Tuesday, January 18, 2011

There Will Be No Happy Ending

Something told me not to comment too early on the news of the day, and unfortunately I was right. By now you know all about the Tigers first signing and then designating Armando Galarraga, so I won’t rehash it. There’s virtually no chance of him making it through waivers to Toledo. The Tigers are going to try to trade him, but even if they don’t find anyone, someone will claim him. With that in mind, I might as well post this now as opposed to when the true end comes (though I will probably mark the occasion with a brief farewell). Even if I look at this situation from a completely detached, objective perspective, the timing of this move makes little sense. This leaves the Tigers with no backup plan for their rotation. What happens if they get into spring training and one of the five starters gets hurt or royally sucks? Is Andy Oliver as a fallback option really that good an idea? Is Clete Thomas really that important to the team that you can’t DFA him instead? The only thing I can think of is that it increases his chances of landing a starting job on another team, so am I supposed to take it as the Tigers doing him a favor? That might benefit him, but I don’t see how that benefits the Tigers.

However, as you are well aware, where Armando Galarraga is concerned, I am not detached and unemotional. There are only two guys on this team that I like more, and one of the things I was most looking forward to was seeing him pitch in the Olde English D for one more season. Any more than that would have been too much to hope for, but as I’ve frequently pointed out, falling for an underdog leaves the door wide open for being burned, and it finally happened. I have gone through the baseball grieving process before with Pudge Rodriguez. Most of you didn’t know me back then, as my blog was at a different site and I had a much smaller audience, but believe me, the enthusiasm I’ve displayed for Armando is nothing compared to what I felt (and still feel) for Pudge. I accurately predicted that 2008 would be his final year with the Tigers, but even so, when he was traded away, I was devastated. I was infuriated, grief-stricken, and heartbroken, and I still miss him very much. It was one of the two occasions where baseball actually made me cry (losing Game 163 was the other). But I got through it, and now I can watch old games from his Tigers days and enjoy watching them without the heartbreaking pain I used to feel. Just as I got through losing Pudge, I will get through losing Armando. But knowing that isn’t going to make it any easier.

From a personal standpoint, this particular player-fan relationship is always going to be tinged with regret. I was lucky enough to see two of his starts in person (both good ones), but I never met Armando, and I wish I had, particularly before the perfect game. The frustrating thing is that I had plenty of opportunity to do so. After all, he was in Toledo for almost two months last year. Fifth Third Field is only about a ten minute drive from my house. Yet I didn’t go to a single Mud Hens game in April or May last year, and now I really wish I had. I wish I had gone to Tigerfest last year. This year I had been planning a trip to spring training in March. I had hoped to make that announcement on more exciting terms, but a big reason why I was planning to go this year and not wait until after I had graduated (when it would make more sense financially) was that I knew Armando wouldn’t be with the Tigers that much longer and I wanted one last chance. Now I’m not sure if I’ll go or not. I’ve already bought game tickets, but I haven’t made flight or hotel reservations yet. You guys are welcome to talk me into or out of the trip if you want to. But what’s more, I still feel this nagging voice in my head telling me that I personally could have prevented this recent course of events, but I never figured out exactly how I could do that. And for all these things, I am truly sorry and I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.

Another thing that will haunt me is the uncertainty over what might have been. Back in my offseason preview, I made the prediction that Armando would be traded. However, I thought it would happen a LOT earlier in the offseason. The fact that we made it so close to spring training before he lost his starter role is extremely frustrating. And it hurts because now we’ll never know what would have happened if he’d been allowed to compete in spring training. If he had gone through spring training and not been effective or had more confidence issues and the Tigers had designated him then, I wouldn’t have liked it, but I could have rationalized it. There would have been no sensible argument I could make in favor of keeping him beyond my own psychological quirks and eccentricities. But he could have just as easily outpitched Brad Penny and/or Phil Coke. He has brilliance in him. We’ve seen it before, when he’s not getting in his own way. But it seems like Armando is always being victimized by something, whether it’s blown calls, lack of run support, roster crunches, or his own insecurity. Still, I would give anything to know what would have happened had be been given one last chance. We’ll never know.

I’ve been immersed in baseball for almost four years now, so I’ve seen plenty of pitchers come and go, and I’ve liked most of them well enough, but there are only two pitchers that I passionately enjoyed watching pitch: Verlander and Galarraga. And I liked watching them for different reasons. Watching Verlander is watching an awesome display of power. You feel extremely pumped up when it’s over. Armando provided a different sensation. Yes, it was painful to watch him nibble around the strikezone, but when he believed in himself, he projected such an air of calmness and intelligence, and watching the way he attacked hitters was so beautiful that it made enduring all the struggles totally worth it. That’s what intrigued me so much about him when I first saw him pitch. I doubt I’ll get the same thrill from watching Brad Penny. Pitching just became a little less exciting. Still, Armando managed to defy all his critics and detractors for at least one night, and he has a permanent place in Tigers’ history. He will be noted in almost every book about the Tigers from here on out. He’ll be in Ken Burns’s next baseball documentary, thanks to his actions both on the field and off. I just wish the story could have gone on a little bit longer. And I hope he can find it in his heart to forgive the Tigers for any slight they may have given. I don't want them to part on bad terms.

Again, I don’t need anyone to rationalize the situation to me. I can do that myself. And I don’t need mere sympathy. If anything, I need you to understand how I feel. And yes, baseball will go on, and so will the Tigers Amateur Analysis. I’m not putting it on hiatus like I did when Pudge was gone. I don’t know what I’ll talk about next week (or whenever more news comes, but I do know that the blog will miss Armando too, because posts about him got twice as many pageviews as posts about anyone else). For now, I’ll conclude with a song. I don’t usually do Mood Music for players, but if any of you have seen the musical Chess, that’s where this song is from, and if you think about it, there are at least four songs from that musical that could be used to describe various points in the history of Armando Galarraga. So let this be my swan song to him, I suppose. I guess I’ll be saying good-bye for the last time at some point in the next few days.

No comments:

Post a Comment