When the lowly Cleveland Indians got a manager who had recently won two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox to come to Cleveland, I had to question both his sanity and how something like this could happen. Terry Francona had a cushy job as an analyst at ESPN and could have continued there until a world class managerial opportunity opened up but that’s not the way it happened. In fact, it hasn’t happened that way in my adult life for the Cleveland Indians. They have either chosen home grown candidates that managed in their minor leagues or taken a young manager who had not had success elsewhere and was looking for a clean start.
So how does this happen? How does a first class manager end up with a second rate franchise? If you have been in business for any period of time, the answer is obvious. It’s all about relationships. In this case Francona felt a strong bond with the Indians because:
a) his dad Tito played with the Tribe in the early 60s
b) he played for the Indians for a year early in his career
c) he worked as a consultant in 2001 under current Tribe president Mark Shapiro and
d) he befriended both Shapiro and his second lieutenant Chris Antonetti (now General Manager) at that time and stayed in close touch over the last decade
Now, he had an opportunity to have a relationship in the heart of his comfort zone with management–something most managers would give their left arm for (assuming they are right handed) and go back to a place where his father had stared and where he felt a strong allegiance.
We see this same kind of magnet in business all of the time. We see it in politics big time. Remember when Jimmy Carter won the presidency and brought most of the inhabitants of Georgia with him to the white house? Call it favoritism. Call it nepotism. Call it cronyism. What it actually is is choosing to do business with people you are comfortable with and you have done business with in the past.
In our business, we see this all the time. Our contact at a client leaves and the new person brings in his or her own people. It’s not that we did anything wrong. It’s just that he has his peeps that he has used in the past and they have learned how to talk shorthand to get things done. I get it. It’s the same reason that the person that left may call us when he/she get replanted because they are comfortable with us. It’s just the way the world turns. And it’s the only explanation that makes any sense why our Cleveland Indians now have a first class manager. Now if he can only persuade the team owners to help him put together a team comprised of first class talent. That is something where relationships unfortunately don’t play a role.