The Gutsball Blog

Do You Belong in The Gutsball Hall of Fame?

Do You Belong in The Gutsball Hall of Fame?

There are a couple of reasons we chose to call this “The Gutsball Blog.”  One is that “Gutsball” was the working title for my book (nka “Out Executing The Competition”) until the publisher had other ideas and I had a felt need to use the term somewhere, somehow.  But I’d like to think the most important reason is that the ability to play gutsball is a characteristic common to most real leaders.  In scanning through my previous blogs, you’ll see that leadership and what makes for great leadership is a rather recurring theme.

Right about now, if you haven’t read the book (Shame on you!  Don’t you want to be enlightened?!), you may be saying to yourself, “Hang on, gutsball?  What the heck is this guy talking about?”  So, for those of you who need it, permit me to elucidate:

--Gutsball    Noun:  The ability to overcome apprehension or anxiety and to rise to the occasion.  2. To feel free to take action while acknowledging potential consequences, but not fearing them.

During the course of my career, I’ve had to fight through entangling thickets of management risk at many points…doing a 180 in the midst of a billion dollar project, telling bosses things they didn’t want to hear, seeking approval for initiatives that defied conventional wisdom.  Those are pretty good examples of playing gutsball.

In a different context, last night, live and in color, I witnessed a genuine gutsball move that may be one of the greatest examples I’ve ever seen.  It happened in the third game of the American League Divisional Series, the Baltimore Orioles vs. the New York Yankees, at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, NY.

With the Yankees trailing 2 to 1 in the bottom of the ninth (and last in a game not requiring extra innings as a result of a tied score) inning and one already out, Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, played gutsball to the max.  His superstar, Alex Rodriguez, was due to bat next, but had been mired in a deep and frustrating slump, getting only one hit in 12 at bats thus far in the playoff series, continuing a downward spiral that carried over from the end of the regular season schedule and Girardi had a choice to make.

Precedent would indicate that, despite his slump, you send Rodriguez out there to step up to the plate, swing the bat and get the Yankees out of their dilemma …which would be not only losing the game in your own ballpark, but also going down two games to one in a five game series. After all, Alex Rodriguez is one of the best baseball players of all time, with Hall of Fame credentials.  One swing could get the job done and probably him out of his funk in the bargain.  And consider this; the Yankees are all about playoff baseball, any year not culminating in a World Series Championship is considered a failure, no matter how good the regular season record.

Joe Girardi is a firmly buttoned down, by-the-book baseball manager…at least that’s his track record.  But last night, he decided to do something ABSOLUTELY UNHEARD OF.  He sent another player up to bat in place of Alex Rodriguez, substituting for him and sending him to the bench.  I am telling you this is simply not done, ever.  This was extreme risk taking.

Think of the potential consequences!  If the substitute makes an out and the Yankees lose the game, Girardi would be excoriated to put it mildly.  Such a move might even cost him his job.  But that didn’t happen.  The substitute, a respectable but hardly spectacular ballplayer, Raul Ibanez, played gutsball himself.  In an unbearably pressure packed situation, Ibanez hit a home run, got the Yankees back in the game and several innings later, he hit another one resulting in a Yankees’ victory and a career defining moment for Girardi.

My hat is off to both of them, playing gutsball takes…well, guts.  But go back to the definitions above, I’m confident you will agree, last night’s actions belong in the Gutsball Hall of Fame.