Sunday, October 20, 2013

R.I.P. 2013 Detroit Tigers (2013-2013)

It’s over. The Tigers flamed out in the most soul-crushing way possible. In Game Six, all of the 2013 Tigers non-greatest hits were on display. Bullpen meltdown. Defensive miscues. Baserunning brain farts. Questionable managerial decisions. Ridiculous umpiring calls against them.

Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I have just a few points before putting this season in the rear-view mirror.

Prince Fielder
Have you ever seen a superstar player completely shit the bed in the playoffs in every part of the game like Fielder did this year? He’s going to get extra attention with that $23 million salary. But even if he only made $3 million, the complete meltdown at the plate, the embarrassing defense, and the boneheaded baserunning would stick out like a sore thumb on this team.

The man had a bad year in his personal life. He is getting divorced. There are rumors, probably untrue, that his wife was involved with ex-teammate Avisail Garcia. He constantly seems to miss his children on the road. He has his ongoing issues with his father. He managed to gain even more weight this year.

Tough shit. We ALL have bad years. And us normal folk are all expected to continue going to work and doing our jobs at a high level. We do this making peanuts compared to a $23 million a year contract. Sure, it’s different worlds, but this is a stigma that Fielder is going to have to overcome. In the eyes of the general public of Tigers fans, he is a choker. He is an overpaid slob. He is in danger of becoming the most loathed Detroit athlete since, I don’t know, Juan Gonzalez?

He can change all of this, of course. If he can report in 2014 in better shape with a clear head and produce, it can easily be forgiven. He’s still in his prime. Miguel Cabrera proved that a player can make fans forget past crimes by producing on the field.

It’s called growing up and being an adult. Sulk on your time, big guy. Otherwise, get used to the boos. They’ve only just begun.

The Walking Wounded
I have to tip my cap to both Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila.

Miggy is amazing. The past couple months, it was obvious that the man was in a lot of pain on the field. Yet every day, he was out there being the beast that only he can be on the diamond. Yeah, he was slow on the basepaths. Sure, he was immobile on defense. And yes, his power was sapped at the end by his injures. Still, you have to respect his guts and determination. Soon, we’ll probably find out exactly how bad it really was. Whatever the result, I’ll always be grateful for the man’s effort in 2013. I’m proud that he plays for my team.

The same applies to poor Alex Avila. Say what you want about his hitting ability. But he is, by far, the best catcher in the organization. And he took a beating this year like no one I’ve ever seen…even for him. Alex became a father this year and got psychically destroyed down the stretch behind the dish. I hope he can enjoy his offseason, enjoy being a dad, and finally get healed up. Like him or not, you have to appreciate his guts.

Eight years is enough. From 2006 to 2013, Jim Leyland has done the best he could to turn this franchise around on the field. And he succeeded. Two World Series appearances, three straight AL Central titles, four total ALCS appearances…yeah, he did his job. But I think it’s time for a change.

The two managers in the World Series this year both have less than three years of managerial experience. So while Leyland’s resume is nice, it’s not necessary. His old school approach to his on-field strategy is something I’d like to seen done away with. His questionable bullpen usage and the infatuation with Don Kelly are part of the reason that my hairline isn’t what is used to be. And his fellow coaches, including Tom Brookens, Gene Lamont, and Lloyd McClendon would not be missed if they disappeared for good tomorrow.

The common reaction to Replace/Fire/Stab Leyland is “Well, who do you replace him with that’s better?” Well, that’s why you do interviews. I’d like to see a manager that doesn’t openly mock sabermetrics. The Red Sox openly embrace the statistical approach and are about to play in their third World Series in a decade. Talent can get you far, but to ignore information that could help a team be better is a critical flaw in Leyland’s ability as a manager.

I’d start with Manny Acta. Like the core of the Tigers roster, he is Hispanic. I think he could relate to his ballplayers better than the ancient, Caucasian current Tigers skipper. And the 44 year old is a saber guy, which as I’ve said, can only help this team. Acta hasn’t had much success as a big league manager thus far. But he’s never been given a team with any talent, either. I’d love to see what he could do with the Tigers roster.

I’m thankful for what Jim Leyland has done after I watched 20 years of failure on the field in Detroit. But it’s time to take it to the next level, something I’m not confident that Leyland and his staff can do. I can only watch the same mistakes be made so many times without contemplating murder ten times a day.

The offseason should be interesting. Jhonny Peralta will probably be gone. Left field will have to be addressed, as it should have been at the trade deadline. (Why, why, WHY didn’t we acquire Soriano???) The bullpen definitely needs to be overhauled. Rumors are swirling about Max Scherzer possibly being traded. There’s Cabrera’s recovery and Leyland’s future to be addressed. Yeah…it won’t be boring.

Regardless of what happens, 2013 will be a season that fans will remember for a lifetime. We saw the best starting rotation of our lives and the continued dominance of the greatest hitter we’ve ever seen in Miguel Cabrera. We saw hope and had our hearts broken. Again.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank you once again for reading my nonsense throughout this year, both on TigerSnark and on Twitter. It’s been fun.

I’m going to take a month or so off to focus on personal issues that I’ve neglected for too long. I’ll be back soon. For better or worse.

Again, thanks for making this fun. Take care.

Let the long, cold winter begin.

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