Doctor Strange isn’t the best super hero.
I’m not talking about the quality of the movies. I can think of maybe six better movies to enjoy with a deep indica. I’m talking about the tendencies of the character, especially in the MCU. Since the first movie, Doctor Strange has shown two alarming trends.
The first trend is that he always has to hold the scalpel. This is explicitly stated and shown many times, whether in actual surgery, or when saving the world. Doctor Strange is adamant to show everyone that only he can save everyone, and doesn’t need any help.
The second trend?
Doctor Strange doesn’t believe in himself.
ST. PETERSBURG – Baseball players aren’t super heroes.
If they have heightened abilities, it’s because they have trained their bodies through time and a proven successful routine to elevate themselves to those heights.
I mean, unless you’re Oneil Cruz.
OH MY ONEIL! pic.twitter.com/WIcm0Nz59o
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) June 28, 2022
I’m pretty sure that dude is an actual super hero.
If Cruz has taught us anything, it’s that with great power…
…comes millions of people following your every success and failure.
“You’ve heard it your whole life, baseball is more of a mental game,” said Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bligh Madris. “When you’re failing in a game 70 percent of the time and you’re the best player on the field, it’s mentally taxing and mentally tough.”
I’ve been covering baseball player development on this site since 2009. I don’t think I’ve heard a better summary of the mental struggle of trying to perform in a game of “who can fail the least” in front of so many fans each night.
Because, do you really think that the human brain can tell the difference between failing 70% of the time and 80% without the stats that we use to evaluate players? Would that even be noticeable?
The fans would notice, for sure. As would the team.
I was talking with Pirates outfielder Cal Mitchell about his numbers not matching up with his batted ball data. Mitchell has a .193 average in 83 at-bats, despite a high line drive rate (26.2%) and a low soft contact rate (8.2%). Those numbers typically lead to a higher average, and my expectation was for better results going forward. Mitchell felt the same.
“I feel good in the box, and I know if I continue to hit balls hard, everything will be alright,” Mitchell told me in Tampa last weekend.
A few days later, Mitchell was sent to the minors when the Pirates activated Josh VanMeter from the injured list.
It’s difficult to imagine how a young player could gain any confidence at the highest level — where failure is so immediately abundant at the hands of experienced veterans, and where your roster spot is always in jeopardy under the right set of circumstances.
How do the Pirates take a team full of young players and turn them into veterans who can eventually help lead this team to a World Series?
“You think you know how the world works? You think that this material universe is all there is? What is real? What mysteries lie beyond the reach of your senses? At the root of existence, mind and matter meet. Thoughts shape reality.” – The Ancient One
When the battle gets tough, Dr. Stephen Strange gets that look and gets inside his head. He considers that he might lose. Rather than sticking to the plan, and sticking out the fight with his team, he breaks the natural law to find a shortcut to the desired outcome.
And thus, a bad habit is formed.
This bad habit works the first time. So, he does it again. It keeps working. Sure, the Earth almost gets absorbed into the Dark Dimension once, and the Multiverse almost immediately implodes upon itself twice, but in the end, Strange gets the desired outcome where he is the hero, so he keeps getting validation.
Until Clea shows up with some news — Doctor Strange is being sent down from the main MCU to fix some development issues as a result of his continued bad habits.
“I think the one thing we have to continue to talk about are those learning moments. We are going to make mistakes. It’s just making sure we don’t make mistakes over and over again.” – Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton
The Pirates have a young team.
In the first half of the 2022 season, they’ve seen 20 rookies in action. That group includes a dozen players who have made their MLB debuts this year.
Despite the inexperience, this Pirates team has been better than expected. They are 30-45, so this doesn’t fully show up in the record books. This performance shows up in some of their surprising wins, but is even on display in some of their losses.
The Pirates were swept last weekend by the Rays in three close contests. The Rays are 40-34, currently in fourth place in a very competitive AL East.
“I can tell you from years of experience of being in the American League East, it’s a monster,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said of the competition.
Yet, the Pirates kept it close. They lost one game on a walk-off. They had the tying run at the plate in another loss.
“We continue to give ourselves chances, and I think that’s the thing that stands out with this group of players,” continued Shelton. “We have to continue to teach them in terms of how to finish these.”
The Pirates have lost twice as many as they’ve won this month, with the Braves, Cardinals, and Rays handing down a combined ten losses. During this stretch, despite the losing, the energy has started to shift around the team. That shift may have originated from a three game sweep against the Dodgers coming into the month.
“I think that just gave us all a bunch of confidence, myself included,” said Pirates starting pitcher Mitch Keller. “Especially my first start back, after coming out of the pen, having some success there. It’s huge. Any confidence is huge.”
The Pirates will need to manage the confidence levels of their younger players. It probably adds some level of confidence that the Pirates have been willing to give extended looks to those players. This allows opportunities to gain confidence, and work through mistakes and struggles.
Diego Castillo made the roster out of Spring Training, after a nice power display. Castillo is currently on a power stretch in the majors, but isn’t hitting much beyond home runs. The infielder said that his mindset, and specifically his self-talk, is essential to working through the rough stretches.
“For me, the key is believing in myself all the time, talking to myself in my mind,” said Castillo. “That’s the key. At some point, good things are going to be there.”
Castillo is getting results in the power department right now, but it doesn’t always have to be a home run that leads to positive feedback for the players.
“Even if it’s just one little thing, if it’s getting the bunt down or hitting a homer or drawing a walk and getting on base to help your team, it’s just the little stuff like that that goes a long way in this game,” said Madris. “It’s not always the homer that wins the game. Maybe you grounded into a double play, but you beat it out at first, and the next guy comes up and hits a homer. That leads to an extra run that you weren’t supposed to have. It’s all about doing little stuff like that, that goes unnoticed.”
Mistakes are going to happen. The Pirates welcome them as teaching moments. Without failure, a player wouldn’t know where to improve his game, and wouldn’t grow. What the Pirates are focused on is seeing players graduate from those mistakes.
“I think the one thing we have to continue to talk about are those learning moments,” said Shelton. “We are going to make mistakes. It’s just making sure we don’t make mistakes over and over again.”
Jonathan Pangborn: I’d given up on my body. I thought my mind’s the only thing I have left I should at least try to elevate that. So, I sat with gurus and sacred women. Strangers carried me to mountaintops to see holy men, and finally I found my teacher. And my mind was elevated, and my spirit deepened. And somehow…
Dr. Stephen Strange: Your body healed.
Jonathan Pangborn: Yes. There were deeper secrets to learn there, but I didn’t have the strength to receive them. I chose to settle for my miracle and I came back home. The place you’re looking for is called Kamar-Taj, but the cost there is high.
Dr. Stephen Strange: How much?
Jonathan Pangborn: I’m not talking about money. Good luck.
And then Doctor Strange traveled across the world and had a cup of tea in Kamar-Taj. Following this, he was left on the doorstep intentionally by The Ancient One to learn an important lesson, despite Super Two complaints from The Avengers. Ultimately, I don’t think he ever learned the lesson. His actions since have left the MCU ripe for my boy Kang the Conqueror to take over at least two universes, providing an important lesson for us all:
If you keep making the same mistake over and over, you will be conquered.
Or, Kevin Feige will break everyone’s brains with Secret Wars and force Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire, and Andrew Garfield to fight until the last man standing, with only one survivor.
I don’t know what is going to happen.
But Kevin, you should definitely call me about Kang.
One of the most visually confident players I’ve seen on the Pirates this year is Daniel Vogelbach.
On Sunday, Vogelbach had the day off. He spent the morning with his family on the field at The Trop, enjoying his break. By the eighth inning, he was needed for a pinch-hit appearance, and did this.
Daniel Vogelbach – Pittsburgh Pirates (9) pic.twitter.com/MYE0uDYPBG
— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) June 26, 2022
Three pitches was all it took for Vogelbach to add a run, complete with his signature trot around the bases. And it was his day off, he wasn’t even supposed to be here.
On the season, Vogelbach has a .220/.324/.430 line with ten homers — adding one more since the end of the Rays series. Vogelbach has played in the majors for parts of seven seasons. He will reach 400 career games at some point next week. He’s one of the veterans in the clubhouse, and can share an important lesson about how to remain in the majors.
“I think you have to have confidence in yourself,” Vogelbach said of his own self-confidence. “If you don’t have confidence in yourself when you play this game, you’re going to get eaten alive. This game is just tough, and it’s the best players in the world. I think everyone should have the confidence in themselves when they step on the field.”
The confidence from the 29-year-old first baseman originated before his professional playing days.
“Since I was in high school, I believed in myself,” said Vogelbach. “I always believed that I could hit, and even when you’re struggling, you have to always believe that.”
Sometimes, you need to be your own support system.
Pirates outfielder Jack Suwinski is currently tied for the MLB rookie lead in home runs. The 23-year-old Suwinski likes to settle his mind with books in order to get in the right headspace each day.
“A little bit of that is tricking yourself sometimes,” said Suwinski. “Some days it will be different than others, but just finding things that you can go back to certain situations, and finding ways to have that competitive encouraging mindset to yourself, because that self-talk goes a long way.”
Developing that mindset isn’t a comfortable process.
“You have to be super-positive, super-energetic, super-encouraging to yourself,” said Suwinski. “Sometimes it’s hard, but it works. Just hearing those words and saying those words over and over again, it starts to create good habits.”
Suwinski said that there are some days for him where it’s more difficult to get the words out. On those difficult days, he turns to outside support.
“I’ll read the Bible, stay in the word,” said Suwinski. “Talk to my friends, we have a pretty good faith group. Just stay anchored there, and I think that’s when I’m at my best self as a person. When I’m my best self as a person, I can come here, and be free, and be open. Not have anything holding me back, so when I go to get myself ready the best as I can and let my preparation handle everything.”
The most challenging thing for the younger players is envisioning the exponential growth that is taking place over the long-term. That can be difficult to see when the short-term actions are so miniscule. Suwinski likened those small actions to stacking chips.
“Two weeks, one month, two months down the road, you kind of have a big pile of those chips and things start taking off,” said Suwinski. “You’re either going to go one direction or the other, and once you start going it’s too late, because you’ve created those habits that kick you in that direction.”
“Just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn’t mean they’re lost forever.” – Charles Xavier
Seriously, Kevin Feige, I’ve got a whole idea about Doctor DOOM and the remaining Fantastic Four from Universe-838 fighting the Kang from the TVA at the end of Loki. Hit me up.
Baseball players aren’t super heroes.
We all operate the same.
We all thrive on positive reinforcement, whether that talk comes from ourselves or those around us.
We grow only when we’ve got an established routine.
The Pirates have a lot of young human beings making their way to the majors.
Every one of them has the skills and abilities to stick in the majors.
That is easier said than done in a game with so much failure, and so little job security.
With the right mindset and routine, any of these players can play at the highest level.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.