Thursday, January 1, 2015

The real Green Monster

(written 12/15/14)

I like to think that baseball is a game to watch and enjoy, but the truth is that professional baseball is a business. For as much as we’d like to believe that players have an affinity for the club, the city or the fan base, the reality is that they shouldn’t get sentimental about their team since they are often traded with no notice and no regard for their families or their roots. I remember the stunned look on Nomar’s face when he was shipped off to the Chicago Cubs in what he later referred to as a “devastating” trade. He never saw it coming.

Jon Lester’s decision to go to the Cubs has left many fans in Boston disappointed but I’ll argue that at least Lester approached it the right way. He must have been insulted by the lowball offer (less than half of what he ended up getting) that Boston started out with last spring but he never whined or let money become part of the conversation. Even when he was “rented” to the A’s in July, he headed west with nothing but kind words for the Red Sox and their fans.

There’s another contract player in Boston who is learning the hard way about how to conduct himself.  You may have read about Ben Edelman, the Harvard Business School professor who excoriated and threatened a mom-and-pop Chinese restaurant over a $4 discrepancy between their published menu price and what he was charged. The matter should have ended with a simple apology, a refund and a promise to update their online prices (which was all offered by the restaurant) but instead has ballooned into a “how not to use your four degrees from Harvard to interact with humanity.” Using phrases like “to wit,” citing Massachusetts consumer law and threatening to contact “the authorities” he attempted to get a $12 settlement from the business. The story — and the revelation that this is not the first local restaurant he has bullied —  have made Mr. Edelman into one of the least-liked people in Boston these days.

Mr. Edelman has a point — no one deserves to be overcharged for Chinese food — or for a pitcher. But if there is a lesson to be shared with his many current and future students, I hope it revolves around how fair and civil negotiation nets more in the long run than intimidation and bullying. One thing is for sure: Jon Lester will never have to pay for a beer in Boston while Mr. Edelman will be lucky to get a table next to the bathroom.

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