Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Righteous Crusade

Justine Siegal realized a life-long ambition this week. Actually, watch how she lived the dream twice. Siegal threw batting practice for both the Cleveland Indians and the Oakland A's. It's believed she's the first woman ever to throw batting practice in MLB. While fulfilling a personal goal was a huge part of the experience, Siegal's wider intent was to raise awareness of women in baseball. She runs a non-profit organization called "Baseball for All," and its mission is to give girls opportunities to play baseball.

In an interview with NPR, Siegal talked about how she always wanted to play in the big leagues, and didn't realize until she was 15 that it wasn't going to be a possibility. I love that to children, everything seems like it could happen. That's how it should be. She and I share the belief that a knuckle-balling female pitcher could realistically make it to The Show one day. Siegal added that a lefty knuckler would have an even greater chance.

Siegal is also the first woman to coach professional baseball in the United States. She was a first base coach for the Brockton Rox of the independent Can Am League. She talked about earning the respect of male players. It probably always takes longer for a female to have the trust and authority a coach needs, but Siegal believed she had it from her players.

One of the things that resonated with me was Siegal's mention that 40% of baseball fans are women. I'm not talking about girls who go to games to stare at player's hindquarters as they bend over to stretch. I've seen these women first hand. I'm talking about women who love the game in the same way that guys love it. It's a deep passion for true fans, and men and women alike can partake in the single-minded devotion to a past time that's like no other. Believe me, women who love baseball want to participate in the sport, just like every guy dreams of working for his favorite team, or watch batting practice on the field. That's what we want too. I had a vivid dream one night, in which I was asking Bill James to give me a job. Crazy? I hope not.

Don't treat female fans like they're cheerleaders. It's not that I don't jump out of my seat yelling and clapping, because I do that every game, but I am always looking to discuss serious baseball issues, like Austin Jackson's chances of sustaining a higher-than-normal BABIP, because I think he can, if he continues to hit a lot of line drives and get infield hits.

Although MLB once banned women from playing in its league, women have never stopped looking for inclusion. Check out a few of the sites in the blogroll to the right. There are no fewer than four blogs with women as their lead writers. I hope you give their work the attention and respect it deserves. I want to thank Justine Siegal for bringing awareness to the fact that women love the game, and want nothing more than to be a part of it at every level.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Time to Get All Dolled Up

Tomorrow. I have a hot date. Tigers baseball at 1:05 on 97.1 FM. I'll be on time. I'll be aflutter with nervous excitement. I've been waiting so long. Dan and Jim's voices will sound melodious. It will be almost like I am there. If I close my eyes, I'll be able to feel the rays and smell the grass, I swear.

Soon I'll be singing the "Opening Day Song." My family will be pleading with me to stop. Their entreaties will fall on deaf ears. I will belt out the silly verse like Aretha Franklin singing "Natural Woman"...except I don't have her flawless vocal quality. Too bad.

How do you ready yourself for the rites of Spring? What's special to you about Opening Day or Spring Training games? Can't wait to hear your first date or "Same Time Next Year" stories.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

It's Spring Somewhere

Although I spent half an hour trying to get off my (one block) street to go to work this morning, apparently there is spring-like weather in Florida. Hmmm. Can I sell twenty quarts of plasma so I can hop the next plane to Lakeland?

Let us turn our attention to some actual baseball matters in Spring Training, shall we? I don't want to speculate about whether Miguel Cabrera has a drinking problem. I don't want to pretend I'm a substance abuse specialist. I just want to talk about ball.

Who will be playing second base on opening day?

Will Ryan Raburn shake the first-half offensive droughts that seem to haunt him until June?

Will Phil Coke turn into a quality starter, and how many different hair incarnations will he go through?

Will Mi Magglio have a great season?

Will Zumaya make it through the season without an arm implosion?

Will we see Andy Oliver or Jacob Turner in the Old English D this year?

Will Jim Leyland be fined by the State of Michigan for smoking in his workplace?

How many striped polo shirts does Dave Dombrowski own?

These are the burning questions.

Soon, there will be an actual game on TELEVISION! A game in which the Tigers take on another team. I realize this will be a meaningless spring contest in which Tigers regulars log one or two at bats, but I DO NOT CARE! Tune in to ESPN on March 3 at 1:05. (I don't have MLB network, so I'm ignoring those games. I have pleaded with my cable provider to add MLBN, to no avail.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

When Real Life Intrudes

When I received a text early on Thursday morning from someone who I call "vampire," I should have known something was wrong. My immediate reaction was denial. No. NO. NOOOOOOOOOOO. Then I starting feeling worried. About Miggy, about his family. I'm a worrier sometimes. I try not to be. It's not a productive activity. But sometimes, it can't be helped. Then I thought about the potential impact on our season. When I read the police report, things got worse. Every new revelation just sent me spiraling ever downward. Drinking in front of an officer, non-violent resisting arrest, repeated wandering into the road (into traffic??)...sigh.

Luckily, I had a lot going on, so I was able to avoid hearing all the analysis, hash, rehash, pundits, idiots, etc. I have not listened to a moment of talk radio since this happened. Toxic. I've read a lot of pontificating, and a few thoughtful takes. To me, the most important thing is to just wait. That's why I'm just now writing word one on this topic, and I still don't have much to say.

Mostly, I just want Miguel to be okay. I hope he doesn't have a serious problem. He may not. He may just be a dude who can't handle his liquor. His trainer doesn't think he could have been hitting the bottle this off-season due to their intense, daily outdoor workouts in sweltering heat. Miggy could not have performed during those workouts if he were hung over. That's encouraging to hear. I hope he's right.

This whole things just serves as a check to me. It checks my "baseball is everything" mentality. Clearly, baseball is NOT everything. It's a lot, don't get me wrong. But sometimes, I lose sight of real life when I'm just wrapped up in how many games out of first we are, who's pitching today, who's on the DL, what relief pitchers are available, who's in a slump....

Miguel, if I could say one thing to you, I would tell you that I support you. I don't just like you because you hit opposite field home runs that look like they might never come back to earth. I just want you to be healthy and happy. Don't let baseball be the weight of the world on your shoulders. Don't try to fulfill a million fans' expectations. Just live your life. Enjoy being on the field with your teammates. Play with your little girls. The rest will take care of itself.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tune Your Set to...

Old English D will be appearing on The Knee Jerks radio podcast tonight at 7:00 pm Eastern Time.

Tune in for discussion between me, hosts Greg Eno and Al Beaton and Kurt Mensching of Bless You Boys.

Get excited for the first workout of Spring Training!

Think about how the Tigers are poised to fare in the AL Central this year.

Talk baseball, baseball, baseball. Forget about those other stupid sports.

Baseball is here!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

About That Depth in the Rotation...

You may remember that Andy Oliver debuted for the Tigers last year. You may remember it because he didn't fare especially well, particularly after his first two starts, when things got a little ugly. You may now be cringing when people talk about him being called upon if someone in the rotation falters.

It's a good time to remind ourselves that Oliver was drafted in 2009. Last year was his first year as a professional. He made 14 starts in Erie before being promoted to Toledo. After only 9 starts there, wham!, he's tasting the bigs. He's 23 years old. His fastball is "firm" (to bring a Rod Allen-ism playfully/painfully to life) in the mid 90s. He sometimes lacked command of it last year. According to Baseball Reference, Oliver had a 1.28 combined WHIP in the minors last year, struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings, while walking 3.5. While sipping a cup of coffee with the Tigers over five starts, again courtesy Baseball Reference, Oliver's WHIP ballooned to 1.77. He struck out 7.4 per nine, but walked 5.3.

In an interview with Freep writer John Lowe, Dave Dombrowski admits "we kind of threw him to the wolves." Kind of? I would like to upgrade and expand that phrase to "we sacrificed this kid on a spit, shredded his flesh and pacified some menacing cannibals with it." I mean, he had only 23 starts in the rearview mirror before he is standing on the mound, surrounded by 30,000+ crowd, with the Tigers in the playoff chase (his starts were between June 25 and July), facing veteran ball-crushers like Jim Thome. It's not that I think minor leaguers can't come up and be confident and successful. But a little seasoning, a natural progression...these things work, they make sense.

I realize that when Oliver was brought up, Porcello had to be sent down to Toledo to work on his own issues. But that just points to the larger organizational problem--a lack of spot starters.

All of this has been to say that I hope Oliver gets a nice long stint with the Hens this year before any need arises for him to come up and put on the Old English D. Let's not have any throwing to wolves this year, 'K, Dave?

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Subtle Rift

Allow me to introduce to you "Winter Jen." She's sensible. She can apply logic and reasoning to a myriad of life situations. She understands the value of a dollar. She's a little depressed about the lack of baseball, the sun rising after eight and setting before five, the layer of blubber that has accumulated around her mid-section, and temperatures that frost her delicate, albeit hairy-knuckled toes. But no doubt about it, she's a gal with her faculties about her.

Then there is "Summer Jen." She's a mite...unstable. I was going to say unpredictable, but her behavior has become all TOO predictable to some. She's liable to ditch her 97 year old granny, whom she promised to help plant seedlings, when she sniffs Tiger tickets for the evening's game. She may find it "reasonable" to say that there is a pressing "need" to attend all three games of the upcoming series. She could rationalize spending funds intended for her son's higher education on box seats. She might hatch twenty crackpot schemes in an attempt to get to Kansas City to take in a ballgame at the lovely, giant-HD-scoreboard-boasting Kauffman Stadium. She would look into auctioning off her Noritake China set for front row tickets.

I cannot be held culpable for this schism in my personality. It's a bonafide disorder. I've got a diagnosis from a reputable, board-certified healthcare professional. I safeguard it in my desk to produce for doubters, to defend myself against those who would like to critique my behavior.

I am a happy Skimpole when it comes to baseball. I don't understand why anyone would want to restrain my enjoyment of it in any measure. I just want to be with my Boys of Summer. I just want to sit under the lights at the ballpark, and feel the night breezes swirl around my ankles. I just want to feel the heat radiating off my sun-warmed skin as I sip a $6.00 Diet Coke. What say you of time, money, duty, skin cancer and stomach ulcers? Why would you bring up such evils when there is baseball to be watched? Why? What's wrong with you?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lady Sings the Blues

Rogo of DesigNate Robertson has become so lazy that he puts stupid tiger pictures on his site and calls it a real post. I must protest. The offseason is hard enough already, and now he's not even going to help us through it by providing some reading material? No. Join me in urging him to shake off his sloth and post something worthy.

Dave Dombrowski puts the kabosh on the Jeremy Bonderman and Vlad Guerrero rumors. Well. Ok. Good.

Can you survive the next eleven days? I'm not quite sure whether I'll make it myself. I've contemplated illegal money-raising activities in order to get my tail down to Spring Training. You know what though? Even if I don't make it down there, the photos posted by fellow fans who are there always make my day. I love wading through pages and pages of Flickr albums that showcase our boys frolicking in the grass at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Have you purchased Rosetta Stone yet in order to better communicate with the ever growing Latin contingent of the Tigers? I am determined to learn Spanish. Why did my high school offer only German?? What good is it doing me now?? Sigh.

Well that's it for the random thoughts at this time.