Monday Night Lite

MondayReport.jpgMOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Checking in from the land of Google and Apple, on the border of Mountain View and Cupertino, Calif.:

  • It’s a shame that I read the USA Today only when I’m traveling, as I am today. There’s usually one or two outstanding pieces in each edition and this morning proved it: a feature on the Tigers by Bob Nightengale.

  • Juan Rincon, a victim of a roster numbers game last month — we’re looking at you, Nate Robertson, has been recalled by the Rockies from Triple-A Colorado Springs. Embrace the humidor, Senor. (Oh, and now that the Rox have run off a late-2007-like streak recently, do we all feel a tad better about them taking two of three from the Tigers? Didn’t think so.)

  • He might not chuck it as hard as Ryan Perry, but it’s close enough and I, for one, am glad Freddy Dolsi‘s back.

  • Did you happen to catch this nastygram from Ken Rosenthal about the Tigers benching Magglio Ordonez? The zingers about Gary Sheffield are amusing but I don’t think anyone in the Tigers front office regrets the decision to cut him loose. And for what it’s worth, I hope that Ordonez finds his stroke soon and that he doesn’t wind up on the Red Sox, poking homers over The Green Monster at Fenway.

  • Speaking of hitters, here are the results of our most recent Fungo Pulse Check poll. The question: Which of These Sluggers Should the Tigers Go After?

    • Matt Holliday: 35% (12 votes)
    • Brad Hawpe: 32% (11 votes)
    • Adam Dunn: 29% (10 votes)
    • Jeff Francouer: 3% (1 vote)
    • Carlos Lee: bupkis

    Be sure to vote in our new poll, available in the sidebar –>

  • Finally, I didn’t weigh in on the Jim Leyland extension when it happened: I believe it came a few weeks too late, but I’m delighted that he re-upped. I don’t want to see the Tigers become the Verizon Wireless of Major League Baseball, with a new manager every two years or so. (If anyone should’ve been shown the door as a result of this clunky roster, it should’ve been [should be?] Dave Dombrowski.)

Have a great week.

The Monday Report: 2 Weeks to Go

MondayReport.jpg>> The winds were howling here in Phoenix on Sunday — 45 m.p.h. gusts, dust galore, burning contact lenses — and I was thankful that I wasn’t sitting at a Cactus League game (something I don’t often say). But then I saw this story and had deep regret. Fifteen homers?!

>> So Freddy Dolsi got sent out of big-league camp yesterday. As we watched last season crater, I kept thinking that Dolsi’s experience would benefit him in the long run. Sending him to Triple-A to start this season makes sense. Get him into some pressurized situations in the IL and he could be a nice addition when the bullpen needs reinforcements.

>> Former Tigers farmhand James Skelton continues to get ink in the Phoenix paper about his attempts to make the Diamondbacks as a Rule 5 selection. Arizona is trying to make Skelton — a “card trick connoisseur” according to the piece — a utility player, or so it appears.

>> Every year I pickup The Sporting News‘ baseball preview issue and every year I realize I learned nothing new or different than what I gleaned from off-season reading on the Web. This year, however, I’m singing a different tune. It’s not half bad. In an effort to cram the pages to look like a CNBC feed, TSN added a blurb about each team’s best-ever third baseman. Here’s who they selected for the Tigers:

  1. George Kell
  2. Aurelio Rodriguez
  3. Don Wert

Other than Kell, that sure is some slim pickin’s. (Tom Brookens can’t get an Honorable Mention?) And just imagine if the Tigers had held onto Howard Johnson. Methinks he’s be number one. And to think Chris Brown didn’t make this list.

>> This should be a more offensive — offensive, that is — week in Lakeland for the Tigers. For the first time since who know when they’ll have the complete lineup. I doubt we’ll see anymore no-hitters (or shutouts) this Spring.

Friday Fungoes: New Year’s Style

imageswoodbats.jpgIt’s not often I go a full week without posting something here at the The Daily Fungo but there were circumstances beyond my control, namely my computer. It went kaput in December and only after the most drastic of all measures — erasing the hard drive and starting over — was I able to resuscitate it…until Monday. I knew that a grinding sound coming from a car was bad, but from a MacBook Pro? That’s even worse.

So, here I am working on a — gasp! — PC trying to get some stuff done. (There’s more on my Windows Vista experience here.) I offer this not as a self-handicapping thing, but as a legit reason. Honest.

On with the Fungoes:

  • There’s been much to talk about in recent weeks and it centers on an infuriating lack of activity by the Tigers. Kerry Wood? Gone — to the Indians. Carl Pavano? Gone…to the Indians. Jason Giambi? Gone. Brian Fuentes? John Smoltz? Trevor Hoffman? Gone. Gone. Gone. What’s worse is that these guys, for the most part, were considered low-cost, low-risk investments for the teams they joined. Are the Tigers suddenly so cash poor/talent rich that they can’t take a flyer on the likes of Giambi — a solid lefty bat — or Pavano who could actually be an upgrade over Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis? I would love to know what the master plan is down on Witherell.
  • The Padres pick Virgil Vasquez off waivers today from the Red Sox. Let’s hope Double-V gets some appearances in San Diego who will definitely need help when Jake Peavy gets dealt.
  • There’s nothing like some distance from the past baseball season to provide some perspective on how good or bad a player was. Two examples in each category from the 2008 Tigers:
    • The Good: Magglio Ordonez – .317, 21 HR, 103 RBI for the season but he hit .330 in the second half.
    • The Bad: Gary Sheffield – .225, 19 HR, 57 RBI. He hit a meager .217 in the first half and .232 in the second. Yeah, I know, he wasn’t completely healthy but still, if it weren’t for his 500th homer chase, Sheff would’ve been persona non grata at Comerica Park in 2008.
  • Perhaps you heard that former Tigers pitcher Dave Roberts passed away today at 64. He was acquired by the Tigers on Dec. 6, 1975 when the Astros traded him along with Jim Crawford and Milt May to Detroit for Leon Roberts, Terry Humphrey, Gene Pentz, and Mark Lemongello. Roberts appeared in 48 games for the Tigers in 1976 and ’77 — all of them starts. In 1976, he posted a record of 16-17 and a 4.00 ERA with 18 complete games. The following year he made 22 starts for the Tigers going 4-10, 5.15, before his contract was purchased by the Cubs on July 30. According to the MLB.com story, Roberts died from lung cancer.

    Roberts’ death came after a struggle with lung cancer that had developed from exposure to asbestos — a mineral with toxic fibers — earlier in his life, according to a report by the Associated Press. He had worked as a boilermaker years ago, which likely exposed him to the toxic substance.

    How things have changed. You certainly don’t hear of any journeyman lefty relievers working as boilermakers in the off season anymore just to make ends meet. Today Roberts would be making $4 million a year.

Finally, Happy Birthday today to Freddy Dolsi, 26; Ivan DeJesus – what? You didn’t know he played for the Tigers? He did: 1988 – and Phil Mankowski, both 56.

Game 106: Tired Tigers Wake Up

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The Score: Tigers 8 – Indians 5

The Gist: Armando Galarraga is to the Indians as Paul Byrd is to the Tigers. Well, not quite, but Galarraga beat the Tribe for the third time this year, Tigers hitters were spared batting practice and turned it on, you know, during a game. But back to Galarraga: three runs over 5.1 innings to earn his ninth win of the year — more than Justin Verlander, folks. (For now.) Brandon Inge stroked three hits including a two-run homer and a double. Miguel Cabrera also went yard as he, Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen and Matt Joyce collected two hits apiece.

The Quote: “We keep winning, we can come in at 6:15 every night for all I care. The guys liked it, so we’ll have a little fun with it and keep them fresh at the same time.” — Jim Leyland on the Tigers skipping BP on Tuesday night.

The Stat: 20. The combined number of balls thrown by Freddy Dolsi and Fernando Rodney — out of a total of 36. Both threw 18 pitches, eight of them strikes. Sigh.

Up Next: Tigers @ Indians

Nate Robertson (6-8, 5.63) vs. Cliff Lee (14-2, 2.29)

Game 47: Seattle Slew

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The Gist: Hey now! Jeremy Bonderman earns a quality start — and a win — after a six-inning, eight-hit outing against the Mariners. And what do you know? The Tigers beat the Mariners 9-2 to sweep the series. Freddy Dolsi was lights-out over three innings of no-hit relief. The Tigers banged out 13 hits (43 for the series), including three from Gary Sheffield (to raise his average to .202), two from Matt Joyce and a three-run jack from Brandon Inge.

The Quote: “They want me to run on and off the mound. I smoke three packs a day.” — Jim Leyland on MLB’s efforts to accelerate games.

The Stat: .281 – Placido Polanco‘s average, despite an 0 for 4 day on Thursday. Talk about flying under the radar.

Up Next: Twins @ Tigers

  • Friday: Armando Galarraga (3-1, 3.06) vs. Kevin Slowey (0-4, 5.49)
  • Saturday: Nate Robertson (1-5, 6.08) vs. Boof Bonser (2-5, 5.25)
  • Sunday: Justin Verlander (2-7, 5.61) vs. Glen Perkins (1-1, 3.44)

Wednesday Walewanders

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  • Dontrelle Willis returns to the D as a reliever. If he continues to pitch the way he has in Spring Training and early in the regular season, his name might very well end up ahead of Damion Easley as the Tigers most expensive contract-as-main-course ever. Rob Neyer‘s already weighed in on the move.

  • Speaking of Mr. Neyer, in case you haven’t listened, today I posted an interview with him on the podcast. He thinks the Tigers are still very much alive in the A.L. Central; it’s Kenny Rogers and Willis, Neyer’s all but certain, who’re finished.

  • In case you need one more article on the effect of Jim Leyland‘s verbal fireworks, check out Mike Bauman‘s column on MLB.com.

  • Baseball and poetry? Why not? In college I penned a poem about my first game at Tiger Stadium. At BardBall.com, Tigers fan Jim Garner publishes baseball poetry — doggerel to be exact (I had to look it up). He’s featuring a poem on Freddy Dolsi’s first major league pitch. You remember it, the one to Manny Ramirez that might still be sailing. Here’s a sampling:

    Freddy went down the middle

    To show off his heat.

    Manny clobbered that apple

    Five hundred feet.

  • Remember Andrew Miller? (Ahem.) He has a birthday today — his 23rd. Other former Tigers celebrating include: Bryce Florie, Bob Molinaro and Earl Averill.

  • Wondering how some former Tigers are faring with their new clubs? Me too:
    • Chris Shelton, Rangers: .179, 2 HR, 3 RBI
    • Wil Ledezma, Padres: 0-1, 3.54 ERA, 1.54 WHIP
    • Tony Clark, Padres: .238, 0 HR, 1 RBI
    • Mike Rabelo, Marlins: .219, 1 HR, 7 RBI

    And here comes the Omaha Royals Trio:

    • Mike Maroth: 0-2, 12.91 ERA in three starts (7.2 IP)
    • Roman Colon: 0-0, 6.30 ERA in 10 IP
    • Jason Smith: .253, 10 HR, 27 RBI (His 10 homers lead the team.)

Finally, from Baseball-Reference.com, on this date in 1967, Earl Wilson gives Detroit its third straight win over the Yankees, 9-4. Mickey Mantle hits his fifth homer in six games but it’s not enough for Whitey Ford, who appears in his last ML game.