Tigers On Top


In Which the Tigers Blow Yet Another Lead
May 31, 2007, 4:07 am
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Unspeakably depressing.

As Cleveland lost their series to Boston (unfortunately not getting swept), we twiddled our thumbs and lost our series to Tampa Bay. Far less respectable, I’d say.

Apparently Rays pitchers feed off getting whomped early. Like Jackson before him, Shields bounced back horrifically well from a first-inning shelling while Little Nate and Co. imploded in slow motion for a 5-3 loss.

Things the Tigers Announcers Were Wrong About

Runs. While Detroit was busy scoring three first-inning runs, the two broadcasters noted happily that there were still runs aplenty left for Little Nate after last night’s outburst. Obviously not. 

Shields. I distinctly remember somewhere around the fifth inning, Rod Allen said the Tigers were still in good shape, because Shields would undoubtedly be leaving the game soon, giving way to the Devil Rays’ soft underbelly of a bullpen. Shields pitched a complete game.

Something to Consider Seriously

Todd Jones recently made a good point in his Detroit Free Press column. Troy Percival is attempting a comeback, and he wants to do it with the Tigers. Citing examples of Troy’s loyalty to the Tigers organization, Jonesy advocated letting him try it. Let’s take this a step further, shall we?

Percival vs. Mesa. Both are pretty old, even over the hill, you might say. So they’re even there. Mesa has sucked all year, pretty much. Percival potentially might suck, but has not, as of yet, actually sucked. Mesa declared he would hit Omar Vizquel the next ten times he faced him after reading Omar’s autobiography. (Begging the question, when you are as ridiculously old, in baseball terms, as Mesa, WHY ARE YOU STILL ACTING LIKE A POUTING FOUR-YEAR-OLD?!) Percival has volunteered his services to his former organizations, the Angels and Tigers, as a scout and roving pitching coach. Jobs he does not have to do–he does not lack for money, and certainly those aren’t incredibly high-paying or even high-prestige jobs–but which he does because he loves the game. It speaks volumes that Percival did not play at all in the 2006 season, yet the Tigers still voted him a full playoff share.

In conclusion: Let’s dump Mesa as soon as Percival is ready and give him a shot. He can’t possibly be any worse (knock on wood), and he deserves the shot so much more it’s almost laughable.

(Injury) Bug Bites

Two more Tigers fell victim to the injury bug. Brandon Inge got his big toe fractured on Tuesday. Apparently it is many brilliant and contrasting colors. Brandon being Brandon, of course, he intends to play as soon as it is un-swollen enough to fit in his spikes. Reminds me of gymnasts, with that delightfully insane “Shoot me up with painkillers, man, I can play!” mentality.

Carlos Guillen also incurred a strained groin muscle of some sort. So now we have to play without most of our bullpen, as well as most of our infield. Wonderful.

Four games series with Cleveland at the Jake begins tomorrow. You may now commence all proven lucky superstitions.



Tigers Open a Can of Whup-Ass in Tampa
May 30, 2007, 7:01 am
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That’s what’s supposed to happen when an elite team faces a bottom-feeder!

Today the Tigers got well on their way to washing away the agony of the last four games. Fourteen runs. Twenty-two hits. At least one hit for every non-pitching Tiger who got into the game! Six and a third solid innings from Bonderman; two and two-thirds scoreless from Ledezma the Bullpen. Two homers from Gary Sheffield. A homer from Pudge. A triple from Grandy. Placido’s triumphant, three-hit return. What more could you ask for? Oh wait, did I mention that Cleveland also lost? (Thank you, Boston!)

The Tygs never gave Tampa Bay any chance to harbor hopes of a comeback, or even a remotely competitive game. After driving starter Casey Fossum from the game in the second inning, Detroit greeted each successive pitcher with such a barrage of hits that each was quickly forced to flee for his life, weighed down by a suddenly bloated ERA. 14-2–ahhhhh. It’s games like these that prevent me from dying of ridiculously high blood pressure. If this doesn’t get the Boys back on track, I don’t know what will. And they BETTER be rolling going into this weekend. Four games at the Jake. Yikes.

Some random thoughts: Jeremy Bonderman has gotten 26 runs of support in the two games since conquering his blister. I bet Little Nate’s jealous … Speaking of Little Nate, what’s happened to Gum Time? Haven’t noticed many of the guys shoving unspeakable amounts of Big League Chew into their mouths when we need a comeback lately … Is Placido Polanco even mortal? The guy is a hitting machine! Welcome back, Polly–being without you for even a few games is just brutal. 



The Carnage Continues …
May 29, 2007, 3:43 am
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If it’s going to be like this every day until Rodney, Zumaya and Co. return, just kill me now. The Red Sox beat Cleveland and handed the opportunity to gain a game on our rivals to us on a silver platter. After all, what elite team coughs up a lead to the Devil Rays?

The Tigers do, apparently.

And you can’t pin the blame for this one on our starter. Chad Durbin turned in yet another quality start, going six innings and giving up two runs, just one of which was earned. Then Miner came in, followed by that pillar of reliablity, Jose Mesa. Suddenly the Devil Rays–I refuse to acquiesce to the insane demands of the ridiculous right-wing Christians who think that a Devil Ray is some sort of devil worship rather than just a fish–were within one run, and it was time for my beloved Rollercoaster, Todd Jones. He did not have one of his better outings, and after loading the bases gave up a two-run game-winning single to Elijah Dukes. Kinda makes you want to slam your head against some unyielding object, doesn’t it?

The Tygs should have busted the game wide open in the second. Bases loaded, nobody out. Fan steals sure foul-out away from third baseman and gets off pretty much scot free (except for being ejected). His at-bat saved, Infante hits a single, and then to score the  second run the pitcher gets beaned in the face by his own right fielder. What better omens could there be for a grand blowout? Unfortunately for the Tigers, getting a baseball to the jaw seemed to put Devil Rays starter Edwin Jackson right back on track. The broadcasters, who kept saying completely inane things that make you realize why they’re stuck in TB, conjectured that a good right to the jaw before each start might be beneficial for the young man. (This was after the brilliant observation that pitchers tend to do better when they throw toward the plate–as opposed to first or third. Really?)

FIVE GOOD THINGS

1. The Tigers tacked on runs after their initial outburst, thanks to solo shots from Craig Monroe and Gary Sheffield, as well as some great baserunning by the latter.

2. Another good outing from a starter. What the bullpen does after he leaves is out of his control, but Durbin put the relievers in a position to succeed today.

3. Brandon Inge continued to be very sparkly at third base.

4. Infante got two hits, bumping his average up to .327. Yes, I want Placido back as soon as possible, but Infante is a pretty good stand-in for now. As long as Neifi stays on the bench I’ll be happy! Fellow reserve Mike Rabelo also contributed two hits, one in the middle of the second-inning rally.

5. We didn’t lose any ground, thanks to the benevolence of the Red Sox at Fenway. Could have gained a game, yes, but staying where we are while losing to one of the sorriest teams in baseball is certainly better than say, a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. 



Swept by the Tribe
May 28, 2007, 5:14 am
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So ends one of the most depressing weekends of the year. We were never totally out of any of the games, but like they say, almost doesn’t count except in horseshoes. Tonight was especially painful, because it was Mikey and because it felt like we should have won, even more so than the other two games.

I make no secret of the fact that Mike Maroth (and Todd Jones) are my favorite Tigers. (Gotta have an answer when someone asks, “Who’s Your Tiger?” right?) I wanted so bad for him to kick ass on national TV, with the whole country watching. But it didn’t look like he’d even make it through the first, as he got lit up for four runs and Zach Miner got up in the bullpen. That three-run homer by Garko was such a killer.

Despite the loss, Mikey still did a great job. Outside of the first, he was tremendous, and certainly gave the bullpen a much-needed day off as he made it through the eighth inning. His mates had their opportunities against Mr. Carmona, but only came through in that brilliant third inning. He’s certainly not the same pitcher Pudge teed off on a year ago.

Eric Wedge told Jon Miller and Joe Morgan he thinks it’ll take at least 100 wins to win the Central–anyone have any thoughts? Personally, I don’t think 100 will be possible for any of the teams if all four of the quality clubs (apologies to any Royals fans) keep beating up on each other. The Tigers really have to get it going against their division rivals–hopefully we can take it to Cleveland at their house the way they did in ours.

Well, given the current state of things, I think I’ll start doing Five Good Things again. I used to do this to buck myself up in the dark days of 100-loss seasons. After every game, no matter how bad it was, I would make myself write down five good things that had happened. It didn’t always make me feel better, but at least it made me look on the bright side for a couple minutes.

FIVE GOOD THINGS

1. Mike Maroth pitching eight innings after looking so bad in the first. Jim Leyland talked about this in his interview: the starting pitching is what will be the key to winning, not our depleted bullpen. The ‘pen really needed what Mike gave them tonight.

2. Jose Mesa coming in and pitching a 1-2-3 inning. Maybe it’s just a fluke–but maybe it’s a sign that he could be useful in the near future. Here’s crossing my fingers!

3. The third inning. Three clutch RBI singles in a row from our big guns. Now THOSE are the Tigers we know and love!

4. Brandon Inge’s defense. He was a vacuum at third tonight, scooping up everything that came his way and firing seeds over to Casey at first. Say what you want about his error total. It’s just high sometimes because he gets to balls no one else could lay a finger on.

5. Omar Infante stepping up with two base hits and some nice plays at second. Hopefully Placido won’t be out too long, but oblique strains can be stubborn. I’ve been watching the A’s for years, and there have been several pesky injuries like that. He can’t replace our sparkplug, but if Omar keeps this up he can be a more than adequate fill-in.

P. S. Betancourt tugged his cap brim no less than five times before throwing his first pitch. I was planning to count his every tug, but ESPN cameramen were not cooperative.

If anyone is reading this, I would love to know what you think! How fast do we need to unload Jose Mesa? Which minor league pitchers do you want to see, should we need them in the bullpen? Will we win the Central? If yes, how many wins will it take; if no, who will beat us out? Predict our All-Stars, anything!



Bigtime OUCH
May 27, 2007, 4:13 am
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The Tygs lost more than the game today. This morning, Fernando Rodney took up residence on the 15-day DL; then Placido Polanco, our delightful little sparkplug, left the game with a strained oblique; and after that, Jason Grilli took a direct hit off his knee and had to leave the game. Which he and Seay, by the way, blew to put us a game and a half back of Cleveland.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not Rodney’s biggest fan. In fact, I’m probably one of his more blatant anti-fans. I hate it when he comes into the game, because it seems like he always blows it. I realize the stats refute this, but tell that to the gnawing creatures in my stomach. Even so, I’m definitely not happy about losing him for any length of time, not with Kenny Rogers and Joel Zumaya on the DL already. One of the keys to a good season is simply staying healthy, and the injury bug is starting to hit us hard.

According to the Tigers website, Polly and Jason are not supposed to be out too long. The idea of losing Polanco again makes me nauseous. People can say anything they want about Pudge being the heart and soul of the Tigers, or Carlos Guillen, or Maggs–but really, it’s Polly. He is the spark, the little engine that makes the team go. He does so much, and a lot of it even goes unnoticed. Like the play he made in the first inning yesterday, ranging ridiculously far to his left and firing a seed to Casey at first. Nobody ever talks about his defense–but no one ever worries about it either. Was that the best trade ever or what? We give up Ugueth Urbina, now in jail for attempted murder if I’m correct, and get one of the most complete ballplayers out there. No, Randy Smith, I don’t miss you one tiny bit!

If you couldn’t tell, I’m trying to shift focus to positive stuff. Such as Marcus Thames reminding everyone what a complete BEAST he is, and I use that term in the most complimentary way possible. He broke his bat, pieces of it flying through the air, and he still managed to blast that ball well over the fence. Gotta love Marcus.

I realize the situation doesn’t look so great right now, but it’s just May. We’ve still got what, 16 more games against these guys? Two games look big right now, but we’ve still got a lot of time to make up the ground. We just need to stop getting HURT, that’s all!

Totally Random Final Thought: Rafael Betancourt tugs his cap brim CONSTANTLY. If he gets in tomorrow, just keep an eye on him. As you could probably tell, he’s driving me nuts.



If Only C-Mo Had Hit That Ball a Little Higher …
May 26, 2007, 5:21 am
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I was expecting great things from today. Thanks to the startup of this blog–from which my cousin and various other people expect grand things–the queen of the house was persuaded that MLB Extra Innings was unavoidably necessary. Thus, for the first time in history, I was able to watch FSN Detroit on an actual TV screen (instead of a computer) here at home in California. And Ernie Harwell was back for another go-round!

I must admit, I underestimated Paul Byrd. I must also admit that, despite his being an Indian and the enemy, I absolutely LOVE his old-style windup. What can I say, I’m a sucker for anything throwback. Little Nate Robertson was not at his best today, either, and as usual he did not receive anything like Bondo’s twelve runs of support.

(Small digression: My referring to Little Nate may strike some as rather silly. Maybe it is. But it does have logical origins. When Nate Robertson came to the Tigers, we already had Nate Cornejo, known as Big Nate. Upon a careful check of the roster, I discovered that Robertson actually was at least an inch shorter than his fellow Nate. Therefore: Little Nate.)

The turning point of the whole game was when Craig Monroe’s three-run homer–which would have put us up 4-2–instead became a loud and very impressive out. Jason Michaels timed his leap perfectly–if only the ball had gone a little higher, or Michaels was a little shorter … Who knows what might have happened if we’d gone ahead at that point. As it was, the Tigers still made a game of it, closing the gap at one point to 5-4. But then Tim Byrdak (who I can forgive) had a momentary lapse in brilliance. Jose Mesa (who I probably will never forgive, for ANYTHING) let in Pronk, who’d tripled off Byrdak, for Cleveland’s seventh run. The 7-4 loss puts us back in second place, a half-game behind the Tribe.

I was pretty pleased with the bullpen tonight though (except Mesa, of course). Wil Ledezma is getting more and more reliable, despite the fact that I consistently fail to give him his due. And I really like Byrdak as well. To be a bit cliche, we just have to put it all together on the same night. Hopefully, that will happen tomorrow. I may end up in a state of extreme frustration come 12:55 Pacific Time, depending on how evil Fox decides to be. Every game of interest may be blacked out by whatever game the fine people at Fox decide the West Coast is most interested in (almost certainly NOT a battle of Midwestern powers). Ah well–go Tigers!



It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame!
May 25, 2007, 7:57 am
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The sun shone down upon the gorgeous Comerica Park grass. The dulcet tones of Ernie Harwell’s voice issued soothingly from the broadcast booth. And the Tigers came through with a right drubbing, thrashing the Angels 12-0 in Jeremy Bonderman’s triumph over that nasty blister.

At first it seemed like the Angels would be the ones to draw first blood, loading the bases with no outs in the top of the first. But Bondo snuffed the threat with a tailor-made 1-2-3 double play and a flyout, and then his mates got down to business.

Magglio Ordonez was four for four. Carlos Guillen cracked two homers for five RBI. Sheffield homered again. Bondo went eight scoreless innings for his third win.

Really, could it have been any better?

It’s tempting to say today was just like old times, what with the return of Harwell, but that’s exactly what it wasn’t. Well, not if old times mean to you what they mean to me–my early days as a Tigers fan, those twelve losing years.

I have vivid, painful memories of Ernie Harwell’s final broadcast in 2002. I knew we didn’t have a great team, I knew the season had been lost since early summer, but I still hoped for a miracle against the Blue Jays on that last day. Despite a valiant effort from my boy Mike Maroth, the offense could muster nothing against Toronto, and Harwell’s final game ended up being a 2-0 loss.

So I was pretty darn gleeful that the 2007 version of the Tigers could come through for him. All our issues with the bullpen seem small when you think about what we had to go through in, oh, say 2003. Ernie deserved a day like this.

And what do you know, he’ll be back for tomorrow for the first game against the Indians! Maybe the Tigers will decide that he’s a good luck charm and lure him out of retirement. I like the Tigers’ broadcast team, both radio and TV (I know a lot of people don’t) but no one compares to Ernie Harwell. His delivery is so smooth, his stories so far-ranging and wonderful … I could listen to Ernie broadcast all day.

Some favorite Ernie-isms:

“He stood there like the house by the side of the road and watched that one go by!” (After an opposing batter strikes out looking; my dad and I will yell this at any game we attend, at every opportunity.)

“That one is loooooooonnnnng gone!” (After a home run)

“And that foul ball was caught by a fan from Saginaw!” (Or Ann Arbor, or Sterling Heights, or Dearborn …)

“He’s out for excessive window shopping.” (After a called strikeout)

And my very best favorite, the tagline of my life: “Tygs on top!”

Anyone who has never listened to Ernie broadcast a game should tune in tomorrow. I got Gameday Audio the first year it was available just to be able to hear him call the Tigers games–in the Bay Area, I couldn’t exactly get him on the radio. No matter what I was doing, even if I was supposed to be doing homework, the sound of his voice would be in the background.

In my junior year of high school, I was even able to talk to him. I was doing a project on Jackie Robinson, and knew that Ernie was a broadcaster with the Dodgers and Giants during those years. Not expecting a reply, I sent Ernie a letter asking to interview him for the project. Imagine my surprise when a handwritten note arrived bearing the signature of Ernie Harwell and his home phone number! That was probably my first real foray into journalism, taking copious notes next to the phone as that familiar voice eloquently answered each halting question. A Hall of Fame broadcaster took the time to answer the questions of a sixteen-year-old kid. Now that’s a class act.