It’s 9 Degrees Out … So, Hey, Baseball and Consumer Debt

BallFourI have a friend who is a huge baseball friend. Not Donald Trump Ya-uuuge, but real-life huge. He’s deep into baseball history, is still mad at Hollywood for changing the ending of The Natural, and makes a pretty good case that Jim Bouton’s Ball Four is one of the top five non-fiction baseball books of all time.

He makes an even stronger case that Ball Four is one of the best business books ever.

One story he tells from the book seems particularly relevant to my practice and clients. It goes like this:

Ball Four takes place over the course of the one and only year of the 1969 Seattle Pilots – one of the most forlorn major league baseball teams of all time. 

Late in the season the Pilots trade one of their very few legitimate major leaguers, Tommy Davis, to the Houston Astros.

Davis is thrilled to leave the gloom of last place and the almost daily rain delays of the even gloomier Sick’s Stadium for The Eighth Wonder of the World (the Astrodome) and a shot at the pennant.

A few weeks into his Astros’ experience Davis is so outwardly happy one of his new teammates, the intellectual flake and third baseman Doug Rader, can’t stand it any longer and asks him why.

Tommy goes off on a litany of wonderful things that have happened since he stepped off the plane from Seattle to be met by the Houston General Manager and a limo: ‘the Astro’s set him up in a fancy hotel until he could find a home; they flew his family down from Seattle first class, took his wife out to explore neighborhoods and school systems, are paying for meals and expenses while they’re waiting to find a house, have a moving company packing up their Seattle home and bringing everything down all DavisTommyexpenses paid, and a whole lot more. The Astros have, in fact, treated Davis so well he feels so indebted to them that he tells Rader he never wants to leave.

To which Doug Rader shakes his head slowly, puts a hand on Davis’ shoulder and says,”They had to do all that, Tommy, it’s in your contract.”

Neat story, but what does it have to do with my practice? Well, a lot actually. I get a lot of clients late into the process because they feel obliged to stick with trying to work things out with the bank, or collection company, or some other institution. They feel obligated because, like Tommy Davis, they think the bank is going out of its way to help them when, in fact, they are doing exactly what is required of them – and no more – under the terms of the contract that no consumer has ever read.

It gets in the way, this false but understandable sense of ‘gratitude’ during a time of great stress. It’s fine to try to ‘work it out with the bank,’ of course, but it’s important to do so from a position of knowledge. Talk to someone who knows.

I’m one of those people and my friend tells me that as far as my practice goes, I have a very high WAR – Wins Above Replacement. Now I just need someone to explain that to me.