Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-5-29

Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Top of the 1st
I’ve been thinking about the art of winning lately. As you know this past weekend I accompanied my daughter’s soccer team to a tournament in Connecticut. I know very little about soccer which is why I’m glad Jen is a goal keeper. That position I know. I know that some girls play defense and the rest, well, they are the ones who should score. As for their positions, I’ve heard “outside-mid”, “striker”, I am clueless, so I like to think of them as shortstops and third basemen, simply because I understand what those folks do.

From what I was told it appeared as if Jen’s Division 2 team was accepted into the tournament as the designated punching bag. They were going up one team that was in the Division 1 New York State playoffs and two other teams including one that defeated them last year at this time, 5-0 or 8-0 or something outrageous and the girls were minus three starters.

Now, I would love to tell you that they won the tournament. They didn’t. In fact, they didn’t win a game. But hopefully this tournament was a big lesson in learning how to win.

Their first game, facing the New York team, they scored late in the second half and as they left the field with a 1-1 tie, the other team looked defeated. Their second game was a 0-0 tie in which our girls were still knocking at the door at the end. Finally, in their third game, against the team that had so handily beat them last year, they came out intimidated and quickly fell behind 1-0. Their opponents (and parents) felt supremely confident. They looked less so at the end of their 1-0 victory.

“The girls have everything to be proud of,” said their coach, Vito LaFrancesca, who along with team manager/mom Jill Albiani are the super glue who have truly created a “team.” LaFrancesca pointed out, “We showed we could play with anyone, at any level. Now they just have to believe that they can win.”

Vito told me after the game that when he took over coaching this team he told them, “If you girls are going to be satisfied after a loss, then we are not going to get along.” I could swear that Jim Leyland told that to his Tigers last spring and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he called them “girls” at the time. Leyland spent the early part of last year teaching his team how to win. Admonishing them, cajoling them, supporting them, laughing with them, and ultimately, winning with them.

It’s clear that the Yankees this season have lost that confidence. They no longer have the swagger that made them intimidating. They have forgotten how to win. They held a team meeting yesterday to address the frustration.

“It should bother people,” Derek Jeter told the New York Times. “It should be something that doesn’t make you feel good. You should never accept losing. I think people are annoyed. People show their emotion in different ways.

“Not everybody throws things around.”

Manager Joe Torre suggested some players needed better body language, without offering specifics. “There are some times when frustration can interfere with good judgment, and I see guys maybe having a bad at-bat,” Torre said in the Times. “The worst thing, for me, is bad body language. That comes from frustration more than lack of effort.”

The Tigers are struggling right now as well, having lost four straight. They are not doing the little things you need to win. They were leading the Devil Rays last night 5-2 in the 7th inning, but lost, 6-5, on a two-run single by Elijah Dukes in the bottom of the 9th off Todd Jones. “We had our shot,” Leyland told the Detroit News, “but we’re doing too many little things to lose games and not enough little things that win games. You can’t make that many mistakes and win a major-league ballgame in most cases.”

Ned Yost in Milwaukee is working hard at keeping his young Brewers on the winning path. Most of these kids were truly kids the last time Milwaukee had a winning season. When the Brewers began a three-game series in New York on May 11, they had a seven-game lead in the division. With last night’s 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves they have now dropped six straight and 13 in the last 17 games. Despite that, they still hold a five-game lead over the Chicago Cubs. The question is not whether they can hold their lead in their mediocre division, but whether they can pull themselves up and truly start winning again.

Ultimately it appears that no matter the sport, the business, or the relationship; whether you are a middle-school girl, a highly paid professional athlete, or a middle-aged man or woman, you need to learn to win because at the end of the day, if you don’t know how to win, if you don’t believe you will win, you won’t win.

Top of the 2nd
“We’re good,” said Senator Schilling, who struck out 10 Indians in the Red Sox 5-3 victory. “There’s a lot more focus on the spread between us and the Yankees than we put on it. But to be 50 games into a season and be by double-digits up on anybody is good.” Boston has now won four straight and at 35-15, the Red Sox lead the AL East by 11