They couldn’t wait to get out of there.
Miguel Cabrera was the first to walk out of the Detroit Tigers’ clubhouse on Thursday afternoon — many minutes before reporters were permitted entrance — eventually followed by teammates, coaches and officials who wanted to forget about this game, too.
Cabrera wore a sweatshirt that read, “IT’S EVERYDAY BRO,” which is the third-most disliked YouTube video of all-time, the Internet tells me, with 4.2 million “dislikes.” At that moment, after they were slapped, again and again, by the Athletics, 17-3, I could not think of three more embarrassing losses in my four-plus years on the Tigers’ beat — but you might want to check back with me after the season ends.
Soon after that, I received an unprompted text from a National League talent evaluator.
“I’ll tell ya what,” he said. “This Toledo team is just sad to watch. Is it any better up there in Detroit?”
Inside the clubhouse, the Tigers were completing the paperwork to designate Rule 5 draft pick Reed Garrett, a right-hander who throws hard but can’t get outs. Soon, manager Ron Gardenhire would take the blame, saying, “It’s on my shoulders to make this right.”
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They heard it from the fans, Gardenhire said.
I’ve been hearing it from the fans, too, and seeing it with my own eyes, so I only wanted to know what his message to the fans would be. Why should they come out to Comerica Park right now?
“Let’s not put it down to the last few games here, where our pitching has been beat up and everything,” Gardenhire said. “Let’s think about the body of work up to this point. I think they’ve appreciated it.
“Let’s not just take it and say, ‘Well, these guys stink because of the last few ballgames here. I think these guys did everything they possibly can, they busted their tails, we know what we’re doing — we’re trying to do a rebuild here and ad-lib and get these guys through until we get all these young prospects. There’s a lot of pride in this clubhouse. No one wants to play like that.
“Our fans, you know what, they’re right, rightfully so to let us have it, let me have it. It’s my job to let these guys understand how important it is to come out every day and play, and I didn’t do a good job of that today.”
Across the hallway, general manager Al Avila and assistant general manager David Chadd sat in the coaches’ meeting room. It is their job to give Gardenhire the pieces to, if not win, at least weather this season. Thus far, they have not, with a lack of reinforcements as their starting pitching crisis is reaching a worst-case scenario.
Some of this is out of the Tigers’ control — it’s impossible toi prepare for losing four starting pitchers to injury in less than two months — but this team clearly needs help.
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Inside the clubhouse, minutes later, it was barren: Garrett was getting hugs from teammates. Dawel Lugo was answering some questions about his ninth-inning home run to pull the Tigers within 14 runs, Beyond that, there weren’t many other people.
I couldn’t wait to get out of there, either — it was 70 degrees on Thursday afternoon — and I ran into a Comerica Park usher in the parking garage on the way home.
“As long as they stick with the plan, I ain’t got a problem with it,” he said. “Put all these kids together at the same time and let’s go for it. But that’s a couple years, three years down the road.”
Think of the Tigers’ situation, just six weeks into their second full rebuilding season, as a sandwich. On one side, there’s the Tigers — the team fans pay money to watch — beat up this month by injuries. On the other, there’s the top prospects, mostly at Double-A Erie, deemed too fresh to come up. In between, well, there’s not much meat to be had, leaving the big league team, vulnerable to weeks like this.
This week, the Tigers have lost four games. They have been outscored 41-9. They have not led for an inning. And there are more than four months to go.
In the loss, Gardenhire used a position player, Brandon Dixon, to pitch for only the second time in the 2,311 games he has managed. Gardenhire is an old-school guy. As Angels manager Mike Scioscia said years ago, it is embarrassing to have a position player pitch.
“I hate it,” Gardenhire said.
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But, with his bullpen taxed again — three regular relievers followed starter Spencer Turnbull and each allowed at least two runs — he had no choice. The Tigers have three more games this weekend before an off-day Monday.
Their biggest deficiency Thursday, was not pitching, but defense: Twice in the third inning, the Tigers could have turned double plays but failed. It kept the inning going long enough for Jurickson Profar to tag Turnbull for a grand slam. The A’s led, 6-0, and the Tigers were essential finished.
The only thing keeping them from their worst shutout loss ever — and the Tigers have been playing baseball for well over a century — was Lugo’s three-run home run in the ninth inning.
Those who showed up on Thursday afternoon saw the A’s run around the bases for nearly three hours. The beating was so bad, they were even talking about the Tigers on sports radio.
The Tigers have been shut out and allowed 13 runs or more twice in the past week. The season, still in its infancy, is going slower than a rush-hour drive north on I-75.
There is eternally ongoing construction, of course, on the freeway — and in the Tigers’ organization.
But no matter how incomplete this project may be or how many years away from completion it is, the potholes jolting the Tigers this week need to be filled, from inside the organization or out.
The repercussions of missing four starting pitchers are showing now. Though Gardenhire tried to dress it up — even taking the blame for something out of his hands — there is no reason for fans to pay money to watch this team right now.
Fans at Comerica Park on Saturday sarcastically started a “Let’s go Tigers!” chant with two outs in the ninth inning; boos were loud and clear after the final out.
The rebuilding looks ugly right now. The plan, no matter how long it takes, can’t hidethe product the Tigers are putting on the field now, testing the patience of even their most die-hard fans.
Contact Anthony Fenech at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.
Published at Fri, 17 May 2019 10:00:10 +0000