Recapping the Return of Anibal Sanchez

Detroit fans have been spoiled rotten by Mike Ilitch‘s generosity with the Red Wings for 30 years and the Tigers for the past 20. But I thought even he’d reached his limit with the addition of Torii Hunter last month. And I’m so glad to be wrong.

The re-signing of Anibal Sanchez – to a contact equal to Justin Verlander’s 2009 extension – is not only another indication of an owner’s urgent desire to win, it’s a reminder of how the Tigers have become a destination of choice for big-name players.

For a long time, the Tigers had to overpay any free agent with even a hint of interest in playing home games at Comerica Park:

Then the winning came and with it a reputation for being a great place to play. Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder and Hunter further proved that. And now with the re-signing of Sanchez, the Tigers must be considered a threat to add big names for big dollars every year. But back to Sanchez. He was the highest-profile Tigers free agent since, perhaps, Jack Morris in 1990. But unlike Sanchez, few expected Morris to bolt for his hometown Twins. (Juan Gonzalez doesn’t count; no one expected him to re-sign with the Tigers after the 2000 season. And thankfully he didn’t.)

With Sanchez sticking around to permanently replace Rick Porcello as the Tigers’ fourth starter, his impact on the rotation could be just as big as Hunter’s in the everyday lineup.

 

What Others Are Saying

If anything, this deal highlights the differences between operating a franchise that will spend money and one that either won’t or is limited by its market size. The Royals had to trade a premium prospect to acquire two years of Shields. The Tigers can just dip into owner Mike Ilitch’s wallet and sign a free agent — this offseason, Torii Hunter and now Sanchez. The Royals might think of themselves as playoff contenders,but this signing makes it a little less likely that will be the case. – Dave Schoenfield, ESPN.com “Sanchez signing makes Tigers clear favorite”.

Did the Tigers overpay for Sanchez? Something like that is somewhat relative. In a vacuum, yes, the Tigers are paying $16 million to a pitcher who, while productive, isn’t exactly great like his impressive paychecks will say he is. Was he the best available left on the market, though, and a pitcher who can help Detroit achieve their goal of winning a World Series before the Tigers as we know them scatter to the winds? That’s why they acquired Sanchez at last year’s deadline to begin with. Re-signing him is simply giving that plan another go, and it’s hard to blame them considering how close they were to getting it done on the first attempt. – Marc Normandin, SB Nation “Anibal Sanchez might be overpaid, but fits Tigers

When the reclining Tigers finally sat up and took enough notice to get off their original four-year, $48 million offer, the Cubs almost got him. The Cubs still might have had him if they had been willing to enter a bidding war that would have saddled them with a potentially bad contract. – Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun TimesTigers outbid Cubs for Anibal Sanchez — but it was close

Some viewed the Tigers as an underachieving bunch, but that did not sway Tigers owner Mike Ilitch’s commitment to winning a World Series. Like he did last year with Prince Fielder, Ilitch swooped in at the last minute to re-sign Sanchez, which preserved one of the strongest pitching staffs in the league. – Jim Bowden, ESPN.com “The AL Central’s strong offseason

[T]he Sanchez signing was essential to preserve the Tigers’ clearest advantage over their divisional foes — and potential October opponents. Detroit’s postseason rotation – Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Sanchez and Max Scherzer — posted a 5-1 record and 1.02 ERA against Oakland and New York in the AL playoffs. And now no member of that group will be eligible for free agency until Verlander and Scherzer after the 2014 season. – Jon Paul Morosi, FoxSports.com “Sanchez signing gives Tigers an edge

What do you think about the Sanchez contract?

2012 Top 10 Stories: #9 – Brennan Boesch Vanishes

What difference can a year make? Look no further than The Case of Brennan Boesch.

In the 2011 ALCS, the Tigers desperately missed Boesch in the lineup’s number-two slot. How he could’ve elevated the order’s production when Magglio Ordonez went down with a broken ankle.

A year later the Tigers were back in the ALCS and Boesch was nowhere to be found, left off the roster just as he was in the ALDS against the A’s. How far had he fallen? Far enough to be replaced by a 21-year-old who didn’t face big-league pitching until September – and who started the season at Lakeland.

If ever a player embodied the notion of wait-’til-next year it was Boesch. Coming into 2012, the Tigers were counting on the 27-year-old to have a breakout, injury-free season and live up to the promise we’d all witnessed in 2010 and ’11. With Victor Martinez on the shelf for the year, Boesch’s healthy return was crucial.

He got off to a promising start in Spring Training, hitting .288 with six homers, and 21 hits in 24 games. Unfortunately, his Grapefruit League performance didn’t translate to the regular season.

By the end of June, it looked like his return was anything but healthy. He was hitting below .250 and with only seven home runs showing none of the power the Tigers had hoped for (and probably expected.) About six weeks later, he talked about his still-tender thumb and how it hampered his swing:

“Once you do surgery on your hand, things need to re-create, they need to reboot,” Boesch said.

(snip)

“I never blame performance on injury,” said Boesch, who was expected to deliver a steady punch in manager Jim Leyland’s lineup, but who found himself Tuesday batting .247, with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs. “But have I played long enough to make necessary adjustments when dealing with an injury?

“Probably not.”

By the time August arrived Boesch was a non-factor, appearing in a mere 19 games. In fact, beginning in May, Boesch played in fewer games each successive month: 27 in May, 25 in June and 23 in July. Not coincidentally, his playing time reached season lows when Andy Dirks returned from the disabled list in August.

So it came as no surprise that Jim Leyland left Boesch off the ALDS roster.

“The Boesch decision was a tough one,” said Leyland, “but it made sense for versatility and things of that nature. Plus he hasn’t been playing lately, so it was common sense.”

Again: What difference can a year make? Enough that Don Kelly and Quintin Berry leapfrogged Boesch on the Tigers’ depth chart. I agreed with the decision at the time, but admit I would’ve rather seen Boesch taking cuts against the Giants’ bullpen than Berry, even if the results were the same. There’s always a chance Boesch, unlike Berry, will connect on a long ball.

At the Winter Meetings this week, the Tigers were reportedly listening to offers for Boesch; among others, the Mariners and Mets were showing guarded interest. But as of this writing, he’s still a Tiger. But if he has a lackluster Spring Training and Garcia or Nick Castellanos pass him on the left, chances are Brennan Boesch is to achieve his potential, it’ll be for a team other than the Tigers.

Brennan Boesch’s 2012 Stats

Split G PA H 2B HR RBI BA OPS
April/March 22 94 21 2 3 11 .231 .607
May 27 110 25 7 2 8 .245 .663
June 25 97 20 3 2 8 .220 .576
July 23 82 23 7 4 17 .295 .868
August 19 63 14 1 0 5 .246 .616
Sept/Oct 16 57 10 2 1 5 .196 .614
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table | Generated 12/6/2012.

The Top 10 Stories of 2012

Top-5 Magglio Memories

I’ll admit it: I wasn’t the biggest Magglio Ordonez fan in 2006. After an injury-riddled debut season with the Tigers in 2005, I was ready to see the Ordonez that seemed to crush Detroit at every opportunity while with the White Sox.

But he just didn’t seem to deliver as often as I expected him to, and I don’t remember if it was based on gut feeling or cold-hard stats.

Whatever. When he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning of the 2006 ALCS, I didn’t expect him to come through. And from that point on I shut my mouth about Magglio Ordonez.

Here’s my Magglio Top Five list:

  1. 2006 ALCS Homer. Of course.

     

  2. 2007 Batting Title. After the Tigers faded in the standings Magglio’s march to a league-leading .363 average was all we had – and fun to watch.

     

  3. 2011 ALDS Performance. With good reason, people scoff at the term “professional hitter”, but how else can you describe what Magglio did against the Yankees? He hit .455 (5 for 11) and a 1.045 OPS.

     

  4. 2005 Return Homer off Randy Johnson. On July 1 Maggs returned from an extended stay on the DL thanks to a sports hernia – and we worried about his creaky knee – and went yard to deep left center off Johnson. The season was a loss at that point; the Tigers were 37-39 and 15 games behind the White Sox. But oh the long-term possibilities with Ordonez in the Tigers lineup. He finished that year at .302 with five homers.

     

  5. February 7, 2005. The day the Tigers signed him was another step toward making baseball relevant again in Detroit.
  6.  

  7.  

  8.  

  9.  

That’s my list. What’s yours?

For a broader look at Magglio’s career, checkout this excellent piece by Chris Jaffe in The Hardball Times.

Leftovers: Putting a Bow on the ALDS

It’s taken me about 22 hours to regain my regular heart rate but I think I’ve finally settled down.

Was Game 5 the best Tigers game I’ve ever seen? I keep asking myself and I couldn’t decide, mainly because the competition features games with different circumstances and consequences:

1984 ALCS Game 3

  • Scenario: Tigers ahead of Royals 2-0 in best-of-five
  • At Stake: Trip to World Series
  • Result: 1-0 win

1987 Final Weekend

  • Scenario: Tigers enter weekend one game behind the Blue Jays
    • Tigers take two of three, force one-game playoff
    • Blue Jays take two of three, they win A.L. East
    • Tigers sweep gives them division title
  • At Stake: A.L. East Title
  • Result: Tigers sweep

2006 ALCS Game 4

  • Scenario: Tigers ahead of A’s 3-0 in best of seven
  • At Stake: Trip to World Series
  • Result: 6-3 win

But then it was an easy choice. In all these other games the Tigers had room for error. Not Thursday night – or any game in the series. So, yep. This ALDS was the most grueling – and gratifying – set of games I’ve ever experienced in my Tigers-following life.

Other leftovers …

  • Remember when the Tigers acquired Doug Fister and led us to believe he’d be the fifth starter? If Fister’s the fifth man in the rotation, where does that put Brad Penny? Eighth? Truth is, Dave Dombrowski probably never thought of Fister anything less than what he’s proven himself to be: a number-two starter with ace-ish ability – and he proved it with gusto on Thursday night.
  • Here’s something about this five-game series that I’ve never experienced before: the difficulty I had enjoying the game as it was being played. Every pitch seemed to have so much hanging on it I resigned myself to studying the box score to get a reality check on a player’s performance. This was the case with Fister. As I watched Game 5, it sure seemed like he was throwing a gem — and lo and behold, he was: five innings pitched, five hits, one earned run, four strikeouts and just two walks.
  • And how about Magglio Ordonez? He hit .455 in the ALDS after going two for three in Game 5. Jim Leyland sure seems to be in perfect sync with Magglio, when to play him, when to give him a day off. With a couple of lefties on the horizon in the ALCS, I’m thinking we’ll see more Magglio rather than less.
  • If you can stand to watch (and I don’t recommend it), Around the Horn looks at Game 5 through the prism of “Praise the Tigers or Blame the Yankees?”

On the field, the Detroit Tigers did what tough baseball teams do, defeating the New York Yankees, 3-2, in a deciding Game 5 to win the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium.

Off the field, the Detroit Tigers then did what all silly baseball teams do, celebrating the series victory with a raucous, over-the-top champagne party that was far greater than the entirety of their achievement.

Three wins. They were throwing a New Year’s Eve party for three wins. Think about that.

They were spraying each other over wins that could have occurred over the course of a long summer weekend. They were pouring it on each other for wins that totaled less than 12 hours.

The Detroit Tigers just played three good games, yet felt it necessary to celebrate with countless cases of liquor and cigars, and it just makes no sense.

It isn’t just the Tigers who do this, of course, it’s every baseball team after every postseason series win, the constantly popping corks adding to baseball’s reputation as a big fraternity house while diminishing the parties that really matter.

  • What do you think? I agree that in general watching four champagne celebrations is a bit much … when it’s not your team doing it. Here’s hoping we see another one in the next week or so.

And with that, adios, New York. Hello, Arlington.

Tigers Look to Porcello to Repeat What Bonderman Accomplished in ’06 ALDS Clincher

Five years ago this week, the Tigers sent a young, often frustrating righthander to the mound in the fourth game of the American League Division Series.

With a win, no sure thing with the unpredictable starter, the Tigers would eliminate the Yankees and move on to the American League Championship Series against the Oakland A’s.

Twenty-three-year-old Jeremy Bonderman was the Tigers’ starter that chilly Saturday afternoon and he faced righty Jaret Wright, who’d gone 11-7 witha 4.49 ERA in 30 appearances (27 starts) for New York.

Tigers fans didn’t want to seem overconfident, but compared to the Yankee starters in the series’ first three games (Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson) Wright seemed like a notch above batting-practice quality.

That day, the Tigers staked Bonderman to a 3-0, second-inning lead on home runs by Magglio Ordonez and Craig Monroe. They tacked on five more runs by the end of the sixth. (Detroit chased Wright with two outs in the third after he’d surrendered four runs on five hits.) The late Cory
Lidle
allowed three runs in his inning-and-a-third of work.

But at the start of the day, all eyes were on Bonderman. Could he handle the big stage, an elimination game against a New York lineup that Jim Leyland dubbed “Murderer’s Row and then Cano” and prevent a trip back to the Bronx for a decisive Game 5?

Could he ever.

Continue reading “Tigers Look to Porcello to Repeat What Bonderman Accomplished in ’06 ALDS Clincher”

Post-Game Reading: Game 2 Edition

  • Magglio Ordonez went three-for-three in Game 2, but he almost retired at midseason.

  • Interesting scoop here from Danny Knobler on Dave Dombrowksi’s dogged pursuit of Doug Fister. Teaser: “Over a three-week period, we called [the Mariners] a couple of times a day. Sometimes three times.”

  • Ian O’Connor says that Yankees’ Game 4 starter A.J. Burnett should strike fear in New York fans, not the Tigers lineup:

    A.J. Burnett is the Yankees’ worst nightmare, a pitcher with good stuff and bad everything else. He isn’t wired to carry the burdens tethered to a 2-1 division series lead, never mind a 2-1 division series deficit.

    And yet there he is lurking around the bend, ready to follow Verlander versus Sabathia with a misadventure his team can’t afford to weather in the early hours of October. If Mariano Rivera is the indomitable closer, Burnett is the indefensible opener.

  • Buried deep in this piece from Knobler we find out that Kenny Rogers is throwing out the first pitch Monday night before Game 3.

  • And to think I used to like A-Rod:

    “I’m assuming over the next day or two or three that there will be some big at-bats I’ll be waiting for,” Rodriguez said. “Two outs, runners in scoring position all over the place. It’s something that I relish.”

  • Nice article on Scherzer and Alex Avila in The New York Times.

    Avila tracked the ball, moving slowly, and stole a glance at the railing, before he stepped onto the plastic on-deck circle, which he later said felt like a slip-and-slide.

  • Jose Valverde declares the series over … but not really.

  • Great stuff from Ian on Scherzer showing the world that the Tigers are more than a one-man rotation.

  • Happy 42nd Birthday to former Tigers catcher and minor-league manager, Matt Walbeck. Today’s the 52nd birthday of Dave Beard, who pitched in two games for the 1989 Tigers.
  • A Tigers-Phillies Dream Series? Not According to The Weather Channel

    When the weather is bad in Detroit and most other Midwest and Northeast cities in April and early May, fans complain, as they should, about the crummy conditions at the ballpark. Bad weather in October is much more bearable because, hey, it’s the postseason and it’s supposed to be cold. Besides, not every team gets the pleasure of playing in the fall. So we deal with it.

    The folks at The Weather Channel posted a story titled “A Fantasy World Series Pairing … Weather-Wise” and of all the possible World Series scenarios, a Tigers-Phillies matchup ranks as the worst:

    Philadelphia’s Weather Basics:
    Average Highs, Oct. 19-27: 63-66 degrees
    Average Lows, Oct. 19-27: 45-47 degrees
    Earliest Measurable Snowfall: Oct. 10, 1979 (2.1 inches)

    Detroit’s Weather Basics:
    Average Highs, Oct. 19-27: 57-60 degrees
    Average Lows, Oct. 19-27: 40-42 degrees
    Earliest Measurable Snowfall: Oct. 12, 2006

    (snip)

    Spending an October night in either of these stadiums has the potential to turn ugly. In the 2008 World Series between the Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays, rain delays held up Games 3 and 5 in Philadelphia, the rain delay in Game 5 actually lasting two days. A storm system came through the area and forced a Monday night game to be postponed until Wednesday, when the Phillies finally won the championship-clinching game.

    Detroit is also no stranger to nasty World Series weather. In their 2006 series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Tigers hosted Games 1 and 2, which had first-pitch highs of 56 and 44 degrees, respectively. When the series shifted to St. Louis for Games 3-5, the temperature for any of those three games never made it above 53 degrees, and Game 3 had a first-pitch temperature of 43 degrees.

    All of it true. Game four of the 2006 ALCS the 4 o’clock-ish game-time temperature was 45 degrees or so. By the time Magglio Ordonez launched his pennant-clinching homer, it was in the high 30s.

    Didn’t matter. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. Same goes for this year. Snow or no snow, if I can get a ticket to the World Series in Detroit, I’m there.

    2010: The Year in Lists

    2011Calendar.jpgA year ago, we were still stinging from Game 163 and not certain how the Tigers would respond to a crushing end to the 2009 season. Would they regress to 2008’s disappointment or regroup to erase the memory of the ’09 collapse?

    The answer was: they’d be relevant. And that, ladies in gentlemen, is the extent of the analysis in this post. Instead of a deep dive into 2010, let’s look at the year in the form of randomly selected lists:

    2010 At A Glance*

    • Record: 81-81, 3rd in American League Central, 13 games back of Minnesota
    • Days in First: 13, the last on July 10
    • Biggest Lead: 1, last on July 7
    • Farthest Behind: 15.5 on Sept. 15
    • Most Games over .500: 11, last on July 10
    • Most Games under .500: 5, last on Aug. 19
    • Longest Winning Streak: 7, June 11-18
    • Longest Losing Streak: 7, July 11-20
    • Most Runs Allowed: 15, June 9
    • Most Runs Scored: 13, Aug. 15
    • Longest Game (innings): 14, July 19
    • Times Shutout by Opponent: 10
    • Times Opponent Shutout: 5

    Continue reading “2010: The Year in Lists”

    No-Brainer: Ordonez Returns

    Magglio Ordonez’s reported one-year, $10 million deal to return to the Tigers is surprising in that it’s both shorter and less-expensive than many anticipated. Once the Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford contracts were signed, everyone following the free-agent market expected Ordonez’s asking price to skyrocket.

    On the other hand, it shouldn’t be surprising at all. My sense was that he had a deep sense of loyalty to the Tigers and owner Mike Ilitch, and not only because they paid him handsomely in 2005 when most other clubs were afraid to risk big money on his balky knee. And, by all accounts, Ilitch treated Ordonez with special care during the 2009 season when the slugger’s wife was seriously ill.

    In the end, his contract was essentially a hometown discount. And that has got to drive Scott Boras insane.

    The Non-Sequiturs: Trick or Treat Edition

    pumpkin.jpgEach October, I’m astounded to learn that Halloween is the second-largest retail holiday of the year. I’m not a fan of Halloween, though I do like the occasional, or frequent, Kit Kat.

    It’s a treat to be able to watch the World Series on Halloween, though the Aubrey Huff and Edgar Renteria sightings are undoubtedly the “trick” part of the equation.

    • In our highest vote-gettin’ poll of the season, Fungo readers were emphatic on what the Tigers’ next offseason move should be: target Nationals’ slugger and free-agent-to-be Adam Dunn.

      Twenty-four percent (148 voters) of the 628 readers casting votes selected Dunn as their top choice. Here are the runners up:

      • Sign Jason Werth (16%, 103 Votes)
      • Sign Victor Martinez (15%, 97 Votes)
      • Trade for a starting pitcher (14%, 88 Votes)
      • Pickup Jhonny Peralta’s option (14%, 88 Votes)
      • Sign Magglio Ordonez (12%, 73 Votes)
      • Other (5%, 31 Votes)

      Thanks to everyone who voted and a special thanks for those that left comments. It was a great discussion. Keep those comments rolling in.

      Continue reading “The Non-Sequiturs: Trick or Treat Edition”