FORUM FOR FRIDAY

microphoneHappy Friday! It’s time again to head into the weekend hearing from our readers.   You have the rest of the week to hear from Kurt and Holly, today is the day to let them know what you’re thinking on a selected topic.

Friday is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can get those juices flowing.

Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.

We can’t wait to get your thoughts on the following topic.


What position should the Tigers draft with the #1 pick?  Explain why.


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DESPITE INEXPERIENCE, BOONE SEEMS MORE PREPARED

By:  Kurt Snyder

The failures of Brad Ausmus must have scared the heck out of the Tigers. The first thing they did when deciding on a new manager after Brad, was to go in the complete opposite direction.

Experience? Ron Gardenhire has loads. Brad Ausmus? He had none. No managerial experience whatsoever. And after frightening failure, the Tigers headed back to old and gray and called it day.

As I am sure you all remember, Brad was highly endorsed by Tiger brass throughout the interview process. Leyland recommended him and we will forever remember how Brad “blew them away” in the interview, per Dave Dombrowski.

Brad was considered someone who would bring a fresh approach to the Tigers. Sounded good at the time. His intelligence. His Ivy-league education. Young and smart is where they hung their hats.

Over the entire tenure of the Brad Ausmus regime here in Detroit, this site was littered with criticism of the Tigers and their choice of someone completely inexperienced expected to lead the team to the next step – a World Championship.

But look what has happened in baseball. Analytics has exploded. Teams are being described as analytics-driven. And there are examples everywhere we turn where teams, expected to achieve great things, have turned their rosters over to the inexperienced.

What the Tigers had done in hiring Brad Ausmus to run a team primed to win a championship was considered one of the most foolish things they could have done. Well, as it turned out, it was. But maybe not because of inexperience. They just picked the wrong guy.

When you think of baseball, eventually all attention turns to New York. They are the team everyone loves to hate, but also a team everyone pays attention to when they are playing. They have the nation’s attention. And little did we know, after the Yankees came within one game of the World Series, they would fire their manager.

And as inexperienced candidates were hired by contending teams all over baseball, could it be possible that the Yankees might do the same thing? No possible way, right?

But lo and behold they did it. Aaron Boone emerged as a candidate. Someone who wasn’t even on Brian Cashman’s initial list, found the list, because he was recommended by so many baseball people around the league.

But why? What did Aaron Boone have? Broadcasting experience. Played baseball for the Yankees. Hit a big home run for the Yankees. Grew up in a baseball family. Practically lived in major league clubhouses since he was 4 years old. Baseball has been his life.

All that is well and good, but what are the intangibles? Because he had to sell the Yankees on something and of course he impressed them in the interview. He was considered very intelligent. You’re nodding your head, right? We have heard this before. So, what else?

Well his press conference, which he passed with flying colors revealed a side about Aaron Boone that makes me feel that if any of these young guys is going to be successful, this is the guy who may have the best shot.

Number one on his list of things to move on right from the start, and it was mentioned many times, is to form a respected relationship with his players. It was important to him that he earn their respect, that he form a relationship based on trust.  Boone said players are good at figuring out who is real and who is not – a reputation he will again, need to earn.

In Detroit, you never felt like Brad Ausmus had that connection with his players. You never felt like his players trusted or respected him. But Aaron Boone couldn’t say enough about how important it is to achieve that trust and that respect; to communicate and foster relationships in order to maximize potential, develop their talents and then sustain what is accomplished.

Which brings us back to analytics. The Yankees are one of those analytics-driven franchises. And Boone knows you must strike a balance between what’s on the sheet and knowing your personnel; a knowledge based on the relationships he has formed.

He said he has to learn which players they can bombard with data and who needs to be left alone.   He has so much to digest.

People, I have nothing else to work with on how well he will do as manager of the Yankees.   I have the press conference.  But he seems to have a calculated plan, an impressive one, considering his inexperience. And you get the feeling this guy is not going to be sitting still in that dugout.

But here is the kicker, and it should get your attention. He said every evaluation from game to game will be different.

Brad Ausmus could never open himself up to flexibility. And Boone’s synopsis on everyday managing screams flexibility, open-mindedness, instincts, communication … need any more? These are the things we would have liked to have heard when Brad was introduced as we were heading into a new season with high hopes and still starving for a title.

Now, of course, saying it and doing it are 2 different things, but I get the feeling that there is a very distinct difference between Aaron Boone and Brad Ausmus. The initial impressions, at least, not only suggest it, but they shout it out pretty emphatically.


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PERSONAL EGREGIOUS DECISIONS (P.E.D.s) – Part 3

By:  Holly Horning

Last week we delved into the biggest issue surrounding election into the Baseball Hall of Fame. An issue MLB hoped would disappear, but hasn’t. In fact, Joe Morgan’s letter to the voters shows that there is real concern – growing concern – among those still living and sitting in Cooperstown.

In the first part of this series, we explored the subject of cheating as well as the stated guidelines for what to consider in voting. In Part 2, the far-reaching effects of PEDs were identified. If you didn’t catch these blogs, or need a refresher, catch them here:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/personal-egregious-decisions-p-e-d-s/

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/personal-egregious-decisions-p-e-d-s-part-2/

Today, let’s put to bed the excuses being offered as a rationale for voting in those players widely suspected of using PEDs to advance and extend their careers as well as pad their stats.


EXCUSE #1- For decades, players have always taken something in order to play.

Whether painkillers or stimulants, these were classified as “substances” and not  as “drugs.” The difference being that they temporarily helped the player, unlike PEDs which are classified as “drugs” and actually changed the body long-term. (See Part 2. of this blog to see just how much.)

EXCUSE #2 – Players have always cheated in baseball.

Just because it’s happened in the past, doesn’t give cheating legitimacy today. And with the group up for election this year, there is more than speculation that they have cheated. There is proof in the form of drug tests, testimony, doctors’ records, visual changes – all long-term and deliberately-planned cheating.

Furthermore, voting in cheaters is a message to all that cheating is acceptable. And it will result in more players cheating. Never acceptable and never the message or lesson you want to send.

EXCUSE #3 – There were players in history who had questionable reputations and morals and still got elected.

It is true that some players held beliefs that are not acceptable today. The only problem is that these players’ cultural beliefs were part of the country’s (or regional) norm – even legal – back in the day. You can’t take today’s evolved beliefs and apply them to people who lived 50 or more years ago.

EXCUSE #4 – He was a great player before he started taking PEDs.

As explained in Part 2, one of PEDs greatest benefits was that it provided consistency, increased playing time and longevity, as well as significantly reduced recovery time. Any stats added after PEDs were introduced were a product of cheating and illegal actions, and less of the player’s own talents. Remember when Barry Bonds hit that HR to break Hank Aaron’s record? Bud Selig and the rest of baseball royalty did not attend the game which speaks directly to the belief his stats were tainted.

The majority of the top players suspected actually took PED use to another level by going down the designer-steroid path. Hiring “doctors” who constructed specific drug plans and usage methods specific to the desired goals and a strategy to avoid detection.

This excuse also smacks of a double standard where it is hinted that those with some of the best talent should be given preferential treatment. Would we even be having this discussion if we had to decide how to handle a player of lesser skills? Are there 2 different sets of standards?

EXCUSE #5 – The law was iffy back in the ‘90s.

Actually, it was not. MLB was very clear in publishing a list back in 1991 that made PEDs illegal and then updated that list on a regular basis. A time period when most of these questionable players were taking them and breaking the law. The real issue is actually about the lack of testing which didn’t begin until 2003.

Which brings us to….

EXCUSE #6 – We can’t be certain that a player cheated unless he tested positive.

In almost all sports, athletes have been stripped of their medals and banned for much less. Alex Rodriquez never “officially” tested positive. His doctor’s partner turned in all of ARod’s medical reports to the local newspaper.

Roger Clemens was legally found “not guilty” for perjury (not drugs) because of the government’s failure to put together a solid case. But the majority of the jury still felt he was guilty of using PEDs.

Players returned from the off-season unrecognizable. Significant body structure changes including the growth of their head. Ageing players on the downside of their careers suddenly started playing again at top levels. All you need to do is look at their stats from year to year and see how each season brought diminishing returns at the plate. Then look at the years in which the PED rumors started and see the obvious and too-good-to-be-true increase in power, extra-base hits and slash lines.  Getting better and stronger does not happen as you get older.

Then there was the 2002 BALCO case in which the Feds uncovered evidence of MLB players who took PEDs dating back to when PEDs were made illegal combined with evidence that players like Bonds and Giambi were clients.

In 2006, Senator George Mitchell produced the infamous Mitchell Report which named 80 players with evidence that they were involved in taking PEDs. One who helped the Boston Red Sox crush the Tigers’ hopes back in the 2013 playoffs.

Everyone named in the report refused to talk to Mitchell. If you were innocent, and accused of doing something illegal, wouldn’t you be shouting your innocence from the rooftops?

And hearings on The Hill inspired only a handful of players who willingly testified. And two of them got indicted for lying.

How much more proof is really needed in order to have reasonable doubt?

Let’s remember that the Baseball Hall of Fame is a museum. It chronicles history. Should these players be ignored? No. But does this mean that they should be honored? Absolutely not.

There is a third option.

Like the Black Sox scandal, baseball needs to recognize that this quandary exists. Why can’t they add a section to Cooperstown that explains this troubled time period in baseball? Why can’t they write about the evidence that was presented? Why can’t they leave it to the fans and visitors to determine what they think and how they feel?

It’s all perfectly rational. But it’s not acceptable to allow BBWAA voters to induct some because it’s the easier thing to do and to ignore history.


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TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

So many pieces of the Tiger puzzle have left town, but even after all the trades, there are still high-profile performers residing in Detroit. Big time, highly-paid, performers. And 3 of them struggled mightily with health issues in 2017. Having them return to form in 2018 would make a rebuilding season not quite as painful.

So, since it’s Tuesday, our writers have a question to answer.

As is the norm, Kurt and Holly have not shared their responses to today’s topic. It’s the best way for our readers to get the best bang for their buck. So here is our main question to address.


Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Jordan Zimmermann… Which one will have the toughest road to recovery?


KURT

If you can think of someone who had more things to deal with both personally and professionally, all within the span of one year, than Miguel Cabrera, well, that would be quite a story to tell.

One thing Miggy has proven over the years is that he is no angel. He has put together a fair list of personal transgressions, to go along with a long list of injuries.

Can you imagine how difficult it must be just to focus on baseball and performing at a high level?  Can you imagine how difficult it must be when your head is filled with distractions? Throw in a bunch of injuries and the results speak for themselves.

So, this season, Miggy has a lot to prove to the fans and the media who no longer feel he can achieve the high levels of performance we became used to seeing in previous years with the Tigers. But he needs only to look at Justin Verlander to energize him, who must have felt the city giving up on him and used it as motivation to work hard and raise himself back to the levels we were accustomed to seeing; levels we thought were only distant memories.

Miggy, a future Hall of Famer, is that caliber of player. A man with his talents can return to a high level of performance.

In the case of VMart, we don’t know how much control he will have over his condition. Can he put together another full season without any setbacks? Will the procedure he went through solve everything for him? There are a lot of unknowns. So, he is real close to the top of the list when it comes to questioning a return to form, but not quite at the top.

Jordan Zimmermann has an injury just waiting to flare up. And I believe it is bothering him more than the Tigers are reporting. This is turning out to be one of the worst free agent signings the team has ever made. He appears to have been damaged goods when the Tigers signed him; with a condition that didn’t show up in a physical. An injury that requires regular injections to relieve pain and discomfort is not a recipe for success. This could finish him as a pitcher.


HOLLY

There are some who guess that VMart won’t return to the team in 2018 based upon his heart condition and problematic presence in the clubhouse last year. But the Tigers are unlikely to allow $18 million to simply walk away – that is, $18 uninsurable million.

Besides, VMart is still a fan favorite and that means more this year than it ever did for trying to fill the seats this coming year.

Ironically, not being yet cleared by doctors to resume baseball activities may just be a blessing for VMart who notoriously always destroyed some part of his body before spring training began.

And it’s a sure bet that one big reason Ron Gardenhire was hired was to control some of these personalities, like VMart. Maybe he will appeal to this proud man to refocus on what’s important – having one last glorious year at the plate.

Miggy, on the other hand, is working out like a demon with a new trainer who (surprise! surprise!) doesn’t work for the Tigers. An athletic specialist who counts many top athletes among his clients – including LeBron James and Jose Iglesias. Miggy’s social media feeds have taken on a completely different tone this off-season and show him having dropped a significant amount of weight complete with almost completely shaved head. He’s taking this very seriously because that typical smile of his is nowhere to be seen.

He’s my best bet to come back near the top of his game.  That is, if he can keep his personal life from blowing up and distracting him.

Jordan Zimmerman is the one who worries me greatly. An injury that started in his groin and gradually worked its way up to his neck over the past 1.5 years. A medical staff who couldn’t diagnose, then kept changing their stories that finally resulted in Zimmermann himself seeking medical advice from his previous doctors in DC.

But it’s the reports from 2013 that should keep the Tigers’ Front Office from sleeping at night. Reports they should have known about. Reports that mentioned the neck problems he started to have 5 years ago. Waking up many mornings with a stiff neck and missing some starts. Yet, he was still signed by Al Avila and lasted less than half a year. Forgive me if I don’t believe the crack medical staff can solve this almost 6-year-old mystery.

20 NOVEMBER THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

Looking back on November, it was not one of the most riveting months for baseball. However, there were a couple of story lines that piqued my interest, which I plan to address.

Keep in mind that not everything you see in these monthly segments are about events from the past month. They are random thoughts, some having to do with the previous month and some that do not. I will do my best to strike a balance between the good and the bad, but I don’t know how successful I will be.

Anyway, here are my 20 November Thoughts.


1. Sounds like Brad Ausmus had some opportunities to manage, but turned down chances to interview, especially with some big market teams. Smartly, he saw how he would be a small fish in a big pond waiting to get swallowed up by the madness. The front office is where he belongs, and he got that shot in Anaheim. Wondering if he will find his niche and stick to it.

2. I cannot get over the moves by so many contending teams who have turned their teams over to inexperienced managerial hires. But we are tainted here in Detroit and may think quite differently if we hadn’t been so badly burned by the Tigers’ hiring of Brad Ausmus.

3. We pause for this brief interruption. Have you heard enough about Giancarlo Stanton? Pick a team already! Get a hold of yourself! Am I the only one who doesn’t think he’s the savior everyone thinks he is?

4. While we are on the subject. I used to admire the Cardinals and the Giants for their smart, under-the-radar transactions that were all about building a championship team. They generally stayed away from the huge contracts that would hamstring them if they pulled the trigger. So, I am a bit puzzled by their interest in Stanton, the salary they would take on and the young talent they would have to surrender. Out of character.

5. Hey, everyone! Miggy may be stronger than ever! Remember that one early in the month? Why does the media think we are sheep?

6. Speaking of Cabrera: The no-nonsense approach of Ron Gardenhire should be good for him. We can’t afford to have Miggy rule the roost like he is used to doing. He’s not in charge. He doesn’t make the call on when he plays and when he doesn’t and that should be made clear. (Carry over from October – will ring true until the season starts)

7. Consider the release of Bruce Rondon one of the biggest organizational failures the Tigers have ever experienced. The caliber in leadership at his next stop, and there will be one, will determine his future success or continued failures.

8. The Yankees finally made their choice for manager. Given their talent and the post-season experience for the young core, the sky is now the limit for them. So, was firing an experienced manager who has had success there in favor of an old fan favorite with no coaching or managerial experience the way to go?

9. We are less than a week away from the Hall of Fame voting and seeing if Alan Trammell and / or Jack Morris will finally realize their dreams. I say one gets in. It’s not a good time to have any harassment skeletons in your closet, which one Tiger does, and it undoubtedly will be a factor.

10. Hey, Justin Verlander and Kate Upton got married. We can all move on now. JV got his ring, put one on Kate’s finger and now we can all go back to concentrating on the Tigers.

11. With the winter meetings approaching, we will see if the Tigers will emerge without their current shortstop and second baseman. I would like to keep half.

12. As far as our middle infielders go, holding onto a still relatively young Iglesias and pairing him with an athletic Dixon Machado at second base would be a nice combination for a team rebuilding. (Carryover from October, until Iggy walks out that door, I will lobby for this.)

13. There are 4 teams I will be watching intently in 2018. All 4 will have new managers. The Tigers, of course, with Ron Gardenhire, The Nationals with Dave Martinez, The Red Sox with Alex Cora and the Phillies with Gabe Kapler. Add a 5th, the New York Yankees now, to that list.

14. One thing we try not to do on this site is to speculate on possible trades. But other blogs tend to fill their space with it. And frankly, I can’t quite understand how some of them pass their own laugh test. Like how the Nationals may have interest in reacquiring Jordan Zimmermann. When I am done rolling on the floor laughing, how big of a bow can I put on Jordan’s head for delivery back to DC?

15. We have real trouble with Jordan Zimmermann. Since the discovery of his nervy neck issue in the spring, he has been much more bad than good, and with lots of years left on his contract. Even though he did return for a couple starts at end of the season, we should be very concerned with healthy and contributions going forward. (Holdover from September, and may stay on this list for a while – yep, staying on for November, too.)

16. Dear Mr. Commissioner, I will make a deal with you. I will consider the pitch clock to speed up games, but I want something back. The ‘no blocking the plate’ rule must go. It has hurt the game. I will be awaiting your call.

17. Which Tiger player will give Ron Gardenhire the most trouble? Will it be Miggy or VMart, someone else, or will he keep it behind closed doors? I vote the latter.

18. Dear Chris Ilitch, we would love to hear your plan for the rebuild of this team. Do you plan to speak to it? Maybe you will after you figure out how to get people to actually sit in the seats during games at Little Caesars Arena.

19. Do you expect Nick Castellanos to stay in the outfield for the entire 2018 season or do you see Gardenhire trying another spot for him in the infield, like first base? Remember, typically, your best outfield arm is in right field.

20. A question for the readers. What, beyond losing, would be a major disappointment in 2018?


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PERSONAL EGREGIOUS DECISIONS (P.E.D.s) – Part 2

By:  Holly Horning

On Wednesday, we started the discussion on PEDs, players and the Hall of Fame. Not a new subject, but one that recently fanned the baseball flames with Joe Morgan’s letter to the voting members of the BBWAA.


If you didn’t catch Part One, read it here:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/personal-egregious-decisions-p-e-d-s/


As with any complicated subject, the rationale for how to treat those questionable players eligible for voting into the Hall is not a simple nor quick one. From those supporting their induction, we often hear:

“Cheating in baseball goes back to the beginning of the sport.”

“They had great stats before they started using PEDs.”

“Players took amphetamines decades ago – what’s the difference?”

“There are players currently in the Hall who used substances to enhance their performance.”

But we’ve entered new territory here. The years and medical advancement have made it such. And we can no longer compare what happened decades ago with what is happening now. Even if those in charge of the sport turned a blind eye to what was going on for the past 25 years.

We’ve known that for decades, especially since the end of WWII, amphetamines and other stimulants were introduced to sports. Their purpose was to help fight fatigue and promote focus. They were widely available in clubhouses and with the knowledge of the entire team. They also weren’t illegal back then.

They were known as performance enhancing substances. Temporary results lasting for only that day’s game and only used on occasion, not on a daily basis.

But the controversy today is on PEDs – Performance Enhancing Drugs. Products that are used on a daily basis. Products that physically change the body long-term. And they were officially banned by MLB in 1991.

And this is why MLB – and the BBWAA voters – have to address the problems voting in athletes who used them beyond the exploratory stage. Players who incorporated them into their performance for years and reaped the benefits.

We’re not talking about players who occasionally stole signs, took the occasional stimulant to fight fatigue or applied foreign substances to baseballs. We’re talking about guys who profoundly changed their bodies, reaction time, speed and mental ability and did it over a significant period of time.

We all know that many PEDs allow players to become bigger. But there are also an astounding number of other advantages PEDs offer. Interviews with doctors who specialize in this subject, especially their impact upon athletes, identify what PEDs change about the player who takes them.


PEDs:

– Promote tissue growth and muscle generation

– Increase strength

– Help hitters develop power and hit for a higher average

– Promote faster recovery and healing time

– Allow players to get stronger without training

– Allow players to train harder

– Offer feelings of invincibility and offers a psychological edge comparable to the physical one

– Increase aggression allowing players to attack more at the plate and in the field

– Quicken bat speed which allows the hitter more time to read the pitch and react to it better

– Allow quicker reaction time and improve hand/eye coordination

– Increased muscle, reaction time and acceleration factors create increased force which allows balls to be hit and thrown further and faster

– Decrease tissue breakdown and offer faster recovery times which are especially important to pitchers

– Generate stronger fast-twitch muscle fibers which create greater explosiveness in running


And last but not least, PEDs offer consistency. They get players moving faster in April and keep them from running out of gas in August, September – and the all-important October. Remember who absolutely crushed the Tigers with his performance in the 2011 playoffs? The Rangers’ Nelson Cruz who later served a suspension for PED use tied to this time period.

For those players who already had an impressive track record, PEDs were especially attractive to them because they allowed careers to be extended and more impressive stats to be built. A clear advantage of padding records for not just history, but also for the Hall. PEDs offered the gift of being able to consistently produce all season long.

Taking PEDs require regular use, not just occasionally. Players have to buy into the program. It’s an all-or-nothing deal. And even when an athlete comes off of them, many of the advantages PEDs offer remain far longer than many realize.

On Wednesday, we’ll delve into the many excuses offered by some analysts, the media and the fans. Rationales that don’t stand up well upon scrutiny. But today, let’s focus our discussion on the use of PEDs.


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NOTABLE NEWS

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Over the last week, baseball has been alive and well even in November and heading into December. So, the only difficult thing was determining what was the most impactful. Our writers have been challenged this week to determine what storyline would strike a nerve with the readers.

Let’s see what Holly and Kurt have on their minds this week. Saturday topics are not shared and it’s only for the readers’ benefit. So, what stood out this week?


HOLLY

Other than the 2 new scouts hired, don’t expect the Tigers to make any real substantive changes within their organization going forward.

They have promoted Kevin Rand, an employee of Dave Dombrowski and now Al Avila for 26 years, to the position of Senior Director of Medical Services despite his lack of a medical school degree (and the trend of hiring doctors by other teams). And Doug Teeter, coincidentally also with a team tenure of 26 years, was promoted into Rand’s former position as Head Athletic Trainer.

Promotions despite the Tigers claiming every year that injuries were the reason why their season(s) ended early and the plethora of athletes playing with undiagnosed broken bones, core hernias, herniated disks and yes, the still fuzzy medical mystery called Jordan Zimmermann.

The old boys’ club that started in 1993 with Montreal and traveled to the Marlins before reaching Detroit is tenaciously hanging on….


KURT

We are about to find out who failed Bruce Rondon, the Tigers or Bruce himself. It was extremely tough to watch a pitcher, blessed with the ability to dominate hitters, get in his own way.

Whether it was work ethic, lack of confidence or lack of intestinal fortitude,  Rondon is now finished in Detroit after 10 years of continually leaving fans scratching their heads.  He was sure to be a difference maker, but continually rode the wave from glimpses of dominance to ultimate disappointment.

But we are now going to find out; Bruce is sure to get a shot with another team and if the light bulb suddenly goes on for him, it will be evident whose fault it was that it didn’t happen in Detroit.


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OPEN MIKE!

microphoneIt’s Friday folks, which means it’s your day! This is the day for you to be heard. Today is the one day during the month where you get the opportunity to comment on the Tiger topic of your choosing.

This is the one day of the week where we open up the comment parameters for you, so you can really get those juices flowing. Comments on THIS DAY ONLY can be expanded to a maximum of 8 sentences.  So, pick a topic and let us hear from you. We know there’s a lot on your minds…


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IN YEAR 1 – BE REASONABLE

By:  Kurt Snyder

Seat belts.

That’s what we will all need. We aren’t driving down the street to the neighbor’s house. This is a cross-country trip and patient fans will need to buckle up.

For more than a decade, Detroit worked tirelessly trying to capture that Title, only to fall short each year. That’s a long time. And that was AFTER they went to a World Series.

AFTER.

One year after reaching the World Series signaled a sudden, sense of urgency for the Tiger organization. And they spent 10 solid years aggressively pursuing what they were unable to grasp in that 5-game series against the Cardinals in 2006. A World Series where the Tigers were considered the better team.

But now we start over. For real. Because this isn’t a quest for a title after reaching the World Series, this is a quest to build a team again after falling to the bottom of Major League Baseball.

This is Ground Zero people. And it needs to be greeted with patience and reasonability when it comes to the goals for Year 1. Because the goals, which may or may not be revealed to us, will be different from year to year.

Did you catch that? Reasonability. It’s a word I have never written. It’s a word that hardly applies in this context but I am fairly certain you can understand how it fits.  It explains the focus for next year. The goals need to be reasonable. Our expectations need to be reasonable.

And in doing so, letting go will be important. Any fan favorites who are still part of this team, players who were once important to the future of this team when winning was the goal, now must be considered potential trade bait.

The last thing I want is for the Tigers to break up what right now is their strength; their combination at second and short. Kinsler-Iglesias have made their mark in Detroit. They will be remembered as one of the best duos since Trammell and Whitaker.

But we must let go and realize what the goals are in Year 1. You can say all you want about how winning is still the most important thing. But it isn’t in 2018. It just isn’t. Not yet.

2018 will be about transitioning. Players who were stars, big time stars, left Detroit and it hurt immensely. Most of that glitter is gone. And any experienced talent left must be let go, if possible, in exchange for the future. I am coming to that realization. But it didn’t come easy.

Dixon Machado must play. He must start. He must be given an Opening Day position, assuming he continues to impress in the spring, which we would all expect. He must play in the middle of that infield in 2018, whether it be at second or short.

He offers speed and athleticism. There are signs of offensive skills but only signs, given his relative lack of playing time. This is what Year 1 is all about. Target the people who you feel are part of your future and make them your present.

You can do that at one of the middle infield positions. Machado is a known, young, commodity. He is one of a handful of players we have seen at the major-league level and seen them have success. With experience, they can flourish. Pieces from which you can build.

You see it with Machado and you saw it with Jamier Candelario when he came over in the trade with the Cubs. They are just 2 pieces. But they are 2 to plug in, play and let them go. And grow.

That is Year 1. Forget wins and losses. Plug in who you are confident are part of your future and gather a stable to pick from for the rest.

Simple? Oh, no way. As a fan, enjoying the ride will be difficult. It’s going to be a bumpy road to start and things won’t smooth out until all the holes are plugged.

One piece at a time.


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PERSONAL EGREGIOUS DECISIONS (P.E.D.s)

By:  Holly Horning

It’s been going on for awhile now. It is the elephant in the room and everyone in baseball is trying to ignore it – hoping it will go away. But it won’t.

Instead, it is going to evolve into a crisis of epic and lasting proportions until someone decides it’s time to put some clarity into the voting process.

And no, we’re not talking about the political elections. This is about voting for the latest members to go into Cooperstown.

Joe Morgan recently wrote a letter to the entire voting body of the BBWAA sharing the concerns of many who currently sit in the Hall. And there are rumors that some of those who attend the ceremonies are prepared to turn their backs to the stage at the ceremonies – or not attend at all – should certain former players be elected.

Last year’s election, with a visible increase in voting percentage for a couple of players, was the obvious red flag that is now inspiring greater attention. The writing is on the wall which is why Morgan chose to speak out about it. And he is correct that silence is often misconstrued as being accepting of policy.

What I don’t understand is why some in baseball are shocked at Morgan’s action. Even angry over it.

I, for one, am seriously shocked that there are those who actually condone the actions of a few who cheated. Those who feel it is acceptable for them to be voted into the Hall because of a previous fuzzy MLB policy or that they require absolute legal documentation of guilt.

We’re really talking about voters who don’t want to take the time to make educated, thoughtful assessments. Voters who don’t want to face the difficult decisions. Even voters who don’t want to face the truth about some of their beloved favorites.

We’re talking about people who are focused on the immediate and haven’t considered what the future holds should baseball go down the darker and messier path. We’re also talking about voters who have not taken to heart the guidelines for how to vote.


From the BBWAA:

“Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”


Let’s face it – there are lots of excuses offered to help ease the individual voter’s pain and explain away why they may vote for someone with dubious stats. But the bottom line is that some of these players cheated.

Cheating is still cheating and there are no excuses for it nor are there acceptable levels of cheating. It’s never been acceptable. Period.

And I doubt anyone who has a vote would allow it to happen in their own homes with their own family. And last I heard, there are no two sets of rules for how to judge humankind and how to evaluate baseball players.

Players who used PEDs benefitted from both significant physical and mental changes to the body. Using them allowed for longer careers and enhanced salary. Using them gave them an edge over their teammates – who made the roster and who got more playing time. They cheated their own team, owner and fans. They also got people associated with their sport fired for doing their jobs correctly.

And they are about to cheat some of the greats of the game by denying them deserved votes and pushing them further down the BBWAA totem pole. Do you think Lou Whitaker would have been ignored to this degree if certain high-profile players with substantial PED rumors had been removed from the voting process? Removed so that the distraction of their candidacy hadn’t clouded the achievement of others?

And in every other sport, players are banned and stripped of their medals, stats and membership for much less. And in most cases, positive drug tests were not required. Look at Lance Armstrong and Alex Rodriguez who never failed their drug tests but got caught via other means. Athletes still hold the upper hand when it comes to avoiding positive drug tests by staying one step ahead of recent advancements in testing.

But there continues to be that silent rift in baseball. Barry Bonds who “broke” Hank Aaron’s record but no one within the Commissioner’s Office attended the game. And Roger Clemens’ trial in which he was acquitted but jurors said it was because of the reputation of his primary accuser, not that they believed he was innocent.

And then there is the Mitchell Report.

So how should we be thinking about all of this? Do the players and voters in question have valid arguments for inclusion?

That’s something we will explore in detail on Sunday. Let’s save any arguments for inclusion/exclusion until then. Today, let’s focus on discussing the big picture of cheating and the rocky road baseball may be traveling very soon.


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