Famed Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully has a saying about life in the big leagues.
Scully once said, “The schedule will consume you.” Anyone that has traveled with a major league team will corroborate Scully’s story. The daily grind of the calendar will test all who dare to endure it.
A day game after a night game will challenge a player’s energy level, especially when the previous night’s game is delayed by rain.
That’s the scenario the Tigers faced on May 31st. Two separate rain delays aided the Tigers in their 6-1 win over the Angels the previous night. Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani was lifted from the game after the second delay and the Tigers proceeded to score five runs against the Angels bullpen to break a 1-1 tie. However, with an extra hour added to the time of the game, a daytime matchup the following day would prove to be a challenge.
Yet, with the Tigers fielding a lineup that featured the youth of Jeimer Candelario, Victor Reyes, Ronny Rodriguez, and JaCoby Jones, they appeared fresh and energetic. The Angels resembled a veteran team that lacked energy and seemed fatigued. They were also at the tail end of a long road trip.
Again, the schedule will consume you.
The Tigers beat the Angels the following day to take three of four in the series. The Angels looked tired, and the Tigers did not. While the downside of so much youth can be uneven play, the bonus is more pep in the step as the days grind on.
This season, the Tigers are playing with a lot of energy and the results have stunned those that predicted a 100-loss apocalypse.
These Tigers are running more. They are daring on the base paths and on most days seem to have more bounce in their step than the opposition.
Credit Ron Gardenhire for also instilling a belief in this young group that making a mistake is not the end of the world. Gardenhire knew at the beginning of the season that this was the only way his team could compete. Steal a bag, take the extra base, take some chances and play fundamentally sound baseball. It hasn’t been that way every night, but his club is making strides and knowing that mistakes will be used only as learning experiences has this squad playing a fearless brand of baseball.
We are only two months into the season, but Nicholas Castellano’s already sees a difference and the manager has set the tone.
“Having this young group of kids, Gardy is always positive, never blames the players and always puts it on himself. He’s the captain of the ship.”
The different style this year has seemingly worked. Brad Ausmus had a more “quiet” style, but he also had a more veteran team. Ausmus also had to deal with momentum-killing injuries to many of his key pieces such as J.D. Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Jordan Zimmermann.
With the youth movement in full swing though, Gardenhire’s presence has blended beautifully with the makeup of this club.
“With the young guys on this team, like Dixon (Machado), JaCoby (Jones) and everyone else, playing for Gardy is probably a little more comfortable,” Castellanos said.
That comfort is largely due to the fact that Gardenhire does not punish aggressiveness. He encourages it, knowing full well that sometimes it will blow up.
The Tigers are running more this year, and while that may be a function of team makeup more than anything else, the 2018 club has stolen 10 more bases that the 2017 squad through the first two months.
Jose Iglesias is on pace to steal 25 bases this year which would easily be a career high.
The Rally Goose may be taking a large share of the credit for the Tigers’ successes recently, but the truth is that this is a club that believes it can compete every night. It’s a club that has a chip on its shoulder.
They heard all of the negative talk surrounding the team following the sell-off. Yet they continue to show up on a daily basis willing to see where the proverbial chips will fall. There is a lot of baseball to be played, and this Tigers squad will take its chances.