You could play the game of gotcha. I was a victim of the game of gotcha within my first day of writing columns for the Detroit News. As soon as you have an opinion, for some reason you are not allowed to have changed your mind, nor are you allowed to ever change your mind again. Because as soon as you do: Gotcha! You wrote something different. It must be for pageviews.
In that case I wrote a column about Ryan Raburn, who at the time was struggling at the plate despite all the “indicator” stats pointing toward him turning things around. Apparently I had written something critical of Raburn’s playing time some time earlier in the year, so I’d flip-flopped in my opinion.
This came to me this weekend when I was writing about the Hall of Fame for the News. In many ways I can’t begin to keep a singular opinion on the matter. In my first year writing about the Hall, for my original site, Mack Avenue Tigers, I was more in favor of Jack Morris making Cooperstown than Alan Trammell. My reason? When you think about pitchers of the era, Morris is one of them who immediately comes to mind for his success. If you think about shortstops of the era, several come to mind in front of Trammell.
In the following years, I began to be taken in by the argument that stats help us see past the narratives of the time. Morris wasn’t actually that great of a pitcher, even if we remember a few moments he came up big in the postseason. Trammell never won an MVP, but deserved one, and consistently put up good numbers. Like Whitaker, who also missed the Hall, you might not think about him immediately but his career stands up with the best of them.
At various stages I thought maybe it’s best to have a small hall, believing the current one already to be overpopulated, wondering how some can claim to find 13 names to vote for on a ballot that only contains 10. At others I’ve been fine with using comparisons and believing we should just be fair about it. Big hall? Small hall? I don’t even know.
Grant Brisbee defined it pretty well though recently.
It’s a museum that tells baseball’s story and helps future generations understand who was responsible for making baseball as great as it was. It’s not a reward for meritorious service. It’s not a prize for good citizenship and longevity. It’s about overall excellence and making people think, “Boy, I’m glad I decided to follow this sport,” over and over again.
Your answer’s probably going to be different than mine. And our answers are going to be different than someone else’s. And hey, my answer this year might just be different than my answer next.
Grabbing a single opinion and holding onto it like a bulldog isn’t a sign of intelligence, it’s a sign of stubbornness. I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world if you consider other viewpoints, consider things as facts change, and try to chip away until you figure out what you really feel.
Hey, maybe I was right about Morris being Hall worthy in the first place. Year to year I’m still not entirely sure.
And that’s OK.
Do or do not, there is no try
The other subject I can never truly figure out where I stand is whether the Tigers should go all in, sell everything, or just stick to the middle ground of doing very little of anything, just as they have all offseason.
Inside the period of a number of weeks I went from writing the Tigers should maintain status quo, to believing they should sell. I’m pretty sure I had good reasoning behind each thought.
I first believed they should at least go for it in 2017 because they came so close to making the playoffs last season despite fate trying to stack up against them. They lost Jordan Zimmermann early in the season after he was their $109 million pitching addition. He tried to come back but never was the pitcher he should have been. That cost them. So did losing Cameron Maybin to an injury early in the year and Nick Castellanos late.
Pretty much all the other attempts Avila made that offseason blew up in his face, too. Justin Upton, always a roller coaster, was all descent and no rise. Francisco Rodriguez faltered out the door. Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson failed to live up to past results. Mike Pelfrey ... kinda did.
The point is, the Tigers spent a lot of time climbing up a hill, got their butts beat by the Indians more often than they should have, and still just missed the postseason. There was no reason to end the two-year plan after one year.
Except there were a lot of reasons to rebuild now. The free agent market was not good, giving more value to established players. The Tigers could get out from underneath the mounting financial obligations that will result in paying more and more to fewer and fewer players. They could stock the farm, and ideally wisely invest in a few upcoming free agents with their bigger pockets than other division rivals, and be right back in the thick of it soon.
Tigers GM Al Avila spoke a bit about changes, arguing that the team as it is built wasn’t perfect. The flaws are pretty obvious to anyone. They can’t run the bases well. The fielding isn’t great. And the bullpen just can’t get its shit together.
But he didn’t do much, other than creating an apparent hole in center field by essentially giving away Cameron Maybin.
All of this is noted by Mike Bates at MLB Daily Dish in a recent article.
[The] Tigers have work to do still if they’re actually serious about competing. They need a center fielder badly and could use some depth in the infield. That opposite shore is in view. They just need to stop treading water and start swimming.
Shit or get off the pot, the worst thing you can do is make no decision at all? Maybe. But it’s clear from watching how boring of an offseason this has been across baseball a lot of teams are in a similar position. It might be frustrating now, but maybe it’s not the worst thing for the Tigers to take what they’ve got into 2017 — with a little additional help in center field, anyway — and see what happens. They already appear to be the second-best team in the division and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario things go better for them in 2017. ... Yet it’s not hard to picture one that goes worse, too.
Maybe there’s no right answer here. But there is a wrong one. So, just keep assessing the market and make a move when or if the time is right. Like anything in life, flexibility is key. The only wrong answer is to be afraid of letting new information influence you.