The Rays are baseball's hottest team, having run up a 15-5 record in August. Their pitchers, who've posted the lowest team ERA in the American League this month, deserve most of the credit. But their latest victory owed something to a secret more valuable than any of their statistical and scouting skills: the power of classical conditioning.
Last month, Rays DH Luke Scott told rookie catcher Jose Lobaton that he couldn't eat ice cream until he hit a home run. A couple weeks later, Lobaton hit his first major-league homer, and afterwards, he dined luxuriously in the dugout. Lobaton explains the whole ice cream incentive plan here:
In Wednesday's 5-3 over the Royals, Lobaton went deep again, giving the Rays some extra insurance in the eighth.
Once again, Scott held up his end of the bargain. As Lobaton put on his gear and prepared for the ninth, ice cream was served.
It's a nice story, although given that Lobaton is up to only two home runs in 145 at-bats, Scott might want to consider throwing in a waffle cone next time.
On a slightly more serious note, or at least as serious as one can get in a post about ice cream: when Scott signed with the Rays, some people were puzzled about how he could be both "popular inside the clubhouse and polarizing away from it," in the words of the â€‹Baltimore Sunâ€‹'s Dan Connolly. Well, this is how. Clubhouse chemistry can be complicated.