This is a great time of the year, especially if you like baseball. The baseball playoffs are in full bloom. Having been a baseball player and fan most of my life, it’s a special time of the year for me. If you prefer football, hockey or basketball because it’s more exciting, I can certainly understand that, but when you really know the game of baseball there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. To the casual observer it appears there is a lot of standing around, and that is somewhat true, but on every play (and before every play) every player has a job and responsibility and a place to be regardless of where the ball is hit.
If you happened to watch the Boston Red Sox game this past Monday, one of the key plays in that game was a missed bunt. Yep, a missed bunt. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, I’m sure you know what a bunt is. It’s the most fundamental skill of the game. Kids learn it on day one. Los Angeles had put a squeeze play on and the batter missed the ball. A squeeze play is when you have a runner on third, less than two outs and the batter sacrifices himself by laying down a bunt. The runner scores easily because he heads for home as the pitcher releases the ball. It’s impossible to defend when executed correctly.
In the top of the ninth Los Angeles pinch hitter Kendry Morales doubles off the wall in left center. Howie Kendrick sacrificed pinch runner Reggie Willits to third, giving Erick Aybar a chance to be the Los Angeles’ Angels offensive hero for the game. Aybar, hitting against Many Delcarmen whiffed on a squeeze attempt and Willits was caught halfway down the line by Red Socks Catcher Jason Varitek. Runner out, and as it turns out game and series over for LA.
What’s the point to all this? How can a pro baseball player, making millions of dollars not be able to bunt the ball? It’s fundamental, it’s basic and it’s relatively simple. There is a simple answer: A lack of practice and execution. A lack of practicing the basics. It’s just like your business. Your people don’t practice their basic selling skills. They want to get in the game, take some big cuts, hit a home run, but they aren’t willing to work on the fundamentals of their game in order to be successful.
One could debate the wisdom of calling the squeeze play in that game, and blame the manager for a poor call. It wasn’t the call that was the problem. Yes, the manager should be blamed, but he should be blamed for not demanding his players practice this fundamental skill until it becomes automatic. You would think players at that level would have enough pride to do so. Think again. The players on your team are no different. They want to take their swings, hit a home run, but they are not willing to do what it takes to squeeze home the potential winning run at the end of the month. Don’t blame them. The blame squarely lays on you for not demanding they be properly trained in the first place.
As much as we all hate these very difficult economic times we are going through, in the end it makes us all better or at least those of us that are smart enough to get back to the basics of doing the fundamentals correctly. I hated Marine Corps boot camp. I’m a better man today because of it. Your people may come to hate the demands you put on them to be better. But in the end they and your dealership will be all the better for it. As my friend David Ferrez says, “Would you rather have the pain of discipline or the pain of regret?” That’s all I’m gonna say.