4 Business Tips from the Baez Play

The afternoon matchup between the Pirates and Cubs began ordinarily enough. Until the top of third inning, that is. The situation for the Cubs didn’t look great: Facing a two-strike count with two outs and a runner on second, Cubs SS Javier Baez hit a routine grounder to Pirates’ third baseman, who then threw the ball to first. Inning over. Or so we thought.

Known to fans as El Mago (The Magician), Baez routinely appears in post-game highlights, fielding a ball nobody else could get to, making a throw nobody else would try, or taking a base if the other team dares to give him an inch. What ensued this time, though, was a bit of unorthodox hustle that will only further add to the legend of Javier Baez. Here’s the play:

Lots to Unpack

Ok. Sure. At ANY point during this sequence, ALL first baseman Will Craig had to do was hold the ball and touch first base before Baez arrived OR tag Baez with the ball before he could reach first base. That’s it. It doesn’t matter what happened with Cubs baserunner, Wilson Contreras, who started the at-bat on second and ultimately ended up sliding into home.

Seems easy, right? How could a major leaguer not know this? The thing is, he did and does know what to do. But something unanticipated happened, completely threw Craig off his game, and made him forget years of practice and training.

Sound familiar? Maybe a little too much like 2021? Or 2020? Your mileage may vary a little, but I bet we agree that the last two years have:

  • Defied convention in a lot of ways.
  • Thrown a lot of smart people off of their games.
  • Presented all of us with plenty opportunities to think about and do things differently.

After discussing this play ad nauseam with friend, fellow Cubs Fan, and Senior VP of Business Advocacy at the Greenville Chamber, Jason Zacher, I thought it’d be worthwhile to share some tips we gleaned from from this 20-second metaphor of life in 2021.

4 Business Tips

Tip 1: Go hard, even when nobody is watching.

Lost in the hoopla over what did (or didn’t) happen here is the fact that Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras was standing on second when the pitch was delivered. He saw the play unfold in front of him. He knew, barring a bad throw by third baseman Erik Gonzalez, his teammate had just made the third out. But Contreras didn’t give up, running full speed to third. And then, while the infield was busy being baffled by Baez’s backpedal, Contreras sped unnoticed down the third base line and managed to slide under the tag of catcher Michael Perez. Contreras knew it should have been a groundout. But it’s his job to run hard on the bases and pay attention to what’s going on. Especially, and most definitely, when nobody is watching. He takes that seriously, and we should as well.

Tip 2: Just because everybody always runs it out…

Sure. Baez has made a name for himself doing things unconventionally on the baseball diamond. Baseball, like business, often discourages the unconventional en lieu of the fundamental:

  • Don’t swing on a 3-0 count.
  • Shortstops cover second if the second baseman fields a ball.
  • Batters always (usually) run to first on grounders.

Of course, Baez didn’t buy that last one. Instead of running hard to first, as he’s done a million times before, Baez stopped cold and then backpedaled to home. Unconventional? Yes. Taught in Little League? Heck, no. Unexpected on an MLB diamond? You bet your sweet bippy! But then again…People are people. They make weird decisions at weird times. We are a chaotic species. Life sucks. Are you ready for it? Is your business? Craig sure wasn’t.

Tip 3: Don’t give in to panic.

At some point, as Craig followed Baez back to home plate, he had to wonder what he was even doing. Again, remember, Baez has no where to go. He has to be safe at first for Contreras’s hustle play to count as a run. If Craig touches first, that’s the third out. If Craig tags Baez, that’s the third out. Instead, Craig stayed the course. One bad decision led to a panicked second decision: lobbing the ball to his catcher (again, he could and should have tagged Baez no matter what happened at the plate). This moment of panic, coupled with what we’ll cover in the last bullet, made it possible for Baez to run safely to first base and, ultimately, second base.

Not all of our panicked decisions land us on SportsCenter, mind you. But bad for business is still bad for business.

Tip4: Have your teammate’s back

Watching the replay, it’s amazing how Craig’s poor decision impacted his teammates. For example, second baseman Adam Frazier, by all accounts a pretty sharp ball player, waited until the ball had been tossed to the catcher before he made an attempt to cover first for his absent teammate. Arriving late to first, he could do nothing to prevent Perez’s throw from bouncing into the outfield, allowing Baez to slide safely into first and then speed down to second. The members of a team HAVE to back up each other. If they don’t, the team eventually fails. It has to be instant, too, not an order barked from the sideline or the CEO’s desk.

I’m not here to poetize baseball as a metaphor for life. Or to poke fun of the Pirates. Anthony Rizzo did enough of that for us all.

Like I said above, the last 16 months have been one hell of a ride that a lot of us weren’t expecting. Did your organization panic and pull the plug on marketing? Were you reluctant to pivot and try things a little differently than you’ve done before? Did your team continue pushing hard for results, even in the face of remote working and the Zoom Revolution? If you need help, if you’re ready to try something different, let’s chat. We’d love to swap war stories with you and figure some things out.

Joey Hall

COO, EnVeritas Group

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