You have all seen this ridiculous video. Jonathan Papelbon, a grown man, chokes another grown man over the unwritten courtesies of baseball. While the scuffle was well documented, the more important news was that the Washington Nationals lost again, and remain nine games back of the surprising New York Mets. How does a team picked by so many to win the World Series end up with a rental reliever choking the NL MVP?
Well, the answer to that question is that they decided to put Jonathan Papelbon on their team and that is a terrible idea. But the question of how a team falls so far is probably better answered by the one thing that cannot be quantified by Moneyball: clubhouse chemistry. It is a staple of overachieving teams like the San Francisco Giants, who may not have the superior talent, but end up sweeping stacked teams in demoralizing World Series.
When general managers set about building a team, the biggest unknown is chemistry. How will the pieces that look good on paper, gel as a team. Managers and players that aid this, are valuable commodities. The prime example is located five hours west of Detroit. Joe Maddon is lauded for his unique clubhouse tactics to keep the team on its toes. And how does David Ross, the guy who hasn't hit over .190 in two years, get a two year contact? Quotes like this from Anthony Rizzo.
"The biggest factor in our clubhouse is David Ross, no doubt. He brings it everyday, he has really taught us players how to win everyday."
The issue is chemistry is difficult to define and often attributed to simply winning. And it isn't something you can completely build a team around. There will always be personalities to weigh. But adding too much volatility, see Papelbon, can self destruct a team.
Talk about a Natitude pic.twitter.com/t2m1NhLMla
— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) September 27, 2015
Unfortunately for the Tigers, that fight looked familiar.
Whether it was the unstable managing situation, lack of effort, or the overwhelming weight of losses and expectations, the Tigers have simply not looked in sync. The clubhouse has leaders in Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martinez, but, above all, losing takes its toll over a 162-game schedule.
Add third base to Tigers’ fix-it list - Detroit News, Kurt Mensching
Al Avila has even more work to do during his first off season as Tigers general manager than first thought.
Ex-Tigers manager Jim Leyland loses his hero, friend Yogi Berra - Detroit Free Press, Anthony Fenech
It started as one kid admiring a All-Star catcher, but it turned into a deep friendship for one another.
Mariners to interview Jerry Dipoto for general manager, per report - Lookout Landing, Nathan Bishop
The Mariners did indeed hire Jerry Dipoto, here is Lookout Landing's profile on him when he was announced as a candidate.
5 things to watch: Can Detroit Tigers avoid cellar? will Miguel Cabrera win batting title? - MLive.com, Chris Iott
I'd like to add #ProtectThePick as the 6th thing to watch.
Jake Arrieta’s Argument for the Best Season Half Ever - FanGraphs Baseball, Jeff Sullivan
Jake Arrieta has been 2011 JV must watch status for the whole second half.