Happy New Years, Tigers (for certain values of 'happy')

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

How very appropriate that the last day of the Tigers’ season should coincide with (at least one group’s version of) New Years. As we rocket into the year 5769 we will jettison this past season into the Black Hole of the Past, never to be spoken of again, except for the several million times when I will bring it up.

A great many things have happened since we last spoke/remotely interacted via pixels. To help ease our transition into the new year, I will go over all these things. As many of them as I can immediately recall at the moment. Whatever.

We played the Wrong Sox in an ‘extra’ game. We lost.

On the one paw, it looks like Freddy Garcia was pitching OK, so mazel tov to Mr. Garcia, but on the other paw, apparently he came out with a spasmy injury? That’s not exactly the way you want to end the season, but at least he has a lot of time now to rest it, and it’s not as though we were exactly counting on his health/effectiveness for next year. (And if we were… oy.)

On the third paw, our hitting was terrible and our bullpen was terrible and Arrrrmando got tagged in relief with a stupid pointless loss. There was no upside to this game. None. Except for the fact that it was one additional day of Tigers baseball, and come January we’ll be fondly looking back on it for that reason and that reason alone.

Gary Sheffield did not get 500 homers.

He stalled out at 499. Barring catastrophic injury, he’ll trot on past that milestone next season. If he doesn’t do it in a Tigers uniform, I will probably be OK.

His entire family, through multiple generations, up in the Comerica box with all the signs, though… that was pretty unequivocally great.

Brandon Inge has been declared next season’s starting third baseman, and Carlos Guillen will move to left field.
This one caught me by surprise – I’d only just started to fully come around to the Brandon Inge as 2009 Catcher camp, and then WHAM, the sudden turnaround. I honestly don’t understand why this decision would be made (or publicly announced at this time) unless the Tigers had someone in mind for the ’09 catcher.

Like, even if they were thinking about it, why announce it now? Why not wait and see if you can get the catcher you want via free agency or trade or Dusty Ryan suddenly hitting baseball puberty? And then if you don’t get that guy, you still have Inge expecting to catch, and there’s no drama. By announcing this NOW, the Tigers have invited further drama should they attempt to move Inge back behind the plate yet again at some point between now and April. You see what I mean?

It’s also becoming increasingly obvious that Carlos Guillen’s body is falling apart before our very eyes. Morbidly fascinating, really. His ideal position very soon (if not already) will probably be DH, but the Tigs have plenty of elderly, heavy-batted fodder for that spot, so Guillen gets shunted around the field to try and figure out where he can do the least amount of damage. Sad.

Chuck Hernandez was fired.
I’m fairly ambivalent about this one. To return to our little cat’s feet: on the one paw, I don’t think Hernandez specifically was the Big Bad Main Problem here. He had nothing to do with guys getting old, and injuries like Bondo’s are nothing to do with any kind of pitching coach. But on this second paw… well, he had a LITTLE to do with this mess, perhaps in the sense that when stuff went wrong that he SHOULD have been able to do something about, he failed to do so.

Verlander… even putting aside the issues of arm fatigue and (over)use that arose this year, which are more strictly Leyland’s fault, you still have a guy pitching way, way off from his peak, and you have a pitching coach completely failing to get him back on track. You have a bullpen suffering from inconsistency so dire that if inconsistency was a bodily disease the entire ‘pen would have been hospitalized, and you have a pitching coach unable to do much of anything about that.

You have Joel Zumaya, a guy whose injury was probably not 100% preventable, but whose mechanics require much more close attention than they’re getting under Hernandez (or much more attention with knowledge about what to DO with that attention, in any event). Zoom’s one of those exotic pets, like an iguana or something, that require a very special set of supplies to thrive. He needs his appropriately-sized tank, his specific-wavelength heat lamp, his particular lettuces. Hernandez means well, and he loves his iguana, but he just doesn’t have the specialist-type of knowledge necessary to keep pet iguanas. And let’s face it: it’s just not responsible to have a pet iguana if you can’t care for it properly.

Miguel Cabrera won the AL home run title.
He hit 37 for the Tigs this season. This is a vaguely pointless ‘title’, but he beat out ARod and Carlos Quentin the Wrong Sock for it, so we can all feel good about that.

Edgar Renteria’s 2009 option will not be picked up.
THANK CATS. Look, I’ve had two seasons of watching Edgah try to hack the AL, on two different teams, and I’ve had enough of it. The guy can’t do it, he’s unhappy trying to do it, he starts playing like he’s unhappy, and the whole thing becomes a vicious cycle of ineptitude and woe. I hope he goes back to the NL and has all the success in the world out there, but I don’t want to deal with him on this side of the DH Divide anymore.

I guess we can still re-sign him as a free agent, if the madness takes us. At this point I would really almost rather go with Ramon Santiago. At least he’d come cheaper, and we’d probably get comparable production.

The Tigers have officially clinched last place in the division.
Our final record is 74-88, for a .457 percentage. At least we avoided 90 losses? Worse than the Tigers are: the Orioles, the Mariners, the Braves, the Nats, the Pirates, the Giants, and the Padres (the Reds are actually exactly tied with us, with the same W/L record). That may seem like a respectable number of teams still looking up at our tail, but those are some catawful teams, kids and kittens, so coming out of the season with a better percentage than them is nothing much.

Kansas City is not allowed to gloat. You’re under .500 too, guys. Here but for the grace of one stupid make-up game go you.

Curtis Granderson will be in-studio for the AL/NLDS on TBS.
He’ll be working pregame and postgame and probably some between-inning stuff as well, alongside Cal Ripken Jr, Dennis Eckersley (who has been a glorious studio presence on the Red Sox TV channel), and whoever TBS has hosting this thing. Because Curtis Granderson is a perfect being, he is marvelously good at this broadcast stuff, and if you were waffling about whether or not to watch these upcoming non-Tigery postseason games, well, you might want to tune in just to see Granderson a) conversing with Dennis Eckersley and b) probably wearing a suit.

If you can’t get excited about that, you can’t get excited about LIFE.

The Tigers are not in the postseason. Just in case you hadn’t noticed.
I assume that my rooting interests from here on out are clear, yes? Remember: every time you root for the Red Sox, you root for Sean Casey to be made happy. Don’t you want Sean Casey to be happy? Don’t you want him to smile? Isn’t he just the nicest guy ever? Rooting against Sean Casey is like rooting against kittens. I just want you guys to bear that in mind.

Onwards. L’shana tova to those of you celebrating the new year, and a happy stress-free postseason to the rest of you goyim.

Go Lions?

(Don’t get the New Years stuff, or the image up top? Tonight is the start of Rosh Hashana [literally ‘head of the year’], the Jewish New Years. The Jewish calendar starts earlier than the common calendar, so while it’s only 2008 in the common calendar, it’s now the year 5769 in the Jewish calendar. It’s traditional to eat apples dipped in honey on Rosh Hashana, for a sweet new year.)


14 responses to “Happy New Years, Tigers (for certain values of 'happy')

  1. I take it the adorable little Tiger is at home, right? Thus no yamulkah? Or am I just suddenly craving adorable wee Tiger in yamulkah?
    Hey, apparently I am spelling that right. Right-ish.

  2. I’m rooting for the Rays if only because um, they’re not in the AL Central, the Angels, in the NL or the Red Sox

  3. Today’s game was fun to watch… it felt like we were given a gift of an extra game saved up just for us.
    Then the 6th inning happened and I remembered what our season was all about.
    I was particularly disappointed to see Galarraga tagged with that loss for doing almost nothing. I really wished that loss to Glover for giving up the Grannie, even if the runners weren’t his. *sigh* Our bullpen just framed the season again so well.
    I’m soooo looking forward to next season and how things will be fixed? As for Inge and not catching… what ever… we can find a new 3rd baseman again by spring training I guess.

  4. I’m curious about the timing of these announcements, too. Though my guess is that Leyland doesn’t want there to be any questions about who’s playing where going into Spring Training next year.
    So much time was spent on acclimating Inge, Cabrera, and Guillen to their new positions that the learning process carried over into the first month of the season. Now, everyone knows what they’re going to be playing (presumably), so get to work and come to Lakeland ready.

  5. Well, at this point last year, Inge was supposed to be the 2008 starting third baseman too. One thing this season has taught me, is that things like that can change in a heartbeat. However, I am hoping that all works out. Who was it I heard was a free agent this year that intrigued me – Gerald Laird? He’s no Pudge Rodriguez, but I hope we’ve learned from this year that Big Names don’t necessarily produce Big Results. A nice mid-level (not too expensive) catcher that could work in tandem with Dusty Ryan might be nice.
    As hard as I tried to yell at the TV and make Sheff angry, I think his nerves got the better of him. (Well, that, and the fact they didn’t give him much to hit these last couple of games of the season.)
    I don’t blame the craziness of the last 162 games on Chuck Hernandez and Jeff Jones, but I guess somebody had to take the fall. (Do you realize, in the last week, we’ve gone from having two Jonesies in our bullpen, to having none?) I hope someone who knows what they are talking about also takes a good hard look at Kevin Rand and his training staff. I’m just talking as a laywoman here. I don’t know anything about athletic training, really, but when I see a pattern of the same few, repetitive injuries going through the clubhouse all season long, like they are contagious or something, I get curious, and wonder if the training staff is doing all they can do. Maybe they are, and all those freak oblique and hamstring injuries were just baseball, but I want someone to look into it, just in case.
    Here’s to 2009!

  6. Grandy in a suit (sigh/drool) … could be JUST the thing to break my new addiction to Countdown!

  7. Thank you Sarah.

  8. K, yes, he’s having his delicious foods at home! And I always spell it ‘yarmulke’ (and pronounce it ‘yahmmakah’, which may be totally wrong but is how it’s done ’round here anyways), but it’s like arguing over how to spell Chanukah (or Hannuka, or Hanukah, or whatever)– it’s all transliteration anyways.
    Paul, yeah, the worst thing about that game to me was def. Armando getting the lost. Poor guy pitches a heckuva season, beyond all reason and expectation, and ends the season with a loss in a game he didn’t even start. Harsh.
    Ian, see, I generally agree with not dicking guys around about where they’re playing, but they could leave this announcement ’til, like, December or January and it would still qualify as having a set plan and sticking to it. Bringing it up NOW just seems unnecessarily hasty and open to all sorts of problems if they don’t end up bringing in whatever catcher they’re angling towards (since cat knows we’re not the only team out there in the market for a new catcher).
    heitk1le, Laird is I guess a serviceable option. He’ll come kinda pricey for what he is, but that’s probably not going to be different for any other catcher these days. Nobody is Pudge Rodriguez (Pudge isn’t even [vintage] Pudge anymore), so yeah, we shouldn’t even attempt to replace that, because it ain’t happenin’.
    The Jonesy observation is top work. And that’s a good point re: the training staff. Some of the muscle strain-y stuff is probably down to the age of some of our players, and I’m sure that at least some of it is down to just cruddy luck, but yeah, when the entire team has one massive hurty oblique, someone somewhere had better be at least looking into that.
    Colt, I know, right? Watching the playoffs without participating in ’em is rough, but Grandy in a suit, talking intelligently about baseball, is enough to soothe some of the hurt.
    Emil, I’m sure Sarah would say ‘you’re welcome’.

  9. The illustration is delightful. A sweet New Year to you too. Thank you so very much for all the great…everything this season, but especially for giving me something to look forward to on the mornings after the Tigers stunk stunk stunk.

  10. By the way, I hadn’t thought of it before, but of course I want Sean Casey to be happy. The thought of Sean Casey smiling makes me smile.
    But there’s a part of me that always roots for the underdog. Now I don’t know who I want to win the pennant… just not the White Sox/Twins (whichever is applicable after today’s game). And I’m kind of sick of the Angels too.

  11. Who is Sarah?
    L’shana tova!
    Oddly, I don’t feel particularly bad about the season ending the way it did / the Tigers ending up in last place. In fact, it reminds me a lot of 2005. I’m looking forward to all the moves Dombrowski will cook up during the off-season.

  12. thanks for the column

  13. Another great post and superb illustration! If only the Tigers could be as consistently outstanding.
    On to 2009!

  14. Less, you’re quite welcome. It was (and continues to be) therapeutic for me too. :P
    heitk1le, you sound like you’re leaning Rays. Which is fine. You know. If you hate Sean Casey and happiness. ;P
    David, see, you had me up ’til the ‘Red Sox’ bit…
    ivan, I wondered that myself, heh. And I guess at least this means we get marginally better draft position.
    Li Monk (name change again?), most welcome.
    Leshnock, if only the Tigers could be as consistently brightly colored and surreal! ;)

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