Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hammerin' Hank

I'm reading a little book right now about Hank Aaron.  It's actually just a commercial product of Sports Illustrated.  They compiled all the articles written about Aaron for the mag over the years into a book they could sell.  It's titled The Hammer:  The Best of Hank Aaron from the Pages of Sports Illustrated.  

Actually, it's pretty good.  Throughout the book so far, I've been repeatedly amazed at Aaron---really wish I could've seen him play.

I'm sure this is all old news to many baseball buffs, but it's been great for me to learn more about Mr. Wrists, a true bad ball hitter who stymied most pitchers with an astute guessing game at what pitch he was going to get.  A person who looked overtly casual in manner, but was really an intense studier of the game, with an unmatched focus on detail.

There are some great quotes from contemporaries as the book follows his young days on up through the home run record chase and beyond (the last article was published in 1994).  It's good to read pieces that were written at the time events were happening--gives a real feel for what folks thought of Aaron at various stops in his career-before they knew the history he'd be making.

I'm thoroughly enjoying this story of summer in the midst of the blustery winds of a Michigan winter.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Who's Your Non-Tiger?

What players do you like to watch from other teams?  It could just be that you like their game, and enjoy seeing them play.  Maybe you wish they were a Tiger, even if it's only because you can't stand facing them, or because they've got a reputation as a "Tiger killer."  Maybe it's a fun personality that has you hooked.

Here are a couple of my favorite non-Tigers, and I'd like to hear yours.

I love to see Vladimir Guerrero play.  He's a bad ball hitter, and it's a lot fun to see him golf one off his shoe tops. He must really get under a pitcher's skin.

Jose Reyes is fun because he's hyper, and he drives pitchers crazy on the base paths.  His speed is something to behold.

I'm looking forward to watching young Carlos Gomez of the Twins' development.  He's fast, covers a lot of ground in the outfield--quite a sparkplug.

Roy Halladay is one of my most feared pitchers.  I don't like it when we face him.  Thankfully he's not an AL central foe.

I am always in awe of Albert Pujols.  I couldn't believe it when I read that the NL MVP was "wide open" this year.  I thought he was a lock.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One Free Agent Who Won't Be Signed

I've been following Juan Encarnacion's injury situation on and off since it happened.  If  you're not familiar, at the end of August 2007, he was hit in the eye socket by a foul ball that was hit by a teammate while he was standing in the on deck circle.  It was a truly horrific injury, essentially crushing the eye socket into little pieces.  Fortunately, his eyeball did not rupture.  You can look it up on YouTube, but I didn't put a link  here because I didn't want to be sensationalistic or macabre.  Anyway, Juan's eyesight and baseball career were in immediate jeopardy, and he's had several surgeries.  I noticed him listed among unsigned free agents, so I went digging.

Per the St. Louis Post Dispatch on November 10, 2008, Juan had gone through the motions of filing for free agency as a formality, but is not expected to play again.  Juan's "vision has not returned to a point where he can drive a car.  He was, at one point, described by a doctor as legally blind in the left eye.  His vision was classified a  year ago as 20/400 in  his left eye."

The article goes on to say that he has not been in much communication with the Cards, although GM John Mozeliak talked with him.  Sounds like Juan was in a bad place a couple months ago, still has much recovery ahead, and wasn't taking visits or calls, even from teammates.

Sorry to be the bearer of such woesome tidings, but thought you might be interested in our former Tiger and one-time World Series opponent.  I won't be trite and send him get well wishes--actually maybe I will.  Sounds like he could use a corny Hallmark card right about now--to let  him know "we're thinking of  him at this difficult time."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just This Side of Glory

I have a real soft spot in my heart for career minor league types.  To get a cup of coffee in the majors once in a while, tasting the bigs, but never quite making it, languishing in the minors year after year as young upstarts pass you by, seems a cruel fate.

The Tigers have a couple of those guys--Timo Perez (just re-signed to a minor league deal, with the slap-in-the-face incentive of making somewhere around $4- or 500,000 if he stays in the majors all year--what a low blow), and Mike Hessman.

Hessman's got the true "country strong" power as Rod Allen would say.  He hits moon shots out of the park.  Trouble is, that's about all he's got.

Perez has shown flashes of goodness up with the Tigers, but gets just a few call-ups, and those are fading fast with all the young outfielders down on the farm.   See Ian over at BYB's piece today for Timo's 2007 numbers with the Tigers, and other good stuff.  I agree it seems odd to retain him at this point, but I have to say, I'm glad about it.

I'm sure it's offensive to them to have me feeling sorry for them, and wanting to protect them.  Maybe they feel sorry for me--someone who is obsessed with watching others do what I never could.  I mean, at least they're playing ball.  They could be working at a wastewater treatment plant or risking their lives in a coal mine every day for a pittance.   Not that I'm saying they couldn't be doing anything decent if they didn't play ball, I just mean there are a lot worse things than the minor leagues.  I kind of love minor league games, and wish I lived in a town with a minor league team.  They're inexpensive, filled with all kinds of hokey promotions for kids, and you get to see a lot of young talent.  But coming from a lifer's perspective, when you compare it to the bigs, it might get a wee bit frustrating to come that close and never quite get there.

Then there's a player like Chris Shelton, who hit 9 home runs in the first 13 games of the 2006 season, and has never been heard from again.   Designated for assignment countless times, he's now signed a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners.  I wonder whether it would have been better for him never to have hit all those homers, than to try for the rest of his career to regain the fleeting greatness.

I guess it's all in a person's own perspective.  Some are happy that they were a part of something and once did something, while others are tortured by what might have been, and the inability to get back to that place.

I think also of Craig Monroe, who had such a magical 2006, hitting so many clutch four baggers.  He hit five home runs in the 2006 post-season, 2 in the ALDS, one the ALCS and 2 in WS, and hit .429 in the ALCS with .786 SLG.  He's really struggled since then, hitting .202 with 8 homers last year in 163 at bats.   He's  now a Pittsburgh Pirate.  Actually, I just saw that he made $3.8 mill last year!  All sympathy is summarily withdrawn.

No, in reality, my heart can't help but go out to those who glimpse greatness just out of reach, or grasp it momentarily as it slips through their hands.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Ferris Wheel

On August 12, 2007, I desired to extend my birthday celebration by going to Comerica for that Sunday's game, even though I had already officially celebrated there for my birthday earlier that week.  So, my husband had to work, but I dragged my rather reluctant son with me over to the ball park.  I'm still working on brain-washing him to love baseball.  There's hope--I didn't start to love it until I was 13.

Anyway, I had lured him there with the promise of carousel and ferris wheel rides, sugary snacks and the like.  The game itself did not interest him much.  So, we sat there in the front row in right field behind Magglio, and watched all of one and a half innings before my son starts campaigning for the ferris wheel.  Now, when I'm at the game, I'm all business--normally.  I keep score, do not leave my seat except in emergency (to haul it to the ladies'), and then only when the opposition is batting.  But I resolved to lighten up for this game, so I told my son that we could go to the carousel after Magglio's at bat (he was leading off the bottom of the second).  Well, I was happy we stayed for it, because he promptly jacked one out of the park to the opposite field (but to the right of us).  Satisfied, I proceeded to escort the happy kid to the ferris wheel.

We got on the thing with a dad and his little guy.  The ride starts going, the dad and I began chatting, and then we hear all kinds of cheering.  Imprisoned in the whirling baseball, we just know we're missing it, big-time.  The cheers keep coming, and then I hear Magglio's walk-up song--Mirala.  So we know they batted around.   Suddenly, a sustained, raucous cheer blasts out of the stadium.   Yeah, it was the day Ordóñez hit two home runs in one inning, and there we were, trapped on the flyball ferris wheel.  We scored a total of eight runs that inning, and I saw only that first one.

I took it all in stride, laughing (to keep from crying) as we walked back to our seats.  Round about every other inning, we had to leave again for snow cones, cool drinks, carousel rides, trips to the Tiger shop--even heat breaks in front of the little cooling fans.   

You know what, though?  It's a great memory and I'll never forget what I was doing the day Magglio swatted two in one inning (democratically, it was one to right and one to left), joining Al Kaline as the only other Tiger to do so in club history.

TigerFest Postscript

A couple things I forgot to mention in yesterday's post on TigerFest:

The field and stands were covered in snow, causing my heart to ache with the cruel reminder of just how far off Opening Day remains.  Ironically though, being in Comerica--that familiar summer home--was somehow a little consoling, too.  Weird huh?

It was fun chatting with fans in line, reminiscing, swapping stories and the like.  Solidarity.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

TigerFreeze 2009

Here are a couple snaps from TigerFest yesterday.  To say it was cold does not express the depths of frozen-ness we endured.  We got to the stadium at about 10:20, and had to wait outside the gates in an ever lengthening line for at least 30 minutes.  Inside, they did have sheeting up and portable heaters blowing in some warmth, so those areas were fine.  You did have to walk through various unheated concourses and stairways at times.  Those areas were frigid.  

Lines were very long-about 1.5 to 2 hours.  We only waited in one of the autograph lines.  As you can see, we got Carlos Guillen, and Clete Thomas.   I got in one other autograph line at the end of our time there, but didn't have the heart to put my son through it after learning it would be over 1.5 hours.

My son enjoyed the whiffle ball home run derby--he hit at least 3 "home runs."

If my son hadn't been there, I would've gone to the clinics/panels/interviews with players.  I heard those were good. 

All in all, it was just OK.  The cold diminished the fun, and the lines did also, but both were to be expected.

There wasn't quite as much kid stuff as I thought there would be.  It was just a few things in the concourse behind right field.

Touring the clubhouse was ok.  There wasn't much in it, so it seemed kind of sterile.  I'm not sure if they were letting people in the dugouts this year.  We didn't do that if they were.

Anyone else have stories to share?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Brandon Inge--Revamped or Just Reunited WIth His One True Love?

Both the Detroit News (Lynn Henning) and Free Press (Jon Paul Morosi) have lengthy articles today about Brandon Inge.  Inge is self-proclaiming himself "revamped," boasting 20 new pounds of muscle, with a yet again reworked swing.  Forgive me if I take the wait and see approach to all this.   I mean, last year, he supposedly developed a more "athletic" stance, and ta da--worst season ever at the plate.  Now he's suddenly hearing and taking seriously Lloyd McClendon's counsel  ('cuz he's back at his beloved third base).  Formerly so petulant--now a hard-working model citizen.  Geez, that's easy when you've just gotten  your way, and been handed a spot that you really did not earn.  Especially when I remember a quote from Leyland about the person who's playing the best getting the position, regardless of names/contracts.   That went out the window in a hurry, since Inge got the job before the wreck of last season was even complete.  

I hope I'm not getting overly malignant here, but this whole thing just reeks--a rotten, filthy stank.

Dave Dombrowski puts his arm around Inge (oops I guess he just tapped him on the shoulder, or gestured in his direction) and says "This guy is going to have a good year for us."????  What kind of propaganda machine have the Tigers become, and who do they think we are--mindless dolts with no memory?

Now, I will concede the following without so much as a whimper:

Inge has superior defense, and we suffered there last year.
Brandon is indeed a model citizen in the community at large, doing lots of good deeds and all.
He'll take the mic any time for whacked out post-game interviews, answering feeble questions from the FSN crew without so much as a hint of a sneer.
For these things, I give Brandon his due.  

However, I do NOT feel he should be lauded with lengthy articles about the merits of his off-season regimens and diligence.  Let's talk about all that after this season comes to an end (in November-hee hee).  Then, I'll be more than magnanimous to Mr. Inge.  Until then, I won't be partaking of the swill being peddled.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane (After Tiger Fest)

Get me out of this snow-infested, no street plowing, wind chill calculating state!  The crunch of snow beneath my boots no longer enchants me.  Shoveling no longer holds the novelty of a good workout--it's mere drudgery now.  Don't even get me started on the 50-foot roof rake I must employ to prevent ice damming and the subsequent leaking into my dining room.  You can see where I'm going with this.  Straight to my local sanitorium.

But wait, there is something that could save the remaining vestiges of right-mindedness.  Book me the first outbound flight to Florida, please.  I'll take care of digging out some long disused shorts and t-shirts, some sunblock for my blue/white skin, and scoring some Spring Training tickets.  Also, better break out a fresh pack of razors for my sasquatch legs.  Sorry, WAY to much information.  

I've never been to a Spring Training game at the hallowed Lakeland Tigertown complex, but this year, it's sounding like just what my mental health specialist ordered.  I'll be in Lakeland for Spring Training, "if only in my dreams."

Well, I don't know whether I'll make it there, but if you do, please tell me all about it.  I've also never been to Tiger Fest, and I'm going on Saturday.  Wowee!  I'm looking forward to touring the clubhouse and other areas off limits to civilians.  Please forward tips if you've got any.  Don't worry, I've got my expectations set real low, so as to brook disappointment.  I'm not sure if these things are really awkward and stupid or not.  Luckily, I'll have my 9 year old son in tow, so we can always just hit the kid's batting cages and whatnot, and cut our losses otherwise if necessary.

Counting down to any and all baseball-related dates.  For example, one such date has already passed.  Some pitchers have reported to Lakeland for "early conditioning."  Hurrah!  Anything, anything at all that seems to prod immovable time onward toward the ever far off baseball season.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Will Lyon Become a Tiger?

According to's MLB Rumors, Brandon Lyon will shortly be meeting with the Tigers, either today or tomorrow, with apparent "mutual interest."

Face it now Tiger faithful, we're not going to sign a top tier, lights out type closer.  Lyon lost the closer's job with the Diamondbacks last year, enduring a terrible second half of the season, to the tune of a post all-star break ERA of 8.46!

We're going to have to hope for come back of the year type performances either by Lyon, Rodney or some other guy, or a break out rookie performance by someone like Casey Fien, or a blossoming performance by Rule 5 pick Kyle Bloom.

Just about our whole stinking pitching staff is a riddled with  "what ifs" and "hopefullys," along with a gamble or two thrown in for good measure.

Here's looking at 2009, Tigers Fans!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No Child Left Behind?

It's no secret that baseball is no longer really America's pastime.  Other sports have crowded their way in, and baseball is no longer played as a pick-up game at playgrounds by children.  I think I may have the answer to this disturbing trend.

My fourth grade teacher loved baseball, and actually incorporated it into our curriculum.  I do not jest!  We learned The Yaz Song (about Carl Yastrzemski), by listening to it first on a little record player, then by singing along.  Our teacher was genuinely disappointed in us if we didn't sing with ardent fervor.  I'll never forget the day we walked into the classroom to find a huge banner displayed around the upper walls, which read "Roberto Clemente, We Miss You!"  That's an education fitting for a fourth grader.  Also, my teacher doled out baseball cards as treasured rewards.  I remember asking for a card many times, but never being deemed worthy to receive one.  My teacher didn't think I really liked baseball enough, nor did he think I would take proper care of the card.  He was probably right.  It wasn't until a few years later that I began my love affair with baseball.

If you want to hear the Yaz Song,  click here.

Anyway, if all elementary teachers began teaching baseball as my fourth grade teacher did, we'd have a whole new generation of baseball-loving youth to rear.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Moment of Silence Please

Two ballplayers with Detroit ties have recently passed.  Dave Roberts died of lung cancer at age 64.  Exposure to asbestos is the apparent cause of his cancer--he worked during off-seasons as a boiler-maker.  Let that be a lesson to you kids to stay away from asbestos, unless you've got the required hazmat suit on.  Can you imagine a major leaguer now working a second job, or on an unrelated note, shoveling snow four times in 24 hours as we did here in Michigan?   Insert uproarious, sarcasm-laden laughter here.  Mike over at The Daily Fungo has already done a nice piece on Roberts, so click over there.

"Prince" Joe  Henry passed on January 2 at the age of 78.  Joe Henry was a third baseman who played in the waning years of the Negro Leagues for both the Detroit Clowns and the Detroit Stars, among other teams, and then had a bit of a minor league career, but his progress to the majors was hampered by injuries.  The site Pitch Black Baseball has a nice bio of Joe Henry--check it out.

After his baseball career, Henry has quite a number of laudable achievements.  He became the first African American chief steward of the UAW.  He had a column in St. Louis' Riverfront Times called "Ask a Negro Leaguer."  He also wrote a stirring letter regarding pensions, because he was ineligible, even though he was barely scraping by.  If you're interested in his activist side, refer to the cool site Negro Leagues Baseball Player Association.  It's even got a copy of the letter he wrote to the MLB assistance team regarding Negro League pensions, along with some nice articles.

Henry was a showman on the field, hence the nickname "Prince," wearing non-standard clothing during games, and performing various antics, most notably when throwing from third to first, he would begin sprinting toward first before stopping at the last minute to make the throw in time.

Finally, click here for the Free Press' version of AP writer Betsy Taylor's piece on Henry's passing.

Rest well gentlemen.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Will Kyle Bloom for the Tigers This Season?

Scott Warheit, over at's Cutoff Man blog, references a Jan. 3 Quad City Times article, including an interview, with our Rule 5 Draft pick Kyle Bloom.  Nice informative piece on Bloom.

According to the Quad City Times article, Bloom was much improved during the second half of last season with the Pirate's AA Altoona team, after correcting a hitch in his delivery with the help of Altoona pitching coach Brad Holman.  He then dominated in the six-week long Hawaiian Winter League, with the following stat line:

30 innings, 15 hits, 11 walks, 32 Ks, .144 BAA or OBA, whichever you prefer, and made the league's all star team.

Bloom's got a curve, fastball (92 MPH tops in Hawaii), and change-up in his arsenal.  The curve's reportedly got good movement.

You probably already know that under the Rule 5 Draft, if Bloom does not remain on the 25-man roster the entire season, he'll have to be offered back to the Pirates.  Dombrowski said that "If he throws the way he threw for Egan (Tigers scout), I think he'll be interesting and have a chance to make our ballclub."

So, Bloom could be another bullpen puzzle piece.  

On a slightly related note, I'm hoping James Skelton, the catcher we lost to the Diamondbacks in the Rule 5 Draft, gets offered back to us.  As with Santiago, higher ups are hung up on "durability" issues.  Yes, my right thigh probably outweighs Skelton, but I think he's got a lot of upside.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fernando Rodney: Man of Mystery

Fernando Rodney has appeared in four games for the Dominican Winter League team Leones del Escogido, with strongly mixed results.

In his first two outings, Dec 7 & Dec 12, he allowed no earned runs, 1 hit, 1 walk and three strikeouts over two innings.

In his second pair of outings, Dec 17 & Dec 20, he allowed 3 earned runs on 2 hits, with a walk and two strikeouts.   In the Dec 20 outing, he got only one out while allowing 2 earned runs.

Not exactly inspiring the confidence we need to make him our 2009 closer.

The one fun part about looking for Rodney's winter ball stats was finding this photo of him sans the King Tut facial hair and crooked hat.  Where is the intimidation factor now?  I like him much better with both.  It's like hearing Dave Stewart talk for the first time.   You look at him with his stare-down and think he's meaner than a junkyard dog, and then hear the high squeaky voice, and all the fear is gone.  I coin this photo "Fernando Lite."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Tiger Sighting: Carlos Guillen FInally Playing Winter Ball

According to a Free Press report, Carlos Guillen has now played in four games for Navegantes del Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League.

He's 5 for 16, with at least one appearance in left field, and at least one at short.  The bad news is he's got two errors in four appearances, a fielding error in left, and a throwing error from short.

Let's hope that's just some rust.   Word is he'll play only a few more games in winter ball.

I really like Carlos Guillen.  He's tougher than nails.  I mean, who plays through tuberculosis?  I'm down for the count with the common cold.  He's out there hacking up a lung, and still taking the field.

Also, he's a quiet leader.  Ever notice his presence in the infield, giving a quick, calming word to pitchers?

Then, he spoke up on some issues.  He confirmed Sheffield's rather caddish comments about MLB controlling Latin players.  I was rather shocked when the MLB uniform police took him to task for having his pockets hanging out, threatening to fine him for every occurrence.  What was that?  Isn't there more pressing baseball business than making sure everyone's pockets are tucked in???  Then, he took on the Venezuelan World Baseball Classic team, nudging officials to get their act together so other Venezuelan nationals would represent the team this year.

I'm hoping he plays well in left until that DH spot opens up, because he's such a quality guy, and his offense is consistently valuable.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Wave Bye Bye to Two More Closers

Derrick Turnbow has reportedly agreed to a deal with the Texas Rangers, while Brian Fuentes will fill the K-Rod void for the Angels.  Turnbow's deal is a one year deal worth $925,000 (as long as he makes the big league club), with another $325,000 in incentives.  Fuentes was seeking a $30 million deal, but settled for a two-year $17.5 million, with a $9 million option for 2011.

There's two more closers gone.  Are we ever going to take action on this front?  I'm beginning to fear not.  Get used to the thought of relying on Rodney and Zumaya, and maybe Miner if he doesn't make the starting rotation.

No, there's still time.  It'll be ok, right?  Please reassure me that we will indeed pursue and sign a closer at some point this off-season.

I still like Trumbull and Michigan's idea of signing Smoltz as our closer.  Now, it's even more appealing as our options dwindle.