Other than Chris Shelton, I'm not sure we've seen any Detroit Tiger in recent memory suffer a fall from grace like Craig Monroe did last year. After supplying plenty of "Clutch Craig-O" heroics in 2006, and even coming up with just one more bit of magic last April, it all fell apart pretty fast for Monroe in Detroit. C-Mo did the best to plead his case with the fans and media, even going third person while touting his defense and comparing himself to some of the game's epic sluggers, but eventually his paltry batting average and troubling number of strikeouts became too much for the Tigers to lug along for the playoff drive.
Jim Leyland tried as long as he could (far too long, really) to show some loyalty to a player who provided big hits the previous season, but eventually had to give that spot to someone who could supply any production. Despite the seeming inevitability of such a decision, I still remember being shocked when I received a text message from Big Al while en route to Asheville, NC, informing me that Monroe had been designated for assignment and the Cameron Maybin era (short-lived as it was) was about to begin in Detroit. Monroe was eventually traded to the Chicago Cubs, and both parties moved on.
At least it seemed that way. Monroe was dealt again in the offseason, this time to the Minnesota Twins, which brought him back to Detroit for the first time last night. Naturally, everyone wanted to know how C-Mo felt about returning to Comerica Park as a visiting ballplayer. Monroe said the right, familiar things at first about being excited to see old teammates and getting a chance to beat them. But then a little bit of bile bubbled up:
"I'm bitter," Monroe said before the Twins lost 11-9 Monday. "I'm disappointed when I think about the situation.
"I think as players we're forced into -- even when you're not on a good team, like '03, losing 119 games -- still being motivated.
"And to do some of the things I've done, I felt like I would like to have some of it back, when I scuffled the first half. I think I struggled every first half, but when you look up at the end, every September, my numbers are right there."
Actually, that's not just bluster from an embittered, jilted ballplayer. He's right about playing better at the end of the season. If you look at Monroe's career splits, his home run and RBI totals are much higher in August and September. Last year, however, that late summer revival never came. Maybe you could say it was dismay from being rejected by the Tigers and sent to another team, but even in July, when Monroe typically began to heat up, he hit .209/.239/.328 with just two home runs and 11 RBIs. After posting good numbers in May, Monroe went into a free-fall that he hasn't recovered from since.
As a Tigers fan and a Craig Monroe fan, I'm sorry to hear he's harboring some bitterness toward his former team, though I certainly understand it. At least I think I do. Being told your services are no longer required and being forced to uproot yourself to another city can't be easy circumstances to deal with. So I sympathize. But not so much that I want to see C-Mo exact some revenge on the Tigers tonight.