By Dan Allsup
I have a theory. Derek Holland’s success last year was tied to his goofiness. Some say he needs to settle down if he wants to take his game to the next level. I don’t believe that is the best course of action for him.
Consider this: Was Derek doing any impressions in 2010? Did he do regular radio segments where he impersonated Arnold Schwarzenegger? And do you recall the 2010 World Series where Derek faced 3 batters, got none out, and walked all three on 13 pitches?
After that World Series meltdown by Derek some questioned his ability to stay calm and relax on the mound. Derek answered those questions with impersonations, a mockery of a mustache, and non-stop goofy conduct.
Before 2011, tense-Derek had amassed a -.8 WAR, in 195.2 innings of work. In last year’s 198 innings, goofy-Derek posted a 2.7 WAR, and at times displayed brilliance on the mound.
We all have defense mechanisms for pressure. Some bite their nails, some cry, and others hyperventilate. Derek Holland morphs into Harry Caray while under pressure.
I’m sure Derek was quirky before the 2011 season. I’m just stating I don’t recall any of this outward bizarre behavior prior to the 2011 season. And my last memory of him before the 2011 was him imploding on the ‘biggest stage in baseball’.
360 days later, Holland pitched the game of his life in Game 4 of the 2011 World Series. Furthermore, on that same ‘biggest stage in baseball’ Derek was asked and agreed to do the play-by-play for the World Series, in his Harry Caray voice. That is a stunning transformation, a caterpillar to a (social) butterfly perhaps.
Another theory I have, is that Derek Holland watched and studied "Bull Durham" before the 2011 season. Here are a few quotes I'm sure he's incorporated into his mental approach.
“If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press'll think you're colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob.”
If Derek did his first ever interview in his Harry Caray voice, everyone would’ve called him a joke. If he had his mustache from day one (I might be able to see it by now) and people would’ve called him a slob. Derek hasn’t won 20, but he has earned his keep, and he is not a slob, he is colorful.
“You just got lesson number one: don't think; it can only hurt the ball club.”
Derek said this about his on-the-field emotions: “The big thing with me, I think, is just working on controlling my emotions and not letting my adrenaline get the best of me.” He added, “You’ve got to try to control your emotions the best you can.” Clearly, Derek resorts to humor to channel his adrenaline. Derek no longer is a thinker on the mound; he is as relaxed as a comedian on-stage.
Laloosh: How come you don't like me?
Crash: Because you don't respect yourself, which is your problem. But you don't respect the game, and that's my problem. You got a gift.
Derek’s shtick does tend to grate on people. That’s understandable, we want all our baseball players to act, talk and play the same way. And Derek definitely doesn’t conform to that preset model. Some might want Derek to ‘respect’ the game more and harness his gift. But ironically, that’s how he does harness his gift.
“You be cocky and arrogant, even when you're getting beat. That's the secret. You gotta play this game with fear and arrogance.”
While I don’t think Derek comes off as cocky, he has evidently mastered the fear side of baseball. If a man sports the facial hair that he does in front of thousands, that man knows no fear.
“I told him that a player on a streak has to respect the streak.”
We all know you have to respect the streak. If he posts a similar season to last year, with similar antics then it’s a success. Why mess with success and a streak to appease the opinions of fans? I don’t expect him to change, but one can only know how he will handle baseball after he shaves his ‘stache off, for his impending wedding in June.
Annie Savoy: “The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness.”
Derek is self-aware, he has just learned how to block it all out. To makes jokes you have to be self-aware, to know what people laugh at. He knows he’s goofy and he doesn’t care, as long as he’s productive, he can be goofiest player in “The Show”.
And always remember, “Candlesticks always make a nice gift”
And Derek, “The rose goes in the front, big guy.”