Paul Wezner, Senior Editor
If 2004 was a huge step in the right direction, it's hard to see 2005 as anything but a year with little progress, which can't earn much better than a C- in my book. There were bright spots of course. Chris Shelton emerged as the hitter the team hoped Carlos Pena would be. Justin Verlander and Curtis Granderson both made their big league debuts, and Verlander stepped up as one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Joel Zumaya emerged as someone not far behind him. The team lured one of the top power hitting outfielders in the game to the team in Magglio Ordonez. They brought on a veteran presence to anchor the staff for 2006. The city of Detroit hosted the All Star game and there wasn't one negative news article about abandoned buildings, instead everyone raved about the beautiful park the Tigers had built, all the while, Pudge Rodriguez blasted home run after home run in the Home Run derby in front of his home crowd. On the downside, the Tigers had to fire another manager, they actually lost more games in '05 than they did in '04, there was serious clubhouse problems, the supposed 'team leader' in Rodriguez was at odds with most of his teammates, and players like Omar Infante and Brandon Inge who the Tigers were hoping would take the next step didn't do that. The Tigers lost three closers, and are now left with a closer who a year ago couldn't even get a major league contract. There are bright spots, certainly, but enough to out-weigh a team in turmoil that in most regards took a step back? Not in my opinion.
Mark Anderson, Minor League Editor
This a difficult task without breaking it down, so here goes nothing. Looking at the minor leagues and player development, I'd say the Tigers faired quite well. They had what appears to be another strong draft, continued to revamp the scouting and player procurement department with more well-respected guys, and they saw some nice rebounds from some fallen prospects. On the other hand, they continued to suffer what often appears an inordinate amount of injuries, and continued their odd refusal to aggressively promote prospects who demonstrate the need to be challenged. Overall, the re-stocking of the farm system carries more weight here, and I grade this aspect a 'B+.' At the Major League level, they certainly had their ups and downs. They made another (albeit overly expensive) big splash in the free agent market with the addition of Magglio Ordonez, acquired yet another powerful right arm or the bullpen in Kyle Farnsworth, then promptly dealt him away at the deadline, and they even managed to flirt with .500 for a large portion of the season. Then you look at the clubhouse problems, the complete second half collapse, the need to hire a third new manager in the last four seasons, and the $27 million thrown at two over-the-hill pitchers, and you can see where the Tigers still need to improve. If there was some certainty or optimism surrounding the acquisitions of Ordonez, Jones, and Rogers, I may grade them more highly at the Major League level, but with those considerations, the Tigers get a 'D' for this portion of their total score. Averaging those two scores out, and grading a tad generously, I'll give the Tigers a 'C+' for the 2005 year. They've come a long ways in recent years, but they have quite a ways to go too.
Jason Avery, Amateur Baseball Editor
I give the Tigers a "C" grade for last year. Before the '05 season, the Tigers gave Magglio Ordonez a $105-million dollar contract, despite being the lone suitors for him, and with Ordonez's health being a major issue after he had surgery on his knee outside of the U.S.
The major league team then went on to complete its 12th consecutive losing season in 2005, during which, they traded closer Kyle Farnsworth for the Braves, and perhaps didn't get enough in return.
The losing season also cost manager Alan Trammell his job, and outside of adding expensive stop gaps in Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones, nothing has been done to upgrade the roster thus far for the upcoming season.
The farm system had a remarkable year from a wins and losses standpoint, and for the first time in nearly 30 years, there are some signs of life that the Tigers could actually be on the cusp of having several home grown players make significant impact for them.
Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya are candidates to make the team with solid springs, and there is hope that youngters Roman Colon (the centerpiece of the Farnsworth trade), Wilfredo Ledezma can help next year.
The Tigers also have pitchers Jordan Tata and Humberto Sanchez, who could contribute in the future, and a healthy Kyle Sleeth would add to the growing pitching depth in the system.
The Tigers got one of the better talent evaluators in the game to run the draft in David Chadd, and his first draft netted a potential face-of-the-franchise type player in Cameron Maybin in the first round, and several other players had solid debuts and could help Detroit very quickly.
On a disappointing end, despite moving into Jose Rijo's adacemy in the Dominican, the Tigers have made very little in the way of significant signings (Audy Ciracao, and that's about it) on the international front.
All and all, I'm not sure which direction this team is going. Progress is being made with developing players, but with the Tigers being so aggressive in pursuing free agents, there seems to be some indecision on what exactly is the best future plan for the team. The present roster is not championship caliber, and it will be interesting to see if the Tigers struggle in 2006, will the Tigers try to dump some of their cumbersome contracts and rebuild for the umpteenth time, or stay the present course.
Have your own opinion on the issue? Ready to talk about it? State your opinion on the Detroit Tigers Open Message Board and go head to head with the experts!