Saturday night I was watching the ALCS. The Detroit Tigers were playing the New York Yankees. Coming into the playoffs, the Tigers were one of the hottest teams in baseball. Baseball had its first triple crown winner in 45 years with Miguel Cabrerra, and the team fought their way through an up and down season and won their division.
The Tigers were leading the Yankees in the 9th inning 4-0 before Jose Valverde was called upon to close out the game. Valverde was once most feared closers in the game. Last year he was 47 for 47 in close opportunities in the regular season and led the Tigers to the ALCS against the Rangers; one step from the World Series. This year, Verlander was 40-45 in closing opportunities in the regular season. Saturday, he blew the lead against the Yankees. After Valverde pitched, the score was 4-4 and Octavio Dotel was called to close out the inning and Detroit eventually won the game in the 12th inning. This was the second consecutive time in the playoffs that Valverde blew a save opportunity in the playoffs. Last week, Valverde blew a 2 run lead as as Coco Crisp had a walk off home run to lead the A's to victory.
Valverde is not a bad pitcher. In fact, he is excellent, but his confidence is shattered. He lost his job as a closer today. Not an ideal situation for either the Tigers or Valverde.
On the flip side of this, momentum is everything in baseball. Looking at history, the team with the hottest hand, not necessarily the best record usually win the World Series. Let's look at the Cardinal's last year. They slipped into the playoffs, but won the World Series. This has happened time and time again.
This has led me to think a little further about momentum and shattered confidence. What are the things to do when you have shattered confidence and how do you create that momentum? Here are 6 things that individuals can do to try to obtain success when their confidence is shattered.
1) Go back to the basics. If you are a sales person and have had sucess your entire career, but have had a bad year, what did you do to get the success in the first place? What did Valverde do? Pitching placement, speed, velocity, all have something to do with it. Make the hard cold calls, fill that pipeline, and network when you would rather be at home.
2) Get a good mentor. Realize you need some help. Find someone you can trust and who knows your strengths and weaknesses. Valverde's biggest fan is Jim Leyland, his coach. Ask your mentor for advice on what you could be doing better.
3) Surround yourself around winners. Study their moves! The best way to find out how to win is to see what the competition is doing better. Why is Mariano Rivera one of the best closing pitchers in MLB post season history? What separates John Doe at XYZ company from you? Why is he winning the contracts and you aren't?
4) A success is a success. Celebrate the small wins. The Astros were the worst team in baseball this year. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. If the Astros have consecutive series wins, that is better than no series wins at all. In time, a long win streak could be possible. Valverde may not get his job back tomorrow, but striking out 3 in the 8th inning is a step in the right direction.
5) If all else fails, a change in scenery is not always a bad thing. Sometimes if your confidence is beyond repair, you may need a change in scenery to get back to where you once were. How many times have you seen sports figures make a change to a different team and have the best success of their careers? If you are fighting a losing battle, it may be necessary. Try everything you can first to acheive success where you are today.
6) A career change may be necessary. Sometimes shattered confidence can really hurt a career. Mitch Williams pitched for the Phillies in the 1993 and he blew the World Series. He never pitched successfully again. He is now a commentator on MLBTV. What is your next move?
My prediction for the 2012 World Series... the Tigers and the Cardinals with the Tigers winning it all. Valverde won't pitch again.