Well, they did it. The Tigers put an end to their 8-game losing streak. They finished their road trip with a 1-6 record and will head back home to fans who are none too thrilled about their baseball team.
They head back home to us.
And under the circumstances, this is when we find out what kind of fans we want to be. Are we just Tiger fans or are we baseball fans?
It’s way too easy to say, you know, forget the Tigers. If this is how they are going to play, if this is how they are going to be managed, if this is how the organization is going to be run, well, then I am out of here. Wake me when they are serious about winning.
It would be easy to do that, wouldn’t it? And I am sure some of you are already at that point. There is no easier task as a fan than following a winning baseball team. And there is no tougher task than following a losing one.
But this is where you have an opportunity. A challenge. Think about the reasons you have chosen to follow this blog. Holly and I are baseball fans first. We are Tiger fans second.
It’s the only way to approach this situation. We get frustrated when the fundamentals of the game are not honored the way they ought to be honored.
We want the game to be played well. I find myself intrigued by teams who have put it all together. And I am intrigued by how they have done it.
So I have a homework assignment for everyone. Start watching more baseball, not less. Watch more baseball than just Tigers baseball. Watch the teams who appear to be championship caliber. You can learn so much.
We think we know what’s ailing the Tigers. We can place blame on just about anyone because it makes us feel better. We are all guilty of it. But let’s shift our attention to the game we love so much.
Aaron Judge is this year’s great story? Where did he come from?
The Houston Astros have pushed the World Champion Cubs out of the spotlight and are front and center when it comes to teams primed to win a title. How did they do it? What kind of game do they play?
The Kansas City Royals, a team considered to be done, were back to the bottom of the well in the Central Division, where all Tiger fans feel they belong. But they have made a charge and are worthy of our attention. How are they doing it? What has been the difference? What part of the game have they been mastering to win baseball games? Watch them closely in Detroit this week.
The Chicago Cubs, America’s darlings, have hung around the .500 mark all season. They were (and are) a team considered to be a favorite to be standing there at the end holding the trophy. What problems are they having? What’s different? Why are they having so much trouble finding a leadoff hitter? Why is Kyle Schwarber now in the minor leagues?
The New York Yankees. Absolute world beaters for so much of the season, have now fallen on hard times, victims of a losing streak that has pushed them back into a tie for first place in the East. What happened? What has changed? What aren’t they doing now that they were doing before?
And then there’s the Detroit Tigers.
As you take your tour around the league, and you gaze upon the teams that are playing the game the right way, you begin to see what you don’t see in Detroit. You see a brand of baseball that you don’t see in Detroit. And you begin to recognize the importance of speed and defense and pitching.
But you also see the intangibles. Aggressiveness without recklessness. Enthusiasm. Motivation. Leadership. And good old fashion fun. That’s right. Fun.
This is still a kid’s game. Kids play it for fun. But so do the professionals. They are getting paid to play a kid’s game. And managers, the good ones, realize how important it is that their team is having fun. It keeps them loose. And it builds a bond. Joe Maddon is a master at finding ways to keep his team loose, to enjoy the process.
So watch the good teams. Look for some of these things. Write them down. Write down the names of teams and players that demonstrate these winning qualities. And then circle back to the Tigers.
Watch them play. Acknowledge the strengths. Establish the weaknesses, and follow closely. Because this is one of the most intriguing parts of the season; whether your team is headed in the right direction or not.
It’s a time to test yourself as a fan. I believe there are a lot of baseball fans reading right now. And despite the home team’s performance, force yourself to embrace the game. The last thing we want is for you to turn away from the Tigers. It would be a very easy thing to do. Sometimes we just get frustrated over how long the process takes, how long the road is to winning.
But remember this. In baseball, there is much to be learned from losing. So don’t fight it. Don’t look away. Don’t abandon it.
Losing is always part of the path to winning.