How dedicated are the Tigers to winning? How selfless are they? Have they formed a bond as a team? Do they have a pulse, a drive? Do they show enthusiasm?
If you want to call someone a 5-tool player, well, you know, I guess I want to know what tools they possess beyond the talent.
Managers have never had it so difficult. It is their job to make their group of players a team. There are different personalities. Different nationalities. Different pay scales. And yes, different levels of intensity. Or they have different ways to show their intensity.
There are no rules for how they should act. There are examples of stars in this game who never seem to show a pulse, who show very little expression on their faces. But many are winners. It works for them. No one will be critical of them if they help the team win.
But if these seemingly emotionless players do not perform, the level of criticism among the fan base will rise. Fans will begin to question their will to win. For the most part, they struggle with cerebral athletes. They identify more with the guys who show that fire while they succeed.
Take Ian Kinsler for instance; an incredibly popular player in Detroit. Why? He’s a worker. A competitor. A winner. A leader. And a heck of a baseball player. The superlatives can go on and on. He’s got fire, intensity and desire – characteristics you would like to see the whole team have.
Take Cam Maybin for instance. The Tigers traded him after last season. The response? Well, you had 2 segments of people comment. One side said he’s injury prone and not worth further investment. The other side? They talked about his fire. His leadership. His enthusiasm. He had fun, he made everyone around him loose, and for those reasons alone, he will be missed.
To remain strong and bonded throughout a 162-game schedule, you need as many of those players as you can get. They help to develop a potentially explosive bond.
Explosive? Yeah, I think so. Get 25 players on the same page, with the same lofty goal, the same high level of intensity and it can be explosive. And that’s the kind of mindset that can be lethal heading into a pennant race.
It’s not just about talent. You need all of it. And there has been a common complaint about our hometown Tigers. They have been accused of being listless in their approach. They have been viewed as lacking in many of these areas. And doesn’t it say a lot when one player like Maybin can turn heads? It makes it evident that you don’t have enough of those players. You want the team to turn heads with that kind of attitude, not 1 or 2 players here and there.
Ian Kinsler said something after the WBC that I felt was very telling. “I play with a little more emotion than most players during the season. Everybody has their own style!”
Kinsler may have ever-so-slightly, called out his team. What he says is true, everyone has their own style. And that’s fine if every style combined, builds a high level of energy. But on this Tiger team? It just doesn’t happen to be the case. At least that’s the way it looks on the field, where it matters the most.
We can only hope this pivotal season will energize this team and take them to another level.
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