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Monday, April 22
Turn down the music!

By Rob Neyer

I ran across a potentially misleading item in The Seattle Times on Sunday ...

Here's a theory on the Indians' strong clubhouse atmosphere this year, which longtime reliever Paul Shuey says is the best he's ever seen.

"No music," Shuey said. "I think not having music in the clubhouse had a lot to do with the way people felt about one another in the past. There isn't music in the clubhouse anymore, and there's no more animosity in here."

The White Sox love what Kenny Lofton has done for them so far, but Lofton apparently was the Cleveland player who most blatantly would blare music before all games and after victories.

"I think it had a very disturbing effect," said Shuey. "In the past, Kenny would put a lot of that crap on, and a lot of guys didn't want it on.. But he was constantly pushing it. This year we've got 25 guys trying to reach the same goal every day, instead of worrying about music they're going to play in the clubhouse."

From 1995 through 2001, Kenny Lofton played six seasons for the Cleveland Indians. The Indians ended five of those seasons in first place, and they ended the other season in second place (with 90 wins). This season, Lofton's new team has scored more runs any other team in the majors, and his new team is a game ahead of his old team.

If one is searching for actual evidence that the Indians are better off without Lofton because he was disruptive in the clubhouse, one will have a tough chore, considering that they won all those division titles even with him and his crappy music.

Baseball players often confuse a happy clubhouse with a winning clubhouse. That's perfectly understandable, as players shouldn't be expected to have any sort of perspective beyond their own day-to-day desires. And baseball players, just as the rest of us would, desire friendship with the people they have to essentially live with for seven or eight months of the year.

But such things have little place in a discussion of how the players actually play, because there's absolutely no evidence that a happy clubhouse has an edge over a contentious clubhouse when it comes to winning games. From 1977 through 1981, the two best teams in baseball were the Yankees and the Dodgers. Both were famous for their infighting. Yes, the Yankees and Dodgers of that period might be exceptions to the Happy Clubhouse Rule; after all, it's sometimes said that good chemistry does result from winning (rather than the other way around, as many think).

I'm not so sure, though. Most great teams feature at least a few great players. Many great players have great egos. Great egos generally rub at least a few teammates the wrong way (just ask Jeff Kent).

I guess I've got two suggestions here. To baseball writers, I suggest that you don't tell us that what baseball players think about each other has anything to do with how well they play, because there's no good reason to think it does. And to baseball fans, I suggest that when baseball writers tell you what baseball players think about each other has anything to do with how well they play ... well, don't you believe them. Because they're just filling space, and we should all ask more of them.

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