It is the most desired tag a man can have. Whether in business, in baseball or in life, to be called ‘Clutch’ is an honor.
One of the greatest baseball players I have ever seen was Bo Jackson. Bo Knew! In his prime he was amazing to watch. He was a six tool player. The sixth ingredient was ‘clutch’. One cool September evening in old Milwaukee County Stadium, the hated Chicago White Sox came to town as they were on their way to winning the American League Pennant. The Brewers were ahead by one in the top of the Ninth as a Pale Hose player got on first. The manager then brought in a pinch hitter.
It was Bo. Hobbling to the on deck circle, he was crippled with the devastating football injury that took away his ability to perform up to the level he once was the only person to have. As he was announced, stepping to the plate, I said the one of my employees who came to the game with me, ‘This is exactly what you don’t want. A great star who can turn the game around with one swing. They can’t throw a fast ball to him. It creates THE situation. This is what he is meant to do.’
Sure enough the ball went like a shot faster than it came in. Bo hobbled to second with the biggest grin on his face you could possibly imagine as with one swing he had just brought the Chicago White Sox one step closer to a pennant. He was ‘clutch’.
On Saturday evening, in Miller Park, with the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, with runners on 1st, the Pirates manager instructed his pitcher to non-intentionally intentionally walk a .104 hitter, to get to the guy on the index circle who was struggling and coming off of a calf injury. The pitcher did was he was told and in what is oddly one of the dumbest moves in baseball, he walked Sogard. Up stepped Ryan Braun. Now what you do not want to do is pitch anything near the plate to a player who is capable of taking charge of the game with one swing. This is exactly why they pay him the big bucks. He is the face of the team and Clint Hurdle just embarrassed the heart and soul of the Milwaukee Brewers. The pitcher saw the traditional Braun step-in. Raising his right arm above him and toward the empire as he stepped in, he took a couple of swings and the historic stage was set to be written. But like a dangling participle, a hanging breaking ball was slashed to left center for a double, scoring both runners and winning yet another game for the Milwaukee Brewers. ‘Clutch’. Braun has been doing that all of his career.
Like most ultra-ego inflated managers who have never won a World Series, but have been given an imaginary Manager of the Year monicar because of a talented group of guys from the front office to the club house boy had handed him a gift of excellence, their genius is only in their heads. Last night proved it.
And ‘clutch’ is part of a six tool player.