Grand Cards: What Does It Take To Be A Former Tiger?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What Does It Take To Be A Former Tiger?

A one-off snippet of Tom Gage's daily "Tigers Soup" blog got me thinking:
3. Reasons the Tigers might beat former teammate Freddy Garcia on Thursday - he has a 5.73 road ERA this year and a 5.89 day ERA.
"Former Teammate*." Is it necessary to use that term here? With the amount of wheeling and dealing and late-season call-ups and desperation moves and the like, there are plenty of short-tenured players that have made cameos on one team or another. Would you call or Ivan Rodriguez a "Former Yankee?" Or Babe Ruth a former "Boston Brave?" Of course you wouldn't, even if those statements are technically true.

It's an issue of magnitude, I'm afraid. Any one of us could add facts or snippets that are true, but wholly unnecessary, to just about every conversation we have. For example, I did this just the other night when watching a movie. A preview for "Cold Souls"--a movie with Paul Giamatti--came on.

"Paul Giamatti is great. I really liked him in Lady in the Water."

Right. He was in that movie. But nobody cares. Certainly, nobody remembers him for that reason. The very idea of referencing him as the guy from Lady in the Water is absurd, and therefore funny, which is why I said it in the first place. Of course, it makes it all the more ridiculous when terms like this are used by people that aren't trying to be funny. Sometimes facts are superfluous. That's ok.

But it raises the larger question, back to baseball this time: At what point does a player deserve to be called a "Former Tiger?" I was trying to think of this in concrete terms, like XXXX games/seasons played or something like that, but I realize that the context matters as well.

An injured Freddy Garcia was added to the Tigers to bolster a futile playoff run that, once he was finally healthy enough to play, was over. So he pitched for a few games to try to prove that he was Major League-ready to the rest of baseball. This happened later in his career. He is not a "Former Tiger." Now, if Freddy Garcia comes up through the Tigers system and makes a few starts before heading off to another club, perhaps via trade? Former Tiger. See: Andrew Miller

This is one key distinction. You are a Former Tiger if you started with the Tigers. That's a given. Part of the reason is that it gives fans the ability to piss and moan when you achieve success as a non-Tiger. Carlos Pena, come on down. If you're a mid-career acquisition, it gets a little fuzzier.

If you're a mid-season rental, three things can happen: You are terrible, you make no impact, you are stupendous. Examples: Jarrod Washburn, Freddy Garcia, Matt Stairs.

Matt Stairs is a "Former Tiger," because fans can take pride in what he did as a Tiger in 2006. He is not a "Former Tiger" to the media at large, because, come on. However, it is appropriate for the following to occur:
Person 1: "I just heard the other day that Matt Stairs..."
Tigers Fan: "Ahem, Former Tiger Matt Stairs."
Person 1: "What? Whatever dude. Anyway, Matt Stairs..."
Again, it's mostly a humorous device. Still, there is a clear distinction between that and say, Tom Gage using "Former Teammate" today.

Of course, there is some gray area. We've already established that someone who made an impact on the Tigers can get credited as a "Former Tiger." And that someone who saw success and notoriety after his Tigers career may deserve the label too. But what about this:

Aubrey Huff was a half-season rental who was horrible for the Tigers after having a pretty solid career up to that point. In Detoit he fell off a cliff. The next season (this season) he is tearing things up in San Francisco. Clearly, the Detroit stop is blip on the radar. Does he get former Tiger status? I say yes, but only in certain situations:

Tigers Fan: "Can you believe the year Aubrey Huff..."
Person 1: "I think You mean Former Tiger Aubrey Huff."

Use at your own peril.

Suffice to say, the using the "Former" label is more art than science. Context matters. Context of the player and context of the comment. It's like being a native speaker vs. someone who has just learned a language. If you're a native speaker you know when something sounds right. That's how it works. Meanwhile, someone who has learned a language, may say something that is true and correct, but just sounds odd to people used to the language.

Like "Former Tiger" Freddy Garcia.

*I know that "Former Teammate" and "Former Tiger" are substantively different terms and that Gage said "Teammate" and not "Tiger." However, in this context the two mean the same thing and are interchangeable. Former Teammate only matters when referring to players who were teammates elsewhere and opponents now after one joined the Tigers, like Miguel Cabrera and Josh Beckett (sorry, that's the best I could do off the top of my head).

1 comment:

  1. Pudge is an excellent example of being a "former teammate." What he did for the Tigers organization was monumental. The same cannot be said for Garcia.