Saturday, May 21, 2005

I'm No Longer Afraid Of "Ex-Tiger Carlos Pena"

Pena, probably swinging and missing again

Here we go again.

Tigers first baseman Carlos Pena is on the wrong side of .200, with few homers and tons of strikeouts. He is, once again, looking like a poor impersonation of a big league hitter.

Last summer I wrote a column in which I maintained that if I was suddenly appointed Tigers GM, I would offload Pena and, at the time, Eric Munson. Well, Munson is gone, thank God, and I haven't seen anything in Pena to change my mind about him, either.

The word "potential" can be exciting and a curse. Players who realize the "p" word are forever in our hearts, while those who fall short eventually end up in the garbage heap of never-weres. Sadly, it looks like Pena may be sanitation fodder.

I also wrote that I would only have traded Pena if I had absolutely no idea of the history of the Tigers and what happens to the players they jettison. I pointed out that for some odd reason, players who seem talented come to Detroit and forget how to play the game, only to remember the moment they go elsewhere. Of course, Pudge Rodriguez and Carlos Guillen reversed that trend last season, so maybe that black cloud has passed the Motor City. Anyhow, I was jittery last season to ship Pena, because it gave me the chills to think of what he might have done as an ex-Tiger.

But I'm not afraid anymore. I don't think, at this point, that Pena will be anything more than another Tony Clark -- that other ex-Tiger first baseman with loads of "p". Pena, like Clark, may just float around the majors for a few years, enjoy a bit of success here and there, then show enough warts to be dumped off on someone else. He doesn't seem to be, in my mind, anything more than journeyman material.

If Pena either: a) didn't bat lefthanded, or b) didn't play a decent first base with the glove, he may already be planning for a life after baseball. If you bat or pitch lefty, you can buy yourself an extra year or two or three to prove your worth. Baseball loves lefties. If you can catch the ball a little bit, that's okay too. But even those two ingredients will only keep you in The Show for so long if you can't hit a lick.

Pena supposedly impressed baseball people in spring training with his oozing, new-found confidence and his relaxed approach at the plate. But baseball history is full of players who performed like All-Stars in March but chumps during the summer. And the chumps far outnumber the All-Stars. Clearly Pena's magic elixir wore off as soon as the Tigers' plane crossed the Mason-Dixon line this April.

The sooner Carlos Pena is an ex-Tiger, the better. I don't care who replaces him at this point -- Dmitri Young, Chris Shelton, Dave Bergman. Just please ship him out of here. Hey, maybe we can get someone who has some....potential!


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