There are so many metaphors that equate baseball with life, and we’ve all heard the myriad of lessons we can apply to our own situations - Keep your eye on the ball. Hustle. Be a team player. While these are all very wise words, they’ve become cliché, and we rarely take the time to really unpack their meaning.
Let’s take a look at my second-favorite LHP, Cliff Lee. There are so many elements that he brings to his game that all of us can apply to our own lives. If you’re searching for some words of wisdom, or you’re in need of what my children refer to as “a trip to AA” (that means you need an attitude adjustment), look no further.
You get out of life what you put into it … most of the time. The universe gives back what you put in, but that’s not always true. Bad things happen to good people the same way that zero run support happens to great pitchers. Cliff Lee knows that he can take the mound and bust his ass to do his very best, but some things are out of his control. Anemic offense happens. Weather happens. Injuries happen. None of these things should prevent a best effort.
The win-loss stat is crap. Why? There are several reasons that the W-L statistic isn’t an accurate portrait of a pitcher’s performances. In addition to that, though, a pitcher doesn’t win or lose a game. After the last out, a good pitcher gives credit where it’s due, and takes responsibility for his own part. We all achieve success thanks in part to the support of people around us.
Keep that game face on. If you can pitch in Philadelphia, you can pitch anywhere. The ability to tune out fans who are loud, passionate, and brutally honest is an acquired skill. We’ll rattle you to the core if you let us. Cliff Lee doesn’t allow things to distract him from his job. By the same token, Lee focuses on the batter but remains aware of what’s going on behind him. A runner will steal if you let him. Don’t just own the plate; own the diamond.
Maintain an arsenal and keep it clean. Don’t show up to the bigs with just a fastball. Lee’s low-90s two- and four-seamers, high-80s cutter, mid-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball keep batters guessing and swinging in the dirt. Having a broad skill set isn’t enough, though; Lee uses very precise mechanics to execute each pitch. His follow-through is deliberate, and in MLB we don’t always see a pitch finish with the pitcher low to the ground. Fine-tuned mechanics allow him to keep his velocity throughout nine innings. Sloppiness will only make you tired.
Don’t expect of others what you’re not willing to do yourself. Need runs? Score some yourself. Enough said.
Actions will always speak louder than words. Some people refer to it as “swagger,” but I call it “running your mouth.” We don’t want to hear about what you can do; we want to see it. Cliff is a man of few words, and I enjoy that. I’d much rather see his time and energy go into his work on the hill.
Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater in six weeks, folks, and yes … I’m counting.