Monday, June 10, 2013

No More Potato, Please

I like Jose Valverde. Up until turning into manure at the end of last season, he did a great job closing games for the Tigers. He was fun to watch. He seems like a good, fun-loving person. I root for Jose Valverde to succeed. In fact, when they brought him back this season, I can’t recall wanting to see a particular player succeed more than Papa Grande since I’ve started watching baseball.

But now that we’ve had some time to see what he has to offer, I don’t want Jose Valverde closing games for my baseball team anymore. His time has passed. And no matter how much the propaganda masters at FSD, Lynn Henning, or any other homer sportswriter tells us differently, any idiot can see that Valverde is an accident waiting to happen on the mound. It pains me to agree with the crazy majority of the fanbase, but it’s true.

But you won’t hear that from Rod Allen, Craig Monroe, John Keating, or Henning. Add Jeff Seidel from the Free Press to the list of those telling us to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. This is his latest. Let's go through it together, shall we?

Jose Valverde leaned back in a leather chair in the Tigers’ clubhouse Saturday night, playing an online video poker game.

Valverde looked calm. Composed. Relaxed.

“I’m winning right now,” Valverde said with a laugh and a smile, looking down at a handheld device and talking about the poker game.

Then, suddenly, without warning, he went all-in with a two of spades and a seven of hearts. He lost everything. Jim Leyland called it a “no-brainer”.

Valverde might act wild and crazy on the mound — gyrating and clapping and screaming — but he has an easy calm off the field. And that’s what skipper Jim Leyland likes about him.

You know what I would like in my closer? For him to get people out and not allow 2.3 home runs per 9 innings.

No matter the situation, Valverde doesn’t freak out.

Valverde didn’t freak out after giving up two home runs Friday night.

And he didn’t freak out after getting into trouble in the ninth inning Saturday against the Cleveland Indians.

Valverde ended the game with two strikeouts, earning the save in a 6-4 victory at Comerica Park.

I’m no journalism major (yes, it shows), but what’s up with the one sentence per paragraph rule that the Freep and News seem to have? It’s a genuine question. I assume it is to keep you, the supposedly lazy reader, to keep reading instead of tuning out. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ll ask Kurt if he’s still speaking to me.

“I thought Valverde did terrific,” Leyland said. “For once in my life, I’m right, I think.

Breaking news: Leyland admits he is never right. Victory to Simonson!

Even though I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. He didn’t panic. He has done it before, and he closed the game out.”

Just a few minutes after the game, Valverde was sitting in front of his locker, chillin’, playing video poker.

Ho-hum. No big deal.

You covered this. This is a classic article that could have been written in approximately six sentences total. But through repetition, the author will stretch it out over a full column. Mitch Albom made a career out of this.

“I took the ball and did my job,” Valverde said. “That’s the role of the closer. You will save the game or lose the game. There is nothing you can do.”

Except put a pitcher in that position that will give you a better chance at actually saving the game and less of a chance at losing the game. Like Joaquin Benoit. Or Drew Smyly. Possibly Don Kelly…

Valverde has eight saves this season. And as Leyland said, there is no telling how this will turn out.
But for now — again — so far, so good.

Except for when it was bad those couple times.

“I feel great,” Valverde said after pitching in his third straight game. “This is what the Tigers pay me for. To pitch.”

No. To save games, Papa. Save games. Any asshole can just pitch. See Thomas, Brad. Or Penny, Brad.

And then, he looked down at his poker game and played a card.

Ho-hum. No big deal.

Ho-hum. Lazy sportswriting in Detroit.

“Now, is he going to let some get away?” Leyland asked. “That’s very possible.

Other things Jim Leyland thinks are very possible:

-Kate Upton being attractive
-Craig Monroe stuttering through every sentence

They all do. But what you saw today, he didn’t panic. He’s a pretty cool customer. I’m pretty happy with him.”

The author and the manager of the Tigers are hung up on this “not panicking” thing. And I agree that it is a quality that a closer should possess. But a pitcher possessing a 92 mph fastball with little movement, and an iffy splitter that he can only throw when the temperature is between 85 and 88.5 degrees (with little wind), needs a bit more to be qualified to close for a championship quality team than the “no panic gene”.

If not, let’s just have a local fireman or a New York police officer be the new closer. They’re good at resisting the urge to panic. They usually have fun mustaches, too. Everybody loves that!

Leyland did not want to use Valverde on Saturday.

Get in line, Jimbo.

Not after the 35-year-old closer threw 26 pitches Friday night.

“I’m not really worried about Valverde,” Leyland said before the game, talking about the Friday nail-bitter. “I just think he threw a couple of splits that didn’t split real good.”

I’m not worried that the pitcher we’d most like to get strikeouts can’t throw the closest thing he has to a strikeout pitch "real good".

But Leyland was forced to use Valverde on Saturday after the Indians climbed back into the game, making a comfortable lead feel suddenly uncomfortable.

Valverde took the mound in the ninth and got a quick out when Mark Reynolds flied to centerfield. On a splitter.

Mark Reynolds has hit .221, .221 again, and .198 the past three seasons. He has led the league in strikeouts in four of the six full seasons he has played in baseball. Reynolds is awful. And still, I expected him to hit a 450 foot homer off of Valverde. A closer shouldn’t send such fear rushing through his team’s fanbase. Just a thought.

Valverde crouched, next to the mound, and pounded his fists together in joy.

OK, so maybe he’s calm and cool after the game. But he’s Mr. Excited during it.

That’s the best you can come up with? Mr. Excited? How about Captain Enthusiastic? Or Animated-Man! Doctor Thrills-a-Minute! Put some thought into this or you will continue to lose my attention. Good thing you’re doing one sentence paragraphs, amirite?

At least you didn’t call him Mr. Happy.

Then it started to get interesting when Carlos Santana looped a ball into shallow rightfield between Omar Infante and Torii Hunter.

Side rant: Torii Hunter sucks in right field. I know he’s getting older, but yikes. Half the time, I feel like I’m watching Brennan Boesch out there wearing a suit made out of Torii Hunter’s skin.

Infante tried to catch the ball over his shoulder with his back to the infield. It would have been a pure circus catch, but he dropped it.

“We had a little freak play there, where Omar made a great effort. He just didn’t catch it,” Leyland said. “It was kind of a freaky play.”

Just say “hashtag Twins hit”. We’ll know what you mean.

And that freaky play made the rest of the game, well, a little freaky.

Zing. This is why every asshole including myself writes about sports now. Any clown can do it. And often, we do it much better than those paid to do so. It’s kind of...freaky?

Runner on first.

And up came Yan Gomes. The tying run at the plate.

The backup catcher.

It was serious pressure time.

Take deep breaths, everyone. The author is building suspense.

Valverde jumped out to an 0-2 count, then Gomes put together a great at-bat, working the count full before walking.

Yes. The closer turned an 0-2 count into a walk to the Tribe’s backup catcher because he lacks a consistent strikeout pitch.

The crowd was freaking out.
Nervous. Anxious. And look here: Ryan Raburn stepped to the plate. The former Tiger had homered earlier in the game.

Yes. Ryan Raburn. The most feared hitter in the league, if I’m not mistaken.

But Raburn struck out on a splitter.

LOL…that’s so Raburn.

Two outs.

And then Valverde faced Mike Aviles.

THE Mike Aviles? Oh noes!

At that moment, you had to wonder.

Would Valverde fall apart?

Would this be the start of the end of his time in Detroit?

Would something FREAKY happen?

(End this fucking article…)

It felt significant.

But Valverde struck him out. Again, on a splitter.

A terrible one out of the strike zone. Just like the one to Raburn. Good hitters wouldn’t have swung at them. They would have walked or waited for another 92 mph meatball and hit it to Auburn Hills. Like in Baltimore.

All three outs in the ninth inning came on splitters.

Problem solved, then. It worked once, so there is nothing to worry about.

This is the kind of shit we hear from C-Mo when Don Kelly gets one of his 1.8 hits in every 10 at bats. DONNY DO-IT-ALL. Play him every day! Eventually, it will work out once and you can pretend it was smart instead of lucky.

Go to hell.

“He made some quality pitches on Raburn and Aviles,” Leyland said. “Two strikeouts to end it. That’s pretty good.”

And now, the Tigers have a 4½-game lead over Cleveland.

Which means nothing in June.


And yet, it means something.
Oh. Good gawd, you’re bad at this.

Because every game, every save, will be huge in the end.

But not those blown saves. Don’t worry about those, right?

And that’s why it is so significant every time Valverde pitches. Every time he gets a save.

Huh? Every time he gets a save, it’s significant because every save will be huge in the end?

What the shit does that even mean?

As I said at the beginning, I like Jose Valverde. I wish him well. I wish he was the same guy that saved 49 of 49 in 2011. I also wish I could fly and that I could lose 20 pounds by eating at Chipotle every day.

But I can’t. And Valverde isn’t the same guy anymore.

In his first 204.1 innings as a Tiger, Vavlerde gave up only 13 home runs. In 15.2 innings this year, he’s already given up four. If you include the 2012 playoffs, he’s given up six homers in his last 16.2 innings. Look at that again.

First 204.1 innings: 13 HR
Last 16.2 innings: 6 HR

Holy crap. Who keeps letting this guy try to close?

He is 35 years old. He has lost velocity. He can’t hold a runner if his life depended on it. His splitter is garbage and he admits he can’t throw it in cold weather. You know when it gets cold? OCTOBER.

Was he good in his first twelve games this year? Yes. Yes, he was. He had a new appearance. He had a new windup. Through smoke and mirrors, Valverde looked like a new guy. But now that everyone’s gotten a look at him, he’s just Malibu Stacy in a new hat.

In his last four appearances, opposing hitters are batting .421. Even Valverde’s biggest defenders cannot possibly feel comfortable saying he’s the man to count on to save games in a pennant race or in the playoffs.

It was worth a shot in May. But it is madness to be lying to each other a month later. Use your eyes, Rod Allen, Craig Monroe, Jeff Seidel, and reader of this blog. The Big Potato is dead. It’s time to move on.

“I’ve been closing for 11 years in the big leagues,” Valverde said. “What happened yesterday is over, really.

That’s what I’m saying! At least Valverde gets it. Leyland keeps mumbling, “All I know is he’s done it before, grumble, grumble.” Yeah. So has Mike Henneman and Todd Jones. But they got old and I don’t want them doing it anymore. Same with Papa Grande.

You have to be focused on the next day.”

Exactly. I’m focused on what is coming up. And Jose Valverde, my friend, you are not the answer. Who is? We’ll see at the trade deadline. For now, Joaquin Benoit or Drew Smyly should be the answer. NOT PHIL COKE.

And then, he went back to playing his poker game. Playing his cards.

Calm. Composed. Relaxed.

And then the sportswriter went back to doing it again.

Lazy. Repetitive. Full of shit.

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