By: Eric Thomas
Comerica Park will be open for business on March 31st. This somehow seems soon and really far away at the exact same time. Sure, we’re still mired in this godforsaken polar vortex, where the forecast for the next few days calls for: fog, rain, sleet, snow, ice, wind, clouds and something called “ice pellets”—ugh—so the idea of baseball seems like something reserved for alien planets where the sun shines and the air is warm, but it’s true. If opening day is sixty degrees, many Detroiters will consider tailgating without pants, as a forward way of celebrating the occasion (though many go pants-less on opening day regardless of winter severity). Still, the baseball offseason is soon coming to a close, and it’s time to open season on talking / complaining about the Tigers.
We’ve gotten an early start this year. Tiger fans rarely take a day off, but this year, you’ve been constantly bellyaching about Dave Dombrowski’s trade of Doug Fister. Yes, most national pundits say the Nationals picked their pocket. Yes, it looks like the Tigers traded one of the league’s better pitchers for what amounts to a bag of rocks. These things are true, but you need to get over it.
Tiger fans say things like this, “Dave Dombrowski has made a lot of great moves, and he deserves the benefit of the doubt,” which should be the end of the quote, but a massive, Kardashian sized rhetorical BUT is still hanging out there. You know it’s coming; it’s going to be massive, and likely render irrelevant the entirety of the phrase that came before it. “But,” there it is, “I’m sorry, but that Doug Fister trade was just stupid.”
This, by far, is the most overused phrase of the offseason. You realize you can’t have both, right? You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt AND think he’s an idiot (“YOU’RE AN IDIOT”) at the same time. If Dombrowski deserves your deference, you either give it freely or you don’t.
I hated the Curtis Granderson trade. I was wrong. Not only was I wrong, but I was a jerk about it. I harangued people who thought the Tigers were still good. I laughed openly when people said it might work out. Whoops. Dombrowski turned Granderson into a future Cy Young winner, a top flight center fielder and…uh…Phil Coke. Max Scherzer was recently rated by Bill James as the second best pitcher in baseball. I know that I was wrong about that, so I’m going to sit on my hands.
Do I think the trade is a head scratcher? Yep, but I’ve learned from my mistakes, so I’m keeping my lips shut until such a time that I know for sure. There was a time that the release of Jair Jurrjens looked like a wrong move. Baseball is the long game, unamenable to snap judgments and instant opinion. It’s a long con. I know this; I’ve been burned by this, so when I say I will give Dombrowski the benefit of the doubt, I mean it.
Even if the Fister trade is rotten, it still might not matter. The Tigers rotation is still, even without him, one of baseball’s best. Drew Smyly has earned his chance, and if you’re worried that his ascension makes the bullpen weaker you could be right—but if Scherzer and Sanchez have years like they did in 2013, that might not matter. If Krol turns out to be the 2014 version of Smyly—which would be a miracle and solidify Dombrowski as a genius because his numbers have been average at best—it’ll be a moot point. Let’s not forget they have an actual closer in Joe Nathan (no Papa Grande booty calls this year) and Bruce Rondon had some time in the big leagues. Things are looking up for the pitching staff, even with Fister pitching at the foot of the Fredrick Douglass Bridge.
Let’s take a breath. Drink a little water. Be happy that the Tigers are back, and stop thinking about how much you hate the Doug Fister trade.