to the Detroit Tigers Championship Season. It happens almost every year. We Tiger fans, sick of a long winter, obsess about this player or that player. We play amateur General Manager, trading Brennan Boesch for Ryan Braun or Rick Porcello for Carlos Marmol. We worry about former fan favorite Don Kelley making the 25 man roster again and debate if Tom Brookens can handle the duties as third base coach. Ah spring. The two months when decisions are made that make or break the season. It's no different this year. Can Rondon handle the closer role? What can we get for Rick Porcello? Should we keep Kobernus or Kelley? What player or players ARE the key to the season?
Those all important questions that are fun to kick around in February and March. But in reality the key to the Tigers season, the reason the Tigers will be in the World Series, is toiling somewhere else. He is getting ready for his teams season in Mesa Arizona or Winter Haven Florida. His fans are obsessing too. Hope springs eternal and in March every team is a player or two away from winning their division.
For the Tigers last year the spring question was the 5 pitcher battle for the 5th spot in the rotation. Most of us thought that if that same battle were played out in 2013, Jacob Turner would be part of the equation. But Jacob Turner, the once promising draft pick, the future Justin Verlander became the bait that lured caught the Marlins Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. Along with catcher Rob Brantley, Turner went from being in camp with one of the best teams in baseball in 2012 to probably the worst team in baseball in 2013. Who could have guessed last March that the Miami Marlins who had spent millions assembling a roster of very good players would start the dis-assembly in late July. The idea that Sanchez and Infante would play in October was not far fetched at all, but last March we all thought they would be playing for Ozzie Guillen's Marlins, not the Detroit Tigers.
The year before it was Doug Fister, a player casual fans had never heard of that joined the Tigers late. The cost, a handful of kids that once had bright futures for Detroit. Think back to the spring of 2011? Sure the Tigers had a solid team and were predicted to do well. But come September it was a much much different team and Doug Fister was a huge part of the success that followed.
Old timers like me will never forget the late summer trade for Doyle Alexander in 1987. Toiling in near obscurity in Atlanta he joined the Tigers and racked up nine straight wins to help what was left of the ORIGINAL Bless You Boys team have one last hurrah by winning the American League East. The cost - some Class A pitcher that never had a chance of cracking Detroit's rotation any time soon. I forget his name. All I know is we would not have had a fantastic last weekend in Toronto if they had not acquired Doyle Alexander.
Waiting til July to tweak the roster doesn't always work. I'll never be able to forget the three month odyssey of Jarrod Washburn's Detroit Tigers career. At the time he was the MOST sought after trade deadline pitcher. I like almost everyone else thought that he was the missing link. Washburn turned out to be a complete bust and was out of the game the next season. The Tigers also picked up Aubrey Huff that summer and his time as a Tiger was equally as puzzling and as bad as Washburns. Both were highly sought after trade targets that summer yet neither produced and the Tigers missed the playoffs. Waiting til doesn't always payoff.
So who is the key player that will make a difference this year?
My guess is a closer who's team will be out of it come July. Philadelphia might be the Tiger's trade partner and Jonathon Papelbon could return to the American League. Or it could be San Diego and Huston Street that Dombrowski targets. A lot will depend on health and also on how much DD can hype the kids at Erie and Toldeo.
What I know for sure is, that if history repeats, the final piece to the Detroit Tiger's 2013 World Championship is training in some other Florida or Arizona City right now.
Who do you think it will be?