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How to Win

Team Chemistry

Yesterday marked the trading deadline in big-league baseball, and several deals took place. Now we enter Stage 3 of the trading season.

Just to review, Stage 1 is the weeks leading up to the deadline, where people speculate on what trades MIGHT take place. Stage 2 is the day when the deals actually are completed. In Phase 3, we see how the transactions affect the teams involved.

For the record, this stage can take years. Baseball wisdom holds that it takes five years to evaluate a trade. A deal made today can affect what a team does or does not do for half a decade, or longer.

Years ago, in my sports writing days, a veteran scribe told me to write a book analyzing just one trade. Sadly, I did not take his advice. However, his words come back to me today because whether they know it or not, all coaches are in the business of making trades.

High school and college coaches don’t trade players with other schools, of course. Instead, they make moves over the course of the season, trying one player in this role or that.

And, just as with pro trades, the question remains: Is the team better now than it was before?

In this post, I want to center on just one aspect of a team trade– how it affects the chemistry. No matter what the sport, chemistry affects team performance.

Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne knew that certain mixtures of players were better than others. He said, “I don’t play my eleven best. I play my best eleven.”

A Boston Red Sox trade will make an excellent study in chemistry. They just acquired Victor Martinez from Cleveland, and he plays three different positions: catcher, first base and designated hitter. That means at least three players on the team will be directly affected the arrival of a newcomer.

How will they react?

Boston manager Terry Francona already knows that chemistry is an important issue on any team. He has thing to say to his team about the trade.

“‘I’m going to explain that he (Martinez) makes us better,” Francona said.

Actually, it’s too early to say that for sure. Martinez definitely makes the Red Sox more TALENTED. Whether he makes them BETTER remains to be seen.


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