By: Eric Thomas
It’s challenging to keep your sense of humor when discussing Jose Valverde. The Tigers need to develop a plan soon. Fans rooting for the team to lose so “the front office will get the message,” need to call off the dogs. The front office sees the problem. They signed Papa Grande because of the sorry state of the closer position. Here’s the bad news: Getting rid of Valverde doesn’t solve anything. They still don’t have any easy answers.
At least he’s made it exciting in his latest stint with the Tigers. You stay tuned late at night, chewing on your blanket, heart in your throat, taking giant panic breaths and screaming at the TV while your dog hides under the table—would you prefer a boring baseball game with three up and three down in the bottom of the ninth? Valverde’s a thrill ride, every appearance worthy of nitroglycerin pills and half a pack of Marlboro Reds. He’s the baseball equivalent of skydiving with samurai swords.
Still, the third game against the Royals felt like the turning point. It’s what alcoholics might call a “moment of clarity.” At some point you hit rock bottom, and it’s time to take steps toward making things better. Valverde is a bit like dating a crazy person—there’s never a dull moment, but they’re on the verge of taking you down with them.
Since we’re on the verge of spinning the wheel, let’s make a suggestion. Drew Smyly should be the closer. Left handed closers are usually a bad idea, but this could work. Smyly spent the season so far mopping up messes. Closers need the ability to handle stress, and Smyly is uniquely qualified. Nothing fazes him, to the point of near opacity.
Let’s not forget that Smyly, along with some help from Octavio Dotel, cleaned up the mess Valverde left in the ALCS against the Yankees. The Bombers were on the ropes, until Grande gave them life. The crowd came alive in the Bronx, and the maligned Yankee lineup showed life. Smyly stared that situation down in his rookie season. That’s the yards of guts you want in a closer.
Also, move Rick Porcello to the bullpen. Allow him to get used to it, because if the team makes the playoffs—that’s where he’ll be anyway. Call up Alvarez and make him the fifth starter; find out if his game against the Indians was a fluke. Call up Rondon while we’re at it and use him in situations where he’ll be successful.
Valverde brings excitement, along with all that wonderful acrimony, but the team needs to shake the Polaroid on what the rest of the season will look like. The Tigers need to tinker with what they have, or else they’ll approach other teams with their pants down near the deadline.
They know about the problem. They get twenty-four hours to come up with a solution. Cardiac wards can only hold so many beds.