At this point, any deep dive piece by Wright Thompson at ESPN is a instant read for me. His latest is about a week he spent with the Cleveland Indians at the tail end of their league record 22-game winning streak. What struck me is how much of the consistency and discipline echoed by the players comes from their manager, Terry Francona. Here are the takeaways I got:
— A winning streak should not make you feel like you have it all figured out nor should a losing streak make you believe you will never get it right. Stick to the same disciplined approach and mindset every day. Be the same guy whether you have won 10 in a row or lost 8 in a row.
— A 162-game baseball season is fluid. Only today exists.
— Francona simplifies his life as much as possible, following the same routine every day. It is no longer a surprising to me to see how often this orientation toward “routine” is used by elite athletes. Since his rookie season, basketball star Steph Curry has had the exact same pregame routine from the moment he shows up to the arena until the game tips off. Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda, arguably the best offensive lineman in pro football, used to get teased by teammates and staff that they always knew where he was during the day because his daily schedule was so consistent down to the minute.
— The Indians lost a heartbreaking Game 7 in the World Series last year to the Cubs. The team started this season sluggish, perhaps still in a funk from how last year ended. In an unusual move, Francona held a meeting early in the summer to snap the team out of their rut, and the team has been focused ever since.
— Last year, the Indians went on a 14-game winning streak in the middle of the season, and the team got way more caught up in the streak than they did in this year’s 22-game run. While last year’s streak was nice, they got away from their normal approach to work each day. The most encouraging thing about this year’s streak is it has come within the confines of how the team has behaved all season long. Those three weeks were nothing special.
— Francona grew up as the son of a major league player and has spent almost his entire life hanging around baseball clubhouses. He likes to show up early and watch the ballpark wake up around him. Spending this much time around the “office” has given him a sixth sense for knowing when something is off in the team’s atmosphere. He can then squash it before it transforms into a bigger problem later.
Source: Wright Thompson at ESPN