Sunday, August 10, 2008

Life is a 2-0 Count!

The ballgame is on the line. You are pitching well but all of a sudden, you find yourself two balls and no strikes on the batter. Inside, you are panicked, your heart is racing, you are angry with yourself, and you wish you had one of those pitches back for a do-over.
If you go 3-0 on the batter, you are dangerously close to putting him on or, worse than that, laying in three pitches over the plate that could go out faster than they come in.
Rather than groove the ball, you paint the corner and get a called strike. The count goes to two balls and one strike and you are back in control once again! What a difference one pitch makes! Anyone who thinks the game of baseball is too slow has either never played the game or has never played it well.
Case in point;
Today, Cliff Lee pitched very well for eight innings. He had an eight hit shutout and a four run lead. When he left the field after the bottom of the eighth inning, he was being congratulated by his teammates and coaches. This team has the worst bullpen in baseball and Cliff, who had plenty of gas left, was coming out after eight innings. Rafael Perez was warming in the bullpen. That was good because of his success of late. Still, Cliff has seen a few wins evaporate in relief before his very eyes in his Cy Young-like season. In comes Rafael and he gets the first batter in the bottom of the ninth to strike out swinging. Whew! Next batter, ball one…ball two! Rafael is visibly upset with himself and possibly the umpire but more than likely with himself. He takes the throw back from Shoppach with a swat of his glove on the ball and he turns and paces behind the mound. The count is 2-0. My mind is racing as is Rafael’s. He knows if he puts a runner on or gives up a hit, that could open up the flood gates like it has so many times this season for this bullpen. My heart is pounding with Rafael’s. He composes himself and gets set on the mound. He does not give in and he gets a strike. Rafael is back in control and proceeds to strike out the side (all swinging). What if he doesn’t get batter number two in the inning out? Let’s not go there!
I can’t think of a count in baseball that more represents everyday life than 2-0. In fact, it is a self-management tool I use on a daily basis.
For example, sales are good in this sluggish economy but then the P&L for last month is compiled and we are overspent. Profits are not what we anticipated. Some spending hit the month that we didn’t expect. An internal alarm goes off. Is the game over? Of course not but the count just went to 2-0. Research and rescue profits immediately (throw a strike) or jeopardize “the game.”
I once worked for a brilliant man who told me, "If you are ever not sure of something, move slowly." In this fast-paced, crazy world, that advice seems to fly in the face of progress but, no phrase has ever served me better than that one. He also said, "The only difference between a cosigner and a fool is that a cosigner has a pen in his hand." I should have followed that phrase as well as I did the first one!
Football is said to be a very cerebral game. True, plays and game plans are drawn up long before the kickoff. But Baseball is a thinking man’s game. After the lineup is written and handed in to the umpire, the complexity of the game changes with each and every pitch. So next year, baseball is going to prohibit a batter from stepping out of the batters box between pitches without permission from the umpire. That is probably necessary just so long as the thinking and decision making between pitches is not affected. Baseball has no clock for a good reason. Relax and escape in the moment, each and every one, fans as well as players...move slowly, think about it, and succeed!

No comments: