MAX FINALLY ‘WINNING’ IN WASHINGTON

By:  Kurt Snyder

The possibility is quite real all of a sudden. Just a couple more Houston wins and the matchup is on.

Verlander’s Astros vs. Scherzer’s Nationals.

I may be jumping the gun on this just a bit, but I never considered the possibility until now.

The Nationals, even though they have been one of the hottest teams in baseball for quite some time, have never found my radar as a serious consideration for the World Series.

But boy, have we learned over the last couple weeks how serious we should be treating them as a legitimate championship contender. And now that they are in, after dispatching the Cards so quickly, they have every right to believe they can win this.

The Astros? They have work to do to set up a match-up that so many Tiger fans want to see. JV vs. Max.  But I really shouldn’t spend too much time considering it until it actually happens.

But what’s the fun in that? Let’s talk for a minute.


Max Scherzer left the Tigers having turned down the money they offered him to stay. There was a much bigger bag of money awaiting him in Washington if he chose to sign there. So he did. And if that wasn’t a big enough kick in the throat for Tiger fans, he explained how he didn’t leave for the money. He left because he wanted to win.

We know the story. The way Scherzer packed up and headed to Washington left a bad taste in the mouths of so many Tiger fans.  I tasted it. So many of us tasted it.

Justin Verlander, on the other hand, needed every last second to consider whether or not he could leave Detroit. Until finally he decided it was the best move for him.

JV’s departure was painful for all of us.  More painful than the loss of Max.

Why?   Well, Max’s departure was ugly. It made us mad.

And JV? His departure was more about sadness. What was the state of our team, when maybe the face of the team could be sent out of town for, to this point, not a whole lot in return?

Quite a bit of time has passed now since both JV and Max anchored a great Tigers starting rotation. Max has thrived in Washington. Cy Young Awards and no-hitters have come his way. But the winning he said he became a National for, hasn’t  arrived until now.

The shadow he lived under in Detroit, continued even after he left for Washington. Who was casting the shadow?  Justin Verlander himself, who upon leaving for Houston, immediately won a championship.

Max was catching up to JV in all the personal awards and accolades. But it was as if Verlander was still thumbing his nose at Scherzer, riding a renewed wave of dominance after leaving Detroit, adding a championship to his resume and continuing to challenge for one every year since.

Do you get the feeling that Max, despite continued success in Washington after leaving the Tigers, is still living in the shadow of Justin Verlander? You could ask him and I’m sure he would never admit it, but I’m not sure what Max wants more.

What would please him more? A championship over Verlander or a just a championship?  Without choosing, I would gather that Scherzer would be quite conflicted over making a choice.

From Max’s perspective, who do you think he is rooting for in the series between the Astros and Yankees?

Is there any question? There are so many boxes to be checked when it comes to Max vs. JV.


To have the opportunity to face JV’s Astros in the Series.

To have the opportunity to start against Verlander during the Series and potentially beat him.

To have his team beat JV’s, winning a World Title, equaling Verlander.


This is all about the shadow. And Max is 2 Houston victories away from a chance to even the score in the best way possible.

Remember, this is the same pitcher who won the Cy Young with the Tigers and the following season, had to sit on the bench on Opening Day in Detroit and watch JV take the mound as the starter.   It was fresh off Max turning down Mike Ilitch’s $144M contract offer.

Remember?

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/verlander-pays-opening-day-price/


I believe it was never the same for him in Detroit after that day. I believe his decision to leave Detroit may have been more about making his own mark, becoming the man and emerging from the shadow. JV was always the man in Detroit, even after Max was awarded the Cy Young.   The Tigers made it quite clear where he stood.

Well, he’s now standing at the cusp of his first championship.  He is THE man in Washington.  He awaits the icing on the cake.

And the cherry on top.


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SO MUCH TO SEE

By:  Kurt Snyder

So I’m noticing something. There is something different about these playoffs.

I feel like baseball is cutting the ribbon on a new game and they are willing to share.

Does it feel different to you? If so, have the playoffs helped to make it feel that way? Or are you concerned with what you are learning?  Maybe it has done the opposite for you. Maybe you are watching the playoffs and shaking your heads. I won’t lie, there certainly are some reasons for why you would do that.

Length of games? Sorry, it’s a non-issue. The games are longer and they should be. There is so much more at stake and so much more to think about as a manager, as a pitcher and as a catcher. So even though pitching changes are frequent enough to make you pull your hair out, it’s more a part of the game than ever before.

And because of what is at stake we see more of the new game, where strategy reigns like no other time.

The advent of bullpenning is at work even when teams are beginning games with a conventional starting pitcher.

We saw the Yankees the other night head to their pen less than 3 innings into the start by James Paxton. In past playoffs, this is something a team would only do when behind in a series and in an elimination game. Now, there is more of a sense of urgency, even in Game 2 of a 7-game series they are leading.

Of course, we saw the Tampa Bay Rays, who have perfected the ‘art of bullpenning,’ dedicating an entire playoff game to it’s now well-known craft.

In television coverage, are you noticing more of an attention to detail when it comes to the game-within-the-game? Players checking their cheat sheets; catchers checking their wrists, outfielders pulling them out of their back pockets, pitchers checking the bill of their caps.

Players are studying all the time now, even while on the playing field. And when they come off the field, coaches are ready with tablets, fresh with the latest information on an incoming pitcher.

Sure, as loyal fans we know all of this is going on. But you can’t discount the importance of the fan watching maybe for the first time all season. The fan who only watches October baseball.

Coverage of playoff baseball today is clearly showing an emphasis on strategy and how creating advantages and seizing opportunities is at the forefront.

For instance – analyzing the potential that starting pitchers could be tipping their pitches. Players are having obvious discussions with their teammates about what they should look for when it’s their turn to hit.

Without an in-depth broadcast, viewers don’t get to see that.

Again, this has always been part of the game. But in most cases, it’s during a discussion with the media after games when you learn about it.

Have you watched Yadier Molina behind the plate during the Cardinals series with the Nationals? With a runner on second, catchers can’t risk a sign being stolen, so they not only switch signs, they motion to switch to a different set of signs.

Isn’t it important for the fringe fan to recognize the strategy, the game within the game, the intrigue and theatre? These aren’t just buzz words. It’s important that all fans know that all of it exists within the fabric of the game.

There is more to a baseball game than meets the eye and it’s important that MLB showcases all the hidden elements.

The message to fans? There is so much to see if you are willing to watch.


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WATCHING REAL BASEBALL

By:  Kurt Snyder

Watching the playoffs seems more enjoyable this season. Of course, most of the reason is the transition from the rigors of watching the Tigers to turning the page and watching real baseball.

And what comes with playoff baseball is also what is considered to be one of the bigger problems with the game.

What’s the problem?

The games are too long. We hear it all year. We hear it all through the regular season. And for the most part, it’s true. But the length of a baseball game all by itself isn’t what makes it a problem.

Are fans that bothered about the length of a game if there is action packed into those 3 and 3 ½ hours? I would venture to guess that the real problem is that so little is going on.

A 3-hour Tiger game rivals death by a thousand paper cuts. A team that struggled all year long to score runs, punished their fans with hours and hours of nothing; which makes the arrival of the playoffs so much more refreshing and enjoyable.

What we love about the game really shows up in October. But the games do get longer. They get longer than ever; like 4-4 ½ hours long. It’s completely typical for a playoff game. And it’s been pretty typical for a long time.

But guess what? It doesn’t bother me in the least. What shows up in playoff baseball is strategy. And intrigue. Playoff baseball turns from a game to pure theatre.

If you’ve been watching the Tampa Bay-Houston series, you are seeing strategic baseball at its finest. Apparently, it’s nothing new to the fans in Tampa. Out-strategizing the opponent is how the Rays win. And how they have won all year.

And it’s fascinating. At least now, during October anyway. But it’s still not for everyone. It all comes back to what baseball needs to do to capture the young fans and hold onto the new ones.

It’s not hard for Rays fans to appreciate their team because they win. But for someone new to the game, they are turning the channel on Tampa.

Give the Rays credit though for finding different ways to win with their pitching staff. Their manager, Kevin Cash, is a master at managing his bullpen and weaving his way through opposing lineups, breaking games down into small chunks.

It was a testament to Cash when Houston manager A.J. Hinch added him to his coaching staff for the All-Star Game because he was the only guy who knew how to use 11 pitchers over the course of 9 innings.

But it’s hard to find the beauty in a game loaded with pitching changes.  It’s just what the young fan hates. You couldn’t even get half way through the explanation of why many teams are using openers and primary pitchers. Those eyes are going to glaze over.

And I understand it. But for me and many of our readers, it’s fascinated during October to watch teams use different methods to win baseball games. Yes, there are more homers and more strikeouts, but I’ve noticed it is much more than that.

This is where you really see how much the game has changed. Strategy.  The kind of strategy you have never seen before. You have high dollar teams like the Yankees, with every possible financial resource to help build their team and then you have the Rays, with limited money, forced to find other ways to win.

But what’s incredible is that they have found one more way to skin a cat.  They have been so strategic navigating through 9 innings every day, they have survived the wars of the AL East.

If the Wild Card spot in the playoffs was ever made for 2 teams this year, it is the Rays and the A’s. Franchises with fewer financial resources. Franchises with the lowest of budgets. Franchises with the smallest of markets.

They won in 2019 with creativity; outsmarting their opponents.

On Monday, I wondered about how this type of game would go over in Detroit. Well, when it comes down to it, winning of any kind will be embraced.  I’m just not sure how much it will grow the game.

Think about it for a moment. If someone asks you what you did last night and you tell them you watched a 4 ½ hour baseball game, they just might question your sanity.

The difference is that you know baseball and they don’t have the time or the interest to understand.


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ROAMING AROUND IN THE DARK

By:  Kurt Snyder

October baseball is here. The playoffs have begun. And for all of us, we finally get to watch great, competitive baseball played by teams loaded with talent.

We have been saddled with watching Tiger baseball over the last few years, with this year, perhaps, hitting rock bottom. Perhaps. No guarantees, but perhaps.

Frankly, the end of the Tiger season and the beginning of the playoffs has been a transition for which a lot of local fans have been waiting.  And I think it’s easy to say that we have had enough of what the Tigers have been cooking long before the last out at the end of September.

It’s crazy the next big thing to look forward to in Detroit, after such a miserable season, is the MLB draft next June. Candidates for the first overall pick by the Tigers are already being discussed.

But this doesn’t seem right to me. This is more confirmation that the Tigers rebuild is moving at a snail’s pace. Another season has passed us by. And sure, when forced to analyze the roster, and forced to choose who might, (and I emphasize might) have a future role with the team, we can put names on a piece of paper.

But these are not serious endorsements. We are looking at names who may have roles, who may make contributions. But there isn’t a player in the bunch considered to someday lead this team. A building block. Someone that no doubt will be here when the team is championship-caliber.

I have no desire to continue to watch the kind of baseball that has been fed to us this season. But this is our team. And we have reasons why we should doubt a process that doesn’t support what it’s being called by upper management and ownership.

There is no real effort to improve. And for that very reason, we must cling to the performances of some of the better talent in the minors and the prospects for a potential star taken in the draft 8 months away.

I feel there is a picture being painted for us. But it’s not being painted by a real artist. This is someone telling you what they are painting, but as you watch, it’s not at all what you expected.

You sometimes get the feeling the Tigers are looking to turn their operation into something more along the lines of how the Tampa Bay Rays run their organization and field a team. Low budget but competitive.

It’s a tough way to go about things. But here they are in the playoffs taking on the Astros having won their wild card game. Fans in Detroit would kill for this kind of position for their own team, right now.  But how desperate would it be?

What is the excitement really about? Isn’t it all just about entertainment? Does a team like the Rays really strike you as a ball club that could threaten for a World Title?

It’s a fun little story but the chances of it happening for a small market, low budget organization are very slim. It’s fun. It’s entertaining. But in the end, there are limits to the possibilities.

Somehow I don’t see Rays fans slamming their beer mugs on the bar after losing a playoff game. In the end, it’s just fun to be there. But you can’t tell me there is fire and passion among the Tampa fan base.

So let me ask you a question. From what you have seen of the Tigers over the last, say, two years, do they appear to be moving the franchise into this type of a direction? Are they following the pattern and the process of a Tampa Bay Ray-like franchise?

Well, folks, no, they are not.

What the Rays do is quite incredible and quite difficult. You don’t make many mistakes with your franchise when you are winning without money. What they spend is spent wisely and much of it is spent on the people who put the team together. And these people are young, smart and slick. It’s a cutting-edge operation.

And here ends the comparison and any notion that the Tigers are heading in that direction. The Tigers show no signs of wanting to build their base or restructure their organization. The decision-making is based completely on what is cheap. And doing nothing is the cheapest.

Maybe the next owner will indeed want to shape the organization like they do in Tampa. And we may not like that. That would be a huge departure from the free  spending days that, quite frankly, made us push out our chests a little bit.

But at least it would be a direction.

Because right now, we are just roaming around in the dark.


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20 SEPTEMBER THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Mercifully, the 2019 Tigers’ season has ended. Horrid baseball couldn’t have ended soon enough. As fans, Tiger baseball hasn’t given us much to look forward to heading into next year.

But there is still work to be done for Totally Tigers. More to talk about. More to follow even in the off-season. And every month will be treated equally.

So let’s wrap up another month. Today, September gets a bow. Here are 20 Thoughts for the final month of the season.


1. The Tigers won just enough games in September to fall short of the infamous 2003 record of 43-119. But it doesn’t make 47-114 feel any better.

2. Before Jake Rogers joined the big club, he was considered to be one of those building blocks for the future. That was before. But now, he has only proven that he doesn’t yet belong in the big leagues.

3. Add Nicholas Castellanos as another former Tiger to leave and immediately tear it up with his new club. He has given the Cubs something to think about for next year. The question? Should they make a bid to hold onto him or let him walk?

4. Miguel Cabrera left September and 2019 with a promise. He is going to get in shape and lose weight to take some pressure off his bad knee. Our message for Miggy? We won’t believe it until we see it.

5. Grayson Greiner spent September having a bit of resurgence at the plate. After missing so much time with an injury, he returned to the lineup quietly with Jake Rogers hogging all the attention. But Rogers stunk up the joint at the plate, while Greiner had some success. For 2020, Grayson deserves to be the man to beat behind the plate.

6. Jordan Zimmermann finished 2019 with 1 victory. One. So it’s a good news / bad news story for 2020. The good news? It’s his last season with the Tigers. The bad news? He has one more season.

7. The Tigers have shuffled the deck when it comes to their coaching plans for next season. So you won’t have Legendary Lloyd to blame anymore for the hitting woes. He will be assuming the all-important bench coach position. Ok, well good, just as long as he stays on the Tiger staff until the end of time. 

8. I feel that the way Matthew Boyd performed for the final 2 months of the season has hurt his stock. Before the deadline, he couldn’t have been a more valuable trade commodity. And now, well, expect Al to perform his magic in the off-season and trade him for next to nothing.

9. It’s a shame that JaCoby Jones saw his season end in August. He has had something to prove all season and he had succeeded in showing us that he still should be considered part of the team’s future in centerfield. (Holdover until next season.)

10. The Angels fired our boy Brad Ausmus. Anyone surprised? Anyone care? Hey, we tried to tell them.

11. Harold Castro impressed this season with the big club. He has shown he can hit and appears pretty comfortable on the field. He doesn’t appear overwhelmed at the plate or anywhere he has played. He plays the field with a lot of fluidity. Very smooth and athletic. Just maybe someone who will stick. (Holdover: let’s keep this one in play throughout the off-season and address it again come spring training.)

12. Spencer Turnbull quietly has the distinction of having the most electric stuff among all of the Tiger starters. But he had trouble winning games. Pitch counts got too high. He got in too much trouble early in games which didn’t help the pitch count situation. But all in all, it was an educational year for him. Improving command ranks #1 on the list of things to improve for 2020.

13. Christin Stewart stands to have a leg up over Victor Reyes in leftfield based completely on power. Our Fox Sports boys in the booth quite frequently lauded Stewart for his quick bat but that’s not a trait I noticed. I saw an all-or-nothing hitter, with ‘nothing’ winning way too often.  Give me Reyes.

14. Justin Verlander made news in Houston in September with a no-hitter, his 300th strikeout of the season and his 3,000 career strikeout. And since it was news in Houston, it automatically means it was news in Detroit. And I feel it will remain that way until JV retires.

15. How painful was the career year by Eugenio Suarez of the Reds? To me it stung quite a bit knowing that the Tigers traded him away in the interests of winning. Not rebuilding, but winning. It was one of Dave Dombrowski’s worst trades while he was in Detroit. Or was it the worst?

16. Among the September call ups, who made the biggest impression? Well, I am hard-pressed to list who they were so that should answer the question. I got nothin’.

17. A few things about Ron Gardenhire. I believe he has the team’s respect. I believe he is a good communicator. But I question what he has brought to this team in the form of fundamentals. This team should be playing cleaner baseball, but it’s plenty dirty out there. (Holdover – yeah, this one stays for the off-season. To be re-addressed next season, now that we know he is returning.)

18. Since Daniel Norris has been reduced to 3 inning stints for the rest of the season, what have you noticed? He’s been pretty effective. You can take that as a positive or a negative, whatever you prefer. (Holdover for September and into the spring.)

19. Travis Demeritte didn’t set the world on fire for the Tigers after he arrived at the trade deadline but fits in well considering he isn’t the greatest outfielder. It looks like we have cornered that market.

20. Who is the leading candidate for Tiger of the Year? It has never been a harder choice and that’s not a good thing. (Holdover – If the Tigers named someone I missed it. I feel someone will win by default. Do ex-Tigers count?)


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JV STILL THE LEAD STORY IN DETROIT

The Tigers’ season is over, but we aren’t!  Totally Tigers publishes every day of the year.  Stay with us in the off-season to get your baseball fix, stay informed, participate in intelligent, respectful conversation with fellow fans and get your needed baseball therapy.


By:  Kurt Snyder

47-114.

It gets its own paragraph.

During a season when we professed that we would not concern ourselves with the record, we are given this at the end.

47-114.

It’s a cold reality, isn’t it? What good came out of this season?  Were there highlights or all lowlights?

When you win 47 out of 161 games, all we really earned or can be positive about is another #1 draft pick.  Other than that, it’s all a bunch of rubble and ashes.

But highlights? Well, here in Detroit, I can honestly say that there is one player, who maybe just had the best season of his career. And it’s this player who has still kept so much of our attention.

Who is it?

Sorry, but it’s Justin Verlander.

While the Tigers played horrid baseball and pranced out less talent than we can ever remember, JV has built a new career in Houston. And it should be frightening for baseball fans in Detroit. The ones who truly care about his legacy and how he identifies himself when he is finished playing.

We still identify with JV’s success, even though he has gone on to play for one of the best teams in baseball. When we watch him dominate in Houston, we nod our heads. That’s the JV we remember. The no-hitters. The Cy Young Award (soon). The strikeouts. The fire. The electricity. Everything that we remember most about JV, he is building on and repeating with the Astros.

The highlights for Tiger fans in 2019? All things Justin Verlander.


Well, how can I say that? You can’t speak for all Tiger fans!  Maybe there is something in Detroit that captured their attention more than what some ex-Tiger is doing.


Well, if that’s the case, I would love to hear what it is. Because of the goals of our owner, we are being robbed of watching our new team develop. Nothing is developing.  Nothing is improving.  So fans may gravitate towards the players who used to be here. The players still making the headlines.

And no one is continuing to make headlines more than JV.

He went to Houston and immediately won his ring.  And after another great season in 2018, the Astros wisely gave him a contract extension.

And in 2019, he has repaid them by eclipsing 20 victories, becoming a slam dunk candidate for the Cy Young Award (and maybe an outside shot at the MVP) and 300+ strikeouts!

And the culmination of all of this outside of reaching 3,000 strikeouts for his career, could mean another ring given the Astros head into the playoffs with the game’s best record.

Never before has a Tiger left Detroit and continued to be so lauded for his personal achievements in another town.  One of our own has left Detroit and his train has kept on rolling.

In Houston, he has become a better pitcher. He has rolled back the clock and looks the same today or even better than the days when he was dominating hitters in Detroit.

In just 3 short seasons, Justin’s big years in Detroit are now being overshadowed by what he is accomplishing in Houston.

No-hitters? Check

20-win season? Check

Compete for the Cy Young and MVP? Check

Almost everything that he did in Detroit, he has done in Houston. Except he has done one better.  He has added a ring to his incredible resume with the Astros and may grab another before his is done.

What he is building is a Hall of Fame legacy in Houston. It’s the culmination of a hugely successful career with all the boxes checked.

And if he goes into the Hall as an Astro, who are we to judge?   Don’t you expect it? Seriously, why would he wear the Old English D?

Certainly you can come up with all kinds of emotional answers, but the Astros have prolonged his career and the way he looks, the end doesn’t appear to be remotely close. And meanwhile, every day, Detroit becomes a more distant memory.

47-114.

When we are dealing with that kind of season, why wouldn’t our attention shift to what once was great in Detroit?  The memories that we have of JV as a Tiger cannot be taken away from us.  But they can certainly be overshadowed when he eclipses them in another city.


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MIGGY SAYS NO TO AREPAS … WHY NOW? WHY EVER?

By:  Kurt Snyder

I had to find out. These arepas that Miggy talked about giving up in the off-season; I had to find out about them.

And mainly what I wondered about was the history. What are these things? Are they something new? Did they exist last year?

The reason I ask? Well, why has Miggy decided, just now, that he needs to give up the carb-loaded corn patty of goodness? Why not last off-season?

These arepas have existed for hundreds of years! This is no new habit for Miggy! So why the delay?

All joking aside, why has he decided now that losing some weight and getting into better shape is actually a pretty darn good idea? Knowing full well the state of his knee, why didn’t he choose to get in better shape before this season?

Miggy could have shown us a lot this year by putting in the effort to really get in the best shape of his life. And from a leadership standpoint, it would have shown us something. Miggy would have turned heads having committed himself to a team expected to struggle mightily in 2019.

But he didn’t do it. And it’s been disappointing. It’s been disappointing all season to see him, not in the greatest shape, struggling with that knee. But hey, he didn’t prepare. He set himself up for more failure than there had to be.

For good reason, he did hear it from the fans. It was the consensus among most, including our readers, that he wasn’t doing himself any favors by carrying that much weight on a wounded knee.

His response?


“As for my weight, throughout my career, I’ve been criticized for that — that I weigh too much, that I’m out of shape. It’s the same story every year.”


Well, if he doesn’t want to hear it from the fans, then at the very least, he needs to have a sense of obligation; to show us that he cares. But he didn’t do that this year.

So now, after mentioning a number of weeks ago about all the flack he gets about his weight, he has now discovered that we were all right to begin with; the man has dedicated himself to getting in better shape, to losing weight in the off-season.

Suddenly it’s his idea! Can anyone go for an apology?  (or an arepa? – is that singular?)


“He has to take a little bit a weight off that knee,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That’s what the trainers have said. That will probably help it. He’s going to work hard, try to lose weight and see if that will help.”


Wow, what a great idea.

Oh, and the arepas – they look darn good. If he has been dining regularly on those when he goes to Venezuela, well, someone please …turn him away at the border!

History tells us that people used to eat them plain or just on their own. But, the more popular they became, people began adding fillings!  And who knows what Miggy was filling them with?

(Sorry – food is one of my favorite topics.)

These arepas can be eaten at any time of the day? What’s better than that?

A main dish or a side dish!   (Make it stop!)

In the end, all we want from our franchise player is a serious commitment to the team  paying him, the town and the fans who have cheered him for so many years.

Because I know one thing, if Miggy doesn’t act like he cares, Tigers fans will have no problem feeling the same way. Many are there already.

And when Miggy doesn’t care – arepas come calling.

So I guess they are like a tostada.

…where’s my grocery list?


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NOT QUITE A WRAP FOR JZ

By:  Kurt Snyder

The reader reaction to the latest start by Jordan Zimmermann was strong and clear. Everyone is done with JZ.

It wasn’t a performance we haven’t seen before, but the numbers were for sure. Nine runs, 11 hits, in 3 2/3rd innings of work. They earned him the distinction of his worst start of the season.

In what could have been his final start of  2019, it appeared to be the final straw for so many fans and so many readers. They can’t tolerate the thought of another season with Zimmermann.

However, at long last,  it is the final year of his contract, so we can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the Tigers, when it comes to one of the worst free agent signings in their history.

Yes, Jordan will bank another $25M. And yes, he was inundated with injuries in each of his 4 years with Detroit so far. And they have ruined him. More than anything, the situation with his neck was a red flag from the beginning. It was something the Tigers downplayed, but just the description of the problem caused major concern, at least on this site.

So, Jordan has been dealing with it. And dealing with other injuries as well. But this isn’t his fault. The Tigers need to learn from this.

Age 29 free agent signings are extremely risky, especially for pitchers. And analytics certainly play a part in determining the value of players when they are looking to sign for big money. They have put the brakes on so many would-be signings. And when I say would-be, I mean most of these players who have had big careers heading towards their 30’s, have been snapped up pretty quickly in the past.

And Jordan Zimmermann was one of those players. At the time it seemed like a safe signing and I remember saying so on this site. He was billed as a solid #2 pitcher in the rotation. A workhorse. A lunch-bucket carrying, blue-collar guy. Perfect for Detroit.

And we saw that for almost half a season in 2015 when he arrived. But the rest since, has been a disaster.

So how will the Tigers learn? When we get free of JZ and continue beyond this rough patch, what criteria will the Tigers use to sign players again? Well, besides learning from the rest of the league, what they did in signing Zimmermann is everything they can’t do again.

Long-term deals for pitchers heading into their 30’s can’t happen again. In hindsight, JZ’s numbers did show evidence of a career slowing down in just the last 2 years before he was signed. But even with that, the Tigers felt they were being responsible staying away from the high-priced aces and searching the 2nd tier of starters instead.

That’s how it was sold to us and knowing what the Tigers needed in another starter, we pretty much bought it. And the rest is history. What the Tigers thought was a safe signing, turned out to be anything but.

So, we have endured 4 years of a failed signing with 1 more year to go. And our readers have been clear in their disdain for even 1 more year of JZ in the Tiger uniform. They are calling for a release.

Write the check. Let Chris sign it. Send a moving truck to Jordan’s house and be done him. That’s the conclusion everyone wants. But it’s not the conclusion they are going to get.

But why?

Well, the Tigers are in no position to do it. They aren’t ready to do it. They don’t have young pitchers banging down the door at Comerica looking to storm the starting rotation. So as much as dumping Zimm would make us feel good, it really doesn’t make any sense.

I won’t entertain the notion that maybe he will pitch better next season, raising his value. If he didn’t have the chronic neck condition, then I would make a case for the value argument. The fact is, he has the issue. And it is always lingering. And even when it isn’t causing pain, you have to suspect that is causes some weakness.

He doesn’t have the command he had when he arrived. His stuff doesn’t have the bite it had either. He’s about 30% of the pitcher he had been. The man is pretty much finished. And I would expect him to retire after next season.

We learned a lot over the weekend about what our readers were thinking now that Jordan was 1-12 and giving up more than 6 runs per nine innings. That stat is really the one that’s the most maddening of all. And I’m not talking about the 1-12 record.

That earned run average of almost 7, as you know, is measured over the course of nine innings. JZ has rarely made it to the 5th inning and has walked off the mound plenty of times in the 3rd and 4th inning headed for the showers.

Unfortunately, you are not going to see less of that in 2020. His fifth year in Detroit will serve as a final reminder of what not to do when signing pitchers.    It’s just not worth the trip again.


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HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON – AND WAIT

By:  Kurt Snyder

So who’s still watching? Are you? Or you? And why? People are evidently done going to the games, but who is still watching?

I can’t include myself in this discussion because I have to watch, as painful as it is.  But bear with me,  I would like to speak for our readers for a minute.  And if this isn’t how you feel, please let me have it!


This is about you, our readers and apparently, our watchers. You folks are the ones still clinging, still hanging by a thread in the Tigers’ corner. In baseball’s corner.

As the season draws to a close, I can’t think of a single thing that Tiger fans have to hang their hat on when it comes to the ‘rebuild’ and the state of our progression, such that it is.

You can hunt and peck for the positives, but outside of a couple exceptions, we find ourselves seeing little progress and I’m bothered by it. I am bothered because we continually find ourselves including our Tigers among the ranks of the teams rebuilding. We keep catching ourselves, because in the end, it’s still a mystery. What are Chris I’s intentions?

We continually compare what he is doing with the organization versus the other rebuilding teams, and in every case, we lag behind. But considering that no one rooting for the Tigers can be absolutely sure that the intent is to rebuild, we can’t possibly buy in and study what could be a fascinating time.

A rebuild done properly can be fascinating and in a sadistic sort of way, fun. Yes, even this could be fun for the kind of Tiger fans we are who have invested so much of our time loving the game, learning the game and now searching for different ways to stay entertained. Because it is different now.

We have continually beaten the drum here at Totally Tigers about what we believe is coming.  All signs point to a sale of the club.  And if we are right, it is just a waiting game for us. And it is hard to watch not knowing what’s really ahead.

I think it was a very good sign when the Royals, almost out of nowhere, were sold. Baseball doesn’t exactly have a great reputation as a growing sport right now. There are so many questions about its viability that it is good to hear there are still actual suitors for these teams interested in selling.

As fans we have to keep thinking ‘sale’ as we evaluate our team, because if we don’t, it just becomes more and more maddening to follow. Just think about our topic yesterday.

Our hitting coach.

Why is he still here? Well, if we kept thinking ‘sale,’ aren’t the answers easier to deal with? We have to put the pause button on this franchise because that’s exactly what our owner is doing.   The brakes have been put on progress, regardless of what Chris says.

Every transaction (and there aren’t many) has everything to do with low cost investment. And if we get lucky and find a talented needle in the haystack, well, then Chris and the boys can pat each other on the back, while laughing, of course.

Chris Ilitch, in speaking with the media this week, was his usual guarded self. Fake enthusiasm, no real concrete information about a plan or what’s next. Frankly, I’m not really sure how he determines when to speak and what to say,  Because really, it’s pointless.

His positive spin on a rebuild that arguably doesn’t exist yet, is fairly insulting. But I guess we all know that they really can’t come out and say we are for sale and for that reason, doing a rebuild the right way requires new ownership to tear things down to the studs.

Yes, they could say the team is much more valuable as a low-cost organization, which is where we have been headed and what we continue to work towards as we move forward.

They could say all that. And the Tigers would actually gain a lot more respect coming clean. In the meantime, we will continue to be tugged from different directions.

Chris is on one end with that ‘rebuild’ flag in the air and Totally Tigers is on the other end, trying desperately to prove that the team is playing games with us.

Wins and losses aside … this may go down as one of the most frustrating seasons to follow, all because of the uncertain picture that every game and report and interview paints for us.

Don’t buy it for a second. Don’t buy it any longer. If the rebuild was real, it wouldn’t look like this.


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BEST OF A BAD LOT

By:  Kurt Snyder

The Detroit media is at it again and they need to give it a rest. It’s their job to pour sugar and spice and everything nice all over the Tigers. But geez, give us a little credit!

It’s perfectly fine to recognize players who  have shown some progress this season and there are a couple. But there hasn’t been nearly enough progress to reach an impactful level.

Young and impactful still hasn’t run out on that field and taken a position. Victor Reyes has found his name a lot in the press lately and I guess he has earned a notice. He has progressed to the point where he will contend for one of the outfield positions next spring. And that’s a big deal for him personally. It’s just not big enough to go out and tell your friends.

Harold Castro has been a player who has stood out as someone who is picking things up a little quicker than the average Tiger. He seems composed, doesn’t look scared, seems to know what he’s doing, has a future. The reality? Again, he will contend for either an outfield or an infield position.

There won’t be any ‘you gotta see this guy play,’ kind of talk at the office about any of these players on the Tigers right now. None. Mainly because there just aren’t any players who deserve that kind of attention. You could say it’s too early in the process, but the Tigers are not the only player in this rebuild game.

The Orioles and Royals are 2 teams in it with them, but certainly further along in developing stars or soon to be impactful players.

Players who the media want us to notice are only playing because there isn’t anyone else to push them aside. I believe when the Tigers let James McCann walk away, fans didn’t feel they were losing much, especially with Jake Rogers making some noise in the minor leagues.

And when Grayson Greiner got hurt, the Comerica Park doors opened for Mr. Rogers. And what we’ve learned is that he is far from ready for this neighborhood. Jake was billed as a prospect with elite ability at the catcher position, but needed more development with the bat.

Well, he has been average behind the plate and abyssal in the box. It is certainly no time to talk about him with any kind of glowing endorsement. If you ask me, he is a Double A talent at this stage. He has been forced on us and that’s not fair. To him or to us.

Given the infancy of this rebuild, players with Double A talent shouldn’t be sniffing the majors. And Jake, in my eyes, doesn’t deserve a spot ahead of Grayson Greiner. So if you thought we were covered at catcher after McCann left, well, think again, there is no one there. Not yet. No one impactful.

And the Detroit media isn’t done when it comes to hyping players on this year’s Tigers. Remember, our favorite Fox Sports Detroit boys are part of the media as well and they worked up a lather as well over Monday night’s winning pitcher.

Tyler Alexander, after winning his first game as a major league hurler is now considered a legitimate candidate for the Tiger starting rotation next season. That’s all it took!

This is a guy who, after the game, talked about how wins and losses isn’t really one of his favorite stats. He admittedly doesn’t win much and seemed uncomfortable with the notion that he had done anything special.

He started a game against the worst team in baseball not named the Tigers.  And he won.  Someone always does.  Are you going to be talking about him tomorrow?  Or even in an hour?  Not likely.  But FSD has now made him a candidate for the 2020 starting rotation.

He was lauded for the pace at which he pitches, which I must say is very much appreciated. Other than that, the bottom line is, he may have a shot at a roster spot next season.   It’s a fair assessment.  No one is asking for more.

I don’t like sugar-coating anything. I will never be accused of it. And I certainly won’t sweeten anything that’s already unnecessarily sticky.

Realizing we have little talent doesn’t mean we should make it up. Even if there were players who have been tearing it up for the last couple months; until they show they can do it for an entire season, it would be guarded optimism.

But the bottom line is – we don’t have to worry because no one is that encouraging. Yes, players stand out. I hope so!  If not, we are even worse off than we thought.

What we need more than anything is for this season to end. Maybe next year, the next batch of ‘talent’ will turn our heads a little quicker.

In the meantime, we have to put up with a group of writers and broadcasters trying hard to make more of players than they deserve or have yet to earn.

And don’t forget our owner, who is closer to being a member of the media than he realizes, when he talks about the great strides the team has made. How about a little respect, Chris!

But I guess we can’t expect respect from an owner who references conversations with his 9-year old when talking about how to explain progress to the fan base.

Luckily, we won’t hear from him again until spring training.


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