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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bad Lesson in Leadership: Swearing by Mistakes

Tuesday's All-Star game was a failure.

There, I said it.

Now, the Lords of Baseball will tell you that it was the best game ever, that it's a celebration of the sport, and a bunch of other nonsense. Why? Because they are steadfast in their belief that the game should have some meaning and should be played under a "last full measure" theory that normally is reserved for soldiers at a battlefront and not All-Star baseball players in an exhibition game. Nothing could be more absurd.

First, the game ended in the wee hours -- the day after it started. The average fan went to sleep to get up for work the next morning. Or, he was bored by the lack of action and unfair advantage the pitchers had over hitters who had never seen them before. Remember, All-Star pitchers get to the game by having excellent first halves of the season. It stands to reason that if it's tough for hitters in their own league -- who've seen them before, watch DVDs of them and get endless scouting reports -- have trouble hitting them, so will players in the other league who have no such advantages. Some players played way too much (George Sherrill, for one), while certain pitchers were thrown into action who started games for their teams only two days before. And Colorado manager Clint Hurdle warmed up Brad Lidge 6 times before inserting him into the game, an exercise in managerial malpractice if there ever was one. If Lidge gets hurt for the Phililes in the second half, the entire Phillies fan base should caravan to MLB's offices and protest. Finally, the managers were contemplating using non-pitchers had the game gone on for much longer.

All pretty messed up, if you asked me.

So why have I changed my tune? The other day I wrote that Bud Selig and company didn't mean any harm the way they constructed the current game, but that they erred because unintended consequences popped up that took the game to a ridiculous extreme. I gave them a pass, so to speak, on the condition that they fix the problem.

But what does Bud Selig do? He actually says the game was a rousing success. And that's a lesson in bad management and leadership. You lose your credibility when a bad situation pops up and you end up taking the point of view, "well, not only was it not a failure, it actually was a success."

A mentor once said to me that you're in trouble if you ever think -- careerwise -- that you are at a place you deserve to be. I've always adopted the thought process of Hall of Famer Rod Carew, who said that he excelled in hitting because he always told himself that there was someone out there who was trying to beat him and hitter better than he could. But Bud Selig obviously believes he deserves his perch as commissioner, and he's been in the job so long that he is committing a cardinal managerial sin -- he's believing in his own b.s. much too much. When you start to do that, your credibility starts to fail, and you turn yourself into an unclothed emperor. Evidence of Selig's hubris is that his deputy, Bob Depuy, has offered similar public statements about the success of the All-Star game.

Get a clue, gentlemen. It was a failure. It went on too long, it could have hurt careers, and there has to be a better way a) to determine home-field advantage in the World Series and b) to end a game that finishes in a tie after 9 innings. Many suggestions have been offered, and you should consider the best of them.

Yes, the teams are selling lots of tickets, but that doesn't mean that baseball is doing everything right.

And example 1 of a bad decision and a compounding of the problem is Tuesday night's All-Star Game.


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