Although the outcome was ultimately disappointing, this was as good a World Series I’ve seen in a while. The Tigers starting pitchers were fantastic, very enjoyable to watch. San Francisco played beautiful, fundamental baseball; they played about as perfect as a team could. It’s very rare to watch the team you support so fervently lose the biggest, most historical championship in professional sports (though the Stanley Cup makes a good case) and still feel like the correct outcome came to pass. Still, this looks more like the beginning of a tremendous opportunity for the Tigers.
Chris Hannum’s article suggested three paths the team could choose to take. The first, the trading of valuable assets to Scrape By, just doesn’t seem like something Mike Illitch could stomach. As has been discussed in great detail, Illitch is too old and has come too far for a rebuilding effort. The second option, Standing Pat, seems like something that Dave Dombrowski would do. They’re getting back Victor Martinez next season, which makes the 3-4-5 part of the lineup seem like something from a video game. They’ll (hopefully) have a full healthy season of Al Alburquerque and a carryover season from Phil “The American Badass” Coke. And who knows, maybe Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos will both make the big league roster and perform sublimely.
That also brings up the Reload theory, which makes me cringe a bit. If anything, a big splashy move might serve to wreck the payroll and further complicate matters (looking at you, Josh Hamilton….). If anything, we should look at the Giants as a blueprint – aside from some bloated, ridiculous contracts (Barry Zito, Aubrey Huff) they acquired relatively affordable guys who filled their needs precisely as needed. Hunter Pence brought the threat of power and an intense desire to win. Marco Scutaro played great defense, brought great character to the clubhouse, and just got hits. Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco, and Jose Mijares were all cheap and fantastic role players. And probably most importantly, they have a manager who wasn’t afraid to mix things up from a traditional managerial stance in order to succeed.
Bruce Bochy said “No” to Melky Cabrera’s return. He shifted Tim Lincecum to the bullpen. He had Hunter Pence bat lower in the lineup. He used his bullpen brilliantly. Would Jim Leyland’s intense loyalty and old school predictability allow him to do anything like that?
All I’d hope for the Tigers to do is allow some flexibility in their offseason thought process. As I said previously, I believe that Jim Leyland has taken this club as far as it can go with him at the helm. Again, I don’t hate the guy – he helped save a franchise that had grown stagnant, and took them to the cusp of two World Series titles in six years. However it just seems like they need someone to give them that extra push, a Larry Brown to take over for Rick Carlyle (if you’ll allow me to use a basketball reference). Who to replace him, though? Someone with ties to the team (Kirk Gibson or Brad Ausmus), or maybe the next coach from the Mike Scioscia School of Managers? (Dare to dream, the Tigers pull a managerial trade and acquire Joe Maddon…)
As for players, I’d hope they’d try and bring in a better defense. I’d love to see Jhonny Peralta take to the street and bring in JJ Hardy. Hardy now finds himself in an awkward position with his future replacement, Manny Machado, now called up and performing well. Hardy is renowned for his defense, and I don’t think his offense would be that much of a drop off from Peralta. But that’s just my own hope. I’m sure Dombrowski knows a thing or two about enhancing a team with shrewd moves, so he’s got my trust.
It’s going to be a long offseason, that’s for sure. But it’s a hopeful one, ripe with possibilities.