Banana and mayonnaise sandwiches are the key to the Nationals’ season

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Matthew LeCroy is one of my favorite Twins players of all time because he was always just so damn nice and lovable. Now he’s the Nationals’ bullpen coach and, as James Wagner of the Washington Post explains, LeCroy’s sandwich-eating is a big key to the team’s success:

Earlier in the season, when the Nationals were struggling through injuries and inconsistent play, and before the current hot streak, LeCroy turned to a traditional Southern delicacy before games to snap the team out of its rut: a banana-and-mayonnaise sandwich on white bread.

“A lot of people were hurting in the beginning, and we needed some big wins so I thought, ‘I gotta go with the banana-and-mayonnaise,’” LeCroy said late last week. The Nationals are 5-0 on days when he eats the sandwich before the game, a fact that the jovial LeCroy is proud of.

But wait, there’s more:

LeCroy said the sandwich tastes “awesome.” He said, however, he may love another mayonnaise meal more. For a snack, he will sometimes spread mayonnaise on saltine crackers and down a Coke. “It’s good,” he said with a grin.

My favorite part of this whole thing is that LeCroy doesn’t eat the sandwich every day because he doesn’t want it to lose the special ability it has to get the Nationals victories. That’s just smart planning, honestly.

Barry Zito rooted against his own team in the 2010 World Series

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Retired big league pitcher Barry Zito has a memoir coming out. Much of it will likely track the usual course of an athlete’s memoir. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and a few fun and/or sad and/or thoughtful anecdotes along the way. One bit of it, though, is not the stuff of the usual athlete memoir.

He writes that he ctually rooted against the San Francisco Giants — his own team —  in the 2010 World Series. He did so because he was left off the postseason roster, felt miserable about it and let his ego consume him. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

“It was really hard to admit . . . I rooted against the team because my ego was in full control and if we lost then I could get out of there . . . It would a) prove they couldn’t do it without me, and b) take me out of the situation because I was so miserable coming to the field every day. I was so deep in shame. I wanted out of that situation so bad.”

Zito at that point was midway through a seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Giants after the 2006 season. Almost as soon as he signed it he transformed from one of the better pitchers in the game — he had a 124 ERA+ in eight seasons with the Oakland Athletics and won the 2002 Cy Young Award — to being a liability for the Giants. Indeed, he only had one season in San Francisco where, again, by ERA+, he was a league-average starter or better. In 2010 he went 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA and was way worse than that down the stretch. It made perfect sense for the Giants to leave him off the 2010 postseason roster. And, of course, it worked out for them.

Things would improve. He’d still generally struggle as a Giant, but in 2012 he was a hero of the NLCS, pitching the Giants past the Cardinals in a must-win game. He then got the Game 1 start in the World Series and beat Justin Verlander as the Giants won that game and then swept the Tigers out of the series. As time went on he’d fine more personal happiness as well. When his contract ended following the 2013 season Zito took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle thanking Giants fans for their support. He’d leave the game in 2014 and pitch three more games for the Athletics in 2015 before retiring for good.

Not many baseball memoirs deliver hard truths like Zito’s appears willing to do. That’s pretty damn brave of him. And pretty damn admirable.