I know, José Valverde is 35 years old, right about the age when professional athletics could be making plans for retirement. I know he had not done so well the last couple seasons and that he had spent most of this season in the Triple A League. He was called up for a stint with the Tigers when the closer they assigned to replace him couldn’t get the job done, but then they sent him back down when it later turned out that he didn’t have what they wanted.
But here’s the thing, I think they need him. I think they’ve needed him ever since they sent him down to work on his pitching. This is just my opinion and I’m far from being an expert, but it seems to me that every other closer Jim Leyland put on the mound had not done as well as Valverde had. Today Leyland went through three different pitchers in the ninth inning and all of them damn near blew the game. They’re lucky those fly balls didn’t leave the field. The White Sox might have caught up otherwise.
Valverde might never get his top game back, but I think he’s the best man for the job. I think they need to call him back up and keep him on until he either retires or they find a worthy replacement.
Who is that guy? I was asking myself this question when I saw the home run that put the Tigers ahead of the White Sox in the second inning of today’s game. It wasn’t Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Andy Dirks or Jhonny Peralta. In fact, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen this guy before. I don’t miss many games, but there are some players who I’m not familiar with. I spent a few minutes staring at the TV, trying to get a glimpse of the back of his jersey. The best I could get was a side angle that revealed the first three letters of his last name, Tui.
I got on the computer and went to Tigers.com to have a look at the team’s roster. There he was under the list of outfielders. Matt Tuiasosopo. But who is Matt Tuiasosopo? I googled his name to see what else I could find out about him.
Turns out he’d been playing in the minors for a while and was called up after an impressive Spring Training season this year, and I see he just came off of a fifteen day disability. That was a nice home run he hit today and I expect to see more of them. It’s too bad the Tigers didn’t win, but there’s plenty of more games to play before the season ends.
I keep checking the MLB Standings to make sure the Arizona Diamondbacks are still at the top the National League’s West division. Yep, they still are. They’ve been the leaders of their division, I think, since early in the season. But why do I care so much about the Diamondbacks, I’m a Tiger fan. I probably wouldn’t be thinking so much of them if Kirk Gibson wasn’t the team’s manager.
I’ve known for a few years now that Gibson was a bench coach for the Diamondbacks, but he was promoted to manager in 2010. I think that was the best decision the team’s overlords have made in a while. I understand that they had a string of unreliable managers before they finally promoted Gibson to the role.
Those of us old enough to remember the old Tiger Stadium, probably remember when the announcer would roll out “Kirrrrrk Gibson!” as Gibson stepped up to the plate. The man was a hero as a player, but he was also an excellent team leader. Remember the 1988 season when Gibson was playing for the Dodgers? The Dodgers did not do so well the season before, but when Gibson came to the team he inspired a winning attitude in the players. The Dodgers went on to win the World Series.
My faith in Gibson’s ability as a team manager is based on his season with the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks certainly have been looking good since he was promoted. In 2011 they won the Division Champion. I’d like to see them make it to the World Series this year. Of course, I want the Tigers to make it to the World Series, too., and they just might. The Tigers are at the top of the American League’s Central division. If the Diamondbacks and the Tigers meet in the World Series, I will be rooting for the Tigers, but it would be nice to have Kirk Gibson’s team there too.