By: Eric Thomas
YEAH the Tigers are back!! They even won, which may have come as some shock to the haters, critics and trolls. The bullpen was good, the bats offered just enough to win, and Alex Gonzalez won the freaking game with a walk off-line drive in the 9th—wait…what?
You gotta love baseball. We talking and typing heads were wrong on Opening Day, because we held our collective noses when the team signed Gonzalez last week. No one outside of the most mouth-breathing Tiger apologist thought that the acquired SS from Baltimore would get a win. The guy is a journeyman who batted .177 last season. Why sign high-priced free agents when you can bet rent money on a guy who could’ve walked through the parking lot outside Comerica Park without notice? It worked. He hit a triple to tie the game and a line drive to win it.
Talk about a win above replacement.
It’s one game, so it’s silly to draw any conclusions. Phil Coke looked like the answer at closer after the opening game last year. Jose Valverde got a save in his first appearance at Comerica Park last year before the comeback collapsed. One game in baseball means nothing at all, but you’ve gotta like Ausmus for betting with the hot hand.
Brad Ausmus gambled a bit in his first game. Dapper Donny Kelly was on the bench, and in previous years, Leyland would have called his number. Ausmus rolled the dice and stuck with Gonzalez. He looks like a genius because it worked. He went with Al-Al instead of the more experienced Coke and Chamberlain in the 8th. What’s the sum of all this? One game—and that’s all. There will be plenty of time to crash Twitter when Ausmus gambles and loses.
The Tigers have been tough to tackle in the last few months. They’ve been the hardest team to predict this off-season, every announcement came out of nowhere. They traded Prince Fielder. They sent Doug Fister to the Nats in exchange for a bag of marbles, swearing that the acquired pieces were important to them. They traded one of those so-called important pieces away at the last second in spring training for Gonzalez. They money-shamed Max Scherzer. They looked like they were cutting payroll and signed Miguel Cabrera to the richest contract in the history of sports. They follow-up all that by getting a win out of a 37-year-old SS that everyone agreed was a mistake to sign. Give Dave Dombrowski his due: the man keeps it exciting. They’ve spent months as an enigma. Those questions are still valid, at least on this day they look like a team capable of dog fighting.
Maybe this is the way it goes for the next few years, with the Tigers transformed into a combination of high-priced veterans and hardscrabble journeymen? It might work; it might not. It’s one game.
But it was fun, and it wasn’t eighty degrees below zero. That’s a win-win.