Game 53: The Flat Game, or the Hangover

Ask Tigers fans about Jim Leyland’s shining moment as Tigers manager, and you’ll probably get a few different answers. The World Series trips, of course, will be up at the top of the list. The way he set the tone for the team’s conduct after Jim Joyce’s blown call cost Armando Galarraga his bid at a perfect game was a display in classiness. That moonwalk through the visiting clubhouse at Target Field last September following the Tigers’ third straight division title has to be a late addition to the list.

However, a surprising number of Tigers fans still remember that getaway day game early in 2006, his first season as Tigers manager, when he blew up at an anemic performance in a lackluster loss.

“We stunk, period,” Leyland said after a 10-2 loss to the Indians. “Stunk, and it’s not good enough. It’s been going on here before, and it’s not going to happen here [now]. It’s not going to go on here.”

These quotes, of course, came after Leyland met with players immediately after the game and yelled and screamed at them. It was technically a closed-door meeting, but that term was irrelevant because Leyland’s screaming and yelling could be heard outside the closed doors.

“The whole ball of wax was lackluster,” Leyland went on that day. “It’s just not good enough. We had a chance to take the series, and we came out here like we just brought our luggage to the park and we’ve got a game and then we go on the road. That’s not good enough.”

It’s impressive how many people remember this game, because of how many have brought it up in light of Sunday’s Tigers loss in Seattle, and how first-year manager Brad Ausmus handled it. It was the first time Ausmus really took a cut at the team’s effort, and he navigated it like he knew it was going to be examined.

He couldn’t come at it like Leyland, because he’s not in that situation. His team is not in the situation it was then, either. But he had to come at it somehow.

Leyland was a veteran manager trying to teach a perennially mediocre team how to win, though it was a team that had winners on it. Ausmus is a first-time manager, a recently retired player, who took over a team full of guys who have won before. And while he clearly wasn’t happy with what he saw on Sunday, he wasn’t going to yell and scream about it.

“I just thought we were flat,” Ausmus said. “It was just one of those days where we made quick, easy outs and didn’t really put up much of a fight.”

The setup was a similar — a team preparing to travel, a series that hung in the balance, a chance at a fairly good trip. Though all the Tigers struggles over the past couple weeks, they nearly had a winning trip on the West Coast. They split against the first-place A’s, which should have given them momentum going up against the Mariners. It didn’t.

Asked how he would describe the trip, Ausmus said, “It was disappointing. You come into here after a split in Oakland and you hope to take the series, maybe win two out of three. We end up losing two out of three and it’s a losing trip as opposed to a winning trip. So I’m not real excited about that.”

There was a hint of the former player in Ausmus when he talked about how it happens. Sunday was more than the culmination of a week-long West Coast trip. It was the final leg of a three-week stretch of 20 games over 21 days in six different cities, including a four-game homestand that felt like just another stop on the trip.

There was a hint of the new manager in saying that’s not a good enough reason.

“There’s a little truth to road weariness, but there’s no excuse there,” he said. “That’s the schedule.”

And there’s the line Ausmus is currently navigating, and probably will have to do so again at other times this year. He’s a manager who knows the modern athlete because he played so recently. Because of that, he’s also a manager who surely remembers how his former managers handled stretches like this, whether it was Phil Garner or Larry Dierker or Bruce Bochy or Joe Torre. He’s in their seat now.

“You know what, teams are going to be flat, whether it’s road weariness or fatigue or the dog days of the season,” Ausmus explained. “You’re going to have flat days. Sometimes you get through the flat days until something happens in the game that sparks a rally. Today, really, we never got that spark. Yesterday we almost did, but today we didn’t.”

They didn’t have a whole lot of fizzle in Saturday’s game either, he subtly referenced, until the later innings. The clubhouse was eerily quiet after that game Saturday night, like that game was there for the taking and they let it get away. This team is very good at turning the page the next day, but that quietness was still there Sunday morning.

The way they lost that game, falling just short, seemed to linger into Sunday. They were flat, all right, but they also seemed to have a hangover, so to speak.

“We had a tough loss last night. It was very emotional,” Rajai Davis said. “A lot of energy was spent trying to win that game. We weren’t able to transfer that over today.”

Today’s off-day should help clean the slate. Considering the teams coming into town this week, it had better.

What gets forgotten about that tirade Leyland had his first year was the way he reacted after it happened. When he walked around the clubhouse the next night in Oakland, there was no sign that anything had happened. It was over before he left Comerica Park, he said later.

Instead of still being angry, he was happy about it.

“I’m glad it happened,” he said. “Because if it wouldn’t have happened, then I shouldn’t have come back. If I don’t get ticked off when you’re supposed to get ticked off, then I should be home.”

At which point, Leyland made a point that he repeated at various times the rest of his Tigers tenure: Wins, he said, are golden.

“You have to learn how valuable certain things are,” he said. “You have to be able to at least attempt. … You get a chance to take three out of four, you’ve got to smell it and say, ‘Man, we’ve got to go get this one.’ That can’t be me. It’s got to be their attitude.”

It was his tirade, but it was up to the players to set the tone. Which is interesting to note now.

34 Comments

So the excuse early on is that they weren’t in a routine…because of too many scheduled off days and postponements due to weather . Now it’s too many games.. I just glad today is a day off because they’ve been no fun to watch over the last 2 weeks. Pitching except for Sanchez has been horrible to just ok. Hitting has been extremely inconsistent and not every pitcher has been that great.

Leyland’s finest hour as the Tiger manager. No doubt about it. Now back to 2014. Since facing Jon Lester in the first game of the Boston series we have scored TWO runs in four games started byLHP including Lester’s game. Now we did beat the Red Sox,1-0, but since then we have three losses. All of our young RHB on the bench are struggling against LHP . What can we do??

Hmmmm. I knew Brad had to address yesterday’s poor performance, but Jim Leyland never entered my mind. Nor did Sparky Anderson, Ralph Houk, Bob Scheffing, or Lou Brown with his cardboard team owner lady. There are people who think yelling at teams is the way to go, I guess.
I’m going to play my broken record again. The starters have to avoid falling behind early in games. It’s difficult to play the aggressive style the Tigers desire when always trailing. The pitchers also have to be more efficient. How much standing around in the field does a team have to do? No wonder they fall asleep.

I would have gone stark, raving mad if an umpire stole a perfect game from my club. Not in a million years will anyone convince me that would have been a perfect game if Verlander is the pitcher. Don’t get me started. I should not have even read the post. Jim Leland, the guy who had World Series handed to him on several silver platters, had the team playing just like they did yesterday. They were boring and uninspired just like they were yesterday.
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Go Tigers!!!

wait, jim – not brad – had things handed to him? we’ll see how many world series brad takes us too!

what has brad done that impressed anyone? hasn’t done anything to impress me yet!

Me neither.

It’s a team game. Hitters need to hit. Pitchers need to pitch. Fielders need to make the plays. Go Tigers!!!!

and if they don’t the manager and coaches need to change

What, we’re firing Brad already? After two months?

go-go gadget “knee jerk response”!

Brad is about as good a manager for this team as one could hope for.
He will only get better, obviously, since he is starting from virtually zero.
To come in and manage a team with the kind of veteran (and superstar) presence this team is not an easy task
The Castellanos thing has been overblown and over-used by the media. No doubt there were some mistakes made there but I’m sure they have been addressed.
In the meantime, don’t use AlAl too much, use Knebel more, and like “The Who” “don’t get fooled again” by Coke. A few more weeks of Hanrahan and let’s see how this pen shapes up. The bulk of managing is directed to the pen. our starters can’t be managed as much as regulated.
Don’t be afraid to sit Torii and AJ.
Don’t be afraid to use Suarez–there are not many sparks kindling right now.

It’s been fun and interesting so far, both the ups and the downs. I like not knowing what to expect from game to game.
There’s nothing like a baseball season. The playoff-centric sports don’t even come close.

well if there’s anything there’s hope. can’t see us playing worse than we have the past 3 wks or so.

I expected them to play that way before the game.It is not the first time they do after a long road trip.
I expected them to be crushed after the Anibal´s hard loss effort but they won to save the expected split
Ausmus had a meeting last Sunday. They lost the next day
The core of the team is made of veterans. They earn more money than the manager . They coach themselves and yelling wont do the trick this time.
As Sparky said to a venezuelan journalist about modern managers, the dog no longer wags the tail,the tail wags the dog.
It is not only the Tigers.I know people shocked by the results of the games in recent weeks like Kershaw or Greinke losing. Or the O´s swept by Houston .
It is baseball. That is the fun part. I take it over the boring and predictable NBA.

Hope they are all ready for Toronto and Boston. The next few weeks may tell the story of the 2014 Tigers. Gotta think DD has some plan if they keep losing games at this pace.

Seattle 6- Yankees 2.@ Yankee Stadium. They are not an easy team

Tigers just released SS/2B Troy Hanzawa from Toledo……………………

I just want to see a little more consistency …..

http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140603/SPORTS0104/306030018/Tigers-Blue-Jays-toast-their-towns-again-just-like-during-spirited-rivalry-80s

A nice article that brings back a lot of memories. I was just 16 in 1987 growing up in Wallaceburg, Ontario (between Windsor and Sarnia) with family from Toronto and a fierce split among us. I was at Game 161 in the lower leftfield grandstand with my binoculars as I watched Tram’s grounder go right through Manny Lee’s legs in the 12th. I have never been in a stadium that shook as much and was as loud as that day. It is too bad that team could not win the World Series. It is still my favourite team. I hung on every pitch that season watching George and Al and listening to Ernie and Paul. Coming back from dead in the final week and having bragging rights over the family members who were Jays fans was like winning a World Series. I still remember Gibby’s quote after the final game in Toronto: “It may be different next weekend, it may not be. But we have to be positive. Maybe we are setting the biggest bear trap of all time.” Just an amazing finish to the season. I miss them not being in the same division.
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Unlikely heroes from 1987 – Matt Nokes, Jim Walewander, Mike Henneman and an aging Bill Madlock.
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Good times.
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Go Tigers.
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— Bob

You know, Bob, I’ve always said and still say that the final Saturday of the 1987 season is the most agonizing 12 innings of baseball I ever experienced.
While the only highlight they show now is Tanana getting the final comebacker on Sunday and George Kell saying “It’s all over,” the biggest drama was on Saturday.

Its true. The greatest game I ever attended. It was tied 2-2 from the 5th I believe and Mike Henneman threw up zeroes in the 10th, 11th and 12th before Tram’s grounder with the bases loaded. I think Henny threw two innings on Friday and that is why Tanana needed to go the distance on Sunday.
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Final call on Sunday:
George: And a tap to the mound … this could be it … it’s all over .. the Tigers win it.
Al : Oh, can you believe it? What a comeback!
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Goosebumps typing that.
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— Bob

Reading a few things today. It amazes me how fixated people are with regard to the shortstop position. The Tigers’ shortstops hit 9th. Ninth.
I’d take a look at the outfielders, Hunter and Jackson. You can’t win with outfielders that don’t hit. You can with a weak hitting shortstop. I would also not assume that Hunter and Jackson will suddenly wake up. One is at the end of his career and the other is capable of season long slumps.
I try to avoid negative sounding posts but we’re talking about the #9 hitter as if it’s the only thing stopping the Tigers from winning the WS, as one writer wrote today.

I agree Rich Romine and Worth are not the issue. But my issue right now has a lot more to do with the starters and the closer.

For sure–I’ve been saying that JMart needs to be used more often in place of AJ and/or Hunter. That does not mean the shortstop issue is not an issue.
It’s a huge issue. Hunter and AJ are far more likely to hit than Worth or Romine.
I won’t excuse either of the above outfielders at all, don’t get me wrong, but we need a shortstop. No question about that.
As to AJ and Hunter-flip them. Let Hunter go for the home runs he is already swing for. If he runs into one he can drive some runs in. Remember Boesch hitting 5th? There is pressure there. AJ does not do well under pressure. Let him see some fastballs in the 2 hole. I don’t care for Hunter (his age costs us more games than his experience wins for us) and they could trade AJ and it wouldn’t bother me a bit. But, those guys are here for now and they need to find a role where they can contribute.
AJ batting 5th is the vision of an oasis for an opposing pitcher. Beginning with him the pitcher knows he is off the hook for basically another two innings.
How many years can Tiger fans keep hearing about AJ’s front fit corrections? That’s not to even mention the back footwork which is just about as unusual.

Heard we are going to miss Buehrle. Big deal. We missed Felix too. The opposing manager just throws somebody else. Wil Ledezma could throw zeroes against us the way these guys are swinging the bat.

Unfortunately we are not going to miss Encarnacion the way we missed Cano.
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— Bob

I stick to my position a 3b that can hit is more important. Romine is ,mostly of the time , doing the defensive job.
Sorry, but so far Castellanos does not look ready to hit MLB pitching.In an bat first position

i think we’ll get this game in tonight, so that’s a positive🙂

He’s close. He’s impetuous but he is also naturally talented offensively. Watching and learning will help him. Would not be surprised that he hits over .260 by year’s end.

Lineup shakeup:

Kinsler 2B
Hunter RF
Cabrera 1B
V. Martinez DH
J. Martinez LF
Kelly 3B
Jackson CF
Avila C
Romine SS
Sanchez

Castellanos has all the tools. So far, his season is going about as I expected; that is, a nice start followed by the adjustment period. He should be figuring some things out very soon. Perhaps a good streak, or even one good game at the plate, will give his confidence a boost.

Pitch selection.

Not surprising. Davis is 3rd on Brad’s list when it comes to Hunter or AJ. Understandably if they were both hitting.
Kelly should be good for about 2 pop-outs today.
AJ dropped in the lineup. Still not in the right place as far as I’m concerned.

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