THE YEAR OF THE PITCHER

By:  Kurt Snyder

Did you know there was a time when the only purpose of the pitcher in baseball was to initiate putting the ball in play? For awhile, they only threw underhand and there were no balls and strikes. The batter didn’t have to swing until he saw something he liked. Talk about long games!

After many years of dominant offense and pitchers throwing 200-300 pitches a game, the pitcher’s mound was instituted and it rose to 15 inches in height until 1968. The reason? Pitching dominated and hitting was weak. The game was not as exciting for fans, unless you were a fan of low scoring, pitching dominated games, which, oh, by the way, to the purest of fans, is entertaining as well. But those fans were in the minority and Major League Baseball needed to act.

So 1968 was considered The Year of the Pitcher; the last season of the 15-inch mound. Major League Baseball said ‘enough.’  The mound was lowered 5 inches, which is where it sits today.

This season, the Tigers celebrate their 50-year anniversary of the 1968 World Championship, when they completed an improbable comeback from a 3-1 series deficit, despite the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson looking like he could win the title all by himself. The dominance of Gibson and several others, necessitated the mound change. Baseball had become stale.

So here we are, 50 years later. And it may be time again.

Pitching is dominant. Offense is down and strikeouts are up. The games are long and again, to the new fan and all the fans the game needs to draw, the game is stale and boring.

Sure, we have offensive players who are hitting the ball out of the park and with the emphasis on launch angle ravaging the game, players are bound to strike out more as they focus on getting the ball up in the air and out of the park. This approach naturally has turned offensive baseball into ‘all or nothing.’

So the issues with today’s game is more than just about mound height. But after 50 years and a precedent that has been set, lowering the mound again could inject some juice into the game and gain more attention from the new fan.

I watched a game between the Red Sox and the Phillies last week, and the mound height was discussed. One of the announcers questioned why we even have a pitcher’s mound. Well, there is a lot of history behind it, which I hope he researched after the game.

He said, (paraphrased), we never had a mound in Little League when we were growing up!

Well, let’s not get crazy and decide that we don’t need a pitcher’s mound at all. We don’t want to kill pitchers. We don’t want to totally strip them of any ability to get batters out. But after 50 years, if the game is waning, and the search continues for better and more interesting play, along with the ever-popular pace of play discussion, let’s lower the mound again.

How much is anyone’s guess, but it appears the game needs it. I have always been of the mind that we need to be careful with the changes we make to the game. And we do. But I also understand that the game must evolve.

If every 50 years, baseball needs a facelift, so be it.  Let’s get on with it.


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CELEBRATE WHAT MAKES YOU SMILE

By:  Kurt Snyder

It’s official. Victor Martinez has announced that this will be the final year of his fine baseball career.

It is a career that should be celebrated. It is the big picture reflection many have forgotten.

A lot of the attention has been focused on how he should no longer be in the lineup, how the Tigers’ contract extension should never have been offered, how his diminished skills have potentially stifled the development of someone else and also how winning organizations like the Yankees would never invest any more time in someone who contributes very little at the end of their career.

We have heard all of it. We have discussed all of it. But for me, it is time to put it all aside and celebrate what he has done for the Tigers.

During all the winning, VMart stood high as one of the leaders on the field and in the clubhouse. His work ethic was a model for all the younger guys on the team. The way he battled at the plate, never giving in, always grinding, always focused, made him a leader on the field. An example of how to play the game. Never giving less than his very best.

I can throw stats at you, but that’s not my role here. Those are at your fingertips all over the web. We have to glorify the game by recognizing greatness and not forget the contributions players have made. And there is no better time to do that than when those good times have to come to an end.

Mike Ilitch, right or wrong, respected Victor Martinez for the role he played with this baseball team. As a leader. As a battler. As a fighter. As a winner. Plus, the duo of Miggy and VMart was one of baseball’s best offensive combinations.

Could he have spent more wisely on a replacement, someone younger or perhaps cheaper? Absolutely, but Mike loved to reward players, and treated them like family, only discarding them when they didn’t return the loyalty he showed them.

He made emotional decisions. And even with that, re-signing Victor to the 4-year deal, was still popular. There are those of you who will dispute and that’s fine.

In hindsight, it did, in time, hurt the ballclub.  But Ilitch’s intentions were always good. If you were able to ask him today if he thought he made a mistake re-signing Victor, we all know what the answer would be.

Mike was a confident man, committed to his team and loyal to his players. No decision he ever made, including the acquisition of Prince Fielder, would be viewed as a mistake in his eyes. He valued every moment he got, no matter how long, no matter how short.

To watch Victor in the lineup today, almost as one of the last stars standing, one of the last stars still here, has been sad. But in our hearts and in our minds, we remember.

How great has he  been for this organization?   He has brought immeasurable value.

Brad Ausmus, on the other hand,  brought out the worst in him.  In fact, VMart’s interactions with him were cringe-worthy.  There were puzzling moments under Brad that made Victor unrecognizable.  But, it’s hard to be a leader and respect a manager who had no grasp for the concept.

Those were the bumps in the road that must not define Victor Martinez. Let his best define him. Because at his best, he represented this team like no other, and his best should never be forgotten.

Oh, and one more thing.

Remember. We almost signed Adam Dunn instead.


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A NIGHTMARE ON THE HORIZON?

By:  Kurt Snyder

It was a great day for Tiger baseball on Sunday. Jack Morris saw his number retired and was overwhelmed by the experience. Alan Trammell will be next in less than 2 weeks.

And then we wait. Who will be next?

You probably thought I would spend today spreading Tiger sunshine about the number retirement of Morris, but incredibly, that has been overshadowed just a hair.

The campaigning for Lou Whitaker will continue of course, but what does the future hold for potential Tiger Hall of Famers over the next decade?

Miggy will certainly punch his Hall of Fame ticket when his career is done in Detroit. Several years have been ravaged by injuries and he must continue to fight his own body on the way to the Hall.   That is the hand he has been dealt.

But what about JV?

We can’t so quickly turn the page on Sunday’s Totally Tigers topic. Justin Verlander opened up a can on the Tigers’ mismanagement of his injuries, and Holly didn’t gloss over it.  She kicked that can around the block and back and gave the story more life than the Detroit papers were willing to give.


The ramifications.

The response.

The future.

All of it is up in the air after JV’s bombshell of a revelation about how his career almost came to an end in Detroit. Little did we know that JV felt the same way as many Tiger fans.

Didn’t we all think he was close to done? Well, now we know that he thought so as well.  The Tigers were doing very little to help put the brakes on a career careening over a cliff.

So what do the Tigers do now? Will they do anything with their training staff? Don’t they have a responsibility to act? Aren’t they obligated, now that JV has undressed them, to quickly scramble to fix a wrong?

As they continue to clean house and bring in new players, the house cleaning must include a systemic overhaul of their training staff. This is no joke, kids. Justin’s revelation was no exaggeration. And as a result, there should be legitimate concerns within the organization and among the fan base on a number of fronts – the Hall of Fame, for one.

As Justin Verlander’s career continues, he is looking more and more like a Hall of Famer. We weren’t sure for a while, but more awards and accolades appear to be waiting for him on the Houston horizon; opportunities that never seemed possible just 3 years ago.

So what does your head tell you on this?  Have you considered how damaging this whole saga could be? How much animosity does Justin have for the Tigers over how he was treated the last few years of his career in Detroit? It could change the course of what many assumed was a no-brainer, that JV would be enshrined in the Hall as a Tiger. It’s at risk now.

Seriously, the more post-Detroit success he has, the good times he had here may fade into the distance and only the bad will linger. His Houston experience has been amazing. He has only gotten better since he left, and is perhaps on the verge of another Cy Young Award and potentially more World Championships.

When it is all said and done and his playing days are over, he will have time to reflect on where the apex of his career was realized and where his legacy was cemented.

Sadly, the answer may not be Detroit. I can see him on the podium in Cooperstown, reflecting on his career, thanking the Tigers for drafting him, thanking the fans, thanking Mike Ilitch.

But that may be where it all stops. The Tigers nearly ruined Justin Verlander. And they may pay one day when one of the best pitchers in the history of Detroit baseball, chooses another hat to wear should the Hall of Fame come calling.


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ANYONE READY? NOT YET

By:  Kurt Snyder

You need only look at the Tigers’ lineup after another shutout loss to determine how far into the rebuild the franchise has travelled.

Arguably you could say the rebuild hasn’t begun at all, not until the teardown is complete. And really, in the first season of non-competitive baseball, it’s up to you to decide whether this is normal business or not.

The Tigers have gone through 1 of 2 deadlines to accomplish more of the purging of the roster. One deadline has passed and another approaches at the end of August.

The acquisitions of Leonys Martin and Mike Fiers accomplished exactly what the team intended. They saw value in these guys at a lower point in their careers, hoping for a revival of sorts in the interests of increasing their value for an eventual trade. Mission accomplished.

Both players are now gone. They had good seasons with the Tigers and will be key components for their new teams during the pennant race. In return, the Tigers received unknowns.

We don’t know what we have or what more we will receive. We have added a shortstop prospect and PTBNLs. They represent players you will not see in Detroit this season.

Last season, the Tigers shed some big stars in return for prospects. We have not seen any of them in Detroit this season and may or may not see them next season.

Since the Fiers deal a few days ago, both Francisco Liriano and Jose Iglesias have cleared waivers, so they could be traded anytime between now and the end of the month.

So 2018 continues to be another year of the purge. Anyone the Tigers have received in trades are like baby chicks waiting to be hatched. No one is ready for big league baseball.  Not yet.

And the task now gets tougher, because the Tigers have little value left to deal. Liriano and Iglesias may leave, but after that, outside of Castellanos, where is the trade bait?

We know what the Tigers have not been doing in the early stages of this project. Only marginal spending has taken place.  And it will be something they will need to continue to do next season in order to fill spots. And if they do indeed spend, they will be 1-year stopgap signings, just like this season.

Also, evaluation of the roster will continue to determine pillars of the team. If there are players left on this roster that fail the evaluation process between now and the end of the season and show little sign of being part of the future, as pillars; they must be gone.  If players continue to hold spots on this team who have no future here or hold no real trade value,  that’s when we as fans and writers will question the intentions.

Nick Castellanos should continue to be on the block. He’s not a pillar. The franchise is deep in young catching and James McCann has shown only glimpses of a future, which isn’t enough, so he is not a pillar.

And continuing up the middle of the field, where teams are built, you have a second baseman who may be the utility pillar every team needs (Goodrum) and they have a shortstop (Iggy) who will be shopped.

In centerfield, JaCoby Jones has the defense to someday be a gold-glover, but will his bat keep him on the field enough to qualify? And if not, is Mike Gerber the future in center? Or is he a corner outfield candidate, while the Tigers wait to see if Daz Cameron is really a major league talent?

This is the state of the Tigers up the middle. No real answers, but I don’t think you can expect many at this point in the process.

The starting pitching has been ravaged by injury and trades, so for the future, look for more 1-year signings of pitchers, for the same purpose that Liriano and Fiers were acquired. To fill gaps and showcase potential trade value.   There are young pitchers at the farm we all hope we will start to see in Detroit in 2019, but that’s all it is … hope.

So your Tigers are a team inundated with holes yet to be filled with pillars of the future. There certainly are candidates for those pillars in the minor leagues, but not all will make the grade.

Next year should be a different kind of team, where more names will change and state their cases. Not real exciting, but a different kind of ugly and of course, more losing.


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FACING TIGERS IS A PITCHER’S DREAM

By:  Kurt Snyder

One question. Yeah right!  One of many.

Has everyone had enough of Lloyd McClendon?

Did the Tiger offense reach a new low in Oakland?

Even in a rebuild, is the pressure off the coaches?

Are they only as good as the players they have in the lineup or do they have a responsibility to have an impact?

Who has improved as a hitter this season? Seriously, who has improved?  Who is better now than they were when the season started?

At what point do you decide to head in a different direction when it comes to your hitting coach?

How many times does a team have to be shutout before we consider the notion that the hitting coach is stinking up a perfectly good uniform?

Are 15 shutouts this season enough? Is that enough for you?

Or was 12 enough last season? Was that enough?

Should the Tigers consider a new hitting coach after being shut out 27 times in 2 years? And that is to-date.  We have most of August and September left to play.


Hey, I get that the lineup has become severely depleted. The task has been tougher this season.  But last season, when the team had many of their offensive stars still with them (until end of July / Aug), they were still shutout a dozen times.

At this point, you would think McClendon would just quit over embarrassment, knowing full well he only has a job because Jim Leyland wants him to have one.

McClendon finished 4th in the AL Manager of the Year voting in 2014 in his first year in Seattle.  Maybe what the Tigers should have done was to have hired his hitting coach.  But upon further review, the Mariners were shut out 19 times during Lloyd’s big season.

Rod Allen likes to call him Legendary Lloyd. Why?  We just don’t know.  Does Rod see value in Lloyd, or does he just think it’s a cool little nickname?  How about we just put them both in the same Uber car and ride their butts out of town.

Before the season, Ron Gardenhire was handed the keys to the manager’s office, but wasn’t given the authority to hire his own staff. His pitching coach, not his choice, is no longer with the team.  His hitting coach, Legendary Lloyd, is only here because Gardy’s friend, Jim Leyland, no doubt insisted that he stay.  Again, not Gardy’s choice.

Imagine how comfortable Leyland is, having all his friends here to watch the franchise head into a deep freeze.

Is Chris Ilitch not clear on what a rebuild is all about? Is he not clear about what causes a team to head in that direction, when the franchise must start over?

Who holds over coaches when a new manager comes in? Who holds over a manager when a new GM comes in?  And what owner holds over a GM when the team is heading in the wrong direction and bracing for a rebuild?

Well, apparently the Tigers do.

Shutout after shutout after shutout after shutout – 27 of them in 2 seasons. Lloyd McClendon is the modern-day Darryl Rogers, the old Lions coach who wondered, “what does a guy have to do to get fired around here?”

This is an easy one, Al or Jim or Chris, whomever the heck it is who’s in charge of this mess. Hire yourself a new hitting coach!  Someone to instill the correct principles in these younger guys who are still impressionable and are sponges looking to learn.

I wonder if they feel the instruction they are getting at the major league level is a step up from what they received in the minors. That’s a question for both the team execs and the players seeing the major leagues for the first time.

The Tigers changed managers and held over coaches from a failed regime. Who does that and how does an owner and GM let other internal forces have so much power?

I want to yell at the guy responsible but I am not completely sure who that is.  Not blaming it all on Leyland.  Just the guys who keep him employed.

In the meantime, opposing pitchers will drool in anticipation as games versus the Tigers approach on the schedule.


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20 JULY THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Well, that was quick. All season long, the road to the trade deadline was a milestone for which to prepare. And July especially was a countdown unto itself. So let’s talk about the month of in our own special way.

All thoughts while contemplating the month are captured here. Holdovers are topics we need to continue to follow and ponder, and are necessary in the compilation of 20 more monthly thoughts, of course, for your pleasure.

So today, I bring you … 20 July Thoughts! Let’s begin.


1. In a season of rebuilding, the month of July has brought one very historic highlight for the Tigers, the enshrinement of 2 Hall of Famers. Cheers to Tram and Jack!

2. How good do the Indians have it? They couldn’t have asked for an easier set of teams to dominate as the Central includes Cleveland and 4 teams rebuilding. Can you remember another year like this in any division? The biggest question I have is will the Tribe be battle-tested enough to turn it on when playoff time arrives?

3. The jury is in on Nick Castellanos. No team found enough value in him to consider trading anyone for a one-dimensional player. Who can honestly say they are surprised?

4. Castellanos made the MLB highlights with his performance on Canada Day (July 1st), against the Blue Jays. The highlights? A grand slam and a great catch … yep, a great catch that he horribly misplayed but recovered, after almost spinning himself into the ground. The defense of course is what will make the difference between a good trade or maybe no trade at all at the end of the month. (This was a holdover, sort of, and we all know now that there was no trade. And Nick has to wonder what his future holds as his career continues.)

5. One of the most impactful events of the month was the oblique injury to Michael Fulmer. It was disastrous for a team who lost their most valuable commodity and their only high-end trade piece. His injury made his tradability non-existent. The next opportunity will be the off-season for the Tigers. For me, it took much of the starch out of any substantial trade deadline returns.

6. Where was Miggy all month? Has he been with the team?

7. Consider the acquisition of Leonys Martin a success for Al Avila and the Tigers. It was a revival of sorts for Martin as he had a very solid season in Detroit. He showed pop at the top of the lineup, added speed and excellent defense in centerfield. The fact that they were able to get a top 8 Indians prospect was an example of what rebuilds are all about.

8. Matthew Boyd has had a challenging season, with on-again and off-again performances throughout the first 4 months of the season. But you can see the tools that he has and how he is a worthwhile investment for the future.

9. As the season continues, it becomes more and more challenging to listen to the Tiger TV and radio announcers as they try to put a positive spin on things that don’t really deserve it. We all know this is a challenging time watching a once-exciting ball club turn into a losing one looking to start over. Craig Monroe in particular is someone the Tigers should consider replacing for next year. I see no value in what he brings to the broadcast and frankly, I don’t know what the team sees in him.

10. So who is still worth the price of admission for this Tiger team? Far and away, it is Jose Iglesias. And I could not be more pleased that he survived the trade deadline. Until the day he leaves Detroit, I will never grow tired of the incredible talent he puts on display every day.

11. In July, the offensive woes continued, so we had to hang our hats on a handful of great defensive plays. JaCoby Jones robbed opposing hitters of home runs with nice leaps and grabs at the fence in the outfield and Iggy did his thing at short with athletic pizzazz that never gets old.

12. What is it about Buck Farmer? He has a big arm with a live fastball, but something is missing. And I think it is between the ears and in his gut. If there is anyone out there who feels he will have a role with the team in the coming years, I would love to hear from you. (I chose this one as a holdover from June. I wouldn’t mind hearing from any interested parties on Buck. It may be a sign of how underwhelming he is out of the pen.)

13. 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. (This is a good carryover, let’s hold onto this one at least through April. Well it’s April now, so yep it’s still here. It stays through May as well, and June / July) – after the losing streak in June and a rocky July, the team is indeed heading for that 100-loss plateau.

14. JaCoby Jones took a couple of steps back offensively in June. But from my vantage point, we have to stay the course. He has never played this much in his career, and this is good for him to weather the storms and continue to play strong in the other aspects of his game until the bat perks up again, which he continues to do. (Holdover from June – Jones has a long way to go before he becomes a threat at the plate. He has the tools on the base paths to be a leadoff candidate in 2019, but he can’t be hitting under .230 in order to make that a reality.)

15. Here’s something no one expected. Victor Martinez perked up in July! Not sure how it happened, but even power returned to that listless old bat. Will wonders never cease?

16. The catching position and who plays it next season will be a fascinating topic to follow. James McCann seems to be leveling off as opposed to being a rising talent, so who will it be? Grayson Greiner certainly has an opportunity.

17. Niko Goodrum has done an admirable job at second base after it had become clear that Dixon Machado was no longer the heir apparent. Niko has shown his versatility all over the field and should return to that utility role next season.

18. Dixon Machado, in a year when he was to finally find his spot in the Tiger lineup and stay there, unfortunately may be realizing that he just doesn’t have a future as an everyday player. And if that’s the case, what does the future hold for him in Detroit. (I am holding this over just to point out that we were right about him. He gone!)

19. I find the need to remind people that Shane Greene’s value in a bullpen is not at closer, but his experience as the Tiger closer, both his successes and his failures, will make him a piece worth acquiring for a contending team heading down the stretch looking for another experienced, quality arm, able to get hitters out in the late innings. (Hold over from June. Was certainly wrong on this front and frankly, I am quite surprised the Tigers were unable to swing a deal involving Greene.)

20. To close things out, Alan Trammell appropriately acknowledged Lou Whitaker during his speech to the throngs of onlookers in Cooperstown last Sunday. Reminding everyone in attendance of their longest standing 19-year run as a double play combination was good to communicate to fans out there who maybe were not aware of the role that Lou Whitaker played in Trammell’s enshrinement.

Also in the category of things people may not have known, was that in 1976, the Tigers drafted shortstops, Alan Trammell AND Ozzie Smith! Both Hall of Famers, but only one played in Detroit.


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FEEL GOOD DAY BITTER SWEET

By:  Kurt Snyder

On Sunday, at long last, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris, were enshrined into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

What a day for them! What a day for Detroit! What a day for Tiger baseball! The enshrinement of these 2 Tiger greats formally acknowledges 2 pieces from one of the best teams in baseball history.

You know all the stats associated with that 1984 team. But who gets tired of hearing them? Well, no one in Detroit.

Wire-to-wire champions. The 35-5 start. Jack Morris’ no-hitter in the first week of the season. It was a magical year. But until now, no one from that dominant team had been recognized as one of the game’s best. It has been pure insanity.

Of course, this all comes from a life-long Tiger fan. It comes from a fan who was able to attend 60+ games during that incredible year of baseball at The Corner.

My favorite player from 1984? Kirk Gibson. He was the fire that burned so intensely, you couldn’t help but be overwhelmed. The fierceness on the base paths, the dramatic homers that sewed up the championship in October, all the brashness that he brought to the ballpark, embodied him as a man and a competitor.

Dad’s favorite player in all the years he was running Tiger Stadium? It wasn’t Al Kaline. It wasn’t even Trammell or Morris.

It was Lou Whitaker.

Dad appreciated quiet talent. Baseball is perhaps the most difficult sport. And Lou Whitaker made it look easy every day. He was a quiet, go about your business type of player. He didn’t say much. He didn’t particularly relish his time in front of the press and he often didn’t give them what they wanted. He just wanted to play and be left alone.

So when you don’t talk, people judge you. To this day, I believe it was Lou’s personality that hurt him the most. It has potentially made the difference between being a Hall of Famer and not.

But despite Whitaker’s cool relationship with the press, he was an incredible second baseman. He made the game look so easy, the word laziness actually appeared in the list of labels for one of the greatest second basemen ever to play in Detroit. He got to the ball quickly and made what should have been tough plays, look routine. His gun for an arm made what should have been bang-bang plays at first base, not even close.

For a player with such a slender build, Lou had great power at the plate, constantly smoking deep drives into the second deck in right. That short porch seemed built for him and boy, did he take advantage.

So where is Lou today? Well quite literally, he is waking up in Cooperstown, but not as a Hall of Famer, but as a man having attended the enshrinement of Jack Morris and his long time playing partner at shortstop, Alan Trammell.

It took quite a while for Trammell and Morris to make it. But who dreamed Trammell and Lou would not have been brought in together? And who thinks now that Lou will now be forever forgotten?

I have had mixed emotions since the day we heard Tram and Jack had made the cut. I’m sure I’m not alone in those emotions. The game of baseball and all it stands for, in recognizing great players, their accomplishments and their great stories, have blown it.

Trammell did his due diligence on Sunday, reminding fans in attendance, Hall of Famers in attendance and anyone who had anything to do with who gets in and who doesn’t, that he and Whitaker had been joined at the hip, from the very first day they stepped on the field together.   They dominated together, feeding off each other –  knowing every move the other would make.

The longest running double play combination in the history of the game, simply ignored by Major League Baseball. Ignored over and over and over again.

Now anyone of influence who understands the significance, will plead for Whitaker to have his Cooperstown day in the sun. Well, sorry, it’s too late. Now was the time. The opportunity was there. It was right there in front of them.

But don’t be surprised. A loyal reader reminded me on Sunday about how little Lou’s own team has done to promote him. The Tigers, too, must take a lot of blame for the omission of half of a historical combo from the Hall of Fame.

Tram and Lou joined at the hip, but not enough for baseball or the Tigers themselves, to care to recognize.


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A BUYER FOR NICK? ANYBODY OUT THERE?

By:  Kurt Snyder

It’s now countdown time.

Teams around the league, most by now, have targeted the players they would like to trade and players they would like to add.

With the trade deadline less than a week away, all eyes are on Nicholas Castellanos. But whose eyes? Well, good point. Maybe the best way to put it is – in Detroit, all eyes are on Nicholas Castellanos.

Because, aren’t we all watching him and shaking our heads?

Aren’t we dismayed by a man with a bat, but no sign of a glove? Isn’t it a shame that he is at risk of staying in Detroit?

Yeah, you heard me. Nick staying in Detroit would be a failure for him. It would be a stamp of disapproval. But who knows better than Al Avila? He knows what he has in Nick and he knows what he doesn’t. But expect him to be very aggressive in taking, well, not much.

Because if Nick emerges from the trade deadline as a Tiger, a question also emerges. Now what do we do?

Nick is a DH. He has proven it. He doesn’t have a spot in the field where he can thrive or even reach an average level of performance. It’s been talked about at great length on this site.

National League teams will not be interested in him. So if he goes, he stays in the AL, for obvious reasons. But, what is best for the Tigers?  Is this an addition-by-subtraction kind of situation?

You don’t pay handsomely for someone like him. You pay for complete packages. You pay for diverse talent. You pay for a player who can do a lot of things for your team. And none of this describes Nicholas Castellanos.

And frankly, I don’t think there is a single team in all of baseball that will want to take him on beyond this season. The Tigers may find a taker for him, but it will be for very little.

All the questions for the team revolve around what their motives will be. Are they looking for a return or are they simply looking to say goodbye?

The Tigers are sellers. They are looking for long-term answers. They need future pieces to build a championship puzzle. But I doubt they feel the return for Nick will be helpful. The goal sadly, will be simply to unload him.

It’s all part of the game of rebuilding, however. You establish who is part of your future and also who is not. The Tigers have had enough of players who have held them back, players who limit their ability to do different things, and win in different ways.

So how did we get to this point with Nick? Why is he still here?

Nick is here because he was Dave Dombrowski’s diamond in the rough. There was interest in Nick around the league early on in his career. The word was out that he projected to become a very good big league hitter, and that has proven to be true. Teams wanted him included in deals, but Dombrowski wouldn’t budge.

He was Dave’s untouchable. And ironically enough, it will now be a tough sell to get teams to want to touch him now.


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INJURIES DAMPEN DEADLINE DEALS

By:  Kurt Snyder

The worst possible July scenario for the Tigers has happened.

Any value they had to offer for quality prospects is now reduced to whatever they can get for Nick Castellanos and Shane Greene.  Nick’s defense will limit his value and Shane Greene’s stock has gone down too.  But all hell broke lose when Michael Fulmer went down.

His oblique strain now makes him untradeable. And isn’t that just perfect? He represented the Tigers’ best shot at getting real value in return. But now, that’s all done. For how long? That remains to be seen.

This new development only reinforces my position on the ‘Trade Fulmer’ side of the equation. He may win games next season, but they will be empty stats for a losing ballclub.

But right now, Fulmer’s next season is up in the air. He will recover, but will remain a ticking time bomb. You have to wonder about him even more.  Another reason to wonder about his long-term viability if he stays a Tiger. Another reason to wonder about his future value if you are a prospective trade partner.

If trade partners for Michael Fulmer have had reservations about him up until now,  this certainly impacts how they feel about him in the off-season even after his oblique has healed.

Expect them to take a step back and take a ‘wait and see’ approach until this time next season. But also expect teams to lowball the Tigers, just to see what they are willing to take.

Gauging the market in the future will continue on the Tigers’ end. He stays in Detroit for now, with more to prove to both sides. Can he stay healthy and have success on a more consistent basis when he returns to action?

For now, expect the team to shift gears and be more protective of Fulmer than ever. The controllable years in his contract just became more valuable to them; more than just a marketable part of a talented trade piece.   They can invest more time in him without an eye on the clock.

But, the injury forces the timeline to 2019. As we all know, this is still a pitcher who looks like he is an injury waiting to happen every time he throws the baseball.

He has a well-known violent delivery that appears to stress his body and his arm. I don’t question his talent. I don’t question his great arm. He is a power pitcher, but he does not possess the traits of someone who will have a long career.  Sorry, he just doesn’t.

So where does the fan base stand now on Michael Fulmer? Are there readers out there who are starting to move over to my side of the ledger? Or are there readers who stand firm in their support for him and feel these injuries don’t cause concern.

Who still believes he is the future ace of the Tigers? Who feels the team is set at that most important of positions as we continue with this rebuild?

Michael Fulmer came to Detroit with high hopes. And heading into a rebuild, he was more valuable for someone else than he is in Detroit. He was. But the window to shop their most prized possession has now been slammed shut.

Any trade is on hold and the rebuild just took a severe hit.


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MISSING PIECES OF THE PUZZLE

By:  Kurt Snyder

So did you take full advantage of the All-Star break? Did you sit back and consider where the Tigers are headed and if they are indeed on the right track?

Do we have the right leaders leading the franchise back to where we all want to be? Or have there been puzzling missteps – things that normally would not be done?


Geez, why all the questions, Kurt?

We’ll, it’s because I took a look back during the break. Way back to the beginning of the Brad Ausmus tenure, when a pattern began to form. And since I was asking myself all the same questions, I thought I would ask all of you.

Before Brad Ausmus was hired, Jim Leyland had input that he shared with Dave Dombrowski. It was a hire in a direction Dombrowski was not expected to go. With a team still loaded with talent and the ability to still compete for a championship, I still wonder why Dombrowski would choose inexperience. Who influenced him? Who advised him and what made him listen? Because it seemed like a very un-Dombrowski move.

So leave that there for second and clear your mind. You done? Ok.

Fast forward to the hiring of Al Avila. The first order of business, typically, after a firing of a GM and the hiring of a new one is the selection of a new manager. So who would Al pick to put his stamp on the team and the new direction of the ball club? Who would be the new field boss?

In the end after much deliberation (or maybe none), Brad Ausmus was retained. What? That’s Al’s first order of business? To do nothing? Was he influenced in any way? Was he advised to hold on to Brad?   And who influenced him to do it all over again a year later?

So again, leave that there for a second. Clear your mind, and let’s keep going.

After the passing of Mike Ilitch, his son Chris took over the reins of the ball club. There was one logical order of business. Establish complete control of the ballclub. Act swiftly and decisively and begin your search for a new general manager.  This was an important time correct?  It was important for the right leader to take over.

Chris knew what the plan would be. He needed to get the ball club fiscally under control. He needed an experienced GM, one of his choosing, to effectively lead the team during a very important time.

This was his opportunity to put his stamp on the ballclub, and restructure from the top down. He would rebuild. He knew he would. So of course, Chris did what? He. Did. Nothing.

Al Avila stayed in place. Brad Ausmus stayed in place, and the team moved on its merry way with the same cast of characters leading the team in a new direction.

You got that?  The same cast of characters leading a new direction.

Sounds logical right?  No, you know better. We all know better.

In 2017, it took Al a preseason filled with failed attempts to trade anyone and a failed attempt at one last shot at a title, which we all knew had no merit, before he finally, mercifully, fired Brad Ausmus.

And given everything we have discussed so far. The next natural questions go like this: Did he come up with this on his own? Who influenced him? Was it Chris Ilitch? And while we are at it, was there someone who influenced Chris?

If this feels like you are trying to put together a puzzle knowing you don’t have all the pieces, well, that kind of describes the Tiger franchise and the way in which they have begun this rebuild.

Ever find an old puzzle up at your cottage, open it up and start putting it all together?When you begin to discover that some of the pieces are lost, what is your next move? You dump it, don’t you?

Well, normally yes. But this is the new order of Tiger baseball. The puzzle is being put together, but so far it just doesn’t look right. And it’s all because, since the day Dave Dombrowski left and the day Mike Ilitch died, the Tigers have ignored the holes and pretended they weren’t there.

Sure, things have begun to improve.  Important steps have been taken behind the scenes with the development of an analytics department and some key moves in scouting.  All good stuff.  No argument here.  It’s hard to screw up everything, right?

The hole at the managerial position previously occupied by Brad Ausmus, was more appropriately filled with Ron Gardenhire.  Check.

But the franchise is still having trouble getting out of its own way.

What have we now discovered? Gardy was welcomed to town only to find out he would be limited in who he could bring on board to complete his coaching staff. He wouldn’t get to pick his pitching coach. He wouldn’t get to pick his hitting coach.
The two most important coaches on his staff were chosen by someone else.  Al Avila? Jim Leyland? I don’t know, you guess.

And so the beat goes on.  This is the new guard in Detroit,  where logic is ignored and decisions are made for you, by some man behind the curtain.


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