retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Tony La Russa, the legendary manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, is being criticized in many quarters for what is seen as mismanagement of the eighth inning in Monday night’s fifth game of the 2011 World Series.

There have been questions about hit-and-run plays, intentional walks, and relief pitching choices. All of which are legitimate, though I confess that I tend to be charitable in how I criticize major league managers; while it is the right of all fans to whine and inveigh against teams and players, I always try to keep in mind that I am completely unable to do what they do.

But what intrigues me - and the real Eye-Opener - is one of La Russa’s excuses for bringing in the wrong pitcher. He said that when he called the bullpen, they couldn’t hear what he was saying.

What was interesting about this was that just a few days ago there was a story in the New York Times about how baseball is the last bastion for landline telephones - that while everyone else on the planet uses cell technology to call, text or email, major league baseball uses the same equipment that it was using decades ago. Apparently the headsets that are used by football coaches - in far noisier stadiums - simply are not available to baseball managers.

Why not text or make cell phone calls? Someone told the Times that they were afraid of losing the signal ... which seems funny, since that does not seem to be a problem affecting thousands of people in the stands.

Two points here.

One, there is no excuse for not having up to date technology, especially for businesses generating millions of dollars a year in profits. Nobody in baseball would consider not using modern video technology, or computers, or medical care. Technology is a tool, and how effectively you use it determines your differential advantage. If, as a manager, improper use of technology or having the wrong technology means that you have the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, then you’ve made a major mistake. You haven’t been beaten. You’ve beaten yourself.

Two, when you screw up this way, don’t make excuses. Especially the convoluted kind that La Russa seemed to be making in the wake of game five. The more he talked, the less sense he seemed to make. Sometimes, when things go bad, the guy at the top has to say, “I screwed up. No excuses. I have to do better next time. Next question.” That kind of attitude also sends a great message to everyone on the team about how to comport themselves.

For the record, I’m rooting for the Cardinals here. But it is time to reach out and touch someone.
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