LOVE him or HATE him, PAPA GRANDE is a BIG presence in the bullpen who has the capabilities of sealing the deal. After his recent 2012 playoff pitfalls, the relationship between him, the organization and the fans went far south. Were we too harsh on him? Was he out of gas or just over-hyped? Whatever happened, happened. Now, perhaps after last evenings blown save and loss, the Tigers big brass finally realized that they need a true closer: someone who has a unique and electric personality. Someone with experience closing games and who can handle the ups and downs of clutch situations for a whole season. Who better to trust then the man that led them there last year?!
“FINE, I WANT THAT WORLD SERIES TROPHY, JUST CALL VALVERDE.” is what I imagine Ilitch or Dombrowski had said last night after the 3-2 loss that really should have been a win. I know I said it deep down yesterday, too!
Or, was it more like Valverde made a call and said: “Look, I’m unemployed, I know the team, the city and your organization. I can STILL do this, guys! You kind of need a true closer, pick me!”
It’s true what they say. A team does need a true closer. I am not a fan of the closer by committee approach, myself and feel way more comfortable with a well paid superstar occupying that slot in the bullpen. I was a huge Valverde fan, but MAN, did he ever make me nervous when he took the mound. Certain characteristics of him remind me much of my favorite goalie of all time: Domink Hasek. Both are prolific and both have unique and quirky attributes. Their situations are somewhat similar, too. Hasek retired, then came back amidst controversy. But, I can tell you, we wouldn’t have won the Cup without him in 2008. Ozzie was the goaltender in the playoffs, but Dom did a good portion of the work in the season. His mere presence made the team ELECTRIC. The same is true for Valverde. His mere presence makes the team ELECTRIC, too. He, like Hasek, also left Detroit and will come back amidst much fan controversy, partly because he has such a loud personality.
Folks, here’s the deal: We can’t win it without him. We need him to come back and take the reins. Personally, I love the energy he brings to the Tigers. Was I ready to break up with him and part ways after last year’s post season? YES. I was not impressed with his “stuff” at the end of the season and even the baseball gods were seemingly against him. I was upset at his performances in the playoffs and his reliability was waning. I stood by him longer than most, though. It’s because I like him. He’s a rockstar. I was living in Florida during his first season as a Tiger. He brought so much positive national media attention to the city of Detroit. You couldn’t help but stare at awe as he saved 49 games in 49 attempts. He redefined what it was like to be a Tigers closer and set the Tigers single season save mark. He joins the ranks of other great Tigers closers such as John Hiller, Willie (Guillermo) Hernandez, Mike Henneman and Todd Jones.
Will Valverde earn his spot back in the bullpen and be the final piece of the championship puzzle? Was this a bad deceision by Tigers management? Just how risky is this endeavor?
The Tigers actually played it pretty safely. They have signed Valverde to a minor league deal to evaluate him over one month’s time period. After this time period, then I believe it becomes easy for the contract to be terminated. So, if Valverde seems to fit and do well, we have a seasoned closer. If he still seems to be flaky and ineffective, then we continue to find another solution until the trade deadline.