Mark DeRosa isn’t playing in this National League Division Series. The 37-year-old veteran was left off the postseason roster, though he remains with the team and it’s possible he could return if the Nats survive and reach the NL Championship Series.
But on a team with limited postseason experience – Jayson Werth, Edwin Jackson, Adam LaRoche – DeRosa has appeared in 22 playoff games with Atlanta, the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. He can still contribute by passing on some of that knowledge. Over the course of 162 games players do everything in their power to avoid changing their routine. They take pride in a day-to-day professionalism that helps them through the long grind of a season. But in the playoffs, DeRosa says, that sometimes works against you.
“A lot of people go, you’ve got to play the same way you play all year. Coming through the Braves organization and seeing us win all of those division titles and not advance far in the times I was there through the postseason, I always felt like that was the mentality that we took,” said DeRosa, who played quarterback at the University of Pennsylvania. “I like putting the added pressure, the finality of it, the football mentality of it. That’ll be my little speech to the guys [Thursday]. There is no tomorrow, and that’s stating the obvious if you approach each pitch like that. You can’t do it for 162, but you can do it for short series. You can do it when the money is on the line.”
Indeed, DeRosa’s teams in Atlanta won 88, 101 and 101 games in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and won NL East titles each season. Yet only the 2001team advanced as far as the NLCS. The two 101-win teams were ousted in five games in the NLDS. It was a brutal end to two brilliant seasons. But that’s postseason baseball. The Nats, if they don’t win on Thursday and Friday, will face the same fate. But is it hard to take on that mentality after six months of going the other way?
“It shouldn’t be. Realize what’s at stake. I know it sounds so corny, but when you’re in the backyard as a kid, you’re not thinking about playing a May game wherever, you’re thinking about these moments right here,” DeRosa said. “Embrace it. Take a moment, step out, and embrace the towels going around. Want the moment. Want the ball hit to you. Want the big at bat. I think that’s the mentality even if you fail, you keep going up there and having that mentality, good things will happen more so than the other way if you’re scared.”
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