MLB’s Anthony Castrovince had an interesting article on the Athletics the other day with some very intriguing quotes within it.
“I think guys gain confidence from that (Oakland) stadium they pitch in, and that carries over to the road,” (Curt) Young said. “We’ve got a bunch of confident guys, and their teammates know what they’re going to get from them each time they take the mound. I think that’s the most important thing when establishing a team.” And we might as well toss out one more (Tampa Bay) Rays comparison, while we’re at it. You don’t outplay your payroll at this high a percentage without a certain amount of clubhouse chemistry or, at least, an environment in which the pressure to perform does not outweigh the pleasure in performing. “Tampa’s been the mold of that the last few years,” (Brandon) McCarthy said. “You just don’t see any uptightness or any panic from them. And that’s the mold that we’ve been following.”
So therefore, we can conclude that for a team to play well, fun has to outweigh the pressure to perform.
FUN > Pressure to Perform
Also, we can conclude that fun equals good clubhouse chemistry.
FUN = Good Clubhouse Chemistry
I also found this article from earlier this year where A’s reporter Jane Lee wrote about the A’s clubhouse, and had this to share:
“I think anybody who doesn’t put the uniform on doesn’t understand how important that is,” pitcher Dallas Braden said. “Clubhouse culture is highly undervalued. Guys have lumps at home, guys have a bad day, and you have your 24 best friends here, 24 guys who are all pulling toward the same goal with you, and they’re going to have your back. This is a sanctuary for a lot of people here, including myself.”
Lee adds that “Everyone, it seems, is rooting for one another. Everyone is friendly.” It makes me wonder how the clubhouse culture is at the Rogers Centre for our beloved Blue Jays. I recall Snider and Thames wished each other well when they were competing last spring, but is that just lip service, or do they truly want to see the other successfully perform? My personal mentality would be to work my butt off and ensure that I do my best to beat the other guy because it is a competition for a starting roster spot. I wouldn’t necessarily care about the other guy….maybe that just makes me a bad person!!
Anthopoulos also believes in the competition factor to bring out the best in his players. Look at the 5th starters spot last spring and how Drabek surpassed Cecil; Thames beat Snider for LF; Drew Hutchison and Evan Crawford each impressed and were up in the big leagues by the end of April. Now for 2013, AA is leaving 3 spots open for competition in the rotation to figure out who wants it badly enough. It’s hard to argue with this philosophy, but my question is are you going to get 25 plus guys pulling towards the same goal? And are they going to have your back when someone is down? My thinking is that it would be so easy to say to a fellow competitor “yeah, you stink right now, so it’s my turn to take your spot sucker!” That player thereby puts himself in greater importance than the team’s goal. In the end though, I guess that kind of attitude just depends on what kind of person the player is – do they want to see someone struggle, or win a job based on merit and hard work.
According to John Lott back in April, this is what happened in 2011 – do I dare name Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco as the players insinuated? He writes:
(Carlos) Villanueva said he liked last year’s group too, but the social dynamic was different, with “groups of two or three.”
“This year it feels like we’re all connected somehow,” he said. “We feel like we’ve been playing for a while together. Everybody genuinely cares for each other. When you don’t have selfish people in your bullpen, it makes the year a lot easier.”
Perhaps players who are signed to one-year deals are more liable to act selfishly because they’re concerned about their next contract. Maybe this is also why Anthopoulos has revamped the bullpen this year to have guys under team control for several years. It’s conceivable that AA is thinking about clubhouse chemistry.
I further recall Aaron Hill revealing on Sportsnet590 with Mike Hogan a few years back that the Jays’ clubhouse chemistry is very good; that they’re working towards that goal of reaching the post-season. Jerry Howarth and Alan Ashby frequently praise Jose Bautista for his leadership (Anthopoulos has alluded to that too) and Jerry comments that Jose is the best leader he’s ever observed for the Blue Jays. Surely that’s nice to hear, but what impact does that have on clubhouse chemistry?
Truly as fans, we will never know what it is actually like in the Jays’ clubhouse, and have no way of knowing unless a reporter happens to be writing about such a topic. To me, I’d like to see more of that writing because it will reveal personal insights and stories of players, and how they interact. In all honesty, aside from seeing your team win, fans want to learn about the players they idolize to get a glimpse of what they’re like as people.
For 2013, let’s hope the Blue Jays have the talent and chemistry to make some noise!
Image Source: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images North America; Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America