Thursday, December 07, 2006

Why I'm Glad Manny Doesn't Report to Me

One of the great pleasures of being a Red Sox fan is that there's really no off-season. There are just months when there are games played, and months when there are no games played. (Well, no games on the field, that is.)

Right now we are in yet another "what to do about Manny Ramirez" period, in which the Red Sox do or don't try to trade their talented but erratic left-fielder, and in which Manny does or doesn't want to stay in Boston (which we can only guess at: Manny doesn't seem to be talking).

When Manny's being (good) Manny, he is tremendously enjoyable to watch. Some of my favorite Fenway moments have been watching him launch a couple of dingers into and over the Green Monster seats.

But when Manny's being (bad) Manny, it's demoralizing for his teammates, for the club, and for the fans.

For those who don't follow the Red Sox and/or the Manny saga, the Red Sox nosedived (nosedove?) mid-way through last season and never recovered. The nosedive was not Manny's fault. It was caused by a combination of factors (most prominently the injury to catcher Jason Varitek that proved just how valuable he is). But in September, when it was at least theoretically possible that the Red Sox could have made a run for it, Manny checked out. Physical health. Mental health. Sheer, jack-ass behavior. Whatever was driving it, Manny did not do what we expect of "our" athletes: that they'll try for two, climb the wall to make a catch, talk it up to keep hope alive. That they'll stay in the game.

The claims Manny makes on his website (which does not appear to have been updated since last spring) come across as false advertising:
Welcome to my Official Website, Manny, a place I have set aside to honor my diehard Red Sox fans, and baseball fans in general. ..Playing baseball is a job that gives you a lot of fame. But I don't play for fame. I will always do my best, because I love the game.
"Love the game and you will triumph." Manny, Manny, Manny, would that it were so!

But as I watch the latest chapter in the Book of Manny unfold, I have to think about how god-awful it would be to have someone like Manny reporting to you.
  • Everybody knows what he makes: I once worked for a guy who very wisely said that you should pay people as if everyone knows what everyone else makes. And, in truth, most people have a way of knowing what their peers and managers make: people blab, etc. (I worked in one company where a guy in finance left a paper that listed everyone's salary on a table in an open, common area. I found it there while working late and I swear, I only looked for a moment - or two - before slipping it under his door.) But there's knowing and there's knowing: ballplayers' salaries are public information, so when Manny phones it in, his teammates, management, and fans are big-time aware that he's getting paid an awful lot to do an awful little. This has got to be supremely demoralizing for his teammates, in particular for those who play with force, energy, and enthusiasm. (Sure, maybe some of these guys need to hustle more because they're not as talented or "valuable" as Manny, but it has to get people down when the highest paid team member doesn't live up to his end of the bargain.)

    Plus in real life, even if someone makes more, they don't make that much more. For any given position, you're not apt to be that far off plus-or-minus $10 or $20K. In baseball, the difference between what gets paid at the low-end and what the stars command is colossal - and, in any given season, may have nothing whatsoever to do with performance or contribution.

    So I'm glad that Manny doesn't work for me.

  • He makes a lot more than his manager: I have, in fact, had people on my team who got paid a higher salary than I did. They made more because they were worth more to the company because of their expertise in a particular area or their special knowledge. This is not a bad thing. And, for me, it always worked out that these folks were super at their jobs, and there was never any question about what they were doing or how. What a headache when someone in your group's completely doggin' it and they make tons more than you do, to boot!

    So I'm glad that Manny doesn't work for me.

  • He's got a contract: In real life, when an employee starts acting up/acting out, there are a lot of ways you can deal with it. If it's a one shot event, you can cut someone some slack until they get back with the program. If it's ongoing, you can put them on a plan. Or pray that they quit. Or fire them. Or chicken out, avoid any confrontation, and wait for a lay-off to get rid of them. (I've been in high tech: there are always lay-offs to wait for.)

    So I'm glad that Manny doesn't work for me.

  • You can't talk to your fellow managers about him: As if the whole system doesn't hamstring you enough to begin with, if you really need and want to make a trade, the last thing you want to do is make your "personnel problems" known. Instead, you want to keep making him look as good as possible, so that if you do find a team to deal him to, you get the best value in return.

    In real life, your fellow managers don't play for opposing teams. If you have trusted advisors among them, you can ask for advice on how to deal with your problem child. (And if there's no way to deal with the problem child, you can always complain about him or her.)

    So I'm glad that Manny doesn't work for me.

  • He makes you look and feel like an incompetent: The real key to looking like a good manager is to have good people working under you. For the most part, during my managerial career, I've had excellent people on my teams. But until I finally learned that avoidance is not a good way to deal with problem employees, I did have a few real beauts who made me feel like the least competent manager on the face of the earth.

    So I'm glad that Manny doesn't work for me.
In any case, Manny Ramirez is not my problem. If, come April, he's still playing for Boston, I will cheer him on. I will even chuckle a bit when we get a little Manny being Manny - the "fun stuff" like going behind the Green Monster score board to visit or use the toilet.

But these days, I'm sure glad that Manny Ramirez doesn't report to me.

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