Farhan Zaidi is the President of Baseball Operations for the San Francisco Giants right here, right now… and while it may never be fully understood what role Zaidi had in in the managing and coaching decisions by the LA Dodgers, I think by the end of the 2019 season, we will find out that Farhan was a micro manager.
Great guy, but he was not good at deligation. He had to call all the shots. Maybe he did not dictate the lineups, but he strongly suggested to Dave Roberts who should play when and where. Simon Sinek says “There are leaders, and these are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or influence. Those who lead, inspire us.”
I believe that everything we will ever achieve in life is based upon the amount of influence we have with others. People follow leaders for one of two reasons:
- They have to; or
- They want to.
Which leaders do you think are more successful? Leaders who instill fear into their subordinates or leaders who instill power into their subordinates? The great John Maxwell wrote“There is a 40% increase in productivity when comparing those who want to follow the leader and those who have to follow the leader.”
40%! Would you rather report to someone you have to follow or someone you want to follow? If you have a formal position of authority, look at those following you. Are they following you because they have to or because they want to?
Another key aspect of leadership is hope. Let me illustrate the role hope plays in motivating people to do anything. Several years ago, scientists dropped a rat into a jar of water that had been placed in total darkness (no vision) and timed how long the rat would continue swimming before giving up and drowning. They did this numerous times and discovered that the rat lasted about 3 minutes before giving up and drowning.
Then they repeated the same experiment but this time, they allowed a ray of light (vision = hope) to shine in. Under those circumstances, the rat kept swimming for 36 hours. That is 720 times longer! Because the rat could see, it had hope. Hope gave them reason to keep swimming. Hope is not a strategy, but hope is necessary to develop a strategy. Without hope, our vision is doomed.
Delegating “What to do” still leaves you responsible. Delegating “what to accomplish” makes others responsible. That is true delegation – the rest is just being a boss. Anyone can be a boss. Not many can be true leaders. I believe Zaidi was a boss… not a leader. Andrew Friedman is a leader, and as a leader you have to give your subordinates the ability to “run their own show.” Andrew did and Farhan did. Now, Farhan is gone and he was not replaced for a reason: Andrew Friedman is not going to micro-manage this 2019 version of the LA Dodgers.
- The old-school hitting coach was replaced withsome young whippersnapperwho has new ideas how to hit and if you are an oldtimer, your are probably going to hate him from Jump Street;
- Platoons are going to lessen and fat guys and guys who are disruptive and have reverse splits are going to go (Wait! They did!;
- Players are going to play and managers and coaches are going to manage and coach;
- There will be a new hitting culture implemented in LA, where strikeouts are not an accomplishment, moving runners is good and bunting is encouraged; and
- Pitchers are not pulled just because…
What I am most excited about is the hiring of Robert Van Scoyoc (RVS). RVS is a student of Craig Wallenbrock who preached on the importance of launch angle long before it became in vogue throughout baseball. Van Scoyoc preached keeping swing paths through the strike zone as long as possible and lifting the ball in the air. We all know the story, but here’s whatESPNwrote about what RVS accomplished with JD Martinez:
Martinez began working with Van Scoyoc after the 2013 season. Van Scoyoc repositioned Martinez’s hands, put him in a more athletic stance and introduced him to the benefits of launch angle, helping Martinez go from a middling fourth outfielder to a menacing middle-of-the-order bat. The Dodgers hired Van Scoyoc and Wallenbrock as consultants from 2016 to 2017, at which point the duo also helped launch the career of Chris Taylor.
“But, he never played baseball”, some say. Will the players listen to him?
“At the end of the day, players want to be good and they don’t care if you had a playing career,” Van Scoyoc said. “All they care about is if you can help them be better.” That may not be true with all players, but I suspect it is true with the smart ones.
Ryan Braun had this to say about Craig Wallenbrock:
“Craig taught me how to look at hitting as a science. He was the first person to really break my swing down and show me how subtle adjustments could make a big difference in my approach and swing. I wouldn’t be the hitter I am today without his help and knowledge.“
There’s one caveat to RVS’s approach: Cut down your swing when you get two strikes and as Ted Williams used to say “Just push the ball.” Over 50% of hitters who go to the plate will end up with two strikes. If they learn to shorten their swing, bunt the ball or hit opposite the shift, imagine how they could cut down on strikeouts, prolong innings and move the runners.
The 2019 Dodgers will not hit as many home runs as the 2018 version, but I think they will score more. See the pitch, hit the pitch and one more thing RVS preaches: With the use of analytics, they will prepare the hitters as to what pitch they aremost likely to see in certain situations.
While this is a shift in strategy, I do not believe it is radical. It just makes sense: Look for your pitch, stay in the zone as long as possible and shorten up with two strikes.
Every year it’s the same thing! Since Friedman was hired the fans complain about the team construction, make fun of my predictions and NLDS, NLCS, followed by two World Series appearances. I have said it before and I will say it again: “If you are good enough to get there, you are good enough to win.” The 1988 Dodgers were outclassed, but they won anyway.
If Friedman gets the Dodgers there again for an unprecedented third time in a row, are the whiners going to stop? I doubt it!