Leyland: Tigers need “mean streak” to win
While the Tigers echoed their goal of winning a world championship before a record gathering for their annual luncheon at the Detroit Economic Club, manager Jim Leyland told the crowd that his team might need a “mean streak” to do it.
Leyland made the remark while praising his team for being so easy for him and the coaches to work with.
“We just have a wonderful group of guys. In fact, to be honest with you, if we’re going to win this thing, we’ve got to find that little mean streak that’s in all of us,” Leyland said. “We need that, and we’re going to have to have that. We are going to need that little mean streak, I can assure you, that little swagger, because we’re the hunted. But I’ll take my chances with this group. We’ve got a lot of characters, a lot of wonderful guys with great, great personalities.”
If that sounds familiar, it’s similar to what he said about his first Tigers team back in 2006. During spring training that year, he had a lengthy talk with reporters about how that team needed a swagger, something that has hard to find from a franchise that hadn’t finished with a winning record in a decade.
This team, obviously, has a lot more star power, but they also have a lot more teams targeting them, something Leyland also referenced in his speech.
“We have our stars that are nationally recognized, but I think the most important, the best part about our team, when our stars speak, we’re a team of 25 guys. We work hard together, we have tremendous talent.
“The only thing now we have to do is fight that bulls-eye that’s on our back, because there is one on our back, and that’s a good thing, because it means you have a good team. Everybody talks about the anticipation, the expectation. The reality is that’s a good thing, too, because you have a good team. The most important thing is how you handle those expectations. Do you embrace them, or do you run from them? I can assure you this team will embrace them. We’ve had a little hiccup the last couple days. We’re 17 games into the season. We were 4-0, and we were going to be the first team in the history of baseball to go undefeated. We found out how that works.”
Leyland went into further details about his remarks later in his pregame remarks to reporters, saying it was “just a message to the fans and to the team.”
As Leyland put it, “I’ve never really seen many good players or good teams that didn’t have a little mean streak, a little selfishness in them, to be honest with you. I mean that in a good way. … In our case, I think it’s particularly important because a lot of people have talked about our club, blah blah blah. There’s time to be a real nice guy and a gentleman, but it’s not when the game starts. You have to have a little bit of [a-hole] in you, if you want to know the truth.”
Other items of note from the luncheon, who drew 1,053 in attendance (most for any Tigers gathering since they began their annual meeting with the Economic Club in 2005):
- Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said the team now has the equivalent of more than 21,500 full-season tickets, compared with 15,000 last year and projections of 17,000.
- Dombrowski said he does not believe there’s a hard salary cap in baseball’s future. “The game is very successful at this time,” Dombrowski said. “When I say never, maybe way, way down in the future, but nowhere in the near future, because the game’s growing, it’s very successful, and I think that we would end up having such a labor strife taking place that it wouldn’t be worth it for the game at this point.”
- Leyland said he would be in favor of a limited expansion of replay to include fair or foul calls, something he referenced in spring training, but he would not want to go too far. “I’ll be honest with you: I don’t want to make a circus out of replay,” he said. “I know the other day we had an incident where a fellow was hit on the knee, on a bunted ball. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t cost us a ballgame. But I don’t want to turn it into a circus.”