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By Brett Hooker, CIFI
Having recently returned from a vacation in northern Illinois, a vacation that included a trip to Comiskey Park, I find myself considering the stunning similarities between our chosen profession, special investigations, and the last truly all-American sport of baseball.
In baseball, there are three primary ways of getting on base — a hit, a walk or being struck by a pitch. But getting on base is only part of the game; scoring a run is even more difficult.
On the other hand, there are several ways in which a player can earn an out. He can strike out, fly out, foul out, ground out or be thrown out. Even if he makes it onto base, the possibilities for doing something bad increase … to include being forced out, tagged out, picked off or left on base. In any event, the opportunities to do something “good” (get a hit, score a run) are far outweighed by the opportunities to do something “bad” (pop out, ground out, strike out, etc.).
Despite the odds, and the game itself being heavily stacked against the batter, he still must step up to the plate and take his turn at bat. Knowing full well that the likelihood of doing something good is kar loss than the probability of doing something bad, he still has to face high-hanging curve balls, wicked knuckle balls, one-hundred mile an hour fast balls and the occasional brush-back pitch.
Edgar Martinez of the Seattle Mariners is currently batting .357. Mike Piazza of the Mets is hitting .347 and McMinnville Oregon’s own Yankee, Scott Brosius, is stumping; this year at .251.
What do these numbers mean? Simply that for every one-hundred trips to the plate, each did something “good” twenty-five to thirty times. Conversely, they failed, did something “bad,” on roughly three out of four at-bats. Yet Martinez, Piazza and Brosius each earn millions of dollars each year, are a few of a handful of players who qualify to play on the major-league level, and are heroes to thousands of baseball fans. None would even consider quitting following a strikeout, or even a series of strikeouts, knowing full well that the only way to achieve a good result, a hit or a run, is to keep going to the plate time after time, sometimes successful, but most often not.
If the substantial odds of failure were not enough, added to the dynamics of the game are additional adversaries. Umpires are charged with policing the game, making judgment calls and decisions based on their perceptions, perspectives and understanding and interpretation of the rules. Umpires usually make accurate calls that most players and fans agree with, but sometimes they issue rulings that make one pause and wonder from what planet the umpire came and in what bodily orifice his head may be spending time. The clearly fair ball hit hard down the left-field line, an apparent home run, called foul at the last second. A pitch that was easily low and outside called as the third strike, ending a rally. The runner who slides into home under the tag in an apparent game-winning run, only to be called out.
No matter how good a player or team is, and no matter how well or how long they have trained and practiced, umpires can and do influence the eventual outcome of most played games.
Sometimes the team that should have been victorious goes home the loser, due solely to an exceptionally poor call made by an umpire.
If umpires and incredibly poor odds of success were not sufficient to discourage most players, add in the prospect of always being the visiting team in front of seats packed with hometown fans. The pitcher’s goal, with the backing of his team, is to make sure the hitter does not reach base, let alone score a run, and that he and his team go home losers. Fifty-thousand or more fans look on with contempt and distrust, hurling verbal insults, boos, hisses, catcalls and an occasional beer — all the while hoping that the batter will strike out, pop out or fail in some way.
Very few of those fans understand or care that the batter may actually be a good guy trying only to do the right thing, the “good” thing, for his
team. The majority care only that he is a member of the visiting team, thus the enemy. They care that he has arrived in town to defeat the local favorites and heroes. Very little matters to most of the on-looking fans as long as the hometown team wins, no matter how that victory may come about, no matter which team plays the better game.
By now, you may be wondering why anyone would want to play this game, to face this level of adversity, to accept this much failure in exchange for so few opportunities for success.
Well, hold on a minute because it gets worse.
Up to this point, we have only discussed the dynamics of the game itself, the events occurring on the field and in the stands and the odds against success. There happens to be a whole other set of influences affecting the nine innings of any given game, influencing the outcome of the games that are played and dictating who might win and who might lose.
To a large extent, this additional impediment to success, to winning, even dictates the dimension of the game that derives from the front office, from the General Managers and team owners. Even fans who do not follow sports except on the most informal of levels have likely heard of and are familiar with the concept of a “salary cap.” In short, all of the team owners get together and decide how much each team will be allowed to spend on player salaries. This prevents any one team simply buying all of the best talent and guaranteeing; a pennant each and every year.
Baseball is, first and foremost, a business. With this in mind, each individual team owner must look at his or her own team in terms of expenses, overhead, merchandising sales, concession income and profit and loss. This objective evaluation is then tempered with each individual owner’s desire to win. Some owners choose to allocate more of their assets and resources in hopes of putting together a well-staffed team, winning more games than their competition and striving year in and year out to win the World Series. Others owners choose to hold back. They are pleased when they win some games, willing to lose some games, but they are not really willing to put forth the effort to win the pennant. As long as the team does not cost them too much and muddles along finishing most seasons somewhere around .500, these team owners are content to simply have a team. For them, lacks the sense of competition found at the field level, and any desire to win is displaced — if not absent altogether.
It would be interesting to know how may of us who have chosen to work in our respective Special Investigation Units enjoyed playing baseball as youths and now continue to enjoy watching the game as adults. There are certainly much easier ways to make a living, and several different occupations that do not bring with them the high levels of what is perceived to be “failure” on such a regular and frequent basis.
I suspect that each of us, despite what insurance criminals throw at us, despite the public perception against insurers, despite the occasional poor rulings from judges, and despite the likelihood that we will fail to prove our case more often than not, still relishes the prospect of stepping to the plate and hitting the ball deep over the center field fence.
Though the instances of “failure” far exceed those times when we bask in the glow of success, each of us knows that the only way to achieve success is to put on the uniform, kick the dirt off of our spikes, step into the box, and swing for the scorecard.
Brett Hooker is an SIU Consultant at Country Companies Insurance Group in Wilsonville, Oregon. He can be reached at 503-570-9405 or email at email@example.com.
© 2000 John Cooke Fraud Report