What really matters about Brett Lawrie’s attempted steal of home?

Sunday, April 15, 2012 | |

I’m a huge baseball fan, but I don’t often find my blog topics from watching my favourite team, the Toronto Blue Jays. This weekend however, there was a very interesting play and an even more interesting reaction from the team’s manager that deserves some conversation.

Did you see that play?

If you watched the Jays play the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday afternoon, one play above all others would have stood out. In the second inning, with the bases loaded, two outs and the Jays’ best hitter, Jose Bautista, at the plate, Brett Lawrie was thrown out by an eyelash as he attempted to steal home. The potential for a big inning was gone and the Jays eventually lost the game.


To the casual baseball fan (and the Jays have collected many this season through a tremendous public relations plan) this play may seem like a slight miscalculation by Lawrie, easily one of the team’s most exciting players. He plays the game to win and who can blame him for attempting such a high risk manoeuvre, they will say. Even though he was unsuccessful, the mere attempt to steal home was enough to bring the fans out of their seats and what could be wrong with that?

Those who know the game however, will call this play a serious blunder. With the Orioles pitcher on the ropes, as surely he was with the bases loaded and facing the Jays’ most dangerous hitter, you never “run into an out” to end an inning. Worse yet, you never take the bat out of the hands of the team’s leader, the man who has led the team in every offensive category each of the last two seasons. In every sense, Lawrie’s attempted steal was a complete mistake.

The aftermath

After the play, cameras captured the Jays’ manager, John Farrell, talking to Lawrie in the dugout. The message from the manager to the young star was simple – under those circumstances, we never want you to try that again.

A reporter asked Farrell after the game if he would have reacted differently if Lawrie had been called safe on the play and scored a very important run. Farrell replied that his reaction would have been identical, that Lawrie hadn’t made the right decision and that even if he was safe, he needs to be more aware of the game situation than he was on that play.

The art of leadership

In sports, at work, at home, in life, we are rarely in complete control of our outcomes. We are however, in control of ourselves, our behaviours, our actions and our focus should always be here and not on outcomes we cannot control.

And so it is the job of leaders to focus on what we did right, what we did wrong, and communicate how we wish to behave in similar situations that come up down the road. We may do the right things and still fail and we may win despite ourselves – this is life. But to focus primarily on outcomes may seriously miss the point and set us up for long term failure.

A parent will be grateful that his child didn’t break their arm falling out of a tree, but would be remiss if he didn’t use the opportunity to talk about the dangers of tree climbing to all of his children. A manager will be pleased that her customer didn’t jump to a competitor over a poor customer service situation, but must use this “near miss” as a coaching opportunity to change the behaviours that nearly caused this loss of business.

Farrell knows that he has a gem in Lawrie and must be leery of saying anything to his young third baseman that might alter his style of play. He knows too well though that the young man who plays like his hair is on fire still has a lot to learn about the game and that nothing must come between the manager and his delivery of these important baseball lessons.

Lawrie, and all Blue Jays, will be better players if they focus on executing over the course of 162 ball games and not on the wins and losses that are sometimes beyond their control. Farrell seems like the kind of leader that will make sure his team gets that message.

Were you watching the game? What did you think?


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