BIRDS OF A FEATHER

By:  Holly Horning

This is another one of those instances when image consulting parallels the world of baseball.

Who knew?

But in my career as an image consultant, it allows me to speak from experience even though I’ve never stepped foot inside an MLB Front Office.

Believe it or not, baseball and a closet full of clothes have more in common than you think.  Let me explain….


One of the aspects of my job involves assessing, editing and building a client’s wardrobe. Creating a visual appearance direction for the client that will allow them to achieve their desired goals more easily and quickly.

Many of my clients tell me that they don’t understand why their wardrobes don’t work. Afterall, they have lots of choices. And many have spent tens of untold thousands of dollars filling their closets. Most will tell me that they have some very expensive pieces and question why, because of the price tag, they aren’t doing their job.

And it really is simple.

Most people buy pieces. They don’t buy outfits. (And if you’ve ever uttered the phrase “I have a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear,” this is why.)

And that is the key to making things work.

Pieces don’t take into account the big picture. Pieces don’t go beyond themselves. It is much harder to match random pieces that you own than it is to buy a number of pieces that all work together.

These related pieces – outfits – all work together nicely.

And they get you to the place you want to go. Looking great.

In baseball, these pieces are players.

Granted, every team at one time or another needs to add a piece from outside their closet, er, organization. And the smart teams look to add the right piece that goes with the rest of the team.

And then there are teams that focus solely on adding pieces. Maybe they are trying to fast-track success or buy a ring. Or don’t have a functioning farm system. They think that it’s enough to simply plug in a talented 2B-er, not taking into account how that player works with others or what special skill set they bring to the wardrobe, er team, as a whole.

I was reminded of this multiple times during the days leading up, as well as the actual ceremony, to the Hall of Fame induction. Alan Trammell, Jack Morris, Lance Parrish, Lou Whitaker and other members of the Class of ’84 talking about how they all came up together. How they were specifically selected to work with one another. How they complemented each other.

How they were a team.

And this was one of the most important reasons why they did so well, are ranked as one of the top 10 teams of all time – and won the World Series.

And if you think about it, the 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals were similar. The majority of the players who came up through the ranks together and bonded with each other like the ’84 Tigers.

In contrast, let’s look at the Tigers over the past decade. Very few of them who played together in the minors. The vast majority of the team being cherry-picked from other teams and expected to come together with guys they only recently met and with whom they didn’t share a common bond or background.

And yet there are those who believe that because these Tiger teams were filled with expensive stars, that it was supposed to work. Afterall, they had expensive contracts! They had great stats! There was so much talent!

And the Tigers had one of the most expensive payrolls in all of baseball.

It’s a no-brainer, right? A slam dunk that these teams should have won, at minimum, 1 ring.

No, these teams were similar to the closet that had a number of very expensive items in it but didn’t really have anything solid to go with them.

Stories of players who didn’t get along with each other. Clubhouse fights and jockeying among the starting pitchers. Players not on the same page and athletes who were focused on individual instead of team stats. Lots of individual awards every year but no group ones. And questions about the lack of leadership.

Simply, the Tigers from the past decade were pieces, albeit expensive pieces – and not a team. They didn’t go together well.

We see this same story playing out currently with the Washington Nationals. Stories now coming out about how this very talented, very expensive team is dysfunctional. How the talent doesn’t work well together. How the talent doesn’t translate into wins.

And if you need further proof, reporters now saying that when they go into the Nats’ clubhouse, it is eerily quiet. No one is talking to anyone else. There are no personal relationships. Players are all plugged into their electronic devices and in their own private worlds instead of interacting with one another.

And this is what happens when you go out and buy a bunch of pieces. Pieces that look good individually, but don’t go with anything else.

You don’t get outfits. Or teams.


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10 thoughts on “BIRDS OF A FEATHER

  1. There is too much praise heaped on the 1980’s Tigers. Yes, they won the WS and had a magnificent 1984. Yet that team never even made it past round one of the postseason afterwards. The 2006 Tigers would have won the 2006 Series i.m.o. if not for the nearly week long wait for the NL champion to be determined. Yet unlike the 84 Tigers, they again made the Series in 2012, only to lose yet again. That time, your concept held more water.

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    • No disrespect, TT68, but assuming the Tigers would have won in 2006 if not for the long layoff? You sound a little like Cub fans in ’84.” Yeah, the Cubs would have beat the Tigers if they had made the W.S.” If memory serves me correctly, the ’80’s teams lost the division in a 4 game sweep by the Brewers in the last week of the ’82 season, and won the division again in ’87, They also won more games than anyone in the strike year, and won more than any other team in the decade. Not bad.

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  2. How to explain the Reggie Jackson Yankees, then? Lots of pieces from elsewhere (Reggie, Nettles, Piniella, Gossage, Randolph, Dent, Rivers, etc.), and they famously hated each other. Yet they won four pennants and two World Series in six years, far eclipsing our ’84 Tigers. I have always felt that Sparky failed to get the full potential out of that team.

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    • Hi, Max- Actually, the Yankees of whom you speak support my argument. Since 1903, how many other teams can you say this about? There’s always going to be an outlier in any group and with the Yankees, you could make an argument that George Steinbrenner and his constant hands-on was a factor in motivating this team. Thanks for keeping the conversation going! – Holly

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  3. As I read todays blog, my mind kept going to one thought. The FA of today must not be a team oriented person and therefore should be avoided. If he were a team player then he would have taken less money to stay and better his original team. Trading, rather than buying a FA is the better way to go. Before trading, a team can determine if a guy is a team player by seeing if he willingly sacrifices a guy over and interacts with his teammates after work, or does he just try to pad his numbers and goes home after the game?

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  4. B/c Holly’s article is ‘spot on’ in regards to the baseball analysis, I think I’d just like to request essential wardrobe recommendations advice for a male professional who does not need to wear suite (or even coat & tie) as I think my image, like the current Tigers probably should be rebuilt from scratch. 🙂

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  5. The ‘97 Marlins (managed by Leyland,) put together in a hurry, barely won the WS and won more games in a single series than his Tigers won in two series. Rookie manager Bob Brenly’s ‘01 D-Backs and his quickly assembled veteran National League squad barely won theirs. How come luck couldn’t have been on our side at least once?!

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  6. What comes first the chemistry and then the winning or the winning and then the chemistry? I have always believed that “winning takes care of everything” but maybe the next big thing is “psychological analytics”.

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