The Question of Chemistry

"I think it's critical anytime you're trying to have a successful season. It doesn't matter what sport you're in there's got to be some chemistry, some type of positive environment to have some fun and success and to believe in winning." - Portland Beavers manager Randy Ready on team chemistry

Like executing a good bunt or hitting to the opposite side to move a runner over, team chemistry is one of those intangibles that could determine a team's success. But unlike bunting, chemistry is much harder to quantify.

So is it really that important? Shortstop Oscar Robles certainly thinks so.

"I think the chemistry's got to be there to be a winning team. I think it's very important for everybody."

The 2008 Portland Beavers have an interesting dynamic. While players like Robles, Craig Stansberry, and Brian Myrow all played together on the team last season, several new players have joined the squad. Ten players – nearly half the roster, including top prospects Chase Headley, Matt Antonelli, and Wade LeBlanc – played and won a championship together last year on the Double-A San Antonio Missions.

One of the challenges faced by Ready this year is the melding of those two groups. So far, he likes what he sees.

"Right now, we just have a nice blend of guys that have some major league experience along with some of the players in our system that have opportunities to play at the major league level. I think there's a nice blend going on right now, but this is Triple-A baseball, it can change any given day."

The pat answer most players and coaches give about team chemistry is that it's crucial. But is it absolutely necessary to be successful?

Several players on the '74 Oakland A's, including stars like Reggie Jackson and Rollie Fingers, seemed to hate each and fought constantly. But they won the championship that year.

The Yankees of the late 70's were notorious for having dysfunctional clubhouses, with sometimes daily sparring matches between Jackson and manager Billy Martin or Jackson and catcher Thurman Munson or Jackson and...well, you get the idea. (Hmm, there's Jackson again. Just a coincidence?) The Yankees won back-to-back titles.

Although it's true that sometimes talent can trump everything, these examples could just be the exceptions to the rule. After all, wouldn't you be more eager to go to work everyday and do your best if you were in a comfortable environment and liked all your co-workers?

"Overall our team chemistry is great," hitting coach Max Venable says. "Everybody has a great attitude, everybody works hard. As far as I know, they all get along well. Everybody goes about their business; it's a good group of guys."

It's true, the players genuinely seem happy to be playing with one another. But, over the course of a long season with the inevitable losing streaks and prolonged slumps, let's see if that continues.

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