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Ilitch must act quickly/Paul Peterson

July 4, 2011
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette , The Daily Mining Gazette

If Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is at all serious about wanting his team to succeed in 2011, he must act quickly.

Just about anyone ... who knows anything about baseball ... can see that the Tigers season is about to go down the drain.

Forget about the recent disastrous series against the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants. Teams can go through bad stretches, and the Tigers certainly stunk it up this past week.

It's all about the way the team is being managed by Jim Leyland - certainly one of the most overrated skippers in all of baseball.

Consider this recent masterpiece of managing against the Giants. Just because a lefthander was starting for San Francisco, Leyland removed Brennan Boesch and hot-hitting Andy Dirks from the lineup.

Never mind that Boesch has the best batting average against lefthanded pitching in the league (for right or lefthanded batters). Or that Dirks had homered in three consecutive games.

The two hot hitters had to benched so that Leyland could squeeze in weak-hitting Magglio Ordonez, Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn. All were hitting around - or below - .200. That's the so-called "Mendoza Line," which has long been considered a standard for mediocre hitters.

Leyland's insistence at keeping Raburn at second base is an even bigger travesty. Not only is he not hitting, his fielding is atrocious. In just the last week, Raburn committed two errors on easy chances. Both ended up being pivotal in Detroit losses.

The Tigers have enough talent on hand to win the very weak AL Central. There are four or five players hitting above the .300 mark and second-year players Boesch and catcher Alex Avila have emerged as budding stars.

But with the exception of ace Justin Verlander, and recently, Brad Penny, the starting pitching is in shreds. Rick Porcello has turned into a batting practice hurler, Max Scherzer has struggled mightly in the last month and the Phil Coke experiment was a complete disaster.

The Tigers need to add at least one starting pitcher. Wandy Rodriguez of Houston is available and a struggling club like the Minnesota Twins might even part with a starter for a price. Carl Pavano would look good in a Detroit uniform.

Secondly, the infield needs immediate revising. Raburn should be either traded or let go entirely. Inge, who is certainly one of the club's goodwill ambassadors, also needs to go to the bench. You can't afford to have a third baseman hitting .198 with one homer.

Move Don Kelly to third base and insert Ramon Santiago at second base on a permanent basis. That would add pop at third and defense at second right away.

Speaking of second base, wouldn't it have been nice if the club had re-signed Placido Polanco? Polanco made all the plays and was a consistent hitter.

And how good is the trade that sent popular centerfielder Curtis Granderson to the Yankees looking? Sure, Austin Jackson is a good outfielder. But he's on a pace to strike out more than 180 times again. Granderson is hitting for average and power in New York and is still a stellar defensive player.

General manager Dave Dombrowski has to be held accountable for those moves.

The final move - but one not likely to happen - would be to remove Leyland and his coaching staff and send them back to Pittsburgh. This is a group that has underachieved since catching lightning in a bottle in 2006.

Remember that Leyland has posted a below .500 record in the second half of the past four seasons.

Sign up Jim Riggleman (who's out of a job) as manager. He can keep Tom Brookens as a coach and bring up some of the coaches from Toledo.

If something isn't done quickly, the Tigers are going to finish behind the Chicago White Sox and possibly even the Cleveland Indians.

That should be enough to cost Leyland and Dombrowski their jobs.



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