4 Detroit Tigers There may be less bickering in Detroit, but not more bang from a popgun offense

March 25, 2002

You know you're having a bad year when the taking of your team
photo is postponed because of a contentious clubhouse meeting
and then, after it's finally shot six weeks later, the picture
is missing two of your starters because they refused to pose.
Such was life last season in Tigertown, where bickering and
benchings were the norm. By the time September rolled around,
general manager Randy Smith and skipper Phil Garner knew that an
overhaul was in order. Garner stripped rightfielder Juan
Encarnacion--one of the photo boycotters--and shortstop Deivi
Cruz of their starting roles for the final month, and after the
season both were let go. (Encarnacion was traded to the Reds;
free agent Cruz signed with the Padres.) Also gone in the
off-season were the other picture no-show, centerfielder Roger
Cedeno, and longtime first baseman Tony Clark. (Cedeno signed
with the Mets; Clark was waived after Smith was unable to trade
him, and he later signed with the Red Sox.)

While addition by subtraction is often a good thing, it's always
nice to have a little addition by addition. But the most
significant new face that Smith brought in was first baseman
Dmitri Young, who came to Detroit in the Encarnacion deal. Two
months after the trade Young ripped former teammate Ken Griffey
Jr., saying that the star had a selfish attitude. Welcome to
Detroit, Dmitri. You'll fit right in.

The Tigers are obviously a team in need of a steadying influence
in the clubhouse, and Garner hopes that the right guy for the
job is Dean Palmer. The 33-year-old third baseman missed most of
last season after rotator-cuff surgery on his right shoulder,
and it was after he left the lineup that things really started
going downhill. "It was real frustrating to see the problems we
had and to know there was nothing I could do about them," Palmer
says. "I definitely think I could have helped out in the
clubhouse."

As much as it needs Palmer's veteran cool, Detroit also needs
his bat. Clark, who missed his usual run of games with a variety
of injuries last season, led the Tigers with a meager 75 RBIs.
Palmer has averaged 32 homers in the seven injury-free seasons
he has played and is the one Detroit player who can muscle the
ball out of spacious Comerica Park. With Young, a line drive
hitter who might hit 45 doubles playing half his games in
Comerica, and Palmer hitting behind him, leftfielder Bobby
Higginson should improve on his mediocre 2001 season. With
little protection Higginson didn't see many good pitches and set
a career high in walks, with 80. "If you're cautious to Higgy
and walk him," Garner says, "then here's Dmitri, a .300 hitter.
If you don't want to pitch to Dmitri, now you've got Deano, and
he'll bust a few balls out."

Busting balls shouldn't be a problem for Palmer. He felt fine
swinging a bat when he arrived in camp and hit two homers in his
third exhibition game. His concern was throwing, but by
mid-March he was on schedule to at least play semiregularly at
third by early April. Palmer will move to DH for some games to
rest his arm, as will catcher Mitch Meluskey, who missed all of
last year after shoulder surgery. Garner will juggle his lineup
as needed to generate offense, as evidenced by his handing the
rightfield job to Robert Fick, a slugging former catcher who
played the position only eight adventure-filled times last year.
(Garner's philosophy: "If you let in one, drive in two.")

By shoehorning Fick into the lineup, Garner has put together a
starting nine that has more pop than last year's, though that
power won't be all that evident in Comerica. And it won't matter
how explosive the Tigers are on the field if they remain
combustible off it. --M.B.

COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE A healthier Palmer wields a potent bat as well as a calming influence in a combustible clubhouse. COLOR PHOTO: M.DAVID LEEDS/GETTY IMAGES YOUNG

In FACT
The 2001 Tigers were just the second team since 1980 to hit 60
triples in a season. (The '84 Blue Jays had 68.)

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Tigers

"This club is in serious trouble. It's in for a lot of problems,
and it doesn't have many marketable players to trade. There's
not a lot of ability in the farm system.... Other than Jeff
Weaver, the rotation is below average. Nate Cornejo is a
nice-looking pitcher, but he's not really ready to contribute at
the major league level. He has outstanding movement and an
outstanding sinker, but they're asking too much of him....
Getting the ball to Matt Anderson and Danny Patterson will be a
project. Anderson is as much improved from a year ago as
anybody. Patterson's biggest problem is that he needs another
setup man to go along with him because he's not as durable as he
used to be.... Brandon Inge is definitely the Tigers' best
catch-and-throw guy behind the plate, but they want to send him
down to learn how to swing the bat. Having him up would be a
disservice to him.... Mitch Meluskey looks healthy [after
shoulder surgery]. He can swing the bat well from both sides....
Dmitri Young is probably the most misunderstood player in the
American League. People look at the goatee and the big hair and
don't realize he's hard-nosed and loves to play the game. He's a
super teammate who makes everyone around him better. He will
bring a lot of heart.... Bobby Higginson is a plus player
defensively, but Robert Fick will be a risk in rightfield. He's
definitely an offensive guy who will get some protection in the
lineup from Wendell Magee."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2001 statistics

PLAYER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
BATTING ORDER

CF Jose Macias S-R 212 .268 8 51 21
RF Robert Fick L-R 147 .272 19 61 0
LF Bobby Higginson L-R 88 .277 17 71 20
1B Dmitri Young[1] S-R 83 .302 21 69 8
3B Dean Palmer R 94 .222 11 40 4
C Mitch Meluskey* S-R 235 .300 14 69 1
DH Craig Paquette[1] R 187 .282 15 64 3
2B Damion Easley R 206 .250 11 65 10
SS Shane Halter R 247 .284 12 65 3

BENCH

C Mike Rivera (R)[2]R 238 .289 33 101 2
OF Wendell Magee R 316 .213 5 17 3

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA
STARTERS

RH Jeff Weaver 76 13 16 6.9 1.32 4.08
RH Steve Sparks 51 14 9 7.0 1.33 3.65
RH Jose Lima[3] 108 6 12 5.8 1.42 5.54
LH Mark Redman 225 2 6 5.3 1.57 4.50
RH Nate Cornejo (R) 136 4 4 4.3 2.13 7.38

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA
BULLPEN

RH Matt Anderson 32 3 1 22 1.32 4.82
RH Danny Patterson 126 5 4 1 1.18 3.06
RH Bill Simas*[1] 293 2 3 0 1.34 3.46

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie B-T: Bats-throws IPS: Innings
pitched per start

WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched PVR: Player
Value Ranking (explanation on page 154)

*2000 stats [2]Double A stats [3]Combined AL and NL stats

Manager
Phil Garner
third season with Detroit

2001 record
66-96
fourth in AL Central

IN THE FIELD
with defensive ratings

Golden Glover

Good Leather

Higginson
Macias
Young
Easley
Halter
Weaver

Iron Hands

Fick
Palmer
Meluskey

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)