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USA Today: Tigers have a 'Stale and stagnant' atmosphere

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In today's McPaper, MLB writer Bob Nightengale visits our struggling Detroit Tigers. He gets more than his fair share of money quotes. Here's the Tigers' fearless leader, the Marlboro Man.

"I'm embarrassed. We all are," Leyland says. "I really can't believe this is happening, to be honest with you. "I'm not going to throw any players under the bus, but at the same tine, I'm not going to b———- them either. You have to tell it like it is. "And we have played h————. I say we, not them, because I'm responsible."

As ByB is free of blue language (unlike my own blogs , where I tend to vent profanely on occasion), you can use your own imagination as to what Leyland said to emphasize his frustration. As you can obviously tell, he ain't happy. Neither is the team. The most relevant player quotes follow.

Brandon Inge:

"We used to pride ourselves on beating those high-dollar teams," says utility man Brandon Inge, who lost his starting third-base job after Cabrera's arrival. "We wanted it more. We played hard. We hustled. We ran everything out. We fought for nine innings. "Now we're that team we used to beat. I don't want to get into it, but it's just different now."

Gary Sheffield:

"It's so relaxed in here," says Sheffield, who is hitting .189 with two home runs and eight RBI as he struggles with right shoulder pain. "I don't know if that means that we don't have a killer instinct or we're just a real loose team. I've never seen anything like it."

Nightengale also notices the Tigers have a strange lack of...something. Chemistry maybe?

Sheffield looks around the clubhouse. It is two hours before game time against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and video is being shown of Dan Haren, the opposing pitcher. No one is watching.

And a lack of unity...

The Tigers managed to show team unity one game last weekend when they took Renteria's suggestion and hiked up their socks, even playing music before the game. The Tigers won. Yet instead of repeating the ritual the next day, Ordonez and left fielder Marcus Thames played with their pants low, and the music was off.

I know these are little things, but when taken as a whole, it really makes you wonder about the Tigers. Where is the urgency? Where is the fire? Where's the team whose motto once was "9 innings?"

Nightengale also spoke with the traded Jason Grilli. After self- aggrandizing himself by claiming he and Sean Casey were a big reason for the once good chemistry in the room, he does say something quite pertinent.

"Talent-wise on paper, that is one of the greatest teams assembled, but the atmosphere was stale and stagnant. You kept losing, losing and losing, and everybody became distant. I have good friends over there, and I feel badly for them."

"Stale and stagnant" is as good a way of describing this Tiger team as any. In fact, a quote from one of the acknowledged team leaders, Carlos Guillen, comes across as making excuses for their poor play. The problem? There was too much pressure!

"We never said we were going to win 100 games," Guillen says. "All we said was that we have a good team with good players. That was the (sports) media and fans doing the talking. "You don't win games looking good on paper. You've got to do it on the field. "That wasn't fair to us."

I'm sorry, but the pressure of expectations comes with the territory of being a highly paid player on a big market franchise. If Guillen thinks this is pressure in Detroit, try playing in New York or Boston. The Tigers would have been pilloried by now in those markets.

Fair or not, when you are being paid millions to play a game, there are going to be expectations. Big time expectations. To complain about it just comes off as whining.

So if you read between the lines, I think you can safely infer the following...

  • Leyland has no answers.
  • Inge is saying the Tigers no longer work hard and hustle.
  • Sheffield doesn't see an urgent need to win.
  • Grilli believes there's a very bad locker room mix.
  • Guillen whines there's far too much pressure on the Tigers to win.

From reading this article, you can't help but conclude the Tigers are broken. Badly, and maybe irreparably, broken. Something needs to change, and change soon. Unfortunately, no one seems to know what that "something" is.