Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Where in the World is Freddy Garcia?

Jason Beck's blog reports that Freddy Garcia is not yet pitching in winter ball in Venezuela, but hopes to be by early November.  Wowee.  This is a bit of a set-back.  I hadn't realized the neck/shoulder injury from the Chicago make-up game was as serious as all this.  It makes it harder to evaluate him in my view, even though Beck thought clubs wouldn't be too put off by it, if it's a short delay.

It just goes to show how tenuous a pitcher's career is.  Not to over-react, but it seems a common problem that pitchers come back too quickly from injury, only to re-aggravate the existing injury, or cause an entirely new one due to compensating, favoring, tweaking mechanics to deal with the original injury, coming back before full arm strength is there, pitching too long too early on, etc.  I feel badly for those whose arms are burnt up before their time-- careers being cut short all tragically.  At the same time, there seems to be such a cowboy mentality out there.  Why in tarnation did Bonderman not disclose his injury earlier?  He was getting roasted alive for his nauseating performances, yet says nothing?  Come on! (Side note, Bonderman's a head case anyway, so maybe this was just more of the same bewildering psychological drama for him--like giving up three runs every first inning.)

Then we hear from Leyland about how everyone has been re-educated to report injuries immediately--to no apparent effect.   We've got Zumaya out there all jacked up, Kenny Rogers battling hip trouble, but not admitting to it, Garcia going out there trying to be a hero, laudably in some ways, trying to show his worth for next year, trying to stick it to the Sox, but ends up jeopardizing everything instead.

People, could we please not destroy our bodies and our ballclubs by reporting injuries early on, so you can maybe spend one short stint on the stinking DL instead of half the season or worse?  I mean, do you see the logic, ballplayers?  Or am I just such a non-athlete that I don't get some code of stoic, stubborn, misplaced pride?  Perhaps they fear being labeled not-durable, weak, injury-prone, but to me, if you're out there getting hammered every night anyway, it's so beyond not worth it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Justin Verlander's No Hitter

In homage to the Tigers' DVD voting contest for "Essential Games of the Detroit Tigers," I am relating my experiences from a couple of the featured games.  Today, it's Justin Verlander's no hitter.

To begin with, I never should have been at that game.  I had already purchased a gazillion tickets and it was only June.  Second, it was a Tuesday night game (although, to be honest, I like going to games during the week).  So, I was sitting at my computer one morning, and I received a new email.  Oh joy, it was a Detroit Free Press free stuff thank you e-mail (sent to subscribers every so often, and featuring fun freebies like tickets to area events, Caribou coffees, etc.).  Well, lo and behold, one of the offerings was two tickets to an upcoming Tigers game.  Naturally, my fingers flew like the wind as I made my selection and sent it through cyberspace.  You have to wait a while to find out if you were one of the "first to respond," as they only had ten pair of tickets available.

Fate smiled on me, and my tickets soon arrived in the mail--infield upper deck box, 16th row, third base side.  My mom was coming into to town, so I invited her to join me at the game.  Little did we know that we were about to experience a piece of baseball history.

I'll spare you the play by play, since you know what happened, but we began to witness Justin hurling some filthy stuff.   The Brewers were hacking away like Florida Southern against our Big League club each spring (no disrespect FS).  The fun stuff was Verlander walking the same guy three times (Hall), Magglio's sliding catch, Neifi Perez' wicked double play turn, and the nefarious sea-gulls, who flew in to gobble up hatchling moths.

I started to get really nervous, in fact, my stomach got all tied up in knots, and was aching like nobody's business from the fifth inning until about two hours after the game ended.  In the top of the seventh inning, Justin is pitching y'all, and the section next to ours tries to start the wave.  I wanted to stand up and shout at the top of my lungs, "Don't you know there's a no-hitter in progress here!?" but of course, I couldn't jinx it, so I scowled and grumbled under my breath a little about the oblivious masses at Comerica, who obviously don't know diddly about baseball.

Luckily, moms was there playing shutterbug, so I've got the Kodak moments all glossy, with my scorecard full of zeros, and my ticket stub to enshrine the game with all proper ceremony.   Now, this is a little small of me, I know, but in the days of heartbreak last year when we didn't make the post-season, I downloaded the no-hitter off i-Tunes and watched it, reliving the past glories of that game.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

1987 Division Clinching Game

MLB and the Tigers are compiling a DVD set entitled "Essential Games of the Detroit Tigers."  You can vote on-line now for your six favorite games from a preselected set spanning the 1960s through now.  Just go to the Tigers web site and then to Fans (in the orange bar), and then Fan Forums.  There is a link there for the contest, with video clips from each game.

There are a lot of good choices, no doubt, from the '68 series, to the '76 Fidrych game vs. the Yankees, the '84 series,  the '87 AL East Clincher, some dubious 90's fare, the 2006 post-season, and Justin Verlander's no-hitter.

I've got good stories from two of these games.   Today, I'll share my tale from the 1987 divisional clinching game vs. the Blue Jays on October 4.  Tomorrow, I'll fill you in on Justin Verlander's no-hitter.

 In 1987, I was a freshman at the University of Michigan (don't do the math, let's just say I'm right behind Sheffield, knocking on 40's door).  When we saw that the division was going to come down to the last day of the season, that it was between us and the Jays, and we were playing the Jays--creating essentially a play-in game situation, we knew we had to score some tickets to that game.  I even managed to hype up one of my best new friends from my dorm hall, who could have cared less about baseball.  We knew our only shot was at bleacher seats, which didn't go on sale until game day.  My friend's roommate had a car, and so the four of us set off--me, my friend, her roommate and the roommate's boyfriend.  We left Ann Arbor at about 7:30 am, and arrived at the Stadium around 8:30 to sit out for seats.  The line was already half way around the stadium.  Tickets didn't go on sale until 11:00 if I remember right.  We were pretty sure we were in a spot to get tickets, but anxiously discussed our chances as we waited it out.  As we got close to the ticket window, we tasted victory, and entered the stadium with near euphoria.

You know how rowdy the bleachers could get at Tiger Stadium, but it was all good, playoff-vibe rowdy.  Before the game even started, some Tigers fans tossed around a stuffed animal Blue Jay, disemboweling it as a symbolic gesture of what we were about to do to the real Jays.  Frank Tanana stepped on the mound, and into a pitcher's duel extraordinaire.   The game was in the 8th inning, 1-0, fraught with nervous tension, when my friend's roommate, our driver,  says we better get going to avoid getting caught in traffic.   I was so caught off guard, I could only stare blankly in stunned disbelief.  We could not be leaving this game, it's 1-0, we'll be going to the playoffs if we win, we CANNOT leave this game, is this some kind of demented joke?  Well, you can guess the rest, she was dead serious, and they dragged me out.  I remember looking bleakly through the fence at the action as we walked down the ramp.  Sitting in the back seat riding back to UM, I stewed and fumed, listening to us win the division on the radio.  I don't know why I didn't just take a taxi 45 miles back to my dorm.   I guess it just sounded too extravagant, too impossible for me to pull off by myself in Detroit.  My poor friend had to listen to me rant and rave for days over the incident, but she sympathized, though probably secretly thinking me a crazed zealot.

Perhaps this experience taught me to always drive myself to the game, issuing a stern warning to any passengers that we're not leaving early, no matter what.  I'll bet some of the Boston fans who left the ALCS comeback game against the Rays this year are living with massive guilt, shame and regret.  I'll always live with the pain of leaving that 1987 game, but at least I have the consoling thought that it was against my will.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Arizona Fall League

OK.  I know I said that I didn't count the Arizona Fall League, because you can't watch it except in person (as far as  I know).  However, it's important to keep up on Tigers' prospects, right?  Anyway, I needed a little education on the AFL anyway, so I did a little digging.

The Tigers have seven players in the AFL playing for the Mesa Solar Sox.  They are pitchers Zach Simons, Casey Fien, Rudy Darrow and Louis Marte, and three position players, Jeff Larish, Casper Wells and Will Rhymes.

You've probably already heard about how Casey Fien is tearing up the AFL.  He's now boasting a 0.00 ERA over 4 games, 6.2 innings.  He's got two wins, no losses and 8 strikeouts.  Last year he played for Erie and Toledo, and was 5-3 with a 2.82 ERA over 52 games, 60.2 innings, and a .231 average against.

I'm going to do some more stat work, but it's early in the season, which started October 7, and runs through November 20.  The Solar Sox are currently 7-5.

If you're interested in the AFL, or in checking in on Tigers prospects, here is MLB's AFL web site:

Pitching prospect Zach Simons is blogging for MLB/the Tigers during the AFL season.  Not only do you get an inside look at the AFL, you get to know a young prospect, and Casper Wells has already done a guest blog piece.  Zach's blog can be found at:

This is a veritable gold-mine of information that will keep me afloat during the dark, Tiger-less days of fall & winter.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pilfering from the Twins

As you know by now, the Tigers have hired Rick Knapp as their new pitching coach, and are likely to hire a bullpen coach from within the organization.   Knapp has been the Twins minor league pitching coordinator for the past 12 years.  Many others have covered this news already, so I'll just say this:

I like this move from the standpoint that I like what Minnesota does with its small budget each year.  I think it's largely due to Ron Gardenhire.  He's a terrific manager in my view.  During Twins batting practice at Comerica one game last year, I saw him in shallow outfield shagging fly balls.  I'd be beside myself if I had to lose my top talent every year or so and start over.  (Side note, I'd also be freaking mad if I had to play in a dump like the Metrodome.  Every time I see the stupid carpet and the baggie, I feel the chunks rising.)  So, if Rick Knapp is any part of what's been going on with the Twins, I'm happy as a clam.  And bonus, we take away from one of our top divisional rivals.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Evidence of Clubhouse Chaos

There was a lot of talk, and a lot of rumors about clubhouse malaise this past season.  I rather scoffed at the idea, and didn't really see any evidence of it.  Jim Leyland darn near bit Jason Grilli's head off for suggesting it after his trade to Colorado.

Now there's some pretty convincing evidence that the clubhouse was indeed troubled.

In an article in today's Freep, Jon Paul Morosi chronicled Jair Jurrjens' recent visit to his host family from his days with the West Michigan Whitecaps.  Jurrjens was quoted in the article as saying:

"When I came  up, the team was so united.  Everybody was getting along with each other.  I can't remember who I was talking to, but they said it's not the same thing (as) when I came up.  I didn't ask who--they just said it wasn't the same environment.  I think everybody was trying to press so much-- be the leader, be the superstar."

The scenario described by Jurrjens is very plausible to me.  I don't think guys were in there all disgruntled with each other, but I sure believe that many of them were trying too hard to do too much.

I think (no, hope) that after the past year of adjustment, the clubhouse will be just fine.  Guys will feel more comfortable in their roles, with their teammates, and positions (think of those shuffled mercilessly around the diamond).

It's telling to me that Edgar Renteria wants to return next season, despite a very sub-par performance, a lukewarm to angry fan reaction, and the rotten egg of a season overall.  There must be something there worth coming back for.  I believe it's there, too.  I'll be looking for it next year.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why is Willis NOT in Winter Ball?

This is a bit of old news, but I've really been wondering about it.  Near the end of the season, Jim Leyland said he'd like to see Willis pitch in winter ball.   Willis' outings seemed to confirm the need.  He didn't exactly perform in a way that inspired glowing confidence.

I was impressed that Willis very willingly went down to A ball.  It made sense to get him away from the media scrutiny, but he had to agree to do it.  It was the right thing to do, sure, considering his walk-tastic, wild beyond description performances.  But doing the right thing is no gimme with athletes.  It's so much easier to just do what suits them best, or what makes sense to their sometimes over-sized egos, especially when the $ are guaranteed.  So, he gets bonus points for manning up and playing A ball.

On September 23, in a piece written by beat writer Jason Beck, Dontrelle said he was open to winter ball.  Then, in a Freep article published on September 29, Dontrelle was quoted as saying he had no plans to participate in any winter leagues.  It was very cryptic, with no other information given.

I've seen nothing else on this.  No commentary from Leyland or management, zip.  I'm sorry, but could someone tell me what the crust is going on here?  I would like to know why Willis is not going to winter ball, and whether there was a big dustup within the organization over it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Offseason Anxiety

I've got a lot of conflicting emotions here.  On the one hand, I'd like playoff baseball to last as long as possible, because after that comes the dark time of year--the time when there is no baseball.  (I don't count the Arizona Fall League or winter ball, because there's no opportunity to see either one, unless you're there!)

On the other hand, I'd like to know what the Tigers are going to do already!  It's worse than a five year old waiting for Christmas morning.  Am I going to get what I asked for, or will I find a lump of coal in my Tiger stocking?

Let's home Davey Claus comes through.  Ok, enough with the Christmas metaphor.  It's too hokey for words.

Anyway, I'm pretty much on pins and needles here.  It's really hard for me to think about the possible loss of players like Magglio Ordóñez.  If it's going to happen, let's just get it over with, so I can move through the various phases of grief-denial, anger, acceptance, sadness!

Jason Beck over at looked into the possible catcher signings, throwing out Gregg Zaun's name, basically ruling out reobtaining Pudge, and mentioning the possible comeback for Vance Wilson.  It's all still pretty murky.

When I think about it, the speculation actually makes things worse, because then my mind will not stop with the endless possibilities, and which ones look good, and which stink it up, and who would have to go if we pursue so-and-so, and ...see how I'm going crazy here?

Guess I'm not cut out to be a GM.  I don't do fantasy baseball. 

Congrats to the Phils who won the pennant tonight!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Verlander & Skip

I'm wondering whether there's any friction between Justin Verlander and Jim Leyland after all that went down last  year.  Jim called Justin out a couple times for not owning up to bad outings.   Justin expressed surprise at said callings out.

I agree that Justin failed to come to terms with a poor season for him.  He really did appear to be in denial about some stuff.  Sure, the offense let him down this year.  He had incredible run support in 2007, and not so much this year, but it was a lot more than just poor run support.  This could all be a problem, in that if he doesn't see himself as having any problems, there would be nothing for him to work on over the off-season or in spring training.  Also, if he really believes there's nothing wrong, it could breed resentment against those who say otherwise.  He'd feel he was being unfairly targeted as a scapegoat for last year's abysmal performance.

I hope Jim and Justin got it all out behind closed doors, and have a good working relationship going into next year.  The last thing we need is ill will between our supposed ace and the manager, who is now a lame duck.  That could snowball into all kinds of bad clubhouse vibes, undermining Jim's managerial abilities.

There was some legitimate discussion about Jim leaving Justin in way too long in games, something he didn't do at all for any other pitcher.  I wonder how Justin felt about that.  Did he feel his arm was being burnt up, or was he cool with it?

We'll probably never know.  That's what's hard for fans--there are always so many unanswered questions.  We don't see what goes on behind the scenes, and players, coaches and managers keep all that stuff pretty much under wraps.   A lot of it is for good reason.  Things get blown out of proportion by media, stuff gets taken out of context, etc.  However, a little more transparency at times would be so welcome by fans.  That's why you have to like the honesty of someone like Gary Sheffield, even if you don't always like what he's saying.  At least you're not getting the "Bull Durham" clichés that Crash taught to Nuke.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Saving Tiger Stadium

I have such a sentimental fondness for Tiger Stadium, a feeling that is, no doubt, shared by countless others--the memories made there are indelible.  I also have a genuine love of the old girl herself.  That is, her seating was so intimate to the action.  If you sat in the upper deck box seats on the first or third base line, you were quite literally on top of the action--an unmatched game experience.

Now, I'm not bagging on Comerica.  It's a fine ballpark.  Rather cookie-cutter, but nicely done in most respects.  However, the seating is decidedly not fan-friendly.  It ranges too far back off the action.  I do like the right field grandstand and bleachers.  I like being in fair territory, and if you're in the rows near the front, it's quite nice, for a decent price.

I'm proud of the efforts the conservancy is making to save a portion of the ballpark.  It would be great if programs like Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities (RBI) could make use of the historic field.  However, I don't blame people if they donate money to more urgent humanitarian causes right now.  Especially with Michigan's current economic situation, there are many in dire situations, and they need help.  Real human crises should trump baseball history.

So, if she does vanish, I'll be sad, but not broken-hearted.  Perhaps she'll go down, but others may have a better shot, just like Oscar Wilde's Happy Prince.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Runs Allowed

During last night's Rays/Red Sox game, one of the announcers commented that the Rays had the third best one-year improvement in runs allowed (RA) in MLB history.  I looked up the information on, and they allowed 944 runs in 2007 and only 671 in 2008.  The announcer commented that they had improved defensively with Jason Bartlett at short.  He then went on to highlight the importance of defense in reducing runs allowed, effectively giving a leg up to pitching.

Let's look at the Tigers runs allowed over the past couple years:

2008 - 857
2007 - 797
2006 - 675

Obviously, both pitching and defense contributed to our unacceptable inflation in RA.  Lee Panas over at Tiger Tales has a great piece on our defensive erosion this past season.

Thinking about RA leads me to speculate that the front office has been mulling over things like our catastrophic RA also, and that may have precipitated the move of Brandon Inge to third.  Since we know we won't be a player in any big free agent pitcher signing, defensive improvement becomes more crucial.

Obviously, we will also be largely dependent on seeing comebacks from many of our existing staff--Bonderman, Robertson, Willis, even a significant rebound for Verlander.  We will be fervently hoping for the speedy development of young arms like Rick Porcello and Casey Crosby (who I know next to nothing about, other than that he's made a magnificent 9-month recovery from Tommy John surgery--thanks to info from the Freep).

In my mind, there's a lot of synergy between good defensive plays and good pitching, and even hitting at times.  The whole "pick -em up" mentality--I really buy into it.  Let's hope our guys will be picking each other up a lot more next year.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fever Pitch

My husband tells me I am exactly like Jimmy Fallon's character from the movie "Fever Pitch."

He claims that I act rational during the off-season--that's Winter Jen.

Then during baseball season, I'm obsessed, and I concoct no end of crazed schemes to go to the ballpark--that's Summer Jen.

Now, I admit that last season, I said I was going to purchase "x" number of games from a season ticket holder I know, and not go to any more.  My husband said at the time that it was Winter Jen talking, and he took no heed.  Sadly, he was right--I went to ten more games than "x."

I'm sorry, but there are times when Summer Jen will not admit rational, cool-headed thinking.  

Last year, I felt I had to go to Chicago for the last game of the year, so I could be there to see Magglio win the batting title.  I didn't matter that I was ill, that I would be out driving at all hours with our 8 year old son, that my husband had to work and couldn't come, that I  had nowhere to stay in Chicago, that I had no ticket.  I had a "perfectly good answer" to every obstacle--meaning, I had a wacked out, screwball notion that I could work everything out.  The clear-thinking minds in our house prevailed, and I had to watch them crown our 2007 batting champion from home.  It was great to see the Venezuelan announcers call each of his at-bats though!

The thing is, I'm not the only one who acts this way--look, there was a whole movie made about someone just like me.

I'm not embarrassed that I sometimes keep score when I'm listening to or watching the game at home.  I'm not embarrassed that I stay at the game no matter what.  I've stayed at many games that were total wash outs, and I got soaked from head to toe, and we were losing.  I wasn't the only one.  Actually though, I wouldn't care if I WAS the only one.

I simply cannot leave a game early.  If you come to the game with me,  you are staying until the game is over, or until the game is called.

Call me stupid, call me lunatic, call me whatever you want.  To me, it's all part of loving the game.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Little Bit of Everything

I've just got a bunch of short bits here today, so here goes:

Curtis Granderson must love to be busy, or else he doesn't know how to say no.  He's everywhere!  It was nice seeing him on TBS' division series coverage, though.

Both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News did a piece on the 40th anniversary of Jose Feliciano's anthem rendition that rocked the nation.  I wasn't born until 1969, so I'd never heard it, although I had read Ernie's description of the incident.  Both articles linked to an audio of the anthem, and I thought it was incredible!  I loved it so much, I really can't understand what all the flap was about.  I guess that there were some major hang ups about traditional interpretation of the anthem at that time, but there is no denying the beauty of Feliciano's interpretation.  Here's the link, it's really worth a listen:

Also noteworthy was the 20th anniversary of Kirk Gibson's iconic, game winning, World Series home run as a Dodger.  I was a sophomore at the University of Michigan, and I didn't even see it live.  I was actually studying instead of watching the World Series--you can't get much nerdier than that!  My friends knew I loved Kirk Gibson, so someone ran to tell me what happened, and I saw the replays right away.  Now that home run has been enshrined as one of the most memorable, dramatic sports moments ever.  You go Kirk!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bright Spots?

I've been wracking my brain today trying to think of some bright spots from our failed season to cheer myself up.  It's been a little tough.  Most of the things I come up with fall a little short.

For example, Magglio Ordoñez "almost" won a second consecutive batting title.  Don't get me wrong, he had another very good year, and was one of the few players who lived up to expectations, but almost doesn't quite qualify for this little rah rah list.

Gary Sheffield "almost" joined the 500 home run club.  It got exciting, because he served a four-game suspension right at the end of the season.  Everyone was like, "there go his chances at 500 this year."  Then he steps in and launches two in his first game back.  I really thought he'd get there then.  Again, no, he fell short.

Even Miguel Cabrera's home run title has to be qualified, because Carlos Quentin of the White Sox went down with a broken wrist on September 5.  He already had 36 at that point, and Cabrera ended with 37.  That being said, Cabrera really smoked some balls this year.  Two of his massive jacks were caught less than a row away from me in right field behind the 365 corner -- impressive opposite field knocks.

Marcus Thames went on a tear, and hit eight home runs in seven consecutive games in June, a club record.  There's a bright spot for you.

Matt Joyce came up, showed us what he's got, provided a lefty bat, and rescued a black kitten from the batting practice cage.  If that doesn't cheer you up, stop reading now.

Todd Jones got demoted as closer, but still retired with class, and the organization gave him a worthy send-off during the second-to-last home game.  Jones literally and symbolically took off his jersey and handed it to Mike Illich to signal the passing of the guard.

Small things, I know, but I'll take a little solace from them and hope for a whole lot more in 2009.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Playoff Heartache

There's a lot of heartache going around the MLB playoffs right now, and a little left over for me, even though my Detroit Tigers didn't make the playoffs.

I'm not going to lie, I'm feeling for the lovable losers the Cubbies right now.  I'm really feeling it for their fans.  At least the current players haven't been pining for a World Series title these past 100 years.  I'm not sure who their oldest player is, but it's a safe bet he's not much over 40, if that.  And how many of their players grew up as Cubs fans?  I'm sure there are many elder Cub fans who have suffered through this drought with untold agony.

I also feel a slight pang for the Brewers, although they were always my arch-rival team in some respects.  I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and people there are either Brewers or Tigers fans, but never both.  So loved to loathe names like Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and especially Rob Deer.  Mostly, I feel for Corey Hart, who looked like he was going to burst into tears when the ball popped out of his glove last night after he banged against the outfield fence and then fell to the ground.  He hadn't had a good series at bat either, so it was all going so wickedly wrong for him.  There was no gloating in my heart over their loss.

Now, the Angels are still in, and have tied it up as I write this post (at least last I checked).  However, when three players converged and failed to catch the blooper off Ellsbury's bat, allowing 3 runs to score for Boston, the looks on their faces said it all.  Mike Scioscia had to send in some signs afterward.  The camera was zoomed in on his face and I swear the dejection was palpable.  His finger looked like it was in slow motion as it went through the crazy nose to ear to nose to chin movements.

Finally, to my little heartbreak.  This goes back to the White Sox/Minnesota play-in game.  After Thome's solo shot, A.J. Pierzynski stepped to the edge of the dugout, raised his hands in the air, and hyped up the crowd.  Something in that moment shot straight to my heart.  The jealousy and the heartbreak of "they are there and we are not."  The energy, the electricity, the jubilation of the Sox and their fans reminded me only too well of the taste of playoff baseball, while I sat with the bitter taste of what people are calling the biggest bust ever in the Michigan sports history.

Oh, well, all I can say is summed up in the clichéd baseball phrase "wait til next year."

Saturday, October 4, 2008


This season, Gary Sheffield fell one dinger short of reaching the career milestone of 500 homers.  I was at the last home game of the year, and I was hoping with all I had that Sheff would become the 25th player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs.

I have to admit, good will toward Sheffield was not the only motivation for wishing so hard.

I've been a pretty strong supporter of Sheffield throughout his thick and thin tenure here.  I've always admired him as an all-around hitter, and his base-running instincts are really something to behold.  Even now as he knocks on 40's door, he's a good baserunner.

One of the most entertaining things about Sheff is that he thinks his eye is flawless.  If he takes a pitch (other than the first pitch, which he almost never swings at), he figures it's a ball, and better be called as such.  No kidding, watch his at bats--if he takes a pitch and it's called a strike, he either turns away from the umpire to calm himself down and mask his disgust, or lets the ump know what he thought of the call.  It's a lot of fun to watch.

Anyway, back to 499.  I did want Gary to get 500 this year for the achievement, but I'm sorry to say more selfish factors played into it as well.  First, it would be great to see him do it in a Tigers uniform.  Second, and more importantly, it might cause him to retire, saving us $14 million off our payroll next year, and freeing up the DH spot for one of the many DH types still on our team (most prominently Carlos Guillen).  Finally, it would've been a great way to end a brutal season.

I'm sorry, but Leyland stayed with Sheff way too long this year, when it was obvious to me that he should've been on the 60 day DL.  He was clearly hampered with the shoulder, and simply should not have been in the lineup.

Like I said, I like Sheff, and his career has been incredible.  He did show some signs of being more back to himself at the end of the season, but at his age, and the history of shoulder trouble, and the many designated hitters waiting in the wings, it's $14 million too much on our payroll.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Inherited Runners

One of the maddening parts of last season with the Tigers was the inability to prevent inherited runners from scoring.  Each time a reliever came in with runners on, I cringed, because I knew what was coming.

To me, this statistic is crucial.  We've got to have some arms(minds) that can come in with runners on and prevent them from crossing the plate.  We were absolutely abysmal at this in 2008.  Look at these numbers, our five worst IRA (inherited runners allowed) offenders:

Aquilino Lopez - 29
Bobby Seay - 16
Freddy Dolsi - 12
Zach Miner - 11
Casey Fossum - 10

(Side note, Farnsworth had 7, and he was only a Tiger from the trade deadline on.)

Total for our top (bottom) five:  78 inherited runners allowed

I'll compare this to the totals of the four AL teams that made the playoffs:

Rays - 45
Angels - 48
Red Sox - 59
White Sox - 67

You can see from the list of offenders, these are our core middle relievers (with the exception of Miner who converted to starter.)  So not acceptable, so depressing, so mind-numbing, so making me lose my sanity!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Waiting Game

We've got to just wait and see what moves will be made during the off-season.  I'm already chomping at the bit to know what the organization is going to do, but I know nothing can be announced until after the World Series ends.

I would like to see the Tigers sign Freddy Garcia at a reasonable price.

I actually wouldn't mind seeing them sign Renteria if the price were right, since Inge can cover more ground at third.  I believe his offense will rebound, and Santiago can be used at short as well.

I have a feeling Thames is gone now that we've moved Guillen for the nth time.  He'll be sorely missed as a quality individual, and someone who can just crush the ball.  Maybe he'll get more playing time elsewhere.

Now, of course I'd love to see a hard run at Sabathia, but Dombrowski's squelched that already.  We won't be players in any of the big free agent signings.

I'll be very interested to see what they do at catcher.  I was disappointed to read Bill Madden's column (New York Daily News) saying that Pudge asked to be traded.   I wonder why there was not really any coverage of that on the Detroit end.  But, we've had enough of players who don't want to be here (Ruben Sierra, Juan Gonzalez).  It would be a real risk to put Dusty Ryan out there as primary catcher, as good as he looked in limited play this year.

There will be a lot of activity, and much to digest in a few short weeks.  Until then, enjoy October baseball.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The underratedness of Placido Polanco

As I watch Chase Utley and the Phillies in the playoffs, I can't help but smile with a quiet satisfaction.  Not satisfaction that the Tigers are not in the playoffs, mind  you, but satisfaction about a former Philly, Tigers second baseman, Placido Polanco.

No mistake, Chase Utley is a premier player.  It's just that the Tigers obtained Polanco by trading Ugeth Urbina and Ramon Martinez (played in 7 major league games this year) to the Phillies.  The Phillies had to move Polanco to make room for the young phenom Utley.  He's been more than great for them.  Urbina, however, is now not only not in baseball, but is in jail for murder--a grisly tale not fit for this post.

Anyway, back to Placido.  He's just such a quiet professional, it's like he's completely unnoticed, hardly  mentioned in fact, (other than some snide remarks about his oversized cranium).  Maybe that's just fine with  him, but I'd like to showcase him here for a moment.

He did get an all-star nod last year, and went more than a year without an error.  He hit .341 last year, with exactly 200 hits.  It's been said that his athletic ability is lower than average, but I see him routinely making plays that are far from routine.  He's on the small side, but his timing is great, resulting in many leaping grabs to save base hits.

He's hard to strike out, with that choked up, short swing.  You'd think with all the success he's had with it, some of the light hitters would adopt choking up.  Not everyone can control the bat with one hand almost off the handle like Magglio Ordoñez.  He uses the whole field--I mean his spray chart is just all over.

Polanco may not be the flashy headliner, but you can bet he's valued by his teammates, coaches, manager, and me.