Thursday, June 30, 2005

Tigers Have Been Free From Kenny Rogers-Like Incidents, And That's Part Of The Problem

The knee-jerk reaction to seeing Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers go all Kung Fu on some poor unsuspecting cameramen is, "What an ---hole!" The second thing that may come to mind to Tigers' fans is, "That would never happen here with one of our guys."

Both reactions are the correct ones to have. Rogers indeed acted like an ---hole, and something like that would probably never happen with a Tigers player. Too bad.

The Tigers could use an ---hole or two. I know manager Alan Trammell is proud of the guys he has on the team, as is president Dave Dombrowski, and that's great, but when the one individual who is most known for his fiery personality is your bench coach (read: Kirk Gibson), then there's a problem.

I don't know what goes on behind the scenes in the Tigers' clubhouse, I confess. Maybe there is someone who is that no-nonsense, you'd-better-hustle-or-else kind of leader. Maybe there is someone who will call a players-only meeting, or knock over the postgame spread, or attack a water cooler with a bat. Maybe there is someone who will, if the mood strikes him, snarl at reporters or tell them all to blank off by his mere silence. Maybe there is someone who acts like a disturbed bear during hibernation after a loss. Maybe there is someone who will cause his teammates to play hard just by glaring at them. Maybe.

But tell me, who might that be on this Tigers roster? Pudge Rodriguez? Naah -- too much of a nice guy. Dmitri Young? Too personable. Brandon Inge? Too young. Jeremy Bonderman? Even younger. Bobby Higginson? Too insignificant.

Now, I'm not condoning Mr. Rogers' behavior, and I certainly don't mean that you have to load your roster full of jerks to breed a winning attitude. But gosh darn it, what's wrong with a little crankiness? What's wrong with having some dudes on your squad with whom you'd feel comfortable in an alley fight? What's wrong with losing the nice guy act -- slowly but surely -- and experimenting with some guys who would normally not pass the first interview as potential Tigers?

Like I said, what Rogers did was over the line and, from what I could tell, totally unprovocated. Apparently the lefty was still stinging over some suggestions -- started by the press, of course -- that he'd backed down from a start and exaggerated an injury to justify it. So the cameramen, who probably couldn't care less about Kenny Rogers, felt the brunt of his pent-up hostility.Wrong, wrong, wrong. Yet, at the same time, right, right, right!

If you get past the visual images of Rogers losing his cool -- which, at this writing, have been played 678,222 times by ESPN -- you'd understand that Kenny's outburst is merely a symptom -- or trait -- of the kind of player who typically plays on a lot of winning teams. And last I knew, Rogers himself has reaffirmed his status as one of the game's best, and most mentally tough, pitchers. His ERA has looked like the price of a candy bar most of this season. There is absolutely nothing wrong with playing with some spit and vinegar, as long as you keep it between the white lines. But that's what's so fascinating about players like Rogers and Gibson: vinegar sometimes spills outside the lines. But it's all good and winked at because that's just how those players are.

All I'm saying is that the Tigers have been populated for so long by nice guys, you'd think they were running a Dale Carnegie School. And what has it gotten them, exactly, since 1993, especially? Well, there was that brief flirtation with Wild Card contention back in 2000. And......hold on....I think I got, I guess that's about it. So how about trying it another way, folks? How's about we lose some of the choir boy act and get some guys who show up to the ballpark with their uniform already looking like that of Peanuts' Pigpen? Or who might, just might, explode on occasion, like the proverbial time bomb? How much worse could it be, when you get right down to it?

Contrary to popular belief, Leo Durocher never said, "Nice guys finish last." What he did say was the following, referring to the New York Giants: "Take a look at them. All nice guys. They'll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last." But no matter how you think Leo put it, he might as well have been talking about the Tigers in a clairvoyant sort of way.

And the beat (and the losing ) goes on....

1 comment:

Ian C. said...

Greg, I agree that a team can use some a--holes (as Matt Millen has often said the Lions need), but I don't think what Kenny Rogers did fills that criteria at all.

That energy has to be channeled productively on the field of play, not at bystanding cameramen. And attitude has to be fueled by competitive desire, not a snit over getting stiffed on a contract extension. Guys like Jose Guillen or Rasheed Wallace may be a--holes, but you don't question their desire to win.

How much respect did Rogers lose by opting out of a start against the Angels? How much has he possibly cost his team by getting suspended for 20 games? How much of a distraction has he created for the Rangers? I think his desire to win looks highly questionable right now.