This is the last part of a long article, segmented for online reading convenience, on Eric Byrnes’ batting difficulties, and the mental aspect of solving these problems. This is one of the two most important ones in this series, so I am moving it up front. The others are "Getting Eric Byrnes Back on Track" "Stats: The Ups and Downs of Eric Byrnes" and "Why Does Eric Byrnes Matter?" (And I should have clarified earlier that this last one is NOT an article about why Eric Byrnes matters to me, though there are probably a few elements in there that would fit such an article. I occasionally get a "Why Eric Byrnes?" question from someone. My favorite response is "Why NOT Eric Byrnes?" But maybe I’ll elaborate in a "Why Eric Byrnes matters to me" type article later, if there is nothing better to do. And I’m in trouble if there is nothing better to do.
Making Sense of 2005
With the "abysmal, aberrant year" in the past, one can look at it as a history lesson. We all know that philosopher George Santayana said something about those who could not remember the past being condemned to repeat it. (Though if you Google his name you’ll get all sorts of variations on the quote). Byrnes has to learn from 2005 to avoid repeating it.
The trick here is for him to learn from the past while simultaneously letting go of the pain it caused. I trust Byrnes to be able to do this because he has a basically optimistic personality.
"…Three teams and four managers when I’ve played with the same team my whole career. The thing is, though, is I will never use that as an excuse. If anything, the most difficult time for me to play probably should have been Oakland because I expected to be an everyday guy, and then right off the bat I was platooning." -–Eric Byrnes
Byrnes needs to understand the difference between an explanation and an excuse.
An explanation is a description of a reality one must confront. An excuse is an attempt to escape confronting the reality. Byrnes’ comment suggests he seems to be afraid of looking at all that happened to him this year because he do not want to appear to be seeking excuses for his uncharacteristically dismal performance. Is fear of being seen as an excuse-maker preventing him from learning how to better handle the difficulties he faced in 2005?
Byrnes should recognize that so much happened to him and around him in 2005 that it HAD to affect his performance.
We all like to assume that professionals of any sort will not let negative circumstances affect their performance. We certainly would not want to have a surgeon distracted by family problems to operate on us, or a lawyer consumed by law firm politics to represent us in a trial. But the truth of the matter is that we are all human, and that means that our performance is at times affected by our circumstances.
Consider a well-known example in golf for a moment. Many people could not understand Phil Mickelson’s rough 2003. Then we heard that his wife, Amy, had had a very difficult childbirth and that she and the baby had been in trouble for months afterward. When Amy and the baby got well, Lefty’s golf improved and he became the 2004 Master’s Champion.
Eric Byrnes would not be making excuses to acknowledge that negative things happened to him and around him to a degree unlike any other time in his professional career if he also observes what effects these negative things had on his play, and looks for ways to mitigate the effects of negative circumstances on his ability to accomplish his goals. He doesn’t even have to say anything to anyone as he goes about this. He can just do this for himself. Silence will avoid accusations of excuse-making.
Byrnes needs to be honest with himself about his feelings concerning each of the many events, whether they were matters that concerned him directly, or they were problems teammates were having. He should ask himself how each event, or combination of events, affected his performance. From there he should be able to work out ways to deal with those issues should they arise again. Indeed, problems such as trade talk, fired managers, and troubled teammates are all conditions that are common to the game so he might see them again. (Though I hope not all in one season, as he saw them in 2005). He will be better able to handle them next time if he looks squarely at what happened in 2005 without fear of being accused of making excuses. One cannot solve a problem before acknowledging it exists.
Being able to not let negative circumstances affect performance is like consistency. Some people seem to come by the trait naturally, but it is also a honed skill. To again draw on a golf example, Tiger Woods learned mental toughness from his parents.
Above all, Eric Byrnes must never feel ashamed of having been affected by so much negativity. It just shows he’s human. Now he needs to learn how to not let such matters affect him so much.
OK, That’s all I have to say on the mental game. Gee, I like to "go long" so much, you would think that I should be a bigger football fan than baseball fan!
If all goes to schedule, my thoughts on the physical aspects of Eric Byrnes’ quest to become the reliable hitter and, therefore, the everyday player he wants to be, should be along in about a week.