Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Fun"

This week, Torri Hunter, OF for the Anaheim Angels of California—or whatever they are called this week—said that he notices something different about the Yankees this year.

“There’s a different fire about those guys,” Hunter said. “I’ve been playing a long time. I know they hit homers, they do different things, but it’s the smaller things I see that’s different.”

Although Hunter said there was a difference about the Yankees, he could not pinpoint exactly what it was. Hunter said the Yankees routinely had the largest payroll so “you can’t say it’s that.” He wondered if C.C. Sabathia’s arrival was the reason for the difference. He also mentioned the jolly Nick Swisher as a positive addition.

“It’s something different over there about those guys, like they’re having a lot more fun instead of walking on eggshells,” Hunter said.

You hear that a lot around the Bronx this year. "The Yankees are loose." "It's a fun clubhouse this year." "The pitchers stay in the dugout, not the clubhouse, when it's their off day." And of course, there are the shaving cream pies, and kangaroo courts and all that. And the press eats it up, writing story after story about how much "fun" the Yankees are having.

Does it matter?

Does it matter if a team has fun? Does "fun" lead, in any way, to winning?

The 1977-1978 Yankees—aka, the Bronx Zoo—hated each other. Munson hated Jackson. Gossage hated Martin. Martin fought with everybody. And over them all, loomed King George Steinbrenner, who's presence made sure somebody or everybody would be held accountable if things didn't work out.

All in all, not the most "fun" atmosphere.

Those guys—Munson, Jackson, Nettles, Pinella, Lyle—might be characterised as "Fun" but their relationships with each other could be described as "Volatile" or "Ready To Explode in a Blind Fury." Yet those guys won two World Series. and one of those was with Billy Martin who would challenge players to fights, or drinks, sometimes in the same conversation.

The same could be said for the Big Red Machine Cincinnati teams of the mid 70s. Rose, Anderson, Morgan all had "big" personalities that led to sometimes-divided clubhouse (check out Joe Posnanski's "The Machine: A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series - The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds." which just came out.) Yet those guys won two championships themselves.

And the same could be said for other sports. Shaq-Kobe won a championship. The Raiders of the 80s won two championships with the team, the coaches and the owner fighting each other and pretty much everybody on the planet. Fun? My guess; not so much on a day-to-day basis.

So, does it matter if teammates like each other, and have fun? Does it help a team win ballgames? I'm not so sure it's all it's cracked up to be, by the press. Maybe it helps some guys, but on the whole, I don't think it matters as much as everyone thinks. What's your opinion?

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