Management by Baseball
By Jeff Angus
Collins: 272 pp., $22.95 hardcover
Don’t let the title fool you. Although this book is aimed at actual and would-be managers, the insights can be of use to anyone who has to deal with managers, which is just about everyone.
Using lessons learned from field and general managers in the game of baseball, Angus walks us through the four components of effective management: the ability to manage mechanics, talent, oneself, and change. He cites numerous examples, including, among others, Pie Traynor’s refusal to rest his regulars down the stretch in 1938 and costing his Pirates the pennant, Mike Scioscia’s emphasis on aggressive baserunning to compensate for his club’s poor on-base skills (an approach that helped lead to a World Series title in 2002), and outfielder Doug Glanville’s significant off-field contributions to the Phillies:
As a degreed engineer with a background in transportation planning, he went to his team’s front office to give them unsolicited counseling in transportation topics around the design and delivery of their new stadium.
The genius of this book lies in its ability to weave together two seemingly unrelated topics with grace. On one level, the tale of Babe Ruth’s conversion from pitcher to hitter provides a fascinating glimpse at history and perhaps baseball’s most iconic figure. On another level, the reasons behind Red Sox manager Ed Barrow’s making such a radical move deliver a powerful business lesson: the ability to adapt to changing conditions is paramount to an organization’s success (in the case of Ruth, Boston had a greater need in the outfield than on the mound).
Although the baseball anectodes in Management by Baseball stand well on their own, Angus is careful to point out “real-world” lessons that will benefit those of us who do not make our living on or around a diamond. He talks, among many other things, about the importance of performance metrics in fields that lie well beyond the confines of a ballpark, how to deal with “troublesome” personalities in an organization (e.g., David Wells), and the “six deadly skins” — destructive behavior patterns in a manager that can undermine his or her efforts.
One suggestion for future editions is to include a subject index. Although the book is well constructed and easy to follow, readers may find themselves wanting to refer to specific anectodes based on a particular situation in their management experience and remembering only the names of the players involved.
This, however, is a minor quibble and certainly doesn’t detract from the book in its current form. If anything, it speaks to the potential utility of this book even after first reading. I can’t speak for folks who don’t follow baseball, but fans of the game who manage, aspire to manage, or are themselves managed will find Management by Baseball an enjoyable and instructive addition to their library.
Learn more about Jeff Angus and Management by Baseball at cmdr-scott.blogspot.com.