Archive for November, 2010

Free Agent Signing Eve

Or should it be Hot Stove Eve?  I don’t know but whatever you call it, tomorrow players are able to negotiate and sign deals with any team, effectively kicking off the baseball off-season.  And a little segue, but this is one of the best things about baseball.  There’s very little downtime and there are always things to pay attention too.

The big question is, what do the Tigers do with their money.  It seems like the front office has hinted they’ll be going after some top notch sluggers, but no specifics have come out yet (which is SOP since you want to go in with you best negotiating position possible).  Odds are a lot of the big deals won’t happen until the Winter Meetings in early December but it’ll be interesting to see what that first “big” deal brings because it could set the pace for the rest of the signings.

I’d like to see them focus on pitching but once you get past Cliff Lee, there’s a pretty sharp drop off.  Rotoworld has their top 50 free agents list and while Lee is number one, the next best starting pitcher is Huroki Kuroda at number ten and then Jorge De La Rosa at number eleven.  While a Lee/Verlander/Scherzer/Porcello rotation has me salivating a little, it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.  But still, if you keep Ryan Raburn in left, Brennan Boesch in right, sign Magglio Ordonez to be the DH and bring back Jhonny Peralta to be the shortstop, the Tigers would probably have the money for Lee, it’s just too much wrapped up into a few guys in the rotation and they have another thing to worry about.

That thing is Max Scherzer.  The Tigers have to decide whether to lock him now and potentially get a bargain or push the problem forward.  They might want to worry about him next year when Carlos Guillen’s contract comes off the books.

Still, this is always a fun time of year as teams build or re-build their teams.  And the Tigers are always good for a surprise or two along the way.

Tigers Trade Brent Dlugach to the Red Sox

The Tigers sent minor league shortstop Brent Dlugach to the Boston Red Sox for the infamous player to be named later (or cash consideration) yesterday.  Dlugach was a September call up in 2009 but he spent all of 2010 in Toledo where he had a mediocre season at the plate.  At this point, and at 27, if he’s not getting it done in the minors he’s probably not much more then a fringe player for a big league team.  This probably also reinforces the fact that the Tigers are close to signing Jhonny Peralta or if not, are going after him strongly.

More Sparky

Sparky Anderson got a lot of love on all of the various Tigers sites yesterday.  Here’s one more by Chris Jaffe, the author of Evaluating Baseball’s Managers, where he gives the run down on Sparky as well as some interesting tidbits on his career.

Quick Hit: How Good Have the Tigers Been

This was a curiosity but it warrants some talk.  On August 7, 2006, the Tigers stood 40 games above .500 at 76-36.  Since that point in time, the Tigers have gone a combined 348-351 over the last four seasons and change.  They’ve had some moments (like a nice run in 2007 and the good first half in 2010) but they’ve basically been a .500 ball club for all but about 2/3 of a season since 2006.

Combine that with the money that’s been spent and it makes you wonder.

Eddie Bonine Elects Free Agency

With all of the Sparky news, this one kind of got lost in the shuffle.  Tiger’s started Eddie Bonine filed for free agency after he was outrighted to Triple-A.  He’ll be joined by minor leaguers Max St. Piere, Jay Sborz and Jeff Frazier once the five day deadline passes and players can talk to other teams on Saturday.

Bonine had a weird couple of years with.  He was mostly used as a sport started in 2008 and 2009.  Then in 2010, he pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen.  He kind of followed the Tigers because he had a really good first half (2.81 ERA in 41 2/3 innings.  Then he was just awful in the second half (.395 batting average against in 26 1/3 innings).  Bonine’s 29 and while he’s served a purpose, I don’t see him having a role on the Tigers with the talent coming up so this is probably just as well.

Farewell Sparky Anderson

“Players have two things to do. Play and keep their mouths shut.” Sparky Anderson

Man, it wasn’t that long ago that I was writing something like this about Ernie.  If Ernie was the voice of the Tigers for me, Sparky was the team’s face. Earlier in the year, I talked about how Ernie was baseball to me.  Now with Sparky’s passing, it’s time to bid farewell to the man who coached the Tigers through the time where baseball became my favorite sport.  I remember attending a Tigers game with my dad and having Sparky rush by us in the tunnels as he was heading to the clubhouse and thinking how cool that was.  Now, over 20 years later, we’re celebrating the life that was Sparky Anderson.

I’ve read quite a few baseball books and in all of the biographies, every player who I’ve read about who crossed Sparky’s path respected him.  Captain Hook is now criticized for not being the best tactician, but what he could do (similar to what Jim Leyland captured in 2006) was get the best out of what he had.  1987 was the perfect example when the Tigers came back from a poor start and a nearly insurmountable deficit in the final week to capture what was then the American League East title.

The accolades speak for themselves.  He coached in over 4,000 games (4,030) and he won 2,194 of them.  He’s now sixth all time in wins, but when he retired he was third.  He won five pennants and three World Series and he was the first manager to win a World Series in both leagues.  The best way I can put it is Sparky managed his people well.  He knew how to handle a Kirk Gibson and recognized that he couldn’t handle Gibby the same way as he would a Lou Whitaker.

Even more, once the post-collusion era tore up the core of the 1984 Tigers team, Sparky remained.  1991 was kind of his last hurrah when the Tigers finished tied for second but were playing meaningful baseball in September.  Still, after 1987, it was rough going for the team in most respects but Sparky did his best all the way up to his retirement in 1995.

Even after retirement, Sparky was great to listen too.  He didn’t make too many radio appearances but you could tell he always loved his players.  His story about Jack Morris’ game seven shutout in the 1991 World Series is a classic and some of his Kirk Gibson stories were pretty funny as well.

So for the better part of 17 years, the Tigers had one manager.  Since then in the past 15 years, the Tigers have had six different managers.  You wonder if in a year like 2000 where the Tigers contended, whether he couldn’t have pulled a team like that together and gotten the Tigers a surprise playoff berth.

So to sum things up, I was glad to have had Sparky as our coach.  Thanks for all the memories skipper.

“People who live in the past generally are afraid to compete in the present. I’ve got my faults, but living in the past is not one of them. There’s no future in it.” Sparky Anderson

Quick Hit: Former Tiger Wil Ledezma Signs One Year Deal With Pirates

Finally some consistency for former Tiger Wil Ledezma.  The left handed pitcher played for six teams since 2007 and he had a weird year for the Pirates last year.  He gave up a lot of hits, but his strikeout to walk ratio showed some promise (22/6 in 19 2/3 innings).  He’s also got a reverse platoon split and was awful against lefties last year.  He just signed a one year worth $700k if he pitches in the majors in 2011.  He turns 30 in January which sounds low because he seems like he’s been around forever.

It wasn’t too long ago that Tigers fans were comparing Ledezma to Johan Santana because they were both Rule 5 guys.  To date, the fact that they’re Rule 5 guys is the only thing that’s similar about them.

Quick Hit: Nate Robertson’s Future

Baseball Prospectus recently put out a piece on pitchers who might be forced to take minor league deals in order to keep their careers going.   Former Tiger Nate Robertson made the list after a rough 2010 season.

I always liked Robertson. He was a solid middle of the rotation lefty for a while and he stuck around Detroit in the offseason.  For a while, it looked like he was more unlucky then bad but the past couple of years have been pretty poor.  It’ll be interesting to see if Robertson can catch on somewhere.

Quick Hit: Tram in the Hall

With the 2010 season in the books, it’s time to start thinking about the Hall of Fame.  In a pretty detailed analysis, Baseball Reference Blog provides the positives and the negatives to Alan Trammell’s candidacy.  It looks like there’s a large consensus that thinks Tram is deserving (close to 68%) but only 14% of the people think he’ll get in.

My thoughts are, Tram is definitely deserving.  So was Lou Whitaker and he’s off the ballot.  The most deserving though is Bert Blyleven so until he gets, there’s going to be a logjam of players who have been on the ballot for a few years behind him.

Sparky Anderson In Hospice

When Sparky took over as the Tigers manager in 1979, I was eight years old.  When he retired, I was 24.  So throughout the time I was developing as a baseball fan, Sparky was always there.  That’s why I’m saddened to hear that Sparky has been put into hospice care.

In the past, there were two guys I’d pull the car over to the side of the road to listen to if they were interviewed.  One was Ernie Harwell, and the other was Sparky.  The guy always kept things interesting and my I wish his family the best in these tough times.

Tigers Decline Peralta’s Option

That didn’t take long.  The Tigers opted to not  exercise Jhonny Peralta’s $7.25 million option for next year.  That doesn’t mean Peralta isn’t going to be in a Tiger’s uniform, it just means they didn’t like that price so now the front office has a few days to get a new deal on the table to lock up the shortstop.

Quick Hit: Tigers Interested in Prince Fielder

I just got done listening to today’s ESPN Baseball Today podcast and near the very end, Seth Everett mentioned a rumor that the Tigers were pretty interested in Prince Fielder.  Of course Prince is son of former Tiger’s slugger Cecil Fielder so there is a tie and I remember when Prince made the news when he came to Tiger Stadium to hit batting practice.

The big question is, where does Fielder fit.  Does he become the full time designated hitter (he’s a pretty bad fielder)?  Is it worth the money to have him hit every day and not play the field?  How does that hurt the team’s flexibility by locking up a roster spot with a guy who probably won’t see the field?

Hot Stove on Steroids

First off, congratulations to the San Francisco Giants.  It’s been a while for their fans and it’s the first since they’ve moved to the West Coast.  Still, I don’t like the fact that the Tigers have moved up another notch as far as World Series droughts go.  It was interesting seeing all of the former Tigers as well.

So now we enter the new and accelerated free agency season.  Under the old rules, teams had fifteen days to work out deals with their own players before they could talk to other teams.  This year it’s being sped up to just five days so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.  Starting Monday, we could see some players jumping ship. 

The Tigers have a lot of money coming off the books this offseason so the speculation is that they’re going to be big spenders.  I’ve heard both Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn mentioned a bunch, with Carl Crawford mentioned to a lesser extent.  Victor Martinez would give us some more flexibility but might also hinder Al Avila’s development.  My personal favorite is Adam Dunn because you pretty much know what you’re going to get (including 180+ strikeouts) and it’s nice having that consistency.  And then Carl Crawford is coming off of a career year with an .851 OPS.  I could see Crawford nabbing 25 triples at Comerica Park in a season.  Crawford also fills one of our biggest holes in leftfield.

There’s been some talk of expanding the playoffs and I’m pretty much against that.  The only way I’d like it is if they added the one extra wild card team on each side and had the two Wild Card teams play a one game playoff to get in.  This would make the division title more meaningful and make the team with the best record in each league have an extra advantage because they’d play a team with their rotation most likely out of whack.

It looks like the first order of business for the Tigers is what to do with Jhonny Peralta.  Jason Beck thinks the Tigers will turn down the $7.25 million option but still try to sign him.  Getting Peralta at a decent price would fill a hole so hopefully they’ll be able to get this done.

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