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Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's Not Personal...It's Strictly Business! Kyle Orton Faces The Denver Broncos

For Kyle Orton, starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday’s contest against the Denver Broncos is more than just another football game…more than just a game against a AFC West Division opponent…more than just a game that could decide the fate of a rival’s playoff hopes…for Kyle Orton, this game is PERSONAL!  Make no mistake, yes, Orton wants to win because it’s his job…because he is very competitive…because he could be auditioning for a starting job in 2012…but most of all, Kyle Orton wants to win to show the Denver Broncos that they made a mistake in cutting him earlier in the season and replacing him with Tim Tebow!  
Imagine for a minute you are Kyle Orton.  Right before the beginning of the 2011 NFL Season, your team for the past two years, the Denver Broncos, tries to trade you to the Miami Dolphins, but the deal falls thru.  In training camp, first year head coach, John Fox, declares that the starting quarterback job is wide open, even though you have been the starter since 2009.  You easily win the job over the prodigal son, Tim Tebow, who proves he is not ready to take over the reigns as the Broncos' quarterback.  You start the 2011 season 1 and 4 turning over the ball nine times during the five game run.  On October 9, you hit rock bottom, when you go 6 for 13 for a total of 34 yards in the first half of the game against the San Diego Chargers, throwing your seventh interception of the season.  You start the second half of the game on the bench and watch Tebow and his awkward style take the Broncos within a last gasp pass of coming back to beat the Chargers.  By the beginning of next week, the writing is on the wall - you are now demoted to THIRD on the depth chart behind starter, Tim Tebow, and back up quarterback Brady Quinn.  Your career as a Denver Bronco is over - it’s just a matter of time until you are released.  (Which comes six weeks later)   Fast forward to Week #17 of the 2011 NFL season:  you are now starting for the last place team in the AFC West Division while the quarterback who took your spot has led your former team to a chance at the AFC West Division title, and is the feel good story of the NFL.  How would you feel?  Go ahead, it’s okay to say it...let it out, you’ll feel much better for it…A little bitter!   

For all those people who have been fired from one company and landed at the competition…for all those individuals who were pushed out of their position by some young kid with an MBA…for all those veteran salespeople who have been taken off the company’s big account and see it handed over to someone with less experience…this Sunday, Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Kyle Orton is your knight in shining armor, getting ready like a waiter at your favorite restaurant to serve a meal called REVENGE.   

Now, I understand how some people will say “it’s strictly business – it’s not personal,” just like Michael Corleone stated with a straight face in The GODFATHER.  Kyle Orton has a job to do and as quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, his job is to lead the offense to victory.  I’m sure that is first and foremost on Orton’s mind.  However, towards the end of the game this weekend between the Chiefs and the Broncos, with seconds left, if the Chiefs are winning, and it appears that the outcome has all but been determined, take a look at the Chiefs’ sidelines.  If you see a smile appearing on Orton’s face, I’ll bet that he is thinking - REVENGE, How Sweet The Sound!!! 

It’s Strictly Business – It’s Not Personal!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Talent Versus Attitude - A Coach's Dilemma

Talent Gets You Access To The Game…Attitudes Separates The Great From The Good...
Bob Marsh, Sales Playbook

We all have witnessed that explosive wide receiver who can outrun any defensive back or the defensive lineman who can push through a double team, and get in the backfield before the quarterback has a chance to drop back…What about the quarterback who stands 6’5” in the pocket and has a rifle for an arm…Come draft day in the NFL, scouts, coaches, and general managers get together looking for the players with the best talent, who can run the 60 the fastest, who can bench press the most.  I think it’s safe to say that in the NFL, and probably most professional sports, head coaches live by the motto Talent Trumps Attitude.  Have you ever heard a top draft pick in any league selected solely because he is extremely coachable…has a winning attitude…is highly competitive…most likely, the answer is NO. 

No matter how tough the player can be to coach, how disruptive he can be in the locker room, or how many times he shows up in the headlines for saying something outrageous, if his skills can put points on the board more than likely he will find a team desperate enough to welcome him with open arms and an open wallet.   But is there a steep price to pay (that goes beyond their paycheck) that costs the team dearly in the long run?  As a coach, do you want a team filled with prima donnas, egos, and a laundry list of reasons why they can’t practice, or would you prefer to surround yourself with a group of players who are willing to go through walls to get “it” done, understand that no player is bigger than the team, and give 100% on every play?   

In the office, how many times have you seen a coworker strut their stuff, boasting about their past accomplishments, holding court by the water cooler, and pounding their chest in sales meetings, only to fall horribly short when they are given a responsibility or asked to take the lead on a project.  The moment the individual faces a road block, they are lost.  Sure, when they were first hired, everyone heard about their tremendous upside and how their hiring is going to put the entire staff on alert, but in the end, all you got was a lot of hot air.  The individuals that are consistently at the top of their profession are the ones sitting in front of “the class," engaged and actively contributing to the team’s goal.  They stimulate discussion, and are willing to put their own success aside for the betterment of the team.  They are part of the “assembly line,” coming to work every day and playing their role in the company’s success.  

Give me the player who has the raw skills and is a sponge in practice soaking up all he can to improve his game…Show me the player who might not have all the talent in the world, but knows how to get the job done…Get me the teammate that will pass up the accolades and the highlight reel, instead hinging their own success on the team’s record.  Equally important, is the effect a player with this mindset and commitment has on his teammates.  Look at many of the underdog success stories in sports, the David who slays Goliath, certainly you will find the team filled with players who have the “never say die” attitude and win at all costs spirit.    

Yes, everyone loves the one handed acrobatic catch, the ESPN play of the day, and the sprint to the end zone that brings the crowd to their feet, without the super athlete the game would be boring – I get it.  But looking to build a championship team, a team that competes day in and day out…I’ll take Attitude over Talent any day of the week – especially on Sundays!   

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Sports, Enough is NEVER Enough...

There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game and that is first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay and I never want to finish second again. Vince Lombardi

As a boy growing up with parents who were strict disciplinarians, I can remember one of my father’s favorite phrases… “Steven, Enough is Enough!”  He usually stated this demand when his patience had been tested, and he was at his boiling point.  The next wrong move, would get me a swift slap from a man who stood about six foot two, with hands the size of frying pans.  (Back then it was called TOUGH LOVE!) 

I have come to realize that my dad’s phrase, while still applicable in the new millennium, doesn’t really apply to two areas – Business and Sports.  I am quite certain...strike that,    I’m positive, that in those two industries, my dad’s calling card statement does not apply – in fact, I’ll go one step further, those two industries live by a different code, and that code is… “ENOUGH Is NEVER ENOUGH!

How many times in business, have you developed a great idea that solved a lingering problem, or hit your monthly sales quota, or closed a monster deal, and after a few slaps on the back, a hearty handshake, and the obligatory email to the staff alerting them of your achievement,  your boss comes up to you and says… “So, what do you have for me next?”  

Heaven forbid, you should come up empty…you’ll start to hear things like... “You lost your hunger…The business has passed you by…You got complacent…” 

In today’s sports environment where the owners, fans, and media’s thirst for a championship are insatiable, the Vince Lombardi mantra of “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” has never been so dead on. 

I remember hearing about a starting pitcher, who consistently won 15 to 17 games a year, when asked why he never reached 20 wins in a season, he quickly replied, “once you win 20 games, they expect you to win 20 games every year.  Otherwise, you’re a bum.”  Talking about managing expectations.  But has the fear of rejection or retribution over not reaching a goal year after year, month after month, intimidated us to the point where we hold back?  Has it driven us to take risks that are more harmful to ourselves, and the organization, than the glory of the rewards?   Will it entice us to make decisions that will provide short team gain only to face long term regret?   Think about some of the managers and head coaches in professional sports who have taken their teams to the brink of ultimate success only to fall prey to the Enough is Never Enough philosophy that is prevalent in sports today, and shown a hasty exit from the team.  And how about those teams who have made it to the promised land…are they now expected to climb that mountain year after year, otherwise, they are a one hit wonder…A “Boy Band” that hit puberty too soon too fast. 

Can an organization truly build consistency, purpose, and a team atmosphere when management is so quick to pull the trigger?  Look at some of your greatest dynasties in sports, what is the one consistent presence on that team?  Most likely, it’s the leader.  The coach that set the tone, creates the standard, and builds the foundation for success where it counts – in the “field.”  Sure, upper management/general managers/ownership all play a role, but the majority of the real work is done out in the field.  Where every decision, every play, every mistake is watched and scrutinized over and over again.

Whether it’s because of bosses who need to justify their existence and leadership style, owners that want to show “something” for their investment, obsessed fans who somehow equate fulfillment in their life with how many championships their team has won, or the media whose sole purpose is bringing down those on top so they can build them up again, the patience for bringing home a “championship” is extremely short and not very sweet. 

Is this drive to achieve greatness more of a burden than a motivation? At a time when immediate satisfaction is at the top of everyone’s to do list, does our desire for perfection trump our need for patience…

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ignorance Is...Penn State University's Version

Reader Beware:  
This post is more a rant than a fan’s take on a sports story…
More a question of human behavior than describing an athletic accomplishment on the gridiron.

This is bigger than football, college athletics or the illustrious career of a football coach that has spanned over 60 years.  It’s bigger than a state university that on football game day becomes one of the largest cities in Pennsylvania, and the sports program that literally put the city, “Happy Valley” on the map. 

The sex abuse scandal that is shocking the entire college community that supports Penn State University is much bigger than sports.

This is about the young boys who were taken advantage of because, well they were young.  This is about an incredibly selfish act of one sick man who some how felt he could get away with the heinous crime, and didn’t care who got hurt, whose lives were destroyed or who was left picking up the pieces.  This is about incredibly poor judgment by individuals who put friendship, the fraternity of coaching or their own short sighted needs ahead of what is the right thing to do.  Plain and simple, this is not about college sports, the legacy of a football coach, or a university football program that turned out NFL caliber athletes (Penn State is known as Linebacker U.) Anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly mistaken. 

What truly amazes me about this scandal is how one person, Jerry Sandusky (he doesn’t even deserve to be called a coach – the names he deserves are unprintable), can justify what he is doing, and where he is doing it, and not for one second seek help?  I mean, did Sandusky not know what he was doing was wrong? (He founded Second Mile, dedicated to helping children with absent or dysfunctional families.)  Did he not think about the consequences – obviously, not.  And this is probably a bigger question about mankind in general – a question we will never know the answer to, and certainly not one I am going to even attempt to tackle!  I will leave it to Dr. Phil. 

Finally, what does this say about the “Fraternity of Coaches” – the “what happens here stays here” mentality (So that’s where Sin City – Las Vegas, got that slogan!)  Can coaches, athletic directors, and anyone else who is a part of Penn State football program and vaguely had an idea about this crime be that loyal to Sandusky that they would turn away from a blatant and horrible crime against kids in order to live by some code of sports conduct?  To think, a week ago, before this case went public, Penn State University allowed this soon-to-be-charged-felon on campus and having use of the athletic facilities. This action goes way beyond Hear No Evil – See No Evil and Ignorance Is Bliss

In this case, Ignorance is Selfish, Irresponsible, and more importantly, Harmful.  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

For The Texas Rangers and Their Fans It's The Morning After That Hurts The Most

The “day after” is when it all sinks in.  Think about it…You’ve been dismissed from your job - the day after is when you really begin to reflect on what happened.  Sure, as soon as you are let go, anger, rage, and a few choice words are all that are running through your head, but it’s the day after that you begin to understand what just happened, and start to think about what you are going to do next for work.

You’ve been dumped after a long relationship, and after a night of sobbing, and crying on your best friend’s shoulder, you spend the next day reliving the time you spent together, and where it all went wrong.  You ask yourself, “Was it really me?  If I had only done (Fill In The Blank), we would still be together…” 

You’ve just lost the 7th game of the World Series and at first you’re stunned – you can’t believe what just happened.  You take that long walk into the locker room, and slowly begin to take off your uniform.  Your head is hung low, more from emotional exhaustion and physical fatigue than from what just happened.  It’s the next day when it all finally sinks in.  You are bombarded with analysis on ESPN,, and any other so called sports expert giving their opinion on what went wrong.

If you’re a Texas Ranger or a fan of the team, you are experiencing that “Day After” feeling.  Last night, the St. Louis Cardinals finished their incredible run that started on September 1st when they found themselves 10 and a half games behind the Atlanta Braves for the National League Wild Card spot, and finished with beating the Texas Rangers 6 to 2, winning the World Series for the 11th time in Cardinals franchise history.  

Sure, it’s the second year in a row that Texas has been to the World Series, losing to the San Francisco Giants in five games in 2010, but after you lose a best of seven series like this one, where your team was up 3 games to 2, where you were one strike away from winning the championship not once but twice in an epic Game 6, you will spend time going over and over each play wondering what could have been done differently.  I am sure you’ll be thinking about the World Series record 41 walks (including nine intentional walks) issued by the Texas Rangers pitchers.  (The record was 40 held by the 1997 Florida Marlins pitching staff.)  Perhaps you will dwell on the fact that the Texas Rangers bullpen had a 7.43 ERA and the Cardinals had a .311 batting average in the Series against the relief staff.  (During the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Rangers’ relievers held their opponents to a .193 batting average and had a 2.34 ERA.) 

Maybe you will question some of the moves from Texas manager Ron Washington. Should he have waited to use Derek Holland in Game Seven instead of bringing him in to help close out Game Six?  Should Rangers Closer, Neftali Perez been left in to face the bottom of the Cardinals order in the 10th inning of Game 6 instead of bringing in lefthander Darren Oliver?  Should Albert Puljos been intentionally walked in favor of pitching to Lance Berkman in the 10th inning of Game 6?  And what if Nelson Cruz got a better read on the ball hit by Cardinals' David Freese in the 9th inning – (we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation!)  

In the end, nothing will change what has occurred…when you wake up, you’ll still be out of a job…your Plus One will no longer be at your side…and the your team will still be in search of its first World Series Championship – but time heals all pain, and there is always next time.  For the Rangers and their fans, next time can’t come soon enough.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Failure To Communicate - Game 5 of The 2011 World Series

Communication…funny thing about it is, you never know how important it is until you don’t have it.   Arguably, two of the greatest inventions that have propelled mankind through the years have been the telephone and the internet.  Both technological breakthroughs that have changed the way we live.  At the core of our existence is the ability to communicate a message, a directive, an emotion to someone.  How many times have you heard a relationship end, and the reason… “We Just Don’t Seem To Communicate Anymore!” In every Business Strategy brief there is a section on the importance for CLEAR and CONCISE COMMUNICATION.  Think about how many times you have said to a co-worker, “I wish there was better communication between the departments,” or “if only my boss had told me exactly what they wanted, it would have saved a lot of time and energy.”    

The 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers has seen its share of strong pitching – see Rangers’ starting pitcher Derek Holland in Game 4…Record Tying Hitting - see Cardinals first baseman Albert Puljos in Game 3…and clutch performances – see Rangers’ catcher Mike Napoli in Game 4 and Game 5.  Yet, the 2011 Fall Classic might be remembered best for Game 5 and the breakdown in communication between a manager and his bullpen.  By now, we have all heard the story about the Cardinals bullpen’s inability to hear the instructions from manager Tony LaRussa (twice LaRussa called the bullpen and instructed them to get closer Jason Motte ready to come in) resulting in the manager’s decision to stick with relief pitcher, lefthander Marc Rzepczynski to face the hot hitting (and Series MVP candidate) Ranger Mike Napoli with the winning runs on in the 8th inning.  Napoli, a righty hitter, took Rzepczynski deep to right field and drove in two runs.  Texas won 4 to 2 and are one game away from winning the franchises first World Series title.  (For the record, lefty hitters batted .165 against Rzepczynski in 2011 regular season.  Righty hitters batted .275).  Would you want Rzepczynski facing the hottest hitting righty in the Rangers lineup with the game and possibly the series on the line?

Could the noise from the Texas Ranger’s fans be so loud that the bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist  didn’t hear LaRussa say “get Jason Motte ready” and instead, heard “get Lance Lynn ready."   Could the bullpen coach be so focused that he is not watching the game situation unfold before him, and understand the match up between left hander Rzepczynski and right hand hitter Napoli.  Wouldn’t one think that LaRussa, pitching coach Dave Duncan, and bullpen coach Lilliquist  go over who would they want pitching in certain game situations during their pregame meeting?  (According to LaRussa, it had been determined prior to Game 5 that relief pitcher Lance Lynn would not be pitching in the game due to his workload in Game 4.) 

It’s been stated that some of the pitchers in the Cardinals bullpen were aware of the situation that was unfolding, yet didn’t feel it was their place to say anything.  LaRussa does the thinking, and the players do the playing.  Sometimes not being able to communicate is just as bad as the wrong communication.

Whatever the reason…the noise from a home team crowd that is starving for a World Series championship, a bullpen coach who can’t understand the difference between the names Motte and Lynn, a misunderstanding between a manager and his relievers or a mental lapse from a manager who is known for his focus and discipline…Game 5 and the 2011 World Series may be the first Fall Classic that was decided not because of one team’s sub par pitching or lack of hitting, but because of poor communication.  And if you're a Cardinals fan, that's got to be tough to hear. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cardinals Stay The Course...Right To The World Series

"Discipline Is The Bridge Between Goals and Accomplishment..."

There is a lot to be said about Discipline and Focus.  In Life, in business, in sports, discipline and focus can be the driving force behind your success.   Think about how many times you decided to quit smoking, lose weight, get in shape, find another job, make your sales quota…what “things” kept you on course to reach your goal?  Yes, you had determination to “get it done…”  Maybe it was your competitive spirit that pushed you to achieve what naysayer’s said you couldn’t…At the foundation of your plan was Discipline and Focus.  Towards the end of the Major League Baseball season, one team embodied these two words more than any other, and that team is still playing baseball well into October.  And that team is led by a manager who throughout his career, has been committed to Discipline and Focus.  The team is the St. Louis Cardinals, and their manager is Tony LaRussa. 

A month and a half ago, LaRussa and the Cardinals were a team fighting for their proverbial playoff lives.  At the beginning of September, the Cardinals were eight games above .500, and eight and half games behind the Atlanta Braves for the lone National League Wild Card spot.  The picture looked bleak.  Even at the beginning of the season, the St. Louis Cardinals looked anything like a World Series contender as LaRussa’s #2 Starting Pitcher, Adam Wainwright, a 19 game winner in 2010 went down with a season ending injury.  The Cardinals manager stayed the course and pieced together a rotation behind ace Chris Carpenter that consisted of Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, and Jaime Garcia.  That trio of Lohse, Westbrook, and Garcia had a combined 2010 record of 27 – 27.   The bullpen was in no better condition with Ryan Franklin, the former All-Star reliever for the Cardinals losing his closer’s duties in mid-April and eventually released.  LaRussa, and pitching coach, Dave Duncan, turned to Fernando Salas, and Jason Motte to close out games.  Salas had one year in The Show under his belt, and Motte was a converted catcher.
Sure, the Cardinals would boast the National League’s best offense, leading the league in Team Batting Average (.273), Runs Batted In (726), On Base Percentage (.341) and tied for league lead with the Milwaukee Brewers in Slugging Percentage, (.425)  Yes, the Cardinals have Albert Puljos, arguably Major League’s Best Hitter, but in 2011, his season, while for some would be considered outstanding, for Pujols, was subpar finishing with 37 Home Runs, 99 rbi’s and .299 Batting Average.   In the off season, the team’s biggest name free agent signing was Lance Berkman, who finished the 2010 season with the New York Yankees after being dealt from the Houston Astros.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Berkman is a good player, and in his prime, he put up some impressive stats – a six time National League All Star, at his best Berkman was hitting 25+ Home Runs while driving in over 100 rbi’s and batting over .300.   But that was four years ago.  In 2010, the 34 year old Berkman hit .245 with 58 rbi’s.  I don’t think you necessarily categorize the signing of Berkman as major off season acquisition.  (BTW, Berkman did finish 2011 with a .301 average, 31 home runs, and 94 rbi’s, and the NL Comeback Player of Year!)

On July 27, the Cardinals stood in second place in the NL Central, a half a game behind the Milwaukee Brewers.  General Manager John Mozeliak and LaRussa knew they would have to focus on their pitching if they had any chance to get into the playoffs, and right at the trade deadline, GM Mozeliak addressed the Cardinals needs by dealing for starter, Edwin Jackson, and relievers, Marc Rzepcznski and Octavio Dotel.  St. Louis did part with Colby Rasmus, an outfielder who many felt would be a part of the Cardinals future, but they addressed several needs with the deal that many considered the key to the Cardinals playoff run.  (The Cards also traded for shortstop Rafael Furcal, and in August picked up left-hander reliever, Arthur Rhodes) 

Fast forward to October 16, at Miller Park, it’s the 9th inning of Game Six of the NLCS, there are two outs, and the Cardinals are beating the Brewers 12 – 6.  Jason Motte is on the mound about to throw a 99 mph fastball past Brewers batter, Mark Kotsay, to end the game, and put the Cardinals back in the World Series for the first time since 2006.  By now everyone around Major League Baseball is asking themselves how did this St. Louis team do it?  Weren’t the Philadelphia Phillies supposed to be closing out the National League Championship Series and heading to the World Series?  Didn’t the Atlanta Braves have a lock on the Wild Card spot?  How can a team whose starting rotation was led by a pitcher with 14 wins during the regular season make it into the World Series? 

As Cardinals’ catcher Yader Molina squeezed the third strike on Mark Kotsay, and ran out to the mound to bear hug Jason Motte, joining his other teammates on the field to celebrate, manager Tony LaRussa turned towards pitching coach Dave Duncan in the Cardinals dugout, firmly shook his hand, and gave him a hug of his own.  Together they had been here before, and knew their quest for a Championship wasn’t over.  There was still one more series to play, and more decisions to make…now was not the time to forget what lie ahead…now was not the time to forget what got them there in the first place.  

Monday, October 10, 2011

More Than Just A Game...MONEYBALL

"The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence - Nothing More, Nothing Less” 
John C. Maxwell

How many of us have wanted to show our superiors, our coworkers, our competitors that not only do we know what we’re doing, but we can do it better than anyone else, and the way we do it will change how the industry conducts business in the future.  It’s not just about being innovative, it’s about questioning what you see around you, and asking yourself… “Is that all there is?”   It’s about proving to the establishment that the status quo isn’t necessarily the best way to get it done.  That sometimes, you’ve got to not only think differently but act differently and most importantly, have the conviction, the vision, the determination to see it through.  And finally, provide the leadership to confront those that don’t believe in your plan, that don’t want to follow your lead and wish to stay in the world that seems safe to them, and strongly encourage them to either get on the bus or find another mode of transportation.

MONEYBALL, the movie based on the New York Times bestseller authored by Michael Lewis, is more about leadership, conviction, and challenging the status quo, than about baseball, sabermetrics and the Oakland A’s.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not downplaying what Oakland A’s General Manager, Billy Beane, the focus of MONEYBALL, did with his team during the rise of The Sabermetrics Era beginning in 2002.  Losing players with superstar status, as Beane and A’s did after the 2001 season when centerfielder Johnny Damon, first baseman Jason Giambi, and closer Jason Isringhauser, left the team for greener pastures and greener bank accounts would leave any General Manager scratching their head.  And while Beane may have pleaded with the Oakland A’s owner to increase one of the lowest payrolls in the Major Leagues in order to compete in the free agent market, the General Manager also took these departures as an opportunity.  An opportunity to think differently, act accordingly, and most of all, challenge those who thought his way of thinking was sure to fail. 
Beane confronted those who stood in his way…the passionate discussion with the old time scouts who were more infatuated with how a player looked at the plate than his statistics.  
Beane challenged those who said it wouldn’t work…the back office meetings with Oakland A’s manager, Art Howe, who didn’t buy into Beane’s vision and constantly stood in the way. 
Beane lead those who believed in him…he followed up on his vision and took it upon himself to speak to A’s players about what he was trying to accomplish. 

For Billy Beane, winning wasn’t everything, if it was, he would have taken the $12.5 million contract offered by the Boston Red Sox, and their owners willingness to open the purse strings to sign the best talent available.  Yes, Beane wanted to win a World Series, he wanted his team, the Oakland A’s, to be the winners of the last game of the Major League Baseball season....he also wanted to change the game and how it was played…Isn’t that something we all dream of...?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Stop The Ride...I Want To Get Off! AJ Burnett and The Yankees Rotation

If this was a boxing fight, the corner would have thrown in the towel.

New York Yankees pitcher, AJ Burnett was “bloodied” once again, this time by the last place Baltimore Orioles on Friday night. At the end of the 5th inning, Burnett’s 116 pitches yielded nine runs, nine hits, two home runs, two walks, three wild pitches, and a crowd full of boos!  (By the way, the Yankees were on the road playing at Camden Yards in Baltimore.)  In the second inning, when Burnett was at his “best,” the Yankee starter gave up six runs as the Orioles had six extra base hits in a row.  And Yankees manager Joe Girard left this guy in for another three innings!!!  What was Girardi thinking?  In his last start, on August 20 versus the Minnesota Twins, Burnett allowed seven runs in one and two thirds innings, and was sent to the showers. (not before he had a few choice words for manager Girardi. Or did he…) How much longer can the Yankees watch this horror show unfold and still have confidence in Burnett? 

During the month of August, Burnett’s era is 11.91.  The guy is averaging almost 12 runs a game, and you still send him out there every 5th Day!!!  In his last ten starts, dating back to July 4th, Burnett is 1 and 5 with a 7.79 era.  That includes the game against the Chicago White Sox on August 7th, where Burnett imploded in the 4thinning and gave up five runs. He was pulled before the end of the fifth inning with the Yankees leading 13 to 7.  The Yankees went on to win the game 18 to 7, but Burnett didn’t get the decision.  Can you imagine what the Yankees clubhouse must be like every time Burnett’s name is listed as the day’s starting pitcher?   

Many of us realize that the Yankees are into Burnett for a lot of money- he is in the third year of a five year, $82.5 million contract.  But at some point you’ve got to admit to yourself it’s just not working out.  Putting this guy out there on the mound is not good business.  I can understand the thought that Burnett will work himself out of the slump.  We’ve all been there. But how long do you wait before you take action?  I can understand the desire for management to want to back “their guy.” Afterall, they’re the one’s who decided to bring him to New York.  But you can be penny wise and dollar foolish.  What are you hoping to prove?      

If you’re a Yankees fan, you have witnessed this type of behavior before.  Over the year, the New York Yankees have collected a star studded rotation of pitchers who seem to fade under the bright lights of New York.  Ed Whitson, Carl Pavano, Javier Vazquez, Andy Hawkins, Kenny Rogers – all are perfect examples of what happens when you throw money away. The Yankees are in the middle of a pennant race, trailing the Red Sox by one game, and the general conclusion is that the Yanks will make the playoffs in some capacity.  (But we’ve seen collapses before…)  Making the playoffs is great for some teams, if you’re wearing the pinstripes it’s just not good enough – not for the players, not for ownership, and certainly, not for the fans.  

I always thought in business, leadership had to demonstrate patience with one eye on potential, and the other on results.  In today’s business world, I am sure we have first hand experience with leaders who were too quick to pull the trigger… “you have three months to prove yourself…or else,” and the “what have you done for me lately” mentality.  The pressure is on to perform and the threat of someone breathing down your back is always there.  I get it.  It's business.  We live in a world where results are expected, and if we don't get it done, they will find someone else who will.  But somehow, that doesn’t apply to sports.  Somehow, a guy who gets paid millions of dollars to perform to an expected standard gets a “hall pass.”  I don’t get it…and I guess I never will.  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The SLUMP...Your Worst Nightmare!

The SLUMP…every athlete’s nightmare.  Just mention the word, and pro athletes can shrivel up and hide in the corner.  An 0 fer 4 game slowly turns into a 1 fer 25 week.   Save situations quickly take on a whole new meaning when a closer has blown their last three save opportunities.  Birdie after birdie, becomes bogey after bogey, and that two foot putt shot is no longer money in the bank.   Heck, why just allow that privilege for athletes – the slump can happen to the average Joe at the office.  Your sales calls to prospects aren’t returned.  Your voice messages just aren’t as effective, and your “go-to” closing technique just isn’t getting the client to sign on the bottom line.  Your motivational seminars are met with “Is That All There Is,” instead of “Thank You For Changing My Life!”  Your pick up lines at the local bar that used to be met with a smile and a phone number now fall on deaf ears and all you get back is a look of disgust, and a wave of the hand…Oh, the slump…One Word – A Whole Lot of Pain.

No one is immune to the slump.  At some point in an athlete’s career, there is going to be a time when the “basket looks like the size of keyhole” and those “seeing eye hits” no longer find their way around a fielders glove.  It doesn’t matter what status you have achieved, how many years you have played, or if your first name is Tiger, the slump is going to get you. 

Look at Ichiro, All Star outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, lifetime .327 average, and 10 years in a row of 200 hits more.  In 2011, the rightfielder’s average is 60 points below his career average, (.267) and he is not driving the ball as he has in the past.  At 37 years old, (Ichiro will turn 38 in October), could age be catching up to him? 

The question isn’t if it’s going to happen, the $64,000 question is WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?   Why do hitters start hitting feeble ground balls to the second baseman instead of line drives into the gaps…why do pitchers lose sight of the strike zone and instead start to find the sweet spot a hitter’s bat …a once sweet shot that found nothing but net, now clangs off the rim with greater frequency…forget where Jim Hoffa is buried, find a cure to avoid the slump, and you’ll be guaranteed your own show on the Oprah Network!

Many will say it’s all Mind Over Matter – the slump is nothing more than your mind working against you.  Clear your mind, and let your athleticism take over.  After all, you’ve done it before – why can’t you do it NOW!  Easier said then done.  Explain that logic to Florida Marlins Shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who at the prime age of 28, the 3 time National League All Star with a career .306 batting average is sitting on the Disabled List and looking at a .243 average for the 2011.  (How many people had Hanley as their #1 pick in their Fantasy Baseball League!)

Maybe the slump is caused by the pressure to perform.  The bright lights of the Big City can cause the weakest of minds to stumble.  In the off season, probably one of the biggest free agent signings took place in Boston where the Red Sox signed outfielder Carl Crawford to a 7 year $142 million contract, with a $6 million signing bonus.  The 3 time Tampa Bay Ray team MVP has not looked comfortable in Boston all year long, and is hitting .248 with 7 home runs and 38 runs batted in.  Think Crawford isn’t squeezing the bat a little tighter than usual…

For many of us, when the slump hits, it usually confined to our own little world.  It rarely goes outside our office or beyond our small circle of buddies who we hang out with after hours.  The crisis can be chalked up to a lack of focus, a break down in your daily discipline, or most likely, you’re bored, and you want to leave your job. How many times have you starred at the four walls of your office, and think “is this the best I can do?”  Your co-workers will tell you to go back to the basics, look outside your comfort zone, make that one extra call before you go home, everything is going to be okay

Unfortunately, for today’s athlete, it’s not that easy…your team is depending on you…the front office signed you to a long term contract and called you the SAVOIR on the day you signed…the media is dissecting every at bat, and the fans are holding up signs asking you what happened… “Get back on the bike…you’ve done it before…” Just doesn’t cut it, when your batting average is below the Mendoza Line!  "Tomorrow’s Another Day…” Yeah, that’s right, another day of doubt, ridicule, and no hits!  "Go back to the basics"…easy for you to say, but you're not the one under a microscope!  

The SLUMP…For A Professional Athlete, There Is Nothing Worse.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sometimes The Best Decision Is To Say Goodbye...The Chicago Cubs and Carlos Zambrano

“Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure – that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on the streets" 
David Bowie - Queen

Pressure can take on several forms. In management, the pressure of making the right decision when your back is up against a wall and the rest of the organization is watching how you respond. In sports, the pressure of performing in front of a stadium filled with fans cheering and jeering your every move - the outcome of the game hanging on every play, action, and reaction. On Friday, August 12 in Atlanta, the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves took on a whole different meaning for the Cubs organization, it’s fans, and one player in particular. What should have been a night celebrating an Atlanta Braves icon, (it was Bobby Cox Night as the Braves retired his #6), turned out to be a “performance” that could impact the future of the Cubs organization.

Can it be the pressure of performing at such a high level? The embarrassment of not performing at your standard? Or simply a matter of selfishness and childish behavior that drives Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher, into a one man wrecking crew. Throwing at opposing hitters, charging his teammates in the dugout, or having a shouting match with the home plate umpire - whatever the reason, “The Big Z” has got to go – his career with the Chicago Cubs is over.

Zambrano’s tirades are well documented. June 2010 – Cellular Field – Cub versus White Sox. Zambrano goes after 1st Baseman Derek Lee in the dugout after giving up four runs to the White Sox in the first inning. May 2009 – Wrigley Field - Cubs versus the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Zambrano is thrown out of the game by home plate umpire Mark Carlson after arguing a tag play at the plate. Zambrano proceeds to shove Carlson, and then pointed in Carlson’s face giving him the ejection sign. As he walked off the field, Zambrano threw the ball into left field, tossed his glove, and took a bat to the Gatorade bucket. June 2007 - Wrigley Field – Cubs versus the Atlanta Braves.  Zambrano gives up five runs to the Braves in the 5th inning, and gets into altercation with his catcher, Michael Barrett. The shoving match started in the dugout, and finished in the clubhouse. Is it me, or is there a pattern to Zambrano's madness. He gets pounded, gives up a bunch of runs, doesn't get his way, and then loses control of his emotions. And I thought that behavior was just reserved for children!!! Why the Cubs didn’t get rid of him after his third outburst involving Derek Lee is beyond me. (I know, I know…Zambrano was in the middle of a 5 year - $91.5 million contract extension signed in August 2007!)

After his latest stunt against the Atlanta Braves that saw him give up FIVE home runs, and then proceeded to throw at Chipper Jones twice during his at bat in the 5th inning, this has to be the end of the line for Zambrano with the Chicago Cubs. What makes matter’s worse, Zambrano cleans out his locker, alerts the clubhouse personnel that he is retiring and leaves the stadium. (Carlos did return to the locker room late Friday night, and restocked his locker) All the while, the 24 other players that call themselves the Chicago Cubs are left to finish the game. A game that Zambrano started and abruptly quit. Say what you want…Zambrano wears his emotions on his sleeve…Zambrano is a very passionate person…Zambrano just wants to win…Zambrano is an intense competitor…Zambrano has anger issues…the bottom line is The Big Z quit on his team and I can’t thing of anything worse than quitting on your team in the middle of a game. And that is exactly what happened!

How can this guy come back and look his teammates in the eye and say “I’m Sorry” (again). More importantly, how can the Chicago Cubs allow this guy to come back to the field and wear a Cubs jersey again. I realize sports is a business, and Zambrano’s contract ($23.5 million left through 2012) would be a lot for any team, let alone a team that is having financial challenges, to eat, but what’s worse for a business is putting up with a selfish individual who is a quitter. What message does it send your team when you allow this behavior to exist in your clubhouse?

Now the pressure is on the Chicago Cubs management (GM Jim Hendry) to make the right decision, and make a move that could change the culture of the organization. While the wins and losses are played out on the field, the attitude of the team is built in the front office by the General Manager and his coaching staff. The decision is easy…the pressure to make the right decision isn’t so…

It’s time for the Cubs to rid themselves of The Big Z…Roll Video...

Footnote To Zambrano: New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia also gave up five home runs to Tampa Bay Rays on Friday Night. No one was thrown at during the game and nobody retired!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Chatting Around With...Larry Bowa

Larry Bowa will always be known as a Philadelphia Phillie.  Sure, he ended his Major League Baseball career as a member of the New York Mets, playing only 86 games in 1985 before calling it a career.  (Bowa actually played 72 games that year with the Chicago Cubs before going to the Mets and seeing action in only 14 games.)  But for the first 12 years of his career, Bowa was THE PHILLIES SHORTSTOP, a National League All Star in five of those years.  He was the symbol of the Fightin’ Phils – tough, gritty, and never backing down to anyone.  A member of the 1980 World Series Championship team that defeated the Kansas City Royals, he batted .375 during the six game series, Bowa played every game as if it was his last, and put it all out on the field.  Bowa had one thing in mind – WIN - and the Philadelphia fans loved him for it. 

After his playing days were over, Bowa felt he still had something to give the game, and quickly got his first taste of managing with the San Diego Padres, only two years after retiring in 1987.  Bowa brought his fiery playing style to the coaching box, unfortunately, he couldn’t provide the spark for the Padres and after a year and half, Bowa was fired.

In Philadelphia, losing had become a habit.  From 1987 to 2000, the Phillies were anything but “fightin” as the team had suffered 13 losing seasons in 14 years.  In 2000, the Phillies had the worst record in Major League Baseball.  In 2001, Philadelphia Phillies baseball would change, and it started with the appointment of Larry Bowa as manager.  Bowa didn’t approve of complacency and demanded his team give 100% on the field – he would never settle for less.  And the team showed improvement right away.  In 2001, the fight returned to the Phillies, and the team finished within two games of winning the National League East with a record of 86 – 76.  (The Atlanta Braves won the NL East.)  The  Phillies resurgence and Bowa’s managerial style won him the 2001 NL Manager of the Year Award.  But Bowa’s hard edge and demanding style wore on his players, on and off the field, and  in September 2004, right before the end of the season, Larry Bowa was fired as manager of he Philadelphia Phillies.  

I caught up with Coach Bowa, a moniker he seemed very comfortable with at this stage in his life, and got a chance to hear his opinion on some random topics…The results are as follows:

Around The Horn:  What is the key to the Phillies success? 

Larry Bowa: It starts with the pitching.  That is key to any club’s success.  And when you have a staff that goes 3 deep like the Phillies with Halladay, Lee and Hamels – well, it’s going to be tough to beat them.  Then, you add Oswalt (who has been on the DL) and it’s going to be real tough to beat them. 

ATH:  You say it like the Phillies are already in the World Series.  Do you see any team beating the Phillies in the National League? 

Larry Bowa: Not at all.  Unless they (the Phillies) are hit with a rash of injuries to key players.  Look, no team has their pitching depth.  You’ve got Halladay, you’ve got Lee, you’ve got Hamels, Oswalt. And don’t forget, Worley – man, he is pitching well.  Who else has that kind of staff, and that kind of depth.  The Brewers?  The Braves?  No depth. 

ATH: What about last years’ Champions, the San Francisco Giants? 

Larry Bowa: Listen, the Giants should be worried about getting into the playoffs.  They need to watch out for the Diamondbacks.  Although, I don’t think the Diamondbacks have the pitching.  It all starts with pitching. 

ATH: How about in the American League, who do you see? 

Larry Bowa: Who do I see playing the Phillies you mean!  Because we’ve already discussed how I feel about the Phillies and the rest of the National League!  It’s going to be one of two teams…the Red Sox and the Yankees.  It’s going to come down to them playing each other, and the last team standing will play The Phillies.  Both teams’ lineups are stacked.  They each have some dangerous hitters in their lineup.  I don’t see anyone else beating those teams in the American League.  The Red Sox have the better pitching – at least on paper.  And they say Clay Buckholz (currently on the Disabled List with a Lower Back Injury) might be coming back. 

ATH: Where is there more pressure – playing in New York or playing in Philadelphia? 

Larry Bowa: New York, Boston and Philadelphia probably have the most pressure.  I mean the fans are in the game all the time, the media is on you.  Perhaps New York has the edge – and I mean the Yankees because of the amount of their payroll.  I mean, they are always over the Luxury Tax.  Each year, they are paying a baseball’s luxury tax. 

ATH: Okay, how about the other team in New York, the team you loved to beat when you played…The Mets…What would you do if you were managing?

Larry Bowa: The Mets are good young team, but they have to sign Reyes – that is key.  The guy can do so much – hit, run, field.  He brings excitement to the game. They’ve got to sign him.  They have some good players.  I like Murphy, the kid can hit.  They just have to find him a position.  But it is all going to depend on signing Reyes – that will be key.  If I’m managing, that’s what I am telling the Front Office – sign Reyes.

ATH: You were with Torre in New York – how was he as a manager? 

Larry Bowa: Torre is a good man and a real good manager.  I really enjoyed my time with Joe.

ATH:  You also recently coached in Los Angeles with ex-Yankee Don Mattingly?  How is Mattingly as a manager?

Larry Bowa: Donnie is a good guy.  But it’s way too early to tell out there (Los Angeles) with all that is going on, and the team that he has right now.  Give him a few years before you make your judgement. 

ATH: Let’s go back to the Giants and the Phillies.  People are talking about the new rivalry between the two teams.  Anything there?

Larry Bowa:  Both teams are good, and they play each other tough.  Sure the Giants took 2 of 3 recently from the Phillies at Citizen Bank Park.  It was a good series.  The Giants are a good team.  And then, the Phillies go to San Francisco, and take three of the four game series.  In both games the Phillies dominated.  The second game got a little out of hand with the bench clearing brawl in the 7th inning when Victorino was hit by a pitch. 

I think they (the Giants) were throwing at him because they felt the Phillies were running up the score.  There is no need to steal (Rollins) when you’re up 6 to 2 that late in the game.  No need.  They just wanted to show the Phillies that they weren’t going to allow them to run it (the score) up in front of the home crowd.  If it was a rookie who stole the base, well that is one thing…but Rollins is a veteran – he knows better!  Listen, the Phillies – Giant rivalry is getting started.  I heard some folks saying…The Giants have the Phillies number!  Are you serious?  The Giants beat the Phillies last year in the playoffs – it was a good series and the Giants got hot.  Their pitching is good, and their hitting got hot.  But to say they (the Giants) have the Phils number.  Cmon…Like I said before, no one has the pitching the Phillies have right now, and with the team starting to hit, the Phils are going to be real hard to beat.  You give that staff 5 or 4 runs a game, and they’re going to win.  It’s that simple.  And as I said early, the Giants should be worried about winning the National League West before they talk about having the Phillies number.  Cmon!    

I’ll take my Phillies all year long! 

Monday, July 18, 2011

The New York Mets Are At A Fork In The Road...Which Direction Would You Take?

My definition of a DILEMMA is when you have two or more viable answers to a specific problem.  (No need to check Webster’s Dictionary – take my word for it!) It’s the perennial fork in the road situation…Go to your left, and you might make your trip shorter, but the “tolls” in the road are going to cost you.  Go to the right, and it might take you longer to get to your final destination, and you’re certain to hear plenty of complaints along the way, (Are We There Yet?)  but the road will be filled with breath taking views…which one do you take. 

The second half of the 2011 Major League Baseball season is underway, and the New York Mets brain trust, (GM Sandy Alderson, and The Ownership Group of Wilpon and Einhorn), are facing a dilemma.  A dilemma that could have an effect on the franchise for years to come…an intersection in the road and that annoying voice on their GPS has gone silent! 

The Mets playoff dreams are slowly fading away.  Okay, maybe not so slowly, with a .500 record, they trail the lone National League Wild Card spot by 8 games, and have to leapfrog four teams in front of them.  What’s facing the NY Mets is a decision that could change the face of the organization for years to come. 

Jose Reyes, their All Star Shortstop, is a free agent.  Trade him and you risk the chance of alienating your fan base.  A fan base that has been slowly dwindling over the past years.  Sign him to a lucrative long term contract and you’re way over budget. For the cash strapped team, right now, every dollar counts.  Such is the decision New York Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson, and the Wilpon – Einhorn Group have to make regarding their shortstop.  And the future of the team hangs on this very decision. 

For a team looking for someone to hang their hat on, and the Mets are certainly in need of help, is Jose Reyes that guy?  Since the Omar Minaya days, the Mets have been looking for someone to lead this team…Johann Santana, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes…who is the true leader on and off the field of this organization?  It’s funny, but across town, in the Bronx, the Yankees situation is the complete opposite – the nucleus of the team has been with them since 1995, and when you ask the average fan who is the face of the Yankees, no doubt shortstop Derek Jeter’s name will pop up…Do the Mets look to duplicate what the Bronx Bombers have done?  Is Reyes the type of guy you want representing your team? 

Now the situation Met’s management is facing is not new to baseball franchises, or any sports franchise for that matter.  Every now or then, a team will say to their fans, “We’re trading our star player now, to build for the future!”  This has been affectionately known as “The Five Year Plan.”  Trade away a star player, a player that has been with the team since he was drafted as a teenager.  He came up through the farm system, Class A, Double AA, a few weeks in Triple AAA and then, rookie of the year, a couple of years representing the team at the Mid Summer Classic, and then, his contract is up, and it’s time  for him to move on.  So the team trades him to a contender for three or four young players who would, if all works out, help the team make the playoffs five years from the trade. 

The only problem with “The Five Year Plan” is this is New York – the Big Apple – home of the impatient fan, demanding media, and the 28 Championship Trophies in their office, New York Yankees – there is no such thing as The Five Year Plan!  Unless that plan includes four playoff appearances, three National League Crowns and two ticker tape parades.  Trading away your best player for three minor leaguers and a player to be named later will get you hung in effigy, and a whole bunch of season tickets on Stub Hub!  

You're driving down the road, and you come to a fork…to the left is fiscal sanity but you might want to run for cover…to the right, well, let's just say, your budget was just a number, but you’re going to make a lot of people happy (if only for a moment!)

What do you do?  

Monday, July 11, 2011

History With An Exclamation Point!

Imagine staring “Lady Luck” in the eye and looking away?  Finding that “Golden Ticket” and eating the chocolate and throwing away the wrapper (a Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory reference!)  Ever pick all the numbers of the winning lottery combination, but forget to go to the convenience store to play your numbers?  Imagine having a life changing opportunity in your hands, but your conscience tells you to give up?

On the afternoon of Saturday, July 10, all of baseball’s eyes were on Yankee Stadium, as the New York Yankees took on the Tampa Bay Rays in an early afternoon game.  (All eyes except FOX’s Baseball Game of The Week who had their crews set up elsewhere.)  The real story, besides the game between two American League Eastern Division rivals who are fighting for a shot at the division crown, was Yankees Captain Derek Jeter’s quest to join the 3,000 Hit Club, (only 27 other members) and become the first Yankee to get 3,000 hits.   

As we all know now, Jeter got his 3,000 hit, a home run in the 3rd inning, and then some, going 5 for 5 and driving in the winning run in a Yankees 5 to 4 victory over the Rays.  But there was another story at Yankee Stadium on that afternoon, a story that took a lot of us by surprise and that was the story of Christian Lopez, a 23 year old Verizon Wireless Salesman from Upstate New York and his role in New York Yankees history. 
Lopez had gotten the tickets as a birthday gift from his girlfriend, Tara Johnson.  The two had been dating since they met at Saint Lawrence University in Canton, New York..  Johnson had purchased the tickets (3 tickets to be exact – one for Christian, one for Tara and one for Raul, Christian’s dad!) on StubHub for $65 a piece.  When the Friday night game was rained out, the couple thought maybe they had a chance to witness Yankees History.  They certainly didn’t consider ever being a part of Yankees History.  After all, Jeter had only hit two home runs all year long.  Still, Christian, Tara and Christian’s dad were happy to be at the game, hoping to see The Captain become the first Yankee to achieve the 3,000 hit milestone. 
Lopez, his girlfriend and his father, took their seats in the first row of Section 236 in the left-field bleachers hoping to see Yankee History unfold before them.  The Stadium had that playoff feeling.   As Jeter stepped up to the plate in the 3rd inning to face Rays lefthander, All Star pitcher David Price, the entire sell out crowd stood up on their feet, many of them with cameras in their hands, waiting to get a photo of the moment Jeter got his 3,000 hit – Christian was one of them.  After running the count to 3 and 2, Jeter turned on a Price curve ball, and sent the ball to the left field bleachers, as the fans in Section 236 around Lopez jostled for position. 

The ball traveled on a line to Section 236…Jeter’s 3,000 hit…The Golden Ticket…The Winning Lottery Numbers…and after bouncing off of the senior Lopez’s hands, there it lay, Jeter’s 3,000 hit…the opportunity that could change someone’s life for the better…in a patch of grass in front of Christian Lopez.  And Christian did what he had done during his college football career at St. Lawrence University when a fumble would lie in front of him – he pounced on it.  Yankee Stadium security guards rushed in, not asking if Lopez was okay, but “more importantly” escorting Lopez from his seat in Section 236 while keeping one eye on Jeter’s 3,000 hit.
Some experts say the Jeter 3,000 Hit is a “game changer” – possibly worth in excess of $200,000 to $300,000.  And some people are saying, there is no way they would give the 3,000 hit ball back without “a little something for the effort!”  (A Caddyshack reference!)  And some people are saying, you’d be a fool not want to be financial rewarded for being at the right place at the right time…
None of those thoughts came across Christian Lopez’s mind, (his girlfriend was thinking of them!)  For him, a life long Yankees fan, this was about something bigger than money – this was about a moment in history, a moment that one man had worked for over the past 16 years, and Christian didn’t want to take that moment away from Derek Jeter.
Now, you can call Christian Lopez foolish, ignorant, senseless, or irresponsible and at 23 years old, perhaps each of us could have been described by one of the words at that age.  But for Christian Lopez, on this Saturday afternoon, the only words that mattered were Yankees History.

What would you do if the winning lottery ticket fell right into your lap…If Lady Luck was staring right at you…?