Detroit Free Press
Published 7:54 AM EDT Aug 14, 2019
Finally, in a season full of Detroit Tigers losses, the snapshot that would define them all: A baseball ricocheting off the outfielder’s glove and over the fence for a home run.
The 116th game of this forgetful season was on ice, anyways – the Tigers trailed Seattle by three runs in the top of the ninth inning before losing, 11-6, on Tuesday night at Comerica Park – but then Kyle Seager just had to hit a deep fly ball to the warning track in left-center field.
From center field, Niko Goodrum – mostly an infielder – charged hard. From left field, Brandon Dixon – usually a first baseman – appeared to have a good read on it.
Bracing for impact with Dixon, the ball went off Goodrum’s outstretched glove and over the fence before they collided, left dazed and likely dumbfounded themselves at what had just occurred.
But it’s not just the blooper – a freak occurrence that happens from time-to-time – that makes for such an apt statement of where the Tigers sit at the moment.
It’s that Goodrum and Dixon were out there in the first place: Goodrum was playing his eighth game in center and Dixon his eighth in left; they had never played the outfield together.
The pair is among the team’s best acquisitions over the past couple years.
But never in their wildest, rebuilding nightmares did the Tigers ever want Dixon and Goodrum playing in the outfield together. Both players, while proving to be pleasant surprises, have their limitations, and the plan was to protect them — and others – from over-exposure in a season that has been more painful than forecast.
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Those plans have long since been thrown out the window, with not only a myriad of injuries at the major league level but also the lack of breakthrough from the early wave of their prospects in the minor league level.
The Tigers’ starting center fielder, JaCoby Jones, is out for the season with a broken wrist. Their starting left fielder, Christin Stewart, has been on the injured list for two weeks. Their top prospect outfielder, Daz Cameron, is hitting .188 with well-below average power since June.
They have been taxed heavily in the big leagues not only because of this year’s especially-cruel starting pitching attrition, but also because prospect pitchers like right-hander Kyle Funkhouser and Beau Burrows – who have also missed time with injuries – have not performed well enough to earn a promotion.
The season has long since snowballed, exactly the way a shorthanded, inexperienced team that has lost nearly all of its veteran depth and multiple key players via trade should.
It hasn’t been pretty. It’s been rather painful. But the baseball gods had yet to play a comedy, the way they did in providing the most accurate lowlight of this season.
It wasn’t even the most pivotal misplay of the night – a similar scenario unfolded three innings earlier, with one out in the top of the sixth, only Goodrum pulled up late and Dixon dropped the ball before Matthew Boyd unraveled – but it was the one that will always be remembered.
Afterwards, neither Goodrum nor Dixon were in a rush to recall it. Both left the clubhouse before reporters entered some 17 minutes after final pitch – the delay has become customary, with frequent postgame roster moves, injury updates and occasional team meetings – and it’s hard to blame them.
On a day which started with him handing out 3,000 cases of bottled water in Flint, Goodrum was the first out. As this year’s Goodrum – an under-the-radar find who could pay dividends now and in the future – Dixon was next.
They shouldn’t have been out there. But on this team, in this season, two players who have proven to be good decisions became the unfortunate, unfunny face of a very bad 2019 for the Tigers.
Contact Anthony Fenech at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.