The older I get, the more I think the mental is, in fact, physical. Maybe Jerry Rice was wired to be Jerry Rice. Coaching helps, but it can't rewire you. Expecting Moss to be Rice-like, might be almost as illogical as expecting Rice to have run as fast as Moss.For baseball, I couldn't agree more. It goes for the greats, and for the marginal major leaguers. Take the latter: Marvin Benard. Marvin Benard couldn't break well in center field on fly balls, and he couldn't lay off a high fastball. Giants fans used to hate him for those things, especially swinging at pitches outside the strike zone...it just looked so easy to fix. Sure, fans think, I might not be able to run like Marvin Benard, or connect on a major league pitch the way he can...but I know enough -- I'm smart enough -- to lay off the bad pitches. Not just Marvin; any player who seemed to be making what they call "mental" errors...it just seems so avoidable.
And then (and I'm sure anyone interested enough to survive a paragraph on Marvin Benard saw this coming) there's Barry Bonds and hustle. Barry Bonds didn't hustle. Especially in his late career phase, Bonds became a world-class expert at saving his energy. And sometimes it bit him; sometimes he'd fail to run out a pop-up and it would drop, or a ground ball that someone booted, and he'd cost the team. To some fans, same thing: obviously Barry Bonds could do things that practically no one else on earth could do, but what excuse is it for not running hard on a home run, just in case the wind brings it back?
But I don't think it's a choice. I think the same things that gave Marvin Benard the edge he needed to get to where he was -- which after all was among the greatest baseball players in the world, even if it wasn't among the best in MLB -- were the same things that wouldn't let him lay off that high fastball. I think the same things that allowed Barry Bonds to be the greatest player of my lifetime were probably the same things that meant that he focused his energy in particular ways. I don't even mean to say it's a tradeoff; it's just that, as TNC says, those guys were probably wired that way.
I'll tell you, though...Barry Bonds? He sure was something to watch. Wow. I hope you didn't miss it because of the hype and the craziness, because you really missed something.