2012 Previews: A.L. Central
It will be one of those freaks of baseball nature, not unlike the year the St. Louis Browns won the pennant because all their players were just physically bad enough to not be drafted for World War 2, or the year the Reds won the most games in the National League yet did not make the playoffs. The Detroit Tigers, with probably the worst defensive starting line-up in the majors today – and one of the worst of all-time among serious contenders – will likely blow through the American League Central and could easily start the playoffs as the odds-on favorite to win the ALCS and even The Series.
Consider them, and leave your images of them at bat, back in your mental dugout:
— Prince Fielder at first base: Decent forward motion for a man of his size, and unexpected ups, too. But going after a liner to either side should be accompanied by a public address system announcement of “timber.”
— Ryan Rayburn at second: You need to see the video again of him doing the Jai-Alai bit in left field to send Miguel Olivo’s fly ball over the fence? Here’s the link.
— Jhonny Peralta at short: This is an ex-shortstop turned third baseman and reconverted to short. And he’s the infield stalwart.
— Miguel Cabrera at third: No.
— Delmon Young in left: This will make you hanker for Raburn.
— Brennan Boesch in right: Immobile.
— Alex Avila catching: He’s a gifted receiver but, without Victor Martinez to help him out, the temptation for Jim Leyland to play him 133 more times behind the plate will be huge. His exhaustion down the stretch last year was ultimately disastrous.
You’ll notice I left out Austin Jackson. Obviously he is one of the best centerfielders in the game, not just fast but instinctive on balls off the bat, and in his throwing. But between Young and Boesch (or any of the alternatives) in that of all ballparks, they are asking him to cover a lot of ground.
But of course this is academic. When Salvador Perez and Joakim Soria went down, they postponed any chance of a KANSAS CITY uprising until next season. The Royals needed everything to break their way to offer a serious challenge, and we already know it won’t. They can live without Soria but pulling either Greg Holland or Jonathan Broxton out of their set-up pool will wind up overburdening the rotation. I still think the Royals could manage a second-place finish, but it’ll be distant behind a Tiger offense and pitching staff that are each 50% better than anything else in the division.
CLEVELAND is beginning to understand that if Ubaldo Jimenez did not hit his high water mark at the 2010 All-Star Game, he did so in the “Zander?” commercial with Jorge De La Ros about the bicycle license plates. How they could not see that he had lost command and speed suggests the Indians need to sign up for cable or a dish. That he cost them Drew Pomeranz and Alex White may come to haunt the Indians the way the Mike Napoli deal haunts the Angels. Manny Acta will get everything out of this team, but exactly who is going to make the decision to pull Jimenez out of the rotation?
Sometimes rebuilds can be fun. Consider the rookies and sophomores in CHICAGO: closer-in-waiting Addison Reed, relievers Hector Santiago and Nate Jones, third baseamn Brent Morel, rightfielder (well, hitter in right field) Dayan Viciedo, and, the most intriguing prospect of them all, Manager Robin Ventura. The White Sox will struggle to see .500 but Ventura’s extraordinary equanimity, devious humor, and quiet command will set a tone for quick recovery. Whether the White Sox have enough coming up through the pipeline to make them contenders in the near term is another thing all together.
Before you cast stones at MINNESOTA – be honest. Did you cry “no” when they gave then-recent-MVP Justin Morneau the big money? Did you say it was ludicrous when they gave Joe Mauer his $184,000,000 or did you extol the virtues of the small market team that could somehow afford to keep its hometown hero? You didn’t warn, I didn’t, the fans didn’t, and Twins ownership didn’t. And now we’re all on a possibly-irreversible trip to an AL Central version of the current events in Houston or Pittsburgh: exquisite new ballpark, faithful fans, and a team that can’t even afford to retain a Delmon Young during a season or a rehabbed Joe Nathan following it. It’s grim and it’s a reminder that Cincinnati is one blown-out kneecap away from having to give 51% of the franchise ownership to a suddenly-retired Joey Votto in lieu of paying a suddenly-retired Joey Votto.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL FORECAST:
Tigers, with or without a Statuary Defense, should win this division by double digits. The Royals and Indians will fight for second (and fight to stay over .500) and the White Sox will likely come in a few notches under. The Twins may be bad enough for the team to have to put up twelve-foot high fences to keep their most loyal fans from throwing themselves into the Fire Pits at Target Field.
Oh Keith, you do have evidence of all the times she drove you to school. You are brilliant! She was a wonderful, beautiful mother, like mine. This is also Dr. King’s anniversary of his death, I believe. I enjoyed what you wrote about baseball, but it didn’t make me cry. Hugs.
Fortunately for the Tigers it has been proven long ago that a strong offense can make up for a poor defense in baseball. The Dodgers of the 1970s showed that (converted outfielders at short and second, a converted third baseman at first base who had no range, and a converted outfielder catching). However, in short post-season series, there often arise situations where an error or a misplay that isn’t technically an error (think missed cutoff man or ball just out of reach or a double play that should have been turned) can swing an entire series. That should worry Tigers fans, because they have a lot of softball-type players in their lineup.
Hi Keith, Ok, not a baseball junkie like you, but read through most of lawsuit paperwork. Geez, blackmail? For you to continue under such conditions is just another testament to your character. Sorry to read conditions were so terrible for you and your staff. I am hoping it’s just another stepping stone in the right direction. As a loyal viewer for so many years, I as well as others overlooked all the on air mishaps that plagued the show. That night when you lit the candle at the beginning of the broadcast was at least amusing. I do want to thank you for some quality news, especially all of the OWS coverage. Good luck with the lawsuit. Great appearance on Dave’s show too. I think this is all some broad scheme to get out of work so that you could go to all those baseball games like you did last spring! Take care, hope you land somewhere soon. In the meantime, enjoy your baseball games. 🙂
As usual, your wit and charm find me rereading your work. But, so harsh about my Tigers? I would love to see what you would have to say about Mark Fidrych if he were still playing.
The Tigers should win the division easily (look out for the “more is less” Twins) but Cab is going to get hurt playing third and I think Leyland’s moves will cost them in the playoffs. Plus there’s a chance Fister isn’ t the “2” in the 1-2 punch of Verlander-blank. The Yanks will finally beat the Tigers in the playoffs, after beating the Angels in the one game wild card. The Tigers also have a recent history of bad luck– something to bear in mind.
im an Australian so as well as my acquired taste for American sports I love our native football code ‘Aussie Rules (AFL)’. The reason i mention this is because Keith mentioned above the ‘fun rebuild’ in Chicago and i want to confirm how much fun watching a rebuilding team can be. My beloved Hawthorn in the AFL are currently title favorites and have been a contender every year since 2008 (when they unexpectedly won the title) but before that there were 3 years full of losses as we traded our best players for draft picks and committed to youth with a rookie coach. now as much fun as he last 4 years have been, as the team racked up wins I still look back fondly on the 03-07 period that was full of losses as it was during this time I got to watch our current superstars develop and improve whilst making their mistakes and often copping humiliating losses. those memories give me a real sense of ownership of the current team as i watched them grow together, and therefore not only does it make todays winning more enjoyable but i also enjoyed the whole process of watching it come together. So my msg to Sox fans or any rebuilding team fans is dont check out during the losing part of the rebuild with a view to becoming re-engaged when they have developed and start winning, if u do your missing out on one of the great fan experiences, namely, embracing a flawed young group watching them make mistakes and take there lumps before a few years later as they do the victory lap you can truly see them as ‘your guys’ as u got to take the journey with them. Then again maybe im just a dumb sentimental Aussie 🙂
I am rarely rational about my Tigers (or my Spartans) so I am overjoyed to be vindicated! 2012 will be the Year of the Cat!
Keith, anxious to see what you have to say about the NL Central and the Cubbies. Have you seen this? The way too many in Chitown feel: http://youtu.be/7xBxZGQ1dJk year after year after year! (I lived in Chicago for 33 years and was so glad to return home to Michigan and my Tigers!)
My name is Eric Pettis and I have written a book like Dirk Hayhurst’s (who I know you’re a big fan of). “Just A Minor Perspective: Through The Eyes Of A Minor League Rookie” takes readers through my first year in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. I really tried to give people an inside perspective and hopefully readers can feel like they are experiencing everything I experienced in my first year in professional baseball. I would love if you could take a look at it and I would be more than happy to gift you a copy if you’re interested.
Here’s the link to the book page http://www.amazon.com/Just-Minor-Perspective-Through-ebook/dp/B007OO05A0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1333659282&sr=1-1
K, awaiting your assessment of the NL Central…and hoping the baseball gods look favorably upon my Reds. But ye gods, $225 mil for Joey? Ain’t nobody on God’s green earth worth that kind of money. And besides, with Brandon Phillips’s acrobatics and still unsolved contract, um…what’s a small city team to do? C’mon Walt, sign Brandon – he’s the heart of the D and hits like a heller. Sorry, Joey, I like ya and all but…$225 million? Nope. I wouldn’t give that kind of moolah to anybody. This is a kid’s game after all and it’s a privilege that you guys get to play it as long as you do. Personally, I’d love to still be able to play and I’d do it for a lot less just for the sheer damned pleasure of it all. So Keith, yeah, back to you. What think you? I mean besides the one blown kneecap (fingers crossed that that ain’t gonna happen….)
I picked the White Sox to win that division back in spring training, and got laughed at. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was why the Tigers were so highly thought of. A team can’t just ignore the defensive part of the game and expect to be successful. I wonder wet none of the baseball “experts” were able to figure that out.