May 20, 2012

After "Heated" Team Meeting On May 11, Red Sox Are 8-2

Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports:
If the Red Sox rally to make the postseason, they might look back to a players-only meeting on May 11 as a turning point.

The night before, right-hander Josh Beckett had allowed seven runs in 2.1 innings and the Sox had lost to the Indians at Fenway Park 8-3.

Designated hitter David Ortiz, the team's longest-tenured member, called the meeting, and apparently it was a doozy.

"Heated," was the adjective one player used.

The hitters challenged the pitchers to "step it up," according to two sources. The overall theme was that each player needed to take responsibility.

The effect was immediate, and positive.

The Red Sox won their next five games, and since the meeting have won seven of nine overall.
Each of the starters - Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Daniel Bard, Jon Lester, and Josh Beckett - picked up a victory in those five consecutive wins, games in which the pitching staff allowed 5, 1, 1, 1, and 0 runs.

Beckett has pitched 14.2 innings since the meeting, allowing only one run, while striking out 14 batters.

Mike Aviles, on Ortiz:
He's a leader, he's a leader. And when you have a leader like that call a meeting (he) basically says, "Let's go, let's step this up and get where we need to be." You look at this locker room, there's a lot of talent in here. There's no reason we can't win. None whatsoever. I just feel like when you have your leaders talking and letting everybody know, when we all get together, we're playing like a team now. That's the way it should be. A lot of talent here. No reason not to win.


FenFan said...

I vividly remember, after our high school soccer team started 0-3, our coach berating us and asking: "When are you going to get off your candy asses?" We went 8-1-1 after that.

It doesn't always work but, when it does...

laura k said...

I'm highly skeptical of this cause-and-effect on the professional level. I tend to think it's more coincidental than anything else. If we kept track of all the "heated team meetings" and subsequent performances, would we really see a correlation?

High school, sure, maybe. Big leauges? I doubt it.

Pokerwolf said...

Laura, if you need evidence of this sort of motivation working on a major league level, I'll point you to Schilling's "Why Not Us?" speech from 2004.

What this shows me is that Valentine has zero influence with the team.

laura k said...

Pokerwolf, that's not evidence, it's an anecdote. I know of other examples, but my point is that we only hear about and/or remember the times that work. How many times has a manager or a player given a similar speech and it had no effect? We don't know. Which is my point.

Jere said...

"What this shows me is that Valentine has zero influence with the team."

Players play badly, it's the manager's fault. Players play well, all the credit goes to them.

9casey said...

The key to this team and the key to any team is pitching. When guys are scoring multiple runs in a game and the pitchers are giving up multiple runs with huge eras, and those hitters call you out and they sting 5 quality starts in a row together. You may think that is coincidental.

And to think the mindset from high school to professionals is different would be assuming they have lost the ability to compete, motivation at the professional say may think is only money, the other teams whose motivation is to win do win.. That is some of the reason why the "best" teams do not always win.

laura k said...

"And to think the mindset from high school to professionals is different would be assuming they have lost the ability to compete, motivation at the professional say may think is only money, the other teams whose motivation is to win do win.. "

That might be one way to look at it, but it's not the way I'm looking at it.

I'm thinking that major league ballplayers, with everything they've done to get to the majors and stay there, have deep motivation - that their grasp of what's important is not so flimsy that it is turned on and off with little pep talks. Far from thinking it's only about money, I'm thinking it's quite the opposite - a more permanent part of their psyche. Whereas high school players are young, immature, have many other competing interests, and are probably not making a career of sports.

I'm not saying these motivational talks are meaningless. I'm saying we do not know if there is a cause and effect between that talk and the subsequent wins. We do not know because we only remember the times it works.

laura k said...

The difference between a high school player and a major league player is not simply money! It's the difference between writing for your high school newspaper and being Stephen King.

Tom DePlonty said...

This discussion about motivational talks reminded me of something I read about statistical regression to the mean.

Regression to the mean can be understood most simply as the fact that an extraordinary performance - whether extraordinarily good or bad - will usually be followed by a more normal one.

It's been observed that this rigs the universe to make it seem to us as if punishment tends to work, and praise tends to backfire. A poor performance followed by punishment will *usually* be followed by a better performance simply due to regression to the mean, so - even with no causal connection between the punishment and the improvement - the punishment seems to work. And you can see, on the flipside, how praise seems to backfire, again without there being a causal connection.

If you think that, before the recent stretch, the team was playing more poorly than their real level of talent (and with Beckett and Lester, that seems pretty plausible to me), then it's possible the locker-room speech seemed to work - when in fact the team is just returning to a more normal level of performance.

mattymatty said...

I'm sure that David Ortiz didn't single-handedly alter the team's direction on the field with a meeting. But I do think it's quite possible he changed some player's mindsets and/or woke some other guys up a bit.

Nothing you see on a baseball field is the result of one single thing. It's the result of many many things. Hours and hours of practice. Tons and tons of talent. The right opportunities. The right mental direction. All of those things are components. Ortiz's speech/meeting may have contributed to a portion of one of those. I'm quite comfortable with that.

One way or the other though, God I love David Ortiz.