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ML what would B: What if Derek Jeter Wasn’t Drafted So Young?

Hey baseball fans!

Have you ever wondered what baseball would have been like had Derek Jeter gone first overall in the 1992 MLB draft to the Astros? I know I have, but I can get a little more creative than that for an edition of ML”what would”B.

Derek Jeter was drafted straight out of high school by the New York Yankees in 1992. However, he was so young! So, what would have happened if he had gotten drafted in 1994 instead? Well let’s keep the fact that Jeter doesn’t go first overall, because I refuse to let him play in Flushing, NY. Instead, he goes fifth overall to the Florida Marlins, who need a good shortstop. But, the Yanks need a shortstop as well. Because in real life New York drafted Jeter at a young age, let’s make them draft Edgar Renteria at a young age as well. Ok, so we have Jeter in South Beach and Edgar in the Bronx. That shouldn’t be too confusing.

Both players start their careers in 1996. Jeter bats .298 with 95 runs scored to win the NL Rookie of the Year. Renteria bats .310 and gets the Yanks into the World Series, where they beat the Braves in six. In 1997, the upstart Marlins win the NL East because of Jeter’s astounding sophomore hitting: .323 batting average, 18 home runs, and 89 RBIs. His efforts help the Marlins to an NLDS win over the Astros, but lose the NLCS to the Giants. San Fran however cannot hold off the powerful Indians, who win their first Fall Classic since 1948. Now in real life, all of the good players on the Marlins leave Miami and the Teal become a laughing stock in 1998. But with Jeter’s winning attitude, no one leaves the squad. In fact, they pick up second baseman Chuck Knoblauch from the Twins, who was signed by the Yankees in real life before the 1998 season. However, the Yanks don’t do badly whatsoever.

Due to starting the 1998 season off at 0-6, the Yankees need a boost. They finally get it when Edgar hits four home runs against Seattle en route to a 21-0 drubbing of the Mariners. From there, the Yankees take off, winning their next 16 and eventually finishing the season with 111 wins. They go to the World Series to face: Derek Jeter’s Marlins. It all comes down to a seventh game at Miami and in the bottom of the 11th inning, the Marlins win the World Series when Jeter singles off David Wells. In 1999, the Yanks again go to the World Series and beat the Braves in a sweep. In 2000, the Marlins finally start to show signs of weakening. Because of this, they end up with the worst record in baseball with 101 losses, even though Derek Jeter bats .367 to lead the league. Due to this, it’s time to rebuild. The Marlins actually end up trading Derek… to the Yankees for Edgar Renteria! You thought that Jeter was never going to play in New York? Not on my watch! Anyway, with a new shortstop, the Yankees go on to win the 2001 World Series over Arizona and all of New York cheers for their new star, here in the ML”what would”B.

Reflecting On 2013 Tigers And Theorizing Where To Go From Here

It’s been over for nearly two weeks.

dt.common.streams.StreamServerThe Detroit Tigers’ latest assault on that elusive fifth World Series title fell short last Sunday, as Shane Victorino’s Game 6 grand slam (which is still airborne) catapulted the Boston Red Sox into the World Series (which they are expected to win within the next two days). The Tigers became the first team to reach the ALCS in three consecutive seasons since the New York Yankees made four in a row between 1998 and 2001. The Yankees won the World Series in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and were one win from another championship in 2001. The Tigers have won the pennant once out of these three appearances and won exactly zero games in the ensuing World Series. Pretty stark contrast.

Going so far as to call the 2013 season a “failure” appears at first glance to be a bit harsh, but consider that the organization’s brain trust has stated time and time again (especially over the past two seasons) that the goal of the Detroit Tigers is to win the World Series. They were very active at the trade deadline this season and last. They spent MORE THAN $500 MILLION DOLLARS to tie up three players: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander. The Tigers have had three good teams over the past three seasons, but they all had the same fatal flaw: a failure to score in the postseason. The Tigers averaged only 3.2 runs per game in the 2013 postseason, and have averaged 3.4 runs per game over the past three Octobers. The 2013 edition was extra-special because of their abysmal bullpen; the bullpen that cost Max Scherzer two wins in the ALCS and blew three wins for Detroit overall. The team appeared to be constructed well enough, yet there’s no championship. And when the franchise credo is “World Series or bust” and the franchise doesn’t win the World Series, then yeah, there’s a mildly compelling argument that 2013 was a failure, despite the third consecutive division title, despite the likely Cy Young Award for Scherzer, and despite the very strong possibility of another MVP award for Cabrera.

The Tigers’ latest postseason power outage cost them their manager, as Jim Leyland elected to step down after eight seasons on the job. As much vitriolic crap as Leyland frequently got from scores of angry Detroit fans, there’s no denying the impact he had on the club. When he arrived in 2006, the Tigers were irrelevant. They lost 119 games in 2003, their last winning season was 1993, and their last playoff appearance was in 1987. Since 2006, the Tigers have recorded the following: six winning seasons, four playoff appearances (three times as division champion), and two pennants. What that means: Jim Leyland is the second-best manager in Tigers history, right behind Sparky Anderson.

Now, regarding this team’s future. The way this writer sees it, there are two feasible routes the Tigers can go (no, neither of them involve hiring Dusty Baker and spending $250 million on Robinson Cano):

1) hire a younger manager from outside the organization (Brad Ausmus, Torey Lovullo, Tim Wallach), trade potential 2014 free agent Scherzer, and begin to utilize younger/unproven players on the major league roster (whether it be from the Scherzer trade or to fill voids left by the departures of free agents Joaquin Benoit, Omar Infante, and Jhonny Peralta). At the end of 2014, let Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez walk as free agents, and *consider* moving 2015 free agent Cabrera (unless he takes a discount), In other words, lay the miguel-cabrera-icon2foundation for a rebuild.

2) hire from within (Tommy Brookens, Jeff Jones, Lloyd McClendon), keep the band together (perhaps add an impact free agent because #MikeIlitchPizzaMoney), and give it another go in 2014. Extend Cabrera and/or Scherzer to keep a semblance of a championship window open for the next few years.

The rumors of the Tigers shopping Scherzer won’t go away, and with three guys making $20 million per year already on the payroll, general manager Dave Dombrowski may have to consider how to cut costs and get maximum value back for some of his assets. The Tigers’ farm system is one of the worst in baseball now, and it must be replenished eventually. Going route #1 would be disappointing to many fans, but no one really knows how much more 84 year-old owner Mike Ilitch can or will spend to rope in a title. And the current “win now” approach hasn’t paid all the dividends it was expected to.

MLB: Detroit Tigers-Prince Fielder Press Conference

Route #2 would appease hungry fans and likely keep the Tigers in that upper echelon in MLB. However, the farm system would still be in tatters and the Tigers would be paying at least $20 million per season to FOUR players for the next several years. Close to half the payroll would be tied up in two pitchers and two hitters, and at least three will be getting paid well into their late-30’s, unless a Marlins-esque salary dump occurs. This payroll constriction will be a problem in the years to come if the Tigers develop any top-flight prospects in the next year or so, or if secondary guys on the roster need a raise.

The Tigers are definitely a team to watch this offseason because of all the questions they have to answer. They’ve blown two golden opportunities to win a World Series for Mr. Ilitch and a rabid fanbase over the last two Octobers, and 2013 could very well prove to be the swan song for this era of Tigers baseball. Only time will tell.