Friday, August 22, 2014

New York Yankees: On team meetings, swagger and chemistry

After losing seven of their past nine games, the New York Yankees held a players (and coaches) meeting prior to Thursday’s series finale against the Houston Astros. They went out and won the game behind some dazzling pitching from Brandon McCarthy (complete game shutout allowing just four baserunners).

Can a single win be attributed to the team meeting? Hardly, especially considering it seems the position players were the ones gathering around and they still just mustered three runs.

This offense, one which was supposed to put up better than average run totals has thoroughly disappointed. The reasons are many and the likelihood that it changes quick enough to make a difference remains to be seen. Was a team meeting the spark this club needed?

Team meetings typically come at these times of despair. The players come in everyday and work hard to get better or stay on top of their game. I don’t think there is a single player in the Yankees dugout who is simply not trying. But, there is something to be said about a collection of players sitting down in an informal setting and airing it out.

Players look lethargic and degraded when they are losing more often than winning. And when a winning streak develops there is laughter and tomfoolery seen in the dugout. That’s just human nature. The Yankees have unfortunately seen more streaks of poor play than that of strong play and that’s why it looks like they do not have any fire or swagger.

We’ve yet to see a Yankees stretch where they looked completely dominant, and they might not show us one this season. When those types of wins pile up, a team takes on a certain swagger, one which symbolizes they feel they cannot be beat. Hot streaks bring about an easy-going environment, one in which new players to a team can meld with the returning crew.

This never happened for the Yankees. Yes, there is a collection of players who have been successful with other teams on this roster, but none of them have flourished with each other. Bearing in mind the mounds of injuries and the poor play, I’d argue the Yankees have not had much to rally around or time to meld as a group. And that leads us to chemistry.

Chemistry is a term often referred to in professional sports as an integral part of the success of teams. Teams with players who cannot get along, are not on the same page or do not play with the same goal in mind are doomed for failure. Well, chemistry among teammates is developed, and generally speaking it takes an event or a collection of events to be created. Whether it is a teammate to rally around or a big win streak which puts a team at the top of the division, there needs to be something other than sharing a clubhouse to bring a team together.

The team meeting might be the spark that ignites a win streak. It could begin to build a fire in the collection of all-stars in the locker room. But, it’s not a win streak alone that builds chemistry. It's also about timing. Chemistry built on a win streak that pushes aside the adversity of a rough season and propels a team into the final month of the season with a legitimate shot of reaching the playoffs sounds about right.

The Yankees still have a chance and the talent. They have 10 games remaining this month to get themselves within at least two games of the wild card (they sit four games back now). Better yet, some of these games are against competitors in their way.

If the Yankees can go on their run right now (a dominant one in which all facets of the game are clicking), they could begin to feel a swagger about them that could carry them through September and into the postseason as a hot team. It's happened plenty of times in the past; the hottest team goes into a postseason and causes problems for the rest of the participants.

Thursday’s team meeting might have been the first step. Getting hot and making up some ground quickly would be the next and could result in displays of passionate play and swagger we’ve yet to see. It would finally put all the bad circumstances behind them. They took a small step indeed, but a necessary one nonetheless. Hopefully it was not too late.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.