November 2011

Verlander wins AL MVP

Justin Verlander’s case for winning American League MVP is closed. His trophy case, on the other hand, had better be open, because he’s going to need room.

With a no-hitter, an AL pitching Tripe Crown and a Tigers division title on his resume, Verlander became the first starting pitcher in a quarter-century — and the first Tiger since 1984 — to win AL MVP, beating out former teammate Curtis Granderson and others for the league’s highest individual honor.

Verlander received 13 of 28 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Verlander received three votes for second place and three votes for third. His point total 0f 280 didn’t give him a runaway win, but a safe margin.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who enjoyed a breakthrough season as an all-around hitter for a Red Sox team that fell just short of the AL Wild Card, finished second with 242 points, followed by Jose Bautista and Granderson.

Verlander’s teammate, Miguel Cabrera, finished fifth with 193 points, including two first-place votes. Last year’s runner-up for MVP won the AL batting title with a scorching home stretch in August and September. Alex Avila and Victor Martinez also received votes.

Verlander’s total shows how much voters accepted the idea that a pitcher is worthy of MVP consideration. It would’ve taken just a few voters in adamant opposition to keep him from the honor, since those voters would’ve left him completely off their ballot. That didn’t happen.

Only one voter left Verlander off their ballot completely. Twenty-six of the other 27 voters selected Verlander for sixth place or better, with one vote for eighth.

In a way, it was probably fitting. Verlander became the Tigers’ fifth league MVP in the last 70 seasons. All of them have been pitchers, joining Verlander with former relief great Guillermo Hernandez, former 30-game winner Denny McLain, and back-to-back winner Hal Newhouser.

Tigers make their 40-man roster moves

Lefties Casey Crosby and Matt Hoffman are now on the 40-man roster, as are right-hander Tyler Stohr, outfielder Avisail Garcia and second baseman Hernan Perez. Cale Iorg has been outrighted to Triple-A Toledo. Add in the Gerald Laird signing, and Detroit’s 40-man roster stands at 39 players, allowing space for a free agent signing or a trade if something goes down between now and the winter meetings in a little more than two weeks.

I wrote a roundup yesterday of the roster decisions the Tigers faced. I didn’t include Garcia and Perez on there because I forgot just how young they were when they signed, and that the rules on eligibility applied to them too.

So who does that leave eligible for the Rule 5 draft?

  • Brandon Douglas, 2B/SS: He was part of the picture at second base not long ago, and was a non-roster invite to spring training last year. He didn’t have a bad season at all at Double-A Erie, but at age 26, he’s six years older than Perez. It’s conceivable somebody takes a chance on carrying him as a utility infielder with speed.
  • Jay Voss, LHP: His return to starting pitching was impressive at Double-A Erie, and with his 25th birthday coming up in April, he’s nearing that make-or-break point. If he could take some of those starting qualities and put them into use in relief, he could be intriguing. And hey, he’s left-handed.
  • Gustavo Nunez, SS: You remember this guy from the rave reviews he had going into 2010, including from Dave Dombrowski. He’s had his struggles since then, but he hasn’t been terrible, either.

Also worth noting: While Cale Iorg is no longer on the roster, Will Rhymes and Clete Thomas are. Dombrowski mentioned Rhymes among their internal second-base options at season’s end, though they’d clearly like to find somebody on the market. It would be interesting to see what he could do with another shot if the offense is clicking around him. Thomas struggled through last season until a very good final stretch gave him some decent final numbers with a .251 average, 12 homers, 53 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 23 tries. His skill set greatly overlaps with that of Andy Dirks, but hey, you never know.

Tigers finalize 1-year deal with Gerald Laird

The deal is done, reportedly at $1 million, the same money Laird got with St. Louis last year.

“Gerald is a veteran catcher that is familiar with both our pitching staff and organization,” Tigers President, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager David Dombrowski said. “As a right-handed hitter, he is the solid
complement to Alex Avila as our backup catcher for the 2012 season.”

Tigers, Laird reportedly close to a reunion

The Tigers’ search for a catcher to back up All-Star Alex Avila is apparently leading them back to the catcher who mentored Avila when he first reached the big leagues.

When Gerald Laird and the Tigers parted ways a year ago, Laird was looking for playing time. He ended up as a little-used backup to Yadier Molina in St. Louis this year, but now appears headed back to Detroit. Foxsports.com reports that Laird is close to a deal that would return him to Detroit.

Laird fits the profile of what the Tigers are looking for in a backup. He’s a right-handed hitter with a good amount of experience, good defense and calls a good game. He brings the added bonus of experience working with Tigers pitchers, including Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello for two years.

Laird was the Tigers’ primary catcher in 2009, having been acquired from Texas in a trade for prospects that included Guillermo Moscoso. He batted .225 with four homers and 33 RBIs in 135 games that year for a team that came within a tiebreaker of the AL Central title and had Avila as a late-season call-up. Laird and Avila split time catching in 2010, but Avila got the bulk of the starts down the stretch.

A reunion at this point makes sense. The Tigers went through last year with Victor Martinez backing up Avila, but now don’t want the wear and tear on their designated hitter as he approaches his 33rd birthday next month. Laird hit the market looking for playing time last year, but is now at the stage of his career where he’ll find better opportunities as a No. 2.

Tigers release spring training schedule

The miserable chill of Michigan’s winter is approaching, but the unofficial end is in sight. The Tigers on Wednesday announced their 2012 Spring Training schedule, beginning with their annual exhibition against Florida Southern on Friday, March 2 and running through April 2.

The schedule for the Tigers’ 76th Spring Training in Lakeland, Fla. — continuing the longest-running relationship between a Major League team and its current Spring Training home — and 47th consecutive year at Joker Marchant Stadium includes 18 home games, counting the Florida Southern exhibition. Highlighting the slate are visits from the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, March 17, a rematch against the AL East champion New York Yankees on March 24, and two stops from the NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies.

The Major League portion of the Spring Training slate begins the first weekend in March with a home-and-home set against the Atlanta Braves. The Tigers will head to Disney World on Saturday, March 3, then host the Braves the next day. The Blue Jays come to Marchant Stadium on Monday, March 5.

The home slate is heavily weighted towards early and mid-March. The Tigers go back-to-back days without a game at Marchant Stadium just twice until the final week of camp, fitting in four home games in each of the first three full weeks of play. The Tigers have five home games in a seven-day stretch around traditional spring break time, hosting the Braves, Twins, Yankees, Phillies and Marlins March 20-26.

The Tigers have one night game scheduled on their home slate, a March 29 game against the Nationals at 6:05 p.m. ET. They currently have three sets of split-squad games scheduled, all on Sundays — March 11, March 25 and April 1.

Like the last few years, games are being separated into three different pricing levels. White-level games range from $9 to $22, orange-level games from $12 to $25, and blue-level games. Information on which games are priced at which levels can be found at tigers.com/springtraining under the tickets tab.

Full-season Spring Training ticket packages are on sale now online at tigers.com/springtraining, by phone at 863-686-8075, or in person at the Joker Marchant Stadium ticket office. Fans can also purchase mini-plans of five games or more online or by phone. Individual game tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Saturday, January 7 at tigers.com, the Marchant Stadium ticket office or by phone at 866-66-TIGER.

TIGERS 2012 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Thu., March 2 – FLORIDA SOUTHERN
Fri., March 3 – at Braves
Sat., March 4 – BRAVES
Mon, March 5 – BLUE JAYS
Tue., March 6 – at Marlins
Wed., March 7 – BRAVES
Thu., March 8 – at Rays
Fri., March 9 – PHILLIES
Sat., March 10 – NATIONALS
Sun., March 11 (split squad) – at Astros, at Phillies
Mon., March 12 – METS
Tue., March 13 – Nationals @ Viera, 6:05
Wed., March 14 – METS
Thu., March 15 – ORIOLES
Fri., March 16 – Mets @ Port St. Lucie
Sat., March 17 – CARDINALS
Sun., March 18 – Nationals @ Viera, 1:05
Mon., March 19 – Phillies @ Clearwater, 1:05
Tue., March 20 – BRAVES
Wed., March 21 – TWINS
Thu., March 22 – Off-day
Fri., March 23 – Pirates @ Bradenton
Sat., March 24 – YANKEES
Sun., March 25 (split squad) – PHILLIES, Yankees @ Tampa, 1:05
Mon., March 26 – MARLINS
Tue., March 27 – Astros @ Kissimmee
Wed., March 28 – Cardinals @ Jupiter
Thu., March 29 – NATIONALS (6:05)
Fri., March 30 – Orioles @ Sarasota
Sat., March 31 – Braves @ Disney World, 1:05
Sun., April 1 (split squad) – ASTROS, Mets @ Port St. Lucie
Mon., April 2 – BLUE JAYS
Tues., April 3 – Blue Jays @ Dunedin

Leyland 2nd in AL Manager of the Year balloting

As expected, the the Rays’ run to the playoffs earned AL Manager of the Year honors for Joe Maddon, made official on Wednesday. The mild surprise, however, was Jim Leyland finishing second, and getting a first-place vote.

Maddon received all but two of the 28 first-place votes from BBWAA members in AL cities. Leyland got one, and Texas’ Ron Washington received the other. Leyland received 13 out of 28 second-place votes, compared with seven for Washington. Cleveland’s Manny Acta earned three second-place votes and seven votes for third.

For someone who entered the season on the managerial hot seat, with no contract for 2012 and a mandate to win, the vote completes an impressive year.

“I’m proud of myself because I never wavered,” Leyland told reporters Sept. 30. “I was supposed to be fired ten times this year. I only had one year left in my contract and all that. … I never get too excited about that. You go out and try to do the best you can. It wasn’t going to change anything I do. I’m proud I’m here today. It wasn’t going to change anything I do. I like to think I work hard each and every day. I was going to do the best I can and whatever the situation was it was.

“But usually you’re sitting up here having this press conference because you have really good players, and there’s no manager that ever sat up here without the good players. Nobody, I don’t care who it was. That’s why I’m here today.”

Dombrowski shares TSN Executive of the Year award

News out of the General Managers meetings in Milwaukee tonight includes a headline for Dave Dombrowski that doesn’t involve a trade or a signing. The Tigers CEO/president/general manager has been named a co-winner of this year’s Sporting News Executive of the Year Award, sharing the honor with Brewers GM Doug Melvin.

It’s the first tie since the award began in 1936. It was decided by votes of 55 Major League front-office members, with Dombrowski and Melvin earning 13 votes each.

Amazingly for somebody with more than 20 years as a GM, Dombrowski is a first-time winner. Minnesota’s Terry Ryan beat him out in 2006, when the Tigers went to the World Series. Pittsburgh’s Cam Bonifay won it in 1997, when Dombrowski’s Florida Marlins won a world championship.

Those were two wild card teams in two different stages of construction. This year, Detroit’s first division title since 1987 — and the late-season charge with a trade-bolstered roster that earned it for them — was the right situation for Dombrowski to earn some recognition.

Dombrowski already had credit for one of the best free-agent signings of the offseason, wooing Victor Martinez instead of Adam Dunn. His aggressive signing of Joaquin Benoit paid dividends after early-season struggles. But he was at his best in July and August, when he swung deals for Wilson Betemit and Doug Fister around the deadline before making an under-the-radar trade for Delmon Young in mid-August.

The Fister trade in particular, especially in comparison to the Ubaldo Jimenez deal that Cleveland made around the same time, was a stunner for how well it worked out. Fister came to Detroit looking like a middle-rotation arm, but pitched like a front-liner down the stretch, especially against the Indians.

All of this happened in what began as a must-win contract year for Dombrowski, who received a four-year extension from owner Mike Ilitch in early August.

Dombrowski is just the third Tigers executive to win the award. Longtime general manager Jim Campbell won it in 1968 in the wake of the Tigers’ World Series title that fall. Former team owner Walter Briggs Sr. won it in 1940, a year the Tigers won the American League pennant.

Verlander makes his MVP argument

Just because Justin Verlander doesn’t want to diminish his AL Cy Young award by focusing on MVP, doesn’t mean he doesn’t want it.

MVP voting wrapped up a month and a half ago, but if Verlander is asked whether he believes pitchers should be eligible for MVP, he isn’t going to hold back his opinion. It came up Tuesday in his Cy Young conference call with reporters, and his answer was similar to what he gave MLB Network a couple weeks ago.

“Pitchers are on the ballot. We are players,” Verlander said. I’ve talked about it. Two arguments: One is the rmendous effect that we have on the day of our game. If we have a bad day, 95 percent of the time we’re gonna lose. If we have a good day, 85-90 percent of the time we’re gonna win. You save the bullpen the day after, the day of.”

The flip side of that, Verlander argues, is that a player can have a three-homer game in defeat, easily.

The other argument he made is that the criteria for Cy Young consideration has changed as well, from the most valuable pitcher to the best pitcher.

“For me, the trend recently for the Cy Young has gone to the best statistical pitcher,” Verlander said. “And for me, I think that bolsters the case for the MVP. Now, it’s not the most valuable pitcher. It’s the best statistical pitcher, which is a totally different thing. And like I said, that bolsters the case [for pitchers as MVP].”

Manager Jim Leyland took up his case again as well, though he didn’t have a conference call as a forum.

“He definitely deserves it,” Leyland said. “I hope he gets it. I hope people adhere to the policy which they [are supposed to] go by. And if they do, I think he’s going to get it.”
In other words, Leyland continued: “If he’s allowed to get it, then he should get it.

If a pitcher’s allowed to win MVP, he should definitely win it.”

Verlander wins Cy Young by unanimous vote

If you were worried about Verlander’s chances, you shouldn’t be. All 28 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America went to Verlander, who won the AL pitching Triple Crown. Here’s the story from the site.

Jered Weaver, whom Verlander outpitched July 31 at Comerica Park, took second place over James Shields and CC Sabathia. In a bit of a surprise, Jose Valverde finished fifth, including one second-place vote and three votes for third.

Dombrowski: Tigers unlikely to bid on Reyes, Rolllins, Ramirez

Credit MLB Network Radio’s Jim Bowden for his interview Friday afternoon with Dave Dombrowski, who reiterated his stance that aren’t going to be getting into a bidding frenzy on Jose Reyes, or Jimmy Rollins, or Aramis Ramirez. The Ramirez remark was new compared to last week, since Ramirez is a third baseman rather than a shortstop.

Bowden asked Dombrowski if there’s “any chance that you guys could play on a Reyes or Rollins … or any chance you would have interest in Aramis Ramirez, that kind of player?”

Dombrowski’s answer:

“Well, I kind of doubt it, would be my answer to that. I wouldn’t discount anything. I think our approach this wintertime is, we’re going to look to get better probably in smaller increments, but you never can tell what takes place in the wintertime. If something falls in your lap, and if it’s something — we have a tremendous owner in Mike Ilitch, he’s very aggressive — and if something falls in your lap … but I can’t see us being the leader in the front in those things. Because in our situation here, and we have a very hefty payroll, but we’re in a spot where you’re talking about having a Verlander and a Cabrera. You’ve got two $20 million guys, and in our market, you can only have so many of those type of guys. So I would doubt it, but again, you never know where dollars end up and what may fall through as the winter goes on.”

Read into the remarks, and the scenario kind of sounds like if one of those guys ends up in a situation like Pudge Rodriguez or Magglio Ordonez faced when they signed with Detroit years ago, where the Tigers were the last players on the market and not in a bidding competition. Reyes already sounds like he’s going to have no shortage of interest. Rollins has the option of going back to Philadelphia, where the Phillies don’t have to sign somebody else to replace him. With more demand than supply at third base, it’ll be interesting to see how the market develops on Ramirez at age 33.

Dombrowski also said emphatically that they’ll offer Delmon Young a contract. he left a slight opening, but not nearly as big as it seemed a week ago.

“I mean, we’re not going to non-tender Delmon Young. I mean, that’s just not going to happen,” he said. “But now, when I say that, you always put one-thousandth of a percent [open], if something falls on your lap, that you don’t anticipate. But we like Delmon Young. Delmon Young did a fine job for us, and he’s in a situation this year that he’s going into the last year of his contract, as we’re all aware, his free agency year.

“He did not play as well with Minnesota early. He had some injuries coming back from the offseason. He got a little bit bigger, and I think he got bigger from all conversations, in his own mind thinking he needed to add more power. Well, to me, Delmon doesn’t need to add more power. This guy’s got tremendous power all over the ballpark. He’s a guy that’s going to hit 20, 25, 30 home runs and knock in 100 for us. And so, we’re not going to non-tender Delmon. It would just be a situation where something just completely out of the blue took place. He’s our left fielder and look for his bat in the lineup on a daily basis.”

For the audio on the Dombrowski interview, MLB Network Radio has the link on its Facebook page. You can also click to it here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 24,792 other followers