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

My Trip to Cooperstown: Part 2

It took all of the second day in Cooperstown to make it through the balance of the Museum – and it did not disappoint. There’s so much I could write about but I think the photos I posted on TigersHistory.com tell the tale more vividly. Yet, one dimension in particular stands out and deserves a few words: the detail of the Museum.

Here I am in the exhibit recognizing the Tigers clubs from the 1980s. Though he’s not represented in the Hall of Fame, I was delighted to see my man Jack Morris in the Museum. Same for Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker and the rest of the ’84 champs.

The Museum is rooted in the minutiae of baseball and the memories these otherwise mundane objects evoke. You’d expect to see artifacts from Hank Aaron’s chase for the Babe, Nolan Ryan’s seven no-hitters and Rickey Henderson’s stolen base exploits. But it’s the other stuff that held me rapt. For example:

  • The cornerstone from Ebbets Field
  • The wall panel from Tiger Stadium’s deepest reaches – the 440-foot mark
  • A deep-blue leather jacket from the Philadelphia Athletics
  • The rotating thingy that sat atop the centerfield scoreboard at old Comiskey Park
  • A scorebook from a Tigers/Indians game from the early 1970s
  • The shoes worn by Hall of Fame National League umpire Doug Harvey in his final game in 1992

And so much more. Of course, there was lot of Tigers miscellany, some curious of not outright dubious.

For example, in the Tigers locker, part of the Today’s Game exhibit, you’ll find the hat worn by Luis Pujols when he managed against the Royals’ Tony Pena in June 2002. It marked the first time managers from the Dominican Republic faced each other. The fact someone has that on their radar and thinks to make contact ahead of time with the Royals and Tigers is astounding and impressive.

Also in the Museum is the hat worn by Octavio Dotel on April 7 when he appeared in a game for his record-setting 13th different club.

In a way it’s cool that these items are in Cooperstown, but these two names representing the Tigers with Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Hal Newhouser, Mickey Cochrane, George
Kell
and Al Kaline? Kind of a joke, I thought. But the more I considered it, the more I appreciated that the seemingly minor and mostly forgotten stories of people like Pujols and Dotel shape the narrative and history of baseball.

I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

As we departed for the grueling drive back to Detroit I wondered when I’d get back to Cooperstown. Chances are it won’t be soon.

Until that time, I’ll be keeping a more watchful eye on the historical aspects as they happen and cherish a trip of a lifetime with my Dad, brother and brothers in law.

The Monday Report

Welcome to the final week-like segment of the 2011 regular season. Remember, oh, four weeks ago when the final three games of the year against Indians looked meaningful?

Leading Off: The Tigers earned a split against the mosquito-ish Orioles by brute force: homers by Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Don Kelly and Jhonny Peralta. Brad Penny was just … decent enough to earn the win and even his season record at 11-11.

ALDS Maneuverings: The Rangers swept the feedble Mariners and have a one-game lead over the Tigers in the race for the second-best record in the American League. Texas heads to Anaheim to face Dan Haren, Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana. Perhaps it’s time to bury the hatchet with Weaver, however temporarily.

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The Tigers are in first place, 12 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s game: Tigers vs. Indians – Doug Fister (10-13) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (10-12) | 7:05 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1

Fister’s 7-1 with a 2.02 ERA since coming over from Seattle on July 30, and 5-0 with a 0.81 mark in his last six starts.

Jimenez is 4-3 with a 4.62 ERA since his trade to the Indians. He’s 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts against the Tigers with Cleveland.

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On this date in 1926, in his final day in a Tigers uniform, Ty Cobb watched his replacement in centerfield get six hits in a doubleheader against the Red Sox to become the new batting champion as Heinie Manush edging Babe Ruth .378 to .372.

The Diamondbacks Friday-night clincher came before a less-than-capacity crowd at Chase Field, so it will be interesting to see how the club draws in the NLDS. I’m liking my chances to secure a walk-up ticket whenever the D-backs’ series opens. There’s a nice piece on Kirk Gibson in Sunday’s Arizona Republic – but the really interesting story is this one. When he retired, Gibby coached a youth hockey team in Grosse Pointe and got advice from Steve Yzerman.

“My philosophy on it was you want the puck, but I’d always watch them fight for it, get it and then dump it into the zone and fight for it again,” Gibson said. “It didn’t make much sense to me. I’d like to keep the puck.”

With the season ending on Wednesday, the Tigers won’t have an opportunity to even their record on Thursdays and Saturdays. These will end up being the only two days of the week they didn’t at least finish .500 (Thursdays, 9-10; Saturdays. 12-13).

Finally, on this date in 1969 the album “Abbey Road” by the Beatles was released. Have a great week.

A Look at Tigers’ Big Comebacks

From Elias Sports Bureau:

The White Sox led the Tigers, 8-1, in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game before Detroit came back to win, 9-8. It was the second-largest comeback win that the Tigers have ever had at Comerica Park; on Sept. 27, 2003, they rallied from eight runs down to defeat the Twins, 9-8, thereby avoiding their 120th loss of that season (a total that would have tied the modern major-league record set by the 1962 Mets). It was the 29th time in team history – an American League-record total – that the Tigers have won a game after trailing by at least seven runs – a trait that started with the team’s very first game after the American League attained major-league status in 1901. In that game, played on April 25 of that year, the Tigers trailed the Milwaukee Brewers, 13-4, heading to the bottom of the ninth; but aided by an overflow crowd that encroached on the playing field to the consternation of the Milwaukee outfielders, the Tigers scored 10 runs in the last of the ninth to win, 14-13. (The Milwaukee team moved to St. Louis, becoming the Browns, the following year; the franchise then re-located to Baltimore, becoming the Orioles, in 1954.) It was against the White Sox on June 18, 1911 that the Tigers set the major-league record for the largest deficit overcome to win a game. The Sox led, 13-1, in the fifth inning, but the Tigers chipped away and won it, 16-15, by scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth, with Ty Cobb himself scoring the winning run. (Two other major-league teams – the Athletics in 1925 and the Indians in 2001 – have since won games after having trailed by 12 runs, but the Tigers’ record has never been bettered.)

The Monday Report: Bad Penny, Power Rankings and Elliot Gould

Welcome to the end of August, in which the Tigers have amassed a 16-9 record so far. The boys returned home after a 5-2 road trip for four against the Royals.

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The Tigers are in first place, 6 games ahead of the White Sox, 6.5 ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers vs. Royals – Max Scherzer (13-7, 4.21 ERA) vs. Luke Hochevar (8-10, 4.91 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Notes on Scherzer:

Scherzer enters his start this evening versus Kansas City with a 4-3 record and 2.97 ERA over his last nine starts dating back to July 7.

He’s making his 15th start of the season at Comerica Park this evening against the Royals. He is 6-3 with a 3.44 ERA in his first 14 starts at home in 2011.

Lifetime, Scherzer is 4-3, 2.85 ERA against Kansas City.

Notes on Hochevar:

Hochevar will make his fourth start against the Tigers in tonight’s series opener, his third at Comerica Park. He’s 1-1 with a no decision, sporting a 6.48 ERA … both of his decisions have come in Detroit: a 9-5 victory during the Royals first trip of the season on April 10 and then a 3-1 loss on May 13 … he’s allowed 6 earned runs on 12 hits in 13 innings here in Detroit this season, with 5 home runs, all solo shots.

Lifetime, Hochevar is 3-4 against the Tigers with a 5.10 ERA in 10 games, including 9 starts, and is 2-2 at Comerica Park with a 6.04 ERA in 5 games.

Miguel Cabrera is hitting .480 off Hochevar.

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Leading Off: Brad Penny proved to be a stopper after all: a momentum stopper. Maybe it was too much to ask for, a sweep of the Twins in the last trip to Target Field this season, but the Tigers lost with a flourish, 11-4. Ramon Santiago collected four hits but other than that, it was a stinker. And what about poor David Pauley? The forgotten man of the bullpen might have showed once and for all why he is the forgotten man of the bullpen: 2 IP, 4 hits, 4 runs (all earned), a walk and homer. Meanwhile, Wilson Betemit is hitting 110 points higher than Brandon Inge Carlos Guillen is slated to begin an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple A Toledo tonight and soon thereafter will throw second base into disarray.

Around the Central: The Royals did their part to help the Tigers to no avail, beating the Indians 2-1, and the White Sox finished off a sweep of the Mariners, 9-3.

The Tigers moved up two spots in ESPN’s Power Rankings this week to number 7, seven spots ahead of the Indians and nine ahead of the White Sox.

Alex Avila extended his current hitting streak to 12 games yesterday at Minnesota. He compiled a 10-game hitting streak earlier in the month, doing so August 2-13. Avila is the first Tigers player to have two hitting streaks of 10 games-or-better in a single month since Roger Cedeno(!) did so in May of 2001. Cedeno posted two 10-game hitting streaks that month for the Tigers, doing so May 1-11 and May 15-25.

Paul Sporer wrote that Justin Verlander’s20th win was nothing but a symptom of greatness.

Joe Janish looks at waiver wire deals of the pastand finds two Tigers deals worth mentioning, if not remembering.

On this date in 1925, the city of Detroit hosted a dinner for Ty Cobb honoring his 20 years in a Tiger uniform. He was given a trophy by the city and $10,000 by the club.

On Aug. 29, 1959, Hamtramck won the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pa.

Finally, Happy 73rd Birthday to actor Elliot Gould who is known for many roles, but my favorite will always be that of Reuben Tishkoff in “Ocean’s 11” and 12 and 13.

The Friday Breakfast

Welcome to the weekend and a big series against the Indians at Comerica Park. Cleveland will avoid facing Justin Verlander in the three-game set, much to the chagrin of Tigers fans.

Leading Off: The Tigers were off on Thursday and likely spent part of the day kicking themselves over missing an opportunity to beat the Twins and take the series. You know, kinda like how they kicked the ball around the diamond and let the  Twins beat them, 6-5. Unfortunately, the boys remembered how good they used to be at losing to Minnesota in myriad ways … Every time the Tigers face Joe Nathan I think to myself, This is the time they beat him. Alas …

[callout title=The Friday Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers vs. Indians – Max Scherzer (12-7, 4.37 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (12-5, 3.97 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Scherzer is making his 14th start of the season at Comerica Park this evening against the Indians. He’s 5-3 with a 3.63 ERA in his first 13 starts at home in 2011.

He enters this start versus Cleveland having limited opponents to two-or-fewer walks in 15 of his last 17 starts for the Tigers. He has issued two-or-fewer walks in 19 of his 25 starts this season.

Lifetime at Comerica Park, Scherzer is he is 13-7 with a 3.28 ERA in 28 outings.

Scherzer has limited opponents to a .203 batting average with runners in scoring position in 2011.

On this date in 1974, the Tigers acquired catcher Jerry Moses from the Yankees and traded righthander Jim Perry to the Indians and righty Ed Farmer to the Yankees (the Indians traded RHP Rick Sawyer and OF Walt Williams to the Yankees) as part of the three-way deal.

On this date in 1921, at the age of 34, Ty Cobb became the youngest player to collect 3,000 hits when he singles off Red Sox’ Elmer Myers.

Happy Birthday to David Palmer, 54; Terry Harper, 56; and, Fred Lasher, 70. Here’s a bio of Lasher on SABR’s Bio Project website, it also appeared in Mark Pattison and David Raglin’s 2008 book, Sock It To ‘Em Tigers–The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers.

[/callout]Around the Central: The Indians doubled up the White Sox, 4-2; the Royals lost to the Red Sox and are now 23 games under .500, and the Twins lost to the Yankees and CC Sabathia, 8-4.

Leyland’s Ugly Lineups: At least that’s what Dave Schoenfield wrote:

No matter how you slice it, Detroit’s best hitters have been, in order: Cabrera, Avila, Peralta, Martinez, Boesch and then a big drop to Dirks and regular leadoff hitter Austin Jackson. So with several good lineup options, Jim Leyland has instead chosen to bat two players with poor on-base percentages in front of his best hitter. And he continues to bat his second- and third-best hitters sixth and seventh.

I know there’s a goodly number of you who agree 100 percent — or more, if that were possible.

Did you know the Tigers are 27-18 against clubs from the A.L. Central this season? Detroit’s .600 winning percentage is tops among all A.L. clubs with the .600 winning percentage against the division.

Keith Law looks at the A.L. MVP race and the contenders, which include Justin Verlander:

I’m not sure what sort of voting calamity would have to occur for a pitcher to win an MVP award, but indulge me for the moment, since the rules for MVP voters do not in any way exclude pitchers, and any voter who omits them entirely is violating the spirit of those rules, if not their letter as well. Such a voter is also ignoring the value that a top-end starting pitcher can create, whether it’s Roy Halladay this year in the National League or Verlander in the American.

An august August for Avila. Alex Avila enters tonight’s game hitting .426 with three doubles, a triple, three home runs and 11 RBI in 14 games during August. He’s leading American League players with a .426 batting average and .542 on-base percentage during the month, while he is third with a .723 slugging percentage.

Finally, Happy 63rd Birthday to Gerald “Major Dad” McRaney. Have a great weekend.

The Saturday Breakfast: Al’s Okay, Penny’s Good Enough and Happy Birthday to “Schneider”

Good Saturday morning. Thank goodness Al Alburquerque is going to be okay after a batting practice scare yesterday. The Tigers placed Alburquerque on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion effective August 12 and recalled Ryan Perry from Toledo. Perry appeared in 20 games with the Mud Hens, posting a 3-0 record, 3.03 ERA, seven saves and 30 strikeouts.

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Leading Off: The Tigers won their seventh-straight one-run game, topping the Orioles 5-4 [highlights here]. Andy Dirks went 4 for 4 and knocked in the winning run and Brad Penny was good enough for his eighth win … The victory marked the seventh straight game the club has won by one run. According to STATS LLC, Detroit’s seven straight wins by one run matches a club record, equaling the mark established by the 1944 club. The 1944 Tigers won seven straight such games July 18-29 … In other news, the Tigers transferred the option of pitcher Lester Oliveros from Triple A Toledo to Double A Erie on Friday.

Around the Central: The Indians beat the Twins 3-2 in Cleveland and the Royals handed the White Sox their seventh-straight home loss, 5-1.

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The Tigers are in first place, three games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers @ Orioles: Max Scherzer (11-7, 4.33 ERA) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (5-15, 4.38 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Scherzer enters his start this evening at Baltimore looking for his 12th win of the season. With a win tonight, he would equal his career-high win total established with the Tigers during the 2011 season.

His career mark against Baltimore 1-1, 3.46 ERA. This will be the first start of his career at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

With a win tonight, he would join Justin Verlander to become the first pair of Tigers pitchers with 12-or-more wins in the club’s first 119 games of the season since Jeff Robinson and Frank Tanana did so in the first 119 games of 1988.

One hundred years ago today, in a move that only Carlos Zambrano could appreciate, Ty Cobb, apparently believing the Tigers can no longer win the pennant race, begins a vacation.

On this date in 2007, Placido Polanco played his 144th consecutive game at second base without an error. This broke Luis Castillo’s record, set earlier that season. The two streaks overlapped for many months. The Tigers still lose, 7-2, dropping them to eight wins in their past 25 games and a tie for first place with the Indians.

Happy Birthday to Roman Colon, 32, and Jarrod Washburn, 37.

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More great work this week by Paul Swaney and his team at StadiumJourney.com. The spotlight turns to Jerry Uht Park, home of the Erie SeaWolves, the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate. Here’s a taste of Joshua Guiher‘s review:

Jerry Uht Park … was originally built in 1995 at a cost of $8.7 million. In 2006, the park underwent a $4 million upgrade that added a nice scoreboard, a very large picnic area and a second level of seating among other things.

All About Al. In his ESPN.com blog [$], Jim Bowden lists the under-the-radar players on each American League club. His pick for the Tigers is Alburquerque.

Alburquerque has been an important part of the first-place Tigers’ bullpen. The hard-throwing right-hander has an impressive 2.29 ERA with 55 strikeouts and just 18 hits against him in 35 1/3 innings pitched. His fastball plays in the 93-96 mph range, and he has a hard, downward, biting slider that misses bats.

The Phighting Phifty-one-year-old Tony Phillips. Choose your own bizarre angle to this story (with video!), I’ll go with the ‘Tony Phillips is still playing?!‘ perspective.

Did you know that Wilson Betemit is hitting .360 since joining the Tigers last month? With as little as he’s played on this road trip, I’d have guessed it was about 200 points less.

Finally, a Happy 49th Birthday to “Mad Men” star John Slattery. And we can’t forget to mention the 82nd birthday of actor Pat Harrington who played Schneider in the unwatchable 1970s sitcom “One Day at a Time.”