By: Jamie Samuelsen
We thank Octavio Dotel and the Detroit Tigers for giving us a little hot button issue in the middle of the coldest month of the year.
It’s not often that news is made from Lakeland unless it’s an injury or a position battle. But Dotel got things going with a silly comment made to Eric Adelson of Yahoo! Sports. Dotel said that he didn’t see teammate Miguel Cabrera, “as a leader.”
Dotel went on to say, “You have to step up and say something. Miggy’s more about his game. I don’t see him as a leader. Everybody has their eyes on Miggy Cabrera.”
Forget for a minute how stupid it is for Dotel, a set-up man, to call out the reigning MVP and the best hitter in the game. Dotel apologized to Cabrera and the team on Wednesday morning, but you could hardly have blamed Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland if Dotel got his walking papers the moment the story hit the web.
But the larger issue is this – leadership and baseball is the single most overrated, overblown factor. Ever. Last season, as the Tigers meandered along during a mediocre summer, fans called this station every day saying that the Tigers missed the clubhouse presence of Victor Martinez. Forget his 103 RBIs or his .330 batting average from 2011, apparently all the Tigers needed was a good pep talk. Sorry. I’m not buying it.
Baseball is the ultimate one-on-one game that doesn’t actually involve one athlete playing another. The Tigers struggled at times last year because Ryan Raburn couldn’t hit and because Doug Fister was injured and because the back end of the bullpen struggled to hold onto leads. If Cabrera had held a players-only meeting, are you trying to convince me that Raburn would have hit? Or that Fister would have stayed healthy? Would the Tigers shoddy defense have magically improved after a nice tongue-lashing?
I believe in momentum and hot streaks and clutch hitters despite what Sabermetricians might say. But a baseball team ultimately rises or falls based on how the hitters hit and the pitchers pitch. That has nothing to do with whether or not Cabrera or anyone else gives a Knute Rockne speech in the clubhouse before the game.