Will The Tigers Offseason Moves Lead to a Return to Postseason Baseball in Detroit?
December 28, 2010 – 11:45 am by Chris Fedor
After a fourth straight season without postseason baseball in the motor city, the Tigers went out this offseason and tried to make sure they would have a return to October baseball in 2011. After stumbling down the stretch, the Tigers had some weaknesses that became even more apparent as the season went on and the Tigers went out this offseason and addressed those weaknesses. Detroit resigned Magglio Ordonez and along with that they added Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit as well. Martinez will provide even more protection for the Miguel Cabrera and gives the Tigers a lot of punch in the middle of their lineup. Benoit was brought in as the set-up man to Jose Valverde and is the kind of set-up guys the Tigers have been missing because of Joel Zumaya’s inability to stay healthy. The moves Detroit made this offseason were smart in the sense that they filled some holes, but it remains to be seen if these moves are good enough to overtake the Twins or even the White Sox in the AL Central let alone make Detroit relevant in the American League playoff chase.
Jim Leyland joined WDFN in Detroit with Art Regner and Larry Lage to talk about the moves the Tigers made this offseason, what Victor Martinez means to the Tigers lineup, whether or not the team can count on Joel Zumaya this season, and how much longer he plans on managing the Tigers.
On the moves made in the offseason:
“Yeah I think we did. I think they’ve done a good job. It all starts with Mr. Ilitch. We went out and got a couple of free agents obviously and these days in this era of baseball, it costs money and Mr. Ilitch was willing to put it on the table for players that Dave (Dombrowski) recognized could fit our needs and be good for our ballclub. We’ve felt that all along those guys were right at the top of our list. When we went over our meetings towards the end of the year those guys were way, way up on our list so we feel fortunate we got two of them.”
On Victor Martinez:
“I think there’s no question that Victor Martinez was the bat that we wanted. He’s a professional hitter, protection for Cabrera, but I think offensively the final piece was Magglio coming back for a year. I think that’s very, very important. That’s three really professional hitters in the lineup. I’m thinking right now obviously Magglio third, Cabrera fourth, and Martinez fifth. Not to mention (Brandon) Inge and (Jhonny) Peralta down more towards the bottom, but solid RBI guys. This was a huge sign for us. A switch hitter, middle of our lineup, and an established hitter. We put a lot of pressure on (Brennan) Boesch last year. I think that caught up with him a bit and that’s the youth. We’re hoping that the experience he got this year will help him along. I think the addition of Benoit was as close to being just as important because he will be the setup guy. That gives us him and Valverde. You know who’s going to pitch the eight and ninth for the most part. That’s a huge, huge sign as well because we needed to shore up our bullpen. I think we’ve helped on both sides of the ball so to speak, offensively and defensively. Victor Martinez is one of the pure hitters in the game, a guy I’ve respected for several years when he was at Cleveland and Boston last year, so what a huge addition for us.”
On whether or not they can expect Joel Zumaya to pitch this season and have an impact:
“Joel Zumaya is another huge factor for us. If we get him back healthy then all of the sudden you have (Ryan) Perry, Zumaya, Benoit, and Valverde, that’s a lot of firepower coming out of the bullpen. We think he’s going to be a part of our ballclub. Are we counting on it 100 percent? No because you always have reservations with injuries and stuff. What’s happened is Joel has always been healthy in December, but not healthy in June. We’re hoping that changes this year. We’re hoping we can get him healthy and keep him healthy and we will watch him close, but you still gotta pitch. If you’re going to be on the team, you can’t baby three or four guys. You can’t have too many guys you have to worry about not pitching too much. You have to pitch if you’re going to be on the team. Zumaya, he is an X factor. I don’t know what to expect right now. He’s fine, he’s healthy, he’s rehabbed, he’s as strong as a bull, but like I said our problem is not been the offseason having him healthy. The problem is the season so we’ll just have to wait and see how that plays out.”
On how long he plans on managing:
“I feel really good. I feel really charged and I have a lot of energy and I really enjoy what I’m doing. Does it get tough on you once in a while? Well it gets tough on you whether you are 40 or 60 to be honest with ya. It’s such a draining responsibility. I think the best way to answer the question is that as long as I’m enjoying it, I want to do it and I’m enjoying it. We’ll just have to wait and see. One thing for sure is that’s not going to be an issue for me during the season. I’m not going to get into that, we’re going to focus on winning as many games as we can, and I came to Detroit for one reason and that’s to hand Mr. Ilitch that trophy. That’s what I went there for, that’s what I want to do, and we will see if we can get it done. We came close in 2006, but we didn’t quite make it. As long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing then I’d like to continue.”
Listen to Jim Leyland on WDFN in Detroit here
Tags: Detroit Tigers, Jim Leyland, MLB, WDFN