John: There’s a lot of pressure that these players are under on these favorite teams, they are expected to do so much. Usually, in most sports when a team is wrapping up a game they rest their MVPs and this causes them to lose focus and intensity. I feel that when you get an excessive amount of relaxation, you lose that consistency that got the team to that winning point, whereas wild card players are already used to that pressure because they are constantly playing, so they don’t need to rest as often because they have built up an endurance. Another factor is that the teams that are underdogs don’t realize how affluent they are with the press, whilst the popular teams are constantly referencing the things that are said about how successful they are as a team. Positive media attention can cause popular teams to lose focus on the training they need to compete to get to the playoffs.
Bill: I was very good in practice as opposed to in the games, whereas Allen Iverson was an amazing player in the game but didn’t bother to practice. For me I was afraid of not living up to other people’s expectations so in the games I never played as well as I did in practice. When a team or a particular player is popular, the coach relies heavily on this player and expects more out of the player that they can put out.
Russell: Well, I agree with all of you. When you are expected to win there is a huge amount of pressure that is placed onto individual players and their teams. There is always the chance of the team winning but when they don’t win they feel discouraged. With the Cardinals, they bragged about how they always beat the Cubs, and then, boom, the Cubs beat them. Same goes for Golden State, they were able to climb back up after winning three straight games and they went to Cleveland with a cocky attitude and lost three games in a row.
Vincent: Do you all know what happens to the ivy in Wrigley field in late October? It turns red, but no one sees it because the Cubs are done playing by the beginning of October. I want to see the red ivy. Last week the Cubs clinched the division. However, a couple of days later they won a game and Joe Maddon sat his hitters down and said that they needed to work on the fundamentals in order to stay in shape. Yes we know that the Cubs are far ahead in baseball, but Maddon is keeping his boys sharp by keeping them in training but also resting them when needed. Once a team gets dull and the playoffs come around, they will not be ready because they haven’t been putting in the time needed to succeed. The teams that are favored that do not win sometimes do not win because they fold under the pressure.
Bill: So what you’re saying is that the teams that are emerging, that are expected to win, are under greater pressure than a team who has a winning tradition?
Vince: Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying.
Bill: The teams that are playing for the wild card positions are playing hard, all day every day. These players are playing three games in a row to secure that wild card position and once they do they are unstoppable because they have had that consistent training. And that is why I disagree with Maddon, because he’s not playing his boys and they’re not getting that consistency. I feel that’s why the wild card teams win: because they play every day and they are always training.
Russell: The Cubs went on a 20 game road trip and once they came back they rested for a bit. So yes, I feel Maddon is right on resting his boys, he wants to play them when they’ll be at 100% and able to be full on in the game.
Vincent: Exactly, because that pressure is so high, coaches play their guys every day. But the Cubs have had such a good season, the coach may feel that the team can take a couple losses in exchange for some rest for their star players.
Russell: Yes, you have to sometime sacrifice a win for the greater good of the team.