On my bookcase is a book, The Rules of Supervillainy. It’s funny! Some rules are beyond strange, but two rules are simple. If you want to be a supervillain or a superhero, they apply.
- You must have a rarely noticed cover identity, like mild-mannered Clark Kent.
- You must have at least one secret power.
My recent discovery is that each baseball team can have an identity as supervillains or superheroes. Let’s look at whether the Diamondbacks are superheroes.
Cover Identity. This season, where do the Diamondbacks stand in the NL West? In the offseason, the Dodgers and the Padres made headlines as they added stars to their elite playoff teams with World Series aspirations. On the other end of the spectrum the collapse of the Rockies made headlines when they traded away superstar Nolan Arenado.
The Diamondbacks are rarely noticed, except maybe for a quick comment such as Bumgarner might bounce back, but he will not likely reach his career peak. And Zac Gallen will likely stay under-the-radar as he emerges as a great pitcher. This season, the Diamondbacks cover identity as an unremarkable middle team in the NL West is well established. Perhaps the following quote said it best:
“When I first agreed to do this series, I did not think about the fact that at some point I would have to write about the Arizona Diamondbacks. And now, here we are, and I’m scanning my mind, and honestly: I don’t know that I have anything to say about the Arizona Diamondbacks.” — Joe Posnanski, The Athletic
Secret Powers. Spring training rarely reveals secret powers. This year is no exception.
“This year, the numbers come with an even bigger asterisk than normal.” — Jim McLennan, AZ Snake Pit article Diamondbacks Spring Training Heroes and Villains
My first thought of the Diamondbacks’ cover identity was “blah, blah, blah.” Then my mental toughness kicked in. It’s only a situation, not a negative about the Diamondbacks. Might the situation give subtle advantages (aka secret powers) to the Diamondbacks? The less than obvious answer is, “Yes!”
I’ll be bold: during the season being a middle team in the NL West gives the Diamondbacks ‘secret powers.’ With those powers, anything is possible. Let’s look at their ‘secret powers.’
“The quality of your life is directly related to how much uncertainty you can comfortably handle.” — Tony Robbins
Peter Guber said that knowing that my story has uncertainty in the outcome, I actively participate in the story and that tips the scales in favor of success. — Makakilo
The first ‘secret power’ is that middle teams can comfortably handle a lot more uncertainty about winning than elite teams. Middle teams have more uncertainty about whether the game will be a win or loss. Because they are comfortable with the uncertainty, they can focus their thoughts and actions on changing each situation towards a win.
Secret power # 1 is middle teams are most comfortable with uncertainty and therefore can focus on swinging the game from a loss to a win.
“Don’t let ‘good enough’ be good enough.” — Kris Bryant
Players who are traded to a contending team often say how lucky they were. My hunch is that they feel ‘I am lucky because I’m not good enough to be on this team.’ Their attitude can negatively impact their performance.
Middle teams allow every player an attitude of ‘I’m good enough to be an important part of this team winning games.’ That positive attitude results in contributions that can surpass what the player knew was possible.
Secret power # 2 is middle teams are full of players who are good enough to be an important part of winning games.
“…Individuals who are primed…to feel either amusement or contentment can think of a larger and wider array of thoughts…” — Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage
“Positive emotions actually expand our peripheral line of vision.” — Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage
Players on elite teams sometimes feel extreme pressure to win every game. Every loss is a tragedy – not much fun in that!
Being on a middle team can result in a different mindset: ‘playing baseball is fun’ – an attitude that contributes to better perception and consistently playing with energy and at peak mental performance.
Secret power # 3 is middle teams can consistently play with energy and peak mental performance.
“Gettin’ good players is easy. Gettin’ ‘em to play together is the hard part.” — Casey Stengel
“A mistake that makes us humble is better than an achievement that makes us arrogant.” —Unknown
Being a middle team leaves room for players to be humble. Humble players are not blind to their flaws, and easily work to reduce their flaws. Another advantage is that humble players who make an error are more often (compared to arrogant players) picked up by teammates.
Secret power # 4 is players on middle teams work to reduce flaws and they are better teammates.
“To see an opportunity we must be open to all thoughts.” — Catherine Pulsifer
“…The right pitch will come but when it does, be prepared to run the bases.” — Rick Maksian
During games, rarely have middle teams scored more runs than their opponent. To win they must approach winning differently. Differently includes having an open mind to many ideas that could include a winning opportunity. And after they identify possible winning opportunities, they prepare plans to match those opportunities.
Secret power #5 is that when winning opportunities happen, middle teams are prepared to make the most of them.
More than anything else, I believe it’s our decisions, not the conditions of our lives that determine our destiny.” — Tony Robbins
“Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.” — John Wooden, Basketball Coach
It stinks. The NL West includes two elite teams: the Dodgers and the Padres. That condition could determine the destiny of the Diamondbacks, unless they make a decision that they will do what it takes to be their best, and make the best of the way the season turns out.
Secret power # 6 is middle teams make and execute decisions that can change their destiny.
“What am I looking at?” — Georgiou in Star Trek Discovery
“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited of what could go right.” — Tweet by Tony Robbins on 17 February 2016
Focus impacts perceptions. An amazing truth is that people find what they are looking for! If I am not finding what could go right, I will likely miss opportunities!
For middle teams, many games happen with an unlikely chance of winning. As a result, the middle teams look optimistically and very broadly at the question, “Are there any ways to win?”
Secret power #7 is that middle teams are better at looking for ways to win, and therefore are more likely to find them.
“We talk about winning the margins. Taking care of the little things and adding them up into one or two big moments in a game.” — Torey Lovullo
Players on elite teams often expect every game, and nearly every moment in the game, to be successful. But, do they celebrate when their expectation is met? Not always.
Players on a middle team see things differently. They focus on little, and very important, things and then happily celebrate when their result is a big moment in the game. On a deep level, they want more big moments in the game, perhaps tipping the balance of the game.
Secret power # 8 is middle teams are full of players focused on creating big moments in the game.
“One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something.” — Nolan Ryan
Being in the NL West with elite teams can motivate Diamondback players to prove how good they are! Beating the Dodgers would prove something! As a Diamondback fan, high on my list of joyous events is beating the Dodgers! This season, many opportunities to prove something will present themselves.
Secret power # 9 is middle teams have something to prove.
The Diamondbacks are superheroes.
This season their cover identity as an unremarkable middle team is well established. As a middle team, their super powers are formidable:
- Middle teams are most comfortable with uncertainty and therefore can focus on swinging the game from a loss to a win.
- Middle teams are full of players who are good enough to be an important part of winning games.
- Middle teams can consistently play with energy and peak mental performance.
- Players on middle teams work to reduce flaws and they are better teammates.
- When winning opportunities happen, middle teams are prepared to make the most of them.
- Middle teams make and execute decisions that can change their destiny.
- Middle teams are better at looking for ways to win, and therefore are more likely to find them.
- Middle teams are full of players focused on creating big moments in the game.
- Middle teams have something to prove.