FORUM FOR FRIDAY

microphoneHappy Friday! It’s time to head into the holiday weekend hearing from our readers.   You have the rest of the week to hear from Kurt and Holly, today is the day to let them know what you’re thinking on a selected topic.

Friday is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can get those juices flowing.

Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.

(The trade of Justin Verlander came after this blog went online.  We will have a special edition blog dedicated solely to JV on Saturday so please hang onto your comments for then.  The focus today is on the other Justin.)

We can’t wait to get your thoughts on the following topic.


What is your impression of the Justin Upton trade? 


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20 AUGUST THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Another month down and 1 month to go.  There were players run through the revocable waiver wire shredder, and there were significant highlights and a significant low light.

Let’s look back on August while contemplating September and beyond. These are my 20 August Thoughts.


1. As I sit here at 8:30 pm on Wednesday evening, Justin Verlander was still a Tiger. August was a great month for JV and he did nothing but raise his stock to the highest of levels for a potential trade. But teams still did not bite.   Meanwhile, JV is a dominant pitcher again.

2. So who else has had a great month? Jose Iglesias? Oh, you better believe it. Big hits surrounded by a couple dozen great plays at shortstop. Seeing him as an ex-Tiger next season would be one of my lowest moments as a fan.

3. So who else had a great month? Mikie Mahtook? Oh, you better believe it. It looks like regular playing time is all he needed. And he has taken advantage. He has raised his batting average into the .290’s, has shown power, speed and good defense in centerfield. He has to be the most pleasant surprise of the season.

4. So who else had a great month? Justin Upton? Yep, you bet! Another month of power like he had in August and he will have set himself up for the perfect opportunity to opt out of his contract and head to a contender. After believing for so long that he would never be in a comfortable position to do that, well, his bat is doing the talking now. The Tigers are likely to lose him.

5. Miguel Cabrera: the mystery of 2017. The injuries, the troubles in Venezuela, etc. It’s all a puzzle we can’t put together. Has he given up now that the Tigers are losing? Is his heart still in it? His numbers are saying a lot; we just aren’t sure what. (Carryover from July)

Update: Miggy’s back is not allowing him to do a thing at the plate. No extra base power, awkward swings and a lot of frustration because of all of it. I just don’t see Miggy getting into a scrum like that with the Yankees if he was having a good season. His season hit rock bottom when he “dropped the gloves.”

6. This month I became concerned about the long-term health of Michael Fulmer. Is a nervy elbow and numb fingers going to be a reoccurring problem for him? Because if it is, I would unload him. There is something going on there that as it continues will more than likely require surgery some day. After that, all bets are off when it comes to his continued value and effectiveness.

7. I believe, after a disappointing year, compounded by the 2 irregular heartbeat episodes, Victor Martinez will do the smart thing and retire at the end of the season. He’s a competitive guy and if his body doesn’t allow him to compete, I don’t believe VMart will continue.

8. I feel horrible for endorsing the re-signing of Victor Martinez to a painful contract that never seems to end. I am witnessing a point in his career where he is now hurting the ball club, with still one more year to suffer through. What makes me feel the worst is that he has been a great and very respected player for the Tigers, and yet, after 2018, he will have been here 2 years too long.   (Carryover from July – Do the right thing Victor!)

9. What fancy name will the Tigers call the rebuild after this season?

10. The decline in the offensive production of Ian Kinsler has been a surprise this season. It came out of nowhere. But the mid 30’s for baseball players becomes a gamble for most teams. And this surely will be his last season of a great career in Detroit.

11. Shane Greene has eliminated the need to wonder about who will close next season for the Tigers. He seems to be a natural and appears to gain more confidence each time he heads out for the ninth.

12. Matthew Boyd has been a disappointment this season. Daniel Norris has disappointed as well. And I am pretty worried about Michael Fulmer’s future. The latest chapter of these 3 promising acquisitions has taken a turn.

13. The Tigers have much more patience with Bruce Rondon than I have. Ironically enough, I have supported him during the toughest of times mainly because I lived by my dad’s mantra of ‘never giving up on a good arm.’ The great arm though is being overshadowed by continued relapses of poor judgement and attitude. How many strikes does one man get? (Carryover from July)

Update: Bruce is back in Toledo, may be back in September, but wonder when he will be gone for good. I am done with Bruce.

14. Joe Jimenez has a real opportunity to audition for a shot at the closer role in 2018. He has a solid 2 months to show this team what he’s got. (Carryover from July)

Update: Well, one month in and things have not fared well. He has been mismanaged a bit, switching from one role to another. But darn it, he is meant to pitch in the back end of the pen.  So, let him take his lumps and see how he reacts. We have to find out.

15. We have real trouble with Jordan Zimmermann. Since the discovery of his nervy neck issue in the spring, he has been more bad than good, and with plenty of years left on his contract. This is a rotation in potentially deep trouble if someone doesn’t begin to perform or prove that their injuries are behind them.

16. Well, it took me until August to step foot into Comerica Park. It may be the most memorable game I have attended since the team left Tiger Stadium. Yep, it was the brawl game with the Yanks.   I won’t soon forget Miggy’s missed punches and Gary Sanchez’s cheap shots.

17. The team seems serious about moving Nick Castellanos to the outfield. I hope they think about it some more before they do it. I would like for him to try his hand with the big glove at first, after VMart retires. Miggy then moves to DH, and the new kid, Jeimer Candelario, gets the first shot at third, assuming he earns it in spring training.

18. Add James McCann to the list of players who have come on in August. He is showing now what I always thought. He is a good hitter and is showing impressive power to go along with it. We are set at catcher.

19. Dixon Machado will be a starter next season in Detroit. No way will the Tigers head into next season with both middle infielders intact. He will head into the winter knowing he is in the running for a starting role at short or second.

20. September ought to be shut-down month for the Tigers. Shut down VMart and Miggy for starters. And begin cutting back on Michael Fulmer’s starts and innings. It’s time to start thinking about next season.


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SLUGGING, REDEFINED

By:  Holly Horning

No doubt about it, last Thursday’s epic marathon bench-clearer will be remembered by everyone who saw it. We’ll even be telling our grandkids about this “brawlgame.” And it may just go down in history as the biggest hellacious baseball battle ever.

Personally, I lost track of how many fights broke out. How many times the dugouts emptied. How many pig piles of players were formed. And how many players got hit. I only remember how many got ejected and the list of names resembled a lineup card.

It’s taken me a few days to sort out this mess and try to make sense of it. As they say, “It’s complicated.”

But the skirmish on the field was about more than a player – or 2…… or 3……..or 4 or…. – getting hit. It may have also been about the Tigers’ frustration over having MLB’s worst August record of 5-16. Or maybe the simmering frustration over 4 years of futility. Or maybe the realization that the baseball bubble has officially burst for the Tigers and that dark days are ahead. Or all of the above.

Lots of layers to digest. And lots of players to address. And thus, I feel this blog needs to be a therapy session for all of us. So here are all of my observations and perspectives on the game. Some smack-on combined with a heapin’ helpin’ of irony and humor to help ease the pain. Let’s dig in…..


1. Fans got to see three sports on Thursday. They came to see a baseball game that broke out into a hockey match and segued into a heavyweight fight.

2. Fans got to see a free fight instead of paying for the Mayweather–McGregor fight. Gary Sanchez threw more punches than either of Vegas’ headliners.

3. After the fight, the Tigers’ Marketing Department quickly huddled to discuss future strategies. They were overheard describing the day’s game as “genius.”

4. Too bad that it takes a massive brawl to see some passion exhibited by Tigers’ players.

5. In the olden days, teams were reluctant to fight the Tigers because of the threat of Willie Horton. Too bad Bruce Rondon was back in Toledo.

6. Speaking of Rondon, he is wondering why he’s the one who got singled out about this double-standard of fighting.

7. Tigers’ broadcasters may want to rethink their promos for future games. Especially when they say “This weekend, the Tigers will battle the White Sox.” Let’s also re-think “The Tigers will take on Chicago.”

8. Announcers may also want to define the term “slugging” whenever they use it going forward.

9. I’ve never seen Brad Ausmus so mad in his 4 years with Detroit. He didn’t spit once for an entire 5 minutes during one of the on-field fights.

10. Who says Nick Castellanos doesn’t move his feet quickly? He was the first one to vault over the dugout railing when the first fight broke out.

11. Where was Justin Upton in any of the melees? Oh, that’s right, protecting his future paycheck.

12. The game was truly remarkable in that Gene Lamont was actually seen getting up from his seat, standing and walking. He even left the dugout once.

13. Maybe someone needs to really tick off Iggy every day to get him to field and hit the way he did in Thursday’s game. He’s never been more fired up.

14. There is the “game within a game” analysis. The Tigers have introduced the “fight within the fight” with their dugout dustup between VMart, Castellanos and JV.

15. Contrary to what some have written, JV did not extend his middle finger to VMart. He’s got Kate to do that.

16. VMart should really be fearing Kate Upton. She posts really mean tweets that tend to freely use the “f-bomb”.

17. Miggy may have thrown the first punch but he wasn’t the one who started it. Romine grabbing him in 2 different situations and then throwing down his mask was the challenge to fight.

18. As we’ve often seen this year, Miggy had a hard time connecting. This time with his fists to a face.

19. Dellin Betances didn’t intentionally bean James McCann? Riiight……

20. Even Brad didn’t think Betances’ beaning of McCann was intentional. Yet another example of exemplary leadership and astute analysis on display.

21. No fine or suspension for Betances? This is what happens when you have a former Yankee in charge of punishing current Yankees.

22. The dirtiest player in all the battles, Gary Sanchez, got only a 4-game suspension. What a wonderful message to send to kids, MLB.

23. Want to bet that Gary Sanchez will do this again? So much for offering teachable moments to the young guys in MLB.

24. Who didn’t see the unfair and unbalanced suspensions coming? A NYer based in NY ruling in favor of his NY team taking into consideration the hell storm Yankee suspensions would have caused among the media, fans and loss of tv revenue for MLB.

25. Another wonderful MLB life lesson for parents to try to explain to their kids. ‘Fess up and tell the truth and you will be punished like Alex Wilson. Lie like a rug despite the obvious evidence and you will get off scot-free.

26. MLB has set so many wonderful examples and teaching moments with their decisions for families to emulate. If MLB was actually a parent, Social Services would have visited by now.

27. Analysts blamed Brad for not controlling his players during the numerous brawls. Just another example of Brad not managing well. Tell us something new.

28. Andrew Romine was heard on the phone saying to his parents “But Mom…….. Austin started it!”

29. Do you wonder how long it took the umpires to hit the bar after the game? Or how many drinks each of them had?

30. The Tigers have redefined the role of spoilers and taken it to a new level. Upcoming opponents are quaking in their cleats.

31. And we think NYers are dirty and combative. Detroit has put the world on notice that MidWesterners can hold their own!


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TOPIC FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

A good idea gone bad – MLB’s strategy to make baseball more hip and entertaining by changing up uniforms and having nicknames on the back of jerseys fell as flat as soda left out overnight.

The uniforms had more of a softball vibe to them.  At least James McCann was honest by saying he was turning his into his hunting uniform for the winter.  And the nicknames often didn’t allow fans to understand the stories behind them.  That is, unless you put the shortened version of your first name on your back.  We’re talking to you, Nick.

Kurt and Holly still believe that they did a much better job with the names then that players did.  While they are tempted to update them given last week’s fracas, let’s revisit what it was like when times were more calm…….


 

MLB has announced that at a future game this season, players will have the opportunity to put their nicknames on the backs of their jerseys. If Kurt and Holly had their say, what would the nicknames be for 20 Tigers, including 1 Totally Tiger? Let’s find out…


 

KURT

CABRERA – Miggy (there is only one)
IGLESIAS – Maestro
CASTELLANOS – Nickless

UPTON – AdJustin
KINSLER – Catalyst
MAHTOOK – Canttake
ROMINE – AllNine
HICKS – Getcherlicks
VERLANDER – Zoo (think about it)
AUSMUS – LDuck
LAMONT – Lambchop
CLARK – Windmill
DUBEE – Smokin’
McCANN – Wishycould
MACHADO – Notmucho
STUMPF – Tree (sorry)
GREENE – LeanMean
JUSTIN WILSON – KWil? (I’m tryin – come on!)
PRESLEY – Bench
SNYDER – KBoy (describes my high school hitting career)


HOLLY

FULMER – Plunger
NORRIS – 2 Hip 4 U
KROD – KRap

SANCHEZ – $$$$
JV – Yoda
JUSTIN WILSON – KLZR
ZIMMERMANN – PT4EVR
AVILA – ICann
MCCANN – McCan’t
MIGGY – C’townBound
CASTELLANOS – Bubbles
IGGY – Houdini
KINSLER – GrindR
JD – BuhBye
UPTON – UptOut
ROMINE – SuperU
VMART – Pops
AUSMUS – NA (He doesn’t wear a jersey.)
DUBEE – Dubeeous
HORNING – SWMBO (Shame on you if you don’t know what this means. You may just have to look it up.)


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VMART MUST RETIRE

By:  Kurt Snyder

Victor Martinez has been a topic of conversation that has lingered throughout the entire 2017 season for several reasons.

His body is breaking down.

He can’t run.

He clogs up the bases.

He needed to be moved down in the lineup.

He limits lineup flexibility as a full-time DH unable to play the field.

And what all these things have in common is that they all happen to be true.

With one year left on VMart’s contract, it is difficult to see how he will be able to contribute. Fans have been vocal about their desire for VMart to retire after this season. It’s time, isn’t it?

But $18M is a lot to leave on the table. So, what are the odds that he will retire after the season? Well, the possibility just became quite real.

The 2 irregular heartbeat episodes that he has experienced while playing are very unsettling. And while Victor recovers this time and sits on the DL, he has much to contemplate.

I can imagine there are plenty of signs, physically and mentally, that athletes experience when it comes time for them to hang it up and call it a career. But most are not life threatening signs or reasons. And this is where VMart must make a choice.

The doctors may make it easy for him. They may advise him to quit playing. And for someone who plans to retire after one more season, there isn’t much to think about. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but when you are talking about your life, money is meaningless, especially when you have a whole lot of it already.

A VMart retirement after the season would solve a lot of issues for the Tigers. But this isn’t the way I wanted to see his career end, if he comes to that conclusion.

He’s been a great Tiger. A great competitor. A hard worker. One of the game’s best hitters over the course of a long career.

But he can’t mess around with this. First, I would be surprised if he picks up a bat the rest of the season. I would expect doctors to advise that he hang it up for this year. The Tigers are simply playing out the schedule now, and VMart’s absence from the lineup will have little impact.

So, this is where we stop making baseball such a priority. All the talk about how Victor is holding the Tigers back had its place earlier in the season, but it has no place now. This is about someone’s life.

VMart, at age 38, has declining skills and he is reaching the end of his final contract. That in itself is kind of sad, given all the fond memories that we have had while he has been a Tiger. The Miggy-VMart duo has been tough for pitchers to deal with for several years. And it’s been equally as tough for fans to watch both struggle so much this season.

Careers come to an end. And you want to be able to celebrate those careers when they are over. Sometimes an athlete doesn’t get to choose the timing of when their playing days will end. But they can choose how to preserve their quality of life after their careers are over.

Victor Martinez should retire. Not for the reasons listed pertaining to baseball. All those things are small potatoes now.  He should retire because he has a family who cares about him.


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THE EVIL EMPIRE

By:  Holly Horning

They are akin to Darth Vader. Evil combatants wearing black helmets. Bats instead of light sabers. And they wear pinstripes.

Yes, I’m talking about the Yankees. My grandmother told me never to say the word “hate.” But I can’t help it. I hate them. Always have.

E-e-except for their ability to create a vision for their team and run a ballclub efficiently. Sadly, I have to admire them for that. And sadly, they do everything the Tigers should have done – but haven’t. This has been especially evident within the past year.

Pretty amazing for a team run by two brothers, Hal and Hank, who initially were not anointed as George’e baseball heirs. Two guys who didn’t want to run the team but were forced into taking over when their sister’s husband, the one favored by George Steinbrenner, left the family due to personal indiscretions.

Hank and Hal spent the first 2 years of sole ownership trying to refine the team away from their father’s expensive habits. After realizing that they could not adopt the slower, more moderate ways of other teams, they changed course rather quickly and clearly identified their goals, vision and laid out a plan of action. And in the 11 years of ownership, they haven’t had a losing season, finishing no lower than 4th place in what is considered the toughest division in baseball.

Earlier in 2016, the Yankees resembled the Tigers in many ways. An ageing roster filled with lots of expensive contracts. A rebuild on the horizon.

And then the Yankees did something very Yankee-like. They got bold and cut to the chase. A rebuild done in a NY minute.

As many of the big contracts as possible were either cut or renegotiated in order for ageing and problematic, unproductive players to leave. Young guys, assumed to not be quite yet ready, were brought up to get as much playing time as possible. And for a while last year, the team was a contender. Finishing in 4th place, their record was just a couple of games different from the Tigers.

So much for that long rebuild. This year, they have won 14 more games than the Tigers and sit 4.5 games out of first place. Their new players are exciting and the team plays with passion. I somehow manage to have some friends who are Yankee fans and they say there is a great energy and purpose to the team which makes watching lots of fun.

And that is the one of the biggest differences between the two teams. The Yankes have always had a sense of urgency. They’ve also been willing to make bold moves, even in-season, in order to get where they wanted to go more quickly.

It’s also a solid reason to explain why the two teams, both founded in 1901 (the Yankees as the Highlanders), have had the level of success they’ve experienced. The Tigers have won a measly 4 Worlds Series. The Yankees….. 27.

But the Yankees have also invested in good coaching. A manager this week who was praised for assessing his lineup every day and tweaking the batting order to suit the stats and each player’s current situation. A manager not afraid or unable to sit popular players. And for the struggling rookies, we hear stories of Joe Girardi calling former Yankee greats and having them step in to mentor the youngsters. Joe has a .553 win-loss record.

Girardi also surrounded himself with coaches plucked from a number of other organizations. Coaches who were chosen because of their promise and results and not older ones who were on the other side of their careers. And some of these coaches have taken former Tigers like Chad Green and turned them into solid players.

The Yankees for a number of years now have had a payroll similar to the Tigers with only a mere extra $20 million separating them. And as we compare the two teams in 2016 and 2017, we see that it’s not about the actual dollar figure really, but it’s about how well it is utilized. The NY team has gradually been bringing their payroll down while maintaining their level of performance.

Yes, you may say that “It’s the Yankees. It’s a big market team and the Tigers can’t possibly compare to them.” You may also say that they had a farm system to enable a transition. But it’s really about a team that understands the sport, its market and the impatience of the fans. It’s about a team with confidence and swagger. It’s also about a team that is based upon passion and the highest level of competitiveness. It’s a corporate culture of action requiring the highest levels of results and having a sense of urgency every year.

All stuff the Tigers don’t have. Important stuff that keeps teams competitive. Stuff that allows teams to thrive regularly or…take a dive when the chips are down.

On Thursday, several former GMs stated they are worried about the future of the Tigers. They said the rebuild should have started last year and they fear that the lack of urgency will be too late. They likened the Tigers to the Phillies – a roster filled with aged and expensive players who cannot be traded. They also said that a rebuild has to be done with purpose and performed quickly. No single trade here and there. The bandaid needs to be pulled off quickly, not gradually over time. They urged Al Avila to start the process right now.

Maybe Al needs to channel his inner Brian Cashman and take a page out of the Yankees playbook. A playbook that defines the purpose, pace, players and personnel.


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QUESTIONS, COMMENT, KUDOS & CONCERNS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

After 126 games (55-71), the Tigers are headed for their worst season since 2005. So, when a beanball game becomes a highlight of the campaign, things are not going well.

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. Let’s see what Holly and Kurt have on their minds this week. They don’t share their Saturday topics and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. So, expect a wide array of thoughts.


HOLLY

QUESTION

How long will Al Avila wait before making changes and begin the process of re-tooling the team for next year? The Tigers’ slide has now turned into a train wreck reaching the lowest levels since 2005. Are the Tigers unwilling to do what is necessary to put a better team on the field because they are being guided by their still-high attendance figures?

CONCERN

Several former GMs talked in-depth about the Tigers on the radio Thursday morning and described a team that is vastly under-performing, sloppy in their play and “lackadaisical” about both offense and defense. (But this was before Thursday’s marathon brawl.) They mentioned that Al Avila has waited much too long to start the rebuilding process and risks turning the Tigers into the Phillies. They were also blunt in commenting that there should be “no way” Brad Ausmus and his coaches should return next year given their ineffectiveness.

COMMENT

Another radio program discussed the merits of Yankees’ skipper, Joe Girardi, and his successful managerial methods. Included was his analysis of each day’s lineup and tweaking it to fit that day’s situation, benching or reworking the role of struggling players (such as removing Aroldis Chapman as closer and moving the middle of the order around) and implementing a mentorship program for rookies when they struggle. Contrast that to Brad Ausmus’ public comments that placed the majority of the responsibility on his rookie pitchers to step it up.

BONUS

(I have no idea how to categorize this one.) OMG, the fight to end all fights with an ejection list that looked like a lineup card. I seriously lost track of how many got plunked, which ones landed punches and who got ejected. Don’t know which was more intriguing – the ongoing battles on the field or watching VMart having to be restrained from going after Justin Verlander who (along with Nick Castellanos) had some harsh words for him. Has this team reached its boiling point or their maximum level of frustration?


KURT

CONCERN

Thursday’s fight-filled affair against the Yankees had so many subplots, you could hardly keep track of them all. One was the strange assertion by the Yankees that Fulmer hitting Gary Sanchez was intentional, even after he had obvious pain in his arm after throwing the pitch. This inevitably brings me to the Tigers decision to leave Fulmer in the game after extreme elbow pain and numbness in his fingers; what were they thinking?

CONCERN

To expand on that topic, Fulmer described the pain in his elbow as the worst in his career. Does that sound like a pitcher who should throw another pitch in the season, much less continue to pitch in the same game? Anyone that had a previous stance about Fulmer having trade value can quietly put that to bed. If I am an opposing GM, I stay far away from offering anything significant for Michael Fulmer with his ongoing injury risk.

COMMENT

You’ve heard it before and you will hear it again, as I put pen to paper one more time on my continued ‘Keep Iggy’ campaign. If the Tigers spend any money next season, they should spend it on their soon to be Gold Glove shortstop. You want talent, he’s loaded with it; you want fire, he supplies it; you want plays, he makes them over-and-over again – Dave Dombrowski said he could be the Tiger shortstop for 10 years when they acquired him and I would like them to make good on that.

THE FIGHT

Sorry, but I must put in my two cents (maybe 3) on the bench-clearing bananza at Comerica Park on Thursday. It was the first Tiger game I have attended this season. Can I pick ’em or what?

First of all, having it all hinge on Sanchez being hit by an obviously injured Michael Fulmer was a complete joke. Were the Yankees just looking for a reason, because sorry that wasn’t enough for me.

Secondly, Miggy has officially hit rock bottom when it comes to where he is at in coping with what’s bothering him and causing his worst of seasons at the plate. Hopefully, it all will come out over the winter and we can make sense of all of this.

Lastly, it’s a shame that yesterday’s madness is what was required for the Tigers to play with intensity. Watching Iggy all fired up standing at second after his base clearing double was quite satisfying, even in a game that meant very little for Detroit.

Oh, and Gary Sanchez? I have names for him I can’t print. See you next year, Gary.


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OPEN MIKE!

microphoneIt’s Friday folks, which means it’s your day! This is the day for you to be heard. Today is the one day during the month where you get the opportunity to comment on the Tiger topic of your choosing.

This is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can really get those juices flowing. Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.  So, pick a topic and let us hear from you. We know there’s a lot on your minds…


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MANFRED CERTAINLY NO HOMER

By:  Kurt Snyder

Asked for his hypothesis on the offensive explosion, Manfred said: “I think the problem is that there probably is not an explanation.”

                                                            – Rob Manfred, MLB Commissioner


Come on Rob! Really? Excuse me if I don’t understand. I don’t have a reason to not believe you, but there has to be some explanation for all the homers in 2017; especially the distances.

I have never seen so many home runs hit, and shockingly, how far they have travelled. They haven’t just been round-trippers. They have been bombs. And there is no explanation?

In a year where the increase in home runs is dramatically different, causing a huge spike almost through the roof of the record books, the answer is basically, sorry, the baseballs are no different? That the players are just stronger?

Well, even if the baseballs were different, and secretly I believe they are, I am perfectly fine with it. More home runs in the game considered to be boring by the non-fan is great for baseball.

After all, the home run is the most exciting play in the game. And it’s especially true this season, because if there is one thing more exciting than a home run, it’s one that is hit a country mile.

Rob Manfred has a huge task as the Commissioner of Baseball. His task is to make baseball more watchable. To speed up the pace of play in the interests of making this game more exciting is an enormous task.

But I have to believe that even though the goal is to shorten games, the increase in homers has made these long games worthwhile.  It is good for baseball.  Isn’t it?

Well, if you were to ask Manfred, not exactly. This is where things really get odd and the interview at Comerica Park on Tuesday night with Rod and Mario ended too soon before I could call in and ask a question. (Wouldn’t that be cool if we could do that?)

You see, the Commissioner feels that the games are more exciting when balls stay in play and don’t go into the seats? Less homers float his boat!

Rob, what are you saying?

According to Manfred, the home run is so fleeting and short-lived. I cry foul! How many home runs, especially long ones, are talked about for weeks or months or even years? Big hits in baseball usually are round-trippers and have a lasting impression. People don’t just forget about them right after the hitter rounds the bases and descends into the dugout, do they?

This week in Detroit, Yankee fans have descended onto Comerica Park, and Gary Sanchez, the talented New York catcher has put on a show with his power. In fact, he is credited for hitting the longest home run in the history of Comerica Park!

How long are you going to remember that if you saw it? Well, maybe forever, until someone beats it. But for now, it’s a home run for the Comerica Park history books.

Strange statements indeed by our fairly-new Commissioner, who has no explanation for why home runs are up and doesn’t see a lasting value in them in the first place.

 

UPT-ING OUT?

By:  Holly Horning

It’s rather ironic that last year’s goat is this year’s hero. One of the few Tigers performing at or above expectations. The same guy fans were praying would opt out after this year. And now, many of the same fans praying that he will stay.

We are, of course, talking about Justin Upton.

And so is the media. Many of whom feel that this winter’s free agent class will expand by one.

J-Up is having the best year of his career. Since the All-Star break, he’s gone on a tear at the plate.

Coincidence or part of a planned discovery process to determine if there is a better fit for him elsewhere?

If you’ve been keeping track of his comments since the beginning of this season, he’s gone from “not leaving” to “waiting until after the playoffs” when he can sit down and discuss his situation with agent and family. Sounds like a guy who is keeping his options open.

But if you’re focusing solely on the $88.5 million still owed to him, thinking that other teams will not match it, there are a number of other factors which are being ignored. Factors that can easily swing his decision the other way.

Statistically, Upton ranks within the top 5 of potential free agents this year and the stats that Front Offices use to evaluate players are very solid. Add to that the fact that the field of free agent outfielders is not very deep. All in Upton’s favor.

Those who crunch the numbers also believe that Upton’s current contract fits very nicely into market expectations. Loosely translated: Getting a similar contract should not be expected to be very much of a stretch.

There is, however, a certain amount of risk involved in deciding to opt out. But Justin will not have to make that big, bold jump if he wants to leave that many believe. He’ll be receiving clues along the way.

Several former GMs have stated that there is a third option for players with these special contracts. While teams cannot contact players when they are still under contract, they, or their “conduits” can drop hints of interest to his agent. Hints that may indicate their desire to be amenable to certain conditions. And if the agent hears from more than one team “friend”, all the better.

They also mention a fourth option – the creation by the Tigers of a win-win scenario. A deal where Upton agrees not to opt out and in return, the Tigers trade him to a pre-approved team. A deal similar in dollars with either the new team paying all or the Tigers making up a small difference. This way, the Tigers get compensated, get out from under a large contract and Upton avoids the risk of losing money while moving to a team with better chances of success.

But enough about the money aspect. Believe it or not, there are other factors that athletes seriously consider when contemplating a move.

There are many examples of those who have turned down nice, cushy contracts for ones that offered benefits money can’t buy.

Upton will be 30 and at that age, you start thinking about your baseball bucket list and legacy. Things like your stats and every player’s desire – to have that (garish) diamond-encrusted ring.

He may also decide he wants to play a little longer than the 4 years remaining on his contract. Many players have taken less money per year in order to get a contract that has an extra year or two tagged onto it.

And Upton is like the rest of us. He has no idea where this team is headed. He also understands that the Tigers are going into some level of rebuild while remaining out of contention for a number of years. Possibly for longer than the rest of his contract. And he may not want to finish his career on an extended down note. He may just pick the contender over the coin.

Would he prefer to earn a couple million less while playing October baseball or keep his original salary and participate in the painful process of a team trying to find a new way? When you’re earning as much as Upton, a couple million is not as important as the quality of your work environment or the chance to build stats a little more easily.

Fortunately for Justin, he has until January 19th – just over 3 short weeks before spring training – to decide whether he goes or stays. It’s enough time to see what Chris Ilitch and Al Avila have – or haven’t – done. Enough time to determine what kind of rebuild he’ll be facing.

Or even enough time to determine that the team could be changing hands before his contract finally expires. Uncertainty and the unknown can definitely alter one’s thought process.