By: Kurt Snyder
Michael Fulmer arrived on the scene because the Tigers were in trouble.
And sometimes when a highly-touted player is sitting and waiting and you worked hard to get him, they are hard to ignore, especially when they are dominating at their current level. And without any other course of action, why not see what your top prospect can do?
Fulmer arrived on the scene because he was needed. He has stayed on the scene because he was successful. And with success comes a whole bunch of decisions when you are talking about a rookie pitcher who hasn’t yet begun to pitch as much as his major league team needs him to pitch.
The Tigers, who have floundered for the better part of the season, found themselves in a predicament where Michael Fulmer, their top pitching prospect, would be needed very quickly during the 2016 season.
And I am no different from anyone else when it comes to pitchers and how much we need to protect what will someday, if they have continued success, result in a serious monetary investment. We must protect our investments. They need to be held near and dear to our hearts.
But as the Tigers move on through this season, they have finally decided that they are a contender and are beginning to play that way. The daunted July schedule has not pushed them out of the way. In fact, it has done the opposite. The Tigers are alive and they have entered August firmly threatening to take the Central Division crown. Much has to do with their hitting, but without pitching, we aren’t even having this discussion.
Michael Fulmer, until Jordan Zimmermann finds his way back into the rotation, is the second most important starter the Tigers have in their rotation. Justin Verlander? Well, he deserves an apology.
We never trusted what he had to say. But this was a man who quietly explained where he was and where he planned to be. All the cynics laughed. But JV knew. He would again dominate. And we have seen it on countless occasions now in 2016. He is, once again, our ace.
But Michael Fulmer is the difference maker. Because no one starter makes a difference. A 1-2 punch will keep your head above water, but a 1-2-3 punch can land you in a playoff spot as a formidable foe no one wants to face.
Michael Fulmer is the difference between the Tigers being a pretender and a contender. But what if the Tigers shut him down before the playoffs? What if they shut him down in mid-September? He has been a difference maker. We can’t finish this without him.
I don’t want the Tigers to handle him like Stephen Strasburg. That’s a choice the Washington Nationals felt they needed to make. But a championship may be at risk here. Yeah, a championship.
So, you have to ask yourself; are we ready to forgo the opportunity to win a championship in order to preserve a valuable starter for future years? I say no. What we need is a plan.
The plan has to be tailored to where, at no point, is Fulmer shut down for the season. This is not a team that can afford it. This is not a “there’s always next year” team. Heck, most of us are surprised they have made such a big move back onto the scene at all; in the Central, solidly in the race. They got plenty of help in July as Cleveland let the Tigers back in it by struggling to beat the worst team in the division, while the Tigers went on a roll.
So the plan for Fulmer better be calculated, one where he stays in the rotation to the end. Will that be accomplished by skipping starts? I have no idea. I don’t get paid to figure this out. But the Tigers have preached for quite a long time now about how “all in” they are. Well it’s time for them to put their money where their mouth is. Michael Fulmer is the difference maker. And shutting him down before the job is done may be something the Tigers regret for a very long time.