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Brandon Wood and the burden of expectations

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Lisa Blumenfeld, Getty Images

Remember Brandon Wood? Your fantasy team might.

Over at USA Today, Ted Berg has an excellent article on Brandon Wood embarking on his new career as a minor league manager in the San Diego Padres organization. Wood himself comments on his career and says that anxiety and self-imposed pressure were the key reasons why he didn't pan out as a major league player.

But things began to go awry in 2008 when Wood got his first extended look in the Majors. Unaccustomed to irregular playing time, the 23-year-old managed only a .200 batting average and a .551 OPS across 150 at-bats. He continued his dominance of minor league pitching whenever he returned to Class AAA ball, but struggled in every turn at the Major League level.

"That’s when the doubt started to creep in," Wood told USA TODAY Sports at Padres’ camp last week. "You rack up numbers, and you start looking at your numbers over the course of three seasons of playing once every ten days. Reporters come up to you and ask why you’re not hitting, and you start believing you can’t hit, when you know — if you take a step back — you’re not getting consistent at bats. It’s pretty tough as a young player and a power hitter to put up numbers in that role.

"I kept on thinking it was mechanical — ‘I’ve got to fix these mechanics.’ Mechanics, mechanics, mechanics. ‘I’ve just got to work harder, take more ground balls, take more swings in the cage.’ And it wasn’t the case. I needed to take a step back and really evaluate where my mind was going. I should have focused a lot more time on that."

Wood now recognizes that anxiety, more than any physical limitations, prevented him from Major League success.

"On opening day, 2010, when I started at third base for the Angels, something just came over my body," he remembered. "I was light-headed. I felt like I was going to fall over — no control of my body parts. Looking back, it’s because I wasn’t breathing. I’d go probably 90 seconds without taking a breath."

There's a lot more in the article, particularly comments from former teammates on Wood's struggles.

After taking a year off from the game, Wood decided to get back on the field in a coaching or managerial role. He will work with players in extended spring training for the next two months then take over as the manager for Tri-City when the short-season Northwest League opens in June. From his comments in the article, he intends to use his experience as a player to help his players cope with the mental side of the game.

We talk a lot about makeup in player development. We generally think of it in terms of a player who is lazy or who doesn't take the game seriously and fails due to lack of effort.  But sometimes it works the opposite way: some players put far too much pressure on themselves and, if anything, try too hard.

Watching Wood's managerial career will be fascinating.