Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Voice of Baseball

Ernie Harwell recently made an appearance on MLB Network's Studio 42 with Bob Costas. I caught the first airing on Tuesday night. The program was taped during the World Series, and Harwell acknowledged it would probably be his last, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer of the bile duct in September of this year.

I was rapt throughout the interview, even though most of the content was already familiar. Mostly I wanted to just hear his voice, and listen to clips of him calling games. To see him speak with genuine humility about his career was something indeed. He essentially glossed over the fact that he is an beloved icon, not just here in Detroit, but throughout baseball. Ernie actually said he hoped that listeners of his broadcasts felt like he was their friend, because that's how he himself felt.

I hope he knows that he fostered the love of baseball for countless young fans, me chief among them. I knew he was something special even as a 14-year old newbie to baseball. His storytelling, historical knowledge, and letting the game speak for itself were all hallmarks that stood out even to my untrained mind.

One thing I did not realize, was that Ernie did not begin using his signature home run call "It's Looooooooooooooong Gone!" until the late 80s. He was not using it at the time of the 1984 World Series.

The interview should have been two hours, seriously. They could only touch briefly on subjects, many of which deserved lengthier treatment. Many others, such as Ernie's recommendation of Jose Feliciano to play the national anthem (which stirred up a firestorm of controversy at the time, after the unorthodox, but incredibly beautiful rendition), were not discussed at all. If, by chance you've never heard it, please give it a listen here.

The late Bo Schembechler has made himself some enemies beyond the grave after Harwell revealed that Bo walked past Ernie's outstretched hand at event they both attended (quite some time after his infamous firing of Harwell in 1990). Bewildering is it not, that Bo was the one to hold a grudge in that situation?

It's been a syrupy post, but I'm not apologetic. When Ernie quoted his "That's Baseball" speech from memory at the end of the interview, I won't lie, my eyes were not dry. My original tribute to Ernie can be found here.

Clean Up on Aisle Four

Some genius who works on this site managed to leave off one of the bloggers who is indeed a member of the Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes (DIBS). If you're looking for great analysis with a heavy dose of humor from a twisted mind, check out Rogo's site here:

While you're there, don't forget to give him some grief for making bad jokes at my expense.

Monday, November 16, 2009

You Heard it Here Last

By now, you've probably read about the prestigious DIBS awards voted on by Tigers bloggers from around the Internet. In the off chance your head has been buried in the sand, here's the skinny from the DIBS press release:

Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera and starting pitcher Justin Verlanderwere voted the Tigers' top positional player and top pitcher of 2009, in a vote conducted by the Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes.

Cabrera and Verlander each received 20 first-place votes.

Cabrera had a .942 on-base percentage plus slugging average (OPS), which was good for fifth in the American League. He had a .324 batting average, 34 home runs and 103 RBIs. All four categories led the Tigers. His Ultimate Zone Rating of 2.8 ranked second of all AL first basemen.

Verlander led baseball in strikeouts with 269 and was tied for first in the AL with 19 wins. He had an ERA of 3.45. He led the Tigers in all three categories.

Voting was also conducted in two other categories: breakout player of the year, for the player experiencing his first taste of success in the major leagues; and most improved, for the player who made the biggest step forward from the previous season.

Rookie right-handed starting pitcher Rick Porcello earned 18 of 20 votes for the breakout honors. The 20-year-old completed the season with a 14-9 record, 3.96 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 170 2/3 innings. Also receiving votes were right-handed starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (1) and utility player Ryan Raburn (1).

Verlander was also named comeback player of the year, rebounding from a 2008 season which saw him go 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA and 163 strikeouts. He received 11 of 20 votes in the category. Also receiving votes were right-handed closer
Fernando Rodney (3), Raburn (2), Brandon Inge (1), Brandon Lyon (1), Jackson (1) and utility infielder Ramon Santiago (1).

Voting was conducted during the week of Nov. 9-15.

Established in 2005, the Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes now has 21 members who write primarily on the Internet. Its member writers are affiliated with such online organizations as (Booth Newspapers), SB Nation,,, Bleacher Report, Yardbarker, MVN, Fan Blog and Fan Huddle.

The Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes include:

Bless You Boys -- Ian Casselberry
Daily Fungo -- Mike McClary
Detroit4lyfe -- Bob Biscigliano
Detroit Tigers Den -- Austin Drake
Detroit Tigers Weblog -- Bill Ferris
Eye of the Tigers -- J. Ellet Lambie
Fire Jim Leyland -- Mike Rogers
It's Just Sports -- Patrick Hayes
Jamie Samuelsen's Blog -- Jamie Samuelsen
Mack Avenue Tigers -- Kurt Mensching
MLive's The Cutoff Man -- James Schmehl and Scott Warheit
Old English D -- Jennifer Cosey
Roar of the Tigers -- Samara Pearstein
Spot Starters -- Blake Vande Bunte
Take 75 North -- Matt Wallace
Tigers Amateur Analysis -- Erin Saelzler
Tigerblog -- Brian Borawski
Tiger Geist -- John Brunn
Tiger Tales -- Lee Panas
Tiger Tracks -- John Parent
Where have you gone, Johnny Grubb? --Greg Eno

So there you have it. Look for more from DIBS soon, and thank you Kurt from Mack Avenue Tigers for heading this up.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The "Untouchables"

Ha! There are no untouchables, naive little Tiger fans. That much should be clear to you now. Do Dave Dombrowski's words "This is not a fire sale" sound too much like "No new taxes" and "I did not have sex with that woman"? Words that are famously proven wrong at a later date, and never did ring true? Words spoken to pacify for a fleeting moment before the ugly reality is plastered all over, and the angry mob comes with fiery torches reflected in their eyes to....Ooops, sorry about that, I may have gotten a wee bit carried away there.

Actually, I'm trying to trust that DD means what he says here. My brain understands why the Tigers are doing what they're doing. We have a lot of bad contracts. I get it. The Michigan economy hasn't hit bottom yet. I GET IT. We didn't make the playoffs. IIIIIII GEEEEEEET IT!

A little lower down, my heart doesn't want to get it. I admit that I get attached to my Tigers. I want to keep them and hoard them. I don't want to see them playing for other clubs. I'd die a little inside every time I saw Curtis Granderson wearing pinstripes. Seriously.

Even further south, my gut has been sucker-punched, and is still reeling in a queasy, unsettled way. This is not how the Hot Stove was supposed to heat up. Couldn't we just ease into things by resigning one of our free agents or something? Sigh.

I heard some talk radio guys self-righteously saying that this should have been expected. It's the "Magglio tax," they say. We let his contract vest, and now we pay the price. Their bleak view conjures up images of decrepit, has-been veterans paired with unproven, wide-eyed prospects, in a most ineffectual mix. Fans were then asked whether they'd go to Tiger games next year if there is a "fire sale." For me, I'll be there in fair weather or foul. Bring your rain jacket. We could be in for the perfect storm.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The First Anniversary is Paper, Right?

The first anniversary of this blog came and went on September 29. At the time, the Tigers were still in the hunt for the post-season, so there were more important things going on.

I have had so much fun writing over the past year. It's been a great outlet for all my Tiger angst. Also, I've gotten to know a great community of Tiger bloggers, who were very kind to me as I was starting out. It's been great to have some like-minded folks to talk Tigers with, because not too many of my friends are as Tiger-crazed as I am.

I want to take just a moment to thank those of you who've taken the time to stop by the site and read. I know it's a lot of fluff most of the time. Really, thank you for coming back.

A special gold star goes to those of you who took the trouble of commenting. It's a lot easier to lurk, so I appreciate the extra effort.

Anyway, Happy Anniversary Old English D, and many, many thanks to those of you who made it a worthwhile endeavor.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Your "Always a Tiger" Update

Cameron Maybin needs surgery for a partially torn labrum, according to Juan Rodriguez of the He's expected to be ready for Spring Training, and is the projected every day center fielder for the Marlins next season.

There is some apparent question of the club manipulating his service time so that he's not arbitration eligible until after the 2012 season. He was sent down to AAA last year in May, but was called up at the beginning of September after an injury to Jeremy Hermida (who was just traded to Boston for a couple minor league pitchers).

In 54 games, he stole only 1 base, and was caught three times. His average had sunk to .202 when he was sent down in May. He finished the season at .250, however, and started picking it up at the plate in late September.

Maybe we'll finally get a long look at Maybin in the majors next year. I'll watch for the chicken wing flapping as he runs the base-paths.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Have a Confession To Make

I'm not sure why, but a lightbulb suddenly went off in my head yesterday. It was with horror that I realized that I may have caused Dontrelle Willis' shocking meltdown. Before you commence to hurling all manner of epithets at me, allow me to explain.

In January 2008, I attended the Detroit Tigers Winter Caravan stop at Eastern Michigan University. I also purchased a special VIP ticket, which offered a meet and greet with Tiger players and personnel. Magglio Ordóñez and Carlos Guillen were heavily advertised as being a part of this event, which was to take place immediately before the public portion of the Caravan event.

Allow me to say that I felt very awkward with the whole meet and greet thing. It was like, yes I paid $50 for the privilege of meeting you, and here are fifty other people who did the same. When you walk into the room, we will all mob you. I will not ever do that again.

Anyway, Dave Dombrowski, Rick Perry, Mario Impemba, Dontrelle Willis, Rafael Belliard, and Vance Wilson took part in the meet and greet. Conspicuously absent were the big guns, Magglio and Carlos. I heard Mario tell someone that some of our guys "had to bail." Well all right then.

Anyway, I waited about four deep for a chance to "greet" Dontrelle. I welcomed him to Detroit, shook his hand, and let him know that I was excited to have him on the team. (Shut up.) I also mentioned that we were pretty serious about our baseball in Detroit. He smiled and replied "that's not always a good thing." I thought nothing of this at the time.

However, in hind sight, I did it. I put the screws to Dontrelle, started the pressure cooker that led to his inability to pitch. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do it. I wasn't trying to make him feel the weight of the world. I.....I.....I don't know what to say to make it right. I feel such guilt. How was I to know my brief encounter was the iceberg to Dontrelle's Titanic?

I'm sorry, truly. Forgive me if you can. And Dontrelle, you can save me from the wrath of Tiger fans the world over. We want nothing more than for you to be happy, to be on the mound again, doing what you do.