DETROIT – Mistakes like the one that got Javier Baez benched during Thursday night’s game in Toronto happen over the course of a baseball season, but his lack of production, coupled with the team’s struggles, have Detroit Tigers fans extremely frustrated with the highly paid shortstop.
Manager A.J. Hinch admitted after Thursday’s win against the Blue Jays that his team’s unacceptable play reached a boiling point when Baez was doubled off of second base because he forgot the number of outs.
Baez had already failed to run hard after ripping a one-out double off the left field wall, thinking he had hit his first home run of the season. When he started sprinting around third base on a routine fly ball to center field the next at-bat, everyone felt fed up.
Bally Sports Detroit showed Hinch and Baez going down into the dugout tunnel, and an inning later, Jonathan Schoop had taken Baez’s spot in the batting order, while Nick Maton shifted from third base to shortstop.
The MLB season is extremely long, and even the best players are occasionally going to make mistakes like this. You see outfielders toss the ball into the stands after catching a fly ball for the second out, or infielders try to turn a double play even though the force at second base ended the inning.
But the Baez situation is unique. First and foremost, he’s not producing at all. Going into the game, he was batting .100 with four measly singles, three walks, and eight strikeouts on the season.
It’s still very early, but a lot of the frustration has been building since last year.
Another bummer ---> Player Tigers traded away for nothing last year has been better than any Tigers hitter
In 2022, the Tigers were supposed to be competitive for the first time in eight years, and instead, they got even worse, losing 96 games.
Baez, fair or not, was the face of that disappointment. His six-year, $140 million contract was supposed to symbolize the unofficial end of the rebuild. It was the first time Chris Ilitch had really invested in the team since taking over as primary owner, and Tigers fans were starving to see competitive baseball.
Well, the Tigers were out of the race by mid-May, losing 23 of their first 32 games. Baez was a huge part of those struggles, and ended the season with an abysmal .671 OPS while leading MLB in errors.
There are plenty of reasons why the Tigers stink. The bullpen has only one or two surefire MLB players. The lineup is fraught with strikeouts and devoid of power. Nobody in the starting staff remotely resembles an ace.
But Baez, as the highest-paid, highest-profile player, is always going to draw the most ire when he’s not performing. And he’s certainly not performing so far.
When the Tigers announced Baez’s contract last offseason, fans were worried he might decide to opt out of the final four years and leave Detroit after 2023.
If things continue down this path, those fans will be hoping they were right.