Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Perplexing Case Of Fernando Rodney

The way 2009 is playing out, the Tigers are going to have some interesting decisions to make after the season.
The most intriguing may involve closer Fernando Rodney, who is having a career year at just the right time.
Rodney is 32-of-33 in save situations, which represents great success in Tigers’ history, because that is what Willie Hernandez was in 1984 when the Tigers swept to the World Series championship. "If it was good enough for Willie to win the MVP and Cy Young Awards, it should be good enough for the Tigers..."
Yeah, then again, the Tigers signed Hernandez long term after that season, and it wasn’t long before his failures became as source of constant consternation for Tiger fans, who booed him louder than any athlete in the history of this town.
And besides, Rodney’s numbers across the board don’t remotely compare to those of Hernandez in ‘84.
On Rodney’s side: He does throw very hard. His changeup is one of the best in the game. When his velocity is up like this - consistently in the mid-to-high 90s - there is no way hitters can adjust to his changeup.
Not on Rodney’s side: In the past, he hasn’t been able to pitch through ailments. When his velocity goes down because of them, hitters are able to adjust to his changeup. Also, he walks too many hitters.
There is another issue. I guess you could call it the knucklehead factor. Rodney has done much this season to dismiss the notion in his regard. Yet, it glaringly came to the forefront the other day in Tampa when, after one of his typical hold-on-for-your-life saves, Rodney chucked the ball into the press box, narrowly, from my understanding, avoiding serious injury to people up there.
It was selfish. Extremely immature. And could hurt his team greatly because he has been suspended for three games, pending appeal.
The Tigers will have to back track their bullpen while he is out. Brandon Lyon has to become the closer. Bobby Seay or Ryan Perry the setup men. It has a domino effect that could greatly hurt the Tigers.
Do you really want the Tigers to roll the dice with a megabuck, multi-year contract with Rodney? The Tigers clearly don’t. Nor do they trust any recovery from Joel Zumaya. It’s why they drafted college closers with their first four picks in the 2008 draft. One of them, Perry, might be ready to close as soon as next season. Another, Cody Satterwhite, will likely be ready at some early point of next season for the major leagues. The Tigers did trade reliever Brett Jacobson to Aubrey Huff. They didn’t want to - that was evident by how long they waited to pull the trigger on the trade, only do it after Ryan Raburn struggled so in place of Inge in a Sunday loss to Kansas City. (Jacobson, by the way, struggled to close the season in Baltimore’s system).
Unless Rodney is absolutely stunningly effective the rest of this season and the postseason, I’d say "bye, bye" to him after this season.

My column in Wednesday's Oakland Press. Matthew Stafford isn't fighting the curse of Bobby Layne as much as the memory of Joey Harrington



Blogger Fred Brill said...

I had never considered Rodney as a Cy Young candidate before ... still trying to grasp that. I don't disagree that it's possible ... just trying to fathom Rodney as a Cy Young candidate.

If that is true ... which I don't doubt - but having trouble digesting the idea ... then he becomes very marketable.

Rodney, huh? Our guy?

As for his tossing the ball in pressbox - my guess is he didn't mean to throw it there.

Seriously though - this is the first knucklehead act I have heard of Rodney pulling - and for all the opportunities with all the boos of '07 and '08 - he had ample opportunity to say classless things in response - and I don't believe he ever has. I've always admired him for that.

Who was he aiming for?

12:33 PM 
Blogger John said...

"Rodney sucks...and he hurt the team by getting suspended!" (paraphrasing this filler of an article). That doesn't make any sense. BTW, if Clete Thomas doesn't try to catch a ball with his eyes closed Rodney would be perfect in save situations. Leave him alone Pat. I agree, the Tigers should not over pay to keep Rodney after his career year. Not really anything groundbreaking there. Everyone knows reliever's careers tend to peak and valley out. Are you contractually obligated to complain about whoever the Tiger's current closer is?

12:46 PM 
Anonymous Michael C said...

Lyon's contract is up too. He's a year and a half younger than Rodney and will likely be cheaper after the success Rodney has had closing this year.

So if it comes down to resigning one or the other they may go the cheaper route in Lyon.

Hopefully we at least get one of them back.

3:49 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
I don't think he was aiming for anybody or even the press box. It was just a case of losing it. Not a good move.

8:12 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Not having him for three games for reason whatsoever hurts the team. As a closer this year, I think he has done much better than expected - certainly I expected - and he deserves credit. The Tigers wouldn't be in first place without him. As for paying him big bucks after this year - different story.

8:14 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Michael C,
Lyon, considering cost, would seem to be more cost effective.

8:15 PM 
Blogger Barry said...

Hey Pat, how would Valverde look in a Tigers uniform? I hope Rodney's year isn't like catching lighting in a bottle. Both are going to cost alot. Tigers could make a splash in the off season if they can somehow get Maggs off the books. I don't understand it, Raburn has more homers with fewer a-bats than Maggs and he has more range in the field

9:02 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rodney is a nutcase .. so much talent but exactly what you don't want as a focused, tactical closer .. like don't walk hitters?

Cy Young ... are you guys hulucinating?

Tigers win the pennant with 87-88 wins and get creamed in the playoffs.

12:04 PM 

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