Friday, April 27, 2012
These Tigers Lack Leadership
By Sean Gagnier
With expectations high and coming off a torrid start to the 2012 season the Detroit Tigers have fallen on hard times, winning just one game in their last home stand against the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners. In past years when the Tigers hit a slump they turned to their leaders in the clubhouse, notably Ivan Rodriguez, and until this past season, Carlos Guillen.
These leaders in the clubhouse were able to rally the team around them and break down the issues effecting the team. When the team would struggle offensively Rodriguez and Guillen would assemble the team and give them a kind of pep talk that only a teammate could give. A kind of players only meeting that would kick start the bats and propel the team out of the slump they were in.
The Tigers are in another slump, but this time, there is no leader to turn to. There is no player that can command the respect of the clubhouse and give this team the kick in the pants that they so desperately need. Manager Jim Leyland has tried everything under the sun to get his team to produce and nothing is working; what is needed is for a player to step up and take command of this team.
Typically the short stop becomes the captain of the infield and thus commands the respect of much of the team, but Jhonny Peralta does not seem to have the swagger and bravado needed to become the leader in the clubhouse that this team needs. He is the captain of the infield, but his leadership doesn't go much beyond that.
On many teams the star player is the clubhouse coach, Detroit has that in spades but their top player is Miguel Cabrera and he doesn't seem to have much interest in any leadership roles. After his DUI incident in Florida, Cabrera took an even more hands-off approach than usual. He is a quiet leader is the clubhouse, choose to lead by example than with his words. This team needs a vocal leader to get in their face and snap them out of their funk.
Outfielders are vary rarely the leader of the team, they are generally too far away from the action, in-game, to effect much change and as such their words don't usually carry the same weight as those coming from an infielder.
Prince Fielder is a big asset to Detroit, he provides a big source of power and a quality first base, but, like Cabrera he tends to be on the quiet side and shies away from the leadership position. Fielder would much rather lead others by going out and hitting one over the right field wall than to give a fiery speech in the dugout.
Justin Verlander is the face of this Tigers team, but he plays just once every five days and even then is not directly in the game, he initiates the play and then the rest of the team finishes the play behind him. Verlander could give some pep talks to the club, but they would not be all that effective given his position.
There is only one player that could become the leader of this team, Alex Avila. That is a lot of responsibility to place on the third year catcher as he already has to run the pitching staff and catch the majority of games. But he has proven that he has the grit that other players respect, playing much of the 2011 post season on one leg due to injuries.
Avila must step up and shoulder this next responsibility in order to improve this team. He has shown in the past that he is willing to do whatever it takes as long as it benefits the team as a whole, and Detroit needs this.