Sunday, February 17, 2013

Chemistry

I’ve been seeing more than the usual spring training talk about particular teams’ chemistry, both in the media but also from a lot of bloggers and fans. Since I follow the Blue Jays more closely than other clubs, I know you could drown in the ocean of ink, real and virtual, that’s been spilled on this topic.

You know the type of comments: “You can’t expect a bunch of self-entitled, conceited millionaires care about anyone but themselves.” “When teams try to buy their way into the post season, it seldom works. There's no chemistry.” “The Jays shouldn’t fool themselves. All those players they got from Miami didn’t have a very good season last year, did they? It won't happen this year, either.”

It makes me wonder if any of these people have actually played on a really good team. I suspect they’ve never played on any team.

Martin and Jackson going at it.
Yes, expensive teams often have as much trouble as everyone else making the season-long grind to make it into October ball. Yes, some expensive teams have had dysfunctional clubhouses. But I really don’t think you can put any of that non-success onto the fact that a lot of the players have huge salaries. Let’s face it: any player on a major league team is making a lot more money than the average Joe.

If you could get nearly every ball player to speak openly and candidly about the way they feel about playing the game and what they want out of it, I am certain that the first comment would be how much they want a World Series ring. Making a bankful of money would be no higher than third on their list of goals, I’ll bet.

Back in their early years when they were young, starting to play baseball, they were like every other kid who plays. Remember? You imagine you’re whatever player is your favourite; you’re coming up to the plate in the World Series with the score tied, or maybe your imaginary team is down, and the only thing you want to do is win that game. I don’t believe that ever changes. It would be the very rare player who’s only in it for their paycheck – at least until their team is eliminated.

I’ll be you that everyone in the Jays, Dodgers, Braves or Angels clubhouses is focused right now on somehow getting to October ball. They all know what it will take, and the fact that they’re on a team. One player can’t get a team to the promised land, not even half a dozen can. It requires nearly every man on that 25-member roster, as well as the manager, coaching staff and front office, plus good luck on the injury front, to get to where they all want to be. If they desire it badly enough, it really doesn’t make any difference who likes who and how well people get along.

The same two guys in the same season...
Many championship teams have had personal issues among players. Remember those great Yankees teams during the Billy Martin years? There were screaming matches, shoving, even fisticuffs in the clubhouse and dugout. They managed to win, didn’t they?

“Team chemistry” is overrated. Talent, followed by passion and commitment to doing the job right, plus a lot of hard work (not to mention luck) are the only things that will get a team to the playoffs. Whether all, or most, of the players on a team get along well together is immaterial. It’s a nice thing to have – but it won’t get you that ring.

Professional ball players know this. It’s only when excuses for a season’s failure is needed that “chemistry” or lack thereof is brought up. It’s not a legitimate reason. It’s a dodge.

3 comments:

John Trembath said...

Quite right, Rick. All the euphemistic chatter does not really sum up a teams abilities nor their faults. It's just media for consumption for, as you said, non-players. To anyone thinks a player does not want to win, your wrong. Chemistry is for the lab. Effort is for the field.

Will Braund said...

Baseball, a series of events, is as individual as a team sport can be. A soccer play needs a pass from a team mate, as does a hockey player. A football player needs a handoff, a pass or a block. In baseball a fielder needs only his skill (unless he is turning a double play) and hitters and pitchers are all on their own. I agree with you Rick, especially now that they're all millionaires, chemistry is highly overrated.

Will Braund said...

Baseball, a series of events, is as individual as a team sport can be. A soccer play needs a pass from a team mate, as does a hockey player. A football player needs a handoff, a pass or a block. In baseball a fielder needs only his skill (unless he is turning a double play) and hitters and pitchers are all on their own. I agree with you Rick, especially now that they're all millionaires, chemistry is highly overrated.