(Leyland pretending to think via The Detroit News)
Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time defending the decisions of Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski. I think it’s obvious that they know more about baseball and the Detroit Tigers than any of us goofball fans ever will. That’s why they have their jobs and we have ours. And people LOVE to get on the “Fire Leyland” and/or “Dumbrowski” kicks whenever the team goes on a three game losing streak or whatever. That’s the easy thing to do. So I always try to look at things from their perspective and rationalize their decisions the best I can. Somebody should in this cesspool that is the internet.
But the final Opening Day roster cuts have me mystified this year. I mean, I’ve looked at the decisions made on the bench guys and I just don’t agree with any of them. They went 0 for 3, in my opinion.
Poor Choice #1: Ramon Santiago over Danny Worth
I urge you to read this piece at (Head & Shoulders presents) Bless You Boys (brought to you by Sprint) on Santiago and Worth by the always great Al Beaton. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Worth is younger, better on defense, and a slightly better hitter. The job should be his.
The way I see it, Ramon has three things going for him that led to the Tigers taking him north. One, he’s a switch-hitter, though that shouldn’t matter when he can’t get the ball out of the infield from either side. Sneaky power, my ass. Two, he’s a bad contract, and the team doesn’t want to eat $2.1 million. Mike Ilitch has eaten enough bad contracts over the past few years (Robertson, Inge, etc). And three, Jim Leyland is loyal toward his guys that have been with him for the long haul (Raburn, Inge, Kelly who we’ll get to in a minute, etc). Add all that up and poor Danny Worth gets the shaft again.
Santiago never should have been signed to the ridiculous contract he got before last season. And no team is interested in acquiring a declining career backup in his 30’s with no upside that’s making that kind of cash. I was hoping they’d just decide to eat Ramon’s contract and send him on his way, but no such luck. Worth will just have to deal with another season of driving back and forth on I-75 every time someone gets hurt. Call me for a ride if you need one, Danny.
Poor Choice #2: Matt Tuiasosopo over Kevin Russo
So the team needs a right-handed bat to platoon with Andy Dirks in left field. Instead of getting a proven talent like Reed Johnson, they bring in two guys with limited failed MLB experience that haven’t seen the show since 2010. Tuiasosopo has hit a shockingly bad .176/.234/.306 in his 210 MLB plate appearances. Russo’s numbers are equally terrible at .184/.245/.224 in 54 plate appearances. Excited yet?
Russo has played second, third, shortstop, and all three outfield positons the past couple years. So has Tuiasosopo. Both guys had good spring showings. But if you go by recent track records, Russo should have the advantage. The past two seasons at Triple A, he’s hit .284 and .273. His OPB was .358 in 456 plate appearances last year in Scranton. Matt has hit .242 and .226 the past two years. His OPB was 29 points lower than Russo’s last year in only 25 more plate appearances. And via GWilson at BYB, Russo has produced a .336/.407/.433 line in 280 PAs against left-handed pitching over the last two seasons at Triple A. Isn’t that what you want in a player that is your right-handed platoon guy?
So if you take all that into consideration, Russo was the clear choice for me. But full disclosure: I’m a Notre Dame fan, so fuck the Tuiasosopo family. Let’s just move on to the final roster spot…
Poor Choice #3: Don Kelly over Quintin Berry
I’ll attempt to keep this brief since you all have heard way, way too many times how America’s Sweetheart, Don Kelly, is the bane of my existence. The Kelly lovers out there constantly beat the drum that Kelly can play anywhere on the field. How nice. But do we need a guy like that anymore?
The other reserves can play anywhere on the infield. Kelly plays first and third. Great. We have Fielder and Cabrera who don’t take days off. Kelly plays the outfield and is a better defender than Berry. Wonderful. But Boesch has been replaced by Torii Hunter. We don’t need a late innings outfield defensive replacement anymore. And to be honest, Don Kelly’s defense is the most overrated thing I can think of in recent Detroit Tigers lore. Did I mention he can’t hit MLB pitching worth a shit?
Quintin Berry is a flawed player. His swing is long. He takes poor routes to the baseball. Adults that clap all the time frighten me. But the dude can run. He was 21 for 21 in stolen base attempts last year. He is the only guy in the upper parts of the organization that can steal a base at will, which is something that could come in pretty handy in a 4-4 game in the 8th inning. The 2004 Red Sox wouldn’t have made their historic comeback over the Yankees without Dave Roberts pinch running and stealing a base. Berry should be our Dave Roberts.
Don Kelly brings nothing except multiple average gloves and giant bag of Jim Leyland smiles. Neither of those things trump Berry’s amazing speed. But again, Jimbo is a loyal guy. So Kelly gets the nod.
Are any of these decisions going to cost the team the AL Central? Doubtful. Will there be a dozen moves made before the end of the season involving most of these guys? Probably. But it still irritates me.
I want to see the best team possible on the field that the Tigers are capable of fielding. And they have failed to do so with this Opening Day roster.
Oh, Brayan Pena sucks donkey dick, too.
At least they kept Darin Downs. That made me happy. Hooray.