Speak Your Mind, Game Start Punctuality & League Perspectives
Home Runs &
Team Magic &
In business, you learn along the way that if you focus on putting out a quality product or service, money will come. Thus, the focus should not be on the end result (the payoff), but the quality of the pursuit to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. Baseball shares a similar strategy. Winning the game (the payoff), is certainly important, but it is a by-product of quality team play, or as I call it "Team Magic". So what is Team Magic? Well, seeing that I just coined it, let me try to define it: Team Magic is the synergistic synthesis of the collective cooperative spirit of a team which leads to high performance offensive and defensive execution and which results in, well, magic! The Mets had it in 1969 and 1986. The Yankees achieved it 26 times (see http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/postseason/mlb_ws.jsp?feature=club_champs for exact dates).
There is really something magical when a team comes together and plays as one fluid entity. Every now and again, you get to witness this spectacle and it almost takes your breath away. I have experienced this phenomenon with my own WC team, which helped us capture the championship last season. However, the last time I witnessed this magic was in the Merockdim vs. Framing game on Monday, July 20th. I played for 7th place Framing that evening who were not doing well in the standings. Merockdim, on the other hand, was augmenting their winning streak and they had their sights set on 3rd place if they could defeat the Framers.
Now, it just so happens that I have a soft spot in my heart for the underdog. And the Framers were certainly the underdog in this competition. I really wanted the Framers to win because they had the talent to achieve it, were down in the dumps due to a three or four game losing streak, and I felt it was their time to make something happen. When Captain Avi asked me to catch for his team, it was like a gift from Shamium. One of the first things that I did was send Ushy Schwartz, who would be pitching that game, the following email:
Ok, so let's speak
about tonight. Tonight it is all about you and me. That's it, and
keeping the ball on the inside to force plays to the left side of the
field for ground and fly outs. The more we can force them to hit the
ball with the neck of the bat the better our chances of winning the
game. Even if you make a mistake and put one over the plate or on the
outside which they drill for a hit, you go right back into the mode of
pitching inside balls. Do it over, and over and over again. In addition,
you cannot take responsibility for your infield or outfield. They have
to play their part for this equation to work. That part is really out of
your control so do not worry about it. You simply concentrate on playing
catch for nine innings with me and lets have some fun! And I want to see
a smile on that absolutely good looking face of yours as we take back
control of the game!
When I arrived at the game that evening, one of the first things that I did was speak to Ushy again and reinforce what I stated in my email...that we are part of a team and we can only play our specific roles as best as we can and...we cannot take any responsibility if someone else on the team does not play his role well. So, let's go out there a play catch and jam the Merockdim batters. And jam them we did! Pitch after pitch, Ushy kept the ball on the inside of virtually every batter, forcing them to hit to the left side of the field where Mendy Halpert, Simcha, and Shmuel Ber Robinson were ready to pounce on any ball hit in their direction.
And what started between pitcher and catcher, spread like wild-fire throughout the entire Framer's team. It was palpably contagious! Everyone responded in an extraordinary manner, hitting the ball hard and low offensively and smothering any ball which came their way defensively. It was like, "Magic". And of course, when the Framers won, 5-4, it was just reward for their courageous comeback.
This week, I had another opportunity to play with an underdog team (Samet) in their quest to defeat Jada. Samet, in 7th place, shared many of the dynamics which just two weeks earlier plagued the Framers. This would be a great test. Could Samet jell sufficiently to defeat 2nd place Jada and reverse their long standing losing streak? I felt sure that they could and I was all pumped up to help them do it. Yet, I was soon to discover that the magic was not there. Although David Samet pitched very well, and the Samet defense was generally stellar, the Samet offensive team simply could not sustain a meaningful rally. On too many occasions, Samet simply went down swinging with men on base (once with bases loaded). It was painful to watch, and even worse to be unable to help turn things around.
As most of you know, I play in a lot of ball games in this league. There have been many wins and many loses. But through it all, only a hand full of times come to mind when real Team Magic has occurred. When it does happen, it's beyond euphoric. It's simply magical. There is a part of me, outside of the professional, financial and family responsibilities, that live for these moments. Some of you may think "this guy has got to get a life"! But this is the best of life. The diamond, the night games, the camaraderie, the cooperation and coordination of extremely talented men, all working towards the same goal, to win ball games, and loving every moment of it. Yes, it can be exhausting, frustrating, disappointing, and downright irritable. But, when a team catches the magic, the experience is almost better than....(well, I'll let you use your own imagination).
One other observation before I move on and analyze the teams. When you are successfully ambitious and life is full with family, friends and community obligations, the years fly by at warp speed. Before you know it, you are 50 years old and wondering how you reached this age so quickly. At this juncture of my life, I've been happily married for more than 26 years, have two married children, a business which I have successfully managed for almost 23 years, I am a partner in two local sports leagues (basketball and football), materially involved in the RJSL baseball league, the president of my shul and the editor (and exclusive writer) for our monthly shul newsletter, a workaholic, an exercise freak, and in two months (G-d willing), I'll be a grandfather. To say that my life is full would be an understatement. And yet, do you know what I got to do today...I got to play baseball. Get a life? My friends, this is the life!
So, whatís going on in the league? Jada has just regained 1st place (again), seesawing with WC for the past couple of months. The Miracle Marv'les team is two games ahead of Bubba's in 3rd place but Bubba's is on a roll and may steal 3rd place as early as this Sunday. However, letís take a closer look at each team and again, make some predictions.
1st Place: Jada
Since July 19th, Jada has played two games, losing to Bubba's and defeating Samet (although prior to this period, Jada won eight straight games; what a team!). Over the next week, Jada is scheduled to play Merockdim, Samet and Marv'les. With a 73% Win Percentage, I should bet on Jada to win. However, I'm not a betting man and both Merockdim and Marv'les still have something to prove. I believe that Jada is going to have their hands full over the next few games and if Samet can hit the batting cages and tweak their batting order, they will also give Jada a run for their money.
On Sunday, Jada plays Samet again at 6:00 p.m. Rumor has it that Captain Samet is rallying his troops in hope of finding a playoff spot. If there was ever a time to put their best foot forward, this is it. No holds barred!
2nd Place: Westrock/Chai
Well, WC is on a three game winning steak, although it will be 2.5 weeks since the team last played (assuming that we don't get rained out on Wednesday against Merockdim, which is probably too much to ask for considering the weather forecast). So, more likely, WC will face off against Merockdim this Sunday at 11:15 a.m. after a three week hiatus (simply ridiculous).
As I've stated in earlier blogs, WC was having a great deal of trouble with inconsistent hitting and scoring patterns and it was driving me nuts. Attempting to cure this issue, I took measures to film my team batting during an actual game so that we could learn from our mistakes. The following is an email that I sent to my team addressing this issue:
(End of email)
By the way, this stuff really works. There is no better way to discern what you are doing wrong than to see yourself blow it on tape. I intend to continue these measures until each of my players reaches his full batting potential. Am I nuts? Probably! But my players love it and appreciate my extra efforts to help them improve their game.
During our last game against Framing, we tried something new regarding our batting order. We seemed to be onto something since we scored virtually every inning of the game. If we can successfully continue this strategy for the remainder of the regular and post season, each of our competitors are going to have a very hard time with us.
3rd Place: Marv'les
So, what have the Signmakers been up to? They demolished the Framers on July 27th, lost to Sterling on July 19th, lost to Merockdim on July 7th, and defeated Samet on July 5th. So, it's been a mixed bag for Sam and the Miracle Marv'les Team. In regards to Marv'les upcoming games, they face Bubba's this Sunday and 1st place Jada on Tuesday, August 11th.
This is how I see things coming together...Marv'les is playing an 8:00 p.m. game this Sunday which should provide Sam the opportunity to compile his most formidable player assets. If he does this, Marv'les stands a fighting chance against Bubbas. However, if Sam makes his roster for this Sunday from his heart (instead of his head), Marv'les is going to lose and Bubba's will take 3rd place. Well, curious minds want to know what Sam intends to do. Personally, I would like to bury Sam's heart at Wounded Knee. Knowing Sam, he has other ideas.
In regards to Tuesday's game against Jada, if Marv'les has the talent available to make it happen, I believe that the Signmakers can lower the boom on Jada (who have a heavy playing schedule over the next few days and stand to become worn out).
4th Place: Bubba's
Bubba's is the shooting star of the RJSL and they continue their meteoritic climb in the standings with their win tonight against the Framers. With a four game winning streak (having defeated Samet, the Framers twice and 1st place Jada), Bubba's has certainly pulled it together. Gone are the mental mistakes, fielding errors, inconsistent attendance and the meltdowns which all contributed to Bubba's very weak performance at the beginning and middle of the season. Today, we discern a transformed Bubba's who play very tight and well coordinated defense, maintain a sound athletic acuity and push the envelope better than any team in the league.
My prediction for Bubba's game against Marv'les this Sunday is that Bubba's will take the W as well as 3rd place. However, a week later, Bubba's and Marv'les face off again for a 9:15 a.m. game. This is a tough time slot for Bubba's and the Signmakers may just win 3rd place back.
5th Place: Merockdim
Well, Merockdim was on a roll until they faced the Framers on July 20th and were defeated. If the weather holds, Merockdim will play 2nd place WC on Wednesday, 1st place Jada on Thursday, WC again on Sunday and then Sterling on Monday. That is one very difficult week for any team, but facing the top teams in the league as well as Sterling who "Must Win" if they want a shot at a playoff spot may be more than Merockdim asked for.
An additional consideration is the tenacity and durability of Daivd Sobel. He is the Campers one true pitcher and at what point is his arm going to become ineffective? Anyone else that pitches for Merockdim will essentially be pitching batting practice to the best teams in the RJSL. It's a sobering prospect that Captain Effy is going to have to analyze as he attempts to keep his team in 5th place. I think that it is going to be a bloody week for the Campers, but they have surprised me before.
6th Place: Framing
Framing has moved up a notch from 7th to 6th place. That is certainly progress, but more is needed and I believe that Framing has a lot more to offer. Yes, there are some weak spots. The third base corridor must be strengthened with a player yielding fielding and throwing competency. First base has also been showing signs of wear, and a viable replacement may be in order. I think that the Framer's outfield would be best served with a four across fielding strategy. This way some of the weaker fielders can be supported by the stronger ones. Captain Avi must also insist that some of his better talent show up for more games, particularly as the end of the regular season nears. And finally, the Framers need the right man for the right defensive position. Don't place a second basemen on third base, or first base for that matter.
Offensively, Framing is finally starting to come into their own. They are making progress scoring runs and hitting the ball well. This is so important in order to make a comeback. I believe, coupled with a prudent defensive strategy, Framing will be back on track.
7th Place: Samet
Samet must begin to hit. It's that simple. Defensively and in regards to their pitching, Samet is on the money. But this team cannot hit to save their lives right now and until this problem is resolved, Samet will remain down for the count.
Personally, I think that Samet has to do two things to rectify their hitting problem. For starters, Samet is no longer having fun playing baseball. The level of tension and anxiety is so great that everyone is choking at the plate. This has to stop right now! Go out there and have a good time. Thank G-d we all have day jobs so take some nice easy swings and just get the ball out of the infield. With a little practice, you will start tearing the covers off the balls just like the old days. Next, completely redo your batting order. There are guys who are getting on base and there are players who are getting the RBI's. Size these dynamics up from your team statistics and compile a batting order that will score you runs consistency throughout the game. Listen to Steve Romer, the league know it all!
8th Place: Sterling
All that I can tell you guys is that if you are going to make a move, my suggestion is that you do it right now. Otherwise, I'm going to have to reconsider if I know who you are anymore. I'm not even sure if you know who you are anymore. Chaim, whatever you are planning on doing, run with it and may the force be with you.
In the meantime, lets