Sunday, March 3, 2013

Everyone Loves Donnie...Except Me, It Seems

This is what I get for not joining everyone in hating Lynn Henning. This headline:

He's back! Versatile Tiger Don Kelly again showing he has something to offer

Okay, I was wrong. You guys were right. Henning is officially on the list of Detroit writers that need to be thrown into an active volcano. We’ll just staple him to Mitch Albom. Here’s a link to the article.

Or we can just go through it together right here.
Rather astounding, this guy Don Kelly.

What? What exactly is astounding about Don Kelly? His career OPS+ of 69? The OPS+ of 44 that he put up last year? His -1.0 WAR last year? His career .232/.283/.344 slash line? The .186/.276/.248 line from 2012? The ball he lost in the Metrodome a couple years ago?

The only astounding thing about Don Kelly is how many sportswriters and fans want to keep him on the Tigers just because he’s a nice guy. Rod Allen’s a nice guy. So is Rod’s buddy at Ace Hardware. But I don’t want either of them on the 2013 Tigers roster, either.

A few years ago, he was considered the most marginal of prospects.

You see? Scouts aren’t always wrong.

And then he went on a weight-training regimen and turned himself into a buff gent who now has a shot at playing in his sixth big league season.

Yes. A buff gent with 17 career home runs in 753 plate appearances. Gabe Kapler was a VERY buff gent. I bet ‘Ol Lynn got excited about him back in the day.

He just won't go away.

Tell me about it.

Or, should the Tigers and their fans have known as much a year ago, when Kelly was designated for assignment, agreed to go to Triple A Toledo, where, with a steady smile,

Don Kelly leads the league in smiles.

he worked his way back to Detroit and helped the Tigers win two playoff series?

In those two playoff series, Kelly played in grand total of two games. He had one total at bat and got a sac fly. I’m amazed the man doesn’t have a statue next to Ernie Harwell’s by now.

"You put him out there, he's going to play well," said Gene Lamont,

Obviously, Gene thought he was being asked about any pitcher being put out there to pitch to Kelly. Not Kelly himself.

the Tigers bench coach who managed the Tigers split-squad that lost to the Yankees, 10-3, Saturday at Steinbrenner Field.

"It doesn't matter where you put him. Donnie Kelly plays well."

Well, anywhere except for a baseball diamond. He’s reportedly a beast at “Words With Friends”, though.

Kelly hit a triple and scored a run Saturday, three days after he hit a long home run to right-center field in a game against the Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.

Wow. Early Spring Training success? That changes everything!
 .600/.667/.1.400/.2.067, 4 HR, 9 RBI
I’m sure that’ll hold up, too.

He turned 33 last month and might have appeared to be on the fringe of a crowded, job-seeking outfield pack entering spring camp. But because Kelly is the team's resident one-man band — he has played eight positions and has pitched — he stands a healthy chance of heading north when the Tigers break camp in four weeks.

If they keep Kelly over another utility guy like Kobernus that actually has something to offer (great speed), I’m going to finally turn this into a Blue Jays blog and be done with this team for good.

/no I won’t

"I'm just trying to go out there and play as well as I can and make it a tough decision," Kelly, who played first base, said after Saturday's game. "It's always your goal till they tell you otherwise. You want to show them that you belong on the team."

And you show them by batting .186 once they’re dumb enough to take you north. Fool Jim once, shame on you. Fool Jim, oh this will be the fifth time, shame on Jim. And the sportswriters that continue to give Kelly’s play a pass because he’s the most accessible interview on the team.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who always has praised Kelly's flexibility, remarked only a couple of days ago that Kelly "quietly" was having a strong spring.

He is hitting .267. For Kelly, that’s amazing. He should retire while at the top of his game.

And, of course, the manager mentioned that "versatility" was another reason a manager enjoys having Kelly available.

Kobernus and Santiago are also have versatility and can play anywhere. Both are better than Kelly. End of story.

And yet he always will be on the bubble because of his jack-of-all-trades skill set that doesn't feature a particularly overwhelming talent.

Translation: He sucks like a 19 year old girl that hates her father on Rick Porcello.

Kelly knows it. And he seems to thrive on the fact a guy who can help win a game in a variety of ways wants each year to persuade his bosses that a player so deft can be a fit even if he doesn't hit .300 or slam 20 home runs.

Or in Kelly’s case in 2012, not hit .200 or slam even 2 home runs.

"I think they have a pretty good understanding of what I bring to the table," Kelly said.

Leyland’s cigarettes and newspaper. That’s my guess.

"After being here for a few years, just going out there, competing, playing the game, trying to help in any way possible.

"Hey, there's a lot of guys who can play. That's why it's just great to get out there and compete. Everybody wants to do the same thing: make the team, and make it a tough decision for the team."

Kelly is known for a brand of resolve that often begins with strategy. He got busy in the weight room after his early years as a Tigers prospect (eighth-round draft pick, 2001) when he realized a left-handed-batting first baseman who hit for average but not for power needed more muscle.

Hang on. Now you’re just making shit up. Kelly was drafted as a shortstop and played mostly there in the minors until starting to split time at third in 2005. In the late 2000’s, he got moved to outfield, primarily. Kelly never played first base in the majors until two games in 2009.

He added the heft.

So hefty. What’s a better new nickname for Donnie? The Gripper?
Or Easy Flaps?
I think I used know a girl we called "Easy Flaps". Johnny Damon married her, if I recall correctly.

Seriously now kids, in what world is Don Kelly a power hitter? I’m lost.

And soon the big league gate opened, first with the Pirates in 2006

Where he hit .148 with 0 home runs in 32 plate appearances. Gate SLAMMED open!

(he had signed as a minor league free agent) and then with the Tigers after he signed a minor league free-agent contract with his original team in 2009.

During the past offseason he got busy treading the foothills of middle age. Kelly decided he needed more endurance.

Because when you play one inning per game, endurance is the thing that’s holding you back from cracking the Mendoza line.

"I ran more this offseason," he explained. "I felt like with getting older I needed to do a little bit more to keep myself in shape. The offseason was cut down, with us going to the World Series, and with this being a WBC year (World Baseball Classic), spring training was starting early and we didn't have the usual time.

"So, I did a little bit of endurance stuff. Not really long-distance running, but longer runs than I had in the past."
The above is an actual photo taken of Lloyd McClendon and Kelly working out during the offseason.

Kelly might find that he's run into another job with the Tigers. That tends to be his habit, of course. It's a routine his bat, speed, glove, and universality — no matter how non-exceptional might be his numbers — have turned into a surprisingly lengthy big league career that looks again as if it might continue in Detroit.

Read that again. No matter how poorly Kelly’s play is, he keeps getting brought back to the Tigers.

This is why I drink, people. This is why I drink.

1 comment:

  1. You nailed it. With Raburn gone, Kelly needs to make the team to fetch Leyland his cigs.