Welcome to February! January didn’t exactly set the world on fire for Tiger fans, did it? We added a new centerfielder to the mix, but we are still trying to remember how to spell his name. And that was the highlight.
But there were still plenty of things that made me think and wonder about what is to come. So as you patiently await the kickoff of Spring Training, check out my 20 Thoughts for January.
1. With Mikie Mahtook now on board, does this help shore up the centerfield position? Does the move make a platoon more or less likely?
2. Has the induction of Pudge Rodriguez into the Hall of Fame stirred up all our frustrations about players the Tigers have failed to recognize?
3. How would you feel if the Tigers retired #7 to honor Pudge’s induction into the Hall? My blood’s boiling already just thinking about it. He built a great HOF resume in Texas and stopped in Detroit on his way to the Hall. He was a leader and a key component in the run to the Series. Consider it acknowledged.
4. On the injury front, the top 3 Tigers I am the most concerned about are: Jordan Zimmermann, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera.
5. If I had to pick a Tiger veteran who would take a noticeable downturn in his career in 2017, I would choose VMart. Injuries aside, it has to be coming.
6. If I had to pick one of the younger Tigers to have a breakout season, I would choose Nick Castellanos. He was heading there last season until his injury cut things short. I look forward to him taking another step this season.
7. Baseball has tragically lost another great young talent in Yordano Ventura. As a baseball fan, watching young players grow into stars is one of the many things that contribute to my love for the game. Losing them so tragically makes you feel heart-broken and cheated all at the same time.
8. The irony of the tragedy came full circle upon learning about the death of former major leaguer Andy Marte, who was killed the same day. His final at bat came during a game that Ventura started. Knowing that still makes me shudder.
9. Even though I have never subscribed to the theory that owning 2 professional sports franchises can sometimes cause a conflict of interest, I do now believe this: The diminished role of Mike Ilitch within the ownership body may have helped shift the organizational interest towards hockey and the new arena. What’s more important to Chris Ilitch, the development of a fading hockey franchise or the continued hunt for a World Series?
10. Given there will be some highly anticipated turnover following the 2017 season, is Brad Ausmus’ job at all tied to a playoff appearance?
11. Depth … we got any? Well, we have alternate starting pitching options, but the confidence level in those options is not real high. Position players? Again, not much talent in the wings. The Tigers are so due for some surprises … some unexpected development from a Stephen Moya or a Dixon Machado. And we are talking big leaps…
12. Who is the most important reliever? Who offers the most potential star power? Who offers both talent and trade value in July? It’s Bruce Rondon. (Carryover from December 2016)
13. Every Tiger veteran is so critical toward any potential run this coming season. But it all starts with the catalyst, Ian Kinsler. When the Dodgers made the deal for Logan Forsythe, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that Kinsler was no longer in the trade conversation. Just being able to watch Iggy and Ian for another year is pure baseball joy.
14. Here’s a highly unexpected revitalization to consider. Anibal Sanchez returning to form and becoming a key component again in the starting rotation. When is the last time he was really healthy? Is he done? He’s definitely one to watch.
15. How crazy would it be for Anthony Gose to emerge again and head north with the Tigers in April? It’s not impossible. Actually, if there is room on the bench, speed and outfield defense are his strengths; sometimes hard to turn your head away from those 2 attributes that the Tigers will lack again in 2017.
16. If the Tigers are indeed heading for a sale, who else other than Tom Gores would be an obvious suitor? (Carryover from December 2016 and still a topic for conversation)
17. I was pleased to hear that Spring Training will be shortened beginning in 2018. I know it’s only 2 days, but it signifies how the Commissioner is still surveying the game in an effort to improve it.
18. Do we have another Michael Fulmer in the fold? Who among the Big 3 other than Fulmer has the best chance to make a large jump this season? Norris? Boyd?
19. Would the Tigers consider eating some salary when they decide on their Opening Day roster coming out of Spring Training? And who would be first in line? Will Mr. Michael Pelfrey please stand up?
20. The quietest guy in the room this off-season has been Brad Ausmus. Given the Tigers’ inactivity this off-season, how much pressure will be on Brad to deliver? Not a lot. (Carryover from December 2016)