The Daily Breakfast: July 17, 2011

Good Sunday Morning. How are you enjoying the growing number of Tigers trade rumors? First Ubaldo Jimenez, now Derek Lowe. In this update on the ESPN.com Rumors blog, they float Magglio Ordonez or Casper Wells as pieces going to Atlanta in a potential deal.

Leading Off: What’s the worst part of the Tigers two-game skid?

A) It smells like last year when they were swept by the Indians to start the second half.

B) They’ve lost six of their last eight series.

C) It comes at the hands of the White Sox.

D) A two-game losing streak is cause for concern?

Yeah, it could be all the above. Let’s add another one: they were blanked by Edwin Jackson. Jeez … On the bright side, Carlos Guillen returned to the lineup after 11 months and went one for three … From the AP story: “It’s a tough injury,” Guillen said. “Sometimes you feel good for one week, and the next day you’re sore. Right now, I’m at the point where I’ve been playing 15, 20 days in a row, and I feel good every day.” … Hey, speaking of second baseman, look who broke out of an 0-for-18 slump with a game-winning hit.

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The Tigers are in second place, one game behind the Indians.

Today’s game: Brad Penny (6-6, 4.50 ERA) vs. Phil Humber (8-5, 3.10 ERA) | 1:05 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1

There are 14 days left until the July 31 trade deadline.

Fifty years ago today, following a year-long illness, Ty Cobb died at age 74 in Atlanta.

On this date in 2000, the Tigers acquired outfielder Dusty Allen from the Padres for infielder Gabe Alvarez. In 1989 they traded outfielder Billy Bean to the Dodgers for outfielders Domingo Michel and Steve Green. Way back in 1942, they acquired righty Jack Wilson from the Senators for infielder Eric McNair (McNair refused to report).
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Around the Central: The Orioles did their best to blow it but somehow they held on to beat the Indians, 6-5 and end their eight-game losing streak. In Minneapolis, the Twins beat the Royals, 4-3.

A-Jax Still Hurting: Austin Jackson has missed the past five games with a sore wrist and seems likely to miss today’s game too. Speculation here is that if Jackson goes on the disabled list, Clete Thomas might be first in line for a call up. It sure would be nice to see ol’ Clete back in Detroit.

For Me, It was the Jason Thompson Trade: This blog post in the New York Times asks a terrific question: When Did You Lose Your Fan ‘Innocence’?

As we are constantly reminded, major league sports are, at heart, a business. Many personnel decisions are based on dollars and cents, not legacies and fan favorites, and it is often the fans who take these decisions the hardest.

What about you? What trade hurt you the most (and it doesn’t have to be a Tigers player)? Or maybe it was a work stoppage or something else.

Finally, Happy 94st Birthday to Phyllis Diller. Yes, she’s still alive.

Pondering a Mid-Week Pounding

Thinking ManI’ve never been fond of that old baseball chestnut, attributed to long-time Orioles manager Earl Weaver, “Momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher”, but how else can you characterize the atrocities at Comerica Park this week?

Fresh off a once-in-a-millennium sweep of the White Sox, the Tigers, well, got smoked by the lowly Mariners thanks to three more or less devastating pitch performances. Smoked.

There were so many moments and plays during this series that could’ve turned a game in Detroit’s favor but went the other way — big time.

If I had to choose the turning point in the series, it had to be the top of the fifth in game one on Tuesday night. The Tigers clawed back to tie the game at three — a major hurdle when facing Felix Hernandez — only to watch Phil Coke hand the lead and the game back to the Mariners by allowing four runs.

Talk about a momentum killer.

And then there were the errors: five in three games, four on Wednesday alone.

And, how about that bruising top three spots in the lineup for Thursday’s finale? Austin Jackson, Ramon Santiago and Magglio Ordonez amassed an average of .180. In fact, five players in Thursday’s lineup finished the game with an average of .200 or lower.

And, how about Ryan Raburn’s performance — any facet you choose?

Right now, things look bleak for the Tigers’ offensively and it appears they now lack any momentum.

Then again, tomorrow’s starting pitcher is the Indians’ Jeanmar Gomez, whose record is 0-1, 7.36.

Maybe I like that old adage after all.

Identity Crisis

The best teams in any sport have an identity.

Even the teams who do everything well, that’s their identity.

The Tigers don’t have one. They’ve won and lost games with pitching. They’ve won and lost games with hitting. They’ve won and lost games with defense. For now, they don’t know who they are, and, if they don’t develop something soon, something like the Giants did last year, it’s going to be terminal.

Continue reading Identity Crisis

Monday Mankowskis: Optimism, Jackson’s Woes and Bonus Baseball Cards

This is one of those rare and delightful days of spring in which I get to flip back and forth between a Tigers West Coast game and a Wings playoff game. April in the D, indeed.

  • It’s always interesting to see how even a small winning streak can stir optimism among Tigers faithful. To wit: this past weekend’s series in Oakland. Buoyed by wins in the first two games, I was completely confident the Tigers could — would! — come back in Saturday night and Sunday games. A week prior (against the Royals at home) I had no such optimism. All in all I’m feeling good about their chances in Seattle, and not just because they’ll miss Felix Hernandez.
  • On a tangentially related topic, we’ve taken a few jabs this week at Fungo Intergalactic Headquarters over a perceived sense of doom and gloom expressed by yours truly and my profound lack of wisdom. I don’t pretend to have an always-objective (or even rational) view of the Tigers and my opinions on specific players (Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, Will Rhymes) seem to irk Fungo readers. If you’ve read this site over the past six years, you know I view this as an outlet to discuss the Tigers and consider it a single point in time — that is, Raburn, for example, might drive me nuts with his iron-gloved D, but I’ll give him his due when he earns it. (As of this writing, Raburn is hitting .231 and 1 for 4 in the game against the Mariners.)
  • What to do about Austin Jackson? You have to wonder how long the Tigers will let his numbers and confidence nosedive, especially with Casper Wells sitting on the bench as a capable replacement, before they send him to Toledo. Sure, Wells is hitting just .250 but that’s 90 points higher than Jackson. Don’t the Tigers have to at least consider, even if only for a couple of weeks, providing Jackson with a mind-clearing session or two with Mud Hens’ hitting coach Leon Durham?
  • I suppose you have to think that if Jackson heads south on 75 then Rhymes can’t be too far behind, not with Scott Sizemore hitting .375 for the Hens.
  • A friend at work has been sending me home with boxes and binders filled with her husband’s baseball card collection. He collected them as a kid but never really had much affinity for the cards or baseball in general. So, they’re leaving it up to me and my friend Len Gutman to sift through the cards — most of them from 1984 through 1993 — and see if there’s anything of value. My reward? In addition to the joy of a trip down memory lane, I’m able to keep any Tigers cards I find in the collection. So far I’m making out like a bandito. My coworker’s hubby isn’t making out too poorly either; so far he’s got two Barry Bonds rookie cards and one Pudge Rodriguez card. More to come on this gold mine.

Finally, in addition to Miguel Cabrera, today’s the birthday of Rick Moranis. He’s 58.

2010: The Year in Lists

2011Calendar.jpgA year ago, we were still stinging from Game 163 and not certain how the Tigers would respond to a crushing end to the 2009 season. Would they regress to 2008’s disappointment or regroup to erase the memory of the ’09 collapse?

The answer was: they’d be relevant. And that, ladies in gentlemen, is the extent of the analysis in this post. Instead of a deep dive into 2010, let’s look at the year in the form of randomly selected lists:

2010 At A Glance*

  • Record: 81-81, 3rd in American League Central, 13 games back of Minnesota
  • Days in First: 13, the last on July 10
  • Biggest Lead: 1, last on July 7
  • Farthest Behind: 15.5 on Sept. 15
  • Most Games over .500: 11, last on July 10
  • Most Games under .500: 5, last on Aug. 19
  • Longest Winning Streak: 7, June 11-18
  • Longest Losing Streak: 7, July 11-20
  • Most Runs Allowed: 15, June 9
  • Most Runs Scored: 13, Aug. 15
  • Longest Game (innings): 14, July 19
  • Times Shutout by Opponent: 10
  • Times Opponent Shutout: 5

Continue reading 2010: The Year in Lists

Tuesday Tananas: A-Jax, Bondo and Joe Isuzu

bananas.jpgI just couldn’t see the Tigers making a move for Dan Uggla and hoped, quite frankly, that they wouldn’t. The added power behind Miguel Cabrera certainly would’ve been nice but not in the form of another righthanded bat. I’m willing to wait and see what Dave Dombrowski has up his sleeve.

Until then, here are some notable notes from around the Web:

  • If you want one more Sparky Anderson photo gallery, ESPN.com is happy to oblige.

  • Austin Jackson, in the eyes of Ian and many others got robbed on Monday when he finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. His catch during Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game should’ve cinched for him.

  • The 1934 Detroit Tigers infield tonight was featured in a new episode of MLB Network’s Prime 9: Infields. If you missed it this evening, fret not, MLB Network airs its Prime 9 series almost on the hour in the offseason. The ’34 Tigers will be ranked alongside other infields, including the ’13 Athletics, ’27 Giants, ’75 Reds and ’99 Mets. As always, check your local listings.

  • Where will Jeremy Bonderman end up in 2011? As we learned at the end of this season, there’s an outside chance that he’ll return to the Tigers. Not every team can afford Cliff Lee, which means you’d think someone like Bonderman would be an attractive and affordable option. Nosing around online I found two potential suitors: the Pirates (story here) and the Padres (story).

  • On Wednesday night I’ll be taking in my first Arizona Fall League game of the year — and likely the last seeing as the season ends on Saturday. I won’t be watching Tigers prospects though. Nope. I’ll be watching the Scottsdale Scorpions and Nationals’ phenom Bryce Harper. I don’t like what I read about this kid but what the hey? When am I ever going to see him again for just $5?

Finally, Happy 60th Birthday to actor David Leisure, a.k.a., Joe Isuzu.

Two for Tuesday: The Good and the Ugly

Number2.jpgCourtesy of Elias Sports Bureau:

Will Rhymes hit his first major-league home run for the Tigers on Monday, making him the seventh Detroit rookie to hit a homer this season, joining Alex Avila, Brennan Boesch, Austin Jackson, Alex Avila, Casper Wells and Danny Worth. No other major-league team has gotten homers from as many as seven different rookies this season.

And this one, tangentially related to the Tigers:

The Pirates swept a three-game series from the Diamondbacks despite entering Friday night’s series opener with a 48-98 record. Over the last 30 seasons (since 1980) only two other teams swept a series of at least three games after beginning that series at least 50 games below .500. The Royals (48-99) won four in a row against the Tigers under those circumstances in 2005 and the Nationals (52-103) swept a three-game set from the Mets last September.

By the way, today’s Bill Murray‘s 60th birthday.

Here Comes Jim Joyce! (Big Whoop)

UmpStrikeCalledXSmall.jpgIs this news?

I don’t think so. A curiosity, maybe. But umpire Jim Joyce returning to Comerica Park for the first time since June reminds me of the hullabaloo around pitchers fielding practice on the first day of Spring Training 2007.

There will be lots of cameras clicking, more than a few replays of the infamous call at first base and some Baseball Tonight footage that packages the blown call, the outrage and the lineup card exchange love fest the following day. But, hopefully, this will be the extent of the coverage.

Thinking back today on the initial reaction to Armando Galarraga losing a perfect game, it seems pretty overdone.

I’m the first to admit that I immediately thought Bud Selig should’ve overturned the call and that Joyce should not be allowed to umpire the series finale the following day. But the death threats and crank calls to Joyce’s home — or, in many cases, the crank calls to the wrong Jim Joyce — was not baseball fans’ finest hour.

Three months later, I prefer to think of Austin Jackson’s dazzling ninth-inning catch than anything else that happened that day.

But that’s me. What do you think?

Tuesday Tananas: Fred Lynn, Ted Power and Don Draper

bananas.jpgIs it just me or were there a lot of Aug. 31 trades made back in the day? Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s it seemed that Oakland was always adding a big name at the deadline — Willie McGee, Ruben Sierra, Harold Baines. Just asking.

Weekend Wrap: Adios, Interleague

outside.jpgWe knew that the interleague schedule would catch up to the Tigers at some point.

After losing two of three to the Dodgers way back in May, the Tigers ran roughshod over the dregs of the National League. Against the Pirates, Nationals and Diamondbacks, Detroit won eight of nine.

This past week the Tigers crashed back to reality while facing the top two clubs in the National League East. After losing two of three in New York, the Tigers needed to reverse that outcome in Atlanta to make it a .500 trip. Unlike the series at Citi Field, the Tigers were in every game against the Braves thanks to stellar pitching — and despite an often-dormant offense.

Continue reading Weekend Wrap: Adios, Interleague