Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sometimes you gotta fail to succeed 

I was just reading the transcript of the radio interview of Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino, who have resolved their differences and brought Epstein back as general manager of the Red Sox. This comes after an 85-day trial separation, when Epstein quit what he called his dream job as Boston GM over differences with Lucchino. When I was in Boston three weeks ago Epstein was already being interviewed in the papers, and you could see hints that he would have some role with the Sox. I won't go into my feelings about this as a Red Sox fan, because if you're not one you most likely don't care. But this answer to the first question really grabbed me.

What it was about was we had a fairly fundamental disconnect about things that are very important in an organization, if you�re going to stay for three years as a GM and be responsible not only for the product on the field but be accountable to your colleagues and the fans as well and where that disconnect was fairly wide ranging. ...

I�m taking a chance by coming back. Larry�s taking a chance by having me back. John [Henry] and Tom [Werner, the owners] are taking a chance by getting involved to help broker this whole thing.

So the disconnect is related to everything from baseball philosophy, simple issues that come up all the time but are very important. How much do you value the long term vs. the short term? What�s your philosophy? How far will you go to retain veteran players? How much do you want to rely on young players?

Everything from baseball philosophy to simple communication issues � How do we communicate internally? What�s our philosophy to communicate with the press? How much must we trust each other to communicate the right way with respect to the media? It was all these issues that may not seem that important on the outside looking in but I can tell you and Larry can tell you, that when you�re in a leadership position with a sports franchise, especially one like the Red Sox, those things are fundamentally important.

That applies to much, much more than a sports franchise. Sometimes, you need to make a clean break to get others in the organization to see wherein lies the breakdown in communication, where the loss of vision is. Particularly if trust is lost. I'm heartened by the story that trust appears to have been restored in my favorite baseball team, but even more heartened that trust can be restored by people passionately discussing their principles and having the courage to stand by them.