Today marks the end of the 2014 waiver-free trade period and as the final hours wound down we saw several major leaguers move to new teams. In what might be perceived as the biggest trade of the day, the Detroit Tigers acquired David Price from Tampa Bay as part of a three-way deal that sends Tiger centerfielder Austin Jackson to Seattle, Tiger pitcher Drew Smyly and prospect Willy Adames to Tampa and Seattle's Nick Franklin to Tampa.
I think there are two ways to look at Price coming to Detroit. While most consider Detroit's starting rotation one of the best in baseball, it hasn't performed well, and up until now the Oakland A's had made all the major pitching aquisitions in a clear attempt of overcoming their Tiger hump in the playoffs. Detroit had to answer Oakland.
Second, Price provides Detroit with leverage and protection for their upcoming negotiations with Max Scherzer, who will become a free agent at the end of the year. The Tigers were unable to sign Scherzer before this season began and he may be wanting more money than the Tigers are willing to pay. If Scherzer leaves they will still be able to secure Price for at least one more season.
Price may be the best pitcher in the American League right now, so most will say he is worth getting at almost any price. The Tigers are giving up what has been one of their hottest bats in the lineup the last month with Jackson moving on, and the Tigers lineup has had extended slumps this season, so the last thing they needed was losing a bat. On the other hand, Rajai Davis will get more playing time and his speed adds another dimension to the lineup.
What the Tigers so far have not done is add another left handed bat. It appears that the Tigers are banking on Andy Dirks coming back from his back injury by the end of the year to possibly add some balance and they sorely need Alex Avila to pick it up at the plate.
Tiger fans have to be thrilled at seeing management go out again and get a big name player late in the season. However, there is also a little trepidation because there seems to be a bit of bad luck for pitchers after joining the Tigers.
Most thought Dave Dombrowski succeeded at shoring up the bullpen buy aquiring Joe Nathan, who at the time was considered the best closer available. Nathan has been far below expectations this season.
A few weeks ago Dombrowski also aquired Joakim Soria from the Rangers to further improve the bullepen, and most thought that too was a good trade but Soria has been bombed in each of his Tiger outings.
Two months remain for Nathan and Soria and left handers Phil Coke and Ian Krol to improve before they are really needed in the playoffs. Relief pitching cost the Tigers a trip to the World Series last year, and this year's bullpen is shaping up to be the same despite the Tiger's best efforts. Dombrowski has done all that he can to help the Tigers succeed in the playoffs, now it is on the players to perform.
As a life long Chicago Cubs fan, I feel a profound sense of wonderment at the fact that my college years were bracketed by two of the best seasons for the Cubs during my life time. The 1984 season will always stand out most because it was so unexpected. Years and years of disappointment led me like so many other Cub fans to wonder whether they will ever win their division, let alone make it to the World Series.
It probably took until 1986 - two years, before I recovered from the stinging loss to the Padres. One freaking win is all they needed to make it to the Series after having won the first two games at home of what was then a five game NLCS. Back then there were only two divisions, one series to win before the World Series.
The fact that I now live in Detroit, where 1984 is fondly remembered as the last time the Tigers won the World Series does not help. For me, beyond 1984 being the year I graduated from high school, started college, and the Cubs won their division, I will always, always have nightmares of that ball going through Leon Durham's legs and Steve f'ing Garvey crushing home runs to help the Padres to sweep the Cubs at home.
My recovery from that bitter disappointment began in 1986 when the Cubs called up who I consider to be the best major league pitcher in my lifetime, Greg Maddux. His first two seasons were unremarkable, losing records and high ERAs in both, but in 1988 Maddux won 18 games and began a streak of 17 straight seasons of winning 15 or more games, the only pitcher in history to do so.
I graduated from Michigan Tech in 1989, and later in the fall of that year I moved to Southfield, MI, started my job with EDS (beginning my nearly 25 year career in IT), and watched the Cubs make it to the NLCS again, thanks in part to Greg Maddux. The 1989 team was not as dominant as the '84 team so it was not surprising that the Cubs only won one game of the seven game NLCS that year.
In 1992 Maddux won his first of four consecutive Cy Young awards, again the first pitcher in MLB with this achievement. Even more remarkable, during that four year streak Maddux had a 1.98 ERA, and allowed less than one run per inning.
1992 is also the absolute worst of mine as a Chicago Cubs fan as at the end of that season my favorite team lost the best pitcher of my lifetime to free agency. Maddux took his first Cy Young trophy to Atlanta and became the foundation for what many consider the best pitching staff in MLB during the 90s.
The fact that the Chicago Cubs, who is in one of the largest baseball markets in the country, could not put together the money to keep the best pitcher in baseball is astounding. It ruined the Cubs for nearly a decade, and highlighted the fact that the owners of the Cubs were simply not committed to winning.
It is not surprising that the best pitcher in baseball of my lifetime has been elected to the MLB Hall of Fame the first year he was on the ballot. I also see a major irony that he goes in to the hall during this season (2014) when baseball seems befuddled by the number of pitchers on the DL with Tommy John surgeries.
To say that baseball has changed in the last 20 years is a huge understatement. The grand old game now has instant replay! Amongst the changes is that baseball has become enchanted by the guy who can throw the ball 95 MPH or faster.
In my opinion, the move towards stocking a pitching staff with only pitchers who can throw the ball that fast is a product of short term, win now at all costs, thinking. Maddux, who was the best pitcher in baseball for nearly two decades, had a fastball in the low 90s. Would a MLB general manager of today consider Maddux to be their ace?
Greg Maddux is the best pitcher in my lifetime and is going in the Hall of Fame during an era when Major League Baseball is all about throwers. No where do I see this more plainly than with the Detroit Tigers. Why is it that Justin Verlander is struggling? Might it be that throwers can only throw the ball 95+ MPH for one or two seasons and then they are done?
It may be that one of the reasons for the shift to the "win now at all costs" mentality in MLB is the Atlanta Braves of the 90s, the same team anchored by Greg Maddux. Baseball looks back at those seasons and sees the Braves as a model of consistency, winning their division year after year, but only winning the World Series once.
Over looked, it seems, is the fact that you have to make it to the playoffs in order to have a chance to win a World Series. Clearly, your chances of winning the Series improve the more chances you have to play in it. Winning the Series provides a huge payout, but multiple series provides a larger payout. More importantly, consistently winning instills a culture of excellence and as a long suffering Cubs fan, I crave that culture almost as much as I crave the Cubs winning the World Series.
Congratulations Greg Maddux on your induction to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. I fear that they don't make pitchers like you any more. Thank you for your seasons with the Cubs. Thank you for being a fantastic pitcher, and a tremendous baseball player. When I think of a major league pitcher, I think of Greg Maddux.
The last two nights have been slow because there as been no baseball, but that all changes tonight as the major leaguers get back to action after the four day All Star game break. For the most part season standings are where one would expect, with the Detroit Tigers holding a 6.5 game lead in the AL Central and the Chicago Cubs 12 games out of first and in last place in the NL Central.
As for my fantasy baseball team, it has been more Chicago Cubs than Detroit Tigers for me this year. I am sporting a 3-10-1 record, good for last in my league. I've struggled to get a good outing from my entire team each week. One week my hitting is good but my pitching sucks, the next the pitching is good and hitting sucks.
Injuries have not helped me. At one point I've had as many as four key players on the DL at one time. Mark Trumbo just came off the DL before the break and is yet to be in form, and Joe Mauer has taken his place.
Josh Hamilton and Jay Bruce have also had considerable time on the DL, and that combined with the fact that Mauer and JJ Hardy are having down years has not helped my batting.
Pitching has been a real disappointment. Yu Darvish was expected to contend for a Cy Young this year, but that is not panning out. Anibal Sanchez has his usual low ERA and WHIP but has not got run support and therefore lost a lot of games early in the season. Kyle Lohse has been my most reliable pitcher, with 9 wins, a 3.26 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.
I've lost some close scores during the first half, so its possible things could turn around for me, but at this point if my team made it to .500 that would be an accomplishment. My goal is to not finish in last place.
The American League has won the AllStar game, and Tiger players Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer contributed to the win. Cabrera hit a two run home run and Scherzer was the winning pitcher for the AL.
My mileage may vary!
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Ok, that successfully rendered over to my AWS site. I seem to have this all working, if I could only get the domain naming to work like smallpict.com I would be a happy camper.