Thursday, May 24, 2012
Time To Call People Out
Yes, that is Michael Jordan’s picture on a Detroit Tigers blog. Why? Because not only is he the greatest player to ever step onto a basketball court, but he was its most fierce competitor. He gave his all in every performance, whether he was sick, hurt, or whatever. Just like Justin Verlander. But unlike Verlander, he was well known for driving his teammates to succeed, too. If he felt they were underperforming, he wasn’t afraid to call them out on it. And more often than not, they responded.
Kobe Byrant is the same way. In baseball, Derek Jeter and David Ortiz are known for it. I’m not usually big on things like “team chemistry” or whatnot, but I do believe that team leaders can and should call out those that are underperforming. With Verlander not an everyday player and the longest tenured Tiger being utility player Ramon Santiago, they probably aren’t the best guys for the job. Ideally, it should be Miguel Cabrera. That’s up to him if he’s ever going to be that man.
But someone needs to pull a Big Papi on this team. JV says there’s no point because they’re already angry. But it doesn’t seem like it. By their performance, they’re not angry enough. Because in my experience, you always play your best when properly pissed. Increased focus, a will to shut people up, and raw determination tend to come out through anger in sports.
Here’s what I personally would say to each person on the team.
Justin Verlander, Andy Dirks, Duane Below, Ramon Santiago, Doug Fister, Octavio Dotel, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Drew Smyly, Brayan Villarreal, Gerald Laird, Danny Worth, Austin Jackson, Quintin Berry and Don Kelly: Nothing. You guys are doing your jobs and performing to the best of your abilities. Thank you. Austin, get well soon. This team needs you.
Miguel Cabrera: Quit trying to do everything at the plate. That's improssible. Just be yourself.
Prince Fielder: Switching leagues is tough at the plate. It happened to Cabrera his first year in the AL. It happened to Adam Dunn. It’s happening to Albert Pujols. But that doesn’t explain your lethargic, pathetic defense. There is no reason to drop a ball thrown to you at this level. There’s no excuse for that poor throw home in Wednesday’s ballgame. Get your head in the game on every play. You’re being paid way too much not to. You wanted that big contract? Great. Now live up to it in every inning on both sides of the ball.
Alex Avila: Are you hurt? Then tell someone. If not, are you the Titanium Catcher of 2011 or Captain Nepotism after all? Let us know. Better yet, show us.
Jhonny Peralta: Were the Indians right to let you go for nothing? Was last year a fluke? If not, prove the doubters wrong. There's plenty of guys in the organization with much better range than you that can ground into a double play every time runners are on like you're currently doing.
Brennan Boesch: You have all the raw talent in the world. What’s stopping you from putting it together? Wait for your pitch and hit it. If you don’t get it, take the goddamn thing. And show some life on defense. You’re not as old as Magglio Ordonez was last year. So quit playing the field like him. Prove to everyone that the team didn’t make a mistake by letting Matt Joyce go.
Max Scherzer: You are what you are. Identify what works and do your best to keep doing it. You can dominate this league if you pull it all together.
Rick Porcello: We’re done babying you. It’s time to grow up. Keep the ball down or we’ll find someone else who will. Toledo’s full of guys chomping at the bit for a chance.
Jose Valverde: Feeling better? Good. Want to still be the closer? Prove it. Because you’re on a short leash with Benoit, Coke, and Dotel outperforming you.
Ryan Raburn: I’m sorry about your loss. But this team NEEDS your head in the game. You’ve shown in the past you can hit MLB pitching like a boss. But no matter what’s going on in your life, you need to produce. Or we’ll get someone who will. Shut the boo birds up if you don’t like them.
Delmon Young: I’m sorry you don’t like DHing. Sorry you’re in a contract year and aren’t in the field. But you’re going to do what’s best for the team while you’re here. Quit pouting and start hitting the ball. Wait for your pitch, not just any pitch. How have you not learned this yet?
Finally, Jim Leyland: What happened to you? When did you go from ass kicker to everyone’s best friend? Shake something up. Hurt some feelings if you have to. Change the lineup to see if you get someone, ANYONE to respond. Here, I’ll do it for you.
LF Andy Dirks (Hottest hitter right now.)
2B Ryan Raburn (Get him better pitches in front of the mashers.)
1B Prince Fielder
3B Miguel Cabrera (Can’t hurt to switch them. Try anything.)
RF Brennan Boesch (Coming alive lately.)
C Alex Avila
DH Delmon Young
SS Jhonny Peralta
CF Quintin Berry
When Austin’s back, sure switch it around again. If batting Raburn second doesn’t help him, consider him lost. He has a career OPS of .864 batting second compared to .630 batting ninth. Help Prince by getting him better opportunities in front of Cabrera. Miguel showed last year he’s good enough to hit with anyone behind him. With Boesch through Peralta, ride who’s hottest. Don’t be afraid to move guys around. They’re grown men, not Little Leaguers. Even if they sometimes play like them.
But get mean. Show some of that old fire.
And never bunt again.
There’s a fine line between showing panic and getting pissed. It’s not nearly late enough in the season for panic.
But I don’t blame anyone for being pissed. I am. Every other Tigers fan I know is. And the players all say they are.
They just need to start playing like it. And I’d like to see someone have the courage to call them out.