Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'll Take Do-overs for a Thousand, Alex

Opening Day has finally arrived! The one sure harbinger of Spring, the coda to an ugly winter, the promise of summer is here today. The usual fanfare was absent for me, because I had to work. The holiday feel was missing. This country ought to declare Opening Day a national holiday, command workplaces to shutter their doors, and allow baseball to take its proper place on the center stage of our consciousness. A Sirius radio station that was playing at my job did sprinkle in various clubs' baseball songs, and that did warm my heart a little.

The disappointment spiral continued when I got off work. I was in time to see the latter third of the game, and, um, was not impressed. Verlander's pitch count climbed to dizzying heights, and when I saw 118 I got trigger finger for the panic button. Tigers relievers struggled to throw strikes, and the results were like "pow!" Grandy launched a blast that struck the innermost chamber of every Tiger fan's heart. To see him frolic in the dugout in pinstripes, ugh, it was scalding to my eyeballs. Wild pitches led to baserunners advancing and scoring, and I found myself writhing with worry as the count repeatedly went 3-0.

I kept telling myself not to get all twisted. It's one game. One of 162. Don't be a fool. Histrionics would be childish. Don't act like some fangirl whose emotions are tossed about with every pitch.

Here's the problem. I found myself in a genuine funk. I hate losing in the Bronx. I loathe feeling overmatched by the Yanks. Moreover, I felt like we had prepared well in Spring Training. I was ready for us to come charging out of the gate, not faltering and falling short.

Sigh. Shake it off. Implement the buddy system. Hang out with someone who clings to the positive, like how Justin Verlander threw a change with wicked movement to strike out Jorge Posada to end the sixth and how Ryan Raburn made a spectacular diving catch to shut my mouth about his shoddy defense.

Let's change the subject. Rogo of DesigNate Robertson invited me to play over/under with him. Get your minds out of the gutter, people. We predicted results in various statistical categories. Check out our sooth-saying here, and use it for your sports betting. Rogo just read all my answers and copied them, but give it a look just the same.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Every Sports Plot in New York (ESPN)

I am biased toward the Motor City Bengals. I don't bury my allegiance. When it comes to our boys of summer, my ability to deal impartially may be impaired. I do attempt to be honest in my evaluation of the Tigers, but I'm sure many times I play the part of the homer. However, this blog is titled "Old English D." I'm supposed to have a slant. It's implied, it's obvious, it's assumed. I didn't set out to provide nonpartisan coverage of Major League Baseball.

The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network purports to be an independent, national media outlet. Someone must have forgotten to inform Sean McDonough, Rick Sutcliffe and Aaron Boone. This trio worked today's Yankees/Tigers spring finale. I knew the game was on ESPN, but I had to keep checking to make sure my television wasn't tuned to SNY.

When the Tigers were batting, the talk was all about the Yankee defense at EACH AND EVERY POSITION. When the Yankees came to the plate, dialogue remained NY-centric. Jeter lost the big stride, he'll be shortening his swing this year. Then came a dramatic rundown of the big "controversy" about him possibly not hitting leadoff this season. A-Rod dropped weight, and is in incredible shape. Really, we're still talking about someone being in the "best shape of his life" at this stage of Spring Training??? Swisher just got married, they hope he's not wearing his ring while batting.....I'm getting a migraine just recounting this swill.

Then there was the pronunciation of Tiger players' names. It was "Joe-ELL" Zumaya, and Fu-Te "Naa." I have heard many broadcasters say that they get proper pronunciations for players before the game, and even practice saying the names correctly. Such trivial details are not on the radar for our eminent professionals.

I get that Aaron Boone played for the Yankees. It was only for one year of his career, but he did have the ALCS game seven home run against the Red Sox, which cemented him, no doubt, as a "Yankee for Life." Not sure why former Cubs pitcher Sutcliffe would be all over the Bronx Bombers, but perhaps Boone has threatened to call him "Tricky Dick" on the air unless he toes the Yankee line. Sean McDonough has obviously been through ESPN's New York brain-washing process, and would never speak more than two words at a time about another team.

Maybe I'm just at the end of my rope. Maybe I can't handle two more days without regular season ball. Maybe I'm cranky because the mercury hasn't hit 40 all week. But maybe, just maybe ESPN believes that the New York Yankees are the only team that anyone in the country cares about. I would encourage you to let the esteemed network know that there are actually twenty nine other teams that exist, one of them in the same city (gasp!) as the players who wear pinstripes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

This, That and an Abomination

This afternoon, I was watching an episode of Baseball Tonight I had recorded, and I heard a very funny quote attributed to Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis. He reportedly said he's glad to be playing third base instead of first, because it's "a less social area." Make of this what you will. Here's my interpretation: "I hate making bleeping small talk with those jerks I play against," or "Now I won't get beat up by Rick Porcello any more." Kidding, but it did make me laugh.

I hadn't heard much about Jose Valverde lately, so I had to take a little looky loo at his spring numbers. In eight innings, Papa Grande has the following line:

1.13 ERA, 4 hits, 4BB, 4K, 1.00 WHIP, .154 batting average against

Good to know our closer is on track. Would be nice to see him cut down a little on the walks, but he's not getting hit around, that's for sure. /claps hands and longs for Opening Day

I'm sure you say this as often as I do, but "WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?" Specifically, what is wrong with T.J. Simers of the LA Times? What would make him launch such a mean-spirited attack on Marcus Thames of all people? Did his significant other just run away with his best friend and send him a video of them being "intimate" together? Did his beloved pet (and only friend) just die? Sadly, I don't think either is the case. Simers has a reputation for being a bit of a slimy provocateur. Craig Calcaterra of NBC's Hardball Talk says that Simers' regular MO is to "insult, bait and pester a given Dodgers or Angels player and hope against hope that they’ll spout off in anger so that he can print a juicy quote and follow it up with his 'man, what’s his problem'?" Is your writing and reporting talent so non-existent that you resort to such tactics? Thankfully, Rogo of Designate Robertson has shredded Simers on our behalf. Please read it. It will help to diffuse your righteous indignation.

In closing, I would like to shout from my rooftop that Opening Day is now only eight days away. Our home opener is only sixteen days away, and my first game is only twenty days away. Happy face.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Linkage, Linkarama, Linkmania

I got nothin'. Seriously. It's two weeks until Opening Day. I might die before then. I started reading a novel about the suffrage movement in 1917 to stave off fatal boredom/insanity. Luckily, it's a good read so far. In case you're in the same boat I am, here are some good Tiger reads to keep you from resorting to watching toddler's beauty pageants.

Alli from No Run Support has been in Lakeland. She is a fantastic photographer, and has some great shots of our boys in the Old English D.

Rogo of DesigNate Robertson imagines how Miguel Cabrera is spending St. Patty's Day. His mind is frightening, I know. I've been encouraging him to seek the help he so desperately needs.

Samara over at Roar of the Tigers demonstrates that everyone is in love with Victor Martinez. I think every Detroit fan will try to hug him at some point this season.

Try to make it through the next two weeks. I'll be right there with you, fighting the fatal throes of withdrawals, feening for the sights, sounds and smells of Comerica Park. Play ball!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Lynn Henning writes that Brad Thomas has had a good spring. He attributes the stellar play in part to adjusting to the smoother surface on baseballs in MLB, as opposed to those used in Korea, where he played before returning to American ball last season. The smoother baseballs led to Thomas' breaking ball having reduced spin last season, which made it more hittable. With some grip modifications, Thomas' breaking pitch's effectiveness has been restored.

It's always reassuring to find out that there was a concrete reason for a player's struggles. It's much preferred to the mysterious disappearance of skill, because something can be done about it. I'm glad to see that Thomas did identify the issue, and was able to make corresponding adjustments.

Speaking of the mysterious erosion of baseball ability, Dontrelle Willis is a non-roster invitee for the Cincinnati Reds this Spring. He is fighting for a bullpen spot, and not a place in the starting rotation. He had a bit of a setback in his last outing, walking two, and giving up two hits and two runs in only 1/3 of an inning, before rolling his ankle trying to back up home plate (possibly stepping on a bat). Previously, however, he had two very solid outings of two scoreless innings each. For more on Willis' Spring, click here. He's feeling confident and comfortable, and Cincinnati may have a spot for him as an innings-eater in the 'pen.

If you watched the Tigers game that was televised on ESPN on March 3, you may remember Bobby Valentine saying that Brennan Boesch is battling Ryan Raburn for the starting left-field job. Uh, did he pull that out of his baseball cap, because Jim Leyland has asserted all along that the starting job is Raburn's. Now, maybe Valentine hallucinated the whole thing, and maybe he misspoke and meant that Boesch is battling for a roster spot. That he is, and playing pretty well (in the small sample size thus far). In fact, that outfield reserve position has quite a few contestants. Casper Wells and Clete Thomas are also hopefuls. I'm not including Don Kelly, because he is pretty much assured a spot as utility guy and emergency catcher. Let's take a look at how Boesch, Wells, and Thomas are playing so far.

Boesch .333/.459/.467/.926 over 10 games and 30 AB
Thomas .321/.355/.357/.712 over 12 games and 28 AB
Wells .391/.533/.783/1.316 over 11 games and 23 AB

To begin, we have way too little data to go on thus far. It's just a little snapshot, and doesn't mean much. Wells is probably out of luck, because Boesch and Thomas are both lefties, of which this lineup is short. He would have to sustain his current raking over the remainder of Spring Training and play out of his mind on defense as well to beat out the pair of left-handers. I think that if Boesch and Thomas end with similar lines, Boesch will probably get the spot, since the club may want to see if he can play like he did the first half of next year. Thomas can play all three outfield spots, but so can Don Kelly (sort of), who is already pretty much a lock. Who do you want to see snagging the outfield reserve roster spot?

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Sparky Patch

As we all know, the Tigers will be wearing this patch to honor Sparky Anderson during the 2011 baseball season.

I got to wondering today whether the Reds would be sporting a Sparky patch this season as well. But of course. Here is their patch.

I like ours better. Call me biased.

Anyway, I'm glad Sparky is getting all proper respect. He deserves it, and the retiring of his number is way overdue, and it's so pathetic that it wasn't done while he was still alive. It's like the Tigers are admitting they were wrong, and are living with regret over the whole thing.

I was hoping that the Tigers would continue to wear an Ernie patch this season, since a partial season hardly seems enough to honor true Tigers royalty such as Ernie Harwell.

Anyway, Sparky, we love you, we miss you, and we thank you for 1984.