Answering Jayson Stark's Detroit Tigers rumblings & grumblings: 4 questions that won't go away edition
Mike pointed me towards Jayson Stark's latest "Rumblings & Grumblings" column at the 4 letter, as he talks Tigers within. Stark brings up 4 questions that not only we Tigers fans have been asking, but those around the nation as well. I can't say much for his answers, as they are on the flippant side, so I'll give it a shot...
Q: Why aren't they playing Brandon Inge at third, considering what a massive defensive upgrade he is over either Carlos Guillen or Miguel Cabrera?
Stark: Sheffield's presence in the DH hole makes that impossible.
Big Al: Short answer? Inge is hitting all of .233. (Thanks to 3 hits over the past 2 games, raising his average from .221) That's why.
Long answer? This is a bigger issue than Sheffield's presence blocking the Tigers' maneuverability. Though it hasn't helped...
I'm fine with Inge playing 3rd as a late inning replacement, or to rest Carlos Guillen. But Inge is also a career .240 hitter whose power stats have been steadily tracking down since his big 2006 season. Excellent glove or not, you can't have his impotent bat as your long-term solution at 3rd base.
There's also the fact Inge is likely the Tigers starting catcher in 2009. His bat may not be up to 3rd base standards, but it is definitely tolerable as your catcher. He's the Tigers only backup to Pudge Rodriguez,
Let's not forget Guillen has been asked to move defensively (From SS, to 1B, to 3B) around the diamond twice within a year. His bat is very important ingredient to the Tigers long-term success. He's a team leader, and has moved willingly when asked. Hasn't he been jerked around enough? At least for this season?
This will sort itself out after the season, with Guillen possibly becoming a DH, if Gary Sheffield shows he can no longer compete at the MLB level. The Tigers can survive the season with Guillen are 3rd.
Q: Isn't it time to consider releasing Gary Sheffield and DHing Cabrera?
Stark:They're not ready to shred the $24 million or so they still owe Sheffield through next year.
Big Al: From Stark's mouth to Dave Dombrowski's ears.
The roar from the Detroit fanbase want the Tigers' brass to DL Sheffield is deafening. Though Sheff may be having the last laugh, as he's raised his average 22 points over the past 2 games, to a robust .202! (Trust me, .202 sure seems robust the way Sheffield has been struggling.) The Tigers can't continue to bat 3rd in the order a Sheffield who's doing battle with the Mendoza Line. (With the Mendoza Line winning)
Though in today's win, we saw why Sheffield can be so valuable, when healthy. With 3 hits, a walk and 2 runs, he played a very big part in igniting the Tigers offense. He also scored from 1st base on a Magglio Ordonez double, dodging the tag at home thanks to a marvelous slide, scoring the Tigers first run. He was dead to rights, the throw arrived ahead of him, yet still beat the tag. It was vintage Gary Sheffield.
But 2 games does not a turnaround make. As much as the fans and MSM would like to see Sheffield on the DL, as Stark says, the Tigers have 24 million reasons to try and get Sheffield straightened out. The Tigers ability to salvage this season may depend on it.
As for Cabrera, I'm perfectly fine with his playing 1st base. There's no need to make a 25 year old kid a full-time DH. For that matter, he's shown to be a much better 1st baseman than Guillen was, and seems to be taking to his new position quite well. We all realized Cabrera was a 1st sacker waiting to happen when the Tigers traded for him, it just happened sooner than most expected.
Leave well enough alone, Cabrera is the Tigers 1st baseman for the next several years.
Q: What are they going to do with Dontrelle Willis, who still hasn't solved his control crisis during his rehab outings?
Stark: Good question.
Big Al: Hell if I know...
Much like the Sheffield situation, the Tigers have 29 million reasons to get the D-Train untracked. I'm still surprised the Tigers actually went so far as to not put Willis in the rotation. I honestly thought they would bite the bullet, see if Willis could settle down as a starter, and move Armando Galarraga to the bullpen.
Obviously, the Tigers thought it too risky, knowing Willis was not ready to step back in the rotation. They had little choice but to place the D-Train in the pen. Thus making him the highest paid mop up man in the universe. It's about all they can do. They'll hope and pray Willis can figure out his control issues in low leverage situations, in blowouts or when a starter gets knocked out of the box.
If you know of a better solution, I'd like to hear it. So would the Tigers...
Q: Is there any chance they'll trade a guy like Jeremy Bonderman to fill other holes?
Stark: Bonderman doesn't appear available, but they'll undoubtedly get asked about him between now and July 31.
Big Al: Stark's kidding, right? National writers are actually taking this to be a serious question? Like this could actually happen?
Let's quickly look at the Tigers rotation....
Kenny Rogers is doing the best he can, but appears to be running on fumes. I don't see coming back in 2009. Who knows what will happen with Dontrelle Willis, as we discussed above. The D-Train is more than a question mark, he's the proverbial riddle wrapped in a mystery surrounded by an enigma. Nate Robertson is what he is, a bulldog type, your typical innings eating .500 pitcher. Then there's the untouchable Justin Verlander.
So why would you entertain any trade involving Jeremy Bonderman, when 2 of your starters are big time question marks, and a 3rd is league average, at best? Seriously, why?
The Tigers were built specifically to go for it all in 2008 and 2009. They'll ride the rapids with what they have, as they really don't have a choice. That includes keeping Bonderman.