Dealing With Slumps, Superstition

Anything For A Hit: Blue Jays Catcher Chases Success With Razor Power

Danny Jansen is a greedy SOB. The evidence is right there before us.

About a month ago, on June 21, the Blue Jays catcher was batting a woeful .166, with two home runs on the season. Over the next 18 games, however, 17 of which he started, he hit .355 with six homers, raising his average 50 points in the process. Sure, Jansen had gone hitless in the final two of those games, last Wednesday and Thursday, but he’d barely played in one of them and totaled only three at-bats.

Still, the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately nature of his recent hot streak was indelibly compromised. After putting up zeroes in his first three at-bats against the Tigers on Friday—even in the face of an offensive barrage by his team, in a game the Jays would win 12-1—Jansen could take no more. He returned to the clubhouse during the late innings and shaved his mustache.

Whatever works, right? In 1977, Cincinnati’s Dave Concepcion tried breaking out of a slump—to heat up, as it were—by getting into an industrial clothes drier and having teammate Pat Zachary turn it on. Concepcion singed off much of his hair. He also got three hits against the Cubs.

That, though, was mild. In 1993, Reds pitcher Jose Rijo—who’d gone 10 starts without a win—returned to his home in the Dominican Republic during the All-Star break and sacrificed two goats to the Baseball Gods. He’d have normally killed only one, he said, according to The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, but he “wanted to make sure.” Sure enough, Rijo won his first game back, and went 8-4 in the season’s second half.

Entire organizations have even been known to get in on the act. In 1951, the Indians—trying anything to beat Yankees southpaw Eddie Lopat, who boasted a 30-6 record against them over the course of his career—passed out 15,000 rabbits’ feet to fans, one of whom actually raced onto the field during the game to throw a black cat (or at least a gray kitten) at the pitcher. Cleveland put up five runs in the first inning against Lopat en route to an 8-2 victory. In Lopat’s next start against them, the Indians won, 8-0.

As for Jansen, he explained after the game that he’d done something similar last season in Triple-A. “I was DHing, and I did it,” he said in a New York Post report. “I struck out my first time, and I went in and shaved and got like a couple hits after, so I gave it another shot tonight.”

Sure enough, after going 0-for-3 to that point on the day (and 0-for-his-last-6 overall), Jansen collected a hit in his next at-bat, a seeing-eye single to left that brought home two runs.

Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman was right there with him. “Whatever to get knocks, man,” he said. “He shaved it off, and double-RBI single. Whatever for knocks.”

So okay, maybe totems work. Then again, Jansen has gone only 1-for-10 since that point, bringing his season average back down to .210. Maybe it’s time to grow another mustache.

9 thoughts on “Anything For A Hit: Blue Jays Catcher Chases Success With Razor Power

  1. For some reason, based on the initial pic I thought this would be a post on choking up and altering swings for a hit. Any thoughts there on how the game has changed?

    1. There’s no launch-angle benefit to choking up, thus choking up no longer exists, he said purely speculatively and without much forethought.

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