The hole is deep. The light is scarce. Hope is a four-letter word. The Detroit Tigers have hit bottom as an organization, right? At least offensively that seems certain.
The Tigers dropped a pair in Chicago on Thursday in typical non-threatening fashion to maintain the steady drumbeat of woeful offensive displays and bullpen failures. White Sox hurlers Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease were dominant but dominating this Detroit Tigers offense is a low bar to cross.
Thankfully the Tigers have the resurgence of Matthew Boyd to hang their hats on….wait, excuse me? Knee issue? I see. Wanna beer?
They’ve been here before
If you’re having flashbacks to 2003, 2019, and 1996 it’s understandable in some respects. This Tigers club looks destined to field a completely non-competitive offense where it’s hard to envision anything more than the bare minimum each night.
The stats are brutal, too numerous to list, and frankly not worth exploring in-depth because the naked eye isn’t deceiving you in any way. This team can’t, and likely won’t pose a consistent threat to anyone’s pitching staff.
Coining a nickname for the offense of “The 2-Run Machine” loses much of the comedic value once they have steady trouble actually achieving the 2-runs much of the time. Cease claims tonight’s shutout is the first of his life…as in any organized level back to Little League. He can send the Tigers a nice card soon.
The Tigers will be selling hope when the minor league season starts next week. They have a highly ranked farm system buoyed by former Top 10 draft selections. Unfortunately, they don’t have much else. Since it appears only a few of the Tigers offensive prospects are likely to surface for any real playing time in ‘21…what we see is mostly what we’re going to get.
The Barren Offensive Wasteland
It’s such a tough situation to see an everyday lineup and supporting bench be so completely devoid of any players with a likely role on the next future competitive team. The daily comedy of seeing who had the most embarrassing batting average or OPS is a testament to the sad state of affairs.
Jeimer Candelario might be one core player if his good run in ‘20 becomes his future. The jury is still out. Even if Candelario pans out he seems more like a guy who bats 6th in a supporting role for a good team. It’s possible Willi Castro can fit this description as well but his standing is likely more tenuous than Candelario’s.
That’s it on the big league roster. Nobody else has much chance to be around in by the end of ‘23. Jonathan Schoop is an OBP-deficient power guy on a short deal. Ronnie Grossman should be a 4th outfielder who bats 7th. Wilson Ramos is the catcher who can’t, you know, catch. (Okay, Ramos can hit a bit.) Jacoby Jones will be collecting his AARP benefits and Al Avila will still be waiting for Jones’ breakout.
We can leave Miguel Cabrera out of this. He’s a living statue commemorating better times and not really part of moving forward.
It’s the biggest letdown of this long rebuild process. They simply haven’t, via any means at their disposal, tried to lock down any positions with long-term answers. Considering this road started in 2017, it’s completely absurd and unacceptable.
Where some hope exists
Detroit’s starting rotation has been a semblance of a bright spot and the group that’s going to need to lead this club through a miserable season. However Boyd’s injury tonight will need to be evaluated moving forward.
Elsewhere Tarik Skubal needs to rediscover some lost spin rate. Michael Fulmer needs good health for once. Casey Mize must find the command he had in college. Jose Urena and Spencer Turnbull should contribute some innings as well. It’s a presentable group.
If the head is rotten the body withers
But it’s the everyday lineup assembled by Chris Ilitch and Al Avila that has dragged this club down to the hellish depths it currently occupies. This is one hundred percent their squad. Avila, with Ilitch’s blessing, steadfastly refused to find any long-term solutions in this past off-season. Instead, they bought used tires to slap on the old battered rusty pickup truck this team has become to get it a few more miles down the road.
The only idea the Tigers seem to have right now is to build via drafting. They must hope Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson arrive together and fulfill the promise. They need second-tier producers to emerge as well like Isaac Paredes, Dillon Dingler, and Bryant Packard. This year’s third overall pick can’t be a slow mover either. Ilitch and Avila have simply boxed themselves into a position where they can’t afford any of their top prospects to disappoint. History shows us some do.
The Tigers-friendly media acolytes will toe the company line and assure us spending will happen when the time is right. One fears when that might actually be. It’s easier to say than to execute.
Riding the storm out
In the meantime, fans will hope for the best. They’ll enjoy the Miggy Snow Globe Homer. The delight of watching Akil Baddoo. The occasional road sweep of a good team. A great catch once per week by Jacoby Jones. A new Mock Draft with a name to dream on. A Vic Reyes hot streak (I wanted to see who is paying attention)
We all find reasons to watch even when the front office doesn’t try too hard to provide them.
In the end, they need a new comprehensive approach to building an everyday lineup they can compete with. The efforts of the last four years haven’t put a single offensive building block firmly in place at the big level. Is there really a plan? We’ll explore some plans next time.
One more very important question…Mr. Ilitch, are you watching much of this happen on your watch?