Of all the news that’s been reported on during the last week, what is the most discouraging and worrisome development?
Just after the season ended last year, the Tigers had decisions to make on 2 players; Cameron Maybin and Francisco Rodriguez. At the time, the Tigers were kicking off what they thought was the beginning of their next mission. Get younger, get leaner.
In my mind, I understood the rationale of declining the option on one or the other, if not both. But, I couldn’t envision the Tigers keeping both given the new franchise edict.
So let me take you through a little exercise. All fans, all people for that matter, are quite familiar with it, and they practice it almost every day. It’s called hindsight. It’s much easier to make a decision in hindsight.
Hindsight is defined as the recognizing of the dangers and/or possibilities of a situation after it occurs.
If you knew then what you know now about both of these players, the decision may have been different. The departure of Cam Maybin saved the Tigers $9M but left a gaping hole in centerfield which they won’t clear up until almost the last day of spring.
KRod arrived to camp late, left almost immediately for the WBC, was injured while he was there and now has us more worried than ever. It was reported Tuesday that his already heat-challenged fastball that had topped out at about 89 mph all through last season has dipped considerably, ranging in the neighborhood of 86.
Sorry, but that’s just not enough differentiation between the speed of his ‘fastball’ and his wide array of 82-84 mph change-ups. I believe the man is in trouble.
I understood why he was the one the Tigers chose to hold on to; he gave them an experienced closer until they cut him loose for a prospect later in the season. But closing games just got a whole lot more difficult.
You see, the luxury of a dominant closer is that they can save games even when they make mistakes with their pitches. KRod had that when he was an Angel. He was able to blow batters away with fastballs and puzzle them with debilitating breaking pitches and change-ups.
But even as a Brewer and last season as a Tiger, he still had the ability to get batters out. He’s made mistakes that hurt him however, because he doesn’t have that dominant fastball. But he’s been able to use it effectively to set up his collection of change ups.
His problem to start this season though is he can’t effectively set up off-speed pitches with a weak fastball. Hitters are going to make him pay.
Obviously, the hope is that the fastball will improve. The worry is that it won’t. And if it doesn’t, there goes the production. There goes the closer. And there goes the value. The trade value. KRod, assuming he made it to the trade deadline, would bring the Tigers a prospect from a team looking to make a playoff push. It certainly was a key reason they chose to hold onto him.
You see, the Tigers made a choice. Sacrifice a centerfielder for a rookie replacement or sacrifice a closer for a rookie replacement. Maybin probably gets them little in return should they want to deal him during the season. Heck, they got very little for him before the season. In his absence, it appears Jacoby Jones gets first shot at centerfield. A great opportunity for a rookie.
If the Tigers would have traded KRod after last year, I believe they would have gotten a better prospect, given the receiving team was still getting a pitcher fresh off a 44 save season. But the Tigers got a little greedy, maybe thinking they could get even more for him at the trade deadline; IF he continued to produce and IF he stayed healthy.
They were asking a lot of him. But they may be going to the well one time too many; the numbers just don’t add up. So everybody hold their breath once again. It wouldn’t be baseball in Detroit if we weren’t nervous in the ninth.
But bad ninth innings right away in April may await us; and the Tigers may wish they kept their centerfielder instead.
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