In an industry where winning is quite literally everything, the Washington Nationals are doing something a little different. Having signed Stephen Strasburg, the #1 MLB draft pick in 2009, the last-place Nationals have landed themselves a phenomenal pitcher. One that is breaking rookie records while striking out the toughest hitters in baseball.
All of this adds up to dollars and wins for the Nationals. Every time they put Strasburg in they stand to gain another "W" in the win column along with significantly increased revenues – improved ticket sales, concessions, advertising revenue, and merchandise sales. Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching. Not to mention the nice overall marketing "bump" in what has become a fascinating story to watch in major league baseball.
As managers, our tendency would be to play this kid as often as possible. I mean, if you have a star player, don't you keep them on the court? Many other pro sports operate this way swiping kids out of high school to get their careers started (and often ended) sooner rather than later. The NFL and NBA certainly come to mind here.
But this is where Jim Riggleman, the Nationals' Manager, has something we can learn from. Jim is doing the opposite. He is limiting Strasburg's innings to 160 and not one inning more. When asked if he would consider putting Strasburg in if the Nationals made the Division play-offs, Riggleman replied, "When the innings are done, they're done." Huh? What??
That's right. Managers and leaders, think about this: How often do we saddle our star players with more and more responsibilities/projects/quotas/direct reports/you-name-it over and beyond what is reasonably expected of them simply because they can deliver the win? That short-sighted strategy is what leads to our most common industry-related injury: Burn Out. Whereas Riggleman is playing to the long-term. Under his care, Strasburg will be around for quite some time and the Nationals will be a future Major League contender with a veteran pitcher to boot.
So ask yourself (as I know I will): How would you manage differently if you developed your high-potentials as star pitchers instead of foot soldiers on the field?