As the season has rolled on, and from reading social media comments, fans have become increasingly more uncomfortable with this Tiger team. The cracks have become bigger and the missteps more frequent. And then Saturday happened.
It was the day I felt that the wheels had truly come off the bus. First, it was the game in which the Tigers were shellacked by the Yankees to the tune of 14 – 3. The team could only muster two hits by the top of the seventh. The players appeared as if they could care less about being on the field, let alone trying to win a game.
And then 520 miles away, a different scenario was taking place. In a stadium in Washington, DC, Max Scherzer was on a mission for a perfect, or at least, no-hit game. The stadium, team and especially Max were on fire. The passion, determination and energy were palpable.
Are we really surprised that each game ended as it did? Are we shocked by the fact the Tigers had yet entered another losing streak that had turned ugly? Do we really believe that this below-expectations play is simply a matter of luck, getting on a winning streak or as Brad was hoping for – “water eventually finding its own level”?
I don’t think so – and most probably, neither do the majority of fans. The harsh reality is that even if the Tigers manage to pull out a decisive win, the odds of them continuing in an upward manner are not so great. How many multiple-game losing streaks followed by a single win do we need to see before understanding the likely pattern?
Outside of the region most influenced by the Detroit Tigers’ grasp, a much different story is being told. A tale of baseball’s fourth-highest payroll team currently labeled by many analysts as this year’s most disappointing team. Daily stories about players who seem unfocused and distracted. Stories of robotic at-bats, bad base-running and lethargic play. Stories that describe the team as appearing to go through the motions. But most importantly, stories questioning how so many accomplished players on a single team are unable to get the job done.
It is one thing to be considered a bad team. It is another to be characterized as “under-performing”, which is the term most often used to describe this year’s Tigers. Looking at offensive stats alone, the team ranks near the lead in the top five offensive categories. Yet this is a team that currently sits in third place and 5.5 games back. A team that leads MLB in scoring 2 runs or fewer per game despite proof of their offensive capabilities. The talent is simply not being harnessed.
And consider that the team has 7 batters in the starting lineup who are not getting RBIs. In last week’s two series, Miggy was responsible for 12 of 20 runs driven in with JD Martinez accruing 7. Even with the return of VMart, these three players cannot do the job alone. When it’s one or two players who are not producing, question them. When it’s almost an entire team, question the manager.
And in this case, all roads lead to Brad. A manager, who has been given a pardon because of injuries to JV and VMart. But much as we would like to have witnessed the birth of a new managerial wizard, time has simply run out for him. We have seen no significant improvements in his skills that would indicate he is ready to lead this team into October baseball, let alone winning a division. Great talent can mask a lot of problems, but eventually weaknesses become apparent.
While no player is going to publicly say that they have lost confidence in their manager, it just may appear that Max saw the telltale signs last year. Remember his comments about wanting to play for a “winning” team? While he apologized for saying it to the Detroit fan base and claimed it was a “misunderstanding”, he has repeated it numerous times since then and outside of the region. He meant what he said.
It is very possible that Max realized the 2015 Tigers would not improve under Ausmus. Yes, money was a huge factor for him and a justified reason for leaving, but was this his parting shot to the team? Was he recalling his own experiences from working for Brad last year?
So as much as we took umbrage over Max’s remarks last winter, there just may have been some truth to his comments. Maybe we actually owe Max an apology – or even a thank you. But right now, I’d just really like to know what Mr. I is thinking.