Price a great addition

If you’ve seen this funny-looking face here before, you know I’m the “bowling guy” at The Mining Journal, the one who talks about that sport here every week all fall, winter and spring.

Of course, man cannot live on alleys and gutters alone. Especially when he gets promoted to sports editor, as I was two weeks ago.

Yes, I do have plenty of other sports passions beside hanging out in dark, dank and smoky bowling parlors – and by the way, nowadays they’re neither dark, dank nor smoky.

Like local sports teams, whether it’s high school, Northern Michigan University or others.

But in the dog days of summer, this middle-aged man’s fancy turns to baseball, specifically, the Detroit Tigers.

As Vince Lombardi said in his most famous sound bite (with a slight change to keep my movie theater “G” rating), “What the ‘L’ is going on around here?”

Already with the fifth-highest payroll in baseball coming into this season, Detroit looks dominant most everywhere except in its bullpen, and particularly at closer, which is the most important position held by a single player on any Major League team.

More important than two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera? Yeah, without protection from Victor or J.D. Martinez, Torii Hunter or whoever is hot at the moment, he can be continually pitched around.

Or No. 1 starting pitcher? I’d rather have a trio of No. 2s than just a single really good starter. Having nothing to go with the best No. 1 in the game might lead to lots of four-game losing streaks in-between the ace’s wins. A .200 winning percentage doesn’t add up to World Series rings very often.

Of course, this Tigers have anything but a single No. 1. You can make the case that they now have four No. 1s with the addition of David Price from Tampa Bay in that stunner of a deal on Thursda.

By the way, those four don’t include Justin Verlander, the be-all and end-all of starters two short years ago.

It’s Price, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello, who have ERAs between 3.11 and 3.57. Together, they have 43 wins despite non-supportive bullpens in Tampa and Detroit that have made other victories vanish like a magician’s best trick.

While I give props to Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski for trying to shore up the closer’s position, first with Joe Nathan in the offseason and then with Joakim Soria in the past week or two, he seems to be trying to go after a closer on the cheap.

Yes, you can’t simply pluck whatever player you want off any other team – unless you’re the Yankees of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

But the real catch would’ve been the San Diego Padres’ Huston Street, the closer the Angels scooped up a couple weeks ago and was considered the best among those availables.

Nathan, who the Tigers got in the off-season, costs them $9 million a year, actually more than Street, who wasn’t available then.

But Nathan is 39 years old. Even though he was pretty good just last season, you had to know at his age, there was soon going to be a dropoff in ability at a position where throwing 95 mph has become a basic requirement.

Soria comes in at $5.5 million, compared to Street’s $7 million annually. The difference? Just pocket change on the $160-some million Tigers’ payroll.

Personally, I’ll trade Price straight up for Street right this minute. Price might be better overall as a pitcher, but Street would fill a desperate need.

Hopefully, Soria will get himself straightened out and take over the closer’s role. Nathan could be valuable in relief, just not as closer.

How about this? Could the Tigers convince one of their starters to pull a John Smoltz? Atlanta’s dominating starter became the Braves’ closer in 2001 after Tommy John surgery, and was a huge success in that role before he returned as a starter in 2005.

Having been bumped as the unnecessary fifth starter for the playoffs, can you imagine Verlander coming on in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 3-3 game at Oakland in the AL Champi this October?

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.