Emptying Out the Mental Notebook

There have been lots of thoughts percolating around my head lately. Now that I’ve cleared my driveway of snow for the third time today, it’s time to get those thoughts out to the masses.

Brandon Inge
If you recall prior to the 2004 season Mr. Inge acted like a petulant little child when the Tigers signed Pudge Rodriguez. He whined and complained about how the catching job was his and he wasn’t giving it up without a fight. Of course he turned into a super-sub of sorts (playing 139 games, logging 400+ ABs at five different positions) and eventually won the starting third base job.

Fast forward four seasons and Mr. Inge no longer wants to be a catcher; he fancies himself a third baseman apparently. Though not as loudly, he appears to be lobbying to move out of town now that Miguel Cabrera appears to be the Tigers’ new third baseman. I don’t believe for a minute the Tigers can trade him and the $18 million left on his contract and receive anything close to good value. With that said, I suggest Brandon close his yap, buy a few extra gloves, learn how to scoop balls at first, play all three outfield positions, and get comfortable in the tools of ignorance again. Return to the role of super utilityman for this season. Milwaukee Brewer Bill Hall logged over 500 ABs in a similar role in 2005, playing three different positions. If Inge can play 3B, 1B, OF, and even a bit of C, I would expect enough at bats will come his way to keep him happy.

The goal, or promise to Inge, is that he becomes your full-time catcher effective 2009. He’ll have this year to study the pitching staff, pick Pudge and Vance Wilson‘s brains, and relearn the position. With the offense that will be surrounding him, Inge would merely have to concentrate on his fielding — any hitting would be a bonus. And if you’re really trying to do the hard sell, remind him the staff he would have to catch would include Justin Verlander, Dontrelle Willis, Jeremy Bonderman, and — at some point — Rick Porcello.

Dontrelle Willis

I heard Willis’ first interview on local radio following the trade. WXYT had him on and I liked what I heard. He has a passion for the game, he has a personality, he’s energetic, and he should endear himself to the Detroit fanbase. Will he be able to pitch? The good news, I suppose, is that Detroit isn’t counting on him to be the ace. All they really need from him is 200+ serviceable innings. Ideally (with the bullpen the Tigers have) that’s what they’d like to get from all five starters — save Rogers I suppose. Chew up innings boys. The bats should get enough runs to keep this team in virtually every game.

One other item about Willis. Don’t underestimate the impact another African-American will have on the Tigers’ fan base. Willis is an inner-city kid and, like Curtis Granderson, has a personality that will make him popular. For a city that’s attempting to make a comeback, I think it’s outstanding the youngsters in town will have a couple of role models on the home team to look up to.

By the way, has anyone else noticed an entire Hispanic infield? Non hablas Espanol?

The Mitchell Report

Nothing surprises me (nor should it), but I’d like to launch a conspiracy theory on Roger Clemens. I wonder if his decision to stall his comeback each of the past couple of seasons was due merely to making sure he had it in him or rather he had it in him? I’m certainly no expert on performance enhancing drugs, but doesn’t it suddenly seem plausible that The Rocket was taking a late-winter cycle of PED’s before deciding to come back? Are unsigned free agents subjected to the testing? If not, it wouldn’t surprise me if Clemens got his body finely tuned and then gave his body time to flush the evidence before signing. So much for all those stories of his legendary workouts that I always admired as a younger man.

Mitchell Report Part II

Nook Logan? Mark Carreon? Alex Sanchez? This is our Detroit connection? No wonder our home team stunk during the Steroid Era!

Clearly Carreon wasn’t on the juice when he was a Tiger. He hit a career-low .232 that year.As for Sanchez — the first to be busted — it’s a good thing he was on the stuff, otherwise half of those swinging bunt singles he had would’ve rolled foul at the plate, right?

And Nook? Well, I got nothing for Nook.

Bullpen

If the starters can get into the seventh inning I don’t feel too bad about things. It’s that middle/long relief that gives me the Guillermos. I know Zach Miner will be serviceable and I shouldn’t fret about Jason Grilli, but neither instill a lot of confidence — especially if they get thrown into roles they’re not comfortable in.

I actually feel pretty good about the two situational lefties they’ll enter camp with: Tim Byrdak and Bobby Seay. Seay was especially effective the last half of the season when used correctly. Speaking of using folks correctly, Memo to Jim Leyland: Todd Jones can only pitch one inning this year and it should be at the start of the inning, not mid-inning with runners on base.

I’m not expecting Joel Zumaya to contribute anything this year.

Tigers/Marlins Trade Front-Page News in Portland

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I was in Portland, Ore., meeting with clients this week but was able to sneak away for my first visit to Powell’s Books flagship store. (One word: Wow.)While I was waiting in line to buy three baseball books — including the hard-to-find “No Big Deal” by Mark Fidrych and Tom Clark — I snapped this shot.As you can see, the Willis and Cabrera trade made it above the flag on The Oregonian front page.Shortly after this photo was taken, I saw Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning stroll into the store. A giant.

Historically, Christmas Comes 3 Weeks Early for the Tigers

PORTLAND, Ore. — As we all warm ourselves by that roaring hot stove, savoring yesterday’s blockbuster and thinking about the holidays, let’s not forget the boatload of trades the Detroit Tigers have made on December 4ths of the past. According to the Tigers 2007 media guide, the team has completed seven trades on Dec. 4, beginning in 1952.Despite some recognizable names, nothing Earth-shattering:Dec. 4, 1952 — The Tigers acquired Bob Nieman, and infielder Owen Friend and outfielder/infielder J.W. Porter from the St. Louis Browns for right-handed pitchers Virgil Trucks and Hal White, and outfielder Johnny Groth.Dec. 4, 1963 — The Tigers acquired outfielder Don Demeter and right-handed pitcher Jack Hamilton from the Phillies for right-hander Jim Bunning and catcher Gus Triandos.Dec. 4, 1969 — The Tigers acquired pitcher Joe Niekro from the Padres right-hander Pat Dobson and infielder on Dave Campbell.Dec. 4, 1974 — The Tigers acquired right-hander Tom Walker and catcher Terry Humphrey from the Expos for left-hander Woodie Fryman.Dec. 4, 1978 — The Tigers acquired outfielder Jerry Morales and right-hander Aurelio Lopez from the Cardinals for lefties Bob Sykes and Jack Murphy.Dec. 4, 1998 — The Tigers right-hander Willie Blair from the Mets for third baseman Joe Randa.Bonus Deal! Here’s a trade the Tigers completed 20 years ago today, Dec. 5, 1987: The Tigers acquired outfielder Gary Pettis from the Angels for Dan Petry.

Double-D Cookin' Up Some Hot Stove Fun

Are you kidding me?When Mike first broached the possibility of Dave Dombrowski‘s blockbuster this afternoon late this morning by forwarding me Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal I thought it must’ve been some posturing and cheap talk.When I nosed around ESPN.com and saw Peter Gammon‘s blog entry saying there was some validity to it I let my mind wander a bit as to what the lineup would look like.When fellow teacher and baseball coach Paul Diegel e-mailed with news his buddy told him the deal was happening (Maybin and Miller straight up for the two), I knew it was too good to be true, and put those pipe dreams to bed.By the time I left work this evening and turned on sports yappers it was apparent there was still some smoke billowing up from these smoldering trade talks.And finally, when I heard Steve Phillips on WXYT say it was pretty well done I darn near drove off the road.I do realize the ramifications of this deal – a farm system left as barren as an 85-year-old post-menopausal woman – but I also realize this deal isn’t quite the same as that Smoltz-Alexander deal of 20 years past. For starters, Dontrelle Willis (25) and Miguel Cabrera (24) are nowhere near as long in the tooth as Doyle Alexander (37) was in 1987.Sure, the Tigers gave up a ton of prospects, but they did so for two bonafide Major Leaguers who haven’t yet reached their prime.I got no beef with the deal especially since it probably means Brandon Inge is on his way out of town. You aren’t really going to pay him $6-million+ a year to be a super-utility guy, are you? But hey, it’s not my money. If Mr. I gives the greenlight to this, then have Inge work as a catcher every chance he gets so he can take over for Pudge Rodriguez next year. With the offense that would be around him, Inge can return to his light-hitting catcher role for all I care.For his next move Dombrowski will no doubt try to move Inge, Marcus Thames, Chad Durbin, and Ryan Raburn for whatever prospects he can find. Certainly he needs to reload his minor-league pitching somehow.Of course my main questions walking away from this deal are as follows:Are there any other Dombrowski-era Marlins worth acquiring (what with Gary Sheffield, Nate Robertson, Edgar Renteria, et al)?How many times will Willis (a .508 sluggling percentage last year) pinch-hit this year?

Detroit Tigers: Media Darlings at Last

I certainly don’t remember when the Detroit Tigers dominated the home page of virtually all of online sports news sites. Maybe when they won the ALCS last year?As of this writing, the Tigers are baseball news tonight. I set up a dedicated page on The Daily Fungo that shows you how the trade news appeared on the major sites.Meanwhile, take a lookie at what BaseballProspectus.com slapped on its home page.