Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Pudge Countdown: 37 Games And Out

I wonder if the Tigers still have Brad Ausmus’ phone number. Maybe old pal Brad, already twice a Tiger, can swoop back into town and handle the catching duties for a another year or two -- until he becomes a manager, which his peers think he should do, according to a recent Sports Illustrated poll.

If not Ausmus, then maybe Mike Piazza. He’ll be a free agent after this season, too. Or maybe there’s someone available in a trade, if the price is right. There is some young talent on the Tigers’ farm right now, for a change.

I have a feeling the Tigers -- specifically GM Dave Dombrowski and in a peripheral way, manager Alan Trammell -- are gathering their options right about now, because it seems to me Pudge Rodriguez is winding down his brief career in Detroit.

Rodriguez is likely to be "Long gone!", as Ernie Harwell would say

I have written about Pudge from time to time in this cozy little blog, and rarely has it been in a positive light. I haven’t slammed him -- I’ve just pointed out his sullen moods and the effect it may be having on his teammates. My colleague at Motor City Sports Magazine, Terry Foster, has been harsher, taking Pudge to task on Fox Sports Detroit -- that would be television, by the way -- for dissing Trammell. Foster has basically called Pudge out publicly on the airwaves. "You haven’t been around here long enough, son, to do that to a Tigers legend," Foster has pretty much said.

I don’t know that Trammell and his catcher can peacefully co-exist, at least not under anything other than a winning situation. If the Tigers were "World Series bound and picking up steam," like their 1968 theme song jingled, then maybe any perceived friction between All-Star catcher and manager would be overlooked, or not noticed at all. But the team is headed for its 12th straight year of losses outnumbering wins, and that tends to make everyone a bit crankier, especially when fans, players, coaches and front office all expected a better fate in 2005.

Willie Horton, however, is one that feels everything is right on schedule. Horton, the beloved former Tiger and current helper to Dombrowski, recently was quoted in one of the dailies as suggesting that the Tigers are on the right path and that, gosh, this rebuilding process is going along swimmingly. But then, Willie always did look at the Tigers’ glass as being half full.

Regardless, whether you think things are moving along at the right pace or not when it comes to the Tigers and their never-ending quest to finish above .500 (forget the playoffs), the Pudge Factor will definitely be a major player come this offseason. I have a gut that says Trammell will be back in 2006, although he may not finish the season. That means, by my reasoning, that Rodriguez might not be here at all. Of course, Dombrowski has got to find a sucker that will take on some of Pudge’s contract, which is pretty hefty for a catcher who will be 34 before next season. The Tigers might have to chow some of that pact to move Pudge. Check that -- they WILL have to chow some of that pact. If you don’t, you’ll never be able to trade him. Even P.T. Barnum would agree that you can’t deal Pudge without providing some financial incentive to the receiving team.

So there you have it -- another "Out of Bounds" revolving around Pudge Rodriguez. And none of it has been all that pleasant. Then again, neither have the Tigers lately.

1 comment:

Ian C. said...

Ah, The Exorcism of Ivan Rodriguez, hopefully soon coming to an offseason near us.

What a revolting set of developments. While watching last night's game, I realized I just can't stand this guy anymore - even when he hits a home run. His approach at the plate this year has been absolutely terrible. I've almost drawn as many walks as Pudge this season, and I've never stepped on a major league field.

Maybe this is one instance where Dombrowski can call up Darth Agent, Scott Boras, and let him try to work some phone around the major leagues too. As you alluded, the free agent list of catchers doesn't look that hot. (Ramon Hernandez or Bengie Molina, maybe?)