By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
This week’s Thursday topic focuses on the Tiger outfield dynamic, particularly in left and centerfield.
In typical fashion, Holly and Kurt attack these questions independently without the knowledge of the other’s response, making for interesting contrasts. Will their answers differ? Let’s see.
Are you happy with how the outfield has been reconfigured this year?
With the injury to Cameron Maybin, we have yet to see the configuration intended. We still don’t know if the Tigers intended to platoon in centerfield when Maybin was healthy in the spring or if the plan was for him to take over. Gose has been ok in centerfield but has gotten off to a weak start at the plate, so his status could change drastically when Maybin returns.
In left, we all bought in to Upton being the best choice over Cespedes. Yoenis started slow in New York defensively and his extravagant ego was certainly on display early. But he has belted several home runs in April and has been the threat the Mets were looking for when they re-signed him.
Justin Upton? Well, I will just say he is still transitioning. He started well defensively early, but that hasn’t continued. But nothing stands out more for him than the alarming amount of strikeouts. Has it been a tough adjustment for him moving from the National League? Is it tough to move from San Diego to Detroit? Who knows, but the Tiger have invested big on his talents. And it’s time for him to warm up to the idea of being here.
I commented quite enough on Tyler Collins on Tuesday and with his departure to Toledo once again, we may have seen the last of him. He is beginning to wear out his welcome as he continues to prove he doesn’t have a whole lot to offer this team.
Did his antics Monday night hurt his future with the Tigers? I think so. The Tigers have already been criticized for their perceived lack of energy and cohesiveness. And they can’t let a part-timer still trying to forge a career make it all worse. Tyler Collins isn’t contributing enough to put up with any antics; so expect Stephen Moya to be the next left-handed bat to emerge from Toledo, when needed.
Things are really hoppin’ in the outfield these days, aren’t they?
But before everyone laments the loss of Rajai Davis and Yoenis Cespedes, they should know that the Tigers wanted Rajai to return, but he turned down their offer. And Yoenis, when he’s not focused on which mode of transportation to use, has been booed by Mets fans for making some bad plays and losing a game or two, along with a comment about preferring to be asleep rather than playing in the cold. Oh, and he’s making more than Miggy this year and will opt out at the end of 2016.
Given that, my first thought is that $168 million doesn’t buy as much as it used to anymore. The Tigers have 4 new players in LF and CF alone with Maybin and Aviles yet to play there and sadly, I don’t think the outfield has gotten any better – but possibly even slightly worse.
Upton appears to be an island and still barely interacts with his teammates. He offers no emotional expression (except for anger and apathy) and doesn’t willingly partake in team fist and arm bumping or even congratulating another player when he crosses home plate. Quite frankly, I don’t think he likes it in Detroit.
We don’t need to rehash the details of his hitting – or lack thereof – and the refusal of his manager to move this human strikeout machine down in the order. But the glove has been suspect, too, and includes the infamous incident with Tyler Collins the other night. As Ernie would have said “He stood there like the house by the side of the road” when the ball dropped and he made no effort. Collins may have gotten the heat, but Upton got the error on the play.
But what concerns me is that this was not their first bad episode. Last week, a fly ball had both of them calling for it, but as the CFer, Collins has the authority to call off all other players. A small collision when Upton refused to back off and his anger at Tyler was palpable.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Collins communicated his ill-advised message the other night because the outfield appears to be a stressful place – with Anthony Gose not looking too happy out there, either.
It has yet to be seen whether the return of Maybin will improve the situation. Can the manager, coaches and players can do anything to encourage Upton to buy into the team? If things don’t reverse course, the Tigers may be looking at having him around long-term – and not being able to afford JD down the road.