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Fundamentals: Matter Over Mind

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Ezra Shaw

I'm really not one to talk about fundamentals. I carry cups of tea around all day at my school and I have yet to figure out how liquid behaves in motion. So I will be climbing the stairs and some tea will jump out at me, a few drops landing on my formerly-clean shirt. A 7th grader will say, almost apologetically for having brought it to my attention, "You spilled some tea on your shirt," to which I always reply, reassuringly, "Yeah, I do that every day."

And yet I continue to do it every day, like Rajai Davis missing the cutoff man in an ill-advised attempt to throw a runner out at the plate with a looping rainbow toss. That is not good fundamentals. "I just know I can throw this guy out if I put a little extra on it, and ... nope, didn't get him ... runner at 2B now ... Huh."

My tea-scapades are not good fundamentals for a 20 year teacher and similarly, you would expect better, and more consistent, fundamentals from the finest baseball players in the world. Yet ... Just in game 7 of the World Series ...

Eric Hosmer dives head first across 1B, turning a fielder's choice into a DP. How have players, coaches, teams not figured this one out? Aerodynamics, common sense, and thousands of data points all tell you that it's a terrible idea and a worse practice.

In the bottom of the 9th, Alex Gordon sprays a single to left-center that Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez turn into an adventure. In a situation like this, a base runner's job is actually quite simple: Run like hell and watch your base coach. Don't anticipate that it will be properly played for a routine single, or that you will have to stop at 3B. Just run like hell and watch your base coach.

Had Gordon not slowed down between 2B and 3B, he may have been waved around 3B with the rarest of opportunities: A chance to score a World Series run off of Madison Bumgarner. Can you imagine Kaufman Stadium had Gordon circled the bases to tie game 7 of the World Series with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th? Can you conjure up any scenario where Kansas City doesn't go on to win that game?

It would have been utter pandemonium of the highest order, and it would have been so "2014 Royals," but Gordon fell into the trap that consumes ballplayer after ballplayer: He let his mind reason about what was probably going to happen, instead of just leading with his feet.

Hit the cutoff man. Run hard through the bag at 1B. Run hard from the git-go and keep running hard until a base coach tells you to stop. It's so easy, and yet clearly it so isn't.