NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.
The Detroit Tigers season has been [insert verb here]. For me, this season through 68 games has been disheartening. Last week I wrote that this team had me in a state of concerned optimism, but after this weekend I'm just flat out concerned.
And most of my concern does not rest in the players and their under-performances night after night; my concern lies with the management of this team, general manager Al Avila and manager Brad Ausmus.
When the season was in its infancy, this team looked capable, the only question truly was the bullpen — but Tigers fans accept that as the norm these days — so it seemed like a run-of-the-mill season. We had the big name players, we were in a position to contend (with the possibility of being forced to sell), and baseball was back.
Yet, this tightrope the Tigers have been walking between contention and cellar-dwelling 68 games into the season is about to come unhinged.
Last offseason, Al Avila came forward proclaiming that the team was going to start to shed payroll, then didn't, and now we're here. Then I started to wonder this weekend as the Tigers were losing to the Rays, do these players really even want to play for this team? I honestly believe that members of this team love playing here; however, I think they don't care too much for the management they are playing under.
Two instances in the Rays series gave me enough of a gut feeling about the clubhouse of the Tigers. Now, having never been in there I'm not going to speak directly to it, but will speak to how I see this team carry themselves as it comes to their manager.
Last week, Francisco Rodriguez complained to the media about his “mop-up role” on the team. K-Rod emphatically told reporters, “I have not made my living being a mop-up guy.” You're right Fransisco, you currently are third on the all-time saves list and for that we applaud you. But guess what buddy, those past saves aren't winning us any games in 2017 are they?
But my complaint isn't with K-Rod, today. Given the first opportunity to pitch K-Rod in a “pressure” situation, Brad acquiesced and put Rodriguez in, after the team had just lost two straight to the Arizona Diamondbacks. In the top of the eighth inning versus the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night, K-Rod was warming as the score was tied 2-2. Ailing Victor Martinez drove in Ian Kinsler on an error made by the shortstop and the score was 3-2 in the Tigers favor. So, naturally, I asked the question: does Brad go to someone else, or give in to K-Rod. To prove it, check this out:
K-Rod was given his chance and he blew it. But I wasn't even truly mad at Rodriguez, I was irritated by Ausmus' decision to continue to go with him. Everyone believes that the Tigers bullpen is better with K-Rod working late innings, but at what point to do we start to consider these games too important to lose and not continue to experiment? In that moment, the grip of the clubhouse started to release from Ausmus' hands, players can now dictate their use by their diatribes to the media outlets? Sounds like fantastic leadership to me. To be fair the Tigers did end up winning that game on a Miggy walk-off home run and very unenergetic post game speech.
Makes you start to think, doesn't it?
Then there was Saturday (late) afternoon tilt against the Rays, a game which I was not able to watch until the seventh inning. I tuned in via my MLBtv App and as soon as I did, Michael Fulmer threw over to Miguel Cabrera to hold on the runner. Miggy was animated towards the Tigers dugout, essentially telling them to get the hitter with the 1-2 count. Later, I found out this was the third time that Fulmer picked over to first base.
After Fulmer gave up a single to that hitter, Derek Norris, who was down 1-2 in the count, Cabrera was not too happy. After the game, which the Tigers ended up losing 3-2, Ausmus was asked about Cabrera and he said he didn't notice it, it was on him to call the running game, and “quite frankly, I don't care about it (Cabrera's actions).” Again, makes you question what exactly is going on with this team, especially inside the (un)friendly confines of the clubhouse.
Which leads me to my last point, and this one's for you, Mr. Avila. On Sunday the club lost its fourth game in the last six and remains four games under .500 and 4.5 out of first place in the AL Central and only three games out of a Wild Card spot. Yet, for some reason tomorrow night when we head out to Seattle, Anibal Sanchez will be making a start. Not an emergency spot start, but just your average Monday night, series-opening start.
Anibal Sanchez will start for Tigers tomorrow in Seattle. Six-man rotation this turn.
— Jason Beck (@beckjason) June 18, 2017
Anibal currently carries a 4.60 ERA in the minors, but yet he's “ready?” Everyone points to the fact that “we need to see if he still has it, etc.”, what about those numbers indicates to you that now is the best time? If at this point, every game we fall farther below the .500 mark draws us closer to saying goodbye to players we actually like and contribute to our team, why start Sanchez “just to see?” Or, maybe, is that your plan all along? Seems like you couldn't work your “master plan” in the off-season, so here's where we find oursleves.
Rather than contending we'll just choose to continue to do all these different science experiments to see if the “has beens” still have it. Good call.
This season has been the most frustrating season as a fan that I can remember, and yes I remember the 119-loss team. But this team should be a far cry from that, but yet they don't play like it. We can blame the player for their inflated contracts and low performance, but shouldn't the yoke squarely be placed on the management of this team? I think it should, but hey what do I know?