Thursday, January 19, 2012

Things to Know About Baseball Subconsciousness

Baseball is a long game with significant periods of inaction. When a ball is put into play, the play might last three seconds on a quick line drive or as long as 15 seconds on a play involving several throws. However, between those plays are long periods where players can think about what has happened in the game, what will happen next in the game or why something didn't happen in a game. This can keep a player from concentrating on the task at hand and cause slumps and poor play.
Hitting Issues
Swinging the bat and making contact with the ball is largely a matter of practice and developing muscle memory. Ted Williams is often referred to as the best hitter in baseball history and he said the task of putting a round bat on a round ball and doing it consistently was the most difficult thing to do in sports. The best players hit .300, which means they fail seven times out of every 10 at bats. However, hitters can go through hot streaks and slumps. When a hitter slumps, he can study his swing and try to figure out what is going wrong. Instead of seeing the ball come out of the pitcher's hand and reacting to it, many thoughts are racing through the hitter's brain and he is thinking instead of hitting. This can make a slump last longer for some hitters, who become so overwhelmed by a slump that they lose their ability to hit the baseball hard for long periods.
Fielding Issues
Some baseball players will develop poor habits throwing the ball and find that it is impossible to make a simple throw from point A to point B. One of the most well-known examples of this was former Dodger second baseman Steve Sax, who suddenly lost the ability to throw accurately from second base to first on a ground ball. This is one of the easiest throws in the game, but Sax developed a case of the "yips" in 1983 and started to struggle with this throw and the problem continued at various points in his career. This problem also afflicted former All-Star Chuck Knoblauch while he played with the New York Yankees.
Pitching Problems
Pitchers face their own issues. The key to any pitcher's effectiveness is command and control when on the mound. Command means being able to throw each pitch in his repertoire with effectiveness. Control means being able to get that pitch over the plate. However, some pitchers will lose their ability to command and control their pitches. In 1971, Steve Blass was an effective pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates who won a key World Series game over the Baltimore Orioles. By 1973, he could no longer get the ball over the plate. He had no physical injuries, yet his ability to throw the ball over the plate disappeared and he appeared to be lost on the mound. He was never able to regain his form and his career ended in 1975.
Team Issues
A subconscious problem can exist for a team and not just a player. Sometimes jinxes exist in the collective minds of an organization and can result in a feeling of failure or a black cloud that exists over a franchise. The Red Sox were afflicted by the "curse of the Bambino" for many decades while the Cubs have had to live with the dreaded "Billy Goat Curse" for years as well. When the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, Ruth allegedly placed a curse on the Red Sox saying that they would never win a World Series again. The Red Sox did not win a World Series after their 1918 victory until 2004. The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 after goat owner Sam Sianis was refused admittance to Wrigley Field with his goat and allegedly cursed the franchise because of this slight.

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