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Detroit Tigers Fans: Don’t Blame Jose Valverde for Your Sins

October 11, 2012

Baseball

The Detroit Tigers have a serious problem. Jose Valverde came on in the bottom of the 9th of game 4 of the ALDS with a chance to clinch a series victory for the Tigers. Valverde gave up a single to Josh Reddick to start the outing, and at that point, the game all but over. Josh Donaldson hit the longest double a player can hit in Oakland, and Seth Smith followed this up with a double of his own. Finally, Coco Crisp put the Tigers out of their misery with a sharply hit single into right field. That’s the ballgame. See you for game five, thanks to Jose Valverde’s blown save.

The bad guy.

Oh no that’s not the Tiger’s problem. The Tiger’s problem is their fans.

The bad guy Scapegoat

Last season, Jose Valverde went 49 for 49 on save attempts, with a win-loss record of 2-4. He did so with a 2.24 ERA. But Valverde looked decidedly awful in non-save situations and showed progressively less poise as the season dragged on. Valverde showcased an abysmal 6.00 and 8.31 ERA in the ALDS and ALCS respectively last year, and only recored 3 saves between the two series. The Jose Valverde that walked into the post season did not look like the same player that managed not to blow a single save all season long.

But he was the same player. The same player, with the same flaws: he’s only been throwing one pitch for the majority of the last two years, and has been doing so with increasingly little control. Valverde always carried a surprisingly high WHIP (1.179 over his career) and walked more batters than a closer should, but was able to make up for this with gaudy strikeout numbers. But those numbers were in decline all last year, and that trend continued into 2012. Anyone who paid any attention to the game of baseball could see that.

Tigers fans haven’t paid enough attention to the game of baseball. Baseball had been a second tier sport in Detroit since the late 80s, overshadowed by abysmal NFL football and the 20 year dynasty of the Detroit Red Wings. But suddenly, in 2006, the Motor City Kitties make the World Series and chants of “Bless You Boys” could be heard echoing out of Comerica Park like Trammel and Gibby and Willie Hernandez were back on the field. People cared again. But they didn’t understand the game.

When Valverde went 49 for 49 in 2011, the majority of Tigers fans ignored his shortcomings because he got the job done. Even when he fell apart in the playoffs, he was largely forgiven by the fan base. Most people assumed he’d get back on the horse in 2012 and repeat what he had done. When the 2012 season arrived and Valverde looked shaky, fans were in an uproar. “How could this be happening?!?!” they screamed, “the invincible Jose Valverde has forsaken us!” Suddenly, when the save opportunities weren’t turning into saved games anymore, people noticed. Overnight in Detroit, Jose Valverde went from being perceived as the best closer in baseball to being perceived the worst closer in baseball (both of which are painfully ignorant assertions that aren’t worthy of responses).

Detroit Tigers fans, artist’s rendering

The real problem in Detroit is the fans’ willingness to accept mediocrity. Mediocre players will win a team plenty of games, but they will never win championships. In Detroit, as mediocre players decay into below average players, the way Brandon Inge did, fans stay loyal. Only when players like Inge and Valverde started costing the Tigers victories did the fans even notice or begin to care. Management and ownership has no reason to part with these vast repositories of dwindling baseball talent until the fan base stops fawning over them, which is often months or years after their skills have slipped below serviceable levels.

Valverde is not the worst closer in baseball. He’s an aging veteran with poor mechanics and (likely) a pile of nagging injuries that desperately need treatment. He has a role in baseball. But that role not the premier closer for a World Series contender. This isn’t a fact that Valverde has managed to cover up, and its not something that was a well kept secret. Tigers fans just figured that out too late. And they have nobody to blame but themselves.

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14 Comments on “Detroit Tigers Fans: Don’t Blame Jose Valverde for Your Sins”

  1. Joseph Wilmot Says:

    This is clearly a biased opinion from from someone who is not a Tigers fan. A lot can be said about this piece…… But only one thing needs to be said “You can’t speak for all of the Detroit Tiger fans, you do not know what we all think, and you’re assuming.”

    Say what you want. The Tigers have won the AL Central for back-to-back years. They’re going to the ALCS for the second straight year. They preform on the biggest stage with the most adversity. They find a way to get it done when it matters.

    And lastly, sorry I don’t spend my time watching losing seasons. I don’t think that’s an accurate way to measure ones fan hood. That is all.

    -JC

    Reply

  2. Chase Okorowski Says:

    Not my favorite piece, but I respect the alternate view, and the fact someone is pointing the finger at someone other then Valverde (which solely shouldn’t rest on him). I do find problems with the argument that he is the same pitcher though, statistically speaking he isn’t as regression has hit him incredibly hard. While I speculated there would be some loss of production, I personally didn’t not see him throwing a career low K/9 or a career high in earned runs. And myself, along with countless others, have called for some bullpen additions. I still don’t know why, as a playoff contender, Leyland didn’t try and snag a closer from a selling team, I know there were plenty of them. I find him, more then anyone else, at blame. Props on the controversial piece though!

    Reply

  3. Matthew Milko Says:

    I don’t know who are bigger idiots, Tigers fans or Michigan State fans.

    Reply

  4. Mike Gazdik Says:

    Where is your Fernando Rodney now?

    Reply

  5. blah Says:

    Just about the most senseless thing I’ve ever read.

    Reply

    • Brian Young Says:

      Thanks for joining the discussion. You probably won’t see this, because I have a feeling the email address you left was fake, but I would really like to hear a detailed critique of why you thought this was so bad. Hope we talk soon, but expect we’ll talk never.

      Reply

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Did you base this off of like 10 people you know? Barely anybody wanted Valverde back this season, and everyone has been calling for him to lose his role all season as well.

    Reply

    • Brian Young Says:

      You need to go back and reread the article if you think that was the bone of contention. The problem IS that everybody has been calling for his removal all season, when he was substantially the same pitcher last season. As for “barely anybody wanted Valverde back”- typical Tigers fan revisionist history. People were mad for about 8 minutes after the ALCS last year but as soon as Prince Fielder strolled into town they forgot all about it ever happening.

      Reply

  7. Matthew Milko Says:

    Great post, perfectly describes the majority of Tigers fans that I know

    Reply

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