photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein
I admit that I have been putting this off. As a Tigers fan it is, in general, no big tragedy, but as a blogger, O! The sadness!
The Tigers decided to non-tender Chad Durbin rather than deal with the amount of money he was likely to command in arbitration. Durbin made $385,000 last season, which is eminently reasonable for the type of all-around gofer pitching he did (in relation to the rest of the league; let’s not even get into whether baseball salaries are reasonable or not in relation to the rest of the job market as a whole, ’cause, oy), but if the Tigers had gone to arbitration with him it’s likely that they would have had to pay him in excess of $1 million, which the Tigers obviously thought was too high for a pitcher who wasn’t going to be a permanent starter or a closer. Nothing personal to Chad, of course– the Tigs would have done the same for any pitcher in the same situation.
As a 30-year-old right-handed middle reliever whose 4.72 ERA last season was his best ever in a year where he threw 100+ innings, Durbin is probably not going to make a million bucks, even in the absurdly surreal unpredictable landscape that is this winter’s free agent market. It would not have made sense for the Tigers to sign him for that amount of money. There are spots on the roster where it’s OK for a big-market team to overpay, but middle relief isn’t generally considered one of them. Still, he should be able to glom on with some team or other; hopefully no one in the AL Central or AL East (unless it’s Boston) so that I don’t have to end up rooting against him.
The only reason the Tigers might have wanted to hang on to him would have been to use him as trade bait. His name had been batted around in the Pittsburgh rumors, but evidently that all came to naught.
So this is all very expected, very easy to agree with, very humdrum so far as baseball moves go. Ah, but it is not so simple as that. Why should anyone, aside from family and friends of Mr. Durbin, care much about any of this? Here at Roar of the Tigers, our love for Chad Durbin transcended stats, and game results, and sanity. Why? I reckon it will be worthwhile to examine the (small yet dogged) phenomenon.
If you go back to the very first “Chad Durbin is a pimp” entry, you can see where the phenomenon began. We all fully expected Durbin to be a throw-away pitcher, the kind of guy you put in the game to eat innings because you have nothing better available. In this particular game, the one that started Durbin off on the long sordid road to pimpness, he disabused us of this notion. I quote:
A Chad Durbin who could HOLD THE CHICAGO WHITE SOX SCORELESS FOR 8 INNINGS HOLY FREAKING CATS WHAT.
Eloquence has always been our strong suit here at RotT.
When the guy you’ve been alternately referring to as “cannon fodder” or “the sacrificial ram” comes up and has a game like that, why not imagine him as a pimp, with his moneymakers either strikeouts or opposing players, depending on which direction you prefer for the, uh, metaphor. I wish I could tell you the exact thought process that led to that first pimp post, but that’s not how it works ’round these parts. Why is Neifi!!! a sea slug? Why was Gary Sheffield a giant squid that one time? Why the Spazzosaurus? Why this? All this stuff just seems like a series of natural conclusions and comparisons when I write it. Chad Durbin as a pimp was much the same.
As Chad Durbin continued to occasionally pitch games above and beyond his expected ‘uninspired innings-eater’ role, it became easier to extend the metaphor. Lots of pimp outfits involve tiger stripe fabric, it turns out, and a marvelous world of color changes (to orange, natch) and head swappery and number-as-bling ‘shopping was born.
I had fun with it. Probably more fun than it actually warranted. I looked forward to games where Durbin did well, because I knew that afterwards I could go and pimp him out, and that was fun (and, compared to some other images that end up here, fairly easy) to do in Photoshop. This is, for Roar of the Tigers, the joy of blogging: if I was writing from some mainstream media ‘site, could I be having that much fun with a mediocre replacement starter/middle reliever? Probably not.
And I think that some of you guys (the adored readers, of course) had fun with it too. Maybe one or two of you watched a game where Durbin pitched, and it made you smile to think of the pimp outfit you knew he was going to end up wearing on the filthy degenerate Internets. Thus we were joined together in Fun, and our Fun was facilitated by Chad Durbin.
There was no good reason for this– it was just something that grew up randomly around a few startling outings from this pitcher whom many would call wholly unremarkable. Once we got that pimped-out ball rolling, though, he was no longer unremarkable. I don’t want to get maudlin about this or anything, but I like to think that I was able to enjoy baseball more, even just a tiny bit more, because Chad Durbin was a pimp*. And maybe that’s true for some of you cats too.
That’s part of the joy of being a dedicated, crazy, hardcore baseball fan. It’s not just about cheering for the Verlanders and the Magglios and the Pudges (and the Miguel Cabreras!) of the team. It’s about being able to, as a fan, for basically no good reason, get psyched about the little guys. There are devoted Vance Wilson fans out there, people. Nook Logan had (a small but steady number of) groupies. Actual human females have smiled approvingly at the thought of Fernando Rodney. There were people who were deeply invested in the fate of Omar Infante.
So, yes, there are people out there who will miss having Chad Durbin on the Tigers. We know that his non-tendering is logical and we would probably question Dombrowski’s sanity if he was willing to shell out that much money for a middle reliever. We know all that and agree with it. But still.
Fare thee well, Mr. Durbin, wherever you may end up. Provided it’s not on a team where we have to regularly root against you and hope you fail against our lineup.
* The best kind of pimp, of course: a harmless, goofy parody with ridiculous outfits, no weaponry aside from his cleats or his baseball, and no actual hos. Real pimps aren’t funny. Chad Durbin would spit upon real pimps.