When Jim Leyland fills out his nightly lineup card this season he might use this very scientific method to decide who will be the Detroit Tigers designated hitter: Tape a team photo on the wall of his office, close his eyes, and throw a dart at it.
Chances are it will land on someone the Tigers are planning to use as DH.
The Tigers won't have one full time designated hitter in 2012. Realistically, there could be seven or eight candidates each night depending on how Leyland wants to tinker with the lineup.
We all know how much he loves to tinker.
I'm sure this decision is just fine with the Detroit hitters. How often do we hear grumblings from baseball players about playing DH everyday? They say not being in the field takes them out of the flow of the game and that concentrating exclusively on hitting wears on them mentally.
Look no further than Adam Dunn's season last year, his first with the Chicago White Sox and his first as a full time DH. He had the worst season of his career hitting just .159 with 11 home runs (ESPN.com). Dunn credited his inability to adjust to the DH position as the reason for his decline.
I don't necessarily buy it. There have been plenty of baseball players that have excelled at being full-time designated hitters. Jim Thome, Edgar Martinez and Frank Thomas are just a few marquee names whose careers benefited from being a DH. Veteran hitters are able to squeeze several more years out of their careers by accepting that role.
In other words, if players accept the move as a benefit to them they are more apt to be successful. If it's a move they don't buy into, or feel comes too early in their career, they may not perform well.
The Tigers are no stranger to this issue. Their decision to shift Miguel Cabrera to third had more to do with the DH position than anything else.
Neither he nor Prince Fielder want to be the DH. In fact I'm sure Fielder made that point very clear before he signed his deal. The Tigers didn't want to upset either superstar player. So, they kept mum and are exploring other options.
All that exploring has resulted in this: anyone wearing a Tigers jersey could see time as DH next season.
"Not many guys like being a full-time DH. They don’t mind rotating every once in a while, but being in there full time can be mentally tough. A day here and a day there, guys don’t mind it because it gets you a day off your feet, especially in the first month of the season when it’s freezing cold”
I'll be honest, I wish Young had said something like this, "I'll play wherever they tell me to. I just want to help this team win."
In the article, Dave Dombrowksi said Young would start the year as the Tigers left fielder but acknowledged he would also see time at DH.
He identified other Tigers that could see time at DH as well: Cabrera, Fielder, Brennan Boesch, Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Rayburn.
Don Kelly feels left out I'm sure.
If the Tigers drew a hard-line and insisted on making one player the full-time DH it would be a risky move. With the signing of Fielder, the Tigers have realistic World Series aspirations. They don't want to create conflict or have bad attitudes in their Clubhouse—now or later—that would threaten their chances of success.
It's clear they want to make their superstars happy, but it isn't just superstar players that can derail a season. An unhappy Young or Peralta could be just as cancerous as Cabrera or Fielder.
That's why the Tigers are smart to handle this issue with care and not single out one player. There's no reason to do that now. Even if that's ultimately what Dombrowski and Leyland want to do. I can't blame them if it is.
Having Cabrera as the full-time DH makes the most sense to me. The Tigers already determined that he can't play third base back in 2008. Why would they come around to the idea now when he's four years older and 40lbs heavier?
Maybe the Tigers will stick with the DH by committee formula all season, maybe they'll name a full-time DH once the season starts. Only time will tell. Rest assured Jim Leyland won't.
If all else fails, I know one Tigers fan favorite who's not a "happy camper" right now in regards to his playing time. Could Brandon Inge be the next Tigers' DH? Can you say Inge career resurrection number three?
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