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.

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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?

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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.

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Fungoes

2012 Top 10 Stories: #8 – The Black Hole at Second Base

Remember when Scott Sizemore was the answer to the Tigers’ second base question? After nearly five seasons of Placido Polanco’s wizardry at second, and in the number-two slot of the lineup, the Tigers tried to convince fans – and maybe themselves – that Sizemore could take over with gusto.

After 65 games spread across two seasons, Sizemore was dealt to Oakland and suddenly second base became a giant black hole. Again.

In 2010, Carlos Guillen and Will Rhymes both played more games at second than Sizemore, fully cementing the second-base-by-committee approach.

Last season, Ryan Raburn made his play for the job, appearing in 56 games at second and committing 10 errors in 201 chances. Backed by his usual second-half surge, he convinced the Tigers he could hold down the job full-time in 2012.

The assumption, naturally, was that Raburn would hit enough to mask some lead-gloved D. (The same was said of Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and, to a lesser degree, Jhonny Peralta.)

Except, he didn’t hit well enough to warrant a job anywhere on the diamond. Neither did Plan B, Ramon Santiago.

Combined, Plan A and Plan B hit .189.

That’s why, as the July 31 Trade Deadline inched closer, the Tigers were linked to every available second baseman in the majors: from Darwin Barney to Kelly Johnson to the man the landed on July 26 along with Anibal Sanchez: the prodigal son Omar Infante.

Having a full-time second baseman certainly settled the lineup but Infante look anything but settled at times, at least defensively after his arrival. He made nine errors in 267 chances over 61 games at second, At the plate, he hit .257: 80 points higher than Raburn and 50 more than Santiago.

Heading into 2013, Infante is the incumbent at second and in the final year of his contract. Given the slim pickings in the Tigers’ minor-league system, a solid first half could earn the 31-year-old Infante a contract extension and make him the second baseman for the foreseeable future … just as he was in 2001.

Go figure.

The Top 10 Stories of 2012

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Fungoes

Tigers Prospects Dry Up After Arizona Fall League

Note: This article first appeared on ESPN.com’s SweetSpot blog today.

When the Tigers traded Scott Sizemore to the A’s over Memorial Day Weekend, it brought an abrupt and mildly startling end to his tenure as Detroit’s second baseman of the future. The Tigers, after all, anointed him as the heir apparent to Placido Polanco almost immediately after they lost Game 163 to the Twins in 2009.

Polanco was eligible for arbitration, which coincided with the Tigers’ momentary spending freeze, and soon he was back with the Phillies doing everything fans in Detroit had come accustomed to: steadiness in the field, reliability at the plate.

But back to Sizemore. The Tigers sent him to the Arizona Fall League – “a graduate school” for top prospects, according to the AFL Media Guide – in 2007 and again in ‘09 in what they undoubtedly expected to be a final tuneup before handing over the keys to second base to him for the foreseeable future.

Within days of the 2009 AFL season, Sizemore’s ankle was broken as he attempted to turn a double play and his fall league experience went kaput. It didn’t stop the Tigers from hoping that he could recover in time for spring training.

Fast forward to May 27 when he was dealt to Oakland for David Purcey (himself an AFL graduate) and the book was closed on Sizemore’s career in Detroit: 65 games, a .223 average, .605 OPS and a mere three home runs. Not legendary stuff and certainly nowhere close to Polanco’s track record.

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Fungoes

Monday Mankowskis: Optimism, Jackson’s Woes and Bonus Baseball Cards

PhilMankowski77This is one of those rare and delightful days of spring in which I get to flip back and forth between a Tigers West Coast game and a Wings playoff game. April in the D, indeed.

  • It’s always interesting to see how even a small winning streak can stir optimism among Tigers faithful. To wit: this past weekend’s series in Oakland. Buoyed by wins in the first two games, I was completely confident the Tigers could — would! — come back in Saturday night and Sunday games. A week prior (against the Royals at home) I had no such optimism. All in all I’m feeling good about their chances in Seattle, and not just because they’ll miss Felix Hernandez.

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Fungoes

Sunday Snacks: April in the D Edition

ChipsA few overdue thoughts as I work the previous-channel button on my remote, switching between the Tigers and Wings games.

  • When a few specific things occur, I know for certain the baseball season is in full bloom — eight games in or not. Two of these things have already taken place in the past 24 hours: the Tigers lose to the Royals and Ryan Raburn makes at least one bone-headed play in the field.

  • Speaking of the Wings, if they end up playing the Coyotes in the first round, I’ll have to endure lame Detroit jokes in the media out here.

  • Did the Tigers really lose to Bruce Chen? Bruce Chen?

  • Slowly — very slowly — I’m gaining confidence in Alex Avila. He was miserable in the opening series in the New York but I suppose that can be chalked up to nerves, right? Since then he’s hitting .357 (entering today, that is).

  • I definitely love seeing Will Rhymes as the Tigers’ regular second baseman. You have to wonder if Scott Sizemore is following him and thinking, “what do I have to do to get back on the radar?”

  • Did you notice that Robbie Weinhardt is now wearing Jeremy Bonderman‘s old uniform number, 38? No matter the number on his back, I feel 100-percent more comfortable when Weinhardt enters a game than I do Brad Thomas or Ryan Perry.

  • Happy 47th Birthday to Eric King. In two stints with the Tigers (1986-88, ’92), he appeared in 128 games for the Tigers as a starter and bullpen guy, posting a 25-20 record, 16 saves and a 4.23 ERA.

  • Manny Ramirez. As the Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan once said on the old Tony Kornheiser radio show, “Ramirez will never be confused with a member of Mensa.”

  • I’ve heard from many of you about the next episode of the podcast. Hang with us. Ian and I have had trouble aligning calendars — the trouble coming from my end — but we’ll be back soon. Promise.

Finally, happy 82nd birthday to actress Liz Sheridan, who played Jerry’s mom on “Seinfeid.”

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Fungoes

Thoughts on Today’s Cuts

Second baseman Scott Sizemore was sent to Triple-A Toledo today.

Scott Sizemore said he was disappointed about being cut today by the Tigers. It has to be even more disappointing for a player who, by most accounts, was reestablishing himself as a promising big leaguer this spring only to lose the job to a guy (Will Rhymes) who didn’t runaway with the job.

As much as I like Rhymes — and loved having him on the podcast last fall — I still believed Sizemore would emerge as the Opening Day starter.

Clete Thomas’s demotion wasn’t as surprising as Robbie Weinhardt’s. All spring long we heard about how Weinhardt would be a key component in the Tigers’ bullpen.

Poor Clete. If he could hit like Brennan Boesch, he’d probably be on the 25-man roster.

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Fungoes

The Detroit Tigers Podcast #123: The Fake Gary Sheffield Twitter Account

DetroitTigersPodcastAlbum.jpgWelcome to The Detroit Tigers Podcast. This is Episode #123, a 70-minute podcast about the Detroit Tigers recorded live from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Asheville, N.C.

In this episode we touch on:

…and much more.

Show Notes

Links to articles and items referenced in this episode:

Download the audio file or grab the RSS feed here.

Comments?

Leave a message on the listener line: (602) 903-5174. Or, reach us on Twitter: @TigersPodcast

We’ve also got a growing Facebook community: www.facebook.com/TigersPodcast

Reach the hosts via:

Theme music for the podcast produced by Paul Minshall.


The Detroit Tigers Podcast is not affiliated in any way with the Detroit Tigers Baseball Club or Major League Baseball.

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