Would I have sat down after one at-bat like Jose Reyes did yesterday--ending the game after a leadoff hit in an attempt to preserve his batting title? I'd like to think I wouldn't and yes, I thought it was bush league.
Would the Mets trade my character for his 16 triples and 101 runs scored in just 126 games? I doubt it. At least, I hope they wouldn't, since I'd bat like .085 (Come on, I'd have to be at least as good as Al Leiter at the plate--the worst hitter I ever saw). Still, I'd be a great clubhouse presence.
I suppose it would be nice to live in a world where all our best performers are heros, but that's pretty far from realistic.
Do you think Red Sox fans would have rather had nicer guy than Manny Ramirez in 2004, or would they rather have had his 130 RBI? Not everyone can be Derek Jeter.
But then again, Derek Jeter isn't even really Derek Jeter. His postseason average is actually 4 points lower than his career regular season average. That's not what people think about when they tell stories. They like to tell the story of smashing into the seats to get a fly ball in the stands or coming out of nowhere to cut off a relay throw. Heroes are built on incidents that may or may not reflect the reality of success and where it comes from. Not surprisingly, villians are built the same way.
Sure, he's made some amazing plays, will make the Hall of Fame, and is probably one of the top 10 shortstops of all time, but a lot of source of his luster comes from playing for a big market team with a huge payroll.
If he didn't play in New York, he'd basically be Craig Biggio. I think you can make a case for a guy like Biggio being more of a team player and a "hero". Biggio, who also only played for one team, switched positions from catcher to second base to centerfield to second base again as the team needed. He only made more than $6 million bucks just a few seasons, and never cracked double digit millions for similar production. Jeter, on the other hand, wouldn't budge from shortstop for A-Rod, even though A-Rod was clearly the better shortstop--and demanded $17 million a year for declining performance in his twilight years.
But this isn't about knocking Derek Jeter--I'd love a guy who bats .300 year in and year out. It's about the stories we tell about people and what really counts for success. Jose Reyes is now a bum because he took the easy way out on his way to a batting title, missing three at bats in the last game. Forget the 180 hits he had before yesterday to get there--the way he left off is a black mark in the eyes of the fans.
That's kind of unfair and I think we need to be careful about taking anecdotes as reality. Just today at lunch someone told me how a certain person was a great marketer and that I should think about them as a potential founder to back. I asked exactly what things this person had accomplished. When pressed, they couldn't actually name anything. At first, they swore this person had put a startup they worked at on the map, but then we quickly determined that the startup was kind of on the map already, and it certainly doesn't seem like the buzz around the company created long term, sustainable success. In fact, it was unclear whether or not this person had created any success anywhere--yet there's a very heroic story about their accomplishments that doesn't have a lot of depth to it. Happens all the time.
You may not like it, but some people simply produce better than 99% of other people out there--but they do it without some of the character intangiables you want to see in your heroes. They just work. You're going to hire developers on your team that aren't very social. You'll have salespeople who are simply doing it for the money and for the competition--not because they believe in the startup vision. You know what? It's ok. Not every single person on your team is going to bleed startup blood--and you know what, you don't even really make it worth it for them to. If you're not a founder, you're not going to get a ton of equity. They do it for the same reason most people take jobs--liking the task given, liking the people they work with, and liking the environment. That's why people like working at startups. They often attract great teams and create great environments to work in--simple as that. It's not a religious conversion.
It's fine as long as they're not disruptive to the culture. Is Reyes disruptive to the Mets culture? No. They know that when he's on the field, they have a better shot at winning then without him--just like Manny did when he was being Manny.
You need winners and experts on your team. Character alone without the raw tools isn't going to get you there. Those are the people you should be great friends with, but not necessarily hire. And as for culture--great cultures allow the best qualified to work at their best. They don't magically make nice, but otherwise underqualified, people perform miracles.