The first step in the Detroit Tigers rebuild is a concerning one

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Published on : July 22, 2017

 

The moment fans have been waiting for, some of us for years, has finally come. The Detroit Tigers have finally conceded that they are not competitive in their division and have seemingly gotten serious about overhauling the team. The opening salvo in this long awaited rebuilding project was a move that seemed imminent for some time now.

 

The Tigers finally went and did what everyone knew they were going to do and they traded away their most valuable market piece, JD Martinez. It was all but certain that Martinez’ days were numbered in Detroit due to the fact that he has a major pay day – one that the Tigers have made clear they want no part of – coming his way. This should have been a happy event for realistic fans of the team who knew that there were some painful days ahead.

 

 Detroit Tigers newest prospect, Dawel Lugo.

 

Trading away a slugger like JD to a contender in need of a monster bat was going to yield some exciting new prospects that would help build the future of the team. Maybe a promising young bat or a hot pitching prospect. Instead, team president, Al Avila, came back with a haul of underwhelming infielders. Which I’m sure the Arizona Diamondbacks were more than happy to ship off for Martinez. The most promising among them is 22-year-old third basemen, Dawel Lugo. The Tigers think his combination of fielding and hitting will continue to develop to the point that he could be in the majors within the next couple years. The other two guys, shortstop Sergio Alcantara (21) and shortstop Jose King (18), are too raw to even project when they might be ready for the big leagues.

 

Looking back to when the Tigers traded away Yoenis Cespedes in 2015 and got Michael Fulmer in return, you would think that the team could have gotten a better haul for Martinez. The you realize that the team really shit the bed by not trading him in the offseason. This is because after years of reckless spending, the team’s payroll is set to exceed the 2018 luxury tax threshold, set at $197 million. What that means is that if the team kept JD Martinez and he left in free agency (which he will because the team can’t afford another $20+ million contract), the team would only be able to receive a 4th-round pick at best for compensation. This gave other teams way more leverage than they should have had in this situation, resulting in this underwhelming return.

 

And this is why I’m concerned about this first step in the Detroit Tigers rebuild.

 

I can’t blame Al Avila for everything that’s wrong with this team and it’s roster, but the strikes against him are starting to add up. It’s because of Avila that the salaries of both Jordan Zimmerman ($18 million this year, $24 the next and $25 the two after) and Justin Upton ($22 million/year) are on the books and killing this team’s ability to be competitive. When coupled with the salaries of both Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, both of whom were homegrown and deserved their big money deals, it’s too much to handle. The guy running the team should have known that this team was getting old and already saddled with some painful contracts, and that adding those two players at that price was a horrible idea. Instead here we are.

 

 Al Avila. Just in case you want to focus your blame somewhere.

 

It’s clearly going to get a lot worse before it gets better for the Detroit Tigers and their fans. The Martinez trade was the first of a probable many trades that the Tigers will make before the July 31st deadline. If this is any indication of how the team is going to shed salary, then what could have been a 2 or 3 year project could take much longer. This team gave baseball fans in Detroit a ton to cheer about over the last decade or so, but they never quite reached the mountain top. Fans have held out hope for a renaissance with this roster in the last couple years in order to finally get that World Series title, but it’s clear that even the team has given up on that hope. Now comes the really hard part, and if this is any indication of how’s it’s going to go down, then it’s going to be harder than even I thought.

 

BE AFRAID.

 

 


Rebuilding the Detroit Tigers

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Published on : July 7, 2017

 

 

It’s no secret that the 2017 Detroit Tigers are pretty awful. As they sit right now, they are 38-46 and have shown nothing that says they have a chance to contend for the AL Central title or an AL wild card spot. The team’s performance this season, and recent seasons for that matter, has left fans in the Motor City frustrated and ready for a change. But just how much can this team change? And is it even possible to blow it up completely and start a full scale rebuild?

 

The first, and most important, thing the team can do is part ways with manager, Brad Ausmus. He inherited a title contender in 2014, and since being swept out of the ALDS in that season, his team’s performance has steadily declined. While he can’t be totally blamed for the team’s roster and much of the blame lies with the players themselves, this team has not grown under his watch and his all star type players haven’t been able to reach their full potential. For that, he should be given his walking papers and certainly will unless the team wants a fan revolt on their hands.

 

 

On the other hand, team president, Al Avila’s job should be safe for at least one more season. With the recent death of longtime owner, Mike Ilitch, it’s hard to believe the team will want to cause anymore of a stir in the organization. With Avila probably safe, you have to wonder what players, if any, the team will be able to trade away for assets in this coming team rebuild.

 

Miguel Cabrera isn’t going anywhere. His contract is insane (he will make at least $30 million annually through 2023) and he’s an icon in Detroit. It would be nice to be able to send him on his way in search for another ring and get something in return for the future hall of fame slugger, but it’s not happening. Being saddled with that contract for years to come hurts but it can’t hurt fan, or organizational, morale to have (arguably) the best player in the team’s history retire wearing the old english D. It’s a nightmare of a contract but there was no other option for the team at the time and that’s just the way it goes.

 

Justin Verlander is almost as iconic as Miguel Cabrera, and for good reason, but the team must ship him off if it can. The trade might not even be possible because of the amount of money that Verlander ($28 million a year through 2019) is owed over the coming seasons. It’s another case of a franchise icon getting paid what they have rightly earned but hamstringing the team with an enormous contract in the end. At 34-years-old he isn’t having the greatest season, but he is coming off of a Cy Young caliber season in 2016, so a contender with money to spend might be willing to risk it. If that happens, the Tigers would be crazy not to pull the trigger and shed that enormous salary.

 

Most likely is a scenario in which Verlander and Cabrera stay in Detroit for years to come. That JD Martinez as arguably the most likely player in the league to be traded to a new team, and he will fetch a nice return for the team. The Tigers have no indication that they wish to re-sign him and add to their already bloated payroll, and his bat would immediately help any team that he went to. So he’s gone.

 

 JD won’t be a Tiger for long.

 

Other trade-able pieces include Jose Iglesias, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Nick Castellanos, Alex Avila and Anibal Sanchez (that’s right, Anibal Sanchez). Upton’s contract probably makes a trade unlikely, but everyone else should draw some amount of interest. The team has Dixon Machado as the shortstop of the future so Iglesias should be gone too, and Alex Avila has been playing great since the team brought him back so he could see himself traded away by his own father. How much the team can get in return for any of these players remains to be seen, but you can’t imagine getting any team’s top few prospects for anyone on this roster.

 

With it being unlikely that the Tigers are going to get any world beaters in a trade, it looks like they’ll have to do this thing the old fashioned way and start drafting and developing players in the system. In recent year’s, they have traded away all of their top prospects for big names in the interest of winning now and getting that elusive World Series title. But that never happened and now the team is getting old and is considerably overpaid.

 

It’s going to be a rough few years but it’s time to stop putting it off and get serious about changing this team in a fundamental way. Al Avila has made it clear that the days of spending huge money are over. Even though they will have to simply ride some of these bad contracts out, they can and must trim their salary and build from within. There are some good young pieces on the roster in guys like Michael Fulmer. If the team is smart with their money, with a little luck they could be a contender in a few more seasons. A new era of Detroit Tigers baseball is imminent but it could be a painful journey to get there.

 

 


The Detroit Tigers could be headed to old, (un)familiar territory

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Published on : November 11, 2016

 

 

2003 was a long time ago. George W. Bush was in his first term as President. Facebook wasn’t even a thing yet. The iPhone hadn’t even been thought of. And the Detroit Tigers were awful. Among the most awful baseball teams in the modern history of the game to be more specific. Their 119 losses in that year was 1 loss short of the 1962 Mets record for losses in a season. When the Tigers won that last game to avoid tying that record you would have thought that they had won a World Series. Players and fans rejoiced that they weren’t the worst. But they were damn close.

 

Three years after that historically disastrous season, the Detroit Tigers had won the American League Pennant, after making the playoffs as the Wild Card team, and went on the the World Series. It was an amazingly quick turnaround that marked the beginning of a new golden era in Detroit baseball. The organization led by Dave Dombrowski, for most of the period since 2003, would go on to appear in another World Series in 2012, and win the AL Central four times.

 

 

Under Dombrowski (now with with Boston Red Sox) and long-time manager Jim Leyland (retired), the Tigers and the city of Detroit enjoyed a decade of relatively good, competitive baseball. They got to see triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera destroy the baseball and Cy Young contenders such as Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price destroy opposing batters. Acquiring and retaining such marquee talent isn’t easy though, and because of it the organization consistently found itself with one of the larger payrolls in the MLB, and a depleted farm system. And that leaves the Detroit Tigers and their fans here, on the edge of some potentially dark days.

 

Shortly after the end of the 2016 MLB season, Tigers president, Al Avila, made it clear that the team would be retaining manager Brad Ausmus and cutting payroll in a big way. Neither of these things should sound like good news to Tigers’ fans. Brad Ausmus hasn’t necessarily been terrible as the manager in Detroit but he has failed to win a playoff game despite having a considerable amount of talent on the roster. The team isn’t doomed with him at the helm, but he probably isn’t the person to take them to the next level either. More of the same.

 

What should really make fans shudder, is that this team seems determined to slash payroll. The most likely victims of the cost cutting mandate in the front office will be Justin Verlander, JD Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. Years of squeezing their farm system to acquire big name players and breaking the bank to keep those players left the Tigers with a payroll of $199 million last season. That was behind only the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox. All teams that made the playoffs. When you don’t make the playoffs two years running and you are spending that kind of money, it’s easy to see why ownership would want to re-examine their methods. That could mean saying goodbye to the players who have defined baseball in Detroit for years.

 

 

The team says they are listening to offers for any and all players. If that’s really the case then there’s a good chance that Verlander is leaving soon. He is 34 and coming off of his best season since 2012. His value is high and he could net a good return in an offseason with a poor market for starting pitching. Trading him will help the team shed $28 million in salary this coming year. With a big enough return, I’m sure the fan reaction to the trade could be mostly positive. I’m not sure the same goes for a trade involving Miggy. His contract runs through 2023 and he is owed no less than $28 million in any of those coming seasons. For an aging slugger, that’s a lot for a potential trade partner to deal with. The team would probably be lucky to unload him at this point, but he is such a fan favorite that I don’t know that they could get enough in return to fill the void left in the hearts of fans.

 

Will the fans really be able to withstand a prolonged playoff drought plus watching their favorite players leave town? That could be hard to stomach in Detroit and could leave Comerica Park looking a lot more empty than it has been for a long time. It’s hard to be too optimistic about the Detroit Tigers in the near future. Rebuilding is never an easy thing. Fans who have joined the team in only the recent good years, might have to suffer through a bit of losing. Something that isn’t the norm. For those that have been in with the team for decades, we might be returning to the dark ages of the 90’s. Nobody wants that but sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.

 

 


It’s time for Ausmus and Caldwell to go

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Published on : October 3, 2016

 

Last week, I reported that the city of Detroit was suffering from A Case of the Mondays after both the Tigers and the Lions lost their games. It was more of the same today. Both teams disappointed big time and it has me thinking, now more than ever, that it’s time for Ausmus and Caldwell to be shown the door as head coaches of their teams.

 

The Lions lost in a pathetic display of professional football against the Chicago Bears. The loss brings them to 1-3 and the team is on the verge of a complete implosion. In what is becoming an all too familiar early season trend with these Detroit Lions. Chicago was widely considered one of the worst teams in the league. They had 10,000 players on IR and were missing their starting quarterback. Detroit should have come out and gotten right against this team and started to build the foundation of a a potential playoff run. Instead, they fell flat on their faces. Jim Caldwell once again failed to have his team prepared and it was obvious.

 

The Tigers played the Atlanta Braves, with a chance to stay in contention for a spot in the AL Wild Card. Justin Verlander looked a bit off to start, allowing a run in the first before settling down and blanking the Braves for the rest of his six innings. The team went on to lose the game 1-0. As usual, the Tigers bats went to sleep when they were needed most. Despite having a future hall of fame slugger in Miguel Cabrera and a stable of other capable offensive weapons, the team couldn’t muster a single run. It is now the third 1-0 loss this season when Verlander is on the mound. Now the season is over and Brad Ausmus has failed to get his team to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

 

 

We expect this from the Lions. This team has been breaking hearts in Motown for decades now and fans have seen the team be horrible more often than not. With injuries to the best defensive players and a head coach in Jim Caldwell who can’t get his team ready to compete on Sundays, they were treated to a listless effort.

 

Jim Caldwell was already on the hot seat this year. After making the playoffs in 2014, his first season in Detroit, the team started off the 2015 campaign in pathetic fashion before firing the offensive coordinator and getting it together enough to manage a 7-9 finish. This season saw a changing of the guard in the front office, as the Ford family brought in new general manager Bob Quinn from the New England Patriots organization. Quinn decided to retain Caldwell and give him one more shot to show what he is made of and bring Detroit a contender. Well, he sure showed us what he’s got and the returns are not good. That’s why he should get fired immediately and the team should start preparing to find someone who can maximize the talent on the team.

 

 

Same goes for Brad Ausmus. Say what you will about Jim Leyland as a professional baseball manager, but he brought the Detroit Tigers out of the dark ages and turned them into perennial contender. When he retired, Brad Ausmus inherited a team that had won the AL Central three years running and had appeared in two World Series in the past decade. His inaugural campaign with the team saw the team win its 4th consecutive AL Central title, only to get swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS. In 2015, the team finished last in the division with a 74-87 record. With yesterday’s loss, the team will miss the playoffs again. With the type of talent on this roster there’s no reason for that.

 

Ausmus and Caldwell have both had three years (more or less) to make a winner. Brad Ausmus came in as a manager with no experience. He was a calculated risk taken by the front office that hurt a team with aging stars whose windows are rapidly closing. Jim Caldwell came in with a solid resume, having taken the Colts to the Super Bowl as their head coach and won another as the offensive coordinator of the Ravens. Their were red flags with him as well, but the team needed someone who could counter the undisciplined culture of the team under former head coach, Jim Schwartz.

 

Neither of the two coaches has worked out. It’s time for the Tigers and Lions to move on from their current head coaches and start looking to the future. If you need to ask why, just watch the games from yesterday. The fans deserve better than what Ausmus and Caldwell have brought to Detroit over the last two seasons. There are teams out there that do a lot more with a lot less. That’s what good managers can bring and it’s time both these teams went out and found a couple of those.

 

 


A Case of the Mondays: Detroit Edition

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Published on : September 26, 2016

 

 

This Monday is a tough one for Detroit sports fans to swallow. The Motor City collectively limps into the week after one of the tougher Sundays in recent memory. Both the Tigers and Lions had big games, and both teams failed to come ready-to-play, leaving fans (or at least this one) wondering why they put themselves through this pain. The Tigers, in the middle of a race for the second wild card spot, played the Royals at home. The Lions, trying to rebound from a painful loss in a game that they should have won against the Titans last week, traveled to Lambeau Field to play the Packers.

 

Both team started off slow and were punched in the mouth by the opposition. Both teams got it together eventually and made a game of it, but lost in the end. It was too little, too late.

 

 The Royals celebrate the Tigers demise.

 

Neither the Lions nor Tigers deserved to win yesterday, yet they had the chance to steal the game away. That should be encouraging, but that doesn’t mean that fans should overlook the fact that these teams are flawed, and aren’t getting a lot of help from the guys that are running the show. That’s right, both of these professional sports teams located in Detroit have coaches or managers that just aren’t very good.

 

It’s already pretty well documented how I feel about Detroit Tigers’ manager, Brad Ausmus. He just hasn’t been all that good during his time with the Tigers. He inherited a team that was in the middle of years-long domination of the AL Central and has had a hand in the teams underperformance ever since. The team started this season with an awful 15-21 record, but somehow managed to hang around long enough to be competing for the second wild card spot. With yesterday’s loss, the team now sits 1.5 games back of the Baltimore Orioles for that last playoff spot. Ausmus deserves some credit for helping the team stick around this long, but also deserves the blame for not getting the most out of a roster with some serious talent.

 

 “Promise me you’ll write after they can my ass.

 

Same goes for Lions’ coach, Jim Caldwell. In his first year with the Lions, he took them to the playoffs with a 11-5 regular season record. After a brutal playoff loss at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, he followed 2014 up with a 7-9 record in 2015. In this, his third year with the team, he is off to 1-2 start following a game that the team pissed away against Tennessee and the debacle in Green Bay yesterday. He has shown a lack of ability to get his teams motivated and the blame for the sloppy play and penalties almost certainly lies with him. If it’s not the head coach’s job to make sure his team is properly prepared then whose job is it?

 

No one really expected this Lions team to go win in Green Bay, but the fact is the Packers aren’t that good. If the Lions had come ready-to-play and didn’t have to dig themselves out of a 31-3 hole, maybe they could have done it. If the 34-27 final score is any indication of what this team is capable of, then maybe they will be alright. But not if their coach doesn’t get them to come out and play for all 4 quarters.

 

 The Packers came out strong and hung on for the win.

 

No one really expected this Tigers team to make the playoffs. When you start the season like that and then go on to have a 2-13 record against the division leading rival, Cleveland Indians, playoffs seem like a pipe dream. But the Tigers are still in the hunt. Sadly, with only 7 games to play they start a 4-game home series against the Indians today, likely spelling an end to those wild card hopes.

 

Mondays can be rough, especially with Sundays like yesterday. The Tigers season might be wrapping up in similar fashion to how it started, with a whimper. The Lions season is just starting off and has already given fans plenty of reasons to drink. Both teams have coaches that could very well be gone next year. And most fans probably wouldn’t be mad. This Case of the Mondays goes to you Detroit. Hopefully this week will be better than the last.

 

 


The Detroit Tigers did the right thing at the trade deadline

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Published on : August 2, 2016

 

 

This was definitely a different kind of trade deadline for the Detroit Tigers and their of fans. The organization has been a big player at the deadline in recent years, often coming away with top-notch talent. Aside from last year, when the Tigers traded away David Price and Yoenis Cespedes for a stable of young arms, that talent was always brought to town with the idea that it would help the Tigers win right away. In 2014, it was David Price who was brought in to solidify the rotation for a playoff run. In 2013, the team got their shortstop of the future and human highlight reel in the field, Jose Iglesias. In other years past it was Doug Fister or Max Scherzer. No one can ever accuse former Tigers GM, Dave Dombrowski of being complacent or cautious at the trade deadline, but there’s a new sheriff in town.

 

 Avila, with his former boss and Tigers’ GM, Dave Dombrowski, and for manager, Jim Leyland.

 

First year GM, Al Avila, worked under Dave Dombrowski for years and he learned a lot from the opportunity to work with such a successful baseball architect. But he also realizes that years of wheeling and dealing at the deadline has left the organization and its farm system bereft of young talent. The Tigers have sent away talented prospects in droves over the last decade or so, and because of that, they didn’t have a single top-100 prospect in their system this season. Their top three youngsters are Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd. All three of them have played in the majors this year, and have been impressive enough to warrant keeping them out of any potential deals with other teams.

 

Michael Fulmer has been the brightest spot on the Tigers roster all season long. He is currently rocking a 9-2 record with a 2.50 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, and is a legit candidate for AL Rookie of the Year. As one of those young arms that was brought to town at the deadline last year, Al Avila realizes that Fulmer and guys like him are the future of the team. And it’s for that reason that the Detroit Tigers made the correct move by standing idle at the trade deadline. There were plenty of discussions with other teams, but the team is determined to build a winner from within and you can’t do that by trading away your most talented young pitchers. They probably could have gotten a king’s ransom for Fulmer but they weren’t willing to part with someone who has been so impressive in their rookie season.

 

 Michael Fulmer: The Future.

 

The decision to stand pat is probably the best thing that could happen to this team right now. Coming on the heels of two straight series sweeps against the Red Sox and Astros, many people thought that the Tigers would be buyers at the trade deadline and try to add another starter to the rotation. I’m glad that cooler heads prevailed because even though Fulmer was deemed untouchable by management, trading away Norris, Boyd or both, would have put the future of the team and the farm system in jeopardy all the same.

 

The team is finally clicking this season and because of that they have probably saved Brad Ausmus’ job. I don’t really like the idea of having to deal with Ausmus for another year, but as a true fan I can’t help but hope for my boys to win as much as possible. They are sitting four games behind the Indians in the division and one and a half games out of the second wild card spot. That’s a whole lot better than I thought they would be is you had asked me about them in early June. It seems like they have finally figured it out. The bats are alive and the arms are throwing some fire. With everything clicking, why risk breaking up the chemistry by trading away important pieces to try something new.

 

Better to wait until the offseason to further improve the roster and ride it out with these guys. The farm system and the organization as a whole will be better for it in the end. Al Avila seems to know that and it’s because of that fact that I believe that while it may have been a quiet trade deadline for the Detroit Tigers, it was also a successful one.

 

 


These Tigers have no claws

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Published on : June 29, 2016

 

 

 

The Detroit Tigers have not yet been mathematically eliminated from anything. But it’s time to accept the fact that this team probably isn’t going anywhere. They’ve hung around long enough to keep the hope of fans on life support, and even won against the Marlins yesterday, but after their 9th consecutive loss to the division leading Cleveland Indians earlier in the week, it’s safe to say that this season is dead.

 

There’s just too much missing for this squad to make any type of sustained run at the division title or a wild card berth. They missed the playoffs last year, after winning 4 straight division titles prior to that. New general manager, Al Avila, tried to plug some holes and make the roster viable last offseason, but it wasn’t enough. With sub-par managing, a less than satisfactory starting rotation, a stable of players getting older by the day, and another team taking control of the AL Central, it might be time to turn the page on this team. And here’s why.

 

Starting Rotation

 Michael Fulmer, the future of the Tigers’ pitching staff?

 

For years, the starting rotation has been one of the Tigers strongest position groups. This year however, they lack a clear cut ace, such as Max Scherzer or David Price, and because of that they’ve underperformed as a unit. The original ace of the modern Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander, seems to have finally gotten himself back together, but he is far from the pitcher who earned a $28 million per year contract extension back in 2013. Jordan Zimmermann started the year off very strong but has since cooled off, especially since coming back from a groin strain. Anibal Sanchez has been a disaster, as has Mike Pelfrey for most of the season, and Shane Greene has been living in the bullpen since coming back from the DL.

 

The brightest spot of the starting rotation has been rookie, Michael Fulmer. He has been lights out and currently has a 7-2 record with an ERA of 2.40. His emergence has given fans hope for the future, but the team is already starting to talk about limiting his innings so as to not ruin his young arm. If he continues to develop he should be an important piece for years to come, but he will not carry the team to the promised land this year. The rotation ranks 19th in the league, with a collective ERA of 4.69. That won’t get it done.

 

The Offense

 There have been more and more cringeworthy moments for Cabrera and the offense this year.

 

Miguel Cabrera is still solid, but he is also slowing down considerably with every passing year. There are streaks where the brilliance of his game continues to shine through, but there will be a time very soon when his contract won’t be justified. That time may have even already come. He can’t carry the offense the way he once did, and no one around him, save an also aging Victor Martinez, has proven they can pick up the slack on a consistent basis.

 

With J.D. Martinez still recovering from a broken bone in his elbow and Justin Upton in the running to lead the league in strikeouts, the outlook isn’t good for the offense. It’s not that this is a bad offense, but it is nowhere near as prolific as it has been in recent seasons, and definitely not good enough to cover up for the other deficiencies that this team has. There are too many times when the bats don’t show up, and with the pitching issues, that’s a real problem.

 

The Indians

 The Indians are cruising at the expense of the Tigers.

 

The Cleveland Indians have become kryptonite to any sustained success the Tigers manage to muster this season. The Tigers seem to be able to find at least some success against everyone else except the Tribe. The Royals have also been a thorn in the side of the team, but with the Indians leading the division and absolutely owning the Tigers this season, it’s the team in Cleveland that is writing the obituary for these Motor City Kitties.

 

The Indians’ starting pitching has had their way with the Tigers every time the teams have faced off. They seem to be hitting their peak as a team, just as the Tigers seem to have already shown us their best baseball. They were early favorites to win the division for a reason and now that they’ve woken up everyone else should be worried.

 

 

 

Don’t expect the Detroit Tigers to completely fall apart. They will to continue to play .500 baseball for the rest of the season. I just hope that Al Avila doesn’t try too hard to squeeze a playoff run out of this current roster because in order to do that he will have to mortgage the few promising, young pieces that the team does have. It’s time to deal with the reality that the Detroit Tigers, as they are currently assembled, have missed their window to win a championship. If Al Avila retains his position with the team after the season he must work towards the future and start planning a rebuild that will likely be painful for everyone involved.

 

 


SBS Stadium Series: Angel Stadium of Anaheim Time

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Published on : June 7, 2016

 

Living in Southern California, it can be hard to see my beloved Detroit Tigers in the flesh as often as I’d like. So when I do get the opportunity, I jump at it. The Tigers rarely come to Los Angeles, so I make a once-a-year trip to Angel Stadium of Anaheim to watch my Motor City Kitties play the Angels.

 

Normally, it doesn’t go so well. I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of seeing my team get spanked in Angel Stadium on more than one occasion. On one particularly painful visit to the OC, I even got to see Mike Trout hit a 1st inning grand slam en route to a 10-0 Angels win. This was the final meeting in a three game series, and the Tigers had already dropped the first two games. The odds of a win were in our favor. This had to be it.

 

Traditionally, my pregame experience at Angel Stadium is pretty weak. The consumption of alcohol inside the stadium parking lot is illegal, so I’m forced to get a spot in an offsite lot. Considering my long drive from LA and my lack of a desire to pay $100+ for a spot in a tailgating lot, I end up sitting in my car and drinking beers before the game (with the engine off and keys out of the ignition, of course). This is while trying to avoid the gaze of the many law enforcement officials in the area. Pretty lame. But this time, I vowed things would be different!

 

Portillos

 

I recently discovered that for some reason there is a Portillo’s in Buena Park, right near the Stadium. For those who don’t know, it’s a delightful Chicago-area chain known for it’s dogs and beef. I headed on down with a couple fellow expat Michiganders to enjoy some food and beers before we hit the ballpark. I was delighted to find that both were comically low-priced as far as things go here in Southern California. I downed my combo Italian beef and sausage sandwich. Things were already going my way.

 

We decided to stop into a bar before the game and have one last reasonably priced alcoholic beverage. We were lucky enough find Keno’s Sports Bar. This place was great. To get there you have to go through Keno’s Restaurant, which looks like a more respectable version of Denny’s. It was really weird. It’s like the restaurant was too big, so they decided to build a sports bar in a corner and separate it by tinted glass double doors. Another bonus was that they actually had Keno (Hot Spot here in Cali), a great lottery-style gambling game that is responsible for taking my money in bars all over Michigan. But not this day! I wound up trying my luck and left that bar $10 richer. The good day continued, now if only the Tigers could seal the deal.

 

We arrived a little late and settled in to our nosebleed seats just as the 3rd inning was getting underway. This was right around the time that I realized that my two friends that I convinced to come with me on this trip south were not very interested in baseball. They were both from Michigan, but they were also ladies who spent more time talking about their work as ER nurses and the latest Snapchat filters than watching the pitcher’s duel happening before our eyes. The stadium was pretty empty and it made it so that the sound carried really far. Not only could people hear my friends talking about everything except baseball, but I could hear all types of stereotypical ballpark sounds as well. Random heckling, cheers of encouragement and vendors selling their peanuts and crackerjacks filled my ears as I soaked it all in.

 

 

The Tigers starter on the mound was rookie, Michael Fulmer and as of the late he has been the best part of the team’s rotation. This June 1st game was no different. It was scoreless going into the 5th inning when the Tigers put the first run of the game on the board. It was right around this time that I realized that the young gun was pitching a no-hitter thus far. I began to get very anxious. My two friends were oblivious.

 

The 6th inning came and went and neither team got a hit. The score was 1-0 and the rookie’s no-no was still intact.

 

In the top of the 7th, the Tigers added another run and while I was excited at that fact, my focus was totally on this possible no-hitter. It took every bit of restraint I had to not tell my friends to shut up and watch what could be the best pitching performance any of us had ever seen. I kept my mouth shut. Even as Michael Fulmer got through the first two batters of the 7th without allowing a hit and my excitement level went through the roof. All I wanted to do was talk about it, but I would be damned if it was me who jinxed this thing.

 

AngelsGame

 

That’s when CJ Cron hit a single and ruined it all. Obviously there was some other Tigers’ fan idiot out there who lacked the same level of self control as me and said something about the no-hitter out loud. What an asshole. I was finally able to tell my friends what had been happening but I was crushed. Sure, my team won the game 3-0 and only allowed 2 hits, and maybe I was being greedy, but I really wanted that no-hitter.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that I finally got to see my team win in Angel Stadium but it could have been so much sweeter. It would have been the perfect revenge for all the awful games I’ve seen there. But sometimes you’ve just got to be happy with what you get. I just have to relish the win and the fact that there’s a chance that the Tigers might have something special in Michael Fulmer. He just had another strong outing last night and might be the new Ace in the rotation. Who woulda thought?

 

 


How long will the Tigers keep Brad Ausmus around?

Written by :
Published on : May 15, 2016

 

 

The Detroit Tigers are off to an underwhelming 2016 Major League Baseball season. They started off the year in respectable fashion by winning 7 of their first 10 games but have more recently lost 11 of their last 12. When they aren’t busy getting beaten in a good old fashioned blow out, they are finding new and exciting ways to lose close games. Fans are beginning to get discouraged and if something doesn’t change soon, the team and its ownership are going to be dealing with a ton of empty seats in Comerica Park.

 

Patience is running thin in the Motor City, so what are the team’s options?

 

Sadly, at this point there aren’t many options that will do any good. After the work done this offseason, the team is more or less set with this roster. They added Justin Upton to the lineup, only to see him look like lost at the plate for most of this season. They’ve left a ton of men on base, including 12 in a 7-5 loss at the Orioles where the team squandered one of the few decent starts by Mike Pelfrey. Victor Martinez, Nick Castellanos, and others are hitting the ball but when the bullpen gives up big leads what does it matter? And when they finally get two high quality starts out of Justin Verlander, what do they do? They don’t hit the ball for shit.

 

 What defeat looks like.

 

There are problems all over this team and that begs the question, how long will the team stick with manager Brad Ausmus?

 

If I had to guess I would say that Ausmus doesn’t make it to June. He might not even make it to next week. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t going to help this team turn it around this season but you can’t fire your players. In my opinion he should have been fired after his first season, and at this point it’s the only thing that ownership can do to signify to the fans that they are just as upset as us. And hopefully that can keep a few people in the seats for the rest of the season.

 

Brad Ausmus has never been a particularly bad manager, but then again he’s never been a particularly good one either. He’s had his share of blunders in the dugout, but there’s a chance maybe, in the distant future, he could return as a manager to another team and be successful. But not here. Not in Detroit.

 

 Interim manager, is that you?

 

Whatever has happened to the psyche of the Detroit Tigers is now firmly resting on the shoulders of Brad Ausmus. Giving him the boot and installing someone else for the rest of what is now looking more and more like a lost season is probably the only option left.

 

Maybe they can install player-favorite, Omar Vizquel as interim manager and salvage something resembling a .500 season from this horrible 15-21 start, while seeing if they can trade away some of their more over-priced and valuable assets. You know, some of those guys with whom the blame really lies. That’s right, those players who got their manager axed. At least potentially… and hopefully. Seriously, just get rid of him already.

 

 


A Detroit Sports Fan’s Christmas Wish List

Written by :
Published on : December 25, 2015

 

 

 

 

As we spend the holiday with family, feeding both our gluttonous faces and the capitalist machine, I thought I would take a minute to do what most Americans do around this time. Dream about the things they don’t have and probably never will. In order to do that, I made a Christmas Wish List of all the athletes that I wish my teams would acquire, either by free-agency, trade, or kidnapping if necessary.

 

 

Yoenis Cespedes

 

This a weird one because it’s a dream of mine that was reality for a short time. For just about a year, my favorite Cuban-born player was on the Detroit Tigers. Once they realized the season wasn’t going anywhere, the team traded him away in the midst of an all-star caliber season. Cespedes was a very important piece on the Mets teams that went deep in the playoffs. He is looking for a big payday in free-agency. I say the Tigers should break out some serious cash and bring him back to the Motor City.

 

 

Kevin Durant

 

If the Pistons could somehow get Kevin Durant on the floor with Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, then this team would be very scary. He’s just the type of wing player that this squad needs. He can shoot the ball, take it to the hole, rebound and defend with the best of ’em. He’s an absolute monster all of over the court and can single-handedly change the outcome of a game. In fact, the other night he hit the go-ahead shot, and followed it up with a game-saving block to seal the win over the Clippers.

 

Aaron Donald

 

Now this is someone that should already be on the Detroit Lions’ roster. They had the chance to draft the defensive tackle with the 10th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but passed him up to take TE Eric Ebron. That has proved to be a poor choice when you consider Ebron’s inconsistent production, the loss of their top-3 DTs in free agency, and the fact that Donald absolutely destroyed the Lions two weeks ago for 3 sacks. If he was on the team, I would be like Ndamukong “Who”?

 

Jamie Benn

 

For the final selection on my Detroit Sports Fan’s Christmas Wish List, we’ve got the captain of the Dallas Stars, Jamie Benn. This guy has it all. He’s young and plays the entire length of the ice. He’s got 46 points in 35 games this season and would kill it on a line with any handful of young Red Wings. If he was on the team, they would have to be favorites to come out of their conference.

 

 

 

So there you have it, my Christmas Wish List for all four of my favorite professional sports teams. Leave a comment and tell us which superstars you’re wishing for this holiday.

 

 


2015 College Football Predictions

Written by :
Published on : September 2, 2015

 

 

The 2015 college football season gets underway this week, headlined by some marquee matchups right off the bat. Last year’s football season was one of the all time best, helped by a new college football playoff system that removed a lot of the headaches created by the former BCS system. This year, I expect another action packed, hard hitting season that won’t disappoint. Here’s a quick look at how I expect the Power 5 Conferences to unfold and what teams/players may be lifting some hardware come January.

 

ACC

Paul Johnson and his triple option could surprise some people in the ACC this season.

 

The ACC has belonged to Florida State the last couple years, who lost just one game over the past two seasons. However, with Jameis Winston now in the NFL, the conference is up for grabs. Former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has been named the starter in Tallahassee. He is very talented and brings valuable experience, he also is very turnover prone. I think Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is the best QB in the conference, and I look for him to lead Clemson over visiting Florida State in a pivotal game that will ultimately decide the Atlantic Division. In the Coastal Division, Georgia Tech looks to be a step above the rest of the competition again. Paul Johnson’s success with the triple option has surprised many after he showcased it for six years at Navy. I think Johnson and the Yellow Jackets get over the hump this year, winning the ACC for the first time during his tenure.

 

Atlantic Division Winner:  Clemson

Coastal Division Winner: Georgia Tech

Conference Champ: Georgia Tech

 

BIG 12

Look for Trevone Boykin to lead TCU to the conference title.

 

Baylor or TCU. Might as well flip a coin in the Big 12 again this year. Baylor has won the Big 12 the last two seasons, but comes in ranked below TCU heading into this year. I think the conference champion will be decided when these two meet on the gridiron in late November. Last year, Baylor erased a 21-point deficit to stun TCU on the road, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of the Horned Frogs. This year, I think revenge will be served as Heisman hopeful Trevone Boykin leads TCU to a win vs the Bears and ultimately, a conference title.

 

Conference Champ: TCU

 

BIG 10

As long as they stay focused, Ohio State should roll through the BIG 10.

 

Last year, Ohio State wasn’t given much of a chance after news broke that Braxton Miller would miss the entire season due to a shoulder injury. We all know what happened after that, as the Buckeyes surprised everyone (multiple times) along the way to a national title. This season, Ohio State again looks unbeatable. By returning all three quarterbacks (though Braxton Miller has switched to wide receiver) and running back Ezekiel Elliott, they have Big 10 defenses getting ready to wave the white flag. It will be very interesting to see how Ohio State handles the pressure. Last year, while they of course won the national title, they did it without really ever having the target on their backs. This year, much like Kentucky in basketball, every team will be gunning for them. Ohio State will have to be mindful of that and make sure not to overlook anyone. The other big news in the conference is Michigan hiring Jim Harbaugh as head coach. This was the biggest hire of the year without a doubt. Harbaugh will surely bring the glory days back to Michigan, but with both of the Wolverines rivals (Ohio State and Michigan State) having some of the more successful years in their programs history it won’t be easy. In the West division, (formerly the Leaders division) Wisconsin has enjoyed a lot of recent success, making it to three of the four conference championship games thus far. Melvin Gordon heading to the NFL is a huge loss though, and road trips to Nebraska and Minnesota this season will prove to be too much. I see the Golden Gophers, led by Jerry Kill, getting the upset and winning the division this year.

 

East Division Winner: Ohio State

West Division Winner: Minnesota

Conference Champ: Ohio State

 

PAC 12

The Ducks will remain on the top of the PAC 12 this year.

 

The PAC 12 was the hardest conference to predict for me, and I feel the conference is wide open. In the North, I see it as a two team race with Oregon and Stanford, but the South has as many as four teams vying for a place in the Conference Championship game. At Oregon, Marcus Mariota finally left after an incredible career, but the cupboard is anything but bare in Eugene. Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams Jr takes over at quarterback, and the Ducks are loaded as usual with speed and athleticism at running back and wide receiver. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan returns for his fourth season, and as always, a stingy defense gives the Cardinals a fighting chance in the division. On the other side of the conference, USC, Arizona St, UCLA and Arizona all will be contending for the division. I think quarterback play will be the difference, and USC’s Cody Kessler has the most experience of the group. Last year, Kessler threw for 39 touchdowns and wasn’t really talked about too much. This year I think he becomes a household name, leading the Trojans to the Conference Championship game.

 

North Division Winner: Oregon

South Division Winner: USC

Conference Champ: Oregon

 

SEC

Saban and Co aren’t headed anywhere just yet.

 

After winning the National Championship seven straight times, the SEC has now gone two consecutive years without a National Title. Last year, the SEC West showcased some of the most talented teams in all of football, giving us multiple top-25 matchups every week. This year, the division should again be strong, but not as talented top to bottom. I think the battle for the Iron Bowl will be a pivotal game again in Alabama, as the Crimson Tide visit the Auburn Tigers late in November. For both Alabama and Auburn, replacing their starting quarterback, leading wide receiver and arguably top running back all in the same season seems a bit overwhelming. Yet both teams, and the Crimson Tide especially, always seem to have an All-American waiting in the wings. I give the slight edge to Alabama. In the SEC East, Georgia lost Todd Gurley to the NFL but I love what I see in his replacement Nick Chubb. After an outstanding breakout campaign as a Freshman, Chubb has the backfield to himself and has a realistic chance at 2,000+ yards and getting the Bulldogs to the SEC Championship game.

 

SEC East Winner: Georgia

SEC West Winner: Alabama

Conference Champ: Alabama

 

 

Heisman Trophy Candidates

Keep an eye on Deshaun Watson as he challenges for the Heisman this year.
  1. Any Ohio State Quarterback
  2. Ezekiel Elliott- RB- Ohio State
  3. Trevone Boykin- QB- TCU
  4. Cody Kessler- QB- USC
  5. Deshaun Watson- QB- Clemson

Playoff Teams

  1. Ohio State
  2. TCU
  3. Oregon
  4. Alabama

 

Heisman Trophy Winner

Ezekial Elliott will end up hoisting the greatest trophy in college football this year.

Ezekiel Elliott

 

National Champion

Much to the ire of their northern neighbors, the Buckeyes will repeat as champs this season.

 

Ohio State Buckeyes

 

 


Tigers’ Tailspin Continues with Dombrowski’s Release

Written by :
Published on : August 4, 2015

 

 

A Tigers season that many in the Motor City would like to forget continued today when the team announced that general manager, Dave Dombrowski, has been released from his contract. Dombrowski’s future in Detroit had been uncertain for months as rumors swirled about him leaving the organization once his contract expired after this season. The team’s owner, Mike Ilitch said that he released Dombrowski earlier than the expiration of his contract in order to “afford him the time to pursue other career opportunities.” In the absence of “Dealin’ Dave”, Al Avila, whose son plays catcher for the team, has been promoted to GM and will take over baseball operations for the remainder of the season.

 

Dombrowski and much-maligned second year manager Brad Ausmus

 

The move comes less than a week after the trade deadline, when the Tigers made moves that included trading David Price and Yoenis Cespedes.  The moves signaled a raising of the white flag on the 2015 season, despite being just a handful of games out of the second AL wild card spot. Whether or not you agree that the Tigers season was headed nowhere (I happen to agree), the moves were prudent and set up the team nicely for the offseason and for 2016. Many people inside and outside of Detroit were opposed to the idea of giving up on the season, and it now looks as though those trades may have had a hand in ending the relationship between the Tigers and their GM. I find it hard to believe that this was a sudden firing and it seems that somewhere along the line Dombrowski and Ilitch decided that it would be best to go their separate ways.

 

Dombrowski’s departure may have been a mutual separation, and it certainly looks that there is no bad blood from the comments that he and Ilitch made regarding the decision, but should the Tigers have tried a little harder to keep him around?

 

The big criticism of him in recent years always revolved around pitching; it’s generally seen as the reason the team hasn’t won a World Series in their past eight years or so of contention. It’s a pretty well founded criticism when you look at the fact that Cy Young winner Max Scherzer was allowed to walk and that the bullpen was never truly addressed in the past few years. Pitching wins the big games and in the two World Series where the Tigers won a single game in both series combined, it was clear that the Tigers didn’t have enough of it. But you can’t take anything away from what this man has done for baseball in the city of Detroit.

 

Former coach Jim Leyland, Owner Mike Ilitch and GM Dave Dombrwski celebrate the AL Championship in 2012

 

Dave Dombrowski  resurrected the team and the entire sport of baseball in Detroit. Sure, there were some hiccups, including when the Tigers lost an AL record 119 games in 2003, but after that the team improved by leaps and bounds. The man put together some amazing teams in his time with the franchise, including AL Champion squads in 2006 and 2012. He traded for a surefire hall of famer and Triple Crown winner in Miguel Cabrera, along with acquiring studs like Max Scherzer and David Price. He made that team relevant for the first time in decades and won four division titles between 2011 and 2014, after the team had won only three division titles in the previous 42 years.

 

Dombrowski and perennial All Star, Miguel Cabrera.

 

Despite all that, there were still fans calling for this move after the Tigers fall from grace this season. The funny thing about winning is you get spoiled by the victories and lose sight of who really makes those victories possible. Sure there have been bad moves, but there were a lot more good ones. The only thing the Tigers and their fans can do now is move forward. Without the man who made baseball in Detroit fun again. And with the very real possibility that what lies ahead is not better than the good thing that they had.

 

 


Tigers and Blue Jays Trending in Opposite Directions

Written by :
Published on : July 30, 2015

 

For the Detroit Tigers this season began with high hopes and sights set on a World Series title that has eluded them for the past handful of years. Despite coming close in both 2006 and 2012, when they rolled through their American League opposition only to be annihilated by their National League opponents in the Fall Classic, this team has tasted the glory only to have it smacked out of their mouth both times. This season started off like many others in recent years, and after cruising to a 15-8 record in April, it looked as though the Tigers would be right back in that familiar spot at the top of the AL Central all year. Then May happened.

 

 

In sports things can turn on a dime, and for the Detroit Tigers they most certainly did. The team hit a rough patch in May and no one really panicked, after all, the baseball season is a very long one and most teams go through some losing streaks. But the losing didn’t stop. It was the first time since 2003 that this team had a losing May, followed by a losing June, followed by a losing July. I don’t think I have to remind baseball fans what the 2003 Tigers are famous for, and I’m certain that no one would have guessed prior to this season that the Tigers would revert to the type of ineptitude we saw in those years, but that’s just what happened. And that’s why for the first time in a long time, the Tigers have given up on their current season and begun selling pieces off in order to re-tool for the next season.

 

With many impending free agents and a ridiculous amount of payroll already wrapped up in a handful of other players, the Tigers have begun to sell pieces of what many thought would be a contending team. As I type the team has traded their closer Joakim Soria to the Pirates, and Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Avila, Rajai Davis and all of their expiring contracts still remain on the team, and could provide something to any team willing to give the Tigers a decent return. The team has already dealt arguably their best player this season, and the prize of last year’s trade deadline, David Price to the Blue Jays. In return they received three left handed pitchers, including top prospect Daniel Norris. This is the kind of prudent move that will help the team quickly turn things around for next season, especially when you consider that there’s no way the team could afford to re-sign Price this offseason while still paying the shadow of Justin Verlander $30 million a year.

 

 

As for the Blue Jays, losing a top prospect is tough but they are making it clear that they see this season as one in which they can catch the Yankees to win the AL East, or at least make the AL Wildcard. Two days prior to acquiring one of the best left-handers in baseball, the team in Toronto traded for one of the most exciting, albeit injury-prone, shortstops in the game in Troy Tulowitzki. He promptly announced his arrival by sending a home run deep in the second at-bat of his first game, following that with two doubles later on to finish 3-for-5 with three RBIs, helping his new team win 8-2 over the Phillies.

 

 

While David Price will probably end up being a short-term rental to help the Blue Jays make the playoffs this season and succeed once they get there, the Tulowitzki trade means that they intend to be relevant for years to come, considering they will have him locked up until at least 2020. If he can stay healthy, and thats a big if, he should help cement the Blue Jays as a real threat to the Yankees dominance in that division for the foreseeable future.

 

The Tigers have hit the reset button and begun planning for next year, which is probably the smartest move they can make. Anyone who has watched that team can recognize that there are some giant holes, mostly in the pitching staff, that need to be filled. By being realistic and knowing that there is no way they can catch the Royals in the AL this year, they have raised the white flag for 2015 in hopes that the moves they make now will help solidify them for 2016.

 

The Blue Jays are the exact opposite and they are digging in for a dogfight for the rest of the season. One team is already looking forward to next season and the other is focused on the next couple months. Three months ago I would have told you that you were crazy if you said this was how things would shake out, but that’s baseball and you never really know what’s going to happen. Next year could be very different but as for now the Tigers and Blue Jays are two American League teams that are headed in polar opposite directions.

 


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