By:  Holly Horning

After reading the social media sites associated with the Tigers for a while, one can clearly see where the majority of readers posting stand on each and every player.

It’s easy to see why loyal followers universally love Miggy and VMart. They’re great at what they do, they have unbelievable work ethics and outwardly exhibit positive personalities. Most of us also felt favorably about Torii Hunter who always had a smile for everyone and an infectious personality and sense of humor. Same with Austin Jackson. Today, we would probably include JD Martinez, Rajai Davis, David Price and the high-energy Iggy into that category.

But what about the others? The guys about whom we don’t know enough? The guys who are quiet? The guys who don’t show much expression? Just how much does personality and facial emotion play into our acceptance and support for a player?

Well, according to numerous studies, a lot. We are required to form our opinions of Tiger players based upon what we see of them in the dugout, on the field and during the occasional interview. And showing a positive, extroverted or high-energy personality gives them a decided edge in how favorably we rank them.

For example, when Brayan Pena was with the team, he was a fan favorite and many considered him to possess skills higher than he actually had. Who didn’t love that ready smile or the infamous play at the plate where, face down, he raised his arm and shook that ball in his hand in victory? A lot of fans preferred him over the starting catcher. Which brings us to…..

Yes, Alex Avila. Despite the fact that Avila ranked as the third best defensive catcher in MLB last year, he has been designated as the fans’ whipping boy for the past several years. Granted, some of this is due to his rather anemic bat, but few fans give him the credit he deserves. And this is because Avila does not publicly show emotion or give anyone a clue as to what his personality is like. He always appears stoic whether a great play has been made or he strikes out. If he appeared to be friendly and personable or even smiled regularly, would we feel differently?

And then there are the enigmas – Romine, Perez, Castellanos, Soria and Gose. Guys with solid skills for the most part but don’t outwardly show their personalities or emotions. Players who maybe receive more criticism because fans find it harder making a connection with them. Even Anibal Sanchez, arguably one of the best pitchers out there, keeps out of the spotlight and tends to be forgotten in discussions about the rotation. It may be easy to see why given the extroverted personalities of Price, JV – and until recently, Max and Fister.

Coaches and managers are not immune either. Many fans, including myself, are still trying to feel their way around Brad Ausmus. His facial expressions are rather limited and outwardly, he appears hesitant in expressing himself or letting go in interviews or in the dugout. Too soon to tell if this is his authentic self or if the pressure of being the new kid on the block makes him cautious. Only time will tell. You can bet I’ll be watching his every move….



  1. Heh heh. I hope I don’t appear to be making your point for you, but I don’t think Avila is simply the fans’ “whipping boy”. And I’m pretty sure it’s his anemic batting average, along with his high strikeout rate that brings the criticism. I can’t speak for everyone but, frankly, I couldn’t care less about his personality. Those things don’t concern me at all. I will admit I don’t like players who are said to be negative influences in the clubhouse or dugout. But other than that, whether they smile or sign autographs or what not really doesn’t bother me.

    As for Anibol Sanchez, my guess is the reason he doesn’t get as much attention as some of the Tigers’ other pitchers is more due to the fact he hasn’t put up as good as numbers or won as many Cy Young awards, than anything to do with personality. Just as I highly doubt it was those other pitchers’ extroversion that helped them to achieve their success-either on the mound or in public perception. Just saying.


    • Hi, Randall – My point was not about how personality and facial expressions influence success. It’s about how they influence fans’ opinions about them. There are currently 38 studies that support this as a factor in influencing public opinion. AA fans would argue that his OBP is one of the team’s highest – but he gets little credit. As for Anibal, don’t forget he was in the running for Cy Young, threw a no-hitter and was also the ERA king. In the media world, they use the term “Q factor” – a way of measuring likability that boosts public perception.


      • Holly: My point was that, at least in my case, and the 38 studies notwithstanding, it’s not what influences me. I would say that Avila’s OBP gets a great deal of attention, seeing as that, along with his highly touted “great defense” are obviously what keeps him in a major league uniform. I also think it would bring greater acknowledgment if, along with it, he could keep his batting average at least north of the “Mendoza line”.

        I have to admit I had forgotten that Sanchez had once thrown a no-hitter but, of course, it was before he played for the Tigers. And yes, he did lead the league in ERA a couple of years ago. But all in all, over the course of his career, he hasn’t really put up Cy Young type statistics and so, playing on a team with three pitchers who actually have, of course he isn’t going to garner as much attention. I just don’t agree that, in these players’ cases at least, personality has anything to do with it.


  2. I’ll agree here, Holly – perception is reality when it comes to player opinions. It even extends to the media, who will praise a gritty, scrappy grinder type to the high heavens, while at the same time question the heart of a quiet, emotionless guy unless he oozes pure talent.

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