I was pleasant surprised by Baseball’s AllStar game this year. First, the dedication to Service in the Country with its honoring of volunteers in the various baseball cities across the country was carried off very well. Second, President Obama proved once again that he is as close to a Natural Born hitter than anyone around in the political game.
First, the shots of his mingling in the clubhouse with All Star players showed a natural enjoyment of sports and athletes not seen since the Kennedy days. Second his willingness to come out and throw the ceremonial First Pitch wearing a Chicago White Sox jacket – and suffer the slings and arrows of St.Louis boos [Chicago is a constant rival to St.Louis in business and sports] showed the innate pluck of the President. His First Pitch had pluck too.
But it was in the broadcast booth where the President worked some magic – showing knowledge of the game and interest in some of its intricacies. Most fascinating was his question to Joe Buck and Tim McCraw, both acute observers of baseball, on why the American League had been winning the All Star Game so consistently for the past 12 years [and now at 13 given last nights win by the AL]. Joe and Tim both noted that the All Star game had shown a streaky trend in the past with the AL dominant and then NL and now the AL again in about 20 year periods. But then both Tim and Joe agreed that the AL was dominant right now because they played better baseball and the Designated Hitter Rule forced them to do so. President Obama asked why that would be true. And the commentators explained that easy outs with pitchers are not available in the American League, so teams have had to adapt with better pitching and fielding to compensate. Obama appeared to be intrigued by the reasoning.
Note to the President. The US has been like the National League, giving up on Manufacturing by conceding to Low Labor Cost Markets and Globalization while relying on Finance, Innovation and Services to make up the GDP/Balance of Trade gap. But now that good paying Jobs are at a premium, transportation/logistics costs make offshoring a losing proposition[see HBR July August issue], and Mass Customization is the new Mass Production reality – the US is discovering that it has given away the industries and trained labor necessary to fit into the new realities and be competitive in the new emerging green markets. Even worse, the BRIC players are playing some nasty hardball as they become extremely protectionist [yet again – already crying the “developing-country-blues” to get off having to commit their fair share to CO2 and other pollution controls while putting up trade barriers in emerging new green industries]. Finally, the US can ill afford to have 40% of its Business Profits being garnered by one industry the industry of Ill-Repute, Finance. So it is no wonder the President was interested in hardball – increasingly he is playing in that game not just domestically but worldwide.