Baseball Magazine

Flipping the Switch

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
Nine days ago the Philadelphia Phillies clinched the National League East pennant for the fifth straight year.  In those nine days, they had eight straight loses before finally winning one.  Prior to that eight game losing streak, the Phils had not lost more than four in a row all season.  Baseball is a crazy game.  Here's what Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after their 8th straight loss.
Flipping the switch 
"I'm sitting there watching it. Don't know what I can do about it," Manuel said. "If you want to know the truth, our team's out of sync, definitely out of focus, and we're not playing. You guys see how we're playing. The teams that we're losing to, we stop and look at our record against them this year and everything. There ain't too much going our way right now."    
If you've played the game long enough, you have probably heard someone say "In baseball, you can't just flip a switch."  In other words, players cannot just coast along and then "flip a switch" to start playing well again.  I've written along these lines in a few posts in the past.  Here are two:

A player/team needs to be diligent and respect the way the game must be played every single moment they are on the field.  Deviate from this approach and the "baseball gods" will make you pay dearly.  The Phillies are experiencing this now.
Over the course of a 162 game schedule, all teams are going to hit some rough spots.  There is no sense focusing too much attention on the fact that a Phillies' eight game losing streak occurred this season.   However, the fact that it occurred immediately after clinching the pennant is significant and instructive.  It's also reason to be concerned if you are a Phillies fan.
Baseball players are creatures of habit.  They all have their individual routines that help prepare them physically and mentally prior to games.  They realize that every game means something and has to be approached with a huge amount of focused attention.  The game at that level is too hard and too competitive to approach it otherwise.  Because of this, players all go into a game with a certain "edge" to them.  Edge is the combination of fear and arrogance that keeps players mentally sharp and at the top of their game.  
But what happens when a team clinches the pennant with two weeks left making the games left to be played statistically irrelevant?  If you've paid attention to the Phillies in the last week, you're seeing what can sometimes happen.  They lose that edge.   The same edge that led to the Phillies having the best record in baseball over the course of the first 6 1/2 months of the season.
It's certainly not time to panic if you are in that Phillies dugout but it is time to start making some adjustments.  I've always felt that a well timed loss can have a great impact on a team.  It sometimes wakes them up to the fact that if you don't respect the game in terms of how it needs to be approached, you can get embarrassed in a hurry.  Philly fans are praying they wake up soon.  
I'm confident they will.  They have loads of veteran leadership to guide them back to the correct approach.  They better start soon, though, because the switch to do it for them doesn't exist.

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