Monday, January 24, 2011

One Last Good-Bye

I’m going to try to keep this keep this short, as my last two posts have essentially been eulogies of Armando Galarraga already, but I can’t promise anything. I’m also not going to analyze the return, because frankly, I don’t care. I love Armando Galarraga to bits but I harbor no illusions about his trade value, or anyone else’s, for that matter (It’s been that way ever since someone decided that Pudge Rodriguez was “only” worth Kyle Farnsworth). Those two pitchers probably won’t amount to much, and either way, they’re not going to mean much to me.

Most of you have heard the expression “live and die with your team.” I’m definitely one of those types of fans, but I think the saying can be applied to players, too. There are some players that I love more, but I don’t think I’ve lived and died with any of them quite as much as I have with Galarraga. I’ve liked him from the first start he ever made with the Tigers, which was an absolute beauty of a performance. I’ve seen plenty of pitchers make their first starts with the Tigers, both good and bad, and I’m normally fairly skeptical of them, even when it was a good start (Andrew Miller, Luke French, Alfredo Figaro, and Yorman Bazardo come to mind). But for some reason, something about Galarraga’s performance just stuck with me. The only other pitcher to whom I’ve reacted that way after his first start was Jair Jurrjens. I may well have developed the same sort of enthusiasm had he not been traded so soon after I first saw him. With Galarraga, I quickly realized that this was someone who maybe didn’t have the most awesome stuff, but was very smart and was certainly capable and I just liked the air he projected when he pitched well. The fact that he had such a pleasant personality didn’t hurt matters, either. And as wonderful as he was to watch in 2008, 2009 was rather gut-wrenching at times. I don’t know what precisely happened to make him lose his confidence (although I do think injury played a large role in why his pitches weren’t moving the way they should), but I really felt for him. And the more his detractors and critics got on his case, the more I felt sorry for him and the more I wanted to stand up for him (so in a sense, you naysayers kind of made me this way).

And of course, we all know how 2010 was a long, strange trip for him. Did it really boil down to three bad starts near the end of September? That would be tragic if it did. I badly wanted things to work out for him in Detroit, and now that’s never going to happen. I said in my last post that he always seemed to be the victim of something, and I guess he kind of feels the same way. He showed up on a Venezuelan radio program today, which I knew nothing about, but the show’s Twitter page had a bunch of quotes (Here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Most of it is standard “I’m excited to join my new team” type stuff that every traded player says. He does talk about how he thinks Detroit is a good team (I’m guessing he means in terms of the organization), but he always felt like he had to fight for his job all the time and was never secure. Now, whether that’s a byproduct of the Tigers’ opinion of him or his own confidence issues, I’m not sure. He did tell Jason Beck that he doesn’t hold anything against the Tigers, and I hope he’s being honest about that, because with the way Detroit badly handled his situation, it would be very easy to hold a grudge. At the same time, I hope his legacy in Detroit will be a positive one, and the Tigers fans will remember him with the same respect and fondness that they have for guys like Pudge and Granderson and Polanco. I can’t be the only one who feels that way.

And so now the time comes to say good-bye for good. Right now, I can’t bear to watch his old Tigers games, and I can’t bear to watch him in any other uniform. Someday I will be able to. The wounds will heal, just as they did with Pudge. This season will always be bittersweet, but it is still baseball, and baseball is a beautiful thing. And so I say adios, Armando. May you find the success you deserve, wherever that may be.

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