Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Answering the Detroit Tigers burning questions: I don’t wanna hear any weak shit from Jason Grilli edition

The shit hit the fan in Tigerdom yesterday. Jim Leyland went off like Mt. Vesuvius in regard to players insinuating to the media there are locker room issues. The Tigers responded to Leyland scorching the earth with 12 runs, and a relatively easy win.

Sounds as good a time as any to answer some burning questions. I don't need to go in what the topics will be, do I? Didn't think so...

Yesterday, in front of the assembled media, the Marlboro Man launched a profane tirade in response to an extremely unflattering USA Today article, with Jason Grilli as the McPaper's star witness. Grilli called the Tigers locker room "stale and stagnant." Think there is any truth to Grilli's accusations?

There's no way of truly knowing, but you have to wonder if something's rotten in Denmark Detroit. Be it locker room strife, an inability to handle pressure, or just a bad personality mix, there's a reason the Tigers seem so damn lifeless. I seriously doubt the loss of "The Mayor," Sean Casey is as big a deal as Grilli made it out to be, but something's been missing all season.

It's interesting that it took a national writer, Bob Nightengale, to shine a spotlight on the Tigers' (supposed) locker room issues. He doesn't have to face the team on a daily basis, unlike the beat guys, Were those issues overstated by Nightengale? Possibly, but the statement by Carlos Guillen about the pressure of expectations being unfair was extremely disturbing. If he's voicing it, and Guillen is an acknowledged team leader, other Tigers likely feel the same way.

Going into a season with the belief there's too much pressure to win isn't exactly confidence inspiring, to say he very least. It's as if the Tigers are already preparing excuses to be at the ready, in case they don't make the playoffs.

Was Leyland's response appropriate?

As long as you aren't offended by extreme profanity, sure. It was also hysterical! "I don’t wanna hear any weak shit from Jason Grilli!" Comedy gold, Jerry! Classic Jim Leyland! It'll just add to his cult hero status.

Sure, it was funny. But will it help?

The Tigers should be extremely embarrassed over their record. Up until last night's win, the Tigers had the worst record in the AL. Nothing Leyland had done to this point has been able to jump start a seemingly clueless Tigers team. Switching positions, juggling the batting order, cutting Jacque Jones, bringing up young players from Toledo, the verbal dressing down behind closed doors 3 weeks ago, none if it has worked, at least not for the long-term.

It was time Leyland said something other than "I don't know." This Tigers team has been scuffling along, lethargic as all Hell, and needed a swift kick in the ass. It was also well past time to publicly call out some under performing and divisive players.

Such as?

Gary Sheffield, for one. Brandon Inge, for another.

When Leyland went off about players "popping off" who are "hitting .200 and .220 and striking out or hitting .200 and .215," and Sheffield and Inge were quoted in Nightengale's article while being absolutely awful at the plate, well, you can add 2+2 together.

The Tigers have coddled Inge since the Miguel Cabrera trade, while all he did was bitch up a storm about wanting a trade all winter. Big talk from a player who would have trouble hitting in a slow pitch softball league. In the famous words of Dave Dombrowski, "You try and trade him!"

As for Sheffield, he continues to insist he can work through his shoulder pain, though all evidence points to the contrary, specifically his .180 average. He doesn't want and/or refuses to go on the DL, to the detriment of the team as a whole. Sheffield shouldn't be saying much of anything to anyone, when he can do little more than hit 10 hoppers to the left side of the infield. As Leyland said in his tirade, "Look in the mirror."

Now what?

Much like Leyland's now famous blow up in April 2006, which lit a season long fire under the Tigers' collective asses, we won't know if this tirade will go down in Detroit legend for quite some time. Last night was a good sign, but just that, a sign. One game does not a season make.

We'll have to wait and see if last night's win, with the Tiger bats pounding Mariners' pitching for 17 hits and 12 runs, was an aberration, or the start of a turnaround.

Will there be a turnaround?

If I knew, I wouldn't be telling you guys. I'd be in Vegas, betting the farm. But I hope so. I sincerely hope so.

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