Friday, October 12, 2007

Pudge's Replacement Better Be Identified Sooner Rather Than Later

When you've followed baseball as long as I have, certain images stay in your mind that remind you of the passage of time, and how the calendar stops for no man.

For instance, I remember seeing Bill Freehan tutoring young Tigers catchers in the late-1970s, one of them being Lance Parrish. Then, about 20 years later, there was Parrish, passing on his knowledge of catching to the next generation of Tigers backstops.

I'm not sure, however, who's doing the teaching of catchers nowadays in Tiger Town.

The question has some urgency. The Tigers, not surprisingly, just picked up Pudge Rodriguez's option for 2008, at a cool $13 million. They could have let him go for $3 million. The caveat is that the organization has no real option other than Rodriguez, at everyday catcher. There's no real help due for several years, and even that is questionable.

The lack of grooming a new full-time catcher could nip the Tigers in the keister if they don't act soon.

The well-conditioned Rodriguez isn't well-conditioned enough to play forever

Free agency wasn't going to be the answer for 2008. Aside from the Yankees' Jorge Posada (who's likely to re-sign with New York anyway), the pickings are slim and a trade down from Rodriguez, at least defensively. No catching prospects have been drafted in the early rounds by the Tigers for years. So it became a no-brainer to bring Pudge back, albeit an expensive no-brainer.

There's no question that Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, 36 years old by the time the 2008 season starts, is not a $13 million catcher. But that's hardly the issue right now.

The real issue is that the Tigers, for all their recent success in developing homegrown talent, have failed when it comes to finding a suitable everyday replacement for Rodriguez. And all their $13 million has bought them is one more year of time, that's all. Barring a trade or other transaction, the Tigers will be faced with the very same question in October 2008 as they faced last week. Namely, who will catch for them in the very near future?

Rodriguez, for his part, keeps himself in excellent physical shape. Amd that's terrific. But sooner or later (and definitely sooner), the calendar will move faster than his body can keep up. And the inevitable crash and burn could come rather quickly.

The Tigers, thanks to their exercised option, bought themselves out of trouble for 2008, presuming Rodriguez stays healthy. But they're tempting fate if they don't solidify an heir apparent behind the plate. Soon.


Post a Comment

<< Home