Scene In Passing: Swingin’ for fences OK, but defense wins

Life works better above the Mendoza line, but when it comes to manufacturing, life must get closer to Gold Glove territory.

Pardon the baseball analogies, but the point is basic competence is required for life but real precision is required to make things other people want to buy. It ain’t rocket science, though rocket scientists may buy your stuff if you make something they need well enough and they learn about it. Same goes for products going to the health care field, the transport industry, and more etceteras than can be listed here.

Now back to baseball awhile. Mario Mendoza was a “good field, no hit” shortstop back in the 1970s whose career batting average in the major leagues was .215. It often hovered at or below .200, which got dubbed the Mendoza line, but he was a sound glove man at an important defensive position and so actually had a career in the bigs. However, he never won a Gold Glove despite his defensive skills.

The Rawlings Gold Glove goes to elite fielders, one per position each year in each league. Winners are selected by managers, but managers can’t vote for players on their own teams, and fielding percentages must be stellar.

A good example is Omar Vizquel, once on the San Francisco Giants. During his career he was good field, good hit shortstop who made only three errors in the 2000 season to win one of his 11 Gold Gloves. That year he turned in a fielding percentage of .995. Close enough, almost, for manufacturing work.

In other words life isn’t bad above the Mendoza line on offense because being right 20 percent of the time or more generally will let you hobble along, If you’re manufacturing goods, however, the closer you get to Gold Glove status the better your chance of succeeding. This observation is a bit like the Pareto principle, which I describe this way: more than 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your sales force (and vice versa).

By now you’re looking for my point. It hit me in the sweet spot, both on my mental bat and in my mind’s glove, when Rob Hooper of the Northern Nevada Development Authority made a presentation at the Board of Supervisors seeking $150,000 over two years from the city to help manufacturers.

He got it. The goal is to help his regional authority work with existing Carson City manufacturers, as well as lure in new ones. During his presentation he said 85 percent (not quite Gold Glove, but in the ball park) of manufacturing growth comes from existing industry somewhere, while 15 percent (below the Mendoza line) comes from relocations to that place.

Seems like a no-brainer to me: playing defense and helping the industry you have is the percentage play; trying for the home run, or even a single, is necessary but even success will be solid at 20 percent. No hitter has doubled the Mendoza line since Ted Williams, Boston’s splendid splinter, hit .406 in 1941.

So let’s hope NNDA can play both defense and offense, not just talk a good game.

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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