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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

TEAM CHEMISTRY: IT'S IN THE GENES

Chemistry- the hard-wired genes of a team, the talent pool, the potential for growth- the camaraderie between players and the glue that holds the team together at its seams.  As ESPN Boston’s Jack MacMullan explained in his article Unlikeable Red Sox Flunked Chemistry, following the Boston Red Sox demise in 2011, “… People say we make too much of the value of good chemistry and camaraderie. They are wrong; it matters. When things get tough, teams with unified players step up. They rely on guys who believe in leadership and accountability — and each other — to turn things around.”

Many analysts are saying that teams like the Braves, Padres and Diamondbacks, who are being touted as this year’s youngsters, need chemistry to glue together the raw young talent.  Kirk Gibson, a young manager, may be the guy to lead the newbies in Arizona.  The Braves are looking for a player who can step in like Chipper Jones has for so many years.  The core of good chemistry is good leadership and clear expectations.

Setting expectations for a team is essential.  Otherwise, if expectations are unvoiced, unrealistic or unmet, you run into problems- many of these unearthed themselves in Boston and could be brewing in New York if egos aren’t managed properly.  Who is going to step up this year for the Yankees?  We have our veterans like Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter back, but I think it’s time for Robinson Cano to show his leadership skills and take on a deeper role in the Yankee clubhouse. 

Oakland was never expected to win last year, but the gritty team came a long way.  No big stars, no big deal.  “The 51-year-old (Bob) Melvin, a former big league catcher who grew up in Menlo Park and played at Cal, took over from the fired Bob Geren in June 2011. Melvin led the Diamondbacks to the NL West title in 2007 and also won 93 games in his rookie season with Seattle in 2003.”  (Read HERE.)

Melvin just got a contract to extension to 2016 and Oakland may have the right mix this season between frugally careful general manager Billy Beane, “modern day” manager Bob Melvin, and a young raw team that fits way under the salary cap at $59.5 million. 

But does good chemistry stem from good management and a thrifty payroll? Not exactly.  Of course we need the guys in the jerseys to mesh.  And that means, like I said before, we need people to step up, player to player and empower, motivate, and excite not just the team, but the fans too.  We want to see happy players, who are enthusiastic, who run with passion, who laugh and smile, who are edgy and fired up and who never give up.  Good character is at the route of good chemistry.  “Although the assembled talent was at first glance glittering, when the late-season malaise kicked in and it was time to roll up their Brooks Brothers sleeves and wade into the muck of an everyday slump, far too many of the big-name players turned up their noses and balked,” said MacMullen about the 2011 Sox.  He could have been saying the same thing about the 2012 Yankees at the end of last season.


So, how do we know we have the right formula this Spring to win this Fall? Will newly signed Dan Johnson mesh with Kevin Youkilis?  Will Youkilis mesh with Jeter?  Is there really beef between Joba and Youk?  Our guys need time to build new relationships and renew old ones.  And we need to give them their time and so does the media!

This is our team, like it or not, so let’s hope that they ace chemistry and not flunk it.



--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Opinion Columnist
Twitter: @suzieprof




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