The Houston Astros head closer to the trade deadline with a matchup against another seller, the Detriot Tigers. TCB sits down with Bless You Boys’ Ashley MacLennan to talk about the upcoming series and J.D. Martinez. Because we always talk about J.D. Martinez.
TCB: 10 games out of first place. Where are the Tigers right now? Is it time to tear it down? Would you want to see the team do an Astros tear down and rebuild?
AMac: In my humble opinion, it's time to focus on the rebuild. Keep a core group of young guys like Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris, trade anyone else you can for prospects, and focus on crafting a team that can win in 2-3 years. It's going to be tough for the Tigers to manage because they're stuck carrying the weight of some really long-term contracts like Miguel Cabrera, Jordan Zimmermann, and Justin Upton. (I only leave the hefty Verlander contract off here because I don't know how the next three days are going to play out). I think the Tigers are in a weird place right now because the Central is all so close together the illusion of being able to win is still there, but I think the team needs to move the guys they can and start looking to the future.
How did you feel about the J.D. Martinez trade to Arizona?
Even though I knew it was necessary and inevitable, it didn't make it any easier to lose a guy like J.D. He's a real team-player and a joy to see on the bench and in games. It's tough watching him play in a Diamondbacks uniform. That said, with less than a year left on his contract and knowing the team wouldn't be able to afford to sign him again given the current direction they're headed, trading him was the right move.
So we can have Justin Verlander for like a handful of Triple-A guys, right?
If y'all are willing to take his $28 MM a year contract too, yes. I don't want JV to move, but I also want him to win a ring. It's a really tough position to be in as a fan, because to me Verlander is the face of the franchise and seeing him play anywhere else would be painful. But he's accomplished so much in his career, played in two World Series, and still, has no ring. I'd like to see that for him even if it doesn't happen with the Tigers.
Your website says "She is a die-hard Detroit Tigers fan; a Tampa Bay Rays fan; a Toronto Blue Jays fan." Who did you become a fan of some many teams? And what do you say to people who believe you can be a fan of only one team?
There are going to be people who don't think you can like multiple teams, and that's fine. I don't see the point in defending myself to anyone who wants to play baseball fandom gatekeeper. (which happens online pretty frequently, honestly)
I love the Tigers. Above any team, they're the team I feel the most for, watch the most, travel to see, and know the org inside and out. No one will ever replace them as my "favorite" team (yeah I spelled it the Canadian way). The Jays are there because as a kid they were my first exposure to real baseball. I grew up (and still live) in the Canadian prairie and there aren't a lot of baseball fans around. The Jays created a national baseball fever in the early 90s with their back to back World Series wins and that was my introduction to the passion people can feel about the game. When I returned to baseball as an adult, I recognized that same excitement and passion when I started watching the Tigers.
The Rays I like because they have so much stacked against them (much like the Astros of a few seasons ago), where people poke fun at their stadium, their fan base, etc. There's just something about that team I found so compelling and latched onto. You really just want to see them succeed.
At the end of the day I love baseball, and there are teams all over that inspire that excitement in me. Even the ever-loathed beard-hating Yankees have had things to cheer about lately. Baseball is just an exciting and beautiful thing, and the more teams I like the more chances there are to watch games all season long.
What makes you hopeful for the Tigers future?
I know they can turn things around. It was only 2003 when the Tigers had the worst season in franchise history, and people surely thought then things would be terrible for a long time. By 2006 they were in the World Series. I think the Tigers are moving in the right direction by understanding that the window for contention is closed, but it's only closed for now. They also seem to recognize they don't have the level of talent they need in their farm right now to home-grow a winning franchise. So they're making moves that will hopefully bolster the minor leagues and create a platform the team can build its future on. The next couple of years will be tough, but the Tigers will rebound, and I'll be there for it, the good, the bad, the ugly.