September 15, 2010
As the regular season winds down, 22 teams are facing an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategery.
Meanwhile, the fans of those squads are looking at the prospect of spending the winter without the warmth of a postseason appearance. In an attempt to bring some closure between franchise and follower, we're asking a blogger from each team to write a cathartic missive to their disappointing 2010 lineups.
Dear Detroit Tigers,
I really didn't want to write this letter, but I think we both knew it was coming. We've been together almost six months now, and it was fun for four of them. But since the All-Star break, we've had problems. It was encouraging that we talked about what was wrong around the trade deadline, and that we acknowledged what was needed to be successful.
Ultimately, however, I think we have to face reality. This just isn't working out. What I really believe, and I hope you agree, is that it would help if we just took a break.
Maybe what we can do is watch some other teams over the next few weeks, see how they do things, and what makes them successful. We could both take notes on what we think this needs to really work. Then, right before the holidays, we can get together, compare those notes, and see where we can go from there. I'm willing to try if you are. This could really be good for us. I really think that happens.
The Good Times: Besides, no matter what happens, we'll always have June 2. It was almost perfect. Some would say it was perfect. Most of my friends think it was, and I bet you hear the same thing a lot, too.
Armando Galarraga pitching a perfect game? It sounds like something you and I would've joked about back in March. I mean, the guy didn't even make the team coming out of spring training.
But on that early June night, it all came together so wonderfully. The weather was nice, the Indians were terrible, and Galarraga's sinker and slider were really moving. The defense played great behind him, too. Remember that ninth-inning catch by Austin Jackson(notes)? It was one of the most beautiful things we'd ever seen. And Rod Allen's "Oh, Jackson!" call became a running joke between us for weeks.
If only the night could've ended right there. But there was that play at first base. A ground ball by Jason Donald(notes), gloved by Miguel Cabrera(notes). And a simple flip over to Galarraga covering at the bag. Perfect, just as the rest of the game had been. Right?
Well, yep, except for that umpire calling the play. Three months later, we still don't know what Jim Joyce was thinking. What did he see? What did he think he saw? I think he just choked. It happens to players, as you know. Clearly, it happens to umpires, too.
But you know what? That night didn't have to be perfect to be memorable. Joyce knew he messed up, and was as contrite as we've ever seen an umpire. Galarraga, the man who had the most right to be upset, was forgiving. It was an amazing example of sportsmanship. And people took notice. The Tigers and Galarraga were the talk of the baseball world for days to come. Even the greater pop culture couldn't believe what had happened. It was all over the TV morning talk shows and nightly newscasts.
Other teams got their perfect games this season. But we got something more. Call it the first 28-out perfect game, if you want to. There was that tearful exchange between Joyce and Galarraga the next day, when the lineup cards were turned in at home plate. We saw the best of us over those 18 hours. And that's going to be a whole lot more memorable than if Joyce had made the right call and Galarraga got the perfect game he deserved.
The Bad Times: What happened to you during the All-Star break, Detroit Tigers? Before that four-day hiatus in Anaheim, you were a half-game out of first place. But when you came back, you were a completely different team. A team fighting for a division title doesn't come back from a vacation and get swept in four games (including a doubleheader) by the Cleveland Indians. A good team at least fights out a split on the road. It was just never the same after that.
Originally, I thought Galarraga was the embodiment of this 2010 season. He neared perfection, only to be briefly sent down to the minors weeks later. But I think Brennan Boesch(notes) might be a more suitable representation. From May through June, he looked like a better Rookie of the Year candidate than his teammate, Jackson. Eleven home runs? Thirty-eight RBIs? A batting average near .350? Not being named to the All-Star team seemed like a huge snub.
But as with the team, something happened to Boesch after he took that time off. He just wasn't the same player when he came back. Maybe other teams finally got "a book" on Boesch, and were throwing him more off-speed stuff that he couldn't pull. Whatever the reason, his numbers plummeted. In July and August combined, Boesch hit .197 with two homers and 16 RBIs. He would've been sent to the minors, if not for the fact that someone — anyone — was needed to play the outfield.
It's Not All You: I know what you're going to say, and I can't argue with you. It was impossible to compete with all the injuries you suffered. Joel Zumaya(notes) broke his elbow. Brandon Inge(notes) broke his hand. Magglio Ordonez(notes) broke his ankle. Carlos Guillen(notes) strained just about every part of his lower body — hamstring, toe, calf and knee. Not many teams could lose one-third of their lineup and stay in contention. Especially when you really may not have been good enough to win the AL Central in the first place.
Don't give me that look. Minnesota shook its Twins at me, and Chicago flashed its White Sox, but I believed in you. OK, my preseason prediction was for third place. But I was willing to stick with you and see where the season took us.
Shape Up or Ship Out: Look, I don't want to give up on you. I'm excited by all the young players you showed me this season. Ten rookies saw playing time, a handful of whom could be regulars in next year's lineup. Will Rhymes(notes) could be next year's second baseman. Boesch or Casper Wells(notes) might fill one of the corner outfield spots. Jackson could win Rookie of the Year and be a star for years to come.
But we can't go on like this and hope things will just get better. It doesn't work that way. You and I both know some changes have to be made. Don't just assume Carl Crawford(notes) is going to the Yankees, Red Sox or Angels. Go after him. How about Jayson Werth(notes)? He can hit for average and power, and has a solid glove. We should also talk about some pitching. You really need a fourth or fifth starting pitcher.
And between us, you should really get rid of Guillen. He's no good for you. You can do better.
Look, there's a lot to build on here, and I don't want to give up on that. This doesn't have to be the end. People like you. Think about all the nice things Johnny Damon has said about you and Detroit this season. Yes, maybe he's kissing up for a new contract. But that doesn't mean what he said isn't true. You can be a good team next season.
Until next April,
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Follow Ian on Twitter — @iancass
Read Big League Stew's previous Dear John letters here.