Friday, July 14, 2006

Lefthanded Bat Absolutely Critical For Tigers -- Or So I've Been Told

The lefthanded bat. The Tigers just can't live without another one, if you listen to all the blabbermouths on sports talk radio and read all the worry warts in the newspapers. Even those bottom feeders -- the bloggers -- who should know better are smashing the words on their Internet-connected keyboards.

The Tigers have made it 89 games -- with a 60-29 record -- without said lefthanded bat, but heaven forbid they try to play the next 73 matches without it.

Come to think of it, though, it was the lefthanded bat that has lifted the Tigers and carried them twice before.

In 1981, the lefthanded bat was Kirk Gibson. That was the strike-shortened season, the one that necessitated two "halves" -- with each half winner playing the other for their division's championship. Then, an LCS would follow.

Gibby wasn't much pre-strike in '81 -- again battling injuries. But once play resumed in August, Gibson was hotter than a firecracker. He hit around .370 in August and September, and it was this smoking stick that nearly lifted the Tigers to half a division pennant. They lost it to the Brewers in the season's final weekend. But Gibby had tried.

Five years later, the lefthanded bat was Johnny Grubb. Another August heater-upper. The rest of the 24 players jumped on Grubb's big back and took it for a ride, as the Gentleman From Virginia batted close to .350 for about four weeks, shooting the Tigers back into the divisional lead. But, like Gibson before him, Grubb's dramatics had an unhappy ending.

Looking at the Tigers' batting order, you'll find a lefty swing at leadoff, and not much else anywhere else. Switch-hitters can count -- so you throw Carlos Guillen in there. I suppose you toss Alexis Gomez, a lefthanded batter, in there as well, though Gomez is a part-timer. Other than that, the hitters are predominantly righthanded swingers. Such a bad thing, the worry warts would have us believe. Just think how much better than 60-29 we'd be with that lefthanded bat, they'll crow.

Dmitri Young is a switch-hitter, so he can be that lefthanded bat. Except no one seems to enthusiastically want him on the active roster. He's viewed as possible poison, which is probably unfair. But the Tigers players aren't as interested in being fair as they are being in the playoffs. For that, you cannot blame them.

So what to do? The trading deadline's shadow can almost be seen. It's 17 days away. 408 hours -- and the clock's ticking -- to make a deal. GOTTA make a deal! My kingdom for a lefthanded bat!

Everyone is saying it, so it must be so.


Ian C. said...

I know the rumblings say otherwise, but I don't think that left-handed bat is coming. Not for what the Tigers would have to give up, and they have commodities (young pitching) that they shouldn't give up right now. Not for the likes of Matt Stairs or Raul Ibanez.

Of course, Dmitri Young's piss-poor performance on minor-league rehab is hardly encouraging...

Jeff Little said...

I don't believe the Tigs absolutely need a left handed bat. Carlos Guillen is certainly capable of being a middle of the order hitter for the team. I agree with Ian that young pitching shouldn't be given up just for the sake of a decent left handed bat. The young pitching will sustain the team for years to come.

Leelanau Sports Guy said...

I agree with you both, I don't think it's coming or necessary. Great post Eno!

trammellwhitaker said...

I thought I was the only one who remembered that great stretch by Johnny Grubb in '86. He was AL Player of the week for his efforts. As far as this year, I understand everyone saying "Hey, we're 62-30, let's not tinker with it." But the team has lived dangerously at times with strikeouts, missed opportunities, and an over-reliance on the long ball and a lefty stick (especially one with a high OBP) would hit the spot.