RKB: An unprecedented offsesaon move?

The 2019 Detroit Tigers struggled on offense. Readers of this website know that the team finished last in the American League in a variety of statistical categories, including home runs and slugging percentage, this past season.

It therefore comes as some surprise today that the team decided to outright Brandon Dixon to Toledo. The surprise arises not because Dixon– a second-year, sub-replacement-level player– is especially good, but because he finished the 2019 season as the Tigers’ leader in home runs (fifteen) and, among qualified batters, slugging percentage (.435). Again, Dixon’s overall performance was unremarkable, and it makes sense for the twenty-seven-year-old to spend more time at Triple-A. But immediate demotions of teams’ home-run leaders cannot be a common occurrence. Indeed, I suspected such an event never before had occurred.

Thankfully, before publishing this post, I checked with BP’s Rob Mains, who reminded me that it had happened once before. In a situation in some ways more extreme than Dixon’s, Chris Carter found himself without a major-league job after a 2016 season in which he paced the National League with forty-one homers as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called the team’s decision to non-tender him “unprecedented.” Carter caught on with the New York Yankees for almost half of the 2017 season, but that was it for him in the bigs. After spending the rest of 2017 and 2018 with three different Triple-A teams, Carter’s 2019 found him hitting the lights out for the Mexican League’s Monclova Acereros (alongside Erick Aybar, obviously).

What does the future hold for Dixon? Carter’s path may be his best hope, and there are plenty of reasons to think that’s a reach.

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Previously
RKB: Brief 2019 Recapitulation
RKB: At deadline, Tigers move their best player*

Why does ESPN hate Detroit?

I’ve written before about Detroit’s “inferiority/superiority complex, and one of the ways that manifests itself is in Detroiters’ (and Michiganders’) belief that national media sources ignore or marginalize them.

The reality is that it’s a big country and there’s plenty happening all over the place to fill national media broadcasts. People also probably get tired of hearing about how life is tough in the Motor City. But ESPN’s emphasis on the coastal cities, especially New York and Boston, whether things are good, bad, or uninteresting there, feels like it belies the notion that the Worldwide Leader is looking to spread its coverage evenly and objectively. There’s probably somebody who’s spent too much time next to the Belle Isle salt lick with a scientific analysis of the network’s Motown slights. Thankfully I don’t have anything like that (heck, I don’t even have a television– am I qualified to write this post? any post for this website?), but I do have a lifetime of accumulated, small experiences, little things that build up over the years like plaque, arterial blockage, uric acid, or whatever early middle age male medical condition the target sports audience has, as determined by the concordant commercial advertisers.

I’m not talking about being accustomed to only seeing the Lions on other teams’ highlight reels— that’s just a bad team making the film editors’ jobs easy. It’s things like the ESPN Radio “SportsCenter” segments on their morning show, Mike & Mike, always starting with the Yankees or Red Sox game and frequently omitting the Tigers’ score from the night before. And stuff like this, from two nights ago:

These are small things. Petty things. Sometimes undefinable things. But they’re real things, at least insofar as they’re experienced, or perceived to have been experienced. When things are bad, Detroiters want the attention to validate their sorrow. (That’s why I wanted the Tigers to lose 120 in 2003. At least the record books would have to bear witness to that misery.) When the supercharged Tigers got off to a disappointing start this season, was Jim Leyland “on the hot seat,” from a national perspective? No way. Bobby Valentine? Almost immediately.

Anyway, trotting out all these examples would be an unenjoyable exercise for me and unenjoyable reading for you. It’s about getting your fair attention for bad times and good. And times are pretty good right now. Justin Verlander won the Cy Young and the MVP in the same season last year! He got shelled as the All-Star game starter last night, but he’s dating Kate Upton! Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball! Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in football! (And ESPN’s Chris Carter can’t acknowledge that?)

Alright, enough.