TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Starting pitching will always be a major point of emphasis in judging how well a team is playing, progressing or regressing. From a Tiger standpoint, there is one pitcher that continues to baffle us, and not in a good way.

On this Tuesday, our writers have observations worthy of discussion. If you are new to Totally Tigers, please note that Kurt and Holly do not share their answers to weekly topics in an attempt to give you, the reader, a wider range of perspective.

Here’s our topic for today.


What should the Tigers do with Jordan Zimmermann?


KURT

In almost every start, Jordan struggles with command, tends to continually make mistakes up in the zone and continues to pitch himself and his team out of ballgames. Between his chronic neck injury and his ineffectiveness, we have yet to see any prolonged success since the first half of his first season in Detroit.

So what should the Tigers do? Absolutely nothing! I believe Chris Bosio, when he came to Detroit, was given some pet projects; stretch goals if you will. And more than likely, 2 pitchers, Zimmermann and Daniel Norris were at the top of the list to concentrate on as the biggest challenges.

Both are important pieces, but Zimmermann probably most important, given the high dollar investment. But this is a rebuilding season, and we have a new pitching coach who seems to be making an impact, so let him do his job.

Let him work with Jordan and see what he can figure out. There is no need to do anything drastic like sending him to Toledo or anything like that.

Let the man pitch – period.


HOLLY

Ah, that is the $74-million-dollar question for the team’s second most expensive player after Miggy.

First of all, the last thing the Tigers will do is to cut him loose – an action that usually gets the GM who signed him fired or at least put on life support. Considering that reports had Chris Ilitch keeping Brad Ausmus because he didn’t want to pay the buyout and also have to hire another manager, it’s highly unlikely that such a thrifty man will let these millions simply walk out the door.

Let’s not forget that Zimm started with the Tigers in 2016 and posted 8 wins and 2 losses – sporting a 2.45 ERA – before getting injured and spending the rest of the year with a clueless medical staff until he decided to return to his own Washington, DC doctor for help.

Two years later, the injuries and change in delivery to compensate for said injuries have forced him to abandon what originally made him successful. The good news is that Chris Bosio has seen some of the changes and is working to correct them, unlike his predecessor. The bad news is that this takes awhile as we saw with Justin Verlander who changed his delivery because of his core issue problems.

Until last night, Jordan hasn’t been able to get through the 6th inning this year so the Tigers may want to consider taking a page out of the Mets’ playbook as they did with starter Matt Harvey by moving him to the bullpen so he can work things out. It’s not the best solution but it’s really the only viable one –  and now more unlikely given Daniel Norris’ injury.

With the huge chunk of change he is still owed, J-Z is also untradeable – that is, unless the Tigers can unload him and his salary by pairing him with Michael Fulmer in a trade to another team. And we better hope that it will not come down to this.


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20 APRIL THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Before we head off into May, April must be dealt with and all thoughts while contemplating the month are captured here. I have narrowed them down to 20; randomly collected for your pleasure.

I think it has been sufficiently established that the first month of 2018 was dominated by one of the worst stretches of weather ever for the first month of a season, so that won’t be mentioned again.

Having said that, let’s begin.


1. What’s everyone so mad about? Is it the situation that the franchise is in? Did we think a rebuild could have been avoided? Well, time to turn the page, people.  To me, from a rebuild standpoint and taking the whole month into consideration, things could have been a lot worse.

2. The biggest disappointments so far? Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris. Players heading towards making this list? No one. I can’t dump on Alex Wilson after the month of April.

3. Players I can really get excited about? The ones I can legitimately say they are sticking around and will be part of our future? Outside of Miggy, they are obvious, Jeimer Candelario, Joe Jimenez and JaCoby Jones. A lot of talent among these 3.

4. For all you Andrew Romine haters, you have to be happy with his replacement. Niko Goodrum has an important role and fills it well.

5. Scan the Tiger infield – it’s really, pretty good. (Carry over from December and January and February and March. Keep watching this one.)

6. Back to the subject of Daniel Norris. He is really close to being an honest-to-goodness dud as a Tiger and a soon-to-depart bust. Jordan Zimmermann? We will save the discussion on him for another day.

7. The April performance of Leonys Martin could be described like this: Unexpected, surprising, impressive and encouraging. Martin has shown he CAN hit. He CAN run. And he CAN play one hell of a centerfield. Which will fall off? I would guess he can’t possibly hit like this all year, but we can hope.

8. Ron Gardenhire’s disdain for bad baseball was made clear when he said, “I hate sloppy.” As we head into May, Gardy clearly has had a love / hate relationship with his team. We have seen the good and the bad.

9. Put a glove on Nicholas Castellanos or put him on base and you better hold your breath, because once that bat is out of his hands, all bets are off.

10. I believe Miggy’s time on the field is being watch very closely. Everything has been taken into consideration when it’s time to determine if he should be on the field. And when an injury arises, he is out of there.  Smarter approach than the past.

11. Shouldn’t the coaching staff notice before the fans when a pitcher, in this case Daniel Norris, is pitching injured and needs to be removed?  On Sunday, I found myself wondering when they were coming out to get him.

12. So what part of the game has improved the most in one month of baseball under our new skipper? I think it’s base running.  It has not been perfect, but improved.

13. Michael Fulmer has been our best starting pitcher, and well he should. But who is #2? Surprisingly, it has been Francisco Liriano. He is just a veteran who knows how to pitch.

14. I have seen teams heading into a rebuild looking a lot less talented than this current Tiger team. Is it so outrageous to suggest that the team could improve on last year’s record? After all, they did lose 98 games. (This is a good carryover, let’s hold onto this one at least through April and now May.)

15. So what are your thoughts on the netting so far at Comerica Park? Without having been to a game yet, I am not a good source. But I have heard from people who feel the value of the view from seats behind the dugout are severely compromised and that prices for those seats should be reduced as a result. Also, I wonder about the view of fans who must look around the end of the netting where it terminates down the outfield line. Can you say obstructed view?

16. To support my continuous desire for the roster to include someone who can come off the bench with some pop in his bat, I give you 26-year old Niko Goodrum. I like that he showed that power in the spring. I like that he is a switch hitter and I like that he is getting a shot. (Holding onto this one, a new hold over, just because I love what he brings to this team.)

17. Jose Iglesias has begun to hit the ball and combined with a month of stellar defense at short (imagine that), April was a very good month for him. Take it all in folks, because before you know it, he will be gone. Some don’t mind that, but I certainly do.

18. The Tiger organization has not decided on statues for Trammell and Morris.  What exactly is their problem?

19. In the category of ‘too early to tell’, I think we have acquired a gem in Jeimer Candelario. Watching his development will be near the top of my list this season. (This will continue to be a holdover, but the verbiage has changed – not too early to tell anymore. His talents are clear and without debate.)

20. Thru April, Fulmer kept his stock up! I know most of you hate the thought of trading him, but I find some glee in that. You know we can get big talent, just open your minds and dream it. (Carryover for as long as he keeps it up.)


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FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE

By:  Holly Horning

Baseball is not even a month old this season and yet everyone from the media to the fans are making their predictions about how teams will fare when the dust settles in early October.

As we all know, Sparky Anderson believed that you never got a glimpse of your team’s potential until they had played 40 games. But some teams historically have poor starts to their seasons, or sputter out down the road. No one experiences a smooth or predictable path all season long.

Once again, the Washington Nationals are sitting near their division’s cellar early in the year. The Red Sox have a pattern of tanking at the end of the year. The Dodgers are 5.5 games out of 1st and under .500.

To predict a team’s won-loss record at this point is sheer folly. It would involve a belief that each team will behave with a consistent pattern all year long. And no person, let alone a team, is capable of a uniform performance for 6+ months.

When it comes to the Tigers, we do know to some extent how this season may go. It probably won’t be a good season, but it may be better than expected. We certainly can’t predict anything after 25 games.

So how should we view 2018? Should we really be focused on how many games the team may lose? And will those losses say a lot about where this team is headed? Or will they simply speak about how this team has been dismantled?

Or should we be focused on the development of players, especially the promising youngsters? Shouldn’t we be concentrating on their performance and potential, especially for the future? Seeing an improvement in how the game is played?

As we have seen from teams that win it all, shouldn’t we be looking at how a roster gels and who emerges as its leaders?

Speaking of which, there is the manager. We’ll be watching Ron Gardenhire, too, to see if the visible change in attitude and mental fortitude he has introduced continues to thrive as the Tigers go through extended rough patches.

As we’ve seen, all the talent in the world won’t win you what you want if that talent isn’t properly harnessed. We’ve also seen teams with less talent do better than expected because the mental approach has been effectively activated.

Look no further than the Minnesota Twins who were universally expected to finish in the cellar last year yet came in second in the AL Central and clinched a wild card playoff spot. This after losing 103 games the previous year. Molitor was elected Manager of the Year and widely credited with last year’s success.

But can we expect all the oft-seen issues with the Tigers’ standard of play to be eliminated before the team has even played one month? Of course not. This is gonna take some time. Persistent problems over the past decade don’t get eradicated in 6 weeks of spring training.

Which is why we are saw Nick Castellanos decide to nest at 3rd base instead of scoring. Why the Tigers lost a recent game in which they had runners at 3rd base 4 times and couldn’t score. And why some pitchers are being sent down while others obviously are struggling on the mound with maybe more mental than physical issues.

There are a lot of kinks to work out on this team. And you can’t expect a manager who has only had 6 weeks of practice and less than 4 weeks of play to have fully implemented his strategy. There’s a lot of work to do and a lot of minds and habits to change.

What really matters is whether at the end of the year, we see the parts starting to come together. A nucleus starting to take shape. A team that is adopting the mental traits and details consistent with the teams that see October.

It’s not the losses that will count the most. We need to look past them.

It’s really about whether we see progress and potential. And hope for the future.


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NOTABLE NEWS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

What’s on the minds of our writers as we head into the weekend?

Holly and Kurt don’t normally share their topics with each other in the interests of getting a wider range of perspective. Let’s see where they ended up on another Saturday.


HOLLY

We all know that it’s not about how many games the Tigers may lose this year because the main issue is all about the rebuild and gauging the promise of the team, especially its newest members.

The week whipsawed back and forth between great starting pitching and the implosion of the bullpen. But the constant was that this team is scrappy and fights every inch of the way – something that rarely happened over the past years. The games, except when the relievers come in, have become much more fun to watch.

But rarely mentioned is how taxed this team has been given that they’ve had to navigate 6 postponed games out of 25 dates. Four of those 25 days were double-headers and the Tigers just played 3 games in less than 24 hours.

If you count Opening Day as it really was – a win (given the umpiring incompetence) and consider that the Tigers lost 5 low-scoring games by a single run, their record could easily be better.  They deserve more credit for how hard they’ve worked to battle this nasty schedule.


KURT

Sit down, because Kurt’s going to actually talk numbers!

After another whitewashing at the hands of the Orioles on Friday night, the Tigers have now been shut out 5 times already this season, including the last 2 in a row. And in 3 of the 5, they have lost 1-0.

On the other hand, the helter skelter Tiger offense has put together 5 games where they have scored 9 runs or more, the only loss coming on Opening Day.

As difficult as it has been to gauge this team during the month of April, one thing is for sure; they have been consistently inconsistent, at least from an offensive standpoint.

But, regardless of which brand of baseball the team is playing, the Commissioner ought to be happy that the Tigers have played several games in under 3 hours; at least 13 if you are counting, including 5 games in a row during one stretch.

That is the one thing that has been consistent this season; the pain has been getting over with rather quickly.


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OPEN MIKE!

microphoneIt’s Friday folks, which means it’s your day! This is the day for you to be heard. Today is the one day during the month  where you get the opportunity to comment on the Tiger topic of your choosing.

This is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can really get those juices flowing. Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.  So, pick a topic and let us hear from you. What’s on your minds?


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CANDY ARRIVES IN THE NICK OF TIME

By:  Kurt Snyder

I would like to personally thank Kris Bryant for being the kind of player he has become for the Chicago Cubs.

He was a can’t miss prospect and has lived up to the advanced billing. And because he has been so good, the Cubs know they are set at third base for the foreseeable future.  His stardom opened the door for the Tigers to acquire the third baseman landlocked behind him – Jeimer Candelario.

Yes, the Tigers had a young third baseman themselves in Nicholas Castellanos. But Nick’s bat is really the only place he can hang his hat.

Knowing what they had in Castellanos, the Tigers, along with their fans, saw enough of his shortcoming to wonder about his next chapter in the big leagues.

They needed a more complete ball player at third base. And Al Avila made a great deal with the Cubs, giving up Justin Wilson and Alex Avila in exchange for someone who may be a future star in Detroit.

The Tigers must be delighted with what they now have at third. Candelario has the makings of an elite ballplayer. He is athletic. He can run. He is a good baserunner. He has quickness at third base. He has a great arm. He is a patient hitter.  Hits to all fields. And he has power.

These are not conclusions I have drawn about Candy after one month of play in 2018. They are observations. We have seen all these things during his short amount of time with the team.

Moving Castellanos to open the door for Jeimer appears to have been a no-brainer. Because in comparison, during the years we have watched Nick play with the Tigers, he has proven that he has none of the defensive attributes of Candelario.

He pales in comparison in the areas of athleticism, quickness, speed, arm strength and his ability to run the bases instinctively.

Both of these guys can hit. Here ends the comparison.

Defensively, there is no spot on the diamond for Nick Castellanos. He has a spot because he can hit. And all the talk about him being a future DH with the team needs to stop.

The Tigers already have their future DH in Miguel Cabrera and he’s going to be here for awhile. So, sorry, there just is no argument for Nick to DH.

Two Tiger outfielders have been recognized for their great athleticism (and their bats) during the last couple weeks. They have been lauded for their defensive strengths.  But they happen to play in left and center.  Then there is Nick, who is not yet mentioned as a defensive strength in right field.   Will he become one?   Not seeing it.

The Tigers have talented outfielders in their system whom we are going to see in Detroit,.  If not this year, certainly next year. They are players who are already good defenders. They have speed and represent the future.

Knowing all that we know, this is a scenario that appears to be heading in one direction. And one question will need to be asked? Is there a team out there who would trade a good prospect or 2 for a one-dimensional Nick Castellanos?

The man is done at third base in Detroit. The new guy looks like he’ll stay. JaCoby Jones is not someone the Tigers want sitting around. And they appear to be itching to get Mike Gerber a role with the big club.

So, I don’t think it could be any more obvious that Nicholas Castellanos will be #1 on the list of players on the trading block come the end of July. How much value is there for a guy who can really hit? I would say a lot. How much value is there for a guy who offers little else?  Good question.  Depends on the team and their needs I would guess.

Players who can do a lot of things for their ball club are highly coveted. A player like Jeimer Candelario is highly coveted.

This is a nutty scenario.  What is crazy is that Castellanos may end up having the best offensive year of his career in 2018. But if the Tigers look at their future and the kind of team they hope to become, they cannot be swayed.

Nick’s gotta go.


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SYNCING THE SKIPPER

By:  Holly Horning

If you’ve been reading the social media threads dedicated to the Tigers, you’ve undoubtedly been reading the many laments by fans who wished that the Tigers had hired Ron Gardenhire before now. And that’s because they believe that the teams who see October baseball have the best combination of physical talent, mental fortitude, coaching, managing and leadership.

As we’ve seen over the past 10 years, having a monopoly on talent doesn’t win rings. And neither does having a manager who is the second coming of John McGraw. There has to be a recipe that combines both elements.

From what we’ve seen since Dave Dombrowski became the GM, the Tigers historically have had a poor track record in finding the right skipper for the job, the roster and the goal.

It’s been written that one reason for firing Phil Garner was attributed to some players who didn’t sign onto his managerial style. There was friction in the clubhouse.

But instead of finding the right personality who could handle and inspire these difficult personalities, Dave Dombrowski hired one of the nicest and most gentle men on the planet. Alan Trammell. A rookie manager expected to take charge of the clubhouse immediately instead of earning credibility and being eased into his position.

So it’s no surprise that he did not work out either. And as Mr. I opened his wallet and signed some big names to big paychecks, their big egos came along, too.

Tram was eaten alive.

But then, to his credit, Dombrowski hired Jim Leyland. A guy who commanded respect and came from a place of no-nonsense. A guy who could get all the players together and focused as a team. A guy known as very likeable to players and able to command an even-keeled ship.

And it went right, for a while. In 2006, his first year, the team finished 2nd in their division and ended up in the World Series. But the next year, the team finished 8 games back and in 2008, they finished last. It would be 5 years after their World Series appearance that the team would return to playing baseball in October.

Five long years. An eternity in baseball. And for most teams with expectations, a change would have been made before then.

Could it be that Leyland was the right man for the job back in 2006 but that the Tigers needed someone else to take over as the team continued to evolve? Did the team need someone else to take over as major talent continued to flock to Detroit?

But before we answer those questions, let’s tackle Leyland’s successor. Brad Ausmus.

Once again, and what will remain one of life’s greatest mysteries, is why an owner, GM and countless others signed off on a guy who never managed – or even coached – a day in his life to take over a team with a window just starting to close. It is akin to giving a kid who hasn’t even had a single driving lesson, a Ferrari, to drive.

Did the Tigers decide to move from the crusty veteran to someone young and fresh? Did they believe that doing that would get different results? We will never know.

But more importantly, the Tigers didn’t learn their lessons of the past. They did it again. They hired another novice to manage a team filled with both a payroll and ego-inflated roster.

As a result of this car crash, the pendulum has swung back to hiring the older veteran manager with street cred and the ability to keep everyone working towards the same goal. Ron Gardenhire.

For now, the Tigers have hired the right guy to direct his players to the near-term goals of the team. Learn to be a team. Play hard. Adjust the attitude to a positive one. Teach the game the right way. Help rebuild the team. And in the infamous words of Joe Maddon, “Try not to suck.”

As we contemplate the organization’s wild and extreme swings in managerial selections, there’s something else we need to contemplate. And that is, no manager is a “one size fits all.” They all come with different skill sets and specialties.

Some managers are better suited to teams that are established with high-profile players. Others to teams on their way up. Some prefer to work with organizations accustomed to winning and competing year after year while yet others feel more comfortable helping to rebuild a down-and-out team.

Gardy is the right man for the Tigers during this rebuild. But hopefully, as this team develops and starts winning again, the Tigers need to consider whether he remains the right fit for a different team with different goals.

If we’ve learned anything, it’s that the skipper needs to be synced with the team. If he’s not, then it will be “déjà-vu all over again” as Yogi Berra said.

In actuality, Yogi was a prolific reader and he was merely translating a quote from one of his favorite philosophers, George Santayana.

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

As we watch our team show glimpses of promise followed by bouts of ugliness, we are getting a pretty good hint of what we can expect. But our writers have a question to answer based on what they have observed about a portion of the roster.

On this Tuesday, our writers have observations worthy of discussion. If you are new to Totally Tigers, please note that Kurt and Holly do not share their answers to weekly topics in an attempt to give you, the reader, a wider range of perspective.

Here’s our topic for today.


Which one Tiger has been most exciting to watch so far?


KURT

Well, there is more than one choice here, as JaCoby Jones and Jeimer Candelario have both given us some pretty exciting moments to kick off the season.

But if I have to choose one, it has to be JaCoby Jones. What separates him from Candelario is not his speed; both run pretty well. It’s not his defense, as both players have upgraded their positions with their quickness and athleticism.

And if you want to talk offense, well, Jones has finally emerged and Candelario is showing that he will be a heavy hitter in the middle of the Tiger lineup for a long time.

Candelario does have a poise about him that makes you think he’s been in the league for 5 years. And that is a great thing.

But when you are talking about excitement and the flair for the dramatic, Jones has been displaying  that all over the field so far this season.  What is exciting about both of these guys is the fact they are young, important pieces of the puzzle.  One is more solidified in his role and the other is bringing the fire, hoping to put a strangle hold on his own Tiger future.


HOLLY

In the past, it was all about the J’s – Justin, Justin and Justin – and today, it still is with 2 new J’s – JaCoby and Jeimer. And they are so close in the excitement factor that I simply cannot put one above the other and have to ask for a photo finish.

Offensively, the two are almost neck-and-neck if you break it down to plate appearance percentages. Jones and Candelario are producing almost identical offensive stats with JaCoby excelling in stolen bases and Jeimer in extra-base hits. Their range factors are similar as well but Candy, in his first year, currently ranks in the top half of MLB in this notoriously difficult position.

JJ is built for the outfield and it is a thrill to watch him run like a gazelle to grab whatever is hit in his direction. Jeimer, while fast as well, is the smarter baserunner as he takes extra bases and thrilled us over the weekend with the perfect hook slide into second.

Jones has more competition for his position and has shown a hunger and intelligence for stepping up and grabbing it. He is the player who is being driven more by emotion to achieve his goals and it will be interesting to see if he can keep the momentum going. Candelario is the thoughtful player who has the luxury of knowing third base is exclusively his but is powered by receiving a structurally-sound background in how to play this game for the long run.


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NOTHIN’ BUT TIME

By:  Kurt Snyder

Opportunities abound for a team starting over. New faces. New places. New faces in new places. More players getting more time and some taking advantage of the opportunities they have been given.

Ron Gardenhire has made some moves. He has made some statements. And he is pretty clear with the media when he wants to get a point across.

Nicholas Castellanos is our right fielder. You may not be completely happy with that, but he must play somewhere. And his only opportunity resides in the outfield. Has he mastered the position? Oh, heck no! But he has been given a heaping helping of confidence by his skipper, who has announced that if you have any question about whether he belongs in right field, it doesn’t make even a little bit of difference.

Gardy says he’s stayin’ there. He is going to stay there all season. So, there is no use in questioning it any longer. As Gardenhire says, there is only one way to learn how to play right field and that’s by playing right field. You good with that? Well, it just doesn’t matter if you’re not.

There are plenty of rough edges to be sure in Nick’s defensive game.  But he’s hitting and he’s got nothing but time to work on things out in right.

So, that covers one corner. How about the other one? Well, it gets a little more exciting when you head over there.

The team started the season with Mikie Mahtook as their leftfielder.  He is a high energy, hardworking baseball player. But he may have picked the worst possible time, for him anyway, to come out of the gates slowly.

You see JaCoby Jones seized the opportunity given to him when Mahtook was sent down to Toledo. We knew 3 things about JaCoby. He plays with loads of enthusiasm, he can really run and he is a great defender. His bat to this point has been what we have been waiting on.

Given time, the hitting will come, so we had been told. Well, the hitting is here.   Jones becomes more of a complete player every day and he is getting plenty of time to show it.

He has matured at the plate, doesn’t swing at a lot of bad pitches, which he struggled with last season, and he is an exciting player when he gets on base; the kind of player opposing pitchers hate, because he commands so much of their attention.

The corner outfield spots were going to be areas to watch when we kicked off the season. We have held serve in one corner but have switched gears with the other.

And the best part is, no conclusions need to be drawn in April or May or June. But the performances that we see in July will indeed dictate who we want to continue to invest time in and who we don’t.


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A CHANGE WILL DO YOU GOOD

By:  Holly Horning

How many of us thought that this year would bring unexpected and pleasant surprises? Weren’t we all resigned to the fact that this season would be uninspiring and grim for the most part?

But so far, it’s been fun, right?

For the first time in recent memory, we are liking what we see because it offers hope.

We know that the win-loss record may not be pretty this year but that’s really not the point. You can enjoy a team because they have energy and they have fight. Conversely, you can assemble a team of stars who remain emotionless on the field, go through the motions and appear as bored as the fans universally come to believe.

Been there, done that.

The 2018 Tigers are a completely different team – and we’re not just talking about the roster.

First of all, the players all look like they are having fun. You can see it in their eyes, read it in their body language and see their statements documented in the press. Almost every one of them can be heard saying how much they are enjoying the game. When was the last time we read that?

We see their interactive routines in the dugout before each game. We see them hanging over the railing taking in the details of the action. They are beating their chests when they beat out a throw and end up safe on base. They are smiling, they are interacting with each other and – gulp – they are hugging.

A far stretch from those days when we watched players sitting on the bench killing time. Or when skirmishes broke out and restraining teammates was more often seen than hugging.

It is once again a pleasure to read positive quotes from Victor Martinez about their play instead of his past criticism of the fans. He is smiling and turning into a dugout cheerleader.

And so is Miggy.

Best of all, we’re no longer reading excuses for poor play anymore. Players are owning it.

And not a single one has yet been quoted saying “that’s baseball” in order to regularly excuse bad play.

On the field, we’re seeing a more aggressive team. They’re speeding towards first base instead of trotting. They are running and stealing more. Situational hitting has come off the endangered list and runs are being manufactured. And – gasp – we are seeing an interest in fundamentals.

But most importantly, this team is fighting until the last out is made. They are putting pressure on their opponents in a ploy to get them to make mistakes. And they are routinely coming from behind in an attempt to win each game.

And isn’t that what we really want to see? Don’t we want to follow a team that is as passionate about the game as we are about our team?

Sure, there are going to be sloppy games. And this team is probably going to lose more games than they win this year.

But that’s not the point.

This is a team that, in many ways, is still the same team from last year. At least the everyday players. Most of those traded were pitchers. Yet, the secondary players have stepped into primary roles and the rookies are seeing more action.

Overall, there is less talent but we are seeing a team that is, for now, over-performing.

Contrast that with the past 4 years when there was tons of talent – MVPs, Triple Crown, ERA leader, Rookies of the Year, Cy Youngs. A loaded roster with the overall impression that the team was underperforming, especially in the most recent years.

So why the change? Is it the new guys? Is it the youngsters? Did everyone simply come into spring training with the identical mindset and goals?

Or was it due to a change in corporate culture?

If you’re a regular reader of Totally Tigers, you are familiar with my stance on the importance of corporate culture. If you’re not, catch up here:


https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/corporate-culture-is-key/


Corporate culture is the energy source from which success flows. That is, if you have a solid one.

And until this year, we haven’t seen a strong corporate culture emanating from the dugout in awhile.

But that’s changed with the hiring of Ron Gardenhire.

He is the one responsible for bringing in a new mindset, setting the tone, leading by example and setting new goals and expectations. You see it when he’s in the dugout, you hear it in his statements and you see it in his actions.

And you understand how valid it is when you watch the players being interviewed.

In any profession, industry or culture, the groups surrounding the leader take on the demeanor and energy level of that person. Brad Ausmus was extremely chill, emotionless and bored us to tears with his statements and excuses. No wonder the players under him exhibited the same qualities.

But now we have a man who is animated both on and off the field. He is passionate about the game and about performance. He is candid, entertaining and uses strong qualifiers in his spoken communication. He is, simply, the antithesis of Brad.

And his leadership and example are being emulated by his players. A team that even so early in the season is considered to be playing above the expected performance levels.

So is it any wonder that we are now considering that the Tigers may just surprise us this year?

And in this same line of thinking, do we also wonder what may have been if Gardy had become manager after Leyland – or at least replaced Brad while that window of winning was still open? Dave Dombrowski knew Leyland was leaving 1 month before the end of the season and that Gardenhire’s contract had not been extended with the expectation he would be leaving the Twins. JL had requested that Ron succeed him.

Sure, Ron did not have success in the playoffs when he was manager of the Twins. But then again, he never had anywhere near the level of talent the Tigers had back in 2014-17. We naturally have to wonder what his skills and leadership, combined with the immense talent, would have produced if they had joined forces.

Because having a strong corporate culture makes good things happen and creates an environment where people perform beyond expectations.

And it also helps to keep a team on track when the going gets rough and the games get harder to win.


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