The Game within the Game
I know I’ve talked about this before, but in baseball the same issues come up over and over. There are certain things for every player that are like skin rashes that keep coming back. You think you’ve dealt with it and there it is again.
My skin rash is about trying to be something I’m not. You can get a little crazy when you’re not going well. You go up there trying to drive in five runs in one at-bat. On the recent road trip, I was watching the opposing team’s lead-off batter. I can’t remember now who it was. I thought, “That’s the type of player I am. Putting the ball on the ground, getting on base, walking, bunting, stealing bases.’’
I had a sit-down with myself, and I’ve been playing better ever since. My numbers are creeping up. On Sunday when Angel took a day off, I went 3 for 4 in his spot. And most importantly, we won. I really needed a game like that. Not just for me, but I want Angel to feel he can take a day off and not think he’s leaving a big hole in the lineup.
I love the game within the game of stealing bases. When I’m in the dugout, I watch the pitcher to pick up on patterns or tells. I watch the way he throws off-speed pitches because that’s what you’re looking for. When you’re on base, you’re trying to think along with the pitcher and catcher. On what pitch-counts would he be throwing off-speed? Which batters?
When I get caught stealing, like I did on Sunday, I always look at why. Usually it’s pretty obvious. On that one, I just got a bad jump. You’re supposed to take off as soon as the pitcher lifts his foot to throw. I started when he was already up. Just that split second of hesitation can make all the difference. And the catcher’s throw was perfect. That didn’t help.
I remember when I first started in pro baseball, I didn’t know the tricks that first basemen try to play on you. They’ll talk to you and try to distract you. They’ll say, “Time out! Time out!’’ even though there’s no time out. Or they’ll ask you about dinner the night before or where you’re from. You just think they’re being friendly. In Single A, I was on first base and the first baseman is talking and talking and suddenly the pitcher throws over and gets me. I was pretty embarrassed. I told my manager, “That will never happen again.’’
Now when I get on base, I ask the first baseman how he’s doing — I like to be polite. Then I ignore him.