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.

The Non Sequiturs Return and So, Too, Will the Podcast

Many of you have written to ask what happened to the Detroit Tigers Podcast. Without going into the boring details, the fact is that Ian and I both were unavoidably detained over the past few months. But that’s about to change.

We will restart the podcast machine after the All-Star Game and take the second half by storm. More or less.

Thanks to everyone who’s been asking — and thanks for your patience as we carve out time to do a show we love producing for our listeners.

  • With Justin Verlander’s complete-game win yesterday at Coors Field, he limited the Rockies to one run on four hits. It marked the second-straight outing in which he tossed a complete game while limiting his opponent to as few as one run and four hits. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he joins Jack Morris (July of 1986) as the only two Tigers pitchers to accomplish the feat in consecutive outings during a single season over the last 33 seasons.
  • One-hundred years ago today Ty Cobb broke the American League hitting streak record with an infield single against Cleveland’s Willie Mitchell. It’s Cobb’s 30th straight game with a hit. He adds two stolen bases to help the Tigers win, 8-3.
  • Paul Swaney and crew at StadiumJourney.com continue their stellar work publishing reviews of pro and college sports stadiums. His goal this summer is to post a review of every affiliated minor league ballpark. Recently he posted reviews of Lakeland’s Joker Marchant Stadium and Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, Mich., home of the West Michigan Whitecaps.
  • How’s this for timely? Just the other day we wrote about Tigers players filling in at third base. The most prominent name on the list was Al Kaline. Fifty years ago today played third for the first time in his career. His two hits and two RBIs lead the Tigers to a 5-4 win over the Senators at Griffith Stadium in D.C. He will return to the OF and play third base just once more in his career, in 1965.
  • From the Game Notes: The Tigers are batting .312 with 95 runs scored, 31 doubles, seven triples and 20 home runs in 18 games during June. Detroit is tops among all American League clubs with a .312 batting average during the month, while the club is second with 95 runs scored and a .477 slugging percentage.
  • One more historical note: On this date in 1984, Yankees reliever Jose Rijo falls to 1-7 when he serves up a two-out three-run homer to Howard Johnson in the 13th inning. The Tigers win 9-6. Alan Trammell, Lance Parrish and Chet Lemon also hit homers for the Tigers, who draw their third-straight crowd of more than 40,000.

Finally, Happy 78th Birthday to a terrific actor, Danny Aiello.

So Where Was I … ?

InboxI suppose you can call it a lack of foresight. Specifically, putting the word “daily” in your blog’s title sets a certain expectation that, frankly, is tough to meet — especially for someone like me to whom writing tends to be more ebb than flow.

Thanks for your patience as I still try to get the hang of this blogging while working the 8-to-6 shift.

***

What was the point of Tom Gage‘s column on Monday? So Mike Ilitch came to Lakeland and left without talking to the media — big deal.

Maybe the man didn’t feel well. Maybe he wasn’t in the mood. Maybe the trip to Spring Training was squeezed in an otherwise busy schedule.

Gage seems to be making a lot out of Ilitch’s in-and-out visit — that somehow the long-term contract status of Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland is now more in jeopardy than it is.

I’m not buying it. You?

Continue reading So Where Was I … ?

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.

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

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

Same Time, Next Year for Me, Morris and the Hall of Fame

It’s early January which means I have to write a post about how I’ll hold out hope that Jack Morris will be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Gobs of articles have been written in the past couple of weeks, the majority of which put The Cat squarely in the “great but not Hall-of-Fame great” category.

Sadly, many of them, such as this one by Joe Posnanski, make terrific arguments against Morris’ chances. Even sadder, I’m starting to believe them. As a result I’m resigned to the fact he won’t be elected this year, if ever.

But wait! I have some anecdotes of my own:

In the summer of 2008 I attended the SABR Convention in Cleveland and asked former Indians outfielder Rick Manning if he thought Morris belonged in Cooperstown. He hemmed and hawed and eventually said, “That’s a tough call.” I took it as a “no”.

Then, last spring — thanks to a twist of fate — I had coffee with former major leaguer Ken Phelps and I asked him if he thought Morris belonged in the Hall and he responded without hesitation: “Absolutely.” I told him that many writers disagree and he replied, “Well, they didn’t face him.”

Touche.

I think today I realized why I so badly want to see Morris in the Hall of Fame. It’s because Tigers fans that grew up with the players that formed the core of the 1984 team expected so much from them. Didn’t we honestly think the Tigers would win again and again in the 1980s — not just one other division title in 1987?

For crying out loud, there was Morris, Dan Petry, Lance Parrish, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Kirk Gibson — the best collection of Tigers players in a generation! And all we got was a single World Series championship?

Granted, I wouldn’t trade the summer of ’84 for anything, I just expected it to be the beginning of something great, not a one-time trip to the baseball summit. Didn’t you?

That’s why I want to see Morris or Trammell in the Hall. They deserve — and I think they’ve earned — a lasting baseball legacy. One that includes more than the magic they displayed in October 1984.

Today’s Tiger: Mickey Stanley

Mickey Stanley

  • Born: July 20, 1942 in Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Acquired: Signed by the Tigers as an amateur free agent in 1961
  • Seasons in Detroit: 15 (1964-78)
  • Uniform Numbers: 49, 24
  • Stats: .248 avg., 117 HR, 500 RBI, .675 OPS
  • Awards: 4 Gold Gloves (1968-70, 1973)

MickeyStanley.jpgFor many fans, Mickey Stanley’s defining moment with the Tigers came in the 1968 World Series when manager Mayo Smith shifted him from the outfield to shortstop — a position he’d played only in nine major-league games.

The move was made specifically to keep Al Kaline in the lineup while adding some pop to the ’68 team’s woeful production at shortstop. Ray Oyler played most at short that year (111 games) but hit just .135, while backups Tom Matchick and Dick Tracewski combined hit an anemic .180.

In his terrific bio on Stanley, which appears in the 2008 book Sock It to ‘Em Tigers, Jerry Nechal sums up the new shortstop’s performance in the Series against the Cardinals:

Obviously a quick learner, Stanley went on to amaze the baseball world in the Series. In the first inning of Game 1 he was tested by a leadoff ground ball off the bat of the speedy Lou Brock. Brock was out on a close play and Mickey’s fielding at shortstop became a nonfactor. He successfully handled 30 of 32 chances, making two inconsequential errors.

Mickey Stanley broke in with the Tigers on September 13, 1964, singling in his first at bat off Claude Osteen, and appeared in just four games that season. He played in 30 games the following season before making the big club out of Spring Training in 1966, and soon became a fixture in centerfield for the Tigers until a speedy rookie Ron LeFlore took over in the mid-’70s.

My greatest memory of Stanley comes from Aug. 10, 1977, the first Tigers game I ever attended. The starting pitcher for the Tigers was rookie Jack Morris who would pitch 7.2 innings on the way to his first major-league win, but he wouldn’t have gotten the win that night without a dazzling play by Mickey Stanley with two out in the ninth inning.

With Von Joshua at first, Cecil Cooper stood at the plate as the potential tying run. He launched a pitch from Steve Foucault deep to right field and from my lower deck seats on the first base side, it looked like it would indeed tie the game. Instead, Stanley timed his jump and took away a home run, securing a 5-3 win for the Tigers — and Morris.

And it took no time for me to decide who my favorite Tigers were.

Mickey Stanley retired after the 1978 season, his 15th, after playing in 1,516 games — all with the Tigers. According to Nechal’s biography, today Stanley lives in the Brighton, Mich., area.