“The Stride” : Totally Impertinent to a Productive Baseball Swing!

The first metaphysical component to the perfect swing of a baseball bat is the ability to inhibit one’s own personal proclivity to attack the oncoming pitched ball with direct linear force. The psychological tendency to meet an attacker head-on, with equal force, in order to counteract an over-powering momentum, most often imposes an obliteration effect that can prove unproductive in either direction.

The batter, when encountering the power of a 90 to 100 mph fastball, does not want to be intimidated by what could be an overwhelming force of speed. So he seems magnetically drawn in the direction from which the ball is coming, to offset somewhat the intent of the oncoming projectile. Figuratively, attacking the ball is attacking the opponent (pitcher) who threw it. The linear movement in the direction from which the ball is coming can give only an illusory sense of contrived confidence and facilitation to deploy a resourceful counterattack. Since the first incidence of an actual counterattack cannot proceed until the front foot plants itself to the ground, the airborne foot only creates a factor of vulnerability to the batter whose visual acuity is already substantially distorted by any movement of the head and eyes that automatically occurs as the body lunges forward.

All Big-League pitchers either consciously or unwittingly ascribe to the famous quote attributed to Hall of Fame Pitcher, Warren Spahn: “It is the objective of every batter to establish an unobtrusive rhythm of momentum in order to ‘time’ and hit the pitched ball with maximum efficiency; while it is the Pitcher’s goal to upset that rhythm so the batter has difficulty in ‘timing’ the pitch and hitting the ball with ‘authority’”.

It is incumbent upon every batter to establish a rhythm in order to gain a sense of momentum to counteract the force of speed and power elicited by the throwing action of the pitcher’s body and arm before he can effectively initiate his swing. The most common prelude to any batter’s swing (professional or non-professional) is the usually-accepted “stride”. This stride can be utilized in a fashion either linear (straight-forward) or eliptical (front knee kick).Mickey Mantle 1Mickey Mantle 2RodriguezAlex 1

In the two photos of Mickey Mantle (above)it can be observed that he sometimes took a stride of about 2 feet, and was quite a notable bats-man who struck out a lot. Within the 50 or so years since Mantle and other former Baseball dignitaries graced the Major-League playing fields, new theories for greater batting prowess have evolved that would try to lessen the margins for error in swinging the bat, to diminish the strike out rate that the “long-stride” seemed to perpetuate.

The “high-leg kick” (like A-Rod, above) was an attempt at stabilizing the “head-from-moving” while still providing enough rythmic momentum to initiate the batter’s timing mechanism. The front foot would not stride out (as Mantle’s did) but simply relocate to the point from which it began. And, from there the action of swing could be initiated while the head and eyes remained relatively stable.

The swing itself cannot begin until the front foot has planted into the ground. And there have been many times when a batter’s foot was still in stride as the ball was in a position to be swung at. Or the foot was urgently planted a lot earlier than appropriate for swinging at the pitch. In either event the batter’s timing was adversely affected by the “stride”, from which he was too early or too late. Also, the stride, whether linear or eliptical, moves the body, which moves the head which contains the eyes which would see the ball (as clearly as possible). The only solution from which to eliminate or diminish substantially the “margin for error” that depreciates a batter’s vision and timing  effectiveness is the “No-Stride”.

If a batter would “not-stride” he would eliminate the most detrimental margin of error in the complicated network of proficient “bats-man-ship”—seeing the ball with optimal acuity. Even if the distance and abruptness of the stride are negligible, keeping the head and eyes perfectly still is virtually impossible while the body is traversing any number of vertical planes. A single degree of movement would negate the level of efficiency to that same extent and nullify perfect acuity. If a batter could entertain the prospect of hitting .400, he would certainly have to reduce the margins of error with regard to all aspects of mental and physical procedures, of which optimal seeing is a top priority.

The problem that all batters face is their own reluctance to understand that the stride is not necessary for applying a forceful front foot plant just prior to the swing itself. It is merely a matter of mental and physical conditioning to attain the proper foot-plant to negotiate the swing. First, mentally recognizing the good prospect of the “non-stride”, then physically practicing the reaction-time sequence of maximum effort and movement ultimately will acclimate the batter to a higher proficiency level.

The “non-stride” entails a number of components that, if not considered equally important to each other, affect the integrity of the batting mechanism. But to understand the legitimacy of the non-stride is the first step in patiently conquering the .400 barrier.

Without a stride the batter can be assured of the best possible visual acuity for tracking the in-coming pitch.

The following conditioning sequence will facilitate a habit-forming regimen to accommodate the essential training needed to begin the conquest of stagnant hitting deficiency.

4-STEP HITTING DRILL: (This should be done without a bat first, then with a bat after total DSC_0119DSC_0120DSC_0121DSC_0122DSC_0123coordination has been mastered.)

 

Step 1 – Assume a position of maximum strength and balance. Get as low a stance as to not feel too uncomfortable, with feet spread at the distance of your normal stride. (Remember, a low stance gives you a natural advantage of a smaller strike zone as well as a fundamental posture for stronger and quicker movement. If you understand the value of this “principle,” any physical discomfort you seem to have with a low stance will diminish as your body becomes acclimated through repetition and positive results.) Then begin the repetition of the entire hip-shoulder “weight-transfer,” step by step. Repeat five attempts focusing on the straightening of the front leg, by pushing down hard on the front foot with the feeling of pushing your body backward. If the body does actually fall backwards, off balance, your back foot and bent knee are not doing what are required of them.

Step 2– Focus on the action of the back leg. With a low stance, as you assume that the transfer of weight is imminent, drive the back bent-knee forward with force, rotating from the outside of the big toe of the back foot. Focus on maintaining a bent back leg during the simulation, but be conscious of the other three stages (especially the front leg).

Step 3—Focus on front shoulder action. As front foot is planting, be focused on how forcefully you can shrug and pull the front shoulder up and backward. If the movement feels weak, it’s probably because the hips did not initiate the action.

Step 4—Focus on back shoulder and elbow. When the front shoulder shrugs, the back shoulder (with elbow) automatically lowers. The muscles of the Pectoral (in chest) and Latissimus (in back) areas drive the elbow down and forward ahead of the top hand. The hand is thus in a palm-up position to force a flat bat through the ball. So focus on the backside of the upper body coming through. But be conscious that the front side seems to be initiating the action.

After these four steps have been mastered, use a bat and go through them again, using a batting tee until mastery is attained. After that, go through the same procedure, this time combining step one with step two, and step three with step four, making it a two-step drill. (Then, step two with step four, and step one with step three.)DSC_0125DSC_0126DSC_0128DSC_0129DSC_0130

Remember, you are working to see how fast you can complete the entire action “perfectly”. Only perfect practice will make perfect, so perform the drills at full speed with the expectation of reacting faster as the mechanics of the swing are perfected. Eventually you can move the tee to cover all the areas of the strike zone. Remember also, to assure that the head not move, refrain from taking a stride—you really don’t need it anyway if you perfect the “four step” drill.

Also Remember: When assuming your stance, always have the front foot pointed at a 120 degree angle (or slightly less)to the pitcher, not a 90 degree angle (or less) which many batters assume because they have been told that it will keep their front hip and shoulder from opening too quickly. The front foot, at a 120 degree angle, will allow the weight transfer during the swing to be more accommodating to the front knee, ankle, and foot joints. While, at 90 degrees or less, the tension on the front foot, ankle, and knee can have a dire affect on the ligaments and tendons while the body is twisting and turning on its rotating axes. Harold Baines and Ryan Howard can attribute their knee and ankle problems, as well as their erratic batting proficiency, to the extremely awkward front foot positioning in their stances (and plant). Just look at the front foot positioning of outstanding hitters such as Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, to validate the proper transfer of weight during the swing.Ted Williams (feet in stance)joe-dimaggio-s-legs-in-batting-stance-at-home-plate

 

Coming Soon: Perfect Timing is Key to Perfect Batting!

 

 

Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay: Why do Two Illustrious Careers have to End Prematurely?

Why did Nolan Ryan’s career last 26 years, a time that allowed him to set countless records while staying  relatively free from injury? And why is it that Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander seemed to have been headed for Baseball immortality but suddenly sidestepped “legendary” expectations?

All 3 of the aforementioned pitchers were outstanding athletes, who sustained their great physical conditions with vigorous and energetic work habits. All of the above applied to their lower bodies what could be said as “proper mechanics” for pitching. But, of the 3, only Nolie took advantage of proper “Upper-body” mechanics to facilitate the most effortless, efficient, and powerful delivery of the pitched ball.

It is only a matter of subtle margins of error that separate the great from the greater or greatest, especially when it comes to longevity and freedom from injury. Two schools of opposing thought would insist that a thrower of a baseball has either, “a limited amount of repetitious competitive throws, and then decline is a certainty”; while the other would say that, “when the margins for error are reduced to the barest minimum with a technique of proper mechanical precision, a thrower could expect to  repeat the throwing action of a 5 ounce baseball to his maximum intensity indefinitely while his body and arm are conditioned to offset the effects of mental and physical fatigue”.

The following photos of Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay are perfect depictions of at least one “margin-of-error” that undoubtedly contributed to their relative declines in pitching prowess over the years.  Attributes to their successes were the unrelenting “work-habits” both espoused, in order to keep their bodies and arms in shape over the relatively long careers at the tops of their game. Unfortunately for both, the mechanical technique, that each had fostered and attributed to his relative success, is the actual “weak-link” in the otherwise masterful display of pitching dominance that finally ended with undue strain to the shoulder.

Roy_Halladay1Roy_Halladay3verlander2Verlander1

To borrow a quote from my Book, The Principle of Baseball…, the “axiom” that fits perfectly for both of these magnificent athlete-pitchers is: “The farther away the ball moves from the body, as the arm is preparing to throw it, the heavier the weight will be to the strain of the shoulder (and elbow). As the ball is being prepared for its launch from the thrower’s hand it should remain as close as possible to the ‘Body-Proper’, while the arm is ‘whipping’ itself to the forward thrusting position. (Nolan Ryan is the best exponent of this ‘principle’.)

NolanRyan 13Nolan-Ryan 1Nolan-Ryan 3Nolan Ryan 8nolan-ryan 5Nolan Ryan 4nolan-ryan 15

The weight-bearing excess that both Halladay and Verlander have displayed over the years has finally taken its toll, and while it is probably too late for Halladay to make a “come-back”, it is certainly not too late for Verlander to change his delivery and eliminate that one particular “margin-of-error” that would contribute to a severe reduction of his former premier pitching status.

Anyone with a “sense” of mechanical propriety could not but notice the excessive weight-bearing strain on the shoulder of Roy Halladay in the following two photos:

Roy_Halladay2Roy_Halladay5 Verlander’s delivery is identical.

But, look at the less weight-bearing position of the bent-elbow positions of Nolie, Randy Johnson (who, by the way, was tutored by Nolan), and Curt Schilling:

Nolan Ryan 2Randy J 15Randy J. 13C.Schilling 12

 

That’s All I Have to Say ’bout That”

 

 

 

The ONLY Practical Way for M.L.B. to Eliminate the “Bean-Ball”!

mean baseball face

My favorite television station is MLB. It is on almost continuously when I am at home. I enjoy the commentary of all the “main-players”, Greg, Brian, Matt, Tom, Kenny, Harrold, Dan, Al, Joel, Billy, Sean, and of course Heidi and other outstanding female analysts (Where have Mitch and Alana been?). And Bob Costas is certainly appreciated, leading the  discourse in “Round-Table” discussions and private interviews.

It is always interesting to me when the topic of any discussion borders on “unbecoming behavior” that is either justified by the staff’s ex-ball-players and vilified by non-ball-players, or categorically criticized in specific situations by x-ball-players and unquestionably condemned on principle by the “non-jocks”. There is no discussion that comes under higher scrutiny and vigorous discussion than that area of Baseball mystique known as the “bean-ball” – the deliberate intent of a pitcher to administer to a batter the bludgeoning effect of his best “fast-ball” to any part of the batter’s body, without any conscious concern for the well-being of that person’s body nor the possible affect the damage could have on the career of the afflicted player. The “jocks” on the Staff almost always contend that “It’s” just part of the Game, but, under any particular circumstance, will amend their bias with a softened response, for fear they will be thought of as ultra-insensitive to the public outcry that most certainly would not agree with them.

The analysts like Greg, and Brian, Jon, and Matt who empathize with the most typically “cautionary” fans (especially kids) find that any degree of flagrant “un-sportsman-ship” as totally disrespectful, not only to the the Sport of Baseball itself and Its common (but sometimes unwitting)representative(s), but to “man-kind” in general. The “new-wave” Sports Connoiseur of this modern era is becoming more appreciative of the active role that Major-League Baseball has taken to assure that both the fans and players are not denied their inalienable right of unopposed security at ball-games whenever and wherever it is conceivably possible. When fights break out (often because of pitcher/batter altercations)pac_1, M.L.B. administrators are quick to penalize the most blatant of personnel aggressiveness. Those culprits displaying the most offensive of battery attacks are severely reprimanded. “Sucker-punches”  and other blatantly violent actions are particularly frowned upon. But, even this “un-sports-man-like” behavior still persists because the reactions don’t usually have a direct impact on the outcome of the game. So, the Game goes on, and no solution seems to be fast-coming to stop the “bean-ball”. The cavalier attitude that many players and x-players seem to posture is hard to fathom by other more-sympathetic ex-players, and “analysts” who  would never knowingly place themselves in a position of being hit (anywhere on their bodies) by a hard, 5-ounce, round projectile traveling at a speed between 90 to 100 MPH. It’s not easy for “sane” people to understand some aspects of the “hard-nosed” baseball mentality. Are those individuals who think the “bean-ball” should remain as part of the game simply CRAZY, or just plain STUPID? Has it become so ingrained in their collective psyche, that the prospect of being bludgeoned by that blunt instrument so beloved by countless participators of the art of surviving close encounters, that the joy of overcoming the pain and tissue-damage is worth it? Walk into any baseball locker-room as the players are dressing into their uniforms and accessory equipment and you’ll see bumps and bruises, fresh or festering, that are reminiscent of bad-hop grounders or incidental mishaps from grazed pitches innocently gone awry. The most striking, of course, are those deeply darkened bruises that sink into the lower reaches of bodily tissue that stem from being hit deliberately by a 95 mile an hour fastball. The bodily flesh of “Big-Papi” and Andrew McCutchen would certainly bear witness to such atrocities. Bones have been broken or chipped, concussions have occurred, rib-cartilage has been separated, Star athletes have been disabled, and still M.L.B. has not found a platform from which to mount an aggressive curtailing of such fierce and unrelenting indignities to the Sport of Baseball.

Greg, Brian, Matt, Jon, and “others” are constantly implying that the Game has changed and is continually changing for the better. And it appears that their patience and passive resistance to ossified “baseball mentality” will ultimately prevail as the “old-school- dinsaurs” are replaced by the clarity of enlightened and hospitable thinkers. The “Bean-ball” has always been part of the Game; but there is no legitimate reason for it to remain. No one really wants it. The problem is that no one can figure out a reasonable and responsible way to get rid of it. The well-respected and recent Hall-of-Fame inductee, Tony LaRussa recently inflamed the issue by justifying the actions of the Arizona Diamond-Backs’ deliberate attack on Andrew McCutchen because of what accidentally happened to the Diamond-backs Paul Goldsmidth. His main point was that it made no difference as to pure intent, but that both players were side-lined indefinitely. Most people are incensed by what might be construed as to his callous indifference to the “Rightness and the Wrongness” in the individual cases. Not even Tony’s litigious expertise will vindicate his argument to public opinion. But his main point must be considered deeply. Any pitcher, who insists on coming in tight to a batter, may simply accidentally hit a batter (like Goldsmidth). Even the Diamond-back pitchers do this. It is impossible to regulate. So a real practical solution seems impossible!  Right!

Nothing is impossible in Baseball. And the MLB Commissioner’s Office has the ultimate power to  implement rule changes that can improve the quality of play, and every aspect of the Game. It has utilized this power many times already. The ONLY-ONLY-ONLY way  to stop this prevalent and “most-egregious” and  disrespectful act of “Baseball-Vengeance” is to allocate to a batter, who is struck with direct force  by one of a pitcher’s fastest thrown balls (not change-ups, curve balls, Knukle balls), 2 bases and not just 1 base.

The reason that this will stop the “bean-ball”, and even the accidental mishap, is because it will put the actual game in jeopardy, and not merely the bats-man. The pitcher without pin-point control is going to think twice about coming inside. The team who still harbors a sense of retribution is going to have to wait until his team is either winning or losing by 10 runs in late innings in order to feed its archaic sense of satisfaction. If a batter is wearing “batting armor” on his elbow or arm, and it is obvious that he incurred no bodily injury, or if the ball simply grazed any other part of the body, then the umpire would award the batter one base only. It is a simple accommodation to a batter and a team. There is no legitimate reason for not enacting this kind of rule. Also, recently our celebrated analysts have been discussing ways that stimulate the hitters in Major-League Baseball to enhance there batting prowess. This rule would certainly afford batters a little more confidence, and at least marginally improve their productivity. Run production should increase – with bases loaded, a solidly hit batman would drive in two runs. Even with no one on base, a hit bat-man is placed in scoring position. Is any defensive team willing to risk such a scenario. Even the Diamond-backs would find themselves contemplating the consequence. Hopefully their Organization will not pursue a way to circumvent the intent of the “Law”.

Is Chris Davis the Next Barry Bonds (without steroids)? (Or Do We Look for Another?) – Part 3 of 3

2001-10-05-bonds homerun-follow throughBarry Bonds 11Mark McGwire 6Chris Davis 3Chris Davis 4

 

Anyone who was able to observe the physical transformation that took place “within” the bodies of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds (not to mention the countless others presumed to have taken Performance Enhancing Drugs) would have to (at least) admire the “intelligent dedication” that it must have taken to re-form those bodies with such symmetrical precision. Most on-lookers could hardly hold back personal desires to look that good in a baseball uniform. But, of course, now understanding the fraudulent manner in which “exaggerated power” was extracted from those bodies, most people (especially “baseball people”) disengage themselves from remarks or comments validating the natural abilities of those who may have enhanced their prowess by using P.E.Ds.

It’s hard to say whether, or not, Sammy Sosa would have attained “immortal” status in the world of Baseball had he gone the “Natural” route to stardomSammy Sosa2, but it is a good bet that both McGwire and Bonds would have become Baseball “Legends” under the auspices of their own physical and mental accoutrements. McGwire hit 49 Home Runs in the first Major-League season, with a body, while sturdy and powerful, far less muscularly ostentatious than “Ozark IKE” or “Lil’ ABNER”. Mark Mcgwire 4 And Bonds, during the 1990s, and weighing in at 185 lbs,Barry Bonds Pirates 1992 (2) Barry Bonds Pirates 1992Barry Bonds Pirates 1992 (4)was the most prolific hitter in Baseball. And at the times that it is presumed each began taking steroids, they each incurred numerous bouts on the disabled lists while coping with the effects of the somewhat inexact science of artificially enhanced muscle development.

Although most “unscientific-minds” would accredit both McGwire’s and Bond’s successes with the use of P.E.Ds, they would be correct only in the categories as to the distances of their Home Runs and to those few home-runs that barely cleared the fence. For when they made good contact with their bats, the ball was going out, with or without steroids. The main reason for their successes was undoubtedly their consistent practice of proper mechanics, with a scientific approach to hitting a baseball. There is no telling how good they would have been without steroids, but less injuries probably would have occurred without P.E.Ds.

That player who is closest to replicating the prowess of Bonds and McGwire (without steroids) is Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles. The ONLY thing he needs to do is get rid of his Shawn Green Tall and Opened stance – Chris Davis (Stance)Shawn Green 3

When the  pitch is delivered, he glides toward the plate and sets himself in perfect position. Chris Davis 3Unfortunately for him, it is too late to see the ball and follow it with exact precision. Barry and Mark, would have been set as the ball was leaving the pitchers’ hand, heads still, while unobtrusively “gathering” the momentum of the body to explode rapidly as the front foot planted firmly into the ground. (Nothing can  happen until the front foot is planted, so why have it suspended for any uncertain time.)The back bent knee would drive forward as the front shoulder shrugged upward to start the flattening bat to proceed with the “turnstile” rotation of hips and shoulders. The front leg would straighten as the back-side momentum carried the weighted force along the twisting horizontal plane, the arms bringing the bat through the strike-zone with as much precision as the still but penetrating eyes could design.

Bonds -stanceBarryBonds_bat flatMark McGwire 3Mark McGwire 6

 

If Chris Davis would start from this position Chris Davis 3, but avoid the stride completely, he would be more ready for any pitch thrown to him. Then he would simply plant his front foot, and let the rest of his swing occur in its otherwise majestic sequence. C.Davis 7Chris Davis 4Chris Davis 2Chris Davis 1 With his natural power ( not needing to be steroid enhanced) Chris is the front-runner to legitimately replicate the Bonds’ mystique and carve out a niche in Baseball’s legendary “Hall of Heroes”. But only if he changes his false-impression of “proper hitting technique”! He must incorporate a new stance, and approach to the ball with thought-processes and actions of the scientific application of the proper batting mechanics practiced most consistently by Barry, and Mark (the vanguard to such scientific-artistry being attributable  to Ted WilliamsTedWilliamsShortSwing2).

Bonds -stanceBarryBonds_bat flatbonds - contact 2Barry Bonds 17Barry Bonds 21Mark McGwire 5Mark McGwire 1Chris Davis 4

 

It would be a shame if Chris Davis follows in the foot-steps of Shawn Green and fails to fulfill his Baseball Destiny. Chris, “’tis but a little thing, Dropped in the heart’s deep well; The good, the joy that it may bring, Eternity shall tell”.

Coming Soon: The ONLY practical way for M.L.B. to stop the “Bean-ball”!

Why Shawn Green was not the Next Ted Williams! Part 2 of 3

During his 14 year Major-League career Shawn Green looked as though he could have been destined to become the next Ted Williams. He was a left-handed hitter, tall, slender, with features closely resembling those of Williams, including remarkable strength, quickness of bat, and fluidity of movement that Ted exhibited. williams.bat (1)He may even have had his keen eyesight.

If Shawn had ever thought of himself as a possible replication of the “Immortal” Williams, it was never evident in his own style of bats-man-ship – his approach to the ball. Shawn Green 3TedWilliamsShortSwing2

And that stance and approach to the ball are what prevented him from becoming the  “next Ted Williams”!

Although Shawn displayed every recognizably natural, physical attribute of Mr. Williams, he did not have the willingness (good sense) to  attempt to duplicate the scientifically sound mechanics that Ted practiced with profound consistency, beginning with his stance. Shawn Green was an outstanding ball-player both offensively and defensively. He even hit 4 Home Runs in one game. But the ultimate success that he would have achieved could only have come had he abandoned his “High- Opened” stance, the irony of which he accredited to the minimum success he was able to achieve.Shawn Green 2

As I have elaborated on in previous essays, the 3 most detrimental habits or propensities that a batter can display while trying to hit a baseball are:

1. Standing Tall – This creates greater strike-zone for the pitcher to negotiate, a high center of gravity to diminish the batter’s speed with which to negotiate the subtleties of the pitched ball, and diminished visual acuity for following the ball that is transcending countless horizontal planes into the lower portion of the strike-one.

2. Hands and Bat High – Even in a good crouch position the bat up high establishes a “higher” center of gravity as well as presents the batter with a nebulous sense of how to approach the pitched ball (e.g. Matt Kemp)Kemp Stance 7.  A pitch high and out of the strike zone sometimes looks too enticing to the hands and bat that are at its level. A middle level pitch is easy swing under. And a low pitch (the best prospect to hit well) can sometimes effect a “horse-shoe” swing.Matt Kemp 2

3. The “Stride” – Any stride at all is a deterrent to efficient hitting because the whole body moves. Mickey Mantle 1Mickey Mantle 2And with the body moves the head which houses visual mechanism for seeing the ball, and all its subtle  movements. But of the 3 types of deliberate strides, that one from an “opened stance” is the most egregious of all because the movement of head and eyes is toward home plate. Most batters, who adopt the open-stance, act with the false assumption that they see the ball more clearly because, as they begin their movement toward the plate, their faces and eyes are totally “frontal” to the pitchers’ delivery. Supposedly, if one eye is less dominant from the other, together and parallel they will see more clearly. Whether that is true, or not, as the body turns as to approach the plate and the ball, the eyes are “closed” again, with one in front of the other. So the strategy thus serves no practical purpose.

Batters in an open-stance can be successful for a while, because more pitchers can be under the false-assumption that such a batter is looking for the inside pitch, to pull. So their instincts tell them to keep the ball away. This type of batter’s momentum is generally going with the ball away, and hits it well. He will guess when a pitcher is going to come inside, and be ready. But after a while the good pitchers will understand this batter’s intentions and figure out how handle him properly. If the pitcher starts such a batter with inside “heat”, then works him slightly outside the strike-zone, then back to inside strikes, the batter will usually not be able to adjust to the variance effectively.

Shawn Green 3 As you might be able to surmise, this typical picture of Shawn Green at bat presents multiple “margins for error”. You can notice his large strike-zone in which to try to discern the greatest variance of pitches from top to bottom within the strike-one. Since he stood so  close to the plate, he covered the width of it very well. But, when gliding inward, pitchers started finding him extremely vulnerable to inside “heat”. He was always quick enough to get out in front of the fast-ball, but almost always pulled it foul (if he didn’t get “jammed”). Then, “soft-stuff” away caught him off-balance.

Most batters who stride don’t realize to what extent even the slightest  movement of the head and eyes has on the visual acuity for seeing most clearly a moving object. Plus, when the front foot is in the air, the batter has trouble putting it down at the right time (especially on off-speed pitches). Even catching a moving object while the body is in motion is difficult. Trained outfielders were not always adept at chasing and catching fly-balls. And catching a low throw while standing erect presents the same difficulty as hitting a ball from a high-stance. Imagine yourself with only a catcher’s mitt in hand, and standing erect behind home-plate while attempting to catch an Arnoldus Chapman knee-high fastball(105 MPH). Then imagine yourself Moving while trying to catch it. A catcher in a low, stable, and still position has difficulty catching it. So a batter in a high and moving approach to a pitched ball is always a detriment to his own best intentions. Exacerbated even further is the “high-opened-stance” and stride toward the plate.

Shawn Green, like all otherwise outstanding batters,  did not (and do not)realize that Baseball is more than “a game of inches”, as the traditional cliche implies, but rather “a game of milli-microns”, where the light of understanding is transcended in Science. The scientific logic that his approach was lacking legitimacy went beyond Shawn’s superficial testimony of sense that convinced him that his technique “felt good”. To his credit, Shawn was never a “bad-hitter”, he simply never attained the greatness that he could have experienced – the “next Ted Williams!

Ted Williams was probably the epitome of the “Ideal-Hitter.” He approached “hitting” from a scientific standpoint. T. Williams - Science 3Therefore, it wasn’t so much how he felt at the plate. It was how well he was following his understood principle that determined the outcome of his stroke, in most of his batting situations.si_ted-williams-science-2

To watch Ted at the plate one would become aware of the fact that the act of hitting a baseball efficiently is both an “Art” and a “Science”. Those who demonstrate a high degree of talent in any of the various art forms could easily be described as “artists”. There is adequate evidence to indicate that many or most good artists (of which athletes like Shawn Green are included) have a “natural” propensity toward the artisan-ship in which they are engaged. But their optimal level of proficiency is most often derived from the degree to which they accumulate enhanced understanding by means of scientific examination of all aspects of their chosen profession. Therefore, hitting a baseball most effectively would have to be construed as both an Art and a Science. And that is why it would be easy to remember this “Master of the Bat” for his scientific artistry in hitting a baseball.

Coming Soon: Is Chris Davis the Next Barry Bonds (without Steroids)? Part 3 of 3

 

 

 

There are no “Bad-Hitters” in Major-League Baseball: Part 1 of 3

Chris Davis 2Shawn Green 3Bonds -stanceSporting News MLB Baseball Collection

Every position-player in Big-League Baseball is, or has been, a “good-hitter”. This season (2014), as of July 19th, Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles has established his batting average of .200 as the lowest in Major League Baseball. Does that make him a “bad-hitter”? Just last season, he was vying for the American League M.V.P. Is he doing things at the plate this year that are completely different from last season? Not really! He is the same powerful left-handed hitter with a fluid and beautiful swing and picturesque follow-through that made his debut with the Orioles last season. Chris Davis 1But the pitchers last year, who had not familiarized themselves with his “margins-for-error” (except on rare occasions), let him claim dominion in their one-on-one confrontations.

This year, Davis’ same “margins-of-error” are still present, but someone has informed the other teams’ pitchers how to exploit that deficiency quotient to their advantages. (He still managed to hit 15 or 16 H.R.s, so they haven’t been perfect in their applications.) When Chris actually begins his swing at a pitched ball, he is down low, and his body facilitates the movement of hips, shoulders, hands, bat with majestic beauty and form.

Chris Davis 3Chris Davis 4

Unfortunately, all the preliminary and inessential movement that precedes his swing are what contribute greatly to his current batting deficiency.Chris Davis (Stance)

Since “margins-of-error” include mental as well as physical habits that detract from mechanical efficiency for batting prowess, both the pitchers’ and his mind-sets have been rearranged to favor the pitchers. Last year, his mental inclination to “look away” for both fast and breaking pitches (since his “open-stance” had him moving or leaning toward the plate), and respond quickly to a fast-ball on the inside or over the heart of the plate, proved itself as an effective strategy to compliment his positive physical attributes. This year, as the pitchers have found the “chinks” in his armor, his mental alertness is not as keen to detect the pitchers’ tendencies to “jam” him inside after they’ve induced him to foul both fast and breaking pitches away. His rhythm has been confused to the point of pulling the outside pitch for easy ground-balls to an over-shifted right-side of the infield, and is striking out on balls in the dirt. In his right mental attitude, he waits more patiently on the pitch moving away from him and goes with the pitch to the left side of the field.

Chris Davis could be the next “Barry Bonds” without steroids, C.Davis 7Barry Bonds 11just as Shawn Green Shawn Green 2could have been the next “Ted Williams”. ted_williams_ bat route

Chris has the raw-strength and majestically powerful swing of Bonds, while Shawn displayed, to a degree, the “splendid” finesse and wiry, slender grace and batting elegance of Williams. Unfortunately, at least one is harbinger to that inauspicious epithet of “greatness forlorn”. In Shawn Green’s day, Baseball didn’t have acute access to the Saber-metric approach to evaluating all the subtle accommodations to batting (as well as pitching) proclivities, so Shawn had a somewhat illustrious career until the “Book” came out on his simple deficiencies.

When he finished his career, after the Dodgers, in 2007, at age 34, he was still the same physical (and mental) specimen that he had been for years, strong, wiry, and potentially potent – His lone foible, his unwillingness to  change his approach to the pitched ball. He insisted (until the end) on Standing Tall, in Open-Stance, while gliding toward the plateShawn Green 3, even with all pitchers now jamming him with inside fast-balls, and catching him off-balance on soft pitches away. He could have been the Next Ted Williams!TedWilliamsShortSwing3

 

Coming Soon: Part 2 of 3 – Why Shawn Green wasn’t the next Ted Williams!

Major-League Batting Crisis? – 2014

According to M.L.B. Round-Table, Harrold, Tom, Bob, Al, and Michael Young have decided that Major-League hitters are experiencing a horrific decline in batting proficiency, and batting averages, slugging percentages, and run production, and prolific strike-outs are the evidence of this profuse deficiency. Our astute analysts are at a loss however for the cause of and the solution to the dilemma. Many speculative theories were brought to the table, but none were convincing enough to attach any credibility to the apparent conundrum. Lowering the pitching mound, or giving the batter 4 strikes, or allowing a particularly good hitter the opportunity to bat out of turn in the late innings to allow his team a better chance to score base-runners that would likely not be driven in by a lesser hitter, are not practical alternatives to naturally improving the offensive capabilities of all players on the team. Basically, all Major-League batters are “good-hitters”, but simply not consistent. On any given day, they look like potential “H.O.Famers”.Kemp Front AnkleBut more often they do not!Matt Kemp 2

It would be better for hitters if they had only 2 strikes, rather than 3 or 4. strike-outToo many hitters watch a first pitch fast-ball (the only pitch in a sequence they could have hit) be called for a strike, and then swing at balls in the dirt to strike out, after fouling off a few. Why give them 4 strikes? So they can take the first 2 pitches? And make a game last even longer? Rather than let any good hitter bat out of turn, it would be more reasonable to add a rule to allow a second Designated Hitter (once both Leagues have the standard D.H.) to bat for anyone (a “regular”), in the 7th, 8th, or 9th innings (and rest of the game), who may be having an unusually “bad day” at the plate. (Matt Stairs might have enjoyed longer career.) All this predicated, of course, on Pitchers not objecting to the additional burden placed on them.

It’s only a matter of time before the “dinosaurs” of the past glory will be replaced by the initiators of present and future ingenuity. The “Designated Hitter” was only the first in a series of innovative consequences to creative thinking that has heightened the prospect of enhancing the flavor of the game. Inter-league action, and Three-Division Play have subsequently stimulated increased fan-interest (and record-breaking attendance), and the ultimately exciting Pennant Races.

Baseball’s intelligentsia could do a better job with regard to rule changes that would not only improve the game’s image, but also increase the fans appreciation for its innately concise and productive allurement. Past attempts to pick up the Game’s pace have failed in a substantive way. Fans want action, not just a means to hurry-up the game. The “Big-Whigs” are missing the point by forcing the batters and pitchers to hurry-up, and allowing less prep-time. Also, enforcing the “high-strike”, to force batters to pop-up or strike-out, is not what the fans want to see. Let’s speed up the game in areas that have real downtime. Intentional walks, hit-bats-men, and pitchers working the batter carefully to the “full-count” are three areas that defeat the whole premise of fan-appreciation, and add to a batter’s inefficiency.

Nothing is more boring, especially to the fan, than watching a pitcher intentionally walk a batter on straight pitches. Not only that, but imagine how a fan feels, after having paid 30 Bucks to see Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, etc, etc, and a pitcher intentionally walks them every time up. What a waste of money, as well as time, energy, and talent! The “old guard” calls it strategy. It’s like the “Stall” that intelligent people of Basketball got rid of long ago. The Intentional Walk has no place in modern Baseball! Just think about future Home run records if players like Barry Bonds had an extra 200 at-bats with which to work? How do you legitimately stop the Intentional Pass? Any player who is walked on four straight pitches should be granted two free bases, not one! Give the fans something more to cheer about, not Booo about! Then watch the increase in “Run Production”.

The “left” hand of the unacceptable intentional walk is the ever-repulsive hitting of the batter, by a pitch thrown at the speed of 90 to 100 MPH! Many times, it could be a few minutes before the game is resumed, after the injured player is either deemed able to continue, or is taken out of the game. Some times, fights break out and it might take a lengthy time to restore order and resume the game, under a hostile atmosphere, not conducive to good sportsmanship!

If the umpire detects such a pitch to have hit a batter “squarely” with a “fastball” (instead of just a graze or a breaking pitch), the batter should be given two bases! Just think about how fan-friendly those two rules would affect the game, as well as bring out the best of the players. Batters can substantially reduce the “intimidation factor” that every hard-throwing pitcher has had in his arsenal, and the psyche of every batter will be restored to facilitate better hitting prowess.

With regards to forcing the batters to swing more, what would be wrong with changing the strike-ball ratio to two strikes you’re out, and three balls you walk? Now, so many batters take the first strike. Then, they’d be more inclined to swing at the first strike they see (like in batting practice). This way there would be fewer pitches thrown in a game. Games would go faster, but with minimum down time (more action), and pitchers might be able to better preserve their arms. This could have the effect of improving defensive readiness; thus the potential for outstanding plays by ever-alert fielders is considerable. (It is most unlikely that strike-outs will occur as readily as might be expected because batters will no doubt foul pitches off.) And batters would be more ready  to swing and hit the pitched ball.

All it takes is a little ingenuity to reinstate the Game of Baseball to its former status of untainted Glory (as we kids played it). These rules will help:

  1. Constructively speed up the pace.
  2. Two strikes, and you’re out.
  3. Three balls, and you walk to first, unless consecutively, then to second base.
  4. A squarely hit bats-man with a “fastball” receives two bases.
  5. Make the D.H. universally accepted in both leagues (who wants to see the pitcher bat—nowadays, he can’t even bunt properly, and he could hurt himself – e.g. Kevin Brown, A.J. Burnett, and countless others. bunting14 (Burnett)Bunting16(Burnett3)(And perhaps a second D.H. in late innings.)

If our “slow-to-respond-to-change”  Baseball Purists feel that these antics are still too premature to consider as respectable alternatives for improving M.L.B.’ current lack of offensive productivity, then perhaps the practical application of scientific reasoning to improve the aptitude of many of our current crop of hitters should be given utmost consideration in order to reduce the batting deficiency-quotient now presenting itself to Major-League Baseball and its Billions of fans. In all of my essays, the standard principle I employ to improve the batting proficiency of those players struggling in the doldrums of slumps or general inefficiency is to “reduce the margins for error”. A “margin for error” would simply be any physical or mental habit that, in some seemingly innocuous way, would detract or distract a batter from thinking or acting in a manner that would normally allow a natural flow of mechanical efficiency in swinging a bat to make solid contact with a pitched ball.

The five most obvious (ostentatious) deterrents to efficient bats-man-ship are:

  1. A High Stance (especially when “opened”)
  2. High Hands and Bat
  3. The Stride (or leg-kick)
  4. Hands held below the bat-handle
  5. Intimidation of Hard-Throwing Pitcher

As most ardent sports enthusiasts already know “hitting a baseball effectively is the single-most difficult act to perform in all of Sports”. Why? No other individual sport-skill encompasses the variety of challenging variables that a batter has to “put in order” to be a proficient “hitter.” Along with physical attributes of strength, flexibility, quickness, balance, and coordination, as well as the mental accoutrements of courage, confidence, determination, and fortitude, the proficient bats-man must ascribe to a technique of proper mechanics that facilitates the most probable means for making solid contact with a pitched baseball in what is considered an acceptable proportion of his “at-bats”.

In professional baseball, batting averages ranging from .300 to .399 are considered high quality hitting, with an annotation of “superlative” attached to those that exceed the .350 mark or flaunt with the barrier of .400. But most ball-players fall far short of consistent .300 – hitting prowess. Natural athletic ability does not seem preponderant in determining batting proficiency at the highest level. All batters seem to have their own individualistic style for expressing their highest hopes of masterful bats-man-ship.

There does not seem to be a standard approach (“techne”) that would be considered fundamental to the purpose of maximum efficiency in hitting a baseball. Some players stand tall; others crouch low. Some hold their hands and bat high, while others hold them low. Players address the “plate” in either an open, closed, or even stance. Most batters take a stride, either away, toward the plate, or toward the ball. They tend to push off the back foot while straightening the back leg as the weight is either trying to stay back or lunge forward. Some hitters think that maintaining even shoulders while swinging will facilitate a “level swing” for effective line-drive contact. Others perceive that by swinging downward onto the front part of the ball, the bat will effect a “back-spin” on the ball that will allow it to carry through the air longer and farther. Some batters cock their wrists back for extra power, and consider themselves “wrist-hitters” when they exhibit fast hands while rolling the bat through the ball quickly. Some batters maintain loose hands and wrists while they are swinging so that relaxed muscles will propel the bat more quickly through the strike zone. And still others (like Babe Ruth) squeeze the bat tightly, from start to finish, and rely on the speed and strength of the turning body to impact the bat onto the ball with a force to counteract the speed and power of the pitch. And some batters place the bottom hand below the handle of the bat while others “choke-up” on the bat at various levels.

From the contents of the preceding paragraph, is it possible to delineate the characteristics that might lead to the creation of what could be considered the quintessential professional bats-man? The answer is NO! Ten pronounced characteristics mentioned in the foregoing illustration enumerate the “margins of error” that exacerbate the promising intentions of all prominent prospects for batting excellence:

  1. A “Tall” stance creates a large and easy strike zone for the pitcher, as well as proposes a line of vision for the batter’s eyes that transcends countless horizontal planes in following the flight of the ball to the plate. Chris Davis (Stance)The eyes that will see the pitched ball most clearly are those that come as closely as possible to the level of the ball in flight. Also, the taller the stance, the higher the center-of-gravity, the weaker and slower the body’s action, the lesser the prospect for a most effective swing, especially at a low pitch.
  2. When the batter’s hands and bat are held above the shoulders and head, he unwittingly has created for himself a higher center-of-gravity, which for all practical purposes diminishes the leverage by which the maximum speed of the body can be facilitated in turning the hips and shouldersAlbert Pujols 8. A low stance, with bat and hands held Albert Pujols 14simply at the level of highest strike, facilitates the fastest body action and appropriates the greater chance of getting slightly under and behind a low pitch. If Matt Kemp would simply lower his hands and bat, his swing would be considerably more “level” rather than “horse-shoe” in nature.Kemp Stance 7His and Pujols’ bodies are in perfect, low stances.
  3. Of the three stances, the open-stance is the most deleterious to proficient batting because it tends to force the batter to stride toward the plate and therefore makes him vulnerable to hard inside pitches when he is looking outside. Then, when he hesitates while looking inside, off-speed pitches away make him off-balanced. (Chris Davis of the Orioles is finding it difficult this season- standing tall, open, and striding.) Because the stride itself is moving the body, along with head and eyes, the movement toward the plate compounds the distortion aspect of the moving pitch.
  4. Any stride at all is a major contributor to batting dysfunction. It is useless expenditure of energy whose purported function of initiating momentum is overrated. It becomes counterproductive to optimal visual acuity, as the head and eyes move also. If the hips move forward with the stride, the integrity of the swing itself is compromised by the dislocation of the body’s “vertical axis”. Maximum power is impossible to generate while the vertical axis is not constant.
  5. Pushing off the back foot while striding gives the false impression of producing power to initiate the turn of the hips during the swing. In fact, the push-off impels the back leg to continue to straighten, the effect from which restricts the turning of the hips to their maximum. The optimum hip and shoulder actions occur only when the back bent knee maintains its same bent position as it rotates through the entire hip rotation. (ala Barry Bonds)BarryBonds_bat flatbonds - contact 2
  6. The stride and the push-off may force the body to “lunge forward” to try to counteract the “magnetic pull” of the in-coming fastball. Strike-out 3However, off-speed pitches will force the batter to hesitate by gliding forward on a bent front knee, affording no balance, nor power to swing because of the disintegration of the vertical axis, and premature turning of the hips. The hips should always be ready to turn quickly in a “turnstile” fashion, both sides in opposite directions, on the same horizontal plane, with the vertical axis intact.
  7. Parallel shoulders, while striving for a level swing, is a misconception of the ideal of good intent. If the shoulders stay level throughout the swing, at the presumed contact point the top hand will be forced to roll over the ball because the hips and shoulders have reached the limits for forward movement, and the arms will extend to keep the momentum. However, if the front shoulder is in a “shrugged” up-position, and the back shoulder lowered with a driving back elbow, the bat and ball will meet as the palm of the top-hand is facing upward. The horizontal rotation of the hips and bent back knee preclude any possibility of an upper-cut swing, as long as the front upper arm is in contact with the chest.Barry Bonds 4
  8. Swinging downward onto a downward moving pitched-ball is more often counterproductive to efficient bats-man-ship than it is productive. michael-jordan 3The pitcher is on a mound almost a foot above the plane that the batter is on. Every pitch is moving downward into the strike zone. If a batter with good eyesight and good coordination strikes downward onto the pitched ball, his athletic ability will probably enact solid contact a high percentage of times. Solid contact in those instances will result in balls hit on the ground. (Albert Pujols and Gary Sheffield are examples of such a hitter.) The “best of hitters” is not merely one who makes solid contact with the ball. But rather, he is a batter whose body mechanics facilitate the action of the swinging bat to contact and continue through the ball at an angle that provides for a straight (non-hooking or slicing) and ascending “line-drive.” The “Art” of hitting a baseball could certainly be defined in the context of describing the ideal hitter– “He is one whose bat most consistently contacts and drives through the ball in a manner that facilitates a straight and ascending “line-drive”. Barry Bonds 17(To hit the ball in any other manner would be to miss-hit it.)
  9. “Cocked-wrists” may deceive the batter into thinking he will have a stronger swing because of the extra action he expects to have at the “contact–point”. The extra action is counterproductive because the timing mechanism to produce a synergistic display is unreliable at best. Also, neither “cocked forward” nor “cocked backward” is the strongest position for the wrists to be in. Straight and stiff is the strong position of hands and wrists for swinging a bat, as it is for a Karate punch. What would happen if you punched a “bag” with wrist and hand cocked in either the forward of backward position? Right! Remember, the power of the swing comes from the body. But if the hands are not in their strongest position on the bat at contact, the ball will impact the bat more effectively than the bat will impact the ball; and the pitcher will win that battle.
  10. Relaxed hands to begin and tight hands to finish through the “contact point” is a good rule to follow. With continued “loose-hands” through the “contact”, the ball controls the bat. But if a tight grip occurs at “contact”, the ball will sound and feel like a golf- ball. The bat should be gripped with the strongest part of the hand, not in the fingers.
  11. The two greatest hitters in Baseball history never held their hands over the bat handle’s knob. williams.bat (1)Ted Williams' gripBarryBonds_bat flat barry_bonds_1992_piratesBut all current “wanna-be” power-hitters think that they get better leverage to hit the ball better and farther by draping their last fingers over the knob. Hanley Ramirez 7yasiel 2Baseball is a game of “inches”, in general. But with regard to  hitting a baseball, “micro-measures” would determine the microscopic “margins for error” that distinguish the elite hitter from the ordinary. The unscientific hitter doesn’t realize that the extra weight at the upper end of his bat, as he is swinging (especially at an outside pitch), is the very reason he consistently fouls “his-pitch” straight back or to the “off-side”when he could have hit it squarely had his hands been slightly up on the bat handle. How often does a “good-swing” go for naught as the “bat-head” is simply too far under the ball as the bat is angled too sharply toward the ground. A higher percentage of solid contact will occur when the bat is more parallel to the ground Mark McGwire 3williams.batthan when it is more perpendicular. yasiel Puig 1(A batter in a high stance is more apt to swing at low pitches with an exaggerated “perpendicular” slant to his swing while the bat of a batter in a crouch will be more “parallel” to the ground)

 

The “Premier Batting Principle” is based on the perfect application and integration of following components:

1. Balance and stability of the stance.

2. Security for undisturbed visual acuity.

3. Self-contained power source.

4. Balance and stability from start to finish of swing.

 

A low center of gravity can be established by spreading the feet to the width of one’s normal stride, and bending the knees as low as can accommodate comfort and quickness. This strong base affords the batter the fastest possible reaction time for a twisting body to respond to any variation of pitched balls. One of the most prominent features of a low stance is the obvious advantage the batter has with the establishment of a smaller strike zone.Bonds -stanceBarry Bonds 2Barry Bonds 8Barry  Bonds 9

 

With the low-wide stance, the batter is in an “ultra-stationary” position, from which to view the pitched ball with a minimum of distortion. Joe Morgan1As a tennis player, receiving serve, is bent over and down as low as he can, to see the speeding ball on as close to a parallel level to the eyes as possible, so the batter, in a low stance, views the pitched ball with most clarity.Tennis 1

 

With the body already in a stable and powerful position, from which to initiate the action of the swing, the only preliminary movement needed by the batter, as the pitcher is delivering the ball, is to brace himself (or “gather”). From there he awaits the arrival of the ball into the striking “zone.” The gathering simply implies that the body is twisting or coiling slightly in the direction toward the catcher, bringing the hands to a position just beyond the back shoulder, making ready to spring forward as the ball comes to the plate. The “coiling” is initiated by the front knee turning inwardly off a pivoting big toe. Sporting News MLB Baseball CollectionWhile the back foot is anchored flat, the weight of the body is centered from the upper abdomen to the ground directly between both bent knees. The hips and shoulders follow the backward rotation of the twisting torso (the body never leaning backward with any concentration of weight on the back leg – the “buttocks” looks to be sitting on a high stool). The entire action of the backward twisting and subsequent forward explosion in the opposite direction, as the swing takes place, occurs while the head remains stationary and the eyes still, focusing on the ball.ted_williams_ bat route

 

After the swing has been completed, every part of the body will have rotated around and under the “fixed” head. TedWilliamsShortSwing2Ted Williams' follow throughThe height level of the batter at the end of the swing should be the same as it was at the beginning. Stability and balance at the end is as important as at the beginning. This order procures maximum efficiency for the sensitive guidance system which the eyes and head provide to the forces of the body.

Coming Soon: There are No Bad – Hitters in Major-League Baseball!

Is the Team Equal, or Greater, than the Sum of Its Parts? Part 3 of 3

The Game of Baseball is the ultimate in sports activity! To all participants, players or fans, its unique simplicity conveys a human drama, and then reveals and resolves the contrasting complexities that would elicit trauma from life’s uncertain circumstances.“Could mere human contrivance order such preciseness, from the tri-hedral dimensions of the field of play, to the definitive specifications and range of intricate function for the designated participants?” Socrates (from Plato and Socrates: Baseball’s Wisest Fans – by John F. Paciorek)IMG_1217Socrates and Plato

In Baseball the singular concepts of individual and collective (team) excellence are intertwined masterfully. And the team that embodies such synergistic essence and complies with the highest standard of personal and collective excellence produces a “Championship” quality. The proficiency of each player on offense and on defense will determine his individual worth. And the excellence towards which he strives for himself and his team will endear him to his mates and adoring fans. As each player accomplishes his own mastery, the team itself should be beneficiary to the product of a collectively successful enterprise. And each player should also become beneficiary to the collective worth of the team.

The genius of Baseball is in its ability to promote individual excellence while cultivating the collective aspiration to a noble goal. This dual purpose can only be applauded for enhancing the prospect of continuous, enthusiastic hope by all participants, both active and vicarious. Every individual player is innately humbled by an awareness that his own vain and tenacious effort for personal glory pales in comparison to the satisfaction of attaining the triumphal exhilaration of a “Team” victory. When the team wins, against an overwhelming performance of an opposing pitcher, the “prickly” sensation of a batter’s hitless night somehow doesn’t seem so abrasive. And conversely, the magnificent individual effort of one man (pitcher, in this instance) gives no solace to the individual or his team if the greater goal of victory was not forthcoming.

In Baseball, the adage, “one for all, and all for one” rings true in the hearts and minds of these “9-25 Musketeers”, with their collectively idealistic sense of purpose. It would be difficult to exalt any particular fielding or batting position above another, in rank or prestige, for it is incumbent upon each to perform suitably as various game circumstances present themselves. A quote from A Course in Miracles reads as follows: “If different abilities are applied long enough to one goal the abilities themselves become unified, and a unified goal is accomplished”. The essence of metaphysically inspired thought would more than imply that “the Whole (Oneness) is greater than the sum of individual parts”.

Early in this essay the author denoted that those categories in which there are noticeable differences in abilities are: Batting and Pitching. What is it that would determine the highest level of consistent proficiency for which every player and team would certainly aspire to attain?Barry&TedNolanRyan 16Masahiro-Tanaka 3

Ted Williams said it best for all of us who have ever played the game of Baseball, as well as participated in other forms of athletics, “hitting a baseball is the single-most difficult thing to do in all of sports.” No other individual sport-skill encompasses the variety of challenging variables that a batter has to “put in order” to be a proficient “hitter.” It takes physical strength, flexibility, quickness, and timing, as well as the mental attributes of courage, confidence, determination, fortitude, for even the least skilled professional to “stand-in” against a 95 M.P.H. fastball, 85+slider, and a variety of “off-speed” multiples.

Now, to become a consistently outstanding hitter, an individual must develop all the aforementioned characteristics, as well as ascribe to a technique of proper mechanics which facilitates the most probable means of making solid contact with a pitched baseball. And, of course solid contact would have to involve more than just striking the ball squarely with the bat! A player could hit the ball squarely off the bat, and merely hit a bouncing ball or even a hard ground ball to an infielder for a sure out. And sometimes he could hit a ball squarely, and launch a towering “pop-up,” or “hook” a wicked foul-ball.

However, the “consistently-good” hitter” is not merely one who makes solid contact with the ball. But rather, he is a batter whose body mechanics facilitate the action of the swinging bat to contact and continue through the ball at an angle that provides for a straight (non-hooking or slicing) and ascending “line-drive.” The “Art” of hitting a baseball could certainly be defined in the context of describing the ideal hitter– “He is one whose bat most consistently contacts and drives through the ball in a manner that facilitates a straight and ascending “line-drive.”(To hit the ball in any other manner would be to miss-hit it.)

Just hitting the pitched ball is not that difficult to do; hitting it with authority is what is difficult! Because of the myriad challenges a batter has to surmount while encountering the diminutive, ballistic (and frequently volatile), compressed, spherical projectile, most dispassionate and well-rounded athletes would agree that making solid and forceful contact with a bat to a pitched ball takes extraordinary, and nearly uncanny, skill.

The best hitters in Baseball either consciously, or unconsciously, ascribed to sound basics principles in their batting application. But even they should aspire to diminish the substandard quotient for presumable batting excellence, by eliminating those margins for error which plague every erstwhile (but ignorant) proponent for exceeding the 40percentile range of batting efficiency.

Two basic ideas have to be present in the thought of every batter as he contemplates the proper batting technique. First, he must fully realize the fact that every pitch is moving in a downward trajectory. baseball_flightAn intelligent approach to the ball would obviously have to incorporate body movement that would facilitate the flight action of the bat to be one in a slightly upward direction as it is contacting the ball on a line as close to 180 degrees as possible. Ted Williams - fundamentalsted-williams-science-of-hitting2Ted Williams - fundamentals 2Second, optimal viewing of the pitched baseball is achieved when the batter’s head is still, and eyes remain as close as possible to a parallel level of the ball, as the swing is taking place.Since it is impossible for the batter’s eyes to be at the exact level of any pitch within the strike zone, maintaining a low stance not only provides a batter with a more advantageous accommodation for the umpire’s strike-zone, but also affords him an optimal viewing angle from which to more accurately detect the nuances (speed and direction) of the incoming ball.

There are three basic components to the practical application of the principle of effective batting: (1) Balance and Stability of Stance; (2) Security for undisturbed visual acuity; (3) Self-contained Power source.

A low center of gravity can be established by spreading the feet to the length of one’s normal stride, and bending the knees as low as can accommodate comfort and quickness. This strong base affords the batter the fastest possible reaction time for a twisting body to respond to any variation of pitched balls. One of the most prominent features of a low stance is the obvious advantage the batter has with the establishment of a smaller strike zone.

With the low-wide stance, the batter is in an “ultra-stationary” position, from which to view the pitched ball with a minimum of distortion. As a tennis player receiving serve, a catcher receiving a pitch, a shortstop receiving a throw from catcher, and a first baseman receiving low throws from infielders are bent over and down as low as they can, to see the speeding ball on as close to a parallel level to the eyes as possible, so the batter, in a low stance, views the pitched ball with most clarity.

Although Mr. Williams was nearly perfect in his understanding and application of the principles governing the absolute definition of batting prominence, he was not altogether unflawed in his actual approach to an impeccable demonstration. The closest exponent of the perfect batting technique was Barry Bonds, who, in obvious ways, superseded the brilliance that Ted Williams embodied.Sporting News MLB Baseball CollectionBarry Bonds 3

Barry Bonds was capable of hitting 100 home runs and batting .400 or more, because he was closer to flawless technique than anyone who has ever played the game. His strength was incontestable, his athletic ability was indisputable, his timing was nearly impeccable, and his stance, approach to the ball, and fluid mechanics were incomparable. In the few areas in which Ted Williams appeared lacking, Mr. Bonds was pronouncedly adept (especially in his adaptability to strike at the low pitch, and hitting the ball with power to the opposite field).Barry Bonds 4

What was it that Barry Bonds did consistently right, that most, if not all, other batters do only sporadically? The answer is 5 separate things. They are the following:Barry Bonds 3thBarry Bonds 2Barry Bonds 10Barry Bonds 8Barry  Bonds 9Barry Bonds 6

  1. He established a strong low center of gravity while waiting for the ball.
  2. He greatly diminished the movement of his head and eyes.
  3. He waited patiently for the ball to get to him while he quietly lowered his hands to begin an unobtrusive rhythm of his arms.
  4. When the ball got to his hitting zone, 4 things happened simultaneously:

a. The front foot planted quickly and firmly—front leg straightened

  1. Front shoulder shrugged upward, while back shoulder and elbow drove downward (hands, while staying behind back shoulder, present a flat bat as the body was turning to address the pitched ball).
  2. Back bent knee drove forward and down, as hips turned rapidly
  3. The shoulders followed the hips in rapid succession with arms extending through the contact of the ball.
  4. From contact, through the straightening of arms, through the follow through, the shoulders were continuously flowing, until they (shoulders) had changed position (back to front and vice-versa).

 

If ever there was an “ideal” to emulate, as advised by Aristotle’s Nichomachian Ethics, and to form a generic “designation” for a universal application for batting a baseball, it would have to be Barry Bonds. Consistency of batting effectiveness (efficiency in striking a baseball) had never been more highly demonstrated than by Barry Bonds, in the 2001season, as well as in 2002—2004. Throughout his Major League career, accolades were heaped upon him for what seemed like a remarkable consistency for slugging the ball better than anyone else, at least in the 1990s.

It was neither strength, nor natural ability, which allowed Barry to stand out as the greatest exponent of Batting Excellence the Baseball World had ever seen. It was his masterful application of the basic fundamentals of Principle that afforded him the facility to near impeccable demonstration. He was the only hitter who came to the plate, and looked as though he should get a hit every time he swung the bat. I’m sure that even Shakespeare would exclaim, WilliamShakespeare-Picture1“O thou, Faithful Consistency, but by any other name, thou art Barry Bonds”. – And Einstein would concur!Einstein 2

Aristotle pointed out, that, “in order to begin a study of anything that would lead to the highest understanding and demonstration of its universal verity, one must behold an example of a closest facsimile to the ideal estate, study its admirable characteristics, and extrapolate from its obvious functional proficiency a common entity by which a generic standard could be discerned, duplicated, and possibly expanded upon. Excellence in any field of human endeavor is achievable to anyone willing to devote a ‘heart and soul’ effort toward mastering the definable concomitants to successful enterprise”.

All that, having been said, perhaps to enhance Aristotle’s injunction as to a generic standard of visible perfection, the Bible’s encryption would elevate the essence a little more: “Mark the perfect man and behold the upright, for the end of that man is Peace”.

The lack of collective commitment, in order to serve personal aggrandizement, usually renders the highest universal achievement unaffordable. A complete success would have to entail the fruition of the whole. One who would be a true leader of a team is he whose exemplary physical and mental composition complies with the exact nature of “team spirit”. He would be the embodiment of those qualities that would inspire others to appreciate the intrinsic need for compatibility and cooperation, in order to achieve a collective goal.

Barry Bonds definitely had the personal attributes (as did Alexander the Great) to inspire his teammates to their highest collective glory! And he also appeared to have certain characteristics that would have inspired others to emulate his greatness. But, in order for him to have realized his ultimate goal of capturing the World Series Crown, he would have had to thoroughly understand that each member of his team was as integral a part of that fabric of unity as he was. The tension of the finely knitted team fabric must not exceed the delicate bounds of generously enthusiastic applause and constructive criticism within a framework of genuinely compassionate camaraderie.

Any team, on which there is the preeminent presence of such a figure as Barry Bonds, is an automatic contender, and “front-runner”, for winning the World Series, as long as such a “figure-head” fulfills his multi-inspirational role of “leader”. Anything short of full commitment on his part would diminish the team’s chances for ultimate accomplishment. The Crown was already on Barry’s shoulders! It’s too bad that the catalyst for Maximum Success didn’t rest comfortably within the intelligence, courage, and personal fortitude that should have been encased between his crown and shoulders.

If the 2002 San Francisco Giants Team had 7 or 8 other batters who could hit like Barry Bonds, maybe there would not have been a need for a substantive “bonding” element to unify them into a cohesive band of “patriotic warriors”. S.F. Giants Team 2002But “they” didn’t, and suffered the consequence. The L. A. Angels, on the other hand, were a team comprised of good but not outstanding players, and no individual equal to the premier status of Barry Bonds. David Eckstein 1Yet, an intangible element of cohesiveness attended to their every fortuitous circumstance, and the “Whole” of their teamwork was proven greater than the sum of their individual parts – IT became the 2002 World Series Champion.David Eckstein 2Angels 2002

Applying Aristotle’s Principle to Pitching, Nolan Ryan would be the “exemplar” for all prospective “mounds-men” to copy. Nolan Ryan (4 composite)Nolan Ryan Pitch form 2He is Baseball’s greatest pitcher because of all the records he set and his ability to stay healthy for so many years in order to set those records. His blazing fastball, “off-the-table” curveball, debilitating change-up (in his advanced years), his “tactical” control and his competitive spirit were the defining attributes of his incomparable mounds-man-ship. Nolan Ryan is at the top of list of outstanding pitchers in Baseball history because he either consciously or unconsciously fine-tuned his pitching mechanics to a point near-to-perfection better than any other pitcher (past or present). It was the ultimate use of proper “mechanics” that not only fostered the most economically sound use of his body to control and propel the baseball with maximum intent, but also secured an unusually long career.nolanryan - MetsNolan-Ryan 1200px-Nolan_Ryan_17Nolan Ryan Pitch formNolan Ryan 2NolanRyan 13Nolan Ryan 8nolan-ryan 5nolan-ryan 15

There were some Major League pitchers who were bigger and stronger than Nolan Ryan, and some of them threw harder than he did. Nolan and JR RichardsBut there are very few who have had the mechanical potential to experience his longevity and injury-less accommodation. Curt Schilling, and Randy Johnson (who was tutored somewhat by Ryan) had the best chance to “survive and achieve”. C.Schilling 3C.Schilling 12Randy J. 13Randy J 15The common denominator for all three of these masterful mounds-men is the simple fact that none of them straightens his pitching-arm as he begins and continues the action through the course of his delivery until after the forward momentum of the turning backside of the body catapults the shoulder, bent-arm and ball toward the plate. At that point, the arm begins a straightening process that quickly and briefly extends it forward with the follow-through. The leverage that the bent arm provides diminishes the weight imposed on the shoulder and elbow, thus fortifying their strength to implement function with speed, control and optimal force. The lighter the weight, the faster the shoulder will rotate, and the faster and more accurately controlled will be the ball as it leaves the hand of the pitcher whose total body mechanics are intact.

If every pitcher would study the scientific principle most suited to applying the proper mechanics for pitching, there would be less injuries and more effective performances in an already highly esteemed and formidable profession of Big League Hurlers. Maximum efficiency for a pitcher includes the following components: 1) Maximum velocity (95 to 100MPH); 2) Deceptive Change-up; 3) Fast breaking Pitch; 4) Impeccable control (strikes, but avoiding the center of the plate); 5) Endurance (100 to 140 pitches- 7-9 innings); 6) Longevity (injury-less-enabling 15 to 20 years of peak performance); 7) Base-stealing deterrent (quick move to plate – no wasteful motion). Even Nolan Ryan did not possess the last attribute, but he could have.

All of the preceding components can be easily attributable to every single, able-bodied Big League pitcher of the modern era, if each would first subscribe to one critical facet of a primary pitching principle that differentiated “Nolie” from every other pitcher. The axiom would read as follows: “the farther the ball moves away from the body, as the arm is preparing to deliver the pitch, the heavier the weight will be to the stress and strain of the elbow, shoulder and torso” (not to mention “to the speed” of the throwing action).(FILE) In Profile: Masahiro TanakaMasahiro+Tanaka 16Japan v Australia - WBC 2013 FriendlyTANAKA 31

All seemingly conflicting forces predicate their individual successes on separate and independent interests. There is a “single” entity, whose ultimate and universal pursuit of “excellence”, could/would incorporate all the separate and distinct facets of “Being” into a legitimate and recognizable configuration of “sameness”, and ameliorate all sense of contradiction and conflict!  Only the unadulterated essence of “Spirit” and Its own universal application of “goodness” has the inherent capacity for lawful exercise of Truth in a world seeking solutions of/with/for peace.

The ultimate goal of a “great” Team would be to establish a realistic sense of “Sameness”, the spiritual essence of which proves the “Truth of Harmony’s Perfect Oneness”. In Spirit we are all the same; the differences in form should be insignificant because they conceal the sameness of content that is found in everyone’s mind. But, in what would be considered the “present sense” of things, some individuals seem advanced beyond their teammates, therefore putting themselves in the more noticeable positions of prominence in regard to garnering the more “prestigious” assignments in the field (as well as batting). But those players currently mired in the mediocre stages of development, if faithful (as a “mustard-seed”) to the course of action that soundly promotes a genuine enhancement of technique, will soon supersede their present ineptness with graduating states of comprehensible prowess.

Infinite Patience of an Absolute Faith will produce the “immediate effect” of what Einstein would have wanted to realize in his own goal for his “unified field theory”. But his “short-sighted- finite perception-in-matter” couldn’t establish the “insightful” true perception that reveals what the “miracle” displays by means of “mindful-forgiveness”. To envision for yourself all the attributes of a “big-league” player, even though those traits are not yet evident to “outside” observation, and arduously but hopefully to put forth a “heart and soul” effort to fulfill the destiny of your inner reality with “perfect-practice”, you cannot but raise yourself to new and greater heights of glory. There is no end to what the mind can imagine. Even Einstein exclaimed, “Imagination is more powerful than Knowledge,” for he knew there was a major difference between the “dream” and one who lives his dream. So put your mind to “Good-use” and see your true potential, and realize its fulfillment. Don’t be merely a “forgetful hearer”, but a “doer” of the Principle – “law of liberty”.

Beyond strength and natural ability, “mechanics” is the most crucial aspect for all the “field-designations” within the singular Field of Baseball ( It is mechanical correctness that determines maximum proficiency for batting, throwing (including Pitching), fielding, as well as running – to attain one’s own best level). Mechanical understanding of how one’s  body can be manipulated to exact the maximum force necessary to control the batting, throwing, and fielding of the baseball with optimum efficiency and power should be foremost in the mind of any player desiring to achieve his own best effort. And there are aspects of running that take into account the mechanical advantage that understanding and application foster for those who would improve speed and agility.

Anyone wanting to be the best he can be in any or all things he participates, must first find out the “principle” which facilitates the surest, quickest, and easiest way to function properly in the enterprise. To seek first the kingdom of Goodness is to apply the “Absolute Principle” at the foundational level upon which all other general principles metaphysically connect. But, a building is only as strong as its weakest link.

If your building is not as strong as you want it to be, then find its weak link. It is your right to experience maximum success. Don’t, for an instant, settle for anything other than perfection. But expect the highest results of achievement as you go through the process “most” reasonably adaptable to the “Absolute Principle.”

Coming Soon: Major-League Batting Crisis? – 2014

Is the Team Equal, or Greater, than the Sum of Its Parts? Part 2 of 3

The decade of the 80s would prove to be the justification for the Hope the 70s presented, for under Lasorda’s leadership Team-Dodgers won World Series’ in 1981 and 88, 4 pennants, and 8 divisions championships. And there is no reason why the Dodger players of the 80s would not have rendered the same admiration and honor to Lasorda as they did in the 70s.Dodger Stadiumdodgers1988

Another hallmark acclamation to the inspiration not found merely under the auspices of common Team Credibility was the episode considered by many as “The Miracle” at the 1988 World Series. The following are excerpts from my essay describing the subtle nature of heroic proportion (October 6, 2013):

Not even Albert Einstein and all the renowned physicists of his time, and “saber-metricians” of this modern-era, could have approximated the statistical improbability of what Kirk Gibson did on October 15, 1988…

In late 1987, Kirk left the A.L. Tigers and, in January, joined the Hapless Dodgers of the National League, whose dismal ‘87 season needed something of a “Hobbsian” spark to generate new life into a ball-club in disarray… At Spring Training a few opportunities presented themselves early in Camp to set the stage for an immediate change of direction in Team attitude and focus that would eventually lead the march to a much improved status and uncontested standing in the National League West… Frivolity and practical jokes took a back seat to Kirk’s ultra-professional and business-like mentality, and the team flourished from beginning ‘till the season ended…

His modest season ending stats earned him National League MVP honors while helping the Dodgers win 21 more games than the season before. But it was his uncommon “personal-leadership” and otherwise intangible, undaunted presence that invoked the “mythical hero” image his teammates and adversaries had learned to admire and would attempt to emulate…

Kirk purportedly had done all he could to get the Dodgers to that World Series, but “they” were presumably going to have to get to the “Promised Land” without him, for the injuries he incurred along the way were too severe for any “mortal” to overcome and give a last ditch effort… And everyone knew that even with Gibson, there was slim if any chance for them to beat the powerful Oakland Athletics, whose superior arsenal of player personnel had amassed an incredible record of 104 wins to 58 losses.

In Game One, the “As” held a 2 run lead until the Dodgers scored again in the 6th inning. The game remained at 4 to 3, Oakland leading in the bottom of the 9th…  

Throughout the game, there were brief TV glimpses of Kirk Gibson hobbling around in the dug-out as he was traversing the distance from the training room and back, trying to massage and loosen his painful joints and hamstrings. Ever-optimistic, Tommy Lasorda seemed to be coaxing his beleaguered star, to see if any type of “miracle” was in the offing. Vince Scully repeatedly commented that there was “absolutely” no chance of Gibson making an official appearance.Vin Scully8Vin scully6

With T.V. and radio broadcasts coming into the locker room, Gibson heard one of Scully’s commentaries as if providence were beckoning for him to consider an alternative thought…  And Kirk realized an inexplicable surge of unwarranted confidence streaming through his consciousness. “But what could I do?” would have been the common query instigated by mortal fear that must be wrested away from that mind intent on fulfilling a noble purpose. 

After Dodger pitching blanked the Athletics in the top of the ninth, the otherwise stalwart performance of Oakland Pitcher, Dave Steward, ended when statistically prudent “As” manager, Tony LaRussa replaced his Starter with the League’s Premier “closer”, Dennis Eckersley. It looked like a sure win for Oakland, since “Eck” was destined to face the bottom of the Dodger line-up (though somewhat of an ominous sign, in hind-sight). Eckersley got the first two outs in rapid succession, and was about to face a formidable, former teammate who was set to pinch-hit for the 8th batter in the line-up.Eckoak1988

Meanwhile, in the Dodger dug-out, Lasorda learned that Gibson had begun a personalized mental and physical rehabilitation process, which immediately spurred Tommy’s ever-percolating mind to envision a preemptive scenario of his own. After appointing Mike Davis to pinch hit for Alfredo Griffin, he surreptitiously placed Dave Anderson in the on-deck circle, to make Eckersley and LaRussa think that they could afford to be a little cautious with Davis (a potential threat) and contemplate the “end” by pitching to the very weak-hitting Anderson…

All potentially constructive Dodger strategy lay in the proposition that Gibson regain a semblance of his former self. Yet, even if he could overcome the acute pain and obvious debility, what could he hope to achieve in his debilitative condition?  Bob Costas would later remark that while he was in the stairwell of the Dodger dug-out, he could hear the groaning, anguishing strokes of a batter  desperately trying to ready himself for one last at-bat, even “one last-swing”, while teammate Orel Hershiser was feeding baseballs onto the tee for Gibson’s convenience. Although most of his teammates must have sensed the futility of Kirk’s somewhat contrived heroism, they probably also could not have expected anything less from “the man” who had proven himself so many times before. They all must have thought the “good-prospect” all but possible, however their past experience would at least warrant a “statistically” derived- at chance of success. “YOU’VE GOT TO BELIEVE” would have been the genuine inspirational sentiment pouring into the ears of the players from the mouth and heart of Tommy Lasorda and the Great Dodger in the Sky…T. Lasorda 7

Kirk is now sitting at the end of the dugout bench, fully dressed, and armed with helmet and “hickory”, speculating the purview the situation has presented. “I have inspiration and commitment to do something, but what, and how far can my own determination carry me? Will Davis get on base to set up my ‘grand entrance’, and what emotion will the fans exude? And will it give me that final burst of adrenaline to be propelled to heights previously unknown?”

 Eckersley just walked Mike Davis! Taking a deep yet unstrained breath, Kirk’s electrifying and confident image popped onto the top step, then out of the dugout to the thunderous roar of the now ecstatic and frenzied crowd. Lasorda’s unending chants of “new promise” inspired his Team and the Dodger Faithful to loftier heights of exaltation, as Kirk finished his preliminary swings. His slow, deliberate, but majestic walk to the plate must have been a nerve-wrenching ordeal for the Oakland pitcher, even though he exuded a confidence rather than impatience to get the game over…

 One could only speculate as to what order of thoughts must have been aligning themselves in Gibson’s mind as his footsteps proceeded into that rarefied cubicle of variable distinction. Before assuming his characteristically “Spartan” batting-stance, his back cleat scratched the hardened dirt for a foothold to secure a base from which his afflicted body might launch its purposeful attack. He was finally ready, and none too soon for the exasperated Eckersley, who let his arm commence with the business at hand, firing a blazing, side-arm, tailing fastball, for which Gibson must have felt a tad unprepared. All observers couldn’t help but notice the constrained, oblique wrenching, late response Gibson’s off-balanced body and bat conveyed as it almost completely missed the ball. The second pitch gave the same explicit message, and the fans as well as Eckersley himself must have sensed that “the Gibber” was no match for the “Eck”. Kirk was behind 0 and 2 in what seemed like a “heart-beat”, and Dennis was determined to finish him off on the next pitch…

 After his first pitch to Gibson, it became obvious to Eckersley, as well as the “brain-trusts” in both dugouts, that Kirk was not the optimum threat for which everyone fancifully hoped or cautiously suspected. But he was quickly portending to be a formidable adversary, even in his seemingly “powerless” condition. “Eck” recognized that with all the pitches Gibson was subtly calculating, making superficial contact with every one, it might only be a matter of time before he can put one in play, perhaps to the detriment of Oakland. Therefore, he can’t let Davis steal second base. Before his second and third pitches he made 3 throws to keep Davis close. With 2 strikes on Gibson, the Dodgers might be desperate. His 4th pitch was a ball outside, going a little farther to see if Kirk would bite beyond the fringe. He didn’t! Since “Eck” didn’t throw over before the 4th pitch, Davis attempted a steal on the 5th. Gibson had his best swing yet, but fouled it back. Eckersley didn’t think Davis would steal on consecutive pitches, and he was correct, but threw “Ball 2” in the process.  Before his 7th pitch, he threw to first base again. But on the pitch to Gibson, the ball was further outside, and Davis successfully stole second base, much to the consternation of LaRussa, Eckersley, and the “As” dugout as the count rose to 3 and 2…

 Gibson’s impotent yet “frisky” at-bat posed a conundrum whose immediate solution never materialized. So, for Eck, there was only one direction in which to proceed! Gibson had neither rhythm nor timing when he came to the plate. But through the course of his gauntlet-like “trial-by-pitch” he had developed both to a rather insignificant level. Now, it was thought by “Eck”, to end this dilemma. He knew what he had to do. And he will do it, NOW! The Game wasn’t necessarily on the line, if his strategy failed. Gibson would walk, and the Dodgers would still have a runner in scoring position, presenting merely a secondary condition that would quickly be dismissed. But “Eck” was confident, he could not fail…

 The statistical probability for Eckersley’s success was astronomical! Kirk Gibson seemed to have been abandoned by the “gods” and his mythological legend was about to become irreparable.  The most he could hope for was simply to flare a base hit that might tie the game. But in Eckersley’s mind, a game-ending out is all Gibson’s “gunna” get!

With the count 3 and 2, “Eck” is about to deliver the most potent pitch in his repertoire. The Dodger dugout is ecstatic. Now, with the fleet-footed Davis in scoring position, a base-hit would tie the game, and that is all and the best they could expect from their forlorn hero. But Eckersley had other plans! And, what was Gibson himself thinking?

Just before Eckersley was to deliver his “secret” pitch, Kirk abruptly stepped out of the batter’s box, as if to regain his composure in this momentous circumstance. But, in that instant, a higher source seemed to beckon him to recall an otherwise innocuous fact that Kirk had read on a report prepared by an astute and meticulous “scout” before the playoffs began. After pondering the present situation, all statistical possibilities seemed to be aligned in a favorable position. And the curtain was about to fall with a dramatic conclusion, on one of these conquering heroes, each with his own weapon of invincibility in hand.

Kirk looked toward the mound, then stepped into the “Box”, knowing he had all the information he needed. But is his faith in his belief strong enough; and will his mind’s commitment to act unflinchingly, in spite of his apparent bodily condition, enable his warrior-heart? 55,000 spectators are about to find out as well.

Neither antagonist is smiling but each exudes an indefinable confidence, even while knowing well that “one will die today”. Eckersley takes his stretch and prepares his “Load” for delivery. Gibson makes a final but ominous mental query designating his unquestioning tact as “the die is cast”, “Sure as I’m standing here, partner,  you’re going to throw me that “back-door” slider, aren’t you?”

As the pitch leaves his hand, Eckersley recognizes the ball’s trajectory to be perfect, right where he wanted it. With all the pitches he had thrown, he knew Gibson would see the ball moving directly toward the outside. He also thought Gibson’s quick sense would assume that since his side-armed fast ball “tails”, the pitch’s destination would obviously move farther outside for a ball. He was expecting Kirk to momentarily relax, and not have enough time to respond to the pitch’s abrupt deviation of speed and direction, until it was too late…dennis eckersley

“Sure enough”, realized Kirk, upon first glance! His “absolute faith”, and patience allow him to wait. He’s not yet lifted his front foot as he did previously while expecting Eckersley’s fast ball. An extra nanosecond of Time is in his favor. “Now, all I have to do is get my timing right, to be able to explode at the precise moment!” In his extremely “closed-stance”, as he discerned the ball’s outside trajectory, he waited until he could detect its subtle and abrupt turn toward him. Then his front foot exaggerated its deliberate stride toward third base, as his body was “gathering” its forces to uncoil as his foot would plant into the ground…

 As if he knew what was coming, “Eck” saw Kirk’s foot plant, his body uncoil, his arms extend, and in a final explosive lunge of shoulders, hands and wrists observed the bat contact the ball with an uncanny perfect synergy that launched the round projectile with improbable force in the opposite direction from which it came…dennis&Kirk

With all spectators and both dugouts watching in apparent disbelief, the ball kept rising and carrying farther and farther in its ellipticity until it finally disappeared over the right-field wall. Throughout the day not a hint of joy was expressive of the face of Kirk Gibson, only a stoic facade hiding pain, disappointment, resentment, and disdain for his helpless and impotent condition. As the follow-through of his celestial swing of bat was complete, and he cautiously embarked on an unrehearsed, and as yet undefined, trek, an observer could detect a gradual change in facial disposition. Kirk Gibson - Watching ballKirk Gibson HOme Run TrotGibson2The remorseful look of indifference was suddenly transforming into a heavily distinguishable canvas of ecstatic jubilation. And in a moment of triumphant glory he pumped his bent right arm in successive punches along the side of his beleaguered body kirk gibson3after the subjugated leather-bound projectile did indeed traverse the height of the outfield fence for an uncontested, historic “Tour De Force” of amazing ramifications, the conclusion of which would be directly revealed…

The instant of evidentiary proof of Gibson’s success immediately transformed the hopeful yet solemnly-cautious dispositions of Dodger fans and Teammates (who might not have believed in Santa Clause) into genuinely faith-filled followers who, at that “holy instant,” probably could have moved a mountain or two. The dug-out Dodgers were streaming out onto the field, arms flaying and voices shouting “Hallelujah” (from the roof-tops) to their “resurrected “messiah” as he buoyantly circumnavigated the bases in all but reconstructed, glorified form…Kirk Gibson - Rounding 3rddennis-eckersley-After HR

His amazing feat did provide a Home Run of incomparable distinction. And it did win that First Game of the “Series”, in abrupt and miraculous fashion. But the intangible essence of that single act of unfathomable “Heroism” also unlocked a momentarily imprisoned spirit of Team unity that suddenly “empowered” the Dodgers to claim the 1988 World Series Title, even without Kirk playing another moment of any of the remaining 4 games. Kirk Gibson’s Home Run was truly the “single-most amazing performance piece in Sports history”, but also glorified the presence of an intangible element of team unity that simply enhances the prospect for understanding that “the Team is greater than the sum of its parts”.   Vin Scully10(Tommy and Joe)Los Angeles DodgersKirk and Tommy (1988)

Coming Soon: Part 3 of, “Is the Team Equal, or Greater, than the Sum of Its Parts?

Is the Team Equal, or Greater, than the Sum of Its Parts? Part 1 of 3

Is A Team Equal to the Sum of Its Parts?

At first flush, it would seem natural to accept from Physical Science the commonly thought and applied axiom that states, “The whole is equal to the sum of its parts”. And a casual spectator or an ardent sports fan is usually in agreement with the notion that the team that amasses the most physically talented players has the best chance to win the most games and the championship of the sport for which it is assembled. But sometimes factors governing both “compatibility” and “incompatibility” enter the picture, and without “rhyme or reason”, the team with the most physical potential does not win as often as expected, bashbros2and the team without the so-called “super-stars”David Eckstein 1 sometimes wins the championship, or comes awe-fully close. Even teams with the usual positive compatibility factors are not assured of the complete success that would be expected of them, possibly due to injuries, or perhaps the subtle and insidious lack of understanding of what truly constitutes a mental attitude that would preclude all or any thought of failure. If your team is merely thought of as “equal” to the sum of its physical parts, it is not going to be as good as it could be. If built upon the basis of mortal imperfection, that team cannot effectively challenge the indefensible elements of worldly inconsistency (sands of Time and Space). As physical man is merely the outer extension of the larger portion of himself, what and how is it that each individual can perform at an optimum level of competency – beyond the resistance of mortal limitation?Deltoid_muscle_animation4

In Physics, a unified field theory is an imagined “ideal” that would allow all that is usually thought of as separate fundamental forces and elementary particles to be written or applied in terms of a single field and to ultimate into a “unified-equal- experience”. The term “unified field theory” was coined by Einstein, who attempted to unify the General Theory of Relativity with Electromagnetism which in turn would proceed to incorporate four seemingly distinct forces into One: “strong interaction, weak interaction, electromagnetic interaction, and gravitational interaction”, and eventually provide a practical application. From a solely “material-basis” it is impossible to form a cogent, unified theory from which to incorporate a singular harmonious effect because it appears that innumerable causes are influencing each other in contradictory ways to effect conflicting purposes.Einstein 4coaching 4mean baseball face

On a Universal level, all the components that make up the Whole physical world are the constituents of varying degrees of evolution and are derived from a Source completely “non-physical”, but none-the-less  whose essence projects and extends Its Intent for Infinite expansion into perpetuity. And in modest micro-cosmic order, the body of that which is identified as man is a singular “unit” of function, but composed of trillions of individual cells whose harmonious vibrational unity and cohabitation affects the optimal functionality of the entire organism. And what is it that determines the common frequency of vibrational communication within the cellular network to assure the Organism of perfect health and functionality but a seemingly “remote” and intangible Source from whose infallible intelligence can best direct and control the operation of life with inexhaustible and impeccable precision.willie-mays 4

On any team, it is generally conceded that “teamwork” is a primary consideration when evaluating the team as an efficient and proficient “Unit”. The real essence of that factor of compatibility from which any challenging situation may be reduced to a solution through cooperative endeavor is teamwork! Compatibility is a substantive alliance between two or more distinct entities to promote harmony. Cooperation is the only feasible means to procure and establish an effective sense of Teamwork!

Therefore, as it would be insufficient to say that “the whole is equal to the sum of its parts”, so it would be as imprecise to say that the “team is equal to the sum of its parts”, simply because the “sum-total” of all the constituents included within that whole, although integral to the verification of its Physical Completeness, does not account for the intangible and invisible essence from which the Whole derives the integrity of its own intractable adhesion, cohesion, and attraction. For, “that which is seen is not made by that which does appear.” Therefore, “the Wholeness of the Team is greater than the sum of its parts.”Unified-field-theory-picture

Now! In a professional Sport, as Major League Baseball, how is the Team “greater than the sum of its parts”? In examining this question we must first be certain not to misconstrue the ideal premise by implying that any individual can become expendable for the “good of the team”. A “sacrifice” bunt simply enhances the credibility of the “bunter” as an “integral” part of the team. Even a “sacrifice” ground-out to the right side of the infield to move a runner from second over to third is a selfless act appreciated and applauded by teammates as well as admired by the “opposition”, while the batter receives no augmented recompense to his batting average.

Even if a team executes perfectly the fore-mentioned strategies 100% of the time, it is highly unlikely that it will garner championship status, if that is all that the players have to offer. But it is equally as unlikely that a team capable of such proficiency in one area of the game could not be as capable in other areas. Once it is mentally affirmed that the Team is greater than the sum of its parts, how can this “imagine ideal” be made practical? When, and how, is it that the team is “greater than the sum of its parts”? When it (Team of players: individually and collectively) ceases to abide in the mental miasma of “imperfection”, and takes on the responsibility of “Perfection”, or at least to start from that Precise Premise – for Perfection is not only the goal, but also the “starting point” from which to attain its manifestation. Therefore, in order to discern the quality of the “complete” Team, it must first be determined what the qualities of the individuals are that comprise the quality of Completeness that constitute the Whole Team. (A popular “spiritual – hymn” beckons all to, “Let there be Peace on Earth, and let it begin with ME”. In order for Peace, or Wholeness – Completeness, to occur on the Team, it must begin with ME. The completeness of the Whole is predicated on the completeness of the individual(s). Each player plays an important role in completing the Whole, but will do so only if he understands how to facilitate his own completeness and enhance an expanded essence to the integrity of the Whole.strike-outstrike-out 10

If each player on “the” team was 100% attuned to the prospect (frequency) of Perfection, he would presumably perform his actions on the ball field with 100% proficiency. Since it is improbable that this degree of perfection would be likely to occur in our present realm of general relativity, what would be the “actual” probability if each player would at least contemplate the possibility of such degree of competence? His performance rating would be in direct proportion to his mental alignment to positive expectation of success. Strike-out 3If success is not evident in the face of momentous failure, this would be cause to ask, “wherefore didst thou doubt?” (This is the point at which a Big League team would need the services of a “meta-physician” to assist the temporarily “unsuccessful” player regain the confidence in asserting his significant right to be successful.) SEE ESSAY: Vision, Mechanics, Confidence – (Important to the art of consistent hitting is Confidence, an intangible element acquired through an absolute faith in the principle from which a batter bases his ability to produce the stroke that can be applied consistently in any given hitting situation no matter how the speed and subtleties of the ball are effected).

From a defensive skill-set, it would be very difficult to differentiate between the levels of skill of the “best” players at every position of all the teams in the Big Leagues! Fielding 2Rafael+Furcal+Los+Angeles 2infield 14infield7Fielding 1Those categories in which there seem to be noticeable differences in productivity rather than inherent fundamental abilities are: Pitching and Batting. With all defensive attributions seemingly equal, the team with the best pitching and hitting would be logically considered as having the best chance of winning. Randy J. 13NolanRyan 16But even in this scenario, if those best of pitchers and batters fail to be at their best in timely situations, it won’t matter if their individual statistics are the best in the league, and the team fails to win consistently, that team probably will not attain its ultimate goal of “Championship”. (Why was the overwhelmingly powerful “Goliath” not successful against the seemingly puny “David” when all physical evidence pointed to his presumably insurmountable advantage? “There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of Al-mighty gives ‘them’ understanding.”)

Is it possible for a team to win the Championship, whose batters and pitchers are not categorized as the best in the league? It’s possible, but highly improbable, even if their fielding stats are high! Unless, of course, their hitting, pitching, and fielding prowess was at their best and most consistent in the most timely of situations! Could such a team merely be “lucky” most of the season? Not likely! And certainly not the best way for any Big League Team to hold expectations for success in the long-run. Consistency has always been and always will be the standard for which to be successful on the Major-League level of play (as well as in any endeavor in which Principle is consistently applied – in thought and action). But what is it that would determine the highest level of consistent proficiency for which every team would certainly aspire to attain?

Before defining the elements that would enhance the process of “Team-Building” in this modern baseball era, let me provide a practical anecdotal experience (or two), about which I had the pleasure of writing earlier:

Of all sporting activities (to watch and play) Baseball is still my favorite, even now-a-days, when its particular “rah-rah” fashion to evoke a pure spirit of camaraderie has waned somewhat. In the past, it would have elicited from all teammates, individually and collectively, an inspirational band of communication that connected all to each other in a common bond until the ultimate decision for victory or defeat was imminent.

As the game was played from childhood through adulthood, the constant chatter amongst teammates, on the field, or in the dugout, was reminiscent of the reverberations that stimulated the livelihood of all kindred creatures, from Humans to Meerkats. jeter18What’s missing in the Big-Leagues now is a collective reverence for the repetitious banter of inspiring incantations that continuously summon mind’s heart to display the emotions of passion, exuberance, and courage that will somehow manifest the jubilation and ecstasy that proceed from triumphal endeavor. Certainly this “irreverent” display is never to be witnessed in the stoic, immobile, or sometimes volatile demeanor of most contemporary “dugout” leaders. Traditionalist views of John McGraw and Connie Mack portray contrasting temperaments that elicited either fear or beneficence from the minds and hearts of the players attached to those regimes. But from where does true inspiration come? It should and will eventually come from within each intrinsically “motivated-inspired” player. But until such time, perhaps an exemplary figure whose embodiment characterizes the source from which well-being emanates will inspire his colleagues to supersede their present attributions and expectations!

On Saturday, June 28th, 2008, the Dodgers hosted a luncheon (and game afterwards) celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and commemorating the heroic players of the 1970s. My brother, Tom, was one of those players.Tom Paciorek2 His words, about what playing for the Dodgers meant to him, echoed the sentiments of other players present, including Steve Garvey and Bill Russell. In short, they all offered respect and great appreciation for the man at the helm of each of their careers, the man who was, and is still the epitome of what the Dodgers, and Baseball itself, mean to Los Angeles and much of the World.T.Lasorda6T.Lasorda5T.Lasorda4

There is no one who has evoked the childlike spirit of inexhaustible exuberance, no one who embodied the ingratiating extent of joyful anticipation and exhilarating expectation of successful culmination than Tommy Lasorda. T. Lasorda8“YOU’VE GOT TO BELIEVE” that every ounce of positive energy comes from the very Soul that created the Universe. And “YOU’VE GOT TO BELIEVE” that “I” am the very exponent of that Universal Source of Energy, the exemplification for all who find their way into the jurisdiction of my “realm of enthusiasm”. “YOU’VE GOT TO BELIEVE” that you too can generate unrestrained enthusiasm of a genuinely righteous Cause for success and victory.Tommy Lasorda3

It would behoove all Organizations to follow the “Lasorda” example, for his “yoke is easy, and his burden is light”. His great appreciation for the opportunities he had been given had only inspired him to give more of himself, and to demonstrate that he had even more to give.T. Lasorda 6

If you ever have been within the visual and audio range of Tommy Lasorda, as a player, spectator, or fan, you must have been impressed with the positive energy exuding from his very presence. If you were an opponent, you may have felt enraged, however unwittingly, over the inherent “edge” any of his teams held over yours because of their incontestable advantage, the synergy due to his unfair alliance with the “gods” of majestic vibrational harmony. “You’ve got to believe” is a standard reference point from which all players should start their day with all the enthusiasm they need to further appreciate the opportunity to live life with inexhaustible energy.T. Lasorda 7

Before the game on that Saturday, all the players of the 70s were introduced on the field, and received their just applause from an admiring crowd. But when the last dignitary walked onto the field of Dreams, a thunderous roar of Appreciation went out to the most beloved Dodger of them all –Tommy Lasorda, whose humble gratitude always goes out to the “Great Dodger in the Sky”.Tommy Lasorda1

Coming Soon: Part 2 of, “Is the  Team Equal, or Greater, than the Sum of Its Parts