A diabolical April left the Tigers eating the rest of the AL Central’s dust, but to hear ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian tell the tale, ’twas mere motivation that was lacking in the Motown clubhouse.  “The Tigers will contend next season,” insisted Kurkjian this morning, “because Jim Leyland will insist on it.”  So there you have it folks, Detroit failed to play meaningful games this September because their veteran skipper FORGOT to insist they do so.  Jesus fucking christ.  Based on yesterday’s chat with the Detroit News’ Lynn Henning, GM Dave Dombrokwski has a little more substance to draw upon when considering a rotten 2008.

“I’m embarrassed,” Dombrowski said before the Tigers-White Sox game, a makeup from an earlier rainout that needed to be played because of the tight AL Central race. “I’ve had a bad year. There were a lot of things anticipated that I missed on.
“We had a bad year as a team,” Dombrowski said of a team that finished last, a game behind the Royals. “Now we need to fix it.”

As expected, the Tigers will not pick up shortstop Edgar Renteria’s $11 million option for 2009. They will pay a $3 million buyout, and Dombrowski said the Tigers had not “closed the door” on signing Renteria to a lesser contract.
Dombrowski said the decision to trade two premier prospects to the Braves for Renteria was carefully considered but never came close to panning out.

“We knew we gave up a lot,” Dombrowski said of sending pitcher Jair Jurrjens and minor league outfielder Gorkys Hernandez to the Braves last offseason. “But we thought (Renteria) would make a difference. He did not. It didn’t work out.”

Backup infielder Ramon Santiago could find himself in the mix to replace Renteria, Dombrowski said, but Santiago’s lack of size has long convinced the Tigers he’s likely a part-time player.

As for who might be Todd Jones’ successor as closer, Dombrowski said: “I don’t have an answer for that.”

“We can’t count on (Joel) Zumaya to be it, although he could be it,” Dombrowski said of the 23-year-old right-hander who has had shoulder problems for the past 11 months.

Fernando Rodney is “our leading candidate if we were to open the season now,” Dombrowski said, “but we’re hoping to find someone else. He needs to throw more strikes. Does he have the stuff to do it? No question.”

Dombrowski said he was uncertain if trades or free agency would patch any of the holes. The Tigers’ payroll, which was $139 million and the second-largest in all of baseball next to the Yankees this year, will be a factor.

“I’d be surprised if we were a real big participant in free agency,” Dombrowski said, adding: “Our first six guys (in the batting order) are stars. We need guys who can fit in. We don’t need an All-Star at every position.”