Clue-by-Four: Ramblings of a Jock Dork

Winning the Yankees Way: Life Lessons Learned from George Steinbrenner


(Any resemblance to persons real or fictional is entirely incidental, except those people who are actual Yankees. As for the stuff, if you think I’m talking about you…you might want to consider why you feel that way. If you think I’m talking about someone else…you might want to consider coming back from “Denial Island”)

Mason (Sean Connery): Are you sure you’re ready for this? [walks up staircase]

Goodspeed (Nicholas Cage): I’ll do my best.

Mason: [stops and motions back to Goodspeed] Your best? Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen!

As a Yankees fan, I have a particular bias to all things pinstripes. I truly believe that my team exhibits the best in any and all things, which is why so many other teams try to be like us or are simply just jealous. [I hear your objections and I scoff! if your team spent the kind of money ours does to try and win, you would not be complaining]

Of course, over the years, I’ve been trained to think that by George Steinbrenner. But, considering my personality and behavior, is it really any shock that I’ve spent the last twenty-four years proudly wearing the NY in my daily life?1

My personality is naturally drawn to teams like the Yankees. They exhibit all the qualities that an alpha-Jock Dork like me strives to incorporate in my own life. I may be genetically disposed to root for the Bronx Bombers. But, I have also been shaped by lessons taught by George Steinbrenner and his ownership of the Yankees.

 Over the next few days, I will be sharing a few of those lessons that I may have learned from Steinbrenner [I acknowledge that I may have learned some of these elsewhere as well]. These lessons apply to business, friendships, relationships, and life in general.

Today’s lesson: Winning.

Expect to Win Every Game

Whether you succeed in life or not is largely your doing. There will be challenges along the way. Ultimately, whether you get what you want can come down a matter of attitude. When you expect to win and believe you win, you will, in fact, win.

I play slow pitch softball. When I step up to the plate with the game on the line, I already expect to win it. In my head, I’ve done it already, which allows me to relax and go out and do it. I win the game 90-95% of the time in that situation.3

Most people are filled with self-doubt or expect to lose. They are defeated before they step up to bat [I have seen extra innings games in slow pitch where neither team scored for three innings…hello?!?! This is slow pitch people…even a caveman could do it].

These people want desperately to win. The problem is, they don’t know how to and they don’t simply expect it. Repeat: Losers want to win, but fear losing. Winners just win.

"I Held it Like an Egg" "Yeah, and he scrambled the son of a bitch"

This is applies to life, particularly relationships. Most people have dealt with so much failure, they play to lose, but aren’t aware that they are doing it. They want so desperately to find a relationship, that lasting connection with another person, so much so that they are willing to overlook many red flags [sometimes, it’s not a matter of overlooking…it’s more like building a house on Denial Island]. By overlooking big, ginormous, crimson flags, you have set yourself up to lose.  It’s what you expect to happen anyway.

Cut Your Losses Quickly Provides the Best Chance for Building a Dynasty:

In my old age, I have learned that red flags cannot and should not be ignored. If you see behavior that you cannot tolerate early, why waste any time trying to get that person to change their behavior? Why expend the energy explaining it to someone who will probably not listen to you anyway?

The first few months of getting to know someone SHOULD NOT be complicated. If it is, why are you still playing? Deep down, you know this will ultimately end very badly. Nothing good comes of trying to save someone from their red flags.

Think of it like a hot shot, minor-league pitching prospect who gets called up to the major leagues. He’s generates a lot of buzz. Maybe, in his first few games, he dominates hitters. But you notice something. When he’s behind in the count, he can’t control his off-speed pitches.

In his next start, you see something else. Opposing hitters are taking the first pitch. Today, your prospect is still throwing strikes, so he’s getting away with it. But, if you are a smart manager, you know what you should do.

To preserve this kid’s future and the future of your ball club, you need to send this kid back to the minors. He is not going to be able to get by much longer with these deficiencies. Don’t try to fix him in the big leagues. Against major league hitters is not where you want someone ironing out their issues [Which is why pitchers coming back from injury have rehab starts in A and AA ball. They aren’t ready yet and no amount of encouragement will make them ready]

Sadly, most managers/general managers don’t have the stones to make the tough choices, even though they already know what’s going to happen. Instead of giving this kid and the team the best possible chance to succeed, they start working with the kid in the bullpen. However, the bullpen does not equal game situations…and word has spread.

Over his next five starts, he isn’t getting ahead in the count. Hitters are taking the first pitch and sitting dead red [Looking for a fastball]. Anyone who knows baseball knows that, at the major league level, if you cannot throw strikes with other pitches, your fastball is going to get ripped.  Your prospect doesn’t make it out of the fourth inning in any start and gets shelled repeatedly.

Eventually, you have to part ways and send him back to the minors. By now, it’s too late. You are finally sending him down to fix what you always knew was broken.  But, his confidence has taken a huge blow and he may never be the same again.  Also, your team needed those wins to stay in the hunt for the playoffs. Those losses put your team four games further back than you needed to be. The team has been hurt too.

If you don’t believe me, look at the saga of Phil Hughes and Jaba Chamberlain. Phil was sent back to the minors to iron out his issues, then brought back in a limited role in the bullpen to gain confidence [which he did]. After dominating from the bullpen early, Chamberlain was left to flounder in the starting rotation for far too long when everyone knew this was a bad idea. Now, he’s not even that good in the bullpen and may, forever, suck. See the difference. [5]

Such a waste and not a sound winning strategy.

Thankfully, the Yankees usually don’t try those experiments for very long and will often cut their losses pretty quickly, paying top dollar for a replacement that does not have the same red flags.

So should you in your dating/relationships [NO, NOT PAY TOP DOLLAR!!! That, boys and girls, would be a crime…unless you are in Nevada] Why play with the future by trying pretending those red flags don’t exist? If you just started dating, send them back to the minors and let someone else help them iron out their issues. They can’t be fixed by you, especially while trying to play “boyfriend/girlfriend.” They aren’t ready for the big leagues. Any attempt to change them will only hurt the ballclub in the long run.

When You Lose, Figure Out Why:  One would think that this is simply stating the obvious. It should be, but most people don’t bother to figure out why their team lost this time. Cue any or all of the following phrases:

  • We just had a bad night
  • The other team is just better than we are
  • We tried our best, it just didn’t work
  • The umpires lost this game for us
  • If a few more bounces went our way, we would have been fine
  • You are bound to lose sometimes

Hmmm. Now substitute the following phrases that relate to dating:

  • He/she just doesn’t know what they are missing
  • He/she is just a stupid asshole who doesn’t know a good thing when he sees it
  • I’m not the one with the problem. He/she has the problem
  • I did everything right and don’t understand why this happened.
  • I didn’t do anything wrong, he/she is the idiot

Notice the pattern here? No responsibility for losing. Everyone shares responsibility for losing. Likewise, everyone shares responsibility when dating doesn’t work out. The question is, “are you willing to own up to it and figure out why?” Are you willing to say, “I/We suck. I contributed to the loss/bad dating. What negative things did I contribute? How can I provide better input that will lead to a more positive outcome? How bad do I/we suck and how can I/we fix it?”

“But ClueXFour. I did everything I was supposed to. I went 3 for 4 with a dinger and 3 RBI [It’s RBI people, not Runs Batted Ins]. They are the ones who blew it.”

Yes, you did part of your job. But you hit a home run on a 3-and-2 backdoor slider that you knew the pitcher was going to throw from past experience. Did you share that information with Struggling Steve who is batting .175 over the past two weeks? No.

So, what happened? Steve struck out on a 3-and-2 backdoor slider with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. Hmm. You lost by a run. You think you had any responsibility in that loss? What might of happened if you said, “Hey kid. If you get to 3-2, he’ll throw you a backdoor slider. Trust me!”[6]

“But ClueXFour. I did tell him that and he struck out anyway.”

Wow, you are so clearly missing the point…and proving it too. I love paradox. [Remember the whole shouting thing?]

To take another swing at it: No matter how angry or upset you might be at someone for failing you, remember, what they have to say about you may have a few grains of truth in it. Their reasons for failing you may more valid than you give them credit for. And, most of all, whether you think so or not, you contributed more than you think to the failure.

I was recently criticized for a course of action I took. While I did not agree with the criticism, I took a good hard look at the points that were made and I came to a few conclusions about my philosophy on the matter which will lead to positive growth.4

When You Win, Figure Out Why and How to Repeat It: The best run sports franchises demand that their athletes analyze why they won, then work hard to make sure it happens again. The best athletes evaluate the nuances of every successful performance so that they can win again. [Greg Maddux had a less than ideal fastball for the major leagues, but studied no stop and prepared to beat every hitter..and he dominated for a number of years].

Steinbrenner is not the only sports figure who followed this philosophy. Bill Belichick made his athletes practice harder on the day after they won, when many coaches might reward their players with a light practice. Hmm…Belichick knows nothing about winning right? How about Phil Jackson?

You see, winners not only want to understand why they lose, but they also want to understand the “why” when they win.

Do you evaluate the things that work in a dating/relationship situation and try to replicate them? Do you take the time to understand what you put into it that makes it successful so that you can keep “winning” with your personal life?

Why is it most people never look at this sort of thing when they are winning? Only after the dating/relationship collapses do they do any analysis.

“But ClueXFour, I put all these positive things into my relationships.”

And how is that working out for ya? Next time, look a little harder. You might learn how to win.

“But ClueXFour, you compare this to winning in relationships. Where is your winning relationship?”

That’s a valid question. Up until recently, I was playing to lose. I’ve dated people I know I shouldn’t. I overlooked things that bothered me. I kept trying to justify seeing someone who has glaring deficiencies that I just can’t live with. See, this blog is largely about what doesn’t work.

I AM A FUCKING EXPERT AT WHAT DOESN’T WORK! For that matter, so are most of you [You just ignore all that data stored in your string of frustrations and broken hearts]

So, I’ve only started to put the principals into practice. When I get into my next “relationship,” I will expect it to work. When it works, I will evaluate why it works and continue what is working, but also add new things that will increase the chances of winning.

Until then, I will continue using the other two strategies. They seem to be working pretty well so far and have kept me out of a couple situations where the woman was batshit crazy. Others have been logical-based decisions on things I already know wouldn’t work. Afterwards, I spent some time thinking about my contributions and improve on every step.

I’m playing to win.

You can too. When you do, this happens:

Mason: Are you sure you’re ready for this? [walks up staircase]

Goodspeed: I’ll do my best.

Mason: [stops and motions back to Goodspeed] Your best? Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen!

Goodspeed: Carla was the prom queen.

Mason: [faintly impressed] Really?

Goodspeed: [Cocks his gun] Yeah!

Footnotes:

  1. Hmm. Cocky prick who things he’s the best at everything? Yup, that’s me. I’m so a Yankees fan.2
  2. If you added alcohol, a criminal record, and really good at nothing but fighting, I’d be a Raiders fan.
  3. Yes, I am that fucking good.
  4. Or I might continue to suck. I haven’t decided yet.
  5. Notice I used Phil’s first name and Chamberlain’s last name. Yeah, you can so tell who I’m not real happy with. I love subtleties in psychology. On the way out of the interview, the person before me told the math teacher “good luck” and me “bye”. Hmmm, I wonder if she noticed.
  6. Someone told Kirk Gibson that about Oakland’s Dennis Eckerley. Guess what happened? Gibson hammered the backdoor slider into the bleachers and the Dodgers won game one of the 1988 World Series. They went on to win the series. Yeah. Fuck Kirk Gibson![7]
  7. from Wikipedia:

Gibson would later recount that prior to the Series, Dodger scout Mel Didier had provided a report on Eckersley which claimed that with a 3–2 count against a left-handed hitter, one could be absolutely certain that Eckersley would throw a backdoor slider.[3] Gibson said that when the count reached 3–2, he stepped out of the batter’s box and, in his mind, could hear Didier’s voice, with its distinctive Southern drawl, reiterating that same piece of advice.[3] With that thought in mind, Gibson stepped back into the batter’s box; and thus when Eckersley did in fact throw a backdoor slider, it was exactly the pitch Gibson was expecting.

With an awkward, almost casual swing, Gibson used pure upper-body strength to hit the pitch over the right-field fence. He hobbled around the bases and pumped his fist as his jubilant teammates stormed the field. The Dodgers won the game, 5–4.

The telecast of the home run is also notable because the shot of the ball flying over the wall also captures the taillights of the cars leaving the parking lot, presumably filled with fans who had either given up hope or were leaving early to avoid the traffic.

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3 Responses

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  1. stineybean said, on July 24, 2010 at 1:15 am

    This post proves a few things: 1) your stunning expertise (yet again) at relaying any well known maxims into dating advice 2) a heady and tangled web of baseball knowledge and 3) That clue-x-four still has a strong swing.

    Looking forward to the rest of this series.

  2. Pakhet said, on August 21, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Play to win. I like it!


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