A frequent, bordering-upon-trite observation is that "baseball is a metaphor" or (more grandly) that "baseball is a metaphor for life." Any concept with a Pinterest page is not exactly cutting edge.
What saves this expression from utter cliche is that there is--still--some vital truth in it. Baseball offers concepts that are both linguistically pleasing and illustrative of how to handle life's growth opportunities.
Other sports do this too, of course. But baseball started first and baseball does it better.
Not convinced? A brief perusal of the glossary of baseball terms is all the proof needed.
One such term is "defensive indifference." Throughout most of a game, both teams try to defend against stolen bases (another funny term, there, as the base itself is not literally stolen.) But at the end of the game, a team with a significant lead may choose to let a base be stolen with no resistance. It's not worth it to seek the out, especially since the catcher's throw to the infielder may go awry and cause bigger problems than conceding the base. Better to give up the base and focus on getting the final solid outs that seal the win.
That makes sense. But what makes it awesome is the phrasing "defensive indifference." Anodyne or painfully literal formulations, such as "playing the odds" or "saving the catcher's throwing arm because why bother?" do not quite hit the spot.
Meanwhile "defensive indifference" conjures up a defensive squad that could not care less, which is hilarious.
Baseball is often like that in its phraseology; another example is the "daisy cutter," a ground ball that is hit so hard and close to the ground that it could chop off any daisies sprouting through the glass. Sure, "hard hit ground ball that remains close to the playing surface throughout the course of its trajectory" is more precise. But "daisy cutter" remains in the memory and in the heart.
Back to the matter at hand. How does "defensive indifference" relate to you and me, good people whose closest access to an MLB ballpark is a StubHub ticket? In many ways, my friends.
To see why let's think back to 2007, when Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter published the extremely successful business book What Got You Here Won't Get You There. Their premise is that the skills people acquire in order to achieve success in their fields do not always serve them well once they "make it."
For example: perhaps a salesperson is very aggressive--and successful--at closing deals. Then they are put in charge of a sales team, and their aggressive leadership style rankles rather than inspires. What brought them success does not guarantee it in the future. In order to reach the next plateau they will have to unlearn ingrained behaviors and be willing to start anew.
This is hard, of course. Oftentimes making such fundamental changes feels close to impossible. But it's not. Although Goldsmith and Reiter are focused on success in the workplace, we can extrapolate their insights to many aspects of life.
Which is how we wind our way back to the baseball diamond. Most of the time seeking an out on an attempted base stealer makes sense, sometimes it does not. Maybe the team with the big lead was successful at snuffing out steals earlier in the game, before brazenly exhibiting defensive indifference at the very end. What brought them here won't get them there.
* I am not the only person who admires the phrase "defensive indifference." That's also the title of a podcast about baseball, available on PodBean.