Can Sox keep their arbitration-free streak intact?

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Can Sox keep their arbitration-free streak intact?

You probably know the Red Sox have not been to arbitration since 2002, when Dan Duquette was the general manager. Give yourself a couple of baseball IQ points if you knew the last player with whom the Sox went to arbitration was right-hander Rolando Arrojo, before his final season in the major leagues. Tack on a few more points if you knew that the Sox won that case, with a bid for a salary of 1.9 million to Arrojos bid for 2.8 million.Still, the Sox dont hold the record for avoiding arbitration. Cleveland last went in 1991, Toronto in 1997, and St. Louis in 1999. Some teams just prefer to avoid the process.
Tal Smith has been in baseball for over 50 years and was with the Astros for 35, most recently as president since 1994, until he was unceremoniously dismissed by new owner Jim Crane in November. Smith also runs his own company, Tal Smith Enterprises, which he began in 1981, that offers consulting services to major league teams.
With more than 150 arbitration cases on his resume, he is considered the arbitration guru.Some clubs dont like to go. They think it scars the player, Smith said of arbitration. I dont subscribe to that. Obviously it depends on whos presenting and how they approach it. Weve done over 150 cases and I can think of only about three where it really became a little bit testy and adversarial. Basically, its a continuation of the same kind of arguments that the club and the agent enter into during negotiations when theyre trying to negotiate why they want this or why theyre offering that. Obviously theres a reliance almost solely on numbers and comparable salaries. Nobody is demeaning a player. If you hit .230, you hit .230. It speaks for itself. If you hit .310, it speaks for itself. If you won 15 games, the same.
So its not all that testy. I think theres a lot of people out there, including media people, who think, Oh, you dont want to take this guy to arbitration. Hell never forgive you. I dont buy into that at all. Ive obviously been on the club side and Ive had players that I run into in later years in airports or something like that who come up and they dont hold any animosity, even Barry Bonds. We had Barry twice when he was with Pittsburgh and the club won both cases. And as cantankerous as Barry can be seen by some, when he was still playing with the Giants, hed come into Houston and hed see me and come over and wed laugh.
"Its not that dire a setting. Its just a continuation of the negotiation process being presented to a third party, to a panel of arbitrators. And theyre listening to the same kind of stuff that you were talking about before arbitration and theyre going to make the decision for you.Arbitration figures must be submitted by Tuesday. This year, the Sox have six players -- David Ortiz, Alfredo Aceves, Mike Aviles, Andrew Bailey, Daniel Bard and Jacoby Ellsbury -- eligible for arbitration. Andrew Miller, Matt Albers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Franklin Morales have already agreed to deals, avoiding arbitration.
Arbitration hearings are scheduled to be conducted in St. Petersburg Feb. 1-21. In the hearings, which generally last several hours, each side will present its case to a panel of three arbitrators, with a chance for rebuttals following. Even if a player goes to arbitration, the sides have up until a decision is rendered by the panel to reach a deal.It used to be that about 85 percent of cases that filed would be settled before arbitration, but, Smith said, in recent years the number is even higher, with only about three or four cases going to arbitration. Last year 119 players filed, with just three Hunter Pence, then with the Astros, the Pirates Ross Ohlendorf, and the Angels Jered Weaver going through arbitration. Pence and Ohlendorf won their cases, with Weaver losing his.The reason for that is the stakes are greater, the dollars are greater, and there are greater risks for each party, Smith said. If you go and lose, youre leaving money on the table, so to speak. When I first started this process back in 1974, there were cases where the spread, the difference between the two numbers, was as low as 3,500. I did four Yankee cases in 1974 or 75 and the total of the four cases was about 20,000. Today you get spreads of individual cases weve done recently of 2 million, 3 million. So the stakes are greater and the objective of the whole exercise is to get meaningful numbers on the table for which the parties can continue to negotiate.

OFFSEASON

Mental training is the secret to Jaylen Brown's development

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Mental training is the secret to Jaylen Brown's development

BOSTON – Jaylen Brown’s athleticism was among the many reasons the Boston Celtics selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in last month’s NBA draft. But even before he became a Green Teamer, Brown’s aspirations were much greater than being a high draft pick.

“I want to be a top five player in the league,” Brown said at his introductory press conference last month. It’s a lofty goal for sure; the kind that requires more than just talent. And that’s where Graham Betchart – Brown’s mental skills coach - comes in.

Betchart’s work as a mental skills coach has been on full display as one of the keys to Brown being among the standout performers during summer leagues in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, respectively. 

The 6-foot-7 rookie was named to the Las Vegas Summer League’s second team, one of just three lottery picks (top-14) in last month’s NBA draft (Ben Simmons of LSU and Thon Maker of Milwaukee) named to the first (Simmons) or second (Maker) team along with Brown.

In addition to Brown, Betchart has worked with each of the last three first overall picks – Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns and most recently, Simmons. Betchart said he also worked with current Celtic guard Marcus Smart when he was at Oklahoma State.

While each player has their own specific program, there are some common threads that bind all of his clients.

“The big thing I want them to focus on is what in their control,” Betchart told CSNNE.com from New York City where he was meeting with the New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has been one of the more outspoken athletes when it comes to mental health-related issues. “And so for a lot of these guys, they’re so good in high school and even college, they can focus on results and still produce results. As you get older, you realize that results are totally out of your control. And so my focus is getting them to focus on what’s in their control, and learning how to do it consistently; how to create a pattern, a consistent mindset.”

We saw that from Brown this summer with the Celtics’ summer league teams. He averaged 16.0 points and 6.2 rebounds but did so shooting a not-so-great 30.7 percent from the field and was even worst (27.2 percent) on 3s.

However, he did manage to get to the free throw line 10.2 times per game, which is surprising when you consider whistles typically aren’t blown as often in the summer than they are in a regular season game. And just to put his free throw average in perspective, only two players – Houston’s James Harden and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins – averaged more than 10 free throw attempts per game last season.

Brown has said on more than one occasion that getting to the free throw line often has to be one of his strengths in the NBA. Based on what he did this past summer, there’s no question it’s something he has indeed made a priority.

And the fact that Brown was able to do it consistently this summer falls in line with one of the core concepts that Betchart preaches to his clients.

“To me the hardest thing in sports is to be consistent,” said Betchart, who is now the director of mental training for San Francisco-based Lucid, a mental training app for athletes. “Anyone can just once in a while show up and have a great game. It really starts with having a consistent mindset based on what you can control. They have to be in the moment no matter what’s going on. It could be really bad, it could be really good.”

And when it’s over, players can’t dwell in the mistakes of the past.

“We make a mistake and get hung up sometimes,” Betchart said. “But if you can move on to that next play and train your focus to do that, it’s really hard to stop you if you don’t stop yourself.”

Instead, those mistakes actually form the foundation for future success.

In the case of Brown, one of the biggest knocks on him coming into the NBA was his shooting touch being anything but consistent.

“It’s the growth mindset,” Betchart said. “If you are going to master shooting, you’re gonna have to miss a lot of shots. It’s kind of like learning to walk. When you were learning to walk, you don’t remember but you fell down all the time. You didn’t say, ‘Oh I’m not going to walk. I’m just going to stay on the ground.’ You just picked yourself up and eventually you learned. When you get to the professional level, your game is analyzed on where it is right now. And right now, he’s 19 years old. There’s no way he’s going to be as good a shooter now as he’ll be at 23 and 25. And so if he embraces the growth mindset and just continues to focus on his process, which is taking the shot, being assertive, taking your shot, it’s all going to work out. I know this to be factually true.”

Another one of Betchart’s clients is Orlando forward Aaron Gordon, who came into the NBA as one of the worst free throw shooters in college basketball. In his lone season at Arizona, Gordon shot just 42.2 percent from the free throw line.

In his two NBA seasons, the 6-foot-9 forward has shot 68.1 percent.

“People were laughing at (Gordon’s free throw shooting) sarcastically and now as a pro he’s shooting (almost) 70 percent,” Betchart said. “It was all based on a growth mindset; just allowing yourself to fail and really, you’re not failing. You’re learning how to shoot. We introduce a concept called Victory goes to the Vulnerable. You’re going to be vulnerable sometimes. People are going to talk about your shot. That’s OK. We let people have their opinions. We don’t try and stop them. It’s all part of the process.”

Ah yes, the process.

If you listen to Brown, he has said on more than one occasion whether he played well or not, that all that he’s going through now is part of a process that will eventually make him a better person and a better player for the Celtics.

Part of that process is utilizing the various mental techniques and teachings of Betchart, who has known Brown since he was 15 years old and had a chance to spend a considerable amount of face-to-face time with him this past year when Brown was at Cal.

Most of what Betchart talks about has a strong basketball teaching component to it. But at the end of the day, there’s a lot more going on.

“Everybody starts to realize these are life skills,” Betchart said. “It’s tough to separate basketball from life. You’re going to be who you are on the court, off the court. These skills, learning to control what you can control, being present, moving on after mistakes, this is what we leave in life as well, learning how to be vulnerable in life and do those things. It naturally gravitates towards life and … what’s going on in life. It’s a natural progression. They’re human beings who choose to play a sport for a living. They are not basketball players; Basketball is what they do.”

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN