August 31, 2012

Nine Hard Innings

(Top) After the '06 run, things were really looking up for the Detroit Nine. (Above) Opening Day 2006 in Kansas City. The beginning of a magical season. (Below) Rod Allen talks about the upcoming 2012 season in February. Things were a lot brighter then. (Two below) Is the bubble about to burst? 

"This stuff has been going on here before and it’s not going to happen here. We had a chance to take a series. I’m not talking about anyone in particular. I’m talking about the team, myself, the coaches, and everybody else included. It’s my responsibility to have the team ready to play today, and they weren’t ready to play. They were ready to get on the plane and go to Oakland. If they won it was okay and if they lost it was okay. That’s not good enough." — Mgr. Jim Leyland, April 17, 2006

2006 Opening Day Roster
Managed by Jim Leyland

C- Ivan Rodriguez 
1B- Chris Shelton 
2B- Placido Polanco 
3B- Brandon Inge 
SS- Carlos Guillen 
RF- Magglio Ordonez 
CF- Curtis Granderson 
LF- Craig Monroe 
DH- Dmitri Young 

BENCH- Vance Wilson 
BENCH- Omar Infante 
BENCH- Ramon Santiago 
BENCH- Marcus Thames 

SP1- Kenny Rogers 
SP2- Jeremy Bonderman 
SP3- Mike Maroth 
SP4- Nate Robertson 
SP5- Justin Verlander 
CLOSER- Todd Jones 

BULLPEN- Joel Zumaya RHP 
BULLPEN- Fernando Rodney RHP 
BULLPEN- Jason Grilli RHP 
BULLPEN- Chris Spurling RHP 
BULLPEN- Jamie Walker LHP 

Of the above list, only eight of these guys are still playing Major League Baseball. And only three of them are still playing MLB for the Tigers. And one has returned. Oh, and one of their brothers is on the team now. So, nobody here even remembers when Leyland lit into the team and the slogan, "Nine Hard Innings" resulted. 

I thought 2008 was disappointing, but 2012 could take the cake. I realize it's okay to lose a few games during the long season. But at the Tigers current rate the Tigers will win 86 games and fall about four games behind the division leading Chicago White Sox. 

The Tigers are loaded with a solid offense that has been nothing short of offensive this season. Even the great pitching staff has been iffy, and the bullpen the other side of solid. Face it, it's questionable whether Phil Coke could even get a high schooler out. A high school reserve, at that. 

It's time to wake this group of "professionals" up or bring in a management team that will. I love Jim Leyland; I think what he's done in Detroit has been wonderful, but I look at the success that Don Mattingly and Robin Ventura have had with the Dodgers and White Sox respectively and can't help but wonder if today's younger players react better to younger coaches who presumably understand them better. You have to wonder if Joe Torre's act had worn thin by the time he arrived in Los Angeles. Think of how Lou Piniella faded away at both of his last stops in Tampa Bay and Chicago (Cubs). 

The coaches on that '06 team were Rafael Belliard, Chuck Hernandez, Gene Lamont, Lloyd McClendon, Don Slaught, and Andy VanSlyke. Hernandez was fired, Slaught quit, as did VanSlyke. Not all at once, but over time. How McClendon became the hitting coach is beyond me. The former Pirate employees all ended up a few hundred miles to the west, running the Tigers. 

McClendon is credited for helping Austin Jackson improve this season, but reports indicate that he worked on stuff "himself" over the winter. Hernandez and current pitching coach/former bullpen coach were both fired toward the end of the abysmal 2008 season (Sept. 28); however, Jones was soon re–hired as the bullpen coach and when Hernandez' replacement Rick Adair was fired in July 2011. Jones, fired once, is now the pitching coach. 

This crew confounds me. I'm hoping that the Tigers can somehow recover and get into the playoffs. But, right now it doesn't look good — and it might be time to shake things up again. This is too talented a roster to be barely above .500. The focus constantly lacks; you can see it both with hitters and pitchers, especially the bullpen. 

1 comment:

Paul Goodno said...

The Detroit Tiger’s start a three game series tonight against their biggest opponent and division rival the Chicago White Sox who sit three games above them in the standings and could be the biggest series of the year for the Tiger’s putting them in a make or break sitchuation to make the playoffs. Things are a bit disappointing with the team this year with all the high expectations and honestly even with the big acquisition of Prince Feilder this team is still building in vein. The lineup is different every day and is obviously the most inconsistent thing on this team. I watched the Pistons do this same kind of lineup shuffling under John Kuester and it ended up being one of the worst seasons in team history and Kuester one of the worst coaches in Pistons history. The upper management for the Tiger’s is great they are ready to build and put the big money out there to do so. I think Leyland and his crews time is overdue they are the cause of the repeated lineup shuffling day in and day out. They are also responsible for bad subbing. Bringing in guys that have not played in three days and expecting them to make the big clutch hit is absurd. Also whether a guy is better or worse going up against left handed or right handed hitting/pitching has not made a good difference for them all year yet they still keep going with that strategy. It’s pretty darn apparent and unfortunate that somehow someway Leyland has and has had favorites Ryan Rayburn is one of them who they struggled with for at least a month and a half longer than Leyland would anyone else by far. Another one is Phil Coke who they are still struggling with to this day. Another thing that has hurt the team and maybe the worst thing to this point is the Quintin Berry sitchuation. The Tiger’s biggest hole all year was the two spot in the lineup and really it still is. We have seen a lot of players try to fill it and the best production they finally found was from Andy Dirks. Then Andy injured himself and management hustled up Berry who not only produced immensely with hitting, excellent fielding, speed and more importantly had an immediate chemistry in the top four of the lineup he turned out to be the emotional spark that this team needed. They started to roll again going on 5,6 and 7 game winning streaks and scoring in bunches. Berry’s instant stardom with the fans was proof of where this team needed and wanted to be. Now Berry is sidelined and seems to be only used as a pinch runner which in itself has benefited the club. Even with Dirks back and healthy newly acquired Jeff Baker a cast away from the Chicago Cubs is getting ten times more playing time than Berry now with not even a quarter of the production. For a team that is always looking for answers or “whatever works” this is a huge contradiction and proves to be a major management flaw. Whenever a team has high talent and not producing like they should although I hate to do it you have to blame management. By acquiring Delmon Young, Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez, Austin Jackson, Max Sherzer, Doug Fister, Prince Feilder within the past two years obviously means the uppers were ready to invest in solid players but the trick after that is how they utilize them and that has not been done correctly. Although nine games above .500 and loads of talent and expectations this team is on the verge of not making the playoffs. No matter what happens this weekend this team is in need of new management in order for them to take advantage of the true potential that they possess.