By: Holly Horning
One game. It shouldn’t bother me so much. Afterall, the Tigers play 162 of them. Losses happen and if you manage to win over half of them during the year, you’re doing pretty well.
But this game, Monday night’s game, was a landmark game. One of those we will remember, more for what it symbolizes instead of what happened.
And a lot did happen on Monday. There was prolific hitting by both teams. But there was also a lot, and I mean a lot, of bad – baserunning, strategy, bullpen, managing, you name it. And a horrific 4-for-17 RISP that included several instances of the bases being loaded and no one being able to knock those runs in. Not a single member of the Tigers can escape blame for this one.
It was a game that came gift-wrapped for the Tigers. James Shields was coming off 2 horrendous games in which he gave up 10 and 7 runs each in a smattering of innings. And he was doing it again and the Tigers jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the early innings.
But this game turned into the tale of the Tortoise and the Hare as we watched the Sox improbably return from a 7-run deficit to win the game.
How bad was this game? (OK, let’s say it together, I know you want to…) It was sooo bad that the commentator on MLB Radio the next morning opened his show with, and I kid you not, “If you are a Tigers fan, you probably want to puke this morning.”
But while all the baseball blunders were seen, what we couldn’t visibly view was the lack of a will to win. The Tigers jumped out to a huge lead and then sat back and waited for the game to end. They thought they had this in the bag. They allowed the White Sox to chip away at the lead until it was too late.
Good teams don’t allow their competition to draw breath once a beating has been rendered. For whatever reason, the team couldn’t find the lid to slam on the pot. And that’s the bigger issue.
Monday’s game bothers me so much because it tells me that they don’t want to win as badly as other teams do. They let games get away. Heck, it even appears that they give some of them away. And even when they’re losing, they are still yucking it up on the basepaths with their competition and having a good ole’ time.
Even the media this week has been using terms such as “squandered” and “frittered” to describe that game.
And instead of leaving Chicago having won a series, the Tigers lost what was truly a winnable series.
It doesn’t help that excuses are always offered to explain a loss. Brad unbelievably called Wednesday’s game as “the first one that got away.” I get that no one within the organization should be called out publicly. It’s not professional and does more harm than good. But people should be held accountable privately. But have we seen anyone benched or punished for not holding up their end? Where is the incentive to raise the level of commitment?
Monday’s loss, which resulted in a series loss, was not the first time it’s happened this year. Nor last year if we remember a certain game with the Twins. But the truth is, contending teams don’t allow winnable games to be lost – at least not more than once or twice. They are known to “find a way to win.” Does that describe the Tigers?
Monday’s game was the lead story on both national tv and radio for the sheer enormity of its train-wreck factor. But the official word from the organization was one of excuses and not accountability. While the traditional media reported that the clubhouse was quiet, social media was documenting that at least one-third of the team was partying at a nightclub soon thereafter. While we understand the need sometimes to forget and move on, maybe a reflection or step-up by leadership would have been more appropriate.
But the bottom line remains that when there isn’t a strong will to win, and when excuses continue to be made for losing winnable games, we shouldn’t be surprised when these games, and these seasons, continue to be lost.