I'm on the verge of writing the Tigers off for 2008, but not quite yet.
Everyone already knows about the different newspaper reports that have come out (Grilli saying there's no chemistry, racially divided locker room, etc.), so we don't have to talk about that. Putting all that behind us, let's examine the rest of the 2008 season, and look into the future.
This season, our beloved Tigers were bestowed with the title of "Potential 1,000-Run Team." It's not going to happen this year, big deal. Everyone take a deep breath and think about this: Our big hitters will be here next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. This isn't our only season to win. The window is still wide open for this team to win.
The Rest of the 2008 Season
Examining the pitching staff first. I don't even want to get into it because it's a touchy subject with me, but I will anyway.
Why in God's name is Dontrelle Willis still getting an opportunity to start? If I can realize this, the Detroit coaches and management have to realize it, but Willis is straight garbage. He was a fluke in Florida, and he's already proven it. His deception is no longer a surprise, he has no pitches with movement, and he doesn't have a good fastball (anymore). Willis should never sniff the starting rotation again. Make him the lefty long-reliever.
This is the only time in my life I've ever wished that baseball had a designated-player rule, like softball does. We need to find some way to put Inge at third base every day, but never let him dig into the box. Someone make this happen. There has to be a loophole somewhere. Please?
Everyone's calling for Gary Sheffield to get cut. I beg to differ. I think he's still a good component of this team. Sure, maybe he hits into a lot of double plays and his average is down, but he walks, which is something that nobody else on the team can say. Also, he doesn't strike out. Another thing nobody else on the team can say, outside of Polanco.
I love Magglio, but what's with him taking about 12 pitches in his last nine at bats combined? Come on.
We need continuity. Leyland needs to find a lineup and bullpen rotation, and stick with it. We don't need Guillen in left field once, then Marcus Thames, then Clete Thomas, then Gary Sheffield. We don't need third base to be Inge and then Guillen. We don't need the DH to be Guillen, and then Miguel Cabrera, and then Sheffield, and then Magglio. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, FIND SOMETHING THAT WORKS.
In the bullpen, we need more stability! I pray more than a married, Catholic homosexual that Rodney and Zumaya don't have any more setbacks. At least then we will have our seventh, eighth, and ninth innings back, albeit with Rollercoaster in for the ninth (still).
But in the meantime, please stop bringing in Aquilino Lopez one day in the seventh, and then Freddy Dolsi the next day, and Bobby Seay the next day, all in the same situations. The key to success is consistency.
There's a reason why the Angels (Shields eighth, K-Rod ninth), Cubs (Marmol, Wood), White Sox (Linebrink, Dotel, Jenks, honorable mention to my Grand Valley State boy Matt Thornton), Twins (Crain, Rincon, Nathan) are all successful teams. They all have stable bullpens. Sure, their guys might not be perfect all the time, but you know whom you're getting.
The Tigers in the Coming Years
Ah, my favorite part. Examining the future.
First things first, the pitching staff. Let's get one thing straight right off the bat; Jeremy Bonderman is the most overrated (well, second most overrated, cough Dontrelle cough) pitcher in Major League Baseball. He is never going to be a front-of-the-rotation-type pitcher. He's a No. 3 at best, and that's where he needs to stay.
Let's assume that Justin Verlander and Bonderman are the only two guys left in the rotation come 2010 or 2011. I'll gladly take a rotation that looks like Verlander, Rick Porcello, Bonderman, Duane Below, and Casey Crosby. I'll also gladly take a bullpen that consists of Zumaya throwing 98+ and closing. That's all we need. Just let Zumaya warm up every game, and throw every inning in relief. That would be the best idea for everyone.
Managing on the bench—we can only hope that Chuck Hernandez has an unfortunate accident sometime soon, before Verlander is posting 10-14 seasons with a 4.50+ ERA on a consistent basis. We can only pray that the man is gone before he can even breathe next to Porcello. Same goes for you, Lloyd McClendon.
By 2010 or 2011, I'm hoping for Tom Brookens as the manager. Maybe that's just me.
We're looking at a potential 2010 or 2011 lineup of this:
C - Brandon Inge (I think it's going to happen)
1B - Miguel Cabrera (Should be a great 1B by then)
2B - Scott Sizemore (I think Placido is let go after his contract is up after 2009)
SS - Edgar Renteria (Meanwhile, I think Edgar still has gas in the tank for three or four more years)
3B - Mike Hessman (He can't stay down any longer)/Carlos Guillen
LF - Matt Joyce (See above)
CF - Curtis Granderson
RF - Magglio Ordonez (I think his swan song is coming, but his new approach in the last two years to hitting for average instead of power should keep him around into his upper 30s)/Brent Clevlen
DH - Carlos Guillen/Magglio Ordonez
Bench - Jeff Larish (I'd love to see him starting, but there's no room right now)
Bench - Michael Hollimon
Bench - Cale Iorg
Bench - Brent Clevlen
Bench - James Skelton (To spell Inge...)
I'll take it, baby.
Detroit, I'll be waiting for a front office call sometime soon.