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Well, it’s that time of year. Time to look back on what will soon be what was and look forward to what will be. In a lot of ways, on a personal level, 2006 was one of my best. I got to watch my son grow another year and he’s gone from being a baby boy to a little man and while he can be a handful, my wife and I made it through it. Probably the only downer has been my job, although that is going to be resolved sooner rather then later.
As far as the website, a ton of great things happened. I covered my fourth Tigers season and boy was it a good one. I never thought I’d see the Tigers play in a World Series this soon but the team defied all expectations. They fell one series short, but it’s hard to look back at that and still not be happy with how the team did. Baseball was back in Detroit for the first time in a long time and man was it fun.
2006 was also the first year in a while that I didn’t work on a historical diary on Tigerblog, but the concept is catching on. I wrote up the 1976 Reds diary for my friend Blade, and the 1906 White Sox, 1926 Cardinals and 1986 Mets were all covered on other sites. And you can bet there will be more next year, including a five team cooperative diary covering the 1967 American League Pennant Race.
This was also the first year where I finally formalized the baseball blog network I had been working on. Baseball Historians now covers more then half of the teams in the league and the hope is to be covering all 30 by the beginning of the season. All of the sites cover current events for each of their teams but they all also have a historical bent to them.
2007 is shaping up to be just as good. I’m going to be in another book in addition to my two appearances in the last two Hardball Times Annuals. I’ll only give you a teaser, but I’ll be interviewing a Tigers icon for the Hardball Times in the next couple of weeks and I’m really looking forward to that. And I’m also looking to expand my role on SABR’s Business of Baseball committee this year. And the Tigers 2007 season, which will be fifth covering them on Tigerblog, is shaping up to be just as good as 2006.
With that, I hope each of you have a safe and happy New Year. I’ll see you on the other side in 2007.
Things have been quiet with the Tigers lately. Bonderman did sign his four year deal, but the Tigers haven’t done much in the offseason since the Gary Sheffield trade. Not that it’s a bad thing, it just means I have to make up things to write about.
So unless something happens in the next couple of days, I probably won’t be updating Tigerblog until after Christmas so I hope all of my readers have a safe and happy holidays. I’ll be doing a year in review around New Year so hopefully you’ll stop by and check that out.
Christmas came a little early for Tiger fans. This is simply a huge signing and it’s one more indication that the Tigers, under Dave Dombrowski, are headed in the right direction. The Tigers signed a back loaded four year deal with Jeremy Bonderman that will pay him $4.5 million in 2007, $8.5 million in 2008 and then $12.5 million in 2009 and 2010. I don’t know what’s more difficult to believe, that we signed Bonderman to such a bargain contract or he’ll only be 28 at this time in 2010.
While Jeremy Bonderman was third on the team in wins (14) and fourth amongst the starters in ERA (4.37), he had the best “numbers” in my opinion. This is reflected in his 3.31 Fielding Independent ERA (FIP). For those of you keeping score, the only pitcher in the American League who had a better FIP in 2006 was Johan Santana (3.16) and nobody in the American League other then Santana struck out more batters the Bonderman’s 202. Yes, Kenny Rogers and Justin Verlander had great seasons, but they also finished in the top ten in run support in the American League. Jeremy Bonderman may have won less games, but he definitely earned them.
And the way contracts are going these days, $12.5 million two years from now probably won’t look that high considering you have a guy who could be competing for a Cy Young in the very near future.
The Tigers won three “This Year in Baseball” awards this season. Recently unveiled by MLB.com, Joel Zumaya won setup man of the year, Jim Leyland won manager of the year, and Sean Casey won blooper of the year for the 5-7-3 put out in which he didn’t run on the play.
Congrats to Leyland and Zumaya. For Casey, I feel bad because I thought that gaffe was beaten to death and a lot of the criticism was unwarranted.
Jeff Bagwell announced his retirement today and baseball is worse off for it. Bagwell was truly one of the great underrated stars. He broke out in 1994 with a early 2000 Bondesque season and never looked back. In 15 seasons, he topped 1,500 runs and 1,500 RBIs and he joins a club of players who have notched a career .400 OBP. From 1996 to 2001, he had at least 30 homeruns, 100 walks, 100 RBIs and 100 runs. For all that, he played in only four All Star Games through out his career and his only MVP came in that strike shortened 1994 season.
Bagwell should be a first ballot Hall of Famer although the fact that he didn’t nail any of the big milestones (3,000 hits or 500 homeruns) means he’ll probably have to wait it out a year or two. Regardless, there’s no doubt that Bagwell was one of the very best players through most of the 1990s and into early 2000.
As I thought, Bagwell might have a tough time getting into the Hall. Buster Olney is on the fence. I guess that’s one more thing we disagree on.
John Sickels broke down the Tigers top 20 prospects today. The good news is, they have two very good prospects in Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller. The bad news is, nobody else even warranted a better then a B- rating so the farm system is still pretty thin.
The wild card will probably be Brent Clevlen. He had a rough season Double A, but actually hit the ball pretty well when he got called up. He’ll probably start the season in Triple A because there’s really no spot for him right now with the Tigers surplus of outfielders. Jair Jurjjens is a name that’s being thrown around as being on the back end of the Tigers pen but Sickels indicates he should get more time in the minors.
One thing I’m hoping to expand next year is my coverage of the minor leagues. I don’t know if it’ll be on Tigerblog or another site because I’m going to have some help (okay, I’m going to have someone do it for me). It’s always been something I’ve followed on the peripherary but never close enough to warrant talking about it too much.
For a ton of great prospect information, I highly recommend John Sickels book. I highlighted it in my five must reads a week or so ago.
The Tigers outfield got a little less crowded today when the team failed to tender a contract to Alexis Gomez. Rather then taking their chances at arbitration, the Tigers will let the left hander test the market.
It’s funny the route some players take. Alexis Gomez was the heir apparant to Carlos Beltran in Kansas City until they found out he was three years older then they initially thought . Now he’s already become a journeyman of sorts.
The Tigers signed former closer Jose Mesa to a one year, $2.5 million deal last night. I really hope the Tigers aren’t blinded by all of those saves because Jose Mesa has been pretty mediocre the past few years. His strikeout to walk ratio last year was pretty attrocious (39/36) and he hasn’t a WHIP under 1.37 since his last solid season in 2002. And this is also the guy who’s threatened Omar Vizquel because of some comments the Giants shortstop made about Mesa in his book.
Taken by it self, this is an unusual signing. A friend of mine said he felt a deal must be in the works for one our other relievers and I tend to agree with him because take by itself, this one doesn’t make sense.
The Tigers and Brandon Inge came to an agreement on a four year, $24 million deal. I like this deal on a few different levels. One, it’s bargain, at least in this day and age. $6 million for a gold glove caliber, homerun hitting third baseman isn’t all that expensive. A lot of people will look at Brandon’s batting average (.253 last year, .241 over his career) as a reason to argue against this deal but in my opinion, we could do a lot worse then having Brandon over at third base for the next four years at $6 million a season.
And I’ll also admit I’m a big Brandon Inge fan. If given the choice of a player’s jersey to wear, I’d probably choose Inge’s. He’s been on the Tigers longer then any other player and he was given up for dead after the Tigers signed Pudge Rodriguez prior to the 2004 season. He lost his spot, accepted a role as a utlitly man and when Eric Munson didn’t work out, Inge took over for him at third. I’m still convinced Inge will walk away with a gold glove at some point during the time of this contract.
One thing I found interesting is that since 2000, the Tigers roster has completely turned around. Brandon Inge came up in 2001 and he’s the only Tiger on that team that’s played for Detroit continuously since then. There have been a lot of changes since then, most of them for the better.
The Tigers didn’t take part in the Rule 5 draft this year, but the Brewers did on their behalf. Edward Campusano was taken seventh in the Rule 5 draft by the Brewers, who then turned around and sold the prospect for an unspecified amount of cash to the Tigers.
Campusano could end up being the left handed relief pitcher the Tigers were looking for although he’s short on experience. He’s 24 and he split time at Low A and Double A in 2006 where he was completely dominating. He struck out 81 batters in only 55 1/3 innings last year with only 17 walks. You have to take that with a grain of salt though because he’s playing at a level that he should have finished a couple of years ago. According to Baseball America, he missed the last month of the season with injuries.
Kevin Goldstein liked the pick. Baseball America appeared cautiously optimistic. Campusano is kind of an unknown. I checked both Sickels Prospect Book going back a few years and Baseball Prospectus and couldn’t find anything on the kid. Baseball Cube did have his numbers and up until this past season, he had spent all of time floating between A Ball and Rookie Ball. So I guess we’ll have to wait and see how he does when spring training rolls around.
Apparantly Wil Ledezma isn’t being slated as the Tigers’s option as the left handed specialist coming out of the bullpen. Andrew Miller doesn’t look like he’s in line for the job either and it looks like both he and Ledezma are being looked upon to bolster the Tigers’ deep rotation or are trade bait. Regardless, it sounds like the Tigers are looking for an experienced lefty to replace Jamie Walker in the bullpen.
And with the Winter Meetings comes the Rule 5 draft. The Tigers have done well in past years in the rule five draft and have picked up guys like Wil Ledezma (who I’m still high on) and Chris Shelton. Detroit Tigers Weblog breaks down the details on the draft and talks about two players the Tigers might be interested in.