Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Environmental Pressures & Player Make-Ups: Stray Thoughts

This is more just a stray thought than a full article. I was reading this piece over at Baseball Nation talking about Zack Greinke and how everyone assumes he wouldn’t be able to handle a big market, but we really have no idea. We really have no idea what causes players to suddenly be good or bad.

For example, there’s a prevalent claim that certain players can’t handle playing in New York. They point to players like A.J. Burnett or Javier Vazquez who failed to live up to expectations when they got there, then turned it around when they left. It’s easy to say things like “They couldn’t handle the pressure”, but is that really the case? Both of them even had at least decent seasons in New York; maybe not their best, but maybe better than you would realize given the narrative. Was it the pressure? Or maybe something else, like a clash with the organization, or personal issues, or any number of things?

This also ignores certain players that go to New York and exceed expectations. Curtis Granderson seemed to be trending down until New York, then he turned it around pretty quick. Nick Swisher bounced back from a down year in Chicago.Freddy Garcia, Russell Martin, and Bartolo Colon suddenly became good again there. Did the pressure just not affect them or something?

And who’s to say that the Yankees are the only place with pressure? Would these players have done similarly on the Mets? Nick Swisher, for example, was uncharacteristically bad his one year with the White Sox. Was Chicago just too much of a pressure-cooker, and he needed to get to New York to relax? And then there are players like Adam Dunn and Alex Rios, who had bizarre sudden problems there last season. Was playing for the White Sox just too stressful? But both have turned it around there this season (as has Kevin Youkilis)-did the pressure just suddenly go away?

What about the Mariners? Chone Figgins went there and fell apart, as did Richie Sexson. Adrian Beltre disappointed while he was there, then got back into a groove upon leaving. Justin Smoak has disappointed after coming over as a top prospect in the Cliff Lee trade. Erik Bedard, Carlos Silva, and Ian Snell (among others) have shown issues there (granted, some of those were due to injuries). Is Seattle just too stressful of a city to play in.

I suppose all of this is just to say that we are very far from understanding players, their make-ups, and how it affects their games. Also, maybe there’s truth to the idea that it’s more stressful to be a Yankee, but maybe being a Mariner or White Sox (or whoever) can be just as difficult, if not more, depending on the player.

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