Gerald Laird, Brain Tumors and the Tigers Offseason

By Jeff Moss
November 18, 2011 

“I want to be in a position to make one or two additions, and generally, they’re pretty big additions.” – Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch in an interview with Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News – September 30, 2011

I promised myself I wouldn’t overreact. I swore that I wouldn’t write a column about the Tigers offseason until there was a definitive plan in place.

I lied.

And trust me, it hasn’t been easy biting my tongue so far this offseason.

When Dave Dombrowski had his first “Hot Stove League” press conference (the one where he banned live Tweets) and announced to the Detroit media slapdicks that his manager didn’t like having a roster full of star players and preferred some role players in the mix, my keyboard almost leaped off the desk and smacked me upside the head asking, “Why the fuck are you not writing about this!?!?”

When Dombrowski announced to the world that he was just fine with a 2012 platoon of Detroit’s most eligible bachelor (Brandon Inge) and Don “Quad-A” Kelly at third base and had little to no interest in bringing back Wilson Betemit, I started getting the shakes.

But I can’t stay silent any longer even though I am fully aware there is still a lot of time left until Grapefruit League action begins because there is a lot of shit bothering me about this potentially disastrous offseason.

So here are the Top Five Things Pissing Me Off About the Tigers Offseason:

1) It has now been 48 days since Ilitch asked Wojo if the rotund columnist could imagine “another big bat in the lineup” and there hasn’t been any evidence that Ilitch’s words were anything more than bullshit.

Look, I don’t expect the team to sign Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, but where is the full-court press on a Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Alexis Ramirez or Yoennis Cespedes?

Ilitch, in his own words, said he would look to add a big bat or TWO this offseason so please don’t tell me it is unrealistic to expect an impactful free-agent signing.

I mean, last time I checked, the guy was the OWNER of the team and wrote the checks AND who also in that same interview said that he understood he wasn’t getting any younger and was desperate for a World Series title before he dropped dead.

Well, Mister Eye, I am not sure if you noticed, but the Tigers lost in the ALCS and you didn’t get that coveted piece of jewelry so TELL YOUR GENERAL MANAGER TO GET OFF HIS BUTT AND DO SOMETHING!!!!

(Last year at this time the team had already secured Victor Martinez.)

Was Ilitch just speaking out of his ass that day? Was that interview, which gave all Tigers fans hope of a productive winter, just one HUGE dick tease?

Because the only signing so far this offseason ……..

2) Gerald. Fucking. Laird. I mean, are you kidding me with this?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I never had any high hopes that the backup, right-handed catcher signed to spell Alex Avila would be the next Gary Carter.

But I was hoping the dude would be someone who could hit better than Gary Carter TODAY. And that is taking into consideration the “Kid” has four malignant tumors on his brain.

Are you telling me that a deal couldn’t have been made with Kelly Shoppach, Jose Molina, Matt Treanor or Ramon Castro so Tigers fans could avoid the psychological scarring that will occur because of the return of this slob?

You might remember Gerald Laird as the guy whose then 70-year old grandfather allegedly groped Eddie House’s wife during a Phoenix Suns basketball game which led to an ensuing brawl that involved Laird getting arrested for assaulting security guards.

I choose to remember LARD as the worthless catcher who in Game #163 versus the Minnesota Twins in 2009 went 0-for-6, struck out twice, grounded into a double play and LEFT TEN FUCKING MEN ON BASE IN A PLAY-IN GAME!!!!!

Game 163 and Laird’s performance still haunt me to this day which is why I would have taken ANY backup catcher OVER him. I think I broke my foot kicking an ottoman in my family room after the GIDP so it isn’t hyperbole to say that I still have scar tissue due to Laird.

To make matters worse, this grandson of a derelict left to play for the Cardinals and he now has a World Series ring for doing absolutely nothing.

Well, he actually did something while in St. Louis. He accused Yadier Molina of cheating for some bizarre reason and got into an altercation with the team’s star catcher at a South Beach Miami hotel.

Luckily, the brouhaha was broken up by Pujols and Laird didn’t go all “Phoenix Security Guard” on the future Hall of Famer. Actually, if Pujols would have killed Laird that night for fighting one of the team’s star players, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.

And you might be thinking right now that I am making too big a deal about the acquisition of a backup catcher.

But Gerald Laird’s Game 163 is like the Holocaust to me.

Never Forget.

Never Forget.

3) Then you have the team’s apparent decision to utilize potentially the worst platoon in the history of baseball. Instead of going out and signing a guy like Ramirez or even re-signing Wilson Betemit to split time with Brandon Inge, Dombrowski has made it known that he is perfectly content with the “Dynamic Duo” of Inge and Kelly at a corner infield position.

This decision absolutely disgusts me and it has nothing to do with Inge exclusively playing against lefties. I have no issue with Inge platooning and filling in as a defensive replacement during the last year of his horrid contract.

It is actually the role that he should have had for years and a topic I pontificated on when the Hooters Customer of the Year was recalled from Toledo this past August.

Let’s for a moment compare the following two players. For the purpose of this exercise, we will call one “Player DK” and the other “Player WB.”

“Player DK” 2011: .257 BA – .291 OBP – .381 Slugging Percentage – .672 OPS

“Player WB” 2011: .285 BA – .343 OBP – .452 Slugging Percentage – .795 OPS

As you can tell by the statistics, this “Player WB” had a higher batting average than “Player DK”, an OBP that was 52 points higher and an OPS that was .123 greater.

Okay, okay, I will end the suspense and fill you in. “Player DK” is actually Don Kelly and “Player WB” is really Wilson Betemit.

So why the fuck are we not bringing back Betemit at a reasonable rate to solve the continuing problem at third base?

Because, according to Dombrowski, the Tigers won the AL Central with ‘basically a platoon of Kelly and Inge’ anyway.

Uhh, does this guy have fucking amnesia? We basically won the AL Central with a platoon of Inge and Kelly? How can you try to revise history when the history isn’t even four months old?

No, what actually occurred was your team was so desperate for an upgrade at the hot corner after the All-Star break that YOU traded two middling prospects for Betemit to SOLVE the PROBLEM at third base.

And Betemit responded by doing just that until he got injured late in the season which fucked up his ability to contribute in the playoffs.

WITH THE TIGERS, Betemit had splits of .346/.525/.871.

For comparison sake, Adrian Beltre had a .892 OPS in 2011.

And that is the guy Dombrowski is going to let walk out the door just so they can have the SAME EXACT problem this coming season.

Hopefully, Betemit will sign a one-year deal with the Pirates so we can trade for him in June.

4) On November 2nd, just 33 days after Ilitch declared he would be aggressive in free-agency, the Free Press’s Michael Rosenberg wrote a column entitled, “Don’t expect Tigers to go on off-season spending spree.”

Now, normally I would discard anything that RosenNerd had to say about any topic because according to numerous reviews, the man cannot be trusted.

But this column was so detailed in the finances of the Detroit Tigers, it seemed like the article was almost written by the Ilitch Family Accountant.

And it isn’t like RosenDweeb is above being been force-fed a story by a source with an agenda™ (Lloyd Carr) so I wouldn’t be shocked if the Tigers handed Nebbish McNebbishalot all of their financials after Ilitch realized his mouth was bigger than his wallet.

It is one thing to know the salaries of the signed players (easily obtainable in a Google search) or even make an educated guess on the potential increase in salary after arbitration-eligible deals are done.

But this quote right here leads me to believe that the Tigers WANTED this article out there to dampen the fan base’s expectations:

“Tuesday, Dombrowski basically said good-bye to Ordoñez, but the Tigers still owe him $3 million in deferred money in 2012, plus interest. They also owe Valverde $2 million, Pudge Rodriguez $2 million, and Gary Sheffield $1.5 million.”

Come on. There is no way a guy who doesn’t know the difference between countable and uncountable hours figured out the deferred monies owed to SHEFFIELD and PUDGE.

The Tigers organization LOVES to let the lapdog Detroit media do their bidding. I am guessing that they would have normally handed this crap over to Lynn Henning, but they didn’t want to make it totally obvious that they were disseminating this propaganda.

5) Finally, the last point could almost be an entire article in itself:

The Tigers decision to retain Jeff Jones as the team’s pitching coach.

I am not going to discuss Leyland’s continued employment because it is a futile exercise, but the fact that this loser (Jones) is going to be responsible for the Tigers pitching staff is absolutely infuriating.

First, let me say, I think the job of pitching coach is the most important on the staff. Even more crucial than that of the manager.

You can have a Sparky Anderson Day, retire his number posthumously, use the word “Ain’t” until the cows come home, sing the praises of Rico Brogna and erect a statue for the white-haired manager for all I care, but if it wasn’t for Roger Craig teaching Jack Morris and the 1984 Tigers staff the split-fingered fastball, Detroit would be working on a World Series drought of 43 years instead of 27.

And it isn’t like the Tigers have Philadelphia’s pitching staff of veterans where a pitching coach might not be as important. Other than Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, the rest of the starting staff is in dire need of some sage advice.

Max Scherzer has a million dollar arm, but the chances on any given night of him throwing a one-hitter or getting bombed before the fourth inning seem to be an even money proposition.

A guy who throws in the mid to upper 90s with the caliber of off-speed pitches that Harvey Two-Eyes possesses should be an All-Star and not a perpetual question mark.

As a 20-year old rookie in 2009, Rick Porcello was a revelation. He won 14 games with an ERA of 3.96 and a WHIP of 1.34. Tigers fans rightfully assumed that the righty would be the team’s #2 starter for the next decade alongside JV.

Instead, Porcello has regressed in the last two seasons to the point that a majority of Tigers fans want to see him traded for a more reliable starter.

And the fear is that Jacob Turner will turn into the next Porcello. A right-handed bonus baby with plus stuff who can’t get lefties out to save his life.

With all of the money and assets this team has in young arms (I haven’t even mentioned Ryan Perry or Daniel Schlereth yet), it is absolutely CRIMINAL that Jeff Jones is responsible for cultivating them.

When Leyland used former pitching coach Rick Knapp as a scapegoat last summer, the team promoted Jones from his position as bullpen coach. There was no nationwide search for the best available candidate, just a call to the pen for another live body.

Hell, if Jones was hitting the head at the time of the Knapp firing we might have ended up with Phil Coke as our pitching coach.

(And for the record, Knapp couldn’t find a gig in the majors as a pitching coach even though he desperately wanted one. Instead, he is currently the Kansas City Royals Minor League Pitching Coordinator.)

And what were Jones’ qualifications for mentoring Turner, Porcello and Scherzer?

Well, Jones has been the team’s bullpen coach on FIVE different occasions and the team has FIRED HIM TWICE.

And he wasn’t axed in the cute way that George Steinbrenner used to shitcan Billy Martin, no, he was let go based on performance. TWICE.

This career ZERO has no business coaching this staff. You want to improve the team’s ERA without spending a ton of money, immediately offer Orel Hershiser the most lucrative pitching coach contract in baseball to replace Jones.

The former Dodgers ace is probably the most brilliant pitching mind around. Listening to the guy dissect a pitcher’s stuff on the radio is the equivalent of getting a lecture from Thomas Friedman on world affairs.

You want Porcello and Scherzer to turn the corner then throw a pile of dough at Orel and pray he will leave the ESPN broadcasting booth.

And if that doesn’t work, just call me up and I will Photo Shop a picture of Hershiser in a compromising position with one of the Mothership’s interns and I will then email it to AJ Daulerio at Deadspin. You can bet Orel will be looking for a new gig soon after.

And if that fails, maybe the 81-year old Craig would be interested in returning to his former role in Detroit. (Shit, he is only one year older than Jack McKeon.)

But this Peter Principle nonsense has to stop immediately. Jeff Jones is about as qualified to coach this pitching staff as Mike McQueary is to guard the Jackson State Prison shower.

Now excuse me while I go pray to Jesus Christ that Gerald Laird fails his physical™ (Jerome Harrison.)