As stress-inducing and boring as the offseason is, January is probably the worst month to get through. I mean, you’ve at least got holidays to distract you in November and December (not to mention the GM and Winter Meetings), and February’s a short wait because spring training starts about two weeks in. January’s just a vast expanse of dullness. And this year comes the added element of worrying that since the Tigers pretty much don’t have any glaring needs left, they’ll resort to picking at stuff that doesn’t need to be picked at. Since my entry into the baseball world (2007), I have yet to experience an offseason where a player I like isn’t under constant threat of getting traded or axed. Anyways, since it’s January, there isn’t a whole lot of big news for me to analyze (which is good and bad). However, as I can’t drop off the face of the earth until spring training starts (because that’s bad form), I’ve got to comment on something, which leads me to discuss a couple stories I wouldn’t really mention under ordinary circumstances.
Yesterday we got a fresh batch of quotes from Dave Dombrowski in an article about how the Tigers’ long relief will be different this year now that Eddie Bonine and Zach Miner have signed elsewhere. The story isn’t anything we haven’t already heard, but the final line intrigued me. In reference to the possibility that the Tigers could covert a starter into long relief (which was dismissed as remote), Dombrowski was quoted as saying, “We feel our five guys are pretty well set.” Now, I think that would be wonderful if it were true, but this front office is so enigmatic and tight-lipped that I’m not sure whether to believe him or not. Jason Beck makes it even more confusing in his blog, where he repeats the quote and immediately contradicts it by saying “That doesn’t mean the rotation is set going into the season,” in the very next sentence. He points out that at this time last year, Jose Valverde and Johnny Damon were far from entering the picture. He also repeats that they’re going to let Andy Oliver and maybe some non-roster invitees compete for a spot, and he mentions Brad Penny again. I normally like Jason Beck, but I’m not sure what he’s trying to do here. I can’t figure out if he’s trying to subtly hint at his own opinion or if he’s gotten so much negative feedback about the rotation that he assumes that everyone disapproves of the rotation and he’s trying to…reassure them or something (Does this mean I have to start sending him emails approving of the rotation to balance things out?). Either way, I don’t really appreciate whatever it is he’s trying to do. I’m having an extremely tough time getting a feel for how the Tigers stack up against the other teams in the AL Central, and I think that’s because the White Sox and Twins have had quite a bit of turnover, especially in their bullpens. The White Sox rotation can be good, but went through some bipolar phases last year and it’s largely the same guys, while the Twins’ rotation just doesn’t seem that intimidating, with or without Carl Pavano (but they never seem intimidating and yet somehow they magically win games all the time). What I feel is that either the Tigers are good enough to win the division the way they are right now, or they are so far behind that a marginal one or two game improvement (which is pretty much all the remaining free agents have to offer) isn’t going to make much difference. Also, most of the Tigers’ core group are set to be around for at least a few more years. With those two things in mind, I don’t think it makes much sense to gamble on an injury case/aging vet or rush a prospect who might not be ready. I think it would be much more productive for them to pour their time and energy into figuring out how to get the most out of the starters they already have. But I feel as though my arguments might be falling on deaf ears (or blind eyes, since I’m actually writing them).
Shortly after Christmas, Tigers.com had yet another article about Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. It’s nothing you haven’t already read before (although it does have some new quotes form Galarraga and Leyland), and I actually wouldn’t be bringing it up if not for the fact that the MLB At Bat app on the iPod makes a rather strange choice of accompanying photo. It’s not even a picture from the game, but rather another start that Galarraga made at Fenway Park against the Red Sox. Specifically, it’s a picture of him reacting to having been hit in the ankle with a line drive (Remember that?). What does that have to do with the perfect game? I realize that the photos are probably automatically generated by some computer program, but they should still have a human look at it and fix it when stuff like that happens. As a side note, what is it with Venezuelans and ankles? Galarraga had the line drive off his ankle, Miguel Cabrera sprained an ankle, and Magglio Ordoñez fractured his ankle (Carlos Guillen bucked the trend and had surgery on his knee).
Finally, file another one under “Things You Learn From Venezuelan Tweets.” A few nights ago, Enrique Gonzalez (who I believe is the only Tigers-connected player still playing winter ball, at least in Venezuela) was pitching in one of their playoff games and the writers on Twitter kept referring to him as “Fresita.” “Fresita” is Spanish for “Little Strawberry,” and apparently it’s Enrique Gonzalez’s nickname. So between him and “Big Potato,” the Tigers’ bullpen is starting to sound like the produce section.