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Friday, July 23, 2010

Athletic Brain Farts

Friday, July 23, 2010
Athletic Brain Farts
Current mood: amused
Category: Blogging

I had lunch with Michaels Taggart and Lyon and a clip happened to come up of San Francisco Giant pitcher Tim Lincecum winding up for a pitch of legend and fury and instead releasing the ball about halfway through his pitching motion, sending the ball straight into the air as if fired from a mortar. We watched in silence for a moment, then I muttered, “How in the fuck does that happen?” A professional baseball player, nonetheless. I understand the tenuous world of the baseball grip and the results of slight variation of pressure from fingertip to fingertip – the stuff that causes the ball to dip and doodle and curve and drop and laugh and cry. But straight up in the air?

This video clip sparked a conversation that lasted for the rest of lunch. We spoke of the catcher that got sent back to the minors to learn another position because he couldn’t toss the ball back to the pitcher after a pitch. Let me repeat – he could not toss the ball back to the pitcher after a pitch. We’re not talking about a snap throw to second to pick off a speedy baserunner. We’re not even talking about throwing to first base after dropping a swung-on third strike to force the runner out. We are talking about the act of returning the ball to the mound when the play is dead. “Toss it underhand,” I pointed out. “Hand it to the umpire and let him throw it back to the pitcher,” Lyon added. “Roll the fucking thing,” Taggart said. “For God’s sake…” Our point was that there was no way that a mental block of this magnitude should be acceptable – as Taggart pointed out, "these guys are getting paid millions of dollars to catch a baseball. They’d better be able to get it back to the pitcher, or fuck ‘em.”

Charles Barkley was another example of extreme mental psyche overload. Once nearly a scratch golfer, he has now messed up his swing so badly from between the ears that his stroke resembles a basket full of toasters being thrown down a flight of stairs. There is a hitch so extreme and violent that it appears as if the man is under cardiac arrest every time he swings the club. And it all stems from the fact that he has freaked himself over every tick and tock of the motion and can now no longer see it as one smooth, fluid action. A pity. And if there were a kind and benevolent God, Barkley would be struck by lightning while putting, simply to put he and his golf buddies out of their misery.

I’m not saying that Lincecum has a mental block of Barkleyan proportions, nor am I suggesting in any way that he should be sent to the minors to learn another position. This kid is one of the most talented young guns in the game and this is surely only the result of a sweaty palm or an unclipped cuticle. I’m certain that Licecum will pitch out the next 15-20 years without ever shooting one into the air like a bottle rocket. It was simply a once in a lifetime gaffe.

But I’m keeping my eyes on him…

I’ll write again when I get back from Dubuque.

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