Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Boston Red Sox

When Yeonis Cespedes defected from Cuba in 2011, he left behind his two-year old son and the mother of his son. On February 13, 2012, he signed a 4-year $36 million contract with the Oakland Athletics, but I predicted at the time that unless Oakland figures out a way to either bring his son and his son’s mother to America, or to assure Cespedes that his son would be safe in Cuba, he wouldn’t perform up to his skill level. Think about it. How hard would it be to hit a 90-mile-an-hour fastball if your mind is somewhere else…such as Cuba? Oakland never brought his son to America, and in 2014 he was traded to Boston and then traded to Detroit. But on July 31, 2015, Cespedes was acquired by the Mets. Today, his six-year old son, Yeonis, Jr., is still in Cuba, and though Cespedes hasn’t seen him in four years, he knows that, because of Obama improving relations with Cuba, that his son is safe. And that has resulted, as of today, in his leading the National League in Runs Batted In (30). Just another example of: What takes place away from the baseball diamond affects what takes place on the baseball diamond. When the time finally comes and his son arrives in America and is reunited with his father, watch for Cespedes’ numbers to climb even higher. In almost every category.

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It’s been said that you can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them. Former major league baseball pitcher Curt Schilling might be a prime example. My understanding is that when he was a player he treated others around him badly and was not well-liked by his teammates. If true, then what is happening in his personal life now would be an excellent example of the psi factor at work. The psi factor (Psycho Self-Imagery) maintains basically that “what goes around comes around” and that people who treat other people badly will eventually have to pay the piper.

According to an NESN article on the internet:

Curt Schilling has been through more in recent years than most people. The former Boston Red Sox pitcher saw $50 million go down the drain when his video game company, 38 Studios, went bankrupt, and he was diagnosed with mouth cancer in February. But he doesn’t want anyone to feel bad for him. “I brought this on myself,” Schilling said in a revealing interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan. “For the last two years, I’ve had to stand in front of my wife and kids and explain to them, ‘I lost $50 million and my company went bankrupt, and it was all my fault.’ Then I had to stand in front of them and tell them, ‘I have cancer because I dipped.’ “They are conversations I wouldn’t wish on anyone.” MacMullen’s story covers the lows in Schilling’s life, how he went from three-time World Series-winning pitcher to failed businessman and cancer patient in such a short span of time. Schilling’s struggles were so bad that he became depressed while undergoing the grueling cancer treatments. “I always believed God gave us the tools to take care of ourselves,” Schilling said. “I was thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m depressed. It’s been a crappy few months, but I’ll bounce out of it.’ Only I didn’t. I was having a terrible effect on my wife and kids.” Schilling is in remission and since has been treated for the depression, but MacMullen noted that the ex-hurler’s body has taken a toll. He’s thinner, and his voice isn’t as strong as it once was because of what radiation did to his throat and mouth. But Schilling is taking it all in stride and is thankful to be alive. “I’m lucky on so many levels,” Schilling said. “I look pretty much the same. It could have been so much worse.”

And now, as reported by USA TODAY columnist Christine Brennan, he’s been fired by ESPN for his “Facebook tirade against access to public facilities for transgender people.”
Based on my experience working with cancer patients, I would not be surprised if Curt Schilling’s cancer re-surfaces. The reason for this is that when someone experiences high levels of stress in their life, their body gives off hormones such as cortisol that impairs their immune system and the cancer cells in their body begin to multiply faster than they can be devoured by their immune system. In Schilling’s situation it could be different since the NESN article said he had been treated for depression, which means he has been under the care of a therapist which is probably what saved his life when he was initially diagnosed.

While watching the Red Sox – Tigers game last night on television a fight suddenly broke out in the Tigers dugout between catcher James McCann and short stop Jose Iglesias…and it was caught on national television. Tigers Manager Brad Asmus tried to smooth things over saying such things as “It shows that they care” and “this is not uncommon on any sports team.” I’m sure Brad Asmus is a nice guy but he must not know anything about how to create positive team chemistry and team bonding. If he did, that fight would never have happened. I won’t go into detail now, but I’m an advocate of teams becoming support groups and talking about their issues in private rather than having them show up on national television. Manager Asmus should call in a sport psychology consultant to help him. Notice I didn’t say “sport psychologist” because a sport psychologist is not allowed to help athletes with their personal problems and if he/she did he/she could lose his/her license since that’s the domain of the clinical psychologist. The field of psychology is very territorial. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers have a team meeting, get some things off their chests and clear the air, and start winning games. That’s how it works.

According to the late, great Casey Stengel, most baseball games are lost, not won. But there’s another side to that coin and it’s called “The psi Factor” which, simply put, says: Athletes who are happy and whose lives are in harmony will perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis (and will win games for their managers.)

The following was taken from the Internet:

“Each time (David) Ortiz crosses the plate after hitting a home run, he looks up and points both index fingers to the sky in tribute to his mother Angela Rosa Arias, who died in a car crash in January 2002 at the age of 46. Ortiz also has a tattoo of his mother on his biceps.

“Ortiz and his wife Tiffany have three children. Since marrying Tiffany, he has become a fan of the Green Bay Packers (his wife hails from Kaukauna, Wisconsin, a town in between the cities of Green Bay and Appleton.) On June 11, 2008, Ortiz became a United States citizen at John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.

“The David Ortiz Children’s Fund was founded in 2007 to support a range of causes that Ortiz believes in. The Fund allows Ortiz the flexibility to donate to those children who are in the most need at any given time, from Boston to the Dominican Republic and beyond. Ortiz released his own Charity Wine label in 2008 with all the proceeds going to the David Ortiz Children’s Fund. The wine called Vintage Papi proceeded to raise $150,000 for charity.”

Of course, it’s important that if the psi factor is to work the athlete must possess the skill level to perform at a high level. Which fits “Big Papi” perfectly. At the time of this writing, Ortiz will take a .733 World Series batting average into game six at Fenway Park. Which makes you believe that, during the next baseball season, if he puts his mind to it, Ortiz could be the first major league player since Ted Williams to bat .400.

According to Boston ace Jon Lester, he had this to say about Ortiz: “The guy’s got a heart of gold.”

There have been many professional athletes who were idolized by their fans for their achievements, but in many cases, those athletes, as successful as they were in their sport, did not perform anywhere near their ability.  Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams were two examples.

Because Mantle’s family had a history of the men dying at an early age, he did not believe he was going to live a long life and therefore did not take care of himself, physically or emotionally.  In fact, just before he died, he stated that he felt he had never reached his potential and that if he knew he was going to live as long as he did, he would have taken better care of himself. If he had trained as hard as some of today’s professional athletes train he would probably own almost every record in baseball.

Another example was the great Ted Williams, one of major league baseball’s all-time premier hitters and the last player to bat over .400.  But Ted Williams had a secret weapon, so to speak, that few knew about.  Her name was Lou Kaufman, who David Halberstam wrote about in his book “The Teammates.” After Ted’s three marriages were over, Halberstam wrote: “He was with a wonderful lady named Lou Kaufman, a kind and forgiving person who had moved in and out of his life over the years.  She was much admired by most of Ted’s old friends and was, by consensus among them, the woman in Ted’s life who seemed to understand him best and who could calm him down most readily when one of those instant moments of pure anger had been triggered.  She was kind and thoughtful and truly loving – and she seemed, I once thought, when we were all three together for a day back in 1988, as much parent to him as lady-friend.”  If he had not had Lou Kaufman in his life, I doubt he would have been as successful as he was in hi baseball career.

I once had a personal experience with Williams that demonstrated, very clearly, that he did not possess a great deal of self-esteem.  In 1969 and 1970 I was associated with a Kansas City marketing and advertising agency and one of the company’s clients was Sears.  In those days, Sears operated a store on the Country Club Plaza and one of the brand names they carried was Ted Williams’ Fishing Equipment.  Because of this relationship, when he wrote a book about himself, My Turn At Bat: The Story of my Life, which was published in 1969, he arranged to visit Sears stores across the country to promote his book and help sales by personally autographing copies.

When Sears scheduled Ted’s appearance at the Plaza Store it turned out to be on a Saturday morning.  Sears had requested that someone from our agency be present to help coordinate the event.  Being an avid sports fan, I volunteered my services.  On the Saturday morning of his appearance I arrived at the store around 8:30am since it was scheduled to open at 9am.  The front of the store was all glass and featured large glass doors clearly visible from the table we had set up with books for Ted’s signing.

At about 8:40am, one of baseball’s most famous super heroes arrived.  I introduced myself, we shook hands, and I explained why I was there.  He nodded appreciatively and asked in a soft voice: “Do you think anyone will come?” I assured him they would even though he had been retired for a number of years.  A few moments later, he approached me again, asking softly: “Uh, do you think anyone will show up?”  I again assured him they would and that he shouldn’t concern himself.  Between 8:40am and the time the store opened he must have asked me five times whether or not I thought people would show up for the signing.  Each time, I assured him they would.  He appeared sad and thought perhaps his fame had faded.  He appeared to me to be like a small puppy dog with its tail between its legs, sadly anticipating the worst.   He clearly demonstrated that he did not possess a great deal of self-esteem; otherwise, whether or not anyone would show up for the signing would not have been an issue for him.  But at approximately 8:58am, two minutes before the store was scheduled to open, a gentleman with a young boy in his arms appeared at the door.  Then behind him another lined up holding the hand of a youngster wearing a baseball cap. Then another. And another. All either holding the hand of a small child or carrying a child in their arms.  It was obvious they were there to meet the great Ted Williams.  By 9am there was a line of fans outside the store that stretched for two city blocks.  When Ted saw them he walked over to the table, took his seat and awaited the crowd.  When the doors opened, the throng made its way to the table.  Suddenly, his mood changed.  He became overtly more confident.  Appearing more self-assured.  And as the fathers and their children passed by the table to purchase their autographed books, Ted Williams would say in a loud, boisterous voice: “C’mon! C’mon! Let’s keep this line moving! I don’t have all day!!!”

Their names are Adam Dunn of the White Sox (age 32), Joe Nathan of the Rangers (age 37), Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies (age 33), David Ortiz of the Red Sox (age 36) and R. A. Dickey of the Mets (age 37).
All five had below average seasons in 2011 but this year they all rebounded and have achieved all-star status and will play in the 83rd All-Star Game in Kansas City. But that’s not all. If you scratched the surface I’m sure you would find all five had some special event or situation happen in their personal lives that made them feel good about themselves and affected their self-esteem. A new marriage, a new girlfriend, a new baby. When athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony their performance in their sport will automatically be enhanced.

The “Billy Goat Curse” is the granddaddy of all Major League Baseball superstitions. For those of you who may not be familiar with the curse, here’s what happened based on information gathered from the Internet:

On Oct, 6th 1945 a Greek tavern owner by the name of William “BILLY GOAT” Sianis (that was his nickname because of the goatee he always had) bought box seats for the 4th game of the World Series in Chicago against Detroit. He bought one ticket for himself and one for his goat Murphy. The Cubs had won 2 out of 3 in Detroit and were favored to win it all in Chicago. In the past Billy Goat had always been allowed to bring his goat to the games, Murphy always had his own ticket. This time, however, as Sianis walked into Wrigley Field the ushers stopped him, telling him that no goats were allowed. When Billy Goat asked for an appeal directly to owner P.K. Wrigley, P.K. told them to allow Billy Goat in but not Murphy. When Billy Goat asked why, P.K. said, “Because the goat smells!” That upset Sianis and standing in front of Wrigley Field, in retaliation, he raised both hands and said, “Cubs, they not gonna win anymore. Never again will World Series be played in Wrigley Field” Casting what has become known as the “BILLY GOAT CURSE” over the Cubs. Subsequently, the Tigers won the next 3 games and the series and the Cubs have never been back. The Cubs’ loss prompted Billy Goat to send a telegram to P.K. Wrigley asking, “Who smells now?” Perhaps when the Cubs move out of Wrigley field, the curse will disappear?

I’ve mentioned the “Billy Goat Curse” because baseball is a sport with a long history of superstition. According to Wikipedia, from the very famous “Curse of the Bambino” (see below) to some players’ refusal to wash their clothes or bodies after a win, superstition is present in all parts of baseball. Many baseball players—batters, pitchers, and fielders alike— perform elaborate, repetitive routines prior to pitches and at bats due to superstition. The desire to keep a number they have been successful with is strong in baseball. In fact anything that happens prior to something good or bad in baseball can give birth to a new superstition. Some players rely on a level of meta-superstition: by believing in superstitions they can focus their mind to perform better.
Some of the more common superstitions include purposely stepping on or avoiding stepping on the foul line when taking the field, and not talking about a no-hitter or perfect game while it is in progress, a superstition that also holds for fans and announcers. Others include routines such as tapping the bat on the plate before an at bat, and drawing in the dirt in the batter’s box before an at bat.

What an athlete believes to be true is true for him or her, regardless of whether or not it’s true in the real word. Wade Boggs believed that eating only chicken before a game helped his performance on the field, and it did. When he was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame, he thanked his father, who was sitting on the front row, but it seems to be he should also have thanked Kentucky Fried Chicken. ☺

As for the “Curse of the Bambino,” the Red Sox finally ended it by beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, 4-0. But they had a little help. What most people don’t know is that immediately after the season ended the Cardinals fired their hitting coach, Mitchell Paige, and sent him on his way, encouraging him to enter an alcohol treatment center, which he did. In most situations, when a player or coach with a “drinking problem” is let go, it’s generally understood they can return once they have their addiction under control. No so with Mitchell Paige. He was flat out fired. Period. Which tells me something pretty bad had taken place behind the scenes during the series. Something that affected team chemistry and subsequently caused them to lose four straight games to the Red Sox. So much for that “curse.” Mitchell, by the way, recently passed away, March 13, 2011.


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