CONQUERING MOTOWN: BRAD PENNY, DETROIT TIGERS
MLB reports: On January 11, 2011, after weeks of speculation in the media the news became official: Brad Penny was officially a Detroit Tiger. The deal was announced as a 1 year, $3 million dollar base salary with an additional $3 million in incentives. The overall reaction was positive- a low risk and high reward situation for both the team and player. With Penny in Motown and spring training a mere days away, let’s review the factors behind this signing and how Brad Penny in 2011 will become the “King of Comerica”.
After the 2010 season came to an end, one of my first projections on the free agent market was that Brad Penny and the Detroit Tigers would be a perfect match. I had the pleasure of corresponding with Brad Penny in early December and asked him directly whether he was considering Detroit for his new home. Brad’s response was, “wearing the blue and orange would be sweet.” Taking a look at the team that he is joining, it is easy to see why Penny could not contain his excitement.
The Tigers enjoyed a relatively strong 2010 campaign and as their roster became molded during the offseason, the future of the Tigers appears to be very bright. The team has a potent offense led by Cabrera, Ordonez, Jackson and newly acquired V-Mart, combined with a rotation led by Verlander, Scherzer and Porcello and a deep bullpen including Valverde, Benoit, Zumaya and Perry. Dombrowski in constructing the team covered off the key components and contention in the AL Central appears to be a lock. Penny as a veteran starter however brings many intangibles to the Tigers that could be the difference maker in a playoff spot.
With young starters Scherzer, Porcello and Coke, Penny serves as a mentor and role model for the young hurlers in learning the finer points of the game. The experiences and successes that Penny has enjoyed in his 11 seasons in the bigs will rub off on the rest of the Tigers’ pitching staff and hopefully take each of them to the next level. As well, Verlander and Penny as potentially #1 and #2 potentially on the staff will bring up the game of the other in competing every 5th day to be the best possible starters that they can be. Lets not kid ourselves, bragging rights in the clubhouse counts and Penny is one of the most focused and intense warriors that you will find in baseball. Comerica, known as a pitching friendly venue, will also prove to benefit Penny as his home field. Brad Penny will bring out the best in his Tigers’ mates and having a solid core of talent on the team will take his own game to the highest levels.
Standing 6’4” and weighing a solid 230 lbs, the 32 year old Oklahoma born Penny has an outstanding baseball resume. 16 win campaigns and All-Star game appearances in 2006 and 2007, a 3rd place Cy Young finish in the NL in 2007 and near perfection in the 2003 World Series title run with the Marlins, with 2 wins in 2 starts with a 2.19 ERA. Penny has played for a total of 5 teams in his career. Penny started off very strong in 2010 for the Cardinals, with a 3-1 record in April and 1.56 ERA. A strained lat muscle ended Penny’s season on May 21st with the pitcher not returning for the rest of the year despite intense rehab and attempts to return. Now healthy and raring to go, the Tigers represent a fresh start and promise for the right-handed pitcher.
Offseason reports have been positive on Brad Penny. He recently got engaged to Karina Smirnoff of “Dancing with the Stars” fame. As well, Brad mentioned to me on several occasions that he was working out hard at the gym and the impression that I got was that Penny is in the best shape of his life coming into the season. Secure in his personal life with the hunger to win, Penny is focused on doing all the right things to make himself successful. His commitment to training and evolution as a pitcher means that at the still young age of 32, Penny has many quality years ahead of him. Observers need to remember that coming off a strain is much different than arm troubles and/or surgery. The bonus from last year’s experience is that Penny will come into camp with a fresh arm and more motivation than ever to reclaim his position as one of the top pitchers in baseball.
The Tigers in signing Brad Penny could very well have secured themselves the #2 pitcher in their rotation as part of the drive to return to the playoffs. Penny’s goal in coming to Detroit is to win and to surely get another World Series title under his belt. At this stage of his career, Brad Penny does not focus on the past and any impressions that people have of him. As my projected 2011 American League comeback player of the year, Brad Penny will simply let his pitching do the talking and the ranking of the Tigers as a team being his only statistical goal.
Good luck on the season Brad Penny and welcome to Motown. Tiger Nation awaits your arrival.
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