THE WILL TO WIN

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.

16 thoughts on “THE WILL TO WIN

  1. We’re stuck with a team that really doesn’t mind losing. It’s too bad because this team is good enough to win it all. It takes hard work to be consistent and they’re not disciplined enough to remain focused for long stretches. They’ll put together a nice stretch now and then but it won’t be sustained.

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  2. As a college teacher of management I pay a lot of attention to organizational culture, the values that drive an organization. In baseball it is called team chemistry, something that JL dismissed as of no importance. Unfortunately, that attitude appears to remain. The team does not show an energy and lust to win, unlike the Royals or the ’78 Yankees.

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    • The organization said they established The Tigers Way. It would’ve been much more simple to just copy the The Royals Way.

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    • You mean the Jim Leyland who won the most regular season games of any team in MLB the last 3 years he was there? That one?

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      • The 2006-2013 Leyland era was the longest competitive period for the Tigers. But there were the failures to win the division on the last day in 2006 and 2009, losing seasons in 2008 and 2010, two abysmal WS appearances, and dismissal of team chemistry. Team chemistry/attitude has long term effects – compare energy in opponents’ vs Tigers’ dugouts – traceable back to Leyland.

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  3. Does team management at the executive level understand that good teams inspire “gotta watch TV” and/or “gotta listen radio”? The apathetic play by many players fosters indifference on behalf of the fans. I know that as much as I love this team, more often than not, I’ll find other things to do rather than watch or listen to games.

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    • Me too. In fact, over the past couple of weeks, I just record the game and watch it a couple of hours later so I can fast forward between pitches. They really don’t show much enthusiasm, even after a home run. They all have high-fives, but seldom any real emotion.

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  4. Gordie Howe: “You find you have peace of mind & can enjoy yourself, get more sleep, & rest when you know it was a 100% effort that you gave-win or lose”. Despite the platitudes spoken after a loss I seldom feel they gave 100%. Effort goes beyond wanting to win. Having the will to win makes it happen. Holly’s right. We’re not seeing it.

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  5. It seems like just a week ago we were talking about a “pivotal game” that showed we had turned the corner. Now we’re talking about a game that shows the team doesn’t have the will to win. No single game tells us the whole story but it’s clear the trend if the past couple years shows us that something is seriously wrong.

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  6. We watched Miggy last night “slow trot” his way to first and wondered how he continues to get away with it. His yucking it up and playing around with the other team is getting hard to watch. I’ll bet you Kinsler is boiling inside at his antics and he is probably not alone. This team needs a strong, grizzled manager, who doesn’t constantly make excuses.

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    • It may have been the same play I was watching where Miggy hit ball 15 feet and began to run, only to slow down about half way when he realized the catcher would throw him out. No aggression, no forcing the catcher to possibly throw an errant ball. Shocked nobody says anything to him about his lack of hustle.

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      • RKR. Same play. That is disgusting. Why would anyone pay the big bucks to watch him do that? I do believe that the rest of the Tiger’s players hustle and for one guy to act like that, it has to affect Team Chemistry. We are still in the hunt and the entire team needs to play like ” Charlie Hustle” for us to be enjoying October Baseball.

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  7. Gordie Howe never cheated the fans on performance, either personal or professional, on the ice or off. He cared. The current Tigers organization, down to players, coaches, manager and players could learn from this. The commitment, culture and work ethic today is not the same.

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    • You have to be kidding……….nowadays athletes are in much better shape than they were backn50 years ago. Not even close either. Guys were tiny back then and didnt even workout. Most had jobs in off-season also. This group works way harder now, have too as way too much money/competiton now

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  8. I worked for both domino’s and lil ceasers. Dom’s was driven in fundamentals -claimed it was the secret to their success. Caesers was totally indifferent. Guess it shows in their showpiece players tram-gibby compared to caesers crew. Same organizational type. Agree with everything holly says. I was a trainer/ employee evaluator and would only suggest advancement for domino’s types.

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    • There’s no way any of us has a clue what’s going on behind the scenes with this or any MLB team. Tell you one thing the commitment now is 100x more than was years ago. Has to be as competition is 100x more also, more people and lots more money at stake. Todays world all about dont work hard enough you get left behind.

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