2012 Top 10 Stories: #1 – Miguel Cabrera’s Monster Season

How thick is the lens in a pair of Oakley sunglasses? I don’t own the instruments to determine the precise measurement but I think it’s safe to say thick enough to not only protect Miguel Cabrera‘s eye but sturdy enough to save his season, possibly his career, and almost assuredly make a Triple Crown season possible.

imagescabrerahead.jpgIn my lifetime, the Tigers haven’t had a player like Cabrera – or anyone close  for that matter. Even the best players I grew up watching Jason Thompson, Steve Kemp, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish, Kirk Gibson and Cecil Fielder, rarely assembled a season in any one offensive category that compares to what Cabrera did in three of the biggest in 2012.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a rundown of the countless ways he demolished major-league pitching (courtesy of the Tigers postseason media notes). Cabrera:

  • Led the American League with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI to become the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski did so in 1967. It marked the 14th time since 1900 a player captured the Triple Crown and Cabrera is the 12th player to accomplish the feat during that time. He’s the second Tigers player to do so, joining Ty Cobb (1909). He also joined Cobb by winning the A.L. batting title for the second straight season. The Peach did it in three straight seasons, from 1917-19.
  • Topped the American League with 377 total bases, 84 extra-base hits and a .606 slugging percentage, while he finished second with 109 runs scored and 205 hits, fourth with a .393 on-base percentage and seventh with 40 doubles.
  • Became the first Tigers player to connect for 40-or-more home runs in a season since Cecil Fielder hit 44 in 1991. It marks the 10th time in club history a Tigers player has hit 40-or-more home runs in a season and Cabrera is the sixth player in franchise history to do so. What’s more, he became the first player in Tigers history to belt 30-or-more home runs in five straight seasons.
  • Collected 139 RBI during the season, marking the fifth straight season he has posted 100-or-more RBI for the Tigers – he became only the third player in Tigers history to collect 100-or-more RBI in at least five straight seasons. Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann drove in 100-or-more runs in seven straight seasons (1923-29), and Charlie Gehringer did so in five straight seasons (1932-36).
  • Finished with 40 doubles and 44 home runs during the season, joining Hank Greenberg as the only two players in Tigers history to collect 40-or-more doubles and 40-or-more home runs during the same season. Greenberg accomplished the feat for Detroit in both 1937 and 1940.
  • Knocked 205 hits during the season, marking the first time he has finished with 200-or-more hits during a season – he became the 21st player in Tigers history to collect 200-or-more hits during a season.
  • Recorded 377 total bases during the season, marking the fifth straight season he has posted 300-or-more total bases for the Tigers – he became the first player in club history to post 300-or-more total bases in five consecutive seasons.

To the chagrin of many, this not only added up to a Triple Crown, it was the case for Cabrera winning the A.L. Most Valuable Player Award. His 2012 season might never be duplicated by a Tigers player – unless Cabrera himself matches it. For me, regardless of whether his award-winning season was universally acclaimed, it was thrilling to watch day in and day out and it is easily the top Tigers story in 2012.

And to think if not for a thin plastic lens we might not have witnessed it at all.

The Top 10 Stories of 2012

My Trip to Cooperstown: Part 2

It took all of the second day in Cooperstown to make it through the balance of the Museum – and it did not disappoint. There’s so much I could write about but I think the photos I posted on TigersHistory.com tell the tale more vividly. Yet, one dimension in particular stands out and deserves a few words: the detail of the Museum.

Here I am in the exhibit recognizing the Tigers clubs from the 1980s. Though he’s not represented in the Hall of Fame, I was delighted to see my man Jack Morris in the Museum. Same for Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker and the rest of the ’84 champs.

The Museum is rooted in the minutiae of baseball and the memories these otherwise mundane objects evoke. You’d expect to see artifacts from Hank Aaron’s chase for the Babe, Nolan Ryan’s seven no-hitters and Rickey Henderson’s stolen base exploits. But it’s the other stuff that held me rapt. For example:

  • The cornerstone from Ebbets Field
  • The wall panel from Tiger Stadium’s deepest reaches – the 440-foot mark
  • A deep-blue leather jacket from the Philadelphia Athletics
  • The rotating thingy that sat atop the centerfield scoreboard at old Comiskey Park
  • A scorebook from a Tigers/Indians game from the early 1970s
  • The shoes worn by Hall of Fame National League umpire Doug Harvey in his final game in 1992

And so much more. Of course, there was lot of Tigers miscellany, some curious of not outright dubious.

For example, in the Tigers locker, part of the Today’s Game exhibit, you’ll find the hat worn by Luis Pujols when he managed against the Royals’ Tony Pena in June 2002. It marked the first time managers from the Dominican Republic faced each other. The fact someone has that on their radar and thinks to make contact ahead of time with the Royals and Tigers is astounding and impressive.

Also in the Museum is the hat worn by Octavio Dotel on April 7 when he appeared in a game for his record-setting 13th different club.

In a way it’s cool that these items are in Cooperstown, but these two names representing the Tigers with Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Hal Newhouser, Mickey Cochrane, George
Kell
and Al Kaline? Kind of a joke, I thought. But the more I considered it, the more I appreciated that the seemingly minor and mostly forgotten stories of people like Pujols and Dotel shape the narrative and history of baseball.

I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

As we departed for the grueling drive back to Detroit I wondered when I’d get back to Cooperstown. Chances are it won’t be soon.

Until that time, I’ll be keeping a more watchful eye on the historical aspects as they happen and cherish a trip of a lifetime with my Dad, brother and brothers in law.

Friday Night Morsels

breadcrumbs.jpgThis week is the big Barrett-Jackson classic car auction here in Scottsdale and while I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a car guy, I find myself riveted to the coverage. Every year I watch and ask the same questions about the buyers: Who are these people and where do they get their money?

But anyway …

  • On this date in 1993, Tigers Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer died at the age of 89 in Bloomfield Hills, one month after suffering a stroke. During a 19-year career in Detroit, the Mechanical Man posted a .320 batting average with 184 home runs and 1427 RBI. In 1937, he led the American League with a .371 average. Check out Gehringer’s Hall of Fame page here.

  • On this date in 2000, the Tigers signed free agent pitcher Hideo Nomo to a one-year contract. Nomo’s agent had declined a multi-year contract with the Brewers, expecting more on the open market. Shrewd.

  • Yesterday former Tigers outfielder Gus Zernial passed away at age 87. Jay Jaffe at FutilityInfielder.com shares this tidbit about the man nicknamed “Ozark Ike”:

    For a long time Zernial held the distinction of hitting the most homers for a player whose last name ends in the letter Z with 237, but Todd Zeile passed him in 2003 while playing for the Yankees, hitting a homer off the Red Sox Bruce Chen. In 1951, Zernial and Al Zarilla did team up to form the first outfield with two players with the last name starting with Z, so there’s still that.

    Also, he’s one of six players in Tigers history with a last name beginning with Z.

Finally, Happy 30th Birthday to Wil Ledezma, the winning pitcher of the 2006 pennant-clinching game. Here’s a little nugget that I uncovered today about Ledezma:

[He] holds one very obscure all-time record: the most consecutive starts of six innings or fewer: … At the end of the 2006 season, he had made 31 straight starts with six or fewer innings. The previous record had been 28, by Scott Elarton.

Who knew?

Enjoy your weekend.

Today’s Tiger: Richie Hebner

Richie Hebner

  • Born: Nov. 26, 1947 in Boston
  • Acquired: Traded by the Mets to the Tigers for Phil Mankowski and Jerry Morales on Oct. 31, 1979.
  • Seasons in Detroit: Parts of three seasons (1980-82)
  • Uniform Number: 2
  • Stats: .267 avg., 25 HR, 128 RBI, .769 OPS

Richie Hebner didn’t swing at the baseball as much as he chopped at it. That hacker’s cut was, the Tigers thought, an ideal fit for Tiger Stadium’s right field porch. It also served him well in the offseason when he dug graves in the Boston area.

According to the Associated Press story on the trade that brought Hebner to Detroit in October 1979, the Detroit acquired him for his punch:

“We’re really pleased to get somebody like Richie,” a Tigers spokesman said. “He’ll give us some power hitting we need.”

Power? Richie Hebner?

He came from the Mets where in 1979, his only season in New York, he hit just 10 homers. Keep in mind, no matter what Hebner did offensively in 1980, he’d be an upgrade over the featherweight hitting of Aurelio Rodriguez who hit only five homers in ’79. But by June of the 1980 season, Hebner was playing mostly at first base, replacing a true power hitter, Jason Thompson who was inexplicably traded to the Angels in May.

Continue reading “Today’s Tiger: Richie Hebner”

Tigers Today: June 12, 2010

Tigers’ Record:

31-29, 2nd place, 4.5 GB of Minnesota

Today’s Game

Tigers vs. Pirates | 7:05 p.m. ET – Comerica Park | On the air: FSD/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Pitching Matchup

Jeremy Bonderman (2-4, 4.40 ERA) vs. LHP Paul Maholm (4-4, 3.80 ERA)

Yesterday’s Results

Tigers 6 – Pirates 2

Continue reading “Tigers Today: June 12, 2010”

Tigers Today: May 27, 2010

Tigers’ Record: 25-21, 2nd place; 1 GB Minnesota

Today’s Game

Off day

Yesterday’s Results

Mariners 5 – Tigers 4

Tigers History Lesson

Today’s Birthdays

On this Date in Tigers History

Non-Sequiturs: Winter Caravan Memories

Tigers thoughts while listening to a pounding rain:
Caravan Logo_1.jpg

  • I attended the Tigers Winter Caravan one time, in 1991 when I was living in Kalamazoo and had some connections with the local paper. Back then, only the media was invited. Or so I thought. I walked into a Kalamazoo hotel and saw dozens of fans asking for autographs from the players and Sparky Anderson.

    If memory serves me, Cecil Fielder was there. Recently signed Tony Bernazard was too. This I remember because I asked Sparky during the Q&A how he’d work Bernazard into the lineup without Tony Phillips losing at bats. The answer was classic Sparky and basically amounted to: “I have no idea but Tony is Tony and we’ll be all right.” Uh, yeah. (Bernazard was released in April after playing in just six games and hitting .167).

    The real story that winter was the recent firing of Ernie Harwell and, lo and behold, new Tigers President Bo Schembechler was on hand to answer questions about it. As you might guess, Bo was not happy with the first round of reporters’ questions being about Ernie and not the team. After that, he said he wouldn’t answer other questions on the topic and though people tried, he wouldn’t bite — other than to bite their head off for even asking.

    It was a great experience. If you get an opportunity to attend a Winter Caravan event, do it.

    Continue reading “Non-Sequiturs: Winter Caravan Memories”