Monday, May 02, 2011

Monday Morning Manager 2011, Edition 5

Last week: 0-6
This week: NYY (5/2-5); at Tor (5/6-8)

So, What Happened?

You're going to make MMM go over it, aren't you?

You're going to make MMM rehash the worst week of the Tigers season thus far, right? A week in which they didn't win a game, lost three crushers in Cleveland, fell to 7.5 games out of first place (they were 1.5 games out this time last week) and saw their struggling hitters continue to struggle.

Oh, and their $16.5 million set-up man is even going sideways, and Magglio Ordonez looks finished.

What a difference a week makes, eh?

MMM is ending this portion of the weekly post right here, Jim Leyland-style: short and sour.

Hero of the Week

MMM's doctrine says that there are no such things as heroes during winless weeks, barring something extraordinary. But in the spirit of the "Andre Dawson once won an MVP for a last place team" mentality, MMM is choosing one anyway.

It's unheralded reliever Al Alburquerque, who absolutely blew away the Indians on Saturday night in the late innings, albeit in a (naturally) losing cause. Alburquerque, whose name MMM hates to spell, was a man among men Saturday, fanning six in three innings of work, giving him an astounding 16 Ks in 8.1 innings this season.

AA2 (last week's Hero, Alex Avila, is AA) silenced the Indians bats, giving his teammates several chances to push across the go-ahead run(s). Never happened, but if a late-inning reliver's role---especially one who's not the set-up man or the closer---is to either keep his team in a game or give it a chance to win, then AA2 did his job perfectly.

Goat of the Week

MMM is tempted to look at GotW this week like he does the menu at the all-you-can-eat restaurant Harbor House on Groesbeck: SO much to choose from!

But in the interest of brevity, and because each word typed about last week's gore makes MMM's blood pressure increase a tick, let's just give it to the $16.5 million man, Joaquin Benoit.

MMM has seen plenty of bad things in Cleveland, as has anyone who's been there, but Benoit's performances on Friday and Sunday were as smelly as last week's hard-boiled Easter eggs.

Benoit threw gas, alright---but he threw it on a raging fire.

He fell apart on Friday, eventually falling behind 3-1 to Carlos Santana (not the guitarist) with the game tied and the bases loaded in the ninth inning. Santana was sitting on a fastball like a big brother sitting on his hapless little bro, and Carlos lasered it into the right field stands for a walk-off granny.

Then on Sunday, Benoit entered in his more familiar situation: the eighth inning, his team nursing a one-run lead. These were the situations in which Benoit thrived in 2010 with Tampa, and it's why he landed the mother lode of contracts for a set-up man.

But just like that, the inning turned ugly. A lead-off single to Shin-Soo Choo started the rally. One out later, a hit batsman, another single, another single, and a sacrifice fly had delivered three runs to the Tribe's cause. Game, set, series to the Indians.

MMM has always been wary of the free agent pitching signee; those types seem to lose their mojo almost as soon as the ink dries on their signature. Benoit better get it together.

Under the Microscope

I know the players are the ones who lost six games last week, but MMM is putting manager Jim Leyland UtM this week.

Was that a "HOORAY" that MMM heard through his computer?

Leyland, as we all know, is in the last year of his contract. Which would seemingly make it very easy for him to get the ziggy (that Detroit word for getting fired), as owner Mike Ilitch wouldn't owe him a penny beyond the last pitch of 2011.

So a bad start is not the best way to ingratiate yourself, or to lobby for a contract extension. That's just sort of Business Negotiations 101, right?

The Tigers are 12-16, on a six-game losing streak, and are playing with little fire and pizzazz. The adage says it's easier to fire the manager than 25 players.

MMM isn't suggesting that Leyland be canned, but Leyland is UtM because he ought to be. This team looked a lot better on paper than they're playing right now. Granted, MMM didn't expect Austin Jackson, Will Rhymes and Magglio Ordonez---their 1-2-3 hitters---to combine for a batting average that would make a nice bowling score. And Benoit blowing up wasn't in the forecast, either.

But MMM isn't interested in justice---all the time.

Upcoming: Yankees and Blue Jays

Three weeks ago, MMM lamented the arrival of the 9-1 Texas Rangers to Detroit, when the Tigers were off to a 3-7 start. Yet the Tigers won two of three, both wins coming in walk-off fashion.

Today, MMM has much the same feeling about the high-flying Yankees invading Detroit with the Tigers slumping. Let's hope the results are the same as they were against the Rangers! But MMM would be thrilled with a split of the four-game set.

The series also marks the return of Curtis Granderson to Detroit as a Yankee. Grandy missed the Yankees game at Comerica Park last season due to injury. MMM is sure the greeting that awaits Curtis as he walks from the on-deck circle to the batter's box to start Monday night's game will be a goose bump-inducing one.

Then it's off to Toronto to face the Blue Jays, who feature slugging right fielder Jose Bautista, who leads the league in hitting and in home runs.

This has the makings of another scary week. And when will the Indians fall back to Earth, anyway?

That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!



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