Sunday, November 27, 2011
Brett Cecil's New Normal
For some reason, I’ve been thinking about Brett Cecil lately (though perhaps not as much as some have in the past). More specifically, I’ve been thinking about what exactly could have happened to him through Spring Training and most of the early part of the season last year.
In March of last year, he told the National Post’s John Lott that his fastball was averaging about 87 miles per hour, although, according to him, “Everybody knows (he) can throw in the low 90s.”
The diminished velocity, and all-around lack of effectiveness, was well-documented. It got him sent to Vegas, and led to him putting up numbers that were a clear step backward from his previous season. There was a time when smarter people than me would have taken Cecil over Ricky Romero (Keith Law says as much in this chat from only two years ago) . The whole episode makes me wonder how many would do it today.
Lots of theories have been put forward about Cecil’s 2010 issues, from a possible undiagnosed injury, to a mysterious dead-arm problem, to a mechanical issue in his delivery that needed to be fixed.
But one other theory has stuck with me. I don’t even remember where I saw or read it, and it might have only been just one time in a comment section somewhere, but I found myself nodding along with the idea – having been through it myself and seeing the effects in had on my own day-to-day activities.
The theory: Brett Cecil had lost either his conditioning, or his focus, or both, as a result of spending more time last off-season occupied with his new baby.
Absurd, right? I mean, it’s not like Cecil was the first player in history to be a parent. Plenty of ballplayers have plenty of kids (some of them will even admit to being their fathers… hey-o!). I don’t know if any of them ever saw an impact, positive or negative, on their baseball performance.
But anyone that has ever gone through the experience of having a baby in their life for the first time knows that it has an effect. If you’re one of those parents who claims that it never fazed them in the least and your work output never once changed except for the better, then I’m prepared to call you a big fat liar.
When the Org Kids came along, I was pretty much a disaster for a good nine or ten months after each of their births. When you’re a new parent, you don’t sleep at night. You don’t eat properly. You don’t have time to work out.
And you can’t wait to get back home from whatever’s taken you away from those kids to go through more of it.
Cecil at one time had a Twitter account, and his followers got to see just how excited he was to be a new father. There is little doubt that the guy is a committed, doting dad and husband. I followed him, and even though he’s younger than me, I could seriously relate to things he was expressing about his life and growing family.
But even the most enthusiastic and energetic new parents need to re-invent their entire routines around the kids, and inevitably, things get dropped out of the old routines. I don’t know everything there is to know about a left-handed pitcher’s offseason training regimen, but I could certainly envision myself eliminating the 6AM run from the daily calendar if I’d been up four times during the night to calm a crying baby. But eventually, you figure it out. Your life never gets back to the way it was, but a “new normal” sets in and the upheaval subsides – mostly.
I don’t know; maybe it’s a bullshit theory and Cecil never missed a beat in terms of conditioning or focus. Maybe the things that more-or-less suddenly troubled him last spring were as mysterious as they seemed. Baseball is a weird game that way.
Besides, it’s not like there’s any way to find out if the new-parent theory is true. I certainly would never expect a major league baseball player to tell a beat reporter that the reason he couldn’t pick up the spin on a breaking ball out of the pitcher’s hand that day was because he was awake all night washing puke out of his baby’s crib blankets.
All I’m saying is I’m prepared to cut Cecil a break if being a new dad took a toll on him that he wasn’t quite ready to deal with or admit. If he’s like the rest of us, once his new normal is established, chances are he’ll be better than ever.