Rolling

When Victor Martinez crushed an offering from Tony Sipp on Wednesday for a grand slam, things seemed to change for a Tigers team that is on a remarkable roll.

Up to that point, I was thinking (and maybe you were too), that you could see a loss coming in the finale against the Indians.

As the script often goes in these situations, it was a getaway game, the Indians were ready to make their last statement of the season and Justin Verlander was due for a bad outing.

Nope.

This team is rolling.

  • Frankly, I’m tired of all the reminders of 2009 – and the Indians radio announcers beat that drum incessantly during the series.

  • Starting play on Friday against the Twins, the Tigers have played 143 games. Here’s a look at how the club’s 81-62 record and 8-1/2-game lead compares to seasons in which it contended:
    • 1984: 92-51, 10 1/2 games up
    • 1987: 86-57, Tied for first with Toronto
    • 2006: 86-57, 3 games up
    • 2009: 77-67, 5 1/2 games up

Continue reading “Rolling”

Feeling Better About Hall of Fame Weekend

BaseballHallofFamelogoTomorrow afternoon Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Tigers fans (or at least this Tigers fan) will be thinking about Detroit players that should be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Sour grapes? Of course.

I do, however, feel better today after reading Christina Kahr’s list of “Stars of the Forgotten ’80s” which, she writes, is “an excellent lineup of stars from the ‘80s who haven’t made it into the Hall of Fame.”

Former Tigers abound in her brilliant – brilliant! – assessment:

Catcher: Probably the weakest position, but Lance Parrish’s 324 career homers and 35.7 WAR (28.8 in the ’80s) would suit. Parrish was also one of the best-throwing catchers of his day, gunning down 39 percent on his career, helping to land him on eight All-Star teams. Effectively, he was to the AL what Gary Carter was for the NL.

I’ve been saying this for years!

Continue reading “Feeling Better About Hall of Fame Weekend”

All-Star Game Notes and Non Sequiturs

Sometimes I want to rail on Major League Baseball about the lameness of so many things it does — the vapid celebrity softball game, the interminable Home Run Derby, the “this-time-it-counts” angle on the All-Star Game — but then I realize it’s probably me just getting old.

  • The Tigers’ collection of All Stars is the largest since 1985 when the club sent six players to the Metrodome for the game managed by Sparky Anderson. Here’s a look at the largest classes of Tigers All Stars since 1984 and the team’s record that season:

1984 (104-58)
Willie Hernandez
Chet Lemon
Jack Morris
Lance Parrish
Alan Trammell
Lou Whitaker

1985 (84-77)
Willie Hernandez
Jack Morris
Lance Parrish
Dan Petry
Alan Trammell
Lou Whitaker

2007 (88-74)
Carlos Guillen
Magglio Ordonez
Placido Polanco
Ivan Rodriguez
Justin Verlander

2009 (86-77)
Curtis Granderson
Brandon Inge
Edwin Jackson
Justin Verlander

Clearly, the better the Tigers were, the more players they sent to the All-Star Game. For a long time though, the Tigers were a team that had little to offer the American League manager. From 1996 through 2003, Detroit sent a single player to the game. In some cases the pickings were particularly slim (see 2002).

1996 (53-109)
Travis Fryman

1997 (79-83)
Justin Thompson

1998 (65-97)
Damion Easley

1999 (69-92)
Brad Ausmus

2000 (79-83)
Todd Jones

2001 (66-96)
Tony Clark

2002 (55-106)
Robert Fick

2003 (43-119)
Dmitri Young

Ugly, no?

  • I still think it’s remarkable that Alex Avila is the starting catcher in tonight’s game. Whoda thunk it, especially after a dreadful Opening Day series against the Yankees when Avila looked about as lost as a player can look. I guess that’s why, as Rod Allen says, you play the games. Jason Beck has a nice piece recapping the Tigers’ All Stars’ respective experiences in Phoenix.
  • The water is so far past being under the bridge, but isn’t it still a bit weird to see Curtis Granderson starting in the All-Star Game … as a Yankee?
  • Six years ago today in the Home Run Derby at Comerica Park, Bobby Abreu destroyed the records for a single round, the championship round and the grand total for all three rounds of the derby by hitting 41 homers into every part of yard. The Phillies outfielder went deep 24 times in the first round, tacks on six more in the second round and finishes with 11 more in the championship round.
  • Looking ahead to the pitching matchups for this weekend’s series against the White Sox:

Friday | 7:05 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1
Justin Verlander (12-4, 2.15 ERA) vs. Gavin Floyd (6-9, 4.59 ERA)

Saturday | 4:10 p.m. FOX/1270 & 97.1
Max Scherzer (10-4, 4.69 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (5-7, 4.30 ERA)

Sunday | 1:05 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1
Brad Penny (6-6, 4.50 ERA) vs. Jake Peavy (4-2, 4.83 ERA)

Finally, on this date in 1979 the White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game of twi-night doubleheader against the Tigers when more tha5,000 fans refuse to leave the field during Disco Demolition Night. I wrote about it on the 30th anniversary.

Meet the Kinder, Gentler Kirk Gibson

The next best thing to Kirk Gibson being the Tigers’ manager is watching him lead my local team, the Diamondbacks. He’s getting lots of attention as the Dbacks arrive in camp as 2011 marks his first full season as the club’s skipper.

The focus seems to be on how he and his staff, which includes bench coach Alan Trammell, will shape this relatively young team — Melvin Mora notwithstanding — and emphasize the positive.

In his blog today, the Arizona Republic‘s Nick Piecoro writes about how Gibby is falling in line with the organization’s new fan friendly mindset — specifically, autographs. As one whose autograph requests of Gibson as recently as three years ago (actually it was a photo request at Spring Training; I was wearing a Fungo t-shirt for crying out loud) have been spurned, this interested me:

The Diamondbacks’ daily schedule is posted on video boards in and around the clubhouse, and right there, before the day’s work is complete, is a required task for every player: sign autographs.

Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall loves to call his organization the most fan-friendly in baseball, but it isn’t just the front office that’s on board with the autograph policy.

There’s agreement coming from the manager’s office.

“They’ll sign every day,” Gibson said. “When the catchers are done, they’ll sign. That’s something that’s important.”

Gibson admitted to being “terrible” at signing when he was a young player but said Detroit manager Sparky Anderson convinced him of the importance of treating fans well.

“Sometimes, when we’re young, we think we’re the most important thing about the game,” Gibson said. “The reality of it is, when you leave the game, it just keeps right on going.”

Anderson’s point to Gibson: What happens if the fans leave?

“None of us would be around,” Anderson told him.

“It really is important,” Gibson said. “As good as times are right now, I went through five work stoppages. The last one was 1994 and I remember how the game was after that. We don’t want to destroy that. They’re very important. They’re great human beings and support our game of baseball. They deserve to be treated with respect as well.”

I’m heading over to the Dbacks’ new Spring Training site on Monday to watch some workouts. Do you think Gibby or Tram will agree to a photo for one of their fanboys?

What about you? Do you have any experiences with Gibson or any other big leaguer brushing off your autograph requests?

Today’s Tiger: Jason Thompson

Jason Thompson

  • Born: July 6, 1954 in Hollywood, Calif.
  • Bats: Left Throws: Left
  • Height: 6′ 4″ Weight: 200 lb.
  • Acquired: Drafted by the Tigers in the fourth round of the 1975 amateur draft.
  • Seasons in Detroit: 5 (1976-80)
  • Uniform Number: 30
  • Stats: .256 avg., 98 HR, 354 RBI, .779 OPS
  • Awards: Three-time All Star (1977, ’78 and ’82)

JasonThompson.jpg
On May 27, 1980, Tigers GM Jim Campbell traded my favorite player, first baseman Jason Thompson, to the California Angels for outfielder Al Cowens.

The Hollywood native joined the Tigers full time in 1976 and played 123 games that year, hitting .218, with 17 home runs and 54 RBI. Two of the homers cleared the rightfield roof at Tiger Stadium. It was in 1977, though, that he made his mark: .270, 31 homers and 105 RBI — and earned an All Star Game selection.

Continue reading “Today’s Tiger: Jason Thompson”

Today’s Tiger: Morris Madden

Morris Madden

  • Born: Aug. 31, 1960 in Laurens, S.C.
  • Bats: Left Throws: Left
  • Height: 6′ 0″ Weight: 155 lb.
  • Acquired: Signed as a free agent on Nov. 23, 1985.
  • Seasons in Detroit: 1 (1987)
  • Uniform Number: 42
  • Stats: 0-0, 16.20 ERA, 1.2 IP

MorrisMadden.jpg

Don’t feel bad if you don’t remember Morris Madden‘s mini-career with the Tigers. He pitched just twice for Detroit during the 1987 season and one look at his stats tells you why.

On June 11 versus Milwaukee at Tiger Stadium, he came in during the sixth inning to relieve Eric King (who had relieved starter Jeff Robinson) with the bases loaded and promptly walked Brewers second baseman Jim Gantner. In his one inning of work, he allowed two earned runs and three walks. The Tigers lost the game 8-5.

Robinson’s next start, five days later at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium, the lefty Madden came in to start the fifth inning. The first hitter he faced, Fred McGriff doubled to center, then Garth Iorg grounded out to Alan Trammell, advancing McGriff to third. Tony Fernandez singled, Lloyd Moseby flied out to center, then Jesse Barfield got an infield single. And that was the end of Morris Madden’s Tigers career.

Less than a month later, on Aug. 12, 1987, Madden was sent by the Tigers to the Pirates to complete the Aug. 7, 1987 trade of Darnell Coles for Jim Morrison.

If you’re wondering how he fared with Jim Leyland‘s Pirates, well it depends on the year. In 1988, he appeared in five games, allowed five hits and seven walks in five innings (!) but didn’t allow a run. In ’89, Madden pitched 14 innings across nine games — including three starts — he allowed a stunning 13 walks, 17 hits, 14 runs, 11 earned. Final ERA: 7.07.

On Nov. 21, 1989, he was released by the Pirates and while he pitched for the AAA Albuquerque Dukes in 1990, his major-league career was over.

Hall of Fame Leftovers

BaseballHallofFamelogo.pngSo after all the Hall of Fame ballots were counted, Tigers fans could only take solace in that Jack Morris saw his percentage of votes jump to 53.5 percent. That could bode well for the future but probably not next year.

Anyway, all the debates about whether Morris or Alan Trammell belong in Cooperstown got me wondering who the most-similar players are two these Tigers greats.

Thanks to the invaluable Baseball-Reference.com, we can get a quick look at how a player’s stats compare to others in baseball history.

I decided to look at how Baseball Reference compares Morris, Trammell and the BBWA-voter-shafted Lou Whitaker.

Continue reading “Hall of Fame Leftovers”