Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Brain Lock and Arm Slots; Excuses; the First Two-Thirds of This Is Pretty Good. It's a Quality Start; OTHER VIEWS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Brain Lock and Arm Slots; Excuses; the First Two-Thirds of This Is Pretty Good. It's a Quality Start; OTHER VIEWS

Article excerpt

The first time I heard the explanation "brain lock" was in 1989. Cardinals' outfielder Willie McGee explained that brain lock had caused him to jog to second base on the back end of a eighth-inning double steal attempt. Good catchers sometimes throw to second on double steals, hoping the so-called "trailer" is loafing. So it happened to Willie McGee, and the Cardinals lost 3-2 to the Astros.

The term "brain lock" (and its close cousin, "brain cramp") subsequently have come in very handy for me. Sometimes you just lose focus and do something stupid. This is another reason why baseball is the finest of all sports - it offers many useful and inventive terms and excuses. With the proper adaptation, they can be applied in most other walks of life.

Consider the relatively recent coinage "quality start," a metric attributed to a a starting pitcher who goes at least six innings and gives up no more than three earned runs. Say you show up to work at 8, work hard until 2 and then knock off for the rest of the day. If the boss asks why you're leaving early, tell him you gave him a quality start.

For that matter, the aforementioned "earned runs" also is a useful term. This lets pitchers off the hook for runners who score after reaching base on an error or a passed ball. If the other people in your department screw up, or the kids leave the house a mess, why should it affect your stats?

The Cardinals once had a pitcher who moped because he couldn't find his "arm slot," meaning the precise angle at which he should be throwing the ball. I figured this was hooey - really, how many options are there?

Then this spring I read about a pitcher who brooded that he'd lost the right "grip" on the ball. Really? He's been throwing a baseball for 20 or 25 years and suddenly he can't remember how to hold it just right?

The apologists say baseball is a game of precision. One tiny piece gets out of whack and blooey! The whole guy is out of whack. Next thing you know, he's selling siding.

But let's say you're a bricklayer and things don't quite line up. It was probably your arm slot bothering you. A good bricklayer can lay 750 bricks a day, five days a week. …

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