BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 The Fan) – Neil Walker of the Pirates understands why people questioned the team’s effort after last season, but thinks that it isn’t always about stepping up your game.
“Sometimes people like to coincide a lack of effort with not doing well, you know, you guys gotta do more,” he said. “Sometimes you gotta do less. Sometimes you gotta shut your mind off. Sometimes you gotta go with the Manny Ramirez type of mentality with baseball, as crazy as it sounds.”
He said he feels that the team’s issues snowballed quickly in 2012, as things went from great to rough in a short period of time.
“When things were going good last year and the year before, time was flying,” Walker said. “Things were going good, there were no issues. Then, when we started to stumble a little bit, that’s when it seemed like the month of August was three months long, and everything that could have gone wrong- Murphy’s Law- went wrong.”
However, he believes that these rough patches have been instructive.
“I think we know, no. 1, how it felt the last two years to be on top, and we also knew what it felt like to be kicked in the teeth,” Walker said. “And I think that only builds confidence. I think in the short term, it can knock you down for a little while. But I think once you finish the season, and you kind of look back and assess your individual season and the team’s season, you realize that we did some pretty special things.”
On a similar note, Walker explained that shortstop Clint Barmes’ struggles at the plate last year were actually an inspiration, due to the way Barmes would come right back and play great defense after going down at the dish.
“Obviously, he was a hot topic over the course of last year because of how much he struggled offensively,” Walker said. “But to play up the middle with a guy as positive, as unbelievable at separating his offense from his defense [as him] was something valuable not just for me, but for the entire team, when you see a guy struggle, and then you see a guy go out there and save a couple runs over the course of a game, or in big situations not letting anything else affect him, that’s unbelievable. It’s invaluable to a team.”
He shared a laugh with the guys about some of the harsher criticisms he’s received from fans around the Pittsburgh area following the team’s finish.
“Everybody is going to be talking about it,” Walker said. “And you know, that’s fine. And nobody knows that better than I do, being from Pittsburgh, and I hate it. There are a lot of times that I’ll go out and people will be going, ‘You play for the Pirates, whatever, play for the Steelers, and we’ll start talking.’ And it’s like, alright, you know, you have your valid points, but you know what? I’ll let you back on the train per se when we’ve got our winning ways. So you bite your tongue, you keep moving forward, and that streak is going to be long in the past here soon.”
He said it can be a little hard to keep up with all the ticket requests he gets from people around here that he knows.
“I’m somewhat of a people pleaser, so it’s a lot more difficult for me to say no,” Walker said. “That’s why I try to have people around me that are good at saying no. My wife tells me no all the time. I see it as a blessing, I really do. And I’m very happy here in Pittsburgh.”
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