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Joe Maddon on the weight of a late-season collapse

Sep 20, 2011, 1:34 PM EDT

Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon was on the Dan Patrick show yesterday and he said something that just reinforces my belief that he’s one of the brighter bulbs in the game. Not in a “Maddon is a baseball genius” way, but just in terms of a guy who is able to move beyond the tired cliches and actually explain stuff to you once in a while.

This was about the Red Sox’ late-season collapse. Granted, since he’s not currently in a late season collapse he can speak more freely about it, but it’s nice to hear someone talk about it by saying something other than “well, you can’t press … can’t panic.”  Of course it affects people. And this affect Maddon describes resonates:

I was involved in 1995 with the Angles when we lost a 13-game lead. It was really awkward walking into the ballpark. You felt really heavy. There was this weight about it walking into the ballpark where actually your legs didn’t want to seem to work either. It’s an odd life experience and it comes through sports primarily I think when things are slipping like that. It can be difficult and you need a couple of guys more than anything to lift that burden somehow, but it’s hard to really get that burden off you when you starting doing that heavy.”

There have been a couple of times in my life when I was in some serious deep funks. And I remember that weight — in a very literal, not metaphorical sense — pressing on my body. It was hard to walk down the sidewalk. It was hard to get out of chairs.  It’s half crazy, but I wonder if there’s some way to gauge a baserunner or an outfielder’s speed in a big slump vs. his speed when things are going well. I’ve felt that weight and believe it exists.

  1. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    That Men’s One a Day pill he takes sure does keep him focused.

    • spudchukar - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:42 PM

      That’s a hit!

  2. cur68 - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:40 PM


  3. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    Exactly why always talking about stats is the wrong way to go about anything. These players are human and when they take the field, they have pressure on them. Could be the crowd. Could be a fight with the wife/girlfriend. Could be anything. To say that player x is 10% always the right player for this situation is ludicrous. To say that external pressures have no effect on a person is ludicrous. To say that 45,000 screaming maniacs waving white towels doesn’t affect a pitcher is ludicrous.

    At the end of the day, after Wins, Saves, RBI, xFIP, oWAR, VORP, and everything else, these are just guys who put their pants on one leg at a time.

    • - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:44 PM

      Are saying you’re not going to come up with a way to quanitify this “Preassure” and put it into an equation?

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:50 PM

        Nope, it is like dividing by zero…there is no way of doing it. 😀

    • baccards - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:50 PM

      Or in the case of the Phillies – their pant-suits.

    • buddaley - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:34 PM

      You are absolutely right, but not saying anything that any reasonably intelligent stats person doesn’t already know. In your implication, that people focused on stats think they are the ultimate answer to all questions, you set up one of the more egregiously wrong-headed straw men.

      Listen to Bill James and any other respected sabermetrician, and you will realize they are trying to answer specific types of questions and investigate particular issues. They are not denying there are non-statistical factors that have important effects. Sure there are zealots who are simple-minded. But to refer to them as models is silly.

      The continued interest in stats-begun in the mid-19th century-and the effort to refine them and continually critique them is simply the process of seeking a deeper understanding of the game, not a holy grail with some final answer already-or even expected-in place.

      Always talking about stats is not the wrong way to go about anything. Only assuming that such discussion is the be-all and end-all of understanding is wrong. It is like saying that the astronomer who is “always talking about the science of the stars” is going about it the wrong way because he is discounting poetry. No, but if that is his primary interest, there is nothing wrong with it, nor is the person primarily interested in the statistical analysis of the game wrong.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:14 PM

        That is true, buddaley. But also, saying that people who don’t follow stats as closely as others are just morons who overvalue the Pitcher Win and the RBI is just as egregious.

        My comment is specifically tailored to those who rip on those of us who think that the 9th inning is more pressure-filled than the 6th inning. If the game were being played by robots, then this would be true. But if the game were being played by robots, then why would we bother to have a playoffs when the Phillies are clearly the best team and they were last year too. But the Giants are the defending champs because they played better in the NLCS.

        Again, I have no problem with stat guys. I do have a problem when stat guys tell me how I should feel or think. I think the 9th inning is more pressure than the 6th inning. Stats will never show whether this is true or not. To me, it is simple common sense. When you are pitching in the 6th, the game is not on the line. When you are pitching in the 9th it is. Thus the pressure. Thus the human side of the game. Most stat guys will just have you think that a guy who is good in the 6th will be just as good in the 9th, and that is the concept that I disagree with more often than not.

      • hasbeen5 - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:31 PM

        I do think in some situations there is more pressure in the 6th than the 9th. There’s more pressure on a guy that’s brought in with the bases loaded, 0 outs, 1 run lead in the 6th than there is on a guy that’s brought in to start the 9th inning with a 3 run lead.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:48 PM

        hasbeen, I partially disagree only because when you are brought into that situation, there isn’t much pressure because it wasn’t your problem. You get a couple fly balls and a ground out, and you pitched well, even though 2 runs scored. You give up a couple singles, and get the 3 outs, then those 3 runs weren’t yours anyway.

        I do agree, and I mentioned this in the other thread, that the save stat does need a little tweaking. I’d like to see it be 2 run lead or even 1 run lead would be fine with me too. Or tying run on base at worst. These 3 run saves are not very indicative of the pressure. But a guy coming into a game on the road with his team up one in the 9th is under more pressure than any other pitcher in that entire game, I don’t care about the situation earlier. That’s my opinion and no stats will change my mind on that one.

      • buddaley - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:10 PM

        I don’t think that anyone who resorts to calling someone a “moron” is adding much to a conversation. But I think it might be possible to provide evidence whether pitching in the 9th inning is more stressful than the 6th, or at least whether the ability to finish games is as rare as many people seem to think. And if the evidence is provided, then those who continue to deny the likelihood of the skill not being particularly rare or who say “I don’t care what the stats say, it is “common sense” or “I still know it is” or some such retort” are indeed being foolish.

        I revised the initial point to the issue of the potential limited supply of “closers”, because that is the real issue. I doubt anyone thinks that holding a 3 run lead with 2 outs and nobody on in the 9th inning is more stressful than holding a tie with the bases loaded and 0 outs in the 6th inning. The real question is whether the psychological skills of closers are really unique to a few pitchers, and that is subject to empirical study.

        It is certainly legitimate to question the conclusiveness of the evidence or to demonstrate why data does not prove the case, but to ignore it or simply refuse to address it indicates a narrow minded view and an unwillingness to consider new information.

        Similarly, there is ample evidence and argument to make it believable that pitcher wins and RBIs are way overrated as means of evaluating players. As in any rational system, there always remains the possibility of refuting such evidence. But it takes reason and data to do it, not a “belief” that it is wrong when the current information is so obvious. Systems built on evidence and reason always leave room for skepticism; indeed their basic premise is that all views are subject to change. But simply denying the validity because of prejudice or convention stands outside the pale.

      • hasbeen5 - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:38 PM

        But the runs still score Chris.

        I guess if you’re talking about pressure to compile save stats, you’re right, no pressure in the 6th.

        If you’re talking about pressure to prevent runs from scoring and, you know, win games, then my 6th inning scenario is about as pressure packed as it gets.

    • nightman13 - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:44 PM

      Except once their pants are on, they make Gold records.

  4. yankeesgameday - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    Most interesting baseball anecdote around these parts in a might long time.

    • hittfamily - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:17 PM

      My favorite line form Joe is when he debunks the myth about the first guy to the ballpark is the hardest worker. He says the first guy to the ballpark drinks the most coffee, eats the most snacks, and watches the most TV. Hilarious.

      Here’s the vid

  5. shaggylocks - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    This after the day Ellsbury hoofs out an inside-the-parker. Hopefully that moment will help propel the Sox out of this…

  6. nolanwiffle - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    When troubles befall you, reach for the bourbon…..or the bubbles.

  7. Francisco (FC) - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:48 PM

    It was hard to talk down the sidewalk.

    Sidewalks don’t like being talked down to. I’ve tried.

    • jimbo1949 - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:35 PM

      It was hard to talk down the sidewalk.
      Was it up on the bridge, looking to leap?

  8. sanzarq - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    I’ve liked Joe Maddon ever since he came into a more prominent role as the Rays Manager. I love his candor and his willingness to go beyond the cliche. He’s always interesting to listen to in interviews and is apparently very adept in getting the most out of his players. He’s the Manager of the Year in the American League, in my opinion. Everybody gave the Rays up for dead after all of the player losses (and the Manny debacle), but look where they are at now. I wish he was my Off-season neighbor, ’cause I’d love to do some Hot-Stove yakking with him over the winter.

    I’m definitely rooting for the Rays to get into the post-season. I’m sick of the Yankee-Red Sox tandem dominating every headline in the American League East.

  9. bklynbaseball - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    Craig, you’re spot on. Went through a bout of depression several years ago, and I’d be willing to bet what you and the Skipper are describing is pretty damn close to what I was feeling back then. Everything felt like drudgery; you can’t sleep, you have absolutely no motivation, and there’s no end in sight. Takes a lot of strength, willingness to get help – and some good friends to get through.

    Of course, getting off my ass and doing what it took to fix the situation helped too…….

  10. dailyrev - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    What you describe is very well known to mental health workers and even researchers, and it is no metaphor. Anyone who still imagines that body and mind are two things, separate things, I encourage you to come out of the medieval era.

    Recently, this experience in particular has been repeatedly observed in patients and clients suffering from something far more disturbing than a temporary disturbance of a baseball team’s performance. I am referring, of course, to the legions of Americans put out of work, out of home, or out of both, by the recent (and continuing) economic unpleasantness. This is more than an economic problem: it is a vast mental health crisis that is even more disturbing, numerically at least, and harmful to American society than the equally painful problem of vets returning from the places where war goes on and on.

    My point is that Madden’s observation is confirmed by experience in the world at large; as the writer here correctly observes, it is not merely a baseball phenomenon.

  11. antlerclaws - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    I think he’s growing out those flowing locks because he was tired of hearing me through my TV calling him the man from “Up”. In a friendly way. I like Joe.

  12. stevejeltzjehricurl - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    I think this applies outside sports like Craig is talking about. The only difference is that in sports it’s a collective experience rather than an individual one, which may be what Maddon’s getting at. Imagine that weight on each individual on the team — they all feel it, and it probably gets even heavier because you can’t lean on someone else to help you out of your own funk and you can’t help them.

    Maybe this occurs in companies going broke slowly, or in political campaigns that start to see a downhill trend, but the most public shared example of this would be sports, because the fan base participates in it as well.

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