Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An Oakland Athletics "Preview"

Since Rogo of Tigersnark has truly become the Brett Favre of bloggers:  "I retire.  I'm back.  I need a break. Back again.  I'm not sure if I want to permanently quit this thing.  Blogging is hard and I can't deal with it and live life too.  Boo hoo, whine, sob," I have taken it upon myself to write a "preview" of the Oakland As.   I was waiting for Rogo to post his, and when it became apparent that he had no intention of doing so, I decided to write a pale imitation of his series preview.

The Oakland As are the Tigers current competition for best record in the American League.  The club is good, and though the Tigers have booted them from the playoffs in consecutive years, don't take that for granted in 2014.

2014 record so far:  31-20

2013 record:  96-66

2013 record vs Tigers:  4-3 (regular season)

Notable Players

Ricky Henderson - 1406 carrer steals in 25 seasons, first all time, HOF.  No more needs to be said here.

Dave Stewart - I am old, so I remember seeing Dave Stewart pitch.  I was petrified by Dave Stewart's intimidating stare.  I thought that batters must quake facing him.   Then some years later, I heard him talk.  All that fear vanished.

Rollie Fingers - Not quite old enough to have seen him pitch.  Or at least, I wasn't a baseball fan yet.  Handle-bar mustache.  He was only the second reliever elected to the HOF.

Dennis Eckersley - Gave up the famous 1988 playoff home run to Kirk Gibson.  I love him for that.  Still has the same hairstyle.  HOFer.  Now appears as an analyst on NESN.

Many others, but those are the ones I felt like talking about.

Manager

Bob Melvin has been managing the Athletics since 2011.  Before that, he managed the Diamondbacks and Mariners.  In 11 years, he has a record of 761-714, for a .516 overall winning percentage.

Top Three Current Players

Josh Donaldson - notably snubbed from ASG last year.  Won't happen again this year.

Yoenis Cespedes - caterpillar eyebrows.

Sonny Gray - tonight's starting pitcher.  Currently boasting 1.99 ERA and 1.088 WHIP.  It may take more than a Zubaz bonfire to get the W tonight, folks.

How Is This Guy a Major Leaguer?

Nick Punto.  KIDDING.  I just remember all the stuff Punto did to the Tigers while in Minnesota, and wanted to dis him.

Easiest Way to Anger Athletics Fans

Remind them that the Tigers ousted them from the playoffs in 2006, 2012, 2013.  Remind them that they lost Frank Thomas to free agency.

Three Reasons to Hate the Athletics

1.  Josh Reddick.  He whined incessantly during the playoffs, and I hated him a lot.  Then I followed him on twitter to troll him, but realized I can't hate him.  He's funny and a big goofball.  Sorry.

2.  Their Ballpark.  O. Co Coliseum?  It's a dump and that name is ridiculous.  Don't bring up to me that the Tigers play at Comerica Park.  That's a fabulous name compared to O. Co.

3.  Nick Swisher once played there.

Fun Fact

During the 2006 playoffs, Jim Leyland, during a post-game interview said, and I quote: "my wife thinks Mark Kotsay is the hottest thing going."  That made me laugh.  A lot.

Season Outlook

If we ever break out of the current pattern of our starting pitchers getting hammered each night, we may see the Athletics again in the playoffs.


Let's all hope Rogo returns from his most recent hiatus to write the next series preview.  Then I won't have to subject you to this swill again.

Monday, March 17, 2014

What Evil Lurks Within

I have a theory about this pre-season.  The Milwaukee Brewers have used voodoo and other dark arts to attempt to buy a World Series title.  Hear me out, and you'll stop thinking I should be committed to Bedlam.

Surely you've heard about the adorable stray dog Hank, nick-named after Henry Aaron, that showed up at the Brewers' camp, and became the feel good story of Spring.  I have no beef with Hank.  It's great he's being made much of, loved and spoiled.  But the Brewers are trying to use Hank to appease the baseball gods, and thereby curry favor for this year's post-season.  I simply cannot allow them to get away with this plan.  I will expose their deeds for what they are:  a desperate grab at a championship.

Oh, they adopted a stray dog, and put him into the sausage race, and brought him north with the club, and the vice president and general counsel for the team adopted him, and hundreds of people waited hours at the airport to greet him?  The Brewers have already come out with a line of Hank gear--t-shirts, pennants, you name it.  They say some of the proceeds are going to a Wisconsin Humane Society.  Apparently they take the world for fools.  Good grief, any idiot can see that the Brewers are soulless vipers, perverting the good will of innocent fans into cosmic World Series karma.

In addition, the Brewers have placed a curse upon the Tigers, causing player after player to drop like flies from various afflictions. The list of casualties grows longer every day, and each dawn reveals a new victim.  Doesn't it all make sense to you now?  Soon, the entire starting roster will be laid up in a hospital ward, and the Tigers' uniform attendant will be scrambling to stitch the names of the boys from Erie onto the jerseys.

My advice is that fans unite to prevent the success of this wicked plan.   The Brewers are loathsome, but I never dreamed they would resort to black magic.  Turnabout is fair play.  I have constructed a Bernie Brewer voodoo doll, and will be torturing it to no small degree.  I may need your help.  Someone should be plotting to sabotage the sausage race, for a start.  Don't make me spell it all out.  Get to work.  The Brewers must be stopped before it is too late.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Winter of Comerica's Discontent

Tuesday evening, thanks to the desperation thoughtful generosity of Scott from TigerSnark, I got to attend an event at Comerica Park.  Scott wrote a fictional account of the evening here, so I figured I'd better counter with a realistic look at what went down.

Scott texted me Tuesday begging that I accompany him to the park, promising that I'd get a personal tour of Comerica from Magglio Ordoñez himself.  How could I refuse an opportunity to meet one of my all time Tigers?  I could put up with Scott's odious presence for a couple hours if it meant meeting the great Magglio.  I've always wanted to thank him for the baseball memories that are forever imprinted on my otherwise grinchy heart.

Scott did get one thing right.  Comerica is a shambles.  The field, while scraped of snow, looks like the frozen Siberian tundra.  How is sod going to go down on St. Paddy's day?????  Just look at it.  Heather Nabozny has probably suffered a nervous breakdown and is now muttering incoherently to herself in the dark recesses of the park's bowels.



This is the view from the broadcast booth.  Notice that I had no trouble getting a decent shot.  There were no drunken idiots knocking Scott's elbow.  He just sucks at taking pictures.  Anyway, I swear, you could hear Ernie reciting the Voice of the Turtle.  It was mighty dusty in there.  Strange.


That personal tour from Magglio Ordoñez?  No.  No Magglio.  No 2007 batting champion.  No 2006 ALCS hero.  Please give me a moment.  Sniff.

However,  1984 World Series team member Dave Rozema was there, and he was friendly, not fresh (no, he did not grab my derriere), making jokes with everyone, taking time for all comers, signing 20,000 photos of himself, and generally being the life of the party.  Um, I am not 4'6".  Dave is at least 6'5".  Really.  There is no photo of Scott with Dave, because Scott is a ghost, and his image does not show up in photographs.


Paws really did sit down next to me at the Blackjack table and I froze up until he left, because MASCOTS ARE CREEPY AND I WAS TERRIFIED.  Mascots need to be abolished from the sporting world.  From all worlds really.  A lot of problems could be solved if mascots were no more.

Now, could we please just fast forward through the rest of this scourge of a winter and get to what will certainly be a sub-30 degree Opening Day?  Play Ball!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Si or No, Mother*$%&#?

Miguel Cabrera once infamously played a game of Si or No, Mother*$%&#? during batting practice, the question referring to whether the ball hit was a home run.  I presume that the answer for most of his turn in the cage was a resounding Si!  Today, we play a slightly different game of Si or No with some twitter friends.  The questions have to do with the Tigers' offseason.  Thank you to @JGoro8 (Jordan), @SkitchP (Skitch) and @Detroit4lyfeRob (Rob) for taking the time to play.  Their parting gifts for this game show include a Don Kelly dong photo, a Brandon Inge check-swing strikeout, and a Daniel Schlereth/Ryan Perry wolf pack t-shirt.  Seriously though, I am very grateful, fellas!

I asked these blokes a series of questions, and their answers appear below, along with mine.



Will the Tigers deal Scherzer this off-season?  If si, please name the team to which you feel he’ll most likely be traded.  Also include the length of time you’ll spend sobbing/sulking/smashing things if the trade occurs.

Jordan - I’d say 30% yes, 70% no. Texas and Washington are the two teams that make the most sense if they wanted to pursue a deal.

Skitch -  I am actually okay with dealing him. But the haul has to be substantial. I don't want a mid road prospect and 2 bullpen arms. Realistically I'd want 2 Top Shelf prospects, a productive 2B or OF (not star caliber, but starting quality) and maybe a potentially solid bullpen arm in addition. I don't believe in giving up substantial assets for bullpen arms, except maybe mid season. If he is not traded in the offseason, I doubt we'll get as much value should a trade happen mid season, given that would take the comp pick out of play. The Veras trade for instance was okay by me. I dont know what team would take on Max, possibly Washington, or St Louis. Maybe the Angels, although I am not entirely sure they have the prospects to make a deal that would be okay. So any anger I have if Max is dealt revolves entirely upon what we get in return. 



Rob - No. The old adage “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” doesn’t apply to Dave Dombrowski. There have been plenty of rumors about a potential Scherzer trade so far this offseason – and there will be plenty more – but trades like the one we saw last season that sent Wil Myers to Tampa are few and far between. Not many teams have the prospects that would entice Dombrowski to offload Scherzer, and even fewer (if any) have the cash to re-sign Scherzer after the season is over. Simple probability says that Scherzer is a Tiger in 2014, and my gut says that he is in 2015 too.



Jen - I must admit, I have a hard time answering this question objectively.  My head understands reasons the Tigers would trade him, but Max is my Tiger, and he killed it this season.  I don't want to see him shoving for some other stupid club.  That being said, I'd say that there is a close to 50% chance the Tigers deal him.  I will lock myself in the closet for a substantial cry/tantrum if DD pulls the trigger on a trade.




Do you think it is critical for the Tigers to sign an established closer?  If si, who is/are at the top of your wish list?  What role do you see for Joaquin Benoit?

Jordan - Si. Nathan/Balfour

Skitch - No.  I am not team proven closer. I am of the belief that a good bullpen can be assembled with other spare parts, provided those spare parts are good pitchers. I am not averse to signing a closer, but not at the expense of upgrading other positions. Ideally, I think a bullpen with Benoit resigned to close, with Smyly and a healthy Rondon has the ability to be very productive. I hope the playoff implosion does not make DD overreact and overpay for 2 or 3 bullpen arms, especially if Knebel is as close as reported.


Rob - No. The Tigers definitely need to upgrade their bullpen, but it doesn’t have to be an “established” closer. Guys like Joe Smith, Jesse Crain, and Edward Mujica have been underrated relievers for years. They will likely come at a fraction of the cost of a Grant Balfour or Joe Nathan, leaving the Tigers with payroll flexibility to utilize elsewhere on the roster.


Jen - Not particularly.  Other than at the end of the season, Benoit really shone in the role.  Relievers are so mercurial, I'd hate to overpay for someone like Nathan.  At the right price, sure.



Are you happy with the signing of Brad Ausmus as manager?  Why or why not?

Jordan - Si. I’ve shared my thoughts about this on twitter, but if you watched that introductory press conference and didn’t come away loving Brad Ausmus, I don’t know what to tell you.

Skitch - Si.  I am happy with the Ausmus pick. At the very least watching baseball may put my wife "in the mood." I am most encouraged by the fact  they avoided the coaching carousal. I would have been okay with Lamont for the sake of continuity, but otherwise I wanted to avoid the Dusty Bakers, Eric Wedges and even Manny Acta's of the world. I am sure Ausmus will make plenty of mistakes, but I think he will provide fresh eyes, and fresh take on the team. 


Rob - Si! It wasn’t going to take much to impress me, though. I would have been happy with anyone besides Ozzie Guillen or Dusty Baker. That said, Ausmus seems like the best person to lead the club through life after Leyland. Keeping Gene Lamont and Jeff Jones around may be an underrated component of any success the Tigers have in 2014.



Jen - I think Brad Ausmus has the potential to be a very strong manager.  At this point, however, it's all potential.  We'll have to wait and see how things go.  However, he is a very smart guy, and by all accounts a good communicator/leader.



Do you want the Tigers to pursue Shin Soo Choo?



Jordan - No.

Skitch - Si I would love for Choo to be a Tiger, but at the salary he is going to command, it is going to be very unrealistic. The contract he is going to demand will be cost prohibitive.


Rob - Si. Choo is a well-rounded outfielder who has expressed interest in playing for Detroit before. He hits for average, hits for power, walks like a fiend, steals bases, mashes right-handed pitching, fields three outfield positions, and has an absolute cannon for an arm. Other than possibly being overpaid because he’s one of the better outfielders on the market this offseason, his only knock is that he doesn’t hit well against lefties. However, his career .340 on-base percentage against lefties is .004 points lower than Austin Jackson’s career on-base percentage against everyone. Add in the fact that the 2015 free agent class is a steaming pile of hot garbage and the decision to go after Choo is a no-brainer.



Jen - Yes, I have always liked Choo as a player.  However, I don't think it will happen.  Just a pipe dream.




How about a reunion with the Grandy Man?



Jordan - No.

Skitch - No. Had Granderson not been offered a qualifying offer, I think a pursuit could have made sense. A Left handed bat with some power that can play the entire OF would be a nice thing to have. Clearly K's and OBP will always be an issue, but it would provide another threat in the lineup. However, that would have all been nice at the right "prove it" price on a 1 or 2 year deal. But with a 14 million qualifying offer out there for him, thats more than I'd even want to pay him on a 2 year offer. 


Rob - Si. Granderson doesn’t get on base as well as Choo, but his injury-plagued 2013 season may drive his price down a bit in the free agent market. Grandy developed a power stroke in New York, but it will be interesting to see if he can reverse that low average/high power mentality back to the shorter swing he displayed while manning center field in Comerica Park. Defensively, his arm is nowhere near as strong as Choo’s, but he has better range and is a better option to play center field if and when Jackson lands on the disabled list at any point.


Jen -  No.  What Skitch said.




Do you feel there would be a problem if the Tigers signed Chris Perez or Grant Balfour, based on past altercations with these players?

Jordan - No way.

Skitch - Si..... or No. Perez or Balfour would not be an issue for me. These are guys that do ridiculous things during baseball games. Our guys do bat flips, and kiss baseballs. Guys are fired up in different ways and project it differently. Sometimes that rubs guys the wrong way in the moment, but I don't think either of those guys would have a negative impact on the clubhouse. I do however think they are just as much a wild card as the guys we have in house from a production standpoint. Major League Baseball is littered with relievers with 2 or 3 good seasons the past 20 years that become liabilities with little to no warning. I'd rather take a risk with a mountain of hard throwing rule 5 guys. 


Rob - No. The players understand that baseball is a business and would not let a past altercation interrupt the team’s overarching goal. We rarely see scuffles go beyond a given game or series because of this. Both Perez and Balfour are talented relievers who would help the Tigers win games and I think the clubhouse would welcome either of them with open arms.



Jen - Not really.  I kind of hate Chris Perez, but if he can help bring that elusive ring to the D, then sign him.  I mean, I've had World Series tickets go unused three times in the past eight years, ok?  I am beyond desperate. Just don't have any mary jane sent to my address.



Are you concerned that the Tigers’ window to win a World Series title is closing?

Jordan - Nope. Not at all. Plenty of valuable pieces are under team control on this roster.

Skitch - Si. This upcoming year is their best chance, provided they find a second basemen, and don't deal max. Dealing Max may hurt your chances this year (although it would not eliminate you), but may extend your window another year or two should you make the right deal. So long term, the window is likely closing, but I do think that I trust the trading ability of Dombrowski to continue to stay in the hunt without a significant multi year step back. Let's face it, other than maybe Pat Gillick, has there been a GM more adept at acquiring talent via trade than him? For all intents and purposes we got Sanchez, Scherzer, Fister, Infante, Peralta, Cabrera, Jackson and Iglesias for Granderson and Matt Joyce. Pretty amazing when you really break down how this roster was constructed, and what was given up in the deals. He seems especially well versed in knowing exactly when to deal a prospect that isn't going to pan out- Maybin, Miller, etc. 

Rob - No. We have seen Dave Dombrowski mold and re-mold this team twice in the past decade with just one losing season in the Leyland era. The bulk of the team is under team control for at least a couple more seasons, and there are a couple of interesting pieces in the high minors that could have an impact sooner than we expect. And if the Indians’ young pitchers don’t pan out, the AL Central could be wide open for years to come.

Jen - Kind of.  Actually, it's not that the window is closing, per se.  It's more of a general panic about the fact that it's so difficult to get to the Series, and so many things have to go right, and people have to stay healthy....cue the hyperventilating and nightmare flash-backs to game 163.

Did you want the Tigers to retain Jeff Jones as pitching coach?  Why or why not?

Jordan - Absolutely. Continuity with pitchers, teaching style, and familiarity are all important. No reason to start from scratch.


Skitch - Si. Retain Jeff Jones. Like Alex Avila, he seems like a guy that this pitching staff really enjoys working with. If he wants to stay, and Ausmus is comfortable with him, he should be retained (and I know he already is, but you know, SI MOTHER FUCKER).

Rob - Si! We don’t know exactly how much of an impact Jones has had on this team’s pitching staff, but it’s hard to argue with the results we have seen under his watch. They carried the team to the World Series in 2012 and smashed all sorts of records in 2013. With another bullpen arm or two, it very well could have been them raising the Commissioner’s Trophy this year.


Jen - Si.  Don't rock the boat.  The starters have performed phenomenally well.  They deserve a lot of the credit for that.  But I think Jones earned the chance to stay on.

Are you concerned about Prince Fielder’s down year?  If si, how concerned are you, and what do you feel can be done to fix/help him?

Jordan - Si. They’re going to have to have some closed door meetings with Prince. He seems ambivalent right now, and I don’t think that has to do with the fact he’s signed for 7/168 still to go. He has other issues. Seems like his heart isn’t in it right now, and they’re going to have to re motivate him. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tigers bring in Boras, because it looks bad on Scott to have a client that looks like a flop 2 years into a 9 year deal.

Skitch - Si.  Prince Fielder. Of course I was disappointed in the season he had, as well as the postseason. And there's not a damn we can do to fix him. We just have to hope he puts his personal issues behind him and is back to form next year. Outside of ending the stupid consecutive games streak and giving him 6-10 games off throughout the season, there really is no answer if he doesn't bounce back. We're not cutting him, no one''s trading for him, and the owner loves him. He's in our lineup either way, so we might as well root for him.

Rob - No! There’s no sugarcoating the superficial numbers of Prince’s 2013 season, especially with how poorly he performed in the playoffs. His plate discipline was rotten by his standards. He walked just 75 times, his lowest total since his rookie season. However, there are some encouraging signs. His strikeout rate jumped from 2012 to 2013, but it was still below his career rate of 17.5%. He also had a home run per fly ball ratio of 13.5%, the lowest of his career. His line drive rate was well above his career average as well. He also went through some serious personal issues, of which we only know a small percentage. Prince will bounce back in 2014, no question.


Jen - I think I may be the only person other than Rob not particularly concerned about Prince.  He had an off year.  It happens.  Yes, his post-season performance is concerning.  His numbers are alarmingly A-Rod-esque so far in his career.  He needs to prove himself there.  Generally, however, I think Prince will be fine.  I feel like people took his putting the loss in perspective as not caring about the loss.  I think he cares.  I think he wants to win.  I believe he will perform well next season.  There.

Please give these guys a follow on the twitters @JGoro8, @SkitchP and @Detroit4lyfeRob if you haven't already, and buenas noches!