original Colt 45’s opened for play back in 1962. It was my grandfather who gave me the lifelong joy of scoring each game as he made me learn to keep score so I would not ask him too many questions and it focused my attention on the field. I would practice by keeping score at home listening to the radio play at night before bed in the summer. My father grew up a Cardinals fan but quickly adopted the Colts and Astros. It was my father’s love for the Cardinals which took us to see Stan Musial when he came to Houston during his final season and he took me to see Mickey Mantle hit the first home run in the Astrodome in an exhibition game in 1965.
I also thought about my three friends who I attended the 2005 playoff run and first Astros World Series appearance with, now all lost to cancer. As always, I was designated as the official scorer of our quartet so I could keep everyone informed on immediate past performance of all players in the game. I still miss you guys. Here’s to all the Astros fans from over the past 50+ years, who watched from the great beyond, this one was for you as well as the rest of us in a more temporal status.
The 2017 World Series gave us many compliance lessons to consider going forward. We considered the role of data analytics in baseball and in compliance. The clear conclusion is that data is a tool which every compliance practitioner needs to use but it is only a tool. Even if data analytics can see patterns in raked leaves, it still takes a compliance professional to understand not only what that means but to put the information to use, whether it be actionable or requiring more of a deep dive investigation.
We saw Satan call a Press Conference during the ALCS when he heard (allegedly for the first time) that the Astros might not only make it to the World Series but perhaps win it; thereby threatening that Hell would freeze over. Satan ended the Press Conference with an enigmatic comment about ‘fiddling with the equipment’. It turned out to be not so ethereal as Major League Baseball (MLB) changed the texture on the baseballs so they were much slicker and those Dodger sinker-meisters could not grip the ball and throw their normally nasty to wicked sinkers. Darvish was the primary victim of this equipment fiddling, crashing out of the World Series with two spectacular losses. I am not sure that is what Satan had in mind to protect his real estate empire. (Calls to Satan for comment on the reported snowfall in Hades last night were not returned.) Of course, MLB continues to deny they have done anything to the equipment.
We learned how the Astros’ deliberate tanking plans from the early part of the decade, which saw three straight years of 100+ losses, was actually a brilliant use of strategic risk. The teams used the risk management process of forecasting, risk assessment and risk management as a way to retool the focus of their teams and we considered how you could do so in the context of your compliance program. By starting with forecasting, a compliance function utilizes risk assessment to consider issues which forecasting did not predict for or issues which the forecasting model raised as a potential outcome which warranted a deeper dive. If you are moving into a new product or sales area and are required to use third-party sales agents, a risk assessment would provide information that a company could use to ameliorate the risks.
Yet it was all about what Jay Martin continually calls the most important aspect of a compliance program; execution. You must use the risk management tools available to you and when a situation arises, you remediate when required. This is not only where the rubber hits the road but the information and data you garner in the execution phase should be fed back into a feedback loop. From this, you will develop continuous feedback and continuous improvement for your compliance program.
In addition to MLB’s (cough, cough) equipment issue, they seriously dropped the ball on a disciplinary issue around race baiting. It involved Astro Yuli Gurriel, who after hitting a home run off Dodger pitcher Darvish pulled his eyes back to mock a slant-eyed facial expression. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred properly condemned the racial gesture and suspended Gurriel but then completely dropped the ball when he delayed the suspension until the 2018 season. This complete lack of follow through rendered the discipline ineffective. There is no place for such actions by Gurriel in baseball and such inexcusable application of discipline by the commissioner.
We saw Carlos Beltran finally win a World Series ring. Beltran had no hits during the Series in three pinch hit appearances yet his steady leadership, particularly after the Astros lost Game Six; helped turn the tide to a win in Game Seven. Astros fans still remember Beltran from his magical season in 2004 when he hit nearly .450 in National League (NL) playoffs. His empathetic leadership will be missed next year.
For me, this magical run was about the joy and passion of baseball. The Astros are a young team and their infectious joy was a sight to behold. I am very passionate about compliance and the Astros demonstrated you can be professional yet joyful in your chosen profession. At this point, I am going to take the advice of Jay Rosen and Charlie Nugent, both (formerly suffering) long-time Boston Red Sox fans, and just enjoy it.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2017