Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Octavio Dotel was Wrong...and RIght

When the Tigers were making a mockery of themselves in the World Series, Octavio Dotel thought one of the players should address the team.  He thought it should be Miguel Cabrera, presumably because Miggy is one of our best players.  This logic is all wrong.  Being really good at a sport does not make you a leader.  It could make you an on-field example/mentor, but it doesn't make you a team leader.

Was Michael Jordan arguably the best ever on the hard court?  Yes.  Was he a leader?   Not so much.  It's ok for the team's leader to be someone other than the best player.

If Dotel saw a need for a team speech, he should have addressed the team himself.  He obviously felt something needed to be said.  Well, speak up!  You're a veteran player who is also a veteran of the playoffs.  Share your wisdom, in the name of balls and strikes.  Don't wait for someone else to do it.  I don't blame Miggy one bit for declining to have the leadership mantle thrust upon him.  If he doesn't feel it, there is no reason to force it.

A lot of people scoff at team chemistry.  Others felt there was a leadership vacuum this year, largely due to the absence of Victor Martinez.  

I've got double good news for you.  One, Victor Martinez will be back with the Tigers next year.  Granted, we don't know what production we'll get from a guy who has spent as much time off the field as he has, but in the clubhouse, we know his presence will be felt.

Two, Torii Hunter has signed with the Tigers.  Now, Torii himself said he isn't a big rah-rah speech type of guy.  But I have evidence that he is a leader.  In an interview around the time of the MVP award announcement, Mike Trout was asked what Angels player helped him most.  His answer?  Torii Hunter.  He said his guidance was invaluable, especially early on when he was overwhelmed and scuffling.  What do you know about that?  The new guy IS a leader.

So, take heart, those of you who pined for leadership this past season, I think you'll be happy with what you see in 2013.  Now, if only it would hurry up and get here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I Didn't Kill a Turkey Today

I'm a vegetarian.  Turkeys give me their thanks via Hallmark every year.

Since I can't give thanks for a championship, I'd like to share a few things that made me smile this season.  Sometimes you just have to isolate things and enjoy them for what they are.  Playoff implications have a way of coloring everything about your team and its performance.  Let's speak no more of expectations.  Moving on to "happy times for Tigers fans."

1.  April 8.  I was in attendance for Alex Avila's walk off dinger in the 11th inning.  Tigers 13, Red Sox 12.  If you don't remember this game, peep the play-by-play at Baseball Reference.  The weather was gorgeous for early April.  I had to take off my long sleeves and bask in the sun in my t-shirt.  Please get your minds out of the gutter.  I removed the long sleeve shirt in the ladies' room.  Geez.  Besides, how's this for a visual?  Rolls of fat spilling over the waistband of my jeans.  Anyway, that was a fabulous ending to what would have been a demoralizing loss.

2.  May 18.  Justin Verlander takes a no-hitter into the ninth inning.  Josh Harrison hit a one-out single up the middle to squash the no-hitter, but it was another stunning performance (we're really spoiled), not to be soon forgotten.  Hmmm, that game could be a keep-the-off-season-depression-from-getting-debilitating must-see.  If you were there, I'd love to hear about your experience.  I wasn't at this one, but just to be annoying, I'll remind you that I WAS at JV's first, and by first, I mean most important, no-hitter.

3.  June 5.  My brother-in-law bought my sister tickets to the game for Mother's Day, and we enjoyed a great dinner at Small Plates before heading to the park.  Our seats were three rows behind the Tigers' pen.  Little sister likes Phil Coke and his general silliness, and I don't need to tell you that he was in full goofball mode before the game.  He body slammed every single person in the bullpen when he walked in, including the cop.  The Tigers lost to Cleveland lost 4-2, but any game I go to with my sister is a good time.  However, poor little sis now believes she is curse on the club, as a seemingly innumerable number of games she's been to have landed in the L column.

4.  Miguel Cabrera wins the triple crown.  I have to admit it was a little strange, because I kept saying that the playoffs were more important, and the triple crown was a really cool thing, but not something on which to fixate.  But, as the season's end drew closer, I couldn't hold back even if I wanted to.  The crown was clinched when the Tigers were in Kansas City, and all I could think was that the Royals should tear the giant crown off Kaufmann's jumbotron and coronate Miggy right then and there.  Tears of joy for everyone!

5.  ALDS Game 1.  My generous employer sprung for tickets, and my friend Nicole and I got to be a part of the holiday known as Post-season Verlander Day.  Even though Coco Crisp led the game off with a home run, the Tigers ruled the day 3-1, so everyone went home rather frozen, but happy.  The MVP chants for Miggy were so thunderous that they echoed back and noone knew where the chant began or ended.  It was glorious.

6.  Sweeping the Yankees in the ALCS.  No further commentary required.

7.  Miguel Cabrera wins the MVP of the American League.  In a debate filled with acrimony and stubbornness, Cabrera came out the victor over Mike Trout.  I was surprised at the result.  I still can't understand why a legion of fans refused to accept that both players were deserving.  So many morons on both sides stuck to faulty arguments and resorted to putting down the player they weren't supporting.  To see the things accomplished by Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera in one season of baseball is just astonishing.  We're fortunate to have seen it first hand.  It should have made you love the game even more, if that were possible.  Justin Verlander's "Keep the MVP in the D" shirt made me smile every one of the 50,418 times FSD showed it.

I didn't mention anything from the World Series, because the 2012 World Series is dead to me.  The pain has not begun to leave the chambers of my heart, nor will it any time soon.  My allergies have been insufferable ever since the end of Game 4.  Weird.

Anyway, my last item of thanks is not from the season, but it involves a certain free agent by the name of Torii Hunter.  Mike Ilitch opened his wallet once again, and Mr. Hunter earned a giant fake key to the city of Detroit by declaring he wanted to come here, wanted to get the deal done, is hungry to win, and...well I can't quote the entire love-fest of a presser.  Go watch it again, here.  Gratitude flows your way, Mr. Ilitch, and I hope that the championship you have desired for so long follows.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Word About the Fall Classic

Well, it’s been a while since the unmentionable happened.  I’m just now able to begin talking about it without blowing out blood vessels and such.

I know a lot fans would love to be upset about losing the World Series, because that would mean their team was IN the World Series.  But I just can’t get to that place.  I can’t be happy just to have been there.  I’m sorry.  I realize it probably comes off as pouty and spoiled. 

I’m not saying the season was a failure.  I’m just saying it hurts, I mean really bludgeons the soul to lose the World Series.  Getting swept out of the World Series?  Feels like The World’s Strongest Man’s fist grabbed my heart muscle and squeezed it until there was just dry flesh.

I just talked to someone who was at Game 4.  He stayed for at least 20 minutes after the game to witness the trophy presentation.  It never happened on the field.  The weather had worsened, so apparently the presentation was made in the visitor’s clubhouse.  He said he was disappointed.  Disappointed???  I’d have bloody well been relieved!  Not sure I could handle seeing the symbol of the championship paraded about by the Giants, with Romo photobombing every five seconds.  Not sure I could handle it at all.  I guess pouty and spoiled is fairly accurate after all.

I was pretty sullen that next day, as once again I had World Series tickets to a game that wasn’t played.  I feel accursed in a very special way.  Someone brought me my favorite Thai food, so I could comfort myself by binging, but the rest of the day was a giant sinkhole of suck.  As people at work “consoled” me, I spouted phrases like “there are real tragedies in the world” to make it sound like I wasn’t being such a first class crybaby over the whole thing.  I had to talk to clients on the phone with feigned patience and goodwill, when I just wanted to crawl into bed and lie wretched and sleepless with the covers pulled over my head.

I would like to admit that I am an absolute rube.  Not for a single moment did I believe the Tigers would get swept.  Not even when they went down 3-0.  Nope.  DID. NOT. BELIEVE. IT.  Neither my heart nor mind allowed even a speck of doubt.  So, when the 27th out was recorded in game 4, I stood there rather numbly, not quite knowing what to do.  I didn’t cry this time (yes, I sat there with tears streaming down my face in 2006, sigh), but I had to choke back “feelings” a couple times.

I watched the Sergio Romo interview and then clicked off the television.  I couldn’t go to sleep, of course, but there was no more watching of the Giants revelry.  People on twitter were saying goodbye to the season, and sometimes each other, and talking about next year.  Those farewells made me want to sob my guts out.  This game.  When you love it, it consumes you.  Now all we can do is sit by the window and wait for Spring.