AP writer Howie Rumbergap — which is a FANTASTIC sportswriter name, by the way — talks to a number of former big baseball names who are now the marginal types in spring training camps across Florida and Arizona. The Mark Prior/Mike Hampton/Bartolo Colon/Eric Chavez types. After noting that, despite the fact that many of them had either quit or said they would quit before, they’re all still plugging away, Eric Chavez explains it:
“This is what I was born to do. I’m a baseball player. I’m not going to be able to do it a lot longer in life and I just want enjoy it and try to finish it out as best as I can.”
This puts a slightly different spin on the “he’s a ballplayer” stuff from the other day. One that suggests commitment, be it quixotic or otherwise.
These guys have way more of their identity tied up in what they do than the vast majority of us who sit in front of computers and crack wise all day. That’s both good and bad, of course, depending on how extreme the commitment and whether it’s a motivating force or one that skews perspective and leads one to make bad life choices.
But it’s one of the many things that draws me to baseball. These guys are just wired differently than you and I. And I find it fascinating.
The Tigers have officially named Ron Gardenhire as their next manager. Gardenhire has agreed to a three-year contract.
Gardenhire takes over for Brad Ausmus, who was let go after four seasons as Detroit’s manager. The Tigers went 64-98 this season, finishing tied for the worst record in the majors. Having traded away Justin Verlander and J.D. Martinez, they’re poised for a major rebuild, so it’s best to look at Gardenhire as something of a caretaker manager.
As far as caretaker managers go, Gardenhire is not a terrible choice. He was the bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season. He managed the Twins from 2002-14, going 1,068-1,039, winning the AL Central six times. He was AL Manager of the Year in 2010. He’ll do a fine job keeping the clubhouse drama free, dealing with the press and making sure the young players know the way to the team bus during road trips. There’s value in having an old hand doing those things with a team in as uncertain a position as the Tigers are these days.
Still, it’s a less-than-imaginative choice. If you have nothing to lose, and the Tigers really don’t, you’d think being somewhat more adventurous with your manager choice might be a way to try something new. As it is, the Tigers took a veteran-laden team in a win-now position and gave it to an unproven Brad Ausmus back in 2014. Now they’re playing it safe with a known quantity when the stakes are low.