Octavio Dotel has a funny way of ending up in the playoffs. Mostly because he is, when correctly used, a damn fine reliever. His (normally) unsightly platoon splits make him more valuable during baseball’s post-season, where manager are more willing to play matchups each and every night.
Octavio Dotel pitched in three of the last five post-seasons (for three different teams, of course.) After providing tremendous relief for the Cardinals in their 2011 World Series run, Dotel signed with the Tigers, where he continues holding down the 6th/7th innings.
He’s a veteran player with no lack of experience. Young players should all aspire to achieve a career as long and successful as Dotel’s. That said: just because he’s old doesn’t mean he’s wise.
With his Tigers reeling after two straight losses in Oakland, times were tough in the Detroit clubhouse. The most recent loss & a 4-3 walkoff defeat with their Capital-C Closer on the hill — created unbelievable amounts of tension among the Tigers’ players. Who could imagine a team with a Triple Crown winner and assumptive Cy Young award winner losing three straight to the ragtag Athletics? The silence in the Tigers room was deafening.
Octavio Dotel knew something needed to be said. The team leader needed to step forward and make a statement. Dotel urged presumptive team leader and best offensive contributor Miguel Cabrera to make a statement. “Say something,” the 38-year old reliever urged.
But Miguel Cabrera refused. A quiet leader who prefers leading by example did not speak with the assembled throng of reporters on Wednesday night.
Cabrera, seated with his arms crossed in his dress clothes, turned down all interview requests from a hoard of reporters seeking comment.
Seated at one of two tables in the visiting clubhouse, Cabrera was within earshot of Jose Valverde, who spoke for nearly 15 minutes following his ninth-inning meltdown.
When the clubhouse doors closed, Dotel sensed his team was on the precipice. Something needed to be said to the group. As James Schmehl relays, Dotel scrambled to the Big Swinging…Bats of the Tigers, trying to call a team meeting to discuss the awful fates.
After the hoard of media members left the clubhouse Wednesday night, it was then that Dotel attempted to rile the troops and call a team meeting. But his plea fell on deaf ears.
“It didn’t go through,” he said.
“I went to the big guys and I asked them,” said Dotel, a 14-year veteran. “If they don’t agree or if they don’t want to do it, I can’t do anything.”
Nobody wanted to gather and discuss what went wrong. Call it quiet leadership, call it veterans knowing when to go to the whip and when to let the horse run. Call it the value of experience and knowing there was still another day upon which to fight. Another 27 outs to scratch and claw in an attempt to redeem what amounted to the team owner’s dying wish.
Or, more accurately, call it the Verlander Effect.
Who needs pep talks when you can look across the clubhouse and see the defending Cy Young winner, the defending American League Most Valuable Player, the man who handed your team victory in Game One, the defacto best pitcher in baseball, waiting to take the ball.
What is a better hype speech than “See that guy? He’s really good. You can rant and rave and bang the drum if you want, but I like my chances with our ace on the hill?”
This is baseball. The rah-rah stuff can only take you so far. Sometimes the only motivation required is the knowledge that your guy is better than their guy. That, even just today, your team needs to do their jobs secure in the knowledge that the American League’s best hurler is going to give you a chance to win. Which he did. And they did.
Thanks in no small part to Octavio Dotel’s contribution on the field but in no way thanks to Dotel’s efforts to incite the villagers. Not for a lack of effort, however. Guys gotta respect that hustle