The Power of Distraction… and Controversy
“Understanding and being open to all things, Are you able to do nothing?”
Tao Te Ching
4th Century BC
“…Do your allotted work regardless of results, for men attain the highest good by doing work without attachment to its results.”
The Bhagavad Gita
Hindu Epic Poem
“Man is a thinking reed but his great works are done when he is not calculating and thinking.”
Daisetz T. Suzuki
Essays in Zen Buddhism
Quoted in Zen in the Art of Archery
“The mind’s a great thing as long as you don’t have to use it.”
Major League Catcher
1959 – 1980
[If you have not read my previous article, "The Conscious Brain vs the Unconscious Brain," from July 2, 2021, please do, for it relates to this one.]
Other lessons on self-awareness and how to rid oneself of it: In the movie, THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE (see Part C from the article, "The Conscious Brain vs the Unconscious Brain."), Will Smith plays the fictional caddy, Bagger Vance, for a fictional golfer by the name of Rannulph Junna, played by Matt Damon. Vance guided Junna during a three round match against two real professional golfers, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, who in 1931, the year of the match, were both at the top of their game. Yet, Vance was more than just Junna’s caddy. He was also his sports psychologist of sorts, though there was no such profession at the time. Heck, there weren’t even many psychologists around back then, for the science of psychology was in its infancy. Nevertheless, Vance served Junna in both capacities. As it turned out, it would take Vance an entire golf match to teach Junna about the mental aspects of the game, namely, for our purposes here, how to play the game effortlessly without consciously trying to interfere with one’s performance, trusting oneself, not thinking too much, not trying, and not being too aware of situational factors or too aware of oneself, etc. Do you have all of that?
You may have gotten all of that, maybe or maybe not, but Junna certainly did not, as few, if any, of the aforementioned qualities or characteristics were evident in his opening round play. Apparently overwhelmed by the situation he was in, Junna found himself 12 shots behind Jones and Hagen, who were dead even at the completion of the first 18 holes. It didn’t take long for Vance to realize that the cause of Junna’s pathetic performance was his counter-productive mindset – he was too self-conscious. He was thinking too much about everything – his well-known opponents, the large contingent of townspeople who came to see the match, their expectations (Junna was a hero in the eyes of the local folk, who, in the depths of The Great Depression, were in need of a hero and were counting on him to win.), the golf course, his old girlfriend, the mysterious and bothersome Bagger Vance, etc. You name it. It all seemed to get to Rannulph Junna, who seemed to wish he was somewhere else.
Vance knew things would not go well for Junna, going forward in that frame of mind. So, prior to the start of the second round, in an attempt to get Junna’s head screwed on right, Vance gave Junna a lecture about abstract concepts like “the field,” a golfer’s “authentic swing,” and, even, the “authentic shot,” among other things. He directed Junna’s attention to Bobby Jones, who was repeatedly practicing his swing in preparing to tee off to begin his second round of play. “Look at his practice swing,” Vance told Junna. “Almost like he’s searchin’ for somethin’,” Vance said. And Bobby Jones was “searching for somethin’.” It was the “…one shot that is in perfect harmony with the field. One shot that’s his…authentic shot,” Vance asserted. It was the shot that best suited the moment. Adding to Junna’s bewilderment, Vance said that Jones was not purposely selecting a shot but was letting the right shot “choose him.” He told Junna that, “There’s a perfect shot out there tryin’ to find each and every one of us and all we gotta do is get ourselves out of its way. Let it choose us.” (THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE) See my article from May 28, 2021, “You Can’t ‘Try’ to Hit a Baseball.”
The lecture sure made Junna think about something other than all of those things mentioned at the end of the next to last paragraph - his well-known opponents, the large contingent of townspeople who came to see the match, their expectations, the golf course, his old girlfriend, the mysterious and bothersome Bagger Vance, etc. Importantly, it seemed to draw his attention from himself as he became more concerned with making sense of the terminology and message contained in Vance’s lecture than he was in playing golf. Though he wanted to teach Junna a golfing life lesson with his lecture, unlocking the secrets of golf excellence in the process, Vance did another thing, something that had an immediate effect – he succeeded in distracting him. The results were a well-executed opening drive by Junna to start his second round and, subsequently, a marked improvement in Junna’s play from the day before. Going into the clubhouse, Junna trailed Jones by seven strokes and the leader, Hagen, by eight heading into the climactic last day of the match.
Needless to say, Vance’s work was far from done. His objective now became keeping Junna distracted and not letting him fall victim, once again, to self-consciousness. Vance’s follow up strategy involved Vance talking about all kinds of things like “how much Walter Hagen’s socks must cost and how long to dry tobacco leaves before they made a good smoke.” Vance said nothing about golf, the match with the two famous professional golfers, the expectations of the gallery, Junna’s swing, or, most importantly, that Junna was too self-conscious in the opening round and it inhibited his play. It worked for the most part but self-consciousness can be a stubborn adversary, and Junna’s would make a comeback, though Vance was up to the challenge and he guided Junna through the rough, real and imagined, and on to victory over Jones and Hagen. (THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE)
It’s only natural, as it should be for “The Natural.” There is another example of a distraction working wonders for an athlete, this time for the fictional baseball player, Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford in the movie, THE NATURAL, which was based on the book of the same title written by Bernard Malamud, though the movie is a bit different. After setting the baseball world on fire upon arriving in the Major Leagues, seemingly out of nowhere, Hobbs became mired in a protracted slump. It could have been attributed to anything - complacency, the law of averages, opposing pitchers catching up to him, bad luck, dating the manager’s niece, whatever. Hobbs just wasn’t hitting. In the midst of his hitting miseries, Hobbs and his teammates on the fictional New York Knights arrived in Chicago to play a series against the Cubs. In the opening game, Hobbs was still struggling, flailing at pitches he used to hit. He had no hits in two trips to the plate, on the day, when he came to bat late in the game. With the count 0 and 2 on Hobbs, who had swung wildly at the first two pitches he saw and didn’t come close to hitting the ball, there was a commotion in the stands caused by a woman, who had suddenly stood up. She wore a white dress and a broad brimmed, crownless sun hat. Cloaked in a mystical aura as the sun shone from behind her, she had the appearance of an angel. It was all very strange and it would get stranger in a matter of seconds. The voices of disapproving fans could be heard telling her to sit down. Angel or not, it was still a baseball game and the fans, whose view she blocked, wanted to see Roy Hobbs bat one more time that day against the hometown Cubs. One thing for sure, she was lucky she was in Chicago and not in New York when she did that, for the fans’ response would have been far worse. Nevertheless, the woman in white was resolute and remained standing. She was on a mission.
Hobbs stepped out of the batter’s box and looked to see what was going on in the stands but he couldn’t see all that much as he was blinded by the brilliant sunshine gleaming into his line of sight. His thoughts were on what was happening in the stands. No longer was he thinking about his hitting slump. Who could be in a moment like that? However, what just occurred caused Hobbs to escape his self-awareness. He resumed his at-bat and hit the next pitch high and deep to left center field for a home run. It was so high and deep that it smashed the large clock on the scoreboard. For the moment, he forgot about his slump and swung the bat without thinking about it. He found his swing, or, the mysterious woman in the stands found it for him. He was back. The woman turned out to be his old girlfriend and the two met up at a luncheonette after the game. Hobbs’ prolific hitting returned as the Knights went on a winning streak in pursuit of the pennant. (THE NATURAL) Click on the link below the picture to view the scene:
The point? Well, getting an athlete to divert their attention from themselves is an effective means by which someone - a coach, a teammate, a parent, a friend, etc. – can, by using distractions, steer a self-conscious athlete out of their self-consciousness and into a mindset conducive to performing well, maybe even help them get into “the zone.” It worked in those movies and can work in real life as well. It worked for Francisco Lindor, at least for one memorable night.
Some background: Lindor was an All-Star shortstop with the Cleveland Indians and regarded as one of the best in the game at that position. He came to the Mets in a pre-season trade in 2021 and, one day before opening day, was signed to 10-year, $341 million contract extension. Consequently, he became the highest paid shortstop in the game. His contract called for Lindor to be paid one million dollars more Fernando Tatis Jr., baseball latest prodigy, who signed an extension with the San Diego Padres before the 2021 season began.
There was much expected of the Mets, who were under the new ownership of billionaire, Steve Cohen. Perhaps, a lot more was expected of their new, expensive shortstop. The problem was, I think Lindor was aware of that, probably too aware. New league, new team, new teammates, new management, new fan base, intense media scrutiny (all those newspapers, call-in radio talk shows, and television coverage), and those awfully high expectations – it was NEW YORK! Any of those would make the very best of players a little self-conscious. All those factors could be overwhelming if a player did not deal with them effectively, allowing them to overwhelm him. Unfortunately, the situation made Lindor self-conscious. Although, Lindor never said that it all got in his head (What professional athlete would?), two months into the season, one could logically conclude that might be the case.
Usually a grace period comes with a transition like the one that Lindor was making. After all, he was facing new teams and new pitchers, not to mention having to adapt to a move to the New York metropolitan area after six years in Cleveland. Heck, the traffic alone could get one out of sorts. There soon were indications that he wasn’t the same Lindor, certainly, in the minds of Mets fans, not the player worthy of a $341 million contract. Such a grace period might last a month, maybe five or six weeks, but certainly not five months!
If it wasn’t the transition, how else could one explain the drop off in Lindor’s performance? By mid-season, his statistics strongly indicated that he wasn’t even close to being the player he had been while being an All-Star shortstop for the Indians. His batting average hovered around the .200 mark, and he had only 11 home runs from April through August (With Cleveland, Lindor hit over 30 home runs three times and batted over .300 twice during his six years there. His career batting average with Indians was .284.). He also wound up on the wrong side of several incidents, one involving a raccoon at Citi Field (a story for another day), and issues that called into question his hard-won reputation. An abdominal injury that caused Lindor to miss over a month of the season exacerbated his situation. New York fans tend to view underachievers skeptically, especially if they are highly paid. They consider highly paid underachievers, who are injured, to be malingerers. Mets fans, who could be as unforgiving as adoring, turned on Lindor, booing him for every failure but, generally, for his failure to live up to the hype. That rarely happened to him in Cleveland, if ever. “Mr. Smile,” Lindor’s nickname during his time with the Indians, made Mets fans frown.
Brothers-in-arms…and hands: However, bad times would not last forever and there was an improvement in Lindor’s hitting after he returned from injured list in early August. His return coincided, not coincidentally, with the arrival of his friend and fellow native of Puerto Rico, Javier Baez, via a trade with the Chicago Cubs. It was a perfect match, uniting teammates who played for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. Baez could provide a sympathetic ear for Lindor’s and concerns and complaints. He could also lend a shoulder to lean on when things got tough, if they weren’t tough enough already. Unfortunately, things would get even tougher.
Though it may have done more harm than good, and the jury is still out on this one, Baez, because he knew his friend and new teammate, apparently tried to teach Lindor how to stop beating himself up over his failures. If he did, that was a good thing. No harm in that, right? However, it was how the lesson was applied, the tactic deployed to achieve the objective, that would cause more trouble, for not only Lindor, but for Baez too. Though he was a recent arrival in New York, Baez, also, was booed when he didn’t live up to the expectations of Mets fans.
You would think that maybe Baez would have told Lindor to take it out on the baseball, the pitcher, or the opposing the team, anybody but himself. Maybe he did or maybe he didn’t. Regardless, what the two teammates put into action was much more confrontational than that. Likely the product of some collaboration, the two players would strike back at the fans by giving them a double fisted ‘thumbs-down’ gesture (their way of booing the fans) whenever Lindor, or Baez, did something good.
Whether it was Lindor or Baez who came up with it first, Baez admitted in a post-game press conference why they did it but did not claim authorship, though his admission might suggest that he was the one who came up with it. Teammate Kevin Pillar, apparently commiserating with their plight, joined them in doing it too. It was their way of “booing” the fans conceded Baez. “When we don’t get success, we’re going to get booed,” Baez acknowledged. “So,” he proclaimed, “they’re going to get booed when we get success.” (“Mets players celebrating hits by giving their fans a thumbs down,” New York Daily News, August 29, 2021)
It was certainly predictable that Mets fans would respond with more boos. Baez’s strategy, intended to lift Lindor’s spirits, led to more controversy and animosity between Lindor and the fans. Baez might have taken more heat since Mets fans likely blamed him for the whole thing, especially after his comments in that press conference. Fans must have figured that Lindor did not engage in such behavior before Baez arrived. Therefore, it must be Baez’s fault. It’s hard to know what they were thinking but it reveals that even great players, like Lindor and Baez, are sensitive to expressions of disapproval when they feel they are going out there and giving it everything they got. After all, hitting is a game of failure. A .300 hitter does fail seven times in ten. Major League pitchers are very good, too, Whatever, such actions by Lindor, Baez, and Pillar, justified in their minds or not, certainly was no way to win over fans and influence others, like team management and the New York media, just when things were starting to turn around for Lindor. Although Mets manager Luis Rojas professed ignorance of the motives behind the ‘thumbs-down’ gesture, he did say that the paying customers at Citi Field “have the right to react however they want.” Team president Sandy Alderson was not inclined to dismiss what his players had done, saying that the ‘thumbs-down’ gesture, not to mention Baez’s rationale, were “totally unacceptable and would not be tolerated.” (“Mets players celebrating hits by giving their fans a thumbs down,” New York Daily News, August 29, 2021) Mets owner, Steve Cohen, also said what the players had done was “unacceptable,” but he went further saying, “They hit the third rail, though, messing with the fans.” (“Steve Cohen: Mets players hit ‘the third rail’ with thumbs-down at fans,” New York Post, August 30, 2021)
New York Post
It is never wise to offend the fans of one’s team, but it is even worse to disrespect the team president and, especially, the team owner. Lindor just got a $341 million contract! His resorting to the ‘thumbs-down’ strategy seemed to smack of ungratefulness. It may have been an indication of weakness on his part, a lack of mental toughness, that he could not measure up to expectations and take the consequences when he didn’t. It may have suggested something worse, that Lindor could not play in New York. For Baez, a free agent after this year, he might have burned his bridges with the Mets. He also may have sent out warning signs to other team executives, who might interpret his actions as that of a troublemaker. Nobody wants a troublemaker, especially one that will cost a lot of money to sign. Too much risk involved in that. In light of those conditions, it would make one wonder what Baez and Lindor were thinking in devising such a strategy. What were they thinking?
There may be another way to look at it, however. It is arguable that Baez had a positive effect on Lindor, he helped to turn him around. Not only has Baez been a friend and confidant, but he may also be an insightful amateur sports psychologist, a “Lindor Whisperer,” if you will, who saw that his friend just needed to let out his frustration rather than keeping it all inside, where it was tearing him up. Maybe Lindor had to express his anger, tell the fans and that he was Francisco Lindor, one of the best shortstops in Major League Baseball, and they were not, that he was trying and that they were contributing to his struggles by making him press to live up to expectations and make the boos go away. Maybe, the ‘thumbs-down’ caper served as a catharsis. Just maybe it was a distraction. The whole thing, once set in motion, might have been all that Lindor thought about instead of his woeful hitting. Maybe, Baez knew something. Maybe he knew how to get his friend’s mind off his problems. I guess, the effect of ‘thumbs-down’ act can be debated. One thing for sure, it made a whole spectrum of people in the New York Mets universe angry. Every conversation about the team during those three or four days likely centered on this sorry situation. However, for Lindor and Baez, this distraction was short-lived but another was on its way.
Evidently, Lindor and Baez were called in on the carpet by Mets management, for an apology was issued by the two players on August 31. Their apology contributed to making the ‘thumbs-down’ uproar subside but so did the approaching three-game “Subway Series” between the New York Yankees and the Mets at Citi Field the weekend of September 10. Both teams were still in competition to make the postseason playoffs at the time. One could say that the “Subway Series” diverted the attention of Mets fans from Lindor and Baez, a good thing for both. It also was an opportunity for Lindor, and Baez, to redeem themselves. Victory over the despised Yankees, with Lindor and Baez playing key roles, would help Mets fans forget. Failure, on the part of either player or both, could only unleash the worst in Mets fans.
Over the course of the three-game series, Lindor seemed to be the All-Star that he had been in Cleveland. He had four hits, all home runs, in eleven at bats (a .364 batting average) and six RBI in the series. Three of his home runs came in the emotionally charged finale, televised nationally by ESPN. Baez was even better, with seven hits in twelve at bats (a batting average of .583 for the series), including a home run and double, five runs scored and three RBI. However, those who saw the series will remember it as much for the controversy involving Lindor as for his performance. Nevertheless, for our purposes here, there is a link between the controversy and Lindor’s performance. They just could have a cause/effect relationship. The controversy might have been yet another distraction.
The Mets took the first game, 10-3. The second game of the series fell on September 11, the 20th Anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center. Before the game, both teams paid respect to those who lost their lives in the attack and honored the New York City Police and Fire Departments and other emergency personnel who responded heroically to the catastrophic scene that tragic day. The players, managers, and coaches of both teams wore baseball caps with FDNY or NYPD emblazoned on them. Players of both teams embraced each other, displaying a strong sense of brotherhood reminiscent of that shown by the Mets and the Atlanta Braves when they played on September 21, 2001, eleven days after 9/11 attack. However, the good will would not last. During the top half of the second inning, while the Yankees were pounding five hits, three of which were home runs, and scoring five runs off Mets starting pitcher Taijuan Walker, the Mets came to suspect that the Yankees were picking up what pitches Walker was throwing. Mets third baseman Jonathan Villar heard whistles coming from the Yankees dugout and surmised that Walker must have been ‘tipping” his pitches and that the Yankees more than knew it (In “tipping” his pitches, a pitcher, in effect, through his mannerisms, unknowingly reveals what pitch he is throwing to opposing batters or observant opponents in the dugout.). Villar suspected that the Yankees were signaling their batters what pitch was coming as well. Two run home runs by light hitting Yankees, Kyle Higashioka and Brett Gardner, confirmed Villar’s suspicions. With two outs and Aaron Judge at bat, Villar called time out and went to the pitching mound to tell Walker what he thought was happening. Lindor, catcher James McCann, and Pitching Coach Jeremy Hefner soon joined Villar and Walker. Apparently, Villar told them what he thought. When the conference ended, Judge resumed his at bat. He homered as well. The score was 5–0, Yankees. On the positive side, the Mets scored three times to narrow the Yankees lead and Walker must have stopped “tipping” his pitches for he held the Yankees to one hit and no runs over the next four innings. Villar’s detective work had paid off. (“The Mets got mad at the Yankees for whistling, a breakdown,” Jomboy Media, YouTube)
Nevertheless, the Mets were not happy. Yet, it wasn’t the Yankees detection of Walker’s “tipping” that infuriated the Mets. Players and coaches try to do that whenever they can. What drew the Mets ire was their suspicion that the Yankees, after detecting Walker’s pitches, were relaying those pitches to their own batters via a system of whistles. It was Yankees relief pitcher Wandy Peralta doing most of the whistling, for he was their loudest whistler, according to Yankees outfielder Joey Gallo. Whether Peralta was whistling to signal Yankees batters as to what pitch was coming, or he was just whistling as a way of encouraging his teammates, we will never know. One thing for sure, I do not think that Peralta or his teammates will ever tell. Keep in mind, picking up “tipped” pitches is not against the rules. Neither is relaying the information to batters. I mean, if the Mets are stupid enough to allow the Yankees to steal pitches, the Yankees were smart enough to do it. So, why were the Mets angry with the Yankees? The Mets would have done the same thing if they were in that situation. (“Benches clear in Yankees-Mets game over alleged whistling,” New York Post, September 12, 2021)
The Mets may have been angry because of how it looked to them, particularly Peralta’s role in the whole thing. One critical question was likely in the minds of the Mets: what was Peralta doing in the Yankees dugout anyway? He was a relief pitcher. Relief pitchers make the journey to the bullpen before the game. Peralta should have been in the bullpen. What was he doing in the dugout, then? Mets players, and conspiracy theorists, might say that Peralta was in the dugout because the Yankees knew before the game, thanks to advance scouting or video study, that Walker had been “tipping” his pitches in previous games. The Yankees likely kept Peralta in the dugout to whistle to their batters since he was their loudest whistler.
Lindor said after Sunday night’s game that, he thought “something out of the ordinary was going on” in Saturday’s game. Whether there was or whether there wasn’t, Lindor and his teammates thought there was. That is what counts, for perception is reality, at least in the minds of some. Nothing came of it on Saturday night but, when he got the opportunity in Sunday’s game, Lindor took it upon himself to let the Yankees know just how angry he and his teammates were. So, after hitting a home run in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game off none other than Peralta himself, Lindor mockingly made a “whistling gesture toward the Yankees dugout” after rounding third base, then, pointed at and called out Peralta. It was something to behold. Guilty or not, the Yankees did not appreciate Lindor’s insinuation but especially resented his “gesture” to their dugout. (“Lindor has last word after benches clear,” MLB.com) Peralta, the recipient of some strange karma, did not seem too pleased either. His look of bewilderment needs to be seen as it implied that he was guilty.
Analysis by Jomboy Media demonstrates that the whistling occurred and seems to confirm that Peralta, or his teammates, were signaling their batters. Click the link below for that analysis and Peralta’s reaction to being called out by Lindor. (“The Mets got mad at the Yankees for whistling, a breakdown,” Jomboy Media, YouTube)
The Yankees would respond, in more-ways-than- one. In the top of the seventh inning, Yankees left fielder Giancarlo Stanton hit a game-tying two-run home run, then made the best of his opportunity to say what he thought of Lindor’s allegations and antics. Rounding second base after his home run, Stanton slowed down in front of Lindor at shortstop, turned and faced him, and gave him a piece of his mind. Baez instinctively came to Lindor’s aid because that’s what friends do. Lindor and Baez gesticulated, provocatively, for Stanton to keep talking. Within seconds Stanton and Lindor and Baez were joined by their teammates and the usual “baseball fight” (one in which there is a lot of talking and little fighting between teams somewhere out on the field) was on. Not much happened, only an impassioned discussion between the teams punctuated by Brett Gardner derisively giving Lindor and Baez the now infamous ‘thumbs-down’ sign. The whole brouhaha added to the excitement of an already exciting series and telecast, as well as providing sports and news outlets with some “must-see” highlight clips for those who might have missed it in real time.
Fittingly, Lindor’s eighth inning home run, his third of the game, provided the Mets with their winning margin in a 7–6 victory over their crosstown rivals. Lindor had achieved redemption in the eyes of Mets fans, well, at least, for the time being. In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, there were still three weeks to go in the season and the Mets were still battling to make the playoffs, which their fan base still expected them, and their high-priced shortstop, to make happen. Delivering a playoff berth just could cause Mets fans to forgive Francisco Lindor, and even Javier Baez, for recent transgressions and a mostly disappointing season.
I apologize for going into all of that. Context had to be set to make my point about self-awareness and diverting someone’s attention from themselves, especially their failures, to get them out of the dreaded self-awareness mode. That Sunday night, the old Francisco Lindor, the one that ownership of the Mets gave a 10-year, $341 million contract to and the one Mets fans expected would lead them into the Postseason Promised Land, showed up. Well, he had been gradually coming out of his first half funk, but nothing in his second half performance could compare with the show he put on in that game.
Where was Lindor most of the year? I would venture to offer the following hypothesis. The All-Star Lindor was always there. It was the situation - new league, new team, new teammates, new management, new fan base, intense media scrutiny (all those newspapers, call-in radio talk shows, and television coverage), and those awfully high expectations – that he found himself in, and his perception of that situation, that adversely affected his performance for most of the year. He was just too aware of it all. He could have gone out there and played as he always had during his career. It would have been enough. However, he did not do that. He must have wanted to perform at a level beyond his considerable abilities to justify his contract. In attempting to do that, he made the mistake that too many athletes make when confronted with the pressure of the most difficult of challenges – he tried. He tried to be more than good. He may have tried to be perfect. When he met with failure at the beginning of the season, he tried harder, only to fail some more. More failure resulted in him trying harder still. Eventually, the Mets fans, who never considered that Lindor, maybe, was trying too hard to please them, got frustrated with his failures and, then, let him know with a barrage of boos. He continued to try harder but failed to live up to his own past record, resulting in more boos and media criticism. Lindor was not in Cleveland anymore.
Then, the Yankees came to Citi Field with Wandy Peralta and his whistling. It all did not sit well with Lindor and his teammates, but it was just what Lindor needed, a distraction, something, like the ‘thumbs-down’ incident, to get his mind off himself and his season-long slump. The fictional Bagger Vance and Iris (the women in white in THE NATURAL) knew about distracting someone who was thinking too much but they could not help Lindor, only if Lindor saw the movies, which is doubtful. Maybe Robert Redford, who co-produced and directed THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE, that is if he knew of Lindor’s struggles, could have given Lindor a call. The call could have gone this way: “Hey, Francisco, this is Robert Redford. I got this movie for you to watch. Maybe, it can help.” Obviously, that call never happened and no woman dressed in a white dress and wearing a broad brimmed, crownless sun hat showed up either to snap Lindor out of it. Seriously, where were the sports psychologists on the Mets payroll? I mean, this is basic Psychology 101 stuff, right out of the chapter on consciousness. They could have at least recommended that Lindor watch those two movies. Come on, the Mets signed Lindor to a $341 million contract! Somebody should have been able to help him.
Lindor did have Javier Baez but he also had the Yankees. With Taijuan Walker’s pitch “tipping” and its detection by the Yankees, Peralta’s possible signaling, and Lindor’s own histrionics, Lindor was able to get his mind off his seemingly long, frustrating season, at least for a while. Somewhere out of Lindor’s unconscious mind the All-Star emerged, and he hit three home runs that night. Lindor was 4 for 11 for the weekend series for a .363 batting average with four home runs and six runs batted in. There was light at the end of the tunnel. However, there were three weeks left in the season.
Addendum: It is interesting to ponder what the statistics of Lindor and Baez reveal about the power of a distraction and, perhaps, how controversy can fuel performance. From the beginning of the ‘thumbs-down’ tumult on August 29 to the conclusion of the “Subway Series” on September 12, both players performed above the level that they had all season. Each played in 14 games each. Lindor had 24 hits in 53 at bats for a .264 batting average (.064 higher than it was in early August). He hit four doubles and four home runs. He had 14 RBI and scored 14 runs. Baez’s statistics were otherworldly. He had 26 hits in 49 at bats for a .531 batting average. He hit four doubles and five home runs. He had 12 RBI and scored 17 runs. What can we conclude? The statistics show that both players hit better in those 14 games. Were the ‘thumbs-down’ affair and the run-in with the Yankees a distraction? Did those two incidences get their minds off lackluster performances, enabling them to hit the way they could? Did all of the controversy light a fire under them causing them to hit as they could and, in Baez’s case, even better than that? There is a good chance in that being true, for there is something to say about the power of distraction, and, controversy too.
“The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.”
Annie Savoy (played by Susan Sarandon)
The movie, BULL DURHAM
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