Chicago Sports Inside and Out – The Chicago Sports Maven

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The Mental Aspect Of Baseball

Posted by sportsmaven on April 4, 2008

The Chicago Cubs played their 4th game of the 2008 season today and already, it seems that destiny’s team is off to a slow start for the second year in a row. Cubs manager Lou Piniella stated early this spring the importance of the Cubs to get off to a strong start this season because the 2008 schedule is front loaded with early home games and light with home games in September. Four games into the beginning of this season, the Cubs have seemed to pick up where they left off last season. Lack of hitting, timely hitting, scoring runs, timely pitching, and poor execution and fielding have contributed to the Cubs 1-3 start.

Against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs salvaged the final game of the opening series, but looked overmatched by the bold, dynamic play of the youthful Brew Crew. The most surprising part of the beginning of this Cubs season is how mentally unprepared the Cubs appear.

The Cubs possess all the physical skills to be World Champions, but mentally, the Cubs have so far come across as the 90 pound weakling. P Kerry Wood imploded in his first game as Cubs closer. He hit a batter, gave up hits in a tie game, in the 9th inning. Game 2 of the season looked like something you would expect from a team just starting spring training. The defense was terrible, the situational hitting was atricious. The pitching was abominable.

Today’s game was lost by an 8th inning fielding error by Cubs 2B Mark DeRosa, booting a ball hit right to him with nobody on base, and then 2 batters later, Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano badly playing a Miguel Tejada double into a triple, on a play that should have been an error, but was gifted as a triple by Tejada, scoring Lance Berkman. In today’s post-game press conference, Cubs P Rich Hill admitted a lapse in concentration in the 4th inning, walking Mark Loretta then giving up a home run to the 8th hitter, Astros C J.R. Towles.

Mental mistakes and lapses in concentration are what held the Cubs back last season. Yes, the Cubs won the National League Central Division last season with an 85-77 record. The favored Cubs were then promptly swept out of the playoffs by the underdog Arizona Diamondbacks. For the Cubs, the series was punctuated by what we have seen so far this season: lack of situational and timely hitting, poor defense, and huge mental lapses at critical moments. The mental aspect of baseball is perhaps the most difficult of skills to master. If the Cubs do not grasp this concept immediately, next year will be 101 years of championship futility.

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