Kirk Gibson cited a combination of estate planning and scholarship fundraising as he discussed his move to put up some of his items from the 1988 World Series for auction online, including his bat, helmet and uniform from his memorable Game 1 home run. For now, though, he’s holding onto the artifacts he has from his Tigers days, including the 1984 World Series.
“Not right now,” Gibson said on a conference call. “This is kind of a first step. We’ll see how this goes. I’ve retained all my Tiger stuff right now. I just have my reasons. We’ll just leave it at that.”
Those items presumably will stay in the Michigan warehouse where he has piled up so many items he has collected over the years. He bought that storage space back in 1978 and collected a slew of items, not just from baseball, but just in life.
“Pretty soon I had a warehouse full of everything — cars, boats, memorabilia, things I saved,” Gibson said. “I never considered myself a collector. Got to the point where I needed to start going through it. I went through all of my memorabilia as part of that. I had all this stuff.”
Pretty soon, the stuff piled up, even though Gibson himself says he’s never considered himself a collector. He worried about what to do with that stuff down the road, what would happen to it in a fire or something. But just as important, he also worried about a legacy, of carrying on the commitment to education his parents established as high school educators.
This auction allows him to do that. Proceeds will go towards his foundation, which has in turn donated money towards a scholarship fund at Michigan State as well as at Clarkston and Waterford Kettering High Schools, where his parents worked.
“These are things that, I don’t want to say I don’t value them, but I just thought I’d donate them to my foundation,” Gibson said. “I just thought it would be better for me, before I go, before my mom goes, I want to make sure they understand my commitment to giving back. So I put those into my foundation.”
The Tigers have become known for giving former players a shot at managing with minor-league posts, from Bruce Fields in the 1990s to Tom Brookens, Matt Walbeck and Phil Nevin more recently. Ernie Young wasn’t a Tigers player for long, and he already has a few years of managerial experience, but he’s set to be the next ex-Tigers player to manage.
The Tigers normally don’t announce their Minor League coaching staffs until they’re just about set at every level, and that hasn’t happened yet. But they have an opening to fill at low Class A West Michigan, after Joe DePastino shifted into a teaching role as the organization’s roving catching instructor.
AOL FanHouse reported over the weekend that Young, a longtime Minor League veteran who spent 2003 in the Tigers system, will take over. No final hire has been made, according to a team source, but unless something falls through, all signs point to Young getting the job.
It would not be a first chance. Young managed in the White Sox organization the last two years at Class A Kannapolis, and just finished a stint last week managing Team USA in the Pan Am Games qualifying tournament. His hitting coach for Team USA: Leon “Bull” Durham, his hitting coach as a player at Triple-A Toledo in 2003 and still the Mud Hens hitting coach.
Young went 2-for-11 in his brief stint as a Tiger that year, one of 17 seasons he spent in pro ball. He made it to the big leagues one more time, with the Indians in 2004, before retiring after the 2007 season.
Joining Young at West Michigan could be another ex-Tiger, Ben Ogilvie. TigsTown.com reported Ogilvie is expected to be named the Whitecaps’ hitting coach.
DePastino’s move is not being taken necessarily as a demotion. Speculation pointed towards a change back in August when another former Tiger, Kevin Hooper, told the Wichita Eagle he had been offered the West Michigan job. At that point, the Whitecaps were rallying towards a wild card spot in the Midwest League playoffs, making them the only Tigers affiliate to reach the postseason.
“My new job is one I’ve always wanted,” DePastino told the Grand Rapids Press. “I’ve been a catcher my whole life, and while I love managing, being with the catchers full time is a good gig.”
Andrew Graham was the roving catching instructor this season, but he’s expected to move into a full-time coaching role, possibly a managerial post.
There was no response from the Tigers Thursday to a report that Magglio Ordonez could be playing winter ball this year to prove the recovery of his ankle. But it appears that if Magglio is indeed playing winter ball, it’s news to them.
Especially in Venezuela, this is the time of year when a lot of winter ball rumors pop up. Carlos Guillen seems to pop up in those rumors annually. The reports on Ordonez seem to be varied coming out a media gathering for the Caribes de Anzoátegui. After a radio reporter in Venezuela reported that Ordonez could be available as soon as mid-November, the Venezuelan publication Lider en Deportes cited club officials saying Ordonez might be available in early December. Given the recovery timetable for Ordonez following his August ankle surgery, the later report seems more realistic.
Normally, any report of a prominent Major Leaguer under long-term contract playing winter ball has to be taken with a grain of salt. Venezuelan players get a ton of pressure from home to play and help out their respective teams, and a lot of times they’ll leave the possibility open for reporters, knowing that their big-league clubs will be the bad guy and say they can’t play.
Ordonez used to fall under that category. Now, though, he’s a free agent, and there’s a motivation for him to play this winter. If he can how his ankle is healthy and moving around relatively well, he can answer some serious questions, for the Tigers and other teams, while it can still affect contract negotiations. If Ordonez plans on playing in December, and Major League scouts plan to watch him, that backs up the notion that he will not be a quick sign, which seemingly backs up the possibility that the Tigers could move on without him if the right opportunity pops up.
Miguel Cabrera is a physical presence at 6-foot-4, with a listed weight of 240. In real life, he doesn’t need a whole lot of protection.
In baseball, Miguel Cabrera received 32 intentional walks this season, more than any American League player received since 1993, and more than the next two highest AL totals this year. He could use some protection in the lineup.
In a year when the Tigers have potentially more than $50 million to spend on upgrading the club, protecting Cabrera with at least one proven hitter will be one of team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski’s two biggest goals, if not the biggest.
Help could be in the form of a corner outfielder, of which there are many potentially set to hit the mark. It could be in the form of a designated hitter, and Dombrowski didn’t rule out the idea of going back to a full-time DH again. They could do multiple signings, something Dombrowski hinted at when he talked Sunday about being nimble in this market. But some way, they need to bulk up the heart of the lineup.
“We need a middle of the order bat to drive in runs,” Dombrowski said. “We have to have that. And it’s most likely going to come either in the outfield or at DH, or both, because we already have that type of bat at first base. There are other areas [where it could come], and that’s why we need to be flexible this winter in what we do. But those are the most likely areas that it would come.”
The difference that support makes can be seen in the splits. Cabrera, and in turn the Tigers, were at their best in May, June and early July, when Magglio Ordonez was getting on base in front of Cabrera, and rookie Brennan Boesch was proving to be a potent run producer behind him. His top two months in terms of OPS were May and July, and three of his top four months for RBIs came in that span.
Once opposing pitchers began approaching Boesch differently after the All-Star break, and his amazing production went south, the walk totals on Cabrera logically soared. Once Ordonez suffered his season-ending ankle fracture, of course, Cabrera’s RBI opportunities dipped.
Ordonez’s injury set in motion a lot of moving parts. Once it became clear he wouldn’t get enough at-bats to best his $15 million option, it became the club’s decision whether to pick it up. Dombrowski announced Sunday that they won’t pick it up, making Ordonez a free agent this winter.
The Tigers and Ordonez have mutual interest in working out a deal, but it’s going to take some creativity, beyond simply the contract terms. The Tigers have to look at Ordonez’s recovery from ankle surgery as it goes along and project how much time he can realistically play in the field at age 37.
“At this point, I don’t know how much you consider him being an outfielder compared to also where it fits into [him] being a DH,” Dombrowski said. “I think you have two spots you’re talking about, and see where eventually he kind of fits into that.”
If the Tigers re-sign Ordonez, Dombrowski indicated, it likely wouldn’t be their only signing. But if Ordonez is back, can they still sign someone for the DH slot, or would they need that fifth hitter to play the outfield at least some?
For what it’s worth, Dombrowski’s comments indicate he’s more open to having a full-time DH again than he might’ve been, say, two years ago with an older lineup.
“I guess you’d prefer not to,” Dombrowski said, “but would we consider that? I think we’ll consider anything that gives us some offense in the middle of the lineup at this time, that we think we need, somebody that can drive in some runs. Ideally you’d prefer not to have it, but if that’s the way it fit in, that’s the way it fit in.
“One thing is that we don’t have as many players going forward that are older. I mean, we’ve kind of turned into a little bit younger club. So most guys can go out there and play most days. You might look to give a day off to somebody once in a while, and then [manager Jim Leyland] can decide who he wants to DH at that particular time, but we don’t have a lot of older players. … If the right guy fit, we’d sign a DH.”
Dombrowski said the Tigers would prefer to add at least one left-handed bat to their lineup. That could come internally, if Carlos Guillen is ready for the start of the season after microfracture surgery, or if Boesch wins an expected competition for an outfield spot. More likely, though, they’d like one of the bats they sign to come from the left side.
That shouldn’t be a big problem to find on the free-agent market, where the top end could potentially include slugger Adam Dunn and multi-tooled catalyst Carl Crawford, among others. Dunn, specifically, would seem to fit a DH type of role, though he has told reporters in Washington he’d rather not do that full-time.
Dombrowski isn’t getting into any names at this point, other than the guys on his team, but he believes there’s enough on the free-agent market for them to find help. He also has players on the team who can supplement that.
One of those guys is Ryan Raburn, who might finally be poised for close to an everyday role. Dombrowski stopped just shy of labeling him as such, but made it clear he has stepped up in importance to the lineup.
“I don’t know if he’ll be an everyday outfielder or not, but I think we feel he could be a primary guy,” Dombrowski said. “How many at-bats that entails, I don’t know. It depends on who else is with our club at that time, how the manager makes out the lineup, how he produces. But we look at him as being an important part of our team, and a guy that’s going to play a lot. I wouldn’t say he’s an everyday outfielder yet, but he’s going to play a lot.”
Just finished a long, long conversation with Dave Dombrowski, and he pretty much mapped out the Tigers’ offseason plans and priorities. The biggest point of it: The Tigers will indeed be looking for a middle-of-the-order bat, either in the outfield or at DH, but they want to keep Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta at 3B and SS, respectively.
- Alex Avila is going to get the majority of the starts at catcher next year. As Dombrowski said, “We’re going to give Alex Avila the primary responsibility at catcher.”
- Dombrowski stopped short of saying Ryan Raburn is an everyday outfielder, but he came awfully close. “I think we feel he can be a primary guy,” Dombrowski said. “I wouldn’t say he’s an everyday guy, but he’s going to play a lot.”
- Confirming what Dombrowski told WDFN next month, they’ll go into next season with Will Rhymes and Scott Sizemore competing for time at second base. Dombrowski also said Danny Worth could see time there, as could Carlos Guillen when he’s healthy.
- Dombrowski on Rhymes: “We like what we see. We think he has a chance to be a spark for us.”
- Dombrowski seconded what Leyland said earlier about the bullpen as a priority. “Ideally, we’d like to have one more guy in the back end,” said Dombrowski, who used Brandon Lyon as an example of the kind of signing they’d like to make there.
- The Tigers will not be pursuing Cliff Lee, or anyone at the very top end of the free-agent starting market. However, Dombrowski cautioned that they won’t necessarily be looking for a stereotypical fifth starter.
- The Tigers are open to having a full-time DH, if that’s what it takes to add a bat in the middle of the order. In other words, they can find room for Adam Dunn.
- Brennan Boesch and Casper Wells will compete for outfield spots next year.
For those of you who figured something was up when Phil Coke was named to start today’s season finale, you were right. After Jim Leyland said earlier this month that he was still unsure whether Coke was better suited as a starter or a reliever, Leyland said Sunday morning, “My intention is to have Phil Coke in the rotation.”
Leyland said he’s load up his lineup with right-handed hitters against Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz, and he wasn’t kidding. Aside from first baseman Don Kelly, it’s an entirely right-handed lineup, including Scott Sizemore as the designated hitter.
- Jackson, CF
- Santiago, 2B
- Raburn, LF
- Peralta, SS
- Wells, RF
- Inge, 3B
- Kelly, 1B
- Sizemore, DH
- St. Pierre, C
- Corey Patterson, LF
- Nick Markakis, RF
- Jake Fox, DH
- Luke Scott, 1B
- Felix Pie, CF
- Ty Wigginton, 3B
- Matt Wieters, C
- Robert Andino, 2B
- Cesar Izturis, SS
A Jake Fox backswing knocked Tigers catcher Gerald Laird out of Friday night’s game against the Orioles with a bruised left shoulder after three innings. His status for this weekend’s games wasn’t immediately known, meaning he might have played his final game as a Tiger.