Published July 16, 2017
Oh geez. Now they’re holding team meetings.
I wonder how many team meetings the 1968 or 1984 Tigers held. Unless it was to give out quarterly awards for arse kicking.
Today’s Bengals (hold the Bungles comment, as that was claimed years ago by the fans in Cincinnati for its football team) closed the doors prior to Saturday’s game against the Blue Jays and gathered around the clubhouse sofas for a group therapy session.
The team meeting is widely derided around baseball circles by the game’s observers. It’s seen as a desperate, last-ditch gambit that almost never bears any fruit. Fans of the team that’s holding the meeting get the same feeling of dread as moviegoers do when they see a Mafia wise guy enter a black sedan in a mob flick.
“Well, there goes the season, officially. See everyone at the wake.”
So what did the Tigers do after their get together? They buried the Jays, 11-1.
Don’t be fooled. It wasn’t the meeting that spawned the demolition of Toronto pitching. It was baseball’s law of averages. Even the also-rans are going to run roughshod over their opponent on any given day.
There are different kinds of team meetings in baseball. There’s the “players only” meeting, which has a certain rebellious feel to it. Have you ever held an employees-only meeting at work, to discuss business, without any supervisors? If you did, it was likely at a local watering hole, not in the office, and it was just as unlikely to discuss how super duper your bosses are.
There’s the “players and coaches only” meeting, which has an even more desperate feel than the players only meeting, because the rank and file are inviting the big boss’ lieutenants in, presumably to plea to the big boss’ sanity.
“Look, the skipper isn’t playing with a full deck. Can’t any of you coaches talk some sense into this guy before he drags us all down with him?”
The Tigers, on Saturday, went for the all-inclusive team meeting, which meant that manager Brad Ausmus and his entire coaching staff were in attendance.
Oh, to be a fly on that wall.
Ausmus: “I suppose you’re wondering why I gathered you all here today.”
Justin Upton: “To present me with an award for making the All-Star team?”
Ausmus: “No, J-Up. But good job, by the way, for being a late addition. Actually, has anyone looked at the standings lately?”
Ian Kinsler: “Have you?” (a smattering of muffled snickers).
Ausmus: “I have, and I was just wondering…has anyone looked at the calendar lately?”
JD Martinez: “Yes, and I have 16 days left as a Tiger. What’s your point?”
Ausmus: “You can’t prove that, JD. Anyhow, given the standings and the calendar—and I’m not rushing you, so don’t take this the wrong way—you guys ARE still planning to kick it into another gear, right? (followed by Brad’s nervous laughter).
Nick Castellanos: “I thought you said you weren’t rushing us. Guys, sounds like he’s rushing us, doesn’t it?” (loud murmurs of agreement from players).
Ausmus: “OK, OK, just calm down. Those guys from Cleveland are making me a little nervous. And so is that number in the games behind column. I don’t like the trend here. Has anyone looked at the calendar lately?”
Kinsler: “You already asked us that.”
Alex Avila: “Hey, Ian, give skip a break. He’s a little on edge. Can’t you see by his razor stubble? I know five o’clock shadows, as I need to shave every quarter hour. And skip’s stubble is raging now.”
Ausmus: “Thanks, Bluto—I mean, Alex. Again, I don’t want to get pushy, because I know if I keep telling the press that there’s still plenty of time left, they’ll believe me. That’s one benefit to having soft media in Detroit, filled by a bunch of shills.” (laughter around the room). But still…August will be here in a blink of an eye and, well…has anyone looked at the standings lately?”
Kinsler (whispering to Andrew Romine): “He keeps repeating himself. Is skip OK?”
Ausmus: “Here’s the deal, guys. I probably won’t be here next year. JD says he won’t be here two weeks from now. Justin Verlan—um, JV? Can you get off Twitter for a second, please?”
Verlander: “Hang on, skip. Someone’s hating on Kate’s new swimsuit. Just gonna own this dude. Won’t take me long.”
Ausmus (waits for JV to post his tweet): “As I was saying…what was I saying again?”
Avila: “Not going to be here next year. Because I probably won’t be, either.”
Ausmus: “Ah, yes. Right. So, several of us won’t be here next year—hey, you don’t have to cheer, guys. Several won’t be back, including me, so I was driving down to the ballpark today and I thought, ‘Hey, since we won’t be back, why not give it all we have as Tigers, so we can go out in style?'” (players exchange WTF? glances).
Victor Martinez: “What college did you go to, again?” (another smattering of muffled snickers).
Ausmus (heavy sigh): “The fans are getting ugly out there, guys. The press, I can fool. The fans? Not so much. We have a lot of home games in the second half, and I kinda don’t want to step out of the dugout and find myself being hanged in effigy. It’s that whole standings/calendar dynamic, of which I spoke earlier.”
Miguel Cabrera (stands up, looks at his fellow players, points to Ausmus): “Look at this guy. Look at him! What does he have to say to you jerk wads? He’s trying to be nice, but I don’t have to be nice. He’s trying to tell you to play better baseball. Don’t you get it? I’m worried about my mom being kidnapped in Venezuela, and is it affecting my performance?” (players exchange knowing, uncomfortable glances, as do the coaches and even the manager). “OK, bad example. Still…well, you know what I’m trying to say.” (sits back down).
Ausmus: “Thanks, Miggy. You’d make a good manager someday.”
Castellanos (under his breath): “How would YOU know?”
Andrew Romine: “MIGGY would make a good manager? I thought only guys who had mediocre big league careers made the best managers. Heck, that’s what I’m counting on for my life after playing!”
Ausmus (looks at watch): “OK, I guess we should hit the field. Thanks for attending. Don’t worry, I won’t tell the press anything about what went on in here.”
Kinsler: “Nothing did.”
Verlander (looking up from Twitter): “Hmm?”
The Tigers return to the clubhouse after their 11-1 shellacking of the Jays. Ausmus gathers the team around him before he lets the press into the room.
“So I’m thinking the meeting thing went well. Thoughts?”
Verlander (looks up from Twitter): “Yeah but skip?”
Ausmus: “Yeah, JV?”
Verlander: “How about inviting the bullpen guys next time?”