Routine Ground Balls and the Traits of Real Market Professionals

I played baseball for 14 seasons over 15 years and was competent enough to get scouting attention at a younger age. I had one great coach, “Skid”, who, although every second sentence he uttered would now get him arrested under hate speech statutes, also frequently provided baseball-related thoughts that carried well into everyday life. One of his tenets, usually brought up by someone getting cocky was that, “you could have season tickets in the front row at Yankee Stadium and still never understand how good those guys are”. This statement has multiple implications but I’ll focus on the one in particular that has most informed my trading and investing.

Almost everyone on my team had, at one point in a game or practice, made a play remarkable enough to be featured as a play of the night on SportsCenter . They just happen as a function of instinct and circumstance. Even though a selected few of them had the physical tools necessary – speed, arm strength, etc –  no one was consistent enough at routine plays to ever challenge for a major league spot. The point Skid was making was that major league players were virtual machines, never making a mistake on routine ground balls and making difficult plays look mundane. (If you’ve ever wondered why most Major League middle infielders are Latin American, remember that most of them grew up in shithole barrios where playing fields were more or less parking lots with rocks and random chucks of concrete. When they get to the pool table surfaces of the big time they find ground balls, no matter how much spin’s on them or how hard they’ve been hit, comically easy).

The average fan, then, believes that Major League players are determined by diving, flashy plays when nothing could be further from the truth. In addition to having hands that move like compressed lightning at the plate (something that can’t be taught unfortunately), it is machine-like reliability and mental discipline that separates the talented from the true pro.

The corollaries to trading and investing are clear. The media will be happy to feed us SportsCenter-like highlights of big trades. The story of the real pros, the constant, consistent grinding out of profits informed by decades of practice no matter what kind of bad hops the market generates will remain less newsworthy. Given the choice, like baseball scouts the market will reward participants that make fewer errors, not those that generate the flashiest, unrepeatable trades.

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5 thoughts on “Routine Ground Balls and the Traits of Real Market Professionals

  1. The central bank’s marketing/PR team must have the Yankee’s payroll. Today they were intentionally walked.

  2. kris says:

    Yea, yea. Practice is everything, most of people keep forgetting it.

    I remember a couple of years ago Kobe Bryant missed all 3 pointers in one game. Right after the game he stayed at the court until early morning practicing 3 pointers. The fact that never get mentioned is that the most talented people are the ones that practice the hardest.

    I read biography of Vincent Van Gogh many years ago, by Irving Stone I think. I’ll never forget it, never ever. A talented man like that, valued only one thing: Practice.

  3. [...] Pro investors are really good at imperceptible things that the media or the general public would never even notice.  (Interloper) [...]

  4. [...] Real market professionals make even difficult plays look routine.  (Interloper) [...]

  5. [...] me that great coaches have influence on people that extends well beyond the actual sport. In this post the author notes his coach’s lessons about the difficulty and the value of [...]

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