Games » Minnesota TwinsApr13
A winning attitude ...
Good teams believe they’re going to win, and anything bad that happens is an isolated incident. Bad teams believe they’re going to lose, and anything bad that happens is the first of many bad things that are going to happen. Right now, the Royals are a good team.
Chris Getz and I had a lengthy discussion about this after a come-from-behind victory. Nobody knows how a team crosses that mental line (although I’m guessing winning helps quite a bit), but Chris definitely felt the Royals were there.
Sports psychologists have studied this, and it’s not magic: athletes who believe they’re going to win are looking for opportunities to make that happen. When opportunity knocks, they’re ready. Athletes who believe they’re going to lose have their heads down and let opportunities pass them by.
I’ve been on teams down by three in the ninth, the leadoff hitter walks and someone says, “There it is.” (Meaning our opportunity to win just presented itself.) I’ve also been on teams up by three in the ninth, we give up the leadoff walk and someone says, “Here we go again.”
Strangely enough, fans should take encouragement from some of the Royals’ losses: The team has lost a couple heart breakers and bounced right back. That’s mental toughness. There’s an incredible amount of baseball left to be played, but this is a good beginning.
(And people say I’m too negative.)
The numbers …
Numbers can tell you a lot, and they can also mislead you a lot. In the first inning of this game, the Twins’ Matt Tolbert chose not to challenge Jeff Francoeur’s arm. Tolbert had a chance to take an extra base and declined. The usual pattern is that teams challenge an outfielder’s arm until he proves he can throw people out … and then they stop.
So an outfielder with 0 assists may actually have a better arm than an outfielder with 10. So far, Francoeur and Alex Gordon have been making team’s pay for attempting extra bases. If the assists for these guys dry up, it may be because they’re throwing well, not the opposite.
You always tap the ones you love …
If you were watching Tuesday night’s game (and if you weren’t, what the heck kind of fan are you?) before his first at-bat, you saw Brayan Pena come to the plate and tap the catcher and umpire’s shin guard with his bat. This is the baseball equivalent of “hello.” You’ll see the same type of thing between infielders and base runners.
When ballplayers don’t want to deal with you, they pretend you’re not there. They get a kind of 1,000-yard stare and never make eye contact. You can see this demonstrated at times in the postgame interviews. If the player doesn’t look at the person with the microphone, it doesn’t necessarily mean animosity, but it means the interviewer hasn’t made it into the player’s world. The interviewer isn’t acknowledged as existing.
When I first began going out to the stadium, I could have been on fire and people would have walked right by me. After I was there awhile, I began to get tapped with a bat or glove as players walked by. The players who do it are saying, “Hi.”
Now, if you get hit really hard with a bat I think they’re saying, “Hi … I don’t like you.”
Don’t make them angry …
During a recent at-bat, you could see Mike Aviles take a check swing and then turn around and ask the umpire if the pitch was a strike. If you can lip-read, you’ll see this all the time. Early in the game everyone wants to know what the zone is going to be that day. Hitters want to know if they will have to cover a borderline pitch in a crucial situation and pitchers and catchers want to know how far they can stretch the zone.
The anger you sometimes see from a hitter is because he feels he’s been misled: the pitch wasn’t a strike earlier and now it is. Or as I once heard a pitcher say, “Pick a zone, ump. Anyone of the three you’ve used so far would be OK.”
Why base runners carry batting gloves…
A common baseball injury is jamming, spraining or breaking a finger when sliding into a base head first. Carrying batting gloves forces the runner to close his hands into a fist and protects the fingers. I once jammed the pinky finger on my right hand so bad it turned purple-black and had to be taped to my ring finger so I could continue playing.
But I did not solve this problem by carrying batting gloves…I started using pinch runners.
This was not too long after Clint Hurdle made me take off a pair of metal spikes because he’d seen me run, “and you don’t lift your feet off the ground high enough to get away with it.” It was the first of many clues that I belonged in management.
P.S. After playing one season of baseball with me and being asked to assess my skills, Russ Morman said, “You’re the kind of player we cut and make a coach.”
With friends like these, who needs enemas?
Royals Kanekoa Texeira with Lee Judge on warm up signs
Kansas City Royals pitcher Kanekoa Texeira visits with The Kansas City Star's Lee Judge on warm up signs used between pitchers and catchers. 4/12/11 (video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)