Writing the Roster

A Detroit Tigers Commentary

Originally published in the now defunct: Two On One Out | 13 March 2010

Before we begin, a (slightly) brief introduction:

2009 ended badly for Detroit Tiger baseball. There was so much hope over the course of the year that when the team began to fall apart in September, there was almost a consensus of disbelief among the fans.

You’ve got to be kidding me? Are they seriously going to blow this? No…there’s no way that they can blow this. They won’t blow this.

But it happened. They blew it. They blew a seven-game division lead in a little over three weeks and then lost to Minnesota in the playoff game. Brandon Inge did and didn’t get nicked by that ball and the season was done just like that and we were all left hanging with nowhere to go.

So how can we look forward to this season? Will it be clouded with disappointment? Expectant failure?

This is baseball: if you can’t get up and try again, there’s no point. So we ask ourselves, with that always pleasing tone of excitement, what’s changed? Who’s still here? Who are we supposed to focus our attention on? (For additional information about this ongoing topic, please see the 2010 Tigers Season , opening April 5.)

So without further ado, print this out, sit back, grab a mug of green tea, or if you’re Jim Leyland, a cigarette out by the dumpsters of Comerica Park, and….well, enjoy.

THE NEW GUY: JOHNNY DAMON

He’s supposed to fill the void Granderson left near the top of the batting order. He’ll do that. What we’re not sure about, though, is why they let a 29-year-old go when he is cheaper and younger than the new guy (36).

We’ll just have to trust GM Dave Dombrowski on this one because financially, it makes sense. After the season, they’ll have $65 Million in contracts coming off the books.

They ‘only’ signed the new guy to a one-year, $8 million deal and with Granderson gone, although he would have been at $5.5 million this year, they won’t have to pay him, the $8.25 million, $10 million, and $13 million they owe him over the next three seasons.

Signing the new guy is a good thing for a couple of on-field reasons too. It will allow a little protection and leadership for the rookie in center field, as well as a solid bat that mirrors in the same way as ‘the guy that left.’ So the new guy will be okay in my book.

Don’t forget, two World Series rings with the Red Sox and Yankees doesn’t hurt, either. Yeah, the new guy’s good, we like the new guy!

THE OLD GUY: MAGGLIO ORDONEZ

I think we all know who the old guy is (and if you didn’t read the header, it’s Magglio Ordonez), but contrary to what said header suggests, being the old guy isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

He’s still got one of the best swings in the game and nobody was crying about him when he won the pennant in 2006. Sure, he’s making like, $20 million this year (actually $18 million, but what’s the difference) and if he gets 564 plate appearances in 2010, he will be given $15 million in 2011. But, looking back, wasn’t it all worth it? Maybe not, it is history after all.

Sheesh, old guy, you sure are expensive for someone who hit nine home runs last year! But if you play like you did in the second half (.375 batting average in 200 at bats) I think everyone will forgive you and your contract.

Well of course, that’s only if the team is in first place.

THE GRIZZLED VETERAN GUY(S): BRANDON INGE , JEREMY BONDERMAN , NATE ROBERTSON

Only players who endured the 2003 119-loss season are allowed to be labeled with grizzled veteran status. It took a lot of talent (and untradeable contracts) for them to last this long with the Tigers but they did and they are all expected to perform in 2010.

Of course this is the same every year, and to date only Inge (the ULTIMATE grizzled veteran) has done that.

THE ROOKIE GUY(S): AUSTIN JACKSON , SCOTT SIZEMORE

Yup, not one, but two rookies this year. Brand new rookies at that. There were no silly “12 games played last September” mumbo jumbo for these two.

One is starting in center, the other at second. Between the two of them, there have been a total of zero games played at the major league level.

Well, rookies, you could be great or you could be really bad. It makes us all kind of hesitant to give you the green light. No matter what you do throughout the year, you will both certainly make us hold onto the edges of our seats.

THE FORMER ALCOHOLIC (NOW RECOVERING!) STAR!: MIGUEL CABRERA

It really sucked for the alcoholic (excuse me, I should be politically correct, but I won’t be) over the last months of the season.

Let’s see: He partied with the enemy, got drunk, called a guy in a bar fat, got into a fight with his wife, showed up drunk at games looking like a cat clawed his face, became the face of the failing team, failed in the final game, failing just like the failing team in the final failure (phew).

The guy still remains the best hitter on the team, the face of the offense. He’ll turn 27 on April 18. You know what, you could have an absolute monster year now that you admitted you screwed up.

It’s all behind you and we still love you.

THE ACE PITCHER GUY: JUSTIN VERLANDER

If it weren’t for the month of April, our ace pitcher would have won the Cy Young, so we aren’t complaining about him or his new five-year, $80 million contract. And best thing is, we won’t have to complain about him at the end of it, because he won’t be THE OLD GUY, he’ll only be 32.

THE NEXT ACE PITCHER GUY: RICK PORCELLO

If guys were allowed to have man crushes, they would be on the next ace pitcher. I mean, the guy was attacked by a crazy Red Sox batter on Aug. 11 and he came out looking like he sort of won (by not getting pummeled!).

THE GUY WHO COULDN’T HIT THE SIDE OF A BARN IF HE RAN INTO IT and THE GUY WHO COULD: GERALD LAIRD , ALEX AVILA

How many times did we say to each other, this guy couldn’t hit the side of a barn if he ran into it (note: a lot). We suffered just like everyone else as we watched him hit .225 in 413 painful at bats.

It’s like that guy who told his wife ‘if you weren’t so freaking hot, I would leave you!’ Well, if this guy wasn’t such a hot defensive catcher, we would leave him!

Then they brought of the assistant general manager’s son in and it turned out he couldn’t NOT hit. Go figure, and we all thought it was a pity call-up.

Maybe he will turn into the next Mike Piazza (Wouldn’t have been drafted if it weren’t for his friend, and brother’s godfather, Tommy Lasorda). We sure hope so. Maybe A.A. will help Cabrera too (Eww, not sure he deserved that).

THE NEVER GOING TO BE AN EVERYDAY GUY(S): RYAN RAYBURN , CLETE THOMAS

We kind of feel for both of you. Now that the new guy is here, neither of you really have a shot of making the everyday lineup unless the old guy or the not yet appeared GUY WHO WE CAN’T FIGURE OUT get hurt.

We’ll be paying attention to these so called “pranks” you pull on both of them during the season.

THE GUY WHO WE CAN’T FIGURE OUT: CARLOS GUILLEN

No, we really can’t figure this guy out. Seriously, he’s always been interesting because he’s a good hitter when he wants to be, just like he’s healthy when he wants to be. Maybe he can’t figure himself out. Hopefully Jim Leyland can, or else we’re all in a lot of trouble.

At least he goes away after 2011.

THE GUY WHO ACTUALLY CAN’T FIGURE HIMSELF OUT: DONTRELLE WILLIS

How many times will we have to be put through this guy’s quirky, ineffective delivery that, because it’s not as quirky as it used to be, is even more ineffective than it used to be (when it actually used to be effective).

Maybe this bout of anxiety is over and he can pitch again. We sure hope so because next year we want to be able to say that this is THE GUY WHO FINALLY FIGURED HIMSELF OUT.

If not, his contract’s gone too.

THE FORMER FLAMETHROWER GUY, WHO NEEDS TO PROVE HE’S STILL GOT SOME KEROSENE: JOEL ZUMAYA

The once thought to be destroyed arm is supposed to be back. They say it looks better than its last healthy season (2006).

We’ll all hold our breath until it ends up in the batter’s box and then we’ll all scream “we knew his arm wouldn’t hold up!” and feel really proud of ourselves.

THE BUNCH OF NEW GUYS WHO WE WE’LL CRITICIZE ALL SEASON LONG: PHIL COKE , MAX SCHERZER , DANIEL SHLERETH

The only thing that will save these guys from this is if they somehow all combine for a no-hitter in early April.

THE NEW CLOSER GUY: JOSE VALVERDE

It’s the guy’s first season in Detroit City and there is no possible way he can replace the closer who finally left.

There’s no way possible that any other pitcher could wait till the last game of the season to blow his first save, in the one that lost the team the playoff berth mind you. It was probably because he chucked that baseball into the stands a few weeks before.

There’s just no way that the new closer guy could be anything as dramatic as that. Right?

THE APPRENTICE GUY: RYAN PERRY

If he is, the closer-to-be is waiting for the opportunity. He struggled with his control last season, but he had only spent a half season in the minors after being drafted in 2008, so we should all appreciate him and stop screaming “send him down” every time he walks someone.

THE CHAIN SMOKING BOSS WHO CAN’T SMOKE IN THE BALLPARK ANYMORE: JIM LEYLAND

If you don’t love Jim Leyland, you don’t love the Tigers, and if you can’t understand him then you obviously never had a relationship with your chain-smoking grandpa who still worked long after he needed to. Leyland is exactly what this Tigers team needs and if you say otherwise, you just need to respect your elders.

On last year’s disastrous end (26 games to go, the Tigers blew a seven-game American League Central lead and after ending the season in a tie, lost to Minnesota in a heart-breaking 6-5, 12-inning affair), Leyland says this: “There were no lingering, carry-over thoughts. Both teams played their hearts out. You can’t ask for anything more than that. It was one of the greatest games you’ll ever see.”

That’s why the chain smoking boss who can’t smoke in the ballpark anymore is the manager. He diffuses situations and doesn’t guilt trip any one of his guys. Well, except perhaps the guy who came up with the idea to ban smoking in Comerica Park.

THE FINAL STATEMENT BEFORE WE ALL FALL ASLEEP:

If I didn’t mention any players on the roster, it’s because they probably won’t play a significant enough role during the season, and if they over-perform, well that’s the best kind of payback, isn’t it?

Regardless of the outcome, this will be our most favorite Tiger season in recent memory. If it’s a colossal failure we all get to look at the revamped roster in 2011 and if it’s a success, we get to look at the revamped roster in 2011. So, it’s all or nothing. Literally.

Switch to our mobile site

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookCheck Our Feed