CINCINNATI — Jay Bruce is all about himself these days, all about what he sees in the mirror and if he likes what stares back at him.
And that is a good thing, doesn’t at all put him on the selfish shelf. It is all about Bruce being an amateur psychologist, one who is helping him become a better person and a better baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds.
A better Bruce makes for a better team. And Bruce honestly believes the tap on his talent hasn’t come close to being fully opened. He is working to unleash the talent torrent.
Ever hear a baseball player say, “Frankly, pretty much every year I’ve been more or less embarrassed with my results. I’m capable of so much more than I show.” Never heard that one, right? Well, Jay Bruce said it Tuesday afternoon in the Reds clubhouse. And he was speaking honestly and from the heart.
He meant it because he knows he has a lot more baseball ability residing in his 6-3, 217-pound body, ready to surface. He isn’t happy that he hit .252 last year with 34 home runs and 99 RBI, a season some players envision only while in a deep sleep, dreaming under the covers.
Why is he not happy, not contented? Because if you become complacent and satisfied with yourself, that’s when things begin to spin in reverse.
And it is also the reason Bruce is no longer results-oriented.
Bruce talks a lot about being consistent and, in a way, he is consistent — consistently inconsistent. And everybody asks him about consistency. Well, almost everybody.
His wife, Hannah? “No, not at all,” he said. His mom? “No, she doesn’t. All they both ever tell me is to keep playing hard.”
And there is no doubt Bruce plays hard every pitch of every game. Why? It is something he can control. He can’t control results, but he can play hard every second he is on the field with total consistency.
“The only thing I can control is my attitude and my effort,” he said. “I literally prepare the same way every single day — cage work, routine, keeping my body in shape, watching the necessary video and more cage work.
“What I do is try to put myself in a position to be successful,” Bruce added. “I’ve decided this year that I am done harping and focusing on the results. That’s hard to do because this is a results-driven game and the numbers are always up there (on the scoreboard) and out there.
“But if you ride the highs and lows of your results every single game, you are going to drive yourself crazy. And I’ve done that every single year — until this year. I refuse to do it. In life, the process is more important than results. Without the right process, you can’t get to the results. It is hard to ride the ups and downs because this is such a crazy game.”
After one of his down periods, a slow April, Bruce has picked it up, and his positive results are lasting longer than usual. He has driven in 27 runs in his last 28 games. He is hitting .381 over his last five games with two homers and five RBI. He hit a 454-foot home run Monday against Colorado that narrowly missed leaving Great American Ball Park and splashing down in the Ohio River and might have sunk the Delta Queen riverboat.
“You can control how much you prepare, and I can wake up every morning and look in the mirror and say, ‘I’ve given myself every chance to be successful and I’m ready to play the game, both physically and mentally.’ That’s all that I can do, regardless of the outcome. Then I’ll be able to sleep at night.”
Bruce said over the first five years there were sleepless nights and sleepless weeks, but this year is different.
“I’m someone who expects more out of myself than anyone can imagine,” he said. “But trying harder didn’t work. I owe it to myself, the team, the fans, the organization to play my butt off, play hard — not try hard, play hard. Do everything I can to help the team win. The results? That just comes from proper work, preparation and routine. That’s what I focus on these days.
“I started a little slow this year, but I refused to get caught up in it, refused to feel like I needed to get three hits or hit home runs,” he said. “It’s starting to come around. I have honestly enjoyed this season so far the most of any season I’ve played. And it is because I’m focusing on myself and the things I can control — not focusing on myself individually on the field, but looking in the mirror and sorting that stuff out, just being content and giving myself the best shot in my own corner.
“I still think there is a ton more in there, man, I really do,” Bruce added. “A ton more in there than I can do, that I am capable of, that I have the ability to do. I refuse to ever be satisfied because I don’t even know what type of player I can be, but I know it is better than I am now.”
Now there is a baseball player who can hang out a shingle: “Dr. Jay Bruce, Psychologist.”