Optimism

Back, shins, elbow, shoulder, hamstring. Welcome to 2014, Season Of The Body Parts. Wait, that’s the lead-in for a pessimistic article I’m not going to write.

I’ve reflected upon the boss man’s instructions to tackle the spring issues one at a time, and it seems to me we’ve covered most of them already. Position by position, there wasn’t a whole lot of debate coming into camp. I was going to do some kind of bench/depth write-up just before the even more still worser news about Jose Iglesias broke. The one issue (to date; please no more injuries) that hasn’t been covered is the overarching one, the one that’s been around since…

Last year. Did it begin with the acquisition of Iglesias? No, that was an emergency response, albeit a well-reasoned one. But in a fairly rapid flurry of after-season moves, chief among them Jim Leyland’s retirement, the Fielder/Kinsler trade, and the hiring of Brad Ausmus, it was clear that a Big Shift was going on. The offensive strategy was going to go from slugging it (or not) to a team that could make it happen even when hits were hard to come by. It was and maybe still is daunting to have lost a lot of proven run production in Fielder, Peralta, Infante, and also some bench with bigger bats, but the writing was clearly on the wall. A starting rotation like Detroit had in 2013 deserves better than 93-69. Those starters could have taken the Tigers to the World Series, but they were let down by the bullpen and a feast or famine offense that couldn’t often make up for said bullpen. The Tigers were no-hit by the Marlins in the final game of the regular season. Whoever was or wasn’t in the lineup, that remains a disgrace.

The best starting rotation in baseball remains virtually intact (fingers crossed on Sanchez and his shoulder). Fister out and Smyly in should be little if any loss, though I’ll miss Doug’s yellowhammer, best curveball on the staff in 2013. Anyway, still very strong (in the art of pitching?) here.

Joe Nathan and the law of averages all by themselves decree that the bullpen should be better. The sudden loss of Bruce Rondon isn’t good news, but it’s hardly the “crushing blow” I saw asserted in one headline. Better than 2013 here, I think.

Position players consist of 5 stars (you know who they are), 2 guys we’re not really sure of yet (Avila and Castellanos), and 6 more guys we’re really really not sure of. Is that a championship team? See “Starting Pitchers,” look up and down some MLB rosters and at a bit of history. Yes, it is a championship team, or can be. There are no all All-Star teams. (OK, for a day in July there are.) Maybe fantasy baseball has contributed to the fiction of that being a necessity. Justin Verlander says that the Detroit Tigers are a great team, and I believe him. Great teams are great teams. Detroit has enough elements in place, in spite of losses at SS and LF that cloud things a bit.

So the issue is: Can the Make It Happen offense really make it happen? At least I hope that’s the thing to watch. If it turns out not to be, we might be in bigger trouble than offense alone could possibly solve. For now… great optimism here. The evidence of spring has been that this offense certainly can make it happen, and can even explode like it used to. Then again, we’ve also seen some famine along with the feast, but for that we invoke the “it’s only spring training” clause.

ST GAME 12
ST GAME 13
ST GAME 14
ST GAME 15
ST GAME 16
ST GAME 17
ST GAME 18
ST GAME 19
ST GAME 20
ST GAME 21
ST GAME 22
ST GAME 23

OK, sorry, but I’ve got one more mini-topic. Would’ve put it up before or at the beginning of ST, but it hadn’t occurred to me then. What were the 5 best and 5 worst moves of 2013? Consider 2013 to have ended with the ALCS. My answers to the question tomorrow, as I wait for the resounding echoes of silence to subside.

BEST

1. Rick Porcello in the rotation, Drew Smyly in the bullpen
2. Signing Torii Hunter
3. Trading for Jose Iglesias
4. Sticking with Victor Martinez through a very cold start
5. Bringing Jhonny Peralta back after the suspension

WORST

1. Bringing back Jose Valverde
2. Leaving Quintin Berry and Danny Worth off the Opening Day roster
3. Not putting Miguel Cabrera on the DL
4. Underutilizing Brayan Pena and Matt Tuiasosopo
5. Making Tom Brookens the 3B coach

9 days until it all counts. Stay healthy, get healthy, be healthy, o Detroit Tigers. Oh, and play very well, too.

35 Comments

  1. Smoking Loon

    March 22, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    I’ve been pulling for Danny Worth to make the team, and he’s been making a case for it himself, but I no longer see it happening. Ironically, it’s not Romine who’s displacing him, really. It’s more of an indirect effect of the loss of Andy Dirks. I didn’t see two OF on the bench as a necessity, myself, but if I line up Davis (starting)… Kelly… Lombardozzi… Worth… Holaday… no, the Tigers aren’t going to settle for that, and Worth is the odd man out. So long, Danny.

    • Vince in MN

      March 22, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      Sadly that is probably so. We have now added to our stock of AAA infielders without addressing the LF problem. It would have been nice to have used Alvarez for such. I have been rather skeptical of DD’s transaction mojo over the last year or so and am concerned that we are watching the great wheeler/dealer going into decline. Hope I am wrong, but the “In DD We Trust” meme isn’t working for me right now.

      • Smoking Loon

        March 23, 2014 at 4:40 pm

        Looks like Tyler Collins could still be in the mix for LF. He’d have to displace Don Kelly, though. It doesn’t seem like anyone can displace Kelly, ever. Now if Davis’s hamstring issue becomes a chronic one, well… that just throws LF completely to the wind.

        I wonder about Lombardozzi. At the time of the trade, it seemed like he was replacing Ramon Santiago, more or less. Now? He’s got to be more than a pinch-runner, eh? I don’t know if he’s that great in the OF, so if he’s still the new Santiago, maybe it’s Lombardozzi vs. Worth? We continue to face the question of how many Kellys/Santiagos we really need.

  2. Smoking Loon

    March 22, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    I hope the next newses are:

    1. Something good in LF.
    2. Coke out, Hardy in.
    3. Albuquerque out, Ortega in.

  3. Vince in MN

    March 22, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Here’s a few of each off my top, not necessarily in order of importance:
    Best:
    1. Sticking with Martinez through that horrible 1st half – what a show he put on later.
    2. Trading Garcia for Iglesias -see below.
    3. Moving Peralta to LF for the playoffs – very gutsy move.
    4. Settling on Benoit to close – although this may well have been forced on them, at least they didn’t go off half cocked (again) in search of someone from outside the organization.

    Worst:
    1. The whole closer brouhaha from annointing Not Ready Rondon THE PREVIOUS FALL to signing Rotten Potato Valverde. That mess went on way too long.
    2. Making Brookens 3B coach – enuf said.
    3. Trading Garcia for Iglesias – see below.
    4. Fielder’s consecutive game streak – just dumb. Fatty needed some rest (and not just from baseball) and keeping him in the lineup for a statistic, (although it can’t be proven) may well have cost us a WS birth.

    The Garcia for Iglesias trade is on both lists because it looked great at the time, but looks horrible right now. The fact is we aren’t going to be able to evaluate that deal for at least another year, maybe longer, because of Shins injuries. That in itself is kinda bad news though.

    • Smoking Loon

      March 23, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      Good points on the dual nature of the Iglesias deal and Fielder’s consecutive games. I don’t know if this was on anyone’s mind at at the time, certainly not mine, but in retrospect the club would have been at least somewhat better off with more V-Mart at 1B and Fielder as DH. Fielder wouldn’t have been happy with that, the minor reason it didn’t happen, the major one being that this is not something that Jim Leyland would have even seriously considered, with his deference to veterans and especially roles.

      I suppose settling on Benoit closed the book on the closer distraction. But they could have settled on Benoit to begin with and stuck with it. You’re right, it was a mess with several components to it, all of them combined worthy of the designation #1 Disaster.

  4. Kevin in Dallas

    March 23, 2014 at 10:35 am

    I’ll admit, this has not been a great spring. It seems that every SportsCenter app update I get is bad news regarding the Tigers. I woke up this morning to see that Scherzer rejected the latest Tigers’ offer, and is not tabling all contract talks until after the season.

    I guess in itself the rejection is not bad news, we just hope that it won’t weigh on Scherzer during the season.

    I would like to share that the Rangers seem to be tying their ’14 success to Fielder’s success, with some media members going so far as to predict an MVP for Prince. He’s certainly capable, or was at one time. But it’s nice knowing that we can expect much less from Kinsler, and be very pleased with such results.

    • Smoking Loon

      March 23, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Yes, it is nice knowing that Kinsler only has to be a valuable player, not most valuable, on this team. Seems pretty clear that he will be. But I had the realization recently that the Tigers, in a way, traded Fielder *and* Infante for Kinsler. Someone who wanted to put Kinsler under a microscope could always bring that up.

      • Smoking Loon

        March 23, 2014 at 2:40 pm

        Well, Max Scherzer wants to stay in Detroit, and the Tigers want to keep him. If he costs more after a great 2014 pitching for Detroit, I won’t complain. That’s as it should be. If the Tigers then can’t afford him, oh well. We’re counting on him in 2014, that’s the main thing. I don’t think he’ll be distracted. He’ll be a man on a mission… once again.

        24 K, 1 BB, 0.85 WHIP this spring. Holy cats.

        It might actually be better for the team if Scherzer isn’t signed to some huge extension right now.

    • William

      March 24, 2014 at 8:05 am

      I don’t think DET will pay what Max wants…and even if he has a so-so year, I don’t think the asking price will drop.

      I really hate that we let Fister go for as little as we did. It now appears that we will lose both Fister and Max. Of course, if Robbie Ray reaches his full potential, I reserve the right to amend this post!

  5. Smoking Loon

    March 23, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Anyone watching Marlins-Tigers? Just tuned in as Hardy took over. Bit of a test here to see if the late inning make it happen offense is fact or fiction.

    • TIGERS RULE

      March 23, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      We are in big trouble if this is the type of play we bring up north!

    • Smoking Loon

      March 23, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      Well, Danny Worth put himself back on the team with that 3-run HR off Rodriguez, maybe. Looked pretty encouraging until Nathan blew up. Got to see some really good stuff from unknown Reininger, at least. I was hoping for that rare come-from-behind win, though. It needs to become more common.

  6. stephen

    March 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Max Scherzer turning down six years, $144 million from Tigers early leader in clubhouse for greatest contract blunder of all time. Boras!

    • Smoking Loon

      March 23, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      I don’t know. That might be the same deal they reach *after* the season. Boras/Scherzer are gambling on a 2nd consecutive AL Cy Young award performance. That’s OK with me.

  7. Smoking Loon

    March 23, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    2014 Tigers schedule:

    March/April: 16 home, 10 away
    May: 11 home, 18 away
    August: 11 home, 18 away
    September: 16 home, 10 away (ending with 7 at home vs. White Sox/Twins)

    At this point it looks like the toughest run would be May 12 – June 1. Orioles/Red Sox/Indians/Rangers/Athletics/Mariners with only 4 games at home. (Which might just coincide with Anibal Sanchez shoulder soreness, Austin Jackson hamstring disability, and great early-season angst over some position or other: SS, LF, C, or a bullpen slot.) June 20-29 is the last of the long road trips.

  8. Vince in MN

    March 24, 2014 at 9:56 am

    • Vince in MN

      March 24, 2014 at 10:09 am

      From Beck’s blog, now it all makes sense:
      “The 37-year-old Gonzalez reunites with a Tigers front office that knows him well. He came up with the Marlins in 1998 while Dave Dombrowski was the general manager in Florida, then became the everyday shortstop there from 1999 through 2005.”

      We still need a LF. Calling Gary Sheffield, calling Gary Sheffield.

      • Coleman

        March 24, 2014 at 11:39 am

        We may still be paying Sheff.

      • Coleman

        March 24, 2014 at 11:46 am

        And while we are on memory lane, we could always replace Rondon with Kyle Farnsworth, who may have lost out to Jose Valverde for the last spot in the Mets bullpen.

        • Vince in MN

          March 24, 2014 at 12:26 pm

          I guess the idea of going internally at SS is out and going internally at LF is in (huh, we need another OF, what?).

          While we are stockpiling shortstops why not give Inge a call. He is well known by the front office and can play there. I am sure his gold glove defense hasn’t declined any more than Gonzalez.

          Seriously, this last trade smacks of a panic move. DD is myopically concentrating on the least important roster problem, possibly to the extent of actually making it worse.

          As an aside: Gonzalez/ Miami/1998/Leyland. Hmmm.

          • Smoking Loon

            March 24, 2014 at 7:15 pm

            Very weird. I rebounded quickly from Alvarez/Romine. Ultimately, it made sense. Mostly. This… Um, is this the precursor to another trade? I honest don’t know what’s going on here. Aside from the usual DD/Marlins/Leyland connection, which is plenty stupid but has precedent.

            • Smoking Loon

              March 24, 2014 at 7:23 pm

              Oh yes. Inge, too. That would be the icing on the cake. It should have been the first bizarre move.

  9. judpma

    March 24, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    So Gonzalez essentially replaces Lombardozzi…I hope he can play 3rd, 2nd, and SS…then it makes sense..or is he the starting SS and Romine is the backup??…this is bad news to Worth!

    • Vince in MN

      March 24, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      I think Romine is the new Lombardozzi, although he doesn’t play OF. Gonzalez replaces Iglesias. Collins replaces Dirks. Kelly replaces everybody. Exciting!

  10. jud

    March 24, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Collins must be the guy to replace Lambardozzi also, as the OF guy from this move. So maybe we end up with Collins and Gonzalez as bench guys instead of Lombardozzi to do both…adds a body so someone else has to go. With Worth not in the 25…its not looking good for him

    • Vince in MN

      March 24, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      Starting lineup:
      1B: Cabrera
      2B: Kinsler
      3B: Castellanos
      SS: Gonzalez
      LF: Davis
      CF: Jackson
      RF: Hunter
      C: Avila
      DH: Martinez

      Bench: Collins (LF/RF?), Romine (2B, 3B, SS), Kelly (everything – seriously), Haladay (C)

      That bench is probably going to get A LOT of ABs.

      • Smoking Loon

        March 24, 2014 at 7:18 pm

        Gonzalez is going to START at SS?? Come on. (I’m saying that to the Tigers.) Is he an old pal to Vizquel also? Is he godfather to the children of another Venezuelan Tiger?

  11. Vince in MN

    March 24, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Cesar Izturis is available (just released by Astros) if they are looking for more veteran infield depth. And he is 3 years younger than Gonzalez.

    • Smoking Loon

      March 24, 2014 at 7:19 pm

      I predict that they will sign both Izturis and Stephen Drew, just before trading for Jhonny Peralta.

      • Smoking Loon

        March 24, 2014 at 7:21 pm

        Whatever Danny Worth said last year to Leyland after being cut from the team must have left a lasting impression. Suddenly I’m hoping that Leyland will move to Australia.

        • Coleman

          March 24, 2014 at 8:57 pm

          He must have a huge guitar collection by now.

          • Coleman

            March 24, 2014 at 10:24 pm

            “In honor of getting optioned down for the 11th time (I think?) of my career, I shall buy a sweet ass electric guitar.”
            –Danny Worth, July 2012

        • Vince in MN

          March 25, 2014 at 12:54 am

          If I am Danny Worth, I have got to be thinking about asking for my release. I mean, c’mon.

    • Coleman

      March 24, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      Adam Everett is only 37. Just saying. Plus he looks like that guy.