Posts Tagged ‘alex rodriguez’

What’s Behind A-Rods Postseason Turnaround?

New York Baseball Digest – Mike Silva – October 13th, 2009 – I discussed this on Sunday and once again was criticized for saying that a “relaxed” A-Rod has as much to do with his success than anything. Dr. John F Murray, who appeared on my show back in June, had the following to say in Sunday’s New York Post.

“If he’s becoming a little more honest . . . he would have less anxiety, said Palm Beach sports psychologist Dr. John Murray. “He would sleep better at night and be more relaxed. More focused. That is key.

Dr. Murray was responding to a quote from a team insider who said A-Rod has “ditched his philandering ways and is making a big effort to inject honesty and openness into his relationship with the actress Kate Hudson.? If only he had met Hudson five years ago perhaps the Yankees would already have their 27th World Series. I am kidding of course, but you have to admit that there is a clear change in A-Rod at the plate. That is why anyone who cites “small sample size? is not looking at the big picture.

Ken Davidoff, who embraces all sorts of modern statistical theory, echoed much of what I have been saying on the show and the blog:

It’s never as simple as “Now A-Rod is relaxed, therefore, now he’s great.? Someone has to pitch the ball to him, after all, and that pitch might be sublime, horrible or somewhere in between. But my goodness, he’s playing the game with such a peace now, if you will. In previous postseasons, in tight spots or with runners on base, you could feel the tension oozing from his body. Yes, sometimes such tension can produce a flare, broken-bat single, and results are all that matter. But I can’t remember too many instances in the previous five years where the defense robbed A-Rod of a hit. He just didn’t square up the ball too often.

I have seen most every inning of Yankees postseason baseball the last 10 years. The pressure clearly got to A-Rod, along with many others on the Yankees, during the 2004 ALCS. Davidoff said it best when citing the lack of hard hit balls throughout the postseason. I wish I could get a copy of the ESPN interview before the 06 Detroit series. A-Rod was so tight during the conversation I thought he was going to snap like a rubber band. Obviously none of us are in A-Rod’s head, but it doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to recognize bad body language when you see it.

Finally, I think you have to point out how Rodriguez has made peace with Derek Jeter. The one black mark on Jeter’s captain legacy is how he handled A-Rod’s transition to New York and the Yankees. NYBD contributor Frank Russo mentioned in his Monday column that A-Rod, “stressed by the spotlight of both the Selena Roberts steroid story and his hip surgery, had a heartfelt talk with Jeter sometime during the season, where he “again apologized for the comments he made about him in the April 2001 issue of Esquire Magazine.? I think it was petty of Jeter, and showed that even the great one can fall to one of the seven deadly sins, but at least A-Rod finally owned up and helped put the situation behind the duo. Peer pressure and respect is a big thing in sports. Sometimes confidence can be something as simple as the support of your teammates. Of course, you can’t discount good pitching, fielding, and hitting, however the difference between playoff teams is so minuscule that the “intangibles? often can put a team over the top.

A-Rod is not out of the woods as Anaheim comes to town on Friday. Something tells me that his performance against the Twins was no accident and we will see more of this as the Yanks attempt to win title number 27.

Hope you enjoyed this article about sports psychology.

A-Rod on Kate & narrow

New York Post – Angela Montfinise and Douglas Montero – It’s another Miracle on the Hudson.

Alex Rodriguez’s newfound playoff prowess after years of choking in the post-season is a product of his steamy — and surprisingly honest — romance with sexy screen siren Kate Hudson, a team source and a top sports shrink said yesterday.

A team insider said A-Rod has ditched his philandering ways and is making a big effort to inject honesty and openness into his relationship with the actress.

“He’s decided to be completely honest with her because what he was doing in the past didn’t work,” the source said, referring to his ugly 2008 divorce.

The healthy off-field relationship with Hudson is translating into October success on the baseball diamond, experts said.

“If he’s becoming a little more honest . . . he would have less anxiety,” said Palm Beach sports psychologist Dr. John Murray. “He would sleep better at night and be more relaxed. More focused. That is key.”

The steamy slugger has a long history of failing in the clutch — and in his personal relationships.

While racking up a paltry .212 lifetime batting average in the playoffs, he carried on “extramarital affairs and other marital misconduct,” according to papers filed by his ex-wife, Cynthia.

Cameras caught him with stripper Joslyn Morse in Toronto in 2007, and he was later linked to Madonna while still married.

In postseason play from 2005 to 2007, A-Rod had a grand total of one RBI. The Yankees were bounced in the first round in each of those years.

But this year, A-Rod has “looked really relaxed, really great,” Murray said.

He has hit .500 over two games and smacked five RBIs, and his game-tying, ninth-inning homer Friday night set up a Yankee win. A victory today in Minnesota would complete the sweep and put the Bombers in the American League Championship series.

Hudson — who has accompanied Rodriguez on road trips and often cheers him from his personal seats in The Bronx — was at both playoff games last week.

“If you get somebody like a gorgeous woman, someone who you admire, somebody who’s behind you, [athletes] know it,” Murray said.

Even when she isn’t cheering for A-Rod in person, Hudson has been rooting for him at bars. In June, she watched the Yankees take on the Indians at Bar 108 in SoHo.

“She was clapping, rooting for him and even hollering. She was very animated. She was pushing him hard, and I think she’s a good influence,” a bartender there said yesterday.

He added, “If I got a woman that pretty rooting for me, I’d do good, too.”

People are realizing more and more the benefits of a solid mental game and sports psychology.

SEATTLE TIMES BATS FOR SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY

Seattle Times – Jun 1, 2005 – Steve Kelley – Fear doesn’t strike out as A-Rod steps up to the plate – Every player talks about the transforming magic of the Yankees’ pinstripes. Each gushes about the sanctity of Yankee Stadium.

But the players also understand the enormous expectations and the pressures that come with those pinstripes.

Eventually every Yankee, even Derek Jeter, will experience the wrath of a stadium crowd. It’s as inevitable as a delay on the D Train.

In a little more than a year as a Yankee, third baseman Alex Rodriguez already has run the emotional gantlet. He has experienced the exhilaration of a pennant race, followed by the devastation of a history-making playoff loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Who knows what it is like to be A-Rod in New York?

To carry all those heavy expectations every day. To listen to the boos that tumble on him from almost every park in the American League. To feel like he has to play like a Hall of Famer every game to justify the largest contract in big-league history.

This season, he has been exceptional. Rodriguez is leading the American League in home runs, runs scored, RBI and slugging percentage. He is third in on-base percentage and fourth in batting average.

So who knows what combination of stresses and successes led him into therapy? But last week Rodriguez, perhaps the world’s most image-conscious athlete, announced he is seeing a shrink.

“A-Rod making a statement like that, an athlete of his stature saying that, could advance sports psychology by 10 years,” Dr. John Murray, a sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla., said by telephone this week. “A-Rod’s efforts will hopefully go a long way toward removing the stigma of getting the help of a sports psychologist, be it for simple mental skills training, or serious counseling.”

Murray, 43, worked with Jim Bauman (now a U.S. Olympic Committee psychologist) at Washington State in 1998, and has worked with the University of Florida and the Miami Dolphins. In his private practice, he has counseled numerous golfers, cyclists and football and tennis players. This week he started a Web site “CongratsARod.com”  he hopes will take the psychological pulse of the athletic community.

“I see it a lot of times, especially in the traditional sports like baseball and football,” Murray said, “where the players might be somewhat reluctant to seek the counsel of a sports psychologist when they’re feeling panicky, or they’re choking, or they’re losing the motivation and wanting to quit. It’s a case where we need to break down barriers.”

Baseball, probably more than any other team sport, is susceptible to psychological problems. The daily seven-month grind, the contemplative pace of the game, the fact that, at its heart, baseball is a one-on-one sport, can make players emotionally vulnerable.

In 1971 Pittsburgh’s Steve Blass pitched two complete-game World Series victories. The next year, he won 19 games. The next year, he walked 84 batters and struck out only 27. And in 1974, his last season, he pitched one game, walked seven and never pitched again.

St. Louis’ Rick Ankiel, who is attempting a comeback as an outfielder at Class AA Springfield, never rediscovered the strike zone after his infamous playoff implosion in 2000.

Reliable-fielding second basemen Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch, all of a sudden, had difficulty making the simple throw to first. Catcher Mackey Sasser often had to double-clutch just to throw the ball back to the pitcher.

“What starts as a slump, like going three games without a base hit because of a slight technical or mental flaw, suddenly takes on a life all its own,” Murray said. “Players can lose confidence. They can lose focus. They have trouble managing their energy problems, which leads to anger, fear, even apathy and boredom.

“What players need to know is that there’s nothing to be ashamed of in seeking counseling. Why should there be a stigma? Hopefully, some day we can get to a place where seeking help is commonplace.”

Murray said athletes have to remember a simple message: “As tough as things can get, the mind is even tougher.” And he offers the case of tennis professional Vince Spadea as proof.

In the midst of a record-breaking slump, Spadea came to Murray . Once ranked as high as 19th in the world in 1999, he lost an ATP-record 21 matches in a row and, by 2001, his ranking had fallen to 229th.

“He was ready to quit tennis. The fire had died,” said Murray. “He spent a year and a half living in a cellar. He needed something to re-ignite the fire that was the reason he became a tennis player in the first place. He needed to believe in himself again.

“When he was winning, I don’t think he really appreciated how great he was. I think success happened so quickly, he didn’t realize how good his life was. He was very reluctant to come to me, but he listened. All he really needed was a pep talk.”

Spadea, 30, won his first ATP tournament last season in Scottsdale, Ariz., beating Andy Roddick in the semifinals. He finished 2004 ranked all the way back to 19th.

Spadea needed to hit rock bottom before he sought help. Who knows what moved A-Rod to seek therapy?

Maybe he too needs a pep talk. Or maybe he needs to talk about a childhood where his father left the family when Rodriguez was 9 years old.

Whatever the reason, it took courage for him to make public this very private part of his life. And for this, all of us who have jeered A-Rod now should cheer him.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED LETTERS

Jan 27, 2005 – Sports Illustrated Letters – “Alex in Wonderland” – A-Rod demonstrates that seeking counseling is a sign of strength, not weakness. Eventually, getting sports-psychology services will be just as accepted as seeking help for a twisted ankle. John F. Murray, West Palm Beach, Fla. (in Palm Beach, Florida since 2006)

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.