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November 6, 2013 at 12:47 am ET
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Shaking Off the Rust

It took a while, but I just finally clawed my way out of the deep trench of depression, booze and ice cream that I crawled into after the Tigers’ latest playoff collapse. At least this time we gave ‘em hell… sort of.

It’s been a hard pill to swallow, that loss to the Red Sox. And, to tell the truth, it hasn’t really gone done all the way. They say a spoonful of sugar helps. But so far, that, a bottle of whiskey and the back alley hooker I picked up over on Outer Drive haven’t seemed to be able to do the trick. Oh well, there’s always next year.

Speaking of next year…
Yeesh, the World Series wasn’t over a day and already the Hot Stove was stoked to hyperbolic levels. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It’s the only way to get through these torturous, baseball-less Upper Midwest winters without knitting a scarf out of excess body hair.

The Tigers look to be more set around the diamond than most teams in baseball. But that isn’t to say they’re a complete club. That fact was woefully exposed in Beantown.

The way I see it, nothing needs to be done in the outfield. You’ve got Torii With Two ‘i’s in right, Jackson in center and, presumably, uber-prospect Nick Castellanos set to take over left, with Dirks providing some protection. In the infield, Prince and Miggy will be manning the corners again, Boy Wonder Jose Iglesias will be penciled in at short, barring anything unforeseen, and some combination of Alex Avila and a free agent, right-handed hitting catcher will set up behind the dish.

With designated hitter set as well, that just leaves the keystone. Infante’s contract is up, and since he’s the second best second-bagger on the market (behind Cano), he should command a hefty sum. The question is; are the Tigers willing to pay it?

I hope they are, assuming the price tag falls somewhere in the Marco Scutaro, 3-year, $25 million range. Omar is an all-around player who would be hard to replace, and his presence would continue to make the starting nine as solid as any in baseball. If the cost goes higher than that, well, I’ll start to have more questions on my mind then, “Why do I keep getting e-mails from blackpeoplemeet.com?”

That brings us to the pitching staff, and this is where the real changes will probably be taking place. First order of business: Find Drew Smyly a place in the rotation. That probably means either Rick Porcello or Max Scherzer is on the way out.

In an ideal world, the Tigers would keep the soon-to-be Cy Young winner and move on from the underwhelming Freddie Pigs. But money talks, and Scherzer is about to be owed a shade under $14 million next year, in his last time through arbitration. Frankly, this is an incredibly complex issue – as is the bullpen, which is inextricably tied to the rotation situation – and it is deserving of it’s one post. It is one that I will write in relatively short order, job and personal life permitting (I’m sure all three of you who have gotten this far will be anxiously awaiting that piece).

Awesome-us
There have been mixed reactions to the hiring of Brad Ausmus as the next Tigers manager. Color me happy, though, since he was always one of my favorite players throughout the franchise’s the lean years in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Also, one night he and some of the other members of the 1999 squad happened into a bar where I was working at the time. There I was, post-shift, sipping a beer, when Brad Ausmus sits down next to me. Immediately recognizing him, I struck up a conversation about the Juan Gonzalez trade that had recently gone down (yes, I’m old). To his credit, he indulged my baseball geekery and even offered up some fairly candid remarks on the subject.

Of course, that’s neither here nor there when it comes to the kind of manager he’ll make. I’ve just always appreciated that he took 30 minutes to bullshit with some dorky kid who wanted to talk his ear off about baseball.

That also reminds me: Write a Jimmy Leyland post. Some sort of a fare-thee-well kind of thing.

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