Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Monday, October 29, 2007
Manny Being Manny: Success Through Perspective

Over on The Situationist, Jon Hanson and I have a piece that uses social psychology to compare Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez. The piece is entitled "The Situation of 'Winners' and 'Losers'" and it examines the very different playoff performances of Ramirez and Rodriguez over the course of their careers and suggests some possibilities for why two phenomenal players perform so differently when it "counts." We also discuss varying public reactions to these players, both of whom are frequently the target of fan and media scorn (though for very different reasons).

Here is an excerpt from the piece:

If the stereotype-threat analogy has any relevance, it helps us see that the problem is not a function merely of A-Rod’s disposition (as the kind of person who is “clutch” or the kind of person who “chokes”); it also reflects the expectations and conceptions in A-Rod’s situation, surrounding him like the chalk of the batter’s box or the love-him-when-he-succeeds-but-despise-him-when-he-fails fans. And those expectations, reactions, and resultant anxieties may be a big part of what leads to the pop-ups, double-play balls, and strikeouts that disproportionately characterize his playoff at bats. When sports writers and commentators and fans dispositionalize a player as “Mr. Clutch” or as “Mr. Choke,” they are influencing what they assume they are only describing. Blaming A-Rod is, at least in part, creating A-Rod.

At the very moment when A-Rod is attempting to be the hero or avoid being the villain, he ought to be watching the pitch. For most players, that is easier said than done — unless, perhaps, you’re a very strange bird . . . unless, in other words, you’re Manny Ramirez.

* * *

In a world in which many assume that winners and losers are determined by “heart,” “will,” “a sense of urgency,” “the eye of the tiger,” and so on, Manny reminds us that maybe we can succeed by keeping things in perspective. “Winning attitudes” are great, but there’s a lot to be said for a a little ho-hum mixed in. Why is it always “Manny being Manny?” Maybe more people, including Alex Rodriguez, should consider “being Manny.”

* * *

We hope you check out the piece. As an aside, it will be interesting to see whether Ramirez and Rodriguez are teammates next year on the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox, who seem poised to pursue to A-Rod now that he has opted out of his contract with the Yankees, particularly with Mike Lowell a free agent.


Of course the Yankees blame their playoff failures on A-Rod. That's easy because of the gigantic contract he's making. However, any reasonable baseball fan knows that the Yankees have failed in the playoffs recently because they are an aging team and have lackluster starting pitching. The Red Sox won their second world championship in the past 4 years with clutch veteran hitting, the emergence of youth like Pedroya, and dominant starting pitching from Beckett, Schilling, and the other young arms on their staff. The Yankees lack this balance and are thus coming up empty as of late. A-Rod is NOT the reason they have failed. In fact, it can be argued that his great regular season is one of the main reasons that the Yankees managed to put enough wins together to even make the playoffs. But blaming A-Rod is the easy way out because many people don't like to uncover the real reasons for the Yankees' recent shortcomings.
As for the Sox going after A-Rod...I can certainly see it happening, especially if Lowell begins to get lucrative offers from other teams (and he certainly will). It would also be a nice way for Boston to stick it back to New York and rub salt in the wound of losing in the playoffs and losing A-Rod in the same season. Johnny Damon will wish he'd stayed in Boston after all. Free agency should be very interesting this offseason as always.

Blogger John Biggs -- 10/30/2007 2:33 PM  

Post a Comment