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Detroit Tiger Links: Bryce Harper, Jonathan Papelbon, and clubhouse chemistry

In light of the Papelbon and Harper altercation and the Nationals' collapse, how important is clubhouse chemistry in winning?

Greg Fiume/Getty Images

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.

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.

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