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We’re rounding into the end of November, and while we have seen some key signings around the league — like the Braves inking Travis d’Arnaud for $16 million — the only hot stoves in Detroit are in the homes of whoever is in charge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year.

As we reflect on what it is we may be thankful for in the coming days, let’s take a gander at what’s going on for the Detroit Tigers and the rest of the league.

Mr. Fix it
The Tigers’ new hitting coach, Joe Vavra, recently made a trip to the Dominican Republic to check in on Jeimer Candelario, Willi Castro, and Dawel Lugo — three guys that could probably use his help. Vavra has a tough road ahead of him this year in his efforts to turn around what, by all accounts, was a dismal offense. He seems to be focused on individual accountability, stating that getting better is on the player, and that they need to have a plan.

“This is going to be all about you. This is your deal, but you have to know what you’re up against and who you’re up against on a daily basis, and you have to come up with plans. And your plans have to be solid, because you’re going to be called out in front of your teammates every night on your plan. So, if you’re not prepared to have your plan or understand what a plan is, that’s what we’re here for, to get you through that, so you can actually understand what you’re planning. And that’s not an easy task.”

Vavra spoke also about knowing how to change approaches depending on the strike count, and spoke a bit about the incorporation of a modern analytics approach. Vavra should bring improvement in 2020; he has a low bar to clear.

A little bit pitchy
If you think hitting is the only area where changes are being made, you would be wrong. The organization has brought in a Director of Pitching Development and Strategies, as well as a Coordinator of Player Development and Analytics. Both of these are brand new positions. If you would like a clearer picture of who these two people are and what exactly they will be doing, David Laurila of FanGraphs spoke with general manager Al Avila about it and has a bit more detail for you.

Seek and destroy
Well, it seems MLB commissioner Rob Manfred may have gone and stepped in it. The backlash to the initial outlay of the ill-advised minor league overhaul brought forth by Major League Baseball was strong and swift. In response, MLB put out a statement that went something like, “Oh, hey guys my bad. Chill. I just want to make things better for… the players. Yeah, the players. That’s right.”

It didn’t take much time for most of the United States Congress to come out in opposition to the plan, and for New York senator Chuck Schumer to dip his foot into the “maybe baseball should lose it’s anti-trust exemption” pool. MLB responded with a letter laying out how they subsidize the minors. They are also continuing to beat the “we’re in this for the players” drum, identifying the substandard facilities of 40 minor league teams, a number that is almost double of what the league stated just months prior.

Bill Madden of the New York Daily News takes a deep dive on what is really going on here; spoiler alert: it’s basically that MLB is trying to save a few bucks — and it’s a very few — by instituting a plan that appears to be not too well thought out. The ends don’t seem to justify the means, but when has that stopped Major League Baseball?

Labor relations
When asked about negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and the characterization of the the statements he reportedly made to the players reps in negotiations over the summer, Manfred stated that those characterizations were inaccurate, and the players reps offered a proposal that would seek to “turn back the Basic Agreement 50 years.”

Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports does an excellent job of dissecting just how disingenuous and dumb that statement was while going on to further interpret Manfred’s statements in a manner that doesn’t look good for future negotiations. In short, it may be that MLB is unwilling to budge in the face of a threatened labor stoppage. That’s a pretty hard line to take at such an early stage. Who’s looking forward to a strike?

She’s a hit
Professional baseball continues to inch slowly forward. In recent news the New York Yankees reported that they have hired Rachel Balkovec as a full-time hitting coach at the minor league level. To piggyback on that good news, the Chicago Cubs also announced that they brought Rachel Folden on board as a hitting lab tech and the fourth coach for their rookie league squad in Mesa. It’s a good day to be a Rachel.

Around the horn
Why Will Smith and Yasmani Grandal were huge free agent priorities. Johnny ‘Schoolboy’ Taylor may be Hartford’s greatest baseball player. MLB investigation into sign stealing widens. Old friend Dixon Machado is going to play in Korea.

Baseball is awesome
Everybody likes a good bobblehead.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila expects to see a slim, motivated Miguel Cabrera arrive at spring training in three months.

“I’ve talked to Miggy. I’ve talked to his agent. He’s committed to make sure that these last four years go as well as possible,” Avila said Tuesday at the MLB General Manager Meetings.

Four years is the magic number for Cabrera, 36, because it represents the number of seasons left on his monstrous contract, a span in which he’ll make $124 million no matter what happens.

Cabrera’s weight ballooned in 2019, which put pressure on his balky knee.

There is no surgical solution for Cabrera, but Avila is convinced he’s making the appropriate lifestyle changes.

Cabrera has hired a full-time, in-house chef who serves up meals approved by his personal nutritionist.

“Of course there’s a workout routine, strength-and-conditioning, weight loss, the whole bit. It’s full-scale,” Avila said. “If he follows that program, I have no doubt that he’ll come in in really good shape. Obviously he would have to continue that throughout the season to stay strong and healthy.”

Despite his knee problems, Cabrera never missed more than two consecutive games until the final week of the 2019 season. But in a year notable for an explosion of home runs, he hit only 12 in 549 plate appearances. He posted a .744 OPS, just under league average (96 OPS+ and 96 RC+).

“The injuries that he’s suffered are not going away. They’re there to stay,” Avila said. “‘There’s no more surgeries for me.’ That’s what he said. There’s no surgery that’s going to fix what he’s got.”

The first challenge for Cabrera will be the off-season weight loss. Then he’ll have to commit anew to in-season work.

“It’s no different than a pitcher going through a shoulder program,” Avila said. “If a pitcher does it throughout the season religiously, chances are he’s going to stay healthy. If a guy gets lazy and then abandons that program. If he does it off-and-on and he’s not committed to it? Then chances are he’s not going to make it through the season.

“Now, injuries will happen no matter how hard you work, but at the end of the day it’s about doing everything you can stay healthy.”

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Let’s start here. After finishing 47-114 in 2019, the 2020 Tigers can’t get much worse.

Question is, will they be any better? As in, fewer than 100 losses? As in, kind of-sort of respectable?

They’re going to need growth from within, first and foremost. That means improvement among the young players already on the roster, and progression among the prospects knocking on the door. They’re also going to need external help, namely a run-producer in free agency.

And then they’re going to need some good fortune along the way.

“If everything comes together, you would hope that we would have a better season,” general manager Al Avila said at the GM meetings on Wednesday, via MLive. “But (2020) is going to be challenging.”


While the Tigers hope to be competitive again by 2021 — which is beginning to look less and less realistic — their rebuild is still a long way off. The players they were counting on to make progress in Detroit last season mostly flopped. And aside from their three big arms in Double-A — Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal — development on the farm was patchy at best.

The results in Detroit were especially discouraging.

JaCoby Jones showed signs of progressing offensively, but regressed in center field (according to the metrics) and then wound up on the shelf with a wrist injury. Christin Stewart, who was handed the everyday job in left field, managed just 10 home runs in over 400 plate appearances. Jeimer Candelario started the season at third, ended it at first and spent much of the intervening time in the minors amid his struggles at the plate.

That trio combined for a WAR of 0.3, with both Jones and Stewart in the red. And that won’t cut it in 2020.

“If these guys get better and produce like we think they can, it could make for a better season,” Avila said. “If they don’t, it could be a really trying season.”

It’s not just those three, of course. The Tigers also need more out of the likes of Niko Goodrum, Harold Castro, Dawel Lugo, Ronny Rodriguez, Jake Rogers and Willi Castro in 2020, assuming the latter two (or three, or four, or five) spend most of the season in the bigs. Consider this. 12 players appeared in at least 75 games for the Tigers last season. Just three of them finished with a positive WAR — and that’s without mentioning the pitching staff.

Al Avil and the front office can’t abide that next season, and it starts by plugging holes in free agency. The Tigers want badly for another hitter or two, and they have clear openings at first base, right field and catcher. Shortstop, second base and third base are question marks as well. They’ll be searching for a couple veterans on short-term deals — and hoping it works out better than last year.

Expect Detroit to be connected to names like Eric Thames, Justin Smoak, Kole Calhoun and Corey Dickerson.

(RELATED: 10 Free Agents Who Make Sense For Tigers)

On the trade front, the Tigers will probably be quiet. They are willing to discuss Matthew Boyd again, after they held onto him at the trade deadline last season, but that won’t lead anywhere unless they can get their hands on a high-level hitting prospect. And in terms of trading for veteran help, the Tigers would rather hang onto the prospects they already have.

“We’ve had some trade talks and a lot of teams will try to trade you an older guy or maybe even a guy that they’re going to non-tender. And he might be able to help you this year. But if you’re looking at the big-picture, it’s not going to be a good trade,” Avila said. “You’re going to trade a prospect for a guy that’s going to help you maybe win a few more games (in 2020)? You’ve got to keep the big picture in mind.”

More than two years after this rebuild began, that picture still looks pretty grim. There’s talent on the horizon, and the Tigers will add another blue-chip prospect with the first overall pick in next year’s draft. But the future remains distant from the present, and the present offers little to be excited about on its own.

Detroit should be better in 2020. But in a way that significantly raises the bar for 2021?

That’s no sure thing.

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Another week is almost in the books, and with it came a flurry of Detroit Tigers news that was a bit more than one would expect for this time of year. From general manager Al Avila’s remarks about next season to Anthony Fenech’s response, from Lou Whitaker to Justin Verlander, the stories are included in this Friday edition of our links. So let’s just jump right in.

Avila expects another ‘challenging’ year
Al Avila spoke to the press during the annual general manager meetings on Wednesday about his expectations for the 2020 season. The tricky part, according to the GM, is balancing incremental improvements with the “big picture” goals of the franchise.

Avila is loathe to relinquish any of his prospects at this point in the rebuild, which has a significant effect on how the trade market will shape out for the Tigers. As far as free agent acquisitions are concerned, the GM admitted that the team struck out last year, but also noted the volatility of low-cost veteran players.

All in all, Avila paints a picture that looks disappointingly similar to last season. Hopefully, the new hires will help make a difference and move the needle in the right direction next season and for the years to come.

New hires should speak for themselves
Speaking of new hires, Anthony Fenech at the Detroit Free Press called out the Tigers’ front office for engaging in generic rhetoric and buzzwords when announcing the fresh additions to the staff. However, the criticism ends there, as he goes on to note the moves were also “a breath of fresh air” from Avila, and he has high hopes for the likes of sports scientist Dr. Georgia Giblin and Driveline-certified pitching guru Dan Hubbs, along with the others.

At the end of the day, it appears that Fenech just wants the veneer of vernacular used by the team to be more transparent. The Tigers have made some promising moves this week, but it will take patience to see if they pan out.

The story of Lou Whitaker
Lou Whitaker’s hometown newspaper, the Martinsville Bulletin, has published a fantastic two-part piece series on the former Tigers second baseman, telling the story of his life as a ballplayer. In the first half, Sweet Lou gives credit to his baseball peers growing up, without whom he would have never been challenged the way he needed to be. The second part discusses his Hall of Fame candidacy, and he path he followed to get to today. It is a compelling piece of work that every Tigers fan should read.

Justin Verlander has finally won his second Cy Young Award after another dominant season and a World Series appearance with the Houston Astros. Many believe this should be Verlander’s fourth or even fifth trophy, and those many would be right.

After some rather questionable finishes for the award in past years — the Rick Porcello decision in 2016, in particular — Verlander was bestowed the honor against his equally-deserving teammate Gerrit Cole. While the media and fans haggle over the metrics, there is no strong argument against the final decision.

Many of the names and numbers associated with this achievement are astounding. The list of accomplishments seemingly stretches a mile long.

Evan Woodbery at MLive also came up with some interesting figures, putting Verlander in some very elite company.

While it is tough to see the greatest Tigers pitcher of this generation winning awards with another team, fans can still appreciate what the right-handed hurler has accomplished in his Hall of Fame-worthy career.

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There is a photo in the Library of Congress of a gentleman handing a gift to a ballplayer at home plate. The caption reads, “Yankee outfielder gets remembrance from Laurel, MD fans. Washington, D.C., Aug. 18. Jake Powell, New York Yankee outfielder, was presented with a wallet today as a token of esteem from fans of Laurel, MD, where he played as a semipro. Brig. Gen E.E. Hatch, U.S.A. retired, now mayor of Laurel, is shown making the presentation.”

So, who was Jake Powell? And why was Laurel’s mayor presenting him with a gift?

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Who was Jake Powell?
Born Alvin Jacob Powell in 1908 in Silver Spring, he was one of the best baseball players in the area while growing up. He caught the eye of Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith back in the day when team owners would also sometimes scout potential players. As Powell worked his way through the Senators’ minor league system, his true nature became well-known. He was a hustler, thief, liar and, most notably, one of the worst racists in baseball.

While playing for the Dayton, Ohio, Ducks in 1933, Powell and his wife made their home there. Although he talked about becoming a police officer in Dayton during the off-season, he never did.

Powell’s thievery started early. According to Chris Lamb’s book, “Conspiracy of Silence, Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball,” “During a road trip to Zanesville, Ohio, he tried to leave his hotel room with a circular fan, the drapes, and the bedspread, but was caught. ‘He probably would have taken the mattress if he could have got it in his suitcase,’ his Dayton manager remembered.”

[More Maryland news] Feds charge Baltimore man for allegedly selling fentanyl that led to 2017 fatal overdose in Harford County »
After spring training in 1935, Powell was named to the Senators’ major league roster as an outfielder, but he got off to a bad start by missing the team’s train north to Washington. Being fined $200 didn’t seem to curb his behavior as he continued to make trouble for the team. It also didn’t help, according to Lamb, “when his creditors in Dayton threatened to sue the team to settle the ballplayer’s debts.”

His violence, especially against Jewish players, escalated with his promotion to the major leagues. Shortly after the start of the season, on what should have been a routine run to first base, Powell ran over the Detroit Tigers’ Jewish star and future Hall of Famer, first baseman Hank Greenberg, breaking Greenberg’s wrist and ending his season.

In an unrelated incident a few weeks later, in a game against the Chicago White Sox, Powell intentionally ran over two players on two different plays, second baseman Zeke Bonura and then first baseman Jackie Hayes. The White Sox pitcher, Ted Lyon, hit him with a pitch after the second collision. Powell was well acquainted with pitchers throwing at him in retaliation.

In June 1936, Powell was traded to the New York Yankees for outfielder Ben Chapman. It was an interesting trade, as the Yankees were as anxious to unload Chapman as the Senators were with Powell.

In 1938, Jake Powell charges Boston Red Sox player-manager Joe Cronin after being hit by a pitch, a common occurrence to retaliate for Powell’s cheap shots.
In 1938, Jake Powell charges Boston Red Sox player-manager Joe Cronin after being hit by a pitch, a common occurrence to retaliate for Powell’s cheap shots. (Associated Press file)
As characterized by Lamb, it “was a racist-for-racist trade, straight up.” Up to that point, though, Chapman was much worse than Powell. While still with the Yankees, Chapman provoked a fistfight on the field with a Jewish second baseman. After the benches emptied and order was restored, Chapman was ejected from the game. As he was being escorted from the field, he sucker-punched the opposing pitcher. He commonly made anti-Semitic comments and Nazi salutes to Jewish fans at Yankee Stadium.

[More Maryland news] Eldersburg woman charged with assault after allegedly biting man »
Powell’s behavior continued with the Yankees. He was hated by fans and even his own teammates, as displayed in a game in Washington against his former team, the Senators. Powell pulled his trademark cheap move, this time running over Senators’ first baseman Joe Kuhel.

As Powell and Kuhel starting swinging at each other, several former teammates from the Senators ran in and pummeled Powell before the umpires broke it up. When Powell took his position in the outfield the next inning, Washington fans pelted him with pop and beer bottles. He threw some back at the fans.

The worst — much worse — was yet to come for Powell with the Yankees.

Laurel Day at Griffith Stadium
Before that, though, in August 1936, the radio announcer for the Senators, Arch McDonald, came up with an idea for “Laurel Day” during a series with the Yankees. The voice of the Senators for over 20 years, McDonald is credited with giving Joe DiMaggio the nickname “The Yankee Clipper” and was one of the best baseball announcers to recreate ongoing away games from dry ticker-tape descriptions, a common practice in baseball’s early days. Crowds would gather outside the People’s Drug Store on G Street, NW during Senators’ away games to watch and listen to McDonald recreate the games through the store’s front window, where his studio was located.

Part of the Laurel Day pregame ceremony was for the fans from Laurel to honor Maryland native son Powell, who now played for the visiting Yankees. Contrary to the caption on the photo in the Library of Congress, Powell never played in Laurel, and there was no connection between the ballplayer and the town. It was apparently a random pairing for the sake of the promotion.

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The promotion, co-sponsored by The Washington Post and People’s Drug Store, was a big success in Laurel. According to The Post, a delegation of several hundred fans left Laurel “in a long automobile caravan behind an escort of Maryland State police.” At the D.C. line, the caravan was taken over by “members of the Metropolitan Police motorcycle corps and whisked to Griffith Stadium by direct route.”

The large contingent attending the game left Laurel “a virtually deserted township,” according to the Post. McDonald met the Laurel contingent at the D.C. line and rode the rest of the way with them “to get acquainted with his fans from the Maryland town.”

Led by Mayor Hatch, the delegation from Laurel also included J.F. Curtin, Laurel American Legion Post Commander; J.H. Fetty, Laurel Lions Club; William F. McCormick, American Legion; and Lee Whitmore and Ernest Stanton, Laurel Fire Department.

“Marching into Griffith Stadium behind the stirring rendition of the American Legion junior drum and bugle corps, the Laurel contingent proceeded to home plate for the pregame ceremonies,” according to The Post. In the Library of Congress photo, the Laurel fans and the American Legion drum and bugle corps are watching the presentation.

Mayor Hatch (incorrectly naming Takoma Park) “lauded Powell for his success as a big leaguer, cited the pride with which Maryland fans regarded him, and presented to the Takoma Park lad a handsome leather wallet,” according to The Post. It was an interesting choice, to say the least, to honor the despicable Powell.

Helping toward desegregation
Strangely, Powell is credited with helping baseball move toward desegregation, albeit in a perverse way. In an interview broadcast live on WGN radio at Comiskey Park in Chicago before a game in July 1938, , announcer Bob Elson asked Powell how he stayed in shape during the off-season. Powell, who had falsely claimed for years that he was police officer in Dayton, replied that he kept in shape “by cracking n—–s over the head with my nightstick.”

According to Lamb, “As soon as Powell made his derogatory remark, the station cut off the interview. Unaware he had said anything offensive, Powell went to the team’s dressing room to change into his uniform.”

The firestorm was immediate. Black leaders and newspapers kept up a barrage of coverage, demanding Powell be banned from baseball. Powell initially denied making the remark, despite hundreds of outraged callers to the station as soon as he said it.

The uproar put Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis in a quandary. This was the same commissioner who abetted baseball’s segregation and who once said with a straight face, “If a Negro player was ever to show the kind of talents necessary to play in the Major Leagues, there is no rule to stop it.” Now, he had to act concerned and respond to the public’s outrage appropriately. His response was to suspend Powell for 10 days for making racist comments. Meanwhile, it took baseball almost another decade before Jackie Robinson broke the color line.

A replica Jake Powell trading card from his days as a New York Yankee.
A replica Jake Powell trading card from his days as a New York Yankee. (Courtesy photo)
The Yankees also had business reasons to be concerned. Owner Jacob Ruppert owned a brewery and faced a boycott of his beer in black neighborhoods. Even though Yankees General Manager Ed Barrow didn’t understand the fuss — he told sportswriters that “his two colored servants thought it was an unfortunate mistake” — the team ordered Powell to make amends by going to bars in Harlem, offering his apologies to customers and buying the house a round. It didn’t work, as the pressure continued all season. Baltimore Afro-American columnist Leon Hardwick wrote of Powell, “It’s the unguarded moments that show a man for what he is.”

[More Maryland news] ‘Respect is dying for law enforcement’: Harford officers honored with ‘Thin Blue Line’ flag giveaway »
The uproar over his interview pulled the curtain away from baseball’s hypocritical attitude toward integration and exposed it for all to see. It is felt by many historians to have united some of the factions clamoring for baseball to desegregate and helped sway public opinion.

The sad end
Powell played sparingly for the Yankees for the next two seasons, then spent two years in the minor leagues. In a fitting end to his career, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies midway through the 1945 season. The manager of the Phillies was none other than Ben Chapman. Chapman never changed his ways, either. As manager of the Phillies, he was famous for his race-baiting of rookie Jackie Robinson in 1947 and encouraging his pitchers to throw at the first black player in the major leagues. After 48 games with the Phillies, Powell’s major league career was over.

In 1948, Powell lived in a hotel with his mistress in the Washington area. He passed a series of bad checks until the DC Metropolitan Police arrested him at Union Station. He interrupted his interview with detectives and asked if he could speak to his waiting mistress.

When the mistress told Powell she decided against marrying the already-married Powell and going home to Florida, he said he would kill himself. Then, as described by Lamb, “the ballplayer suddenly said, ‘Hell, I’m going to end it all,’ and pulled a .25 caliber revolver out of the pocket of his sport coat and shot himself twice — once in the chest and once in the right temple. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.”

He was 39 years old.

Richard Friend and Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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The Detroit Tigers added six players to the 40-man roster yesterday to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft that takes place in December.
An article on the Free Press revealed that the Detroit Tigers added six players to the 40-man roster yesterday to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. The draft takes place in December, but the deadline for protection was yesterday. Here are the players they chose to protect.

Isaac Paredes
Paredes has exceeded all expectations at the age of 20, and as expected, he was added to the 40-man roster. There is speculation that he might make an appearance in the big leagues as early as next year, assuming he continues his strong performance. Paredes most recently appeared in the Mexican Pacific League where he has hit .306 over 16 games with two home runs.

Burrows was expected to appear in Detroit in 2019 but had a poor season in Toledo. Nonetheless, he clearly has potential as a pitcher and Detroit doesn’t want to risk losing him to the Rule 5 Draft. He just turned 23 a few months ago and has plenty of time to develop into a solid player. His 5.51 ERA wasn’t pretty last year, but don’t chalk him off just yet.

Kyle Funkhouser
Like Burrows, Funkhouser was expected to pitch in Detroit at some point in 2019 but performed miserably in the minors. Funkhouser is a little older, at 25, but Detroit still believes he could be valuable. He had an 8.53 ERA in Toledo but was able to post a 1.90 ERA in Erie over four starts. Hopefully, for his sake, he can get it together in 2020.

Daz Cameron
Cameron came over from Houston as part of the Verlander trade. Detroit had high hopes for him coming into the 2019 season, but he was never able to get it going in Toledo. Nonetheless, the 22-year-old has plenty of time to grow and develop into a reliable outfielder. After hitting .214 over 120 games in Toledo, Cameron is getting off on the right foot in the Puerto Rican Winter League, starting the season with a .417 average over 13 plate appearances.

Anthony Castro
Castro showed a lot of improvement from 2018 where he had a 8.10 ERA over three appearances in Erie to 2019 where he held a 4.40 ERA over 27 appearances. Castro is already 24-years-old but if he is able to continue improving he could see success as a late bloomer. This is what the Tigers will be counting on.

Derek Hill
Hill was a first-round pick in 2014 and has taken some time to develop. Detroit clearly still believes in him though, and he did hit 14 home runs last season in the minors. He could develop into a reliable outfielder with some power, and that’s what Detroit is banking on by keeping him.

The Detroit Tigers now have 39 players on the 40-man roster, leaving one spot open to draft someone with their pick in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. The Tigers took Victor Reyes in 2017, who looked extremely promising in 2019, so it will be interesting to see who they decide to go with this year.

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The Detroit Tigers have claimed David McKay off of waivers from the Seattle Mariners organization. McKay is a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher.
The Detroit Tigers completed their 40-man roster today by claiming David McKay off of waivers from the Seattle Mariners organization. McKay is a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher who has made several appearances in the major leagues with Seattle.

McKay has solid numbers throughout the Seattle farm system. In the minor leagues, he is 18-11 with a 4.81 ERA and 276 strikeouts over 231.0 innings pitched. In Triple-A specifically, he was 3-1 with a 5.04 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 44.2 innings pitched. He doesn’t have a ton of major league experience, but he has pitched 7.0 innings with a 5.14 ERA and five strikeouts.

McKay is another young arm to add to Detroit’s farm system. He is being optioned to Triple-A Toledo by Detroit. It seems like McKay strikes out a lot of batters but he gives up a few too many runs to be at the major league level. If he is able to get his ERA down successfully, he might get the call to Detroit before the season is over.

This new acquisition will add to a number of great pitching prospects in Detroit’s farm system. Which one of these pitchers make it to the big leagues will depend on their ability. Casey Mize and Matt Manning will almost certainly be called up at some point, even if it is not this season. McKay will have to compete with them and others for a roster spot in Detroit.

The Tigers today have claimed RHP David McKay off waivers from Seattle and he has been optioned to Triple A Toledo.

The Tigers 40-man roster is now at 40.

RELATED STORY: Check out how Detroit’s farm system ranks among others
With the 2019 season being an utter disappointment, it is good to see the Detroit Tigers going after young talent. The rebuild is in full swing, and it will be exciting to see new players getting the call to the bigs to help the team succeed in the future. David McKay may be able to do just that if he is successful.

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The Cleveland Indians were down a run in the 11th inning of the 1995 American League Divisional Series Game 2 when Albert Belle stepped to the plate. In the post-strike, abbreviated 144-game season, Belle had hit 50 home runs and 52 doubles, so none were surprised when he tied the game with one swing. The home run elevated from essential to legendary when Boston Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy dared question the validity of the bat; prompting Belle to pull up his sleeve, flex his substantial muscle, and point to the bulging bicep to indicate the source of power.

Should the Indians have traded Belle with two years left on his contract?1

If they had moved Belle, fans would not have memories of one of the most dynamic offensive seasons by anyone ever to wear a Tribe uniform including the above sequence. Mo Vaughn’s name would not draw immediate vitriol in Northeast Ohio for winning a contentious AL MVP Award, Fernando Vina would not have been run over, and Belle would not have hit a grand slam to break a tie game against the Baltimore Orioles in the 1996 ALDS.

Such is the question fans of the Indians are forced to consider about Francisco Lindor as opposing teams salivate over the possibility of trading for the superstar shortstop and even purposefully leak information about potential trade returns to the media.

The argument to trade Lindor this offseason is simple yet flawed. Asset valuation dictates his trade value might be at a peak given the time remaining on his current contract will only lessen. Chief executive officer Paul Dolan’s own quotes demonstrate the ballclub does not expect to retain Lindor beyond that time frame.2 Thus, the Tribe will have more assets in the post-Lindor years by trading him than they would if they allowed him to sign elsewhere– even if the Qualifying Offer (QO) remains as-is in the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA).3

Application of the above would be logical if the front office believed the disappointing finish to the 2019 season was a harbinger of the contention window closing. If the 2020 season– and potentially the 2021 season– were not years the Indians thought the postseason possible, then ensuring the best team in the future would become essential as the front office did when trading C.C. Sabathia in 2008 and both Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez in 2009.

However, the situation for the upcoming Tribe campaign is quite different than the decade prior. Building around Lindor in the short-term rather than rebuilding in the wake of his departure is not only feasible but should be preferred. The team is coming off a 93-win season and only losing Jason Kipnis, Tyler Clippard, and Yasiel Puig as contributors with $15-20 million to spend this offseason to reach the same operating budget. The Indians return what is expected to be a strong rotation with Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Aaron Civale. Jefry Rodriguez and Zach Plesac might be alternatives to plug in if the health should fail any of the Top 5 or converted into premier relief options. The bullpen will likely have to make up for the loss of Clippard, which having a full season of James Karinchak should do. The lineup has a couple of obvious holes at second base and the outfield, but those should be plugged through free agency– or even a trade. Upper-level prospects such as Nolan Jones, Daniel Johnson, and others appear near-ready to contribute.

Most fans claim winning a World Series is the most important objective for the Cleveland Indians. Well, it will be nearly impossible for the Tribe to be a better team in 2020 or 2021 without the best shortstop and Top 5 player in all of baseball on their roster. The 26-year-old Lindor is entering his prime and has compiled a 23.2 fWAR since 2016, which is only topped by Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich, and Anthony Rendon.4 There should be little doubt the Indians World Series odds are higher for the next two seasons by retaining Lindor.

Navigating the AL Central division appears to be challenging but manageable. The Minnesota Twins were a phenomenal story in 2019– for fans of baseball outside Northeast Ohio– but the team is not without serious questions despite the expectation they will remain a formidable opponent. An offense reliant on a record-setting home run binge might need to adjust to Major League Baseball re-instituting a regulation ball with more drag and less bounce… what percentage of those home runs become long flyouts? Is Jake Odorizzi now a premier pitcher well worth the $18 million contract he was given for next year or will he revert to the mediocre starter he was from 2013 through 2018? If he reverts, will the Twins have enough in the rotation after Jose Berrios? Can the bullpen repeat the excellence they demonstrated in the second half of 2019? Can they hope to repeat a 23-12 record in one-run games?

The rest of the division is far less worrisome. The Chicago White Sox appear to be stuck in a loop: “a year or two away” unless they can have a substantial offseason.5 The Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers are still paying for the years they propped their contention windows open by trading away what was then their future and is now their present.

The American League has the Houston Astros stuck in a scandal-filled offseason, and the Boston Red Sox contemplating trading Betts. The New York Yankees are stacked, yet still have impending questions about their rotation. The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics are among the teams who could push for the postseason. There will be elite ballclubs to contend with, of course, but there always will be. The last 71 seasons on Indians baseball have demonstrated just how difficult it is to win even a single World Series… again making elite stars– such as a certain ever-smiling lead-off hitter– essential on teams with enough overall talent to contend with the variability of short series baseball in October.

There is also the effect of the optics from a Lindor trade on the long-term fan psyche. The economics of being a small-market baseball team add monetary and psychological disadvantages in developing a consistently winning franchise and loyal fanbase. Astute fans frustratingly understand that the best of the best players are merely on loan– hopefully, for the highlight years of their career. Belle, CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez, and Manny Ramirez were each with Cleveland for eight years. Lindor has already shaved a year off of those totals by betting on himself.6 If the current ruminations come to fruition, they would subtract another two. The belief for how long the Indians will have ‘the next Lindor’ will in part rest on how they handle ‘the current Lindor.’

Maybe there are some valid reasons to trade a super-star player while they still hold high value and will give a bounty in return. However, any strategic deployment removing multiple seasons of a Hall of Fame caliber player in their prime from a contending ballclub’s roster is simply wrong. Keep the casual fans engaged by being competitive with the most marketable player in Major League Baseball, while maximizing the Lindor-window and trusting the loaded lower-levels of the farm system will be able to help beyond it.

In an alternative universe, the Indians front office would have spun the phrase Manny being Manny as a reason they needed to trade Ramirez after the 1998 season and missed having his two best offensives seasons being those wearing a Tribe uniform. Jim Thome’s jersey would have been torn off his back by a trade after the 2000 season; never having the opportunity to team up with Ellis Burks and Juan Gonzalez. Albert Belle would have been remembered mostly in Cleveland for giving Jason Grimsley his audition for Mission Impossible.

No thanks. Let’s stick with this reality, and let’s stick with Lindor in an Indians uniform for as long as we can.

That would mean before the 1995 season. After falling just short of a World Series championship during that October run, Belle would only play one more season with the Tribe before joining the division-rival Chicago White Sox after the 1996 season through free agency. Part of the recourse of losing Belle in free agency was trading fan-beloved Kenny Lofton for David Justice and Marquis Grissom to help plug the hole in the outfield; with those players helping the Indians return to the World Series in 1997. [↩]
To be fair, Albert Pujols was considered to be the greatest hitter in MLB for awhile. He also has been worth -0.2 fWAR since 2015, while the Los Angeles Angels have paid him about $150 million in that timeframe with two more seasons at $30 million each to go. Having an albatross contract such as that one would devastate a smaller market team. [↩]
The players have been quite unhappy with the CBA lever, so there is a decent chance the QO has less value than now. [↩]
Among position players. [↩]
Signing catcher Yasmani Grandal is a significant start. [↩]
i.e. Not signing a pre-arbitration deal that buys out a year of free agency. [↩]

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For fans of the Detroit Tigers, this can still be a heartbreaking topic. But Justin Verlander’s storied career rolls on in Houston, and the milestones are starting to pile up. He’s not just ours anymore, but whatever comes, he’s going to go down in the books as one of a handful of greatest Tigers of all-time. On Friday night, Verlander passed another notable name in Tigers’ lore, Frank Tanana, on major league baseball’s all-time strikeout list.

Verlander made mincemeat of the Astros’ interstate rivals, the Texas Rangers, in a 3-0 victory at Minute Maid Park on Friday. He one hit them, giving up two walks, and punched out eight in a seven-inning outing. The seventh strikeout tied him at 22nd all-time in strikeouts alongside Tanana. In the seventh, with two outs, Verlander struck out Rougned Odor to claim the spot all alone with 2774 strikeouts total for his career.

Verlander is now just 29 strikeouts from catching the legendary Cy Young, who ranks 21st with 2803 strikeouts. Mike Mussina lurks ahead of Young at 2813, so Verlander should enter the top 20 by July on his current pace. He still needs 226 strikeouts to become the 18th player to reach 3000 strikeouts, but it’s certainly not out of the question that he’ll reach that mark by late September. A few more seasons at roughly this pace, and Verlander will force himself into the top ten all-time.

More and more, the Hall of Fame credentials are piling up for the 36-year-old ace. And he continues to show no signs of slowing down from what now appears an incredible late career peak starting in the second half of the 2015 season. The lack of the Cy Young awards he should arguably have won in 2012, 2016, and 2018, don’t look like they’re going to hold him back.

As for Tanana, the left-hander pitched parts of 21 seasons, from 1973-1993, and won 240 games. Drafted by the Angels, the flame-thrower lost his elite velocity due to arm injury and had to reinvent himself with craft and control. He pitched for the Boston Red Sox, as well as the Texas Rangers, before coming to Detroit in 1985. Tanana would pitch for the Tigers for eight seasons, with the highlight coming in a complete game shutout of the Toronto Blue Jays on the final day of the 1987 season to clinch a division title.

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With the passing this month of Fred Guyer and Russ Streeter, Springfield lost two of its champion athletes from the 1950s and ’60s. Both graduated from Springfield Technical High School, Guyer in 1956, Streeter in 1961.

Guyer, who passed away Oct. 18 at the age of 81, was a late-blooming football star who went on to an illustrious career in the Springfield Fire Department. Streeter, who died Oct. 5 at the age of 76, starred for Tech in soccer, hockey, baseball and golf, then went on to more athletic glory at American International College.

Guyer never played football until he got to high school. Coach Russ Peterson spotted him one day in gym class and told him he should be playing football because of his strong physique.

Once Guyer decided to give the sport a try, he worked so hard at it that he became a star blocking back for Tech’s 1954 Western Mass. championship team led by single-wing tailback Chet Boulris. Then, as a senior in the fall of 1955, Guyer became the tailback and made The Sunday Republican’s All-Western Mass. first team.

Fred captained the Tech Tigers of 1955, and his brother Ed served as football captain at Springfield Trade in that same season.

With the Fire Department, Fred Guyer served for 36 years, retiring in 1999 as a highly decorated lieutenant.

Streeter, who died at his home in Bartlett, Illinois, was an All-Western Mass. first- team selection in soccer and hockey. Coach Milt Orcutt’s Tech team had an undefeated soccer season in 1959 and capped it with the Western Mass. championship.

In 1960, Streeter served as soccer tri-captain with Dan Socha and Al Leiper on a team that shared the WMass championship with Ludlow.

At AIC, Streeter played hockey for two of the college’s legendary coaches, Bill Turner and then Joe Buchholz.

After graduation from AIC, Russ and his wife, Connie — his Tech ’61 classmate — moved to the Chicago area where he began his career with Sears, Roebuck & Co.

T-BIRDS IN TUNE: Whenever the Springfield Thunderbirds play an American Hockey League game against a visitor from Canada, they have a soloist sing “O Canada” before the puck drops.

Such will be the case tonight at the MassMutual Center, when the T-Birds host the Belleville Senators of Ontario. Bill Squires of Longmeadow will do the honors.

Squires is a veteran of anthem singing at sporting events of all sorts. He’ll be singing the National Anthem at UMass women’s and men’s basketball home openers.

Squires’ performance tonight will be well received by both teams. The Senators and Thunderbirds each have 13 Canadian players on their rosters. In addition, both coaches, Springfield’s Geordie Kinnear and Belleville’s Troy Mann, are Canadians.

LEFTY ON CAMPUS: Larry Hasenfuss, a 67-year-old Sturbridge resident who earned a master’s degree in human services at Springfield College when he was 58, returned to campus this week for a visit. He had lunch with three of his professors, Marty Dobrow, Bill Clements and Richard Andersen.

While he was pursuing his advanced degree, Hasenfuss went out for the baseball team. He made the sub-varsity when he was 57 and did a lot of pitching.

“Larry was a rarity — a left-handed knuckleballer,” Professor Andersen said.

Andersen is well-known as the author of “A Home Run for Bunny,” about the Springfield Post 21 American Legion baseball team of 1934 that took a stand against racial segregation. The team withdrew from a regional tournament in Gastonia, North Carolina, when it found that its one African-American player, Bunny Taliaferro, would be barred from playing.

Dobrow is the author of “Going Big-Time,” the story of the rise of UMass basketball to national prominence; and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” the story of six local baseball minor leaguers trying to make the majors.

AIC HOMECOMING: American International College’s football team (2-4) hosts Franklin Pierce (1-5) at 11 a.m. today on Ronald Abdow Field as the centerpiece of homecoming weekend activities.

The Yellow Jackets’ two victories have come on their home field, against Bentley and Southern Connecticut. Franklin Pierce comes to town with a five-game losing streak in which it has allowed 50 or more points in each game.

AIC’s weekend activities also include field hockey vs. Adelphi at 3:45 and women’s volleyball vs. St. Michael’s at 4. The schedule also includes alumni games in softball, baseball, volleyball and lacrosse.

MARTIN’S MEN: Brown University men’s basketball coach Mike Martin, a Lahovich Award winner at Cathedral High School in 1999, has a veteran team ready to start the season Nov. 5 at Bryant College.

Martin graduated from Brown in 2004 after an outstanding basketball career, and became his alma mater’s head coach in 2012.

His Bears went 20-12 in 2018-19 — the first 20-victory season in the university’s history — when he was named Ivy League coach of the year.

In addition to a solid core of upperclassmen, Martin has four blue-chip freshmen who figure to see a lot of playing time. His Bears play their first home game Nov. 9 against Canisius.

ATTENTION FAMERS: Springfield’s Public Schools Sports Hall of Fame committee needs contact information (mailing address, email address, telephone number) from the following electees in its Class of 2019, or a family member: Charles Jutras ’51, Philip Brais ’67, Martin Brick ’65, Robert Nyman ’71, Milton Jones ’72, David Plant ’64, Harold Ethier ’38, Barry Muldrew ’65, Ronnie Rose ’71, George Hargrove ’08, George Wilson ’09, Evan Graham ’07, Nate Collins ’10, Daniel Salgado ’10, Anthony Brooks ’11, Bemnet Banks ’11,Wendale Hale ’08, Jayto Teh ’11.

Electees or family members can reach committee chairman Dwayne Early at [email protected], or by telephone at 787 7100, ext. 55490.

TODAY’S TRIVIA: Last night’s World Series game was the first played in Washington, D.C., since Oct. 7, 1933, when the Senators lost the clinching Game 5 to the New York Giants 4-3 in 10 innings. The rosters of those teams included six players who would be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame — first baseman Bill Terry, outfielder Mel Ott and pitcher Carl Hubbell of the Giants; shortstop Joe Cronin and outfielders Heinie Manush and Goose Goslin of the Senators. By the way, that Game 5 featured a real save by veteran Dolf Luque, who was 43 years old. He threw four and one-third scoreless innings for the Giants in relief of starter Hal Schumacher.

BEST BET for the weekend: Maximum Security, in the Bold Ruler Stakes at Belmont.