While sitting in my Con Law class today I felt a sharp pang in my stomach. My first instinct was "I'm never eating Chicken Shawarma again god dammit," but after a moment I realized this wasnt the side effect of indulging in some Middle Eastern food yesterday but was the need for me to write a season preview for the Detroit Tigers. This guide has nothing to do with sabermetrics, so if you are a robot and your name is Rob Neyer and you want to replace everything that makes baseball fun and interesting with a cold objective analysis of the game, just stop reading right now because this post will not be for you. Seriously though I know nothing about sabermetrics and thats because I loathe math and given the chance I'd punch Euclid of Alexandria in the mouth and smash up his geometric tablets....but I digress. Also there will be times I'm sure when this preview will read like schizophrenic word salad but thats because I'm crazy for baseball (I also suffer other various forms of mental illness). But enough with introductions it's time to present your 2006 Tigers.
Owner: Mike Ilitch. I like Ilitch, sure he may be a crappy baseball team owner, but being a college student I appreciate the way he revolutionized the low end pizza market by introducing the five dollar Hot and Ready pizza. Sure it's the most processed food this side of Smore flavored Pop-Tarts but its affordable and I dont have much money...it's like I found my soul mate. Although I am keeping the old boxes on top of my fridge so when I'm found dead after having a stroke they'll know what caused it. I wish I could see my death certificate just to see: Cause of Death: Little Caesers. Anyways Ilitch has vowed to get more involved because nothing lights a fire under an owner like Death's cold icy hands approaching you (Ilitch will be 77 this July), and he's recently upped payroll and spent money to improve the whole teams infrastrucure, because he doesnt want to be remembered as the worst owner in Tigers history, so I'm going to enjoy this before he becomes senile authorizes signing Todd Jones to a two year deal...........Oh no.
Manager: Jim Leyland. Like I've said before I like Leyland because he looks like a friendly chain smoking janitor. I also like the fact that he filled his staff with early 90's Pirates: Andy Van Slyke, Don Slaught, and Lloyd McLendon. The only exception was pitching coach where the Tigers hired Chuck Hernandez. What the hell Leyland, you're telling me Zane Smith isnt available for that job.....John Smiley....anybody.
Ivan Rodriguez: I think Pudge will have a bounce back season this year after using last season getting adjusted to not being able to use steroids anymore..... Whoops. I think Pudge will try to prove he's not finished, or beginning to go into that precipitous decline that hits catchers around his age, and have a solid season of doing Pudge things, and if Leyland is as good at keeping the clubhouse in check as he's supposed to be I don't think Pudge will be allowed to be the petulant little baby he reportedly was for most of last season, especially after the team traded his completely insane, gun-toting, torturer, best friend Ugie Urbina last year.
Vance Wilson: What the hell is he doing back. I love Vance and his BluBlockers, but doesnt he realize Detroit is where backup catchers go to die? Mitch Meluskey, A.J. Hinch, Matt Walbeck, Mike DiFelice, are all buried underneath the Tigers old bullpen....and thats just in the last 4 years. Congratulation Vance, now could you try to hit better then .197......thanks.
Chris Shelton: I'm intrigued by Shelton and guarantee I'm going to draft him about 5 rounds to early in my fantasy baseball draft Monday night. (Note: Last year I did this with Oliver Perez and....well you know how that turned out.) I still believe that Shelton looks like he should be an overzealous sales rep at Best Buy telling me the XBOX 360 is the most overrated console since 3DO, rather than a professional baseball player, and nothing beats the crowd reaction when they show his face on the 100 foot scoreboard before his first at bat, the gasps from people unprepared for such an event resounds throughout the stadium as though they had just seen The Phanton of the Opera, but all I care about is if he hits .300 with 25 homers and 90 RBI's.
Carlos Pena: I'm not going to spend much time on Pena because he might not be with the team by the time I finish this post. But I will say he has the most Luis Gonzalez "Holy crap I can't believe the Tigers gave up on this guy" potential....and that scares me. However I don't think the Tigers can afford to waste time on him anymore.
Placido Polanco: I like Polanco, but I'll never be able to get over the shape of his head. It appears in my nightmares, and I think I'm the only one who is noticing it's expanding, until one day it cracks open and a little alien falls out, a la The Head from that old MTV cartoon. Hopefully it doesnt happen this season, because I dont like the idea of Omar Infante playing everyday again. The two best examples I can think of to describe Polanco's head, and I wish I could take credit for thinking these up, are 1: His head is actually a Milk Dud and, 2: He is storing food in his cranium like a hamster.
Carlos Guillen: If he's healthy he's in the second tier of shortstops in all of MLB. However thats a big if. Since he's been in the Big Leagues he's torn his ACL, contracted TB from Jane Austen, broken his hip, suffered leprosy, the Bubonic Plague and battled Hysterical Pregnancy. Here's hoping to a healthy season and a .315 average 15 homeruns and solid D.
Brandon Inge: I can't believe he is the longest tenured Tiger. He looks 16. I hope he can continue to steadily improve this season, avoid a second half collapse, and become a more consistent defensive player. He makes some spectacular plays and then kicks around some of the most basic, although Im not sure there are basic plays at a position where the ball screams at you at 100 MPH from 90 feet away.
Omar Infante: I'm a little concerned that on the Tigers official website he's listed as the only backup for 2nd base, SS and 3rd base. It just seems like its spread a little thin. Can't they sign Craig Paquette again.... I think he owes us money still after his pathetic tenure in Detroit. Anyways Omar seems like he was hurt from being rushed through the system and comes in a close second to Pena in the "Holy Crap" potential race.
The Meat Hook: The Hook always seems like a good guy, but I think last season started to wear on him. There is a certain shelf life when it comes to playing for the Tigers, usually after about five consecutive seasons, a player realizes "Oh my God, this team will never improve, I wasted my prime on a crappy team in a crappy city thats cold 10 months out of the year.", and they start pouting. It happened to Higginson, it happened to Juan Gonzalez in about 7 minutes, and it even broke Steve Sparks, arguably the most laid back, funniest guy to come through the organization in years. However instead of sulking Dmitri got motivated and dropped his weight down to a Jabba the Hutt-esque 900 pounds and I admire that kind of dedication. Hopefully this will keep him from being slowed by nagging injurues that have haunted him in the past and he'll post a solid season.
Craig Monroe: The Tigers gave him a decent one year deal this off season so he didnt feel the need to steal belts from Target anymore, which is good because God knows we have to fight that temptation everday. He also came back from having a breaking ball snap off about 8 inches right into his crotch last season against the White Sox. My friend T.J. is inexplicably in love with Monroe, which makes me not want to like him, but I can't resist.
Curtis Granderson: He's the front runner for the center field job over my favorite player Nook Logan, so I'm inclined to not like him emotionally. But my rational side lets me know that he really is the better player of the two and deserves the job. I also think he has 20/20 potential, from center field which the Tigers havent really had since Chester Lemon roamed the outfield at Tiger stadium. However I also remember feeling the same way about Kimera Bartee.
Magglio: I don't think Magglio will ever live up to his contract, but I hope he can at least give us a few solid seasons, maybe with a couple of 35 HR 100+ RBI seasons, Please (I know it's not happening but I can dream right) before turning into a DH. He battled so many injuries last season that I don't feel comfortable passing judgment on him yet, so I'm just hoping for the best, (how's that for analysis and you said I needed Sabermetrics...Ha).
Nook Logan: He is my favorite current Tiger and it's not even close. Hopefully he can make the team by living on Dmitri's shoulder talking shit, and eating scraps of food out of the Meat Hook's beard, hell he might actually gain weight. I've always had a soft spot for slap hitters who bat about .270 with no power and are disruptive as hell on the basepaths. He also gave me the highlight of last season, even more so then when Dmitri homered three times on opening day, when he robbed 2 homeruns in the same game against Baltimore. I remember watching the game at my house and jumping onto my couch after the second grab, and it's not often a Tigers game will make you do that. So it was devastating for me when I read in Danny Knobler's excellent Blog (seriously though, how many bodies are in Knoblers crawl space.....5, 10...my friends and I have been guessing at this for years) that the Tigers were seriously considering trading the modern day Otis Nixon before the season began. After reading it I wanted to tug on Nook's jersey and go "say it aint so Nook" but security got there first.
Alexis Thames: The battle for the last outfield spot is between Alexis Gomez and Marcus Thames, it really doesnt matter who wins this spot, although I'm rooting for Thames because it seems like the Tigers have been jobbing him the past couple of seasons and I think he deserves a chance, especially to provide a little pop off the bench, which this team is sorely lacking.