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Great Jason Stark article...

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http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&id=1827399

By Jayson Stark

ESPN.com

"I've got a theory," a scout friend of ours was saying one day.

The subject du jour was the Detroit Tigers and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays -- two teams in the midst of miraculous turnarounds.

But we weren't talking so much about their turnarounds in the standings. We were talking about turnaround in their brains, because in sports, the brain bone is directly connected to the standings bone.

"I've got a theory," the scout said. "I wonder if the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup has anything to do with what's happened to the Devil Rays. Does it have any effect on the urge to win? Does it have any effect on the urge to improve?"

OK, get those laughs out of the way now. We know that might seem ridiculous. Next we'll probably try to credit Nikolai Khabibulin for Jesus Colome's ERA. Right?

Wrong. Because on another level, maybe it isn't so nuts. Maybe it isn't a total accident that the Devil Rays won 12 of their first 13 games after the Lightning won Game 7.

We've thought about this. And we actually believe it's possible for one team in a community to feed off the success of another.

We've been thinking about it ever since the night the Pistons blew the Lakers dynasty into smithereens and won the NBA title. We happened to be in the postgame locker room of the Detroit Tigers that night. It was hard not to notice something:

The Tigers' players were much more wrapped up in celebrating the Pistons' victory than they were in celebrating their own victory that night.

Dmitri Young endured last season's nightmare in Detroit.

And all they asked in return, said Dmitri Young, was for the Pistons to "give us some of that championship sprinkle dust."

Championship sprinkle dust? Where the heck do you get that? At the Sprinkle Dust Outlet down at the mall?

"Noooo," laughed Tigers manager Alan Trammell. "You know what sprinkle dust is? It's called hard work."

Spoken like a true manager. And spoken like a man who understands you don't turn into a champion by osmosis, especially in the season after your team just lost 119 times. It does, of course, take some other ingredients.

But we've come to believe that sprinkle dust is more than just hard work. Heck, every team works hard. But where ever you get that sprinkle dust, the Marlins sure had it last year. The Angels had it the year before. The Lightning had it. The Pistons had it. The Patriots had it. You don't win without it.

It's a mystic quality you find in the psyche of teams that win. And every team is in search of it. They're just not quite sure where it comes from or how you acquire it.

"Is there such a thing in sports," our scout friend wondered, "as a contact high?"

Well, maybe. Three of the last four World Series teams (Yankees, Angels, Giants) came from a metropolitan area that had sent a team in another major sport to its league finals within the previous year (assuming we're allowed to link the Yankees and Nets, and the Giants and Raiders).

But whether there is any direct connection or not, it's hard to deny that the Lightning's success and the Pistons' success gave the Devil Rays and Tigers a taste of what it might be like if they ever won anything.

"I was here when the Wings won three Cups," said Bobby Higginson, the Tigers player who has been around longest (10 seasons). "I know what this town is all about when you win. ... Well, they've been waiting for their baseball team to win since 1984 and '87. They call Detroit a hockey town. But when I talk to our coaches, they say it's really a baseball town. We just haven't given them anything to celebrate."

Yeah, you might say that. Since the last time the Tigers made the playoffs (in '87), they've lost 103 games or more four times. All the other American League teams combined have done that three times.

And just since the last time the Tigers had a winning record (in 1993), they've finished at least 25 games out of first place six times, finished at least 50 games under .500 three times and gotten to 70 wins only twice.

But most of that was just the warm-up act for what happened last year -- a year in which the only team they ever really found a way to beat was the fabled 1962 Mets. And it took a miracle -- or whatever you call five wins in their last six games, by a team that had won five in the previous month -- for those 2003 Tigers to avoid (by one) matching that Mets juggernaut's 120 losses.

So of all the changes the Tigers knew they had to make over the winter, the biggest change wasn't at shortstop or catcher or left field.

It was in their brainwaves.

How do you erase 119 losses from the heads of people who lived through the worst torture of their baseball lives? That was the question.

So the Tigers brass headed for their postseason organization meetings. They knew they needed to bring in more proven, veteran players. They knew they had to bring in winners -- men who weren't used to losing, weren't beaten down by 10 straight years of it, weren't willing to accept it.

But the problem was: How the heck could they ever attract people like that to come to a place like this?

"When you're trying to get somebody to come here," Trammell said, "those 119 losses start to look you in the face. And they don't go away."

But they dangled a two-year, $6-million offer under the nose of Fernando Vina, who had played on three playoff teams in St. Louis. And he took it. But he still had one very nervous question: "Am I the only one coming here?"

As it turned out, no. Next was Rondell White, a 2002 Yankee. And then (in a trade) Carlos Guillen, a two-time playoff visitor in Seattle. And then came about the most unlikely addition by any 100-loss team in history -- Pudge Rodriguez. He was the first player ever to win a postseason MVP award one year, then play his next game for a team that lost 100 games the year before.

Did the Tigers have to guarantee him many more dollars than anyone else offered? Absolutely. But he would never even have considered those dollars if they hadn't first added Vina and White and Guillen.

"Without them," Trammell said, "we don't get Pudge."

By the end of spring training, the Tigers also had signed the Marlins' former closer, Ugueth Urbina. Which brought both halves of a World Series battery -- and, in turn, a close encounter with that sprinkle dust -- right into their clubhouse.

"We were in spring training one day," said Brandon Inge, "and people came in to fit Pudge and Ugie for their World Series rings. So we're all sitting there in spring training, going, `That must be an unbelievable feeling.' "

Then, a few weeks later, Marlins GM Larry Beinfest hand-delivered those rings to Rodriguez and Urbina -- as their new teammates gathered around, as awestruck as Japanese tourists getting their first look at the Empire State Building. Then again, the ring was also slightly bigger than the Empire State Building. (Uh, just about.)

"They all saw it," Rodriguez said. "And they all got surprised at how big it was. But at the same time, what I told them was, `We can win one here.' I want another one. I want to win one here."

Obviously, he won't be getting fitted for one next spring. The Tigers, like the Devil Rays, still have a lonnnngggggg way to go before they're a threat to order rings. But despite their recent five-game losing streak, which dropped them a season-worst eight games below .500, this team still has veered around a very important corner:

A corner located somewhere between their blue caps and their necks.

"A lot of these guys weren't here before," Higginson said. "They don't know what it's been like the past 10 years. They weren't here last year for 119 losses. This is a totally different team. ...

"In the past, we walked out on the field knowing what was going to happen. I don't care what anybody says. We knew we couldn't compete. If we won, unbelievable. But we didn't expect to win two, three, four, five in a row. Now, every time we walk on the field, we have guys who expect to win. It's fun."

"It doesn't even seem like I'm playing on the same team as last year," laughed Inge. "I know these are still the Detroit Tigers, but it doesn't feel like it."

Despite all the changes, though, there are still a lot of nights when six of the nine position players in the lineup played for the 2003 Tigers. And four-fifths of the rotation started games for that team. So it hasn't just been faces that have been transformed here.

"The biggest difference is our mentality," Trammell said. "We've been up and down this year. We win a couple. We lost a couple. But we've been able to keep the bad times to a minimum because of guys like Pudge, who go into that clubhouse and don't want to lose and won't settle for losing.

"It's very easy to fall into that here-we-go-again mode and give in. But you can't give in. And that's what our veteran players have given us. We don't settle for giving in."

Oh, they still might be a bigger threat to lose 90 games than to win 90. But even a 90-loss season would represent a 29-game turnaround. Which would be the biggest in franchise history.

And if they only lose 85, that would be the biggest improvement in American League history. (Current record: 33, by the 1946 Red Sox.)

So maybe 77-85 isn't quite what Dmitri Young had in mind when he started campaigning for that Pistons sprinkle dust. But hey, it's all relative. And when you're coming from where the Detroit Tigers are coming from, even a season like this feels like they all got traded to the Yankees.

"You know, it's like being in a nightmare," Inge said, "and then you wake up on the opposite end of it."

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This article is fluff. Complete rubbish. Ignores obvious problems with this organization and attempts to make a connection between other teams winning championships to the eventual success of the Tigers. Higginson NOW claims that he feels part of something new; he's said this so many times, even as recently as the spring of 2003. Must have been a slow day for Jayson.

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Originally posted by Woodpecke®

This article is fluff. Complete rubbish. Ignores obvious problems with this organization and attempts to make a connection between other teams winning championships to the eventual success of the Tigers. Higginson NOW claims that he feels part of something new; he's said this so many times, even as recently as the spring of 2003. Must have been a slow day for Jayson.

Is this a happy day for you?:classic:

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Yeah, I'm cranky. Does it show? This isn't a good time for me to be posting. I was going to go off on a tangent you wouldn't believe, but I actually cancelled the message. I could have just passed by this thread without saying a word, but not today. sorry. It's still fluff, though.:devious:

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I just got done reading this then headed over here. I enjoyed the artical. But, hey I like Stark.

There is little question that Pudge is the driving force behind the Tigers turn around. To not say so is a joke. I'll go one further and say I'll bet money he talked to Guillen about signing his extention.

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Originally posted by Brian

I

There is little question that Pudge is the driving force behind the Tigers turn around. To not say so is a joke. I'll go one further and say I'll bet money he talked to Guillen about signing his extention.

I think that Guillen has as much to do with it as Pudge.

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Originally posted by cruzer1

Yeah, you might say that. Since the last time the Tigers made the playoffs (in '87), they've lost 103 games or more four times. All the other American League teams combined have done that three times.

Wow. :depress:

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"Without them," Trammell said, "we don't get Pudge."

Tram is a loyal guy. Hence the reason Vina won't lose his starting job, when and if he gets healthy again.

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Originally posted by rhino

"Without them," Trammell said, "we don't get Pudge."

Tram is a loyal guy. Hence the reason Vina won't lose his starting job, when and if he gets healthy again.

Loyalty is good. Hurting your team is bad.

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Great Jason Stark article...

talk about a guy that need to write something to make a deadline. I wonder if ESPN has drug testing?

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Originally posted by 3M

talk about a guy that need to write something to make a deadline. I wonder if ESPN has drug testing?

Okay...

I need to know this...which of you here writes for a living? Which of you teaches writing, english, or journalism?

Which of you is an editor?

Just once, I'd like to see ANY of you write a column as good as the one that was posted here.

Seriously. Should I start a contest? Try writing a column three times a week about the same subject, without it getting stale.

It's a heck of a lot harder than it looks, especially with the added pressure of a deadline.

These guys aren't novelists. They don't have months to come up with the perfect sentence.

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Originally posted by DetroitFolly

Okay...

I need to know this...which of you here writes for a living? Which of you teaches writing, english, or journalism?

Which of you is an editor?

Just once, I'd like to see ANY of you write a column as good as the one that was posted here.

Seriously. Should I start a contest? Try writing a column three times a week about the same subject, without it getting stale.

It's a heck of a lot harder than it looks, especially with the added pressure of a deadline.

These guys aren't novelists. They don't have months to come up with the perfect sentence.

I think the same suggestion could aply to managing, hitting, fielding, etc.

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Originally posted by Woodpecke®

This article is fluff. Complete rubbish. Ignores obvious problems with this organization and attempts to make a connection between other teams winning championships to the eventual success of the Tigers. Higginson NOW claims that he feels part of something new; he's said this so many times, even as recently as the spring of 2003. Must have been a slow day for Jayson.

Quick, someone get this guy a cup of coffee!!!!!!

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Didn't Rondell White say seeing the way the Pistons fans reacted to the team gave him reason to try that much harder...

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Yes he did...

and about the Devil Rays, I don't remember them having a breakout season after the Bucs won the super bowl a couple years ago. This has FAR more to do with them having a lot of talent and finally realizing it. Lou Pinella basically b***h slapped the whole team a few weeks ago, and they've been on fire every since. I don't think it really has much to do with the lightning.

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Originally posted by DetroitFolly

Okay...

I need to know this...which of you here writes for a living? Which of you teaches writing, english, or journalism?

Which of you is an editor?

Just once, I'd like to see ANY of you write a column as good as the one that was posted here.

Seriously. Should I start a contest? Try writing a column three times a week about the same subject, without it getting stale.

It's a heck of a lot harder than it looks, especially with the added pressure of a deadline.

These guys aren't novelists. They don't have months to come up with the perfect sentence.

I just went through the list of regular posters to this forum. I can list 10 people I'd read if they wrote a column 3 times a week. I'm not going to name the culprits, mainly because I don't want to puff up their heads. Agreeing with someone isn't a prerequisite to appreciating their style. If you don't think we've seen better submissions than Jayson Stark's article in this forum, I don't think you're paying attention.

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Originally posted by Woodpecke®

I just went through the list of regular posters to this forum. I can list 10 people I'd read if they wrote a column 3 times a week. I'm not going to name the culprits, mainly because I don't want to puff up their heads. Agreeing with someone isn't a prerequisite to appreciating their style. If you don't think we've seen better submissions than Jayson Stark's article in this forum, I don't think you're paying attention.

Well said, and I agree.

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I disagree. If someone's job is to write columns for the public we should be able to criticize them whether or not we do the same job. Just like we are able to criticize players even if we are nowhere good enough to play MLB. Being criticized goes with the territory and I'm sure the writers like Jayson Stark know and accept that.

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Originally posted by DetroitFolly

Okay...

I need to know this...which of you here writes for a living? Which of you teaches writing, english, or journalism?

Which of you is an editor?

Just once, I'd like to see ANY of you write a column as good as the one that was posted here.

Seriously. Should I start a contest? Try writing a column three times a week about the same subject, without it getting stale.

It's a heck of a lot harder than it looks, especially with the added pressure of a deadline.

These guys aren't novelists. They don't have months to come up with the perfect sentence.

I am the sports editor at the Groves Scriptor, number one ranked (high school) newsmagazine in the state of Michigan. :classic:

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Originally posted by DetroitFolly

Okay...

I need to know this...which of you here writes for a living? Which of you teaches writing, english, or journalism?

Which of you is an editor?

Just once, I'd like to see ANY of you write a column as good as the one that was posted here.

Seriously. Should I start a contest? Try writing a column three times a week about the same subject, without it getting stale.

It's a heck of a lot harder than it looks, especially with the added pressure of a deadline.

These guys aren't novelists. They don't have months to come up with the perfect sentence.

DF- simmer. I know I'm not a writer heck my spelling is poor I hated English class in school but reading this article now for the 2nd time I still ask, "What's he thinking?"

The Pistons won their title on the 15 of June. Since the 16th (16-25 June) the Tigers are 3-9. They had their longest losing streak of the year. I don't think the Tigers got any championship sprinkle dust.

What would explain the great start the Tigers had? The Rasheed Wallace trade? Or how the Lakers couldn’t match the Pistons was it cause what the Angels where in a slump too?

I think the reason the D-Rays are playing so good now is cause the coach lit a fire under his players butt.

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Originally posted by ricucity

I am the sports editor at the Groves Scriptor, number one ranked (high school) newsmagazine in the state of Michigan. :classic:

Then you have some appreciation for what I'm talking about. Keep it up, journalism is a good profession.

My old high school paper, the Tower (Grosse Pointe South) used to win a bunch of awards, too...

Look, I'm not saying you guys are idiots or anything like that. I'm simply saying that coming up with fresh ideas is not always easy. The idea that he espouses may be indeed stupid; however, his presentation of the idea was not bad at all. The style, word choices, and structure were all quite professional. It's not high art, its a column.

To not like the idea is one thing. To say that he just crapped it out is another.

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