Monday, June 08, 2009

Monday Morning Manager

My weekly take on the Tigers, also known simply and affectionately as "MMM."

Week of 6/1-7: 2-4

This week: 6/8-11: at CWS (DH 6/8); 6/12-14: at Pit

Goat of the Week

This week's Goat earns his Tigers stripes for what has been a Goat-like season thus far.

What in the world is wrong with Magglio Ordonez?

By early-June, you need more than two home runs from your cleanup hitter. You need better run-producing than one RBI per nine at-bats.

Maggs has been swinging a wet noodle ever since the team returned from Florida in early-April and the suggestions as to why range from the dire to the mysterious.

Dire: he's done. Finished, at age 35. His power unplugged, for good.

Mysterious: it's an anomaly; it's just "one of those things." He'll break out of it...we think. We're pretty sure, anyway.


Of course, there's more to all this than just a baseball decision. There's a big-time money one, too.

Maggs is owed a boatload of dough if he reaches milestones this season based on at-bats.

It was suggested by a local columnist that the Tigers consider releasing Ordonez, a la Gary Sheffield, to save money and to open up the lineup for younger players.

Food for thought, though I doubt the Tigers would do that. Then again, I didn't see Sheff's release coming, either.

Money or no money, manager Jim Leyland is faced with a similar quandary as what Boston's Terry Francona faces everyday with David Ortiz, who is struggling mightily.

Drop Maggs down in the order? Sit him? Play him mainly against lefties?

It's the classic "chicken or egg" thing: the more a hitter slumps, the more he needs to play, sometimes, to break out of it. The more he plays, though, the more he hurts the cause.

The Tigers' offense has looked like an EKG readout all season. More peaks and valleys than a teenaged girl's fledgling love life.

My opinion? Maggs isn't done, but he isn't producing, either. Give him till the All-Star break then maybe you have to make a decision, which could also be the king domino that determines other moves at the July 31 trade deadline.

Hero of the Week

Close call here.

I was about to name Edwin Jackson for the second week in a row for his gutsy, complete-game 2-1 win over the Angels on Saturday, which he finished by striking out Bobby Abreu, Vlad Guerrero, and Torii Hunter in the ninth inning.

Pretty heady stuff, I know.

But then I thought, the Tigers might not win that series, which they needed to do very badly, if Clete Thomas doesn't hit his first career grand slam on Sunday.

Thomas struck in the 8th inning, breaking a 5-5 tie and giving the Tigers a much-needed series win over the Angels after a 4-9 stretch.

Congrats, Clete!

Quick scouting reports: White Sox, Pirates

There are no such things as "big" series in early June, right?


The Tigers and the White Sox have a five-gamer this week in Chicago, including a day-night doubleheader today.

Not big? Puh-leaze.

The Tigers, despite the series win over the Angels, are teetering. They're a first-place team by default in the AL Central, which is far worse than I imagined, at this point.

The White Sox are trying to find themselves, and to me, are the team in the division most likely to do so before it's all said and done.

Time to do a little less saying and a lot more doing right now.

Of course, there really won't be that big a swing in the standings unless one team wins four of the games.

But who's to say that can't happen?

The White Sox have had their way with the Tigers, pretty much, for the past several seasons--especially in Chicago. If any team can win four of these games, it's the Pale Hose.

Ah, now what to say about the Pittsburgh Pirates?

The "other" Detroit-Pittsburgh sports matchup this week will be barely a blip on the landscape, but then again, the Pirates don't do much more than blip. Haven't for over 15 years.

The Pirates are 26-30, and in fifth place in the NL Central. Typical.

So, a quick cram course on the Bucs, if you will.

They're led offensively, sort of, by 2B Freddy Sanchez, who's batting .311 in 222 AB.

I say sort of because Freddy has just four homers and 18 RBI, primarily batting leadoff.

You want some power?

Well, um, there's Adam LaRoche. He has seven homers. Sanchez is second on the team, with his four.

I know; not too impressive.

OK, so what about pitching?

26-year-old lefty Zach Duke is having a fine season: 6-4 with a 2.62 ERA in 11 starts. He's only allowed four homers in 79 innings.

The closer is Matt Capps, who's converted 13-of-15 save opportunities despite an ERA of over 5.00.

Look for the usual "Jim Leyland comes back to Pittsburgh" storylines to try to generate some interest in this series.

But this series becomes huge for the Tigers if they do poorly in Chicago.

Under the microscope

It's easy to put Ordonez here, but that seems lazy to me.

Instead, MMM is putting Miguel Cabrera under the scope, as much as that causes consternation.

Cabrera is gimpy with a touchy hamstring, which he tweaked Thursday afternoon against Boston. He had to be taken out of the game on Sunday, his first game back, because of the tightness.

Of course, his replacement was Thomas, and we all know what he did after coming into the game.

Still, a lengthy Cabrera absence is the last thing a struggling Tigers offense needs. Miggy is a legitimate MVP candidate. The thought of him being placed on the disabled list ought to give Tigers fans the heeby-jeebies.

That's all for this week's MMM. Join me every Monday!



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