Saturday, September 26, 2009

Baseball: Another Reason to Go Mental

I'll be starting up the Santa Clarita Valley series later today. In the meantime, just had to comment on the Dodgers' loss yesterday to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are having their worst season since 1890.

I've noticed before that the Dodgers seem to always lose their first game on the road. Is this just a habit that this team experiences, or is this a commonplace occurrence?

It's interesting to note that even Joe Torre seemed to acknowledge that the trip into Pittsburgh yesterday was unduly stressful due to the G-20 summit happening in the city at the same time. Apparently the team was routed through the Washington DC airport, then loaded onto buses and taken on a 2-hour road trip to Pittsburgh. Once in the city they had to go through countless detours and security stops before they reached the stadium. The trip was more stressful than usual, Joe said. Not that this is an excuse, he said. But, the paper said this morning, "Torre acknowledged that this particular trip took its toll on his team, saying, 'I think we all felt it today.'"

Did one out-of-the ordinary bus trip throw the whole team off? I believe it did. It just strengthens the argument that baseball is, more than anything, a mental game. It's an understatement to say that these guys are in great physical shape and that they are used to traveling. But even the slightest distraction can throw a player's mental game off. Superstitions abound in baseball and always have: players who aren't hitting well will change the way they wear their socks. Randy Wolf, Dodgers pitcher, recently changed his number, hoping it would stop his no-decision streak. And we all know about the growing of beards and the shaving of beards. Just like in Bull Durham, when Crash (Kevin Costner) says to Annie (Susan Sarandon) that "If you think that you're playing better because you're wearing women's underwear, then you are!"

All this talk of magic numbers. The race to see who will get home-field advantage. Players who play better on the road (James Loney) vs. those who are NL most valuable players at home but who play like shit on the road (Ethier). What a batter thinks when he's at the plate vs. what the pitchers thinking. These all are part of what make baseball such a fascinating experience for me. And it's a mental game for me too: the more I learn, the more I realize that I know so little.

I think Blake DeWitt is growing a beard now because he hopes it will improve his game and keep him from having to take another flight to Albuquerque. So far it seems to be working - he had two doubles yesterday.

Another distraction: salaries. This in the LA times this morning: At least seven active players this year will be up for salary arbitration in the off season. Right now Matt Kemp (major star this year and only promises to get better) earns $467,000. Chad Billingsley (our on again, off again ace) earns $475,000. James Loney: $465,000. Those three and Jonathan Broxton (our ace closer), Russell Martin (catcher), George Sherrill (reliever with the instincts of a shark) and Hong-Chih Kuo (another ace reliever) will all be eligible for taking our breath away with their salary demands. I wonder how many of them have Scott Boras for an agent.
It'll be interesting to see what happens after this season, especially if the Dodgers make the World Series.

Notice I say "IF," because that's my superstition.


Olive Tree Guitar Ensemble said...

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Laurie Powers said...

Thanks, Olive Tree. I see from your info that you are in Taiwan. A Hung-Chi Kuo fan, perhaps?