I know that nine games do not a trade make, but nearly two weeks in, could the Polanco-Urbina trade look any better? The Tigers’ new second baseman has hit safely in eight of his nine games in a Detroit uniform (and he looks darn sharp), putting up a .378/.415/.514 line. He hit a walk-off home run last night to bring the Tigers back to .500 again, and he’s provided solid defense and a consistent presence in the #2 hole. The timing was nice, too, with Carlos Guillen still on the DL and Tony Giarratano looking like a young player who was having a medicore season at Double-A before his call-up three weeks ago (0-for-his-last-15, 6-42 in the bigs on the season). Despite his scuffles, though, middle infield looks set to become the strength we thought it could be before the season. Guillen will come off the DL this week, and Omar Infante’s two starts at shortstop since he lost his 2B job produced three doubles, a triple, and even a walk. If Guillen is healthy and Infante starts to turn it around, or Trammell wants to give him a chance to turn it around, the Tigers should consider playing Infante at second, Guillen at short, Polanco at third (he played there very effectively every time David Bell got hurt in Philly), Inge in center, and Logan as a pinch runner and bunter.
Ugueth Urbina got shelled in his first outing with the Phillies, but has pitched extremely well since (3 IP, 0 H, 6 K). That’s fine — I hope he does well there as Ed Wade’s latest mid-season relief-pitching acquisition. The fact remains that a second expensive bullpen man was a luxury the Tigers didn’t need.
Polanco wasn’t the only Tiger hero on Sunday. Chris “Babyface” Shelton tied the game with a two-run blast in the ninth. That the blow came off nominal Giants’ closer Tyler Walker was even more satisfying — Walker struck out the side with the bases loaded in the ninth two days before to seal a win, and Shelton was his final, overmatched victim. I have high hopes that Shelton might turn into a Dmitri Young-type hitter someday, or even this year. If Guillen is healthy enough to play but cannot take the field, it opens a spot for Infante but forces Shelton or Young to the bench. That’s a net loss.
Next up for the Kitties: a trip to the Metrodome. All is well, though. For the third time in three series so far this year with the Twins, the Tigers won’t have to face Cy Young winner and generally scary dude Johan Santana, he of the 124 Ks and 17 BBs. The Twins’ historic stinginess with the walk, however, will still pose a problem for the hacktastic Tigers.
What’s the value of a decent team? About 6,000 fans per game. Attendance in the dark days of 2003 slipped to 17,000 per game. It rose last year to almost 24K, and is nearly identical in 2004. The number seems low. Large market, reasonably exciting team, nice new stadium, twenty-first in attendance. What’s missing?
It kills me that Robert Horry was open at the end of overtime last night. Kills me.