Monday, May 31, 2010

What the hell just happened?

"Don't check the Tiger scores son. Just enjoy yourself."

These were the words of my father, wise sage that he is, before I left for Mexico for five days over the long weekend. I took his advice, ignored the free use of wi-fi in our hotel in exchange for cold beer, sunshine and plenty of sleep. The Tigers were one game out of first place with a relatively easy schedule of two games against Seattle and four at home against the A's whom we just handled soundly in Oakland. Surely, these nerds would not give my beloved franchise trouble would they?

The Tigers now sit 4.5 games behind the Twins who are showing no mercy with a 5-game winning streak, as would be expected from those bastards. In reading up, looks like Ryan Perry blew two saves, Verlander and Porcello got touched and our offense took a week off (make that the front end of our lineup took a week off as 6-9 hitters haven't showed up all year as lamented in previous postings). The only three bright spots I could read about from this week were exceptional starts by Bonderman and Scherzer, the latter which was not blown by the bullpen, and another outrageous week of hitting from Cabrera who had more RBI and home runs this week than sorry-ass Inge has all season. Maybe I will simply look back at this vacation as perfect timing in missing the only cold week of the year for the Tigers or maybe I will be reading about training camp for the Lions much earlier than I want to. The Tigers start a series with the pathetic Indians. Surely, these nerds won't pose a problem . . .

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

John Fogerty over Jack Morris for HOF? GTFOH

In their infinite wisdom, Cooperstown has decided to induct a song into the MLB Hall of Fame. I can't make this shit up. John Fogerty will perform "Centrefield" live at the induction ceremony before his hit song from the 80's is inducted into the Hall. I have not been able to confirm rumors that they plan to induct a hot dog and 20 oz beer at the 2011 ceremony or Robert Redford for his role as Roy Hobbes in "The Natural" in 2012. Why don't they just go the hippie route of the Norwegians and vote in Obama for his "passion for his home town White Sox".

These assholes on the committee can spend time voting on a song but can't find enough votes for THE clutch pitcher of the 1980's? Really, why is Jack Morris not in the Hall of Fame? Members need to have distinguished themselves against their peers in the particular era in which they played. Let's see, "Black Jack" was the ace on three different World Series Champions over a fifteen year stretch, winning the 1991 WS MVP after pitching 10 shutout innings in a Game 7 (never done before or since). He finished in the Top 5 for innings pitched in every year from 1981 to 1991. Over that same time period, he finished Top 5 in Cy Young voting five times and received MVP votes in each of those years. One of my favorite Morris stats is his finishing Top 3 in complete games seven times from 1981 to 1991 (15, 17, 13, 20, 15, 13, 10, 10, 11, 10). To put that into perspective, baseball's most worked pitcher today is C.C. Sebathia who led the AL in complete games in 2007 with four complete games. There was no greater competitor than Morris in his era and his 28 complete game shutouts is evidence (by contrast, Verlander is considered an ace today and has three career shutouts in five years). He was also mean which should count for some votes - "Cactus Jack" led the majors in wild pitches in 83, 84, 85, 87, 91, and 94. Calling them wild pitches is a bit disingenuous however; Jack was aiming for their heads and missed. It was rumored when Jack played ball that the fastest way to a man's heart was a Morris fastball. After his classic Game 7 win, Twins OF Randy Bush said of Morris, "I want to know one thing: Who was going to take him out of this game? Who would have had the courage to say, 'Jack, you're done'? I don't think anyone would have done it. If it was T.K. [ manager Tom Kelly], Jack would have punched him, kicked him; he might have killed him."

Don't get me wrong, I'll turn up that catchy little folk song if no one is looking on the highway. There might be a stroke of genius in using the crack of a wood bat as part of your percussion section, I'll give you that Mr. Fogerty. But what does this lead to? Will Springsteen play "Glory Days" at next year's ceremony and Dire Straits fire up "Walk of Life" in 2012? Can we expect to see Hank Williams Jr. in Canton and "insert any rap artist" free-styling "insert any rap song" with David Stern in Springfield? Will Bryan Adams rock out in Toronto in 2013? I should hope not. HOF voters, quit dicking around and vote in a true God of baseball. If you don't, Jack Morris might just kick your ass. For more on this Tigers legend, check out this legendary article from Sports Ilustrated.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tigers need Oswalt

Now that we're 44 games into the 2010 season, we have a pretty good idea what this Tigers team is all about. They are a slightly above average hitting team but heavily dependent on their 1-5 hitters. They compare well with the Twins in average (.269 vs. .275) but have scored 30 less runs. This can be attributed to two things - Minnesota has 30 more walks and 50 less strikeouts. In other words, they have more RBI opportunities and give themselves a chance by putting the ball in play. The bottom of our lineup absolutely shits the bed every 3rd inning. We have 40 strikeouts each from our 3rd base slot, catcher and 2B slot. Guillen should be an immediate offensive upgrade at second base but we could use a third baseman and catcher who now how to swing a bat. Inge, Laird and Avila are liabilities at best. That being said, we score enough to make a serious run at the playoffs.

Our bullpen is lights out. They rank first in wins, first in ERA and can run 6-7 quailty pitchers at you in a series. Our closer has been ridiculous, posting a 0.48 ERA and Zumaya leads all MLB relievers in strikeouts. When we get to the 6th inning with a lead, we basically win.

What we don't have is a reliable 1-2-3 starting rotation. Willis and Bonderman are adequate as fourth and fifth starters. Both are good enough to win ten games which is basically all you need at those slots to make a legitimate run for a pennant. Verlander is back to his old form, posting five wins and an ERA of 3.43. Porcello has been unpredictable and rarely worthy of second starter. His ERA is 5.96 and he's 2-3, in spite of impressive run support. The kid is young and going through his sophomore slump. The Tigers cannot count on Ricky being there through another long season with an arm that young. Our third spot has been a disaster with Scherzer now pitching in Toledo and Gallaraga trying to fill in after an awful 2009 campaign. The Tigers are not going to contend with the Twins all year with an average lineup and one strong starter.

This brings us to Oswalt. Roy is 32 years old but his stats would immediately make him our ace. He is only 2-6 but has nine consecutive quality starts and his ERA of 2.66 is among the best of all MLB starters. Roy has thirteen years of MLB experience and would bring some badly needed maturity and professionalism to a young group of starters who have more mental issues than physical. He wants to win which is why he is asking for this trade and a Verlander/Oswalt combo would keep the Tigers in contention throughout the rest of the year. His contract is pricey but that shouldn't matter to Ilitch and history would say that we won't need to give up that much for him as the Astros benefit just by cutting their salary cap. The Tigers might be slow on this idea as Jake Peavy hasn't exactly worked out for the Sox and we got the high hard one in the Washburn deal last year.

This shouldn't dissuade the Tigers and they should aggressively bid on Oswalt and even up the playing field with Minnesota. While they're at it, trade Inge for an extra bay boy and two beer vendors (it took too long to get a Miller Lite last time I was at Comerica).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Five reasons why I hate the White Sox

The Sox have been abysmal this season. They can't hit, they can't pitch and they can't win. They beat the Tigers brains in today, of course. I hate you White Sox.

1. They own the Tigers. This team could dress up nine kids from the Birmingham Barons in black and white and still beat our asses. Since 2005, the Tigers have played 13 teams at least 35 times and have the worst record against the White Sox at a flaccid (def: lacking normal or youthful firmness) 34-58 or .370 winning percentage. Worse yet, we've played 28 teams in that period and only have a worse record against the Diamondbacks who we've only played nine times. Take it back ten years to 2000 and our record improves dramatically to a Herculean .383 winning percentage. If you go back twenty years to 1990, no team had better success against the Tigers than Chicago with a 120-180 record or .600 winning percentage. The Tigers are 59-90 at home and 61-90 in Chicago. In essence, I've spent my entire adult life watching the Sox routinely handle my favorite baseball team. If you're reading this Obama, I hate you too.

2. They stick it to us when it matters. I can't remember winning a big series against the Sox. They have a way of taking every series that feels like a sound kick to the groin. In 2006, we lost the Division title by one game to the Twins and a sweep of the Sox would have locked it up early. With nothing to play for, Freddy Garcia one-hits the Tigers and Verlander gets bombed. The Tigers end up getting swept by KC and settling for the Wild Card. In 2008, the Tigers are trailing the Sox by 5.5 games and have a one-run lead in the 9th against the Sox in Chicago. Jermaine Dye hits a 2-out, 2-run home run to take the lead and all but end the season. In 2009, with a 3-game lead and five games to play, the Tigers need only two wins in a series with Chicago to clinch the Division. They lose two of three in Chicago to a team with nothing to play for (Sox players even took our best hitter, Cabrera, out and liquored him up for good humor which is dirty pool). The Tigers had their chance at redemption with a rain makeup that could have ended Chicago's season in 2008. Instead, laid down and let Chicago move on to a one-game playoff with Minnesota who showed us how it's done. I hate you Chicago.

3. Their "dream season" ended in glory; ours was an epic failure. The 2005 White Sox and 2006 Tigers were spitting images. Neither team was an odds-on favorite to win it all. The Sox won 99 games and the Tigers won 95, though the Tigers were a much bigger surprise as they helped unseat the Sox in the Central after they won a ring. Both teams had not won a championship in a very long time - the Sox had an 88-year draught and the Tigers hadn't won in 22 years. Both were sentimental favorites and were looked at as "good for their cities", whatever the hell that means. Both were dominant in the first two rounds, posting identical 7-1 playoff records heading into the World Series. That's where the similarities end. The Sox destroyed a weak National League team in a sweep to take home the trophy while the Tigers gave away the World Series to their weak NL team, the Cardinals. Detroiters were so ready for the chance to celebrate just like the Sox did the year before but it's almost as if some drunk jackass from the South Side kicked the record player right in the middle of a great song. It wasn't that the Tigers didn't win the WS, they didn't even show up. I hope you get herpes Sox fans.

4. They're not even the most popular baseball team in their city. Sure, Sox fans will try to tell you that the real fans reside in the South Side but attendance won't back that story up. The Sox only draw when they're winning. In seven of the last ten years, the Cubs have drawn 1,000,000 more fans and the Sox even had to reduce their capacity by 7,000 in 2004 to keep it from looking so empty all the time. In 2005, the Sox won the WS and the Cubs were horrible yet led again in attendance. U.S. Cellular is located in a dingy area, sort of like the entire city of Detroit with the one difference being you are a $20 cab ride away from a fun neighborhood. In Detroit, all walks of life mix it up and head to the South Side of Detroit to watch a game whereas Sox get the leftover riff-raff that just got kicked out of Murphy's before the game. What pisses me off is that Detroit doesn't have a second team and all of our fans look like Sox fans anyway. Are all these girls from Downriver? All the better, I hope someone sticks a banana in your Mercedes tailpipe Reinsdorf.

5. Ron Karkovice. This may seem like an odd choice given that most people love to hate Pierzynski, but he is actually a good ball player and a legitimate reason why the Sox win games. Carlton Fisk had an excellent run in Chicago but he chose different colored Sox for his HOF induction. Karkovice irritates me more than any of them. The Tigers have prided themselves on a rich tradition of ridiculous catchers. Notwithstanding Mickey Cochrane and Bill Freehand, the Tigers had three catchers that combined for 17 of 30 Silver Sluggers awards since 1980 in Lance Parrish, Mickey Tettleton, Ivan Rodriguez (toss in ROY Matt Nokes in 1987 for good measure). That being said, we got kicked around the field by a team that had this dumpasaurus catching for them over eleven years. He hit .221 career and didn't even look fit to coach 3rd base. He looked like a pizza that fell on the floor and grew a mustache while it was down there. Those teams had Frank Thomas, Ventura, Rock Raines and Julio Franco yet no one pissed me off like Karkovice. What a disgrace to baseball players everywhere. You deserve this turd Sox fans, I hope he moves in with you and eats all your ice cream.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Boy Wonder is right, Red Sox are uninspired - Tigers Six Pack

1. "We’re still playing bad baseball. Unintelligent, undisciplined, uninspired baseball. It’s got to change. It changes itself or we have to do something to change it.” Theo Epstein, May 3rd

I have to agree with God's gift to Sabermetrics. The Sox match up well with the Tigers based on talent but just didn't seem to want it as much. The Tigers out-hustled, out-scrapped and generally out-played the Sox throughout the three-game set. Today was no different as the Tigers beat the Sox at their own game, making Lackey throw too many pitches early, getting a lead and holding on with great defense and bullpen. The young lineup of the Tigers made this version of the Red Sox look old and tired.

2. This game changed on an incredible at-bat by Alex Avilla. He drew 11 pitches from Lackey, fouling off four balls with a full count and ultimately walking to load the bases. More importantly, Alex was down 1-2 and fought off those pitches with two outs to extend an inning that ultimately plated two early runs. In total, Lackey threw 35 pitches. Lackey was noticeably frustrated at his inability to end the inning with a .150 hitter at the plate. He may also have been frustrated after having been voted one of baseball's ugliest starting pitchers (see picture).

3. One thing is certain from watching this series: Kevin Youkilis has no business playing first base. He looks like a beer league catcher who had to fill in when someone didn't show up. At this point, my boy Theo should think about Yook's safety as odds are scratch that he gets hit in the head with a throw from shortstop before the year ends. On a weak ground ball from Brennan Boesch in the 3rd inning, the "Greek God of Errors" looked liked he was fending away a hornet rather than trying to actually catch the ball. Two innings later, he fell down trying to move 5 feet to his right on a worm-burner from Donnie Kelly that might not have made it to the grass. What are they trying to do with him out there? The DH was created with bozos like this in mind. Oh yeah, we haven't forgotten that you got your ass kicked by our 20-year old pitcher last year, boyyyyy.

4. Rumor on the street is the Sox are in negotiations with Shawn Johnson about a potential starting catcher job as both of their catchers throw like little girls anyway. After watching Varitek and Martinez throw to second for two days, this girl is an upgrade.

5. I can't make it through a post without highlighting Jim Leland's ineptness. With a 5-1 lead and Bondo in firm control in the 7th, Jim felt the need to pull him with two outs after he made quick work of the first two hitters in the inning. Fu-Te Ni came in and promptly loaded the bases before getting "Nancy" Drew to strike out. This was a classic example of Leland over-managing. You've got a four-run lead, let Bondo finish the inning for the love of Pete. On another interesting side note, I noticed that Fu-Te Ni, who hails from Taiwan, came out of the bullpen to "Old Time Rock n' Roll" by Bob Seger. Clearly, this was a diversionary tactic to get the fans on their feet and forget about the silly blunder by Leland or maybe I'm wrong and Ni rocks the Motor City legend on his ipod.

6. Final shout-out to my Uncle Torry who passed away yesterday. Like all good Michiganders, Torry didn't miss many Tiger games which always gave us a common thread to talk about through the years. He was a good man and a hell of a pitcher in his prime (if you didn't know how good, you could just ask him). I can remember him trying to teach me how to throw from a windup and coming to my little league ballgames when I pitched. Torry was Detroit to the core; he cut his grass daily, drank beer in a lawn chair in his driveway in the summer and used his pessimistic sense of humor to liven up holiday parties. He always wanted to know what was going on in my life and took a real interest in me. I will miss that grumpy old man and as Ernie would say, I hope he's enjoying his "next journey" already.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tigers Six-Pack -- Ridiculous 7-6 win over Bosox

1. The Tigers had to overcome seven strong innings from Lester who has only given up three earned runs in his last four games (Tigers hung four on him tonight) and two nasty innings from Boston closer Jonathon Papelbon. Seriously, you walked in the winning run? Throw a meatball on 3-0 for God's sake. Sox fans are not sleeping tonight. This win feels very good anyway, even though Boston hand delivered this win on a platter and probably aren't that good. Remember that you heard it first on - we're winning the World Series this year.

2. I'm going on record as saying Brennan Boesch is the best Tiger rookie since Austin Jackson. This kid can straight rake and doesn't seem to favor lefties or righties. He will put you on blast if you throw him strikes. Papelbon mowed down everyone he faced tonight aside from BB who mashed his first fastball for a double up the gap. Guillen at 2nd base is starting to look like a plan as Sizemore needs more time in the minors and Carlos isn't pushing Brennan out of the lineup. I haven't bought a Tigers jersey since Mickey Tettleton batted fifth but I'm leaning toward a #26 jersey. He came into this game hitting .379 and posted four more hits.

3. BP announced today that they still have not contained the oil spill in the gulf. In related news, Sox reliever Okajima couldn't contain the gusher of offense in the 8th inning as he was pummeled for three hits, two earned runs which included a Mags blast. Sayonara Okajima-son. You should have borrowed some "Fuji dust" from your diabolical manager.

4. This was the fourth time this year that the Tigers have come back from five runs or more in a ball game. It makes me feel lame that I couldn't post one comeback after crashing early three nights in a row in my most recent trip to Vegas.

5. Kevin Youkilis lived up to his nickname tonight. Billy Bean famously gave him the name of "Greek God of Walks" in Money Ball. Tonight, Yook had 5 walks in his first six plate appearances. It's a miracle that this game went to extra innings with the Tigers giving up 11 free passes. You should be ashamed of yourself Boston. Seriously, go stand in the corner for a timeout.

6. I like this mohawk movement. Every good team has a schtick and this juvenile haircut game is catching fire. With unemployment at nearly 30%% in Detroit, look for the trend to catch on as no one actually has to explain it to their boss.

Jacob Turner first home start this Sunday

Jacob Turner, Detroit's 2009 1st Rd draft pick gets his first start for Class A West Michigan this Sunday. It won't be long before this kid makes you forget the name Strasburg.

"Jacob Turner can blow you away with a fastball. That is a power arm."
Mark Texeira, Spring Training 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sherzer would look great in a Mudhens uniform

Last year, we brought in much heralded Jarrod Washburn for a postseason push and proceeded to watch him throw batting practice for a month. Just as sure as a credit card transaction when my wife visits Nieman Marcus, Washburn was good for six earned runs and a 3rd inning departure. Had we yanked him even one game sooner, we'd be looking at a Division Title.

It's getting hard to think that Sherzer isn't this year's version of JW but it's still early enough to do something about it. First, let's look at Mad Max's stats:

- He's given up a home run in six of seven games, including an AL Central leading eight on the season and two in the first inning Friday against the Sox.
- His ERA of 7.82 is ugly. It's so ugly, if his ERA stuck it's head out the window, it would get arrested for mooning. Only two starting pitchers have worse ERA's, one of which is Edwin Jackson (which should make Tigers fans feel a little better about this trade).
- Max has gone seven innings once all year and has pitched only 5, 5, 4 and 3 innings in his last four starts. Bottom line, he's wearing out the best bullpen in baseball. In last night's game, the Tigers were defeated before they could even take their first swing.

I'm arguing right now to make the switch to Eddie Bonine. Bonine is young but at 28, not so young that he doesn't much starting experience. He's been in professional baseball for several years now and has performed well at AAA Toledo. He only has two years of big league experience but you can't argue with his production so far in 2010. Here's the breakdown:

- 14 games, 19 innings pitched, 0.96 ERA
- Bonine has a 0.96 WHIP (walks, hits per innings pitched) which would put him in the Top 25 in baseball, of any pitcher (starter or reliever).
- 3-0 record is evidence of Eddie's toughness this year. He's been put in some tough hold situations and held the line - a question mark coming into this year.
- He is also a favorite of my pops. Beast loves to remind me when "the young" Eddie Bonine has a stellar outing and has enough of his games in Toledo to qualify as an expert. I will forgive for now the fact that Eddie looks like dillweed Zach Miner.

Let Max work Toledo for a month and get his confidence back. We can replace Eddie in the bullpen with Figaro who is 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA in Toledo, including 27 strikeouts in 35 innings. If Figaro doesn't have the mental makeup, Gallaraga has pitched better of late and has plenty of big league experience.

Bottom line, status quo isn't working and this race is too close to worry about Max's feelings, something Leland is altogether too concerned with. Leland, get off your ass, sit Scherzer and give Bonine a shot. We need only a bridge to my boy Jacob Turner who makes his first home start at Class A West Michigan on Sunday (look for that upcoming post).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tiger Mustache Hall of Fame - Ruppert Jones

Old "Rooftop" was a fan favorite during the World Series run in 1984. Jones was a journey-man who signed a one-year deal to platoon in Sparky's outfield. He came to Detroit to win a championship and for the obvious allure of gorgeous Michigan women and wild night life. Ruppert had less at bats in his season in Detroit than in any other year in his career, sharing time in left field with Larry Herndon and generally starting against lefties. With his perfect fu manchu mustache, one can only imagine how many at-bats Ruppert had off the diamond while prowling the hot streets of Trenton, MI.

Roooo-pert hit 12 home runs and 37 RBI in just over 200 at-bats. More important to Tiger fans was the Rupert "waggle", which drove the beautiful Motown ladies crazy. A pioneer like Elvis, Jones let his hips do the talking in between swings. He could "shake that ass" like Mystical and brought the crowd to a frenzy with his tape measure home run shots. He earned his "Rooftop" moniker on June 24th of that season when he cleared the roof in right field at Tiger Stadium. Ruppert is one of only 20 professionals to have cleared that roof, a list that includes such legends as Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle (3), Harmon Killebrew, Frank Howard, Reggie Jackson and George Brett.

Ultimately, Detroit fans were only teased as Ruppert signed with California the next season and hit only 17 HR on twice as many at-bats. Like all players on the 1984 roster, Jones has a special place in the heart of fans as his batter's box antics gave kids everywhere something to emulate and sweet dreams to the beautiful ladies of Michigan.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tigers six-pack - 5/10/10

1. Tigers win 5-4 on national TV, our second ESPN win of the season. Tigers are starting to get over the ESPN jinx and will get another chance on Wednesday.

2. Two anonymous Mariners ratted on 41-year old Ken Griffey Jr. for missing an opportunity to pinch hit when he fell asleep in a game last week. In related news, Jim Leland also fell asleep in the 8th inning tonight. After Zumaya gunned down five Yankees on 19 fastballs in two innings, Leland sat on his hands while Zumaya wore down in the 8th, letting him throw 33 pitches in total and load the bases before pulling him out. Zoom has been nothing short of awesome in 2010, striking out 23 and walking zero leading into this game. Leland won't have Zumaya past June if he doesn't wake up and manage his pitch count better than this.

3. Ordonez made a game-saving, sliding catch to end the 8th inning. It may have been the best catch by a Tigers corner outfielder all year and further proof that Leland is clueless in his late game substitutions for Mags over the past two years. We're lucky that Leland was sleeping and forgot to make his signature substitution tonight.

4. Brennan "Beast" Boesch continues to rake. Leland has a tough decision when Guillen comes back. Carlos has been one of our best all-around players since 2006 but Boesch looks to be ready to take his job. His triple off a lefty turned out to be the game-winning knock in the 7th inning.

5. Brandon Inge led all hitters with four batters left on base. Way to go Brandon.

6. Tiger Woods says his back problems not related to his drunken accident last year when Elin kicked his ass with a 7-iron. In related news, Al Gore invented the internet.

Jose Valverde vs. Yankees 3-4-5 hitters


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Brennan Boesch is "country strong"

Boesch just tied the game in the 9th on a 748 foot home run that landed somewhere in Wisconsin. Jesus, is he using an aluminum bat? I'm totally buying his jersey after I go to the batting cages tomorrow to re-enact his swing until I can reconstruct it perfectly.

Gone but not forgotten

The voice of the Tigers was forever silenced today. To kids growing up in Michigan and Canada over the last fifty years, Ernie Harwell was a regular part of your day for five months out of the year. Ernie had a story for every at-bat and seemed to recall them at will. Long before the days of search engines, Ernie's mind could pull up a story for any situation. His calls were simple and clever such as "Trammel to Whitaker to Evans, that's two for the price of one!" as the Tigers turned another double play or "Rob Deer called out for excessive window shopping" as another Tiger took a called third strike.

I remember listening to Ernie on the radio and feeling safe when I heard his voice. He was like another member of the family and is the only announcer I have known that was as important as the actual game. Ernie was the soundtrack in your life and his voice was quintessential summer. I remember when he came back to the Tigers in the early 90's when we had a fearsome lineup. On some nights, you'd hear Ernie make his "That ball is looooooong gone!" call 4-5 times in one game as Cecil and Mickey were heating up. Ernie was selfless. He was so humble that if he were anyone else, you would mistake his humility as an act. Take this quote for an example:

"I'd like to be remembered as someone who showed up for the job. I consider myself a worker. I love what I do. If I had my time over again, I'd probably do it for nothing."

I'm not sure that quote is believable with too many people other than Ghandi, Mother Theresa or Hugh Hefner. But you heard that love in his voice every night that he called a game. It was the voice of someone who truly loved their job and worked as if there were no other place on Earth he would rather be than Michigan and Trumball. That quote also exemplifies what made Detroit great once and what was lacking when the mighty city failed. My favorite Ernie staple was his signature strike-out call, "He stood there like the house by the side of the road." There is no poetry in that call, no flash or clever analogy. It's simple and matter of fact, which was Ernie's style. When a foul ball landed in the stands, Ernie would say "Foul off to the first base line, about ten rows deep and caught by a man from Monroe." Adding the detail of a small Michigan town was Ernie's way of keeping you interested and reminding you that he knows you're out there listening.

"Baseball is a lot like life. It's a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life."

Even in his last days, Ernie taught us what courage in the face of defeat looks like. As he stood in front of a packed house at Comerica last season, he mentioned how he was "looking forward to this next journey". By this time, his illness was past inoperable and Ernie was teaching us how to bow out gracefully and with tremendous conviction. Ernie would not go out fighting, he would acknowledge a life well lived and make sure to give thanks and credit to everyone but himself. Though I haven't heard him call a game in quite some time, I feel a sadness as if I lost a close friend today. A life well lived is one filled with meaning and significance. I'll close with his last professional call which frames a life we all could aspire to have.

"The Tigers have just finished their 2002 season. And I've just finished my baseball broadcasting career, and it's time to say good-bye. But I think good-byes are sad, and I'd much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure.

"I'm not leaving, folks. I'll still be with you, living my life in Michigan, my home state, surrounded by family and friends.

"And rather than good-bye, please allow me to say thank you.

"Thank you for letting me be part of your family. Thank you for taking me with you to that cottage up north, to the beach, the picnic, your work place and your backyard.

"Thank you for sneaking your transistor under the pillow as you grew up loving the Tigers.

"Now I might have been a small part of your life. But you have been a very large part of mine. And it's my privilege and honor to share with you the greatest game of all.

"Now God has a new adventure for me. And I'm ready to move on. So I leave you with a deep sense of appreciation for your longtime loyalty and support.

"I thank you very much, and God bless all of you."


Monday, May 3, 2010

New Stadium, Same Asshole Twins

I hate playing these guys. They kicked our ass and I can't even blame it on losing balls in the Metrodome ceiling.

Twins 10, Tigers 4

Game summary: Sherzer continues to look like a great fit for the Toledo Mud Hens, giving up 10 earned runs and really not fooling anyone all night. F-ing Cuddyer continues to murder the Tigers, providing the decisive blow early. To make matters worse, they don't even have Mauer in this series.

Why did JV take the mound in the 9th against Angels?

Verlander is notorious for throwing too many pitches. In fact, he's lead the league in total pitches, 100+ pitch games and 120+ pitch games in each of the last two seasons. These are exactly the kind of macho statistics that amount to a pile of steaming poop. Give me seven innings with 85 pitches every night and extend your career. It doesn't help that JV gets out of jams by throwing harder, putting more stress on that $80M arm.

This made Leland's move last night all the more puzzling. JV was dealing, throwing a 1-hitter through eight innings and had a comfortable 5-0 lead heading into the 9th inning with MLB's best bullpen waiting. Verlander had a pitch count of 107 and finally had a night where he didn't need to throw 125 pitches to get through the 5th inning. So logically, Leland sent him back out to pitch the 9th. Where the hell is the logic in this move? Verlander has already established that he is no Jack Morris and Leland shouldn't be afraid to walk to the mound as Sparky was when Cactus Jack was on the mound. We play 162 games and Verlander is our horse. The smart call in this situation is pat him on the ass and send out Ryan Perry to close out the 5-0 game. JV, if you want to pitch complete games, try throwing more strikes earlier in the game.

That being said, when does Leland ever make the smart call?

Johnny Damon is Kenny Rogers incarnate

When Rogers signed with Detroit in 2006, I wasn't exactly thrilled. He had the reputation of a self-absorbed, over-the-hill asshole. From day one, he proved me wrong. Not only did he log ace innings, he was the only Tiger pitcher not to completely fall apart in September as the Twins rallied to steal the Division. He led a glorious run through the playoffs with a streak of 20+ scoreless innings, including 7 strong in a 2-0 win in Game 2 of the Series.

More importantly, Rogers quickly became the soul of that team right out of Spring Training. He took an interest in our young arms, acting as a mentor to Verlander, Bonderman and Robertson. He taught them how to pitch and not just how to throw. Every game, Rogers could be seen surrounded by several young guns as they pelted him with questions. Rogers became another pitching coach in the clubhouse (and we needed one because Chuck Hernandez was as worthless as tits on a bull). Rogers was a master at staying in games even when he didn't have good stuff and our pitchers had a reputation for cashing it in when they gave up runs early.

Damon is quickly becoming this year's version of Kenny. Damon is delivering at the plate, having reached base in 20 of his first 22 games and already has a 15-game hitting streak and walk-off home run. More important than his stats, Damon is a professional who knows how to make an impact on a game even when he doesn't have his best stuff. Damon knows when to take a pitch and when to be aggressive. He will swipe a base and lay down a bunt in the right situation. Like Rogers, he can be seen chatting up our young players and outright said that his mission is to get Cabrera an MVP.

With men on 2nd and 3rd and no outs tonight, Damon wasn't looking for a long ball. He fouled off 4-5 pitches he didn't like until he saw an inside pitch that he could pull to the right side. He got his lazy inside pitch and weakly grounded out to 2nd base which just happened to knock in a run. With the type of young talent we have, they can learn immensely from Damon's brain. Austin Jackson, Miggy Cabrera and Brennan Boesch should spend as much time next to Johnny on the bench as possible. With Jackson leading the league with 41 hits, it looks like he's been doing his share of listening already.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I'm pretty sure we're winning the World Series

OK, that might be a little bit over the top but I find it impossible not to over-react to anything the Tigers do. Four days ago, I was certain that we'd be swept by the Twins and we probably came one Denard Span error from that happening. I was typing a long post about how the Tigers should surrender now to the mighty Twins as any resistance would be futile, given their superiority in every aspect of the game. Just prior to uploading, a funny thing happened. The Twins melted down and we won the game in a laugher. Now, I'm debating how many World Series titles we'll win in this decade. My father and grandpa have the same uncanny ability to flip-flop violently based on the previous night's game. Actually, I only call home on days after a Tigers win in fear of losing an entire day's productivity to self-loathing and darkness. What I can say is that this team is worth the price of admission and today's walk-off from Damon is just another ridiculous example of why Tiger fans can't afford to miss these guys in action.

In almost every series we've played in this year, the Tigers have at least one game in which they have come from behind in late innings and five 9th inning comebacks. Last night, they hung eight on the Angels in the 4th after falling behind 4-2. Against the Twins, we fell behind 6-1 before posting ten runs in the next three innings. Tied at six in Arlington, Cabrera and Inge went back-to-back in the 9th the night after falling behind to the Rangers 4-0 before running off 8 runs in the next two innings. On our last trip to Anaheim, the Angels made the intelligent move of pitching to Cabrera in the 9th inning with a one-run lead and that pitch landed 440 feet away in left field. Down 5-0 in the 7th against KC, the Tigers opened a can on the Royals pen with six runs in one inning. Down 7-1 against Cleveland in the 6th inning, the Tigers donkey-punched the Tribe's pen for eight runs including two in the 9th to win 9-8. Even in the season opener, the Tigers fought back from a 4-1 hole to beat the Royals and then did it again two days later.

"Damn, can't I even get a reach-around from these guys?"

That would be nine of our fifteen wins in the come-from-behind variety. Our lineup, led by MVP favorite Cabrera, has destroyed bullpens and plays until the last out. Our pen on the other hand, is leading MLB with a 2.12 ERA and has been lights out the last two weeks with an ERA under 1.0. We have three right handed fireballers in Zumaya, Perry and Valverde. We have solid left handers in Coke, Ni and Thomas and Eddie Bonine for long relief which has been a great role for him.

All of this leads me to start projecting my enthusiasm to areas most likely undeserving but I can't help myself. Bondo is back! My favorite pitcher for the past five years for no good reason is having an OK year and that makes me happy. Bonderman is the most interesting Tiger because of his ridiculous potential and ability to pitch six innings of shutout ball routinely (the problem is that they always come after giving up 5 runs in the 1st inning). He was awesome Saturday and has flashes of greatness all year. He's featuring a sinker this year to go with his usual nasty slider and a toned down fastball from previous years. Bondo's issue is always mental and he still fights demons every time a call goes against him and rarely picks up a teammate who makes a costly error. He's a surly, spoiled, ego-maniac with more potential than production and I don't care. Bondo is my Tiger and he's on track for a Cy Young or at least 8 wins which is just the same to me.

A 4-game win streak is equivalent to a 30-minute roll of the dice in craps. The high is outlandish though you know deep down it won't end well and your enthusiasm is probably over-shooting reality by a considerable distance. That's fine, I'm enjoying this while it lasts because every summer is better when the Tigers are winning.