Wire to wire?
No, this is not a story about the 1984 Tigers’ season. It is about yesterday’s game. The Tigers led from the get go in this one. They scored three runs in the first inning, and that was all Armando Galarraga would need. He ended up going 8 1/3 innings before even getting into a bit of trouble, and if he hadn’t given up a couple runs in the ninth, he would have likely gotten to pitch through the frame and get the shutout. He only threw 104 pitches.
A couple things took place with the lineup that many fans on many message boards have been screaming for. First of all, Brandon Inge played third base and made a couple plays look easy that Carlos Guillen has booted in recent games. Unfortunately for this one, Guillen will likely be the third sacker in upcoming appearances.
Secondly, it looks like Marcus Thames will finally get his shot to show what he has to offer. We’ve seen it before. In 2006, Thames had a career year when he actually got to play in 110 games. For some reason, however, he lost his starting job in 2007 with the acquisition of Gary Sheffield, and then no matter what happened, it looked like he would get blocked by younger, and to this point, less talented players.
This doesn’t really make sense because Jim Leyland will forgo defense at third base, supplanting Brandon Inge, for a better hitter. He will forgo defense at center field when left-handed pitchers take the ball against the Tigers, supplanting Curtis Granderson for a better hitter against lefties (more on this later), and he will forgo defense at first base to let Miguel Cabrera get a bat in his hands.
For some reason, though, left field has always been a place where Leyland has gone for the better defender as opposed to the better hitter. Matt Joyce did well, but cooled off, and he is, for the most part, unproven. Clete Thomas covered center field well with Granderson gone, but he isn’t the power hitter anyone else that could take the position is. Ryan Raburn is supposed to be better defensively than any left fielder we have out there, but he hasn’t show his skills with the bat as much as anyone that has played for the Tigers as long or longer than Thames.
But for some reason, Leyland likes to put the best defensive option in left. Maybe it’s because of all the balls getting by Guillen that Inge would swallow up. Or maybe it is because of all the balls that get through the hole at short because Edgar Renteria has limited range anymore. It just doesn’t make sense. Jim Leyland lets offense trump defense at any other position except the least important defensive position on the field.
Leyland finally decided to give Thames his shot. With Sheffield out, there isn’t much more he could do to be honest. He also decided to allow Granderson to start at leadoff against Joe Saunders, a lefty.
And what do you know, it worked…
Granderson singled to start the game, and two batters later, Thames homered, making the score 2-0. The Tigers added another run in the frame and then scored two more in the fifth when Thames homered yet again. Granderson ended up two for five and Thames had four RBI in the contest, making Jim Leyland look like a genius for at least one day. The problem is, why wasn’t any of this done earlier?
Hopefully, the Tigers, who play the lowly Mariners in a three-game set starting tomorrow will catch a bit of fire on the backs of the new lineup. Hopefully, they get back to .500 before the All-Star break. Hopefully, it’s not too late to catch the division-leading White Sox who sit 6 1/2 games ahead of Detroit at this point. It seems that Jim Leyland is too stubborn to make changes until all else has failed. He moved Gary Sheffield in and out of left to no avail. Sheffield started hitting and then came up lame running out a grounder. What did he go on the disabled list for? An oblique? That doesn’t make any sense either.
If Sheffield had a hurt oblique, it was likely hurt before he came up lame on the grounder, but he was too stubborn to take himself out of the lineup. Leyland, who at times, thinks this team is the 1997 Marlins and Sheffield is still 30 years old, figures the guy’s thirty-year-old body can fight through it. Unfortunately, the year is 2008, and Sheffield is older than dirt. The guy needs his rest, and it’s high time he gets it. Remember, this guy was 20-20 last year, and could have gone 30-30 if it weren’t for late season injuries that he also refused to sit out for. Maybe history repeats itself.
Well, if Sheffield can come back healthy, he deserves his chance, but if Thames is raking, it will make the decision all that much harder to make to put him back in the lineup. If Thames hits ten home runs in the next three weeks and then Sheffield is ready to come back, the decision will be difficult to put Sheffield back in at designated hitter.
For anyone except Jim Leyland…