The Lesson of Chris Sale

By: Dean Harrington

In the 7th inning of game four of the World Series, baseball’s best offensive team found itself starved for runs. The vaunted Red Sox attack had scored a mere three runs in its previous 25 innings, managing just a single hit in the first 6 innings of Saturday’s match-up with the Dodgers. That’s when Red Sox ace pitcher Chris Sale threw his most devastating pitch, aimed squarely at his own teammates no less.

The 6’6” Sale rose to his feet in the visitors’ dugout at famed Chaves Ravine and began screaming at his teammates. The towering image of a crazed adult stalking, berating and blasting his children was captured for all to see on national television.

Ten minutes later, Sale’s buddies broke out with three loud runs, and an hour later the team had produced a historic nine run rally. All courtesy of advice from a pitcher?

Did Sale offer hitting advice: “keep your eye on the ball”, “stay balanced”, “swing level” or similar batting critique? I’m not a great lip-reader but none of the fire from Sale’s outburst seemed to come from Ted Williams, The Art of Hitting. No, Sale did something else.

He changed the channel in his teammates’ minds. He gave them a new possibility.

What Sale did is something we in business need to do when we face a slump, a drought or a shortage of offensive “inventory”, production or volume. We need to change the channel. We need to remind ourselves of the successes in getting here, what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve survived, and, as Sale reportedly reminded his failing lineup: “We are the best team in the world! Now go play like it.”

Sale simply gave the Red Sox struggling hitter’s permission to remember how good they were. He released them from mentally punishing themselves by their recent failings.

In the business world – as in our personal lives – we can try to fix a bunch of things, tweak this, tweak that, try this new idea, etc., but ultimately it comes down to giving ourselves a new possibility, changing the channel and remembering that we’re more capable than we imagine.

So, as you look around your office today, if you don’t see a wild 6’6” colleague ranting this reminder then maybe, just maybe, it’s you your team needs to hear from today.