On the first day of class at Penn's Wharton School, Phillies Chairman David Montgomery learned early what business was about.
The professor wrote it on the board, then had the class repeat it aloud: The customer is always right.
At the back of the room, a brash, snippy kid raised his hand.
"Yes," the professor said.
"Even if they can't vote?" Eddie Rendell asked. The other students chuckled.
The professor walked down the row, put his hands on Eddie's desk, leaned forward and spoke into Eddie's face. "Even if they are deaf, dumb, and blind. Get it kid?"
Eddie nodded in agreement.
A few thousand miles away and a few years later, in a similar classroom, another kid worked on dissecting a frog. Smarter than a middle aged pig, this kid was on a one-track path to a Stanford degree in human biology and a medical school degree.
Problem was, this kid — with baseball embedded in his genes — and unlike David and Eddie, had a nasty left-handed swing and could drive the ball into the allies. Leading off, he led his Cardinal team to the College World Series championship in 1987, and was drafted in the 11th round by the California Angels.
Junior traded a stethoscope for a Louisville Slugger and the rest is history.
Recently, the human biology major has been all over the news, not only in Philly, but in most sports' pages and radio call-in shows around the country. Not because his Phillies are buried in last place in the National League East, not because he got fired, or he traded Cole Hamels, or he signed a billion dollar outfielder.
Because he never learned the cardinal rule: The customer is always right.
At Stanford, in the science courses, they teach natural selection, not business ethics.
But maybe, just maybe, this kid has his act together and his Phillies aren't that far away from winning baseball. He says he has a plan and the fans don't understand.
I do: Cut salary, play the kids, make 4 trades to get more kids, and sign free agents who can hit and pitch.
It's not biological science.
It's a plan he says doesn't happen overnight and it takes time. In Philly — where experts agree are the smartest baseball fans in the country — patience is not a virtue and time doesn't matter. Here, in this city, today is more important than tomorrow.
Don't hustle today, get booed for the next week. Play like you're too cool, and you'll pay for it, ask Schmitty. Do stupid stuff, and they notice quickly, ask Jonathan Papelbon. Don't "gut it out," and hell will reign down, ask former catcher Rod Barajas. Or jilt the hometown team for another lover, and they'll wait for your return — ask Scott Rolen or Jason Werth.
Diss the customers? Ask Dick Allen.
But those same customers will love you till death if you play with your guts on a plate and your heart in your mouth — and they never, ever forget. Ask Larry Bowa, or Jim Thome, or Chase Utley.
Junior knows that, but all he's saying is, it takes time. He's not trashing the fans. Should he have kept his mouth shut? That goes unsaid. But GM's get frustrated, too.
He says he is sticking to the plan and the fans need to be patient.
And he's right!
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