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Clubhouse Chemistry

One of the biggest factors to discuss regarding last year's season was the clubhouse chemistry of the team and how it made the players perform. There were several incidents including the whole Pudge leaving the team fiasco, players speaking out unhappily towards the management after the Farnsworth dealings, and even a fight that broke out between teammates on a plane ride home.

While the altercation between Urbina and the rest of the team was handled perfectly (we got Tiger of the Year Placido Polanco in exchange for Urbina), the other situations that occurred for the Tigers may not have been...and coincidently, the team started struggling, sending the season into a tailspin that would eventually end with manager Alan Trammell being relieved of his duties for "losing the team."

When the Tigers hired Jim Leyland to be their new manager, perhaps Dave Dombrowski and company had team chemistry in mind. Leyland has managed many big name players in the past (Bonds, Bonilla, Alou, Van Slyke, etc.) and found success in his stops in Pittsburgh and Florida. And he has to know what he's stepping into in Detroit of course. Alan Trammell was viewed as too nice and not controlling enough for the Tigers, while Jim Leyland is a crafty vet of the managing trade who has coached all sorts of great teams and held them together. So what exactly is Leyland's plan for maintaining order among the Tigers clubhouse? In his press conference announcing his hire, he had a few things to say on the subject:

"There are certain things which aren't optional, being on time, playing the game right, being a team, being a teammate and being a team player, those are mandatory. I can assure you, we will be a team. We will play the game right. We'll respect the game and respect each other. Those are no-brainers. Those are not optional. I'm not hard-nosed. I love the players. But it's my responsibility as the manager to get the most out of each individual player and mold that into a collective effort."

"I'm not looking for problems, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about things. I have no idea how many games this team can win. I wouldn't even guess. But we will be prepared to win every game we possibly can."

Ok, sounds like a pretty generic answer, one in which almost any manager would say if the question were to be asked. Sounds easy, but if you were to ask Alan Trammell, it's not. He also had this to say:
"I've never been big on clubhouse atmosphere (chemistry), because I don't think it's mandatory for winning. It's a bonus. But one of my biggest jobs, I can tell you this for a fact, is to quietly convince the veteran players on this team to buy into the program I'm going to present. If they don't, I'll probably be fired."

"It takes all kinds of pressures off the manager, pressures you don't really need, if you have your veteran players supporting what you want to do. I'm going to try to earn their respect -- and believe me when I tell you that I'm accepting this job like it was my first major league managing job."

Again, sounds like another generic answer, but from a manager who sounds like he understands the current trends in baseball. Lose control and respect of the team, you lose your job.

This is a big question: How much does clubhouse chemistry play a part in team success? Well, apparently it has a huge part. Last year the veterans on the team perhaps felt that the organization had no plan for success after they dealt Kyle Farnsworth at the deadline, and that caused some drama. There were instances when certain players were being accused of not trying. There were instances were teammates were pointing fingers at others. These all occurred while the team was on a horrible losing slump. There are just so many situations that can arise, and as Leyland said, he must handle all of them or face that threat of losing his job just as Alan Trammell did.

And this translates into this offseason, as the Tigers go out and try to lure free agents to Detroit and make some trades. Who should they go after? What chances should they take? Milton Bradley, who has a past history of temper tantrums and losing control, may be a possible target. AJ Burnett, who was often criticized by Marlins fans for a bad attitude and mediocre work ethic, is a huge possibility. I'm all about getting more talent in the dugout, especially if Leyland is confident he can get these guys to buy into the team concept.