Saturday, May 14, 2011

Clubhouse culture ... is it real?

Yes, says Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman. I spoke with Berkman at length today on a variety of topics for a project on baseball intangibles. We were in agreement on the existence of clubhouse cultures in baseball and its impact on team success.

Through my work with I've spent significant time in the visitors clubhouse at Great American Ball Park. There is a difference in how teams go about their day to day routines.

Established winners like the Yankees, Cardinals and Braves tend to be more business-like in their approach. Young clubs more loose, veteran teams more subdued. Some teams have more card games than others, some more practical joking. Some clubs watch more film, spend more time in the cage, while others crowd the couches and peruse the CDs and DVDs.

There isn't always a direct correlation between a professional clubhouse and winning or losing. Some of the more successful Florida Marlins clubs, for example, had a very raucous clubhouse.

As Berkman suggested, veterans and stars often dictate clubhouse culture, for better or worse. Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn set the tone in the Reds clubhouse during their tenure here, not always for the betterment of the club. Young players followed their lead.

There was a noticeable shift in the tone of the Reds clubhouse once Griffey and Dunn departed. And despite being a relatively young ballclub, last year's NL Central Division champions conducted themselves more like a veteran team.

But over the course of a grueling six-month schedule there's always time for some clubhouse levity. Today's DVD selection in the Cardinals clubhouse - Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.

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