By: Holly Horning
Say what you will about Jim Leyland, but he knew how to run a clubhouse. He set parameters. And players, for the most part, knew how to behave. If he had problems with them, it was discussed behind closed doors and Jimmy always took the fall for them in the media. Naturally, JL had the respect of all the players on his team.
So one has to be wondering what Leyland is thinking when he sees everything that is going on with the players now. Unfortunately, Sunday’s peculiar incident with David Price is the latest snafu of what has become an increasing list of examples showing Brad has little influence, in fact waning influence over the team in which he has been charged.
It was surprising to find a guy, recently retired from playing and with no managerial experience, put in charge of veterans and superstars. He’d have to earn their respect and put more effort into it than another new manager with a track record. I’m very surprised that management did not seriously weigh this factor in the decision process.
The first visible sign of player mutiny was the ongoing battle with Justin Verlander last year. Three public arguments during games that culminated in examples of JV’s sailor-worthy swearing, a petulant performance at the plate and an equipment-throwing tirade in the dugout.
Fast-forward to this year and the list is not only growing, but it’s picking up speed. Scenes of Castellanos and Rajai being dressed down in the dugout during games – and picked up by tv cameras. In fact, Brad criticizing Rajai several times publicly that only create bad feelings. Could anyone blame Rajai for wanting to set things right with the media?
Kinsler has also made veiled references to bad moves while the number of players throwing each other under the bus has increased. Leyland would never have allowed this to happen.
But while the past week brought some spectacular moments of joy – Miggy, Iggy, McCann and the Martinez twins – it was also a week known for two major meltdowns. The first involved the infamous game the Tigers lost when Victor was pulled from the game. Poor Josh Wilson was left to determine whether the team won or lost with a bases loaded situation. And it was quite damning when VMart, the epitome of baseball professionalism, was asked how he felt about being pulled for a utility player. His “no comment” was very telling.
And once again, the Tigers are in the news for all the wrong reasons despite winning Sunday’s game against the Chisox. David Price, knowing that his pitch count was one of his lowest, leaves the game. Somehow, his manager, pitching coach and 3 other coaches don’t even notice his absence in the dugout for half an inning. It took JV to spring into action and notify them. Price was in the clubhouse and out of uniform.
What the local media has ignored is the significant issue surrounding Price’s precise pitching ritual. He was quoted recently about his duty to stay in the dugout for the entire game. We even know about the infamous “assigned seat” which is delineated by white tape and often occupied by a designated sitter. But, for the first time, he was not there and the seat was empty.
While it has been portrayed in the media as “miscommunication”, the national media and especially former players and GMs in the media are not buying it. Yes, when you abandon your pitching day routine, that should raise a red flag for everyone.
But what is telling is Price’s response to JV, who came to fetch him for the seventh inning:
“No, I’m not. I have zero uniform on right now.”
It appears that Price is making the decision not to return – and overruling his manager.
In response to the media’s questions, David further said,
“You can put it on me. I’m fine with that. Write what you want to write. I don’t care.”
No apologies, no wish to discuss. Obviously, he’s upset about something. What that is, we may never know – but the man is unhappy enough to abandon his teammates and snap at the media.
And this is where the rubber hits the road for the Tigers’ manager. Dissention has permeated the clubhouse, team chemistry is suffering and players are making their own rules. But now you have two of your biggest names speaking out and clearly unhappy. And this should be the point where Mr. I steps in.
When you have invested so much money into the team and now have some of your top talent upset, this is when you must consider how to stop the bleeding.
Do you get rid of your stars or put them in a position where they want to leave? Do you trade multiple unhappy players? Or do you make one surgical cut? I think we know what the answer should be…….