April 25, 2018

Rambling On About My Glory Days: Riding the Roller Coaster

January 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Last post I mentioned that I hoped that the good memories of my professional playing career never end so I could keep writing about the happy times. Then of course, I couldn’t think of another good memory that I haven’t already written about. I hope that is only a case of temporary amnesia. Below is one of those nightmarish episodes in my career.

First, though, it is important to realize that “fringe” (lucky to be in the big time) players are only as good as their last game. The stars (established players) almost always get the benefit of the slump. When things are not going well for the established players, everyone writes it off as a temporary thing. When slumps hit a borderline player, people start to look for ways to replace them. If you know anything about my career, you know what category I fell into.

I felt like a human yoyo in the summer of 1985 while playing for the Seattle Mariners. Early July of the 1985 season, we (Seattle Mariners) were rolling along with a .500 record. For a Seattle major league baseball team up until that time, a .500 record that late into the season was a very competitive team. I was not hitting well up until this point of the season, but I was contributing in other ways. I believed that my 180 hits and .294 average from the previous season were enough to give me the benefit of the doubt. As mentioned, “the fringe” often does not get that benefit.

The drop came to the yoyo. From out of nowhere, at least to me, I was demoted to Triple A baseball. It is a long complicated story of how that all went down and it included the resignation of the general manager. I was devastated because of my close ties to the team and fans, and knowing that I was an integral part of the team.

Sports fans often read about the importance of clubhouse chemistry. Good chemistry usually comes from many players performing well, which leads to a majority of satisfied players. Like anything, it is easy to feel good about oneself and the group when personal things are going well. Players performing well obviously leads to winning which makes everyone feel good. Winning leads to good feelings in an organization from top management all the way to the fans.

When teams win championships, chemistry is given as the reason why teams win. In actuality, it may simply be that a majority of players were having good years that lead to winning. There is evidence of teams winning championships over the years even though they fought frequently among themselves. Great talent can overcome bad chemistry, sometimes.

Conversely, teams lose when a majority of players have a tough season, which leads to less contented players and less team chemistry. What I am trying to get at is that players’ performances usually determines how good the team chemistry is. Team chemistry is probably given too much credit when teams win championships and it takes too much of the blame when teams don’t win. I believe good chemistry at the professional level usually exists when teams win at least as much as they are expected to. Having said all that, however, there is something intangible about team chemistry that is hard to define and it may only take a small distraction to disrupt that chemistry. Now that that is cleared up? It’s back to the story.

I believe the loss of that intangible ingredient is what happened with the Mariner team after my demotion. Apparently, players and fans both felt the chemistry shift when I was sent down. Just like some yoyo tricks, the team stayed down for a period. The team lost 12 of its next 15 games after my demotion and that pretty much put an end to our chance at a winning season. I am not that naive to think that we may not have lost that much even if I had not been demoted, but as mentioned, distractions that affect the team can alter the team chemistry and focus.

The yoyo remained down personally for awhile until I was called back to the big league team a few weeks later. It was a huge relief to get back to the big league club, but my emotional roller coaster ride didn’t end there. One day after I was called back to the team, major league baseball went on strike. Great timing it was not and disappointment set in again. Fortunately, the strike lasted a very short time and I was able to settle back in. Hitting around .300 for the rest of the season gave me great satisfaction but it was too late for a winning season and the same chemistry to return.

Former major leaguer Jack Perconte is the author of The Making of a Hitter (http://jackperconte.com) and has a baseball instruction blog that can be found at www.baseballcoachingtips.net. He has recently published his second book Raising an Athlete: How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport 

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