SCANDAL & SUCCESS

Some in our society possess jaded views on success and the people that achieve it. Many believe no one attains it without underhanded tactics. The counterculture argument against the traditional notion that hard work, dedication, and perseverance pays off.

In many ways, this sentiment spills over into the sports world, as every achievement is scrutinized by the scandal s of the past. Every record is met with skepticism over the potential for PED use.

The Houston Astron helped fuel these jaded cynics by being the center the recent MLB scandal involving an elaborate scheme to steal pitching signs used by the opponents during their home games in 2017 and 2018.

Despite having a strong young talented nucleus, innovative coaching staff, and competent front office executives, Alex Cora, their bench coach, and many players decided necessary to attain additional advantages.

As a result, three coaches and a general manager lost their job with yearlong banishments handed down to AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow, who were immediately fired. MLB handed down a $5 million fine to the Astros organization.

Alex Cora, who went on to win another World Series the following year in Boston, was terminated by the Boston Red Sox, which are under investigation for its own sign stealing scandal. Thought to be less elaborate than what the Astros did.

The Mets also decided to part ways with their manager, Carlos Beltran, who served as the lead player in the scandal. No players were punished, but Beltran could not reasonably lead an organization.

In the end, the Astros will still remain the 2017 World Series champion. Many of the stars from that team still play prominent roles and escaped without any punishment. Some may consider that a reasonable cost for attaining a banner.

Obviously, the Astros owner, Jim Crane, did not feel that way and made the right decision to clean house. The players and bench coach were responsible. But, leadership did not foster a compliant environment and were far too passive.

Some may argue why is this a big deal. Stealing signs is nothing new to baseball. Cheating is not new either. Not that long ago, many in baseball looked the other way as PED dominated the game.

Stealing signs in baseball is usually achieved by a runner on second base relaying signals to the hitter. Not a camera relaying the catcher signal to the dugout and the banging on a trash can to notify the hitter of off-speed pitches.

Although baseball released the punishments on the day of the NCAA national football championship game, the sports worlds did eventually catch on and many have a strong opinion of the scandal and all the participants.

The punishments and reputational damage appear much more significant than scandals plaguing other sports. For instance, the NFL had many cheating scandal committed by its current gold standard organization, who appear to be somewhat repeat offenders.

The New England Patriots committed similar technology-based offenses, using technology to be able decipher play calls, which led to fines and loss of draft picks. Followed up by deflate-gate and another video controversy.

While some outside of Boston may feel anger towards the Patriots, most fans look past the scandals to recognize the organization’s continued greatness and prowess. Football is king in America. The scandals rarely separate fans from the love of the game.

Baseball fans are wired differently than most sports fans. Compared to other sports, baseball fans place a great value on the history of the game. Other sports fans focus more on entertainment value and the evolution of the sport.

The scandal attracts greater attention because it also impacts baseball teams located in our two largest media markets. Fans of the Dodgers and Yankees justifiably feel slighted. The Dodgers having a stronger case since both accused teams were World Series foes.

Baseball will begin its 2020 season in a couple of months and it will be interesting to see the responses the Astros get in away games, especially in New York. See how MLB steps up enforcement to ensure integrity is maintained.

Integrity and morality are not relics of the past. Rather a continuous staple of any society, especially in a sport that adores its history more so than any other league. Records and achievements are revered in baseball.

This scandal may counter the time-honored notion that cheaters never win. Sometimes, they do. But, their victories ring hollow compared to teams that won based on hard work and all the other desirable characteristics.

Some people find shortcuts to their success. But, the people that truly earn it, which the vast majority of successful people do, will actually find it not fleeting. They will not have to cower when looking others in the eye. Strive for success. Do not let the cheaters win.

RETAIL SEASON

Investors Bet on More Pain for Retailers
(WSJ)

Black Friday pulls in a record $7.4 billion in online sales, as many turn to mobile orders (CNN)

Black Friday is expected to provide retailers with historic revenue streams, reportedly exceeding $7.4 billion. Solid performance. But the question for many retail investors is where those revenues went. Online or in-store.

Retailers still do not provide shoppers with a reason to leave the comfort of their homes to make purchases in person. Long lines, poor customer service, and undesirable shopping environments are no substitute for click of a button purchases. The online channel continues to better serve consumer needs than in-store experience.

Site to store pickups are a good middle for some retailers. But, store staff may still make that channel less than desirable if there are noticeable glitches in the process. Misunderstandings by store associates can make it harder for shoppers to justify entering a store at all.

Not surprising investors are down on retailers whose primary channel is in-store. The future will favor online based retailers and retailers that effectively leverage both channels. Brick and mortar stores may employ a large number of people, but lack the efficiency to maximize returns on investment. As more shoppers head to the web, the issue will persist.

LEADERSHIP CHANGE

Recently, both Nike and Under Armour announced leadership changes at the top of their organizations that will take effect starting January 2020. Kevin Plank, founder of Under Armour, is stepping down as CEO with COO Patrik Frisk set to assume the position, with Plank remaining as chairman. At Nike, Mark Parker will step aside to be replaced by John Donahoe.

The change at Under Armor is largely driven by the clear need to revitalize the brand, which once was a serious threat to Nike’s market leadership. The quality of products and innovation vaulted the Baltimore based company to a top of mind apparel company competing with both Nike at the top and Addidas. Recent years have not been as fruitful, as the brand has been somewhat stale and competition fierece. A new voice might help breathe life and new ideas into the organization.

Nike is a household name globally. Every blue chip athlete is associated with the brand and its apparel and equipment are seen in every sporting event across the world. The brand is seeking a stronger digital focus, which change in leadership may help spark. The brand will need to connect to new customer groups and seek to avoid dividing consumer bases in advertisements.

Interesting to see changes in leadership for two market leaders in the same industry at the same time. The market for apparel and sports equipment is not receding by any measure. Plenty of room for growth at Nike, Under Armour, and Addidas. Time will tell if Under Armour can shake off the sluggish sales and if Nike can achieve gains in its digital strategy.

UBER WORK

New Uber App to Pair Gig Workers With Employers (WSJ)

UBER is adding another useful tool to its portfolio for people operating in the gig economy. First, it allowed people to earn compensation for driving people around on their spare time. Then UBER allowed people to earn income by delivering food. Now, UBER is prepared to help people find temporary work.

UBER Work will connect people seeking temporary employment with employers offering such positions. UBER Work will compete with other tech startups in this space as well as the network of staffing and temp agencies that market these type of roles.

This venture could help add revenue when its core business faces great challenges.

FILLING THE GAP

UPS Bets on Amazon, Despite Risk – The Wall Street Journal

While FedEx distances its self from Amazon, its biggest competitor is filling that gap. Amazon related revenue is 1.3% for FedEx while it is 10% at UPS.

Amazon may be working it’s way to competing in their market, there is still money to be made by both. The move to develop a network of local delivery companies may not work out, making the relationship with global shoppers more vital.