The Oakland A’s have gotten hot at the right time. After going 17-9 in August, they’re 3-1 in September and coming off a series sweep of the Los Angeles Angels. Now, with the rebuilding Detroit Tigers coming to town for 3 games, plus the completion of the suspended May 19 game, the A’s have a good chance to stay hot and keep pace in a tight AL Wild Card race.
At 41-97, Detroit has been pretty bad, but there’s more to even the worst teams than just their record. To find out more about the Tigers, I asked Ashley MacLennan of Bless You Boys a few questions about the visiting team and some of its talent, young and old.
JI: That record — yikes. How is the rebuild going? How far do you think we are from seeing the next contending Tigers team?
AM: It’s ... bad. It’s really bad. I guess the idea of a rebuild is that you have to tear it all down and start again, but it’s hard to view that positively when you look at teams like the A’s or Rays who keep budgets small but still manage to build prospects and also create watchable teams around free agents and trades. It’s pretty discouraging. With all that said I think 2021 will be the first season we see things start to turn around and maybe 2022 for a shot of any kind of contention.
JI: Are there any Tigers players, either in the minors or the majors, that you might be higher on than most?
AM: I’m a pretty big Jake Rogers fan, in spite of what some early numbers show from his trip up the majors this year. He’s an exciting catcher who I have no false hopes of being an incredible bat. I just like a good catcher who can handle a young pitching staff, and with what the Tigers have coming down the pipeline I’m pretty excited to see what Rogers can do to help them develop and come into their own.
JI: Only three Tigers have a wRC+ over 100 - pitchers Matthew Boyd and Gregory Soto and outfielder Victor Reyes. What’s it like to watch such an anemic offense day in and day out, especially in an era where offense is up league-wide?
AM: Man you’re really rubbing it in, eh? There was definitely a point this season, when Miguel Cabrera hit his 9th home run in August (not his ninth that MONTH, but his ninth of the whole season) that it really started to sink in just how rough this team was to watch this season. But unlike what Nicholas Castellanos believes, the fault isn’t all on Comerica’s deep outfield. Plenty of home runs have been hit there in the past, and it was Miggy’s home park for his Triple Crown season, so that’s just excuses. It’s exhausting. Exhausting.
JI: It seems like everyone in baseball is hitting more home runs now...except for Miguel Cabrera. Does he make it through his contract with the team, or will we see them part ways before 2023?
AM: He’ll be there until the bitter end. It’s very similar to the Victor Martinez situation in that there’s really just no reasonable way to offload that contract. His or Jordan Zimmermann’s. So everyone is just sort of waiting it out. That said, even in this downslide, we still got to watch one of the best of the game in his prime. I can’t be mad about that. I hope he takes the offseason to really focus on getting healthy, as he’s been having some underlying health issues this season that he opted not to get surgery for in order to keep playing. So I hope he rests and comes back strong next year.
JI: What does the future look like for injured starter Michael Fulmer?
AM: I doubt we’ll ever see 2016-level Rookie of the Year type numbers from Fulmer, but when he comes back from surgery next season I anticipate a reliable mid-rotation arm that the Tigers can depend on for quality innings until they’re in contention again.
JI: How much faith do you have in Al Avila and Ron Gardenhire to keep Detroit pointed in the right direction?
AM: I am dubious. Gardenhire is likely done after next year, and that’s fine. He was a good manager for the initial stages of a rebuild, but with so many young players poised to come up, I’m ready for the Tigers to try someone new and younger perhaps. Similarly Avila has done ... fine. There have obviously been restrictions on his ability to spend, and he’s made some so-so trades. I’m not overly upset about any moves he’s made, but similar to my take on Gardy, I want newer, younger. Bring me Chaim Bloom please.
JI: Who’s hot right now that A’s fans might want to watch out for?
AM: No one. Literally no one. This team is unbearable. That said, keep an eye on guys like Rogers, and Willi Castro, because I’m hoping to see them pan out in the future.
Thanks again to Ashley for taking the time to chat! The series kicks off with the completion of the suspended game, with “first pitch” scheduled for 5:15 P.M. PDT on Friday.