If you spend enough time trying to write a season-ending piece on a disappointing season, you might end up with an over-analysis on how things could’ve gone differently. Then you’ll rant to people in your life about Michael Young, Ron Washington, and Ian Kinsler, and being tired and injuries. Eventually you’ll think about the intangibles that made this good-on-paper team fizzle out. Then you’ll think about intangibles alone and how one group of baseball people put way too much emphasis on them and the other doesn’t give them any credit at all. I think both groups are wrong.
While it is largely a numbers game, baseball is a sport played by real people. The human element is evident in everything involving people. The drive to succeed is present. The need to show-off talent is obvious, and the guidance of a leader is needed. One intangible that has helped the team in the past, but did not help the team in 2012 is Michael Young’s leadership. Of course, people make fun of it like that’s all he has, but younger players do feed off guidance of the veterans. Michael Young has been able to show young players how to work hard to achieve their goals. His determination to play and work for a team can be inspiring. The pitcher’s had Colby Lewis’ veteran presence for the same reason. These guys are work horses. They don’t have natural “blow you away” talent, but they show great work ethic, and they succeed because of it.
In 2012, Michael Young’s leadership turned into Michael Young’s ego, and was no longer inspiring. Intangibles work both ways, and most people don’t see that. The human element of wanting to succeed caught up with Young, and he and Ron Washington couldn’t see past it to get to the big picture. Young could have been more inspiring by taking a backseat when needed. Of course it’s Ron Washington’s move to put Young in the lineup, but the fear of a clubhouse revolt should never be a reason to keep someone in the lineup, especially a leader. If he was any kind of leader, his ability to take a step back for the good of the team could have been a good lesson for everyone. It’s about a team, and not about one single player. This intangible really hurt the clubhouse.
Along the same lines, Roy Oswalt and Scott Feldman being asked to move to the bullpen because of their performance was a good move to help the team succeed. Roy Oswalt and Scott Feldman’s attitudes about moving to the bullpen did not help the team succeed. Whether anyone likes it or not, veteran presences in the clubhouse have an effect. Negativity in any light affects performances, and it’s been proven. A perfect example of how to handle that situation is Tim Lincecum in this year’s postseason. “Take one for the team” is a cliché for a reason.
The clubhouse this year did not have the Rangers feel of the last two years. Maybe that’s just my opinion, but there were less smiles and more cocky attitudes. That comes with winning, of course, and I’m okay with that until it doesn’t look like fun anymore. Baseball is a job, and it’s normal to get tired, but you can’t look tired and unhappy the entire season. If you don’t like the people you work with, you’re almost guaranteed to do a worse job. If you enjoy going to work, your performance reflects it. Bryan Gutierrez of dallasmavs.com shared a quote with me from Mark Cuban about the Rangers that explains this. “I would also say, as a fan of the Rangers, background, team culture and chemistry matter. That’s what helps you today and ten years from now. Don’t violate that, no matter what.” He knows. Lightning in a bottle with great work ethic led by Dirk Nowitzki won the Mavericks a championship in 2011. That’s clubhouse chemistry. That helps teams when ballgames. That’s an intangible that needs to be taken seriously.
Sometimes the best team on paper doesn’t win. Sometimes the teams with mediocre numbers make it to the playoffs. Sometimes an 88-74 team makes it to the World Series and is favored to win. There are reasons you can’t simply predict baseball. When living, breathing people are involved in anything, some things are just simply unexplainable. Teams collapse at random times. Teams who had all the right players to make the playoffs last year essentially stay the same and don’t make it the next. Several different things cause this, but never discount human mentality. It’s not the most important thing on a baseball diamond, but it certainly has meaning.
Emily Cates is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. You can reach her at Emily.Cates@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter at @EmLikesBaseball.