June 25th, 2011
I was thinking the other day about last season and how each guy’s success fed the next guy’s. The inverse happens, too. No doubt about it.
Just like good hitting is contagious, so is bad hitting. I don’t know why it’s like that. Maybe if your big guys aren’t hitting, the guys below them have a tendency to think, “Well, if they’re not doing it, I’m not expected to do it.’’ Or maybe it’s the reverse: When the big guys aren’t hitting, the guys below them start pressing and try too hard.
Right now everyone’s scrapping. And you can spin out theories and explanations all day. Here’s another one I’m thinking about. If you’re a hitter, all you hear on radio and TV, and all you read in the papers, is how you’re letting down the pitchers, how awful you are with runners in scoring position. Our pitchers are so good that all they need are two or three runs, and the hitters keep failing to deliver. So you are constantly beaten over the head with this, and you start focusing on getting runs for the pitchers, for the guy in the stands reading stories about how bad you are with RISP. You’re thinking about getting a hit simply to restore a measure of respect for the beleaguered lineup. As a result, you stop just going out there and being a pro and getting good at-bats to win a ball game. You stop focusing on the narrow, straight-forward task of getting a hit off this particular pitcher at this particular moment.
It’s really pretty amazing that, given that our lineup is a shell of the one we broke camp with, that we’re hanging onto first place, or staying within striking distance. Buster goes down. Freddy goes down. You’re losing big pieces of the puzzle. You’re not just losing great hitters; you’re losing great teammates — guys who care about winning, who are not afraid to speak their mind.
And you’re asking other guys to take their places. It’s not easy to do. Guys are used to having certain roles with this team and– boom — everything changes. Whitey’s never been asked to catch every day. Nate’s not accustomed to playing every day. Brandon Crawford. Manny Burriss. A lot of guys are being asked to play not above their abilities but above what they were prepared for.
If we can find a way to grind through this, we’re going to be better team and a closer team. We have to figure out how to keep ourselves above water until we can get some guys back. As we found out last year, it’s doesn’t matter how you get into the playoffs. It doesn’t have to be pretty. We made it last year on the final day of the season. All that matters is getting in.
As for me, I’m graduating from the fungo bat and batting tee to real bats and real pitches. I’m trying different models of bats to figure out what might work best with my wrist. If I have learned anything during my long road of rehab, it’s patience. Not that I have a choice. It’s either learn patience or go home. And I’m not ready yet to go home. I wish someone could assure me there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re pretty much in uncharted waters. No one has an answer. And the only other guy in the majors with the same injury, Jay Gibbons, is no longer in the majors. He was designated for assignment by the Dodgers two weeks ago.
Thanks for reading.
Next time: taking fielding practice with Brandon Crawford.