Fungoes

Saturday Non Sequiturs: Memories of 2003, Infante’s Future and Wang Chung Tonight

Catching up on this and that while the temperature hits 111 on my back porch — in the shade.

Earlier today I tweeted the recap of the June 29, 2003, Tigers/Diamondbacks game at Comerica Park. The most notable nugget from the boxscore was Jose Valverde‘s six-pitch, four-strike, three-batter save. What a difference 10 years can make. Of the players appearing in that game, only Valverde, Andres Torres, Ramon Santiago and Fernando Rodney are still in the majors.

Then-Dbacks manager Bob Brenly is back in Arizona’s TV booth (from where he was plucked in 2001 to replace Buck Showalter). Alan Trammell and his Tigers bench coach Kirk Gibson have swapped roles and now lead the Diamondbacks. And, we know where Jose Valverde is these days.

Baseball really is the game of retreads.

***

Every time I see Omar Infante make a nifty play or have a multiple-hit game, I can’t help but think back to 2009 and Placido Polanco. Coming off a Gold Glove season in which he hit .285, the Tigers didn’t offer him a contract and handed the keys to second base to the (still) unproven Scott Sizemore.

Are we heading toward a replay after this season with free-agent-to-be Infante? I sure hope not.

When the Tigers cut Polanco loose after five-ish seasons, he was 33. Infante turns 32 the day after Christmas. Why would they part ways with him again? Hernan Perez is hitting. 299 at Erie these days and earned a sip of coffee last season with Detroit, but is he the answer at second base? I’m not so sure.

I’d like to see Infante re-signed for two more seasons and keep at least part of the keystone combo intact for awhile … and avoid another Sizemore situation.

What do you think?

***

Like most Tigers fans, I’m waiting for Victor Martinez to thaw from his low-.200s freeze. He will, right? Yes, I think he will and it will likely be after the All-Star Game. I don’t mind Jim Leyland riding it out with Martinez in the five hole. What other option do they have? None, really.

***

When Leyland selects reserves for the All-Star Game in two weeks will Drew Smyly be among the final roster? I think he should be. I mean, look at his line coming into play today:

W L W-L% ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP BB/9 SO/9
3 0 1.000 2.25 28 7 2 48.0 36 12 12 1 14 48 1.042 2.6 9.0

Yeah, that’s an All Star.

***

By any chance did you catch this story last week on Gary Sheffield, Baseball Agent, in The New York Times? Sheff’s only client is Jason Grilli and here’s some gold from the agent himself:

As a middle reliever in Detroit, Grilli had used sinkers and curveballs to minimize his pitch count and save the rest of the bullpen.

Sheffield did not approve. As with everything, he was blunt in his assessment of his client.

“I told Jason my honest opinion of his pitching style, and he knew I didn’t like it,” Sheffield said. “I let him know, ‘Your stuff and your results don’t match up.’ He’s a big guy with a hard sinker and filthy slider, and when I see that, I think that’s closer stuff — he just had to believe it. Just because someone tells you you’re not that type of pitcher, that don’t mean anything to you.”

Man, I miss Sheff.

***

Finally, enjoy this bit of ’80s goodness courtesy of Dr. Frasier Crane:

Have a great weekend.

Standard
Fungoes

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

Standard
Fungoes

Tuesday Tananas: Tiger Stadium’s Finale, Fister’s Dominance, and Meat Loaf’s Birthday

Things keep looking up for the Tigers. The ALDS is fast approaching, Wilson Betemit is playing tonight and Ozzie Guillen is leaving the American League. Good times.

[callout title=The Tuesday Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, 13 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers vs. Indians – Max Scherzer (14-9, 4.37 ERA) vs. RHP Jeanmar Gomez (5-2, 3.52 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

This season against the Indians, Scherzer is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA. Lifetime he’s 3-3, 4.79 ERA.

Did you know that Scherzer has never thrown a complete game or a shutout in his major-league career?

[/callout]

Leading Off: The Tigers crushed the Indians and Ubaldo Jimenez Monday night 14-0. Doug Fister was his usual phenomenal self: eight innings, three hits, no walks, nine strikouts. And, 74 percent of his 109 pitches were strikes.

ALDS Start Time (Maybe): Matt Dery (@deryNBA) posted this on Twitter: “According to reports, Tigers would either host Bos or TB at 5 pm Friday for Game 1 or play at NYY at 8:30 fri night.” If it’s a 5 o’clock game, looks like I’m leaving work early.

The Tigers enter tonight’s game versus Cleveland having won 28 of their last 37 games dating back to Aug. 19, a .757 winning percentage — tops in the majors.

On this date in 1999, the Tigers played their final game at Tiger Stadium — an 8-2 win over the Royals. Homers by Karim Garcia, Luis Polonia and Robert Fick power the Tigers behind Brian Moehler.

We knew Doug Fister was good, but this is ridculous. From Elias Sports Bureau:

Remember at the trading deadline when the biggest-name pitcher moved was Ubaldo Jimenez? On Monday he was outpitched by a player whose trade received considerably less attention, Doug Fister. Fister improved to 8-1 since joining Detroit, making him only the fourth pitcher in the post-WWII Era to have at least eight wins with no more than one loss for a team after pitching for another major-league team earlier that season. The three others: Randy Johnson (10-1 for the 1998 Astros, after starting with the Mariners); Doyle Alexander (9-0 for the 1987 Tigers after starting with the Braves); and Rick Sutcliffe (16-1 for the 1984 Cubs after starting with the Indians.) Fister will end the season with a seven-game winning streak and Justin Verlander has won his last 12 decisions. They’re the first teammates to end a season with each on a winning streak of seven or more games, mainly or exclusively as a starting pitcher, since 1993, when Jason Bere and Wilson Alvarez of the White Sox each won their final seven decisions. The pair preceding Bere and Alvarez was Doyle Alexander (9) and Walt Terrell (8) for the 1987 Tigers.

I was talking to a friend of mine today about possible successors to Ozzie Guillen and we did a quick review of higher-profile bench coaches around the majors. One name he brought up was Kirk Gibson’s bench coach, Alan Trammell. While I fully support Tram getting another shot at managing, I can’t abide by him taking over the White Sox. Oh, and did you see where former Tigers manager Buddy Bell is in the mix for the Sox’ gig? Oy vey.

Happy 67th Birthday to Gary Sutherland. He hit .251 with a .295 on-base percentage with the Tigers from 1974-76 and played primarily at second base.

Checking in on trade pieces: In 31 games with the Mariners since the July 29 trade, Casper Wells is hitting .216 with seven home runs, 15 RBI and a .742 OPS. Meanwhile Charlie Furbush is 3-7 with a 6.62 ERA in 10 starts, and Chance Ruffin is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 12 appearances.

Why should you keep watching baseball this week?, asks Rob Neyer. One reason he offers is to see if Jose Valverde can keep up his perfect-save routine:

Valverde’s been phenomenal this season, and is only seven saves from tying Tom Gordon’s American League for consecutive saves (over different seasons). And the best part is that Valverde’s doing all this with lower strikeout and higher walk rates than his career norms.

Wanna bet he blows one in October? I don’t know. I predicted Lidge would blow a postseason save after his perfect 2008, but he didn’t and the Phillies won the World Series.

On this date in 1986, Jack Morris shut out the Yankees 1-0 in 10 innings, raising his record to 20-8 and snapped Don Mattingly’s hitting streak at 24 consecutive games.

I’ve had seller’s remorse on Omar Infante for a couple of years now — and especially since Placido Polanco was set free after the ’09 season. Infante just signed a two-year, $8 million extension with the Marlins. He enters tonight’s game batting .279 with seven home runs, 49 RBIs and only eight errors in 146 games. He’d look pretty good playing second for the Tigers these days, no?

Finally, Happy 64th Birthday to Meat Loaf.

Standard
Fungoes

The Monday Report

Welcome to the final week-like segment of the 2011 regular season. Remember, oh, four weeks ago when the final three games of the year against Indians looked meaningful?

Leading Off: The Tigers earned a split against the mosquito-ish Orioles by brute force: homers by Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Don Kelly and Jhonny Peralta. Brad Penny was just … decent enough to earn the win and even his season record at 11-11.

ALDS Maneuverings: The Rangers swept the feedble Mariners and have a one-game lead over the Tigers in the race for the second-best record in the American League. Texas heads to Anaheim to face Dan Haren, Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana. Perhaps it’s time to bury the hatchet with Weaver, however temporarily.

[callout title=The Monday Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, 12 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s game: Tigers vs. Indians – Doug Fister (10-13) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (10-12) | 7:05 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1

Fister’s 7-1 with a 2.02 ERA since coming over from Seattle on July 30, and 5-0 with a 0.81 mark in his last six starts.

Jimenez is 4-3 with a 4.62 ERA since his trade to the Indians. He’s 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts against the Tigers with Cleveland.

[/callout]

On this date in 1926, in his final day in a Tigers uniform, Ty Cobb watched his replacement in centerfield get six hits in a doubleheader against the Red Sox to become the new batting champion as Heinie Manush edging Babe Ruth .378 to .372.

The Diamondbacks Friday-night clincher came before a less-than-capacity crowd at Chase Field, so it will be interesting to see how the club draws in the NLDS. I’m liking my chances to secure a walk-up ticket whenever the D-backs’ series opens. There’s a nice piece on Kirk Gibson in Sunday’s Arizona Republic – but the really interesting story is this one. When he retired, Gibby coached a youth hockey team in Grosse Pointe and got advice from Steve Yzerman.

“My philosophy on it was you want the puck, but I’d always watch them fight for it, get it and then dump it into the zone and fight for it again,” Gibson said. “It didn’t make much sense to me. I’d like to keep the puck.”

With the season ending on Wednesday, the Tigers won’t have an opportunity to even their record on Thursdays and Saturdays. These will end up being the only two days of the week they didn’t at least finish .500 (Thursdays, 9-10; Saturdays. 12-13).

Finally, on this date in 1969 the album “Abbey Road” by the Beatles was released. Have a great week.

Standard
Fungoes

Gibby an All-Star at Last

Nice feature on Kirk Gibson in today’s Arizona Republic. He’ll be on Bruce Bochy‘s staff for the All-Star Game in Phoenix next Tuesday and it will be the first time Gibby appears at an All-Start Game in uniform.

Back in 1985 and ’88, Gibson had better things to do. He politely turned down offers from managers Sparky Anderson and Whitey Herzog to rest, go hunting and spend time with family.

Gibson also wasn’t afraid to fire off a salvo or two, like when he said, “There are players in this game that want to be stars – let them go play.”

Today, he probably wouldn’t say such a thing, although he still refuses to publicly endorse any of his own players as reserves for next week’s game.

Standard
Fungoes

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.

Standard