What to make of Joe Nathan and his Tigers tenure

A month ago, the debate was what Joe Nathan exactly said about the fans in Detroit. It now appears he won’t throw another pitch in front of them, or if he throws another pitch at all.

Though Nathan talked about trying a comeback from his torn UCL and flexor pronator, it would appear likely he threw his final pitch on the mound at Triple-A Toledo on a chilly April afternoon before thousands of schoolkids. It would be an odd ending for one of the greatest closers of his generation. But then, Nathan’s Tiger tenure in general never quite went to script.

In the end, it will probably be regarded nationally a footnote on a great career, and locally as one of those Tigers closer acquisitions that didn’t work out (Troy Percival and Ugueth Urbina were others, but Nathan did more in his season than Percival and Urbina did in theirs).

As Nathan grew emotional talking with reporters this morning, you could sense that the gravity of the career was hitting him, whether it’s over or not.

“I want people to understand,” Nathan said. “I think people sometimes don’t realize how much work and effort goes into playing this game, to just the last couple of years but over the course of a career. Playing this game and going out there, preparing yourself every day, the things sometimes we have to do, take anti-inflammatories on a daily basis, get numerous cortisone shots. Trainers are in there hours on end, trying to make sure we’re physically ready to go. It’s tough, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, but unfortunately these things do happen. I busted my butt just like I always have to get myself ready for [Wednesday]. So I prepared myself for that, and it was going well. That was the frustrating thing, the outing was going well, the bullpen session beforehand was great, didn’t feel anything, then first pitch to the third batter felt something I never felt before. Felt a pop, knew something wasn’t good, give myself a minute to settle in and try and throw another pitch. Obviously that didn’t go so well.

“The emotional thing, the frustrating thing is what we do to prepare ourselves, and what we do to prepare every year to get ourselves ready. Coming in this year, shoot, I had a cortisone shot Saturday night when I landed and then pitched on Opening Day on Monday to make sure I was ready for that. It just shows what these trainers do for us, what we do to get ourselves ready. It does become very emotional and yesterday was a very tough day.”

Nathan spent the bulk of his offseason trying to get himself in shape for a rebound, trying to give himself a chance to pitch better than he did for longer than he did last year. With one pop in the arm, that work is now done, and it’s questionable at best whether any amount of work will get him back on the mound.

“My motto in this game has always been throw ’til you blow. Unfortunately, yesterday I did blow,” Nathan said. “One of those things that I’ve been proud of my career, I’ve been proud of the things I’ve done. It’s always been about hard work and getting myself ready, so this will be no different. I will prepare myself to get ready and bust my butt to see whatever’s in store for me in the future.”

In the end, he might end up being remembered in Detroit more for what he did against the Tigers than for him. He was not only beloved in Minnesota, he was dominant, especially against the Tigers. Still, he credited as many people as he could Thursday.

On his time in Detroit, Nathan said, “It’s baseball. It’s not easy. My time here has not been easy, but it’s also been pleasurable. I’ve gotten a chance to meet great fans. I’ve gotten a chance to hang out with great people in this organization, meet great people in this organization from the front office, on down to the guys who work outside, security, people that work on the field for us, take care of us out there, to great individuals in this clubhouse.

“There’s tough times with everything. No matter what you do, you’re going to have tough times. It’s about picking yourself up, and getting back up, and creating good relationships, even from things that start off bad.”

During the winter caravan (he volunteered to wait tables at a Buffalo Wild Wings in a teammate’s place), then TigerFest, then Spring Training, there was a sense he wanted to mend that relationship. His quotes after being booed in Lakeland thwarted that, even if they didn’t come out the way he had hoped. Still, he got a better reception than expected on Opening Day, and a strong start might well have won some fans back. It didn’t go right; not much here really did for him.

Maybe he does make it back, but it almost surely won’t be here. His legacy in Detroit is pretty much what it is. He’ll have to handle that as an end point on a much better career.

“I do know what’s in front of me,” Nathan said. “I’m also smart enough to realize that if things don’t work out, I have nothing to be upset about. I played baseball until I was 40 years old. If you would have told me when I started this I’d be playing baseball when I was 40, I’d have been ecstatic. I’m very happy with the way my career has gone, but like I said, I’m not done yet.”

Where Nathan ranks all-time:

Saves: 377, 7th
Games finished: 586, 17th
Games pitched: 777, tied for 52nd

38 Comments

Joe will always be remembered as a great closer. He was a great closer for us in ’13. In ’14 he said he had a dead arm. He wasn’t kidding. It’s his constant telling the fans what to think. Could never say. “I stunk, didn’t have it tonight.” Too much pride and no humbleness. I hoped he would be able to come back and be decent, but his body is telling him it’s a no-go. I hope he listens.

Congratulations to Nathan on a great career. Tigers followers, and probably Joe most of all, wish this last part of his tenure had worked out better. But Nathan went down like a warrior. Kudos to him and to Jason Beck for this personality-revealing article, which really detailed and revealed Nathan’s passion for baseball.

I wish him the best moving forward.

One thing Joe said that we (baseball/tiger fans ) don’t know how hard it takes for them to get ready for a game. I think we do know and it should be fun and admit when you are NOT doing good everyone has a bad day. Just remember you are playing a kids game and better yet you are getting paid tons of money for it. We all did it when we where kids plaed ball and had fun. So don’t tell us we don’t know cause we do. Anyway good luck Joe. You where good in your prime now is the time to let it go. You had a good carrer and the fans knew it. So long

As Gage said, Nathan was not never a real member of the team.
Soon, both him and Percival will be surpassed in career saves.
I more interested in the health of the most important pitcher for the team. The Tigersphere is plenty of sadness for Nathan, from the same fans that make jokes about Verlander´s injury
Time to move on and look for a setup

tell me more about the setup options!

Kansas City & White Sox brawling.

Kansas City seems testy lately!

What the word on Krol — he was sent down today, no? Who was called up?

When I think of Urbina – I think of the brilliant move DD made to get Polanco for him. This is the antithesis of that – DD’s signing of Nathan might have partially cost Mr. I a ring. His extension of JV might cost another.

The great part of the Urbina-Polanco trade is that it came together on the fly. They had to trade Urbina after the fight on the team plane. A couple days later, they came up with Polanco.

indeed. except i thought he was traded upon landed — eerr at least when I’m drunk that’s how the story usually goes

Ugeth Urbina was a great signing purely because he brought us one of my favorite Tigers – Polanco. The Phillies then flipped Ugeth to the Venezualan Penal Authority.

I always wonder what was a bigger steal: Polly or Carlos?

Alex Wilson called up? Who he? Was Krol really the worst of the BP?

He was the one with more recent work. The rest were best rested or pitched better

Does KC have some kind of a chip on their shoulders? Problems with W Sox and Oakland this early in the season?

At this point, I think Yost needs some kind of extended suspension. He clearly has zero control of his team, or his pitcher who has been thrown out in consecutive games.

Either way, that reflects on the manager. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another brawl before the weekend is over w/ them and ChiSox that will probably be started by an ‘errant’ HBP.

On a side note, the video I watched was from the Sox side, and those clowns were advocating for Sale to beat the crap out of Yost, and seemed to celebrate the brawl, like it was a hockey game or something.

Herrera deserves to be suspended for long and fined after throwing behind Lawrie´s head

KC has problems with everyone now apparently. These children need to look in the mirror if your always in the middle of it, it might just be you. I think they’ve had fights or ejections in nearly every series they’ve played.

The problem with CWS began with Samardzija who was with the A´s last season.
Lester is unable to throw to 1B to keep runners close ( Tigers should have make a run for him, he fits) but not team tried to profit until Kansas during the Wild Card game. Maybe. that created the bad blood between them and JS carried it with him
But they also had problems with the Halos , the lucky run went over their heads

This could be career ending for Nathan. Tigers need to just release him, and move forward with Soria as closer for now. I hope Rondon can one day be healthy enough to take the job, but who knows how that will turn out.
http://minoringinbaseball.com/

Nathan is not Mariano. There’s no question he is finished.

hell! he was finished by the ASG last year!

To parody Dylan, “He Shall Be Released” and to parody Beckett, I hope we’re not “Waiting for Rondon.” (okay, maybe Keating would like it).
Unfortunately, it’s a difficult time of the season to acquire useful relief pitchers. Getting Verlander back would or should help.

Nathan was unable to go back to back and Tigers knew that since 2014. Then Soria had to close with or without Nathan.
Gorzelanny in 2014 vs RHP 216 /.259/.294 /.553 vs LHP:324 /.439/.353/.792

It dawns on me, that we may not have enough fire in our bellies to get into a fight even.

Because of course, being involved in brawls gets you into the postseason?

no, but passion in your belly might!

For a team with 4 straight AL Central Championships and a 13-5 record, I think they have some fire in the belly. They compete in my opinion. And that garbage from KC-ChiSox is liable to get someone hurt if a fastball comes up and in. No thanks to that garbage.

That probably shouldn’t be the case, but some very good teams from the past did plenty of it. Some even brawled with one another. Off the top…Take the championship A’s of the Jackson era, the Reds when they had their crazy relievers and the Billy Martin managerial years with the Yankees.

And Lou Pinella sure did his share with the Reds.

I guess Nathan will remain in the 15 days DL until they need to add someone to the 40 roster. Wilson was already part of the 40 roster, or am I wrong?

I don’t think an injured player can be released. If that is true, why wouldn’t they just move Nathan to the 60-day DL?

They can wait to move him to the 60 days DL until they need to clear a spot in the 40 roster.They cant move him unless they have 40 player in the roster

Joe gave some good insight into the professional athlete’s existence. the ‘pitch til you pop’ mentality is the norm. most guys can’t make millions by simply showing up at the park without a major commitment of preparation outside the public eye.

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