TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

With 2 weeks left in the season, contending teams are fighting for their playoff lives. But if there has been any kind of race when it comes to the most injuries in a month, the Tigers have eclipsed their magic number, popped the champagne and won the title going away.

Unfortunately, the injury bug is still on our minds; and at the top of the heap sits a starting pitcher who has had his fair share of ailments.

As always, our writers have not shared their responses in the interests of offering a range of perspective. So what will readers get today as Holly and Kurt address a question about Michael Fulmer?


It’s been a challenging year for Michael Fulmer. How much hope do you have about him going forward?


HOLLY

It was only revealed on Saturday by the tv broadcasters that Fulmer has been having knee problems most of the year – and that it was well-known in the clubhouse. They further commented that when you are ailing elsewhere, especially your lower body, that you change your mechanics and delivery as a way to compensate for the other injury.

It is somewhat comforting that this is probably not fully attributable to his arm but to being thrown off by another injury. What is troubling is the season-long knee injury and the attempt to continue pitching him while he had it. Was it Michael insisting on playing or was it a desperate attempt by the Tigers to showcase him for the purpose of trading?

And when you are favoring part of your body, your alignment gets thrown out of whack and you can suffer an injury elsewhere – like an oblique that puts you on the DL. It is wholly disturbing that the Tigers never mentioned the knee problem at all this year nor publicly admitted that the oblique injury could be the result of ignoring his knee pain. This really smacks of either gross negligence or a team just trying to hide what is really going on because their priority was trying to unload a player for prospects.

Equally troubling is the fact that, yet once again, a player has an injury that goes on forever and never gets resolved. I hope he has several long chats with his continued mentor, Justin Verlander, who will guide him to seeking better medical care and training advice because Fulmer’s biggest obstacle to his success is the Tigers’ medical/training/conditioning staff – and not for a lack of talent.


KURT

Is there anything more maddening about the Tigers’ starting pitching than Michael Fulmer – other than Jordan Zimmermann of course.

Let me begin my answering the question about how much hope I have about Fulmer going forward. I have no hope. How much have I pleaded to people to understand how important it was to unload Fulmer while he still had value – more times than I can count.

He had been a ticking time bomb of a pitcher since before the Tigers even traded for him. Elbow issues and meniscus tears were part of his injury history before he came to Detroit.

The injury bug continues to find Michael Fulmer, and after he heals and comes back, it isn’t for very long. When he hasn’t been hurt, he has been good, but who knows how truly healthy he has been this season, as he has suffered from both oblique and now meniscus problems again, which may require surgery, again.

This whole Fulmer train is heading in a worrisome direction, and has been since he was an All-Star. There has been more than an inkling that it may be wise to deal him before things got worse, but too late, they have and he is still here.


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VMART’S LOYALTY HAS NO LIMITS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Saturday was Victor Martinez Day at Progressive Field in Cleveland. And to say that the Indians organization has a soft spot in VMart’s heart is an absolute understatement.

Not since the night that Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came to the mound to remove Mariano Rivera at Yankee Stadium, have I seen such raw emotion from a player. Victor wasn’t overcome by emotion. He balled!

He’s had an outstanding career. And it began in Cleveland, and he is forever indebted to the Indians organization for giving him his start in the big leagues. Sure, you have to start somewhere, but despite being a gifted hitter for his entire career, you could easily add ‘loyal’ to a glowing list of superlatives that describes Martinez. Oh, and don’t forget ‘appreciative.’

Because it was in Ohio where Victor was housed by a ‘host family’ who taught him how to speak English and who, for the first time in a long time, was offered a full family atmosphere, as he had lost his father to a heart attack when he was only 7.

He became a man in Cleveland. He matured and became one of the best hitters in the game. That didn’t stop in Cleveland or in Boston or in Detroit. Only time has stopped him.

We have seen a different side of Victor this season as he has been so vibrant spending time with the young kids who make up the Tiger roster. He has become a leader again, something he became less of under the reign of Brad Ausmus.

He has always been emotional and you have to imagine as he crossed off the months of the season and August turned to September, that it began to sink in. When you come to end of anything that brought you joy, you tend to look back, turn the pages back to the beginning and remember where it all began. How it all began. How as a shortstop, you almost quit when they threw the catcher’s equipment at you.

But despite all the trials that paved the road to success, you can’t look past the importance of the beginning. And the Indians provided that beginning for VMart. On Saturday, all that emotion and appreciation came out in tears we have rarely seen him shed.

On Saturday, the Tigers will honor VMart again. But his father figure in Detroit will not be present. If we have learned anything about Victor, we now know that he shows loyalty to all the important figures in his life who have given him a chance.

Mike Ilitch will not be on the field to give Victor that hug that would not have been unlike the ones he received in Cleveland. But Victor will show his appreciation to the Tigers just as he did when he told Mr. I. that he wanted to remain in Detroit after the first 4 years he spent here.

Loyalty and appreciation. It started in Cleveland and it will end in Detroit.

He left a piece of his heart in Cleveland on Saturday. And he will do it again in Detroit this coming Saturday. Victor Martinez always gave everything he had in every city he played, for every city he represented.

But Cleveland gave him a family. A beginning of a tremendous career. And fans here in Detroit have certainly reaped the benefits.

Well done, Victor.  Well done.


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WALKING THE WALK

By:  Holly Horning

I have a question for you. Well, several really.

Would you hire…

… a doctor who smoked?

…an emaciated chef?

…a nutritionist who eats junk food?

… or even a wardrobe consultant who didn’t dress well?

Of course you wouldn’t.

Now, would you hire a trainer for your sports team who didn’t look physically fit?

We all know the answer to that one but obviously those making the hiring decisions for the Tigers don’t.


(And for those of you who are about to jump to conclusions and raise the issue of discrimination against certain groups, I’m going to stop you right here. The only thing that matters is whether an individual is suited for their profession and fully capable of performing at least the minimal standards that their jobs require. Nothing else.)


Once again, we were forced to watch the Tigers’ team trainer struggle to get to a fallen player on the field the other day. The Tigers’ Niko Goodrum had a violent collision with his teammate and was lying still on the ground for a disturbing amount of time. Several players rushed over to him and everyone stood around waiting for the trainer to come out.

Then we saw him. Obviously having difficulty climbing the stairs of the dugout with his hand firmly gripping the railing to help him ascend. And then the walk. He is not capable of running or even jogging.

And the Tigers, and Niko, waited.

On the other hand, later in the game, the Astros trainer had to attend to one of his injured players. In stark contrast, he took the dugout stairs two at a time and went racing to the scene. His player was down on the ground, like Niko, but this trainer had the capability of also getting fully prone on the ground in a better position to ascertain more about the injury.

If you think that Jeremiah Randall, the Astros’ head trainer, is the exception, he is not. I have spent most of this year checking out each team’s head trainer and can report that the majority are just like Randall.

They look physically fit. They look like personal trainers. There is minimal body fat and maximum lean muscle tissue. They are not big and bulky. They are lean machines who look like professional athletes or at least active military personnel.

You see the muscle definition in them. You see the biceps and when they are in shorts, also the calf definition. And you know that there is a 6-pack lurking under their team shirts.

Most of them skew on the younger side – 30’s and early 40’s. And all of the men appear to be in the 170 lb. range with ideal BMI. There is also MLB’s second female head trainer, Nikki Huffman, to whom I can attest that almost every woman out there would swap bodies with in a flash.

And if you went to the gym looking for a personal trainer to get you in serious shape, you’d want to hire most of these team trainers to do the job.

I know personal trainers. I’ve worked with them regularly since my 20’s. I also coordinate with several professional sports team trainers when I work with my athlete clients. I know what they do and the discipline required to do it.

I also work out at a serious gym owned by a former Olympic athlete. He is a perfectionist and all of the personal trainers he employs are the best, including my own.

She’s a tiny thing with a loud voice, constant high energy and continuously moving.  She also has the uncanny ability to coerce me into doing any exercise she wants, no matter how terrifying it is. And she is right there with me, doing the same exercises and correcting my form.

And then there’s my physical therapist who regularly keeps me aligned in order to prevent injury. She’s got the face of Jessica Alba, the body of a ballet dancer and the hands of a killer. She is also high energy and the perfect specimen of someone who keeps their body in tip-top shape.

The point is that both of these people look the part. They look physically better than the majority of the population. And that is one of the most important reasons why I hired them. They are walking advertisements for the quality of the work they perform. They sell themselves.

They walk the walk.

And when you look at all the head trainers for each MLB team, almost all of them also look the part. In fact, many of them came from backgrounds in which they were experts in their field and ran entire companies or were in residency at medical centers focused on promoting and practicing the latest and greatest physical health advances. They have multiple degrees and certifications.

A number of them, like Randall, are highly sought speakers in the off-season to the medical communities and PBATS conferences. And Randall also spends part of his off-season working with rehabbing seriously wounded war veterans in addition to his regular work keeping the Astros healthy and conditioned.

I don’t see any of these patterns with the Tigers’ staff. I can’t even tell you the last time I saw a head trainer there who looked like one.

And I wonder how someone who has a hard time moving around, who lacks flexibility and agility, can work with a player and show him proper form. How to perform an exercise and not get injured doing it. If you are not capable of even kneeling on the ground to tend to an injured player, how can you show them proper training form?

And if it appears that core exercises are not part of your regular routine, what are the chances they will address it with their own players? And now that Iggy has been shelved for what may be his last performance as a Tiger, have you also lost count of how many Tigers have been downed over the past 4 years because of core muscle-related injuries?

The former head trainer now oversees the entire training, conditioning and medical programs for both the Tigers and all of their minor leagues. He was promoted. He’s been working for a series of Tiger management since 1993. The current one has also been with the Tigers since 1993. The new assistant trainer has been with the Tigers since 1996.

There’s that dang pattern again.

No other team in MLB has any trainer with multiple decades of employment. We’re talking a quarter of a century. Heck, many of today’s trainers were toddlers when Dave Dombrowski hired his when he was still in Montreal and Florida.

Maybe the Tigers need to realize that it’s no longer the 1990’s. Things change in 3 decades. Training changes. Advancements are discovered. New strategies succeed old ones.

But will the Tigers actually change? Will they finally decide to enter the 21st Century and show us updated training programs led by trainers who walk the walk? Will we actually be able to go to Lakeland and not be horrified by the antiquated conditioning drills we see?

That is the real question.


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NOTABLE NEWS

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Even though we are following a team that is playing out the string in September, there is still news. There is always something published here to ponder.

Holly and Kurt don’t normally share their topics with each other in the interests of getting a wider range of perspective. During any given week, they could head in a number of directions.

Let’s see where they ended up based on what has transpired this week heading into last night’s game in Cleveland against the Indians.


KURT

The Tigers waited for the right opportunity to bring Christian Stewart to Detroit. And if you have watched the games, the concerns in the outfield are real.

Stewart hasn’t played poorly, but he seems uncomfortable and doesn’t appear to have much of an arm.

And this will be the challenge for the Tigers if they firmly believe that his bat is enough to consider him for a starting spot on this team next season. They will have to run him through a complete course of Fundamentals 101 in order for him to have a shot to become an average outfielder, which is all they need if JaCoby Jones continues to anchor centerfield in 2019.

Spring training will be an important time for Stewart from a defensive standpoint. The Tigers need left-handed power, so he would be a critical piece if he can round out his game; if not, Christian may not be here long.


HOLLY

The Tigers have started to show their hand when it comes to planning next year’s outfield. If you count Niko Goodrum, they have 7 players to cover 3 outfield positions along with Adduci, Castellanos, Jones, Mahtook, Reyes and Stewart but realistically, the battle is between the latter 5.

Gardenhire has been told to play Stewart in LF as much as possible during this final month but his statements to Mahtook indicate that he is a serious candidate to stay in 2019. Other interviews hint that JaCoby is the clear favorite to man CF.

The big question mark is whether the Tigers hang onto Castellanos for his final year before free agency and thus an ever-decreasing value as a rental player. It will be a huge gamble to keep him next year, hoping that his stats continue to resemble this year’s. If they are able to trade Nick, then the Tigers have the preferable number of 4 surviving outfielders and if not, then 1 will have to go back to the minors – or to another team.


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FORUM FOR FRIDAY

microphoneHappy Friday! It’s time again to head into the weekend hearing from our readers.   You have the rest of the week to hear from Kurt and Holly, today is the day to let them know what you’re thinking on a selected topic.

Friday is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can get those juices flowing.

Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.

We can’t wait to get your thoughts on the following topic.


Who is your choice for Tiger of the Year and why?


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MAX STILL IN THE JV SHADOW

By:  Kurt Snyder

As we experienced the return of Justin Verlander to Detroit this week, the response from our readers moved in an unexpected direction. It turned to Max Scherzer.

And the discussion took me back. It took me back to the very first blog I wrote for Totally Tigers.


https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/winning-and-money/


I was upset. I was insulted as a fan.  Max Scherzer proclaimed that his move to Washington was not about money, but about winning.  He wanted to win.

But Max’s message over the years tied himself in knots. He would later explain  by saying the same thing with different words:


“This was never about greed or I need more money per se, but it was a business decision and trying to maximize my worth. And for me, I was in the position to take full advantage of that, and the Nationals came through and put a contract offer in front of me that … was jaw dropping.” – Feb 7, 2015.


Translation: It was never about money, but then I left for more money.

Is there any other way to interpret that?

Fans want loyalty from players but maybe don’t realize that loyalty left the game, and sports in general, many years ago. Players who play just to win are rare.  And as fans, we should understand when a player leaves for more money.  It’s something we would all do.

Players leave and if they have the opportunity to make substantially more, who are we to judge? We just want transparency.  Be straight with us.

And we didn’t get that from Max. At least not in our minds.  I am sure it was not his intention to leave on bad terms, but he did.  Your only obligation is to be honest and describe the situation for what it is.

To leave a team who had been to the World Series twice, a team that won multiple divisions titles, a team very close to getting over the hump, for a franchise that hadn’t realized those types of accomplishments; and then say you did it because you wanted to win?   Please!

Fans will always be confused by that and equally as miffed. Just be a straight shooter.  And isn’t that the biggest difference between Max and JV?

Justin struggled with the decision to leave Detroit, and frankly, I didn’t know what there was to decide. He had done everything he could here, but he wanted to win.  And win he did.  And many of us could not be happier.  We are sad he’s gone, but not sad that he got what he had worked so hard to achieve.

So how do you feel about Max? Well, he left to win, became a very rich man and has won a lot.  As a Washington National, he has become one of the best pitchers in baseball.  But Washington has yet to find the right formula even though they had been dominating their division up until this season.   Sound familiar?

Max has won a lot in Washington, but the Nats have done nothing more than he had experienced in Detroit, in fact they have fallen short. And they may now be headed in the same direction that he wanted to leave when he was in Detroit.

Future signs of decline. Signs that they would have to begin gutting the team have become a reality.  And there he sits; having achieved great personal goals, but still no more winning.

He made the right choice, for a guy looking to become rich. But the winning part?  He’s still searching.  And he is about to become a great pitcher on a nothing team.

I believe he left for money, but also because he wanted to be the man. The popularity and success of Justin Verlander was never going to be overcome.  Not in Detroit, where fans, frankly, had a love affair with JV.   And Justin felt that, and reciprocated.

If you had any question what Detroit meant to JV, you saw it in his eyes this week. But when Max Scherzer someday returns to pitch against the Tigers, there will be an entirely different mood.

There will be no tears.

On either side of the white lines.


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NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE

By:  Holly Horning

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. He was supposed to be a Tiger for Life. Mr. I tried to see to that.

He was supposed to retire as a Tiger, having played his entire career here.  And we expected that 7 years later, there was a good chance that he’d get elected on the first ballot for the Hall of Fame.

But now, every time we see him, it’s like – as Miracle Max in The Princess Bride would say – pouring lemon juice on a paper cut. He’s traded in the “D” for an “H”. Different city, different hat……same number.

Same JV. Same pitches. Same intensity. And you could say, as he’s gotten older, the resources of the Houston Astros have allowed him to stay at the top of his game. Maybe even better at times.

So why has it been so hard to say goodbye? When all the other stars left the team via trade or free agency, they were forgotten. Even JD and Max.

But Verlander. The local press has documented his every move as if he never left. Everything from his new team to his wedding to impending fatherhood, Kate’s pregnancy – and all his new cars. And all in the sports pages no less.

In fact, yesterday, the two main newspapers had a combined 14 articles about JV. A tad overdone maybe?

There was the video the Tigers ran Monday night as JV warmed up and headed to his new dugout. Timed specifically to play so he could watch it.

And fans could see that Detroit held a special place in his heart. He touched his hand to his heart as his nose started to turn red and his eyes welled with tears.

Can you remember the Tigers doing anything at all like this for any other players?

Me neither.

On the surface, it was a wonderful gesture. Beautifully done.

But was that all it was? Were there other reasons for the Tigers to offer such a unique tribute?

Did the organization also use this moment to prove to fans that they still love JV despite trading him? Despite the recent row when he questioned his medical treatment? To help quell some of the lingering fan ire over having to trade the fans’ overwhelming favorite player? The franchise face?

Was it an attempt to keep JV tied to the organization in the future? A job? Or to help mitigate any deep feelings he develops for the Astros that may provide complications down the road for Cooperstown? What if JV stays in Houston longer? What if he wins another Cy Young Award to go with his only World Series ring? What if his stats from both teams are comparable and cause debate about which hat he wears into Cooperstown? Does he decide to go into the Hall wearing no hat at all?

It’s always hard to keep the love when you move on to another team. Memories fade and are replaced by newer, shinier ones. Like World Series rings and banners flying over the stadium.

Or, have the Tigers decided to ride the JV coattails and still claim him, unofficially, as their own? A rationale of having the best of both worlds? Or do the Tigers simply have no other player on which to currently hang their hat? Remember, Miggy is out for the year, his future health remains a question mark and he’s been dragged through the PR minefield this year with his personal life.

Even with all the promos about JV’s return, sadly, the stands were empty that night.

A definite sign that the glory days have now come full circle. Shiny excitement has been replaced with harsh reality. And seeing JV wearing another uniform and pledging allegiance to another team is part and parcel of this new era.

Most of us know the Tigers traded him for business, not emotional or performance, reasons. But for a number of fans, it’s still hard to accept. Seeing him in another uniform and succeeding symbolizes the failure of the Tigers organization to get that ring despite over a decade of having the best players in MLB, the best starting rotation and a number of guys who are headed to the Hall when all is said and done.

Of course, it’s wonderful to see Verlander succeed. He’s earned it. But it will always be a sad moment when we see him wearing another team logo. Wondering what could have been. What should have been.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

With September baseball well underway, the Tigers are still celebrating. Yep, that’s right, it has been a year of celebration in Detroit, even though the product on the field hasn’t been that fun to watch. This Tuesday topic has everything to do with the events of this last weekend. It deserves a proper wrap-up.

As always, our writers have not shared their responses in the interests of offering a range of perspectives. So what will readers get today as Holly and Kurt address a question about the ’68 Tigers?


What are your thoughts about this past weekend’s celebration for the 50th anniversary of the 1968 World Championship team?


HOLLY

After listening to John Hiller’s comments about how cheap pre-Ilitch owners were when honoring the ’68 World Champions, it was good to see them receive better treatment this time ‘round.

Don’t get me wrong – I appreciated the event but it was tinged with some bittersweet thoughts. Grainy videos that no longer appear dated but lean towards antique and make us realize exactly how long ago this happened. The majority of the remaining players who attended obviously were suffering from significant health and ageing problems, including Al Kaline, who had to be helped up the stairs. Mickey Stanley, Trixie and ironically Hiller (he who suffered an early heart attack and then changed his lifestyle) were the only ones who appeared to have aged well.

Then you realize that this event was so important and unique because the Tigers have won so few World Series – 2 in the past 50 years. I doubt that the Yankees hang onto their teams’ winning memories as desperately as the Tigers cling and play up theirs.

But if you looked around the stadium, there were far fewer fans in attendance than the reported 30,000 attributed to season ticket holders. The stands were half empty and those who showed up were primarily older attendees, supporting the idea that many of today’s fans are not as connected to the past as the organization would hope.

The most eye-opening moment came from MLB Radio on Saturday morning as they interviewed many of the ’68 Tigers – and the revelation that after the 1967 season, Jim Campbell unsuccessfully tried to trade both Denny McLain and Al Kaline to the Twins for Jim Kaat because he believed the team needed better pitching going into 1968.


KURT

What the Tigers have done from a PR standpoint in all 3 celebrations over the last several weeks, is hit 3 consecutive home runs. Of course, recognizing stars and teams of the past is something they really couldn’t avoid this season, with 2 Hall of Fame inductions and a significant World Title anniversary.

The number retirement ceremonies of both Morris and Trammell were very well done and the team didn’t miss the mark with the 50th Anniversary of the 1968 World Champion Tigers. It was a weekend-long celebration which the team deserved, and I was happy to see that they spent some time at Michigan and Trumbull, where they clinched the pennant in 1968. All of their great memories of baseball in Detroit were realized at The Corner, so it was definitely a nice touch to have the team spend some time there.

What was most evident is that 50 years is a long time, and it showed as the players slowly made their way onto the field for the Saturday ceremony at Comerica Park. Sadly, we may have seen the last of most of these players, so it made it that much sweeter to see them all together.

It was a bittersweet celebration, but it was important to educate fans who were not familiar with the significance of this championship. This was no ordinary team and it was important to tell that story once again. Well done, Tigers.


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THE RING MOST CHERISHED

By:  Kurt Snyder

We sat on the steps of the front porch of a rented Petoskey, Michigan home, with Little Traverse Bay peaking over our shoulders.

It was a special moment. My 3 brothers and I would decide who would inherit some of my Dad’s most prized possessions. Unexpectedly, none of these things, which included Dad’s 2 World Series rings, from 1968 and 1984, were mentioned in our parents’ will.

But I know why. They trusted their four boys. They knew that our relationship was strong enough that we would work these things out together without hard feelings. We are a tight family and regardless of the result, we would be happy for each other.

There were 4 tiny pieces of paper in a hat, numbered from 1 to 4. One for each of us. The items we would split between us, included the 2 World Series rings and other items of jewelry worn by my parents.

Of course, every item held sentimental value for us.  But during a life dominated by baseball, nothing was closer to our hearts than those World Series rings. Dad wore one of them all the time. So every time we look at them now, it is hard not to picture them on his hand.

So our little ceremony began and when it was my turn, I pulled the #2 from the hat. I would indeed get a World Series ring! The only question was, which one?

If I had the choice, I was ready to pick 1984. It was the year I remembered most. I practically lived at The Corner that season, attending more than 60 games. To this day, I can name almost the whole championship roster – their numbers included. So to call that ’84 ring my own would have meant a lot.

Well, that didn’t happen. But I gladly accepted the ’68 ring. It was the ring my dad wore the most, but it was the Series I remember the least. In fact, since I was between the ages of 4 and 5, in ‘67 and ’68, I hardly remember anything.

Except the helicopters.

The helicopters?

Yeah, that’s right. I remember the helicopters.

They flew right over our house in Roseville heading downtown from the Selfridge Air Force Base. I didn’t know where they were headed or why, but I remember them.

This past weekend the Tigers celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1968 World Championship team. Players gathered for dinners, photo ops and a ceremony on the field prior to Saturday’s game.

And it all came back. The story of the riots. An ugly racial divide. A city in ruins. And one Willie Horton.

Willie’s statue and retired #23 are displayed proudly at Comerica Park. Willie is not a Hall of Famer. But he has been honored for what he has done for Detroit. If you are a young fan or new fan, you may have wondered why Willie has a statue and a retired number among the Hall of Famers honored out there in left centerfield.

Sometimes we take for granted what professional athletes do outside the lines. So many are ‘involved in the community.’ The phrase kind of gets glossed over in so many cases.  And many may feel that way when they enter the gates at Comerica and see Willie’s statue. They don’t get it. They pass judgement on why the Tigers honor him in such a manner.

And sometimes, I have also taken it for granted. But amongst all the pageantry and a great Tiger celebration this past weekend, I remembered the helicopters.

But I also remembered the stories of a 24-year-old Willie Horton, who instead of going home and staying safe after games, entered the dangerous streets of Detroit, to do his part, trying to make a difference, when his city was at its lowest point.

The 1968 Tiger World Championship season is a feel good story about a team during a nightmarish time in Detroit history. Willie Horton doesn’t need a plaque in the Hall of Fame. His acts of bravery, at a time when his life was at great risk, earned him the accolades he has received.

Hopefully, this past weekend opened up some eyes about the role the ‘68 team played in bringing a city together –  and one player who entered the city streets, sometimes still in his game uniform, feeling like he needed to do something.

Anything.

So now when I look at my father’s 1968 ring, I know I have the best one. It represents so much more than a series of four games won in the month of October. It was a Series of social significance.

I remember the helicopters. Thankfully, I don’t remember more.


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THEM’S FIGHTIN’ WORDS

By:  Holly Horning

I’m starting to think that if the Tigers showed as much fight on the field as they do off of it, there would have been at least 1 World Series ring by now.

If you consider it, this organization has been in-fighting since 2006. Rumors over the years of clubhouse clubbings and, as we’ve seen with our own eyes, plenty of dugout dust-ups. The most infamous being the alleged clubhouse brawl between Prince Fielder and Avisail Garcia that required multiple players to break up the fight and resulting in serious injury to Miguel Cabrera as he tried to hold back Prince.

There was also the memorable incident with Delmon Young in NYC when he tussled with some pedestrians.

And speaking of Miggy……. Who can forget his multiple verbal and physical threats against police, his own wife, a restaurant, a manager and several patrons?

Over the past 4 years, the incidences only increased. JV wisely fought an equipment rack instead of his manager. Iggy started gettin’ jiggy with James McCann in the dugout. And Bruce Rondon seemingly fought everyone, including himself.

But last year was the worst. Reports about how the clubhouse continued to disintegrate until its final denouement with players not talking to each other, cliques forming and regular skirmishes breaking out. And veteran players like Victor Martinez becoming ostracized by his own teammates. Is it unreasonable to consider that potentially his heart issues were a by-product of all that stress in the clubhouse?

There were fights with teams, most noticeably the Yankees, which involved 9 players, sucker punches and a beanball war. Once the two teams were separated, the Tigers then had to deal with Tiger-on-Tiger violence. Who can forget VMart trying to go after Justin Verlander and being held back by Nick Castellanos?

And now things have gotten so bad that the broadcasters are duking it out with each other, too. Apparently, the rebuilding process is hard on everyone.

But what’s hard to understand is why Mario Impemba and Rod Allen remained together for so many years. It was no secret that they didn’t get along and that there was increasing acrimony. So much so, that several years ago, the Tigers and FSD brought in new revolving co-hosts for Mario in order to give the two a breather from each other.

Granted, there are instances when conflicting personalities are kept together but the rationale usually involves top talent and high stakes. But let’s be honest here – Mario and Rod are mediocre at best and easily replaceable.

There was no reason to keep them together unless it involved a financial reason. More likely is the strategy that it was easier to simply keep everything as it is instead of exploring new candidates and doing test market auditions.

Potentially, the higher ratings due to the Tigers being in solid contention year after year facilitated the “do nothing” approach. A lack of action known as coasting. And it’s practiced by the lazy and uncaring. Other MLB teams change their broadcasters frequently unless they have a known top commodity and are killing it in the ratings.

I do, however, give props to both the Tigers and FSD for resisting the urge to put Impemba and Allen back together in the booth with cameras to catch every moment. That alone would have boosted ratings to their highest level in over 2 seasons and in a year when the media contract expires.

But allowing this relationship to fester until things came to a head doesn’t speak well of the decision-makers. It doesn’t speak well of their priorities. And it doesn’t speak well of the minimal performance goals they set for themselves and their organizations.

And alarmingly, we’ve seen this same practice in other areas of the Tigers’ system. In the clubhouse from 2015 through 2017. A clubhouse that grew increasingly unhappy, disparate and fractured. Increased in-fighting. Battles that moved from the clubhouse to the dugout and finally to the field. Battles caught on prime time tv.

And once again, you have to ask why it was allowed to continue. Why it was allowed to grow worse with each year. Why it was allowed to get so bad that players weren’t talking to each other. Why the decision-makers sat back and did nothing despite watching the growing frustrations evolve from the verbal to the physical.

And those issues are primarily why the team was widely described as underperforming for the past 2 years.

Yet, ownership and management chose to maintain the status quo. A manager increasingly ineffective and disliked – yet inexplicably kept for 4 years despite all the rumors, calls for change and a window of opportunity about to slam shut.

Of course, there are other examples of conflict within the organization but if we cut the chase, what we’re seeing is a pattern of behavior. A pattern that is part of their acceptable corporate culture. A pattern of ignoring the evidence, taking the path of least resistance and hoping for the best.

A pattern of ignoring a ticking time bomb and hoping it will all go away.

A pattern not seen with teams that win on a regular basis. And a pattern that tends to pop up in other areas of the organization if left unchecked. A pattern that allows violence to seep from the clubhouse into the dugout, onto the field and now, into the broadcast booth.

And a pattern in which those involved are rarely or meaningfully punished for their behaviors.

We can only hope that things don’t further disintegrate where we see members of the analytics department start to bash each other with their laptops next.


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