I think the Tigers want my head to explode, judging from the amount of news they’ve seen fit to shower on us all today. WELL IT WORKED, TIGERS. HEAD ASPLODEY.
On the other paw, they’ve gone right ahead and turned a team that just lost three in a row to the Wrong Sox into a team that very seriously has the potential to be one of the most exciting teams in baseball. Note I’m not saying one of the best teams in baseball, because that’s stretching it. Winning is exciting, to be sure, but there’s such a thing as a boring winning team, and there is such a thing as an exciting losing team. Excitement, after all, has positive connotations, but the truest sense of the word is neutral, concerned with ‘strong emotion’, not good or bad. So I’m calling the Tigers exciting and I’m stickin’ to it.
So here’s what’s happening. Hold onto your seats, kids.
Magglio Ordonez, he of the wonky knee/mystery ailment/sports hernia/debilitating injury of your choice, is supposed to be back up with the Big Cats for tonight’s game against the Yankers. Personally I thought they would give him some more rehab time in the minors, but I guess he must’ve told them he was ready. He hasn’t seen major league pitching since the spring, and I wouldn’t expect him to come out raking right away, but the sooner he can get on track to revert to his old (uninjured) form, the better. And who knows, we’re starting a series against the Yankees. Normally I would say that making your triumphant return from the DL against Randy Johnson was an empty gesture, but… well, this is not the Randy Johnson of yore.
Although I’ve no doubt that he’s still got some gas left in the ol’ tank, and the Tigers on a poor offensive night are just the team to showcase it. But I’m bored of poor offensive nights, Kitties, let’s have us a nice one, eh?
With Magglio back, just think of the lineup possibilities…
I know that’s imperfect, and there are many variations in order that could certainly be argued, but just think. Brandon Inge and his .295/.380/.458 line leading off (a line I think he’ll improve on before the season is over, by the by). Plonkers bringing his .328 batting average to the two-hole (I think he’ll even out and slow down some before the season is over). May as well have Carlos in the third slot, since his OPS is .860 (for comparison, A-Rod’s is 1.103 and Miggy’s is .968… Edgar Renteria’s is .722. I think Guillen could improve on this if he stays healthy and can get into a groove. At the very least, barring knee problems, he should be capable of proving that last year was NOT a fluke).
Magglio, I think, is supposed to be batting cleanup tonight, which seems to me a bit optimistic, but perhaps he’ll contribute a hit or two. Chris Shelton is batting .338 with 4 homeruns and 17 RBI in just 74 at-bats… the kid is for real, may as well bat him as such. Pudge hasn’t been at his best so far, but should be batting over .300 when all is said and done. Rondell is hovering right around .300 and can provide some pop with a stick.
Craigger can show some power and would probably be batting higher on a suckier team (and on a completely unrelated note, I just learned his middle name is ‘Keystone’. Awesome). DaMeat… well, he’s only hitting .253 these days but he’s already got 12 HRs on the year, and he’s in a bit of a slump right now. He could heat up and bust out of it at any minute, really, in which case I’m not sure where you slot him, because gawddamn that’s a mighty nice looking lineup.
And on the bench you’ve got Nook Logan with his exciting speed to patrol center field and wreak havoc on the basepaths, and you’ve got Omar Infante, who’s just now heating up and should (in my humble opinion) get plenty of playing time while he’s hot to rest Carlos’ Surgically Repaired Knee.
Now, obviously that’s a great lineup only if everyone on it is healthy (enormous if) and producing up to par (eh) at once, which will probably happen, oh, say, never. But it’s still something you can get excited about.
Justin Verlander, the hottest minor league prospect right now according to Baseball America, will be starting for the Detroit Tigers in the second half of the double-header against the Racist Logos on Monday. Again, note that no one here is saying ‘best’ minor league prospect– there’s still a dude out there by the name of Felix Hernandez floating around, just waiting to be injured beyond repair by the Mariners pitching prospect disposal machine– Verlander is just the ‘hottest’, since he dominated single-A ball, was promoted to AA, and instead of hitting the usual wall, he continued to shut people down in a casual fashion.
This, while exciting in the neutral sense of the word, does not exactly make me happy. I am excited about Justin Verlander, and there are many good reasons why all baseball fans can get excited about Justin Verlander, but the kid is getting pulled up from AA. Yes, it’s only for one start, and yes, it’s only a temporary move because they wanted a 6th pitcher due to the double-header and he should be heading right back down from whence he came.
Still. Still. I have horrible, traumatizing memories of watching Cla Meredith pitch earlier this season… for those who don’t know him, he’s a pitching prospect for the Red Sox who had been absolutely tearing up the minors, is being groomed as a closer, and was pulled up to pitch a bit in the big leagues. He got absolutely shelled, just plain old beaten up, like a video camera when Kenny Rogers is around. Obviously Verlander is projected to have better ‘stuff’ than Cla, but I can’t help the worry that fills my heart.
If he does well, the clamor to bring him up, youth and inexperience and all, will grow. If he does poorly, it could negatively impact his development. Cleveland is a light-hitting club at times, but Travis Hafner can beat the ball silly on occasion, and Grady Sizemore is turning into quite the pest, and I just have all these horrible visions of the bases jammed with Racist Logos, poor Verlander trembling on the mound, shooting nervous glances at the offensively powerful but defensively sad* team in the field around him.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it falls out. On the face of it, though, I’m not liking it. I was an advocate of leaving Verlander in the minors for all of this year, even after the September callup, so he could work through AA and log some quality starts in AAA before making a move to the majors, so seeing him up this early is a bit galling to me.
Bruce Fields and Kirk Gibson have been swapped in coaching positions. Fields, formerly the hitting coach, is now the bench coach while Gibby, formerly the bench coach, is now the hitting coach. I don’t have much to say about this because, quite frankly, I’m not sure what effect Fields was having on the batters and I have no way to gauge what Gibby will do with them. It’s not like Bob Cluck, where the coach is exerting a demonstrable positive influence on his players. This seems to be more a ‘shake things up and see what falls out’ sort of move, not a real impact move. But that’s cool. Shaking things up in quiet ways like this, you never know. Something tasty just might fall out.
And isn’t that about the worst photo of Gibby you’ve ever seen? Egads, man, way to look like an ogre in a Tigers hat.
Finally, don’t forget the pitching matchup we have going in about 20 minutes: Jeremy Bonderman versus the Wizened Unit. Bondo had a horrible outing in his last start, but he will hopefully be able to shunt it aside and return to form. The WU has not been anything like his old self recently. But in any event, it’s young ace vs. aged ace, hard-throwing righty vs. fireballing lefty, and damn, it should be pretty frelling neat.
So I don’t know about you cats, but I’m pretty damn excited.
*Shelton and his slow feet at first base, Rondell and his noodle arm in the outfield, Guillen and his tender knee at short. Urgh.