Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Cubs

Ten year old Campbell Faulkner, who has a rare genetic disease, is friends with Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber, who was the hero of game two of the series, is now being benched by his manager because of the designated hitter rule. In my opinion, this is a bad judgement call. Schwarber should be starting because his relationship with Campbell is the Cubs’ secret weapon. Schwarber’s relationship with Faulkner is what I often refer to as “excelling for a higher order” which enhances an athlete’s self-esteem and performance. Schwarber even wears Faulkner’s green “Campbell Crew” wristband. If I were managing the Cubs, I would make every member of the team a member of the Campbell Crew and each would wear a wristband. I would also let Faulkner sit in the dugout with the team.

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When it was announced last night, just prior to the start of the Chicago Cubs – Pittsburgh Pirates game, that Pedro Alvarez would not be starting at first base and was being replaced by utility player Sean Rodriguez, I was amazed. It’s true that Alvarez is much more prone to making errors but it seems to me the team needed his fire power at the plate. Here’s a guy (Alvarez) whose 27 home runs led the team but whose 23 errors made him a defensive liability. Now I’m a big Clint Hurdle fan but I believe it’s possible that not starting Alvarez might have had a more important negative effect on team attitude. After all, here was one of their buddies who they played with throughout the entire season and when it came to the most important game of the year, their manager chose not to start him. But did they speak up and tell Clint how they felt. I doubt it. Because if they did, Clint would have viewed their behavior as infringing on his managerial ability to make decisions. And yet it was (in my opinion) this very “withholding” that affected their ability to focus on hitting the ball. This was especially true of Andrew McCutchen during the entire season. He must have been withholding something all season long or how else would you explain a .350 hitter batting just .300?

I’m sure Homer Bailey pitched an excellent game when he threw his no-hitter against San Francisco, but very often when there’s an accomplishment like that the pitcher is often helped by problems that may exist behind the scenes among players of the opposite team. No one knows for sure, but what we do know is that as of this writing the Giants are in last place in the National League West and the media has been referring to them as “the slumping San Francisco Giants.” If Cincinnati had been playing Pittsburgh, would Bailey have had a no-hitter? Or Atlanta? When Chicago Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano pitched his no-hitter against the Houston Astros back in 2008, it was “the first make-up game of the hurricane-affected series” between the Cubs and Astros. And it was pretty obvious what the problem was. The Astros had to leave their families behind in Houston and I believe the players’ concern for their families’ safety affected their ability to focus. Another good example of: What takes place away from the baseball diamond affects what takes place on the baseball diamond.

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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