In his column in this morning’s Washington Post, Tom Boswell wrote that the fine print on the back of every MLB ticket says, “The bearer of this ticket is permitted to second-guess either or both of the managers. If he or she does not exercise this prerogative, the commissioner reserves the right to refuse permission to attend any future major league games.” OK, it doesn’t say that, but it should. And, I plan to exercise that prerogative raised to the Nth power with respect to Washington Nationals’ Manager, Dusty Baker’s, horrendous decision making against the Cubs in game 4 of the NLDS last night.
Start with the facts. He had one very simple decision to make in the 7th inning. Counting Spring Training, the Nationals were playing their 199th baseball game of 2017. One game shy of 200 baseball games, he was betting the entire season and quite possibly his job. He had two choices. He could push all in on Max Scherzer, the likely Cy Young winner for the second year in a row who, by the way, was throwing a gem of a 1-hitter and was at only 98 pitches. Or, he could bet it on some dude named Sammy Solis, who brought a 5.88 ERA into the post-season. Scherzer or Solis? Hmmmm. Think, Pooh, think. Cy Young or 5.88 ERA. God, this job is so fucking hard. Someone help me here.
Except nobody did. Like Trump’s finger reaching for the send button in Twitter, Dusty reached his left arm in the air in what counts as the worst decision in post-season baseball history. Well, at least since former Nats Manager Matt Williams pulled Jordan Zimmermann from the 2012 NLDS, one out away from the first post-season complete game shutout in DC since 1933. But, I digress. Dusty bet on Solis and we know what happened. Is it possible that Scherzer would have given up a bomb to Kyle Schwarber, atoning for his three-base error that gave the Nats the lead in the first place? Maybe, but so what? You go with your best.
As I turned this dreadful decision over and over in my mind, I tried to think of some analogy in my career. Some point where I had to make a big decision and what it might have looked like if I were as inept as Dusty. My job as a venture capitalist is to invest in companies, sit on their boards to help them grow, and then sell them to a larger company to make a return on my capital (slight oversimplification, but you get the point).
Suppose I was in a situation where one of my portfolio companies was in discussions with a Fortune 100 company to be acquired for $1 billion. The CEO of the Fortune 100 said he wanted to meet with our management to seal the deal. The board met to decide who to send to the meeting and we had two choices, either the 29 year old Director of Business Development, a smart kid and recent Harvard Business School grad, but a guy who had yet to close his first deal. Or, we could send the CEO of the company, an experienced 57 year old executive who had sold 4 companies, one of them to this same buyer. He knew the buyer’s CEO from this prior transaction as well, and the two of them were also social friends. If I had voted to send the young Director of Business Development to negotiate the deal, I would be performing at Dusty Baker’s level. And, I should be fired. He should be too. Like before tonight’s game.