Even the seemingly invincible Cyclones have begun to feel the heat.
On the eve of an important stretch of away games that will likely reveal whether this team has the intestinal fortitude to win the New York–Penn League championship, the dog days of summer have gotten to the Clones.
Including Monday’s day game win, the Clones made a whopping 12 errors in their last four games. The team still managed to win — the Cyclones have lost only three games out of 10 in August — but the level of play had diminished.
Skipper Wally Backman and the locker room leaders conceded that a bit of mental fatigue had set in.
“We got a little lackadaisical at times,” said Cory Vaughn, the team’s all-star right-fielder. “We might have gotten too comfy. We got to stay focused.”
As the heatwave wore on, it looked as if this dominant team might have a few chinks in its armor, prompting the fiery Backman to summon his position players into his office on Monday and give them a dressing-down.
“I told them, ‘Be ready for every situation before the situation arises,’” Backman said. “In this game, you’ll get mentally tired before you get physically tired.”
That’s easy to understand considering most of the Cyclones are enduring their first season of “little Major League” baseball, in which they play 76 games in three months — with only four days off.
Players said fatigue was indeed an issue.
“Everybody’s tired. You’re out there everyday, it’s hot and it’s a grind,” Flagg said, who was also named to the all-star team.
But he confidently added, “Fortunately, we got the guys to do it.”
If Flagg is right, the Cyclones will prove it on the road in the next two weeks, when they play 11 of 12 games on the road.
The team has absolutely dominated at home — they are 21-5 — but outside of Brooklyn, these future Hall of Famers are more human, having won 13 and lost 11.
Still, even a less-than-stellar road trip should allow these beat-up Cyclones to add to their 9-1/2-game lead in the McNamara Division — and a clinch of at least a playoff spot in the team’s nine-year quest to return the New York–Penn League crown to Brooklyn for the first time since the 2001 inaugural season.