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Closer Joe Nathan Must Elevate Play, Leadership for Detroit Tigers

May 30th, 2014 at 1:00 PM
By Max DeMara

After the Detroit Tigers escaped Oakland with a split, Joe Nathan, the man who nearly caused a second meltdown in as many days, didn't want to talk.

'Bryan Holaday, Joe Nathan' photo (c) 2014, Keith Allison - license:

Nathan blew off reporters Thursday afternoon, saying he had nothing to speak about, and hinting the scribes should instead talk to the players who made a difference in the game. If was a self-deprecating bit designed to induce sympathy, but a frustrating one nonetheless considering Nathan's position on the team.

This is, after all, the closer who makes $10 million dollars a year to get between one and three outs as one of the lone veterans in a young bullpen. He should answer questions, especially one day after apparently mildly calling out rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos for missing a line drive in the ninth inning, and laughing off reports of a dead arm earlier this season.

Whether he likes it or not, it's Nathan's responsibility to speak about what happened in between the lines, especially on the heels of two of his worst performances as a Tiger. Since Todd Jones, Detroit is a town that's been used to having rough ninth innings, and one refreshing thing about Jones was he always took the heat for a bad performance himself, answering questions well after the game and deflecting criticism from teammates.

Nathan doesn't seem to consistently share that mentality, which is troubling. There will be times he doesn't feel it. Perhaps there might even be times he feels his arm is dying or he's losing a step, or times he will want to blame someone else for what transpired.

In such instances, honesty is always the best policy, and ducking out isn't a good look for Nathan. It's worse than standing in front of the notepads and cameras and simply admitting mistakes happened and were the result of other professional ballplayers making plays.

For this year and next, the Tigers are depending on Nathan to be a lock-down performer in the ninth inning and a quality teammate. Closers will blow saves and make mistakes, but where Nathan is needed most is in the locker room, setting a good example by always being accountable, in good times and in bad.

Since coming to Detroit, that hasn't consistently happened, leaving many to wonder what the Tigers may have gotten themselves into for 2014 and 2015.

Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.

Tags: Baseball, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Joe Nathan, MLB, Nick Castellanos, Todd Jones

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