Does Team Chemistry Matter in Baseball?
There have been several recent articles written regarding team chemistry in baseball. The chemistry of teams in the MLB has drawn so much focus that general managers on several teams actively seek baseball players who will have a positive effect on their team’s culture. The Boston Red Sox’s offseason between 2012 and 2013, when they signed Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, and Ryan Dempster, comes to mind. Those players were signed for their baseball skills but also because they are well known around the league to be funny, likeable, and charismatic players. They were brought into the Red Sox organization to help bring together a team that would rather forget about the 2012 season in which players, coaches, managers, and ownership never seemed to be on the same page. The importance of team chemistry in baseball is clearly seen at the professional level, so young baseball players should take note. Whether players are on a high school baseball team, in youth baseball, or at a baseball camp, they should try to start learning how to be cohesive with their teammates.
At first glance, baseball is an individual sport. It’s not a sport like basketball in which players need to know what their teammates are thinking and be able to enhance each other’s skills on the court. Baseball players are in the batter’s box alone. Sure, when they’re on the field they need to communicate well, but the center fielder doesn’t have to be best friends with another outfielder to be able to call him off a fly ball. They can communicate effectively without having good chemistry in the clubhouse. The question is whether they can be better. Baseball is an extremely mental game, so it’s not a stretch to believe that a player who feels more comfortable on his team will perform better. On the topic of team chemistry, pitcher Brandon McCarthy of the Arizona Diamondbacks said, "I know it sounds really stupid, but it's kind of like being an artist where the more comfortable you feel, usually your better work comes out. It's guys that just put out a comfortable atmosphere and they bring guys in. It's like that in real life, too, where you're with a group of friends and there are people that you wait for to get to the dinner party because after that everybody loosens up and it turns into a good time."
There’s something to be said for employees performing better when they enjoy their job and their workplace. If this is true in office jobs, then it might be true in sports as well. When a baseball player enjoys his team and likes being with the same people every day, he’s probably going to do better and help win more ballgames. Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, said, “Yes, it is important in baseball. A lot of people say, 'If you win, chemistry comes.' But with the Rays as an example, we had never won before, so we had to create this other vibe that happened within before it could occur on the field."
It’s a difficult concept to put into action. There are no baseball drills for creating good team chemistry. It’s something that comes naturally to teams that have high character players. That’s why those types of players are valued highly in the MLB and why young baseball players should think about how they can be a better teammate. It will likely result in more wins.