Friday, November 22, 2013

Prince of a Deal

Wednesday morning, Al Beaton, writer for the site I used to write for, Bless You Boys, lamented the slow trickle of baseball news. I joked about manufacturing an Ian Kinsler to the Tigers trade rumor. About nine hours later, I opened Twitter to see exactly that had happened. I frantically searched for the details of the deal.

Any rational Tiger fan knew a Fielder deal would require sending money along with him. With Ian Kinsler being the return, I gritted my teeth and looked for the number. I believe Ken Rosenthal was the first to break the final terms of the deal. Prince Fielder and $30 million to Texas for Ian Kinsler. "Oh my GOD! Dombrowski's a GENIUS!" I believe that reaction is pretty much what I said, even though it's been edited (heavily) for content.

When the offseason rumor mill generated headlines that said the Tigers would listen on a  Prince Fielder deal, I rolled my eyes. Of course they'd listen. When the Tigers signed Fielder to his ridiculous nine year, $214 million deal, we thought we knew what we were getting into. Sure, we hoped he'd hold on to his productivity far longer than the average player. But in our honest moments, we hoped he'd be worth what he was being paid for the first four or five years. Then when his decline became apparent, we hoped the World Series or two he helped bring to Detroit would let us forgive him for the last four or five.

In reality, he was struggling to earn his keep just two years in. Fielder appeared to be declining with seven years and a staggering $168 million left on his deal. I could be forgiven for thinking that was the Tigers' burden to bear and that we would just have to hope for a rebound.

Luckily for Tiger fans, Dombrowski didn't accept that fate. Dombrowski dealt Fielder, and I'm still gobsmacked when I think of what was accomplished. First of all, it will be as if that Fielder deal never happened until 2017. That's when the Tigers will start helping the Rangers pay for Prince. The $30 million the Tigers are sending to Arlington will be spread over the contracts final four years, from 2017 to 2020. How much money does that free up?

Well, to answer that we have to look at Ian Kinsler's contract. He's due $57 million over the next four years with a $12 million team option for 2018. If the Tigers don't pick up that 2018 option, there's a $5 million buyout. Toss in the $30 million going to the Rangers and the deal frees up either $69 million (if they pick up Kinsler's option) or $76 million (if they don't). Financially, the good news doesn't stop there.

The Tigers can also stop their search for their next second baseman. That's significant because Omar Infante likely would've cost $10 million per year. Money that can now be focused on solidifying left field and the bullpen. But let's not get bogged down in the financials. We're baseball fans, not accountants! What about the baseball?

Well, good news there as well. Removing Fielder from the equation increases the team's defensive flexibility. It frees up innings at first base for both Cabrera and Victor Martinez, both of whom are better first basemen than Fielder. Moving Cabrera off third not only improves the defense at first, it will almost certainly improve their defense at third base. A lot stands to be gained from bumping the defense at first up to something near average and improving the third base defense from worst in the league.

Who, you might be asking, would be providing that defense at third base? Well, it just so happens the Tigers' best position prospect is a natural third baseman who spent last season in Toledo, Nick Castellanos. I can't guarantee the Tigers are going to be so predictable in their post-Fielder machinations, but I've certainly heard worse ideas in my time as a Tiger fan. If the Tigers hope to hold onto players like Scherzer and Cabrera and use free agency to fix other holes (previously mentioned left field and bullpen), they're going to need to put cheap, young players in a few spots on the field.

The genius of this move, therefore, boils down to flexibility. Flexibility in the field and flexibility on the payroll. With Fielder on the roster, the Tigers were locked in to terrible defense at the infield corners. They were also locked into a very high payroll that would've made it difficult to fill in the holes the roster currently possesses. Dealing Fielder goes a long way toward addressing such inflexibility. Does it hurt the lineup? Of course. But don't underestimate the runs to be saved from a defensive upgrade. Not only that, it's entirely possible money saved will go toward the Tigers making offensive upgrades elsewhere.

Before I close this out, I want to clarify something. I'm not throwing a parade at Fielder's departure. I think this is a good move for the Tigers, both in the short and long term. But I'll miss having Fielder on the team. I enjoyed watching him pal around with Miggy. I enjoyed seeing his performance art that most players call "sliding". I loved the bat flips. His childhood ties to Detroit were interesting and it's fun to have marquee names in the lineup.

I think  he took an undue amount of the heat for the Tigers' offensive woes in the postseason. Similarly, I think too much was made of his comments after the season had ended. I'm a bit put off by the amount of "Yay, Fielder's gone" this move has inspired as opposed to "Yay, this is a great move for the Tigers". Personally, I'm in the second camp. I think the Tigers will be a better team in 2014, but I'm appreciative of Fielder for his time as a Tiger and what he brought to the team and the city.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Peeking in on the Tigers' Search for a Manager

As every news source in the world reported yesterday, Jim Leyland stepped down as the Tigers' manager yesterday. Since then, I've kept a pretty close eye on the talks around who the Tigers might get to replace him.

Jim's friend Tony LaRussa came up. Forget him. Seriously, let's just all agree to pretend he doesn't exist. I've never been a fan and he's pretty convincingly denied he will ever manage again. So let him run his animal shelters in peace.

Kirk Gibson came up. Forget him. The Diamondbacks - who really have the only say on this - say he isn't going anywhere. Not only that, all the Detroit writers who were around at the time hint that the breakup between Dombrowski and Trammell's coaching staff was less than amicable.

Gene Lamont has come up. Somebody who's no less an authority on his chances than Gene Lamont himself doesn't expect him to get a second chance to replace his good friend, Leyland.

Lloyd McLendon has come up. I'm not buying it. Choosing McLendon (or Lamont, for that matter) feels to me like settling. "Well, Jim's gone so you're the next best thing. You think you could take up smoking? Maybe grow a moustache?" I just don't think that's the vibe you want on a team that's going to be going full bore for a World Series. I don't think "everybody slide over a chair" is going to work. Hell, with some truth serum, I bet you'd discover McLendon's job as the hitting coach was only saved by agreeing to take on Toby Harrah as an assistant. They're going to hand that guy the keys to a $150M franchise? Color me skeptical.

Dusty Baker is an experienced name that's come up. I will just say, "Please God, no." I don't know if he ruins pitchers like his reputation suggests. I just don't want to find out with the best rotation the Tigers have ever had. Something that makes me nervous is Baker's preference for veterans. The Tigers don't have a lot of youngsters Baker would let rot on the bench because he feeds on their confusion and doubt. His affinity for veterans could therefore play well in an interview.

So who IS going to get the job? In Leyland's farewell press conference, Dave Dombrowski mentioned that he'd prefer to have somebody with managing experience (Fist pump from Manny Acta). He said it didn't necessarily have to be at the big league level, so guys like Torey Lovullo and Tom Brookens probably had their ears prick up at that caveat. Dombrowski also said there have been some guys who have done well without experience, so he can't close the door completely on a rookie. My wife will be happy to hear that might open the door for Vegas's favorite, Brad Ausmus.

That's by no means a comprehensive list. You'll hear names like Dave Martinez of the Rays. Hell, Ozzie Guillen came up. Jose frickin' Canseco threw his hat in the ring. I have little doubt there will be a few guys interviewed who nobody has even mentioned (Cholly Manuel, anybody?). I have even less doubt the Tigers will keep their cards very close to the vest.

My personal preference is for a fresh face from outside the organization who gives the feeling the Tigers aren't just opting for the next best guy to Jim Leyland. But the truth is we have almost no feel for how anybody will fit. Everybody will have an opinion regardless of who's selected, but those opinions will be about as useful as the Justin Verlander bobblehead on my desk.

Here's an opinion the Tigers need to be mindful of, though. They cannot miss. A manager typically gets two or three years to see what he can do with a team and then goes from there. If the Tigers pick somebody who whiffs in that audition, their next manager may be coming in for a rebuilding project. Let's hope Dave Dombrowski chooses....wisely.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Using Personal Feelings to Rank the MLB Teams

A couple weeks ago, I was thinking of trying to rank the MLB teams in order of how much I liked each. Literally, the day after I had the thought, Rogo posted this doing the exact same thing. Phil Coke's Brain used the opportunity to point out he had done the same thing during the offseason. You might think this should convince me to move on to another idea for a post. You'd be wrong, because somebody has to get the rankings in the right order and do so using many more words.

In assembling the list, I realized a couple of things. First, it's the Tigers and then about four blank pages, and then the second place team. In that same vein, a truer description of the list is my favorite team and then a reverse ranking of how much I dislike the other teams. To fight through my indifference toward half the teams in baseball, I just imagined two teams facing off in the World Series (or playoffs for teams in the same league). Whoever I'd root for gets the higher ranking. Repeat until everybody is in their proper place.
Here are the results.

Tigers... When I was a young Lions fan, I got tired of not caring about the playoffs so I picked a backup team. That seemed to work out pretty well so in the 90s when the Tigers were so dreadful, I considered doing the same thing for baseball. Pick a secondary team to follow nearly as closely as I follow the Tigers.
I was maybe five minutes into the exercise when I realized whatever window there might have been for picking another team to care about, it had long since passed. It was truly the Tigers and then everybody else. So while somebody has to be number two, understand that the Tigers absorb 99.9% of my affection. The other 29 teams fight for that other 0.1% once the Tigers' season is over.

Reds... This could be the Sparky Anderson thing. It could be the result of seeing a Tigers/Reds mid-season exhibition back in the 80s. Can you believe that's a thing that used to happen? An in season exhibition between two major league teams? Weird. Anyway, I've always had an affinity for the Reds I could never really put a finger on, but sweeping that damn Athletics team in 1990 apparently sewed it up forever.

Rays... When I started blogging and became a much more attentive baseball fan than I ever used to be, I found myself liking and disliking teams for how they were run. I really like that the Rays have been dealt a pretty bad hand in terms of revenue and location and have basically said, "Screw it. We're still going to beat the Sox and Yankees." They're a smart team that's pretty much always underestimated. To me, that's likable.

Orioles... The Orioles are kind of my American League Reds. I've always liked them and my reasons for it have always been somewhat ethereal. I liked Earl Weaver. I liked Cal Ripken. I like the cartoon bird logo. They wear orange, so that's familiar. I loved that play Manny Machado made a couple weeks ago. Apparently that's enough to get you fourth place in my heart.

Nationals... I used to like the Expos, but I'm not sure if I should like or hate the Nationals because of their relation to that team that fell victim to extortion and murder. Whether I'm doing it right or not, I'm excited to see how Bryce Harper's career plays out and kind of see this team as the Tigers' "best team on paper, what's wrong with them" National League brethren.

Blue Jays... I used to hate the Blue Jays when they were in the Tigers' division. I derided them as chokers and then accused them of buying the World Series when they assembled those powerhouses in the early 90s. My logic as a fan wasn't exactly unassailable when I was younger. Anyway, they've been irrelevant for so long I've washed away all that stale old animosity. Now? Those uniforms are sharp!

A's... As I alluded to earlier, I hated those A's teams from the late 80s and early 90s. I remember being beside myself when Terry Steinbach was voted in as the starting catcher for the American League All Stars. Then the bastard won the MVP! So much anger! Man, I used to get really worked up over stuff like that. Anyway, it's obviously a very different team now and I like that they can compete despite having a roster where most fans probably can't name five players.

Rockies... Tulo! That combined with visiting and touring their lovely stadium pretty much all I have. This illustrates my indifference toward large swaths of the MLB landscape. We're eight teams in and I'm basically already at "Eh, I don't hate them."

Brewers... I liked Cecil Cooper and Robin Yount and when I was little, I was the first person in my family to notice the glove on their hats was made up of an M and a B.

Cubs... I know Cubs fans are annoying. The real fans have that whole "woe is us" thing that gets old. The other fans just go to Wrigley because it's a big party. But you know what? I've been to Wrigley probably a half dozen times and despite the beer of choice being Old Style, it's a very fun place to watch a game. So they're basically being carried by their beautiful stadium in my rankings.

Padres... I can name fewer current Padres than any other major league team, and it's not even close. But if I hold it against teams for beating the Tigers in the playoffs, shouldn't I give the friars points for not putting up much of a fight in 1984?

Mariners... I love King Felix and I love their home stadium, but this team has been kind of boring since what, 2002?

Pirates... I'm going to be honest. When the Tigers were among the worst franchises in the sport, I used to root hard against the other terrible franchises. My reasoning was that the more teams that were down in the muck, the less national attention the Tigers would get for being awful. So I used to root against the Pirates for this reason. Now that the Tigers don't inspire inferiority disorders? I just couldn't stand to see Jason Grilli and Brandon Inge celebrating a World Series. Dump those two, Pittsburgh, and you'll see like a five team jump in my standings. (They do get points for that lovely stadium.)

Dodgers... The Dodgers would score much, much better if they didn't have literally billions of dollars to throw at their self-made roster problems. That is a very unlikable trait that outweighs their rich history, classic unis, Puig's throws from right field and all sane, intelligent fans' love of Vin Scully.

Astros... Nice uniforms. Points deducted for that asinine hill in center field.

Mets... We're pretty deep into indifference territory. I actually liked them in the 80s because of Doc, Mookie and Gary Carter. Since then, I'm not sure I've given them a whole lot of thought except for the occasional chuckle at who they signed or who they traded. I rooted for them in the series in 2000, but that just means I like them more than the Yankees.

Diamondbacks... Not long ago, they probably could have ridden my indifference to a couple spots higher in the rankings. Especially since Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell make them feel kind of like Tigers West. Points too for giving the Tigers Max Scherzer. But their push for scrappy players does not jive with my particular brand of baseball fandom and I hope it blows up in their faces.

Braves... We're starting to cross over from indifference to dislike at this point. Admittedly, though, the only thing I don't like about the Braves is their team name and the tomahawk chop. The fact that they've stubbornly held onto both, especially the chop, for so long are pretty large marks against them.

Royals... And now we're squarely in the "I do not like". In addition to being in the Tigers' division and having a knack for giving the Tigers fits, the Royals have some fans who are national writers. I'm going to be honest. Guys like Rany Jazayerli and Joe Posnanski are way better to read when they're freaking out about the Royals' ineptitude than when they're cheering their successes.

Giants... First, I didn't really like the Giants because of Barry Bonds. Then they were terrible for a while. Then I kind of liked them because of their pitching and Buster Posey. Then they beat the Tigers in the World Series. I'm sorry, but if you beat the Tigers in the postseason (while I'm alive) I can't ever like you again. It's that simple. They score better than others who have done the same, though, because of Panda, Lincecum and playing in one of my favorite stadiums and cities.

Red Sox... Oh, Red Sox. I was firmly on your side when you were a hard luck story with Pedro in the fold. I empathized in 2003. I cheered in 2004. Then you went and turned into that which you supposedly hated. Annoying winners who spend and spend and spend while expecting to win the World Series every year. Is that the same as what the Tigers do? Well, yes, and thanks for pointing out my hypocrisy. But the Sox won with a-holes like Papelbon, Youkilis and Schilling. Ick. If they still had any of those guys, they'd be lower than this.

Marlins... When the Marlins had a new stadium, a decent payroll and an apparent commitment to being competitive, I was ready to root for them. I even discovered that when Ozzie Guillen wasn't on the White Sox, I found him entertaining. Then they once again hit the "dump" button a half season into this grand renaissance and I felt like quite the fool for being taken in. I look forward to Stanton bailing on this team so we can see him more often. I hope MLB takes this team from Loria and then on the following Opening Day lets every fan in attendance kick him in the ass at home plate.

Angels... I could just put Carlos Guillen's homer off Jered Weaver on a gif and not say anything else about the Angels. My dislike of Weaver is kind of an old fashioned silly fan thing, though, since he seems like a pretty good guy whenever I see his quotes. But I still don't like him or the team he rides with. They have truckloads of cash and they seem hell bent on spending it foolishly. Why does that bother me? Because it drives up the price when Tiger players discuss extensions.

Phillies... I like Chase Utley and I like that they assembled a historically great rotation a few years ago. But when teams are dumb, I root for things to play out in a such a way that they are exposed for being dumb. Signing both Michael Young and Delmon Young when you can't hide either at DH is dumb. Giving Ryan Howard an overpriced five year extension that doesn't kick in for two years is dumb.

Yankees... This is a pretty low ranking, but I assume not as low as most non-Yankee fans would place the Evil Empire. Why? I don't really have a negative association for the Yankees I can tie to the Tigers. I don't remember any of their success coming at the expense of the Tigers and the Tigers have beaten them every time they've met in the postseason. Do I root for them to lose? Yes, but that's owed just as much to hating the "Yankees always win. Baseball is broken." narratives as it is to disliking the guys in pinstripes.

Rangers... Pure spite. Well spite and Nelson Cruz. The Rangers are a well run club that is stacked with talent. They can let great players walk away or fall to injury and take it in stride. That competence is what allowed them to beat the Tigers in 2011 and that's a very annoying trait for a franchise to have.

Cardinals... This is just a little more spite than I have for the Rangers, for basically the same reason. The Cardinals do things their own way and often seem like an unstoppable juggernaut. Players leave. Players get hurt. The Cardinals plug in guys that don't seem like they could possibly carry the load and not only do they succeed, the team doesn't seem to lose a step. I didn't watch the 2011 World Series because I hated both participants, but from everything I read it was a performance for the ages. So I guess this could be called spite and jealousy.

Twins... In 2009, the Twins would have been far and away number 30. I mean, there was '87. There was the Metrodome. There was '06. There was Game 163. After the past three seasons, though, it's been difficult to maintain the white hot levels of hatred. They're like Cobra Commander in one of the goofier G.I. Joe episodes where you see what they're trying to do and think, "What is he thinking? What would that accomplish even if it worked?"

White Sox... I toiled a bit over the placement of these last two teams. Do you remember that huge team brawl between the Tigers and White Sox in the early 2000s? The one where Robert Fick was leaving the field after being ejected and got showered with beer while flipping off the fans? First of all, that's my favorite Tiger fight of all time. Secondly, I've hated on the Sox pretty hard ever since then. If they still had Pierzynski or Youkilis, I'd probably put them last. If I lived in closer proximity to Sox fans, that'd probably be enough for the last spot, too.

Indians... And here you go. There are aspects of the Indians I like. Terry Francona. Their stadium. Probably a couple other things I'm forgetting. But it would take a lot to overcome the things I don't like. I'm not sure which I dislike more between the Indians' collective fandom and their racist logo. Probably the logo because it's offensive in any context. But the fans are no treat. I was in Cleveland to see a Tiger game the first year the Cavs beat the Pistons in the playoffs. What cheer did the classy Cleveland fans maintain best in celebration? "F--- Detroit!" You might argue that's not Tribe fans. But you probably wouldn't pick nits like that if you heard them chant "Detroit sucks" every time the Tigers roll into Cleveland. Put people leading that cheer in hats with a racist caricature and you have the sport's biggest douchebags.  Well, other than Chris Perez.

There you have it. Probably far too many words on my view of all 30 MLB teams. Feel free to unleash your own irrational hatred or expand on the thoughts above.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Things That Must Be Said About Tiger Game Commercials


When we watch a Tiger game, there is a great deal of disagreement on what we should be feeling. Some people are thankful to watch the league’s best rotation and the best hitter in the game. Some think the team is a maddening disappointment with a suspect bullpen and an inconsistent lineup. I say let’s set all that aside for a moment for a topic where we can all find common ground. 

Is that topic Miguel Cabrera? Nope. I’ve heard he’s not clutch enough and his defense is too much of a liability. Justin Verlander? Are you kidding? Apparently, his huge contract ruined him and his best years are behind him because of all the innings he’s put on his arm during his career. 

No, to find common ground we’re going to have to look beyond the game. I think we’re going to have to turn to commercials. Not just any commercials, either. The commercials we hate. You know what I’m talking about. The Tigers have sold a significant chunk of their time between innings to a few advertisers, and we the fans are the ones who must suffer for it. 

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been paying attention to the commercials we are subjected to and what follows are my thoughts and observations on those I hate the most. So, good reader, come with me. Like any good citizen of the internet, we will now wallow in that which we hate (in alphabetical order). 


There are a number of Belle Tire commercials with this woman in them. I think the one I’ve shown is the most annoying, but feel free to disagree. There’s something about the way she stands after showing off her shoes that grinded on me the 100th or 200th time I saw this commercial. Overall, though, her constant inflection and exaggerated gestures earn these Belle Tire commercials my full contempt. 


We’ve been absolutely inundated with Sam Bernstein commercials for years now. For God’s sake, the Tigers postgame is broadcast from the Sam Bernstein Studios. At first, they made it seem like everybody who called would get Sam or one of his sons. They’ve since taken some steps to clear up that misconception, but they still have trouble getting past the idea they’re just more successful versions of the lawyers who advertise during soap operas and The Price is Right. 

So among all the dozens of Sam Bernstein commercials we’ve seen over the years, why did I pick this one? It cracks me up that Sam and his sons Mark and Richard gush over how talented and dedicated each other is while the daughter Beth doesn’t even warrant a mention. 

Why is nobody proud of Beth? Why does she get stuck doing the commercial about Social Security complaints? I mean, seriously, how boring must a case fighting for Social Security benefits be? I picture her slaving over tomes of Social Security law books while her dad and brothers saunter off to their suite at the Tiger game with their t-shirts tucked into their khaki shorts. “Good job, Beth! Make us proud!”


Overall, this commercial is harmless enough. There are just a couple of problems with it. First, it gets shown multiple times during a typical game. That makes the identifiable music grating after a while. Second and more importantly, I could really do without the woman fellating the Slim Jim sandwich six or seven seconds in. 

If you had never noticed that part of the commercial or viewed in that way before, I sincerely apologize. 


Look, I’m sure there are plenty of people who can tolerate Cialis commercials simply because of what the drug allows them to do. Hats off to them. I also know these commercials are going for something sweet like, “After all these years, these moments are why I still love her.” 

After having seen them several thousand times during Tiger games, my mind has had the chance to wander into darker territory. For example, I see these guys looking at their wives do some silly thing and can’t help but take their looks more like, “Look at her. When she shows this kind of joie de vivre, it makes me feel really bad for taking Cialis so I can enjoy my trips out of town. Oh well, guess it’s time to go sit in our twin bathtubs overlooking the ocean.”


This commercial. This friggin’ commercial. My despisal of this commercial is literally what gave me the idea to write this piece. I hate it with the heat of a thousand suns. When she sighs when the car won’t start and then snarkily repeats that “this is the first day of the rest of our lives”, it’s soul killing. I’ve been married happily for a long time, and a big part of that happiness is knowing not to be a dick at times like this. 

This commercial makes me hate that bride and also makes me feel bad for the names I want to call her after seeing it. They should at least be equitable and do an alternative commercial where it’s the guy who’s being a tool because the wife forgot to get a checkup for the car.  


When I first had the idea to do this piece, Miller Lite was doing those “Ken Jeung is in your crew” commercials. I thought those were conceived by some guy who saw a way to covertly show he hated frat boys, women and America as a whole. But those have given way to this idiotic concept of the double vented flow can. 

Let me tell you, I drink beer. A lot of beer. Admittedly, it’s almost never out of a can, but I assure you my drinking implement’s “flow” has never been a concern. If you’re drinking beer and your response is to look at the can all annoyed, “Stupid can. Me not get beer down gullet fast enough”, you may have a problem. Why not just skip the can altogether and go right to the bong?  

I don’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings - really, bro, I’m sorry - but if you’re a beer company and you’re putting your customers’ attention on your can’s flow and your bottle’s shape, never even mentioning flavor, it may be time to take a step back. After all, it’s not as if Miller Lite can’t give us great commercials. 

Those Bob Uecker, Bubba Smith, “Tastes Great, Less Filling” commercials were some of my favorite when I was a kid. I remember going to Tiger Stadium or Michigan Stadium and having 50,000 or 100,000 fans going back and forth about whether it was “less filling” or “tastes great”. Find that glory again, Miller Lite. Distract us from the fact that your beer tastes the same when it comes out as it did when it was going in. 

There you have it. Those are my picks for the worst commercials we are subjected to during every damn Tiger game. I’m sure I’ve missed some of those that make you reach for the mute button. Feel free to add to the list in the comments. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Verlander Bobblehead Shenanigans

I didn't see yesterday's game, so let's discuss something interesting that happened when my wife opened her Verlander mini-bobblehead from the game on Wednesday. It didn't really look like Verlander. Observe. 


When I showed the exhibit to a friend at work, I said, "This doesn't really look like Verlander. Who does it remind you of?" His answer: "Fernando Vina." 


I'd say he nailed it. It's tempting to think that the company responsible for making this bobblehead re-used a mold they did for Vina. There's only one problem with that theory. Fernando Vina would've had to have had a bobblehead night. What would the theme have been there? Unlikely PED users? 

"Tonight, Vina! Friday, Alex Sanchez!" 


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Firsthand Account of Valverde's Return


Well, I've said all along bringing Valverde back was the smart thing to do. I'm kidding, of course. I was at the game last night, though, and I know it's been said but it really was like he was never gone.

Before the eighth inning, I realized the 7-5 score meant we'd see Valverde if nothing changed. I told my wife neither team was going to score because of course we were going to see Valverde's first appearance in our first trip to Comerica of the season. Once the Royals came up to bat, I looked out to the bullpen and yup, there was Valverde starting his warmups.

It created a strange internal debate. Do you want the Tigers to score a couple runs to have the bigger, safer lead? Or do you want them to keep it a save situation because of Valverde's weird brand of save situation mojo? Well, if they score a couple runs they might not bring in Valverde at all, right? Nope, nobody else is warming up. Valverde is coming in for sure. It was basically the Valverde debate from the past month wrapped up in one bullpen session.

Once both teams predictably failed to score in the eighth - nice four out appearance by Benoit, by the way - the buzz started. More and more people started to realize this was going to happen. Once people heard the murmur, more started looking to the bullpen. I wondered to myself what percentage of the crowd didn't even realize anything was notable. "What's the big deal? It's Valverde in the ninth, just like always."

After Valverde threw his last bullpen pitch and started walking to the gate, the cheering started. The crowd was pretty scant by that point because of the long game and the biting cold, but people had crowded around the bullpen and were cheering avidly. When Valverde walked through the gate, it was the most excitement the crowd showed the entire game. And yes, the vast majority of the crowd was cheering. I only heard one dude booing and as wise as his trepidation may prove to be, it made him seem like a douche.

As I clapped my gloved hands, I turned to my wife and said, "I don't like it, but he is a Tiger." The Tigers tried to ease our fears by putting together a Valverde montage for the scoreboard, but as soon as the excitement died down and he was just warming up the mood turned to "Oh God, what's going to happen?" A lot of the jokes I imagine were on Twitter ran through my mind. "What's everybody so worried about? This guy hasn't even given up a baserunner and it's almost the end of April!"

Alex Gordon came to the plate and the first pitch was a ball. As Ernie would say, the paying umpires thought it was a strike... and booed. A guy behind me, perhaps misreading the reason for the boos wondered twice, "How quick are they going to turn on him?" When Gordon finally put the ball in play, off the bat it looked like the answer might be "very quickly". My eyes quickly went to Dirks to judge the damage, and I was relieved to see him preparing for a catch. Who knows? Maybe this will all work out after all. I keep saying it. Bullpens will make you crazy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tigers Call Up Rondon....and Valverde


They always say it's who you know. In the Tigers' case, it's good to know the guy with the Marlboros. Jose Valverde can vouch for that. After a few innings against Canadian teenagers and 20-year olds, he gets to skip not only Toledo but any type of major league audition. Flying Tiger one day, Tiger closer the next. Literally. The Tigers signed Papa Grande to a one-year contract and made room by sending Brayan Villarreal down to Toledo.

The pitcher who, less than six months ago, nuked his chances at meaningful innings in the playoffs is once again the Tigers' closer. I truly can't believe I just typed that. Any other pitcher in camp could've walked on water to get to the ninth inning and the Tigers would've pointed out he wasn't a proven closer. Valverde has a good week in Lakeland against kids who can't celebrate a home run with a beer and it's "Here's the keys." It's bizarre.

Bruce Rondon may scratch his head at it, but he can't complain about his road to the majors too much. After less than eight innings in Toledo, an injury to Octavio Dotel has landed him in Detroit as well. He's gone four apperances without a walk, has lights out stuff, and hasn't given up a run yet this season. But again, just 7 2/3 innings.

Bullpens will make you crazy, no? I'm actually very excited about Rondon. I was more excited when I thought he could earn his way into high leverage situations. Now I'm afraid we're about to find out what Valverde has to do to lose the closing job.