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Clutch or Composure?


In yesterday's comment section, one of the many threads discussed the myth or reality of performing in the clutch. As in most clutch or no clutch conversations, the dialogue became heated. The subject seems to bring out the best in everyone. There were calls for everyone's right to have an opinion followed by "Spanish Inquisition."  

If I understand correctly, it seems that clutch and composure are often mixed up.  To reach the major leagues, can we assume that a player has cultivated enough mental toughness  to perform at the highest level? And if he has, then can't we assume he will eventually match his career numbers if given enough opportunities in these "pressurized situations"?

Bob Costas said an interesting thing one time. He distinguished baseball from other sports in that batting orders control who comes to the plate in "clutch" situations. Other than inserting pinch hitters, these so called critical moments produce opportunities for anyone in the line-up. Even a career .230 hitter may come up with a big hit in game 7 while Barry Bonds may strikeout, but over the course of 400 at bats or whatever, all numbers will return to their respective norm. I think that's the argument anyway.

Players who can't perform under pressure are not long for major league baseball. And playing a regular season "meaningless" game involves pressure. It makes me think of Turnbow who after imploding on his very own Bobble Head Night, watched his short career go down the tubes. It didn't seem like failure in the clutch at the time and it doesn't now. It seemed  more like lack of mental toughness or composure.

Ultimately, the clutch or no clutch debate boils down to who would you rather have up with the game 7 on the line; Craig Counsell or Barry Bonds? Let's assume for this discussion that Counsell had better post season numbers than Bonds. I think the answer is sort of obvious.

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