Why you should cheer, not boo, for Tigers’ Valverde

NEW YORK — OK. So you screamed at your TV: “Jose Valverde, you suck rotten eggs!”

And you screamed bloody murder at Tigers manager Jim Leyland: “Please! No more Valverde! NO. NO! NO!”

Totally understandable.

Valverde has been awful the past week.

And there is no way that Papa Grande should pitch again for the Tigers. Not until he gets his mojo back.

But this is a tricky situation. Because the Tigers probably will need Valverde to win the World Series. They need him to get his swagger back. They need him to find that mojo, where ever it went.

So I have an idea: Do not boo Valverde when the Tigers return to Comerica Park on Tuesday night for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

I know. That sounds strange.

I can almost hear you: Dude, what you smokin’?

In the grand scheme of things, this suggestion might be a little outside the box, when most of Detroit wants to send Valverde to Alaska, or Kalkaska, or shoot, anywhere but the mound. But trust me, there is some method behind the madness.

So let me repeat: Don’t boo him.

You think that will help the situation?

You think he doesn’t know that he has stunk up the joint?

I say, shower him with applause and adulation. Give Valverde a standing ovation for all the success that he has had in a Tigers uniform. This is a guy who has saved 110 games out of 118 opportunities in the last three years.

So stand up and swallow your venom and cheer. Even if it hurts. Even if you want to explode.

Let’s call it double reverse, reverse psychology.

Working out the kinks?

Again, let me stress, Valverde should not pitch for the Tigers. Not until he gets everything right.

Leyland did the right thing Sunday. He benched him without benching him.

“I still consider him the closer,” Leyland said. “I guess that sounds like I am mud watching, but I am really not.”

You say tomato; I say he has been benched. Whatever.

On Sunday night, after the Tigers’ 3-0 victory over the Yankees, Valverde was upbeat and positive, laughing and smiling.

Valverde said he worked on his mechanics and fixed the problem — a slow tempo — and now he wants the ball, he wants to help this team.

“Thank God, I figured it out,” Valverde said. “I feel great.”

Now, those words are great.

But Leyland has seen something in Valverde’s eyes — a lack of confidence.

“It almost appears to me that it looks like he is kind of waiting for something bad to happen,” Leyland said. “And I don’t know if I am accurate on that, I may be totally wrong. But sometimes when you read a player, you can see that he’s not quite as confident.”

A question of faith

Confidence is like helium; it can lift a player up and soar. But when it disappears, it gets ugly and a player can crumble like a house made a straw.

Young Drew Smyly has confidence. Shoot, it’s like he bathes in it. And crusty, old Octavio Dotel has it. He has a swagger and desire to be the guy on the mound.

And both of those guys, with Joaquin Benoit and Al Alburquerque and Phil Coke and Rick Porcello, are incredibly important now.

Coke pitched the final two innings Sunday, but Leyland downplayed it.

“Now please don’t write that Phil Coke is the new closer,” Leyland said. “Because we are going to pick and choose with what we do.”

Clap for the closer


That’s what Valverde is missing, according to the Tigers — and that’s a kiss of death for a closer.

So that’s where the fans in Detroit can help out.

Now, I am not suggesting we all sit around and sing “Kumbaya.” And you certainly have every right in the world to boo. To release your frustrations. To scream until your eyeballs pop out.

But think about it. Think about how a round of applause could help him.

If Valverde gets his head together, it could help lift the Tigers all the way to a championship parade.

And isn’t that what you want?


Posted by Tribune News Services

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