Last baseball season, I kept a Detroit Tigers diary here called “The DET Offensive,” a nod to all of the offensive firepower Detroit added in the offseason, primarily in the form of Prince Fielder. This season, the return of Victor Martinez and the acquisition of Torii Hunter make the Tigers even more of a threat with the bat. Their biggest question headed into the year is at the closer position. Jose Valverde had a perfect season two years ago, but he dropped off significantly last year, and GM Dave Dombrowski sent him packing as a result. Phil Coke filled in at that position quite admirably during the playoffs, but for whatever reason, he isn’t being considered for it as we head into the 2013 season. Instead, management seems to be waffling between minor league sensation Bruce Rondon (intriguing) and Rick Porcello (GAHHHHH!).
There are a number of changes by subtraction from last season, too. First and most obvious to close readers of this site, I have left the listening area of the Tigers Radio Network, which means I’ll be carrying on this season’s Tigers’ series from afar. A number of actual Tigers also have departed the scene, and having recently done so myself, I thought it fitting to discuss those guys to start off the new season. Here they are, roughly in chronological order.
Pictured above is Fernando Rodney. He actually left the Tigers after the 2009 season and played for the Angels for two years, which I totally missed, before popping up on my radar with the D-Rays last season. Also increasingly popping: his hat.
Scrappy (aka white) infielder Brandon Inge, truly a clutch hitter with a low overall average and better at his broader role than Bobby Higginson, left the only team he’d known late last season and joined up with Oakland. After almost ruining the Tigers’ season on multiple occasions, both as a Tiger and an Athletic, Inge apparently is a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates this year, where he’s already leading the team in practice walk-off home runs.
In the offseason, the team released Valverde, as mentioned, Ryan Rayburn, and, more recently, Brennan Boesch. I was surprised at the amount of backlash over the Rayburn and Boesch releases, which, while not much, really shouldn’t have existed at all. Both guys were underachieving dead weight, in my casual amateur estimation, and with a loaded farm system, this team doesn’t have any excuse to stick with guys who don’t perform.
Some also are concerned about the apparent offseason departure of certain Fox Sports Detroit girls, the human mascots of the Tigers’ television network. Myself a departed member of that viewing audience, I cannot personally verify their status, but I can confirm that they certainly did not come replace the Fox Sports South girls.
As a programming note, I will continue to keep a Tigers diary this season (this being the first installment), although it’s likely to be even less original and insightful than last season by reason of my migration. We also are planning to run season-long serials featuring some of the following teams: Mariners, Braves, Nationals, Sounds, and Alouettes. Stay tuned for more details on those.