In 2017, the Diamondbacks could play in the post-season. To get there will require fighting against bad mental habits.
To my great surprise, I easily listed twelve bad habits. The awfulness stopped when my optimism kicked in. Optimism is not a thirteenth bad habit! I appreciate my optimism, even when it deceives me. I am more than ready to buy tickets to see the Diamondbacks in the post-season, and I’m glad about it! Without further ado, let’s look at bad mental habits.
1. I expect motivation to come from outside myself. If my expectation is not met, I sink into playing by auto-pilot without enthusiasm. I start counting the days.
Great coaches know that players have different types of self-motivation and they know how to strengthen each type of self-motivation.
2. I embrace an attitude that my effort does not matter. When I play badly, the “damage is limited.” Possible reasons swarm like flies. My team is hopelessly behind. Our rotation always allows a ton of runs. Our bullpen is the worst.
What? Are you serious? Last season the Diamondbacks really had the worst pitching in Major League baseball?? Then my effort should double! Maximum effort shows good character and passion for baseball.
3. I focus on one thing, like hitting homeruns. I don’t worry about OBP, SOs, RBIs, and especially I don’t worry about winning games.
Paul Goldschmidt focuses on improving all aspects of his game. I prefer him to any of the top ten homerun hitters in 2016. Goldy’s OBP is better than all the top-ten players, and his OPS+ and WARb are better than most.
4. I buy into a team culture that is blind to the wrongness of bad habits and poor plays. Even worse, I am blind to the imperative to improve every day.
An old regime had one valid thought: teams with excellent culture outperform their analytics. The Diamondbacks needed to outperform! They talked about a culture of winning. Winning did not happen.
Instead what happened was under-performance and yet another change of regime. A culture of regime instability is close to reality. I advocate a culture of improving every day to achieve player-specific improvements which will make the biggest positive impact. I advocate regime stability, with promotions from within the organization.
5. I am intimidated by the other team. They always hustle, so I feel pressure and stress instead of confidently doing my best.
So it’s “David against Goliath?” Instead of trying to be better I suggest focus on being different. What are my competitive advantages in today’s game? Advantages could include better mental focus, an insight, a game plan, a teammate, or even an attitude of extreme passion for baseball.
6. I wallow in fear of repeat failure instead of letting myself experience a setback while continuing to strive for consistent success.
Five years in a row without breaking above 500. And 2016 was the worst because the Diamondbacks fell far short of their lofty preseason expectations. Fear of repeat failure would easily result in desperate and unwise actions. Instead I see a team that has acknowledged the setback. The team has a new GM who is carefully and wisely making changes for greater success this year and in future years.
7 . I advance my personal agenda (like partying all night) at expense of team agenda (win games).
Did Babe Ruth have a personal agenda? Wikipedia states, “During his career, he was the target of intense press and public attention for his baseball exploits and off-field penchants for drinking and womanizing. His often reckless lifestyle was tempered by his willingness to do good by visiting children at hospitals and orphanages.” His teams (the Red Sox and the Yankees) each won the World Series multiple times with Babe Ruth on the team, so maybe he was an exception to the rule. And maybe not.
8. My skill in pitching justifies any weakness I may have. I don’t need to work on my weakness.
Two examples of pitchers with a weakness follow:
Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs made a convincing case that Tyson Ross was baseball’s worst bunter. Of 27 pitches when he showed bunt, 19 were strikes, 6 were balls, and 2 were fair balls.
Jon Lester can bunt. In August 2016, with two strikes, Jon Lester put down a squeeze bunt that drove in the winning run in the twelfth inning. Yet he has famously struggled with his pick-off throws to first base.
9. I carry off-field problems into the game instead of leaving them behind in the locker room. I obsess with winning my argument with my wife/girlfriend/other.
Baseball is a demanding and competitive sport. Tuning out distractions is a must do. Compartmentalize is a way to separate (in my mind) the parts of my life, so that I can focus intensely on one compartment at a time. That is not the complete answer because on-field distractions can be significant.
10. I’m never humble enough to see reality with a sense of humor. I never see my contributions to problems.
Humility means to perceive reality (including my shortfalls and contributions to problems) instead of how I would imagine reality to be (my superhero effort and talent were not enough to prevent failures of people around me). My sense of humor is unburdened by defensiveness or judgement.
11. There is an unfair team rule. I will break it to show I have freedom.
Managers have unwritten rules. Examples are I bench any player who fails to run full speed to first base, and I don’t start any player who shows up late to pre-game practice. And yet, I have learned that there is an exception to every rule. I postulate that players identify that exception, and exercise that exception at least once, thereby demonstrating their freedom from the tyranny of the rule.
12. I am cocky, elite, privileged, and entitled. I’m number one, and often I’m number only. I don’t need to listen to anyone else or think about anyone else. It would be unthinkable to have compassion for anyone else.
Alex Rodriquez has the highest career earnings in MLB. Brent Nault described him in the 20 most hated players in baseball. He stated, “Alex Rodriguez has always been hated by players because of his egotistical nature and his cocky attitude.” On the other hand, Alex Rodriquez’s passion for baseball often would overcome his bad mental habits.