Kurt’s Reflections on the Tigers Off Season
- Updated: February 16, 2009
With the difficult economic situation in Detroit, we (recognize) that people will turn to our team for three hours of daily relief from the stress of everyday life. The Detroit Tigers have filled that role through World Wars, depressions and riots. With the bedrock industry of the city struggling to survive, our fans want to know that some things will not change–that is where we come in. The theme of our new campaign will be “Always A Tiger. — A Detroit Tigers press release
Frankie Rodriguez was not coming to Tigertown.
I knew deep down that nothing too exciting would happen for the Detroit baseball club this off-season. When Michigan’s personal recession spread throughout the United States and beyond, crippling auto sales and strangling our state’s economy even more, the Tigers had no choice but to take the payroll down from a lavishly high $140 million to something a bit more … reasonable. Maybe that was going to be the plan, anyway. The Tigers are not the Yankees. Fighting an arms race with the “evil empire” could only lead to their own destruction. But with jobs, savings accounts, mortgages and grocery bills in the forefront of their fans’ minds, the Tigers had to prepare for a drop in revenue and approach the off-season a bit more conservative. High-price free agents were out of the question.
It was not as if the Tigers would be sellers and punt the 2009 season either. Detroit needed to rebound from a disappointing 2008, a year where an active off-season brought World Series expectations; a year in which the season started off with a fall at the first hurdle and the team limped its way to a last-place finish in the American League Central; and most importantly, a year the team and fans needed to forget. Quickly. In retrospect, the roster was not exactly built for beer league softball, but it was not exactly built for winning in a tough division, either. There were too many aging bodies and too many players out of position. Sure, they could still hit. Playing any defense, however, was a completely different story. And then there was the question of role players. In short, there were none. The starting pitching was awful: key injuries made it even worse than it should have been. The relief pitching was worse than the starting pitching. There would be changes. Just not of the headline-grabbing, breathless ESPN reporting variety. But that’s OK. The Tigers tried that and failed.
And so, the theme this off-season was low-cost defense. It’s Brandon Lyon auditioning for the closer’s role. And it’s Adam Everett taking over at shortstop. It’s Gerald Laird and Matt Treanor splitting time at catcher. Of the four, most look to Lyon to make the immediate difference. When Todd Jones – who seldom failed to bring unnecessary drama to the ninth inning of any game – was injured in 2008, the failure of Fernando Rodney made it clear a closer would be on the shopping list. Though not handed the job, Lyon should win the spot. Laird is the one fans worry the least about, as he is spoken of as a diamond in the rough after throwing out nearly 40 percent of base-stealing attempts in 2007. Maybe he can’t hit worth a lick, but apparently few outside Detroit realized neither could Pudge Rodriguez in recent years. Everett seems to be the forgotten one, spoken of the least. The 34-year-old was brought in solely for his defense and joins Brandon Inge on the left side of the infield. The two won’t push a lot of runs across the plate for you, but the Tigers hope they’ll prevent more than their predecessors, third baseman Carlos Guillen and shortstop Edgar Renteria. Finally, Treanor is the true wild card. Not just the husband of Misty May, Treanor is also catcher to Dontrelle Willis. Looking to get some return on their investment in the wild lefty, the Tigers hope giving him a familiar target behind the plate will help get him back on track.
The moves may not impress the celebrity-seeking crowd, but that’s OK. We’re not into flash-and-splash in Detroit, anyway. We like when our teams reflect us. What the 2008 Tigers lacked was some grit, and they’ve addressed that. Maybe they could have done more, but that would have been difficult with less. Frankie Rodriguez was not coming to Tigertown this year, and I’m fine with that.
Kurt Mensching writes about the Tigers Daily on his site Mack Avenue Tigers .