Are superstars worth it?

So Manny Ramirez of the L.A. Dodgers has been suspended for 50 games — 50 games! — after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Another Major League Baseball superstar falls from his lofty perch, and joins the all-enhanced team of America’s favorite pastime. And costs his team. Dearly.

The story of Manny — and A-Rod, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and several other high-profile players busted for or suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs — should be a cautionary tale for all sectors of business, not just sports entertainment.

The caution is not about using performance-enhancing drugs. I’m not aware of too many higher ed marketing, PR or communications types using performance-enhancing drugs, unless you count Red Bull and strong coffee. No, this cautionary tale is about the price of chasing after superstars.

So many colleges and universities seem to get caught up in the game of trying to attract the superstars of academia. The search committees for endowed chairs seem to always want the highest-achieving superstar in that field — and usually because that’s what the president wants, what the donor wants, or what the development officer has promised the donor. But what happens when that superstar professor turns out to be a complete a-hole? Then you have an expensive liability on your hands.

Sometimes, superstars hurt the team.

Consider the Boston Red Sox. No one would argue that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, their shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra, was one of the best in the game while playing for Boston. But as time went on and the organization changed, Garciaparra felt his role was being diminished — threatened by up-and-coming superstars like David Ortiz and, yes, Manny — and be 2005, he was a malcontent and a liability to the team. He was traded to the Cubs, and a year later, the rejuvenated Red Sox won the World Series.

Consider your own shop. When you’re looking for a new staff member, are you concerned most with someone’s resume? How many awards they’ve won or how prestigious their academic pedigree? Or are you looking for someone who can fit into your team? Are you hell-bent on bringing in someone from the outside — a free agent, so to speak? — or will you also consider promoting from within (from the “farm team,” to stretch the analogy). When the choice boils down to ability versus attitude, which is more important?

P.S. – In case you’re wondering how long it took Manny to reach your annual salary this year, here’s an easy way to find out.

P.S.S. – I’m still in a blogging slump. But the Manny Ramirez story was just too good of a blogging opportunity to pass up. Guest-blogging inquiries are still welcome. See previous post.


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

3 thoughts on “Are superstars worth it?”

  1. I’d say 60% attitude 40% skills. Depends on the position as well. Many people may use social media in their life or as their side projects and just not have used it in a job. That being said, I think attitude and ‘team fit’ go a long way in a new hire.

  2. I love this post, Andrew. It’s important to recognize that sometimes, the all-star might be on your bench, yearning for the chance to “star.”

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