October 18, 2011
As the postseason soldiers on, the eliminated teams are facing an offseason filled with golf rounds and hot-stove strategery.
But we're not going to let them get off that easy. No sir. No way. In an attempt to bring some closure between franchise and follower, we're giving a blogger from each team the opportunity to detain their squads for the equivalent of a Saturday morning detention stay.
I have to admit, I'm a little bit surprised to see you Detroit Tigers in this office. We'd been keeping an eye on your progress and thought you might be headed for bigger things.
A lot of us kept waiting for you to slip and fall, like you did in the second half over the past few years. Sometimes, we heard so much from the Chicken Littles that we closed the door, pulled down the shades, and got out the bottle we keep in that bottom right drawer.
But you quieted all the naysayers by stepping on those Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox to win the AL Central by 15 games, the biggest margin among the six division winners. Yeah, even the Phillies. Frankly, it was nice to kick back and enjoy September for once while you served those negative Nancies a big ol' cup of Shut the f— well, you know what I mean.
Look, you beat the New York Yankees in the playoffs. Maybe we're not supposed to say this, but you made a lot of people happy with that. That goes a long way around here. Tigers fans still talk about you beating them in the 2006 postseason. Never gets old, really. No matter what, you ended their season by striking out A-Rod! Who didn't love that?
Punishable Offenses: Which one of you is Jackson? Austin Jackson(notes)? Look, kid — quit striking out, all right? Just doesn't look good. Especially from a leadoff hitter. I don't know why Jim Leyland keeps putting you there. That's something that needs to be addressed next season.
Then you bullpen guys. Not Joaquin Benoit(notes) and Jose Valverde(notes). You guys can go. You're fine. Will you do that thing where you squat, kick out, then beat your chest before you leave, though? Ha, ha — I love that.
But you other guys, enough with throwing the fat pitches. Daniel Schlereth(notes)? Get some batters out, instead of whatever else it is you're doing. Ryan Perry(notes)? Some goofball wrote a nice article about you that must have gone to your head. You stunk after that. Al Alburquerque(notes)? Love that name, but hanging those sliders is no way to get through life, son. That home run Robinson Cano(notes) hit off you in the ALDS just sent us a message to us — back from the planet Neptune, where it landed.
Partners in Crime: I don't know what you hitters are chuckling about. Those pitchers need some help. Are Miguel Cabrera(notes) and Victor Martinez(notes) supposed to drive in the runs by themselves? Yes, Jhonny Peralta(notes) — you had a great year. And we don't know how you did it, but we're really hoping you can do it again.
Alex Avila(notes), stand tall, son. Well yes — I know you can't because your knees are all messed up. But that was one heck of year at catcher. Leyland probably got a little too carried away, playing you almost non-stop. Didn't you play 33 of 34 games at one point? Obviously, it caught up with you in the postseason.
But the rest of you — how about getting on base once in a while?
Brandon Inge(notes), I don't know what you're smiling about. Maybe that you probably have a major league job again. But you hit .197. The Tigers sent you to Toledo this year, so they can do it again next year if you don't figure it out. Ryan Raburn(notes)? Can the Tigers play you without having to put you on the field? And all you second basemen ... did Penny's car leave yet? If not, you might want to join him.
Something to Build On: We'll be seeing you starting pitchers in Detroit for quite a while. Justin Verlander(notes) is signed through 2015. Doug Fister(notes), Max Scherzer(notes) and Rick Porcello(notes) still have their three arbitration years. And Jacob Turner(notes), the prize of the farm system could be joining the fun next year. Nice job, Dave Dombrowski. Is that why the pizza guy gave you that contract extension?
Combine that with a core of offensive talent — Cabrera, Martinez, Avila, Brennan Boesch(notes), maybe Delmon Young(notes) — and a solid back end of the bullpen, and Dombrowski doesn't have many holes to fill this offseason. The man should eat, drink and sleep trying to find a leadoff hitter and second baseman, though.
Shape Up or Ship Out: Leyland, you earned yourself one more season in the dugout. I don't get why so many Tigers fans give you crap. Maybe they're just too familiar with your routine. But this was your best job as manager since you came to Detroit. Hmm? No thanks, I don't smoke. But if I did, I'd light one up with you. I think the national media would like to, as well.
The job you did with the bullpen, sir, was top-notch. Middle relief was a puzzle all season long, just trying to find a guy to dependably pitch the seventh inning. (Alburquerque had a nice run in midseason, though.) Getting the game from the starter to the setup man and closer was where you earned your money.
But can you bend a little on that lineup? Jackson's telling you he can't hit leadoff when he strikes out 180 times a season. Avila shouldn't be batting eighth when he's second on the team in OPS. And hopefully, you noticed how the team was able to score some runs early with Cabrera hitting third and Martinez hitting cleanup during the postseason? Keep those guys there, sir.
We know you don't like taking guys out of their comfort zones, but take a chance and put your best hitters where they can do the most damage. Notice how Ron Washington does it in Texas? (Oh, is that why you gave him that handshake?) No, you don't have to run in place like he does. No one wants to see that.
Okay, gang — I think we're done here. I don't think any of us want to have this conversation against next year. What do you say?
Read more of Big League Stew's Detention Lecture series here
Coming Wednesday: The Milwaukee Brewers