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The Mental Aspect of Sports

   by Bryan Leonard - 06/29/2011

Many of us gauge the success of sports teams based on stats. However, in the world of professional handicapping, many factors come into play when attempting to assess betting lines and profitable wagers. Statistics, to be sure, are a part of the equation, but there are many others, such as home/road play, streaks, matchups, situational handicapping and even weather conditions. Baseball or football games played in the rain or mud might be good possibilities “under” the total, for instance, while which direction the wind is blowing can influence baseball totals. When I lived in Cleveland I can remember many times going to see the Indians play and making a wager on the total based on wind conditions.
Another aspect of all this is happiness. That is, is the team in good spirits and focused on their craft? Or is there discontent, a lack of cohesion or team harmony? We had an interesting, and odd, happening in baseball this week with the Washington National’s manager resigning because he demanded a contract extension. Reports are that earlier this season he chewed out pitcher Jason Marquis in the club house after a game and words were exchanged in a heated argument. All of that adds a new element to handicapping: Is the clubhouse an enjoyable place for players to come to work?
It might not be in Florida with another managerial change took place this month after the Marlins went a mind boggling 1-19! The NBA Lakers in 2004 and in 2011 were a great example of a club breaking apart internally, getting badly outplayed and outhustled in the 2004 NBA Finals to the Pistons (as a big favorite, too) and getting swept by Dallas last month in a shocking early exit. In baseball, we’re approaching that time in the season where some teams are thinking about making a run in the second half or perhaps making a big trade to bolster the pitching staff, while other teams are about to throw in the towel, at least psychologically.
How much fun can it be playing for the Mets, Astros, Cubs or Dodgers right now? LA and the NY Mets have off-field problems with management and finances that must be a distraction to some players, particularly when rumors of payroll not being meant are heard.
Attendance at Dodger Stadium continues its downward momentum. Major League Baseball uses tickets sold for its attendance figures, not actual bodies in the stadium. The number of no-shows at Dodger Stadium also continues to swell, possibly 25% off the figures being released. Overall, baseball attendance is down an average of 424 people per game. Eighteen of baseball’s 30 teams are suffering a drop, though it's a comparatively minor amount for most. The team with the next-worst drop per game is the other team in financial trouble, the Mets (3,809). The Dodgers are averaging 35,594 tickets sold per game, 10th in baseball.
A few years ago I recall Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella making headlines and there was speculation about his future with the club. The frustrated Piniella met with club officials and Piniella said he will honor the remainder of his contract, but clearly wasn’t happy. Piniella criticized the new owners of the last-place team for what he perceived as a lack of a commitment to do everything possible to win. That team was a great go-against on the road that season.
I recall one season where Randy Johnson was 5-6 at the All-Star break as he was unhappy the Mariners wouldn’t give him a contract extension. When they then traded him to Houston, he went 10-1 and was unhittable! Clubhouse chemistry and a contented team are all part of finding winners in the competitive sports betting industry.

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