You all know about it by now. The numbers don’t really need re-hashed. In today’s world of the Internet and blogs and online newspapers and knowing things up to the minute; when a player goes into a slump the buzz builds about a player struggling (or having success). That also causes pressure to build on a player. This is something that in eras of the past Mickey Mantle, and Joe Dimaggio and even guys from the 80’s and early 90’s did not have to deal with. Rumors and speculation run rampant on message boards. Basically, things get blown out of proportion in a hurry in today’s world. It would be great and terrible all in the same to see what players could do today and how their performance would vary without all the Internet hoopla. If today’s players could have the chance to perform without being under the media microscope. Because they can’t we’re of the personal belief that it is part of the reason we’ll never see Dimaggio’s 56 game hitting streak record snapped.
And we’re all responsible, including us.
It’s easy to fall victim to it. We’re in a time that you can easily follow every at bat of a player. As a kid, we’d have to catch the morning edition of Sportscenter just to see what a guy did and even then you’d be lucky to know what he did in each at-bat. Statistics didn’t have the emphasis and analysis that they did today. In fact, it was nowhere close. People are using the Internet to really break down a player’s splits. There’s more people watching now and paying attention then ever before–and not just fantasy baseball geeks. Sure, medical and training information is probably on the cutting edge. But even with that, because of what we’re talking about; this is arguable the toughest era to ever succeed in for a player. It’s our personal belief.
What we’re getting at here is all the speculation surrounding Jay Bruce’s recent skid. It’s downright ridiculous. The blogging, the Twittering about, the message boards, the newspapers. And it’s not just about Bruce; this happens to any player that is doing really well or really slumping. Everything is overblown. People honestly need to just shut up about it and let a guy work through it.
In this particular situation, it’s easy to see why it is happening. First off, we watch every at bat that Bruce has. More then anything it got started with bad luck. Hitting the cover off the ball right at someone or having a hit taken away from him by someone making a great play. There has been a ton of that. That’s how it all starts you see. The guy isn’t striking out at all. During this recent slide he’s just missed about ten home runs by mere feet. If one of those gets out, we don’t have any of this speculation that all adds to the fire. We don’t have this post telling you that we just know in our hearts that his struggle is about to come to an end soon. Nothing.
You’d most likely have a guy who wouldn’t know he’s even ‘struggling’. You’d see the player quickly work his way out of it and you wouldn’t even really realize that he’s been in funk.
Baseball is such a mental game. You could only know it by playing it. If you’ve played it everyday at any high competitive level; you know how it feels don’t you? Sure. You go 0 for 4 but hit the ball hard each time up and you feel like you sucked. That’s not really fair but that is the way it goes. That’s why baseball is such an amazing game. It’s not good or bad, it’s just something else amazing about it. The beauty or silver lining in it if you will. Another day you could hit 3 balls for bloops that fall in and find grass and strike out once and you’re 3 for 4. You go into the locker room feeling pretty mighty about yourself even though in game A you really were doing things more mechanically correctly. How ironic is that? You mix in a few of those 0 for 4 performances in a row and no matter how you got there–even if you’ve been crushing the ball all over the park–you still feel that you are struggling even though you are not.
I can only imagine what it’s like to do it for a living and have thousands of idiots who do not know what it is like to be speculating about your performance. It’s got to be excruciating at times. And that’s why we all need a nice warm glass of STFU at times about players. In this situation, the kid is 22 years old and going against the best pitchers in the world. It could be that. Or it could be that Joey Votto is not in the lineup. Bruce and Votto are close. Who knows how worried he is about not only a teammate but a good friend. It goes deeper then that even, so deep you can’t even know for sure. When Votto is in the lineup, Jay Bruce gets better pitches to hit. So does Brandon Phillips, so does Ramon Hernandez, and so forth. That is a fact.
No one considers at a time like this that the guy is probably just putting too much pressure on himself. Because of the injury to Votto, that’s a lot of offensive numbers that the Reds have to account for somehow. So they move the kid to the middle of the lineup and ask him to carry the load. The best thing Dusty Baker could do right now is call Bruce into his office and say: “Look kid, I don’t care if you get another hit all season. You’re our future and you’re our right fielder. You’re going to be right here and that is all there is to it.”
But see, there we are doing it again. Just what we talked about. Falling victim to what we hate. We’re speculating and simply talking about it. That creates more buzz in itself about what is going on with a player and boom. The cycle continues to repeat itself and the pressure mounts until the player simply gets a few knocks and rinse, wash, repeat. Day after day after day in this game. And that’s even though we’re defending Jay and telling you that his slump is nothing but negative hype. The inverse of what he received the first month he was a big leaguer.
There are so many reasons why we know this slump is going to end soon. And this post will be the last mention of any type of slump for said reasons above. The guy works too hard. You could simply list ‘talent alone’ as a reason this can’t continue. We believe and know in our heart that Mr. Bruce is going to break out in a big way soon and make everyone who speculated about him look like fools just for even considering or worrying.
But the real reason to continue watching without any worry we’ve been there. You’re in an 0 for 12 skid and all the sudden some middle of the road righthander grooves a fastball and this one; for whatever the reason looks a little bit different then the last 100 you’ve seen. It looks almost ‘prettier’. That thought lasts only a fraction of a second but it just looks to be in an area you like when you’re in the batters box. Then WHAM! The ball flies into the gap after a swing that just seems to h
appen without thought. You hear nothing. You don’t hear the crowd. You don’t hear a sound for a few split seconds. As you get to second base you collect yourself for a second. You just doubled. Your heart rate slows down. You continue to play in the game as you watch a teammate bat. And you know what? That slump you thought you were in which was never really a slump at all is over.
We’re only fans. But the first real slump of Bruce’s career has been tough on us as well. We’ve been living and dying every pitch delivered to the guy. We’ve been trying superstitious stuff. Anything simple might get him a hit. You know, like where you sit the remote. Or what shirt you’re wearing when you watch the game. It all plays a factor.
But just remember when you’re doing all this; someone else might notice. Aside from thinking you are nuts, it just might add to that speculation that we talked about earlier. Which in turn might hurt your favorite player’s chances of getting back to normal earlier then he normally would. It’s a tough place to be in for a fan.
It might not be tonight. Or tomorrow night. Or the day after that. But his day is coming. And we’re not going to speculate on it anymore. We’ll leave that up to the Hal Mccoy’s and the Fantasy Baseball writers of the world. If he goes hitless in a few more games, so what. He’s the same dude that we’ve all been proclaiming to be the savior of Cincinnati baseball when he hits two homers in a game. And how unfair is that? Fans are ignorant to all this stuff. They don’t even realize what they’re taking part in most of the time.
At the end of the day, a slump is just mental. Those who are mentally tough and believe in themselves; and have people that care about them that believe in them–well they just don’t slump often.
Don’t be one of the people who doubts Jay Bruce. Because when things turn around, you’re going to feel awfully stupid being one who contributed to all this negative speculation. We’ve been there a million times ourselves and each time the game of baseball teaches us that no matter how a player appears, he’s a few at bats away from being on fire. And we’re suggesting that it’s about to happen for Jay. You watch.