Michigan and Trumbull

November 11, 2009 2:31 PM

What the Tigers should do this off season (Part I)


This is the first of a two-part post about what moves the Tigers should make with their free agent and arbitration-eligible players. This will be a pretty basic on-the-surface analysis. There are plenty of months in the off season and then Spring Training to finalize the roster, but this is where Detroit could start.

Since we began the day talking about Edwin Jackson, we'll take a look at the Tigers' arbitration-eligible players first.

The following players, like Jackson, are up for arbitration:

Edwin Jackson
Gerald Laird
Zach Minor
Ramon Santiago
Bobby Seay  
Marcus Thames
Matt Treanor
Justin Verlander
Joel Zumaya

We'll start with Jackson. The Dodgers were the only team mentioned as being interested in the report about Jackson on the trading block. But Jackson was good enough this past season to garner looks from other teams.

The question is what could the Tigers realistically get for Jackson? 

Continue to What the Tigers should do this off season (Part I)

November 11, 2009 11:21 AM

Detroit Tigers need to think about the future


Detroit, who for the last few seasons has been among the ranks of the highest payroll teams in baseball, may not be at the top following this off season. With news breaking that the Tigers are looking to trade All-star Edwin Jackson, it appears the economy is finally catching up.

When I first heard the news, I was very upset. As disappointing as the season was, I was optimistic about 2010 and a starting rotation anchored by Justin Verlander, Jackson and Porcello as the Nos. 1-3 pitchers. But according to this report (the outlet that initially broke the story) the move is probably an economic one more than anything else.

The thinking goes that if the Tigers want to sign top free agents, it needs to free up some space because the payroll can't get any bigger. (So in reality they might still have a high payroll, but now they'll have to be signing players and evaluating talent with a small payroll mentality).

But after thinking about it I realized that this is a huge make or break off season for Detroit in terms of the team's the future. If the Tigers are at a disadvantage in terms of building a winner now, why sacrifice the future?

Technically the Tigers were one game off from being a playoff team, but let's be honest; they were much worse than that. This off season could be the Tigers' chance to stock up for the future with draft picks and prospects for some of their arbitration-eligible players.

This year's free agent crop isn't strong enough for the Tigers to build a contender through free agency and the Tigers don't have enough talent internally, either.   

Plus Detroit is freed from three debilitating contracts after next season: Jeremy Bonderman (4 years/ $38 million), Dontrelle Willis (3 years/ $29 million) and Nate Robertson (3 years/$21.25 million) are free agents in 2010. Add Brandon Inge (4 years/$24 million) and the Tigers could have a lot of money to play with after the 2010 season.

So, will 2010 hurt? You bet. But since the Tigers are better set up for future success rather than immediate success, I don't think fans should worry too much about the loss of a Jackson or Placido Polanco.

Later today I'm going to start breaking down what roster moves Detroit should make with it's free agents and arbitration-eligible players.

Photo courtesy of powerbooktrance/Flickr
Read more of my stuff at The Sports Bank.
October 7, 2009 2:37 PM

Prepare for a postseason without Detroit

I went into last night’s game fully expecting the Tigers to lose. There was no way, I reasoned, that Detroit could go to Minnesota, against a red-hot team and win this one-game playoff; especially with rookie Rick Porcello on the mound.

It was a self-defense mechanism. Emotionally, it was better for me to be pleasantly surprised than terribly disappointed.

But any sports fan can tell you that no matter how low you set your expectations, when the game begins that bar is still as high as the clouds. And after the Tigers took an early 3-0 lead, I was walking on cloud nine, 10 11 and 12.

Then Porcello’s error allowed one run to come in. Jason Kubel hit a 2-out homerun to close the deficit to one. And Orlando Cabrera, arguably the Twins’ best trade deadline move in ten years, slaps a two-run homerun off my least favorites Tiger.

4-3 Twins and I’m about ready to swear off religion forever because no caring God would have the heart to crush my excitement and enthusiasm so swiftly.

A Magglio Ordonez 8th-inning homerun restored my belief that this crazy world we live in isn’t, in fact, anarchy but that some forces of good exist out there.

And after Brandon Inge gave Detroit a 5-4 lead in the 10th I was ready to believe in just about anything. The moon landings were staged, there was a shooter in the grassy knoll and Bobby Thompson knew exactly what pitch Ralph Branca was going to throw him.

Of course this game was in Minnesota, Fernando Rodney was pitching for a second inning and Ryan Rabun isn’t Willie Mays. I don’t even want to talk about the rest of the game from that point because women and children do occasionally read this blog and I’d probably give the Supreme Court reason to believe free speech isn’t a great idea for everyone.

Let’s just say once Carlos Gomez crossed home for the game-winning run I was released from a psychological torture that made the Saw movies look like double dutch. All of it left me depressed for investing so much energy into a single game that really should’ve never happened.

With an entire off season staring me in the face I have plenty of time to wonder what went wrong on Tuesday night. Did Leyland take Porcello out too early? Did he leave Fernando Rodney out too long? Why did Ryan Raburn drive for that ball in the 11th? How did that umpire miss the hit by pitch with the bases load in the 12th?

Plenty of fans will wonder that this morning and for the next few weeks. I’m just going to drop it all because debating those points and more won’t put the Tigers into the playoffs.

What makes this loss so tough is that now I have no reason to gnash my teeth, toss my pillows or throw the remote control into the ground. No reason to emotionally wreck myself or walk around my house with unadulterated rage built up inside of me for a purposeless child’s game. No reason to spend three hours watching my favorite sport and then feel like absolute crap. All because Detroit won’t be in the playoffs.

And that just sucks.

October 5, 2009 7:15 PM

Cabrera's off field troubles present problems for Tigers, fans

Now that Cabrera’s issues have been aired (and the audio of the 911 call released) the issue at hand is this: How should the Tigers respond because they certainly can’t ignore it at this point. It’s been reported on by all kinds of media.

Here are several solutions:

Dave Dombrowski or Jim Leyland address it briefly and swiftly, spit out the standard “we’ll discuss it in the off season” response and then prepare for the one-game playoff.

Positive: For the team’s sake, it keeps focus on the game, which is the most important thing right now. This is their job, ladies and gents; it should be the most important thing in the world.

Negative: The rest of the world really doesn’t take sports seriously and doesn’t like spousal abuse (for good reason). A response like this will really piss off people.
Release a statement “written” by Cabrera apologizing for his transgressions.

Positive: While some wouldn’t be satisfied, the Tigers can cling to the idea that Cabrera took responsibility and they can get back to the task at hand — beating the Twins.

Negative: Very similar to above. There will be people not satisfied with the response because it won’t seem genuine.

Cabrera himself addresses the media and gives an apology.

Positive: Once again, not everyone would be satisfied but this would be a step more than just releasing a statement. It would also take his teammates off the hook from having to answer a bunch of questions.

Negative: Depending on how he looks when he apologizes, it could be worse than releasing a statement. Ask Michael Vick.

Suspend Cabrera for the game.

Positive: No one could claim the Tigers weren’t taking this seriously.

Negative: The implications for the game are obvious. Detroit would be losing its best hitter.

Final say: I’d be shocked if Detroit suspended Cabrera for the game. Let’s remember this: He’s an adult who was drinking legally; he didn’t drive home and no charges have actually been pressed. That doesn’t mean it’s an issue that should be ignored but considering the gravity of this game, Cabrera’s wife would’ve had to press charges or have been hospitalized for something to happen.

Sad, but true.

As a fan, it's a little tricky because our reaction to the incident bears no consequences on the team. So, should we root for Cabrera? Support him on and off the field? Or should he be dead to us for "letting his team down."

Unlike Detroit Free Press columnist Mark Rosenberg, I’m not going to claim that Cabrera has a problem and that he's evil. (OK, he never called Cabrera evil, but his tone makes it seem Cabrera is the only one to blame for the Tigers' woes.)

I want to see proof. If he’s out till 6 a.m. after every game, drinking, then he has a problem. But I know many players go out to unwind after games and usually aren't out that late every night. And unless someone gives me proof, I'm going to assume this is the first time Cabrera has gone this nuts with alcohol.

This could be proof of the season’s pressure getting to Cabrera.

I mean, he’s 26, three years older than me. I get stressed writing blog posts; I can’t imagine being the star player on a Major League team in the middle of an epic pennant race collapse.

Does it excuse him? Absolutely not, at least not the domestic abuse part. But if everything was the same and he didn’t beat his wife, I’d have no problems with it. I don't even care that he drank with White Sox players.

I don’t care how much money he’s making, I don’t care how much the Tigers gave up for him. He’s been the team’s best player more often than not and as long as he produces he can stick firecrackers up his butt and light them a la the show Jackass for all I care.

His 0-11 slump against the White Sox probably wasn't caused by any drinking. If anything, he's probably letting himself get loose because he's struggling at the plate.

October 5, 2009 4:48 PM

Miguel Cabrera's brusied face mystery solved!

I could care less if players fraternize with the opposing team.

These guys are adults and, especially in the case of baseball, sometimes you need to hang out with people you don’t work alongside.

But Miguel Cabrera’s Saturday night is pretty pathetic.

Deadspin lays it all out:

"Early Saturday morning, police were called to the Cabrera home in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham on a "family trouble" incident. Cabrera's wife was upset because her husband apparently came home late, drunk, and loud and woke up their sleeping daughter. Obviously, that did not go over well. When police arrived, Miguel had scratches on his face and a broken necklace and his wife had a fat lip, but neither would say what happened. The cops took Miguel to the police station, gave him a blood alcohol test—which he failed miserably—and released to (sic) him to the custody of the Tigers."

Oh yeah, and he was out late drinking with member of the Chicago White Sox. Nice.

Listen, if you’re going to stay out late the night before a must-win game and drink with the opposing team , at least be productive. He could've done body shots off of Ozzie Guillen for all I care, as long as he drove in a run or two.

He was 0-11 over the weekend.

October 5, 2009 4:13 PM

The Tigers' collapse should come as no surprise

Today I have a splitting headache and I’m not sure if it’s because I might have swine flu or because the Tigers epically failed to seal the division championship over the weekend.

To be honest, I’d rather have the swine flu.

The Tigers 5-3 win yesterday afternoon, a win that forced a one-game playoff tomorrow evening, only proves the point that no Tigers fan should be surprised about this late season collapse.

Detroit has been the most consistent, inconsistent team in baseball all season long. One day they play like the hapless Tigers of the mid to late 90s and the next day they look good enough to beat the Yankees.

What hurt the Tigers is that they never embraced their true identity. Not that a team needs a true identity to play well, but when a team has a certain identity, it’s built in a certain way which helps the team play more consistently.

The Twins have had the same identity for years. They’re low budget, concentrate on developing players, particularly pitchers, and they play small ball well. The team is built for this. They have players up and down the roster who have come up through the farm system. They have players who can make productive outs and they’ve always been amongst the best in the league in pitching.

They’re not always pretty during the regular season, but they’re always good enough to be dangerous in August and September.

Add all those together and it’s no wonder the Twins clawed their way back to force a playoff.

Detroit, on the other hand, hasn’t fully embraced its new identity. Being a slugging team didn’t work last season, so management decided to focus on pitching and defense—a great idea considering the team plays in Comerica Park. Unfortunately the line up still features elements of a slugging team, despite improvements in small ball categories, like sacrifice flies and sacrifice hits.

Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco had off years, hurting the production of Miguel Cabrera, albeit not by much. Magglio Ordonez had zero pop in the bat most of the year as did Carlos Guillen, when he played. Marcus Thames, who was supposed to be a great power hitter, had an awful season and after a fast start, Brandon Inge fell back down to his base level, which is a terrible hitter.

A lot of these guys aren’t small ball type players but sluggers, only none of them slugged. So when the Tigers actually did try to play small ball — 92 sacrifice at bats compared to 74 last season — they couldn’t score runs.
I think part of that comes from Detroit still relying on the big inning rather than chipping away at the opposing pitcher with a few runs sprinkled throughout the game. This type of mentality essentially breeds hot and cold hitting which, in turn, produces a hot and cold team.

Put that up against a hot team like Minnesota and it’s a recipe for disaster.

This post also appears at the Sports Bank.

September 28, 2009 8:00 PM

The exchange: Twins-Tigers showdown

By H. Jose Bosch and Andy Weise

The Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins are the only real reason to keep track of baseball this week. For those of you lost in college football and the NFL, the Tigers are just two games ahead of the Twins and tonight is the first game of a big four-game series between the two clubs.

Twins fan Andy Weise and I exchanged e-mails about tonight’s game and the series.

HJB-My first question to Andy is why, WHY! do the Twins always come back despite being so mediocre during the regular season? I mean, off the top of my head I can remember just one season in recent memory where the Twins were clear cut better than everyone else. The rest of the time they just seem to stew in crappiness with everyone else until the last few weeks of the season. (I ask this because I respect the hell out of them for balling up late in the season, something the Tigers have had trouble doing.)

AW-Well it's nice to see the respect. I don't have the hatred for the Tigers like I have had for Cleveland and Chicago White Sox but I was disappointed last year in the Tigers vs. White Sox game that if Detroit one, the Twins would win the division and head to the playoffs.

The Twins overachieved last year, in my opinion. They had an extremely young staff that did fairly well and Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer finishing in the top five for the MVP race proved that they have the star power to carry this team. It's clear though that inconsistency in pitching has hurt them a lot this year. Guys like Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano have been big time busts, they lost Kevin Slowey to injury and they've had to rely on guys like Carl Pavano down the stretch, not ideal!

What about the Tigers? Where do you see the problems on your team that have put them in a position where they could lose the division this week? They seem to have some big names in pitching and hitting but why haven't they closed this thing out yet?

HJB-Those big name pitchers and hitters haven't gotten the job done consistently. Edwin Jackson, who was a pleasant surprise of a Cy Young candidate, has gone 6-5 with a 4.80 ERA in the last two months of the season. Magglio Ordonez, who can reach base, just doesn't have pop in his bat. Curtis Granderson is an electric player, but this season he's been an awful lead off hitter. And the bullpen has chosen the final weeks of the season to pitch like we all thought they were: mediocre.

Don't even get me started on the Jarrod Washburn deal. I would make that trade again but I want to just take a golf club to that freaking knee and put it out of commission for good.

And don't be down on Pavano. He's been a Tiger killer of late. Speaking of pitchers, look at the probable match ups:

Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18) v. Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14)
Brian Duensing (5-1, 3.33) v. Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.41)
Carl Pavano (13-11, 4.86) v. Eddie Bonine (0-1, 4.60)
Scott Baker (14-9, 4.48) v. Nate Robertson (2-2, 5.56)

There are only two pitchers on this list I'd trust (Verlander and Pavano since he's been a Tiger killer of late). Everyone else would make me nervous. Who do you like in this series?

I'm going to be optimistic and say Porcello, Verlander and Robertson can pull off wins. What's your perspective?

AW-I thought the Tigers getting Edwin Jackson was going to be a huge move. He looked good with Tampa Bay last year and I always see the Tigers making moves I wish the Twins would make. And you're right on Pavano; he's given the Twins a boost that they really needed with more than half of their rotation not helping this year.

As I look at the match ups for this series, tonight's game features two guys who really need to step it up and show their team's they can pitch in a big game setting. I do think Porcello is the better pitcher of the two right now but Blackburn has a little more experience. Tuesday's match up with Duensing and Verlander will probably feature the best match up of them all. If the Twins can keep it close and get to the bullpen once Verlander goes out, I think Minnesota can come away with that one. Do you like Bonine against Pavano? I don't know much about your guy but that might be a slugfest of a game. And finally, Baker versus Robertson is a good one given that the Twins haven't hit good against lefties. Baker needs to rebound after his loss to the Tigers a couple Sunday's ago and I think he can do that.

Offensively, Michael Cuddyer has to keep playing the way he has been playing. The Twins need production from some the lower part of the order too. Nick Punto looks like he's finally getting some good at-bats and Jose Morales has proved that his bat can help too.

I think the Twins have to win 3/4, they can afford to lose one but not two. I think game two and four will be the ones where the Tigers are favored to win.

HJB-I'm conceding the Bonine game right now. I have zero confidence in him. I agree with your assessments of the other games, which worries and excites me at the same time. As a Tigers fan I'm going to be a nervous wreck but as a baseball fan I know these are going to be some epic games and a nice appetizer for the postseason, especially for the guy whose team makes the playoff (*cough*me*cough*).

The only thing that worries me about the Verlander game is he has a tendency to give up a big inning late in his start and as you alluded to earlier, the Twins bullpen is pretty solid Detroit's has shown flashes of brilliance but I'd rather spot them a 2-3 run lead rather than go into the bullpen with a tied game or (eeek) trailing.

Everyone in the lineup is a tough out; they just haven't done it on a consistent basis (except for Miguel Cabrera). If there was ever a time for the line up to be clicking on all cylinders, it's during this series. Some of the changes the Tigers made, like getting Adam Everett and Gerald Laird, were done because we didn't need more sluggers and we needed a better defense in tight games. Now we'll see how the moves pay off. These are going to be tight games and I don't think Detroit can expect to slug its way into the postseason during this series.

Last question Andy. If you asked me the one thing I NEED to see in this series to make me feel good it's a solid bullpen. As I said, I think these games are going to be close and Detroit will need the 'pen more than ever (especially when Bonine and Robertson start). What's the ONE aspect of the Twins' game you want to see at its best during this series?

AW-One? Haha, I don't know if there is just one. Off the top of my head I have two right now -- starting pitchers cannot afford to let the game get out of reach early. If the starting pitchers for the Twins struggle early and let the game get out of hand, I'm going to worry. I've seen plenty of comebacks lately and some big innings from the Twins but I just don't think they have the firepower to do that too much more. The pitchers have to keep the games close or protect leads if we have them.

The other thing like I pointed out earlier -- Twins need to get offensive production from the infielders outside of Cuddyer. Punto, Matt Tolbert, Brendan Harris, Brian Buscher and Alexi Casilla, whoever they send out from all these guys, they have to produce some offense. It hurts the Twins big time if they can't get some guys on base for the top of the order to hit home.

It's nice that the race is only two games right now and the teams have four games head-to-head. You can't ask for anything more exciting at this point. Overall both teams have been extremely inconsistent and probably do not deserve to make the playoffs but rules are rules, the division winner will make the playoffs and head to New York to face the Yankees when all is said and done.

This post also appears in The Sports Bank.

September 28, 2009 12:31 PM

Tigers must buck expectations to sew this pennant up

Thank you Ozzie Guillen.

Thanks to your tirade, not only are we blessed with another great sound bite, but you also fired up your club enough to win the series finale and keep the American League Central pennant “race” alive.

And let’s be honest, this isn’t a race as much as it’s two teams trying desperately to be the first one to hit the golf course this offseason. During this last month of the season I can’t help but think of the South Park episode -- The Losing Edge -- where South Park and all the other Little League teams try to lose so that they can enjoy their summer.

Are the Tigers so sick of playing that they’d rather lose on purpose for comfy couches and college football? Well, no, obviously. They’re trying, despite what their results show. But trying doesn’t mean anything if there is 1 in the loss column at the end of the day. (I’ve filled my hokey coach speak quote of the day)

Detroit now has seven straight home games to end the season, the next four against the Twins, who stand just two tiny games back behind Detroit.

The good news is that the Tigers have played well at home all season. And three wins during the series would clinch the division title. The bad news is we’re relying on the Tigers to do just that, win when it matters and put this title away.

Nothing from this season has shown me Detroit can put this division away during this one series. Not that the Tigers don’t have the talent to win. But if Detroit sews this pennant up, it probably won’t be until the last two days of the season.

My heart says the Tigers will take the first three games and the rest won’t matter because they’ll be bathing in Champaign. But my head says Detroit will go 2-2 during this series and will need to clinch against Chicago on the weekend.

This post can also be seen at The Sports Bank

September 24, 2009 5:02 PM

A marriage between Tigers and destiny not too far off

Last night, the Tigers did something they’ve struggled to do in the last month of the season: beat an inferior opponent to a pulp. And this three-game winning streak has given me a little extra hop in my step.

Not so much because the Twins’ 2-1/2 game deficit is now insurmountable. But because in the last three games the Tigers’ strengths — the only way they can win down the stretch and (knock on wood) in the playoffs — were showcased in those three wins.

For the Detroit to be successful in the stretch run, they have to follow the standard advice for every wedding planner in America: Something old, something new, Something borrowed, something blue.

Something old:
The best part about last night’s win might be Carlos Guillen’s home run from the right side of the plate (the home run from the left side wasn’t too bad either.) Not that Guillen is going to be an Albert Pujols from the right side. And Detroit isn’t in dire need of pop from the right side since Miguel Cabrera has that covered.

But just the fact that Guillen’s right shoulder is healthy enough for him to actually be a switch hitter is a great sign for the Tigers. The healthier he is, the more potent Detroit’s pretty weak lineup becomes. He, like Magglio Ordonez, may not have as much pop on the bag but their veterans who know how to get on base. And late in the season, base runners are always at a premium.

Other Tiger vets — Brandon Inge, Placido Polanco, Fernando Rodney and Nate Robertson among others — will play a major role and all of them have been having good, not great, years. Well, maybe not Robertson, but his win Sunday was huge.

Something new:
Rick Porcello shined last night and continues making a case for American League rookie of the year. His success down the stretch, and whether or not he can hold up as his innings keep piling on, could make or break Detroit in the end. He’s essentially the 2006 Justin Verlander of this team.

Another player who could make an impact is Alex Avila. He hasn’t made much noise since he roared onto the scene in mid-August but his left-handed bat is a tactical tool for Leyland in late-game situations.

Something borrowed:
Edwin Jackson, Adam Everett and Gerald Laird are the biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s. Everett and Laird contributed to the Tigers’ offensive impotence but greatly improved their defense. Jackson has helped compensate for the lack of offense by being an awesome pitcher.

Jackson had struggled in September, but his seven-inning gem on Tuesday is a small return to form. Detroit needs his arm as much as Verlander’s.

Something blue:
Yeah, nothing really works here, so I’ll use this as an excuse to talk about the bullpen, who was clutch in Sunday’s 6-2 win over the Twins. Verlander and Jackson can eat up innings in the final two weeks, but whoever pitches in slots three through five will need help. Brandon Lyon, Bobby Seay and Rodney might actually be feared relievers this October.

Just like any wedding, I just want this season to end so I can get to the free bar and celebrate. But before that happens Detroit should make sure not to trip on its way down the proverbial aisle.

This post also appears at The Sports Bank.

September 21, 2009 9:21 PM

Brett Favre beats NFL teams and the MLB

Quick, what is America’s past time?

Did you guess baseball? You are wrong my friend. Very, very wrong. It’s obviously football and if you don’t agree Roger Goodell might have you wiped off the face of the earth with the death ray beam housed inside the new Cowboys Stadium.

Why else could the NFL refuse to swap a regular season game in week three with a potential one-game playoff in baseball?

Storylines. Tried and true (read: boring) storylines. From Awful Announcing, via CBS Sports, the NFL has politely declined even thinking about accommodating its schedule for a possible one-game playoff.

If the Tigers and Twins finish the season tied, a one-game playoff is scheduled for Monday, October 5. If Minnesota wins just one more game against Detroit, then the playoff is supposed to take place at the Metrodome.

But the Vikings have a home Monday Night game scheduled against the Packers that evening and the NFL can’t resist having Brett Favre play against his old team on national television. Never mind that it would be so much cooler if the first meeting was in Green Bay rather than Minnesota. The NFL gets what the NFL wants.

Unfortunately most of America has forgotten about baseball and I’m pretty sure everyone forgot about the American League Central in July.

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