NOT JUST BASEBALL, “PLAYOFF” BASEBALL

By:  Holly Horning

It is ironic that if you live in the hometown area of your favorite baseball team, you have less choice when it comes to watching the games and hearing the news about your team.

But if you live outside the region, there are a plethora of options. Even more if you have the right technology. And that is a godsend to me in so many ways as I live on the East Coast.

And wanting more options is just not for watching or listening to the games. It’s also for the multiple points of view you can hear. Because you see, some teams really try to control the message that is sent out to the fans.

Those who live within the Michigan area have little choice. You’ve got one tv broadcast team, unless the game goes national. You’ve also got one radio format. But it is typical that most baseball teams tend to have almost complete control over their immediate viewing area.

Add in the local reporters who are dependent upon clubhouse access, and whose employers like to receive a sports’ team perks and advertising dollars, and it makes for a very cautious and very limited point of view. Boats are not rocked as a result.

Despite the fact that I sorely miss those lovely Michigan summers, I appreciate dealing with the insane heat and humidity in the East simply for the cornucopia of information and game coverage I receive here. For I am a techno geek. I have satellite – both radio, internet and tv in the home, office and car. Then there’s the MLB apps, sports station apps and the options offered by streaming, regular and smart TVs.

And while my husband counts down the days until baseball season is over and I’ve once again returned to the living, I’ve made a game out of finding the best broadcasts and coverage of our team. On most nights, I have 2-3 tv options and I’ve developed a habit this year of trying to watch non-FSD broadcasts in order to garner more complete and non-biased viewpoints about our Tigers. That is, unless my only options are with Hawk Harrelson or Joe Buck in the booth.

But did you know, for example, that Cal Ripken and Ron Darling often cover the Tigers for other networks? And they are really, really good.

Today, I want to focus on an in-depth radio segment done on the Tigers after their 8-1 loss to the Twins the other day. A satellite program that featured former GMs and players who discuss and debate the hot stories. And how the Tigers lost that game was the big topic for the day. Stuff that will never be seen or heard if you live within earshot of Michigan. Or if your techie toys are more Amish than advanced.

They said this is the time when teams need to be in “playoff baseball” mode. A style and strategy different than the rest of the year. And it involves having a sense of urgency about winning and invoking a short leash on anyone who is not having a great day, week or month. Failure is no longer an option and you should be focused on the game at hand and not on the one tomorrow.

All 3 analysts pointed to leaving Boyd in the game too long as the major factor for the loss. They questioned Brad’s failure to pull him early when the Tigers still had a chance to come back. They wondered why someone would leave a pitcher in the game when it was obvious it wasn’t working. They also questioned Brad’s explanation of trying to save the bullpen for down the road as his rationale.

And in what many fans have long thought, these guys who have been in the game and experienced multiple playoffs stated that it’s a mistake to manage for the future. A future you may not have.

The former GM, Front Office guy and player questioned why there was that hesitation to pull a poorly-performing pitcher combined with a continuing reluctance to use all the bullpen resources. They pointed to the great success Buck Farmer had in the game for so many innings and thought that if he had come in earlier, the Tigers would have had a better chance to win.

While we will never know what goes on behind the clubhouse doors, it was also revealed that playoff baseball also involves a stepped-up effort by the manager to monitor the team’s levels of calm vs stress as well as ensuring that the team increases its cohesiveness on the field. They also mentioned it’s his job to maintain and boost energy levels – and how leaving a pitcher in for too long kills the energy and mindset of the rest of the team.

All 3 came to the conclusion that the Tigers are not playing “playoff baseball.” They are leaving pitchers in to get shelled, allowing the game to get away and not using pinch-hitters more often for players who are slumping. They also pointed out how many have identified the Tigers as having one of the top 5 offenses in the game (yet ranked 9th in hitting but 14th in bringing in runs) but struggling to score proves a lack of cohesiveness among the hitters, especially in September.

With yesterday’s game, we now have 2 clear examples demonstrating how the team is not playing “playoff baseball.” The analysts also mentioned that the team must take 3 out of the 4 games with the Twins to be considered serious contenders for October baseball. Rut roh.

And this is why, if you live within the Tigers broadcast range, you’ll never hear frank analysis like this.

While Brad took his lumps in this discussion, what was left unsaid is the question we’ve been asking frequently for the past 3 years. Why did the Tigers hire a man to take a team to the World Series without having managerial, let alone playoff, experience?

Is it really fair to lay the majority of blame at his feet for why the Tigers are not practicing “playoff baseball?” Is one series with Baltimore back in October 2014 enough experience for him to position the team successfully for a run this year?

Or should we really be analyzing the people who hired him?

And that’s a question for another day…..

20 thoughts on “NOT JUST BASEBALL, “PLAYOFF” BASEBALL

  1. Holly, it was clear to me today, early in the game, when Pelfry threw wildly to first, that Cabrera was annoid about something. He didn’t even hustle to the ball and the runner went all the way to third. The look on his face afterward told a story. Why wasn’t todays game important enough to put a better pitcher in there?

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  2. Great op-ed today. I could not agree more with your assesment. It has been a crazy streak filled year. I keep hoping the Tigers can find that right rythem and just when I think we have it, we lose two or three games in a row! Oh well, I still love the Tigers! Keep up the great work Holly/Kurt…love your stuff!

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  3. Sox beat Cleveland 3 of 4 and we gain none. A gift squandered. Same old story. Off in the distance there, do you see it? Brad does. Change a comin… if they don’t sweep Cleveland this weekend. Splits give you nothing. Mike Illich has high, big name money, expectations, right? Just win baby. Perfume Pelfry’s rehab start mystifies me as much as Zimmerman’s. Bullpen? Hello?!

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  4. Amen, Holly! These things could not be better said. And please keep using all that newfangled technology to keep this Luddite well informed 🙂 P.S. I bet, and hope, that we (really you) do analyze those who did indeed hired, and then RETAINED, our novice manager.

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  5. The sad part is that Holly and I viewed it, breathed it, and have talked about these MAJOR flaws since taking in Spring training. This team HAD plenty of RPM’s this summer despite all the injuries. But our race car driver has no ability in the “curves” let alone the “straight always.” AA is going no where fast, Mr I has too much pride. But they MUST surely ” tweak” the Engine of this race car!

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  6. If these posts appeared in the local sport pages, 100’s of fans would join the discussion. Pablum only satisfies until you get a taste of red meat. A team should be managed with a “playoff baseball” mentality throughout the season so “playoff baseball” comes naturally. This isn’t happening, & the answer lies in your “question for another day”. I can’t wait for that discussion!

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    • Absolutely correct! When you play as if you can always kick it into another gear when you need to, chances are you will never be able to when the time comes.

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  7. “All 3 analysts pointed to leaving Boyd in the game too long as the major factor for the loss.” The Tigers scored one run. He should have been pulled sooner, but that wouldn’t have affected the outcome.

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    • Disagree. Down 2 runs is much different than down 5. you could see the hitters mentally check out. This points out another of Dartmouth’s shortcomings…a motivational leader.

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      • Interesting…Do teams tend to score fewer runs when they are far behind? As you say, there is a psychological component. On the other hand, you probably aren’t seeing the cream of the other guys’ bullpen. I’d love to see a systematic study of this. But if you “check out” down five with the playoffs on the line, leaving a pitcher in too long is not your big problem.

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  8. Brad’s explaination on why he left Boyd in was to save the bp says it all! WINNING THE GAME AT HAND IS NOT HIS FIRST PRIORITY! If the Ilitch brain trust does not fire Brad the fans will know that winning isn’t the family’s primary goal, TV contracts and attendance rule. BTW Holly, I recently watched the White Sox broadcast and Harrelson/Steve Stone were much better than Mario & Rod.

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  9. Holly, thanks for the analyses that my “Amish” lack of techie toys won’t allow me to find/hear!!!! Watch out. It’s looking more and more like Brad will be retained. If that happens, even though I have been a Tiger fan since 1965, I will definitely have to upgrade my techie toys and find a new team to follow because I can’t endure any more of this “management” style.

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  10. Come on fellow readers, and writers from the Detroit media who privately read this blog (you know who you are) did any of you think that Pelfrey was going to get the better of the Twins in a must-win game? From here on out, they are all must-wins. I fear our team will run out of has completely really soon and just mail it in when they reach Atlanta.

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  11. Great analysis once again Holly. My major problem with Ausmus is his continuous lack of “feel” for the game and situation, especially bullpen use. Remember in the Orioles playoff game when he pulled Sanchez when he was mowing down batters because he was worried about his pitch count. I’m sorry to say not much has changed since then.

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  12. I love hearing Hawk call games. He is absolutely a homer but he calls out the Sox, the umps and opponents when deserved. Look up some of his rants on YouTube. Holly ~ Hawk is what you purportedly want the Tigers TV and radio crews to be and so do I.
    This was a great article, BTW.

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  13. What Helen said. Love the edge you’re bringing to your columns, Holly. Excellent content. Ausmus is making the same core mistakes now that he’s made from the beginnning. His ingrained incompetence, in the leadership role, is the primary reason for the team’s underperformance at every level. Are AA and Mr. I capable of seeing this?

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  14. Another case in point was Brad’s decision to allow Pelfrey to pitch to Dozier yesterday with 1st base open. They were down 2 runs at that time. His explanation was he didn’t want Hardy to come in with the bases loaded. Well, the bases weren’t loaded when Hardy took over as Dozier drove a couple in. Sheesh!

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