The Non-Sequiturs: The Peralta, Sardinha and Pirates Edition

We’re now so far into the Post-Jhonny Peralta Era that we’re starting to talk about his possible, potential and highly unlikely and not improbable return to the Tigers for the last weekend of the season – and presumably the postseason. This whole saga calls to mind a couple of things. First, it’s how fleeting these controversies can be. In the course of five days, the Tigers trade for José Iglesias, keep him warm at third base for a couple of games, watch Peralta get suspended and then … crickets. Or what seemed like crickets.

I’ll admit there have been several game situations in which I wished Peralta was in the lineup, but for the most part it’s bygones. What about you?

The second thing is that when you think about all the things we Detroit fans have endured over the years, we haven’t witnessed a key player at the center of huge MLB-wide story. Think about the occasions when the national spotlight shone on a Tigers player it was,by and large, for positive reasons. Here are the stories that come to mind:

Am I missing anything? I don’t think so.

The last baseball scandal I can remember which remotely approaches Biogenesis is the mid-’80s Pittsburgh cocaine trials, but no Tigers were implicated in that one. But this time, man, the Tigers were in the thick of it. (Unlike when fringy player Exavier Prente “Nook” Logan was named in The Mitchell Report back in 2007, but he was hardly a household name or an essential part of the Tigers future – or present for that matter.)

Even though he’s working out with the Tigers now, I still can’t imagine we’ll see Peralta again in a Tigers uniform. Stranger things have happened, I suppose, but I can’t see the Dombrowski/Leyland Administration brining that level of distraction to the club during a playoff run.

Apropos of nothing:

  • Now, can we talk about Rick Porcello? Actually, I’d rather not; it’s too frustrating. Some other time.
  • I can’t believe I’m writing these words: I wish the Mets were better than they are. This is quite a statement given my deep-seated hatred of those mid-‘80s teams led by Davey Johnson. The only redeeming quality from those clubs was my favorite undervalued Tigers player: Howard Johnson. I always felt like he was the solution to Sparky’s third-base problem but instead, the skipper saw the future at third with Tom BrookensChris PittaroDarnell Coles, Jim Morrison and whomever else they could plug into that spot. And more often than not, it was Brookens. Where was I going with this? Oh, yeah, the Mets. Never mind.
  • If the Tigers’ current situation leaves you unsettled, contrast it with last year’s Sept. 10 dilemma: they were three games back of the White Sox. A 5.5-game lead over a flawed Indians club works better for me.
  • I was glad to see Tony Paul’s article last week on how this team is not the 2009 Tigers – and it’s not simply because there’s no Dane Sardinha, no Zach Miner, no Fu-Te Ni. This team just doesn’t have the feel of a club that will cool along with the September temperatures. Am I wrong? (Just for fun, look back on some of the names on that ’09 roster. Oy.)
  • Don’t look now but thanks to his four-hit night on Tuesday Alex Avila is hitting .221.

Finally, speaking of Pittsburgh: congratulations to the Pirates and their fans on a long-deserved winning season. Pittsburgh officially might have suffered more years of losing baseball than Detroit fans, but we’ll always have this on them and any other awful team: 2003.

Armando Galarraga Blows His Top

Armando Galarraga, who's surrendered a major-league high 13 home runs this season, is 0-4 with a 5.95 ERA in his last five starts with the D-backs.

If nothing else, baseball writers will always have Armando Galarraga‘s near-perfect game to compare and contrast against every starting assignment as long as he’s in the majors.

Case in point: last night’s game story in the Arizona Republic:

Last June 2, in a regrettable, unforgettable moment, he was robbed of a perfect game when first-base umpire Jim Joyce made an incorrect call with two outs in the ninth inning.

Galarraga handled that disappointment with the utmost class and was praised for the dignity he showed in doing so.

How would he respond after Monday night’s performance, when he was rocked once again, this time in the form of an 8-4 loss to the visiting San Diego Padres that dropped the Diamondbacks into last place in the NL West?

Answer: Not very well.

His spot in the starting rotation already a question mark, Galarraga lost his composure and got loud and emotional during a brief, postgame interview.

Asked if he was concerned about losing his spot, he went off.

“No. Why would I worry?” Galarraga said, his voice rising. “Is there something I have to worry about? . . . Why don’t we talk about it at the end of the season? I don’t count five starts.”

(snip)

Galarraga wasn’t in the mood to talk about anything and he became confrontational with one reporter who simply asked the pitcher about his disappointment level.

“I’m disappointed for this start, not for the rest of the season,” Galarraga said, bristling. “What are you talking about? . . . What are you talking about my next start, huh? What are you saying, that I’m going to be worried about my next start? Huh?

“You saying I lost my job?”

Easy, big fella. Keep it classy.

Writer Bob McManaman points out in the piece that even though Galarraga won his first three starts of the season, his ERA was 6.00. All in all, not a great start to 2011 — and likely not a great finish, either.

But back to last night’s start. How would D-backs manager Kirk Gibson summarize it?

“He didn’t pitch very well at all,” Gibson said. “He didn’t set a very good tone for us. Really didn’t have much tonight at all. No location. . . . Just didn’t have a good performance at all.”

Fortunately for Galarraga, the D-backs aren’t brimming with pitching depth so they’re likely to ride it out with him for a while. Which is, as Tigers fans can attest, unfortunate for Gibby and the dozens of D-backs fans.

Monday Mankowskis: Boredom City, Florida

PhilMankowski77I know it’s early, but it seems to me this is one boring Tigers Spring Training.

For all intents and purposes, there’s no drama to speak of with most of the coverage focusing on the prospects that are shining in Lakeland.

But here are some of the things that stand out for yours truly:

  • If there’s one player that makes me uneasy heading into the regular season, it’s Alex Avila. In reading Lynn Henning’s Sunday’s A-to-Z review of Tigers so far this spring, he says this:

    He’ll hit. But it’s OK to wonder when he’ll drive the ball the way he did during his 2009 cameo.

    This is the first time since, when?, 2003 that the Tigers have a question mark — or something close to it — at catcher. Once Pudge Rodriguez left town, the club brought in Gerald Laird and he was, well, not the answer. But we all thought he’d start hitting somewhere close to where he did in Texas (at least against the Tigers, that is.)

    Certainly having Victor Martinez around will make the catching corps dramatically less frightful, but still, aren’t the Tigers placing an awful lot of faith in a guy who isn’t long out of college? What do you think?

  • I forgot to mention, or at least I think I did, when I went to watch the Diamondbacks train a couple of weeks ago, I got to see Armando Galarraga get racked in batting practice. Moments before that, I got close enough to talk to him through the fence and told him that we love him in Detroit. He said, “Thanks, man, I appreciate it.” He may not be the most devastating pitcher in the bigs, but a nice guy? That, he is.

  • On March 7, 1965, Tigers manager Chuck Dressen suffered a mild coronary occlusion. He was sidelined until May 19. Coach Bob Swift served as acting manager in the meantime, And on this date in 2000, the Tigers acquired cash from the Royals for catcher Gregg Zaun. Opting instead to go with the stud backup catcher that was Javier Cardona. Zaun hit .274 in K.C. — 99 points higher than Cardona.

    Another Randy Smith gem.

  • One of the reasons I like Jim Leyland so much is his deep history with the Tigers organization. He was the first manager of many players that were on the 1984 championship team. In this piece in Sunday’s Freep, we learn a bit about his relationship with one of my favorites, Jack Morris:

    [Leyland] said Jack Morris was as temperamental as they come.

    “You’ve got to be careful that you don’t take something away that’s a strong suit,” Leyland said. “But you can’t let a pitcher continue like a bull in a china shop.”

    Leyland managed Morris in the minors.

    “I stayed on top of Jack pretty good,” Leyland said. “He handled it well. We have a great relationship even today. I’m proud of that.

  • How’s Nate Robertson doing with the Mariners, you ask? Check out this headline to uncover the answer.

Finally, my apologies for the long stretch without a post. I’ve never wanted to post just for the sake of posting — you deserve better than that.

More to come this week.

Wednesday Walewanders: This, That, The Other

SpaghettiI would have posted these items sooner today but I’ve been consumed by the game Word with Friends on my iPad and iPhone. Who knew a Scrabblesque game could be so darn addictive?

  • I was going to write about how Michael Young‘s contract with the Rangers spurred the Tigers to sign Carlos Guillen — and fast — during the 2007 season. As often happens, Ian beat me to it and no doubt did a better job.
  • Who would you rather have in the bullpen: Enrique Gonzalez or Chad Durbin? Me too. The good news? Durbin’s available. Bad news, the Tigers won’t go after him.

    Wait, you chose Gonzalez? Never mind.

  • Staying with the former Tigers pitchers theme for a moment, Mark Simon at ESPN’s Stats and Info Blog looked deeper into Armando Galarraga‘s struggles in 2010 and what he needs to do with the Dbacks in ’11 to get back to his ’08 — yes, ’08 — performance:

    Our Inside Edge video review data shows that his 90-mile-per-hour fastball got swings and misses six percent of the time, among the lowest rates in baseball.

    When he threw a sinking fastball, he actually had more balls hit in the air than on the ground (the opposite of the desired result)

    When Galarraga threw his slider and an opponent made contact, he allowed a hit 35 percent of the time, well above the league norm (right-handed hitters in particular, had a lot of success against it). He also ranked among the major league leaders in home runs allowed by right-handers on breaking pitches, with 10, twice as many as he allowed two seasons earlier.

    At least he won’t frustrate Tigers fans anymore.

  • You might have heard that after a few years off, Maple Street Press will be publishing a Tigers annual, cleverly titled Tigers Annual 2011. You’ll see lots of familiar names in the table of contents including yours truly. Kurt from Bless You Boys edited the project. I contributed a piece on the 1961 Tigers, a club that won 101 games but didn’t win the pennant. The book won’t be published until next month but you can order a copy here.
  • Six years ago today the Tigers picked up Kyle Farnsworth and cash considerations from the Cubs for RHP Roberto Novoa, infielder Scott Moore and outfielder Bo Flowers.

Finally, Happy Birthday to the biggest Tigers fan in my family, my Dad.

Galarraga Arrives a Hero in Arizona

Armando Galarraga, according to this headline, appears to be a popular Diamondbacks player already, which is relative, of course.

In this city, fans are more likely to know the Suns’ 12th man than the Dbacks’ fifth starter. But columnist Dan Bickley says Galarraga’s reaction to the blown call and the aftermath could make him “the most popular losing pitcher in baseball history.”

Here’s a sampling of Bickley’s column in yesterday’s Arizona Republic:

Though he’s only 23-26 as a starter, Galarraga enjoys a lofty reputation among baseball fans. He is viewed as a professional athlete with a heart, a player who can step out of his world and walk in someone else’s shoes. He credits his parents for teaching him to step back and cool off “when something is going wrong, when something makes you want to scream.”

(snip)

Question is, will we love Galarraga in the coming months? That’s hard to say. He will compete for a spot in the starting rotation, and many baseball observers aren’t convinced he’ll ever morph into an impact starter. Still, if his command is as good as his self-control, he has a fighting chance. And he’s very happy for a fresh start, for the chance to throw a perfect game in the National League.

“I’m very excited. I can’t wait to hit. I really like Arizona. That’s a great stadium for pitching,” Galarraga said.

Of course, he’s dead wrong about Chase Field, which is notoriously friendly to hitters. That’s OK. We’ll forgive him. It’s the least we can do.

I’m still not convinced that Dbacks’ manager Kirk Gibson won’t be infuriated by Galarraga’s lack of aggressiveness. I guess we’ll see.

Tuesday Tananas: Greenberg, Anderson and Timo Time

With about a month to go before pitchers and catchers arrive in Lakeland, here are some various and sundry Tigers items to keep you warm as you wait:

  • On this date in 1947, the Tigers sold All-Star first baseman Hank Greenberg to the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1946, Greenberg led the American League with 44 home runs and 127 RBI, but slumped to 25 home runs and 74 RBI with the Pirates — though today that would be worth $12 million per year. Greenberg retired after the 1947 season.
  • A Matt Anderson comeback? Ian says it’s so.
  • Fresh off the Brad Penny signing — and before Armando Galarraga avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal of his own — we asked how Galarraga fits into the Tigers’ pitching staff. Here’s what the voters said:

    • Spot starter and long reliever in the bullpen (60%, 272 Votes)
    • Still in the Tigers’ rotation. (25%, 115 Votes)
    • Some other team. (15%, 68 Votes)

    UPDATE: Moments after I posted this, I saw that the Tigers designated Galarraga for assignment. Discuss.

  • Speaking of starting pitchers, am I the only one surprised that Jeremy Bonderman has generated so little interest this offseason? I thought he’d at least get a minor-league deal with someone — maybe his hometown Mariners. So far, though, no bites. In his Sunday notes column, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo identifies a couple possible suitors for Bondo.
  • How did I miss the news that Timo Perez is back in the Tigers organization? As the Toledo Blade’s terrific Mud Hens blog points out, the Tigers didn’t invite Perez to spring training which nixes his chances of playing time in Detroit.
  • Depending on how the Tigers’ Opening Day roster shapes up, Timo Time could end up in Toledo or perhaps Double-A Erie. At 37, why would he want to ride the buses in minor leagues? To paraphrase Joe Riggins, manager of the fictional Durham Bulls: “Because he can keep comin’ to the ballpark and keep gettin’ paid to do it.”

Speaking of Crash Davis, today’s the birthday of Kevin Costner. He’s 56.