Business 2.0: Dugout Wisdom for Corporate Managers

By Michael Myser, July 2004 Issue

Baseball is, in many ways, management theory in action. Winning teams know how to manage operations, people, and change -- areas that are vital to the success of any organization. Jeff Angus, a baseball reporter-turned-management consultant, puts that observation to work as author of Management by Baseball (, a weblog that cleverly translates the ups and downs of major-league teams into case studies. With some of the sport's most vexing questions in mind, Business 2.0 asked Angus to play ball.

After winning their division last year, the San Francisco Giants got off to a rocky start. Why?
About 25 percent of the Giants' on-field value has been tied up in the gargantuan talent of Barry Bonds. But now that Bonds is merely super-excellent, and often injured, they're having a heck of a time. It's not impossible to win when you put most of your value in one guy, but it often leads to weakness. In the corporate world, if you have one great organizational strength, your competitors will line up to undermine that strength. Companies that do a range of things well have an easier time of it. Cisco has been a persistently good company because it's tried to innovate in every possible way. It invests in trying to be great at everything.

Are the Chicago Cubs cursed?
We've all worked in an office where complaining is the primary way people communicate. It doesn't necessarily reflect how good or bad an organization is, or how well or poorly a company is doing. Yet when complaining becomes habitual, you lose faith in the possibility of success. The Cubs are a perfect example of that. In the playoffs last year, there was that incident where a fan grabbed the ball as Moises Alou was trying to make a catch in the stands. That's what fans do: When there's a fly ball, you go after it. But Alou threw a hissy fit. I'd argue that if he'd instead shrugged it off, the Cubs would've had a better chance of winning that game. Faith doesn't guarantee success, but a lack of faith can cause you to fail.

What do you make of the relationship between Yankees manager Joe Torre and team owner George Steinbrenner?
Steinbrenner takes joy in harming other people. Torre is a perfect match for him because his ego doesn't get tied up in battles with Steinbrenner. Torre says, "That's just George being George." Steinbrenner's attitude makes for an extremely toxic environment, but Torre makes it possible for his players to ignore the bloodletting and focus on success.

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