By: Kurt Snyder
As fast as January came, it went away just as fast as you could say, ‘I’m frozen and I can’t feel my fingers!’
I said it in January and it certainly bears repeating; this has all the makings of a very difficult year going forward – seemingly more difficult than the last. And these next few years will test the patience and loyalty of all of us. What has not changed is our drive to follow all of it.
All thoughts while contemplating thoughts from the first month of 2019 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.
1. Welcome to year 2 of The Cold Stove League, where teams have spent almost the entire off-season trying to restart the pilot light. I don’t know about you but I have pretty much lost all my enthusiasm over who will sign Harper and Machado. The saga has turned from intriguing to boring, where I no longer care about where they end up, only when it’s over.
2. Miguel Cabrera’s paternity case was settled in January. Now maybe he can focus more on baseball instead of all the distractions around him. Miggy is the only Tiger who has the ability to put fans in the seats all by himself.
3. With the reporting of pitchers and catchers to spring training camp being the next big milestone heading into the new season, 2 players immediately come to mind. Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris. Fulmer will need to prove that he is healthy and capable being the ace of the staff again. Daniel Norris will need to prove that he is healthy and capable of maturing mentally. He has had plenty of injuries but none worse than what bothers him between the ears. (Holdover from January – Michael and Daniel are one of 3 pitchers, including Jordan Zimmermann, who will garner the most attention).
4. I did not attend TigerFest this season. It’s the first time I thought about going but then thought better of it. I weighed the positives and negatives and the result was a shutout. How about you, readers? Did you go? And why or why not?
5. Do you feel robbed of the positives associated with a typical rebuild? Do you feel a decade-long drought coming for the Tigers given their lack of qualified people to lead it? Why us? How fun must it have been in Chicago when the Cubs organization got tired of losing and focused on building a winner? It was a calculated and structured rebuild which started at the top. The best of the best were brought in to lead and it was pretty to watch. Not here. No such luck.
6. A comment hit home the other day. It was regarding JaCoby Jones and his battle to improve at the plate. The message? Where can he go for help? Lloyd McClendon has kept his job despite developing no one in his position. He is just Jim Leyland away from being canned, which means he’s not going anywhere. We ask the best from our hitters but we won’t hire the best to help them.
7. How mad must Nick Castellanos have been when Al Avila decided to tell the world that there just isn’t any interest in him? Nothing is going on. Do you think Al sits back and realizes how much damage he does to his negotiating power when he speaks?
8. My take on Matt Shepherd? He did an admirable job under one of the more difficult set of circumstances after Mario and Rod were let go. Meanwhile, he had all these other fingers in the broadcasting pie, from Eastern Michigan football to University of Michigan basketball among others. I will be intrigued to see how he improves when he doesn’t have so much on his plate. Given that, we should grow to like him if you don’t like him already.
9. The Tigers (and FSD) apparently received over 100 applicants for the 2 vacant broadcast positions. I would love to see that list. As for Holly and I, we didn’t apply but we did get a call. As soon as we told them we were a good team but have never met, they hung up. Weird. (Holdover for January, just because I think it’s so darn funny! Kurt high fives self…)
10. Last season, Eric Hosmer signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres. This year, the Padres are making a run at Bryce Harper. However, Harper will more than likely choose someone else. The difference? Hosmer has his ring. His reward? Playing in San Diego. Ian Kinsler won his ring last year with the Red Sox. This season, he signs with San Diego.
11. The 2018 season may be over, but I still never got used to those new hats. God help the Olde English D! (Holdover from December. Why? Those caps are history! See, sometimes teams do hear the fans!)
12. Speaking of the Olde English D, it was an obvious marketing ploy last season to change the caps, so fans would head out to get the absolute latest attire. I would love to know how many people actually bought those hats. I would say very few, thus the change back to something more tolerable.
13. The e-tickets for home games are completely tailored to the younger fan. And for the older fan who has stuck with the team through thick and thin? The message is to suck it up. This means my ticket collection has definitely taken a hit. But I do understand that things like this must evolve. It’s the future.
14. The Tigers are so due when it comes to a position player emerging as a star out of the minor leagues. Daz Cameron appears to have the best shot at being that player. And it’s where the Tigers need one; in that outfield, with speed, defense and athleticism. And he can hit. Hopefully he has enough talent to make it happen at the next level. And soon. (Holdover – he is the most intriguing talent and one of the most important to the future. Yeah, this still stays for January.)
15. Nick Castellanos, like last season, had a tremendous September, coming up just shy of hitting .300 for the season. He is now a rising star at the plate who should garner more trade talk than ever this off-season. Should we trade him? Well, we should listen, but according to Al, there is nothing to listen to. (Holding this over until Bryce Harper signs, that’s when Castellanos will get more interest and the market will be set.)
16. Given the Tigers poor performance at the plate last season, do you think Ron Gardenhire was allowed to approach the subject of his hitting coach? He couldn’t hire his own and now he can’t get rid of the guy he was given. How much does Al Avila say, ‘you have to ask Jim.’ (Holdover from December and never more relevant of a topic than now.)
17. In year’s past, I made it a point to defend Jim Leyland whenever anyone would take shots at him. Hey, Jim: I can’t defend you anymore, you have taken the franchise hostage. You have put the brakes on progress and I am mad as hell!
18. Speaking of Leyland, it becomes a little embarrassing when you consider all the coaches and players in place who have ties to Jim. Gardenhire / McClendon / Mercer and maybe, just maybe Al Avila, who was around during Leyland’s days managing in Florida. I know there’s more, but it makes my stomach turn to continue. (Dave Clark? – excuse me for a minute while I …)
19. With all this underlying dysfunction, we will be challenged to stay positive. So hopefully you will understand that we are not in the business of blowing sunshine up your ‘you know what.’ Occasionally, we will clear the air, because sometimes you just have to laugh. I tried it with Saturday’s ‘D’ survey, but I couldn’t get anyone to crack a smile. Tough crowd!
20. With December and January in the books, we move closer to a season that is going to be tough to take. Somehow, someway, I have to find a way to ignore the boys making the decisions, and focus more on the players who have a chance to be good. No easy task. (Holdover because this should be the mantra for the season and beyond. In the end, we are all in this ship together because we love the game.)
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