Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spring Training, Damon, and Lopez

This LONG offseason is finally over with at last, as pitchers and catchers have now reported. Time to rejoice, Tiger fans. And if you want to see your boys working out down there in Lakeland but can’t make it down there yourself, I recommend Roger DeWitt (aka hueytaxi)’s photos on Flickr. I would love to go there someday, as it seems to be fairly easy to meet players and get autographs. In case you don’t know, I am a total autograph hound but I suck at it. I have been to four Tigers games in the span of three years and I’ve yet to get an autograph. In my defense, in only two of those games did I really have a good opportunity (since there was one game where I was in the suites and another where it was raining). I do have an autographed baseball from a rained-out game I went to on my eighth grade field trip in 1997. I identified the autographs a couple years ago: Justin Thompson and Omar Olivares (and I’ll say that, as a dumb 13-year-old, I had them autograph it with a ballpoint pen and the signatures are badly faded now). In the coming weeks before Opening Day, I will finish my schedule feature and I’ll do my traditional spring training columns (my introductory FAQ, the fashion guide, and the season preview).

All right, I suppose I ought to throw in some thoughts on the Johnny Damon mess and other things (Hey, people say they’re tired of talking about it, but it keeps coming, and until it gets resolved one way or the other, we’re not going to be able to have realistic discussions about spring training). I was amazed at the number of people who supported Damon coming to Detroit but now have kneejerk angry reactions at the current rumors that Damon does not want to sign with the Tigers and that his wife wants to be in a more “cosmopolitan” city. I never believed any of those things Scott Boras said about Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings. I don’t know why anyone else did. They should know better (and I observed very early on that none of those comments were coming from Damon himself). Never trust Scott Boras. I presume Boras would want Damon to sign with the team offering the most money, which seems to be the Tigers. In addition, you’ve now got both owners involved (From the Tigers’ viewpoint, the belief seems to be that Illitch and Leyland are more enthusiastic about Damon than Dombrowski is). So it’s a question of who wins out: Boras or Mrs. Damon. I’m just wondering what specifically happened in the last 48 hours to cause the dynamic to change so dramatically. I also kinda wish the blogosphere would stop just reporting/opining and go back to prognosticating on this issue, just so I know where they stand (since they were all convinced that Damon would sign with Detroit). Then they can go back to reporting and opining. And for the great many people who had that kneejerk reaction and are now angrily spitting “Fine, let the Sox have him,” chew on this: I’m not the strongest supporter of Damon, mostly because I’ve spent the last three years being taught that he’s the worst defender in the history of the game, but even I’ll admit that his bat is still strong. If he were to sign with the White Sox, that would directly spell trouble for the Tigers. If it was a case of him being more interested in, say, the Braves or the Rays, I’d be content to let him go, too. However, since we’re talking about a division rival, it’s not that simple. I’m not sure I want Damon with the Tigers. But I definitely don’t want him with the White Sox.

Several people who jumped off the Johnny Damon bandwagon have now jumped onto the Felipe Lopez bandwagon. I don’t think that’s such a good idea. In my experience, a bad defensive infielder is more likely to hurt your pitchers than a bad defensive outfielder (unless your entire staff is of the extreme flyball variety), and Lopez was horrible for Arizona last year. Plus, you’d have to push someone out of their job (likely Scott Sizemore, since the majority of Lopez’s playing time last year was second base), and Lopez’s bat doesn’t have the track record that Damon’s does. So I say ix-nay on Felipe Lopez.

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