Game 2015.56: Tigers at White Sox

(The A’s earned that pic above)

As I mentioned the other day, I’m usually pretty calm when it comes to the ups and downs of a baseball season. Every team goes through streaks, and you’re usually not as good as a 11-2 start, nor as bad as an 0-7 run.

But I’m ready to push the panic button. This team is so uninspired that I’m starting to think that Ausmus is about as motivating as Bill Lumbergh.

Kurt Mensching of Bless You Boys (I’ll openly admit that I’m insanely envious of their site and content, and wish we could create a DTW follower only forum over there) wrote a nice piece on the Tigers’ struggles yesterday morning. He straddles the “it’s a bad streak” / “the season is falling apart” line, but he does bring up the trade deadline. I feel that he reached into my brain and pulled that out a few days ago, as I was contemplating content for this post, but really, all of you have probably been thinking about this. The reality is that with the contracts in place and age of this team, the Tigers could very quickly be the Phillies or Yankees, without any of that heavy hardware that’s so annoying to find a place for. The club owes well over an entire Astros payroll to 3 players, 2 of whom aren’t currently playing. (Cabrera + JV + VMart = $74M; Astros = $69M).

I’m gonna give you a minute to let that sink in, and then remind you that the Astros are 6 games ahead of the Tigers.

Tony Paul of the Detroit News accurately called the team the “bumbling Tigers” which is accurate given the suspect performances over the past week. I did not have the courage to look this up on my own, but if the Tigers don’t win a game this weekend, they’ll find themselves in last place in the AL Central. LAST PLACE!!??

Where are the water coolers smashing up against the wall? Where are the broken bats, the helmets being launched across the dugout, the cagey veteran run team only meetings? All I’m hearing is that the manager is embarrassed but the team will be prepared tomorrow. Embarrassed? How about furious? Outraged? Pissed off? Ausmus is treating this losing streak like I treat my three year old’s reluctance to eat anything but chicken nuggets; just wait it out and hope that it fixes itself. I mean, these are big leaguers, right? They’ll snap out of it…eventually, right?

The answer is absolutely not, you have to get into their mind and motivate them, teach them, and lead them. A manager’s job is not to fill out a line-up card, much as Jim Leyland would lead us to believe, but to manage a room full of men. Any of you out there who run a business know that you constantly turn the dials and tweak the settings until the machine is running at optimal performance for the current environment and set of parameters; and you redo that every damn day. Ausmus seems to be under the notion that the car doesn’t need tuning until it collapses.

Quite the contrary, he needs to be talking to each guy every day. And figuring out how to make sure that on that day, during that game, that player will be the best player he can be. I think he treats every player with the exact same hands-off approach, which is an awful way to manage. Not the hand-off approach, but treating every player the same way. I cringe every time he uses playful nicknames for every player – “well, Sanchy’s gonna get better” and “Kins-dog knows how to make that play” then “Greenie-bo will make that throw next time.” Man, stop worrying about whether you can be these guys’ bro and be someone whom they respect and look up to.

Kinsler is a great example. Right now Kinsler is showing us why the Rangers were so anxious to let him go (right down to the lapses in concentration, see my post from March 2014 for reference). Once Kinsler gets into a funk he stays there until the law of averages charitably pulls him out of it (which lines up perfectly with Aumus’ strategy). Or, perhaps, until you sit him. Or talk to him. Moving him down in the lineup was a great start, albeit 10 games late. If Kinsler could get himself out of this, he’d be managing the team himself.

This season is at a tipping point. Right freaking now. Even the Freep is calling it. And you know what the crazy thing is, the Tigers are only 6 games way from the best record int he AL. The talent on this team is so strong, and the AL is so weak, that the Tigers are only 1 game out of the playoffs right now, despite playing their worst baseball in 4 years.

Finally, one last point. And I realize that this will sound hypocritical, so know that I at least recognize that. But let me make my point.

Baseball is a long, long season. There is plenty of time for this team to turn it around. They may even be able to do it under Ausmus. But the whole organization has got to recognize that it is time to panic and make decisions and play with a new level of urgency; because this team is not good enough to pull itself out of this tailspin. No more, it will get better, or this is baseball…it happens. It needs to be, we will make it better right f’n now – starting with this pitch, and then this play in the field, and then this at bat. They can no longer afford to take a single pitch, or play, or at-bat off. Assuming I’m right about Ausmus and he is trying to hard to be everyone’s friend and not heard enough to be their boss, I have no idea how he changes that. But he had better figure it out. That is your job, Brad.

I think the Tigers are playing the White Sox this weekend, most likely a three game set.