Athletics

A's second baseman Jurickson Profar battling nasty case of the yips

A's second baseman Jurickson Profar battling nasty case of the yips

Yogi Berra once famously said, "Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical."

His numbers might have been a little off, but the sentiment is spot on. Jurickson Profar certainly can attest to that.

The A's second baseman committed his seventh error of the season Monday night, leading to six unearned Red Sox runs, sending the A's to their fourth straight loss, 9-4.

Profar's seven errors are three more than any other second baseman in Major League Baseball this season. Even more troubling, six of the seven have been throwing errors and they haven't even been close.

That was the case on Monday when Profar fielded a routine double-play ball in the third inning and spiked it into the dirt, about 10 feet shy of second base. A few plays later on another routine ground ball, he carefully lobbed the ball to first base, seemingly afraid to throw.

It appears Profar has come down with a nasty case of the yips. There have been several instances of the yips wreaking havoc in baseball over the years. Former Dodgers second baseman Steve Sax is probably the most famous case.

In 1983, Sax suddenly became unable to make routine throws to first base, committing a career-high 30 errors that season. Former Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch developed a similar problem in 1999, finishing with 26 errors, most of them wildly inaccurate throws.

Current Cubs pitcher Jon Lester has battled his own case of the yips where he can't throw the ball to first base. Fortunately for him, it hasn't affected his pitching ability.

Profar hasn't played a ton of second base in his career and is still learning the position. Last season with the Rangers, he spent most of his time at third base and shortstop, playing just 10 games at second.

"Different position, different angles," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters Monday. "We're working. At some point, he'll get comfortable there."

Profar has already sought advice from Oakland shortstop Marcus Semien, who dealt with his own defensive struggles early in his career.

[RELATED: A's place Mark Canha on 10-day IL]

"I'm ready to keep working," Profar told reporters. "I talked to Marcus a little bit and he talked to me about it and what he did. I'm going to follow his steps and try to get better to help my team win."  

At the moment, Profar seems to be overthinking every play at second base, a primary symptom of the yips. Whether he can overcome them remains to be seen. But right now, his errors are costing Oakland games.

Tony Kemp overwhelmed by A's, community support on '+1 Effect' campaign

Tony Kemp overwhelmed by A's, community support on '+1 Effect' campaign

Tony Kemp arranged to have 60-70 shirts promoting his +1 Effect campaign sent to Oakland Coliseum during A’s training camp, enough for everyone on the team’s roster and staff.

The veteran second baseman may have ordered too many.

Matt Olson, Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks, Jake Diekman and assistant hitting coach Eric Martins had already bought shirts on their own.

Kemp was moved by that. He’s relatively new to the A’s, an offseason signing who spent a few weeks with the Green and Gold before baseball shut down over the coronavirus pandemic.

He wasn’t sure how much immediate (and unsolicited) team support to expect when he started the +1 Effect, a campaign designed to snuff out racism one individual conversation at a time. That question mark was answered quickly, with manager Bob Melvin sent a text of support early in the process. Then he saw teammates lining up behind him.

“It was cool to see that they bought shirts on their own and are out supporting the cause,” Kemp said in a Monday video conference. “That’s a big deal. I’ve only been with this team for a couple of months now, and to see how people have been respecting and going after the campaign means a lot. It means your teammates have your back and have been supportive. I’m incredibly happy with that.”

Kemp pushed forward with a bold, time consuming and rewarding enterprise shortly after George Floyd was killed while in police custody. That prompted protests across the country and brought the underlying, systemic racism that exists here into mainstream consciousness.

Kemp pondered ways of joining the fight against racism and police brutality against Black Americans and decided to attack it through individual conversations. The +1 Effect quickly grew in popularity and was making an impact on an individual level. His Instagram inbox swelled as the press got hold of it, but Kemp has remained committed to this cause even with Kemp back to work in A’s camp.

“My wife and I were going through 120 message requests that I had on Instagram that we went through today,” Kemp said. “We’re still trying to push the ideas through and get our point across with the +1 campaign. It’s going well. You see a lot of people being changed. It’s a true blessing to impact people in the way that we have.”

[RACE AND SPORTS IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]

Those message requests don’t receive a pamphlet. They largely get a callback and a conversation trying to change minds about topics involved with racism plain to see and issues more covert.

"When you have conversations like this, you have to have an open mind and a calm spirit,” Kemp said. “If you just start yelling at each other or one person gets upset, you just have to remain calm. I think that’s how I have been getting through to people, by saying, ‘I hear you. I understand you. But please listen to this experience, maybe watch this documentary or read this book.’

“It’s all about your tone, honestly. Being able to relay that message to them, I think that has created a better understanding because conversations they normally have with someone of another point of view is that someone gets upset and storms out, and nothing gets accomplished. Being able to be open-minded and calm with these situations show where it has been going in a positive direction.”

[RELATED: Franklin Barreto ahead in A's second base race, competition remains]

Kemp admits the campaign’s impact has exceeded original expectations and has fueled him to keep the effort going.

“It has been therapeutic to hear the responses and hear how people have been responding to it,” Kemp said. “It makes me feel great. it makes me feel that, with a platform and with a voice, you can tell people that they too have a voice even if they think they don’t. Being able to let people talk to their inner circles and understand that what we’re doing is very positive. I have been sleeping very well at night knowing that I feel like I have been helping change the world. I can say it has.”

A's Tony Kemp to join MLB players standing up against systemic racism

A's Tony Kemp to join MLB players standing up against systemic racism

Professional athletes have at times been outspoken against racism and police brutality against Black Americans.

That’s especially true in the NBA and at times in the NFL.

Baseball players have been far quieter in terms of pre-game displays of protest in the past, outside of former A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell kneeling during the national anthem late in the 2017 season.

Oakland second baseman Tony Kemp says that’s about to change.

“It’s definitely going to look a bit different,” he said Monday in a video conference with A’s reporters.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

That’s being discussed by the Players Alliance, a group of current and former Black players devoted to using their platforms to enact positive change.

Kemp is part of a group led by Curtis Granderson, C.C. Sabathia and Edwin Jackson that wants to act and speak out against racial injustice, especially after recent acts of police brutality against Black Americans and the ensuing protests that have brought greater attention to the systemic racism that has existed in the United States since its inception.

[RELATED: Jesus Luzardo 'itching to get back' to camp after coronavirus test]

Black players across MLB plan to make a statement on Opening Day of this shortened 60-game season protesting racial inequality and police brutality against Black Americans.

“Right now, for Opening Day, most guys are going to have a different avenue,” Kemp said. “Some guys are going to have a piece of black cloth to show unity. Some guys might kneel. Some guys might have a black hat to hold over their heart. There will be something that will be shown on Opening Day and I plan on being a part of it. I feel like it’s one thing to talk about what you’re going to do but, if you don’t have any actions to go along with it, I don’t think it really means anything.

“I think that Black players will be participating in doing something on Opening Day, and it’s going to be unified. I’m excited to see it. “

The A’s have been supportive of Kemp’s +-1 Effect, a movement focused on changing minds about racism through conversation, one person at a time.

Kemp expects the same support from A’s teammates with whatever he chooses to do on Opening Day.

“I know that a lot of teammates will be supportive and have our backs with it,” Kemp said. “That’s important.”