Every time I sat down to write about a bit of Tigers news in the past five days, another shoe would drop and I’d think “I’ll write about both of those items.” Then another and another, etc.
So, as I wait out this Tigers/White Sox rain delay from bright, sunny Phoenix, it’s time to weigh in on:
- Todd Jones’s Retirement. The decades-old joke in Detroit is that the most popular person in the city is the Lions’ backup QB and/or the Red Wings’ backup netminder. I think we can now add the Tigers’ setup man to that punch line. Detroit is unusually cruel to its closers. Less than a year after Willie Hernandez won the 1984 Cy Young and MVP awards, he started getting booed and it’s never stopped. Mike Henneman did too, but to a much smaller degree. The Tigers were so unwatchable during Todd Jones‘s first tour of duty in Detroit, that often he was the only bright spot. Come to think of it, he was a welcome sight then because it mean the Tigers were in line for a rare win.
But what was it about Jones in his second stint as a Tiger? What made it so infuriating? Sure, he got 93 saves in just under three seasons but his ERA was always around four and … ah, what’s the use? Jones is a good guy and I’m sure he’ll be missed by his teammates. I guess. For me, though, I’ll never be able to forgive him for not being Joe Nathan.
- Inge Returns to Third. This move makes the Tigers’ infield defense significantly better next season. With the range he covers, Inge is essentially a third baseman and a half. So even if they decide to bring back Edgar Renteria, Inge makes the left side if not a plus than definitely not a minus. Now, about that average…
- Guillen to Left. As I wrote here, I think it’s more likely that we see Carlos Guillen back at short than in left field. Why? If they put Guillen in left and a light-hitting guy at short, the Tigers lose the potential production of Matt Joyce. And, if you put Guillen in the cavern that is Comerica Park’s left field, what are the odds on him pulling a hamstring before May 1? Not good.
- Chuck Hernandez Firing. I know that Doug and others have been calling for Hernandez to lose his job as a result of the pitching staff’s tank job. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a wuss when it comes to firing coaches or managers. The rhetorical question I always ponder is: How much impact does a coach have — or can a coach expect to have — at this level? Was Hernandez, the genius of 2006, suddenly a lousy coach? I don’t think so. He was nothing more than a vessel caught in the perfect storm of Jeremy Bonderman‘s injury, Dontrelle Willis‘s loss of … everything, Kenny Rogers‘ age, Justin Verlander‘s growing pains, and Nate Robertson‘s wrought-iron physiology.
I suppose the decision was also based on the bullpen’s lackluster year. Where do you start there? In fact, I think Hernandez should get a raise for having to deal with Fernando Rodney, Joel Zumaya, Aquilino Lopez and the rest. According to an article in the Free Press, Jim Leyland wants to go with a pitching coach and bullpen coach from the within the organization. I’m sure Joe Coleman, A. J. Sager and Ray Burris are good coaches, but if the Tigers want to show their serious, go after rockin’ Leo Mazzone or Rick Peterson.
- Jeff Jones’s Firing. I remember when Lloyd McClendon was named the Tigers’ bullpen coach for 2006. My reaction was “What does he know about a bullpen?” The answer, it would seem, was nuttin’. And if you read into this comment from Leyland, that’s precisely what the skipper wanted:
“It was a weird situation, and I won’t say for sure, but I doubt that I’m going to have a pitching coach as my bullpen coach. It’s worked very well in some places, but I think it makes people uncomfortable from time to time.”
Hmm. I would’ve thought being a pitching coach would help in guiding the bullpen. But now that I think about it, it probably makes about as much sense as having two hitting coaches – one for day games, one for night. Well, maybe not that example but perhaps there was some yin-and-yang between Hernandez’s approach and that of Jones which made Bobby Seay incapable of retiring a left-handed hitter?
- Sheff’s 500th Homer. The most entertaining parts of the weekend series against the Rays was watching Gary Sheffield‘s family — including Uncle Dwight Gooden — stand up and wave homemade signs for every at bat. My favorite: “Gramma Says 500″. I sure hope Sheff gets number 500 today in Chicago. There’s been no player in my years of following the Tigers on which I’ve turned 180Â° like Gary Sheffield. (By the by, I loved Leyland slotting Sheff in the two spot in the order on Sunday.)
Finally, I relied heavily on DirecTV’s Extra Bases Game Mix channel over the weekend to track the playoff races. It’s one screen with eight games shown at once. I kept going back to the Mets and Marlins game, hoping to see the Mets force a playoff with the Brewers. That didn’t happen, of course, but what I did see was Cameron Maybin catch the final out at Shea Stadium.