Nick Castellano probably never dreamed that he would be the biggest name and attraction at the annual TigerFest given the Tigers’ yearly star-studded team. But that’s what happened this past weekend after a year in which more than 10 familiar faces were either traded or released.
And then there are 3 others, one a franchise face, who also didn’t show for the event. Coincidentally, all of them due to “health” issues.
And it was at TigerFest that Ron Gardenhire admitted that he had yet to talk to Miguel Cabrera, one of those missing. Not that he hadn’t tried. He did leave messages for Miggy.
After a year in which the Tigers offered a myriad of excuses for Cabrera all season long – Venezuela, his mother, injuries, World Baseball Classic, different injuries – they extended their strategy into the off-season. This time, more health concerns and some time out of the country. The latter, rather a reach considering that this is the 21st Century, where everyone has the ability to stay connected 24/7.
In one respect, it is admirable that the organization remains professional and doesn’t throw its members under the bus as we’ve seen this off-season with other teams.
Yet it continues to point to a continuing problem that just becomes more visible each year when it comes to certain players.
Gardenhire was signed on October 20th. He has spoken to every player on the roster except for 2. And somehow, in over 3 months, Miggy hasn’t been able to find the time to return his new manager’s calls.
Can you guess the other player who doesn’t practice proper phone etiquette?
The same one who was declared at the end of the year to be a significant clubhouse problem with both management and fellow players. The same one who was fraternizing with enemy Yankees during the infamous brawl, angering his own teammates. The same one who tried to take a swing at Justin Verlander before being held back by Nick Castellanos.
VMart. The guy who had a hard time connecting with the ball in 2017 and is now having problems connecting with his manager.
Regarding TigerFest, Miggy, in reality was busy preparing for his big court case that starts in a couple of weeks. And while Al Avila reported that Victor was back to preparing for baseball, he was excused from TigerFest because of the concern that riding a bus would be too taxing on his health.
Someone in media relations either has wonderful creativity or a sense of humor.
In actuality, it was a good idea to exclude these two from this annual event. One needs to focus on getting his personal issues successfully behind him so he can focus on getting back to his usual high level of performance without having to continue to deal with last year’s distractions. The other, let’s call him “DH Downer” (for you SNL fans), probably more for the comfort and enjoyment of the event by his teammates.
The concern though, is what happens when spring training starts. When the clubhouse fills up and a new manager and coaches take the helm.
So far, we’ve yet to see some tangible proof that Miggy and Martinez are willing to play ball when it comes to the team’s priorities. They are ignoring the new man in charge.
These are 2 players earning a total of $48 million this year. Over one-third of the team’s total payroll. Salaries that seriously need to be earned because they have entirely sucked up the funds available to do anything else to this roster. But their failure to connect and communicate supports the story that both are focused on themselves. Not on their team.
And when you’ve got 2 players, conceivably 2 of the most important ones on the team, unwilling to do the basics, it doesn’t bode well when it comes to putting the team’s needs first.
I hold out hope that Ron Gardenhire will be able to resolve or at least mitigate this issue. He has a strong presence and personality with a resume of inspiring athletes to play well together. And according to correspondence between a Tigers’ official with our loyal reader, Chuck Terry, it was mentioned that hiring Gardy was done, in part, with the hope of changing the clubhouse culture.
Don’t expect Gardy to try to force two strong-willed individuals to change right off the bat. He’s more of what the French call “the iron fist in the velvet glove.” He’ll likely have a steady process and strategy that he’ll incorporate into his managerial blueprint.
But there is one thing we do know. Gardy will certainly have his work cut out for him – both on the field and in the clubhouse.
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