Leadership: It Starts At The Top

As those within the organization begin to finger-point blame, one must ask, are they looking in the right places?

May 20, 2021
Detroit Free Press – Sports Opinion

The Detroit Tigers dropped their sixth consecutive game on Wednesday night, falling to 13-29 overall and just 3-13 in the month of May. This trend of struggles has been long ongoing in Detroit, as they have not finished a month at .500 or better since April of 2019. For an organization that once won 90 or more games in four consecutive seasons from 2014-2017, the Tigers now find themselves in a much different position.

As the losses add up, blame begins to be thrown around. Fans, Detroit sports personalties, and baseball insiders all often voice their opinions, but more recently, blame is being thrown around by those within the organization. Tiger insiders are blown away by the rumored disarray within the clubhouse. Management is floored by the players inabilities to focus for 162 games, floored by an apparent lack of leadership, and floored by the players performances.

While the frustrations from within are widespread, they do not cover the entire 26-man roster. In now his second-season, pitcher Matthew Liberatore is developing into a face of the franchise. He has taken tremendous strides in year two, allowing more than five hits in just two of his nine starts thus far on the year. Raúl Aguilera had the attention of baseball fans nationwide with his hit-streak earlier in the season. Aguilera has developed into a hitter capable of always getting a base-hit. Free-agent acquisition Jason Heyard has been good, as have rookie Victor Robles and second-year player Xavier Noonan. That said, having four or five players playing well is not enough.

While some within want to blame the leadership, I ask, is that fair?

For example, while Juan Garcia allowed six earned runs last night in Seattle, he made that start on short rest having pitched on Saturday. A start on short rest against the vaunted Mariners offense is a recipe for failure. Garcia was 2-3 with an ERA of 4.29 heading into that Seattle start, a far different story than his now 5.09 ERA tells. No player within the clubhouse filled out that lineup card.

In 2020, the Tigers posted one of the worst defensive seasons in baseball. Players struggled to get to balls and when they did, they struggled to make plays. Yes, players do deserve blame for that. But at some point is that not on the coaching staff and front-office for putting players in those positions? For 33 games this season, Raul Aguilera was playing shortstop. Again, Aguilera is an elite offensive player, but in the field, he’s quite the opposite. He’s proven not to be a shortstop, but there was a long insistence on playing him there. The Tigers have again posted one of the worst combinations up the middle defensively in baseball. Struggles on the mound are not helped by poor defense.

Christian Bethancourt and Cristhian Adames have a proven track-record of playing good defense in the bigs, but they also have long periods of not being able to hit. 2021 struggles are not new, not results of leadership, but rather results of talent.

The days of Stephen Strasburg and Josh Johnson are long behind. The success of those teams came with great troubles. The financial burdens created by past management doomed the organization. An organization that has future pieces, but an organization that needs to put things together in the field, in the clubhouse, in the front-office, and in the scouting department.

This is an organization that needs leadership at all levels.

This is an organization that needs to look beyond the missteps, beyond the “what-ifs.”

There is excitement about the recent acquisition of Kyle Cody. There is excitement for the future for Jason Dumont, Jake Venables, Adam Kloffenstein, and others coming in the years to come.

There is also worry, worry about what has happened in the past.

There is the worry of the recent leaked audio from a member of the front-office asking, “who is Andrew Morales?”

Leadership is needed in Detroit, and that leadership needs to begin at the top.

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