Well, it’s been a bit. I’ve let the season ferment, by which I mean I’ve watched rather a lot of league championship baseball, and I’ve screamed myself silly at a couple of home Michigan games, and I’ve stayed the hell away from Detroit newspaper sports sections.
I’ve got my desk set up (bear with me here, it’s relevant, honest) with baseball cards tacked all along the top of it, so I can look at them while I work at the computer (read: all the frigging time). I put up players I like, but they’re from all different years and such, so it’s a mixed bag… I’ve got John Olerud in a Blue Jays uniform, Dennis Eckersley in an A’s hat, Magglio Ordonez in White Sox pinstripes, Orlando Cabrera in Expos colors. I’ve got Terry Francona in his Brewers uniform and Brandon Inge in catcher’s gear. And, sandwiched between a double card of Andruw/Chipper Jones and a shiny Kevin Youkilis card, I’ve got two old cardboard ones. Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell.
So it’s been at the forefront of my mind, you might say, and I’ve been mulling it over.
I know the Trammell Managerial Era is over here in Michigan, and I know there’s rather a lot of disgust (dismay? fury? horror?) over the results. But I stuck by Tram during the year, and I’m sticking by him now. I still don’t think that anyone could have done much more with this team this season. Oh, I know most of you lot are frothing at the mouth right now to tell me that I’m WICKED FRIKKING WRONG and that Tram LOST THE CLUBHOUSE and that his players DIDN’T RESPECT HIM ENOUGH and that he had NO CONTROL OVER THEM and that PUDGE RODRIGUEZ SPANKED HIM LIKE HE WAS A BAD BOY WHO DIDN’T EAT HIS VEGGIES AND IT WAS BACK IN A DECADE WHEN COPOREAL PUNISHMENT WAS STILL SMILED UPON.
It’s very, very hard to say that Pudge was not some sort of raging prima donna by the end of the year, and possibly the whole way through, but do you really think he was that different in 2004? Was he that different with the Marlins? Maybe it was exacerbated this season because of the divorce thing, and the weight loss thing, and the bitterness about losing thing, and the media getting on his case because of the weight and the losing thing, and the psychotic breakdown and subsequent rapid trading of his longtime boyfriend thing. But I really don’t think he suddenly developed some sort of crazy personality that he hadn’t had before.
After all, that statue of himself he’s got in his yard has been there for years.
So, for all the chatter about how Pudge tore the clubhouse to weensy little pieces because Tram couldn’t control him any more than he could control the (considerable) size of his bald spot, I don’t think it was as big an issue as people are making it out to be. At the very least, it was a problem, but not such a new one. If you ask me, which you didn’t but you’re reading this so too bloody bad, the issue was not clubhouse friction. The clubhouse friction only became an issue because the team was losing, and not just 2004-losing, because expectations were much higher this season.
Now, I do believe that a good clubhouse will help a good team through rough patches, but I also believe that a good team can play well even with a bad clubhouse. Maybe they can’t survive the rough patches as well as a team of dudes who like each other, but if they’re a good team they’re a good team. Period.
I don’t know how responsible Tram was for everyone in the clubhouse sniping at each other, but I don’t think he was all that responsible for Magglio’s stomach lining erupting, or Rondell’s shoulder liquefying, or whatever the heck happened to Bonderman down the line. I don’t think he was responsible for Carlos Pena being more back-and-forth than a pendulum, or for the pitching being on only when the hitting was slumping, and vice versa.
So he couldn’t manage a bad team into being good. I don’t think there’s ANY manager out there today who could’ve managed this team, such as it was, into the playoffs. Into a .500 record? Maybe. But maybe not. And I do think that Tram could manage a good team into a winning season.
Nothing much more to be said, it’s done and over with. But I don’t like the idea of a Tiger legend being reviled for managing a team about as well as anyone else would have managed it. When you get right down to it, it’s the players on the field who win or lose games the vast majority of the time. Maybe we would’ve been better served throwing Tram out there at shortstop. I’m sure his knees can’t be any worse than Guillen’s.