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Everything is broken…arrggghhh

UPDATE: Leyland responded to the comments. Beck has the transcript and the audio is here. And it looks like Grilli has responded back.

This really was a rant for the ages. Leyland’s gone off before, but it has been to players with only terse summaries for the press afterwards. This was out there for everybody and I think he was 100% right in what he said. You’ve got to listen to the audio for yourself if you haven’t heard it yet. It ended with “Beck. If you write a horse— article you don’t blame John Lowe.”

Also, I wouldn’t expect Nightengale around the clubhouse for awhile. I did talk with people familiar with baseball clubhouses and there was nothing out of the ordinary that night. It’s normal baseball behavior and when you get to the park 5 hours before game time there is going to be downtime. Grilli is saying he was misquoted which could just be CYA backpedaling. But I do find the Guillen quote out of character. And I can’t help but wonder how many, if any, players Nightengale spoke with that indicated no clubhouse problems but it didn’t make the story.

Hey, you may have heard there was an article today about the chemistry in the Tigers clubhouse. I know there has already been a lot of discussion about this in another post, but I wanted the chance to address it. Please read the article first because the points I’m going to hash out below assume you will have read it.

  1. There are quotes in this article that I do find very disturbing. The Sheffield quotes and the Inge quotes don’t bother me too much. Sheffield probably said what he was thinking and in a day or two he’ll explain what he meant. As for Inge, he seems to say lots of things. What bothered me the most are the Guillen quotes in which he seemed to imply that the expectations were unfair. Bull—-. While a 1000 run offense expectation may not be fair, expecting to be a good team was completely in line. The fact that this came from someone who is perceived as a team leader is bad.
  2. Bob Nightengale wanted to paint a picture here. I’ve never been in a clubhouse before a game (or at anytime) but if I pictured one it would be players hanging out, checking fan mail, reading, listening to music, and even sleeping. This doesn’t seem odd to me at all and yet it is painted as a negative. Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez were singled out for not watching a tape of Dan Haren (leaving the impression that Cabrera had done no preparation). Cabrera homered and Ordonez had 3 hits. I don’t know what the players do to prepare. Maybe they actually did nothing, but to assume they did is quite the leap.
  3. The MLBPA tried to ban Nightengale last year because Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield claimed that Nightengale took quotes that were off the record and printed them, leading to potential punishment from the commissioner. But then Sheffield talked to Nightengale for this article so I don’t know what to make of it. Nightengale also reported that Magglio Ordonez wanted to be traded in 2005.
  4. It isn’t surprising that this story came from a national writer. In one respect you should take pause because he’s getting a snapshot of the team. In one respect you should give it more credence because he doesn’t have the same pressures as a beat writer having to go in there everyday.
  5. Jason Grilli shouldn’t be talking. He complained of cliques. Of course there are going to be cliques on a team. Most likely they break down along positional and racial lines. In the Tigers case many of those lines are related. Look at the infield – all from Latin America. Four-fifths of the starting rotation is white. I also thought it was interesting that Grilli singled out Sean Casey and Brandon Inge as the type of player they needed. Perhaps other guys from his clique?
  6. Read this article. (It’s different than the other one)

Look. I know stuff is broken with this team. They are playing like crap and way below their abilities. I don’t know why. But I know there is a more that I don’t know. I don’t know what these guys do on a daily basis to prepare. I don’t know how much they care and I know I can’t tell by looking at them what is going on in their heads. I don’t know if they are lazy because of their contracts or if the only thing they care about is winning. I don’t know if they like each other or if they hate each other. I don’t know if they’ve tuned their manager out, or if they are trying too hard, or not trying hard enough. And frankly I don’t care. I just want to see them play some decent baseball damn-it.

Posted by on May 20, 2008.

Categories: 2008 Season

83 Responses

  1. On my way to the game. Woo

    by yak on May 20, 2008 at 5:35 pm

  2. Wow, talk about verbose. That USS Mariner article gives new meaning to the word.

    I could only read so much of it, the parts I read, I just couldn’t take seriously. Really, if someone wrote a long treatise trying to argue that…say….. gravity doesn’t exist, would you really take the time to read the whole article?

    I read a fraction of it, but it seemed like just another, ‘If you can’t prove that chemistry exists and has a significant impact, statistically, then obviously:

    a) we’ve proven it doesn’t exist
    b) we’ve proven it is alltogether unimportant
    c) possibly both

    by greg on May 20, 2008 at 5:38 pm

  3. “I just want to see them play some decent baseball damn-it.”

    Let me back that 1,000 percent.

    by Mike in CT on May 20, 2008 at 5:51 pm

  4. Nice post Bill. I agree with greg on the verbosity of the USS Mariner article – but not the content. I think it makes a great point about how lame the “team chemistry” argument really is.

    Greg – you wouldn’t take an article seriously arguing that gravity doesn’t exist, because the existence of gravity can be scientifically proven and measured. Team chemistry – not so much.

    by Ryan In Brooklyn on May 20, 2008 at 5:52 pm

  5. Leyland’s response to all this suggests he’s lost control, or maybe just his ability to gauge the pulse of the team. Whether that matters is anyone’s guess.

    I’m loving how Grilli continues to shove his foot in his mouth and right down his throat. Yes, Jason, what your persona really needs at this point is association with thinly veiled racism!

    by Dave BW on May 20, 2008 at 6:02 pm

  6. Ryan – incorrect, I don’t need some scientist to write a treatise one way or another that gravity does or doesn’t exist, because its reality is certain, and the suggestion that it doesn’t exist is absurd, even in the absence of some PHD treatise proving its existence. Likewise, it’s equally difficult for me to take anybody seriously who somehow thinks that chemistry doesn’t exist, because I’ve seen it, its exitence is just as certain as gravity, the evidence, just as compelling.

    As far as the points it did make, rather than proving how ‘lame’ the chemistry argument is, I found myself saying, ‘man, that’s the best he can do?’

    Seemed more like someone trying to convince HIMSELF.

    by greg on May 20, 2008 at 6:02 pm

  7. I guess chemistry was more important than performance for Casey, Inge, and Grilli.
    What I take away from this is basically the same old scrappy crap, we didn’t perform, but the team was winning, so we were responsible for the other guys being good.

    by Neal in SD on May 20, 2008 at 6:08 pm

  8. After going to sat. and sun. games in AZ I walked away with 2 overwhelming feelings.
    1. My fellow Tigers fans are the Best in baseball. Hearing “Lets go Tigers” Echo throughout the concourse of chase field gave me goosebumps.
    2. The same group of people walking out on sunday silent and nauseaus. Which is how the team looked. Not sharp. Like they didnt wake up from their naps. They remind me of that guy on your high school baseball team who is born with twice the talent the rest of us dream of, yet just goofs around at practice and is planning his next party in the on deck circle.

    by albot on May 20, 2008 at 6:11 pm

  9. Neal –

    “I guess chemistry was more important than performance for Casey, Inge, and Grilli.”

    I don’t know how to quantify “chemistry” but I think its safe to say that intangibles in a team’s collective attitude do matter and translate into winning. Casey, Inge and Grilli weren’t/aren’t by any means superstars, but I find that roleplayers that contribute energy/chemistry are just as important to winning teams (especially in the playoffs).

    Anyone that watches hockey can tell you how grind/checking lines are routinely used to jump start a team’s top lines and while baseball is a much more individual sport, the same general principle applies. If nothing else watching less talented players work their a** off should shame the superstars into upping their efforts. You need the glue to hold clubhouses as much as you need the talent.

    I still think the team can turn it around given the right motivation/shame and if they aren’t, well I’d rather see a guy like Inge giving it his all on everyplay than watch Cabrera eff routine outs. Losing is a lot easier to swallow without the apparent apathy of millionaires.

    by Andre on May 20, 2008 at 6:24 pm

  10. Anyone else who has ever run a business, been a school administrator, coached or been part of a team at work or for that matter been part of a family chemistry IS a major factor in hiring and firing decisions and the success of the orginazation. It is a fact in any close knit environment. It takes unique leadership skills to pull it off. They call the Manager in baseball Skipper for a reason. As a team member you have to be willing to embrace that leadership and support your co-workers, team members, family,shipmates, whatever to achieve the common goal. You need to understand that not everyone is going to be on every day and be willing to pick up the slack when the others are having off days. I don’t care what you do outside the clubhouse but once you come in that door, you are as much a part of and no more a part of the team than any other player.

    That the attitude we heard players talking about in 06 and 07.
    Everyday 9 innings.

    Thats Chemistry.

    It may be hard to prove the negative, but you sure do know when it’s in the room.

    by West Coast Tiger on May 20, 2008 at 6:40 pm

  11. Don’t miss Leyland’s reaction to this story over on Jason Beck’s blog. He unloads on Jason Grilli and has this to say about Carlos Guillen:

    “It isn’t fair all of a sudden for people to have expectations? Well, why wasn’t it fair? What are you talking about, it wasn’t fair? You’re supposed to love the expectations. You’re saying it wasn’t fair to have expectations? What are you talking about? I’m a grown man. I can take my heat, and I deserve some for the performance of this club. But you better be careful when you’re a player. If you’re hitting .200 and .220 and striking out or hitting .200 and .215, you shouldn’t be popping off, in my opinion, about other situations. You ought to be taking care of your own business. If they want to play games, I’ll play games, and it won’t be long [before] I’ll put names to it, if they want me to. I’m not quite to that point yet. They want to play games, I’ll play games. I’ll quit protecting some of these guys night after night after night after night. And I’ll put some names to it.”

    Things are getting ugly real quick…

    by Tbone on May 20, 2008 at 6:42 pm

  12. Yes, the grind line chemistry guys are important, however, you, those guys get no credit unless the stars put up the big #’s. I like the grinders myself, but it’s to no avail if the stars don’t play like stars. I’m giving Miggy a break right now due to his injury.

    Personally, I think one of the big problems we have in watching sports is that we root for the guys who look like they are working hard, and so guys that have skills or are smoother go unappreciated (or worse) unless they act like grinders.

    My take:
    Miggy is hurt, he and the Tigers need to figure out where he plays (3rd with a lot work if possible is the best option).
    Is Guillen able to field any position adequately? If so, put him there, otherwise DH. Can he play in Left?
    Ride it out with Renteria, groom a slick fielder with range and hope he learns to hit.
    Put Sheff on the DL, either rehab or surgery, or eat he contact.
    Sign Bonds to sit in Left and DH, it doesn’t look like he could disrupt the chemistry, maybe he could even solidify it (against him).
    Winning makes for good chemistry.

    by Neal on May 20, 2008 at 6:49 pm

  13. Finally…

    I say let things get ugly, lets hit rock bottom now and then go up. Let Sheffield get pissed, stick him on the DL, let him stew until he’s healthy and then unleash him on the opposition.

    Guillen is getting grilled like he should for making weak-a** excuses like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy and we’ll need him as much as anyone…but if he’s Cabrera’s idol, its bad news when you hear that.

    by Andre on May 20, 2008 at 6:50 pm

  14. Neal –

    I agree that the team needs the truly talented to step it up, but sometimes when they aren’t/can’t/won’t you need to shift some of the playing time to guys that will at least give it their all until the stars are either healthy/willing enough to produce.

    by Andre on May 20, 2008 at 6:56 pm

  15. Excellent post West Coast Tiger.

    by greg on May 20, 2008 at 7:01 pm

  16. Chicken or the egg. Does good “chemistry” cause the team to win? Or do we perceive good chemistry when our team is performing at a winning level? That’s the point that article is making. It seems presumptuous, to me, for anyone to be so certain about this elusive quality.

    by Ryan In Brooklyn on May 20, 2008 at 7:03 pm

  17. Well, it’s not like they can start playing worse than they have been. So maybe airing everything out will be a shock to the system, take the pressure off, and get things on the upswing.

    by Kyle J on May 20, 2008 at 7:19 pm

  18. It’s almost time to buy low on this team.

    The first comment in the Jason Beck blog talks about Leyland “snapping”. I have to agree, because Leyland loves Grilli and Guillen (especially Carlos) and he absolutely skewers them in his comments.

    I’m probably an optimist, but this article may be a blessing. Get the crap and frustration out in the open, and move on.

    by Mark in Chicago on May 20, 2008 at 7:34 pm

  19. Leyland’s diatribe was clearly zeroed in on the favorite player of white racists everywhere, Brandon Inge. Leyland was talking about a players who hit “.200, .220….popping off at the mouth” as a “diversionary tactic”, he sure as hell wasn’t talking about Guillen.

    Today on 97.1 FM, the white racists were calling in in droves finally saying out loud what they’d been dying to say since we lost on extra innings in game #1: “White players are better! Get rid of the Latins!” Host Mike Valenti encouraged this idiotic, bigoted, manifestly bogus crap.

    I’d like those white racists to have their own team of Brandon Inge’s, and I’d take Manny Ramirez, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Miguel Cabrera….and watch the white players get the crapped kicked out of them. (‘Course, then the racists would just say that the weather was too hot for the white guys.)

    Inge is a bad baseball player. He’s becoming the ’08 Tigers’ version of the Red Sox’s Nomar Garciaparra in ’04: a horrible, self-absorbed distraction. (With one key difference: Garciaparra could actually play.)

    by DavidBrennan on May 20, 2008 at 7:39 pm

  20. DavidBrennan –

    Leyland also went after Guillen who complained of the unfair expectations. Inge and Sheffield were both quoted and both are hitting 200 and striking out. I think he was probably talking about both.

    Oh, and it’s best not to listen to Valenti

    by billfer on May 20, 2008 at 7:44 pm

  21. Billfer,

    I think we could ninny back and forth about who Leyland was referring to….but then we’d sound like the vapid idiots on FoxNews screaming back and forth about the significance Barack Obama not wearing a flag on his lapel. When push comes to shove, it’s actually insignificant and, well, kind of effeminate and petty.

    Having said that, I have zero doubt that he was indeed talking about Inge because (a) Inge was the one who gave the self-excusing quote, which blamed his failures on the team “chemistry”, and this was precisely what Leyland was saying was a “diversionary tactic”, as well as (b) Leyland is reputed to love Sheffield, going back to their championship days in Florida.

    by DavidBrennan on May 20, 2008 at 7:58 pm

  22. It’s difficult to have an argument with David . . .

    by Kyle J on May 20, 2008 at 8:07 pm

  23. Kyle J,

    Way to substantiate your point! A well-constructed argument fit for study in a collegiate debate class.

    The best part of your lucid statement was that cryptic ellipsis at the end of your post. It almost seemed to say, “Sure, my brain might be a barren wasteland, but these dots prove that, beneath the stupidity, there’s a secret cache of wisdom and insight. You’ll never see it, but it’s there!”

    But brevity is the soul of wit, and so you can give Denis Leary and Jay Leno pointers on good comedy.

    by DavidBrennan on May 20, 2008 at 8:13 pm

  24. Oh, and it’s best not to listen to Valenti

    Amen. That guy is awful.

    by Mith on May 20, 2008 at 8:33 pm

  25. Jason Grilli says he still has good friends on the team here in Detroit. What are the odds Inge is one? Just like Big Red and Maroth were the favorites of ‘ol Ingy. He has never been able to keep his mouth shut. Maybe I was wrong about the Skipper. Maybe he still has the fire.

    by Kathy on May 20, 2008 at 8:46 pm

  26. David – Didn’t know we were arguing like ninnies. I would say that when Guillen says this :

    “We never said we were going to win 100 games. All we said was that we have a good team with good players. That was the (sports) media and fans doing the talking. You don’t win games looking good on paper. You’ve got to do it on the field. That wasn’t fair to us.”

    And then Leyland says this:

    “It isn’t fair all of a sudden for people to have expectations? Well, why wasn’t it fair? What are you talking about, it wasn’t fair? You’re supposed to love the expectations. You’re saying it wasn’t fair to have expectations? What are you talking about? I’m a grown man. I can take my heat, and I deserve some for the performance of this club.

    I think they kind of go together.

    by billfer on May 20, 2008 at 8:56 pm

  27. And look how good the chemistry was in the dugout after Maggs hit that HR. What a great article Billfer references. It really is all about winning or losing.

    by Kathy on May 20, 2008 at 9:01 pm

  28. Billfer,

    I do not have any interest in reading through some stranger’s quotes and cutting-and-pasting individual lines for a totally pointless debate. I’ll concede defeat before I sink to those depths.

    But….Leyland’s interview was recorded and played on 97.1 FM around 5:30 this afternoon. Everybody – both hosts, the callers, and myself (as a listener) – agreed that the bulk of Leyland’s 2,000 words were aimed at Brandon Inge’s comments about how the “culture” and “clubhouse” have changed. And the anger and the f—’s and the b—s—’s were all spoken when he was talking about a player who “needs to look in the mirror” and stop looking for “diversionary tactics”. He was palpably pissed at Inge (and, to a lesser extent, at Grilli). It was simply axiomatic – given the tone and general content – that he was talking about Inge.

    Anyway, as long as we can all agree that Inge is (a) a crappy baseball player who should be traded (alas, no other teams want anything to do with him), and (b) that 99% of the callers supporting him on the radio are pathetic, military-worshipping, Viagara-popping bigots….we’re all good.

    by DavidBrennan on May 20, 2008 at 9:12 pm

  29. So the callers and show you just railed against are being used to support your point?

    As far as depths, the Guillen quote was from the article and the Leyland quote was from the same rant that was played on 97.1 He was pissed at the players who talked to the press, of which Inge was one. What stranger’s quotes are you talking about?

    by billfer on May 20, 2008 at 9:24 pm

  30. Leyland’s a stranger. Don’t know ‘im.

    Leyland’s quotes about the club expectations were modest in comparison to his explitive-filled rant against the players who used “chemistry” as an excuse for failure. (A player who’s “hitting .200, .220″. Gee, who could that be?)

    If Guillen was quoted talking about club expectations, and Inge was quoted talking about chemistry, and if Leyland’s most pointed anger was directed at the player using “chemistry” (an idea Leyland mocked) as an excuse for failure, then the crux of Leyland’s anger was directed at Inge.

    I’m sorry, but this fact was as plain as day, and I’ve little interest in discussing it any more.

    by DavidBrennan on May 20, 2008 at 9:29 pm

  31. It was all the same rant. I heard the same stuff you did. He was pissed about both. Plain as day.

    And are you delusional, drunk, or just nonsensical?

    The whole point of what we’re talking about is Leyland and now you don’t care what he says because you don’t know him? Huh?

    by billfer on May 20, 2008 at 9:37 pm

  32. pathetic, military-worshipping, Viagara-popping bigots

    I have friends in the military. I think very highly of them and anybody else who puts their lives on the line like they do. Does that mean I’m a bigot? Does it mean I use erectile dysfunction drugs?

    If you’re mad at callers to a radio show who said things you thought were bigoted, then call them bigots and be done with it.

    Unless they were calling in saying “Inge rules! Go 82nd Airborne!!! Man I took a pill and I’ve got a raging boner!” your other epithets don’t really fit in with your bigotry comments. Of course maybe you’re tying those callers you found offensive into other stereotypes; an attitude which may be described as biased if not bigoted itself.

    by Jeff on May 20, 2008 at 9:46 pm

  33. Yes, Inge is an idiot for not keeping his mouth shut and playing ball. I am not sure what that makes some people who call others racist because they think Inge should be playing third ( complete idiots?). I don’t care if the dude is purple – we have already seen what bad defenders look like and what they can cost the team. I am no stat freak, but I think if you look at the thirdbasemen on the 1984 team (Johnson and Castillo) you will find similar offensive numbers as Inge – and they were far worse defenders. Before that there was Aurelio Rodriguez – a great defender and offensive numbers similar to Inge. You can’t blame the Tiger’s woes on Inge. Now, if he has become a distraction in the clubhouse, then he has to go. I am more concerned by Guillen’s comments as he hasn’t before seemed to be a player who opens his mouth before engaging brain.

    by Hawk on May 20, 2008 at 9:51 pm

  34. Yeah, David, I think this is what that guy meant who said it was hard to argue with you.

    by Dave BW on May 20, 2008 at 9:59 pm

  35. Jeff,

    You’ve got family in the military now? Well, my dad is a Vietnam vet (a real one, not the phony Tim Johnson type), and Vietnam made Iraq look like an afternoon at Chuck E Cheese. 58,000 dead in Vietnam, about 4,000 dead in Iraq (and nearly half of them from friendly fire and accidents).

    So, if we’re going to play the military idolatry game, I’m in the lead for right now. (BTW, do you ever express apprciation for, say, loggers or miners? Their jobs are more dangerous than those of 95% of the military, and they’re actually, ya know, creating something for civilization.)

    [Self-censored a rant about Phony Tough Guys in modern America.]

    ….and when I hear people call into the radio and say that Brandon Inge is a better baseball player than Miguel Cabrera, or that he’s got “heart” and all the rest of this bulls–t, images of that [self-censored] are conjured up in my head. It’s always white players who are applauded for “character” and “grit”. ALWAYS. Albert Pujols can hit 4 home runs in a game, and David Eckstein will take second base on a pass ball and after the game the announcers will spend twenty minutes slobbering over Eckstein and then, “Oh yeah, some foreigner had 7 RBIs, but nevermind that. Back to Eckstein!”

    Hey, I’m white, and I admit that, just like many Japanese people take pride in seeing one of their own do well (i.e., Ichiro or Hideki Matsui), I understand that there’s a natural inclination to side with somebody from your own background. I find myself cheering for Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki more than I really ought to (and they’re from socialist countries – nuke the bastards!!!) But this is beyond just association, this is egregious racism, and I have to listen to it all day long at work while they play 97.1 on the radio.

    These people can have their Inge’s and their Todd Jones’s and their Rayburn’s. I’ll take Ordonez, Guillen, and Polanco any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. And I’d kick their ass every time.

    by DavidBrennan on May 20, 2008 at 10:17 pm

  36. David,

    Maybe you are correct in that the vast majority of the callers into 97.1 defending Inge ARE racist. I honestly have no idea what lies in the head of others, all I can go by is what they say and how they act.

    That said, you pointing out that your father served in the military really has no bearing on the fact that you used the term “military-worshipping” in a deragatory fashion. You have implied that there is something negative about “military-worship”, whatever that is. People may take offense to that comment in that context. It’s not a competition to put up my family’s military history against yours. You have every right to say that, but don’t be surprised if people take offense to it.

    Perhaps you would be well-served to explain what “military-worshipping” is and what is the problem with it.

    by Mark in Chicago on May 20, 2008 at 10:25 pm

  37. Keep it about baseball and/or the Tigers.

    by billfer on May 20, 2008 at 10:29 pm

  38. Mark in Chicago,

    First off, “military worship” is a derogatory term, if only for the fact that anything but “God worship” is idolatry – the foremost sin in the Bible.

    People in America have been duped into worshipping the military, whaddaya want me to say about it? They lie for the military, they pretend to cry at Tigers games when they sing “God Bless America” (a horrible-sounding song, incidentally) in place of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, they applaud murder (a violation of another rock-solid Commandment) when done by the military (and I’m not talking about just wars here).

    People worship the military. Just the way America is. The men are impotent, the citizens are ignorant, the government is our Papa and the military is our God. Viagara-popping American Male thinks he looks profound and deep when he acts like the everybody in the military is like Matt Damon and Tom Hanks in ‘Saving Private Ryan’. They know it’s bulls—, but they’re locked into they’re idiotic lies.

    Just glad I ain’t Arabic. I’d have been murdered by now. Don’t like worshipping the military, I got a God to worship. Don’t like lyin’, honesty is the anchor of civilization.

    Hey, it’s cool. I mean, I ain’t gonna sweat it. Got my own life to live.

    We done now, or do I have to carry on some more?

    by DavidBrennan on May 20, 2008 at 10:34 pm

  39. Nope, nothing else to add. You’ve said it all.

    Billfer, my apologies for hijacking this thread. Won’t happen again.

    by Mark in Chicago on May 20, 2008 at 10:36 pm

  40. Kyle J,

    Way to substantiate your point! A well-constructed argument fit for study in a collegiate debate class.

    The best part of your lucid statement was that cryptic ellipsis at the end of your post. It almost seemed to say, “Sure, my brain might be a barren wasteland, but these dots prove that, beneath the stupidity, there’s a secret cache of wisdom and insight. You’ll never see it, but it’s there!”

    But brevity is the soul of wit, and so you can give Denis Leary and Jay Leno pointers on good comedy.

    Well, after seeing where the path led for those who took the time to fully engage you, I’m glad I stuck with the brevity approach.

    by Kyle J on May 20, 2008 at 10:40 pm

  41. Keep it about baseball and/or the Tigers.

    Amen.

    Back to chemistry. I read some of the USS Mariner article. It was a bit rambling and repetitive.

    “Team chemistry” sounds a bit mystical, but at least it’s short. To me, the words stand in for “a good workplace atmosphere created by clearly defined expectations, goals, and rewards, along with freedom of expression among and empathy and respect between fellow team members.” (Whew.)

    Talent and sound play are enough to win. Usually. But where these are equal, luck and/or team chemistry come into play. Winning edges – one unpredictable, the other unquantifiable.

    For instance, if a pitcher and a first baseman are on speaking terms, they might get to talking about something, maybe working on something on their own initiative. Like coordinating a pickoff move specific to a certain situation or player. A game comes along, and a runner is caught flat-footed at first, and we’re all as surprised as he was. We’ll say it was sound play, and it was. We’ll say it was good coaching, and maybe that had something to do with it, too. But it was also about team chemistry. Invisibly.

    On paper and to fans, team chemistry is just an edge that you can’t measure. But I wouldn’t try to tell a pro ballplayer that who they work with and how they get along doesn’t matter. Sure matters to me, and work is work, game or no game.

    by Sean C. in Illinois on May 20, 2008 at 11:24 pm

  42. DavidBrennan,

    Your response to Kyle J’s fairly benign and completely accurate statement about the inability to argue with you was completely uncalled for and the epitome of all the things you claim to hate and rally against. If I had to show someone an example of how self-absorbed, Viagra-popping, bigots communicate their points, I basically would refer them to your posts……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    by Ken from Cincinnati on May 21, 2008 at 12:02 am

  43. Ken

    Please, I know how tempting it is, but don’t get him going again.

    by Sean C. in Illinois on May 21, 2008 at 12:10 am

  44. I’ll apologize ahead of time, Sean.

    by Ken from Cincinnati on May 21, 2008 at 12:15 am

  45. I’m not quite sure of many of the points above, but I certainly do appreciate the passion. Thanks for the read!

    As our own Jack White has crooned, you can’t take the effect and make it the cause. Poor chemistry is the result of horrendous losing.

    I’m sure that there is a minimal amount of chemistry that is required to execute pick off plays or be successful, but where is the line from “good” to “average” to “poor” to “Detroit Tigers through May 2008?” it’s impossible to tell and in my opinion, utterly unimportant.

    The guys need to hit doubles and HRs, and they need to hit with runners in scoring position. Ordonez can read all the magazines he wants to read. Watching film isn’t for everyone (though Joyce and Rayburn should have been there – where are the coaches?).

    Though I am glad that the national writer finally had the huevos to ask the tough questions. The Detroit media has been noticeably quiet in that regard.

    by Kevin in Austin on May 21, 2008 at 12:19 am

  46. Sean,

    Solid post on team chemistry, and just example one of literally hundreds that could be given that demonstrate that chemistry exists.

    I played baseball for years, I’m not so sure that a week ever went by in which chemistry didn’t effect production one way or another.

    exhibit a –

    As a leadoff hitter, I notice that the starter we are facing, who has only 2 quality pitches, is tipping his curve ball. If I like my teammates(good chemistry) I will share this knowledge, so this knowledge turns a would be shutout into a shelling, we win going away. If I don’t like my teammates, I keep the knowledge to myself, hit two doubles and a triple, and get left on base 3 times as we get shutout.

    As a player, I’ve seen this, and, no exaggeration, hundreds of other things, that fall under the umbrella of chemistry, play out, and it changes the outcome of games.

    And some of the stat pundits tell me this didn’t happen, and write treatises that I’m an idiot for believing that I had these experiences….I guess I’m supposed to deny that all these events ever happened, maybe all these experiences were part of a computer simulated dream world, maybe I’m in the matrix and nothing is real.

    by greg on May 21, 2008 at 1:24 am

  47. Grilli seems to say that after “good guy” Sean Casey was let go, the culture in the clubhouse changed, becasue those are the kind of guys you want around and guys like Inge to back you up on the field who will go through a wall for you.

    Sounds pretty clear to me what he’s saying. He doesn’t like the new guys. Course, Grilli was a crappy pitcher before Casey got there as well as after Casey left. I think Grilli misses the point.

    by Kathy on May 21, 2008 at 1:45 am

  48. Inge needs to have a bar-b-que at his place, invite the whole team, smoke a little pot, have a few drinks, let the wives mingle, rent one of those blow up thingamajings for the kids and everyone can just relax on a Sunday evening after a game. Can’t they all just be friends?

    by ron on May 21, 2008 at 2:31 am

  49. jason grill should shut the hell up. God. I’m sick of downright terrible players talking. Quit putting mic’s in front of guys who can’t throw a stone in the ocean, pitch at home, or hit a breaking ball. Chemistry is not important in the most individualistic ‘team’ sport in America. Some of the most dysfunctional clubhouses are forever remembered as world champions. it’s been a perfect storm of bad hitting and bad starting pitching. The fact that some guys might not be buddy-buddy with other guys is not the reason for not winning more than just 1 game when scoring less than 4 runs.

    jason grilli should try not being a below-average pitcher before popping off. I rarely, if ever, get mad at players for talking but I’d like to punch him in the mouth. No one would give him a steady job until he got to this organization and for him to say the reason we’re losing is because we don’t have (who I’m presuming is) his buddy Sean Casey is ridiculous.

    by Mike R on May 21, 2008 at 2:42 am

  50. I find it interesting that David gives his last name. Could it be Father Brennan?

    by ron on May 21, 2008 at 2:46 am

  51. Some of these posts are classic. They should go into the hall of fame or hall of shame. I’m not sure which.

    by ron on May 21, 2008 at 2:54 am

  52. To come full circle:

    Back to the nefarious article. Leyland went off on Guillen’s statement and others here have expressed the same. Bilfer said:

    “… What bothered me the most are the Guillen quotes in which he seemed to imply that the expectations were unfair.”

    Of everything printed in the article, I have the least trouble with what Guillen said. In fact, I have no problem with what Guillen said at all. That said, I appoint myself Guillen’s counsel on this matter. Here is what Guillen ACTUALLY said:

    “We never said we were going to win 100 games. All we said was that we have a good team with good players. That was the (sports) media and fans doing the talking. You don’t win games looking good on paper. You’ve got to do it on the field. That wasn’t fair to us.”

    You have to take this quote in context and bear in mind there is a language barrier and his quote isn’t worded well. You also have to bear in mind what the players actually DID say in spring training, to which he was referring in the first place. I read this as Guillen simply defending his team from accusations of pre-season hubris al a the hare vs. tortoise fable.

    Were he more eloquent, he would have worded it this way:

    “Look. We never took our talent for granted and said at the outset we were going to win 100 games by just showing up to the field. To do so would be presumptous, arrogant, and complete hubris. We need to play the games, 162 of them, nine innings at a time (again, if you look back, this IS what the players–Leyland included–were saying–not just Guillen).

    “All we did say is that we have a good team with good players. For all of you (media) to accuse us of arrogance and hubris is unfair. We have a good team, and we know we are capable of wining 100 games, but we also know we need to play the games on the field before we can presume to win any of them.”

    It’s not the expectations that Guillen is saying is “unfair”, it’s the accusation of presumption Guillen is saying is unfair. I can’t say I have a problem with that.

    by T Smith on May 21, 2008 at 7:16 am

  53. T Smith -

    Excellent point, and you’re right. After a 10th re-read I put too much weight into Nightengale’s lead-in to the Guillen quote. It was Nightengale that suggested the burden of the expectations were too much. Guillen simply said the targets set by fans were unfair.

    Nice analysis.

    by billfer on May 21, 2008 at 7:25 am

  54. So is it fair to say nothing was said by any one player or manager that upset any other player or said manager? We would not want any discord in the clubhouse to effect this juggernaut of a season we’re having.

    by ron on May 21, 2008 at 7:40 am

  55. Oh yeh , is heart part of team chemistry or is that anatomy?

    by ron on May 21, 2008 at 7:46 am

  56. If what Grilli said was true, then I applaud Grilli for what he said. Bravo! I know what Inge said is true and I stand up and applaud his comments as well. It’s about time they broke out of the cliches and started actually saying something. The fact that Leyland was so ticked off only indicates that it smacked of truth because the things they said implicate Leyland and his lack of control over the team and the clubhouse. Yep, his reaction confirmed it. A year a go I would have said Leyland was the best manager, my favorite manager in baseball, but lately, and especially the things he said yesterday…..I’ve lost respect for him as a manager. This is the most ticked off I’ve ever seen him, and what was it really that set him off? Was it the Tigers losing? Was it losing control of the clubhouse? Was it lethargy? Nope. Those things can be tolerated, he’ll cover for them game after game after game after game, he’ll lie to the fans game after game after game after game in covering for the players, but if they make him look bad, he’s having none of that.

    by greg on May 21, 2008 at 7:59 am

  57. Inge is done in Detroit. He has to go!

    by Jim on May 21, 2008 at 8:10 am

  58. T Smith, yours was the best post of the day. I’m amazed I didn’t notice the difference between Guillen’s comments and the way Nightengale painted them.

    by Dave BW on May 21, 2008 at 9:52 am

  59. Funny how everything seems a little less dire after one win.

    T Smith’s interpretation of Guillen’s comments is well-reasoned and plausible. I’m guilty of the knee-jerk reaction “That’s not fair” = whining ballplayer. (But so is Leyland, so I’m in good company.)

    I don’t have much of a problem with any of the quotes, including those of Grilli and Inge. Grilli offers an opinion when asked – fine. Leyland rejects this opinion and expresses his irritation with it – also fine. Sheffield’s comments were the simplest and least cryptic of all.

    I disagree with the notion that a player’s stats should dictate his willingness to speak out. We should judge what was said on the merits, whether it comes from a star or a mediocre player. Leyland is right to say, though, that if there’s a problem, you should “stick your chest out” and “put a name to it.” To him, to your teammates. Before you talk to the press about it, and perhaps “instead of.”

    by Sean C. in Illinois on May 21, 2008 at 10:15 am

  60. I really don’t have a problem with anything any of the players said, although whether they should have aired their problems to a reporter is another matter. It’s obvious that guys are not playing well, and are in fact playing far below their career averages, and I’m open to any theories anyone has as to why that is the case. I’m also not going to fault Leyland for going off again – it’s high time it happened. This team deserves to be chewed out right now because they are not performing up to par.

    It’s one thing to not live up to unrealistic pre-season expectations, but this team is just north of LAST PLACE in the AL. Their performance to date has been bad enough that fans and the team members should be frustrated and looking for answers. KC fans would be disgruntled if their team were performing this badly, and they don’t have nearly our payroll or players with the track record we have.

    I don’t mean this as a complete defense of Inge, because his offense definitely leaves something to be desired. However, I would hope that if any team member, including one that is not performing well offensively, sees a lack of hustle or effort on the part of his teammates, he should speak up about it. And I don’t think that everyone who wants to see him at 3rd on a regular basis should be accused of racism.

    Inge’s offensive numbers are at least marginally better than Sheffield’s (his OBP is about 10 poits lower but his slugging percentage is 100 points higher and his batting average is 40 points higher), and he is far better at 3rd defensively than Guillen. Guillen would be a far better DH than Sheff currently is, and putting Inge at 3rd would be a big improvement defensively. Replacing Sheffield in the lineup with Inge/Guillen, would be at worst a wash offensively and a big upgrade defensively. There is a non-racist argument that the Guillen to DH Inge to 3rd move should be made.

    by Mark J in DC on May 21, 2008 at 10:39 am

  61. Inge is a major distraction who cannot hit. Not much trade vaue either. Not much we can do with him besides sending him to Toledo.

    by Jim on May 21, 2008 at 10:43 am

  62. Man, i wish we had an over-21 portion of this blog, because a friend transcribed leyland’s tirade and it’s up there with lee elia saying all the folks who come to wrigley were unemployed losers for sheer off-the-hook nervous breakdowness.

    by stephen on May 21, 2008 at 10:57 am

  63. Leyland probably should have done this when C-Mo started mouthing off about the Tigers in an article a few weeks ago and of course, it centered around how he was treated and his sympathy for Inge. I almost puked reading it.

    Then we’ve got Grilli mouthing off. I also agree with the other writer about Carlos, the language barrier, and trying to protect his teamates a little bit. But Leland was spot-on in his remarks. No championship team can happen with all this pettiness! I’ve never seen a team where everyone loves each other, but I know championship teams can’t happen when there’s pettiness. Read the remarks from each one of the guys and like Leyland said it’s all between the lines! Only Leland had the guts to say it out loud.

    by Kathy on May 21, 2008 at 11:15 am

  64. Well, Jim, I’m pretty sure Inge cannot be sent to Toledo. I’d rather see him at 3B. Or traded (if someone would only take him). As intriguing as his possible future as Pudge’s replacement is, I think the Tigers should aim higher and think more long-term for that position.

    by Sean C. in Illinois on May 21, 2008 at 11:21 am

  65. Baseball is a microcosm of America, just because we don’t talk about the cultural differences doesn’t mean they don’t exist. These same issues are playing out in the Mets locker room with Billy Wagner carping only slightly obliquely that the Latino players bolt after losses and don’t talk with the press. He’s partially right, but there’s clearly another subtext going on here. On many teams, the predominant language spoken in locker rooms is now Spanish. That’s hard for some players to deal with. I’m not excusing it, they’re getting paid millions, and they should get with the program about America now being a true melting pot. But it’s an adjustment.
    And at the risk of stereotyping, there are cultural differences to the way the different groups approach the game. I spend a lot of time in LA and watch a fair amount of pick up games in Eagle Rock, a predominantly Latino neighborhood. The fields are lit until midnight and men from 15 to 40 play year round. The joy with which they play the game is palpable and a wonder to watch. But, in the end, it’s just a game. They have real issues to deal with whether it’s putting food on the table, sending money home, or worrying about loved ones faraway in dangerous places.
    Again, dealing in vast generalities, a lot of white players come from fairly affluent backgrounds with personal coaches and travel leagues. Everything is taken care of for them so the game can become their entire life. The culture clash happens when the two groups meet at the professional level. A lot of Latino players are still dealing with real world problems and literally lifting extended families of thirty or forty out of abject poverty. They are learning a second language. It’s no wonder they still see baseball as a game. The white players are in their home country, speaking their first language, and know the culture. Maybe that gives them more time to obsess about the game. It doesn’t excuse crap players like Grilli and Inge popping off, but that’s the reality.
    Just think of the multi-cultural dog pile after Maggs’ ’06 walk off against the A’s. And now think of the current Tigers locker room. This is why baseball is such a fascinating American experience. It can represent either the best of us or the worst of us.

    by stephen on May 21, 2008 at 11:36 am

  66. I don’t think most of us have any trouble figuring out exactly what profanity Leyland was using, Stephen :)

    by Dave BW on May 21, 2008 at 11:41 am

  67. Good post, Stephen. I also liked your Miguel Cabrera to the Yankees in 2010 projection in another thread recently. That’s gold, Jerry – gold! I hope Cabrera has his 58 HR, 152 RBI season a little sooner, though, like 2009 with the Tigers.

    by Sean C. in Illinois on May 21, 2008 at 11:50 am

  68. How did this become a race/cultural thing? Inge said he wanted people running out ground balls. That they should have the same hunger as they did in 2006. Not sure how that’s a cultural thing.

    Also, on my 25 man roster, if I’m GM, manager, bench coach, whatever, I don’t care if a guy is batting .000 and 0 for 255 at the all star break, if he sees someone slacking, I want him to shout it from the roof tops. In fact, I might give him a bonus. Hustling is simple choice. Anyone can hustle simply by choosing to. Being outhustled should never be tolerated, by anyone, ever.

    by greg on May 21, 2008 at 12:18 pm

  69. Oh, man. The Leyland audio is priceless. But if that’s a “tirade,” it’s the mellowest one I’ve ever heard.

    by Sean C. in Illinois on May 21, 2008 at 12:31 pm

  70. Let’s give pettiness a chance. It’s been 24 years and we’ve tried everything else.

    by ron on May 21, 2008 at 1:00 pm

  71. Greg, not saying its a racial thing. However, Inge broke the cardinal rule of baseball. You dont go to the media + talk bad about your team. He could have said it face to face or even to Leyland. That is why Leyland got so mad. I think he was most upset with Inge. Thats why I think Inge will be gone. Interesting to see what his teammates think of him. Maybe if they had some guts, one of them would take Inge out back + whip his @3$.

    by Jim on May 21, 2008 at 1:08 pm

  72. Greg, team chemistry can be viewed from a cultural perspective, but yes, I don’t know that Inge was saying anything about race or culture. Until some member of the press is bold enough to put the question directly to Detroit Tigers, I’m not going to read anything into what Inge or Grilli said. People have grudges and grievances for all sorts of less sensational reasons.

    by Sean C. in Illinois on May 21, 2008 at 1:10 pm

  73. “Let’s give pettiness a chance. It’s been 24 years and we’ve tried everything else.”

    Good one, Ron. All we are saying…

    Nice idea about the barbecue at Inge’s place, too.

    by Sean C. in Illinois on May 21, 2008 at 1:12 pm

  74. Jim, I think you’re allowed to say bad things in the press about your team, as long as you don’t single out teammates for blame and include yourself in the negative picture. I’ll have to go back and look at the Inge quotes.

    by Sean C. in Illinois on May 21, 2008 at 1:18 pm

  75. Nope, can’t see anything so terrible about what Inge said. If Leyland can, it’s because he knows Inge and can see things in between the lines I can’t.

    by Sean C. in Illinois on May 21, 2008 at 1:27 pm

  76. stephen:

    nice post. You might even want to pitch that one to your editor.

    by T Smith on May 21, 2008 at 2:19 pm

  77. Stephen and TSmith have tied this thread up for me. Those two posts hit the nail on the head for the main issues of this discussion.

    (Oh yeah – and I’m still not buying the “chemistry” argument – one thing I agree with Leyland about).

    by Ryan In Brooklyn on May 21, 2008 at 2:47 pm

  78. Nightengale’s article didn’t really bother me at all. I imagined it as either he had the idea, or he was told, to “go find out what is wrong with the Tigers”.

    So when he went in and didn’t see players in the throes of a potentially season-ruining slump all fired up and pissed he ran with the listless, lazy and incohesive angle. It almost writes itself, and I bet a similar story has been written about under-performing teams 100 times.

    To me, the best indicator of hackery here was when he implied the team was broken because Maggs and Thames didn’t wear their socks high the day after the gimmick coincided with a win. I believe Leyland would say that’s horse****. I’d bet a lot of money the skeleton of this story was written on the plane to Detroit and he just needed to fill in the details.

    by Matt in Toledo on May 21, 2008 at 3:27 pm

  79. Matt in Toledo, I liked your angle on the article. But the quotes within it were what seemed to get everyone going. The article itself is ripe for parody. Anyone want to give it a try?

    Dombrowski comissioned this article on the sly, and Nightengale may be receiving the back end oif the payment in October.

    Hey, is Jeff Larish ready to help the Tigers or what?

    by Sean C. in Illinois on May 21, 2008 at 4:25 pm

  80. greg, if Inge feels guys aren’t hustling, he should say it in the clubhouse. That was Leland’s point and also to stop pointing fingers at other people and look in a mirror at yourself.

    by Kathy on May 21, 2008 at 4:25 pm

  81. Kathy – I agree, and maybe he did, and maybe he was told to go jump in a lake. We really don’t know. In any event, he didn’t name anyone specific, so I don’t understand the backlash. I can dig up countless ‘general’ quotes about team play from most players on every team, including the Tigers. No backlash from any of those general disparaging comments(we haven’t been playing well, we’re making errors, we suck, etc.)

    Sean might be right that there’s something going on between the lines that I’m just not seeing.

    by greg on May 21, 2008 at 4:36 pm

  82. One might think if Nightengale really wanted to go trolling for a story, they would have baited the players in our AAAA organization, the Florida Marlins. There is certainly some pun value there.

    Oh yeah. I forgot. Our triple AAAA team is actually a first place team. Let’s ditch that.

    by T Smith on May 21, 2008 at 4:48 pm

  83. T, thanks for the nice words. Not sure if I could get anyone to go on the record about such touchy stuff. It is the clubhouse controversy that dare not speak its name.

    As a journalist, I’m not going to either bury or praise the USA Today guy. I do know the dangers of trying to capture a clubhouse in one visit. That’s why I prefer magazine stuff. You spend a week with a team, you get a better sense of a team’s vibe. Not that’s it’s perfect, there’s a story in last week’s SI about the Brewers that clearly was supposed to be a week in the life of an upcoming team and the Brewers proceeded to hit the skids. You still gotta do the story. People might still be pissed with your story, but a writer can sleep better knowing he/she had the time to get it right.

    And before anyone gets the idea I know what I’m talking about, I once advocated in a national magazine that Ryan Leaf would be a better pro quarterback than Peyton Manning.

    In short, I’m pretty much an idiot.

    by stephen on May 21, 2008 at 5:16 pm

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