Psychology and Talent

“Hitting is the funnest part of baseball,” Thomas says. “That was probably the first time in Bryce’s life where, for an entire series, he didn’t get the opportunity to hit, where he didn’t get the opportunity to compete. Some people look at it and say it was the greatest strategy of all time. Other people think it’s crap because you’re not competing. All I know is, when you take the bat out of somebody’s hand — especially somebody that’s as competitive as Bryce is — it’s bound to have some kind of effect.”

Source: Did Chicago Cubs skipper Joe Maddon break Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper?

It’s still spring training and so there’s not a ton to talk about yet, especially since the spring games don’t start until this Saturday.  This article crossed my sight this past week talking about an early four game sweep of the Nationals by the Cubs last season.

Bryce Harper was hot going into that series, and Joe Maddon played him conservatively:  several IBBs (intentional walks/base on balls) and he saw very few strikes (18 of 83 pitches).

This, by the way, is what I love most about the on-the-field part of baseball.  Decisions made that have purpose and cause a change in the game. Harper is hot, so we don’t want him to hurt us.  So we don’t pitch him anything that has potential.

Harper is a fantastic competitor.  It somehow got under his skin to the point where he was ejected from the next game at home.  I can completely understand that:  Joe Maddon took away from him something that is a part of what makes him valuable.  He was unable to hit the ball for four consecutive games and so he’s feeling broken.

Harper’s blow-up is inexcusable but completely understandable.  Baseball is a thinking game, and getting under the skin and into the head of your opponent is a part of the game.  In fact, you can’t really compete if you’re not willing to play that part of it.

When you watch baseball:  watch for what’s going on that doesn’t make immediate sense to you.  Try to figure out why the pitcher, the catcher or the manager is doing what they’re doing.  This is the level at which baseball is even more enjoyable:  when you get past the strikes, balls, outs and hits and into the management of the flow of the game and the entire season.  The tactical decisions on the field and in the lineup card are as much a part of the game as the swings of the batters and the running of the bases.

 

 

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