Turning the 2013 Tigers into the 2002 Red Wings

By Jeff Moss
DetroitSportsRag@gmail.com
November 15, 2012

Back in April of 2001, a Detroit sports team owned by Mike Ilitch got eliminated from the playoffs when dropping four straight games to end their season.

Yep, after losing the first two games of a first round series, the Los Angeles Kings got up off the mat and defeated the Red Wings in the next four games to prematurely end the Stanley Cup aspirations of Mister Eye.

Keep in mind; this wasn’t a franchise that hadn’t won a championship in 28 years.  Nope, the Wings were in the midst of an absolutely unbearable THREE-YEAR banner drought.

Nor did the 2000-1 Wings reach the Finals only to embarrass themselves in a four-game sweep while heavily favored to win the title.  As a matter of fact, Detroit’s hockey team had a valid excuse for the L.A. collapse.  They were severely handicapped by a plethora of injuries to key players.

Furthermore, in the spring of 2001, the Pizza Baron was in good health and a spry 72-years old.  In other words, the billionaire didn’t resemble the Crypt Keeper wearing an atrocious toupee.

So how did Ilitch react to the disappointment of that early playoff exit during the summer of ’01? He had Kenny Holland release his beloved goalie (Chris Osgood) and acquired Dominik Hasek for Slava Kozlov.   Arguably one of the top three netminders EVER.

Then the Wings signed Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull as free-agents.  Just a couple of dudes who combined to score over 1,400 goals in their career.  As a matter of fact, they are the #3 and #10 all-time leading scorers in the HISTORY of the damn sport.

Mike Ilitch basically instructed Holland to do whatever it took financially to put together an All-Star team for the 2001-2 season and he did just that.  The Red Wings won the Cup that following season with a roster so fucking deep that their FOURTH LINE had TWO future Hall of Famers on it.

Well, Mister Ilitch, it’s time to get Dave Dombrowski on the phone and order the Code 2002.  Hand your baseball team’s President the blueprint for going all-in like you did a decade ago with your hockey team.

Look, I like what Dombrowski has accomplished so far this offseason, but this isn’t about a tweak here and an alteration there, THIS IS ALL ABOUT PUSHING ALL OF YOUR CHIPS TO THE CENTER OF THE TABLE WHILE HAVING THE NUTS.

Not re-signing Jose Valverde?  A no-brainer, but a quality move.

Telling that piece of human excrement, Gerald Laird, to find employment elsewhere? Awesome.

Discarding Delmon Young like a piece of foreskin at a bris? Mazel Tov.

And while I am a big Torii Hunter guy and I love the signing (even if Hunter’s 2012 BABIP isn’t sustainable) and believe that THIS team needed a “leader” who actually cares about, ya know, winning and losing™ (Octavio Dotel), it still is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to equating the 2013 Tigers to the 2002 Red Wings.

Maybe it wouldn’t be necessary to unlock the nuclear codes if, like, ANY of the following wasn’t true:

  • Mike Ilitch looked in such poor health on the podium when handed the ALCS hardware that Fidel Castro selected Ilitch in HIS OWN “Death Pool.”
  • The team is currently riding a seven-game losing streak.  In the WORLD FUCKING SERIES!!!!
  • And the only game they have won in their last two trips to the Fall Classic might have been aided by an illegal substance.  I am not going to compare Kenny Rogers to Lance Armstrong, but only because the crafty lefty never went down on Sheryl Crow.
  • Lost two World Series in the last seven years while PROHIBITIVE favorites.  Once to maybe the worst baseball champion EVER and another time to a team that only had, like,  THREE players in the postseason with batting averages over .220.
  • Finished in last place in the AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL during a season in which they were one of the preseason favorites to win the World Series.  Behind.  The.  Royals.
  • Collapsed in September while also suffering the indignity of a Game 163 loss in EXTRA INNINGS.
  • And did I mention the Tigers World Series drought has been so long that if it were an American Citizen, it wouldn’t be able to get medical coverage under its parent’s plan per the Affordable Health Care Act.

Okay, after reading that depressing litany of events, go down an alcoholic beverage or twelve.   When you get back, I will share with you the Code 2002 Five-Point Blueprint that Dombrowski SHOULD follow during this upcoming Hot Stove League.

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Ya back? Okay, here we go.

1) Re-Sign Anibal Sanchez

This isn’t exactly an earth-shattering suggestion except when you consider all of the hand-wringing from the Detroit media and some of the team’s fans due to the potential high cost involved.

Ummm, unless your name is Marian, Mike Jr., Atanas, Denise, Chris, Carole, Ronald or Lisa, why the fuck would you care if Ilitch spends $90 million on potentially a #4 starter?

Considering we have absolutely no clue how Mike’s children will run this organization once he dies (anyone check his pulse since I started writing this article?), I say we celebrate and encourage the “Dying Ilitch” era of Tiger Baseball.

It sure as shit beats the “I Owe Japanese Banks Tons of Money” era.

The organization is coming off a season in which three million fans passed through the Comerica Park turnstiles.  The team’s TV deal with Fox Sports Detroit is about to get renegotiated and since the franchise’s games are the HIGHEST RATED PROGRAM in Detroit on a nightly basis even though they are broadcast by Stupor Mario and Bojangles Allen, Olympia Entertainment is going to get a bump in revenue right there.

The Ilitch Family is worth approximately 2.7 billion dollars which means the signing of Anibal Sanchez to them is the cost of a few Hot and Ready Pizzas for us.

And I am pretty confident this chip will fall considering Ilitch’s first question of Dombrowski and Company after the Hunter signing was, “Where do we stand on Sanchez?”

Well, according to Danny “The” KNOBler, that is what the 83-year old billionaire said.

And who told “Mail-Order Asian Bride” Knobler this information? I am guessing Dombrowski.  Read into that what you will …….

2) Trade Nick Castellanos, Avisail Garcia, Andy Dirks, Drew Smyly and Bruce Rondon for Giancarlo Stanton

And if that isn’t enough, throw in a few grams of Junior’s blow.  Allegedly.

Yeah, I am fully aware that Marlins brass is telling the league right now that this ridiculously talented outfielder is not on the market.  Of course, these are the same people who promised taxpayers that if they financed a half-a-billion dollar stadium they wouldn’t sell half of their team to Canada so I’d take that statement with a factory of salt.

I am sure we are just days away from Mike Giancarlo Albert Joey Guillermo Willie Metta World Peace Stanton demanding a trade due to his unhappiness with the team’s dumping of Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.

He already Tweeted that the deal pissed him off.  Then he changed his Twat Box avatar from a picture of himself in a Miami uniform to a plain black shirt.

By Saturday, I am guessing he will have stained a vintage Bobby Bonilla jersey with mustard, dragged the 1997 and 2003 Commissioner’s Trophies around the Marlins Park parking lot in a late-model Silver Buick and dished out numerous platitudes towards Raul Castro.

We already know that Dombrowski treats the Marlins front-office like a late-night Fuck Buddy so if he decides to make the above-referenced Godfather Offer™ (Justin Spiro) to Michael Hill, how can the Miami GM say no?

I am pretty sure the Marlins only have about four players under contract currently and one of them is always one social media message away from a suspension (Logan Morrison) so I am guessing they might be interested in a Top 10 prospect, a quality outfielder with a 2012 OPS north of .800, a dude who would be their #2 starter at WORST, another decent outfield prospect who three weeks ago was starting WORLD SERIES games and a flame-throwing closer.

And did I mention Castellanos is from nearby Davie, Florida and Avisail’s last name is GARCIA!!!!!

Of course, the Tigers would be giving up their entire farm system, but have you EVER SEEN STANTON PLAY??!?!?!!?? The dude is a fucking monster who in 2012 had an OBP of .361, a slugging percentage of .608 and an OPS of .969.

Oh sorry, I didn’t mean to confuse Tigers fans who are currently celebrating the hollow MVP balloting between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout.  When’s the parade down Woodward?

What I meant to say is Stanton had 37 HRs, 86 RBI and a .290 batting average.

AND he didn’t turn 23 until seven flipping days ago.

It will be an absolute crime against humanity if Castellanos is still a member of the Tigers organization when the 2013 postseason commences.

First of all, who knows if the kid is going to be any good? Based on what? Dombrowski’s wonderful history in Detroit of developing position players?

The kid didn’t light it up in Erie upon his Double-A promotion and then struggled through the Arizona Fall League.  The time to trade him is NOW when his value is still exceedingly high instead of waiting six months for him to struggle a la Jacob Turner.

And even if Castellanos lives up to the hype it won’t be for another couple of years and by that time Mr. I could be six-feet under and his succession plan might be proceeding as well as Bill Davidson’s.

We gotta win before Ilitch croaks.  There are ZERO guarantees once his body turns room temperature.

3) The Justin Upton Backup Plan

And if the Marlins stubbornly refuse to deal Stanton, there is always the Justin Upton route which would come at a lesser cost than what I mentioned above for Giancarlo.

Seriously, who gives a shit about prospects when your intended trade target is under 25 years old anyway and can be peddled for DIFFERENT PROSPECTS in a few years under any potential worst case scenario?

4) Acquire a right-handed catcher who can platoon with Alex Avila AND HIT LEFTIES

The problem in 2012 wasn’t the idea of platooning Avila with a right-handed bat considering Avila’s immense struggles with left-handed pitching.

The MISTAKE was doing so with a righty who had a reverse platoon split in Gerald Laird.

When facing LHP in 2012, Avila had a batting average of .176, an OBP of .304 and an anemic slugging percentage of .235.  Just horrid numbers.

Unfortunately, Laird was only slightly better vs. LHP with an OPS of .622.  This loser actually enjoyed an OPS of .828 vs. RHP in 2012 which really helped us when Jim Leyland kept throwing LARD out there against LHP during the postseason.

A postseason by the way in which Laird went 1-for-20 (the 1 was a single) with ZERO WALKS.  And the hardest ball he hit all October was in Game 4 of the World Series when he BUNTED a line shot to Brandon Belt on an attempted SACRIFICE.

Yet, that still isn’t the fuckstick’s most embarrassing “postseason” performance considering the Game 163 debacle in 2009 when he went 0-for-6 and stranded more men than Oceanic Flight 815.

Considering Avila’s splits are getting perilously close to Curtis Granderson territory and his knees can use some rest a couple of times a week, it would be very nice to acquire a catcher in the mold of Ronny Paulino.

Paulino, who spent the 2012 season with the Orioles, would be a cheap addition to the team especially for a backstop who has a career OPS of .844 versus LHP.

And unlike Laird, I don’t want Ronny Paulino to die a violent death.  Maybe, if we are lucky, the Arch in St. Louis will collapse on “G-Money’s” esophagus.

Never.

Forget.

And I am not saying that Paulino is the only answer or they HAVE to sign him.  Hell, he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire the last couple of years.  But, it would be nice to add an inexpensive backup catcher who can do SOMETHING against LHP.

Like, ANYTHING.

The 2002 Red Wings wouldn’t have employed someone with the resume of Bryan Holoday and neither should the 2013 Tigers.

5) Add a decent relief pitcher or two (NOT A CLOSER) and avoid the conventional bullpen

I have never been a fan of the modern day bullpen.  7th inning guy.  Set-up guy.  Closer.

It is an asinine thought process to ALWAYS use the same formula no matter the relevant circumstances of a game.  Especially on nights when you need FOUR pitchers to perform successfully (including the starter) just so you can eek out a victory.

And it would seem to totally go against the Tigers fundamental way of looking at baseball to employ such a sabermetric friendly idea when you consider just a few weeks ago, Dombrowski was proudly boasting that his team reached the World Series without utilizing “Moneyball” theories.

But if the organization has no plan on replacing Valverde, then a bullpen by committee is the most prudent avenue to choose.

I am not about to spend 2,000 more words explaining why this scenario is optimal for the 2013 Tigers, so I will let Jonah Keri do it:

http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/23416/blowing-up-baseballs-most-dangerous-stat

Imagine.  Basing a bullpen decision on actual data instead of a job title.

Like, if ya gotta get out a few lefties you insert Phil Coke.  Need a strikeout? Put in Al City Breaking Bad is Filmed In.  Have to deal with a righty who doesn’t have a lot of punch? Joaquín Benoit.  A situation entails absolutely ZERO reading of the MLB rule book? Brayan Villareal might be your guy.

Of course, with Leyland managing this team, we have as much chance of this occurring as Dominos getting a food license inside of Comerica Park.

Anyway, that is my five-point plan for Mike Ilitch and he only needs to adhere to it if he wants the best chance to win a World Series before he drops dead.  (Starting the season tomorrow and reducing the schedule to 15 games might help as well.)

Of course, it isn’t a guarantee of anything other than doing everything humanly possible to insure the Tigers have the best team in 2013 that they can possibly field.

Even the 2002 Wings had their struggles with a team that employed TEN future Hall of Famers.  They were down 0-2 to the Canucks in the first round before a half-court shot by Nick Lidstrom trickled in.

And they needed seven games to defeat the Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals.

But, give me a roster that looks like this against RHP:

1) Austin Jackson (CF)
2) Victor Martinez (DH)
3) Miguel Cabrera (3B)
4) Prince Fielder (1B)
5) Giancarlo Stanton or Justin Upton (RF)
6) Torii Hunter (LF)
7) Alex Avila (C)
8) Jhonny Peralta (SS)
9) Omar Infante (2B)

And this against LHP:

1) Austin Jackson (CF)
2) Torii Hunter (LF)
3) Miguel Cabrera (3B)
4) Prince Fielder (1B)
5) Giancarlo Stanton or Justin Upton (RF)
6) Victor Martinez (DH)
7) Jhonny Peralta (SS)
8) Omar Infante (2B)
9) Right-Handed Catcher to Be Named Later

And a starting rotation of Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.

I am not even sure Jim Leyland could fuck that team up.  Nor would Cancer Stick ever have to hear about his lineup since it would basically be idiot proof.

And I will take my chances.

You can never guarantee winning a short series based on a multitude of factors, but by following the 2002 Red Wings schematic you can assure yourself of one thing ……

You’ve done EVERYTHING possible to win and have left no stone unturned.

After another miserable end to the season, we deserve THIS.

And so does Mike Ilitch.