(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:
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.