Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Look at the 2009 MLB Season - "Berra & Gerhig: Together, They Got Baseball Right"

Yogi Berra was no Einstein but the man coined more one-liner's in his day as a ball player for the Yankees than any other bag-runner to-date.

"Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical."

His agility, cat-like reflexes behind the plate, and strength with a bat made up for his lack of book smarts. The only logic hidden behind his now infamous coined phrases was that he meant every word said. Baseball is a physical game that takes a quick mind to win games. So forget that Yogi may have said it's ninety percent mental and fifty percent physical -- he got it right in theory.

Berra appeared in 14 World Series, won 10, and played for a Yankees squad during the team's most consistent winning period in major league history.

Does History Seal a Team's Fate?

I wonder what mental games consumer ball players during their time on a given team. If you're drafted to the Kansas City Royals or Washington Nationals are you going to come into work everyday with a chip on your shoulder? If you work for the Yankees or Red Sox will you don your team's logo wherever you go with immense pride? Before 2004, how did it feel to be a Red Sox player? And how about those Cubs, what's it feel like to go into work knowing your team hasn't won for over 100 years? You know that your fans, as die-hard as they are, want nothing more than a World Series win. But what those fans also know is they should expect the best while assuming the worst is going to happen.

Milton Bradley's: The Cub's Newest (Scape)Goat

Milton Bradley is an example of the mental game of baseball taking it's toll on a player's psyche.

It's important to remember -- these ball players aren't playing the game for the sole purpose of making the fans happy. They have lives too.

Chicago Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley has had a season-long struggle with his teammates, coaching staff, and Cubbie faithful. Bradley was suspended by General Manager Jim Hendry for the rest of the season following Sunday night's extra-inning 6-3 win over N.L. Central rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, for detrimental conduct toward the Cubs organization.

To a fan or reporter, it may be easy to call Bradley's behavior over the past season a result of a mental-game he enforced upon himself while playing a team notorious for losing. Remember Steve Bartman from Game 5 of 2003 NLCS? Every Cubs fan pointed fingers, called him the scapegoat, and blamed him for the Cubs collapse that season. Bradley has turned into the 2009 goat.

Milton Bradley is not being subjected to racism. He's experiencing fanism," Tim Terchek of Wilmette, Ill. said in The Chicago Tribune online." Fanisim occurs when an overpaid pro plays badly and then cops a poor attitude, he continued. "Boos, in this case, are not racial taunts. They're an expression of extreme disappointment over the behavior of a bad performer."

A team that remains notorious for losing can't be easy to play for, no matter how much potential for post-season glory they might have. Look at this years Mets squad. The Nationals are bad but the Mets are the paupers to the Yankees prince-like prestige in the Empire state.

Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen ... To the Disabled List

"The Nationals have a brighter future than the Mets," New York Post Reporter, Kevin Kernan reported Sunday after a 3-2 Nationals win over the Mets. "It doesn't get any worse than that."

Washington has the worst record in baseball at 51-97. As dismal as that number is, Nationals fans have a future to look forward to -- the appeal of having a team on the road to recovery for eager free agents and young draft picks. Every member of the 2009 Mets starting line-up saw at least one stint on the disabled list.

What happens to a player when their teammates drop like flies? The once optimistic future cultivated during day dreams while spring train turn into a harsh reality -- there will be no ring on my finger for the foreseeable future.

A Match-Up for the Ages

The teams that do stand a chance for October glory are the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies and the 2009 American League Champion New York Yankees.

There hasn’t been a World Series this exciting since the Red Sox ended their drought during the 2004 season.

Think about it: This is the first season of baseball being played in the New Yankee Stadium. The Yankees haven’t won a World Series in yet this century and now must battle to the end against the defending world champions with the hope of doing their city proud while honoring Babe Ruth’s memory in the new house that Jeter appears to be building.

Both teams have the pitching (the best example is Game 1 – Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia we’re wonderful). Both have a superstar line-up of hitters. It just doesn’t get any better.

The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth

This season, the Empire State witnessed yet another historical baseball moment-in-the-making. Derek Jeter became the all-time hits leader as a member of the Yankees (2,722), passing Lou Gerhig on September 11, 2009.

The record may have been broken but the memory of Gerhig lives on in the depths of baseball fan’s hearts ranging from all walks of the MLB division spectrum.

Gehrig knew he was lucky. He played along side some of the best sluggers, aces, and managers the game has ever known. Hell – his number “4” was the first to be retired in MLB history.

But on July 4, 1939, Gerhig opened up his heart to every person standing on the field, sitting in the dugout, or staring in awe from their seats:

"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.”

If every player looked at the game the way Gerhig did, the game would be better for all involved. Individual players would play with an inspired mindset. Entire teams would have the confidence of the 1929 World Champion Yankees. The game would be -- dare I say it -- fun again! Fans could tip their hats at the men who sport their uniforms with pride for the sake of the game and not for personal monetary gain. All it takes is one player. I dare someone to step-up to the plate, assume a strong and steady stance, and take baseball into its future by citing its past.

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