Watching the Twins miserable spring has provided me with a not-too-uncommon moment as a Tigers fan: admitting to myself that Dave Dombrowski might make a better GM than I would. There are basically no moves that he has ever made about which I was wholeheartedly enthusiastic – immediately. This case is no different – and the case I’m referring to is his signing of Victor Martinez this past offseason. Now it isn’t that I ever thought Martinez was a bad player, a declining player or wouldn’t make the team better this year. But… he cost the Tigers a first-round pick (which is relevant) and was not the best available hitter to use as a DH. He’s been swinging the bat well after coming off the DL, but on the whole I wouldn’t say that he’s been lighting the world on fire so far this year. Up until today I had been grumbling at my TV when he came to the plate, wishing Dombrowski had made a push for Lance Berkman (who is lighting the world on fire) instead – and held on to that pick. But today I saw Butera.
The Twins have the best catcher in the major leagues (not Butera) but one with an injury history. And lo and behold that catcher is hurt again, with some form of secret return timetable buried under Ron Gardenhire’s floorboards, and of course that has played a major role in the Twins losing season and their worst-in-the-AL offense. That isn’t because no team can afford to do without a star (though that matters) so much as the fact that their best available non-Mauer option is Drew Butera. In 19 games so far this season, his OPS is .304. .304! That’s half a Brandon Inge! And it shouldn’t exactly be unanticipated: in his last full season in the minors, Butera managed nothing more than .211/.268/.292. What does this have to do with the Tigers? Well, imagine if Dombrowski had signed Adam Dunn to DH instead of Martinez and then Avila had suffered from bilateral leg weakness (whatever that is)… who would catch? Do we have any better options than Drew Butera? Omir Santos? His career minor league OPS of .645 doesn’t do much for me, though it is a little better than Butera’s – ‘excusable’ since Butera is a better defender. Max St. Pierre? Only marginally better, and he’s been doing a good Butera impression for the Mudhens this spring.
So… in short, thank you Dave Dombrowski for doing what was necessary to ensure that Tigers fans never have to see our own version of Butera embarrassing himself and the Tigers nation game after game after game until a long season mercifully ends.