Henning: Tigers wise to have patience with Gose
Most fans of that popular long-running series, “The Tigers,” will remember an episode from last season’s closing days.
Bruce Rondon, a relief pitcher who has been a source of heavy exasperation the past three years, was not exactly impersonating a Marine Corps infantryman with his effort and work ethic.
The Tigers decided Rondon needed a lasting lesson in professional baseball commitment. They sent him home to Venezuela with a week remaining in the regular season. They wanted him to understand obligations, to marinate during the offseason in thought about his responsibility and talents that probably were being wasted.
It was the same line of thinking the Tigers practiced Wednesday when they shipped Anthony Gose to Double A Erie following a weekend dugout spat with Triple A Toledo manager Lloyd McClendon.
Gose hasn’t been hitting (.185 with the Mud Hens) after having been sentenced to Toledo in May for, well, not hitting in Detroit. He was sick of his struggles and sick of being pushed steadily from the Tigers’ outfield pecking order and he mouthed off to McClendon, a no-guff skipper who excused Gose from the game and from the ballpark.
Gose subsequently skipped Sunday’s game and the Tigers had a minor personnel crisis to adjudicate.
There were those who thought and insisted Gose should be given a pink slip, a new suit of clothes, and $5 as the Tigers sent him into the free world. They pretty much are the same folks who thought last September the Tigers should jettison Rondon and be rid of a pitcher they regarded more as an irritant.
But think about decisions then. And about Wednesday’s move.
Rondon is not, and was not, a bad person. He was young and – some of us remember our 20s – not optimally mature. He now is back pitching with the Tigers and, while bumps can still be part of the Rondon experience, his pitching skill is still evident and his potential remains important for the Tigers.
It was wise to have hung on to a person and to a 25-year-old pitching resource.
The same can be said for Gose, also 25. He is not a bad guy, not at all. He is different, for sure. Interviewing him for example is not always a linear or gainful experience. He can zoom in and zoom out of a conversation much as a website map can show refined or distant areas.
But this is a decent citizen and a good athlete with a left-handed bat that might yet prove useful when center fielders simply aren’t the most plentiful commodity in baseball.
On the flip side, it probably wasn’t going to help any of the parties if Gose were forgiven, told this was all in the past, and that he should report for work as usual with the Mud Hens.
Something of deeper imprint and value had to be part of his post-McClendon miscue.
And so the Tigers decided to drop him a notch in their farm system. He can go to Erie and begin anew with his bat and, ideally, with his disposition and play his way back into Detroit’s outfield picture. He can avoid past scars with McClendon and show SeaWolves skipper Lance Parrish that he’s a reformed big-league candidate who plans to hit and play his way back to Detroit.
He can work at Erie with hitting coach Phil Clark, and particularly with Bruce Fields, the Tigers’ roving minor-league batting instructor who has a great touch with players, and get that occasionally powerful bat back on the straight and narrow.
It’s rather up to Gose to make this work. But the Tigers have given him a shot, seemingly in the best possible manner. It keeps a personnel piece in the Tigers’ system and allows Gose, who has to have been chastened by the weekend incidents, a chance to prove he has a future in baseball and that it might just as well be with a team that could yet use him, this season or certainly in 2017.
Not always in sports are decisions having to do with discipline and non-performance made with any great sense of restraint or potential future dividends.
This one made sense. For the Tigers, and for a player who needs to study the Rondon example and think about what yet can be attained.