This has been a very busy season for the Tigers, especially since the beginning of January.
Oh, did you think I was referring to Hot Stove season? Oh, no, no, no – I meant to say that the Redemption, Reminder and Reassurance season has started in earnest. If you didn’t catch the original blog, read it here:
Al Avila has been working overtime in the papers and on radio and tv to reassure fans about the lack of trades and the gaping hole in centerfield. The usual suspects are cranking out their “stay calm” articles regularly now.
Jordan Zimmermann is fine. Alex Avila was the best option for backup catcher. And there is absolutely no coincidence that his father is the GM of the team. Drew VerHagen is completely recovered. All the players who performed very well last year will repeat their work again in 2017. And Mr. I is still fully in charge.
In fact, everything about the team is just peachy according to the majority of writers. No need to be worried. Oh, and just whip out that credit card of yours and get your ticket packages – while you still can.
Hmm, you get the idea. Expect more to come. And pull out your waders.
But a chink in the armor appeared when one writer for a local Detroit newspaper dared to publish a piece on the sad state of all of Detroit’s professional sports teams, especially their lack of recent playoff and championship years. And now you can’t find it anymore on the paper’s site. Not the first time we’ve seen semi-critical pieces get pulled within 24 hours of being published.
And in a similar vein, another writer, widely recognized as one of the best, is nowhere to be found, at least when it concerns the Tigers, because he writes what he sees. Allegedly, someone fond of wearing blue and orange animal-stripes wasn’t thrilled with him covering the team.
To add to this, more than a couple of our readers have relayed personal stories of the understanding that comes with being a sportswriter in this region.
This is what happens when reporters need income and clubhouse access, newspapers need advertising dollars and sports teams need solid attendance to help offset their humungous payrolls.
Lest you think this is normal in any big city, think again. I live within a wide swath of the East Coast where sports fans’ patience is almost non-existent and journalists live to criticize everything about their hometown sports teams. There is more skewering here than praise.
And you know what? It’s a very effective system for giving fans what they want and expect much more quickly.
When you have a local media who is not hesitant to criticize owners, GMs, managers and players, there is nowhere for that team to hide. They are being made accountable publicly and spurred to make the necessary changes on a more timely basis.
I’ve seen it here in DC with all the professional sports teams. One team in particular that was scrutinized in every aspect. Only when the owner saw his 15+ year waiting list for season tickets completely disappear and seats go empty, was he inspired to make changes. No one in this town is immune. Even the mascots.
And the same goes for NY, too. Even the mighty Yankees suffered when family troubles forced two brothers to take over the team and try to run it differently than their father. The papers were merciless and within a short time, significant changes were made that brought fans back.
Personally, I never understood why one of Detroit’s sports teams continued to attract fans despite decades of mediocrity,1 playoff win in 25 years and the sport’s longest drought.
And another team that hasn’t won a World Series in 32 years and has the second longest drought in their division after the Cleveland Indians.
Would things play differently if the media felt free to write what they wanted? Would teams be more proactive in working harder towards that winning formula if more fans voted with their wallets?
Probably. Revenue is always the final determining factor for whether changes get made or not. But not all fans are like you, dear readers. There are more fans who see sports as entertainment filler and don’t dig beneath the surface. Fans who are happy seeing games and not really caring about the quality of the product. But maybe they should.
When you put restrictions on your media, and when many fans are unable to readily access information that explains what is going on, you end up with a fan base that more or less happily accepts mediocrity. And pays for it, too.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when fans routinely wonder why all their teams always seem to fall short year after year. The real question to ask is whether the local culture and business relationships will change anytime soon. Until they do, don’t expect the teams to rethink their goals with any sense of urgency.