Thursday, May 15, 2014


The Yankees season isn’t going the way fans hoped. Injuries have most of the starting rotation riding the pine in the first half of the season. ESPN’s Wallace Matthews says in his latest column that the lack of trusty arms means it’s time to start panicking.

But as an outsider looking in, I feel it’s a little too early for fans to toss up the white flag and surrender the 2014 season to obscurity.

A lot has been said about the psychology of winning. The very act of winning seems to require a certain magical combination of elements. You need confidence. You need skill. You need luck. You need faith. You need timing. Winning (like hitting or the flu) is contagious. But if winning is contagious, then losing is a habit. And with all habits, losing can be broken.

Being on a struggling team—for lack of a better word—sucks. (Just as watching a losing team is equally as frustrating). When you score seven runs and still lose it’s hard to not let the frustration seep over into resentment of your pitching staff. Likewise, it’s also hard for pitchers to develop trust if they receive zero run support. (For fans it’s hard just not to scream at someone.)

As a junior at the University of Texas, we lost our star pitcher to the Olympics and another of our staff to ACL surgery. We were a top-ranked team entering a season with a young and untested ace at the center of the diamond. We were also a team that couldn’t pair great defensive outings with solid run support. After some early losses to teams we shouldn’t have been losing to, I began to see a pattern emerge.

When our pitcher allowed runners on base, you could almost hear the collective groan of the infield saying, “Here we go again.” A base hit was a trigger for us to start mentally checking out. We all knew what was coming. Here we go again.

Surprisingly, the expectation of failure began to translate in to actual failure. Silly errors led to unearned runs. Frustration on the field began to get carried in to the batter’s box. Runners were left on base. Hitters began looking at strike threes. And soon it was the pitching staff saying, “Here we go again.”

Losing is a pattern, a cycle. All it takes is a spark—a deviation—to help begin the healing of multiple losses. This can be as simple as a spectacular defensive play or a well placed bunt. Remember, this is a game of inches. It's not as if this team doesn't have talent.

As BYB wrote earlier this week, the Yanks need their Mr. Miyagi to right the ship and someone needs to step up and make something happen, even if that something is small. Maybe the shutout complete game by Masahiro Tanaka is that small something.

Of course, even if a leader does emerge, it doesn’t guarantee an automatic playoff spot. But a spark plug can be powerful. All you have to do is look to last year’s Dodgers team that was 12 games under .500 at the All-Star break. They were bums.

The city was ready to hand Mattingly his walking papers. But the arrival of rookie Yasiel Puig shook things up enough to break the losing pattern. A team that couldn’t hit it’s way out of a wet paper bag won 92 games to clinch a playoff spot.

And if the Dodgers can do it…

--Alexis Garcia, BYB's "Eye on MLB" Columnist
Twitter:  @heylexyg

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