DETROIT (JSC) — In retrospect, I’m not at all shocked that my beloved Detroit Tigers brought back Jose Valverde last night. Seriously, when I heard that he was signed to that minor league deal three weeks ago, the writing was already on the wall. Now, did I expect Valverde to be given the hot-shot treatment right from Single-A to the closer spot? No. Not even from the Tigers who tend to follow the typical Detroit sports team mantra of giving the old guys just “one more chance” despite all common sense arguments to the contrary. Now, what’s old is new again, the Band is basically back together, and The Big Potato will be back in Detroit spitting water in 3 directions, fist-pumping, DX Chopping, and moonwalking on the mound. Or, so the Tigers hope.
Valverde joins a long line of Tigers from the last few years who just keep getting second and third chances despite their performance. Lest we forget that this is the same team that defiantly would trot out the likes of Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn despite them not being able to hit my weight, let alone theirs. It’s the same franchise that clings to Rick Porcello in the hopes that he’ll prove all of you wrong as he serves up another 4+ run inning. It’s the team that shoved Placido Polanco out only to replace him with Scott Sizemore, who was traded early in his second season. It’s the same team that STILL runs Quadruple-A player Don Kelly out there every three days, sometimes batting him as high as 6th. So Valverde, who compared to the rest of those guys actually deserved one more shot, will get one more shot. That doesn’t mean I’m cool with it. Not in the least. The Tigers botched this thing from the word go.
Valverde’s numbers last year, at a glance, weren’t that bad: 3-4, 35 Saves, 3.78 ERA, 1.246 WHIP. However, you could see signs of a decline throughout the year. This wasn’t the guy who had become a 2-time All-Star, went 49-for-49 in Save ops in 2011, and finished fifth for the 2011 American League Cy Young Award (that was won by Justin Verlander). You could tell when he blew the Opening Day save last year. His slider wasn’t sliding. His fastball at times might as well had been pitched underhand. He completely abandoned his “out” pitch: the Split-finger Fastball. His strikeouts per 9 (6.3) was the worst of his career. Valverde was skating by until the postseason when it all went to hell.
After a flawless 9th inning in Game 1 against Oakland, it all fell apart in what was supposed to be the close-out game in the 9th inning of Game 4. Valverde turned a 3-1 Tigers lead into a shocking 4-3 Oakland win. If not for Verlander’s game for the ages in Game 5 that put the Tigers in the American League Championship Series, it could’ve been much worse. Then we all know what happened in Game 1 in New York. After the Tigers scratched out a 4-0 lead, they headed to the 9th and out came Valverde with a chance to redeem himself. Instead, he faced six batters, got two outs, and gave up two brutal home runs — including this one to Raul Ibañez that nearly made me smash my TV:
Valverde, in the eyes of every Tigers fan, a few of his teammates, and any sensible Baseball follower, was done. Gone. Peace. Nice to Know Ya. The Tigers managed to win that game in 12 innings and went on to sweep the Yankees. He made one more bad appearance during the blowout loss in Game 1 of the World Series and he was finished. The Tigers didn’t re-sign him and immediately (foolishly) anointed rookie Bruce Rondon — who had never thrown a single pitch in the majors — as the new closer. When Rondon failed during Spring Training, you knew what was coming. These are the Tigers. The same Tigers who essentially released Brandon Inge 2 years ago when he was DFA’d, only to bring him back late in the same season. The same Tigers that kept putting Ryan Raburn not just in the lineup, but batting him SECOND. The same Tigers that refused to trade Porcello in 2009 for an in-his-prime Roy Halladay. The same Tigers that DFA’d Don Kelly twice yet still brought him back and put him on the Major League roster ahead of Quintin Berry. This should’ve been seen as inevitable with Valverde, but you hoped they had learned their lesson.
This continues the trend of “give ’em one more chance” in Detroit. Whether it’s the Pistons feverishly holding on to Rodney Stuckey or the Red Wings trying to keep as many of the old guard together as possible, it happens. Welp, if they insist on bringing Papa Grande back, it better work. This can’t be Brandon Inge batting .163 and getting booed off the field or Raburn hitting .125 (!!!!) and dropping routine fly balls. If not, it could be one of those frustrating summers (that could still turn out well, See: 2011, 2012) for a franchise that hasn’t won a World’s Championship in almost 30 years. Looks like my dreams of my hair slowly coming back will not be coming true after all. Oy.
Have a Great Wednesday and…um…Go Tigers…