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Monday, September 24, 2007

On Mr. Bush, Or, Does "Stay The Course" Work In Baseball?

Mr. Bush has officially informed us that recent success in Al-Anbar Province should convince us to “stay the course” in Iraq, despite the failure of every other aspect of his Iraq/Afghanistan/foreign policy initiatives-and the shifting nature of the definition of success.

Even more ironically, Mr. Bush now plans to become a crusader for fiscal responsibility, despite his failure to take this issue seriously in the past.

All of this has lead to a huge back and forth between those who claim this bit of recent overseas success and the current “strong economy” justify more of the same, as success is finally “just around the corner”, and those who see this President’s Iraq policy as essentially passing the problem on to the next President.

It’s always tough to judge a President during his term, considering the lack of a peer group to use for comparison. But what if Mr. Bush had the same won/loss record in a different job?

That question is the point of today’s conversation.

"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."
--Yogi Berra, former baseball manager

The crunching of the leaves below your feet tells us that the baseball playoffs have arrived-so let’s talk managers.

Not unlike a President, baseball managers are required to endure the blame and accept the credit for the fortunes of the teams they lead, making them an excellent subject for comparison.

Imagine a manager after a run of seasons in which his team was accused of being unprepared and undermanaged. Imagine if season after season they posted a mediocre to poor record.

Now imagine the press conference in which that manager told the team’s owners and fans to “stay the course”.

How might the upper management of such a team react?

Coincidentally, Mr. Bush was himself an owner and managing general partner of the Texas Rangers baseball club; which means we can actually perform a direct examination of how Mr. Bush himself would react when faced with the same issues of judging success and failure.

So in a question which will sound familiar to my Texas friends-what would the Rangers do if a 6-13 Mr. Bush was their manager?

They would have fired him, that’s what.

Look at the history of the Rangers’ managers:

The Ranger’s first manager, Ted Williams, retired following his first season after posting a 54-100 record.

There was Frank Lucchesi; who was fired after a 4th place finish in 1976, and a .500 record in ’77; and having his second baseman arrested after he was physically attacked by the player.

Billy Martin was fired even though he led the team to its best record until that point in Ranger history. (Of course, the Yankees were also unwilling to “stay the course” with Martin despite his exceptional success there.)

Buck Showalter; fired last year after 4 years with a .492 average winning percentage. (Ironically, the photo in the link shows Showalter losing to the Cleveland Indians. Here’s a link suggesting Showalter could have actually ended up working for the Indians.)

Then there’s Bobby Valentine and Kevin Kennedy-the two managers who led the team at the time Mr. Bush was the managing general partner.

So how tolerant was Mr. Bush of the failure of leaders under his baseball watch?

Valentine spent seven years with the team-and his exactly mediocre .501 average winning percentage got him canned.

So Kennedy was brought in (after a 76 game Toby Harrah era)-and he led the team to a second place finish in the Division (with an 86-76 record), which he followed with a 1st place Divisional finish the next year.

Mr. Bush oversaw his firing, too.

But my favorite managerial example: Johnny Oates. After amassing a 495-459 record with the Rangers over six years, he resigned in 2001 after beginning the season with an 11-17 record-and the most expensive player contract in baseball history, in the form of Alex Rodriguez.

And maybe that’s our real story for today: a leader who understood that failure upon expensive failure can lead you to no other decision but the right one-resigning for the good of the team.

Mr. Bush, if you really care as much about America as you do a Johnny Oates. Admit to your losing record, accept some accountability for the first time in your life, and then we can make the moves that can get this team back on track to win the World Series.

Don’t drag it out until the end of a losing season-resign now.
Take Cheney, your general manager, with you.

And maybe for the first time since Green Bay’s residents bought the Packers, the fans will again control the game-at least for a moment.


Colin Campbell said...

I laughed when I saw Mr Bush with the fiscal conservative board in a photograph last week. All he would need to do is to rewind the Iraq war and things would look pretty good.

fake consultant said...

what's even more amazing is that we (americans) don't see through it more quickly-but we do at times lack a sense of history beyond the public lives of britney and lindsey...