By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
It’s Tuesday, so two topics will be tackled by our writers. After a highly successful home stand that helped bring the Tigers within 2 games of the Indians, Holly and Kurt will address the good and the bad.
Remember, our writers do not share their answers. But let’s all take a peek.
Did you think the Tigers were capable of getting hot and getting back in the race after their last trip to Chicago? Why or why not?
The three series after the All-Star Game were crucial to the Tigers as the Indians were hot, getting hotter and starting to pad their lead with the non-waiver trade deadline also looming. The latter especially, as Al Avila stated, would determine in which direction the Tigers would go – the perfect motivation for the team to step it up.
After they failed to win 2 out of the 3 series, even against weaker teams, common sense would tell you that happy times would not be ahead. If you remember from earlier blogs, I am always cautiously optimistic – believing in neither extreme ends of the spectrum, so in this case, I didn’t think things would turn out well, but I also was unable to write off the team completely.
But my thoughts were based, not on the talent levels, but on the mental ones. I’ve always believed the physical skill sets were there but I didn’t see a cohesive bunch of guys who had enough passion or focus in them to solidify as a team and work towards a common goal. In fact, this had been missing for a number of years and it appeared that no one was interested in recognizing and resolving it.
I don’t think the talent just suddenly appeared – it was just finally harnessed. And the key, I believe, was revealed the other night from watching a non-Tigers broadcast in which the camera recorded a full 10 minutes of pre-game prep in the Tigers dugout featuring Cameron Maybin. He systematically worked his way down the bench, having intense conversations with each position player and then hugging each one at the end. How else to explain the sudden switch being thrown by each and every player to up their game?
Come on, haven’t we all watched enough comebacks in this game? Aren’t we surprised over and over by teams seemingly without a pulse, to see them surge into contention and over the top? But even knowing all of that, after leaving Chicago on their way to Fenway, this team looked ready to cash it in. Certainly no good was going to come out of having to take on a hot Red Sox team followed by a very good Houston Astros team.
I was feeling a sweep in Boston and not in a good way. Especially after that crushing Sunday in Chicago that saw the team endure 2 walk off losses.
But as fans we have to remember that each and every time the Tigers send Verlander and Fulmer to the mound, the chances are much better that they will win than lose, and both were due to pitch in Boston. We have to remember that a fairly healthy Miggy and VMart are still anchoring the middle of the lineup; a critical element in the success of the offense. So it’s another lesson learned. This team has talent, has finally gelled and are very much in this race here in August, much to my surprise.
Does JD’s critical base running error in Sunday’s game fall on him, Dave Clark, or both?
When your team loses more bases every month than they take, year after year, we shouldn’t be surprised when things like this happen. It is just one of the latest and most visible examples of a team that doesn’t embrace fundamentals nor has a strategy to enforce certain levels of play.
And this has nothing to do with speed – it is all about smart base running and coaching. The Tigers have had a series of third base coaches who have performed poorly but it’s not entirely their fault as the team has failed to develop a clear policy as well as a plan that addresses players who routinely ignore and override the signs given to them.
The bottom line is that top teams don’t end up with 2 runners on third base, especially with the game on the line. In this particular case, several media analysts noted that Dave Clarke was not in the right location to clearly see what was going on and the play was to JD’s back so he needed to depend upon his coach for guidance. He also initially waved JD home, then stopped him, then waved him on again.
JD was the consummate professional and took the blame but in his comments, he unintentionally revealed that Clarke kept changing his mind and that it was confusing about what he needed to do. And in a game where speed is the weapon, how can anyone be successful when he’s being told to run, stop and then run again?
So while this particular incident was the fault of Clarke, I also think it’s fair to cast blame upon the entire organization for failing to address fundamentals as well as holding both players and coaches accountable.
Bloops and squibs and bad hops all have helped to keep the team on a roll. And the Tigers had an opportunity to get another cheap run in the 8th inning on Sunday; one that would have given them the lead.
JD has to be running hard with 2 outs with only the crack of the bat being his signal to take off. There is no stopping, no looking, no turning of the head, unless of course he was told to stop.
Dave Clark hasn’t been the most stellar third base coach, constantly sending runners to the plate only to watch them thrown out, sometimes by a large margin. But with two outs, JD has no reason to even think about anything but going home, not in that situation. We would much rather complain about him getting thrown out at the plate than watch him sheepishly and tentatively find himself caught in the middle.
Aggressiveness had to rule in this instance. I was surprised to see him stop at all and it appeared Justin Upton was just as surprised as he continued on to third base behind JD. But if you have a coach pumpin’ the brakes, aggressive gives way to tentative. JD scoring in that situation would have had emotions running high in the ninth, potentially propelling the team to another series sweep.