World Series-Baseball’s Life Lessons
The Kansas City Royals World Series win in last night’s fall baseball classic taught several valuable life lessons. As often is the case in all sporting events, the outcome of the contest often turns on mistakes made by one side or the other.
Usually these mistakes are of a physical nature and are committed by a player in the contest. For instance, a player may boot a ground ball that should have been caught and turned into an out, or a defensive fielder may make an errant throw that allows the opposing team to gain an advantage that they otherwise would not have had at their disposal.
Sometimes, errors are mental. Here again, mental errors are often committed by the players engaged in the battle. A batter may attempt to stretch a double into a triple, but his efforts end up making the first out of the inning at third base. In the parlance of the game, this type of mental error is termed a “Cardinal Sin.” I can still hear my first youth league coach, the late Rev. James Jackson, at a failed attempt in “67 to hit a triple at old Grace Hill Park in Macon, Georgia, yelling, “Hal never make the first out of an inning at third base.”
These type of mistakes can end an inning in a hurry.
In last night’s World Series finale, several equally important “Cardinal Sins” were committed by Terry Collins,the manager of the New York Mets, which led to the end of the Mets season and hopes of becoming this year’s World Series Champions.
Collins, in his eleven year major league managing career has won 838 baseball games. Going into last night’s game he had managed a total of one thousand six hundred and eighty-eight regular season major league games. He is no novice in the ranks of major league managers.
But last night he allowed his “gut” to over rule his head and committed three mental errors that ultimately dug a hole from which his players could not escape.
Throughout the first eight innings, Collins’ starting pitcher Matt Harvey (No known relation), pitched a masterful game. He closed out the top half of the eighth inning with eight strong innings of shut-out baseball. His team led the game 2-0. A packed crowd in Citi Field chanted: “HARVEY, HARVEY, HARVEY!” I must admit it sounded kinda cool hearing my name chanted over the roar of the crowd.
When Harvey walked off the mound and into the dugout at the conclusion of the eighth inning, conventional baseball thought would have thanked him for a brilliant performance and turned the ninth inning over to Jeurys Familia, the team’s closer.
Here is where the game turned dicey. Collins confers with Dan Warthen, his pitching coach. Apparently the two decided it was time to remove Harvey from the contest. Collins makes the first of three mental errors. He sends Warthen over to tell Harvey he would not go back out to complete the game in the ninth inning. As the crowd continues to chant “HARVEY, HARVEY, HARVEY,” Harvey makes a beeline over to Collins. Emotionally, as only a Harvey can do, Harvey pleads his case to Collins, who then makes the second mental error, he relents and permits Harvey to return to the mound at the start of the ninth inning.
Immediately, things began to go downhill for the Mets. Harvey walks the first batter he faces. Collins now has another important mental decision to make; and that is whether to allow Harvey to pitch to another batter.
When I coached youth league baseball, I employed a stratagem that I learned from former Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame manager, Bobby Cox. If you allow a pitcher to pitch into an inning that you normally would not, you only permit him to pitch until he allows a batter to reach base. Then it is time for the proverbial “hook” in baseball. Collins did not pull the “hook” and allowed Harvey to pitch to one additional batter, who promptly doubled to left field, driving in the runner and swinging the momentum to Kansas City. They tied the game and eventually won in extra innings.
So what life lessons are contained in these three mental errors:
- When you have bad news for a subordinate staffer, tell them yourself. It is better to get ahead of a potential problem and assure them that you value their contribution, but in the best interest of the organization, it is time to hand the ball to another staffer.
- When decisions are made for the good of the entire organization, never allow personal goals of a few to get in the way of that decision.
- When you realize that you have made a mistake, never compound the problem. Take decisive corrective steps immediately.
Otherwise, you like New York, will spend far too much time “holding the empty bag,” second guessing the choices you made. Baseball is life!