It is almost 2 in the morning where I live, but the adrenaline has not quite worn off yet, so please indulge me while I take a few snaps from the armchair quarterback position, on this gloomy Sunday morning.
1. Season: Failure, or Success?
Probably a failure, if you judge this team by World Series championships, which many of us did. But it was a nice failure. Division titles are still meaningful in baseball, and it was great to grab another one, and even cooler to get three straight. Yet and still, the truly legendary Tiger teams, 1984 and 1968, are remembered for one thing only. And we know that that thing is.
I know this is unpopular here, but I think it is time for him to go. I love Jim Leyland. He seems like a great guy. I'm proud to have him as a manager. Yet I feel, and this is only the sense an idiot fan like myself gets obviously, like he just lets his clubhouse run itself. Which works fine for very self motivated guys, like Vmart. Maybe not so much for others. But beyond the touchy feely stuff which is rightly questioned as suspect, I'd agree with Rogo over at TigerSnark, who has pointed out many reasonable, non-emotional reasons for Jim to move on. I'll always appreciate Jim's massive contribution to Tiger baseball. But I think his tactical decisions, combined with his hands off approach (as far as I can tell) with the team has cost us some wins. I also note that he seems to be a very "in the box" thinker and as such we tend to be way behind the curve in certain moves that seem obvious to the rest of us (See: Valverde).
I also do not like his coaching staff. My disdain for Tom "The Windturbine" Brookens has been discussed in a previous blog post. I have no idea what a hitting coach does or is expected to do, but Loyd has a team of hitters that has gone completely ice cold for two straight post season runs. I do understand some of that is not his fault, but even when Miggy was healthy, this was a team that tended to go into long offensive funks. Jeff Jones does seem like a fine pitching coach, however.
3. Tweaks to the Team
This is really tricky. In a perfect world of rainbows and moonbeams, where reese's peanut butter cups didn't make me gain weight and my best friend was Batman without the drama (but with all the trappings of Wayne Enterprises) and the Lions won Superbowls every year, we could somehow profitably trade Prince Fielder, get Miggy to drop 30 lbs, get an athletic, toolsy guy to play left field that swipes 20 bags a year, clone Torii Hunter so we get a younger version, and overhaul our bullpen.
Since that isn't possible, I think we have to realize that we got the team we got. And hey, that's good! This team got real real far! Yet the head scratcher is how we *subtracted* Delmon, added Vmart back, had Omar and Torii and yet STILL couldn't get the consistent run production needed to support amazing starting pitching. So I'm not sure what to do there. I think, broadly, getting more "athletic" (meaning basically you aren't fat, slow, and old or any of those combinations) could help, but I'm not sure where, besides left field, we put those pieces.
This is why Dave D. gets paid the big bucks I guess.
4. 4th Straight Division Title? Probably. But...
5. So about the last month of the season...
There was a good amount of chatter about the Tiger's slide in the last month, mostly of the "it doesn't matter, they got the division mostly wrapped up, relax" variety. It turns out their September was indeed a harbinger of their October. I had a bad feeling this wouldn't be 2006, where they got bad, then suddenly good. Especially since the Cabrera injury (make no mistake, that was HUGE) seemed to be the catalyst.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. To be perfectly honest, this was a weird year in that I enjoyed the regular season less than 2012, yet enjoyed the postseason more, except for the whole losing to Boston thing. The 2012 regular season had that whole "would they blow it?" angle, with our boys under .500 for a long time, and finally coming together at just the right time at the end. This year was more of a sense of entitlement. Yet, the postseason featured such amazing, tense games, that I had a total blast (though I am/was a wreck!). In any event, I'm looking forward to next year already. Go Tigers!