Posts Tagged ‘ detroit tigers ’

Jim Joyce Goes Viral

The Anatomy of a Feeding Frenzy

If you were anywhere near a sports fan, native Detroiter, highlight reel or Sportscenter broadcast, you now likely know that Detroit Tiger Armando Galarraga was robbed of an extremely rare perfect game (never before executed by a Detroit Tigers pitcher) by a blown call on the 27th out. (Watch for yourself here.)

But even if you have no interest in the game or its outcome at all, you’ll likely be aware of this ignominious event as a case study in social media. As the near perfect game played out in the final inning, I, for one, was compelled to go directly to Facebook (and Twitter) to share in the glory with my online friends, who I knew would be participating in this history online as well. While I couldn’t be at a sports bar to watch this unfold with my closest friends, the social Web was the next best thing.

Until the final “out.” After shaking the feeling of having been hit in the gut, and following a period of alternate stunned silence and expletive hurling, I returned to the social networks to participate in the cat calling. What unfolded almost immediately was an online and communal feeding frenzy. Unlike anything that was possible before the emergence of social media, Jim Joyce (the umpire who admittedly blew the call) became the chum in an online feeding frenzy that broke quick and broke hard.

Within minutes of the game’s conclusion, there were more than 10 Facebook pages devoted to his ouster (and worse).

Minute by minute, the FIRE JIM JOYCE page added fans (or “Likers, I guess it is now) by the hundreds (already more than 4,400).

Jim Joyce, the Tigers and Galarraga (the spurned pitcher) became trending topics on Twitter.

ESPN led every sportscast off with the story, and put the video story front and center on its homepage.

Scores of YouTube users uploaded video of the disputed call.

There is even a FireJimJoyce.com already.

This is not the way Jim Joyce wanted to become famous…nor Galarraga. But to Joyce’s credit, he has been contrite, gracious, embarrassed and owning of his mistake.

The whole mess is a shame, for everyone involved. Even the base runner seemed shattered that he beat the play at first. Now Major League Baseball has a public controversy on its hands—one it certainly didn’t invite and one with no perfect options. Joyce is a public pariah. Galarraga, for all his graciousness, was robbed of a place in history. Detroit sports fans take another kick while they’re down.

From a purely social media perspective, however, it’s fascinating to watch wildfire spread.

As for the call itself, I’ll let you make it:

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Miguel Cabrera Needs to Sit

Another day, another Debacle in the D. The latest, Miguel Cabrera’s now public run-in with his wife, the law and booze, has put the Detroit Tigers in a disastrous PR position. Play him or sit him?

Raise your hand if you condone/excuse any of the following:

  • A team’s franchise player partying ’til all hours during a playoff run
  • Drunken outbursts in public and at home
  • Spousal abuse
  • BACs of .26 or higher
  • Complete disregard for your team, its success or the privilege of your profession (this means you, millionaires)
  • Excusing unlawful, disgusting behavior for the sake of winning one baseball game

If you raised your hand, congratulations — you’re an insufferable cad. Or, you’re the Detroit Tigers.

No matter how many Cabreras play tonight, the Tigers are cooked. They can’t hit, and their pitching has escaped them. The Twins are destined (and have been) to win by very much to very little tonight. Even if the Tigers do the unthinkable and steal this game, the Yankees await. That wouldn’t be pretty either. So what is to be gained by playing Sir Drinxalot tonight? (I’ll give you a few moments to tally that up.)

Now, what can be lost?

But let’s also look at this simply from a PR standpoint. (BOR-ring, says my dog.) The first fatal flaw of any PR crisis strategy is pretending the crisis doesn’t exist. By playing Cabrera tonight, after already dismissing direct questions about the incident, the Tigers are, in effect, condoning (or excusing) his behavior. By sitting/suspending him, they are sending both him and the team’s publics a clear message — this behavior is not condoned, regardless of how much his playing would serve the team’s self interests.

No matter what they do, the Tigers have a PR crisis on their hands. This should not be about one game, one fatally flawed playoff run. If they win with him in the lineup, they still have lost. If they lose without him, they have at least taken an honorable position, for which many will applaud them.

PR crises of any kind must be met head-on. Ignoring them or failing to address them implies complicity. United Airlines and Domino’s are two recent cases that come to mind: one who ignored a crisis that ballooned out of control (the former), and one who faced the music directly and relatively quickly. It’s all about the message you are sending: not only how you respond to a crisis, but when.

The Tigers can send one of two messages today:

  1. “Beating your wife in a drunken stupor and partying with the ‘enemy’ during the most important series of the season is excusable, as long as the party in question hits .300 or better.” (Would they have played Rayburn in the same situation?)
  2. “There is no place on our team for those who are not committed to the Tigers, to winning, to baseball, to family and to the rule of law; and until Mr. Cabrera addresses his own personal issues, we will commit ourselves to winning without him.”

Your call, Tigers. And you only get one strike, I’m afraid.

Brandon Inge Is My Hero

First, some disclosure: I’m not a baseball fan. I don’t even really have strong feelings one way or another about Brandon Inge the baseball player. But it’s difficult to be even a casual sports fan and not be impressed with his career’s work so far.

But I’m here to tell ya: Brandon Inge is my hero.

(Since I’m not a baseball fan, I might have some of the details that follow wrong, and I reserve the right to stand corrected, at least on the minutia.)

Inge came to the Detroit Tigers as an above-average catcher, but a below-average hitter. From what I can tell, this is not unheard of at catcher. If you can find someone who’s a good signal caller and great fielder, you can live with some subpar hitting if you have to.

A couple years in, it was clear to the Tigers that they had to make a position upgrade here. So they went out and got perennial star power in Pudge Rodriguez and signed him to a huge multi-million-dollar contract that a guy like Inge could only dream of.

I remember an interview Inge took with then sports talker WDFN during which Stoney asked him, “So what’s next for Brandon Inge? Where do you go from here?”

His reply: “I’m going to make the the team (Tigers).”

“At which position?” Stoney questioned.

“At catcher.”

You had to love his confidence, and his bravado. And his commitment. He wasn’t going to be denied, and he wasn’t going to concede anything…when no one would’ve blamed him for doing so. Instead, he committed to making the team, being its starting catcher, and/or contributing any way he could to help the Tigers win.

Of course, he could never start at catcher, not with Pudge there. So he eventually moved on to third base. Clearly, this was a stop-gap move by management, right? I mean, Inge was never destined to man the hot corner full time, yes? Play third base, he did. And did it well enough to stick around for a while.

It would be a few years and the Tigers would be parting ways with their all-star catcher Pudge. Who would be behind the plate? Why, Inge, of course. And then some.

Inge completed his eighth season with the Tigers in 2008, showing his versatility as he saw action at four positions: catcher (60 games), third base (51 games), left field (two games) and center field (13 games). Perhaps most remarkably, he did not commit an error in his first 110 games of the season, from March 31-September 26. Yes, at multiple positions.

This past off-season, the talking heads on TV and radio complained that Inge couldn’t even “bat his weight,” and the Tigers again needed to make a move there. Fast forward to 2009, the player known for finishing the season in the very low .200s is now batting .268, with a .360 on-base percentage, and with a .515 slugging percentage. Never known as a power hitter, he leads the team in home runs, is among the American league leaders in that category, and competed (well, he was there…and tried) in the All Star Game’s Home Run Derby.

Of course, tonight he participates in the 2009 All Star Game itself—not as the Tigers’ lone obligatory delegate. Rather, because he earned it, and because he was voted in by the fans.

Not too bad for someone the Tigers have been looking to bench or discard for years.

Which finally gets back to why a baseball player few outside of Detroit have heard of (until now) can possibly be the hero of a non-baseball-following Detroiter. This guy will not be denied. He is a testament to self-confidence, perseverance, persistence and commitment to excellence.

It doesn’t take a baseball fan to recognize and admire those traits.