By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
It’s Tuesday, so two topics will be tackled by our writers. It’s been a week we would like to forget. An important week left burning in the ashes. So our writers have questions to ponder.
Nothing is shared prior to publishing, offering a good differential in how these questions are answered. Here are this week’s Tuesday questions.
What is your biggest take-away from this last week of games?
The Tigers were given multiple gifts this past week that other teams would kill to have. Facing the worst team in the AL and the team sitting just above them. Both the Twins and Chisox came along just as their organizations were going through turmoil – the firing of a GM and a pitcher doing his best imitation of Edward Scissorhands and getting sent home. The same pitcher who is one of the best in baseball with a 14-3 record and a 1.0 WHIP and slated to start against the Tigers.
Despite all of this, the Tigers came away winning just 3 games (barely winning 2 of them) and losing 4. Despite most analysts still saying they have the talent to compete, especially offensively.
And they were unable to capitalize on this and take real advantage, especially given that the Indians were swept. They could have ended up realistically being only 4 games out but instead only gained a half game and sit at 6 out.
A team with a killer instinct and playoff hopes would have gone for the jugular this past week but instead, opportunities galore were simply wasted. But the single biggest realization for me, and hopefully for Al Avila, too, is that the real concern is not a lack of talent – it is one based upon a lack of mental fortitude and leadership.
One monstrous missed opportunity. That was the week for the Tigers. They play a puzzling brand of baseball. Things kind of came to a head on Sunday; both for the resumption of Saturday’s game and then during the ninth inning of the next game.
We saw fundamental mistakes in the infield with second base left uncovered with the runner attempting to steal. We saw our third baseman charge towards home to field a ball, but then stood there before he returned to third to cover as a runner considered advancing.
But let’s not leave our manager out of the discussion. Bruce Rondon was brought in to protect a tie game Sunday after a miraculous 3-homer comeback in the Tigers’ half of the ninth.
It was so important to shut them down after the comeback, but seeing Rondon come in was just one more, yes one more example of a manager with little competitive instincts. Regardless of who pitched how much, you have to shut them down and give your team the best chance to win.
Missed opportunities describe this week and the Tigers are not being led or inspired. I will always wonder what Joe Maddon could have done with this team.
After this week, do you think Al Avila is more likely to buy, trade or stand pat?
My response above weighs heavily in this answer – and I’m hoping that Avila was as disgusted as I was over this past week’s performance.
That said, I am praying that Al had a wake-up call after seeing his team lose one series and tie another where they faced the 2 worst teams in a weak division, even after being given multiple advantages, and come out with only 3 wins (just 1 of them solid). There is no way on God’s green earth this team will make the playoffs and it has little to do with the level of talent.
Any changes made should be about introducing a new corporate culture that detests losing and inspiring a mental fortitude where they play every game to win – down to the last out.
Don’t get me wrong – personnel changes need to be made but many of those changes are outside of the players. I would hope that Avila sees the primary need as restructuring this organization and doesn’t dig a deeper hole by pursuing the unrealistic dream of October baseball.
If anything, I would welcome a change that would start addressing next year’s needs. And maybe that might include dumping some expensive talent in anticipation of the rise of promising youngsters to replace them.
But if Al saw this past week correctly, one of the most crucial weeks of the season, he’ll stand pat – at least with the roster. Bonus points if he starts addressing the root cause of why this team doesn’t act or perform at the levels everyone says they are capable of achieving.
I happen to believe Al Avila. For this year’s version of the Tigers, the proper move is to do nothing or very little. But if I had to lean one way or the other, I would sell. The problem is who are they selling? All the value for the Tigers, outside of KRod, is tied up in contracts not close to expiring.
But from the beginning of the season, we have had this underlying current of a manager no one wanted in Detroit but Avila. And the Tigers have shown countless times that they are a boat without a rudder.
So given the situation, the wisest thing to do is to keep what we have, finish as strong as our manager will allow, and work for 2017. Sorry, but that’s where we are. In the meantime, we are still in the race, but how real does it seem?