What motivates a team to win?
What can will a team to win?
Can emotion will a team to win; a desire to work harder than you ever worked before?
Is there a goal out there so powerful that it can sustain itself for a number of months?
There are so many examples in sports. Great stories. Emotional stories. Teams who want to win for someone else. Someone who has been injured. Someone who has been unjustly fired. And yes, someone who has died. Over and over we have seen them.
I believe in emotion. Winning for a cause or a person is something a team can get behind. Something a fan base can get behind. But how long can that emotional drive last? Most examples in sports, the successful ones, take place over a short period of time.
But in baseball, when the cause you are fighting for is an emotional one, before the season even begins, the challenge can seem overwhelming.
The Tigers will begin this season, now more than ever, wanting to win for Mike Ilitch. The players have mentioned it. The manager has mentioned it. It’s there. It’s alive. And it’s worthy. Brad Ausmus will be smart to use it. And I don’t say that disrespectfully. The team is going to need to be reminded at every turn if this emotional goal is going to sustain itself.
As a result of Mike Ilitch’s death, Brad Ausmus has never had a bigger opportunity to lead. The team, the veteran core, the players who have loved playing under the guidance and support of Mike Ilitch, will dedicate this season to him. And Brad, more than any other season, will have something substantial to use to continue to encourage his team, especially when things are not going well, because those times are going to present themselves.
This can and must be Brad’s personal rallying cry for his team. He has to seize that drive and emotion that, because of Mr. I’s death, is present within each and every player who knows this is the year. This is the only year. The only year left. To win for him.
They know they have the talent. They know they have the potential. They will need contributions from unexpected sources. And who knows? They may get them from players who have not been performing, who will take that same emotional drive into this season.
Maybe someone like Anibal Sanchez, who knows he has little time left with this organization. Heck, how much motivation does JD Martinez have to really work hard this spring, to be in the best possible condition, to help the Tigers win during a season that will certainly be his last in Detroit; for an ownership who brought him out of the ashes to resurrect his career?
This is a new beginning for this team. But it’s the beginning of the end. The proverbial handwriting is on the wall. The core has been given one last shot to finish the job. Dave Dombrowski and Al Avila have been more than familiar with the “win now” mode they lived under during the Mike Ilitch regime.
But the team and its management have never felt it more than this year, ironically, now that Mr. I. has left them. But it has a completely different feel. There has been no more spending. There has been no free-wheeling attack on the free agent market. The water has been shut off in that regard.
The Tiger brass has shouted quite loudly that this is their team. And almost mercifully, they have kept the core together in hopes that the team would fuel themselves with the memory of their late owner. One last time.
Do I believe in emotional victories? Oh, you bet I do! It’s the one variable that drives me to write about the Tigers. I own the emotional side of this blog partnership. And I want the Tigers to do the incredible.
The Tigers need to be radical and almost religious in their pursuit, because the flaws in this core, the fundamental imperfections, and yes, the health of this team, are real.
But emotion can overcome imperfections. And the cause needs to be present in their minds in everything they do. They need to train like they want it. They need to focus like they mean it. They need to play smart. They need to prepare smart.
It’s the ultimate sports fantasy, really. It’s the kind of story that would be talked about and forever remembered and recorded in history.
But it is the biggest of long shots. And we are all suckers for a dream. There is one thing my brother Doug says to me and my brothers whenever we say something negative about any of our local teams’ chances of winning a championship: “Hey, don’t mess with my dreams!”
So be careful how you react to this post. Sure, you could set this whole pep talk to music if you wanted. But there is nothing more powerful than emotion. It’s just a matter of how long you can make it last.
All of this makes this baseball season in Detroit unlike any other. So let’s embrace it for what it is.
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If you haven’t checked out our site (@totallytigersbb) yet, here’s what you missed this week:
– The controversy surrounding Ian Kinsler’s ranking of the best 2Bers
– Proof that Miggy is considered by most to be one of the very top 1Bers
– How Daniel Norris is very similar to Michael Fulmer
– The Tigers’ placement within the 100 best prospects in baseball
– MLB’s rankings of each position and where each Tiger stands
– VMart still ranks as one of the very best despite his lack of running
– Why the Pirates handled their CF issue much better than the Tigers
– Personal thoughts directly from JV, Miggy and Ian Kinsler
– Pace of play updates
– Tigers ranking of best uniform hats
– The best quotes about Mr. I from those who knew him best
– And more! What are you waiting for??