Baseball is a confidence game. The sport reeks with body language and animal territoriality. You can tell if a hitter is hot by the way he walks to the plate. Down to the tap of the spikes or the threatening practice swing, perhaps even pointing the bat toward the pitcher, there’s an assertion of authority or a lack of it. The hitter in a slump, like Jayson Werth, fidgets between pitches, cricks his neck and his back like his spine feels slightly misaligned. He might as well be the next patient to see the dentist. You can see insecurity in a reliever who enters and immediately makes pickoff throws at a runner who never steals; he’s praying for an easier out than dealing with that evil batter.
Confidence, or lack of it, is packed in every act of the game, from Livan Hernandez’s audacious slow curves to Ryan Zimmerman’s timid throwing motion to Michael Morse smashing himself on the helmet as he fast-trots a home run to Danny Espinosa’s gonna-get-you rips. And confidence can drain so low that once-star players become paralyzed by it. In Chicago, Adam Dunn is hitting .019 against lefties. That’s 1 for 53. The White Sox had him play golf with the team shrink this week. How’d that work out? “He’s actually real good, so that added more stress to my life, golfing with him,” Dunn said.