MLB Insider: Time to boo Tigers' Nathan is over
Joe Nathan's time as a Tiger is certainly over.
And his time as a major-leaguer is probably over, too.
That's awfully unfortunate — though maybe not as unfortunate as a series of tweets sent out by some Tigers fans following Thursday's announcement that Nathan, trying to get back on the mound in Detroit, learned he would need Tommy John surgery.
Look, I get why Tigers fans were never in love with Nathan.
One of the best closers of his era, he wasn't very good in his year-plus with the Tigers, after he spent years tormenting the Tigers while he pitched for the Twins, and later the Rangers. He never blew a save against the Tigers, but blew seven for them.
You can understand his frustration — but he also made the bad mistake of making the fans his punching bag.
That's not acceptable, not for any major-leaguer, let alone like Nathan, who's been around plenty long to know better.
Last May, he drew the fan base's ire when he threw rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos under the bus following a blown save in Oakland. That doesn't sit well in a blue-collar town like Detroit, where you're expected to take responsibility for your faults, and not pass the buck.
Then came the consistent showers of boos, when Nathan was announced as warming up, when Nathan entered a game, and when Nathan struggled in a game, which happened a lot early last season.
Then came the chin flick, a nasty gesture to the Comerica Park crowd after he saved a game in July.
And, finally, came this spring's saga, when, after being booed at Joker Marchant Stadium — which doesn't happen very often when the crowd is mostly in its 70s — he said, "Fans aren't in my mind."
During a national radio interview later in the spring, he hinted that he was misquoted. But he really wasn't. You get misquoted by one reporter, not by five or six.
And, so, it was a frustrating marriage, Nathan to the Tigers fans.
Tigers fans, understandably, had great expectations when president and general manager Dave Dombrowski signed him to that two-year, $20 million deal after the 2013 season. It took the sting, for a moment, off the Doug Fister trade, which had gone down about 24 hours earlier.
And Nathan, he had high hopes to live up to those expecations.
But he struggled mightily, for darn near the first time in his career — and, frankly, he just didn't handle the adversity well. He wasn't used to adversity. And when you're not used to adversity, you can say rash things and make rash decisions.
Fans, though, should just let it go — rather than cheer what could be a career-ending injury, like some of them, disgustingly, did Thursday.
Nathan, 40, has a sterling reputation from his 16 years in the major leagues. So he strayed from that a bit when things went south. So what. It's a natural human emotion. You'd get frustrated, too, if you were once one of the best at your job, and then all of a sudden you lost it — and you knew the end was near.
I called Nathan out, fairly, for his actions at the time, but I always knew he was a really good guy who had a great career, one that deserves Hall of Fame consideration, if not induction.
Sure, Nathan probably never earned the Tigers' fans adulation.
But he certainly doesn't deserve to be kicked while he's down, either.
The White Sox are reviewing their reviews.
In the wake of last weekend's mega gaffe in Detroit, White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters this week that the team has explored its replay system, and decided to make some fixes to their process.
"There is a chain of events that went wrong, starting with the umpire missing the call, which is going to happen on a bang-bang play, to our video guys not getting the look they needed in time and giving bad information to the bench," Hahn told reporters, including ESPN.com's Doug Padilla. "We made some changes that night to our process to how we review things, and I think we will be better for it moving forward.
"It's unfortunate, but we messed it up and we own it."
In Friday night's game at Comerica Park, Castellanos, the Tigers third baseman, hit a ball to right field, and when the ball got away a bit from Avisail Garcia, he bolted for second base.
Garcia's throw beat Castellanos, but second-base ump Brian O'Nora said Alexei Ramirez whiffed on the tag. Some replays seemed to confirm that, but one showed on Fox Sports Detroit showed Ramirez getting Castellanos on the toe.
The White Sox review guys never looked at the FSD angles, just the home broadcast shots, which didn't show the tag. So manager Robin Ventura opted not to challenge — even though he should've, regardless, given the situation. Jose Iglesias eventually drove in the winning run with a single up the middle.
"Look, it was a mistake," Hahn said. "These things happen. Now we're going to clean it up."
The Tigers, you could see their hot start coming.
The Mets? Well, not so much.
But the boys from Queens are starting to push the Yankees off the back page of the tabloids, especially after a 10th consecutive victory Wednesday. They have yet to lose in their home ballpark (9-0), and are 12-3 overall.
And the Mets are doing that without some key pieces. Star third baseman David Wright (hamstring), catcher Travis d'Arnaud (finger) and lefty reliever Jerry Blevins (forearm) are out, and Blevins won't return anytime soon. They also lost closer Jenrry Mejia to an 80-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
"I don't have any words for it," Mets manager Terry Collins, the Midland, Mich., native, told the New York Daily News, about his team's hot start. "I really believe winning is contagious. Everybody wants to do their part. They don't get caught up in individual stuff. They get caught up in the team stuff, and that makes a difference."
The Mets, who haven't made the playoffs since 2006 and haven't finished over .500 since 2008, got a big boost from the return of ace Matt Harvey, though the rest of the rotation has been surprisingly good, too.
The Mets' hot start has been magnified by the slow start of the Nationals, the runaway pick to win the National League East — and many folks' pick (guilty!) to win it all.
Another setback for Dirks
It's been a super tough few years for former Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks.
After hitting .322/.370/.487 in 2012, he slumped to .256/.323/.363 in full-time duty in 2013. He arrived in spring camp last year with renewed optimism, but suffered a back injury that required surgery and cost him the entire season.
The Tigers let him go in October, because their outfield as crowded and team brass never felt overly confident he would be healthy.
And, it turns out, the Tigers were right.
The Blue Jays twice picked up Dirks this offseason, but they let him go for a second time Thursday, according to Sportsnet in Canada, when word came out that he underwent a second back surgery.
Dirks, 29, played just 14 games in the Tigers minors last year, and didn't play at all for the Blue Jays this year, not in spring training and not even at Triple A.
Around the horn
Good move by the Mariners taking a low-risk gamble in signing slugger Carlos Quentin. He's hurt a lot, and probably past the days where he plays daily, but if the Mariners are to win that American League West like many of us believe they should, they'll have to score more runs. Their pitching has struggled early, but that should turn around soon.
... The Alex Rodriguez shine wore off quickly. After starting the year at .316/.447/.711, he scuffled in three games in Detroit, after manager Joe Girardi moved him up to No. 3 in the lineup. In the first three games of the series, he was 1-for-11 with two strikeouts, and he wasn't in the lineup for Thursday's game.
... This weekend is Negro Leagues weekend at Comerica Park. Legendary Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker will be in town, and part of the ceremonies.
Three up ...
1. Prince Fielder: The ex-Tigers slugger is one of the few bright spots with the Rangers this season, off to a .367/.424/.483 start through the first 15 games.
2. Tigers fans: About 500 of them stayed for all of Wednesday's night's ugly, cold debacle, and I'll give them credit. I only stayed because I was on the clock.
3. Pete Rose: I'm thrilled he's joining Fox Sports 1 as a baseball analyst, so long as he's not angling for reinstatement. That ship has sailed, I hope.
... Three down
1. Mike Redmond: The Marlins manager apparently already is on the hot seat, a little over two years on the job. Owner Jeffrey Loria never has had much patience.
2. Blue Crew: The Brewers are off to a horrendous 2-13 start. But unlike the Marlins, they're not ready to pin all the blame on their manager, Ron Roenicke.
3. PNC Park: The Pirates best fix their behind-home-plate netting, after a woman was smacked by a foul ball in the back of the head. Lucky she didn't die.
6: Runs scored by the Marlins in a win over the Phillies on Wednesday, and yet Miami only had one RBI in the game. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that's the most runs in a game with one or less RBI since 1975, when Mets ace Tom Seaver threw a 6-0 shutout and had the only RBI.
51: Pitches by David Price in the first inning Wednesday, second-most by any starter in the first inning in the last eight years (Wade Davis, 53 in 2013).
4/24/56: In honor of Wednesday's ump show at Comerica Park, on this date in history, Frank Umont, a former football star, became the first umpire to wear glasses in a regular-same game, according to Baseball-Reference.com. The Tigers beat the A's, 7-4, in Kansas City.
He said it
"It felt like a frozen snowball or something, going at 93. Hit me right in the heart."
Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees center fielder, on being hit the pitch by Tigers ace David Price in the first inning of Wednesday's frigid game.