It’s one thing to complain about a situation you’re in, it’s another thing to complain about a situation you’re in that was of your own doing. Then there’s complaining about a situation you’re in that’s of your own doing without changing the thing that got you in the situation in the first place. Guess which category former Detroit Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez found himself in?
And for that reason, the Tigers announced Friday afternoon that they had released the curmudgeonly, ineffective reliever. Good riddance. Bruce Rondon has been recalled from Toledo to take his place.
Rodriguez started the season as the Tigers closer, having performed well enough last year in the role, though he did fade down the stretch. But things never got going for Rodriguez this year, and after 31 games and a 8.49 ERA he was removed from the role, his 437 career saves notwithstanding.
He may have a tremendous track record as a closer but it is abundantly clear he was not pitching effectively enough this year to warrant the job of preserving a lead or keeping a game close. He was relegated to what is affectionately known as “garbage time,” a role commonly given to relievers who struggle like he has. He actually pitched well in the stretch between his demotion and his recent outburst: 3.60 ERA in 10 innings pitched. However, in the two instances where he was brought in in close games due to unavailability of better relievers, he allowed the other team to score.
Still, on June 14, prior to the final game at home against the Diamondbacks, he felt he needed to air his grievances regarding his new role publicly. His choice to do this was ... poor, to put it best. He showed poor sportsmanship and undermined the authority of his manager at a time when his team was reeling and looking to find its footing in hopes of salvaging a season that is the last shot at glory for the current core roster. Worse, he drew the complete ire of a fan base already displeased with the direction of the season, and quickly assented to the top spot on fans’ “Public Enemy” list.
It is at this point that the situation with Rodriguez completely changed. No longer was he a veteran with an impressive history and recent success that could be depended on to figure out what he was doing wrong and find a way to return to glory. No longer was he a desired role model fans could hope young pitchers on the Tigers roster could take advice from. Now, he forced an ultimatum. “You’re unhappy with your job and think you can do better? Prove it!”
Since his childish outburst, Rodriguez did nothing to instill confidence in the eyes of the fans, his manager, or even his teammates. His first appearance, barely more than 24 hours after his whining session with reporters, came in the eighth inning of a high leverage, one run game. He proceeded to give up a 457-foot home run to Steven Sousa, Jr., the second batter he faced, erasing a 3-2 lead.
The crowd at Comerica Park booed loudly as Souza rounded the bases, and louder still as Rodriguez gave up a double to the next batter that bounced off the right field fence. He escaped the inning without allowing anyone else to score but left the field to more jeers.
On Monday night, he entered in the eighth with the Tigers down by two, a possible “garbage time” appearance. He gave up two runs on home run to the Mariners’ Mike Zunino.
Then, Thursday night, entering in the seventh inning of a game the Tigers also trailed by two runs, Rodriguez suffered a complete meltdown. He hit a batter, gave up a single, walked the next one to load the bases for Robinson Cano, who promptly unloaded them in grand slam fashion.
Rodriguez proved he can’t be trusted at crucial points in the game, and now he’s not even proving himself in late-inning mop-up time. He forced an ultimatum from the Tigers to let him prove he could fulfill his role. He has responded by failing miserably at everything.