These are the things that dreams nightmares are made of. This Phillies – Brewers series has thus far been a horror show of epic proportions. I awoke at 3am yelling, “How do you miss a routine ground ball?” I thought, whew, just a bad dream. And then I remembered, it wasn’t just a dream.
This does beg the question, how does a veteran major league player miss a routine ground ball? Sure, no one is perfect, stuff happens, etc… But this “stuff” is happening at an alarming rate. The Phillies have 5 errors in 2 games and that doesn’t include the many, many other mistakes made that do not have a place to be recorded in the box score.
For instance, a pitcher gets ahead of batter with a 0-2 count. He then proceeds to walk the guy. How does that happen? Just ask Antonio Bastardo. Even the Boogeyman, who spends weeks or months hiding under beds, has had better days.
Just as scary, both Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, two of the more veteran guys and biggest salaries on the team, both booted bouncing ground balls yesterday. But how often does a ground ball take a weird hop? Answer: All the time! A major league player should be able to handle this.
As I write this, I realize it is very early in the season and all that. Still, even this small handful of games is telling of a larger issue. Even manager Ryne Sandberg admits, “We talk about some of the plays being routine, but we haven’t been making too many of the routine plays lately.” So, why is that?
Sandberg preaches fundamentals and fielding practice. All of that is nice, but a guy who has been a professional baseball player for many years knows fundamentals. The issue is focus and execution. Why have these veteran players lost their focus, which then leads to a lack of execution? Are their pockets so heavy now that they lack incentive to concentrate? I think that is a fair question.
There are exceptions, of course. When Ben Revere smashed his face into the wall on Tuesday and dropped a fly ball, he did not show a lack of effort. He looked towards the fence for a second and lost the ball. I never see a lack of effort from Revere, as was witnessed during two diving attempts in Wednesday’s game, one of which was a spectacular, highlight reel catch. He dropped the second one, but clearly put forth maximum effort and focus.
This doesn’t mean other guys aren’t trying. They just do not try as hard and are not as invested in each individual play. In short, they are a bit too laid back. This is a big problem.
Think about your own job. There are days you give full effort and other days where you do not feel like doing much. If you work in an office, this probably doesn’t hurt anyone. But if you have a job where other people depend on you, this is a recipe for disaster. If I am a surgeon performing my fourth surgery of the day and I feel a bit tired and do just enough to get by with patient #4, bad things can happen.
Baseball is not brain surgery, obviously. But one person’s actions can affect their teammates and the outcome of the game. If someone wants to pay me millions of dollars to file papers in an office, you can be assured I am going to be the best, most organized filing machine that ever lived. And it won’t even matter if anyone else is affected. I would be singularly motivated by just the fact that someone was willing to pay me top dollar for my services. I worry that not everyone on this Phillies team feels the same way. And no amount of practice is going to cure that problem.