Pedro Martinez, Jimmy Rollins and Curtis Granderson On How They Felt October
The cool mornings and fallen leaves are a sign playoff baseball is just around the corner. Six months of day-in, day-out marathon running turn to a feverish sprint. TBS' coverage of the MLB Division Series begins on Tuesday and three analysts with a bevy of postseason experience previewed all the intrigue today on a media call. At one point, Granderson said it was tough to describe how do-or-die baseball saps players of their energy. This has always been an under-appreciated aspect of the playoffs, as they are a completely different mental obstacle. The Big Lead asked Grandson, Jimmy Rollins and Pedro Martinez to explain how carrying the weight of October feels. Their answers were illuminating:
Curtis Granderson: There's two parts that people don't realize. There's more media attention on you than ever before even if you're in New York. And in the moment of the game, the games don't necessarily go longer but the focus on every detail is more intense from pitch one to the last pitch of the game. You can't take a pitch off, even if you're not starting.
I remember the first few games I ever played coming home and being exhausted, asking 'what just happened?' You feel like you're at the ballpark a little bit earlier, a little bit longer because you're trying to prepare more. You have more information being given to you. That's all going into your mental side and then you're still going out there trying to perform in the game, doing everything you need to.
Plus, you add in the momentum of the crowd. The shifts, the swings. Are you in the big moment or are you not? Also, a lot of players are being asked to do something that they haven't been asked to do all season long. When it's time for So & So to get the bunt down, when it's time for So & So to steal a base that's not usually in that position, those little things add to it and it's one of those things you miss. Because the game itself looks the same but you start looking at it afterwards and it's exhausting. I know I was exhausted.
Jimmy Rollins: Funnily enough, for me it was exact opposite. The purpose was: there's no off-on switch. You're on. You're on. That's what the crowd is for. That's what the intensity is for. That's the importance and urgency of winning. So I always felt that I didn't want to shut down, that it would be over soon enough. When it's over I can sleep all I want.
At night, it's 2 or 3 in the morning, I'm like 'I have to turn this TV off.' I have to do something to relax myself to allow myself to at least recover because when you get to the field — as Curtis said, you get there a little earlier — it's little cooler, that little chill in the air. The lights seem brighter. It's literally feels like you're walking onto a stage and you have to be ready to perform. That brought the energy. It was just something that was cyclical, day in and day out.
If it was a travel day it was like 'man, I'm ready to go, I wish we could play today as soon as we land.' But you have to find a way to bring yourself down. Now, when it's done? Exactly what Curtis said. It's like 'what just happened?" You probably stay in bed for two or three days. If you win the World Series, you do all your parading and then you shut down. You just disappear for a day or two just to let yourself take in what you put your body through, what you put your mind through. But when it was going on for me it was the exact opposite. I wasn't turning off. I wasn't missing a moment and I don't want to take a chance to relax because if I do that there's a chance that the other side hasn't shut down and I'm at a disadvantage.
Pedro Martinez: For me, it was a little bit different. I was a starting pitcher so your mind has to be on, not only during the game but before the game you have to really understand what you want to do. The most difficult thing to do was set your mind to different schedules. To a different time zone or different start of the game. The game could be delayed a bit because of all the pre-game activities. That was the most difficult and exhausting thing for me.
Once I got in the game, it didn't really bother me to do what I needed to do because you just play like Jimmy said: a regular game. It's just a game. The game doesn't really change. But the amount of concentration that you need?
Imagine for me, 60,000 at Yankee Stadium chanting "who's your daddy?" And you're trying to place that ball two inches off the plate or you're in a battle with Gary Sheffield where you're trying 97 mph and he's pulling it. You're on the edge. You're on the edge all the time. Keeping that concentration level was really difficult, especially if we have a lot of distractions around the timing of your game.