Okay. First a disclaimer: I don’t know shit about sports. Especially, professional sports. Most especially, Baseball. But I do have an eye for the counterintuitive, which is why a recent article by sports writer, Bruce Mills, about Chicago Cubs Manager, Joe Maddon, caught my attention.
In the article, the writer talks about Maddon’s propensity toward the counterintuitive, referring to him as the “king of counterintuition.”
If you’ve been reading my drivel for any length of time, you know how much I love men and women who have the balls to challenge conventional wisdom and established beliefs, and who dare to do something different—despite all the crap they know they are going to take from the critics, from their peers, from their boss and from the establishment. Based on what I just read, this Maddon fellow looks like my kinda guy.
Apparently Joe Maddon has only managed regular-season games for the Cubs for a month and a half, but he’s gaining a reputation for being a contrarian… in the writer’s words, “swatting long-held baseball notions right out of the park.”
He’s also such a good explainer of his philosophy and his decisions that you can’t help but come away convinced that conventional wisdom was the thing that was wrong all along.
Batting practice? Maddon says too much practice can make his players feel like they’re “swinging a fence post” while they’re up at bat.
“I think that it’s the most overrated thing that we do,” Maddon told reporters last week as he explained away a string of four straight days without pregame batting practice. Like I said, I know shit about baseball, but I did play Little League, and I remember the reverence and pageantry that surrounded batting practice, before every game.
Catch the ball with two hands? That’s what my mom and my Little League coach always taught me. Madden says that’s bullshit, too. “It’s a one-handed game,” he says.
Right on right, left on left? Nope. Not in Maddon’s mind.
From what I can recall about the game, it’s always been conventional wisdom that right handed pitchers defend the plate better against right handed hitters than do left handed pitchers, and vice versa. Maddon puts that one to rest, too.
“It’s been pounded into our mindset for too long that it has to be righty on righty or lefty on lefty. “I’m not concerned left or right or right or left,” Maddon said. “There are guys that are neutral, and there are actually guys that reverse. There are guys who get both sides out well. There are actually guys who get out the opposite side better.”
Largely as a result of Sabermetrics, (and yeah, I had to look that word up) people who follow this kind of stuff are finding that Maddon’s views aren’t as loony as they seem. To paraphrase sports writer, Bruce Mills, left on left and right on right ain’t always right.
BTW: For those of you who are as sports challenged as I, Sabermetrics is the empirical analysis of baseball statistics that measure in-game activity.
And while most managers get defensive about the media second-guessing their decisions and strategy, Maddon encourages the writers and broadcasters to “bring it on.” People questioning his nontraditional thought process don’t frazzle him. Instead, he will skillfully, gently and unapologetically explain why he does what he does, to anyone willing to listen (which is a critical skill for any CounterThinker to master). It’s as if he expects the pushback and negativism that terminally surrounds anyone who dares to challenge established norms, so-called benchmarks and venerated beliefs—which I’m sure he does.
Like I said, I like this guy. And I intend to follow him. And if he sticks to his counterintuitive guns, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to win some games because of it.