Just a few hours ago, game one of this year’s World Series between the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants ended. And even though the Rangers lost the first game 11-7, their performance this season so far has been great: Half a year ago, probably only die hard Rangers fans would have imagined seeing their team making it to the final series of the MLB postseason.
During the last few years, the Rangers weren’t quite what one would call a great performer, neither in the game nor financially:
Prior to this season, they had never won a playoff series.
On May 24, 2010, they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Not really the perfect basis for making it to the World Series. The Rangers did anyway, and they did it in style: In the ALCS (for those not into baseball: The semi finals), they beat the New York Yankees. A team with three times the payroll of the Rangers. Ironically, the final out came with a strike out on Alex Rodriguez, the man whose astronomic salary when playing for the Rangers was one of the factors that led to the financial woes of the franchise (actually the Rangers still owe A-Rod roughly $25 million).
The year has been quite a ride for the team from Texas. Back in spring the MLB forced the former owners, the group of Tom Hicks (yes, that Hicks who also owned Liverpool F.C. until just a few weeks ago) to sell the franchise, which led to an auction on August 4/5. In that auction, basically two camps fought for the club: Mark Cuban (the owner of NBA team Dallas Mavericks) and partners on the one side, Chuck Greenberg and Rangers pitcher legend Nolan Ryan on the other. Greenberg and Ryan finally won the auction (Mark Cuban’s blog post on the auction is a great read if you’re interested in how this stuff works behind the scenes).
Supporters of the Rangers were happy about the outcome: A baseball fan (Greenberg) and the reigning president who’s also a former player – that’s management credibility.
And the team performed. They won match after match, they made the playoffs, won their playoff series against Tampa Ray, the team with the best regular season record in the American League, and the über-favorite and defending champs from the Bronx.
If you listen to the players in interviews, you will hear about the great team spirit and team work all the time. Here’s a bunch of guys that grew together and got stronger during that roller coaster ride of the season.
When companies talk about bankruptcy and the opportunities a controlled bankruptcy process offers, to me it always sounds like looking for the last resort. The last hope. “What else can they say? They’re finished anyway.” This case is different. Here, it sounds and feels real.
The Texas Rangers are a role model, a great encouragement. Yet they’re also a perfect example of leadership in rough times. The three words that jumped to my mind when trying to describe the leadership approach of Greenberg and Ryan were trust, focus and expertise.
Everyone in and around the stadium in Arlington was sure that the new owners weren’t in it just for making a quick buck: Greenberg is a baseball fan (“I love watching the game and hearing the sounds … I love the look on a kid the first time he’s been to a game or the look of Mom and Dad as they watch their son or daughter at a game. “), Ryan not only a former player, but also the president since February 2008. The people trust them and they trust each other and the players.
Nolan Ryan and his professional, hard-working style, his leadership by example gave the players the belief that they could be successful. And they were.
Chuck Greenberg meanwhile trusts Nolan Ryan: “When it comes to baseball, I’m not going to interject my opinions … What I’m going to focus on, particularly since the baseball side is in great shape, is the business side.” Focus on what needs to be done and make everyone involved bring his strengths to the table and use them.
Until now, Greenberg and Ryan seem to be on the right track. The Rangers organization and fans are motivated like never before and they believe they can be successful. The filing for bankruptcy seems like gone for ages, the spirit is positive and everything seems possible. And no matter if they will win the series or not: The way they delivered in tough times is encouraging and exemplary. Not only when it comes to the players, but the management, too.