Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Catching Up

I’ve got a couple of bits of old news (as in, from just before Christmas) to catch up on. Unfortunately, it’s been so long that I don’t have proper links anymore, so you’ll have to bear with me, but let’s get to it:

First up is news out of Venezuela that Miguel Cabrera will not be playing winter ball because he is still rehabbing the ankle he sprained during the last week of the season (I verified this story myself with Venezuelan sportscaster Marfa Mata on Twitter; she works with the Tigres de Aragua and is therefore a good source of information on Cabrera). The fact that he won’t be playing winter ball is a bit disappointing, but I wasn’t really expecting him to. The fact that he’s still rehabbing his ankle is a bit odd, considering the injury happened three months ago. However, because the injury happened right before the end of the season, we really weren’t given a clear picture as to the extent of the damage, so to speak (and the Tigers’ front office seems to be very stealthy and quiet about almost everything, be it player moves or injuries, which is both good and bad, I suppose). As I said at the time, high ankle sprains cover a very wide range of severity, so if all you have to go on is the fact that it is a high ankle sprain, you don’t have much to base your assessment on (although they do tend to be more severe than regular ankle sprains). I’ve seen guys miss anywhere from a month to the entire season with high ankle sprains. However, as I am not a physical therapist, I will not speculate as to his readiness for spring training (which is, after all, still about six weeks away).

The second piece of information is that they announced the winners of the This Year in Baseball Awards (which seem to have been rechristened as “GIBBYs”) on MLB Network. If you’ll recall, the Tigers had nominees in three categories: Miguel Cabrera for Player of the Year, Austin Jackson for Rookie of the Year, and Armando Galarraga for Performance of the Year (Yes, Joaquin Benoit was nominated for, and won, Setup Man of the Year, but since he did that with the Rays, I’m not counting it). Now, Player of the Year ended up going to Josh Hamilton and Rookie of the Year went to Buster Posey, and I really don’t have a problem with that because both of them are worthy candidates. What I don’t like is that Cabrera and Jackson weren’t even in the top three in their respective results. However, the Tigers did get a top spot out of the awards, because Galarraga won Performance of the Year by a rather large margin over Roy Halladay and Dallas Braden (Don’t feel too sorry for them; Braden won Moment of the Year and Halladay won Pitcher of the Year), so congratulations goes out to him.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Feliz Navidad from Tigers Amateur Analysis

I’d like to wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Feliz Navidad. Hope everything is going well. Enjoy this video, courtesy of Jib Jab. What better way to celebrate the holiday than with dancing Venezuelans? 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fun with the 2010 Holiday Catalog

It’s a little late this year, but it’s here. It’s my annual post where I poke good-natured fun at some of the stranger items found in the Holiday Catalog. As usual, I’ve included a picture and link to the Tigers version of the item (if it exists), and some may be repeats from last year, but I get the feeling I’ve gained quite a few more readers since then, so either way, enjoy.

Team Sleeper Stocking Blanket: This is one of the ones that doesn’t come in a Tigers version (just Yankees, Phillies, and Red Sox). And seriously, the online picture doesn’t convey just how strange this item is. Online, it just looks like a stocking. In the catalog, it looks like a giant stocking-shaped Snuggie and the guy in the picture is wearing it.

Comfy Throw with Sleeves: Speaking of Snuggies…

Holiday Ornament: Okay, a lot of you (not me) are clamoring for the Tigers to sign a starting pitcher, any starting pitcher. Well, here you go. I present to you lefty Bob Gingerbreadman. I hear he’s got the edge on that fifth starter spot.

Connect Four: If you get the Tigers version of this game, that’s all you get is Tigers logos on each chip. Other teams have “rivalry” versions, but this merely consists of Yankees-Red Sox and Mets-Phillies.

Holiday Santa: The item itself isn’t all that odd. It’s the fact that the catalog used the White Sox Santa (pictured above) as its example. And that one is almost entirely dressed in black, which makes Santa look like he’s the Prince of Darkness or something.

ProToast Toaster: Last but not least, this is my vote for strangest item in the catalog. Yes, it’s a toaster that burns the team logo onto your toast. This is truly the gift for the Tigers fan who has everything else (and I mean everything).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Welcome Back, Maggs

Wouldn’t you know it? The Tigers crossed off the last item on my offseason wish list even before Christmas. As you have undoubtedly heard by now, Magglio Ordoñez has been re-signed to a one-year deal (Sorry for the delay, but it’s been a very busy week and I haven’t had much internet access). Maggs apparently turned down a couple of two-year offers by other teams to return to Detroit, so it seems the rumors of his desire to stay with the Tigers were genuine. He’s gone on record as saying he’d like to finish his career with the Tigers, and I don’t have a problem with that at all. I was actually a little disappointed that it wasn’t at least a two-year deal, but it’s nice knowing we haven’t seen the last of Magglio in the Olde English D. And with that, the team is as close to how I want it as it’s going to get and the Tigers don’t need to do anything else (Well, technically, they still need to sign their three arbitration-eligible players, but I’m not anticipating any problems with that). Seriously, my needs are met and I would be perfectly happy for the Tigers to not show up in the rumor mill for the rest of the offseason (although I am concerned that, given the fact that everything’s all wrapped up so early, Dave Dombrowski will not be able to resist doing something that I will regret). I don’t think I’ve liked the players on the team this much since 2007. I can’t make any predictions on if they’ll win the division or not, but as long as the team remains the way it is now, I’m sure going to love them. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Belated Winter Meetings Wrap-Up

Sorry about not posting in the past week. I’ve had finals taking up my time. At any rate, we got through the Winter Meetings without anything disastrous happening. The only thing rumor to have come out of the meetings that concerns me somewhat is the Tigers’ supposed interest in Tom Gorzelanny. Now, there were rumors of the Tigers expressing interest in Josh Willingham, Fred Lewis, and another trade candidate outfielder whose name escapes me right now (and it’s driving me nuts that I can’t remember who it was), but all those struck me as nothing more than due diligence. I just have a feeling that the Gorzelanny rumor has legs, even though we haven’t heard anything further about it (Remember, the Tigers tend to be one of the most stealthy teams when it comes to moves). You’ve already had my take on starting pitchers, so I’ll not rehash it here. If the Tigers were to get another starter, he’d better be a star that would clearly put them over the top. Gorzelanny does not fit that description. I’m not saying he’s a terrible pitcher (though one does have to take into consideration that he’s spent his whole career in the National League), but he wouldn’t be much of an upgrade (if any) over what is in place already. And the same goes for just about every other starter on the trade and free agent market with the exception of a few that the Tigers don’t figure to be in on at this time. However, things turn and happen quickly with this team. Dave Dombrowski loves to keep bloggers on their toes. For all I know Zack Greinke will be in an Olde English D by dinner tonight (which I may not feel happy about personally, but I can’t argue against professionally).

Moving on from starting pitching to the outfield, there’s not a lot of news on the Magglio Ordoñez front. Both Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford signed ridiculous contracts, which means Maggs is probably the top outfielder left on the market (It’s getting to the point where the Tigers might have been better served picking up the option of his old contract). Now, all the rumors and quotes attributed to Magglio himself suggests that the Tigers are still his first choice, as I haven’t heard of him talking about any other team, but Scott Boras is sure to make things more complicated. It would not surprise me at all if he tried to get the Angels interested (after all, the Angels were considered the big losers in the Crawford sweepstakes). The Rangers were considering him as a plan B in case they didn’t sign Vladimir Guerrero, and at one point I heard that the Phillies were interested, though signing Cliff Lee probably takes them out of it (as a side note, I’m already dreading the onslaught of “OMG! The Phillies have the best rotation EVER” articles that are sure to come). MLB Trade Rumors keeps trying to match him up with the Blue Jays, but I haven’t seen anything beyond opinion that the Blue Jays “should” be interested. The common belief is that now that Cliff Lee has signed, the other top free agents should begin to topple like dominos (as another side note, if that’s the case, he picked a bad week to sign; I’m really busy this week). But stay tuned.

Finally, I have a couple minor notes from this week: First, at the Winter Meetings, the Tigers signed catcher Omir Santos, pitcher Chris Oxspring, and shortstop Argenis Diaz to minor league deals (I think all are expected to be in Toledo when the season starts). Second, Ignacio Serrano of ESPN Deportes reports that the Tigers have refused permission for Armando Galarraga to pitch in Venezeula this winter (link is in Spanish). So to recap, Galarraga doesn’t have permission, Guillen is still rehabbing, Magglio has said he wouldn’t (though his team is trying to get him to play during the round robin), and I don’t know what Victor Martinez is doing. That leaves Miguel Cabrera, who left the door open the last time I saw a quote from him, but I can’t imagine he will unless his team is in a playoff chase (and admittedly, I haven’t looked at the Venezuelan league standings recently). Finally, the Tigers announced today that they have released Alfredo Figaro so that he can go pitch in Japan for the Orix Buffalos (for some reason, I thought they were the Orix Blue Wave, but I don’t pay that close attention to NPB so I guess I deserved that). You should know me well enough by now to know that I have absolutely no problem with this. Plus, I know just what they can do with that open roster spot…

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Winter Meetings, or Jumping Out of a Plane Without Knowing If You Have a Parachute or Not

It’s kind of fitting that the Winter Meetings are in Orlando this year, because I have a life experience that kind of relates to this. I last went to Disney World in 2004. I was twenty years old, it was just me and my best friend, and for the most part, it was a very enjoyable vacation. One thing that I did not enjoy, however, was the Aerosmith roller coaster. Now, I’m not necessarily a wuss when it comes to roller coasters and thrill rides (Supposedly the most intense ride at Disney World is Mission Space and I loved that, cheesy storyline aside), and I don’t get motion sick at all, but I don’t like really big roller coasters and I really don’t like going upside down (It’s not necessarily a fear thing; I just find the sensation to be unpleasant). I knew full well that the Aerosmith roller coaster does go upside down, but through sheer stubbornness I insisted on riding it anyways just so I could say that I had (Also, my other best friend is a big Aerosmith fan and I wanted to make him jealous; hey, I never said my reasons were entirely mature). I can’t really say I’m glad for having done it, since I didn’t really “prove” anything (nor can I say I regret doing it), and I definitely can’t say it changed my outlook on those types of roller coasters, because I hated the ride just as much as I thought I would. Why am I telling you all this? Because right now I feel almost the same way I did while I was standing in line for that ride. There’s just such a potential for undesirable things to happen over the next four days that I can’t help but be uneasy. Now, if you read my offseason preview (and you should have), you’ll already know my take on all the different facets of the Tigers. Those haven’t changed, so I’m not going to rehash them here.

Other Tiger fans will give you a veritable grocery list of players they want signed or acquired at the Winter Meetings, consisting of a bunch of big bats, about ten starting pitchers, a few relievers, maybe a couple catchers, two shortstops, and a partridge in a pear tree. That’s not going to happen on this site. I have one, and only one request, and that is Magglio Ordoñez. I believe my request is perfectly reasonable and that I am not asking for too much. I won’t say no to Jayson Werth if it comes down to that, though I prefer Maggs. I also won’t say no to a lefty reliever, but honestly, once the Tigers get that one big bat (be it Magglio or Werth), I think they’ll be good to go. I really do. And I’ve written enough stories, drawn enough pictures, and edited enough videos to know that if you start to try to “fix” little tiny flaws and pick at stuff to try to make something good into something perfect, usually you just screw it up. The Tigers made that mistake three years ago. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Still, I can’t shake this awful feeling that my words will not be heeded. After all, it seems like the Tigers just can’t help but make their presence known for the entirety of the Winter Meetings and have to be involved in some huge megadeal. I’m starting to think it’s some sort of psychological complex (Plus, you never know when Mr. Ilitch will take a liking to a player). I hope, for all our sakes, that I am wrong. Either way, it’s going to be one roller coaster of a week. Please make sure your safety bars are in place and that all loose objects are secured.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Latin Links: December 3

I am going to try to do a post previewing the Winter Meetings sometime over the weekend, but no promises. In the meantime, there has been a little bit of Tiger-related news out of Latin America to share (most links are in Spanish):
  • This morning, Carlos V. Rodriguez of the Venezuelan newspaper Lider posted a tweet regarding Magglio Ordoñez that basically translates to “A source close to the player confirms that all signs point to Magglio returning to Detroit.” I don’t know what that means in terms of actual contract negotiations, and this is the first time I’ve read anything from Rodriguez, so I am unsure of his track record, but his Twitter site is followed by other Venezuelan writers that I’ve found to be reliable, and his tweet was retweeted by Jason Beck (along with my translation of it), so take that for what you will. At any rate, this story has gained traction and has appeared over at The Hardball Times (again, along with my translation; big thank you to Craig Calcaterra for that) and other sites.
  • On a related note, I came across some winter ball news, thanks to my discovery of Lider. In addition to his tweet heard ‘round the blogosphere, Carlos V. Rodriguez reports that Magglio will not be playing winter ball this year, instead choosing to focus on his next contract. Additionally, Cesar Augusto Marquez (also at Lider) reports that the president of the Leones del Caracas has asked permission to have Armando Galarraga pitch for them later in the year, but he probably will not (Galarraga could not be reached for comment, according to this article).
  • I also found this video from some point during the season where Armando Galarraga talks about soccer. I haven’t had the chance to listen to it myself yet, but I figured I’d share the link in case any of you had interest.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The 2010 DIBS Awards

The Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes (est. 2005) has come out with their year-end awards, but this year they’ve introduced some off-the-wall categories, because you know as well as I do that Justin Verlander is the team’s best pitcher, Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter, and Austin Jackson is the top rookie. And without further ado, here are the results:

Best On-Field Celebration: Jose Valverde (13 votes)
What Tiger fan doesn’t love the Big Potato’s dancing once he nails down a save? He’s certainly one of the biggest characters on the team, and he’s generated his share of enjoyment on the internet. “On-field celebration” made me think of walk-off home runs, so I gave Brandon Inge a second-place vote. Other Tigers who got first place votes were Inge, Joel Zumaya, and Armando Galarraga.

Best Hair, Facial or Otherwise: Phil Coke (10 votes)
Phil Coke certainly had an ever-morphing look, from mullet to normal to mohawk and back to normal. I thought the mullet was kind of fun, but the whole mohawk thing was completely stupid (not to mention unoriginal), so he did not get my vote (actually, to tell you the truth, I didn’t really think about mohawks when I was casting my votes; Coke never even entered my thought process). My first place vote went to Justin Verlander (mostly because of the facial hair, but he is a rather attractive specimen overall). I decided to have some fun with my second place vote and give it to Miguel Cabrera, because the jheri curl was the source of a lot of entertainment for me throughout the season (although I did consider giving my second place vote to either Armando Galarraga or Alex Avila, because both of them have hair that grows at an astonishingly fast rate, and this amuses me). In addition to my first-place vote for Verlander, Will Rhymes got three first-place votes, Magglio Ordoñez had two, and Johnny Damon and Joel Zumaya each got one.

Best Pitching Face: Justin Verlander (6 votes)
I think I was supposed to interpret this category as the pitcher with the most intimidating look. However, I could not get these guys’ mid-pitch expressions out of my head and I went for Justin Verlander because he looks the least weird in mid-pitch (in case you’re wondering, Armando Galarraga would definitely have been my vote for weirdest mid-pitch expressions, although Rick Porcello occasionally comes up with something strange). Still, when Verlander pitches his best, he’s got such a badass aura about him that no one can match. I gave Jose Valverde my second-place vote, because with all the dancing and getting pumped up over strikeouts, he can generate some amusing expressions. Valverde also got five first-place votes. Jeremy Bonderman and Max Scherzer each got three first-place votes, and Joel Zumaya had two.

Best Use of Social Media: Will Rhymes (17 votes)
Rhymes won this one handily, and if you don’t follow him on Twitter, you should. He’s definitely the most chatty of all the Tigers on Twitter, and what I really enjoyed was that he provided a bit of insight into facing certain pitchers during the postseason. My second place vote went to Robbie Weinhardt, although he hasn’t tweeted nearly as much recently. Weinhardt also had three first-place votes. The other Tiger on Twitter is Casper Wells, by the way. Those three need to get the rest of them online.

Biggest Surprise: Brennan Boesch (9 votes)
I understand the reasoning behind this choice. He kind of burst onto the scene in a big way and then fell from grace just as quickly. I didn’t vote for him because I was interpreting “surprise” in a strictly positive way. My vote went to Will Rhymes (and to tell you the truth, I don’t remember who my second-place vote went to). Rhymes got two first-place votes (including mine) and Austin Jackson got eight.

Best Value: Austin Jackson (11 votes)
He nearly hit .300 in his rookie season, he plays amazing defense, and he did a very nice job stepping into the role vacated by a very popular player in Curtis Granderson. And he makes league minimum right now. You could make the same argument for Max Scherzer, who got 4 votes (actually, I had Scherzer first and Jackson second, but I could easily flip them around. Miguel Cabrera had two (He’s paid $20 million but he’s worth every penny) and Brad Thomas had one (I assume someone was being facetious).

Most Valuable Tiger: Miguel Cabrera (Unanimous)
This one is a no-brainer, and Justin Verlander was the overwhelming vote for second place (including me).

2010-11 DIBS members
Kurt Mensching – Bless You Boys
Allison Hagen – Bless You Boys
Matt Wallace – Bless You Boys
David Tokarz – Bless You Boys
Al Beaton – Bless You Boys
James Schmehl –
Matt Sussman –
Ian Casselberry – and SB Nation Detroit
John Parent – Motor City Bengals
Matt Snyder – Motor City Bengals
Zac Snyder – Motor City Bengals
Chris Hannum – Motor City Bengals
Jennifer Cosey – Old English D
Scott Rogowski – DesigNate Robertson
Bill Ferris – Detroit Tigers Weblog and TigsTown
Austin Drake – Detroit Tigers Scorecard
Mike Rogers – Tigers by the Numbers and Bless You Boys
Greg Eno – Where Have You Gone, Johnny Grubb?
Samara Pearlstein – Roar of the Tigers
Lee Panas – Detroit Tigers Tales
Erin Saelzler – Tigers Amateur Analysis
Brian Borawski – TigerBlog
Mike McClary – The Daily Fungo

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Arbitration Matters and Latin Links

It took them a while, but the Tigers finally announced the corresponding move to make room for Victor Martinez on the roster by designating Zach Miner for assignment. Miner is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the DFA automatically makes him a free agent, but the Tigers are interested in bringing him back on a minor league deal (though I think the assertion that he’d compete for a bullpen spot or perhaps try to crack the starting rotation is a bit optimistic, considering that it usually takes about a year to recover from Tommy John surgery and he just had his in late May). I don’t really dislike Miner (though Jim Leyland’s plans to use him out of the bullpen to get double plays never really seemed to work out the way they were supposed to), but right now I’ve gotten myself into “think of the alternative” mode, so at this point, the DFA doesn’t really bother me. Besides, he was a prime non-tender candidate anyways. Speaking of which, that deadline is Thursday, and by my count, there are three other Tigers who are arbitration-eligible. Since Ryan Raburn is essentially the left fielder right now, I expect that to be uneventful, and as I said before, they’d be foolish to not tender a contract to Armando Galarraga. That leaves Joel Zumaya as a possible non-tender candidate because of the injuries, but Jason Beck has said that the Tigers will probably offer him a contract, and they should, because when he’s healthy, Zumaya can be very effective, and he won’t be that expensive. There’s certainly room in the payroll for him.

And now I have some links for you concerning a few Latin American players:
  • Thanks to some internet browsing, I have found a couple websites that stream live television broadcasts of Venezuelan baseball. I was watching one such game a couple days ago and it just so happened that Carlos Guillen was a guest in the broadcast booth and they held about a 10-minute interview with him. I was able to make an audio recording of part of the interview, so you can have at it. The sound quality’s not great (especially since this was happening during a game, so you hear cheering in the background as one team was in the middle of scoring a bunch of runs), and it’s entirely in Spanish. Unfortunately, I can’t translate much of it (He gets asked about Victor Martinez, the high number of Venezuelans on the Tigers, and the perfect game, among other things).
  • The presentation of the Luis Aparicio Award took place last Thursday (The article is in Spanish, but at least I could understand most of it). The award went to Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies, but Armando Galarraga received an honorable mention for the perfect game and his actions following it. He was unable to attend the award ceremony because he’s in Texas right now (or at least he was as of Thursday), but someone managed to get an interview with him (which I can provide a translation for, if you guys want me to).
  • Galarraga was also a runner-up for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year for 2010 (which was given to Drew Brees). Joe Posnanski wrote the nomination article about him and Pat Forde also tweeted his support.
  • Via former Mud Hen Scot Drucker, we’ve learned that 2006 ALCS Game 2 hero Alexis Gomez was injured in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. We in the Tigers community all hope for the best. 
  • And finally, happy 39th birthday to former Tiger Pudge Rodriguez. And to no one’s surprise, he’s got no plans to retire any time soon (link in Spanish).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bienvenidos Victor Martinez

As it turns out, there was some major news to be had. Yesterday morning, Ignacio Serrano of ESPN Deportes reported that Victor Martinez was close to signing with Detroit (the article is in Spanish). I happen to follow a few Venezuelan writers on Twitter, Serrano included, so I actually found this article firsthand. The incoming reports of the Tigers not offering arbitration to any of their free agents kind of pushed this report aside, but by afternoon, American baseball writers were confirming what Serrano had said. And now it looks as though the signing is official (though the Tigers have not confirmed it yet; and yes, I am slightly nervous about the upcoming corresponding move to make room for him on the 40-man roster). Now, I made it perfectly clear a couple weeks ago that I had concerns about his defensive shortcomings, but the bottom line is that he’s still a good hitter and he’ll give a fair amount of protection to Miguel Cabrera in the lineup. Still, the less time he spends behind the plate, the better (I feel for the Tigers’ pitching staff). I have no problem with him as the DH and when I take into account the fact that there really wasn’t anyone out there that I wanted, I have concluded that he was probably one of the better options in terms of offense. And with that signing seemingly done, I’d say all they have to do is re-sign Magglio Ordoñez and then they’ll be all set for the season to start.

As expected, Miguel Cabrera finished second in the MVP race. He received five first-place votes. Those votes came from Tom Gage of the Detroit News, Steve Kornacki of Booth Newspapers, Scot Gregor of the Daily Herald (in Chicago), Jim Ingraham of the News Herald (in Cleveland), and Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. Note that all these writers are from AL Central cities, and as such, they had a better opportunity to watch Cabrera over the entire season. Also, for those of you who know Spanish, you might be interested in this interview with Miguel Cabrera from yesterday. Unfortunately, while I am pretty decent at reading Spanish, I’m rubbish when it comes to understanding spoken Spanish, so I can’t really give you a translation. I know he gets asked about Victor Martinez at one point, as well as finishing second in the MVP voting. However, I did talk to one of the interviewers in the audio clip on Twitter, and she was nice enough to give me a partial translation. When asked about the MVP voting, Cabrera said “Hamilton deserves it. I need to work harder. The Tigers need to be in the playoffs and then I’ll be the MVP.” She also asked him if he planned to play winter ball. She didn’t translate this part for me, but from what I can tell, he said he might if things were going well (I’m assuming his ankle is pretty much healed up by now, since I don’t think he mentioned it).

And now I return you to your regularly scheduled turkey, sleep, and shopping.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Torturous Names + MVP Talk

There are no major moves to speak of today, but the Tigers did add some players to the 40-man roster in preparation for next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Now, I’m not a prospect expert, nor do I wish to be, so I will leave the detailed analysis of the additions to those bloggers who have more of an interest in minor league matters. This is probably the first year that I recognize the names of all those added, though again, I can’t tell you much about them besides the bare minimum. After all those moves, there was one space left on the 40-man roster. That got filled a few hours later when the Tigers signed a career minor league reliever by the name of Alberto Alburquerque, and he is supposed to compete for a bullpen job in spring training. Are the Tigers trying to make my life difficult? Am I going to have to repeatedly type “Alburquerque” all through next season? If that’s the case, then the Tigers owe me one (And I know what that could be!). Anyways, Alburquerque has never pitched above Double-A, but a lot of teams were after him, hence why the Tigers had to sign him to a major league contract. And since I’m not the prospect expert, I’ll leave it at that.

Because of Thanksgiving, I don’t expect there to be a ton of signings or trades this week, but this has been kind of a strange offseason because of the stepped-up deadlines, so you never know. Tomorrow is the deadline to offer arbitration to the departing free agents with Elias ratings. The Tigers have three: Gerald Laird and Johnny Damon are both Type Bs, and Magglio Ordoñez is a Type A. MLB Trade Rumors, for one, does not expect the Tigers to offer arbitration to any of them. I understand not offering arbitration to Damon or Laird, since I find that there would be a good possibility of them accepting and the Tigers don’t have much desire to have them back, but I don’t see that there’s much risk in offering arbitration to Magglio. I really don’t think Scott Boras would let him accept, and speaking purely as a fan, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if he did. However, there is probably some compelling argument out there for why they won’t and I just haven’t picked up on it, and since the arbitration process is not really something I’m interested in, I’ll leave it at that. Tomorrow will also mark the announcement of the AL MVP. As I said last week, for Miguel Cabrera to have had a shot, we would had to have seen Austin Jackson beat out Neftali Feliz for Rookie of the Year, and that didn’t happen. And of course, there are plenty of valid arguments for Josh Hamilton just as there are for Cabrera. However, the arguments for Hamilton that I keep seeing are really dumb ones. There was one article that quoted a voter who said he voted for Hamilton because of an “incredible 3-month stretch” and that took the Rangers from a first-place tie on June 1st to a 9 ½ game lead on September 1st. Too bad the season is five months long, not three. If you’re going to use that argument, you may as well have given Michael Cuddyer the MVP last year. It was his ridiculously incredible September that gave the Twins their surge last year. Second, this argument ignores the fact that the Athletics and Mariners weren’t very good to start with, and the Angels lost Kendry Morales on May 29th and never recovered (in stark contrast to the Twins, who only get better when they lose their big stars). And the arguments about his battles with drug addiction are compelling, but Miguel Cabrera has also overcome substance abuse problems of his own. And by the way people dismiss Cabrera by saying “The Tigers were not a playoff team” you’d think they’d started the season in last place and stayed there, which is not how it happened. In the end, however, I think my arguments will fall on deaf ears because there’s just too much media love for Hamilton. What’s a Tiger gotta do to get himself an MVP?

And with that, I probably won’t post again until next week unless there’s some major news to be had. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Say Hello to the First New Tiger of the Offseason

With all the signings (and one trade) going on at these GM meetings so far, it’s almost like the Winter Meetings are already happening. Dan Uggla went very quickly for what I find to be a song for the Braves. I didn’t really want Uggla (and apparently I’m the only Tigers blogger to have taken that stance; seriously, for such a small rumor it produced a lot of drooling and mancrushes), so I don’t mind that the Tigers weren’t “more aggressive” (although that’s not a real good accusation to make given that we have very little information as to the negotiations, if there were any), but I feel kind of sorry for Marlins fans (although I do like Omar Infante). This afternoon brought the news that the Tigers have signed their first new free agent of the offseason in setup man Joaquin Benoit. He’s coming off a really good season with the Rays, and he’s a Type B free agent so the Tigers don’t have to give up a draft pick (though they probably will at some point; while we’re on the subject, I believe Magglio projects as a Type A, so they might as well offer him arbitration, since there’s no chance that Scott Boras will let him accept). It’s a three-year, $16.5 million deal, and the reaction to it on the blogosphere is generally positive. I think he’d be a good compliment to Joel Zumaya and Ryan Perry, and if Zumaya hurts himself again, Benoit should be able to slide into an even bigger role. I do have a slight concern that prior to this year, he had a tendency to walk quite a few batters, but the Tigers have prioritized velocity over control for a long time now, so I can see why they wouldn’t find that to be a problem. Overall, I approve of the signing, if for nothing else but the fact that I have no established allegiances to any of the existing relievers like I do the starters, so he’s not a “threat” to anyone (unless the Tigers plan to convert him back into a starter, but that’s unlikely; on a related note, Dave Dombrowski said yesterday that he’s not counting on Andy Oliver to be part of the 2011 rotation, but take that with a grain of salt for now). And with a new setup man in hand, I’d be perfectly happy for them to sign that big bat or two (and maybe a lefty reliever) and then call it an offseason, so that I can sit back, relax, and not stress out for the next four months.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Guys I Don't Want + Rookie of the Year

I don’t have a whole lot of new things to discuss, but I do want to keep posting at least once a week so that you don’t think I’ve up and abandoned you. It should go without saying that I still haven’t gained much enthusiasm for the Hot Stove. The GM meetings start tomorrow. If it follows the pattern that it did in years past, there will be a few signings or trades, but mostly it’ll spur a bunch of rumors about who is on the block. This year, all the deadlines (free agency, exclusivity window, arbitration, etc) are all earlier than they had been, so whether this affect what goes on at these meetings remain to be seen (I’m not going to even get into the frightfest that is the Winter Meetings yet). However, the more I read all these rumors about who the Tigers might be interested, the less enamored I am of available candidates (with the obvious exception of Magglio Ordoñez). It’s like getting a bunch of money, then arriving at the store and discovering that there’s really nothing you want to buy. I’ve gotten fairly adept at recognizing the weak points of anyone the Tigers have been rumored to be interested in. The name that’s popped up most often is Victor Martinez. He’s a good hitter, but he’s a terrible catcher. I suppose he’d make for a decent enough DH (And yes, I have heard the argument that he’s more valuable as a catcher than as a DH because his offensive numbers look better when compared to the average catcher than the average DH, but I personally don’t care what position the offense comes from as long as it comes from somewhere, though when it comes to catchers, I place a very heavy emphasis on defense; besides, Victor Martinez would provide more offense at DH than most of the Tigers’ DHs have given in the past several years). Obviously, the Tigers aren’t publicly saying what they would do with him if they do sign him, but the most commonly held belief is that they would have him DH against right-handed starting pitchers (with Alex Avila catching) and catch against left-handed starters. I send condolences to any of the Tigers’ starting pitchers who have to oppose a lefty (especially since at least three members of the starting rotation will be right-handed), but I suppose it’s preferable to the other way around. However, if Alex Avila is destined to be the Tigers’ catcher of the future, he’s got to start against left-handed pitching at some point. As far as the other big bats the Tigers have been linked to (though more from a conjecture standpoint than any actual rumor), Adam Dunn’s defense is worse than Victor Martinez’s and he doesn’t want to DH, Jayson Werth is too streaky, and Carl Crawford is enticing at this moment, but he’s likely going to demand a contract length that takes him past his sell-by date.

The trade market is even less enticing. One of the more puzzling rumors is that the Tigers are interested in Dan Uggla. Uggla’s got some good power, but I don’t really think he’s that good a fit in Detroit at this time. First of all, the Tigers already have Will Rhymes, Scott Sizemore, and possibly Carlos Guillen jockeying for playing time at second base. Granted, Uggla could provide more offense than any of them, but it’d still be better to avoid such a traffic jam (although having a position already occupied has not stopped the Tigers in the past). Second, Uggla is not a good defender. The Tigers have already re-signed Jhonny Peralta to play shortstop, and I’d probably categorize is defense as slightly below average (even though he exceeded my expectations of him this year). Having Brandon Inge at third makes up for this somewhat, but I’d prefer to have a good defender at second to make up for it in the other direction (yes, that means I do prefer Will Rhymes over Scott Sizemore, but spring training should be a factor). Third, Uggla’s a year away from free agency. The Marlins are likely to ask for a lot (supposedly they’re after relief pitching), and the price is probably too high for just a one-year rental, especially since I don’t think the Tigers are going to fill all their holes in one offseason. And I have a feeling that extending him would be unwise.

My final note for today is that Austin Jackson has placed second in the Rookie of the Year voting. The reason that this note is buried is because I had started this post with the intention of previewing the Rookie of the Year race. However, I expected the results to be announced sometime after four o’clock, so I was shocked when the announcement of Neftali Feliz was all over Twitter at about 1:30 (not necessarily shocked that he had won it, just shocked that it got announced so early). And yes, I know that it is now way past four o’clock, but as the results were posted before I finished, I lost the need to hurry this post. Anyways, I’m not sure I can be fair about this, because all I really saw of Feliz this year was when he pitched against the Tigers and then when he pitched in the postseason (which wasn’t much). He wasn’t that great against the Tigers. One of his three blown saves came against the Detroit (he proceeded to get the win in that game because Ryan Perry had a meltdown in the bottom of the inning). He also gave up two home runs later in the same series. Even in the appearances in which he pitched scoreless, it didn’t seem like the Tigers were overmatched against him. In the postseason, he looked scared and he walked quite a few. I guess what I don’t really like is that he pitched 31 innings last year. The cutoff to retain rookie status is 45 innings, so he wasn’t exactly green. Austin Jackson hadn’t so much as seen one pitch in the majors before this year. I’m not as disdainful of saves as those who believe that anyone right down to the guy who plays the trumpet outside Comerica Park all the time should be able to get three outs in the ninth inning, but it just seems like Austin Jackson had more of an impact. And then when the voters talk about Feliz leading his team into the postseason, they’re being hypocritical, because they picked Andrew Bailey last year and he was on a last place team. However, what this does do is make it all but certain that Josh Hamilton will be named MVP. The assumption was that if Austin Jackson was Rookie of the Year, then Miguel Cabrera would have a chance at MVP because it would demonstrate that the voters were at least paying a little bit of attention to Detroit baseball this year. But it’s becoming clear that baseball awards are a lot like the Academy Awards (which I love watching; don’t get me wrong): The winners tend to be those who get the bigger buzz and more screen time, whether they’re the best ones or not.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Peralta's Staying + More Venezuelan Uneasiness

First off, a belated congratulations to the San Francisco Giants and their fans for the World Series win. They simply outpitched the Rangers and totally shut their big bats down. And they beat Cliff Lee twice. Meanwhile, the Rangers kind of looked like they had the yips, kind of like the Tigers did in 2006 and the Rays in 2008. And now, onto Tiger news...

Over the weekend, it became apparent that the Tigers have found themselves a shortstop for the time being. Jhonny Peralta has agreed to a deal that is for two years with a third-year option. Actually, the deal looks remarkably similar to the one Brandon Inge got a couple weeks ago (I’m not sure if the fact that they have the same agent has anything to do with that). The announcement has been met with a bunch of grumbling about how Peralta is Edgar Renteria Redux. I actually said as much when the Tigers first acquired him, but that never really manifested, and his defense wasn’t all that bad. Still, I would rather they had just picked up the option on his prior contract and try to upgrade the shortstop position next offseason. At the same time, there has to be a reason why Dave Dombrowski didn’t want to pick up that option, and he hasn’t said what that was. Therefore, there is currently not enough information available to make an educated opinion on this deal. But I do know that there was not a very good selection of shortstops on the free agent market this year, and right now I’m so gun-shy when it comes to trades that part of me doesn’t even want to fathom that as an option. Besides, I’m more concerned with other players, so I really don’t feel strongly towards this deal either way (positive or negative).

Speaking of which, a couple of articles appeared on that dealt with a couple guys I have concern for. As I pretty much expected, Armando Galarraga has been granted Super Two status for his arbitration years. Before I go on, I would like to point out that I know perfectly well what Super Two is, and I do not need to have it explained to me. What puzzles me is Jason Beck’s reaction to the whole thing. His tone in the article seemed to suggest that it changes everything in regards to how the Tigers would deal with Galarraga this year. I’m not sure why it would. After all, I fully expected him to be arbitration eligible this year (that stemmed from the fact that I overestimated his service time, not that I expected Super Two status). Beck even mentions in his own article that the Tigers fully expected him to be arbitration-eligible, so I’m not sure what the issue is. I find it hard to believe that having four arbitration years instead of three has any effect on the outcome of the first arbitration year. It’s not like all of a sudden they have to pay him ten million dollars next year just because he’s a Super Two. And as I said before, non-tendering him would be a foolish move, and Jason Beck seems to be the only one entertaining that as a serious possibility. Still, the article does nothing to instill confidence that he’ll remain with this team much longer.

While we’re on the subject of pessimistic news, we have another article telling us that it’s going to be very difficult to re-sign Magglio Ordoñez. Scott Boras is up to his old tricks, to no one’s surprise, telling everyone who stands still long enough that “lots of teams” have contacted him about Magglio. Boras is going to do what he does with all of his clients: get teams in a bidding war, get teams to bid against themselves, and make every team’s fans sick of the process. I am going out on a limb here, but I have noticed that one of Boras’s favorite tricks seems to be getting a player’s old team involved in the bidding process. He did it a couple years ago, trying to get the Texas Rangers involved while the Tigers were trying to negotiate re-signing Kenny Rogers (Rogers, to his credit, proceeded to fire Boras and represented himself). Therefore, it would not surprise me to see Boras trying to court the White Sox. I know there’s some bad blood between Maggs and Ozzie Guillen, but I’ll hearken back to my previous example and point out that Kenny Rogers was not on good terms with the Rangers when Boras tried to bring them into it. Plus, the White Sox are in need of an upgrade at DH, no matter what Ozzie says. But whatever he does, Boras is going to make sure this becomes a knockdown, dragged-out fight and we’re all going to hate it. Missing from this analysis is what Magglio thinks of all this. Near the end of the season, Miguel Cabrera told reporters that Magglio told him he wanted to return. Maggs himself echoed that sentiment to a Venezuelan reporter about a month ago, but it remains to be seen who is more in control in this player-agent relationship. It also remains to be seen just how long Dave Dombrowski will put up with Scott Boras’s antics. The Tigers have been pretty good at dealing with Boras in the past (re: Pudge, Maggs, Rogers, and most recently Johnny Damon), which is probably the only good sign in this saga, but with a big bat being their most pressing need, if they tango with Boras too long and lose out on Maggs, the alternatives may already be gone. And people wonder why I’m developing a serious distaste for the offseason.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Random Thoughts

Sorry for not blogging much recently, but I’ve had a ton of exams and I don’t have much to say anyways. There’s no point in discussing Hot Stove stuff unless something happens, because all you need to do to guess my opinion of a particular rumor is to read my offseason preview. I believe I was thorough enough in that regard. However, there are a few odds and ends I can discuss.

First of all, Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity featured a Tiger sighting (although I did not find out about this until later and luckily my mom recorded it on her DVR so I was able to watch it eventually; what’s funny is that the segment immediately preceding this featured a shot of a guy wearing a Tigers hat). Armando Galarraga was presented with a “Medal of Reasonableness” for his actions following the blown call in his perfect game. He wasn’t actually at the rally because he’s apparently gone back home to Venezuela, but they did show a taped acceptance speech from him (which looked like it was filmed in his kitchen, because there was a refrigerator in the background). Unfortunately, there is no video clip of this either on Comedy Central’s website or on Youtube, so if you missed it, you’re kind of stuck. Live or taped, though, it was nice seeing him again, even if my mom kept making fun of the way he said “umpire.”

Secondly, the “big” awards from the BBWAA are still yet to come, but some others have been streaming in. Austin Jackson has been duly recognized as Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News and by the MLB player voting. Miguel Cabrera hasn’t been as fortunate. In fact, he’s yet to win anything. The Sporting News gave their Outstanding Player award to Josh Hamilton, and the player vote (which does not give an award for each league) went to Carlos Gonzalez (who is one of my absolute favorite non-Tigers and I would love to see him in the Olde English D, but still). Carlos Gonzalez also won the Luis Aparicio Award, which is given to the top Venezuelan player in the majors each year (It’s voted on by Venezuelan baseball writers, it does not separate the leagues, and it can go to a pitcher). I’m starting to get the feeling that Venezuelans might not be all that enamored of Cabrera. I visited a website for a Venezuelan sports radio station (I’ve been listening to a little bit of winter ball via online streaming radio, although I’m not all that good at understanding spoken Spanish; I’ll understand words but not entire sentences; I am pretty good at reading Spanish, though). There was a poll on the homepage asking (in Spanish) who would win the Luis Aparicio Award, with three choices: Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, and Felix Hernandez. Carlos Gonzalez had about 60% of the vote, with King Felix second and Cabrera a very distant third. Then last night they announced the winners of the Hank Aaron Award, and the American League recipient was Jose Bautista. Now, I don’t expect Cabrera to come away from this season empty-handed. If he doesn’t win the Silver Slugger, there’s something really strange going on because no other first baseman put up anywhere close to the numbers he did. Joe Buck seems ready to hand the MVP award to Josh Hamilton, and that will probably happen, but I’d like to point out that Hamilton had a terrible April and he missed almost all of September. Therefore, the Rangers only got four good months out of him and they would have made the playoffs with or without Hamilton because the other three teams in their division really weren’t all that good. Robinson Cano is the only other candidate from a playoff team. The criteria that the BBWAA voters look for is something I haven’t figured out yet (likely because there are different voters each year). It seems like some years they prioritize raw numbers, others it’s how valuable he is to his team. I do wonder my MVP has playoffs as an important factor and yet Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award do not (Manager of the Year also has playoffs as a big factor, but that I understand). I wonder what would happen if someone put up absolutely monster numbers or even won the Triple Crown yet played for a team that was in last place for the entire season (it’s unlikely to happen, but it could if this hypothetical player’s team had really bad pitching or something).

As far as the World Series goes, the Texas Rangers seem to have gotten a case of first-time nerves like the Rays did a couple years ago. They are now on the brink and have to find a way to bounce back and get this series to a Game 7, partly because I want them to win and partly because the World Series is all that separates us from the big, scary offseason starting. There was some argument about how they should’ve started Cliff Lee on short rest last night, but really, that argument is pretty pointless when the offense doesn’t score any runs. I kept having flashbacks to Anthony Reyes in Game 1 of the 2006 World Series last night (although Madison Bumgardner appears to have far more upside than Reyes). They do have Cliff Lee going tonight, although he got lit up in his last start. Tim Lincecum wasn’t lights-out, either. I can’t imagine that both of them are going to give up as many runs as they did for two starts in a row, but who knows? As a side note, I missed where Pudge caught Nolan Ryan's first pitch the other night, but I did see a picture of him later. I wasn't expecting him to be there, because technically he is still a Washington National (though it would not surprise me to see him get traded in the offseason), but I guess he's so beloved by Rangers fans that it seemed right for him to be there. And I'm certainly not going to question it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Welcome Back Brandon and Postseason Thoughts

The big news coming out of Detroit yesterday was that the Tigers have re-signed Brandon Inge to a two-year, $11.5 million deal with an option for 2013. You guys should know me well enough by now to know that I am thrilled that I’ll be able to see Brandon Inge in the Olde English D for at least two more years. With the payroll flexibility that the Tigers have right now, it’s a reasonable contract. During the press conference, Dave Dombrowski really didn’t drop any new hints regarding offseason moves. He talked about the infield as a whole, and he seemed to imply that their next step is reaching an agreement with Jhonny Peralta. He also reiterated that at this point they are committed to having either Will Rhymes or Scott Sizemore (or possibly Carlos Guillen) at second base. And so I now know that three of my Top Five are safe. Now it’s time to continue fretting about the remaining two.

I’ve been keeping myself busy by watching the postseason. Currently, both the ALCS and the NLCS see the teams I’m rooting for up three games to two. However, I keep thinking of 2007, when a bunch of Indians fans in my Spanish class were bragging that their parents were buying them World Series tickets. A few days later, I walked into class to find them all sitting there looking shell-shocked. Of course, that was the Boston Red Sox, a team that can bring itself back from the brink like no other (they came back from a 3-1 deficit in 1986 and 2007, almost did that again in 2008, and came back from a 3-0 deficit in 2004). They’re annoying like that. I still feel like the Rangers have a good chance of advancing to the World Series, although it may take a Game 7 for them to do it. Cliff Lee is a pretty good equalizer. The Giants, on the other hand, may well have blown their chance when they didn’t seal the deal last night. They are stuck going back to Philadelphia, which is, in the words of Rod Allen, “a very hostile environment.” There are some ballparks where the fans just seem to be in attack mode moreso than others. Citizens Bank Park is one of those ballparks. Other examples are Fenway Park, U.S. Cellular Field, and Target Field to some extent (Of course, these are all just observations I have made watching them on TV; I have never been to any of these ballparks). I don’t sense this as much at Comerica Park. Tiger fans seem content with cheering for their own team (I have been told that Yankee Stadium is largely the same). Anyways, the Giants certainly have the starting pitching to pull it off, but their bullpen has been shaky and their offense isn’t very potent. Cody Ross has been red-hot and a good story. However, I watched a lot of him with the Marlins and I like him, but he is a streaky hitter. He could go cold at any time and if he does, someone else is going to have to heat up or the Giants won’t stand a chance. But in that series, I really think that the momentum has completely shifted to the Phillies and I can’t see how they won’t manage to pull off the comeback, which is unfortunate because I am tired of the Phillies winning all the time. Also, I am so glad that Carlos Ruiz does not play in the American League, because if he did, I guarantee you that he would be a Tiger killer extraordinaire.

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to talk to the Baseball Guru about several things (to review, he’s a former catcher, he’s a Yankees fan, he’s very old school, and he’s totally computer illiterate or I would definitely get him his own blog). This was during Game 2 of the ALCS and at the time, he seemed to honestly believe that the Rangers were the better team. We discussed the Rangers’ Game 1 bullpen meltdown, and he maintained that you’re never going to see something like that again. He agreed with every move that Ron Washington made in that inning (in terms of them being what he would do if he managed the Rangers, not in terms of them giving the Yankees an advantage). I get the feeling that he thinks Sabathia is overrated, but at the same time he thinks he’s a strong Cy Young candidate because of his win total (I know that’s gonna annoy some of you, but as I said, he’s old school; he keeps bringing up the fact that the one year that Nolan Ryan led the league in ERA, he had a losing record, and he still thinks that Felix Hernandez or Justin Verlander should have won the Cy Young last year and not Zack Greinke; with that in mind, I didn’t even bother bringing up King Felix as a candidate this year). He’s torn between Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano as his preference for MVP (because he honestly believes the Yankees would not have made the postseason without Cano because many of their other key hitters had down years), but his prediction is that Cano will win it because voters won’t like that Cabrera was not on a playoff team and Josh Hamilton missed the final month of the season. However, his pick for Rookie of the Year is Austin Jackson because he’s an everyday player and Neftali Feliz is a relief pitcher. On the NLCS, he picks the Phillies because of their pitching and their offense is built like an American League team (actually, with the Rays having been eliminated, I think he’s picking the Phillies to win it all).

One final note: This is nothing more than a glorified popularity contest, but if you’re interested, has posted the nominees for the 2010 This Year in Baseball Awards. Three Tigers are up for awards. Miguel Cabrera is up for Hitter of the Year, Austin Jackson is up for Rookie of the Year, and Armando Galarraga is up for Performance of the Year. Go vote, if you have a chance.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Looking Ahead to the Offseason: Fasten Your Seatbelts

As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m not a fan of the offseason, and it seems every year I like it less and less. In free agent negotiations, someone always comes off looking bad. In trades, someone’s feelings get hurt. You get the idea. The worst part about it is simply not knowing what’s going to happen. And even if things work out, going through it is still rough. Take last year. The trade that sent Austin Jackson and Max Scherzer to Detroit worked out fabulously, but as a fan, it was very hard to say goodbye to a player like Curtis Granderson. And with many, many changes certain to be afoot for the Tigers, this will be a stressful five months indeed, and there are a couple of players I’m very fond of whom I might be forced to part with, and I’m not looking forward to that. But, to the business at hand, at the present time, Dave Dombrowski has said that the top priorities are finding an RBI man to help out Miguel Cabrera and bolstering the bullpen. With that, I’m going to take a position-by-position approach to this offseason preview, and as I warned last time, if you’ve even only half-paid attention to this blog, you already know a lot of what I’m going to say already, so forgive me for sounding repetitive.

At the present time, it seems like the Tigers are ready for Alex Avila to take over as the starting catcher. His bat needs to perk up a little more for him to keep that job (and I still have no idea why there’s this notion that left-handed offense from a catcher is more valuable than left-handed offense from, say, an outfielder or a shortstop; people always tell me that it’s because it’s a position where you can only throw right-handed, but if you look all around the majors, there are plenty of first basemen and outfielders who bat left but throw right), but his defense has made major improvements, and I definitely approved of his caught stealing rate (because the last thing I want is someone like Brian McCann or Victor Martinez, who are only in their respective lineups for their bats and can’t throw the ball worth anything). In the meantime, we already know that Gerald Laird will not be re-signed. Now, back in 2008 when it was clear that the Tigers needed a catcher, Laird was my first choice among the realistically available catchers of that offseason, and I will maintain that that was a good trade. He was everything I could’ve hoped for defensively (I’m still annoyed that he didn’t win a Gold Glove last year). He just couldn’t get things going with the bat, and even though I think he hit into some bad luck this year (it seemed like every single game in the first half, he hit at least one lineout), he probably “should” not have hit much above .240. The time is probably right to bid farewell. To replace him, the Tigers are apparently looking to either sign or acquire a right-handed hitting veteran to either back up or platoon with Avila. Now, I have my own pipe dream about that, but it’s not gonna happen so I’m not even gonna get into it. Some of us online were discussing Bengie Molina the other night. He is a free agent, he’s a great thrower, he’s passable with the bat, and as an added bonus, he’s Puerto Rican. The downside to Molina is that he is The Slowest Man in the World (and yet somehow he hit for the cycle this year). I can’t really think of any other desirable candidates off the top of my head, but it goes without saying I’d prefer a free agent signing to a trade.

First Base
Unless Miguel Cabrera’s season-ending ankle sprain turns out worse than originally thought (last I heard was three week recovery time), this is absolutely not a concern.

Second Base
It’s possible that the Tigers might try to get someone for this, but they’ve got in-house candidates in Scott Sizemore and Will Rhymes. Sizemore’s put up the better minor league numbers, has more power, and most stat geeks are in his corner as being more likely to put up “sustainable” offensive numbers. Rhymes has become the fan favorite of the two, is a better defender, has more speed, and bats left-handed, so at this point, it’s a toss-up. Leyland has said he does not want to use Sizemore and Rhymes in a platoon, so at the moment it’s looking like a spring training competition. However, we’ve seen instances in the recent past where it looked as though the Tigers had two prospects for one position (or rotation/bullpen spot) headed to a spring training competition, only to see one of them traded at some point during the offseason. This could very well happen in this situation (and remember, they still have the switch-hitting Ramon Santiago as the backup infielder). Carlos Guillen’s name also gets stuck into the mix for second basemen, but he’s likely not going to be fully healthy when the season starts and Dave Dombrowski has said right now Guillen is a man without a position. It sounds as though the Tigers would like to somehow trade Guillen if they could, but his huge contract will probably prevent this from happening (I’m only advocating him staying because saying “I want the Mafia to stay intact” sounds more fair than “I’d like three of the Mafia members to stay and I don’t care about the fourth”).

Third Base
I like Brandon Inge very much and I did not want to see him go, and after a lot of uncertainty, it looks as though there’s a very good chance we’ll be seeing him in the Olde English D a bit longer. The Tigers want him back and Inge wants to stay, so it’d be shocking if they didn’t work something out. Inge is still a streaky hitter (Did you notice he was starting to get hot again right at the last couple games of the season?), but his defense is invaluable.

Back in late July, I never imagined I would find myself typing this, but keeping Jhonny Peralta around for another year might not be the worst thing in the world. Once Inge came off the DL and Peralta moved back to shortstop, I thought sure we’d spend two months watching Edgar Renteria Redux, but Peralta actually did a pretty good job. And his offense was acceptable, if a little bit streaky, Besides, this year’s shortstop free agent class leaves a lot to be desired, and the trade market isn’t much better. I know there are rumors floating around that the Diamondbacks offered Stephen Drew straight up for Rick Porcello around the Trade Deadline, but I don’t know how I would feel about that trade.

I’ve grouped those together because any DH the Tigers might bring in will likely (ostensibly) be an outfielder. Austin Jackson will be in center, we know that, and Johnny Damon will not be with the Tigers anymore. I like Johnny Damon. His low average with runners in scoring position was puzzling (and likely an aberration), but he did a good job at getting on base and he was well-liked in the clubhouse. However, I can’t really see where he would have a place on the team going forward. So that leaves us with an open DH and question marks at left and right. Of the Tigers in my Top Five, two are in very real danger of not being with the Tigers next year. One of them is Magglio Ordoñez. Now, there is mutual interest, and I would very much like Maggs back next year. There are a couple problems, though. One is that Dave Dombrowski has already said that he would prefer this hypothetical RBI/DH-type to be a left-handed hitter (though if Magglio’s ankle heals well, he should still be able to play right field at a reasonable level). The other problem is Scott Boras. He will drag negotiations out as long as he can. He will try to get other teams involved. He will try to get the Tigers to bid against themselves. Dave Dombrowski has been able to work with Boras in the past, but if these negotiations go on long enough and another opportunity presents itself, he may go that route instead. I hope that doesn’t happen. As far as that left-handed RBI man talk goes, a lot of media people think Dombrowski is hinting at Adam Dunn. Dunn profiles as a good DH, but I’m not sure he would want to. There are a lot of fans who would like the Tigers to go after Carl Crawford, but he is going to take an enormous contract (remember, in two years, the Tigers will already have two players on their roster making around $20 million a year; having three players account for $60 million of your payroll does not sound like a good idea) and he strikes me as more of a table-setter than an RBI guy. In-house, apparently Ryan Raburn has been promised more of a regular job next year (though I can’t find the original article/interview in which this was said). I’ve noticed something with Raburn. For the past three years, he’s started off the season very slowly and then had a hot second half. It might not be a bad idea to see if the Tigers could possibly sell high on Raburn, seeing as how good the end of his season was. In addition to Raburn, the Tigers have Brennan Boesch and Casper Wells. Boesch is probably gonna have to tear it up in spring training to avoid starting his season in Toledo. I’m not sure where Casper Wells fits in at this time. He hit pretty well in September, but the Tigers may see him as minor league depth for now. Of course, there is also the possibility that one or both will be traded.

This is the part where I ramble a lot. The three locks are Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello. Verlander and Scherzer speak for themselves and don’t require any further discussion. Porcello will be in the rotation as long as he doesn’t get traded (which is a possibility, although for now I feel as if it’s a remote one). On the final day of the season, Jim Leyland announced that Phil Coke will be the fourth starter. I grant that the Tigers know more about their pitching staff than I do, but when you say you’ve made it your priority to improve the bullpen, is it really the best idea to take the guy who was your best reliever and stick him in the rotation? I’m all in favor of having a lefty replace Jeremy Bonderman, and perhaps the Tigers feel as though they won’t be able to find a suitable lefty on the free agent or trade markets (since they’ve already said they won’t be pursuing Cliff Lee and it looks as though Ted Lilly will return to the Dodgers). However, we’ve heard promises like this from the Tigers before. Remember April of 2008, when Miguel Cabrera was “only” going to play one game at first base and there was nothing else to read into it? Or when it looked like their starting catcher for 2009 would be Dusty Ryan? Or when Carlos Guillen was “definitely” their left fielder and the Tigers were “fully prepared to rely on” Joel Zumaya as their closer? How’d those turn out? I’m not saying the Tigers were wrong to break any of those assertions (as a matter of fact, in most cases breaking the promise turned out to be the better move). But it’s safe to say that something the Tigers have said about next year will turn out to fall by the wayside (be it Phil Coke as a starter, Raburn getting more playing time, or Alex Avila being the starting catcher). But I’ll count him in as the fourth starter until something happens to change that. That leaves the fifth starter, and you already know what I’m going to say about that. I really want it to be Armando Galarraga, but I think he’s going to be traded (it would not surprise me to see the Tigers aggressively shopping him, as a matter of fact). Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski at least had the decency to pay him some lip service on the last day of the season. Actually, if you just looked at the quotes themselves, you’d think as it stands right now, Galarraga would be the frontrunner. Leyland’s quote was to the news media and was something to the effect of “If Galarraga pitches the way he’s capable of, he’ll have a real good shot,” but I don’t know what the original question was, so it’s unclear if he was prompted to say that or not. Dave Dombrowski’s comments came during his in-game interview with Fox Sports Detroit, so I can tell you for sure that he brought up Galarraga’s name on his own without being prompted. His comments were basically the same as Leyland’s, albeit a bit more encouraging, if anything. However, in his offseason preview which was posted on a few days later, Jason Beck seemed to hint that the Tigers considered Andy Oliver to be the frontrunner with Charles Furbush as a dark horse candidate and the only mention of Galarraga was to say that the Tigers “might have to make a decision” on him (if that doesn’t sound ominous, I don’t know what does). For all the talk about Galarraga being inconsistent, in most of his starts, he went between five and seven innings and gave up between two and four runs, which in most cases is at least giving your team a chance to win. Now, if in the course of the offseason, the Tigers have met their other needs (namely, offense and bullpen) and they have an opportunity to make a clear upgrade (either through free agency or trade), then yes, they should go that route. I may be carrying around inexplicable emotional attachments to players, but the well-being of the team is still my top priority, same as anyone else’s (although there have been times where I have been tempted to waver). If that happens, I will most definitely go through a long and arduous grieving process, but I’ll understand the move. However, notice that I phrased it as “CLEAR upgrade.” A gamble on a formerly dominant pitcher coming off an injury or a bad year is NOT a clear upgrade. A formerly so-so pitcher who is coming off a very good year is NOT a clear upgrade. An aging veteran is NOT a clear upgrade. Andy Oliver is NOT a clear upgrade, at least, not at this time. He’s got good stuff, but can you honestly say he couldn’t benefit from a full year in Toledo? The same argument could go for Charles Furbush or another team’s super-prospect. Plus, I always hear about how spring training is a horrible time to evaluate anyone, and I’m starting to believe that’s the case. We’ve seen guys dominate in spring training only to crash and burn once the season starts, and if Justin Verlander’s rotation spot depended on his spring training performance, he’d have started each of the last two seasons in the minor leagues. Let me put it another way: If you start the 2011 season with Galarraga in the rotation and something goes wrong or there’s an injury, Andy Oliver will be right there in Toledo, ready and waiting. But if you go with Oliver and lose Galarraga and it turns out that Oliver was, in fact, not ready for the bigs, then you’re stuck (and don’t even think of suggesting Alfredo Figaro). But as I said, I think Galarraga will be traded long before spring training even starts, so this whole argument will probably turn out to be moot. But for God’s sake, PLEASE don’t trade him for a reliever.

Along with offense, Dave Dombrowski has stressed this area as a priority, although I’d prefer they focus on the free agent market as opposed to trades because I’d hate to see anyone traded for a reliever unless it’s another reliever (or Alfredo Figaro). We know that Valverde’s still the closer. Most blogs that I’ve read blame his second-half struggles on being used too much in the first half (although a lot of the struggles themselves are limited to late July and August; granted, he spent a good chunk of September battling injuries). I’d say there’s a reasonably good chance he bounces back, because his second-half numbers this year did not match his career second-half splits (which were typically better than his first-half numbers). Ryan Perry projects to be the primary setup man, although he had stretches where he looked ineffective. With Phil Coke moving to the rotation, the job of primary lefty falls to Daniel Schlereth at present, but this is a spot the Tigers may look to upgrade. The most notable lefty relievers on the free agent market are Scott Downs, Will Ohman, and Joe Beimel. Downs is the most effective, but he’s a Type A free agent and the Blue Jays will likely offer him arbitration. On the righty side of the ledger, there are a bunch of fans who would just as soon throw Joel Zumaya overboard. I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Zumaya can be a very dominant pitcher when he’s healthy and throwing strikes. HOWEVER, there needs to be backup plan already in place when the season starts, because they can’t keep getting caught off-guard whenever Zumaya injures himself. To that end, that probably means signing another right-handed late-inning reliever. Some of them coming off good years include Grant Balfour, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Joaquin Benoit and J.J. Putz (although Balfour is a Type A, so proceed with caution there). Under no circumstances should Kyle Farnsworth even be considered.

I’m not going to get into stuff about arbitration and the Rule 5 Draft or anything like that, because those things really don’t interest me (although I obviously wouldn’t complain if the Tigers got more draft picks). Obviously, once the Tigers start making moves, I’ll be weighing in (or venting, depending on what it is). I hope you guys enjoy watching the ALCS and NLCS over the next few days. I’ll be rooting for the Rangers and Giants.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Blast From the Past

I'm still working on the offseason preview, but in the meantime, a few posts ago, I made some offhand comment about finding a tape with Armando Galarraga doing the Tigers lineup before a game. Someone expressed a desire to see it, so I encoded and uploaded it. I don't have the greatest VCR/encoding software ever. The video quality starts out not-so-great and gets progressively worse, and the sound goes out of sync right at the end, but the sound quality itself is good enough. Also, I don't know how long I'll be able to keep this video up before MLB gets wind of it and pulls it, so get your viewing in quickly. 


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The 2010 Season Review

And so the prognosticators got it right, but only the end result. The Tigers finished their season at .500 exactly, but I don’t think those people who predicted that would have expected the long and winding road that got them there (so basically, they were right for the wrong reasons). This was one roller coaster of a season. There were magical moments of euphoria, and there were times we were thrown into the ultimate depths of despair. And at the same time, it felt like this season absolutely flew by. All this brings about a real random jumbling of thoughts, but I will attempt to organize them here.

In my season preview, I wrote that the theme of the season could be “Redemption.” In some ways, that was fulfilled, and in other ways it wasn’t. The Tigers as a team certainly didn’t make up for being passed by the Twins at the wire last year. But on a personal level, Miguel Cabrera certainly more than redeemed himself to the fanbase. He did not have a good ending to his 2009 season, to say the least, and I know for a fact that there was a lot of lashing out at him by the fans. But whether it was the bad press or the loss in game 163, Miguel realized he had a problem and he got help for it. And with those demons seemingly behind him, he had himself one hell of a year, one which unfortunately ended six games too soon. With the exception of a few trolls on MLive and Facebook, he’s earned the respect and love of Tiger fans everywhere (and thank goodness Facebook changed their display so that I no longer have to read those moronic comments). Now it’s up to the voters to acknowledge that. Obviously Cabrera’s big hurdle is that the Tigers fell out of the playoff picture by late August (although I’d like to point out that Josh Hamilton had a horrible April and missed almost all of September and the Rangers still made the postseason easily). I really don’t think that the postseason should play a factor in MVP, just as I think offense should not be a factor in Gold Glove selections, but such is the case with subjective voting. The last time a player in a non-playoff team won the AL MVP was in 2003. It’s happened more recently in the NL. Albert Pujols won MVP in 2008, a year the Cardinals finished in third place, so there is historic precedent, just not a lot of it. But MVP or no, it was a lot of fun to watch Cabrera this season. There were a couple games in which he came to bat in the ninth inning when the Tigers were trailing, and I just knew he’d tie the game. The two specific instances I remember were a game against the Angels and another one against the Orioles. Obviously, those instances dwindled once injuries claimed the other big hitters in the lineup, and he had somewhat of a slow September, but it was still a great season for him.

It’s a pity that injuries took out so many of the key Tigers all at once. You can extrapolate and spit out all the numbers you want, but the reality of the situation is that you don’t know what would have happened. Still, the trouble started right out of the All-Star Break, when they were swept in a four-game series in Cleveland, and this was before anyone major got hurt. Whether they would have been able to turn things around with Magglio and Guillen will forever remain unknown (plus, you don’t know if Dave Dombrowski would have been more aggressive in a Trade Deadline deal if those two were healthy). Obviously, July 24th was a real low point in the season (and a really bizarre point for me, because I subliminally predicted that something bad would happen in that game). Getting no-hit a couple days later was even less fun. Throughout that whole bad stretch, I sensed a lot of fight in the team. There were a lot of close games and one-run losses, but they just kept coming up short. Maybe they were overachieving in the first half, but I don’t think they were as bad as they sometimes looked in the second half. Sure enough, things did finally even out and they did play pretty well in September up until the last road trip.

You can’t discuss 2010 without mentioning what at times seemed like a thousand different rookies playing for the Tigers. I’ve spent the past several days sorting through what seems like hundreds of unlabeled videotapes, many of which are games from the 2008 season (It may have sucked as a season, but damn, there were a lot of guys on that team I liked; by the way, I will probably have a post later on some of the more amusing moments I saw on those tapes). Watching those tapes, the thought crossed my mind that it’s amazing how quickly the Tigers have gone from being one of the oldest teams in baseball to being one of the youngest. However, they have a strong Rookie of the Year candidate in Austin Jackson, who unfortunately couldn’t quite finish his season over .300, but was impressive nonetheless. And as good as his offense was, his defense was even better. Brennan Boesch had a good first half and then just fell off the map in the second half. I knew he would have to regress a little bit, but I don’t think he was supposed to drop THAT much. And then there was the parade of rookies including Casper Wells, Robbie Weinhardt, and Will Rhymes, all of whom have become fan favorites (I don’t suppose the fact that they’re all on Twitter hurts the matter).

On a personal level, it was quite a season for me. I got to go to Comerica Park three times, and saw three really good games. I also went to three Mud Hens games (though none of those went as well; the Hens lost all three of those games). Between the Tigers and Mud Hens, I saw four out of the five pitchers in the Tigers’ starting rotation (the only one I did not see was Bonderman, which I’m not too sad about). And thanks to those Mud Hens games, I got to meet several players, including Robbie Weinhardt, Casper Wells, and Rick Porcello. I had a question answered by Armando Galarraga in an online chat. My Venezuelan Mafia picture was seen by Magglio Ordoñez. Perhaps my biggest nerd moment of the season was when Miguel Cabrera came down with a kidney infection. I knew with about 95% certainty what his treatment regimen would be. One thing I do regret (a lot, actually) is that I didn’t go to any Mud Hens games in April or early May (the reason for why I regret that should be obvious).

But of course, the moment that will resonate the longest will be Armando Galarraga’s 28-out perfect game and the blown call heard ‘round the world. So many facets of that make it an incredible story. This is a pitcher that very few fans believed in, so the feat in and of itself is quite an accomplishment. And I hope one day it will be counted officially as a perfect game. But he created such a moment of class and sportsmanship out of it, a moment that took him above perfect games and blown calls and all that sort of thing. There was such a huge outpouring of love for him in the following days. It was incredible to watch. I know things didn’t go the way he wanted to after that. He spent most of the rest of the season frustrated, for a variety of reasons. First he had some problems with thinking too much on the mound, then he rattled off about six really good starts in a row but only won one of them due to lack of run support or bullpen meltdowns, and then he had three terrible starts in a row (one of which I would consider to be my personal low point of the season, just because of the way I reacted to it). I think that final start was very important for him from an individual perspective. He may have taken the loss, but he was tremendous, and his postgame interview would seem to suggest he finally found peace with himself. We’ll probably never see him again in the Olde English D, but he’s given us a story that will not soon be forgotten (unless you’re the MLB ad person in charge of “Year of the Pitcher” commercials).

That just about does it for the season review. Coming soon: The offseason preview, although if you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention, you’ll know most of what I’m going to say.