Back by popular demand! The first installment of 20 Thoughts for 2018! Welcome to February, a time when your team begins the trip to Lakeland for another spring training. But hang on! Don’t get ahead of yourself! Give the excitement of January what it deserves! Translation: Wake from your slumber and read this.
Keep in mind that not everything you see in these monthly segments is about events from the past month. These are random thoughts, some having to do with the previous month and some that do not. I will do my best to strike a balance between the good and the bad, but heading into a rebuild, that won’t be easy. Anyway, here are my 20 January Thoughts.
1. I don’t care whether you like Ron Gardenhire or not, but you have to admit that it sure is nice to finally be done with the frustrating tenure of Brad Ausmus.
2. Ron Gardenhire has passed 2 hurdles so far; his introduction and opening presser as the new manager and of course, the Winter Caravan / TigerFest. But those were the easy ones; big challenges await.
3. Most of the focus at TigerFest was on the players who weren’t there versus who was there. But even though the absence of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez stole the show, Nick Castellanos made his case for a leadership role this season (more on that later).
4. An entire week went by since the latest contract offer to JD Martinez from the Red Sox. The result? Crickets. This off-season is either the start of a new era in baseball or at least the year that helped to defined it. What this quiet off-season has done is give competitive small market teams the opportunity to acquire players they normally would not be in position to grab. The Brewers, unlike so many teams, have shown the desire to spend and are reaping the benefits of the slow market. Signing Yu Darvish would put the cherry on top.
5. Scan the Tiger infield – it’s really, pretty good. (Carry over from December 2017)
6. About Miggy: The no-nonsense approach of Ron Gardenhire should be good for him. We can’t afford to have Miggy rule the roost like he is used to doing. He’s not in charge. He doesn’t make the call on when he plays and when he doesn’t and that should be made clear. (Carry over from October & November – will ring true until the season starts.) Update: Given that Gardenhire and Miggy have yet to talk signals that this will be the elephant in the room and Gardy’s biggest challenge heading into spring training.
7. The most amusing quote that emerged from TigerFest came from the mouth of Al Avila, who did say this, no lie! “This is an exciting time.” Who else fell off the couch and spit their beer across the room when you read this?
8. Optimism about Ron Gardenhire based on the information gathered prior to him stepping in the dugout can be premature. What’s not premature are statements based on his experience in rebuilding. “I hate sloppy,” speaks volumes at least for me. A manager who has a disdain for bad baseball is a good place to start.
9. Whitaker and Trammell in the Hall of Fame. Doesn’t that sound good? When will it be true?
10. Early last season, before the purge of most of the Tigers’ stars, I made a statement about the Chicago White Sox and their success in stockpiling talent. I was jealous of them and their off-the-field transformation. They have accumulated some of the best and most promising talent in the game. Does anyone want to question that jealousy now like it was questioned then?
11. Fast forward to this year’s trade deadline in July. The Tigers will certainly be active. Among the players the team is willing to deal, who will offer the best return based on what you know now. Shane Greene is my choice. Who is yours?
12. As far as our middle infielders go, holding onto a still relatively young Iglesias and pairing him with an athletic Dixon Machado at second base would be a nice combination for a team rebuilding. They should play very well together. But don’t blink, because it has been made perfectly clear that Iggy ain’t stayin’ long.
13. There are 5 teams I will be watching intently in 2018. All 5 will have new managers. The Tigers,of course, with Ron Gardenhire, the Nationals with Dave Martinez, the Red Sox with Alex Cora, the Phillies with Gabe Kapler and the Yanks with Aaron Boone. (Essential a carryover from November and December ‘17)
14. I have seen teams heading into a rebuild looking a lot less talented than this current Tiger team. Is it so outrageous to suggest that the team could improve on last year’s record? After all, they did lose 98 games.
15. We have real trouble with Jordan Zimmermann. Since the discovery of his nervy neck issue in the spring, he has been much more bad than good, and with lots of years left on his contract. Even though he did return for a couple starts at end of the season, we should be very concerned with his health and contributions going forward. (Holdover from September, and may stay on this list for a while – yep, staying on for November too – and December) Update: No reason whatsoever for this topic to leave 20 Thoughts in 2018. At least not yet.
16. Now that you have thought about #14 for a minute, here is what I believe would be the reason for the Tigers not improving on 98 losses: Depth.
17. If you are not in favor of the Ron Gardenhire hire, what would change your mind in 2018? (Carryover from December 2017)
18. What has disappointed me the most since the hiring of Gardy? Outside of Chris Bosio, I am not at all thrilled with the coaching staff.
19. Does Nicholas Castellanos have the ability to turn the Tigers into his team in 2018? This was a question from December’s version of 20 Thoughts. Here is my answer: No. This is a player with still so much to learn. He is a poor baserunner. He is a poor outfielder. He was a poor third baseman. With so much to improve upon, taking on a leadership role cannot be part of his lengthy list of goals in 2018.
20. I think we can all agree that the biggest concern heading into Spring Training is Gardenhire’s relationship with Miguel Cabrera. It’s not that it’s a bad one, it’s the absence of one.
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