No one in the Detroit Tigers' fanbase needs a wake-up call to the fact that the 2015 season has been a disaster. However, watching it unfold day in and day out is another matter. With Justin Verlander literally the only major league caliber starter in the rotation over the past few weeks, things have gone from bad to truly miserable. Four out of five days, your expectations should involve pain. We haven't had to endure this poor a caliber of baseball in a long time.
The news that Anibal Sanchez had to be shut down after experiencing soreness in his ailing shoulder during a bullpen session on Monday appears to have been the tipping point for one local columnist. While the Tigers remain optimistic that Sanchez simply re-aggravated the strain in his rotator cuff, it's still another unnerving development in a season full of them. The Detroit News Lynn Henning is now calling for the Tigers to sell off anything not tied down, including seeking offers for Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, and begin what would surely be a multi-year rebuild. While he correctly observes that this won't happen, Henning is in full doom mode at this point.
Personally, I think he's a bit caught up in the ugly spectacle of watching this debacle on the field. The Tigers do face a very tough task this off-season, assuming that owner Mike Ilitch doesn't substantially raise the budget for his new general manager. However, trading away two of the best players in the game would signal a willingness to lose for years, in the hopes of building a winner from within somewhere down the line. To my mind, that isn't a plan so much as it is an emotional reaction to some seriously gut-wrenching baseball.
In my opinion, Mike Ilitch sees the empty seats and hears the prophets of doom, and simply won't stand for it. With a sharp trade or two, and a few free agent signings, the Tigers could very well be right back atop the division in 2016. It won't be easy, and it will presumably involve a full turnover in the Tigers' coaching staff, starting with manager Brad Ausmus. Still, the situation is also far from being as dire as it appears on the field right now. The Tigers do have a decent amount of young talent, and a far better farm system than they did when the season began. They have several of the games best players. The question for the organization is whether shrewd moves will be enough to re-energize the fanbase. Without real fan enthusiasm, the Tigers' organization stands to lose a lot of money next season, and there just isn't a reasonable way to cut their costs in the short term to handle that scenario.
Instead, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Ilitch authorize a huge free agent signing this off-season as part of an effort to assuage the fears of the Tiger faithful. The Tigers are already in deep in terms of payroll, and there's no major relief coming until Sanchez' contract expires after the 2017 season. There is also a new television deal to be negotiated in a few years. Such a deal will be extremely lucrative either way, but a faded, mediocre team coming on the heels of one of the great eras of Tiger baseball won't move the needle in those negotiations. That's a consideration that is a lot more of a long-term, organizational building block than any span of two or three baseball seasons. In short, Ilitch is pot-committed here for several more years, and he knows it. The real question is how far he's willing to go, and whether or not he'll allow Al Avila the freedom to do as he sees fit in turning this sinking ship around.
Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez's shoulder flares up; next stop, Dr. Andrews - Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press
Sanchez brutal 2015 appears to have finally met it's end for good. The question is whether or not he's going to be good to go next season. This could be a very, very bad thing, or perhaps it means that there are correctable issues to blame for his miserable season. So far, the Tigers are taking a very optimistic tone, but if Sanchez requires major surgery to his rotator cuff his season and possibly his career are in real jeopardy.
As Time Ticked Down, Mets Thought Hard Before Acquiring Yoenis Cespedes - Tim Rohan, The New York Times
Based on interviews with members of the organization, the decision to trade for Cespedes was hardly unanimous. But his acquisition was a game changer for the Mets. This is a pretty interesting look at the decision from the Mets perspective, with some emphasis on the pain of giving up the players the Tigers received in the deal. Also of note is Jim Leyland's role in getting the ball rolling on the deal.
Eighty-nine year-old former pitcher Ned Garver was simultaneously of his time and ahead of it - Eric Garcia McKinley, Beyond the Box Score
Effectively Wild podcast hosts Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller recently spoke with 89-year-old former pitcher Ned Garver. It was an immediate hit among fans of the podcast. Garver had some fascinating insights and stories to share from his career in the World War II era.
Baseball Republic: Inside The Dominican Machine | J. Brady McCollough, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Major League Baseball teams' quest to sign teen ballplayers at bargain prices gives a poor island nation a reason to hope - and to hustle. This is a pretty great longform piece on the business of baseball on an island where it's one of the few paths to prosperity.
Here's how the Kansas City Royals blew past their 2015 projections | Sam Miller, FOX Sports
Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system projected the Royals would follow up their pennant-winning 2014 season with only 72 wins this season. So, how was Kansas City able to blow past those expectations?
Towards an Objective Measure of Hanging Pitches | Eno Sarris FanGraphs Baseball
Sarris looks into the dreaded hanger, seeking out the worst offenders and which pitches tend to be teed up for hitters most often.