Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Kansas City Royals

Bad team chemistry can devastate a sports team. Since I’m not privy to what’s going on behind the scenes with the Tampa Bay Rays, one only has to look at their dismal 42-62 record and their last place standing in the American League East to sense something is not right among teammates. I’m sure Duffy pitched an excellent game, but I’m also pretty certain he was helped by negative chemistry among Tampa Bay’s players. And if he was, then Tampa Bay’s front office needs to implement some type of program internally to help their athletes with their personal and team-related issues. If not, it’s going to be a long, long season for them.

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Yesterday, June 18th, 2016, Kansas City Royals’ DH Kendrys Morales drove in five runs with four hits and tied a career high with five RBIs and also got his 200th career double. Morales, as many baseball fans know, defected from Cuba in 2004 and just a few days ago he was batting .194 while he should have been batting much higher.

Could the problem have been he wasn’t motivated? Possibly. And his lack of motivation could have been related to his 6-year old daughter, Andrea, who he left behind in Cuba. Now this is only speculation on my part since I’m not privy to inside information, but if Andrea was having personal problems in her life, and he’s wasn’t there in Cuba to help her, and he didn’t discuss it with anyone but rather kept it bottled up inside himself, that’s a form of lying. And lying demeans an athlete and lowers his or her self-esteem creating psychological baggage that negatively affects his or her ability to focus.

If what I’ve written is true, and Morales was experiencing some form of depression, manager Yost should not have been trying to motivate him (as he stated in an interview) but rather get him help by obtaining therapeutic counseling to address his depression. It’s possible Morales began talking about his problem or problems, whatever they might have been, and became less depressed, the result showing up in his performance.

Now there are many who might say that Morales is a professional athlete and those types of problems shouldn’t affect him. But professional athletes are human beings just like the rest of us mortals and they have personal issues away from the field of competition.

As of today, May 14th, 2016, The Kansas City Royals are struggling, off to a 16-18 start and 6 ½ games behind the American League Central-leading Chicago White Sox. And in a USA TODAY interview with Royals’ manager Ned Yost he mentioned factors that affect “how he motivates his team.” But can he really motivate his team? I don’t think so. Inspire, yes. But true motivation must come from within. And over the years I’ve found the better an athlete feels about himself or herself (and I’m referring to their self-esteem) the greater their motivation. Take the case of Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who defected from Cuba in 2004. Today he’s batting .194 while he should be batting much higher. Could the problem be he’s not motivated? Possibly. And his lack of motivation could be related to his 6-year old daughter, Andrea, who he left behind in Cuba. Now this is only speculation on my part since I’m not privy to inside information, but if Andrea is having personal problems in her life, and he’s not there in Cuba to help her, and he doesn’t discuss it with anyone but rather keeps it bottled up inside himself, that’s a form of lying. And lying demeans him and lowers his self-esteem creating psychological baggage that negatively affects his ability to focus. If what I’ve written is true, and Morales is experiencing some form of depression, manager Yost should not be trying to motivate him but rather get him help by obtaining therapeutic counseling to address his depression. Once Morales begins talking about his problem or problems, whatever they might be, and becomes less depressed, the result will be an immediate increase in his performance on the field.

I know this may sound ridiculous, but during the fourth game of the World Series, when the Royals were behind, my cat, Apple, jumped up on the sofa and curled up next to me. I began petting her and stroking her tail and before you could say “Holy Cow!” Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy made an error on Eric Hosmer’s grounder in the eighth inning that keyed a Royals comeback and a win. Then last night, the score was tied as game five headed into extra innings. I looked around and sure enough there was Apple, again curled up next to me. And again I began petting her and stroking her tail and then all of a sudden, well, you know what happened. Christian Colon singled home the tie-breaking run in the 12th and the Royals rallied one more time to beat the Mets. And win the World Series. So I’m thinking maybe next time I visit my daughter in Kansas City I’ll take Apple with me and visit the Royals’ executive offices to find out if they’d like to hire her for next season.

The idea of excelling for a higher order originated with the legend of “win one for the Gipper.” It began in 1920 with the death of football legend George Gipp, Notre Dame’s first All-American selection who died at 25 from a strep throat infection. The Fighting Irish were 19-0-1 in his final 20 games. According to Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne, Gipp, on his deathbed, said: “Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper. I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.” Eight years passed before Rockne did so, before a 1928 game against unbeaten Army at Yankee Stadium. “This is the day, and you are the team,” Rockne said. The Fighting Irish scored two second-half touchdowns to win 12-6.

Athletes benefit by excelling for a higher order. In some situations they take on a cause to help an individual or group otherwise unassociated with the team.

One of the most powerful examples is when a teammate’s loved one passes away. In the case of the Kansas City Royals, it involves the recent death of pitcher Edinson Vollquez’s father, pitcher Chris Young’s father who died of cancer September 26th, and third baseman Mike Mostakas’ mother who died of cancer August 9th. In all three situations the Royals have bonded with their teammates and supported them in their grief. And the result has been an increase in self-esteem and team chemistry for the entire team resulting in an increase in performance.

As the poet John Bright wrote: “Find yourself a cause, not a resting place. You may not do much for the cause but the cause will do much for you.”

As we all know, beliefs play an important role in determining the number of pitches a pitcher can throw before his arm tires out. But keep in mind, it’s the pitcher’s beliefs, not the pitching coach’s beliefs, that affect performance.

During the first game of the 2015 World Series, Ned Yost, manager of the Kansas City Royals, decided to put his ace relief pitcher Wade Davis on a short leash regarding pitch count by playing him only during one inning. Was this a waste of talent?

There are many examples on record where pitchers threw more than the limited number of pitches allowed today, and were no worse off for having done so. Though it’s true that there are many new pitches today that didn’t exist years ago, and some of them have been known to damage a pitcher’s arm. However, even some of today’s pitchers believe they pitch better when allowed to exceed the number of pitches normally authorized by the pitching coach, and go the entire nine innings.

Here’s an example of a Letter to the Sports Editor that appeared in The Kansas City Star, April 30, 2000. The writer wrote: “I hope Tony Muser (then manager of the KC Royals) and all of the Royals’ pitchers read about Justin Green, a pitcher for Cameron (Oklahoma) University who pitched all 17 innings in a game recently. The next day he worked an 11-hour shift at a restaurant and showed no arm problems. I think the problem in professional baseball is that the pitchers do not throw enough. A few innings in a game is all they usually throw and then they have to rest for five days. Relief pitchers do even less work, and for the Royals, most of their ERAs are awful.”

But even Green’s remarkable feat didn’t compare with a performance by two pitchers in the same game on May 1, 1920, at Braves Field, when both Boston’s Joe Oeschger and Brooklyn’s Leon Cadore pitched all 26 innings in a 1-1 tie. Two days later Oeschger was back on the mound again pitching part of another 19-inning game.

We all remember that famous story about Coach Knute Rockne and the speech he made to his Notre Dame football players at half-time which many refer to today as “Remember the Gipper,” Well I think history may have repeated itself last night during the San Francisco Giants – Kansas City Royals game. According to the Associated Press report: “Pitching with the initials of late St. Louis outfielder Oscar Taveras on his cap, 23-year old rookie Yordano Ventura allowed three hits over seven innings for his first Series win.” The Royals’ Ventura and Taveras were good friends.  They grew up together in the Dominican Republic and Ventura had dedicated the game to his memory. I call this “Excelling for a Higher Order.” It’s when athletes acknowledge emotional issues in their lives they want to excel for. By doing so, they enhance their own feelings of self-worth and thereby enhance their performance.


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