Comment of the Day: Learning from Bobby Cox

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There are limits, I think, about how much professional sports and professional athletes can teach us. Sports are ultimately best consumed as entertainment. When sports figures actually try to teach us life lessons, they’re usually in the form of really bad, gimmicky business management or motivational books that are better used as kindling for the fire rather than for the mind.

But they can, on occasion, teach by example. Reader DLF thinks Bobby Cox did so, anyway:

Beyond just missing him in the dugout, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned from him.

In my professional life, I am a director of a business unit with about 200 employees. They don’t pitch, hit or field, but they have a job to do and I manage that team. From Bobby, I’ve learned that downward loyalty creates upward loyalty. I’ve learned that I should praise my team in public, but not do so too much or it will create unrealistic expectations.

I’ve learned that I should criticize only in private where it may lead to constructive growth without public shaming of the miscreant. I’ve learned that sometimes you have to argue with the umpires — in my case the CEO and board of directors — because they don’t always see what really happened.

I’ve learned that personnel and policy decisions should be made slowly and not changed on a whim. I’ve learned that every member of the team has a role to play and that if they don’t want to play that role, they need to be on another team. I’ve learned that rookies can come in and contribute. I’ve learned that people who are purportedly bit players, if placed in the right role, can find ways to really shine and make all of us better.

I’ve learned humility in victory and unfortunately I’ve learned restraint in defeat. Unlike Bobby Cox, I’m not one of the best of all time at what I do, but I’m better at it from learning from him.

Thanks Bobby.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.