(Regular readers—both of you—already know that Mr. Engagement ceased to be a weekly contributor to this blog a couple of months ago. Good news: Last night I received the special contribution that appears below and decided to spike the item I had planned for today—the 117th different way of pointing out the deficiencies in most engagement programs. Please join in me welcoming Mr. Engagement back, albeit on a one-off basis.)
Dear Mr. Engagement:
I am at my wits’ end. As I write this, we are 11 games out of first place in the American League East. All of the media types around here—and there are a lot of them—have written us off. But I still think we’re right in the hunt. After all, it was only four years ago that the Red Sox blew a similar lead at the same stage of the season. (Note: This didn’t happen on my watch. I was managing the Blue Jays at the time.)
How can I get people to understand that there is still hope? More to the point, how can I get the 25 men on my roster to stay engaged when things look so bleak?
Manager, Boston Red Sox
Dear Mr. Farrell:
Since engagement is a leadership challenge, here’s a thought: You might try leading.
As the old saying has it, “You have to walk before you can run.” But—and if you’ll excuse the expression—you already seem to have that base covered. More specifically, your $16M/year DH already seems to have internalized that advice, seeing as he hasn’t run out a ground ball since Yaz was catching rebounds off the Green Monster. Apparently, he is saving his energy for whining about how many hits he’s lost because of the overshift that puts three infielders to the right of second base. As a leader, you might want to point out to him that if he were to run on occasion, the second baseman couldn’t station himself in the visitors’ bullpen, thereby increasing his range while still having time to throw your DH out.
As for keeping your 25-man roster engaged, here’s something else you might want to point out to your $16M man. Engagement, properly understood, has to do with people’s psychological investment in the common cause. That common cause should be winning games, not getting you’re more than ample a** off the bench often enough to reach the 500 home run plateau.
Speaking of winning games, anyone who has been masochistic enough to watch any of those games this year knows that you’d be better off moving your “left fielder” into the DH spot and putting anyone else out there. Not only would he be a better DH than the incumbent, but it would improve your defense immeasurably. Want proof of how bad he is? Last week, one of your TV announcers actually said that Jim Rice and Manny Ramirez were good left fielders. That’s how low the bar has been lowered. Given that standard, even Mr. Engagement could be a good left fielder for you, and he’s a 65-year-old with two arthritic knees and an arthritic right shoulder.
And guess what would happen if you made those moves? The other 23 men on your roster would see what was happening around them and think: “I guess we really mean business.” At which point they might become more—wait for it!—engaged in what’s left of this limp dish rag of a season.
Yours in Othership,
PS. While you’re at it, you might also want to tell ownership to 86 “Sweet Caroline”. You’re running a baseball team, not auditions for “America’s $9-Domestic-Beer-Soaked Louts Have Talent”.
PPS. Feel free to forward this response to your DH, your “left fielder,” and team ownership.
PPPS. Thanks for giving Mr. Engagement the chance to get this off his chest.