On Thursday, the breaking news every Tiger fan dreaded regarding the team came to fruition. No, not “Miguel Cabrera Arrested for Another DUI” or “Justin Verlander Injured Break dancing”. Even more horrifying, “The Detroit Tigers Resign Gerald Laird as Backup Catcher”. After hearing this, I fully expect Adam Everett, Jacques Jones and Jason Grilli to all be resigned in the upcoming weeks.
The veteran backstop didn’t exactly have the greatest run in Detroit. Images of Laird flailing helplessly at 90 MPH fastballs in the 2009 Play-In game vs. the Minnesota Twins will be forever etched in my mind. His 2010 was even worse, hitting an Inge-worthy .207. So they re-signed him for defense, right? Laird threw out a mere 20% of runners with the Cardinals in 2011. He’s a great locker room guy then? Maybe, but remember he and Armando Galarraga nearly got into a fist fight in 2010. With Galarraga being the face of resiliency following the near perfect robbery, and Laird being the face of “how not to score a runner from third with less than two outs”, regardless of the incident’s cause there’s little doubt that it didn’t gain Laird any more fans among Tiger followers. This entire Laird deal reeks of the front office doing a guy a favor who can’t find a job anywhere else, cause he seems to add nothing to the roster. I don’t get.
If Dave Dombrowski was hell bent on giving a former backstop a break, he would have been better off looking toward Ivan Rodriguez. No doubt, Rodriguez is declining quickly as he had a rough 2011 at the plate with the Nationals, but Laird’s had a rough career there. Pudge still has a cannon for an arm and threw out a ridiculous 52% of runners last year and hasn’t slipped at all in that department. It’s an asset that could’ve come in handy as the other AL elite are all run happy teams . I realize Rodriguez came here for the money in 2004. And I know any guy who has a life sized, bronze statue of himself has issues and could be a locker room problem…but still, they made it to the World Series with him and Pudge is partially the reason the Tigers are once again a respected organization. In 2004, a year after the second most miserable season in Detroit sports history (0-16 will always take the cake), Pudge signed with the completely irrelevant Tigers. His signing paved the way for free agents and opened up the possibility for high profile trades as other players began to see the improving Tigers as an option. You could argue that the organization wouldn’t be where they if Pudge hadn’t signed here. Regardless if he’s richer because of it, he’s a big reason for the organization retribution.
Now Rodriguez finds himself unemployed in his fading quest for his historic 3,000th hit. It could have been a great story. Pudge Rodriguez came to Detroit when no one wanted a part of it, seven years later they return the favor and give him a shot at history. Instead we get a second dose of “G-Money” quips from Rod Allen and lots, and lots of inning ending strikeouts.