Value of Leadership

27 Oct

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You’ve read about the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, and as the World Series now has a team that is one win from a title, the Handbook will be available very soon. It is currently available for pre-orders for just $5.99. When the World Series ends, it will become available at $9.99.

Leadership is defined as, “the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group.”

Michael Cuddyer is on the cover of the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook. Of all of the decisions that the Twins front office needs to make this offseason, the biggest arguably is what to do about Michael Cuddyer. There is no question that it will be the most talked about topic regardless of what happens. The general consensus from bloggers, writers and many fans is that Cuddyer is a very solid right-handed hitter who plays several positions, none particularly well. He is one of the top free agent outfielders and could make a lot of money. Many believe that he will be paid more than his baseball skills alone would dictate. In other words, he’s a solid baseball player who will get paid extra because of his intangibles. He is well spoken and terrifically accommodating with the media. He is generous with his time for fans and in the community. He is a veteran. He is now an All-Star. He has played in the playoffs before. And, he is the team’s clubhouse leader.

So again, what is a leader? And what are the leadership qualities found in a baseball player? Is leadership always about winning? No. It is always about people. It’s about knowing your players or your teammates. It’s about about knowing what they do well and what they don’t do well. How does a teammate handle constructive criticism or praise? A leader has to know that all people are different and be able to quickly pick up on those things. That’s true for a player or a manager. A manager tries to build morale, and that means that sometimes a good leader puts a player into a tough position or a bad matchup to see how they handle it. Leadership means that the bench players get enough game experience to be ready when needed.

When Mark Dolenc from the New Britain Rock Cats called in to my podcast last month, he said that when Brian Dozier was promoted to the Rock Cats, he quickly became a team leader on the field. On a later podcast, Dozier said that he prefers to quietly lead by example. Other leaders like Torii Hunter chose to be loud, or even to punch teammates.

Most of these intangibles are always a little fuzzy for me because they are in no way statistical. There is no way to quantify leadership. And that’s perfectly fine. But how is leadership measured? Cuddyer has been the team’s leader since Torii Hunter left after the 2007 season. So, in the first three years since then, he led the Twins to 88, 87 and 94 wins. Then in 2011, he led the Twins to 99 losses? Or, maybe he just wasn’t as good of a leader in 2011 as he was in 2008 through 2010? So, how is leadership measure? How can you really put a dollar value to leadership? Consider:

  • I would never consider a player that the media calls a ‘leader’ a leader, unless it is verified by teammates and coaches. As we’ve seen with Cuddyer and Hunter, they have been touted as great leaders, in part, because they are great interviews and very personable and accommodating.
  • Can we agree that in any team sport that involves more than, say, five players on a field or court at one time, leadership is very overrated?
  • Do we know, with certainty, that Tom Brady is a better leader than maybe one of the Patriots linemen, or defensive standouts?
  • Do we know that Tom Brady is a better leader than Tim Tebow because of the titles and wins in the NFL?
  • Do we know that Derek Jeter’s leadership is more important to the Yankees than the leadership of Mariano Rivera, or Mark Teixeira, or who knows, maybe Robinson Cano, or Greg Golson are tremendous leaders?
  • Do we know that Josh Hamilton is a better team leader than Michael Cuddyer?
  • Do we know that Michael Cuddyer is a better team leader than Nick Punto? Than Drew Butera?

Some of the above may seem a bit out there, but if I ask you, “How do you know?” how do you answer with certainty. Good leaders are certainly not always a team’s best player. That’s illustrated by the fact that most really good big league managers were utility types as players. Tom Kelly is touted by Twins fans as a great leader due to two World Series championships. He wasn’t a great (or very good) big league player. Ron Washington and Ron Gardenhire were utility infield types. Joe Mauer is bashed because he isn’t a great leader. Guess what? He doesn’t have to be regardless of his talent or his contract. Not everyone is a leader and that’s not necessarily good or bad. Ron Washington will likely win a World Series title. Does that make him a great leader, or is his team just the most talented? Joe Torre was a ‘bad manager’ when he managed some bad Mets and Braves teams, but he sure became a great manager when he took over those Yankees lineups. Was Joe Girardi a better manager during his World Series championship season with the Yankees or when he made the Florida Marlins relevant?

There are times when pennant-winning teams lose to teams just because of bad luck, injury, bad calls or just because the opponents play really well on a given day.

How do teams evaluate leadership? It’s impossible to truly quantify. So how can we as fans, who are not part of the team, quantify leadership?

As it relates to Michael Cuddyer, all indications are that he is a terrific leader. How terrific? Who knows?! Probably not as terrific as some assumed from 2008 through 2010 and probably more terrific than 2011’s 99 loss season would indicate. And, frankly, because there are at least 24 others on the roster and at least eight others in the lineup and at least eight others on the field at the same time as him, it likely has far less to do with success or failure than anyone wants to admit.

So bringing it all back to the Twins Offseason, let’s just say that you believe Cuddyer’s baseball skills have earned him a 3 year contract for $27 million. How much more should the team pay for his leadership? How much is his work in the community worth to the Twins (to be honest, this is worth more than leadership claims to the Twins organization)? Add those things up. Add more things, if you like.

For me, I’d be happy to get Cuddyer locked up for three years and $30 million. I’d add an option year in there too. I’d probably go up to 3 years and $33 million. It is possible that he could get as much as four years and $45 million. Can you justify that?

Leadership is a great thing, but I think a little proper perspective has to be given to its true value to the team. And again, only his teammates and coaches really know what happens in the clubhouse, on the team plane, in the dugout, in the hotel, etc.

Leadership matters. But how do you quantify it? How do you pay someone for it? If you have any questions or comments or other links, please feel free to leave them here.


4 Responses to “Value of Leadership”

  1. doug koebernick October 28, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    This is going to be one of those signings (or not signings) where people will be upset no matter what happens. I think it is a very tough call for the Twins and for their fans. If you look at the baseball reference site they compare him to the following guys:

    Larry Hisle (962)
    Dan Ford (961)
    Aaron Rowand (955)
    Troy O’Leary (951)
    Mel Hall (944)
    Willard Marshall (943)
    Paul O’Neill (941)
    Carl Everett (938)
    Bernard Gilkey (937)
    Steve Kemp (935)

    To me, I’m not sure I would pay $10 million for any of those guys (although O’Neill after age 32 had some huge seasons). Heck, with the exception of O’Neill most disappeared after the age of 32 or 33. I would offer arbitration and if he doesn’t sign get the picks and maybe breathe a sigh of relief and focus on Kubel.

  2. adjacent October 28, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    Leadership is a very slippery concept, because not only depends on the person but it relates to the group too. One person can lead well certain team (or group in general) and fall flat with another. Let’s say, Cuddy goes to San Francisco, and nothing garanties the he can be a leader there. So, if I am was a GM, I would put very relative weight on that. I am not say I would ignore the subject, but I would’n assume that because Cuddyer was a leader in Minnesota he is going to be a leader in my team

  3. DH in Philly October 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    doug koebernick

    You should have listed the similar players for Kubel. They don’t look much better than the Cuddyer list. Nor do they imply that they should ‘focus on Kubel’.


  1. Could Cuddyer Leave? « - November 7, 2011

    […] a team and for an organization. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, it’s hard to measure the value of leadership. It’s impossible to measure the value that a player of Cuddyer’s experience can have in talking […]

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