The Attitude It Takes to Win

So we all know that the Blue Jays are favoured to win the World Series this year, but here’s what’s on my mind: how likely is that to happen? And what will it take to actually win it all?

WS champs

Let’s face it, how many teams actually win that are expected to win? You’d have to go back most recently to the late 90’s and early 2000’s when the Yankees had that dynasty when they were expected to win year after year. You could argue the Rangers were favoured the past 2 years, but they failed to win it all. Even the Phillies with that studded rotation in ’11 (with Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt) didn’t make the World Series. One needs to look no further than Boston two years ago and the Angels last year when they added high priced free-agents (Crawford/Gonzalez via trade & Pujols/Wilson respectively) and look where it got them.

For Toronto, do I really expect them to win the World Series this year? It’d be super fantastic, but no. I’m hesitant to say yes because the Jays are as of yet still unproven in the playoffs. Could it happen? Sure, of course it could happen especially since Toronto has an incredible team this year full of immense potential where 95+ wins is plausible. However it takes so much for everything to go a team’s way, it’s really quite remarkable at the end that a team can pull it off and win the actual World Series.

I am however really encouraged when I hear Jose Bautista say this:

“We’re going to go out and relax. When you have such a competitive group put together on the same team, you can’t help but to feed off each other. Nobody’s gonna have to press or over do it because nobody has to be spectacular, everybody has to come in, do their job. As a group, we’re gonna play pretty good baseball if everyone does what they’re capable of doing.”

Even Adam Lind pipes in:

“We can really win the World Series! It should be fun. Vegas usually knows what they’re talking about so I’d say we have a pretty good shot.”

Yes, they do have a pretty good shot, but doesn’t a team have to learn how to win first? Just consider our very own Blue Jays. They made the playoffs in ’85, finished 2nd in ’87, made it again in ’89, 2nd place in ’90, and in ’91 they lost to the Twins in the ALCS. Until ’92 & ’93 years, they really didn’t know how to win. I have to believe it wasn’t until that moment when Robbie Alomar took Eckersley deep in the ’92 ALCS that they really said “I want this.”

Furthermore, Toronto has a new manager and according to Ricky Romero:

“How you play and the style you play, a lot of it shows in the way your manager manages the game”…”we can learn to adapt to him, and him adapt to us, and just continue to move forward.”

So maybe having a new manager doesn’t bode well since it takes time for the team to gel…I don’t know. Perhaps with Gibbons, it will take no time at all.

romero_ricky CP Frank Gunn

Ricky also mentions:

“That’s what we need (guys that just want to win). Having all the talent in the world doesn’t mean anything in baseball, you need winners and guys who want to go out there and compete no matter what, through the ups and the downs.”

Might I remind everyone that the ’92 Blue Jays also went out and bought former post-season winners the off-season before in Jack Morris and Dave Winfield. And this off-season, they’ve added Jose Reyes with 2006 playoff experience, Melky Cabrera, a 2009 World Series winner with the Yanks, and Mark Buehrle, a 2005 World Series winner with Chicago. So have the Blue Jays gone out and brought winners on board? For that question, my answer is a resounding yes!

However, what else is needed in a team to have post-season success? Let’s examine what some previous winners have had to say, namely Carlos Beltran and his St. Louis Cardinals come-back win over the Nationals in last years NLDS:

“I told myself that I didn’t care if we win or lose, but I was going to do everything I can to help the team and pick him (Wainwright) up.” “It’s hard when a guy like him takes the mound and gives up six runs. He feels like it’s his fault. We win as a team, we lose as a team.”

You kind of get the sense that there’s a real selfless attitude here, a focus on helping or picking up a teammate so he doesn’t feel like he let the team down. Plus, there’s no ‘I’ in Beltran it appears…he’s a real team player. I can only hope that everyone on the Blue Jays 25-man roster this year has the same selfless attitude. More to the point is that I wonder if Lind will accept a platoon situation versus lefties, and I wonder if Happ will accept a potential job in the bullpen. Truth be told, if there’s any discontentment from any player, it doesn’t feed the right energy in the locker room.

carlos beltran

There’s no “I” in Beltran.

The linked article above also mentions that Chris Carpenter “began making his rounds (in the dugout), mouthing fantasies about an impending epic comeback. Funny thing was, everyone bought in.” Mike Matheny also adds:

“They did not believe that six runs was too much. They didn’t stop believing. It wasn’t just a bunch of rah-rah stuff. It seemed like every inning, there was more and more momentum. It was just one of those things that you cannot describe.”

There’s so much failure in baseball that you kind of have to be stupid to not let things get to you. Or in gentler words, you have to believe that there will be another opportunity for someone to get that big hit. Sure enough it happens every game where a big slugger might strike out with two men on, and then another chance comes up later on in the game with another runner in scoring position. Players really can’t get down on themselves with every failed at-bat. This belief in themselves, in the team…something’s gotta be said for that.

To reference another professional athlete, tennis star Andy Murray credited “thinking on his feet” during his U.S. Open win last fall and added:

“I found a way to win the matches, even when I wasn’t playing well. And that’s something that was so important.”

Finding a way to win, eh? It’s so cliché to hear that, but Romero and so many other pitchers say it all the time. Perhaps it can better be described as an unwillingness to lose.

Daniel Descalso, the Cardinals second baseman adds here:

“It would have been easy for us to go down 6-0 and sort of roll over and let the crowd take us out of it, and just let them have the game,” Descalso said. “I’ve been telling people we have got baseball players in that clubhouse, guys that are going to grind out at-bats and grind out innings. We took it upon ourselves to individually have the determination to have good at-bats, and the bullpen carried us those last six innings, and there’s a never-say-die attitude in the clubhouse.”

So this is the attitude of a winning organization even without all-star Albert Pujols on the team. Clearly, each individual player has to be determined as hell, and not give up until the last out is made.

Angel Pagan, from the 2012 world champion San Francisco Giants reinforces this never say die attitude:

“We beat adversity, man. We did some stuff that’s never been done before. We came back twice in the playoffs. We refused to go home, and look where we are.”

Descalso & Pagan must be onto something because Vince Lombardi strengthens their argument by saying: “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.”

So is this wilful attitude infused with the Blue Jays yet? It’s impossible to say until the games are played, but there certainly is a lot of hope, a lot of potential for greatness. Let’s hope the ball bounces the Blue Jays way in 2013.

Romero image by CP/Frank Gunn; Beltran image by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

2 responses to “The Attitude It Takes to Win

  1. The only question here would be, why was the incredible will of the Cardinals unable to compete with the will of the Giants?

    Or, more to the bottom of this argument, how can you measure or compare the ‘will’ of two groups of guys? It’s nice to say that the group that won ‘wanted it more’ but it runs into a logical brick wall when a team that beat everybody else (the Tigers) was somehow overwhelmed by the will of the Cardinals, so much so that they couldn’t score in the World Series.

    Luck, matchups, scouting, these might have a lot more to do with ‘finding a way to win’ than just the desire to do so.

  2. Yeah, good point. Maybe it’s more apt to say this wilful attitude is a precursor to winning…then other factors like you mention come into play.

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