By Drew Sharp – Free Press Columnist
Shipping off reigning All-Stars for question marks might not constitute a fire sale, but the probability of the Tigers trading Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson on Tuesday certainly resembles a team that already has surrendered the 2010 season.
It’s a damn shame.
But it’s the cost of running with the big dogs and getting trampled. A bloated payroll left president and general manager Dave Dombrowski with no alternative but maximizing the worth of his few affordable contracts, converting them into a bushel of prime but unproven talent.
Owner Mike Ilitch thought he could buy a title. It reflected the passion of a man who desperately wants to bring a baseball title to his hometown, but he unfortunately let his emotions cloud his business judgment.
Jackson likely was gone anyway, considering he’s two years from free agency, and getting a reasonably priced contract extension from his agent, Scott Boras, seemed unlikely.
But Granderson might still be a Tiger if Ilitch didn’t bow to sentiment last summer and insist the team not release the underachieving Magglio Ordoñez before the outfielder
reached the plate appearances required to trigger a payroll paralyzing $18-million option for next season.
Nobody got blindsided when news hit Tuesday that the Tigers, Yankees and Diamondbacks stood inches from a three-team blockbuster that would send Granderson to the Yankees and Jackson to the desert, and the Tigers would receive top centerfield prospect Austin Jackson and reliever Phil Coke from the Yankees, and pitchers Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from Arizona.
The rumors swirled since last month. But the lack of surprise won’t alleviate the public rancor once the teams finalize the transaction.
The Tigers didn’t merely trade a player in Granderson. They traded an ideal. They traded the paradigm of the professional athlete appreciative of the opportunities earned but always mindful of projecting a positive public image. Granderson was the antithesis of the stereotypical pampered, egocentric modern star.