Thursday, March 05, 2009

Do the Sox Have Better Chemistry Than the Yanks?

Shotgun Spratling of The Blue Workhorse recently shot me an email to alert me to the site's preview of the 2009 Red Sox. As far as conclusions go, it's not too surprising: our team is good, our team has some question marks, if our team overcomes their question marks, they'll probably beccome the best of the best for this year. What did jump out at me was the lede from the second paragraph of the preview: "The Red Sox have better chemistry than the Yankees do and that allows them to play well together."

Whether or not you believe chemistry has an impact on team performance is a contentious issue, but not one that I'm going to address here apart from saying that a congenial workplace is usually a more enjoyable place to get work done and that can lead to better performance. That said, even outside of the world of statheads and traditionalists, people who study management haven't come to a complete agreement about the relationship between chemistry and productivity. However, even if you do happen to believe that players who work together well win more ball games, you have to question whether or not Blue Workhorses's statement is still true in 2009.

In 2003 and 2004, the Sox rode their reputation as a group of fast and loose ballplayers into the annals of Winning Teams With Great Chemistry. The reputation is still there - or so it seems, if a sports blog is including it as part of a team preview - but the steady attrition of players from those teams to other ball clubs makes that judgment feel superficial. Think about it: if you were to name the loosest guys on the Sox, who would you pick beyond Ortiz and Papelbon. Youkilis and Pedroia are more crazy than loose, Lugo/Lowrie is a non-entity, Lowell is laid back, and everyone else - if they've established a presence at all - seems to prefer to let their bat or their glove do the talking. It's not a bad thing, but in terms of measurement I don't think this team has better chemistry than the workmanlike Yankees...I think it's about the same.