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Baseball: A Good Lineup

Baseball: A Good LIneup
Friday, October 12, 2012
Most baseball managers have similar philosophies when it comes to how they fill out the lineup (which frustrates sabermetrics buffs, of which I am not one, and therefore won't go into what sabermetrics is). Good managers put all their players--especially their best hitters--in the best position to succeed. Every hitter bats where they bat because of the kind of hitter they are. To have a balanced life--and the kind of support system that can help you through your recovery--you need to be surrounded by the right people at the right time. To give yourself the best shot of living a balanced life, you need to have balance in your relationships.

In baseball, a problem bad teams have is that they only have one or two guys in the lineup who they can rely on for offensive production. Since baseball is a game of failure (as I explain in another blog) it is impossible to consistently score runs when you only have one or two guys that can hit.

Let's say that you're the only legitimate hitter in a lineup. If you don't have anyone around you producing at the plate, there's this temptation to try and do everything yourself. But how can you knock in runs if you never have anyone on base? You can't, unless you hit a solo home run--but solo home runs aren't enough to win a game most of the time. When a team's best hitter tries to do everything himself, there is this temptation to try to hit a home run every time he's at the plate. That can cause the player to press. When a player is pressing, they can get out of sorts and go into a slump. This is like the importance of having a group of people in your life who can give you support *in their own different ways*.

Ideally, every person you have in your life should be able to help you in different ways, so you're not getting the same exact advice over and over from everyone you know. That can be exhausting and discouraging. You need people to play different roles and you need to know what their roles are, so you know who to turn to in any given situation. For instance, a leadoff hitter bats first because he's good at getting on base so the team's best hitters--who bat in the three or four spots beneath him--have someone to drive in. Consistently getting on base helps out the third hitter by giving him more chances to knock in runs (in that analogy you'd be the third hitter). A player who consitently gets on base for the best hitter is just like a friend who is consistently available to talk and help you through a rough time.

A lot of teams bat their catcher at the bottom of the order. That's because a lot of catchers are relied upon not for their offense, but their defense. The catcher calls the pitches and, to do that well, he studies the opponent so he knows the tendencies of the hitters on the other team. When he knows the tendencies of the opposing hitters, he gives his pitcher the best chance to succeed by calling the right pitches in the right situations. In this sense, the catcher is like a psychologist or psychiatrist. Just like catchers study the other team's hitters, a doctor has gone to school to learn how to best help his/her patients--such as by giving the right advice, prescribing the right medication or by pointing out the right things. The thing is, doctors can say the perfect thing or prescribe the perfect cocktail of medication, but you're still responsible for your recovery more than anybody else. A catcher can call the perfect pitches in the perfect situations, but it's still up to the pitcher to execute and make those pitches. So a catcher bats near the bottom because he has a very different role than the other hitters. The other hitters are like your friends, and offensive production is like the meaningful friendships they have with you--they are capable of being there for you on a more emotional level. The catcher, on the other hand, relies on his mind and what he's studied to get through the game. That's like a doctor--he/she gives you the foundation for your recovery (such as saying the right things or prescribing the right medication) but he/she isn't emotionallly involved like your friends and family are.

But what if you have no friendships or family? At group, lots of people are struggling with their recovery because they don't have anyone in their lives who they can count on--no family and no friends. When these people don't have friends or a significant other, they know that they badly need to make friends or find a boyfriend/girlfriend. But when you start hoping that every new person you meet will develop into that best friend you need so badly, you put yourself in a tough situation. You put too much pressure on yourself that can give people the sense that you're desperate to meet somebody... anybody... Every person you meet isn't necessarily the kind of person capable of being the friend you need. If you're putting all this pressure on yourself, you're pressing like a hitter presses at the plate. That can put you into a bad slump, like a good hitter finds himself in when he tries doing everything himself every time he's at bat. You'll end up feeling hopeless every time that a new person you meet doesn't turn into the friend you thought they might have been. When you put so much pressure on yourself to make friends or find a boyfriend/girlfriend, you're far more unlikely to make *any* friends or a boyfriend/girlfriend.

Now let's say that (as unrealistic as this is) the guy who is the only good hitter on his team does end up hitting an insane amount of solo-home runs all the time... except they're still just *solo* home runs. The majority of baseball games are won by scoring three or more runs. That would mean that--if the hitter had to do everything himself--he'd have to hit a home run every time he steps up to the plate, and most of the time a player may only get four at bats in a game.

So, let's assume that--despite putting all that pressure on yourself to make that new best friend every time you meet someone new--you beat the odds and do end up making a new friend. This would be like a hitter putting all the pressure on himself to hit three home runs in a game and actually doing it--despite all the pressure he put on himself. But here's the thing: three runs isn't always enough to win a game. This is like putting pressure on yourself to make a new friend and actually finding someone who does look past your obvious desperation and shows some interest in being your friend. The problem is, just because they show interest in being your friend, they might not be anything close to the kind of friend you really need--that's like hitting those three home runs but still losing the game.

All too often, I come across people at group who only have one friend--and that friend treats them poorly, or they have a boyfriend/girlfriend who treats them poorly. These people at group put up with all the negativity a bad friend brings into their lives because they rationalize it, thinking having a bad friend is better than having no friends at all. That couldn't be further from the truth. These people do want to cut this bad influence out of their lives, but they feel like it's better to wait until they've found someone to replace them with. But these people are setting themselves up for failure.

Typically, these bad influences are bad influences because of their negativity. They're bad friends because they are flat out mean to you--and they know they can get away with it, because when they met you, they could see your desperation and know they'd be able to get away with treating you poorly. They're mean because it makes them feel better about themselves. Keeping a bad friend in your life is *not* better than having no friend at all. A lot of the lonely people who I meet at group don't realize that a bad friend is making them feel worse about them self than complete and total loneliness would. The baseball equivalent of this bad friend is a player who is commonly referred to as a 'clubhouse cancer.' This person brings the rest of the team down, such as by complaining they aren't getting enough playing time, being lazy and saying things to the media that creates controversy and becomes a distraction for everyone on the team.

The reason keeping a bad friend in your life is so much worse than being alone is that when you have a bad friend, and are out in the world (trying to make a new friend) you are more insecure and desperate. This is because you have all those negative comments your bad friend has made floating around in your head. Those mean-spirited comments make you second guess everything you say and do when you're around new people. When you have no friends, you can still feel insecure and constantly doubt yourself, but at least you're the source of your own doubt and lack of self respect--that's something you can control and it's something you can address over time. But the thing is, when you keep a bad friend around, you have to deal with all the negative remarks your bad friend has made *as well as* the doubt and low self esteem you'd have if you had no friends at all. This is like a player who is a 'clubhouse cancer'. It is not uncommon for a very good player to be released or traded because he becomes such a distraction that the team suffers. In cases like this, the distractions the player causes outweighs the positive on-field production. It's tough for a team to make the call to trade or release a great player becasue he's a distraction--especially if the team has no adequate replacement for him, which is not uncommon either. It's just like how it's tough to cut a negative influence out of your life, even if you have no other friends.

Above, I talked about desperation and how people can sense it, and how nobody wants to be friends with someone who is clearly desperate--which is more than understandable. When people sense somebody they meet is desperate, they assume the person is also very needy and that, if they were to start a friendship with them, they'd end up with someone dependant on them. Good friendships go both ways... there's a give and take. It's not one person relying on the other for self esteem.

Now let's say you're on a team with *two* great hitters (one of which is yourself). Every team want's this "one-two punch" in their lineup. Great teams have this (like my team, the Brewers, did when they had Ryan Braun hitting third and Prince Fielder hitting fourth). This is an ideal thing for a baseball team and is just like the ideal kind of relationship two good friends have. As I said above, good friendships go both ways. There is always a give and a take. Real friendships--the kind you can count on--are mutually beneficial. This is like Braun and Fielder. Braun benefited from Fielder and Fielder benefited from Braun--in two different ways. Because Braun had Fielder (one of the most elite power hitters in all of baseball) hitting behind him, Braun saw better pitches to hit because the pitcher didn't want to walk him and give Fielder a chance to knock him in. That's what a lot of baseball people call 'protection'* So, since Braun saw more hittable pitches because Fielder was behind him, Braun got lots of hits and would end up with a higher batting average than Fielder. Since Braun got lots of hits, he got on base a lot. Since Braun got on base a lot, Fielder had more opportunities for RBIs, and would end the season with more RBIs than Braun. The point here is that they both benefited from each other, but in different ways. Braun hit for a higher average and Fielder hit more RBIs. That's just like a real, close friendship--two people get something out of the relationship, but don't necessarily get the same thing. (In my opinion, two close friends getting different things out of the friendship is more fulfilling).

The final point I'm going to make with this lineup analogy relates to the pitcher. Unlike the American League, the pitchers in the National League hit. Pitchers are not expected to be good hitters (Babe Ruth being the only exception in the history of the game).. A pitcher's job is to pitch. Since pitchers can't hit, they bat last in the lineup. If they get a hit, great, but it doesn't happen often. Instead, the other eight hitters in the lineup are expected to produce offensively. So in this analogy, the eight hitters are like your platonic support system--your friends and family. The pitcher, then, is like a boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife. There will never be a pitcher that is relied upon to produce offensively, but pitchers will always be incredibly crucial to a team's success. In this non-steroid era we're currently in, it's pitching--not hitting--that gets most teams to the playoffs and wins championships. So you can't rely on your significant other for *everything* just like no team can rely on their pitcher to consistently get hits. You need others in your life to balance your interpersonal relationships out. And if, for the sake of the analogy, we're still assuming you're the best hitter, and that your significant other a pitcher who you *rely on to get hits*, you're not being a very good significant other. You can't rely on the pitcher to pitch and hit, yet think your only job is to hit. A relationship that's out of balance like that is never going to last. Offensive production asks less of a pitcher to win a game and a pitcher who shuts down the other team's offense asks less of that offense to win games. They help each other in ways that the other can't... and that is what wins games.

*I don't believe in 'protection.' Braun put up better numbers the year after Fielder went to Detroit and a couple years before that Fielder was dominating at the plate with absolutely no production from the person batting behind him. I only brought up 'protection' because it helped make my point.

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  Metaphor Blog Title: By: Date:
Read Baseball: Come Back Wins Vs. Blowouts mikew 10/12/12
Read Baseball: Chipping Away mikew 10/12/12
Read Baseball: A Good LIneup mikew 10/12/12
Read Baseball: Game of Failure mikew 10/12/12
Read Baseball: Short Memory mikew 10/12/12
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