This Just In: Dave Dombrowski is Still the Best GM in Baseball

This post will not please the mouth-breathing, knuckle-scraping, Sports Radio-calling, Dombrowski haters. But it is the truth. Dave Dombrowski is the best GM in baseball, and he just proved it again. For the third year in a row (and in a lousy market for contenders needing to shore up a position or two), DD went out and made a move that no one saw coming to address his team’s needs.

First he got a much-needed veteran back-of-the-bullpen arm in Houston’s closer Jose Veras for a 19-year-old OF prospect. Veras gives Jim Leyland plenty of depth and options for the late innings, and lessens the chance that he’ll have to rely on someone he doesn’t trust (Coke, Alburquerque, Valverde, etc.).

Then, in the closest thing to a blockbuster that this year’s trading deadline produced, he solved shortstop for this year and for the next few years. Jose Iglasias is universally regarded as the second coming of Omar Vizquel and Ozzie Smith defensively (and if he hits like them, that would be pretty good too). He is only 23 years old, and he can play all over the infield. Right now, that’s pretty important, what with Miggy’s hip/ab issues, Infante’s anke, and Peralta’s impending PED suspension. When the other shoe drops for Jhonny, Iglasias will slide into SS, and immediately improve the left side of the infield, because Miggy won’t have to cover as much ground. While Peralta is here (most likely through the weekend) Iglasias provides the luxury of resting Cabrera against a team that they shouldn’t need his help to beat.

Now, Iglasias didn’t come free. But hey, nothing worth anything does. But Dombrowski got him without giving up the jewel of the farm system, Nick Castellanos, who now moves to the front of the line for a call-up when injuries or ineffectiveness strike the major league roster. It will hurt to see Avisail Garcia in a White Sox uniform for the next few years, but seeing Iglasias scoop up everything hit near him for that same amount of time will ease the pain. Garcia was projected to be a very good ML outfielder, maybe even an All-Star. But the Tigers had a surplus at OF in the minors AND the majors, and a dearth of sure-fire middle infield prospects, and nobody that was close to being ready to step in now or next year at SS.

Once again, Dombrowski never tipped his hand, and the deal he eventually made caught everyone by surprise, and solved the exact weakness of the roster as it stood. In 2011, it was Fister, last year Sanchez and Infante, and now, Veras and Iglasias. Each time, he gave up highly-touted prospects to get exactly what he needed. So far, the young players haven’t come back to haunt him or the Tigers. Garcia, and Jacob Turner may yet do that. But even if they do, Dombrowski and the Tigers are still WAY on the positive side of the ledger when it comes to trades. Just ask the Marlins.

A Few Thoughts on Leyland and Dombrowski

LeylandFrom what I can gather on the web and on Twitter, the local reaction to the extensions of Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski has not been broadly positive. Nationally, it’s another story.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that I’ve been a Leyland backer — and one of Dombrowski, too. Fifty-one weeks ago I wrote a piece titled In Defense of Jim Leyland and though the circumstances are different this year than last, I still think Leyland deserves another year.

That’s not to say some of his in-game decisions don’t drive me batty. Ryan Raburn as late-inning defensive replacement? Jose Valverde in non-save situations? Brandon Inge? The featherweight lineup featured in so many getaway games?

For me, the bottom line is that Leyland knows more about his team than I do. He knows who’s got aches or pains or problems on the homefront that can affect performance. I don’t. What’s more, the players sure appear to respect the man — something you didn’t sense in the bad old days of Alan Trammell, Luis Pujols or Phil Garner.

A few years ago I went to a Tigers-Angels game in Anaheim and sat in utter disbelief that Leyland bypassed every opportunity to pinch hit Marcus Thames against a lefty for light-hitting batters. What was he thinking?!

Later that day I read in the game story that Thames had sore ribs and wasn’t available. And to think I could’ve used that my energy on the more productive and satisfying booing of Craig Monroe.

I know many Tigers fans believe Leyland has screwed up this team in one way or another for the better part of six seasons. For me, I see a guy who has the Tigers with a four-game lead in early August.

And I think he’s the guy who can lead the club to a first-place finish this year.

Okay, tell me how wrong I am.

Tuesday Tananas: A-Jax, Bondo and Joe Isuzu

bananas.jpgI just couldn’t see the Tigers making a move for Dan Uggla and hoped, quite frankly, that they wouldn’t. The added power behind Miguel Cabrera certainly would’ve been nice but not in the form of another righthanded bat. I’m willing to wait and see what Dave Dombrowski has up his sleeve.

Until then, here are some notable notes from around the Web:

  • If you want one more Sparky Anderson photo gallery, ESPN.com is happy to oblige.

  • Austin Jackson, in the eyes of Ian and many others got robbed on Monday when he finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. His catch during Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game should’ve cinched for him.

  • The 1934 Detroit Tigers infield tonight was featured in a new episode of MLB Network’s Prime 9: Infields. If you missed it this evening, fret not, MLB Network airs its Prime 9 series almost on the hour in the offseason. The ’34 Tigers will be ranked alongside other infields, including the ’13 Athletics, ’27 Giants, ’75 Reds and ’99 Mets. As always, check your local listings.

  • Where will Jeremy Bonderman end up in 2011? As we learned at the end of this season, there’s an outside chance that he’ll return to the Tigers. Not every team can afford Cliff Lee, which means you’d think someone like Bonderman would be an attractive and affordable option. Nosing around online I found two potential suitors: the Pirates (story here) and the Padres (story).

  • On Wednesday night I’ll be taking in my first Arizona Fall League game of the year — and likely the last seeing as the season ends on Saturday. I won’t be watching Tigers prospects though. Nope. I’ll be watching the Scottsdale Scorpions and Nationals’ phenom Bryce Harper. I don’t like what I read about this kid but what the hey? When am I ever going to see him again for just $5?

Finally, Happy 60th Birthday to actor David Leisure, a.k.a., Joe Isuzu.

Monday Mankowskis: Inge and Peralta More Alike Than You Think

No Tigers baseball for a week, how are you managing? Here in Phoenix we’re prepping for another season of Arizona Fall League action. (More on that later.)

In the meantime, here are some odds and ends from the last week:

  • If you’re still coming to grips with the notion of Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta manning the left side of the Tigers’ infield next season, here’s something I noticed that will either make you feel better or worse – and nowhere in between.

    Based on this year’s stats, it appears that Inge and Peralta are practically twins:

    2010 Stats Inge Peralta
    Games 144 148
    At bats 514 551
    Hits 127 137
    Home Runs 13 15
    RBI 70 81
    Average .247 .249
    On-base Percentage .321 .311
    Slugging Percentage .397 .392
    OPS .718 .703

    Of Peralta, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski last Sunday said: “We don’t know what we will do with his ($7.25 million) option, but would like him back next year as our shortstop.”

    I’m like many Tigers fans: skeptical, at best, about Peralta as a full-time shortstop. True, he’ll bring more pop to the position than either Danny Worth or Ramon Santiago. But that’s not saying much, is it? As for his defense, the 2010 edition of Baseball Prospectus described Peralta as “increasingly immobile.”

    Gee, if we wanted an immobile shortstop, why not give the job back to Carlos Guillen?

    Discuss.

    Continue reading Monday Mankowskis: Inge and Peralta More Alike Than You Think

News Galore on the Way Out the Door

It’s not often Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski gets loose and talks at length about the club’s plans, but on Sunday in Baltimore he did just that, breaking some news and confirming a few long-anticipated decisions:

  • Inge.jpgBrandon Inge gets offered an extension. As Ian wrote this summer, Inge is either loved or loathed in Detroit — with little in between. But I think even those of us who are frustrated by his lack of a strategy when he’s at the plate feel better about third base next season and maybe in 2012, too. In our recent Fungo Pulse Check, 79 percent of respondents (207 of 263 votes) preferred bringing back Inge over Jeremy Bonderman.

  • OrdonezHead.jpgMagglio Ordonez might be back. This isn’t a surprise. The Tigers aren’t picking up the $15 million option on Ordonez’s contract which means he’ll be a free agent, but the Tigers are open to re-signing him. I kept thinking that sentimental Mike Ilitch would tell Dombrowski to pick up the option for old time’s sake. I hope he comes back. If he does sign elsewhere — and you know Scott Boras is already firing up his hyperbole machine — I just pray that he doesn’t go back to the White Sox.

    Continue reading News Galore on the Way Out the Door

Rick Porcello’s Inevitable Ticket to Toledo

Porcello.jpgWe often hear of the sophomore slump in baseball and Rick Porcello was mired in a doozy.

As a result, he’s going to Toledo. Surprised? I’m not. This move is long over due for a pitcher with such tremendous skill — and a long runway, i.e., youth. In fact, I was surprised that the Tigers opted for the skipped-start approach last week rather than send Porcello to the Mud Hens.

By now, you’ve probably read the club’s rationale, articulated by GM Dave Dombrowski:

“We think it’s the best thing for him,” Dombrowski said. “Our goals are such to get him back to be the pitcher that we know he can be — get his sinker going, get his slider improved. We saw some improvement yesterday, but not to the point we’d like it to be.”

[callout title=Getting Rick Rolled]You can choose many startling things from Porcello’s stats. For me the one that’s the most glaring is the number of hits: 97 hits in 75.1 innings pitched. [/callout]If you think about it, isn’t this what we expected (feared?) of Porcello last season? A 20-year-old making the big club two years out of high school was supposed to be shell-shocked, intimidated by major-league hitters and returned to Double-A for seasoning.

Except he wasn’t any of those things, at least not visibly. And if we were afraid he’d be spooked, I think Kevin Youkilis can attest Porcello’s not afraid of anything or anyone.

I for one thought he’d build on his 2009 success and be as good if not better this season. That’s what makes this season — and the craft of pitching — such a puzzler.

Now the question is: how many starts does Porcello need in Toledo to correct his issues? Will it be a Max Scherzer-like quick turnaround or an extended stay?

Based on what we know of Porcello, his drive and competitiveness, he’ll want to attack the issue head-on when he gets to Fifth Third Field. But I think the Tigers will apply the brakes and tell the prodigy to take his time, get it right now matter how long it takes and come back to stay.

Because if you’ve seen any of Porcello’s recent starts, you’ve witnessed the rockets launched by hitters and probably were thinking what Dan Dickerson said during Porcello’s start agains the White Sox on June 9: “He’s not fooling anyone.”

The Tigers appear to be in the division race to stay in 2010. That’s why they couldn’t afford to send Porcello out there every five days — not the way he was pitching.

He’ll be back. And chances are, he’ll be back in fine form.

Tigers Today: April 8, 2010

BehindHomePlate.jpg Tigers Record: 1-1

Today’s Game

Tigers @ Royals | 2:10 p.m. ET – Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City | On the air: FSD/1270-AM

Pitching Matchup

Dontrelle Willis, 0-0 0.00 ERA vs. Brian Bannister, 0-0 0.00 ERA

Continue reading Tigers Today: April 8, 2010

The Yin and Yang of Johnny Damon

BallBatGrass.jpgYahoo! Sports’ Steve Henson says Scott Boras — bagman for Johnny Damon — saved the Tigers’ season. Them’s fighting words.

[Tigers owner Mike Ilitch] whipped out his checkbook and, just like that, Damon became the Tigers’ left fielder for 2010.

Luckily for Dombrowski. And for manager Jim Leyland. Both are consummate pros with solid track records, but without Damon they were headed pell-mell for disaster.

Were the Tigers headed for disaster without Damon? No way; they’d have made some other move to steady the offense, but probably not as nifty a move as Damon.

Continue reading The Yin and Yang of Johnny Damon

Wednesday Walewanders: Just Barely

spaghetti.jpgThere are about 29 minutes left of Wednesday, so I can still file this collection of Tigers thoughts and make my self-imposed deadline.

  • Did you see that Hall of Famer and Detroit Stars centerfielder Norman “Turkey” Stearnes will be inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame on Friday? The article in the Nashville Tennessean begins with this anecdote:

    Norman “Turkey” Stearnes could work for Walter Briggs. He just couldn’t play for him.

    During the offseasons between leading the Negro League in home runsseven times, the Nashville native worked in a Detroit car factory owned by Briggs, who also owned the major league Detroit Tigers.could work for Walter Briggs. He just couldn’t play for him.

    Stearnes hit .400+ three times and posted a .350 career batting average with the Stars, the Nashville Elite Giants, the Montgomery Grey Sox, and the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues.

  • I’ve had it with the Johnny Damon saga. Here’s hoping that Dave Dombrowski and Mike Ilitch gave up dealing with Scott Boras for Lent. Assuming they’re Catholic, of course.

  • I tweeted about this but it’s worth repeating (at least I think it is): On this date in 1995 Sparky Anderson lit the flame that burned his bridge to Mike Ilitch when he refused to manage replacement players. He was put on an involuntary leave of absence but probably would’ve been fired if someone hadn’t talked Ilitch down from the ledge. Quick quiz: Who managed the faux Tigers in Sparky’s absence? Answer: Tom Runnells.

Whew! I made it.

Wednesday Walewanders: Late-night Mish Mash

spaghetti.jpgYes, I want an iPad, of course I do.

  • I wonder if Dave Dombrowski thinks of Johnny Damon in Detroit and only sees Jacque Jones.

  • I couldn’t see the Tigers making room for Jim Thome without eating another big contract — and we know that isn’t happening. Still, it would’ve been fun to see him play at Comerica Park 81 times in a Detroit uniform. But instead we’re left to hope that Carlos Guillen’s power numbers return. Sigh. (If only the Tigers had made a run at Bobby Abreu last offseason…) Oh, and what about Jermaine Dye? He’s still available.

  • It bums me out that the Tigers have apparently cut ties with Lou Whitaker (as loose as those ties were). Sweet Lou was always a bit flaky but he was so good for so long — and revered by Tigers fans — the Tigers should not let him vanish. Alas, it looks like it’s a moot point. And one more thing: I still can’t believe he was a one-and-done guy on the Hall of Fame ballot. That, dear reader, is a crime.

  • Happy Birthday to Phil Plantier (41), Rusty Meacham (42) and Steve Demeter (75).

Carry on.