A Team Or All Stars?


I enjoyed the Major League Baseball All Star Game.

Gifted athletes showing their skills on a fun, relaxed stage, players laughing and interacting with fans. What’s not to enjoy about watching two teams of great players?

I enjoy all the fanfare, including the celebration when three players from the Colorado Rockies (one hit a home run) find out they’ve been selected to play. Making an All Star Team is a big deal, except…

An All Star Team Isn’t A Team

Not really. It’s a collection of really accomplished players. That sort of group might play well together, but they’re not a “team” in any real sense.

Carlos Gonzalez (CarGo) plays for the Rockies. In his best years he was among the very best. Batting title, 3 Gold Gloves, 2 Silver Sluggers, 3-time All Star, MVP candidate. Several years ago, at the height of his career, manager Walt Weiss pulled CarGo aside.

The Rockies had a number of talented, impressionable young players. Weiss asked Gonzalez to take a leadership role. He asked his star player to lead by example, to show the younger men what it means to play baseball correctly, as a team. Specifically, he wanted CarGo to show them that even a great player would hustle on every play.

Gonzalez could have declined. His status earned him the “right” in baseball’s culture to save some energy, take it a bit easier on obvious outs, jog when running wasn’t necessary. He earned the right to have his judgement trusted regarding when to go 100% and when it’s okay to ease off a bit.

He could have said, “Not my problem.” He could have said, “They’re getting paid, let them figure it out.” He didn’t.

From that moment teammates saw a difference. Despite nagging injuries, CarGo did exactly as his manager asked, running and hustling in a way uncommon to players of his stature. He also began to mentor the younger players, teaching them the fine points of the game and helping them transform good into great.

Gonzalez didn’t get anything for his efforts. Not accolades, no extra pay. So why do it? Why spend the extra time and effort?

He did it because a team is more than a group of talented players. True teammates sacrifice their own comfort – their “rights” – to accomplish a bigger mission. For CarGo, team success meant helping his teammates achieve their potential. That success, that mission, mattered more than personal comfort or individual achievement.

Easy to look after myself, stay in my comfort zone, and let others fend for themselves. Groups of all-stars do that.

Teams don’t.