Ants and a Magnifying Glass

It seems like only yesterday that I was counting down the days to when the 2007 baseball season would begin. Now I find myself involved in another countdown. This time I am counting down the number of games remaining in the regular season. It’s funny that for the first countdown I was eager with anticipation being able to hardly wait for baseball season to arrive. Now though I find my enthusiasm much lower as each game played means I am one step closer to the off-season where I have to try and survive without baseball to occupy my time. But this year is slightly different. Instead of just playing out the season the Arizona Diamondbacks have an opportunity to make the play-offs. That makes all the difference in the world.

There is something to be said about your team being in the play-off hunt. The sun seems to shine brighter and the there seems to be fewer cares in the world. Time seems to float a little lighter and it’s easier to find a positive in every experience. Of course the play-offs are far from a given for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The National League Western Division continues to be hotly contested and will remain so for the remainder of the season. After the road trip in San Diego last week things have gotten tighter than a Pamela Anderson T-shirt. The Diamondbacks and Padres are in a virtual tie for the divisional lead and a mere 3 games up on their closest competitors in the wild card race. That will make every game important from now until the end of the month. Each game will be elevated to a do-or-die situation by the media and the fans. Manager Bob Melvin who is being mentioned as the front-runner for the National League manager of the year will have his work cut out for him to try and manage the pressure that comes with a play-off contending team. The players have the talent necessary to make the post season but for many of these guys this will be their first experience with the pressures of a play-off run. That lack of experience in dealing with the pressure will tax the coaching staff as they try to remind the players of what got them to this point and to not let them get caught up in the excitement that will envelope the team as they get closer to the end of the season.

We’re already starting to see some of the players struggle a little more than normal as they press to try and win a game. Where we once saw short compact swings we are not seeing them lengthened resulting in more strikeouts or pop-ups. The tightness is somewhat contagious making the Diamondbacks vulnerable to huge swings in win differential. On days where they trust their abilities and work the opposing pitcher they are getting big hits but all too often they get caught up putting too much pressure on themselves leading to mental mistakes at the plate and on the field. In many ways the pressure they will be feeling is like a magnifying glass in the hands of a child. If handled correctly the magnifying glass can help you see your goals more clearly but if used incorrectly under the heat of the play-off sun, you might just get burned.

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