I’ve never been a big believer in team chemistry. I think it’s important that teammates respect each other and play hard no matter who the guy standing next to him is but I’ve never thought that liking your teammate would make a huge difference in the win/loss column. In my mind, talent outweighs chemistry like Carlos Silva outweighs Ichiro. But the Mariners have changed my mind, at least somewhat.
In 2008 the Mariners were a disaster on and off the field. Maybe the off the field problems were caused by the on-field problems but we’ll never know for sure. That team limped to a 61-101 record. The team had absolutely no fun and the fans had no fun watching them. In 2009, with the addition and subtraction of some players, the Mariners increased their win total by 24. Obviously they had upgraded on talent; who would say that Franklin Gutierrez isn’t better than J.J. Putz? But were the additions the team made really worth a 24 win upgrade based on talent alone? No way. There are several explanations for this dramatic upgrade. Should the 2008 team really have lost that many games based on the product that management put on the field? No but Bill Bavasi didn’t think about things like Jack Z does. He didn’t think about chemistry.
While last years team was a better product than the 2008 team, they also had a different mindset. With the leadership of Jr., Sweeney, and of course Wak, the team demanded respect for each other. There was no more Carlos Silva calling out Ichiro, no more Miguel Batista acting like a moron (well maybe…), no more “every man for himself” attitude. When a team has a hall-of-famer like Griffey come into the clubhouse and show respect to everyone, even the rookies, the team envelops that attitude. With that respect comes a feeling of “I need to get my job done because I know my teammates are expecting that of me.” And once a team comes to that attitude the fun can begin. Last year the Mariners might have been the most “fun” team I’ve ever seen. Sure, they didn’t win their division but they laughed, tickled, and shaving-cream pied their way to 85 wins. They were built on the attitude that management had installed and the chemistry they had got them extra victories.
Now comes this year with a new challenge. A one-man wrecking ball coming from Chicago named Milton Bradley. Bradley has definitely had his share of bad moments. He was a nightmare with the Cubs last year; a clubhouse cancer that supposedly dragged everyone down with him. So why did the Mariners get him? A couple reasons. One, he was traded for Carlos Silva. I would’ve traded Carlos Silva for a dead guy (seriously). Two, the guy can hit. In 2008, Bradley led the American League in on-base percentage and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). Bradley could be a big addition to the Mariners somewhat weak lineup. But is he worth the risk of ruining the great chemistry the Mariners have? Call me crazy, but I don’t see it as that big of a risk. Bradley continues to mention how great it will be to play alongside one of his heroes, Ken Griffey Jr. With Jr. as a leader of the clubhouse and already having the respect of Bradley, I think Bradley will fit in just fine. Milton said yesterday that for the first time in his career he’s looking to have fun this year. You sir, have come to the right place. A parade around the field after an 85 win season means that we’ve got one happy baseball team. Bradley will have his blow ups but I think this team can handle it because of the respect each player is given.
Last month Matthew and I went to hear Jack Z talk at the USSM/LL event. He said many insightful things but the main thing I took from it was when he touched on the subject of respect. He said it was important to remember that these players are human, and for the most part they’re all trying their best. Just like you should respect your peers, you should respect these players lives. It was the cliche’ speech that famous people give but this time it wasn’t cliche’, it was fresh and sincere. He treated a bunch of nerdy fans and bloggers the way humans are supposed to treat each other. He never spoke poorly of anyone, even Carlos Silva. He showed respect to all people. This is the kind of attitude the Mariners have now and the kind of attitude the Mariners will have regardless of Milton Bradley being on the team or not.