It got me thinking that there are some things about our hometown ball club that we can all learn from.
1) More Wins for the Buck.
Throwing money does not improve most things. The A's are probably best known for the level of success enjoyed considering the relatively small payroll. Whether it's the level of love in a family or effectiveness of a church's ministry, it's what we do with what we've got that makes the difference.
Even sportscasters from outside the Bay Area have difficulty naming A's players. The team has no superstars (ie. highly
paid mega-performers). Among the requirements of being on the team: one needs to be open to coaching. Many professional athletes are enterprises unto themselves. They don't look beyond their spikes for input. If you play for the A's, no matter how accomplished you are, you will submit yourself to coaching. Is this why many athletes turn in their best performance while a part of the Oakland A's? The Biblical principle: wise people seek - even long for - the counsel of wise people.
3) Doing the Little, Unimpressive Things
The A's work at little things like recognizing strikes and balls and fouling off questionable pitches. This tires out pitchers and leads to more runners on base and wins. IT DOES NOT LEAD TO OTHERS BEING IMPRESSED. Most of the good we do in this world are the little, unnoticed contributions. Jesus was especially taken by such acts.
4) Really Believing in Team
Each year sport pundits predict a poorer season than the A's turn in. Last year, most predicted they would come in last place in the western division. This year, they were predicted to be in the middle of the pack with the star filled Angels and Rangers finishing at the top. (If you don't know, the A's won the division both last year and this year - the playoffs begin Friday.) Everyone tends to value the concept of teamwork, but the A's take it to a level which is uncommon in sports. This allows overlooked players (Bartolo Colon - too old at 40, former Stanford star Jed Lowrie - too injury-prone, minor league first baseman Nate Fryman - at 6'8" too gawky) to be desired by other teams. Each of these join the other "broken toys" which comprise the A's. How is it that a different hero emerges in each game? They are given the opportunity to hit, pitch, field and run in just the right innings and in a tailor-made way in that they and their teammates match up favorably against their opponents. There is a magical momentum that is released through a radical belief in team. FYI, I'm very excited about and see this played out weekly at First Covenant. Along with diversity, effective team is that for which other pastors and leaders regard FCC.
5) Trusting Trustworthy Leadership
General manager Billy Beane and team manager Bob Melvin are trusted by the players and the fans. Example: in the 162 games that the A's will play this year, Melvin will put over 140 different lineups on the field. Veteran and young players alike who are used to playing every day and/or hitting at the same spot in the lineup learn to trust Melvin's decisions. He has a great track record, thus he has earned the right to be trusted. Just trusting because trusting is good is in fact dumb. Not everyone should be trusted, or at least trusted in all things. I may be a nice guy, but you don't want me anywhere near your plumbing! When competence or virtue is repeatedly demonstrated, we do well to trust. We may want to wake up to the reality that God consistently demonstrates competence and virtue (understatement.) He can be trusted.