Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Slowey delivers a Jean Claude kick to the schwantz

Kevin Slowey held the Tigers to one earned run over six innings. Of course, he did. This was his fourth over-powering outing in a row except in his last three starts, he gave up a total of 17 earned runs with that weak arsenal. Nice job making this bum look like a major leaguer Tigers. The only positive I can take this from this horrible performance is the consolation that this outing will ensure that he starts three more times for the Twins which gives the Twins a great chance to lose some games.

We held the lead in the AL Central for a grand total of 21 hours and boy did it feel great. I had a little bounce to my step on Tuesday until about 8:10PM that evening. The way I feel now can best be compared to the way it must have felt to bet on the biker in black leather against Van Damme in this classique.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mags picking daisies and f-ing Nick Punto

1. Mags has braces. I noticed in the first inning today and wasn't sure where I was going to go with it. Then came the 3rd inning when Mags must have been distracted by some beautiful butterflies as he let a duck snort from Morneau drop five feet in front of him to let the tying run cross the plate. I love you Mags, but quit picking daisies like a pre-pubescent little leaguer out there. If you're worried about cutting your lips with those braces, just get a mouth-guard.

2. Bonderman acted like a professional last night. He clearly didn't have his stuff and battled through 5 1/3 innings with a chance at a win. He threw only eleven strikes in his first 37 pitches and what was crossed white was not impressive. That being said, he kept the game in check with three double plays in the first four innings in a game that could have easily gotten away from him. The old Bondo would have caved mentally in at least one of those innings, knowing he couldn't rely on his natural gifts. He would have squandered that four run lead and been pulled in the third inning. Alas, this is not the old Bondo. He worked the corners and kept the Twins swinging at his offspeed pitches, staying in just long enough to hand the ball to the best bullpen in the American League. Kudos to you Bondo - you're still my Tiger.

3. Cabrera has a ten-game hitting streak to go with his 67 RBI. If you reading this blog, get to MLB's site and vote. I simply will not stand for the ass clown from New York making the team over Miggy.

4. Armando, you can't walk mainstay #9 hitter Nick Punto with two outs and a man on first base. It normally leads to a triple by leadoff hitter Denard Span and a two run deficit. Next time you're in that situation, heed this sage advice.

5. The Tigers are 6-17 in Minnesota since the start of the 2008 season. Our pitchers are sporting a 6+ ERA during that time, two full runs more than Twins pitchers. In addition, the Twins stole the AL Central Division from the Tigers in 2006 and 2009 on the last game of the season. Even when we beat this team, they keep it interesting until the last pitch of the game; no lead is ever safe. I hate these assholes.

6. The Twins have hit into a league-high 88 double plays this year. That is a staggering number that is doubtless higher due to the arrival of Jim Thome. Another way to look at this stat is that the Twins get men on first base with less than two outs more than any team in the league, a situation that puts high stress on starters and leads to high scoring games. If the Twins ever stop killing their own rallies, they are going to be dangerous. Great article on if you want to read more on this topic.

7. Note to Fu Te Ni, you can't walk #9 hitter Nick Punto with two men on and two outs. It normally leads to a triple by leadoff hitter Denard Span and a seven-run deficit. In fact, you should stay in the bullpen unless we are facing the Pirates, Nationals, Diamondbacks or Royals.

Seriously, Nick Punto . . . WTF?

8. This shitty outing by Tigers pitching makes me miss Zumaya already and now a quick work on Zoom. His injury is probably best case scenario. After the scene last night in Minnesota, I was certain that Zoom tore a ligament and would need Tommy John surgery. That kind of pain normally signifies the last time you'll see a pitcher on a mound. Fortunately, Zoom merely fractured his elbow which will not require surgery and he should be back at Spring Training next year. This must be getting old for Joel by now but it's understandable given the pressure an arm like his is subjected to on a regular basis. Joel has thrown over 400 pitches over 100 MPH in 2010 alone; the next closest pitcher has thrown less than half of that. Good luck with your rehab Zoom - we'll miss you.

9. Ricky Porcello Update: My old man and roving reporter Barry Mazeroski, scouted Ricky in Toledo tonight as he made a start for the Mud Hens.

"Looked like more of the same. He went six innings, gave up ten hits and five earned runs. Everything was up and he'd have given up more runs if not for some great defense behind him. He's not ready."

10. Ramon Santiago is looking more and more like a starting shortstop every game. He made an incredible play in the 6th inning, ranging deep into the hole off his backhand and firing a hose to first. He has been impressive at the plate as well, hitting .270 and shows the bunting skills of someone who should be hitting in the two-hole on a regular basis.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Note to Tigers: You are better than the Twins

When we started this nine-game road trip, I concluded that four wins would be a win. Facing three league leaders with some of the best home records in the Bigs, the Tigers just needed to survive until they could get back to the friendly confines. After six games, the Tigers have exactly two wins and if they can pull off two wins in Minnesota, will head back home in first place.

That being said, this is Minnesota and we have one exactly two series there in the last five years. It is hard not get a sinking feeling when I look at tonight's matchup of Bonderman vs. Liriano. I typically feel the camera guy in this video after a three-game set with the dreaded Twinkies.

When the Lions play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, I know they are going to lose. I hold out zero hope and subject myself to viewing only because I have nothing better to do on a Sunday. The Packers are normally better at nearly every position on the field, offensively and defensively. It's not a fair matchup, I understand it, and I don't harbor any illusions that the Lions have a chance. This should not translate to the Twins and Tigers. The Tigers can match the Twins for talent at just about every position on the field (except catcher). I would give the nod to the Tigers starting rotation and bullpen. Seriously, name more than three total Minnesota pitchers. You can't, because they are no-talent journeymen and kids fresh from AAA just like every year. I like our offense as much if not more than the Twins and the only thing they have on us is defense and base running, which shouldn't be enough to overcome areas 1, 2 and 3.

Just take a look at the comparison in lineups:

1. Denard Span vs. Austin Jackson

Span is a contact hitter that will make you throw him strikes. He's batted .294 and .311 in two seasons as lead off hitter and is incredibly hard to strike out (only 37 in 309 at bats in 2010). He has above average speed and has swiped 15 bases so far this year. Jackson has been dynamite as a rookie. In spring training, most fans were not sure if he would still be with the club in May. I personally thought we would see Damon as a fixture at leadoff in 2010 but AJ never gave Leyland a chance to bench him. He is leading Span in batting average (.305 vs .275), on-base percentage (.335 vs .346) and slugging percentage (.408 vs .369) but lags in strikeouts (73 vs 37), walks (18 vs 31) and stolen bases (12 vs 15). Both excel in the field and are capable of the highlight reel catch. Span may be more proven but AJ has been electric this year.

Advantage: TIGERS

2. Johnny Damon vs. Orlando Hudson

Hudson is a talented second baseman who fields his position well and does everything right in the two-hole. Damon is always dangerous in any spot in the lineup and can do just about anything except throw. Their stats have been comparable this season. Damon leads in slugging percentage (.391 vs .387), OBP (.365 vs .356) and walks (38 vs 23) and they are comparable in runs scored, average and doubles. Damon probably offers more versatility as he can play all three outfield positions and DH.

Advantage: TIGERS

3. Joe Mauer vs Magglio Ordonez

I was surprised to put their 2010 stats side by side. Mauer is everybody's All American and the new poster boy of MLB. He is a hitting machine and plays the game hard on every play. But, he is lagging Maggs in every meaningful statistic leading up to the All Start Break. Maggs leads in average (.319 vs .304), slugging (.504 vs .433), RBI (49 vs 33), OBP (.394 vs .381) and home runs (10 vs 3). In fact, you can't really find a stat that Mauer is leading Maggs so far in 2010.

Advantage: TIGERS

4. Justin Morneau vs Miguel Cabrera

Morneau is a ridiculous athlete and a much better fielder than Miggy. That being said, you don't pay max contracts to first basemen for their gloves. This blog has already made the case for Cabrera over Morneau for MVP in 2010, though I piss my pants every time we have to pitch to this guy.

Advantage: TIGERS

5. Michael Cuddyer vs Brennan Boesch

I can't stand Cuddyer which is all you need to know about his skills. The guy is good and he is clutch. This guy routinely breaks your back after you throw 25 pitches to Mauer and Morneau, contain them and then allow Cuddyer to take you deep. That being said, our Rookie of the Year is better. Just like with Mags and Mauer, Brennan leads Cuddyer in every single offensive category. He is ahead in average (.338 vs .259), RBI (43 vs 33), HR (12 vs 7), OBP (.389 vs .327), SLG (.621 vs .409). Actually, this is a slaughter and Boesch wins going away even with 15 less games played than Cuddyer.

Advantage: TIGERS

6. Jason Kubel vs. Brandon Inge

As I lament about every week, this is where things get dicey for the Tigers. Kubel is another clutch ball player that takes advantage of tired pitchers who just spent all of their energy to get the M&M boys out. Kubel scares the hell out of me and I was the least bit surprised when he hit the first grand slam off Mariano Rivera in ten years. Inge, not so much and the stats are fairly lopsided. Kubel wins in home runs (10 vs 6), RBI (41 vs 29) and SLG (.448 vs .429). The six-spot gets a lot of RBI opportunities and Kubel makes the most of his changes while Inge leads the league in runners stranded.

Advantage: TWINS

7. Delmon Young vs Carlos Guillen

Though Guillen prefers the six-spot, he's rarely healthy enough to be in the lineup consistently. Guillen is a true professional and sports our highest baseball IQ. His versatility is apparent in the field and at the plate as a switch-hitter. Carlos makes pitchers work at the plate and can deliver the dramatic, clutch hit. That being said, Young is having the better year. Young has played in 20 more games, leads in average, home runs, slugging, and has more than doubled Guillen's RBI totals.

Advantage: TWINS

8. J.J. Hardy vs Ramon Santiago

Ramon may be a utility player but he has been a regular in our lineup all year, mainly because Leyland can't afford to do without his bat. Ramon is disciplined at the plate and will make a pitcher throw him strikes. He is also more than satisfactory in the field at either 2B or SS. Hardy is a liability and that is putting it nicely. His .217 average and .265 OBP are worthy of the Pirates lineup. Ramon dominates in every offensive category.

Advantage: TIGERS

9. Nick Punto vs Gerald Laird

Punto is a scrappy ball player with a great mitt but I don't worry much about making some nachos while he is at the plate. Gerald Lard is a similar player in that he is golden defensively but awful with a piece of maple in his hands. Punto leads Lard in every offensive category unless you're comparing them in bathing suits on a beach.

Advantage: TWINS

After going through that exercise, I feel that the Tigers have facts on their side but can't say that I feel any better about winning a series in Minnesota. Here's hoping they aren't as worried about recent history as I am.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Leyland strategic in his his argument with umpire

After Verlander hit into an improbable 6-2-3 double play with no outs and bases loaded in the 4th inning, Leyland went after the first base umpire with a vengeance and not a little bit of strategy. In the house of the future Hall of Fame coach, Bobby Cox, Leyland decided to light a fire under his team who is currently on a 1-4 streak. Arguing with umpires is a time-honored tradition in baseball, part showmanship and part calculation. No coach in MLB history has been axed as often as Bobby Cox who could fill more than an entire season with ejections.

This is one baseball tradition that I've never quite understood. A call is a call; good, bad or ugly. You'll never see an umpiring crew reverse a call based on a protesting manager. In addition, showing up an umpire rarely pays off later in a game as umpires have overblown egos that match the overpaid athletes that they officiate. Chewing the ear of a 20-year veteran umpire most likely won't have the game changing benefits it might have on a kid who is calling a little league game and desperate to make up for a mistake.

What are they arguing about? "He was safe! No, he wasn't. He beat the throw! No, he didn't! His foot was on the bag, I could see it from the bench! I'm closer and had a better look at it, he was safe!" These arguments can last 10-15 minutes depending on the severity of the call. How much do they really have to talk about and why are they so angry? The situation reminds of the overblown reaction of soccer players who fake injuries to stall for time, unnecessary.

Ultimately, you rarely see a winning coach pull this crap. When the Yankees were dominant, Torre never got off his ass unless they were going through a slump or Steinbrenner was yapping about his job security. The same probably goes for Leyland. He is aware that the verdict is out on his performance as coach and his relatively short-term contract extensions are clear indicators of how Dumbrowski feels. Yelling and screaming might be his way of showing DD that he is awake in the dugout and earning his money, even if it isn't showing in the dugout.

Tigers 7-8-9 is lame

Tigers are rolling out an intimidating 7-8-9 today with Donnie Kelly, Gerald Lard and Justin Verlander. That would be .214, .179 and .000 of sheer horror for Braves starter Hanson. Don't look for too many breaking balls every third inning. It might exaggerated today but the bottom of our lineup continues to keep the Tigers from being serious contenders.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Galarraga is the Tigers only pitcher, Cabby for MVP, Laird likes donuts

1. Jim Leyland's experiment with Gerald Laird in the two-hole lasted only one game and all parties seem to be happy. "I asked him if he wanted the two-hole. He obviously misunderstood me.", exclaimed Leyland before Thursday's game against the Mets. Indeed, Gerald most likely had trouble hearing Jim over the blaring salsa music in the Tiger locker room. "I thought he asked me if I wanted two holes. Sometimes, Miguel brings in Dunkin' Donuts after the game and I've got a real sweet tooth. The question was a bit weird as Jim knows I like donut holes. I was confused that he bothered to ask me." Laird's love for lard was apparent when he grounded into the rare 5-5-3 double play (3B unassisted to 1B if you're keeping score at home).

"Look, you live and learn. Next time, I will be more clear when talking to Laird on an empty stomach."

"I went 0-3 and worse, I never did get any donut holes. It really hurts."

2. Galarraga might be our only starting pitcher. We have other starting throwers but Armando is the only one that makes it look effortless and gets more with less talent than anyone on our staff. Verlander, Scherzer and Bonderman lean too heavily on the strikeout which elevates their pitch counts and puts early pressure on the bullpen. It has worked this year with a lights out bullpen but it's no way to win a pennant. The art of great pitching is disguising a bad pitch for a good one via movement. Galarraga's sinker is his primary pitch and hitters struggle to distinguish this pitch from his fastball. By the time they have started their swing, the pitch is diving in on their hands. His velocity is average which plays against the ego of the opposing lineup; this is polar opposite of JV, Bondo and Max. They have great stuff (much better than AG) but let their ego dictate how they pitch, looking for the swing and miss strikeout on every batter. Lineups are itching to swing against AG while they are looking to take pitches against our other starters. Armando locates well and pitches well in situations, helping him toss deep into ball games and keeping him injury-free throughout the season. I hope our other pitchers are watching but doubt their egos would let them admit that AG has something working.

3. I swore that I wouldn't use this media fame for political reasons but it is high time that I call on my legion of fans to right a wrong. Miguel Cabrera, this year's 2010 AL MVP, is currently 3rd in voting for the All Start game at first base. Worse yet, he is trailing a Minnesota Twin and NY Yankee both of which have stats that pale in comparison. Miggy is dominating in power numbers which is what a first baseman is paid to do. He has 20% more RBI than either of these bums and his batting average is 100 points higher than perennial ass clown, Mark Texeira. If I were Texeira, I would fake an injury to avoid the embarrassment of leading Miggy in this race. If you need further proof than the stats below, please read through some previous posts of Miggy's late game heroics throughout this 2010 campaign. Click on the link below and go vote your maximum 25 times.

M Cabrera DET 258 .326 19 60 2
J Morneau MIN 252 .349 15 49 0
M Teixeira NYY 279 .229 12 45 0

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Five for the Cooler - 6/22/10

1. reports that "Gerald Laird Not Surprised by Start in Two-Hole". What Laird should be surprised about is that he still has a job with a major league baseball team carrying an anemic .180 batting average. The only thing Laird has hit this year was a security guard at a Phoenix Suns game. Leyland was quoted as saying, "I like to leave my guys in their spots." I'm sure Austin Jackson appreciates returning to the lineup with the fearsome protection of Laird behind him. "I think Gerald can hit and run." There is nothing in that sentence that I can make sense of. Jim, I think Gerald can NOT hit and what he does on the base path is closer to waddling and not running. The Mets TV announcer just commented on Laird's tag-up from 2nd on a fly ball with "That might be the slowest I've ever seen anyone go from 2nd to 3rd." In the 5th inning, Tejada got a first hand lesson on "Lard"'s playing weight of 225 lbs when GL stepped on his foot, creating a five-minute delay in the game. FAIL.

2. We are getting our asses kicked tonight as the game got out of hand after a long rain delay. I'm not sure I expected to win this series but we can't afford to get swept with the Twins playing the Brewers and the White Sox in the middle of their tear. With the score 10-2, I strongly feel we should do what any self-respecting hockey team would do early in a playoff series and down big. We should start a fight. Bring in Gonzalez and plunk Wright and Reyes. Clear the benches, get the juices going and at least the boys will come to the park with some fire tomorrow. I wish Joe Kocur was on this team.

3. Speaking of this road trip, I would be pretty happy with a 4-5 record. We're playing three Division leaders (Mets, Braves, Twins) who boast ridiculous home records. Of course, two wins against the Twins would be sweet but that might be wishful thinking given our recent history with Ronny Gardenhire who treats Leyland like Mr. Miyagi treated John Kreese of the Cobra Cai Dojo.

4. Speaking of deadly karate chops, Brennan Boesch continues to kill major league pitching. He hit his 11th home run in the 4th inning and knocked in another run in the 5th with a sharp liner into right field. Boesch is leading MLB in slugging percentage for any hitter with a minimum of 150 AB. His .638 is just ahead of Cabrera's .632 and Morneau's .617 clip.

5. The concept of the New York Mets is stupid. What type of wiener roots for this franchise when you can choose the Yankees? It's the same type of moron who drinks Mr. Pibb over Dr. Pepper. I feel like these fans must have been picked on as kids. If you come home with a wedgie one too many times, you start rooting for wiener franchises with horrible uniforms to get back at the bullies who clearly root for the Yankees. I'm clearly running out of material as the Mets just another field goal and now lead by a touchdown and two point conversion.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ten for the water cooler - 6/20/2010

1. This exceptional home stand was led by our 7-8-9 hitters who delivered consistently for the first time this season. Brandon Inge hit .400 in his last ten games, and .354 with men in scoring position in June. Inge raised his average thirty points in June and only needs to hit .250 to .275 for this offense to rise above average. Our catchers finally woke up, both Avila and Laird are batting over .300 in the last ten games. "Young" Ramon Santiago raised his batting average thirty points in June, adding a 4-hit game and several impressive sacrifice bunts to his production. I'm not sure why Leyland doesn't give Ramon a shot at the starting SS position . . .

2. Ricky Porcello takes his turn in Toledo. Like Scherzer and Gallaraga before him, Ricky will spend the next several weeks in Toledo. I applaud the move just as I did when Dumbrowski cut Dontrelle and Everett. Championships are won when the best available players are on the field and the Tigers are finally making the tough decisions to ensure our competitiveness. In Everett's place, Santiago has blossomed and is hitting a full .100 points higher than Adam before he was cut. Our pitching coach in Toledo is strong and will help Ricky's mechanics as he is not fooling big league hitters relying on an average fastball because his off-speed stuff is not accurate enough to throw in a tough count. I expect Ricky will be back with the club just after the All Star break and in much better form.

3. Sunday was second straight sell-out at Comerica Park and third this season. The Tigers sold nearly 120,000 tickets over the weekend series with the Diamondbacks. Hard to argue the passion of Detroit fans given that turnout amidst a decimating job market with unemployment approaching testing 20%. Kudos to the best people on Earth - the good folks in Michigan.

4. The Tigers have fourteen wins when once trailing by at least two runs. They have come from behind in 21 games total, including today when Kennedy was looking more like Koufax until he made several mistakes to the wrong guys in the 7th inning. Brennan Boesch's two-run, go-ahead shot was impressive given how strong Kennedy had pitched thus far and the pitch that he hit. Kennedy served up a hanging breaking ball and Boesch had to supply all the power which is not difficult given his farmboy frame. Boesch's stats have been silly this year. He is second on the team with ten home runs and third in RBI's, though he has only played in little more than a month's worth of big league games. He also has the most majestic home run swing in the bigs now that Griffey has retired. The Tigers may have the best 3-4-5 combination in the league right now, with Maggs, Cabrera and Boesch all hitting over .330.

5. My boy Giovani Soto continues to roll for Class A West Michigan. He just fired his second complete game shutout and has allowed zero earned runs in four of his last six starts. He is averaging one strikeout per inning and his 2.01 ERA is among the best in Class A for starters. This 19-year old is high voltage and should be moving up to AA or AAA in 2011. Our other phenom in West Michigan, Jacob Turner, has been turning the corner, allowing two earned runs or less in four of his last five starts. He is also leading the club with a WHIP of 1.15 and should move up the system in 2011 as well.

6. With men on first and third base today in the third inning, Diamonback pitcher Ian Kennedy tried the old "fake to third and turn back to first pick-off play". Are you crapping me? That didn't work in my little league with 12-year olds and you're trying that in the bigs? That's just Bush League Kennedy. Go shame yourself in the corner. You deserved to be booed by the home fans for that nonsense.

7. Scherzer was solid on Sunday, battling almost every inning and finishing the day by striking out the side just before the Tigers rally in the 7th inning. Since being recalled from Toledo, Scherzer is 3-2 and has struck out 41 batters in 30 innings of work. Mad Max is finding his stroke at a good time with a tough road trip ahead.

8. About that road trip . . . the Tigers now travel to face the Mets, Braves and Twins in a nine-game road trip. I'm scared. The concern for most Tiger fans is our 8-1 home stand was built against the league's weakest teams (no offense Baltimore). We'll learn much more about the Tigers in the next ten days than we did in the last, especially against the Twins who understand how to bury league opponents head to head and just took two impressive wins from the Phillies on the road.

9. Diamondback third baseman Mark Reynolds is my kind of ballplayer and hearkens back to one of my all-time favorite Tigers, Rob Deer. Like Deer, Reynolds has ridiculous power and also like Deer, he swings and misses more than anyone in the league. Reynolds has 16 strikeouts in his last 21 at-bats. He led the league in strikeouts in 2008 and 2009 with 204 and 223 strikeouts, the latter being an AL record. That wouldn't keep most in the league but Reynolds pairs his glorious K's with some raw power. He hit 44 home runs in 2009 and currently ranks 2nd in the NL with 16 home runs, including a bomb in the Dbacks win on Saturday. Rob Deer posted 150+ strikeouts in seven seasons, leading the league four times. My favorite year was 1991 in which his strikeouts almost eclipsed his batting average (175 SO, .179 BA). In that campaign, Deer was punched out in 39% of his at-bats. Why would a guy like this be one of my favorites? He swung like a softball player all 25 of his home runs that year were of the tape measure variety. In fact, Deer has the longest home run in the majors in 1992 with a 483-foot shot at Tiger Stadium, as measured by the "IBM Tale of the Tape".

10. The White Sox are making a case for a three-team race. The South Siders have put together win streaks of four and six in June, winning ten of their last eleven games. Sox pitching has been lights out and they've had some timely hitting. It is entirely way too early to count out the White Sox, who were favored to win more games than the Tigers in pre-season and have clawed their way back to a .500 record. I hate you White Sox - I hope a swarm of fire ants find their way into Ozzie Guillen's jock strap during their upcoming series with the Braves.

Thanks Dad

"Don't aim the ball, just step toward your target and throw it. Son, if you keep waiving at the ball, you'll take one in the head. You're not catching butterflies now, let the ball come to you and pull back with your mitt when it hits."

I'm six years old and learning how to play catch with my father on the side of our house. Everyone wants to teach you something when you're a kid and most of it goes in one ear and out the other. The same cannot be said for any words of wisdom that a father offers in the world of sports. I listened with intensity as I wanted desperately to do everything right and make him proud. I listened with the intensity of a soldier getting his final debriefing before a major battle. His words were with me always, every time I practiced he was in my head coaching me.

"See what you think of these and maybe we'll get you into a few other sets later."

Dad just brought home the first birthday gift that I can remember, the 1984 Topps baseball card set. I spend the entire day looking at every single card, reading the stats from every single Tiger and marveling at their glorious mustaches. I loved this set of cards and must have reorganized it twenty times - by team, by last name, by division, by talent, etc. My father was an avid collector and I was proud to have an identical set that I knew he had in his collection. I secretly started to scheme on how I could build a better collection than his as at eight years old; all of his hobbies became one of mine.

"You won't be able to use this for a few weeks but there are some tricks to loosen it up. Let's tie some string around it with two balls in the pocket and I bought you this glove ointment that I want you to rub in for fifteen minutes every night. Let's make sure to leave some weight on top of it when it sits at night."

I am nine years old and Dad just bought me my first catcher's mitt and it's a dandy. The Rawlings black mitt (see pictured on left indent) was the same glove that Lance Parrish wore, and it came complete with the fluorescent orange ring around the lip to offer an ideal target for my battery mate. I treated this glove as if Mom had brought home a baby brother from the hospital and Dad taught me every trick to break it in.

"You're swinging with your arms still. You'll be nothing but a singles hitter if you can't learn to 'pop your hips'. I didn't say to 'step in the bucket', you've got to learn the difference. Imagine a straight line down your body, it's all in the timing son. You can't hit a ball deep with just your wrists."

I'm twelve years old and after 200 swings in the batting cage, I'm completely frustrated and it has nothing to do with the blisters on my hands. I'm making contact but that's not what I was born to do. I'm the son of a massive, oak of a man who regularly deposits softballs well beyond the fence at the games I go to. A steelworker with a barrel chest and Popeye forearms, my father was not raising a 'singles hitter' and I knew it. I wanted nothing more than to impress him and to be just like him in every way. I'm listening just as hard as a twelve-year old can but my body doesn't want to cooperate. Dad is firm but patient, he doesn't need to tell me but I know he is just as frustrated that I can't put it all together yet.

"You're guessing up there. It's obvious when you are looking for a curve ball because you can't get the bat off your shoulder when the fastball comes. Get ready for the fastball first because you don't have time to react if you're not looking for it."

I'm fifteen and playing J.V. ball in High School. I know everything there is to know about life at this age and stare blankly out the car window with my eyes rolled, not caring nearly as much as Dad about an awful 0-4 game in which I struck out three times. What does he know about curve balls? They probably didn't even exist when he was playing. I go back to thinking about girls and what I'm going to eat when I get home. Clearly, I don't need any help from anyone.

"Come here son, check this one out! I am pretty sure this is the swing when you hit the home run. Look at your hips! Look at your arm extension - we can draw a line down your body. Why did it take you so long to figure this out you hard-head? That is a beautiful swing. I'm proud of you son."

Dad and I have come full circle and he's still talking about my hips. I'm eighteen and Dad is leafing through the hundreds of pictures he took from the bleachers during my senior year. He is most thrilled with the action shot he snapped off when I hit a ball 400 feet to dead center in the district playoffs on our way to the state championship. Eighteen years of lessons and his son finally figured it all out. Dad sits back in the chair in his office and reflects on a job well done.

The relationship and most major moments between a father and son can be traced through the game of baseball. Every game was a teaching moment, a lesson about life, an exercise in perseverance. I'm a better man because my father spent so much time teaching me the game and on this Father's Day, I look to a future where I can measure up to one of the greatest fathers in history when my son is born. Thanks for everything Dad, you taught me more than you know.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Me, my dad, my grandpa and a ball game

"What in the hell are you swinging at?"

My grandpa's voice can be heard from his bedroom upstairs as another Tiger swings at a ball in the dirt.

"Watch, Leyland is going to leave him in too long and let this game get away. He cares too much about their feelings."

This, from my father who is perched atop his man-throne next to me in the basement.

"Why would Leyland bat Raburn 3rd just because he is filling in for Mags? He's hitting .180 and that's cost us three runs tonight."

This educated analysis comes from me on the couch next to my old man on his throne. The highlight of my trip back to Detroit is always watching a Tigers game with three generations in the same house. My grandpa and father, like me, live for Tiger games. Like me, they over-react to success and failure though both are faster on the trigger than I am after a bad loss. Grandpa doesn't like to make the trip downstairs to watch the game on the big screen, so he watches games from his room.

This was a great weekend to go home, being that the Pirates were in town who were aptly swept but not without some stressful moments. We questioned every move by Leyland. Grandpa bitched about Negro League uniforms and that "he can't tell who the hell anyone is out there with those clown outfits on". We gnashed our teeth at every bad at-bat and the seemingly endless number of runners we left on base. Even the announcers get pummeled for clearly not understanding the game as well as we do. My grandpa is 92 years old and knows his baseball. He's not afraid to cuss up a storm by himself when he doesn't approve, a habit my father and I find irresistibly funny. My old man and I were suffering through a miserable offensive night yesterday until we decided to play the "mute game". Every strikeout, error or poor at-bat evolved into an opportunity to mute the sound and listen hard for grandpa's harangues upstairs.

"Jesus Christ, this ain't no baseball! Aww hell, you ain't worth a damn. Get the damned bat off your shoulder! Stupid son of a bitch . . ."

Each profanity-laced tirade made us laugh harder and just like the good, fair-weather fans that we are, grandpa was all smiles when I ran up to high-five him after Carlos Guillen hit a walk-off shot in the 10th that capped a stirring Tigers comeback on Saturday night (though Carlos was a rat fink to him just two innings earlier when he left two on base).

"Yeah, that Carlos is my boy! He's hell with a baseball bat!"

Today, after an uninspired offensive showing, we had to listen to the last two innings in the car on the way to the airport. Just before the 8th, Dad is lamenting about our lame offense and declares that "we're nothing but a .500 ball club". Four batters later after cranking the volume loud enough to drown out the women in the backseat who are fruitlessly trying to engage us in their conversation, we're fist pounding and I'm hollering out the window when Cabrera delivers a three-run, come-from-behind shot with two outs.

This is what makes baseball special. Your team plays every day and the changes in pitchers makes each game unique. A bad outing today can be erased tomorrow by your ace. The emotional swings during a game are ever present and strategy plays enough of a role that everyone can second guess each managerial move. Most of all, the games are frequent and give guys ample topics of conversation, both during the game and for all the hours leading up to the next one. Baseball makes communicating easy for men and is a bonding ritual without peer in America. The three of us can go two or three innings without saying much at all, aside from the regular spattering of grunts with their own unique tones and pitches, decipherable only to Neanderthal men who have spent altogether way too many hours studying a child's game.

What made this weekend special was a chance to watch three games with two guys who have shaped my view of the world and have lived through far more rotten Tigers seasons to be just a tad more cynical than myself. If they are faster to jump ship on a season, I can't blame them - they have thirty and fifty more seasons of disappointing moments to fall back on. Father's Day is still a week away but I'm thankful to have spent so much time with both of mine on a topic so dear to our hearts.

I look forward to calling the house and smiling after Tuesday's game to hear grandpa reverting to form with something like, "What in hell is wrong with Carlos? He can't hit worth a shit these days!"

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Leland's adjustments will dictate remainder of season

Typically, I would lead this blog with a sarcastic depiction of last night's vanquished foe, who happen to be the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates. I've decided against it after losing consecutive series to the Royals and Sox, teams who are sixteen games below .500 combined. In case the Pirates are also reading this blog, I'd like to state my utmost admiration for your stored franchise and believe you are a team on the rise, to be reckoned with for decades to come. Willie Stargell would be proud.

The Tigers are two games above .500 and 4.5 games out of first place. They are 5-5 in their last ten games, as are every other Central Division team. Clearly, this is an average Division and the Tigers have as good a chance as any team to win it (as do the White Sox who are not out of this season yet). The Tigers are treading water, having made no serious run at first place in the last several weeks despite playing a very soft schedule. The Tigers are in the middle of a schedule that started with last place Seattle in late May and finishes with last place Arizona over thirty days. In that span, the Tigers do not have to face a team with a winning record. At the midpoint, they have only taken one series.

The Tigers must take the next three series with a sweep or two mixed in. They play the Pirates, Nationals and Diamondbacks in succession. The Pirates and D-Backs have the worst two records in baseball - they should be swept at home. The schedule really doesn't get difficult until mid-July when we start back through the AL East again. In essence, the season hinges on the next 30 days and Leland needs to find a way to inspire a listless team that can't put all three facets of the game together.

1. Keep the pressure on all non-performers. I commend Dumbrowski and Leland for releasing Willis and Everett for non-performance. Leland needs to keep the pressure on non-performing veterans as we seem to have a stable of young talent ready for the bigs. Scott Sizemore is hitting over .350 at Toledo and might be ready this time if called up. This could shuffle up our infield to add stroke to our lineup.

2. Manufacture some runs. Leland absolutely needs to get more aggressive on the base path and at the plate. The bottom of our lineup is lame which is where a manager needs to find a way to squeeze production. This is how an NL manager has to operate with his pitcher at the plate every three innings. Bunt, squeeze, hit and run, steal - take an aggressive approach knowing you don't have much to work with.

3. Keep Porcello on a short leash. Ricky is going to be great but he's still just a kid and a trip to Toledo might make sense if he continues to struggle. Everyone we send down to Toledo has come back with a vengeance which leads to point four.

4. Change up your coaching staff. Leland should realize that his tenure is not assured if we keep losing (he's been to playoffs exactly once in his five years with the club). I am not sure what Knapp and McClendon actually do. It's strikingly obvious that A.J. Sager has done more with our young arms in Toledo than Knapp could do. Sherzer could barely find the plate with the Tigers, spent three weeks in Toledo and struck out fourteen in his first appearance back in the bigs. Gallaraga looked altogether average over the last season until he spent enough time with Sager and damn neat threw a perfect game in his second start with the Tigers. It goes without saying that hitters are not progressing under McClendon. Make some difficult moves with your staff or the pink slip might be on your desk at the end of the season.

5. Lose your temper in a very public forum. This team does not look inspired and Leland has taken the fatherly approach the last three years. I miss the days when he would blast the team in his post game interviews. Call this team out for under-achieving no matter how many years of tenure they might have. They need a wake-up call as they have the talent to win the Division.

If Leland can pull off a strong thirty days, the Tigers will be in position to make a free agent move or two at the deadline for a push at the pennant. It goes without saying that we could use a bat or two but it's premature to talk about that if we are not even in the hunt after the All Star break.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tigers didn't learn from Downriver Little League of 80's

Back in 1985 and 1986, the Trenton Angels dominated the 9-10 year-old division of the Trenton Baseball Association. That team was coached by Barry Mathews who was not only a cagey skipper, but a shrewd judge of talent and money in drafts. While most coaches were picking their son's friends, my old man made it clear to me that my friends couldn't hit worth a shit or had girlie arms. He showed up at the tryouts and actually did some scouting. Those juggernaut Angels teams went undefeated in two straight seasons, picking on weak teams filled with my friends and their girlie arms.

The Tigers seem to have fallen into the same trap as those ill-fated weak sisters of the TBA. In Tuesday's draft, the Tigers used five selections on family of current coaches, players and even a scout. In late rounds, the Tigers selected the sons of Jim Leland, Lloyd McClendon, and Rick Knapp. They took the brother of Justin Verlander and the son of scout of Barney Miller. I'm sorry, but no way these moves were all based on objective measurables. Hell, my old man might have passed on me if the league didn't mandate he take me by the 3rd pick (and if I wasn't so awesome at hitting baseballs).

I would call for a Congressional investigation if not for the draft track record of Dave Dumbrowski. Tongight's starting battery was Ricky Porcello and ALex Avilla who were both drafted in 2008. Justin Verlander has been a legitimate ace and Ryan Perry looks to have a long career ahead of him in the bullpen. Brennan Boesch was the May Rookie of the Month and was drafted in 2006 and Sizemore, Worth, and Jacob Turner all have bright futures with the club. One diamond that DD drafted in the 21st round last year is Giovany Soto. At 6'3" and 155 lbs of raw power, Soto is leading Class A West Michigan with a 1.99 ERA including 52 strikeouts in 54 innings pitched. IN his past four starts, he has only allowed two earned runs. Not yet Strassberg-esque but not bad for a guy who saw over 200 pitchers get drafted before him. Keep going you skinny little lighting rod, you.

The Tigers took a third baseman with their first pick in the draft. I hope Inge was watching. Rick Castellanos was one of the most talked about high school bats in this year's draft class. They took pitchers with their next two picks and a catcher with their 100th pick. Based on DD's track record, expect to see at least one of them with the big league team in the next three years.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

White Sox are horrible

What the hell happened to the White Sox? I just looked at their lineup and the batting averages read as such:


You're reading that correct, five players have worse batting averages on this team than Brandon Inge. How have these guys won 24 games with a bunch of turd-burglars swinging the maple? Carlos Quentin used to scare the hell out me but .205 isn't exactly enough to make me crap my pants. The South Side golden boy, Beckham, is following up his ROY campaign with a .200 average. Why is he still in the bigs? It wasn't enough that he robbed Porcello of the ROY award last year?

We need to sweep this series. The Sox are akin to a D2 lineup at an engineering school.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tigers Six Pack - 6/6/10

The Tigers won 4-2 tonight but it was way more stressful than it needed to be. First off, Verlander was awesome. He didn't try to strike everyone out as usual and didn't hit 100 pitches until the 8th inning; normally, he's at 100 by the 5th inning. Great job tonight JV!!
1. Alex Avila is wearing #13. If I need to repeat this, you're not a Tiger fan. No one should ever wear #13 unless their name is Lance. You are hitting .210 and the Tigers have lost the last seven games out of ten that you've caught. I think Alex has a chance to be a legitimate All Star one day but you should refrain from wearing a God's number until you hit more than three home runs in a season. It was different when I wore that number as a Trenton Angel as a 10-old because I led the Downriver Little League in 1986 (check the stats boyyy).

2. Why does this freaking Hochever own the Tigers? He won his first two starts against us, one with a shutout and another needing some runs. Today, he gives up one earned run in seven innings. For the record, this guy sucks when he's not playing us with a 4.72 ERA including games with the Tigers and well over 5 ERA against all other teams. Hey Hochever, I hate you and hope you quit.

3. Why does anyone pitch to Cabrera in close games? Seriously, are you mentally handicapped? In the 6th inning, Cabrera came up with two outs and Hochever actually threw him a strike. Seriously, did you think it would get past him? Cabby is so clutch this year that I am running out of superlatives to use. All I need to say is that's he's a legitimate contender for Triple Crown if some of his teammates start getting on base.

4. I hate you Billy Butler. You are an ass and kill Tigers pitching too often. Why don't you pick on someone your own size you fat ass. I feel better now.

5. Did anyone notice that Rusty Kuntz is the first base coaxh of the Royals? I'm sure he sucked but I can clearly remember Rusty's name during the 1984 season and had his 7-11 Slurpee card on my wall with the rest of that legendary team. Sad, that he's working for a crap organization now.

6. There were two clearly ignorant moves by coaches tonight. The first came with no outs in the fifth inning. With men on first and second, Leland let Inge swing away. Seriously? He's batting .237 and leading the team with 49 strikeouts. I can not think of a more clear situation to sacrifice bunt than at this moment. Of course, Leland passed and let him swing away which resulted in the first out of the inning with a strikeout. Great move Leland. The second silly move was pitching around Boesch to get to Guillen. OK, Boesch has been great in his rookie campaign and might smack one deep. But with the score tied, I will take my chance with a rookie than throwing a three-time All Star like Guillen a fast ball on the first pitch. He dropped that pitch against the wall, FYI.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Damn you Kansas City

I have nothing of note to report except that we lost to another dog shit team. This video is much more entertaining than anything that happened in tonight's game.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bondo is our Beautiful Loser

"He's your oldest and your best friend
If you need him, he'll be there again
He's always willing to be second-best
A perfect lodger, a perfect guest

Beautiful loser
Read it on the wall
And realize
You just can't have it all"

Bob Seger, Beautiful Loser

His split-finger fastball is downright un-hittable at times. His fastball still tops out at 93 MPH and he added a slider that splinters right-handed hitter's bats. Outside of Verlander, no Tiger starter has better "swing and miss" stuff than Bondo. Unfortunately, his stuff hasn't translated to All Star appearances or even mediocrity since his rookie year. Bondo lost another heart-breaker tonight, allowing only three earned runs in eight strong innings on another night of limp offensive production.

Bondo's career inability to live up to his potential has always been mental. He struggles with the big inning (at least it's not the 5-run first inning variety ala 2008 anymore). He often lets an error or bad call lead to a big inning rather than digging in. Yet, he shows enough flashes of greatness to endear himself to Tiger fans, including yours truly. What makes Bonderman so lovable is the fact that he carries himself like Bob Gibson when he's on the mound and if the scoreboard didn't take score, I'm sure he'd expect to be carried off the field each inning. Every time he strikes out the side, every time he goes four innings with no hits, every All Star that he befuttles at the plate, every flash of greatness and you think "Finally, he's going to realize his potential!!" This is usually when he hits the next batter, gives up two duck-snort singles and self destructs. It doesn't matter, I still get excited for his next outing and one has to admit that he is having an admirable year with a 3.72 ERA and 44 strikeouts to 22 base on balls. In his last six starts, he's given up only 11 earned runs and the Tigers are 5-3 in the last eight games he has pitched in. If Porcello gets it together and Scherzer's Sunday outing was not a fluke, the Tigers are suddenly looking like a team with a starting rotation to match their bullpen. Now, we just need a few less beautiful losers in our lineup because Bondo needs more runs.

"Beautiful loser
Never take it all
'Cause it's easier
And faster when you fall"