I’m baaaack! Did you miss me? Did you know I was gone? If I did a good job with my blogs, then hopefully you thought I was still among the present.
Truth is, I was watching the games. Just from Rome for the past 2 weeks. (Ciao! Frankie!) And despite an internet system that is renowned for its unpredictability. But that is the only negative thing you can say about this incredibly wonderful city.
I learned to cope with the internet connection the Italian way. The quiet hotel garden (for the wi-fi signal), my IPad and the bartender who kept me supplied with Aperol Spritzes and snacks. It’s just the best way to watch JV.
But believe it or not, I ran into “Detroit” at least 3 times while there. From the trendy t-shirts some Italians wear that say “Detroit – City of Michigan” (and obviously were not purchased in the US) to the young, very hip couple from Detroit in my private tour group of the Vatican. The same couple who love the Tigers but haven’t been following them recently. The same couple who say that there are so many other options of fun things to do downtown and no longer just about going to see the Tigers.
But Rome is crazy about sports. Everywhere you walk, there are the infamous #10 jerseys of retired great Francesco Totti of the A.S. Roma football (soccer to Americans) team. One of Italy’s greatest players and known for his passion and exuberance. Also known for his occasional lapses of discipline during games and a few bad judgments in his personal life. He reminds me of someone……..
The point I’m hoping to make here is the importance of passion. The driving force of most things in life. A quality that you can find everywhere in Rome and is demanded by their athletes and fans.
And something I wondered about regarding our favorite team.
You see, sometimes it’s really good to have less information about your team readily available. My vacation schedule only permitted me to watch the games and then in small chunks over the course of a day. No articles, no tv, no radio. Just the pure essence – allowing the games to speak for themselves.
So after 2 weeks, what are my impressions of this team so far?
1. There is occasional passion but certainly not enough. More often, the players seem to be indifferent, bored or not in the present.
2. They are again this year, wildly inconsistent. The key to winning is to play at or near the same level more days than not. There are pitching, defensive, offensive and attitude/energy inconsistencies and they often take turns with each other every day. Syncing the performance levels appears impossible.
3. When they are good, they are very, very good. When they are bad, they are very, very bad.
4. This team is still shrouded in mystery. Injuries and circumstances that have clouded the unshakable feeling that they simply are not playing up to their true potential.
5. Games in which huge blow-outs mask games in which there are real concerns.
6. Tuning into a game and not knowing which team is going to show up today.
7. But most of all, the daily theme – the drumbeat all game long – has been the excuses. A constant water drip torture of using anything and everything in the book to explain performance. Not just by the players, manager and GM, but by the announcers as well. Weather, injuries, travel, late hours, time zones and umpires to name just a few. The latter being blamed for lax enforcement of rules and for bad calls that “lost” the game for the Tigers with the bases loaded. That constantly-enforced message really did make me wanna scream.
Don’t get me wrong – the increased offense is a welcome sight. So are certain pitchers and the hungry youngsters in the form of Fulmer, Hicks, Pressley, etc. And the first sweep. But I also have to balance the good with the bad. That is what gives us a more accurate picture of what is going on.
And unfortunately, there are just too many stats in which the Tigers rank in the lower half of MLB. Let’s add in that the Tigers have yet to play some of the top teams. And that sweep was against the second-to-bottom team in the AL.
Just being realistic, not pessimistic. It helps us understand what is going on beyond the surface.
Outside of the actual games, the ability to separate myself for longer periods of time helped me see some of the recent bigger stories, including:
1. Two poor baserunning episodes by Miguel Cabrera in which he disregarded his manager and coach. It makes one question whether there are different rules for different players, a lack of team “think”, no system for accountability and/or a disregard for management.
2. Al Avila feeling the need to go on the defensive about Brad Ausmus and to attempt to turn the tables by blaming the media for inspiring their excuses. A dinner immediately after the bad road trip and followed with extensive interviews. This doesn’t happen unless there are real concerns by ownership or paying fans.
3. Avila’s “endorsement” is historically a kiss of death in most industries. That is, unless you believe that a record under .500, a $200 million payroll and one last shot at winning is an acceptable standard. Or that it is fine to embrace mediocrity. Notice that Al didn’t make a statement about Ausmus’ skills as a strategist but only about his ability to juggle the roster given the injuries.
4. The infamous tete-a-tete dinner between the two A’s. Obviously not a dire “job in jeopardy” event but potentially a discussion about how to inspire the players so that they play to their potential. Immediately followed by more comments by Avila to the media about his belief that the team needs to play to their expected standards. Followed less than 36 hours later with Brad’s tirade against the umpires and getting ejected. He’s now 2-for-2 in ejections that lead to wins.
So yes, I’m back now and will watch the next game in its entirety. And I’m also considering making Aperol Spritzes part of my game-watching routine – especially when Victor tries to run, Miggy attempts to take extra bases or Brad decides to continue the KRod experiment.