Tigers’ Treatment of Sparky Descends from Sour Grapes to Bush League

Thumbs Down2.jpgI suppose it was inevitable that the Tigers would retire Sparky Anderson. The only question, at least in my mind, was whether it would happen before or after owner Mike Ilitch moved on to the next life.

Two months after Sparky’s death, todaythe Tigers announced they’ll retire his number 11 and wear a patch with the number all season.

I understand his passing happened after the season and there wasn’t much they could do, but couldn’t the Tigers have chosen another time — any other time — to honor (or at least announce their intention to honor) their winningest manager?

Here are just a few opportunities they wasted:

  • 1994: The 10th anniversary of the 1984 World Series championship
  • 2000: His induction in to the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • 2004: The 20th anniversary of the ’84 championship
  • 2005: Comerica Park All-Star Game festivities
  • 2006: Any time during the postseason
  • 2009: The 25th reunion event for the ’84 club, when it was clear that Sparky’s health was declining.

Yes, the fact the Tigers are honoring Sparky is a good thing — and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Dave Dombrowski that finally convinced Ilitch that the Great Sparky Schism needed to end.

But still, two months after his death? 18 months after the last, best opportunity?

Sorry.

“Better late than never” just doesn’t work for me in this instance.

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”

Today’s Tiger: Wayne Krenchicki

Wayne Krenchicki

  • Born: Sept. 17, 1954 in Trenton, N.J.
  • Bats: Left Throws: Right
  • Height: 6′ 1″ Weight: 180 lb.
  • Acquired: Traded by the Reds to the Tigers for Pat Underwood on June 30, 1983.
  • Seasons in Detroit: 1 (59 games in 1983)
  • Uniform Number: 15
  • Stats: .278 avg., 1 home run, 16 RBI

The summer of 1983 gave Tigers fans a glimpse of what was to come a year later: a young core of star players ready to move to the next level in the American League East. Detroit was in the race until September when the eventual World Series champion Orioles pulled away for good.

Wayne_Krenchicki.jpgThat season also introduced fans — ever-so briefly — to a role player with one of the best names in baseball history: Wayne Krenchicki.

He came to the Tigers in a late-June trade with the Reds for once-promising lefty Pat Underwood. With Alan Trammell nursing injuries, the club needed some infield help.

As he always did with newly acquired players, manager Sparky Anderson put Krenchicki right to work, inserting him in the starting lineup against the Orioles and rookie Storm Davis.

On July 1, batting eighth in the lineup, Krenchicki went hitless in three at bats against Davis and the Tigers lost 9-5. He got his first Tigers hit two days later, a third-inning double off Tim Stoddard, in a 10-1 Tigers win.

In all, Krenchicki appeared in 59 games for the Tigers in 1983, seeing time at every infield position but played primarily at third. His time in Detroit was brief; in November that year, the Reds purchased his contract from the Tigers.

He finished his eight-year big-league career with the Reds and Expos, and retired after the 1986 season.

Today’s Tiger: Chris Brown

Chris Brown

  • Born: Aug. 15, 1961 in Jackson, Miss.
  • Died: Dec. 26, 2006 in Houston
  • Acquired: Traded by the Padres with Keith Moreland to the Tigers for Walt Terrell on Oct. 28, 1988.
  • Seasons in Detroit: 1 (1989)
  • Bats: Right Throws: Right
  • Height: 6′ Weight: 185 lb.
  • Uniform Number: 35
  • Stats: .193 avg., 0 HR, 4 RBI, .449 OPS

Perhaps no other word best describes third baseman Chris Brown like enigmatic.

After a promising start to his career with the Giants in 1985, his .271 average and 16 homers earned him a fourth-place finish in the National League Rookie of the Year Award, and an All-Star Game appearance in ’86, Brown began frustrating his managers and his teammates with a string of questionable and bizarre injuries. In fact, he never appeared in more games than he did that rookie season (131).

Brownchris.jpgBy the middle of the 1987 season Brown was shipped to the Padres with Keith Comstock, Mark Davis and Mark Grant for Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts and Kevin Mitchell. He didn’t fare well in San Diego either, hitting .232 in 44 games. In 1988 he hit just .235 in 80 games.

The Tigers were in complete freefall when they traded Walt Terrell to the Padres for Brown and Keith Moreland, whose best years were behind him. Why Detroit thought Brown and his “Tin Man” reputation would be transformed under Sparky Anderson is mystifying. His reputation for injuries — real or imagined — ranged from shoulder tenderness, a bad tooth and a sore eyelid. At least those are the more legendary ones — who knows if they were true.

In Detroit, the Chris Brown Experiment — such as it was — got off to a poor start when he arrived to spring training overweight. It ended after just 17 games, 11 hits and a .193 average. Worse yet, if possible, was a .909 fielding percentage in that time. On May 19, he was released. A few weeks later he was signed by the Pirates but never appeared in a big-league game for them.

He died in a mysterious Houston house fire on Dec. 26, 2006, at the age of 45. According to this MLB.com story:

Brown was employed by Halliburton Co. in Iraq, driving and repairing 18-wheel fuel trucks, and in a 2004 interview with The Associated Press, he said, “It’s a place I would’ve never thought 20 years ago that I’d be.”

His final career line: .269 average, 38 home runs, 184 RBI and a .725 OPS.

Today’s Tiger: Mickey Tettleton

Mickey Tettleton

  • Born: Sept. 16, 1960 in Oklahoma City
  • Height: 6′ 2″ Weight: 200 lb.
  • Acquired: Traded by the Orioles to the Tigers for Jeff Robinson on Jan. 11, 1991.
  • Seasons in Detroit: 4 (1991-94)
  • Uniform Number: 20
  • Stats: .249 avg., 112 HR, 333 RBI, .867 OPS
  • Awards: Silver Slugger (1991, ’92) All Star (1994)

Who didn’t like Mickey Tettleton? He was built like a tank, stood ramrod straight at the plate and could crush the ball from either side of the plate. And, he wasn’t half-bad behind the plate.

Mickey Tettleton.jpgTettleton came to Detroit in a steal of a trade from the Orioles 20 years ago next week, the Tigers sending once-promising righty Jeff Robinson to Baltimore in the deal.

After four nondescript seasons with the A’s in which he never hit more than 10 home runs, Tettleton was released by Oakland and signed by the Orioles at the end of March 1988. That season he hit 11 homers but struck out 117 times in 411 at bats.

In 1989, however, he became a dangerous hitter, clubbing 26 homers and earning an All-Star appearance. And while his strikeouts rose along with his plate appearances, so did his walks. In 1990, he fanned 160 times (a career high) but walked 106.

Why would the Orioles, who weren’t exactly brimming with offensive talent, want to part ways with Tettleton? According to this story, they “did not want to pay him more than $1 million to be backup to Bob Melvin.” Bob Melvin! And shortly thereafter his ticket to Detroit was punched.

“He has good defensive skills and is adept at working with pitchers,” acting Tigers General Manager Joe McDonald said. “In addition, he brings even more punch to our lineup.”

And how.

Continue reading “Today’s Tiger: Mickey Tettleton”

A New Project for 2011: “Today’s Tiger”

Today I’m launching a project that I’ve wanted to explore since I started The Daily Fungo in March 2006. I’m calling it Today’s Tiger, a daily look at a Tigers player from the past, posted each day of 2011. Some installments will be brief, others more in-depth but hopefully you’ll learn a little bit about Tigers history and the players that’ve worn Olde English D.

Let me know what you think — and feel free to suggest players you’d like me to highlight.

So, with that, here’s the first installment.

Lynn Jones

  • Born: Jan. 1, 1953 in Meadville, PA
  • Acquired: Drafted from the Reds in the 1978 rule 5 draft, Dec. 4, 1978.
  • Seasons in Detroit: 5 (1979-83)
  • Uniform number: 35 
  • Stats: .264 avg., 6 HR, 71 RBI, .658 OPS

LynnJones.jpg
The Tigers selected Lynn Jones from the Reds in the December 1978 Rule 5 Draft and, as they were required to do, kept him on the 25-man roster the entire 1979 season. In 95 games that year Jones batted .296 with four home runs, seeing time mostly in the outfield but also as a pinch-hitter.

Jones was a role player and pinch hitter for Sparky Anderson’s earliest Detroit teams, posting a decent on-base percentage in his first three seasons. The 1982 and ’83 seasons, though, saw his production slip and as a result his playing time was limited to 64 at bats in ’83.

That offseason the Tigers made him a free agent and he promptly signed with the Royals. In 1984, Jones hit a career-high .301 in a similar role to what he played in Detroit. He faced his former team in the American League Championship Series, going just 1 for 5.

The next season Jones appeared in 110 games for Dick Howser‘s Royals — a career high — but saw his average plummet 90 points. It wasn’t a total downer though, he won a World Series ring that year and had two extra-base hits in the Series against the Cardinals.

1986 would be his final big-league season — and his worst statistically. He hit .128 in 67 games with a single RBI and after that season he became a free agent but didn’t sign with another team.

Jones was the Royals’ first base coach in 1991 and 1992 before managing in the Marlins system. In 2001, he was the Marlins’ first-base coach. He earned his second World Series ring in 2004 as a member of Terry Francona‘s coaching staff in Boston. Today he’s the Braves’ baserunning coordinator.

2010: The Year in Lists

2011Calendar.jpgA year ago, we were still stinging from Game 163 and not certain how the Tigers would respond to a crushing end to the 2009 season. Would they regress to 2008’s disappointment or regroup to erase the memory of the ’09 collapse?

The answer was: they’d be relevant. And that, ladies in gentlemen, is the extent of the analysis in this post. Instead of a deep dive into 2010, let’s look at the year in the form of randomly selected lists:

2010 At A Glance*

  • Record: 81-81, 3rd in American League Central, 13 games back of Minnesota
  • Days in First: 13, the last on July 10
  • Biggest Lead: 1, last on July 7
  • Farthest Behind: 15.5 on Sept. 15
  • Most Games over .500: 11, last on July 10
  • Most Games under .500: 5, last on Aug. 19
  • Longest Winning Streak: 7, June 11-18
  • Longest Losing Streak: 7, July 11-20
  • Most Runs Allowed: 15, June 9
  • Most Runs Scored: 13, Aug. 15
  • Longest Game (innings): 14, July 19
  • Times Shutout by Opponent: 10
  • Times Opponent Shutout: 5

Continue reading “2010: The Year in Lists”