Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Red Sox Evolving Corporate Culture: Adios to Pedro – from “Cabbage Patch Kid” to “Garbage Pail Kid” in 24 hours!

Just in the nick of time, the 80’s phenomenon – “The Garbage Pail Kids” stickers - have returned to check-out counters after a 15-year hiatus. I wonder how long it will take them to publish a “Pandering Pedro,” a “Dominating Dominican Diva” or a “Prima Donna Peetie” sticker to immortalize the 3-time Cy Young Award winner and former darling of Red Sox Nation. If we are to believe reports from Jayson Stark of, the terminal negotiating tactics employed by Pedro and his agent, Fernando Cuza, have raised disingenuousness to an art form. And once it became apparent that Pedro and Cuza had played their hand and revealed their true brassy colors, the Red Sox brass said: “No thanks; no mas” and walked away from a loudly-ticking time bomb, an rapdily-inflating ego and a slowly-fraying pitching shoulder.

In deciding to bid “Adios” to Martinez, the Red Sox Brain Trust took another important step in their long journey of reinventing the Red Sox corporate culture. Like the New England Patriots organization the Red Sox clearly are trying to emulate, they are making informed and carefully considered decisions to add players to their roster who want to wear the Boston uniform. They manifestly place a high value on players who put the concept of “team” before individual statistics or achievement, and who accept community involvement and public relations as a legitimate part of their role as professional athletes in Boston. (I am not sure how the signing of David Wells fits this emerging pattern, but time will tell. Perhaps he is the “exception that proves the rule.”) The other side of this coin is shedding the presence and the contracts of athletes who resent the “intrusions” and passion of the Boston media and Red Sox fans – see Nomar, Pedro, and Lowe. On-field performance is necessary to be a Red Sox player, but it is no longer sufficient. The five traditional “tools” of a major league ball player – hitting, hitting for power, fielding, throwing, and running – must now be complemented with the “soft skills” of sportsmanship, teamwork, charitable involvement and open communication.

I see the same type of evolution happening in the broader business world. Companies that once tolerated misfits and “jerks” who delivered the numbers, are waking up and demanding that their leaders exhibit the same “soft skills” that make so many of today’s World Champion Boston Red Sox players so accessible and loveable to their fans. Ty Cobb of long ago and his ilk are not welcome in the Red Sox clubhouse and dugout; they should not be welcome in the corporate boardroom.

Go Sox!

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