Scared to Death of What Happens Next


I’ll admit it; I’m worried. I haven’t been this uncomfortable with the Tigers for as long as I can remember, at least not in this way. This weekend will be filled with three more Tigers/Mariners games before we’ll find out what happens next. It’s that “what happens” that has me so anxious.

Monday is now the target date for Magglio Ordonez to return from a lengthy disabled list stay. He’s played Triple-A games for a week now and he figures that he’ll be ready to roll at that time. If this were 2007, 2008, or even 2010, I would be excited to have him back in the Tigers’ lineup. But this isn’t those years, this is now and the Tigers have been the best team in the league without him. I’m worried about what happens when he comes back.

Magglio certainly didn’t get off to a good start this year; he’s hitting well below the Mendoza line and has all of four extra-base hits this year. In his stead, Andy Dirks has been steady at the plate and in the field and looks like he belongs in the lineup. Brennan Boesch, whom I don’t think was ever in jeopardy of losing at bats to begin with, has been on fire of late. So what happens when Ordonez comes back? I don’t know, but it scares the heck out of me.

Jamie Samuelson wrote a piece today on this very topic. His piece points out that Maggs isn’t exactly lighting up the International League since beginning his rehab.

"His numbers in Toledo aren’t encouraging (.233 average in 30 at-bats, one extra-base hit). If he didn’t hit in Lakeland and didn’t hit in Detroit and isn’t hitting in Toledo, what makes anyone think he’ll get back to the majors and start lighting it up?"

But the Tigers don’t have much choice here. Ordonez, rightly or wrongly, was given that $10 million deal in hopes that he would return to form and help the Tigers claim a division crown. After his rocky start to the season, much of the confidence in him was worn away. Now we are left to hope that if he struggles again, Jim Leyland will see fit to sit the former icon on the bench in favor of the younger, better options. I don’t hold out much hope that we’ll see that. Leyland has repeated, almost as a mantra, that the “big boys” will determine how far his club will go. I can only hope that he will recognize if/when Ordonez has shown he is no longer in that group, assuming he hasn’t already shown that.

The Tigers have had a good thing going with Ordonez out of the lineup. This isn’t the same as a guy who misses time in the prime of his career, but rightfully re-claims his spot when he returns, no matter how well his replacement was playing. This is a case of a man who through age and injury, seems to be a shell of his former self. At what point is that spot no longer rightfully his? I hope salary doesn’t play a role here, and I don’t think it does. The money paid to Magglio is his no matter if he gets 500 at bats or 150; lineups should be based upon merit, not bank accounts. I think Leyland gets that, or at least I hope he does.

The Central is there for the taking and maybe Ordonez can recapture the form he had last season. Even that version of Maggs would be more than good enough to justify playing time. But if he cannot, I worry that Leyland will wait too long to make a move, if he makes one at all.

Magglio’s return has me anxious, but it’s not that good kind like you had on Christmas Eve. This kind is like when you are watching a horror movie and the power goes out in the cabin. This kind of anxious is felt in the seconds before some idiot decides to venture outside to check out the problem. You know it’s not going to end well for him.

I sure do hope I’m wrong.