I'm traveling out of town over Thanksgiving, and my folks just moved, and don't have any Internet connection right now. So, I doubt I'll be posting until Monday when I'm back. I may give it a whirl over at my brother's if there is anything going on. Enjoy your Turkey Day, and let's hope the Lions don't embarrass us any further...although is there any chance they can beat the Titans?
Barry Bonds is due to go on trial for perjury in March 2009. In a report by the Mercury News, a judge has removed five of the counts from the indictment, still leaving 10 counts that could be pursued. Federal prosecutors could also choose to recraft the dismissed charges.
Steroids have left an indelible mark on baseball. Many argue that they don't care that players did steroids, as long as the entertainment factor was there. I just can't see it that way. I can't accept that players who didn't take steroids had their careers essentially downgraded because they couldn't compete with juiced players. I don't like that many records are now tainted. Sure, there has always been cheating in baseball (and other sports too) to varying degrees. I don't care. I'd rather see an un-enhanced home run champion who only hit 32 home runs, than a 'roided up Mark McGuire hitting 70+.
Now, our sport has a murky shadow cast over it by steroids. I watched Josh Hamilton in this year's home run derby with awe, but also with a little suspicion. Not that he's under suspicion per se, but I have to wonder now, because of the steroid era.
Magglio Ordóñez was implicated by Jose Canseco as a user. There's no proof, but Magglio's silence made we question him. Why didn't he sue Canseco for libel? He chose to ignore the accusations rather than speak to them. I realize that denying the allegations didn't work out so well for Roger Clemens (methinks thou protesteth too much). However, now there's a cloud hanging over one of my favorite players.
We'll never know the truth about so many current and former MLB players. That's the problem--everyone is now under the tainted steroid umbrella, because so many chose to ignore the problem for so long. Sigh.
You may have heard by now that the Mesa Solar Sox lost 10-4 in the AFL Championship to the Phoenix Desert Dogs, who garnered their fifth straight title. Our Tiger prospects performed well, however. Jeff Larish hit a two-run homer, and Casper Wells had an RBI double.
The Detroit Free Press has nice pieces on both Larish and Wells in today's paper.
My resolution to remain unflappable in the face of troubling hot stove rumors has been tested early on. Ian over at Bless You Boys reports that the Pirates may be trying to obtain catcher Matt Treanor from the Marlins and then package him with Jack Wilson in trade to the Tigers.
Um, why are we continually linked to players that do not fit the needs we have?
Lugo, Wilson? Are the Tigers going to buy me a wig when I pull all my hair out?
I've posted this comment before, and I'll repeat it here. I'm stating the obvious here, but apparently these facts are not crystallized in our management's mind. WE NEED DEFENSE AND SPEED. Since DD and Leyland are mysteriously hung up on Santiago's durability and refuse to give him a go, then in my mind, we should pursue someone like Cesar Izturis, who would be in our price range, and is stellar defensively and is speedy on the base paths. I know his offense isn't much, but we aren't going after top tier SS free agents.
That's all I'm going to say on this subject, for fear of breaking my vow not to be caught in the malevolent rumor maelstrom.
I admit that I've gotten more than a little riled up over hot stove rumors surrounding the Tigers this off-season. That would be because the rumors have largely involved the Tigers making some very "unsound moves," to speak mildly.
There's nothing like a visit to one's 96-year old grandfather to put things in perspective. I've heard my share of depression-era stories. Not preachy stories about how we young kids don't know anything about sacrifice, hard times, etc., but interesting tales that bring the times to life.
My grandpa told me how at the age of nine, he was sent to live/work at a local farm because his mother died of TB, and there was no one to care for the children at home. My son is nine, and he can't even make his own breakfast! Maybe that's my fault and not his...hmmm.
Anyway, I'm going to try to insulate myself from the irritation of these pesky "what-ifs." Whenever I hear a particularly vexing rumor, I'll think about my grandpa, who's happy just to be here, hoping to live to see 100, and enjoys simple things like coffee and conversation with his granddaughter.
The Mesa Solar Sox are playing in the AFL Championship game tomorrow at 2:30 pm Eastern. The game is being shown on MLB.TV. The lineup, which features three of our Tigers prospects, was voted on by the players.
Jeff Larish is playing 1B and batting cleanup, Casper Wells is out in right and batting 7th, and Will Rhymes rounds out Tiger representation at 2B, batting 9th. It's possible that Casey Fien would make a relief appearance in the game. He last pitched Nov. 18, and allowed no runs, no hits over one inning, with 2 strikeouts.
The Sox are playing the Phoenix Desert Dogs, which are attempting to secure their fifth straight AFL championship.
The starting pitcher for the Sox is Braves youngster Tommy Hanson, who boasts a sick 5-0 record, with a 0.63 ERA, 1.05 opponent batting average, and 49 strikeouts over 28 2/3 innings.
Joel Zumaya's young career has already had as many twists and turns as a carnival fun house. He's gone from flame-throwing phenom to injury-prone question mark in a hurry. He's on the verge of becoming this generation's Mark Fydrich, and that's got to scare the tattoos off his forearms.
In a Tigers.com article, Jason Beck tells us Zumaya has been cleared to begin rehab exercises on his stress-fractured shoulder. Zumaya should be our closer by now, but his career has gotten derailed not once, not twice, but three times due to injury.
I was interested to see Jim Leyland tell in Jason Beck's piece how he didn't fear bringing Verlander and Zumaya up in 2006, because he felt they had both had a gritty mentality. Specifically, he called Zumaya "macho." I read an ESPN the Magazine article about Zumaya, and didn't really come away with that impression. To me, it looked more like a put on bravado in some ways. The article showed his vulnerability as a young hot-shot who had not reached his potential thus far. Zumaya even went so far as to admit that there was a time after the shoulder injury when he didn't think he'd ever pitch again.
The portrayal in that article, combined with his emotion-filled reactions to some of his performances hint to me that he might not (at least not yet) have the mindset of a closer. We know it's a tough job, in which you've got to be able to "let it go" in a hurry so you can pitch again the next night. I'm not sure if he's ready for all that comes along with the closer role. I hope we get a chance to see him try it out, though. Hey, we're used to roller-coaster rides here anyway. I'm always standing up like the poker player who's all in when watching the ninth inning of close games.
One thing is sure. I'm thrilled that Kevin Rand has emphasized ensuring that his shoulder strength is fully back before any baseball work resumes.
Kenny Rogers has yet to determine whether he's now a retiree, or a potential comeback player of the year candidate for 2009. From what I saw of him last year, I do not believe he has anything left in the tank. There's a limit to reliance on getting people to swing at junk out of the strike zone, and I think Kenny's beyond it. I'm sure he was more than a little frustrated with the strike zone this past season--I could see it in his face at times--but, I still think he's done. I wouldn't mind getting proven wrong, but it would be a great risk.
Having said all that, I was just thinking of how much I enjoyed watching Kenny field his position, even through his last appearance of the season. I mean, it's really something to watch, in stark contrast to the pitchers who fall so far off the mound they can do nothing in the way of fielding, and those who can only duck or stick out a glove like a shield when a ball comes their way. I appreciated watching him help himself out every game, whether it was making a slick fielding move, or picking runners off--hello, all time pickoff leader! (I know, this stat has only been tracked since 1974.)
You can watch the double play he turned on August 30 in the Tigers' top plays archive.
Of course, there is his incredible 2006 post-season play (marred slightly by the pine tar incident, but not much, in my opinion). I was at ALDS game 3, and as I was keeping score, I couldn't believe the strikeouts he was racking up--eight to be exact--for a pitcher who was no longer known as a strikeout threat. It was great to see him pitch so inspired in the playoffs, despite never really having done so before. I'm glad he did it with us.
I wanted to put all this out there before he makes his final decision. If he wants to, I'm sure he'll have a nice career coaching. The young pitchers could often be seen conversing with him during games. Sure, they could've been talking about Big League Chew for all I know, but I think he made a great advisor. If he walks away from the game for good, we'll savor some nice memories of him wearing the Old English D.
An Associated Press report tells us that Eri Yoshida, 16, has been drafted by the Kobe 9 Cruise, a Japanese team in a new independent professional baseball league.
Yoshida throws a side-arm knuckleball, and is all of five feet tall, 114 lbs. She threw an inning of no-hit baseball during her tryout.
As someone with zero athletic ability (I really do throw like a girl, and badminton is the only "sport" at which I can beat my 9 year old son), I'm so excited about this. I would love nothing more than to see a woman compete successfully against male players.
The article didn't give any detail on her baseball experience thus far, though I'd be interested to hear about it. I'll be keeping a watchful eye on this young potential phenom's progress.
Detroit prospect and outfielder Casper Wells has been named Week 6 POTW for the Arizona Fall League. He's also seen some time (5 games) at first in the AFL, although that isn't very relevant for the Tigers, since we've got a certain young slugger entrenched there already, along with an abundance of other first base "types," not the least of which is Jeff Larish, another prospect and AFL Solar Sox teammate of Wells. Nice run-on sentence, and notice how I refer to the Tigers and myself as "we," as if the club consults me often on matters of great importance.
Carlos Guillen is now listed on the Venezuelan Winter Ball roster for Navegantes del Magallanes. His position is listed as first base!? Jason Beck had initially reported in his blog on November 10 that there was a story out in the Venezuelan paper El Universal that Guillen wanted to play winter ball. I haven't seen any follow up on this, but his name is now listed on the Magallanes roster, but without a jersey number. He also does not yet have any stats, so it appears he has not yet played. According to Beck, the story was that Guillen wanted to prepare both for his (yet another) new position with the Tigers in left next year, and for the World Baseball Classic. Also, Beck said that Dombrowksi hadn't heard from Guillen with a request for approval to play (he would need permission from the Tigers to play).
The Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional runs through December 30, so Guillen would be playing for just over a month. If he's playing at first, this does nothing to help him prepare for next year with the Tigers. The Tigers do not have control over the position played in a winter ball league, from what I can tell (I read this somewhere, but couldn't put my finger on it now).
Side note, Freddy Garcia is also on the Magallanes roster, number 60. No appearances yet as far as I can see. The Tigers have had no talks at all with Freddy, so I guess they're waiting to see how he does in winter ball. Other teams have expressed interest according to MLB.com (none specifically named). If he does well, I think the Tigers should try to sign him to a reasonable contract. We've got to get some bargains, and from what we saw of him last year, combined with a good performance in winter ball, I'd say he'd be as a good a gamble as any for the price.
Ok, so Carlos Guillen has stepped in and whipped the Venezuelan WBC team management into shape. There was much discontent about the handling/organization of the 2006 WBC Venezuelan team, and many Venezuelan MLB players had virtually decided against playing in 2009. Carlos has shown himself to be an outspoken force, first after Gary Sheffield's comments about MLB "controlling" latino players. Turns out he was right (although he spoke in a way that was offensive to many). Carlos said he felt intimidated into not making waves, and others feared deportation if they spoke up over issues. Now, he has stood up and affected change on his own national team. Do you realize that half our team will now be playing for Venezuela in the WBC? Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordóñez, Miguel Cabrera, and Armando Gallaraga will all most likely represent. Carlos obviously has a great political future ahead of him.
I, for one, am desperate to score tickets to the first round of the WBC at the Rogers Centre in Toronto on March 7. Venezuela will be playing Italy, and the tickets go on sale on Monday, November 17. So, I go on-line to register for a ticket strip. Alas, the deadline to register for tickets for the first round has passed. (Aside while I sob inconsolably for a few moments.) I need baseball in March, I need a respite from the relentless Michigan winter, I need to see my Tigres in action for Venezuela.
So, if anyone out there has the goods, let me know.
I realize that MLB has some legitimate concerns about injury during the WBC, but it's good for baseball, it's good for fans, so I support it, because I'm sorry, fans are often left out of the equation, when we're the reason for the sport's existence. Excuse me, how do you expect to make money if you're playing to empty stadiums, not selling gazillions in fan gear, and losing fat tv contracts? (Stepping off soapbox now.)
So let's soak up the World Baseball Classic in prelude to that summer classic we couldn't do without.
We're still wringing our hands over the 2008 season, and chugging Maalox in anticipation of off-season moves. A full buffet of names has been plated, chewed up, digested or spit out. I guess we bloggers should be happy in the sense that it supplies endless fodder to fill our cyber-pages. I'm weary already, and the winter meetings don't start until December 8. I'm sorry that I'm so weak. It's pathetic, I know.
Side note--winter meetings are in Vegas, so let's hope Dombrowski isn't tempted to do a lot of gambling. Although, with our funds available, that may be a necessity. Our player payroll was about $134 million in 2008, and it's expected to stay right around that level. We've already got $100 million committed. A lot of that is tied up in bad contracts (Inge, Robertson, Willis, Sheffield), further hindering our ability to do what we need to do. This leads to the talk that the Tigers will have to listen to offers for Magglio Ordóñez. A lot of folks have argued that he'll be difficult to move without eating some of his contract, so we'll see. Marcus Thames and Jeff Larish (especially with his quality performance in the AFL) are also good bets for trade bait.
December 1 is the deadline for clubs to offer arbitration to their free agents. December 7 is the deadline for the player to decline or accept it. This deadline is right before winter meetings, so that may make things interesting for the Renteria scenario at short (as pointed out by Jason Beck in his Nov. 10 Tigers.com mailbag).
The hardest part for us (besides the limited payroll) is that we've got players who are very close, but not quite big league ready, so we're looking for short term solutions, while most free agents (who aren't older than dirt or coming off injury-riddled or underperforming seasons) are looking for long term contracts. Farm talent ready to come in by about 2010 includes short, closer and starting pitcher. Catcher Dusty Ryan may be ready this year, may not. It all makes for gut-churning drama, which may not play out until the season is in full swing. Better go buy more Maalox.
Carlos Quentin, .288 AVG, 36 HR, 100 RBI, 80 SO, 66 BB, .394 OBP, .571 SLG
I guess it is clear that none of these guys are a runaway like Albert Pujols (although he and CC would've really had a tight race if CC had spent the whole year in the NL). To put it mildly, and to state the obvious I'm astounded by Pujols. His numbers are absolutely crazy, and you gotta love him.
In looking over the stat lines for these AL players, it is really difficult. I feel for Carlos Quentin, who's working against an incomplete season (although self-inflicted).
My vote goes to Kevin Youkilis, because he had a killer OPS, hit for average and power, had 115 RBIs, and plays stellar defense (and can play more than one position). To be honest though, I almost felt like changing my answer, even after I typed his name. His weaknesses (relative to these other MVP candidates) were baserunning and strikeouts.
Kansas State University hosts the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum's e-Museum at:
It's a resource site for teachers, and has profiles of Negro League Teams and personal profiles of many Negro League individuals.
The Detroit Stars were organized in 1919. The Stars became a charter member of the Negro National League on 1920, and remained until the league disbanded after the 1931 season. The Stars reemerged twice as new leagues formed in 1933 and 1937.
Norman "Turkey" Stearnes hailed from Nashville, TN, and played for the Stars from 1923-1931, 1933 & 1937. He was a power-hitting left handed bat, who also hit for good average. He was a speedy outfielder and base-stealing threat.
Stearnes also played for the Kansas City Monarchs, the Chicago American Giants, and several other Negro League teams.
Turkey Stearns finished his career with 7 home run titles, and a .359 batting average. Stearnes passed away on September 4, 1979 at the age of 78. He was posthumously inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.
(Source, James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, 1994.)
Very sad to me that many like Turkey Stearnes never lived to see their achievements properly lauded. Although integration came shamefully late to the Detroit Tigers franchise, I'm happy to see that they now host Negro Leagues weekend annually, and make a concerted effort to reach out to African-American baseball fans.
If you want to feel better about the Tigers, I've got the perfect prescription. Buy a ticket to a Lions game. I went today to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Man, there's not much that's more depressing than four quarters of Lions football.
The bright spot of the game? Barry Sanders and 0ther Lions past greats were in the house for the all-time team honors as the Lions celebrate their 75th year as a franchise. Watching Barry come out of the tunnel during half-time was the best moment of the game. That, and the cotton candy.
The despair is palpable at all times, and the fans left in droves from the third quarter on. By the time the clock wound down, we were among the dozen or so fans left in the stadium. Jacksonville lost last week to the Bengals, the sole other team without a win. Not so today. We saw a good old-fashioned beat-down.
So, although the Tigers were a giant bust last year, although it was an embarrassment of epic proportions, at least we have talent, and hope for the future. What do the Lions have? At least they DON'T have Matt Millen any longer.
With the current dearth of baseball news, this item will no doubt be covered ad nauseum. Even so, I'll add to the fray.
Cabrera was getting reamed early on due to poor defense and his quiet bat. I'm inclined to give folks a little more time, maybe too much time sometimes (read Sheffield). Anyway, I thought he came around swimmingly, swatting with more and more authority, and making some nice picks out of the dirt over at first.
One thing that just about drove me to the nearest asylum was Rod and Mario calling him Cabby. What spawned that hideous corruption, and I hope he told them to cease and desist! Miggy is much better if you want a nickname, in my humble opinion. I mean, I feel broadcasters should always check with the player to see if it's ok (don't forget those blockheads calling Roberto Clemente "Bobby" when he hated it, and Kirk Gibson's maddening overuse of "Higgy.")
It's a nice little piece of "Welcome to the D" hardware for Cabrera, and I think he'll impress us all even more next year, when he's not feeling all the pressure of the new digs, the big contract, and switching positions.
Some stats from our AFL players, playing for the Mesa Solar Sox. Jeff Larish hit the spotlight in a piece on Tigers.com, trying to improve versatility so he can land on the 2009 big-league roster.
In his AFL blog, Zach Simons reports that Casper Wells must lead the league in HBP. He also says that Jeff Larish has the hot stick after a bit of a slow start. He now has 3 HR, and leads the league in RBIs. Zach himself had 5 scoreless innings after his (not so great) first outing.
Jeff Larish: playing 1B & 3B, 19 G, 81 AB, 21 RBI, 10 BB, 15 SO, .309 AVG, .494 SLG, .376 OBP, .870 OPS
Again, it's difficult, because this remains a small sample size, and the season ends Nov. 20, and these numbers aren't put up against current big league talent, but it's still fun to check in on these youngsters.
Agent Scott Boras has made an Oz-like declaration that he doesn't believe Magglio Ordóñez will be traded. Not sure why he felt the need to make this decree, but make it he did. Maybe he's just making it known that Ordóñez does not want to be traded. Maybe he just likes to hear himself talk importantly on topics of great concern. We already know of the no-trade clause in Magglio's contract, which for 2008 had made all but 10 teams off limits without approval. This news was reported by Jon Paul Morosi of the Free Press. Anyway, it all adds to the drama of Tigers' pending off-season moves.
Believe it or not, you have the opportunity to vote for a Tiger in the 2009 "This Year in Baseball" awards. Armando Gallaraga is up for rookie of the year. Alternately, you can vote for Jair Jurrjens as a show of protest over losing him. Here's the TYIB Awards site:
It's a fun-filled, anxiety-ridden time of year for baseball lovers. Watching the hot stove, monitoring desirable free agents, trying to protect favorite players from trade via mind control--you know what I'm talking about.
In a piece on ESPN.com, Tim Kurkjian counts down the top ten off-season story lines. Francisco Rodriguez his the list at number six. Kurkjian opines that the Mets and Tigers make the most sense, due to their mutual need for help at closer. He then goes on to say that "it doesn't appear that the Mets are willing to give K-Rod the money and years that he'll be looking for." He doesn't say word one about what I thought had been overtly iterated by Dombrowski--that the Tigers are equally unwilling to shell out the necessary cash on the free agent market this off-season.
So I'll go ahead and give the rumor mill a big shove to get it going at warp speed. Maybe we will be involved in the bidding war on K-Rod!
Really, this is speculation of gargantuan proportions, but it sure piqued my curiosity that Kurkjian didn't say the Tigers weren't interested.
Also, as a side note, and number three on Kurkjian's list, I'm intent on finding out CC Sabathia's new home. It's hilarity to me that the Yanks are desperate to sign him (and they better well fail, or it'll turn from hilarity to blinding fury), despite the fact that he's indicated his desire to settle on the West coast nearer his California home, and despite his willingness to at least listen to small-market Milwaukee's offer. My secret wish is that Illich would empty his pockets and sign him, but I know that's only fantasy baseball at its finest. So, I'll be content to see him sign with anyone but the dreaded Yanks.
Baseball. A tonic for all that ails. The perfect accompaniment to almost every activity. A day at the ballpark. It's not asking for much. I vow to get locked in for the night one day.
"You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball."