[翻譯]Finding the Sweet Spot in a Hall of Fame Swing
Finding the Sweet Spot in a Hall of Fame Swing
Alex Rodriguez is off to a potentially historic start this season, thanks to the Yankees’ new hitting coach
By TYLER KEPNER
Published : April 23, 2007 / The New York Times
Alex Rodriguez has hit 476 home runs over 14 seasons in the major leagues. Kevin Long, the hitting coach who helped fix the flaws in his swing, hit 17 over eight seasons in the minors. Now Rodriguez, the Yankees’ third baseman, is off to perhaps the hottest start in baseball history.
踏上大聯盟舞台至今14個球季, A-Rod已經擊出了476支全壘打, 而目前正幫助他調整打擊姿勢的打擊教練Kevin Long, 在小聯盟的8個球季中只交出了總計17支全壘打的成績單。A-Rod, 這位洋基的三壘手, 目前正讓我們見識著或許是棒球史上最恐怖的開季火力展示。
In the weeks after the Yankees’ swift elimination from the playoffs last October, the first significant change the team made was to promote Long from the minors to be the hitting coach. Rodriguez was not the only problem, but he was one of them.
在洋基去年球季短命的季後賽之旅結束後, 洋基球團所做出的第一個調整就是把當時擔任農場系統打擊教練的Long拔擢為一軍打擊教練, 對Long來說, A-Rod並不是他休兵期間的唯一課題, 讓他頭痛的還不僅僅如此。
Don Mattingly, a former most valuable player, was shifted from hitting coach to bench coach. The duty of instructing the Yankees’ hitters fell to Long, 40, who had coached since 1997 but never in the majors.
在此之前擔任打擊教練的前最有價值球員Don Mattingly改任板凳教練, 因此指導洋基全明星打線的任務就落到了40歲的Long身上, 從1997年開始教練生涯的他, 從未在大聯盟球隊中擔任教職。
Rodriguez was one of the first people to call and congratulate Long. Rodriguez had just gone 1 for 14 in the playoffs and was dropped to eighth in the batting order in the final loss, extending a long streak of postseason futility. Boos greeted him regularly at Yankee Stadium.
The season had embarrassed Rodriguez, but he was proud to have withstood it and eager for another chance. He met with Long in Arizona, where Long lives, and set up another meeting for five days in December at Rodriguez’s home in Miami.
去年球季的表現可說是讓A-Rod顏面無光, 不過他始終堅強地面對挑戰並且迫切希望能得到再一次證明自己的機會。他先是到了Long所居住的Arizona登門拜訪, 然後雙方敲定了在去年12月於Miami(A-Rod居住地)舉行、為期五天的第二次會面。
It was there that Rodriguez started to deconstruct his swing. The lessons imparted, together with a better frame of mind and a sleeker physique, have helped Rodriguez to his potentially historic start. Rodriguez has 12 home runs and has hit safely in all 17 games. By himself, he has more home runs than seven teams, including Barry Bonds’s San Francisco Giants.
就是在那時, A-Rod開始了調整打擊姿勢大作戰, 除此之外, 更加成熟的心智以及更精瘦的體型, 幫助他繳出了這張驚人的開季成績單。開季至今的17場比賽中, A-Rod不但每場比賽都至少擊出一支安打, 還把12球轟出了全壘打牆外, 目前大聯盟中有七個球隊的全隊總全壘打數還不到12發, 其中還包含了有Barry Bonds在陣的舊金山巨人隊。
Rodriguez has 31 runs batted in, four shy of the April record set by Juan González for Texas in 1998. With seven games remaining this month, he is two home runs shy of Pujols’s April record set last season.
目前A-Rod為球隊打進了31分打點, 距離Juan González於1998年創下的四月記錄只有4分的距離。 在本月洋基還剩下七場比賽的狀況下, A-Rod只差兩支全壘打就能追平去年Pujols創下的四月全壘打記錄。
Last season, it took Rodriguez more than twice as many games to reach his 2007 totals in home runs, runs batted in, extra-base hits and total bases. Interestingly, though, he walked more often then than now.
去年的A-Rod花了整整兩倍以上的時間來達到今年球季目前的數據（全壘打、打點、長打數以及壘打數）, 不過有趣的是, 他去年同期遭到對方投手保送的次數卻較今年為高。
That seems counterintuitive. Pitchers would seem more inclined to pitch carefully to a hot hitter, and selectivity at the plate — seeing a lot of pitches, forcing a pitcher into a bad count — is usually seen as a virtue.
這看似違反常理, 通常投手對於近況極佳的打者都會較為小心閃躲, 而小心選球、迫使投手球數居於不利地位, 也一向被當作是評斷打者的加分條件。
A Swing Adjustment
When Long met with Rodriguez, they talked hitting philosophy. Rodriguez said he liked to take a pitch to measure the pitcher’s stuff. But he usually bats behind Bobby Abreu, who sees more pitches on average than any hitter in the majors.
當Long和A-Rod第一次見面時, 他們談到了各自的打擊哲學, A-Rod表示他習慣放掉投手投出的第一球, 用以評估投手當天的狀況。不過當他的前一位打者是Bobby Abreu時, 這個習慣就似乎有點多餘了, Abreu在場上打擊時的超人耐心和選球能力, 讓投手得用比起其他打者更多的球數來對付他。
“What are you doing on deck?” Long said he told Rodriguez. “You’re the fourth hitter of the game, shouldn’t you have an understanding? I’m just asking. What do you think?”
"當你在一旁準備上場打擊時, 你都在幹些什麼？" Long這樣問A-Rod。
The message was to stay aggressive, to look for fastballs on every pitch, even when it seems obvious a pitcher will throw a breaking ball. That is a rule for many hitters, but now, Rodriguez is applying it.
Long想傳達的關鍵訊息是, 作為一個中心打者, A-Rod得讓自己更具侵略性, 即便面對一個投手八成會投變化球的狀況, 你也得隨時作好抓快速球攻擊的準備。對許多打者來說, 這早已是金科玉律, 不過對於A-Rod而言, 這是他第一次試著調整自己的心態。
“You get on a run like he’s on, and as soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, you know if it’s a strike or a ball,” said Mattingly, who once homered in eight consecutive games. “That’s a great feeling up there, because you’re just like, ‘Whatever you want to do, it doesn’t matter.’ ”
"當你狀況好時, 投手的球只要一出手, 你就馬上知道那會是個好球還是壞球" 曾經連續八場比賽打出全壘打的Mattingly說道。
Mattingly said he left all instruction to Long, who studied tapes of every Yankees hitter last winter. Long believed Rodriguez could be more consistent with a lower leg kick and a faster rotation of his hips.
Mattingly表示, 他把指導洋基打線的任務完全交給了Long, 而接下重任的Long也利用休戰期間徹底研究了洋基所有打者的比賽錄影帶。Long認為只要A-Rod可以將抬腳高度降低、同時提升揮棒時轉身的速度, 他的打擊表現將會更加穩定。
The result would be a more compact swing. Rodriguez made this easier on himself by losing 12 pounds. A leaner hitter is more flexible. “That’s a huge factor,” Long said.
調整的結果, 就是一個更為簡潔、毫不拖泥帶水的揮棒動作, 而A-Rod減去12磅的努力, 也讓這個理想中的揮棒動作能更輕易地被落實。體型變瘦會讓打者的柔軟度提升,"這就是最大的關鍵所在" Long這麼說道。
In spring training, Long and Reggie Jackson, the Hall of Famer who is a special instructor for the Yankees, told Rodriguez, who bats right-handed, to treat his first at-bats as an experiment.
在春訓期間, Long和洋基特別顧問Reggie Jackson建議右打的A-Rod, 把每場比賽的第一個打數當作是實驗。
“For your first 25 at-bats, just think right-center,” Jackson said they told Rodriguez, “because you’ve got as much power to right-center field as any left-handed hitter around.”
"前25個打數, 你腦中只要想著中右外野," Jackson這麼告訴A-Rod。
Coaches implore batters to concentrate on hitting to the opposite field for a simple reason: That is where the pitches are. About 80 percent of pitches cross the plate from the middle to the outer half, Long estimated. When a hitter waits just a bit longer for an outside pitch, he said, he can react more easily to a slower-moving breaking ball.
教練們會希望球員專注於提升反方向安打能力的原因其實再簡單不過 : 投手喜歡這麼投。Long估計通過本壘板上空的球中, 有大約80%左右都會偏向外角, 而要是打者能多觀察那麼一下再出手, 他對變化球的攻擊能力也會顯著提升。
A hitter who drifts forward in his swing, Long said, has a tendency to hit lazy fly balls. But a hitter who stays back hits more line drives, and with Rodriguez’s strength, line drives often become home runs.
如果一個打者在打擊瞬間重心往前移, 那麼大多數的情況下, 會打成高飛球。如果打者能將重心保持在後, 則會有較高的機會擊出平飛球, 這種平飛球加上A-Rod的力量後, 多半都會飛出全壘打牆外。
In batting practice Friday, Rodriguez sprayed liners to all directions, with none clearing the fence, Long said. Yet in the game that night, he hit two home runs off the Red Sox’ Curt Schilling.
在星期五的打擊練習中, A-Rod打出各個方向的平飛球, 沒有任何一球打在圍籬上。在當晚的比賽中, A-Rod從紅襪投手Curt Schilling手中擊出兩支全壘打。
Schilling later wrote on his Web site: “I think there’s a major difference between a hot hitter, and a hall of fame-hot hitter. Hot hitters still have holes, the latter don’t.”
Schilling之後在他的個人網頁上這麼寫著 :"我想一個手感發熱的打者和一個手感發熱的準名人堂打者的差別在於...前者還是有打擊死角, 而後者則無"
Schilling also noted that any time a pitcher missed his location, Rodriguez was crushing it. The Yankees’ Jason Giambi sees the same thing.
Schilling也注意到一個事實, 只要投手一旦失投, A-Rod就會把握機會將你一棒擊沉。Jason Giambi也觀察到同樣的情形。
“Anytime you’re hitting, the big difference is when you get that mistake, you can’t miss it, because you might not get too many,” Giambi said.
"當你上場打擊時, 只要發現投手失投, 你絕對不能錯過, 因為這樣的機會實在不多" Giambi說道。
Asked about his work with Long, Rodriguez nodded as a reporter mentioned several factors. Asked which had made the most difference, Rodriguez said, “I’m not sure,” and then compared Long to a hitting coach he had with the Texas Rangers.
問到和Long一同工作的情形, A-Rod對記者所提到的一些關鍵調整點頭表示同意, 當被問到到底哪項調整起了最關鍵的作用時, A-Rod答道"我自己也不太確定", 然後接著把Long和他在德州遊騎兵時的打擊教練放在一起比較。
Then Rodriguez walked away, a quick brush-off that has become routine in his interaction with the news media. As soon as reporters enter the clubhouse before games, Rodriguez inserts earphones and starts blasting his iPod. (On Friday, his selection was John Mellencamp’s “Small Town,” audible halfway across the locker room.)
之後A-Rod突然轉身離開, 這種對媒體記者反應冷淡的態度已經成了本季A-Rod面對採訪時的標準做法。當記者在賽前進入球員休息室的同時, A-Rod會立刻戴上耳機、將iPod的音量開到最大。（他當天選擇播放的歌曲是John Mellencamp的Small Town, 幾乎整個休息室都能聽到從他耳機中傳出的音樂聲）
An Attitude Adjustment
In a March interview, the Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt, the only other player to homer 12 times in the season’s first 16 games, suggested Rodriguez could make life easier by analyzing himself less in public. Rodriguez, who now gives mostly perfunctory answers in group settings after games, seems to have taken the advice.
在三月的訪談中, 被選進棒球名人堂的三壘手、同時也是除了A-Rod之外唯一在開季前16場比賽中就12次將球撈出全壘打牆外的Mike Schmidt給了A-Rod一些建議, 他認為要是A-Rod不那麼常在大眾面前剖析自己的話, 他的日子會過得較為輕鬆。從現在的A-Rod多半在賽後訪問中都只會給媒體記者一些敷衍的答案看來, 他的確有把Schmidt的建議聽進去。
“He’s guarded, and he should be,” said Larry Bowa, the Yankees’ infield coach. “Everything he says will be scrutinized. The less you say, the less you have to account for.”
"他現在更為保護自己, 而他的確也需要這麼做" 洋基內野教練Larry Bowa說道。
"所有從他口中說出的話, 都會被放在顯微鏡下檢視。與其在大眾面前反覆解釋自己的本意而往往越描越黑, 倒不如什麼都不要說"
Jackson said some of baseball’s best hitters — he named Bonds, Derek Jeter and himself — had had a mean streak, or, in Jeter’s case, the ability to “do it with style, to not let anyone get inside his mental space.”
Jackson以一些優秀的選手為例, 像是Barry Bonds、Derek Jeter以及Jackson本身, 都有同樣的特質。拿Jeter來說, 他總是可以有技巧地不讓任何人干擾他的思緒。
Rodriguez, though, has often been portrayed as a mental wreck. Torre has often traced Rodriguez’s struggles to trying to do too much or please too many people.
至於A-Rod, 則被普遍認為是個心理建設不夠健全的選手, Torre也發現A-Rod的低潮往往都是起因於他想要同時做太多事情、想要試著討好所有人。
At the start of spring training, Rodriguez cleared one item off his mind by admitting that his relationship with Jeter had cooled from close friends to, essentially, business associates. His comments received lots of attention for a few days, but now the topic has mostly disappeared.
在今年春訓一開始, A-Rod第一次正面承認他和Jeter之間不像過去那麼親密, 已經淡化成一般的工作夥伴關係。雖然他的發言在當時引起軒然大波, 不過這也代表著一旦新聞熱潮過後, 他將再也不會像過去幾年一樣被這個問題持續困擾著。
Rodriguez also seems to be using his critics as motivation, rather than trying to win them over, said Jackson, who said he speaks regularly with Rodriguez by telephone.
同時, A-Rod面對批評的態度也有所改變, 現在的他, 把別人對他的批評當作讓自己成長的動機, 而不再像過去一樣, 急著想要在短時間內贏回人們的肯定。
“No matter what he does, his detractors — and even people just trying to keep it in perspective — are going to say, ‘We need to see it in October,’ ” Jackson said. “So the detractors will always be there to bring down what he’s doing, and that needs to drive him.”
"不管他的表現再傑出, 總是有人會說...等你在世界大賽中做出貢獻再說" Jackson說道。
When Torre batted Rodriguez eighth in the playoffs, Jackson spoke to Rodriguez in the clubhouse before the game. The humiliation of batting so low has not motivated Rodriguez, according to Jackson, but it has left an impression.
Torre在去年季後賽中把A-Rod調整到第八棒的該場比賽開始前, Jackson在休息室中和A-Rod有番談話, Jackson表示, 打序調整所帶來的侮辱並沒有真正起到刺激A-Rod的功用, 不過這個決定還是在A-Rod心中留下了無可磨滅的印記。
“Those little, small things cut, they hurt, they scar, and you don’t forget them,” Jackson said. “That scar’s on your body, and you look at it and remember what it was. You can forgive, as a God-fearing person, but you never forget.”
"那些打擊會在你心中造成傷口、留下疤痕, 你將永遠難以忘懷," Jackson說道。
"每當你看到那些疤痕, 都會讓你想起受傷當時的痛苦, 你總有一天會釋懷, 但你將永不會忘記"
Rodriguez has the option of becoming a free agent after this season and forgoing the final three years and $81 million of his 10-year, $252 million contract. He very well could do it, because he would have many suitors willing to give him a contract much longer than three years.
在今年球季結束後, A-Rod將可以選擇放棄最後三年總值8,100萬美金的合約, 成為自由球員。他有足夠的理由這樣做, 因為肯定會有許多球隊老闆捧著三年以上的長約等著邀他加盟。
But there is no evidence to suggest that Rodriguez is performing for a new deal. His best seasons have come in the middle of his contracts, not at the end.
不過這並不代表A-Rod是為了可能的新合約, 所以才表現如此出色, 因為他表現最傑出的球季出現在十年長約的中段, 而非末段。
Rodriguez will always be rich, but there is only so much time to place his name among baseball immortals. One day he could challenge Bonds and Hank Aaron at the top of the homer list. Plenty of other records could fall.
無論如何, A-Rod將永遠過著富裕的生活, 但他能試著讓自己名留青史的時間卻十分有限。或許有一天他將挑戰Bonds和Hank Aaron的生涯全壘打記錄, 有許多的記錄都將等著A-Rod去改寫。
“He can draw a line up on the wall that a lot of people can’t get to for a long time — maybe ever,” Jackson said. “That’s the chase for Alex Rodriguez. That’s the fulfillment for him, to say that I got all I could get out of it.”
"這是為A-Rod所量身訂做的挑戰, 唯有達到目標, 他才能毫無遺憾地離開。"
P.S. 有興趣比較A-Rod兩個球季心態上改變的朋友可以參考去年一篇引起軒然大波的報導A-Rod Agonistes
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