Monday, July 12, 2010

When Business--and Politics--Get Too 'Inside-Baseball'

We've written about corporate speak bleeding into baseball speak, such as Evan Longoria saying Carl Crawford had a high ceiling.

We're also seeing more of the converse--baseball terms inching their way into corporate boardrooms. In the newsroom where I work, I hear the term "inside baseball" a lot--meaning the topic is so detailed and so, well, up its own ass that the common person really won't care about it.

An intense and arcane breakdown of, say, President Obama's new financial overhaul proposal might be construed as too "inside baseball"--does Joe Six-Pack really want to know the nitty gritty? (We know for certain that Joe the Plumber does not!)

In an issue of the TV trade mag Broadcasting & Cable recently (if disclosures are expected in a baseball blog, I in fact work at B&C), a Fox exec said: "The conclusion we all came to is we have to start taking some at-bats in the summer."

Translation: Broadcast TV needs some hit shows in the summer, when it usually airs repeats and lets cable TV show its new programs.

It's a variation on a pair of more common business phrases set between the white lines of the batter's box: "step up to the plate" and the more ambitious "swing for the fences." says Blackberry manufacturer RIM may dig its spikes into the box with some developments to rival the iPhone and iPad.

Report: RIM to Step Up to the Plate With Tablet, New Touch Screen BlackBerry, meanwhile, invoked swinging for the fences earlier this year when pondering why the Broadway hit "Fences" isn't made for the silver screen. The headline read:

Can't Hollywood swing for the 'Fences'?

Of course, a company that has strayed from its core competencies, if we can toss around a little B-school lingo, has "taken its eye off the ball."

General Motors marketing chief Bob Lutz told NPR:

[W]here we really messed it up and took our eye off the ball in terms of product was in '70s, '80s and early '90s.

That's a really, really long time to take one's eye off the ball. Lutz is no longer with GM.

The phrase is not limited to business. In fact, President Obama told Katie Couric in January 2009 that our leaders were guilty of a wandering eye when it came to our various wars:

I talked frequently during this campaign that we took our eye off the ball when we invaded Iraq. And now it's done. My job is to withdraw in a responsible way from Iraq and stabilize the situation there.

Baseball and business, business and baseball. Sometimes I wish they weren't so inextricably linked.

Pass along any other baseball-business terms you can think of.

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