First of all, welcome to the blog. We hope to be equal parts amusing and enlightening to you. Well, perhaps not equal parts. 70 percent amusing, 30 percent enlightening? Aim high.
What will we do? We plan on having threads for each game and recaps of what we saw and thought, along with the occasional bit of analysis, rant, or effusive praise. You know, the normal stuff. We really do hope you enjoy, and we really hope you’ll interact with us in the weeks and months to come.
Anyway, the 2017 Tigers. As you read this, it’s Opening Day, and the team is coming off a rather odd season and odder offseason. It seems like a long time ago that the likes of Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera were coming up in trade rumors, with a massive overhaul of the organization seemingly inevitable. Giving away Cam Maybin for next to nothing seemed like an ominously tolling bell. The party was over.
And then it wasn’t. Perhaps Al Avila and company overestimated — or underestimated — the impact the league’s new CBA would have on the market. Perhaps they didn’t receive the interest in their big-name players they were hoping for. Perhaps they were never all that serious about making deals in the first place. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these things.
Whatever the case may be, the Tigers enter 2017 with nearly the exact same squad they ended 2016 with. There were no major additions. There were no major departures, unless you count Maybin. It’s essentially the 2016 Tigers without a center fielder.
Good or bad? Both, really. It’s easy to look at it and say it’s a statement of confidence from Avila and the braintrust in the players they’ve assembled, but I think that may be overstating it. The entire offseason felt a bit half-baked, flying by the seat of their pants, making it up as they went along and then, when nothing happened, saying that was how it was always bound to go.
On one hand, it’s easy to forget this was a team that was in the playoff race right down to the final game of the season. On the other hand, they finished eight games behind the Cleveland Indians while losing 14 of the 18 contests they played. Even a 9-9 mark on the season would have won them 91 games and made it a division race. On one hand, they had injuries and underperformance, with Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton not quite factoring in the way they’d have wanted to. On the other, the likes of Michael Fulmer were unexpected revelations.
Is this team really good enough to get where they want to go? I don’t know. Cleveland is loaded with talent and I don’t think Detroit is better. I think there’s a chance at a wildcard, but the AL looks even tougher this year than it was in 2016. Some things will need to go right, and they’ll need to be healthier than they were. I like to think that the fear of the band being broken up and then ultimately staying together may prove a motivating factor for one last run — J.D. Martinez is a goner after 2017, in all likelihood — but my logical side tells me that’s just going to be overstated. Somewhere in the 83-88 win range seems reasonable if things go right, but even that may not be enough.
One thing is for sure — with the death of Mike Ilitch, the Tigers’ future is murkier than it has been in over a decade. The manager, Brad Ausmus, probably has his job on the line this year. Several players may be moved to greener pastures if things don’t come off this year. The pressure is on — maybe one final time.