First off, let's talk about the components of a winning season. There are three factors that go into it: Good starting pitching, timely hitting, and good defense. You need to have at least two of these components working for you 90% of the time.
As we evaluate the start of the season, it's hard to find a game where we've been good enough to fill the bill. Mostly and above all, we can look at the offense being the biggest factor. With Roberts out, there seems to be no one who can get the party started. If Tejada is MIA also, you're depending on Markakis and Jones to generate the energy to pull the rest of the team. The offensive philosophy of patient hitting led them to a second place finish last year when hitting with runners in scoring position. Somehow that has been forgotten.
Aside from the problematic hitting sprees, this team has been in position to still win enough games to be respectable. The starting pitching has been a pleasant surprise - not great, but good and certainly better than the last five or six years.
No bullpen presence to speak off has been another problem. Add it up and throw in a few timely errors and mental lapses and you have it.
Now what do you do to change it? Let me take a shot at this, because it's not written in any book...
Get everybody together and point out every little thing that has been a factor so far. Leave no stone unturned. Start off explaining how the game is supposed to be played.
Outfield first - Explain how to move, how to back up, what to think about before and after, where to throw the ball.
Infield - Explain what to think about, how and where to move, covering the bases, etc.
Catcher - Explain how to control the tempo of the game, what to be aware of, how to handle situations.
Cover as much as possible. If anyone even yawns while you're speaking, looks away, whispers, or has a funny look on his face, make an example of him. The point here being, get everyone on the same page.
Go over baserunning, bunting, etc., etc., etc. - Just cover it all.
Now get their attention by demanding that they come to the ballpark on their off days to work on things that are missing from their game. It seems to me that almost all the discrepancies I see are an easy fix.
Earl Weaver was by far the biggest pain in the neck I ever met :) - but he had a way of getting everyone to work together in times like these. We knew how to react to a losing streak and turn it around.
As some of you remember, we had two-seven game losing streaks in '83 and still won the World Series. Although Earl wasn't there, the residue was.
Take it back to its simplest component: If you're not hitting, hit more and more often. If you're not fielding well and you're making mistakes, take infield every day. If you're not throwing strikes, throw more and make the mechanical adjustments that you need. If you forget to hustle (this one works every time) bring them ALL out on an off day and run them. Pretty soon they'll get the picture and start taking care of it inside the team itself.
The whole point here is that we have a very talented group of players here and these kinds of mistakes causing losses is unacceptable.
If the discipline and focus improves, this streak will quickly come to an end. I still believe we have enough to be in the pennant race, but things have to change soon.
See you at the Yard...