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

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.

Meet the Kinder, Gentler Kirk Gibson

The next best thing to Kirk Gibson being the Tigers’ manager is watching him lead my local team, the Diamondbacks. He’s getting lots of attention as the Dbacks arrive in camp as 2011 marks his first full season as the club’s skipper.

The focus seems to be on how he and his staff, which includes bench coach Alan Trammell, will shape this relatively young team — Melvin Mora notwithstanding — and emphasize the positive.

In his blog today, the Arizona Republic‘s Nick Piecoro writes about how Gibby is falling in line with the organization’s new fan friendly mindset — specifically, autographs. As one whose autograph requests of Gibson as recently as three years ago (actually it was a photo request at Spring Training; I was wearing a Fungo t-shirt for crying out loud) have been spurned, this interested me:

The Diamondbacks’ daily schedule is posted on video boards in and around the clubhouse, and right there, before the day’s work is complete, is a required task for every player: sign autographs.

Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall loves to call his organization the most fan-friendly in baseball, but it isn’t just the front office that’s on board with the autograph policy.

There’s agreement coming from the manager’s office.

“They’ll sign every day,” Gibson said. “When the catchers are done, they’ll sign. That’s something that’s important.”

Gibson admitted to being “terrible” at signing when he was a young player but said Detroit manager Sparky Anderson convinced him of the importance of treating fans well.

“Sometimes, when we’re young, we think we’re the most important thing about the game,” Gibson said. “The reality of it is, when you leave the game, it just keeps right on going.”

Anderson’s point to Gibson: What happens if the fans leave?

“None of us would be around,” Anderson told him.

“It really is important,” Gibson said. “As good as times are right now, I went through five work stoppages. The last one was 1994 and I remember how the game was after that. We don’t want to destroy that. They’re very important. They’re great human beings and support our game of baseball. They deserve to be treated with respect as well.”

I’m heading over to the Dbacks’ new Spring Training site on Monday to watch some workouts. Do you think Gibby or Tram will agree to a photo for one of their fanboys?

What about you? Do you have any experiences with Gibson or any other big leaguer brushing off your autograph requests?

Galarraga Arrives a Hero in Arizona

Armando Galarraga, according to this headline, appears to be a popular Diamondbacks player already, which is relative, of course.

In this city, fans are more likely to know the Suns’ 12th man than the Dbacks’ fifth starter. But columnist Dan Bickley says Galarraga’s reaction to the blown call and the aftermath could make him “the most popular losing pitcher in baseball history.”

Here’s a sampling of Bickley’s column in yesterday’s Arizona Republic:

Though he’s only 23-26 as a starter, Galarraga enjoys a lofty reputation among baseball fans. He is viewed as a professional athlete with a heart, a player who can step out of his world and walk in someone else’s shoes. He credits his parents for teaching him to step back and cool off “when something is going wrong, when something makes you want to scream.”

(snip)

Question is, will we love Galarraga in the coming months? That’s hard to say. He will compete for a spot in the starting rotation, and many baseball observers aren’t convinced he’ll ever morph into an impact starter. Still, if his command is as good as his self-control, he has a fighting chance. And he’s very happy for a fresh start, for the chance to throw a perfect game in the National League.

“I’m very excited. I can’t wait to hit. I really like Arizona. That’s a great stadium for pitching,” Galarraga said.

Of course, he’s dead wrong about Chase Field, which is notoriously friendly to hitters. That’s OK. We’ll forgive him. It’s the least we can do.

I’m still not convinced that Dbacks’ manager Kirk Gibson won’t be infuriated by Galarraga’s lack of aggressiveness. I guess we’ll see.

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”

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.

The Non-Sequiturs: Trick or Treat Edition

pumpkin.jpgEach October, I’m astounded to learn that Halloween is the second-largest retail holiday of the year. I’m not a fan of Halloween, though I do like the occasional, or frequent, Kit Kat.

It’s a treat to be able to watch the World Series on Halloween, though the Aubrey Huff and Edgar Renteria sightings are undoubtedly the “trick” part of the equation.

  • In our highest vote-gettin’ poll of the season, Fungo readers were emphatic on what the Tigers’ next offseason move should be: target Nationals’ slugger and free-agent-to-be Adam Dunn.

    Twenty-four percent (148 voters) of the 628 readers casting votes selected Dunn as their top choice. Here are the runners up:

    • Sign Jason Werth (16%, 103 Votes)
    • Sign Victor Martinez (15%, 97 Votes)
    • Trade for a starting pitcher (14%, 88 Votes)
    • Pickup Jhonny Peralta’s option (14%, 88 Votes)
    • Sign Magglio Ordonez (12%, 73 Votes)
    • Other (5%, 31 Votes)

    Thanks to everyone who voted and a special thanks for those that left comments. It was a great discussion. Keep those comments rolling in.

    Continue reading “The Non-Sequiturs: Trick or Treat Edition”

October Surprise Part 8 – Tigers Pull Ahead

On the next-to-last day of the 2009 season, with the Tigers’ fate still undecided, we continue our series on the Tigers’ and Blue Jays’ battle for the A.L. East crown on the next-to-last day of the 1987 season.


American League East Standings: October 3, 1987

Team Record Pct. GB
Detroit 96-64 .600 –
Toronto 96-64 .600 –

In game two of the final series, Jack Morris and Mike Flanagan faced off on a bright and blustery Saturday afternoon.

HotDogPopTicketXSmall.jpgAs they had in Toronto nine days earlier, the two veteran pitchers sparkled. The Jays grabbed an early 1-0 lead. The Tigers countered with a Mike Heath single and Bill Madlock double to knot the game. Both teams scored in the fifth.

But over the next seven innings neither team scored. Morris pitched nine strong innings to Flanagan’s 11.

“I’ve been in this league eight years facing Flanagan, and I’ve never seen him better,” Tom Brookens said to the Free Press‘s John Lowe.

Mike Henneman relieved Morris in the tenth and shut down the Jays. Jeff Musselman took over for Flanagan but couldn’t pick up where the starter had left off.

Continue reading “October Surprise Part 8 – Tigers Pull Ahead”