How’s that ankle doing, Maggs? Tigers fans knew going into the 2012 season that second base remained an unfilled hole – unfilled due to the lack of attractive options at affordable prices outside the organization. No one really expected the lack of production we’re getting at DH and the outfield corners (aside from Andy Dirks).
I know why Delmon Young isn’t producing – Delmon Young has a long track record of swinging at bad pitches that leads him to walk very little and strike out a bit too much. His whole offensive contribution is dependent on balls flying out of the park – and they haven’t been, nor should we expect them to suddenly start jumping. Brennan Boesch is a guy who seemed to be figuring things out and primed for a very good season at the plate. Both of these guys are in the absolute prime of their careers and should have been and were expected to better or at least match their career averages at the plate. Neither is or was a defensive plus, but you take what you can get. Before the season (after the Fielder signing, anyway) the debate wasn’t whether either of these guys was good enough to be in the lineup so much as whether one of them (Young) should be a full time DH for defensive reasons. As it turns out, Leyland ultimately came around to the consensus view of the blogosphere and has used Young accordingly. By the numbers, unfortunately, Boesch has been every bit as bat in the field as Young – but a team can only have one DH.
The problem now is that neither of these defensive liabilities is hitting well enough to deserve a spot in the outfield or as the team’s DH. What each has accomplished at the plate is more along the lines of what we would have expected from defensive specialist Don Kelly. And now the debate is whether either of the two deserves a spot in the lineup (or on the 25-man roster) at all. My how quickly things change. And here’s where I get back to Magglio Ordonez…
Ordonez wasn’t pursued by the Tigers specifically for two reasons – one unique to the team and one shared generally by all the other teams that ultimately did not sign him. The latter is, of course, the long recovery time from the ankle injury that kept Maggs out of last years ALCS (where he was desperately needed). Ordonez was healthy enough to play last year after recovering from the same injury, but he wasn’t healthy enough to play well until after the All-Star break. If he isn’t interested in signing a minor league deal, why sign a guy who may not be able to contribute in the first half of the season? Might as well sign Manny Ramirez, who only had to sit out the first 50 games. What’s more, that particular injury can take significantly longer to fully heal than it took Ordonez last year, so… At any rate, it’s nearing the end of June now so perhaps that ankle is feeling a bit better than it was?
The second reason was unique to the Tigers – who might very well have signed Ordonez in spite of all the risks (like they did after the 2010 season) out of loyalty had they had a genuine need for a player that could do the things that Ordonez could do. This offseason, it appeared that the Tigers did not. Ordonez hadn’t been a very good defender for a while, but due to that ankle injury he was even worse than usual in 2011. If the Tigers had resigned him they would not have wanted to play him much in right. Boesch was going to play somewhere, as was Delmon Young (for reasons I cannot fully comprehend). Victor Martinez was going to DH (until he wasn’t) and if the Tigers ever really needed a DH, that was where Young belonged and Cabrera could have been forced had the 3B experiment gone badly. So the Tigers felt that they had an overabundance of guys to play right or DH.
They also felt that they had an overabundance of right-handed bats who could tee off on left-handed pitching. Neither seems true anymore. Who could have imagined that the Detroit Tigers would struggle to hit lefties? With Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn and Delmon Young (not to mention Cabrera and Peralta, who actually have been hitting)? Inconceivable! Young and Boesch are not contributing, other options have been tried and found wanting. This team NEEDS a DH and NEEDS a functioning right-handed bat, to the extent that they might consider trading the farm for Carlos Quentin.
And that sad and sorry state of affairs has me wishing “If only we could get Magglio Ordonez back now…” I wouldn’t mind seeing him at DH and either Boesch or Young out of the lineup. That’s probably just me – I’m sure many Tigers fans would rather stay away from him and his mostly poor 2011. But that September stretch run, to help the Tigers pull away from the competition and finish 15 games up? That was something else. Even if more people did feel like I feel, the train has probably sailed on this one anyway. Ordonez has formally retired already (though, as we know, that doesn’t always mean much in professional sports) and is taking a more active role in Los Caribes de Anzoategui, the Venezuelan club that he co-owns. My Spanish is a little rusty (and Google Translate is really only good for laughs) but according to El Nacional it appears that he has taken up the role of Director of Operations for the team – a job active players are not allowed to fill. That said – it’s a given that Ordonez did not want to retire. He wanted to play another year for a championship contender in Detroit.