A (CULTURAL) CHANGE WILL DO YOU GOOD

(with apologies to Sheryl Crow)

By:  Holly Horning

After the Tigers lost a series to the worst team in the AL and second-worst in all of MLB, a series in which they scored a total of 4 runs spread out over 3 games, here are some of the quotes from the team after Wednesday’s 4-1 loss:


It’s nothing that doesn’t happen to other hitters.”

“Maybe this is the jumping-off point and we’ll start rolling.”

“We’ll keep plugging away. There’s not much you can do.”

“Everyone’s gonna have an off-day.”

“We were in an offensive funk before they came here.”

No big deal.”

“I don’t think we’re the only ones.”

“We hit the ball pretty good but just didn’t score any runs.”

We’ll keep plugging away. There’s not much you can do.”


What do all of these quotes have in common? They are excuses.

And in none of the articles I read did anyone admit that the team played disappointing baseball, let alone take responsibility. Even against the worst team in the league that ranks dead last in ERA and opposition batting average and is ranked 28th overall in pitching.

Even one of the local journalists reported that Brad shrugged his shoulders and launched into his “’That’s baseball’ rationalization for failure.”

And all of the above is the problem.

When you have a team that doesn’t make the players responsible, when you allow excuses to be made, there is no accountability and no incentive for players to up their game. The buck gets passed.

And there is no sense of urgency to win. The comments about how it’s a long season, how it’s “just baseball” and how the team will undoubtedly play better just deflect and delay the blame until the season is lost.

But maybe this series is really a blessing in disguise. Maybe it is the wake-up call that Mr. I and Al Avila need. Or at least, let’s really hope so.

Because this problem goes way beyond adding a starting pitcher or fixing the bullpen. Not even adding multiple players will fix it because the real issue does not concern talent. There is a pervasive corporate culture problem. And this may be the reason why the national media universally believes the Tigers are consistently underperforming.

There is not a system in place that teaches, encourages or focuses on the will to win. A system lacking in inspiring leadership and failing to promote pride and competitive performance. Losses are shrugged off, players appear as if they are often elsewhere, excuses are made and games appear to be given away.

There appears to be a belief among some fans (and maybe within the organization) that these guys are professionals and all come to the park with the same level of motivation as each other. That they don’t need any help or inspiration to perform at their best levels. And this is just incredibly naïve to believe that everyone is capable of self-motivating at similar high levels. There is no business on earth that practices this belief – at least within those still operating.

Look at how much the Cardinals do within their system starting as soon as a player enters their fold. They have a detailed program that addresses mentoring, leadership, teamwork, training and continuing education from all levels from A through MLB. Coincidence that they perform well almost every year? Not likely.

In the Twins series, the bottom line is that the Tigers knew what they had to do. And against the worst team in the AL, second worst team in both leagues, and against a team distracted by their GM being fired. And given such favorable odds, they still lost the series and in ugly fashion. No one appeared embarrassed yet everyone offered excuses.

And when you go down that road, you shouldn’t be surprised about the losses or lack of competitive fire. An attitude that shrugs off losses so easily will never win you anything of significance.

The Washington Nationals hired a new manager in Dusty Baker who implemented a “no excuses” policy. Even Dusty owns up to his mistakes publicly and it was reported that the players also adopted his attitude. And they have been having a great year, mostly in first place and playing to their potential.

Sadly, from our viewpoint, it appears the Tigers simply don’t want to do what it takes to win as much as other teams do. This last series clearly showed us that. Something we also covered earlier in our blogs:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/the-will-to-win-what-money-cant-buy/

Other than JV, Vmart, Kinsler, Maybin and maybe Castellanos, what other players will make that extra effort to try to win every game? Which guys will fight to the end? One-fifth of your roster is not enough to put you over or near the top.

So who’s to blame? That’s the $203 million dollar question. Is it Ausmus or does it go back to Jim Leyland? Is it the fault of the Front Office and the GMs – both past and present? Or does it go back to the owner? And does Midwest Nice play into this at all?

And let’s not leave out the fans. Could this fantastic and loyal fan base that packs Comerica year after year be the excuse the organization needs to avoid implementing changes? Could the lack of overt fan displeasure keep them from making the necessary changes?

All good questions needing answers. And not just about this year. Consider that despite all the immense talent, prestigious awards, division titles and being named as one of the top recent dynasties by the media, the Tigers have not won a World Series in 32 years. Consider that in Dave Dombrowski’s tenure, the roster has changed approximately 50% almost every year with only 1 player remaining from 2006. Consider that the Tigers have had 2 different managers during that time.

If you eliminate most of the suspects, you have to start looking elsewhere for the culprit. And it’s unlikely to be found within the roster.

10 thoughts on “A (CULTURAL) CHANGE WILL DO YOU GOOD

  1. You’ve nailed it Holly! This needs to find the hands & eyes of Mr. I and Avila. Only by owning up to it’s failures can the team start to remedy the motivational issues that continue to plague just about every player. I wonder if this is outlined in the Tigers Way manual because the excuses roll off the manager’s, our GM and players tongues too easily.

    Liked by 1 person

    • These same excuses have been around since Ausmus took over at the helm. The belief that talent is all that is needed to succeed has taken over this team like a cancer. Talent without effort is really hard to watch and to cheer for. Pretty bad when Pelfrey is the only player on the team that’s willing to take the blame.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi, Jon – Thank you for all your thoughtful comments which unfortunately, we couldn’t publish in their entirely due to word limits. Keep them coming – just spread them out a little so we can read them all. 😉 Thanks for being a reader! – Holly

        Like

  2. This team will not win a World Series, that window has closed. What is their long range plan, there is none. It is all about immediate gratification, The organization and the owner must finally face up to the fact they are approaching what economists call the law of diminishing returns.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Last off season should have been a quiet one and the beginning of a rebuild that was started at the trade deadline last July. The moves that Avila made have now made rebuilding into a much longer process. The Upton contract has a good chance of becoming another unmovable contract that will end up handcuffing this team during that rebuilding process.

      Like

  3. TT out of the park today. I’ve sad it before, loved Mr I & DD to death. Their “”win now” approach gave us 10 great seasons. It, at the same time produced all of the ticking time bombs Holly listed. I will not print my suggested solution just as Holly doesn’t (darn you😁) but buckle up, the road gets bumpy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This should be required reading for the owners, GM’s, managers, coaches, players, reporters, sportscasters, & fans. How many years have they scratched their collective heads puzzling over the “why” this team underperforms? There’s a reason the Old English D has become synonymous with dysfunctional, & you’ve wrapped it up & put a bow on it Holly. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You couldn’t be more right, Holly, and that’s why I am firmly in the sell and rebuild camp now. This can’t be fixed with the players and management we have now.

    Like

  6. Holly your spot on. As a trainer & friends with teachers I hold responsible the national culture that punishes hard work,self discipline and doesn’t keep score of games. Everything about instant gratification and not breaking a sweat. Seen it since the mid-90’s! All my life the best bosses advanced in their early 20’s. Now we can’t promote till much later.

    Like

  7. These responses are carryovers from the previous manager (JL). A players manager if you will. And ,in my estimation, the reason the Tigers were not ready for the world series either time under JL when Vegas had made them heavy favorites in both cases.

    Like

Comments are closed.