Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Back From the Dead

After six long months, our national nightmare is over. Daddy has come home. Tell your friends.

Howdy, jerks. Welcome to TigerSnark, possibly the only voice of reason in online Detroit Tigers writing. Due to a toxic combination of personal reasons, apathy toward the team, disgust with the media, Don Kelly taking up a roster spot, and the leftover bitter taste of the Doug Fister trade, this site has remained dormant for half a year. I’ve decided to give it one more shot.

For the uninformed, this blog is an attempt at a humorous look at the Detroit Tigers baseball team and those that cover it. Try not to take it too seriously. I’m writing this from Toledo, Ohio, a 45 minute drive from Detroit, which is famous for its undrinkable tap water, unnecessary road construction, and the world’s largest collection of poor tattoo art…usually on the neck. (I basically live in the world’s largest Walmart.) Our mayor dropped dead last week. Welcome.

In the coming weeks leading up to the season, I plan on revisiting some games from the past, getting caught up on the past six months of news, and putting focus on the upcoming season. Unlike last year in the wake of the Fister debacle, I’ve come to miss baseball, miss writing about it, and am looking forward to the upcoming campaign. But first, I want to address an issue that shows no signs of improvement. This issue is the ongoing disconnect between many fans and the media.

Face it. Most media coverage on the Tigers sucks. The majority of the beat reporters regurgitate whatever the Tigers PR department tells them while adding little to no analysis, not wanting to ruffle feathers or upset the organization. When was the last time some major news was broken by a hometown writer instead of a national one? They all come across as nice people, but they seem to exist to be megaphones for whatever nonsense Dave Dombrowski is spewing this week. Fans learned not to believe a word DD says a long time ago. Why trust the guys that do little but parrot his company line?

Sports talk radio is a joke. Anyone that looks for intelligent sports talk on the radio dial in today’s world may as well try to meet Santa Claus or search for deep meaning in an Adam Sandler movie. Detroit sports talk radio is putrid. So is Toledo’s. I assume it is everywhere. At least mLive isn’t printing Bill Simonson’s garbage on their site anymore. (I recently found out that Huge blocked me on Twitter despite my never sending him a tweet or attempting to follow him. I guess the truth hurts. Coward.)

As for the big Detroit newspapers?

I refuse to read the Free Press anymore. Anyone that continues to employ Drew Sharp and Mitch Albom is not serious about covering sports in a coherent manner in 2015. Why should I bother? I would rather watch my cat eat its own vomit than read Sharp’s troll bait or another pandering Albom moral piece.

Then there’s the odd mishmash that is The Detroit News. Lynn Henning, while occasionally entertaining in an odd way I’m unable to fully explain, is a crazy person that hasn’t been right about anything since perhaps the Granderson trade. They still publish Jerry Green’s ancient garbage that doesn’t resonate with any reader under the age of 80. Former BYB head Kurt Mensching means well and is often informative, but often comes off like he’s talking down to Tigers fans and doesn’t like them much. Months after finding out he was heading to the Hall of Fame, Tom Gage was suddenly forced out at the News in favor of Chris McCosky (who I’ll get to in a bit). Only Tony Paul is consistently informative, interesting, honest, and fun to read, in my opinion. Yet Tony has his haters online, too.

As for blogs? There’s not as many good ones as there used to be. Many have seemed to get caught up in page hits and emphasizing quantity over quality. If you know of a good one worth my time, let me know on Twitter @DNR_Rogo.

My biggest issue with most of the Detroit baseball media is the constant “nothing is wrong, stop overreacting” message that they continue to send in spite of what we’ve seen on the diamond. We get enough of that from the Ministry of Propaganda at Fox Sports Detroit. It’s overkill to get it from the print media, too. This message may have been closer to being true a couple years ago, but not now. The Tigers window for winning a championship is closing, if it hasn’t already.

We’ve seen multiple MVPs, Cy Young winners, and playoff appearances in the past decade. But despite having megastars like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer around, they have failed to win a World Series trophy since 1984. The stars are getting older. Injuries are building up. Players are leaving. Doug Fister was traded for magic beans and a sack of shit. As a fan that didn’t start watching baseball until 1985, this is unacceptable.

Is one World Series title too much to ask? Fans have a reason to be angry. Yet many in the media continue to tell them they’re wrong to be upset.

This is where I get back to McCosky. Gage’s replacement has covered the other major sports in Detroit over the past few years. As someone that isn’t a fan of the Lions, Wings, or Pistons, I am not familiar with his work. From what I hear from those that know his stuff, he wouldn’t be much of an improvement over Sharp, let alone Tom Gage. And his first article that I’ve come across here isn’t the best start.

If you've been listening to or reading the national and local pundits this past week, though, you'd be hard-pressed to feel much hopefulness about the Tigers. The consensus seems to be that their time as legitimate World Series contenders is up. They won't be able to make up for the loss of Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, the bullpen is still too unstable and there are far too many unproven and unknown factors.
And that was before Victor Martinez tore his surgically-repaired left meniscus last week.
The way I see it, these are the general thoughts of any rational Detroit Tigers fan. The starting rotation has taken a major step down. The bullpen and bench have done little to be improved. And while I’m happy with Cespedes over Hunter in the lineup (and especially in the field), the offense still has problems like the lack of offense from Gose/Iglesias/Avila and Kinsler’s declining OBP. But please, tell us why we should ignore all of this, Chris.
I heard one analyst on MLB Network last week say the Tigers, because of a bloated payroll, will soon face their day of reckoning, predicting they would become the American League version of the Phillies in a few short years.
Untrue. I’m sick of the comparison to the Phillies that people keep making. Philly actually won a World Series with their group.
Amplifying the point, ESPN's Keith Law rated the team's farm system as the worst in baseball while his colleague Jayson Stark noted the Tigers have $330 million tied up in Cabrera (who will be 32 in April) and Martinez (36) through 2023.
Um, when do we start feeling better about this team? I’ve got things to do and am beginning to not feel well…
Both Cabrera and Martinez could miss the start of the season, which has people concluding the Tigers are going to start slowly, and given that they play 28 of their first 35 games against much-improved teams from the AL Central, it only stands to reason they are going to dig too deep a hole to climb out of.
Much improved Central? The Royals are worse. The Indians are basically the same. The Twins still suck. Only the White Sox have really improved. Have I been watching a different offseason? Is Max still around and I’ve been making sad faces for nothing? IS DONNIE A MARLIN OR NOT?
Woah, woah, woah. Let's pump the breaks on this for a second. Let's not go straight to the worst-case scenario and bury the boys before the first team meeting, group stretch and long toss of the spring.
This worst-case scenario you speak of is actually a bunch of unarguable facts.
Going from Scherzer/Porcello to Greene/Simon isn’t just a step down. It’s Wile E Coyote falling off a cliff and landing on a bed of nails.
The Tigers actually do have a bloated payroll with some potentially terrible contracts in the near future. If they don’t face the luxury tax this season, they’re teetering on the edge.
The farm system is beyond horrible. Anyone not named Dombrowski or Henning will tell you that.
And Cabrera and Martinez will be starting the season coming off surgeries and it will take some time to get them up to speed.
What part of any of that is a worst-case scenario? Here’s the actual worst-case scenario.
Cabrera tweaks something trying to come back too soon and misses the first half. He gets depressed, starts drinking again, and runs over Anibal Sanchez repeatedly with his car. Verlander continues his downward spiral and I have to see him naked again somehow. Ausmus decides that Gose is the leadoff man because SPEED. Avila gets the first of twelve more concussions bonking his head while getting out of the car the first day of Spring Training. The team decides to replace Wally Joyner with Brandon Inge as hitting coach. The Marlins release Kelly and DD immediately signs him and adds him to the active roster. Price gets mauled by his beloved dog, misses the season, and signs with the Yankees the day after Cleveland wins the World Series. During all this, Doug Fister goes 32-0 with Washington and wins a Cy Young Award. Then Mr. I. dies and his kids sell the team to the woman that owned the Indians in Major League.
THAT is the worst-case scenario.
If I may step out of my own personal, typically negative, comfort zone for a second, I'd like to illuminate a couple of pertinent facts.
Oh, illuminate us, oh great one.
1. The Tigers are not an old team.
The only "old" players are closer Joe Nathan (40), Martinez (36) and maybe Rajai Davis (35). The core of the team are players still in the prime of their careers – though you can argue some are approaching the latter end of that spectrum. Cabrera is going to be 32 in April. Justin Verlander is 32. Ian Kinsler is 33. Yoenis Cespedes is 30. David Price is 29. Anibal Sanchez will be 31 this month. Joaqim Soria is 31.
I would consider a player’s prime to be ages 26-30. Cabrera, while the greatest hitter I’ve ever seen in Detroit, has broken down in each of the past two seasons. Verlander has seen his velocity decline the past couple years and was a shell of his former self in 2014. Kinsler is overrated on offense for a guy that gets on base as little as he does. Cespedes and Price are likely checking their watches constantly until they can bolt via free agency. Sanchez misses a month to injury every season. And Soria struggled as a Tiger after arriving in a trade from Texas.
Age isn’t the issue people worry about with these players. Performance is what concerns the fanbase. In two years, that’s when age becomes the problem. That brings us back to that window closing. And that is what scares Tiger fans.
An aside on Cabrera: Does anybody really think his days as a dominant hitter are winding down? I can easily see him being an ultra-productive designated hitter through age 40.
That’d be great if the team hadn’t already signed V-Mart to be the highly-paid DH for the next four years. Who knows how much damage Miguel will do to himself out there before Victor retires?
Edgar Martinez hit .305 with 164 home runs, 669 RBI and an OPS of .930 from the ages of 35 through 41. Raul Ibanez hit 167 home runs with 628 RBI and a .789 OPS from the ages of 35 through 42.
I like Cabrera's chances on matching or bettering those post-35 numbers.
As do I. But so did the Angels when it came to Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Age does funny things to the body and everyone is different. Look at Torii Hunter’s defense disappearing seemingly overnight. I’m only 37 and can’t stand up from a chair without my body making at least three unpleasant sounds. My son finds it HILARIOUS. Little prick…
But to say the Tigers are going to be the Phillies in a couple of years
*without the World Championship
is a stretch given the strong group of young players either already at the Major League level or about break through -- third baseman Nick Castellanos,
Negative 1.5 bWAR last year and uses a frying pan instead of a glove at third base
outfielder J.D. Martinez,
Possible one-year wonder
shortstop Jose Iglesias,
Legs made of popsicle sticks
catcher James McCann,
Untested at MLB level
outfielders Anthony Gose
Can’t hit
and Steven Moya,
Strikes out more than a blindfolded Rob Deer
plus a bunch of talented young arms (Shane Greene, Bruce Rondon, Ian Krol, Blaine Hardy, Buck Farmer, Kyle Lobstein, Kyle Ryan, Drew VerHagen, Kevin Ziomek, Austin Kubitza, just to name some).
Define “talented”. I like Greene, though his minor league numbers are not impressive. Rondon is the new Zumaya, minus the one year of success. The rest are just a group of guys…no one that’s going to scare anybody. If these young arms are so promising, how come none of them show up on any top prospect lists? These are replacement arms, barring any huge miracle jumps in talent in 2015.
If Buck effing Farmer is your team’s secret weapon, you’re in big trouble.
There certainly could be a drop-off in the next couple of years. That's only natural. But unless there is a significant change in ownership or administration, I can't see it falling completely off the cliff.
Like the sickly 80-something team owner passing away? Yeah, that can’t possibly happen anytime soon.
I’ll skip the next section which dealt with Martinez’s injury. On Tuesday it was announced he’ll only be out 4-6 weeks ending any of McCosky’s speculating. But I feel it’s not silly for fans to be concerned about the 36 year old former catcher’s knees continuing to break down in the coming years after multiple surgeries and signing a 4 year, $68M contract.
But it's way too early in the process to shovel dirt on the 2015 Tigers.
I haven’t seen anyone declare this team dead. The AL Central still sucks. The Tigers are still the divisional favorite unless you really like Cleveland’s Brandon Moss signing. But on paper they’re not as good as the recent squads that didn’t get the job done. This is what concerns people and you fail to see this point. Dombrowski has continued to fail to address the same problems that have plagued the team in the past playoff failures over and over.
Our obsession with the question marks and concerns, a byproduct no doubt of last season's miserable ending, might be clouding our overall vision of this team.
Or the awful bullpen, non-existent bench, zero minor league depth, and questionable health of 1/3 of the starting offense might be actual things that people should be concerned about. Nah. Ignore all that. Look at these other things instead!
Here are some things to like and look forward to.
* A much-improved defense with Alex Avila and James McCann behind the plate, Kinsler and Iglesias up the middle, and Gose and Davis in center. The outfield defense will be much-improved with Cespedes and J.D. Martinez (or Davis, or Tyler Collins or Moya) in the corners. Love Torii Hunter to death, and his bat and leadership will be missed, but his range had shrunk severely in right field.
I see what you’re doing. Many Tigers fans fell for this “YAY DEFENSE” story last spring. It didn’t happen. Avila is a zombie. We don’t know what we have with McCann. Iggy’s range hasn’t been tested on his repaired magic Gump legs yet. Davis sucks in CF. And while Cespedes has a cannon for an arm, his range isn’t exactly Trout-like. Martinez, Collins, and Moya aren’t anything special on D, either. What if Iglesias gets hurt again? Suarez was traded for no good reason. And you forgot Nick Castellanos and his defense that made Cabrera’s defense at third look like Inge’s glory days.
Besides, no amount of improved defense is going make Greene/Simon approach Scherzer/Porcello performance. And less talented starting pitching means you have to rely on the bullpen more. And the bullpen…
* A still-formidable offense, even if it is still right-handed heavy. At some point, sooner than later is my guess, manager Brad Ausmus is going to write the names of these healthy hitters in the middle of his lineup – Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, Cespedes, Castellanos. He will have Kinsler hitting before that group. Not too shabby.
Kinsler’s OBP dropped from .344 with the Rangers in 2013 to .307 with Detroit in 2014. That’s pretty shabby. I agree that the offense is the one part of the team that may be better than last year with the addition of Cespedes and Castellanos having a full MLB season under his belt. But they still lack a true leadoff hitter. And it remains to be seen if Ausmus decided to learn math this offseason and will platoon Avila/McCann and Gose/Davis properly.
* Verlander is healthy and strong, coming off a full offseason work regimen. He may not be able to bring the consistent 98 mph gas any more, but he still possesses four elite pitches. The smart money is on a big-time bounce back year.
Based on what? I hope this is true. But the drop in velocity the past couple years is alarming. The guy turns 32 in nine days, not 36. The fastball shouldn’t have disappeared like it has. His “elite” pitches got smacked around pretty good last year. His command was gone. Without Scherzer and Porcello to cushion the loss of the JV of old, an average Verlander will not cut it with the 2015 Tigers and beyond. Especially with five years at $28M per season left on his deal.
* Verlander, Price and Sanchez as the top three guns in the rotation – not what any sane observer would call a weak spot.
Sure. It’s going from Max/Rick to Greene/Simon that has sane observers concerned.
* With Rondon and Soria healthy, Ausmus has legitimate options should Nathan falter again.
Rondon isn’t fully healthy yet, is he? And his history shows little that the Tigers can expect him to become an elite arm out of the pen. Even when he was throwing 100+ mph, he had no idea where the ball was going.
Also, fuck Joe Nathan with a coat hanger.
Also, there are eight to 10 other strong-armed prospects in the wings who will compete for bullpen work all season.
Name one that isn’t replacement level or worse. You can’t. There aren’t any.
There might not be the marquee names we'd all love, but there is quality depth.
Unlike last season, Ausmus won't have to ride slumping relievers for very long.
I’m going to remember this line. How anyone could make this statement when looking at the relievers on the Detroit roster is beyond insanity. Did Tom Gage kill someone in the News editor’s family? Run over their dog? I can’t think of any other explanation.
* Greene could prove to be an upgrade on Porcello.
/stares at computer screen for a half hour with mouth hanging open
Greene, like Porcello, throws a power sinker and cutter, but he has more average velocity (94 mph). He will welcome pitching in spacious Comerica Park, as opposed to hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. This guy is just scratching the surface.
He didn’t pitch at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium in the minors. His Triple-A ERA was 4.64 in 15 games. Overall in the minors, he went 29-43 with a 4.39 ERA. Calling him a potential upgrade over Porcello at this point is ridiculous and insulting.
So there you go. Some pockets of hope amidst the portents of doom. You are welcome.
You are a nut bar. Sorry, Tom Gage. I was never your biggest fan, but overall I found your work harmless. You deserved a better fate.

After reading this, is there any doubt why there is a disconnect between Tiger fans and the media? McCosky uses his forum to talk down to the fanbase and assure them that all is well in Comerica Park. Meanwhile, more and more chinks appear in the Tigers' armor to anyone willing to look for themselves. I find it insulting and nearly every major writer in Detroit practices their craft in the same manner. Why is that? Have they forgotten what it is like to just be a fan? Or are they more concerned with making the team's front office happy with their writing than the public that they are supposed to be writing for?

Well, kids, I hate to return on a downer, but this was maddening for me to read. I promise to try and be more upbeat in the coming weeks. Yes, there are a lot of questions with this team. But we can still have some fun…

unless Kelly somehow comes back or they do something like trade Sanchez for three horseshit players. In that case I’m buying a Nationals hat and am out for good.

Welcome back to TigerSnark, everyone. I promise not to talk to you all like you’re stupid. That’s better than most writers will guarantee you.

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