Detroit Tigers Flavor Accents 2015 Hall of Fame Weekend
This weekend the Baseball Hall of Fame inducts four players and honors the Ford C. Frick and the J.G. Taylor Spink Awards winners. Both ceremonies have Detroit Tigers ties. Both celebrate two individuals that got away.
Saturday afternoon, current San Diego Padres play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg will receive the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in baseball broadcasting and long-time Tigers beat writer Tom Gage will receive the J.G. Taylor Spink Award “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.”
While Tigers fans can and should celebrate the national recognition for Gage’s work The Detroit News would be better off keeping a lower profile. Last February Gage announced via Twitter that the newspaper had removed him from the Detroit Tigers beat after 36 years covering the team.
In a story published yesterday by The Detroit News celebrating Gage’s accomplishment they claimed that Gage “retired from the paper.” However, last February they used the word “reassigned” to describe his removal from the beat.
Shabby treatment for a writer whose career, according to his Hall of Fame bio.
"…has covered major-league games in 54 ballparks, has written more than 11 million words on baseball and covered more than 5,000 games, including five no-hitters. His output included daily notes, gamers, plugs, writethrus – all on deadline – plus social media responsibilities; three dozen years on the beat without a sick day, including a night game in Boston after undergoing a morning root canal."
They also credit “the freshness and flow of his writing, aiming to appeal to the hardcore fan’s family as well as the hardcore fan.” A writer who can accomplish, and is being recognized for that talent should be celebrated, whether at 27 or Gage’s current age of 67.
A lifetime achievement honor doesn’t mean that life is over. Congratulations go out to Tom Gage from Motor City Bengals. May you find an outlet that recognizes your talent and passion and leaves you alone to cover baseball until YOU are ready to retire.
On Sunday, four player will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. The last name on that list is proof that when it comes to deadline deals, you can get exactly what you want and still not get what you need (apologies to Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones).
In 1987, a number of the stars from the 1984 World Champions were still on the team, along with Sparky Anderson as manager, and fighting with the Toronto Blue Jays for another postseason appearance as winners of the American League East.
On August 7, one-and-a-half games out of first place, the Tigers made a move to bolster their starting rotation, acquiring veteran left-handed pitcher Doyle Alexander for minor league pitcher John Smoltz (yes, that Smoltz). A deal that is considered by many to be one of the worst late-season trades of all time, but was it really?
Alexander, in the sixteenth of a 19-year major league career, was struggling with a 5-10 record for the Atlanta Braves. Smoltz, in his second year of minor league ball in the Tigers’ organization, was 4-10 in 21 starts for the Double-A Glens Falls Tigers with a 5.68 ERA, though one stat that flew under the radar at the time was his 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings average.
Smoltz is receiving the greatest honor a baseball player can achieve, and well deserved by him, but that doesn’t make the Tigers’ decision in 1987 a bonehead move.
The Tigers got the shot in the arm they were looking for with that trade. After a no-decision in his Detroit debut, Alexander went 9-0 to provide the team with the spark they were looking for.
In the final three-game series of the season against Toronto, Alexander helped pull the Tigers into a first place tie with a 4-3 win. Detroit went on to sweep the series and face the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS. In that series Alexander’s magic ran out. He was charged with losses in Game 1 and the Twins’ pennant clinching Game 5.
Detroit was shut down by Minnesota’s buzzsaw mound duo of Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven that postseason, but so were the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. If that Tigers team had advanced to face St. Louis (which would have been the third of four World Series matchups against the Cardinals if it had taken place) would the Smoltz trade still be seen as a disaster?
In hindsight it’s always easy to say yes but at the time the Tigers knew the contending window for that core group was closing fast. They made the choice that most all victorious teams make, you can only win the championship in front of you.
The Tigers rolled the dice with a promising, but not yet proven prospect, and came up with a seven. Alexander also came close to helping the Tigers win the AL East in 1988 with a 14-11 record. That team finished in second, one game behind the Boston Red Sox.
In another couple of days Tigers management will make a final decision on whether or not to roll those dice again, though it’s looking more and more like they should pocket their four consecutive AL Central Division titles and walk away from the table. There is no championship in front of this team. It’s time for them to try and get the players they need for their next run of playoff appearances.