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How the Red Sox really beat the curse

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

It wasn’t Babe Ruth’s ghost that the Boston Red Sox had to overcome. It was the curse of bad management.

Even in a professional sport distinguished by lack of leadership, the Red Sox stood out for decades as being among the worst-led Major League Baseball teams. Evidence:
  • No aptitude for personnel decisions. The club remained the last to hire an African-American baseball player, passing up both Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays.
  • No attention to detail. The team lost future Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk because it sent him his contract two days late.
  • No discipline. When manager Jimy Williams tried to discipline a player in 2000 for throwing tantrums, his boss not only didn’t back him up but publicly sided with the player.
  • No cohesion. The phrase “24 players, 24 cabs” fit the climate.
So, in came new owners John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, and changed all that. In a nutshell, here’s how:
  • They think in terms of team spirit. Curt Schilling took a pay cut to pitch for Boston. Red Sox players actually appeared to be having fun in the postseason.
  • They honor the history. While former owners wanted to rip down the venerable Fenway Park, the new gang hired an architect to add high-priced seats and gussy up the joint. The sprucing added $20 million in annual revenues.
  • They practice smart fiscal management. The owners also pumped up cable revenues by tens of millions. Plus, because they’d previously owned smaller-market teams, they’re scrappy and don’t throw money around.
  • They’re in it for the long haul. The old owners traded away young talent for big-money hotshots, just the way a company might bleed new product development to make numbers. The new owners instead traded away celebrity shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, which helped both defense and morale. One owner says the team won’t go for broke in any particular year, figuring that if it’s in the playoffs every year, the chances of winning a title will rise. So far, so good.
— Adapted from “How the Curse Was Really Reversed,” Joseph Nocera and Jerry Useem, Fortune.

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