September 14, 2011
Do closed-door team meetings really work?
That's a question I momentarily ponder every time I hear a team has organized a meeting before a big game or after a tough loss.
The answer I usually arrive at is they probably do to an extent, but they aren't going to lead to any miracles. I'm sure some players take them to heart, refocus, and maybe see an uptick in performance immediately. Some who are struggling individually may actually relax, while others feel more pressure. It's on a case-by-case basis, and how it all ultimately adds up is something I don't think even the smartest stat guy could figure out or prove.
Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Derrek Lee(notes) once said after a team meeting with the Chicago Cubs in 2007 that his experience tells him it's a 50-50 proposition. The Cubs went on to lose 9-0, so they were obviously on the wrong side of 50 percent for that day, and the two following days, but eventually rebounded to make the playoffs after a 22-31 start.
So again, who knows for sure?
Anyway, whatever the case may be, I do know that just hours after manager Fredi Gonzalez called a team meeting Tuesday afternoon, the Atlanta Braves performed like the team that has controlled their own destiny in the National League wild-card race for the past several weeks in their 7-1 win over the Florida Marlins, which snapped a four-game losing streak.
On Monday, Gonzalez originally stated he would not call a team meeting despite the team's 2-6 road trip through Philadelphia, New York and St. Louis. However, another rough game on Monday, a 5-4, 12-inning loss to Florida that saw a misplayed pop-up turn into two runs and his offense go 3 for 20 with RISP, changed Gonzalez's mind.
"This is where we all wanted to be in February was controlling our own destiny over the last two weeks of the season and here we are," Jones said. "The tone of it was we're in a good spot, but we're not playing the consistent nine-inning kind of baseball that we all expect to. It's a pitch here, an at-bat there, it's a play here. We need to get that mojo back."
And that's exactly what they did, erupting offensively for seven runs in their final three at-bats. That outburst was highlighted by Brian McCann's(notes) monster three-run homer in the sixth, which has been labeled by some as one of Atlanta's biggest hits of the season. One who did was Dan Uggla(notes).
"It wasn't just a three-run homer," said Dan Uggla. "That was one of the biggest home runs we've had this season as far as instilling confidence back in us and getting our swagger back."
Uggla would follow in the seventh with a three-run homer of his own.
Mojo, swagger, whatever you want to call it, the Braves had it Tuesday.
Also, it should be noted that Atlanta held a team meeting on June 5 in New York. They would go on to win their next six in a row, so it appears the closed-door team meeting has an overwhelmingly positive effect on at least one team.
"It's almost like therapy," [Chipper] Jones said. "You knew what was going to be said, but it still helps to hear it, to say it, to look in your teammates eyes and let them see your conviction and know that you can't help what happens next year. This might be your only opportunity. Go out and take it, grab it, it's there for you. This is what we strived for. This might be your only opportunity of your whole career to get to this point. Don't let it slip away."
With the win, Atlanta's lead over the St. Louis Cardinals remained at 4 1/2 games thanks to its 6-4 victory over Pittsburgh. But even without gaining ground, I can guarantee you that distance feels a lot more secure than it did 24 hours ago, or how it would have felt had both teams had lost again on Tuesday.