At the end of this week, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees will essentially retire from actively playing baseball and take an off-the-field role with the team for the rest of the season. He’s been one of the top players in baseball for nearly 20 years, although I acknowledge that he did use steroids, even after it was deemed illegal to do so.


His overall numbers are impressive, and as the highest player in baseball history, it certainly seems like he earned the money no matter which side of the fence you’re on. He would easily be a first ballot Hall of Famer if it weren’t for the steroids.

So, I was surprised when a couple of days ago one of my Twitter friends said this:

The “hot take” on #ARod : The most overpaid, overpromised, & underdelivered (even w/steroid use) baseball player of the modern era is done.

To which I replied:

Wow, really? I mean, 3 MVP’s (finished 2nd twice), 696 homers, 3,000 hits, 2nd in RBIs… and a World Series… nope…

His response after that:

No 1 except baseball writers care abt stats. We are still a results oriented society. & the only result that counts is a W.S. ring.

At that point I mentioned that he had won a World Series ring, but he countered that on the biggest stage of them all A Rod had pretty much tanked. Not being a Yankees fan (go Red Sox!), I had to check this out. What I found was a bit surprising.

It turns out that when it came to the biggest series of his career, he did tank more often than succeed. Even in the year when the Yankees won the World Series, where he was the guy who got them into it by going 14 of 32 (.438), he only hit .250 in the Series. The last 3 playoffs the Yankees were in, 2010 through 2012, twice having the opportunity to get to the World Series, he hit a collective .160; ouch!

Hard to argue against that. Yet, this guy was one of the premiere players of the 2000’s, enhanced or not, so it begs the question as to whether the fact that he couldn’t perform well when all the attention was on him and his team was counting on him demeans the rest of his career. In essence, is winning the only thing that counts for a player, or for all of us, in the end?

Me033_02

I used to think so. When I was younger winning was all I cared about. It didn’t matter what I did, as long as I didn’t cheat, I wanted to win at all costs. I did win, a lot. I did whatever it took, I played hard, and it consumed me.

How? I broke a kid’s collarbone by picking him up and slamming him to the ground, which actually turned out to be the cement sidewalk, recreating a play I’d seen on TV. I broke another kid’s 8 front teeth with an accidental elbow as he was trying to tackle me from behind and I was trying to get loose. I used to get violently mad if someone won a game off me playing tennis… a game, not the match.

I’d bowl people over on the basepaths if they were in a position of having to tag me out. I punched walls and kicked ball returns whenever I didn’t throw a strike at the bowling alley. I wanted to win no matter what.

I did have some moments of sanity, just so you don’t think I was heartless. I didn’t knock the 9-year old out of the way like my coach told me to when we both knew he didn’t know how to catch a baseball, but I’m not sure if it was my heart or my intellect in realizing that his father was a colonel and my dad was a master sergeant and that was something you just didn’t do in front of an officer (my coach was a staff sergeant; I wasn’t listening to him lol).

As I said, I won a lot. Yet I was never happy once I got home. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I doubt I had many friends at the time. I don’t think people would have cared that I won so often if I’d had a better temperament. I eventually overcame the win at all costs mentality and adopted the try to be your best lifestyle instead. Sometimes I still win, but it’s not really about winning all the time, nor at all costs.

It’s an especially important leadership lesson to learn when it comes to employees. I knew early into my leadership career that not everyone who worked for me would, or should, be a rock star. If every person working for you is trying to be the next leader, and you only have one spot available at any time, it means there’s going to be a lot of angry and upset people when you don’t choose them, and their either going to leave or their performance is going to start going down.

There’s a place for those steady, reliable employees who will always give you their best, but are content to do their job and then go home to their personal lives without worrying about promotions. The best people you have will stand out and give you a short list that you have to choose from and that’s always nice. Like in sports, the bulk of the people on the team needs to be at the top of their game, ready to give you the best they can so that the superstars can do their thing and help the department and organization keep pushing forward.

Winning is nice, but if that’s all anyone is judged on, no matter how much we laud those people who do win, then what’s the point of living, or even trying, if you know you’re never going to win.

I might be the wrong one to ask; let’s ask all those players on the other country’s basketball teams, men’s and women’s, who know they’re not going to beat the American teams why they’re even bothering to try. I think their responses would surprise you, and I’m sure I’d be pleased by their answers.

Now I understand; what about you?
 

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