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.

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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?

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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.

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.

Robert Fick: Ultimate Friend and Teammate

Former Tigers catcher Robert Fick earned his reputation as a bad seed thanks to some poor on-field decisions and in-flight activities.

If you followed the Tigers during his five years (and five uniform numbers) in Detroit, you won’t be surprised by this Fick-related anecdote from former-Tigers flamethrower Matt Anderson:

First Anderson drove from Louisville to Atlanta to say goodbye to the kids. Then he headed west to California to see his friend and former Tigers teammate, Robert Fick, who had possession of the two game gloves — a Mizuno and a Rawlings — that Anderson used during his last stint in pro ball.

After continually badgering Fick to send him the gloves, to no avail, Anderson figured it would be easier to just pass through California on his way to Phoenix and pick them up in person.

“For Robert to muster up what it took to go to the packing store, find my address and all that stuff, I didn’t think that was going to happen,” Anderson said.

I, for one, am hoping that Anderson’s comeback is successful. The fact he’s back on the radar, however temporarily, makes me wonder what an Anderson-Zumaya-Perry bullpen might look like.

As for Fick, well, never mind.

Wednesday Walewanders: Fisticuffs Edition

spaghetti.jpgSo where does last night’s dust-up rank in the annals of Tigers bench clearers?

Hmm.

Well, it wasn’t as interesting as the 1980 Tigers/White Sox brawl (a.k.a. Cowens v. Farmer Grudge Match), nor as violent as Tigers/White Sox circa 2000. Here’s a refresher on that one:

Sixteen players, coaches and managers suspended. Nine others fined. It was, MLB said, “the biggest mass suspension ever.”

That was the end result of two brawls that erupted at Comiskey Park, one in the seventh inning, the other in the ninth. In the sixth, the Tigers Jeff Weaver hit Carlos Lee with a pitch. In retaliation, Chicago’s starter, Jim Parque, plunked Detroit’s Dean Palmer in the top of the seventh. Palmer charged the mound, throwing his helmet at Parque before the real action started.

…And it wasn’t as wild as Tigers/Twins in 1982, which featured Dave Rozema‘s flying-kung-fu acrobatics on Twins’ John Castino.

What do you think? Take this week’s Pulse Check –>

Continue reading “Wednesday Walewanders: Fisticuffs Edition”

An Ides of March Sunday Buffet

Sometimes there’s so much to talk about that it’s better to throw it all out there in no particular order…

  • Yeah, yeah. Pudge Rodriguez dipped himself in the Fountain of Youth in the offseason and is showing some zest in the World Baseball Classic. Any team that thinks he’ll perform at this level for a full season — at least as a number-one catcher — is fooling their bad selves. It was interesting, though, to see the number of teams (beyond the Marlins) reportedly interested in signing Señor Ivan. Among them, the Astros (where he’d replace, sorta, another former Tigers catcher, Brad Ausmus), the Twins (?!) and the Giants. Apparently the Marlins are waiting for him to come to grips with not being a full-time player in 2009.

    Then again, if Pudge withers at the end of the WBC, he could be looking at a longer wait.

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  • First it was Kerry Wood. Then Carl Pavano. Now it looks like the Indians are among the clubs eyeing Pedro Martinez. Given fifth-starter issues the Tigers are facing (we’re talking about you, Nate and Dontrelle), wouldn’t you think the Tigers would at least place a call? Who knows, maybe they already have. But if by some bizarre twist of fate, Pavano and Martinez are part of a Cleveland post-season rotation, it’s going to make one Tigers-blog-writin’ guy mighty unhappy.

  • Last week I attended three Cactus League games (of varying quality) with my pals Steve and John, who flew in from Detroit. The first game (Indians/Brewers) was about as ugly a contest as you can imagine — even by Spring Training standards. Final: Brewers 17 – Indians 7.

    The only notable thing to come out of it was that the Tribe rolls out 90-year-old Bob Feller (pictured) to sign autographs at every home Cactus League game. I didn’t get an autograph nor did I overhear Feller rail on how Jackie Robinson couldn’t/wouldn’t make it in the big leagues, as Feller did back in the day.

    Bob Feller
    The second game, Dodgers versus Mariners at the beauteous new Camelback Ranch facility in Glendale, featured two former Tigers sightings. The first was a silver-haired Jim Slaton, now pitching coach for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas, and as you might have read this week in the News, Mariners’ non-roster invitee Chris Shelton. It was nice to see him still in the mix somewhere.

    The final game was no-thrills tilt between the Rockies and Padres in Tucson. Todd Helton homered in his first at bat and that was enough for me. Oh, and a big thumbs-down to Hi Corbett Field for not accepting credit cards for concessions. I had to pay the $2.25 ATM charge instead. Bush league.

Finally, today’s the birthday of bad seed/jackass and former Tiger Robert Fick. He’s 35 today.

Clearing out a crowded mental notebook

It’s been a while, I know, but a weeklong vacation to New Jersey followed by an annual physical and a balky back will do that to you.

Let’s empty my mental notebook before a family function this afternoon:

Thank you Jim Leyland for finally seeing that Marcus Thames provides more consistent offense than Craig Monroe. The man can hit (righties/lefties it doesn’t matter) and therefore deserves the opportunity to play five times a week. Fill in with Monroe if you must, but I’d just as soon see Ryan Raburn get the spot start out there as well. The kid worked hard to earn his way back up to the bigs, so reward him with the playing time.

I predicted to no one in particular (maybe it was just to myself) that Magglio Ordonez would have to cool off and it appears his offensive inferno has been put out. This isn’t a Home Run Derby hangover is it? That means it’s all the more important for Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco to get on so opposing pitchers can’t pitch around Gary Sheffield. Sheff will wind up leading this team in RBIs when it’s all said and done.

Speaking of Sheff, I’m with our host Mike McClary. I had no idea how good of a ballplayer he was. His baseball instincts are so good and he does the little things that put teams in a position to win games. It’s been a pleasure to watch him play. Of course D.J. on my t-ball team who insists on wagging his bat like Sheff scares the bejeebers out of me, but that’s a story for another day.

Sheffield’s productivity aside, I still think my MVP this year will be Granderson. He’s really growing into an all-around, five-tool player before us this year. He hits for power, has speed, and not enough is made of his fine defense. On a team full of players that are fun to watch, he’s the one I most enjoy. Maybe it’s because I feel the triple is the most exciting play in sport this side of an inside-the-park-homer or maybe it’s because he’s so effortless hawking balls in CF. No matter, he’s the guy I hope’s in the lineup when I show up at CoPa.

Todd Jones still doesn’t instill any confidence in me when he marches in from the pen. But aren’t Cleveland Indians fans saying the same thing about Joe Borowski?

J.J. Putz? Seriously? I believe I saw this kid in college and I never could have predicted this.

Say what you will about the Wildcard in baseball, but it certainly has had the desired effect on teams selling off high-priced players by the end of the July. With over half of each league still in the mix for the post-season, it sure looks like the Tigers are going to have to overpay to get anything of quality to shore up their bullpen.

Ty Cobb died 46 years ago today at the age of 74. Irrascible yes, but I guarantee you he wouldn’t allow Monroe and others to swing at the first pitch after the pitcher walked the previous batter on four straight pitches. To me it’s inexcusable.

Speaking of Cobb, I’ve been reading New Baltimore author Tom Stanton’s latest book Ty and The Babe. An excellent read that chronicles their vituperative-filled playing days and then their peculiar friendship that led to a three-match golf tournament in 1941. Some terrific nuggets to be found in there, like the fact Ruth’s second wife Claire had dated Cobb years before. Who knew?

Is there a better way to fall asleep than to the soothing tones of a baseball game? Sounds crazy I know, but I ponied up and bought XM primarily so I could have baseball filling my ears as I drifted off to sleep. Best $200 I’ve ever spent.

Now if only we could do something about that Price fellow who works for the Tigers!

I went to Cooperstown earlier this year with my father. I thought many of you would find it interesting to note that Gabe Kapler has a Tigers’ jersey in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, that Gabe Kapler! It’s his jersey from the Tiger Stadium finale with no name or number on it when he was representing Cobb. Couldn’t they have chosen Robert Fick‘s #25 in honor of Norm Cash? After all, he cleared the roof in that game against KC.