business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Wall Street Journal reports that Major League Baseball has come into the 21st century, lifting a ban on laptops, tablets and smartphones in dugouts and signing a deal with Apple that will allow managers and coaches to use iPad Pro tablets "to help coaching staffs make better use of data. Teams will be able sift through performance stats from current and past seasons, weigh potential pitcher-hitter matchups, look at 'spray charts' showing where a player is likely to hit a ball, even cue up videos of plays from previous games."

Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing, tells the Journal, “We’re not just replacing binders with tablets, we’re actually helping them do things that weren’t possible before," like staying in the dugout to see video rather than running back to the locker room.

And Tim Teufel, third base coach for the National League Champion New York Mets, says that "he looks forward to seeing what competitive advantage the MLB Dugout app and iPads can offer. 'Managers have plans and positions laid out before the game even starts. This won’t change that much. But when a relief pitcher comes in, when a pinch hitter comes up, when the game changes in unexpected ways, that’s when it’ll be really useful."

Unlike the deal that the National Football League (NFL) has with Microsoft mandating "that Surface tablets must be visible on every sideline during games," the Apple-MLB deal only makes them optional. But it probably is fair to say that even resistant managers and coaches mired in the traditions of the past will want to use them if they see the opposition with a perceived competitive advantage.

In baseball, as in business (and let's face it, baseball is a business), it is foolish to try to compete without the maximum actionable data possible ... but they actually have to act on it. And I think that's a good thing ... even if it means that WiFi connections are going to be as important peanuts and Cracker Jacks to the ballpark experience.

It'll be an Eye-Opener.

(Four days until Opening Day. Mets-Royals on Sunday night. Yippee.)
KC's View: