The following scene may have happened after yesterday's game. Or, I might have just dreamed it up.
(knock at door) Uh, hey, can I come in?
Sure, what is it? Ah, who are you?
Actually I'd rather not say. You don't recognize me? Maybe that's sort of the problem. I saw your open door, though, and since the door says "Coach" on it, I thought I'd come in to take a burden off my shoulders, and maybe get some guidance.
Well come in, sit down. No, I'm sorry, I don't recognize you. I can tell from your uniform that you're on this year's Dodger squad, as am I, but I can't say that I can tell who you are. Maybe it's because that hat of yours is a little askew and it covers up your eyes. Anyway, what can I do for you?
(sits down, then lays down on the couch) Thanks. Here's the thing. I've got this problem, see? I work really hard, show up to spring training camp early, show up to the stadium early, take extra BP, the whole nine. I know I've got a big five-year, $44M contract to live up to, and this first year here in Los Angeles, I know the pressure's on. Sure, I've never had that good of an arm from center, but I've always been confident that I could make it up by scoring a lot of runs and getting on base a lot. And I'm really trying.
Okay, got it. Then what seems to be the problem?
Well, coach (can I call you coach?), the fans hate me. They ride me for my defense, which I can sort of understand. But they continue to ride me for my offense too. Don't they see my .273 batting average, having played in all 34 games? Don't they credit my 12 stolen bases, third most in the league? My 23 runs scored, which tied for tops on the team and 11th in the National League? Don't they see that I'm trying?
Wow, that certainly sounds pretty good. I'm sure they can tell that you're trying, but...well, why don't we take a closer look at what happened in Wednesday night's game vs. Florida, okay? There, there now. Take some deep breaths. Now walk me through your first at bat.
Okay. On a 1-0 count, with no one on and one out, I swung at the second pitch and flied out to left. It was deep, but it was a fly out all the same.
Got it. Go on.
In my second AB, with two out and Rafael Furcal on first, I swung at the first pitch and flied out to center for the final out. This kept it a one-run game.
Hmm. Two at bats, three pitches, two outs. Go on.
In my third AB in the fourth inning, we had the momentum with a 3-0 lead. Two out, two runs already plated, Furcal sitting on second, and Dontrelle Willis laboring. On a 1-0 count, I swung and flied out to center again. Inning over.
Okay, that makes three at bats, five pitches, three outs, 1 RISP LOB, 2 LOB. I'm starting to see a pattern. Why don't you tell me what hap--
(interrupting)--In my fourth AB in the sixth, with Brady Clark on second and a 4-0 lead, I had a 1-0 count and swung at the second pitch, popping out to center for the third time tonight. Inning over.
Now I'm really starting to see a pattern here. Four at bats, seven pitches, four outs, 2 RISP LOB, 3 LOB. What is making you swing so early in the--
(again interrupting)--And in my fifth and final AB in the eighth, bases juiced and Taylor Tankersley clearly laboring, I swung at the first pitch and flied out to left field. Inning over.
Okay, stop right there. You just recapped five at bats in which you saw eight pitches and made five outs. You left 4 runners in scoring position, and left a total of six men on base and had zero RBI. In fact, except for the first inning (in which it would have been extremely improbable for a #2 hitter to do so), you made the final out of the inning in every at bat. What are you thinking? Why did you swing so early in every at bat, particularly when seeing the pitcher was having trouble? Why are you so impatient at the plate?
That's just it, coach, I don't know. I play hard, and I get excited, and sometimes I just get ahead of myself. I want to succeed so bad--I just can't exhibit any patience at the plate, I guess. Once you break it down at bat by at bat, the 0-for-5 night looks much, much worse, I suppose.
Look, when a team leaves 13 on base and still ekes out a victory, you can't call it anything but luck. But given you left six on base yourself, this swinging at the first or second pitch has gotta stop. Wait for your pitch. Quit slapping out weak fly balls--you don't have the power to hit home runs anyway. And swing level--at the very least, you've got to hit the ball on the ground to have a shot at getting on base. Especially for a speedy runner like you, fly outs are wasted outs.
Okay, got it. Ground balls. I'll try and focus on that. Thanks for the tips, I appreciate it. Look, I'm trying. I just want to score runs, that's all.
Oh, you will. Don't worry, with your speed on the basepaths, I'll send you home every time, even when you're on second, the dirt is muddy, the batter hits a comebacker to the mound, and Furcal is tagged out right in front of you trying to score from third.
Wait a minute, which coach are you--hey, you're Rich Donnelly! Arggggh! (the player runs screaming from the coach's office)