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Not So Sweet on Clete?

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At The Spot Starters, Blake doesn't understand Tiger Town's love for Clete Thomas (comparing it to the adoration so many have for Brandon Inge).

In particular, he calls me out for driving the bandwagon with the whole "Cult of Clete" movement.

Clete Thomas is turning into a cult hero in Detroit and I am completely baffled. I know my mom likes him because she thinks he’s cute. That can’t explain his entire following though, can it?

Ian of Bless You Boys has been all over Clete since day one and is probably the person actually driving the band wagon. He’s even selling shirts.

From what I can gather, here’s why people like Clete:

  • He’s a lefty.
  • He’s young.
  • He’s not paid all that much.
  • He’s got that blue-collar image going, people like that.
  • He has country music playing when he comes up to bat.
  • They think he’s "clutch".
  • His name is Clete.

I can't speak for everyone, of course. Though I do question just how much of this perception is based on what's read online. Does Clete have that much of a following in the "real world"? Maybe I haven't been to enough games this season, but when I've been at Comerica Park, I haven't seen too many "Thomas 34" jerseys and t-shirts in the stands. The cheers for him don't seem particularly loud.

But I'll try my best to address this (Rogo has brought it up to at DesigNate Robertson), since BYB has contributed (with perhaps some unfortunate decisions) to whatever cult following Clete Thomas actually has.

  • First of all, there's more than a little bit of irony in this whole "Cult" thing. And I'd like to think Blake realizes that. I joked about Thomas becoming a sensation after the third game of last season. We didn't even know who this guy was back then.
  • More than anything else, I think that's what fuels any interest in Thomas. Everyone likes to see one player come out of nowhere to make the team. It's what we look for almost every spring. And Thomas wasn't a hotshot prospect, either.
  • Yes, of course the name has something to do with it.
  • But I think there were some practical aspects to the interest, too. Last year, the Tigers desperately needed a left-handed hitting outfielder who could provide some defense amongst all those lumbering sluggers. And having some youthful spark mixed in with a veteran roster (who apparently presumed they could flip the switch at any time) was also intriguing. He was one guy playing hard on a team that thought they could win just by showing up.

And it's not like rooting for Clete Thomas is completely without merit. He's come through in some big moments over the past two seasons. He's the second-best defensive outfielder on the team, which isn't exactly unimportant.

However, it's not blind adoration, either. Hell, I've criticized him myself for striking out too much. Clete should be playing better, and the fact that he gets regular playing time while batting .241 is an indictment on the rest of Detroit's outfield depth. More than likely, he'll be back in Toledo this weekend when the Tigers call up another pitcher.

(EDIT: I should've read Billfer's post on playoff eligibility rules before writing that last sentence. If the Tigers were to send Clete down this weekend, he couldn't be on the playoff roster. So that's probably not going to happen.)

But for those who really have a problem with fans rooting for a player you believe doesn't deserve the attention, I ask what exactly is it that offends you? What's it to you?

Should we just all root for Miguel Cabrera because he's the superstar? (Is he not getting enough cheers, by the way?) Should we just go see G.I. Joe instead of The Hurt Locker because it's playing in more theaters? Eat more McDonald's, because it's a national name, rather than the family-owned diner?

What's wrong with rooting for an underdog? Isn't that what's supposed to make sports fun?