The Tigers are on an off day, back home after one of the ugliest road trips in memory. Getting swept by the Royals, and losing 2 of 3 to the D-Backs have apparently brought the Tigers' issues to a head.
Word from the Marlboro Man is he and Dave Dombrowski will meet today, and...Well, this is straight from the Cigarette Smoking Man's mouth, as quoted in the Freep.
"We have a lot of issues to deal with right now," Leyland said. "That's why I'm meeting with Dave. I'll be able to clear some stuff up, hopefully, in the near future. We've got a lot of issues to address."
Umm...yeah. The Tigers are the worst team in the American League for a reason. They've earned that distinction by playing awful all around baseball. I'll say there's several "issues" to address...
Gary Sheffield: Since that fateful day in 2007 when Sheffield collided with Placido Polanco, re-injuring his shoulder, he's hit .170, with no power. Even though Sheffield is owed $28 million through 2009, it's time to either cut bait, or put him on ice.
I've been as big of a supporter of Sheffield as anyone in Tigerdom. He's a marvelous ballplayer, when healthy. The caveat being he hasn't been healthy for going on 10 months. Everything the Tigers have done to try and kick start Sheffield, cortisone shots in the shoulder, moving him down in the order, regulating his playing time, none of it has worked.
Playing Sheffield in left field, a move obviously made in desperation, was the final straw. As he can't play in the field, his value to the Tigers is totally dependent upon his bat. When that bat can't deliver anything more than a .190 BA, it means Sheffield has absolutely no value. He can't stay in the lineup.
It's time to place Sheffield on the DL, preferably the 60 day DL, and determine once and for all if the final year of his contract can be salvaged. If not, then give him his outright release.
Playing the youngsters: Matt Joyce has become the Tigers sole source of home run power since being called up after the release of Jacque Jones. Ryan Raburn can play all over the field, much like Brandon Inge, but is a much better hitter. All Raburn has done during his call ups in '07 and '08 is play well, both in the field, and at the plate.
There's an obvious left field platoon under Leyland's nose with Joyce and Raburn. Somehow, someway, they need to get on the field. How that can be accomplished (Sheffield to the DL duh!) may be something that is discussed during today's meeting of the baseball minds.
One thing also worth mentioning, and it may be discussed today. The Tigers have a few kids in Toledo tearing up the International League with their power stats. Namely Mike Hessman, Mike Holliman,and Jeff Larish. All could help the suddenly powerless Tigers.
Armando Galarraga & Dontrelle Willis: Donterlle Willis has finished his injury rehab. Armando Galarraga, brought up from Toledo to take the D-Train's vacated spot in the rotation, has been the Tigers' best starter over the past month. The Tigers have 6 starting pitchers, while only needing 5.
Willis is being paid $29 million for 3 seasons, so no matter what fans want, he's going to be in the rotation. Period. End of discussion.
So what to do with Galarraga? He deserves to stay in the rotation. But he's the only starting pitcher who's not being paid a boatload of cash. The contracts, and for that matter, track records, of Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson, Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander and Willis will keep them in the rotation. Again, end of discussion.
The question remains, what to you do with Galarraga, who's clearly out pitched his much more highly paid teammates? Do the Tigers send him down to Toledo, so he continues to pitch every 5th day? Move him to the bullpen, requiring someone else, likely one of the righties in the pen, to be sent down?
What will Leyland and Dombrowski decide? Your guess is as good as mine...
Carlos Guillen: He's a DH waiting to happen. Make it happen.
OK, that may be a knee-jerk thought, but Guillen's defense is becoming an increasing sore spot for fans, MSM and the Tigers alike. His bat demands keep him as healthy as possible. His contract demands you you play him as much as possible. How that is done (be it playing 1st base, 3rd base or as DH) needs to be determined, then set in stone.
Sheffield to the DL opens up several options regarding Guillen, specifically the DH one. you have to believe it's being discussed...
Brandon Inge: There's plenty of questions surrounding Inge as well. If Sheffield is benched/on the DL/released, would Guillen move to DH, and replaced at 3rd by Inge? As good as his glove is at 3rd base, Inge's bat (.221 BA, .696 OPS) just won't allow it. Not on an everyday basis, anyway. Is he going to be the full time catcher in 2009? His lack of offensive punch is more tolerable as a catcher.
The fate of Inge is another that could be affected by the Sheffield domino falling.
A change in the coaching staff: You know it has to be discussed. Both Chuck Hernandez and Lloyd McClendon may be on the hot seat. If Mike Ilitch is looking for a fall guy, hoping to shake things up, replacing the pitching or hitting coach would be a likely scenario. You can't fire the players. Coaches, on the other hand...
This is something Leyland may put his foot down on, and refuse to do. Draw the proverbial line in the sand. Which could lead to...
The future of Jim Leyland: You have to at least wonder what's going through Leyland's head. All we've heard from the Marlboro Man as of late is that he's at a loss. He doesn't have the answers. He doesn't know what else to do.
He sounds like a man at his wits end.
The meeting with Dombrowski could be of the "Come to Jesus" type. Leyland may be given an ultimatum. Things need to change, and change soon, or else.
I honestly doubt this would happen, but no one saw such a collapse by the Tigers coming either.