(BaseballStL) -- Sports psychologists stress the difference between panicking and choking.
A player entangled in his emotions who throws wildly or to the wrong base has panicked; he has not thought enough about what his response to the situation should have been.
A player who thinks too much, however, stops relying on muscle memory and instinct and actually reverts to a learning period long before he acquired the skill that got him to the majors. That sudden loss of all previously acquired skill is indelicately called choking, caused by thinking TOO much.
The opposite of those two conditions may someday be known as Cardinaling, or displaying astonishing poise in the face of enormous pressure, so named after the steely composure shown by Joe Kelly, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal.
Only sharks and the St. Louis Cardinal pitching staff are devoid of obvious emotion. Neither ponders consequences nor fears failure. Both are remorseless killing machines immune to stress, doubt or fear.
How else can you describe the incredible self-assurance, the remarkable fearlessness of a pitching staff almost young enough to be Randy Choate’s children?
Postseason baseball is rich with stories of clutch performances and grueling duels between Cy Young award winners like Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay. But what about between a Cy Young award winner and a 22-year-old with ZERO years experience?
What about an 8th inning reliever who started the year in Double A, or a closer rushed to the majors when a bullpen imploded? Or a guy like Joe Kelly who couldn’t crack the starting rotation and failed so badly in the bullpen that his best chance to pitch appeared to lie with some other team?
Pitchers are notoriously flaky, using a variety of mental and emotional tricks to enhance their psychological state. Roger Clemens motivated himself with pure anger bordering on a barely controlled fury (albeit perhaps pharmaceutically enhanced). Jack McDowell convinced himself that no one respected him, not even his own team. Cardinal great Bob Gibson, naturally angry and raw, sank to a dark place where he battled his own demons and the opposing batters with equal ferocity.
The young Cardinals, conversely, use confidence in their abilities and faith in their catcher. They are the vanguard of a new class of warrior, honed in a system that preaches cohesive teamwork instead of lone wolf heroics.
They quickly learn that the Cardinals are egalitarian, not mercenaries with huge salaries and larger egos. They are taught to believe in themselves, and, more importantly, to rely on the guys with whom they go to battle because fidelity is more potent than the fastest fastball or any Triple Crown winner.
If the genesis of arrogance is hubris, the foundation of humility is faith and trust, both given and received.
Arrogance breeds volatility, the enemy of success. Only unified and unanimous trust can generate the kind of confidence shown by these young players and the entire Redbird team.
For them, it is us against the world.
Right now, the world is losing.