Two different news sources (CBSsports and Rotoworld) piqued my curiosity today when mentioning the Tigers’ closing situation and the words “Safety Net.” I assumed they were going to write about acquiring a reliever from another team, or even about working out Brian Wilson, but no. Instead they quoted Jim Leyland as saying how he was shocked Valverde was still unsigned, and how he would like the Tigers to bring him back as that aforementioned safety net.
The same Jose Valverdewho played above his peripherals in 2011?
The same Jose Valverde who gradually melted down last season, like a car crash in slow motion?
The same Jose Valverde who was thrust so far down the bench in the playoffs that he was basically the Gatorade monitor?
The same Jose Valverde who the New York Mets wouldn’t sign? (The very same Mets who are using Frank Francisco as a closer??)
THAT guy? Why in the world would the Detroit Tigers bring that guy back?
A buddy of mine said it best when he tweeted, “That’s why Leyland can’t sign any players himself,” but even the comedy of the situation is grounded on a sad, resonating disconnect between Leyland and reality.
The man is loyal. Fiercely loyal. Unconditionally loyal. This is a man you want as a character witness if you’re ever the prime suspect in a murder trial, or if your spouse has thrown you and your record collection out on the street. However, this is not the best attribute for a baseball manager.
Ryan Raburn was a beneficiary of that loyalty, as were Brandon Inge and Magglio Ordonez before him. Leyland holds on to players and keeps inserting them into his lineup well after their consistency, and sometimes usefulness, has worn down to a nub. Bringing back a run-down relief pitcher to close, which can so very easily NOT be done (see: Tampa Bay Rays), is mind-boggling. If anything, baseball history has shown us that managers don’t have to be loyal to relievers, just because they can be so unpredictable and so replaceable. As blunt as that statement is, just check out the closer turnover in the major leagues the last three years. Look at the Oakland A’s and the Rays. Loyalty should not factor into this, especially with a player that we have seen enter the down slope of his career.
I’m grateful for the time that Valverde spent with the Tigers: he had a great run and he was pure, unbridled joy to watch.
But Jose Valverde is gone, Jim. Let him enjoy his mansion in peace.