Moves Are Needed for the Tigers, Not Panic

During the 9th inning of today’s shutout loss to the Rangers, I received this text from presumed dead Tiger blogger, Blake from The Spotstarters: “This isn’t just early season issues…they are just not very good.” And he’s right. They’re terrible. But they don’t have to be.

I know we’re not supposed to be panicking after ten games. Lynn Henning and Jim Leyland don’t want us to panic. Any number of blogs out there are telling you not to panic after the team’s 3-7 start. Even the late, great Sparky Anderson used to say you can’t tell anything about a team until after 40 games.

But screw all that. This team in this incarnation is awful. Ten games, fifty games, a hundred games, they still suck. But again…it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here’s a few ways the team can improve immediately from the eyes of a guy that’s watched a lot of baseball over the past 26 years. Some feelings on the team might get hurt, but I’m sick of Jim Leyland worrying so much about how his players feel about him. It’s his ass on the line this year. Time to grow a set and send some messages to this team.

1. Move Magglio Ordonez down in the lineup.

Magglio looks old this year. Now I’m assuming that his tender ankle is mainly to blame. Also, he didn’t get as much time as necessary this spring to get ready to be what we come to expect from Magglio Ordonez. But facts are facts. Magglio looks like hell at the plate right now. He has risen from the ashes in the past when people thought he was done. I’d like to hope he can do it again. He’s my favorite player on the team, for crying out loud. But he’s hurting the team batting in the #3 spot and guys like Brennan Boesch, Ryan Raburn, or even Jhonny Peralta would do a better job setting the table for Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez right now. Let Maggs hit lower in the lineup for a while, get himself together, and then move him back up if/when he’s ready.

But would his feelings get hurt? I don’t care. Neither should Jim Leyland. Look, Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson were great #3 hitters once upon a time ago in Detroit. That doesn’t mean I would want them hitting there now when they’re in their early 50’s.

2. Will Rhymes down, Scott Sizemore up.

I have a serious question for all of you Will Rhymes fanboys and fangirls. Would you be as big a fan of Will Rhymes if he were five inches taller?

He tries hard. That’s awesome. I love his enthusiasm. But he has limited range. He cannot get the ball out of the infield. He has an OPS+ of 47 early in the year. 47. A cadaver can put up better hitting numbers than that. And most importantly, we have a guy on the Mud Hens that can be an impact player in the lineup. Scott Sizemore is already 5 for 12 with a home run after his demotion to Toledo in favor of the Leyland favorite, Rhymes. He might still be shaky with the glove, but Rhymes isn’t exactly Sweet Lou out there himself with his weak arm and tiny-legged range. Sizemore should have been given the job out of Spring Training and the sooner the Tigers admit this mistake, the better.

3. Send Brad Thomas back to Australia. Call up Fu-Te Ni.

Is there a Tiger fan on the planet that doesn’t get a feeling of dread when Brad Thomas enters a baseball game? Would you feel the same way if the Taiwanese youngster made an appearance instead? I know I wouldn’t. Ni had a great spring and should have made the team. I have no idea what the Tigers see in Thomas, but all I can see is a waste of a roster spot.

4. Let Casper play.

How many times does Don Kelly have to have a brain fart in the outfield before someone in the organization realizes that he is awful out there? How many times does Kelly have to weakly ground out before Jim Leyland quits batting him 6th in the lineup? Why exactly did the Tigers take the talented Wells, who has done nothing but hit and field well when given a chance to play, up with the big club if they’re only going to use him as a pinch runner?

Don Kelly is awful at baseball. Yes, he can play anywhere. But he sucks everywhere. If Austin Jackson is struggling, let Casper get the start, not Kelly. With capable backups like Ramon Santiago, Wells, and Boesch/Raburn (whoever isn’t starting), Don Kelly is taking the roster spot of a guy that could come off the bench and provide some pop like Ryan Strieby or Scott Thorman. We don't need a guy that can play anywhere.  We need a guy that can contribute.  This team lacks a Marcus Thames-pinch hitter type that most successful teams have.  And if we need an emergency catcher at some point late in a game, well, welcome to home plate Ryan Raburn or Brandon Inge.

Better yet, why not call up DNR favorite Timo Perez? Not only is he a reliable left-hitting bat that has been successful in the past, but he’s a true veteran of the game that could be nothing but good as a mentor for Austin Jackson. If you’re sitting Casper because he’s a righty, call up a lefty that can actually hit Major League pitching. I know Timo’s not Tony Gwynn, but he’s not um…what’s worse than Don Kelly? Right. Nothing is.

Again, it’s time to let go of one of Jim Leyland’s favorites. I’m glad Kelly tries hard and is a nice guy. But come on, people. Put out the best team you can. Not the nicest team.
Are these four simple moves going to solve everything? No.

Austin Jackson needs to come out of his funk. He’s seeing a lot of pitches this year, but isn’t having any luck out there. As long as he keeps playing a Gold Glove caliber center field, he belongs in the lineup. After another two weeks, if he’s still struggling to hit .200, move him down for a while.

We need to get healthy. Carlos Guillen, if he can superglue himself together, will eventually help. Ryan Perry is missed greatly. Zoom is probably dead. And most importantly, Magglio needs to get right. Get everyone back and we aren’t relying on lesser options anymore.

And it’s baseball. We need some good luck. We haven’t had any thus far.

There’s 162 of these games, kids. We’ve only played 10 of them. The mighty Red Sox are 2-7. Tampa Bay is 1-8. Even the Twins entered today with a 3-6 record. We’re not alone.

Should we be panicking already? Probably not, but it’s understandable from a fanbase that had high expectations this year.

But should the team stand around, do nothing, and hope that things just fix themselves?

That’s up to them. And Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland are the ones with their jobs on the line. Not us.
Let’s see what happens. But I hope they don’t confuse panicking with improving the team. That would be the worst thing possible for the Detroit Tigers in 2011.