HURTS SO GOOD?

By:  Kurt Snyder

There are a couple of different ways you can look at all the Tiger injuries and how they are affecting this baseball team and this period of rebuilding.

Injuries plague every team at some point during a long regular season.

In many cases, they weaken a team, but in some cases they provide opportunities.

Injuries can be blessings, depending on the overall goals of the team. In the case of this Tiger team, you are seeing players get more opportunities to play given the injuries, and some are taking advantage.

Who am I talking about? Well, we can start with JaCoby Jones (hurt himself after Wednesday afternoon’s game), whose talents have been on display while he fills in for Leonys Martin, who currently sits on the 10-day DL. Jones has been so good; it will be hard to keep him out of the lineup even after the return of some of the injured regulars.

Niko Goodrum couldn’t have anticipated this much playing time when the season began.  He was filling the role vacated by Andrew Romine.  But he has filled in all over and has provided much-need power from the utility position.

John Hicks has taken advantage of Miggy’s absence, contributing to some big Tiger victories already this season, while holding down the fort at first base. Hicks has shown his ability to hit for power and also play a little small ball, winning a game with a surprise walk-off bunt single.

Hicks as a first baseman, who had been slated as the backup catcher when the season started, has now necessitated a move at that position as well. His time at first has forced the Tigers to bring up a third catcher, where Grayson Greiner has filled in quite admirably, not blinded at all by the bright lights of the big leagues. His opportunity for experience is invaluable and wouldn’t be realized this soon without the injury plague.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, whichever way you choose to look at it, injuries have also spread to the bullpen, where Alex Wilson, who carries a heavy load in the pen, is also on the DL, which has opened doors for a number of pitchers heading back and forth from Toledo. Once again, a pitchers like Zac Reininger,  who may not have gotten a chance to audition with the big club until say, September, is getting an opportunity now.

Are all these guys ready to play in the big leagues? Of course not! Not many expected to see Dawel Lugo in Detroit this season, but here he is, being added to the squad as a backup infielder in the wake of an injury to Nick Castellanos.

Mikie Mahtook, who started the season so miserably that he was sent to Toledo for a little seasoning, found his way back up here when the Tigers needed another outfielder. His first response was that he’s never leaving. He’s never going back to Toledo. I guess we will see about that, when some of these guys get healthy and are ready to return to the lineup.

Lastly, let’s not forget Pete Kozma, an under-the-radar free agent signing in the off-season, who has come up from Toledo to fill a void and has played very well offensively and defensively.

So just when you think things could really fall apart when guys are dropping like flies, they could be blessings in disguise.

No one wants anyone to get hurt, but when your team does get hit with the injury bug, it’s good to know you have people who are hungry and ready to put their own stamp on the team.

What we are learning with this Tiger team is that the Ron Gardenhire factor is good for everyone. He’s been the reason this team is competing more than we thought possible. So injuries aside, it can only help these guys, who are benefitting from rubbing elbows with the new Tiger manager.

And isn’t that really the most important thing? Regardless of the success that these players have up here, any amount of time they get to talk with Gardy is great for them.

It will be something they can take back with them should they be sent back down to the minors. It’s not just all about playing, it’s the opportunity to gather and absorb information from an experienced manager who has seen it all in this game.


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WAS CLARK A GARDEN-HIRE?

By:  Kurt Snyder

I thought it was just Miggy. Didn’t you?

It’s been like this for a couple of years now.  But it seemed like it was just an extension of the disrespect shown Brad Ausmus, when he was the Tiger manager.

The Tiger veterans didn’t show Brad much respect when the bright lights were on. And Miggy in particular, continually ignored one of his coaches. Any message Dave Clark was trying to get across to him when he rounded third base, was often ignored by Miggy.

Dave Clark is like a yield sign in Michigan – to many, they are merely suggestions. But what we discovered this past weekend, specifically yesterday, is that this goes beyond Miggy now.

The young upstarts are beginning to realize that Dave Clark can’t be trusted.  On one occasion, JaCoby Jones came flying around third looking to score and Clark’s stop sign slowed him for a split second before he blew by Dave, ignoring him, and scoring from first on a play that should not have been as close as it was.

Only Clark made it close.

So, this is confusing to me. Because under the helm of Ron Gardenhire, this team has been encouraged to make plays when they present themselves. It’s a better and smarter base running team. And the guys who have speed have been asked to push the envelope.

There is certainly a thin line there as well because you can run yourself out of innings if your instincts are wrong. But Gardy has mastered that line and his team has responded with smart plays on the bases when they are there to be made and they are making few mistakes.

But having said that, we can’t have a third base coach who seems incapable of delivering the same message and helping players to execute what they have been taught. You can’t have a coach confuse a runner when he sees an opportunity to score.

Am I wrong? Does Clark seem like a Gardenhire coach? Am I picking on him unnecessarily? Don’t get me wrong, I am not naïve enough to think that what I see and what I know, may be completely different.

What I do see is a season that represents a big opportunity for JaCoby Jones. And it’s up to the Tigers to help him grow; and they are. He is like a wild colt who is starting to figure out this game. And slowly but surely the reins have come off.

I understand that the Tiger coaches have that same thin line to deal with and they must have the ability to quickly and decisively make the right call, just like that player on base. Some coaches can do it and some can’t.

Can Dave Clark execute the directive? He is proving that he cannot. He should not be coaching third base any longer.

When Ron Gardenhire was brought in before this season, we all sat up with anticipation. Who would he choose for his coaches?

But as the names presented themselves, I don’t know how much excitement was left after Chris Bosio was chosen as the pitching coach. Gardy brought in some of his old coaches from the Twins, but other coaches stayed as leftovers from the Ausmus regime.

But why? Who wanted them? Chris Ilitch? Al Avila? Jim Leyland? Please tell me it was Ron Gardenhire and I will shut up.

Do you see a connection between Gardy’s style of coaching and Clark’s? I don’t. So go ahead. Anyone? Chris? Al? Jim? Tell me Clark was Gardy’s choice.

I’m waiting.


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ARE THE ROYALS THE MODEL FOR DETROIT?

By:  Kurt Snyder

In football, the strength of your team starts ‘in the trenches’ – at the line of scrimmage.

In hockey, a strong goalie,  physical defensemen who lead their teams in plus/minus, can win you plenty of games.

In basketball, teams with 3 legitimate stars are the envy of the entire league.

And in baseball, strength up the middle is the foundation for building a great team.

A team has to start somewhere and in baseball, pitching and defense are key.  Defense up the middle makes for a formidable team. Sure, you want those guys to hit too, but defense can negate a lot of sins.

Of course, outslugging your opponent is what fans like to see. To many, the game is the most exciting when lots of runs are scored resulting ultimately in your team winning a ball game.

But for the purists? They know this:  Great pitching and defense up the middle can translate into demoralizing defeats for the opponent.

The 2015 World Champion Royals were great examples. They won their games from the 7th inning on. Their pitchers were not only dominant, they drew great confidence from the defense behind them, especially in the outfield where the ball rarely hit the ground.

For two seasons, the Royals had such a stifling bullpen and defensive ball club, it made scoring early the premium for their opponents. If you did not get to their starters before the 7th … forget about it. You were done.

And it’s a great model to copy for teams in smaller markets. The Royals did not have tremendous hitters; they beat you by squeezing the life out of you.

Their defense began with a tremendously gifted catcher in Salvador Perez, who was a leader, rarely let the ball get by him and had a gun for an arm. Alcides Escobar and Ben Zobrist (splitting time with Omar Infante)  formed a solid keystone combination, and in centerfield, Lorenzo Cain ran down everything.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, the Royals continued their dominance at the corner outfield spots, especially in left with a gold glover in Alex Gordon and speedy Jarod Dyson in right and occasionally in center.

And you can’t discount the wizardry of Eric Hosmer who was probably the best defensive first baseman in the league.

Consider those Royals to be the best model for the Tigers. Sure, the latest World Series winner is always considered to be the next big thing to copy, but in the Houston Astros, the stars they drafted will be hard to duplicate.

So at a very early stage, where are the Tigers up the middle? Do they have any pieces that you can confidently say is THE guy? Are there any where you can check the box?

The Tigers have dedicated years now on the development of James McCann behind the plate, and he has improved moderately. He has shown very good leadership, but defensively he’s still not quite there. His strength is in his arm, but his weakness is in his bat. Does he get a check mark? I don’t think so, not at this point. Grayson Greiner and Jake Rogers down the road are still in the running.

Let’s head further north to the center of the infield. Any check marks there? Again, I would say no. Jose Iglesias is someone the Tigers want to move and Dixon Machado is playing out of position and given that, I don’t think you can fairly evaluate him defensively until he finds his spot at his natural shortstop position.  So, consider these 2 positions still open for younger guys down in the farm. Until they begin to develop and find their way to Detroit, we won’t know.

The future in centerfield is JaCoby Jones. He has taken a big step forward this season. His combination of defense, speed and an improving bat makes me believe he is the player to beat for that check mark in center.

In the bullpen, The Royals pen consisted of 3 untouchable pieces who covered the 7th, 8th and 9th inning. That doesn’t mean the Tigers need that same formula, but the ultimate goal is to form a combination of pitchers that make it a bad thing for the opponent when they come in late in the game, just like KC.

So, who do we have? Any check marks?

Alex Wilson has logged plenty of time along with Daniel Stumpf, Buck Farmer, Joe Jimenez and Shane Greene.

But outside of Jimenez, who moves the needle? He is on an island all by himself, isn’t he?   His live arm translates perfectly into the future closer spot.   Check the box.

When you break it all down like this, it tells you how far we need to go.


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NO PRESSURE, RON! YOU’RE THE BEST!

By:  Kurt Snyder

I would like to say I have one question for you.   But I can’t,  because I have so many!  But, let’s start from the top.

Who has more of a free pass this year than Ron Gardenhire?

Have you read some of the stuff being published in the Detroit rags? Have you read some of the quotes?  My, oh my!

Al Kaline.  Mr. Tiger.  One of the most popular Tigers ever. A most gracious Hall of Fame baseball player, had this to say about Ron Gardenhire:


“He’s one of the best managers I’ve ever seen or heard …”


Al Kaline said that. About Ron Gardenhire! And here is my problem. Gardy is not a Hall of Fame manager. And after his time here in Detroit is done, his performance isn’t going to propel him there. This is a statement by Kaline that tells me how much pressure Gardenhire has on him here in Detroit, working for Chris Ilitch and company. None.

Surely at this point in time, there shouldn’t be much, not this early. But there ought to be a little. There are expectations for the team to gradually get better under Gardy’s leadership. But there is clearly no pressure yet.

After a Tiger Fest where he was fawned over, after a spring training with more accolades for how he runs a baseball team, he is now being perceived in ways that are utterly absurd and completely over the top.

It reminded me of Kaline’s proclamation to all of us earlier in the spring that Nicholas Castellanos is the unquestioned leader of this baseball team.

Were you puzzled by that? You might have been. But you can also make a case for some old-fashioned building of character. I know you have to challenge players and if it takes an all-time great to give your confidence a boost, then I am all for it.

Al Kaline is a big-time presence in the Tiger organization. And he should be. He’s been that sturdy Hall of Fame influence, sticking with the organization through thick and thin, being that bigger-than-life figure for young players looking to be the next Kaline, the next Miggy, the next Tiger great. People think Al can do no wrong, and he rarely did during his playing days.

But when there is criticism about Jim Leyland’s obvious major influence on the team, maybe Al Kaline has to take a step back as well.   Sorry to all of you who are appalled by such venom.  Such blasphemy.

Kaline began his career in the 50’s and of all the managers he has come across during his long, tremendous and Hall of Fame career, he mentions Ron Gardenhire as one of the best he has ever seen? We just need to put that away and leave it alone.

No offense to Mr. Tiger, but this team is so early in the stages of its rebuilding infancy that it barely has a heartbeat. But, you would think they are the story of baseball heading into the second week of May.

However, if you have been watching, you know it cannot be further from the truth. The Tigers played the kind of baseball on Sunday that could be described as sickening; at one point turning an infield shift, which by the way is supposed to give teams a defensive advantage, into a green light for runners to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Just have at it boys! Take third! Take second! We will all just stand and watch.

It. Was. Embarrassing.

That mess was followed up by a ball lost, I don’t know, in the high sky, or the sun, whatever … all we could do is watch Iggy, of all people, covering his head and crumbling to the ground, so he wouldn’t get hurt.

This is the state of Tiger baseball right now. When we were warned about the pain and the growing pains entering a rebuild, well, this is it.

It’s fine to acknowledge the new manager for his approach and how he takes the reins off his team to make them more comfortable and free to have fun. It’s fine to point out his desire to play the game the right way.  But it is not at all time for him to be praised for being one of the best.

This only signals one thing. The only pressure on Ron Gardenhire will come from one source. It will come from Gardy himself.

He must have shook his head after hearing Kaline’s comments. But he is also shaking his head at his Tigers. He doesn’t like what is going on and has said so.

So all you folks up in the front offices at Comerica Park need to take the baby steps required to get through this process. Jumping the gun on any adulation is as premature as it gets.

There is a time and a place for all glory and honor. And it ain’t today.  Not here.


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NEW TEAM VISION FOSTERING GROWTH

By:  Kurt Snyder

Wednesday’s Tiger victory was all about finding a way. With the advent of a new era in Tiger baseball, the team is forced to win games in different ways. With tools of the game they have rarely used.

They are devoid of star power and also the power to hit the ball out of the park; staples of Mike Ilitch baseball. So as a result, they have to be creative. And players have been given that creative license, which they have gladly accepted.

The team has to scrap for victories. They take some risks that don’t always pan out, but when they do, they have impacted games and many have made the difference between winning and losing.

It’s fascinating really, because since they have fewer ways to try to win, they have been more aggressive and creative in their approach. It is something encouraged by our current manager.  Even when they fail in their attempts, they are encouraged to make plays.   Keep pushing the envelope.

Imagine a team loaded with big time talent, but one that is still diversified in their approach to winning. That’s the ultimate isn’t it? But all that talent doesn’t always produce every day. Digging deeper may be required on any given day.

Road maps sometimes lead you into a detour, and you can’t ignore it. You have to adjust,  take what’s given you and work harder to get where you’re looking to go.

The Tigers have lost more than they have won so far this season, but the games they have won (and some of the losses) have been examples of a team taking what they are given.

There is not a lot of talent on this team. But because of the new philosophy our new manager has brought to the ball club, they are playing a brand of baseball that is exciting for a group looking to be the team that advances the growth into something big.

Players who may not be starters on other teams, are getting opportunities to improve and impact games on the field.  We have players with large roles who wouldn’t ordinarily have them. That’s a characteristic of a team where the real winning is further down the line.  The team is not ready to win.   But there is growth underway.

Today’s Tigers, and I am talking about the young guys playing at the major league level, are the key ingredients in the soil being prepped for seeds not yet planted.

More talent will come. More talent is on its way. Some will come from the minor leagues and some will come from other teams. But more talent will come. And they will enter into an environment that has been prepped for them to succeed. Prepped for winning; an environment where only high-end talent has held them back from doing bigger things.

Step 1 in this process is the most important. Establishing how we can win with what we have. And as they add more pieces, they will have more ways to win.

The important part is not to abandon the methods they used to win before more talent arrived. You can’t forget the roots that forged the way.

There is nothing more dangerous than a team that can hit you from all different angles.
The goal is to become that team.

So what can we say to Tiger fans who are struggling to find the value in watching this team play?

Follow the process with an open mind.  Appreciate games like yesterday, where a team won a game in a way that surprised everyone but the hitter, including his manager.

The team has played for one month, and already, players are taking it upon themselves to make things happen.

The growth is evident.  Don’t fight it.  Embrace it.


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20 APRIL THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Before we head off into May, April must be dealt with and all thoughts while contemplating the month are captured here. I have narrowed them down to 20; randomly collected for your pleasure.

I think it has been sufficiently established that the first month of 2018 was dominated by one of the worst stretches of weather ever for the first month of a season, so that won’t be mentioned again.

Having said that, let’s begin.


1. What’s everyone so mad about? Is it the situation that the franchise is in? Did we think a rebuild could have been avoided? Well, time to turn the page, people.  To me, from a rebuild standpoint and taking the whole month into consideration, things could have been a lot worse.

2. The biggest disappointments so far? Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris. Players heading towards making this list? No one. I can’t dump on Alex Wilson after the month of April.

3. Players I can really get excited about? The ones I can legitimately say they are sticking around and will be part of our future? Outside of Miggy, they are obvious, Jeimer Candelario, Joe Jimenez and JaCoby Jones. A lot of talent among these 3.

4. For all you Andrew Romine haters, you have to be happy with his replacement. Niko Goodrum has an important role and fills it well.

5. Scan the Tiger infield – it’s really, pretty good. (Carry over from December and January and February and March. Keep watching this one.)

6. Back to the subject of Daniel Norris. He is really close to being an honest-to-goodness dud as a Tiger and a soon-to-depart bust. Jordan Zimmermann? We will save the discussion on him for another day.

7. The April performance of Leonys Martin could be described like this: Unexpected, surprising, impressive and encouraging. Martin has shown he CAN hit. He CAN run. And he CAN play one hell of a centerfield. Which will fall off? I would guess he can’t possibly hit like this all year, but we can hope.

8. Ron Gardenhire’s disdain for bad baseball was made clear when he said, “I hate sloppy.” As we head into May, Gardy clearly has had a love / hate relationship with his team. We have seen the good and the bad.

9. Put a glove on Nicholas Castellanos or put him on base and you better hold your breath, because once that bat is out of his hands, all bets are off.

10. I believe Miggy’s time on the field is being watch very closely. Everything has been taken into consideration when it’s time to determine if he should be on the field. And when an injury arises, he is out of there.  Smarter approach than the past.

11. Shouldn’t the coaching staff notice before the fans when a pitcher, in this case Daniel Norris, is pitching injured and needs to be removed?  On Sunday, I found myself wondering when they were coming out to get him.

12. So what part of the game has improved the most in one month of baseball under our new skipper? I think it’s base running.  It has not been perfect, but improved.

13. Michael Fulmer has been our best starting pitcher, and well he should. But who is #2? Surprisingly, it has been Francisco Liriano. He is just a veteran who knows how to pitch.

14. I have seen teams heading into a rebuild looking a lot less talented than this current Tiger team. Is it so outrageous to suggest that the team could improve on last year’s record? After all, they did lose 98 games. (This is a good carryover, let’s hold onto this one at least through April and now May.)

15. So what are your thoughts on the netting so far at Comerica Park? Without having been to a game yet, I am not a good source. But I have heard from people who feel the value of the view from seats behind the dugout are severely compromised and that prices for those seats should be reduced as a result. Also, I wonder about the view of fans who must look around the end of the netting where it terminates down the outfield line. Can you say obstructed view?

16. To support my continuous desire for the roster to include someone who can come off the bench with some pop in his bat, I give you 26-year old Niko Goodrum. I like that he showed that power in the spring. I like that he is a switch hitter and I like that he is getting a shot. (Holding onto this one, a new hold over, just because I love what he brings to this team.)

17. Jose Iglesias has begun to hit the ball and combined with a month of stellar defense at short (imagine that), April was a very good month for him. Take it all in folks, because before you know it, he will be gone. Some don’t mind that, but I certainly do.

18. The Tiger organization has not decided on statues for Trammell and Morris.  What exactly is their problem?

19. In the category of ‘too early to tell’, I think we have acquired a gem in Jeimer Candelario. Watching his development will be near the top of my list this season. (This will continue to be a holdover, but the verbiage has changed – not too early to tell anymore. His talents are clear and without debate.)

20. Thru April, Fulmer kept his stock up! I know most of you hate the thought of trading him, but I find some glee in that. You know we can get big talent, just open your minds and dream it. (Carryover for as long as he keeps it up.)


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CANDY ARRIVES IN THE NICK OF TIME

By:  Kurt Snyder

I would like to personally thank Kris Bryant for being the kind of player he has become for the Chicago Cubs.

He was a can’t miss prospect and has lived up to the advanced billing. And because he has been so good, the Cubs know they are set at third base for the foreseeable future.  His stardom opened the door for the Tigers to acquire the third baseman landlocked behind him – Jeimer Candelario.

Yes, the Tigers had a young third baseman themselves in Nicholas Castellanos. But Nick’s bat is really the only place he can hang his hat.

Knowing what they had in Castellanos, the Tigers, along with their fans, saw enough of his shortcoming to wonder about his next chapter in the big leagues.

They needed a more complete ball player at third base. And Al Avila made a great deal with the Cubs, giving up Justin Wilson and Alex Avila in exchange for someone who may be a future star in Detroit.

The Tigers must be delighted with what they now have at third. Candelario has the makings of an elite ballplayer. He is athletic. He can run. He is a good baserunner. He has quickness at third base. He has a great arm. He is a patient hitter.  Hits to all fields. And he has power.

These are not conclusions I have drawn about Candy after one month of play in 2018. They are observations. We have seen all these things during his short amount of time with the team.

Moving Castellanos to open the door for Jeimer appears to have been a no-brainer. Because in comparison, during the years we have watched Nick play with the Tigers, he has proven that he has none of the defensive attributes of Candelario.

He pales in comparison in the areas of athleticism, quickness, speed, arm strength and his ability to run the bases instinctively.

Both of these guys can hit. Here ends the comparison.

Defensively, there is no spot on the diamond for Nick Castellanos. He has a spot because he can hit. And all the talk about him being a future DH with the team needs to stop.

The Tigers already have their future DH in Miguel Cabrera and he’s going to be here for awhile. So, sorry, there just is no argument for Nick to DH.

Two Tiger outfielders have been recognized for their great athleticism (and their bats) during the last couple weeks. They have been lauded for their defensive strengths.  But they happen to play in left and center.  Then there is Nick, who is not yet mentioned as a defensive strength in right field.   Will he become one?   Not seeing it.

The Tigers have talented outfielders in their system whom we are going to see in Detroit,.  If not this year, certainly next year. They are players who are already good defenders. They have speed and represent the future.

Knowing all that we know, this is a scenario that appears to be heading in one direction. And one question will need to be asked? Is there a team out there who would trade a good prospect or 2 for a one-dimensional Nick Castellanos?

The man is done at third base in Detroit. The new guy looks like he’ll stay. JaCoby Jones is not someone the Tigers want sitting around. And they appear to be itching to get Mike Gerber a role with the big club.

So, I don’t think it could be any more obvious that Nicholas Castellanos will be #1 on the list of players on the trading block come the end of July. How much value is there for a guy who can really hit? I would say a lot. How much value is there for a guy who offers little else?  Good question.  Depends on the team and their needs I would guess.

Players who can do a lot of things for their ball club are highly coveted. A player like Jeimer Candelario is highly coveted.

This is a nutty scenario.  What is crazy is that Castellanos may end up having the best offensive year of his career in 2018. But if the Tigers look at their future and the kind of team they hope to become, they cannot be swayed.

Nick’s gotta go.


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NOTHIN’ BUT TIME

By:  Kurt Snyder

Opportunities abound for a team starting over. New faces. New places. New faces in new places. More players getting more time and some taking advantage of the opportunities they have been given.

Ron Gardenhire has made some moves. He has made some statements. And he is pretty clear with the media when he wants to get a point across.

Nicholas Castellanos is our right fielder. You may not be completely happy with that, but he must play somewhere. And his only opportunity resides in the outfield. Has he mastered the position? Oh, heck no! But he has been given a heaping helping of confidence by his skipper, who has announced that if you have any question about whether he belongs in right field, it doesn’t make even a little bit of difference.

Gardy says he’s stayin’ there. He is going to stay there all season. So, there is no use in questioning it any longer. As Gardenhire says, there is only one way to learn how to play right field and that’s by playing right field. You good with that? Well, it just doesn’t matter if you’re not.

There are plenty of rough edges to be sure in Nick’s defensive game.  But he’s hitting and he’s got nothing but time to work on things out in right.

So, that covers one corner. How about the other one? Well, it gets a little more exciting when you head over there.

The team started the season with Mikie Mahtook as their leftfielder.  He is a high energy, hardworking baseball player. But he may have picked the worst possible time, for him anyway, to come out of the gates slowly.

You see JaCoby Jones seized the opportunity given to him when Mahtook was sent down to Toledo. We knew 3 things about JaCoby. He plays with loads of enthusiasm, he can really run and he is a great defender. His bat to this point has been what we have been waiting on.

Given time, the hitting will come, so we had been told. Well, the hitting is here.   Jones becomes more of a complete player every day and he is getting plenty of time to show it.

He has matured at the plate, doesn’t swing at a lot of bad pitches, which he struggled with last season, and he is an exciting player when he gets on base; the kind of player opposing pitchers hate, because he commands so much of their attention.

The corner outfield spots were going to be areas to watch when we kicked off the season. We have held serve in one corner but have switched gears with the other.

And the best part is, no conclusions need to be drawn in April or May or June. But the performances that we see in July will indeed dictate who we want to continue to invest time in and who we don’t.


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WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY

By:  Kurt Snyder

This may go on all year. Every time the Tigers do something resurgent towards the end of a game, when you think they are dead, comparisons will be made.

It’s natural during the first year under a new regime that there will be discussions about the new team, how it operates and how it stacks up with the old one under the old skipper. Different philosophies. Different strengths. Different weaknesses.

Ron Gardenhire’s requirements are simple. Work hard and play correctly. And as I have said before, executing it is the toughest challenge, especially with a team that has been stripped of so much talent.

Work hard and play correctly? Really Kurt? You don’t need a lot of talent to do those things!

That’s right! You win the prize! Let me slap that sticker on your forehead right now! That describes Ron Gardenhire’s managerial career in a nutshell.

He has had so many teams that were more lumps of clay waiting to be molded, than talented baseball teams. In Minnesota, in a small market, ownership wasn’t going to be spending a lot of money. So they had to make the most of the talents that their players did have.

And they put it all together enough times to win division titles and get into the playoffs. They had some players with speed and not much else. They had players who could play defense and not much else. But what they had as a team was the ability to go out there, take advantage of mistakes the other team made, maybe force a few errors and generally not beat themselves.

How many times did you watch the Twins under Gardenhire and wonder, sometimes out loud, ‘how are they winning?’

I know I did.

Sadly for them, their seasons ended pretty quickly once the playoffs started. It was then that their lack of comparable talent would cost them. The bigger market teams would overwhelm them. Just playing the right way could only take you so far. You needed some dominance, which they rarely had.

The baseball the Twins played could be described as pesky. They drove you nuts because they didn’t make mistakes.

Are you seeing some of this with the Tigers during this frozen month of April? Well, in spurts maybe. Because the Tigers are making plenty of mistakes. And hopefully that’s not alarming for you because this is not an overnight science project due in the morning.

They have plenty of work to do. And like always, there are questions to be asked at this point. In order to be successful under a Gardenhire-led baseball team, you need willing participants. And if you have looked up and down the roster and you have watched some of these new guys play, how they carry themselves, how enthusiastic they are – they do appear to be willing. They appear to be all in.

But the concerns would come from the most talented on the team. Would they be willing? Would Miggy roll his eyes and sleep walk through the season? Would VMart turn a cold shoulder to the new guy, knowing that winning wasn’t going to be a common occurrence.

Heck – this is his last season. At least in Detroit it is. How willing would you expect him to be? Victor is just picking up the last truckload of money before he leaves town. What’s in it for him?

Well, I can gladly say there is evidence that these 2 stars, who still remain in Detroit, may be buying in. We have seen signs that their overall respect for their manager has taken a leap.

This could actually be fun for them. The fresh blood and enthusiasm may be good for them. Ron Gardenhire baseball has a lot to do with how strong you are between the ears and how big that heart is in your chest.

And having strength in those areas can take you a long way.

Will and heart – two things that will start you on the straight and narrow when it comes to working hard and playing correctly.

Winning will come under this formula. More players will emerge and will be taught the same formula. We will find out about their willingness to conform as well. When will they win? That’s anyone’s guess. But we know in Detroit that if winning begins, more talent is normally provided.

Assuming that Chris is anything like Mike.


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CAN’T BLAME THE WEATHER? WHY NOT?

By:  Kurt Snyder

I had half a mind to write my 20 Thoughts for April right now, given Mother Nature’s relentless desire to rain or snow or sleet or hail or just plain freeze out every single baseball game in the Midwest and beyond.

With horrible weather in Detroit all through the month combined with road games contained within the Midwest, the Tigers have a real bone to pick with Major League Baseball. Not a single series in April can you safely say hasn’t or won’t be effected by this horrible stretch of nastiness. The league could not grace the Tigers with a single trip south or west.

On the bright side, most of us will now get an opportunity to head downtown to see the Yanks in June rather than now. They are the team which will be a heavy draw around the league when they travel, so scheduling them in Detroit in April was a real disappointment.  It was almost too cold to hate them!

Anyway, whether the weather bothers you or not, it makes it pretty difficult to determine if the Tigers are really this bad or not.

How do you judge performance after 13 games without at least some regard for the conditions they have had to endure? Yep, both teams have to play in this stuff, but the Tigers have not sniffed a warm weather city, so there has been no break.

Even under normal conditions, this is a team that will have its struggles.   So they need all the help they can get.

The pitching staff, which will need every available advantage and ability to improve, will be handicapped until Chris Bosio returns from his undisclosed illness. He is the only coach on staff who already appears to be making a real difference. The combination of Bosio’s absence and the weather is a bad combination. Offensively, the absence of a new hitting coach in 2018 and the weather is also, a bad combination.

What’s worse than playing these games? Not playing games at all. The team has been through an April where games are played simply to get through them, and it has been hard to compete.  But the off days are equally as problematic. The team has not been able to get out on the field to do much of anything meaningful or fruitful.

They haven’t seen a live pitch since last Friday and considering the kind of baseball they were playing coming out of that game, they need to get back out there and work the stink off themselves.   That losing just lingers.

If the Tigers were a more talented team and not a team selling off anyone of value, I may not be griping about this so much. But this team has to play. And they will. Hopefully soon.

So what does the future schedule look like? Well, they get to stay here in Detroit for another 7 games. Lucky them! Normally you want to play at home, but if I am a Tiger, I am dying for a nice 10-game road trip out west.

Send me any place where I can feel my fingers and remove my hoodie. Send me someplace where I don’t have to worry about a lightning bolt shooting up my arm when I break a bat.

The Tigers should see some games get into the 50’s later in the week (after a frigid series with Baltimore) and then in the 60’s next week. That’s when I will quit whining, which is also when the Tigers hit the road for Pittsburg and Baltimore.

It’s not until the end of the month that they will finally get to play Tampa Bay.  But, where are they playing? In Detroit!

Of course it’s in Detroit. Give me strength…


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