Monthly Archives: January 2012

“isn’t the happiest camper . . .”

"Looked at my kingdom, I was finally there, to sit on my throne. . . " you know the rest.

I feel like I should be running around all spastic with happiness over our assured 2012 World Series title like many Tigers fans are today, but the line-up situation bugs me so badly that I just can’t drink the Kool-Aid yet.  At least Michael Rosenberg at the Free Press agrees.

That, and I’m suddenly very concerned about my ability to get spring training tickets.  Jesus H. Christ, is Joker Marchant going to be a zoo next month.

Anyway, you can probably see what’s coming here if you read my last post.  Before you roll your eyes and leave the room, let me reiterate that I am in no way in denial regarding Inge’s ability to hit.  This is not going to be an argument for why Inge should be the third baseman for the team and how unfair it is to move him, or bench him, or whatever. I’m also well aware that this is a business and, in business, you can’t make everyone happy.

However.  There’s a way you handle this, and a way you don’t.  As the reports yesterday moved rapidly from “I bet Cabrera is going to DH” to “Cabrera is telling everyone he’s the third baseman”, and had a sick feeling as to how this was going to go down, and that was confirmed during the press conference this afternoon.  When this deal was discussed, the organization told Cabby he was moving to third full time, and no one told Inge.  Leland said that he apologized to Inge because they hadn’t meant for it to break before they told him.  He said that he had “not been at liberty” to discuss it with Inge beforehand.  Inge “isn’t the happiest camper”, but he can still be a valuable part of the team.  That last part is what you tell the press when a player is still on contract and but has effectively lost their job.

Here’s the thing, though.  The organization has said multiple times that they spoke to Cabrera during the winter caravan about the move.  No one talked to Inge until, what, yesterday?  I don’t know the operating model of a team, so I know I don’t have all the information, but to me, that translates as “Cabrera is our superstar hitter, so we need to make sure he’s okay with this, but you barely hit for average and are on the last year of your contract, so we’re not concerned about your feelings on the matter”.  And if that’s what happened, that Dombrowski or Ilitch (two men who, by the way, have always stood by Inge even when others didn’t) didn’t feel it was necessary to at least tell him this was happening before it broke in the press, that really sucks.  No, we’re not talking about a superstar player in Inge, but we are talking about the man who has played for them for his entire career and was the starting third baseman for most of that time.  Ten years.  Not only that, according to the team, he has always worked above and beyond others, done whatever it took to help the team win, was a force and a leader in the clubhouse when times were tough.  They’ve believed in him enough to sign him to contracts when fans thought we could do better and stood by him personally when he was struggling so seriously last season.

And no one talked to him.

I thought the Tigers front office was better than that.  My prediction?  I see this going two ways.  First, Cabrera doesn’t work out at third and Inge gets to play there at least part time.  Second, Inge is out of the organization by the end of the season.  This is what I think will happen.  I get the vibe that the only reason he’s still with them is because he’s on contract.  They’re either going to trade him or release him, period, and he’s going to go without a fight.  The Inge I know is going to fight like hell during training to prove that he can come back to at least his average.  He could come out of spring training at the level he was in 2009, but even if he does, it won’t matter, because there isn’t a place for him anymore, and I wish someone had at least given him the courtesy of telling him that to his face.

I hope I’m wrong about Cabrera at third.  I hope he can play it at least well enough to not cost us late leads.  I hope that, wherever Inge ends up next, he plays a hell of a third base for him, that he’s appreciated, and most importantly, that he’s happy just to play the game.  Most of all, I hope that, if they get that series ring this year, that Inge plays enough games with the Tigers that he gets one, too.

Always my Tiger (image credit unknown)

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Brandon Inge and what it means to support your team

A few days ago, I was watching a random special about memorable moments from the 2009 season that was airing on MLB Network.  Inevitably, a good amount of attention was given to game 163 against the Twins, including the now infamous shot of Brandon Inge’s jersey getting brushed by a pitch.  The highlight they played started with Inge walking to the plate while the announcer declared something to the effect of “This is exactly what the Tigers want to see- Brandon Inge at the plate with the bases loaded”.

My, how things change.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a fairly shameless defender of Inge.  I harbor no delusions about his statistics over the past 10 years- you don’t make any friends with a .230 career average- but I also think he’s a valuable third baseman (fielding percentage generally above league, with flair) and have a bit of a soft spot for him as an overall player.  He’s only ever played for the Tigers AND survived The Dark Years of the early 2000’s.  He seems willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win, even if that means playing five different positions in one season.  Last year, he handled a demotion with humility and worked his way back to the team in time to contribute during the playoffs.  His recent feisty comments to the press about the possibility of being a platoon player this year seem to be getting a bit of “yeah, you talk big now” reaction from people but, you know, good for him.  He’s pissed at himself for last season, but if it comes down to it, I really think he’ll gracefully accept a platoon with Kelly if that’s what’s best for the team.  I respect him as a player, and I get irritated when fans inevitably start pinning the whole team’s failures on the fact that the Tigers keep letting Inge hang around and play good defensive third base.

And, let’s be honest, last year sucked.  A lot.  Even factoring in illness, it wasn’t pretty.  Lowest average since his rookie season, .548 OPS, 3 home runs, 23 RBIs, and I could go on and on.  The thing is, though, this is the same player who was an All-Star in 2009 because fans fought for it to happen.  27 home runs, .720 OPS, 84 RBIs . . . and a .230 average.  .230, people.  I hate BA as a statistic, but that is . . . very not good.  That’s just Inge as a hitter.  He’s up and down with the numbers but generally maintains an overall level of mediocrity that justifies keeping him around for his fielding.  Still, it was pretty obvious that he was struggling early last season, even for him, but with a possible playoff spot on the line, a player who was championed less than two years ago, who has been loyal and supportive to the city and generally gets hearty cheers when he comes to the plate, started to get booed.

I bring up Inge in particular to make illustrated a broader, more troubling point about last season.  Tigers fans have a twisted love for hating Inge and he became a crazy easy target for blame from the start, so the rise of the Inge haters wasn’t particularly surprising. It wasn’t even that surprising that nearly every Tigers fan on my Facebook feed felt that every problem with the team could be solved by shipping Inge (and Raburn) to a small tropical island.  What did surprise me was the booing and the observation that, as the team won more games and a playoff spot looked to be a lock, it not only continued but spread.  I wish I had been thinking of starting a blog at the time and had taken notes because I’ve lost track of how many different players got this treatment at home games, but I do know that there were instances in which I was truly speechless at the fans’ reactions to certain players.  Good players. It reached a point where I was disgusted, embarrassed and just prayed that Austin Jackson would make contact with the ball because I couldn’t bear what would happen if he struck out.  There was even a wonderful column in the Detroit Free Press addressing the issue, so I know I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

Booing the opposition isn’t cool, but booing your own team is completely uncalled for.  It isn’t like players don’t know when they’re struggling and they definitely don’t like it.  Psychologically, I’m sure it feels cathartic to be able to loudly express your displeasure, but it helps nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Why, when you want someone to do better at their job, would you do the least supportive thing possible?  For the player, the psychology of a slump is already a vicious cycle.  You aren’t doing well, so you become frustrated, then overly aware of everything you’re doing, which leads to trying too hard, which means to more mistakes, and so on.  Now let’s add the anticipation that, when you make a mistake, your fans will loudly express their displeasure, and you’re going to work even harder to avoid that.  Hard work can correct problems, but there’s a fine line between working hard and overworking.  They know they’re doing badly, their coaches are telling them this every day, and they don’t need you being nasty about it, too.

Supporting your team means supporting your players and cheering them on, even in the bad times.  Sometimes that’s hard, but we need to all be adults and realize that every player can’t be great every day, and that every team can’t win every game.  It doesn’t work like that, so suck it up and remember that players are people, that they’re probably actually doing a great deal to try to get better, and they’re ultimately the who are out there failing while the world watches.

Can we all just agree that Inge is Inge?

Wait . . . what??

Are you kidding me with this?

Ok- so-  wait, here’s the thing.

. . . I don’t even know.  I have so, so many questions.  So.  Many.  People are freaking the hell out, and rightly so, but I don’t think I can be until we answer some crazy questions:

1) Ok, so you move Miguel to DH.  What happens when Victor comes back? What if Miguel suffers from not being a daily position player, which I think is a real possibility, especially given his fitness.

3) What if you move Miggy to 3rd?  That wasn’t supposed to happen as of a week ago, and I still think it doesn’t, but we already have two players at 3rd.

4) Why isn’t anyone talking about moving Young to DH and shifting someone into the outfield.  We have better left fielders on our team and suddenly an excess of infielders.

5) Going back to Miggy.  Maybe I’m being over emotional, but I find this kind of a slap to him.  They effectively just said “We have one of the top 3 first basemen in baseball, but you know what, now we can get an even better one, so we’re sticking you at DH”.

I’m liking what Eric is saying on MLB Network right now.  Yeah, this is a huge win for the Tigers, but does it REALLY change things that much?  And is anyone else concerned about what this does to the dynamic of the team?  Anyone?

A quick word about comments

Assuming this blog ever gets any traffic that isn’t referred from comments I’ve made on other blogs (hi, guys!) and people start, you know, commenting on things, I’d like to say a few words about comments.  I don’t want to be all “follow my rules or get off my lawn”, but I do have one fairly straightforward request- be nice.

One of the beautiful things about sports is that we can get irrationally passionate about it and this can lead to a) wildly differing opinions that we feel VERY strongly about and b) looking for someone to blame when things are going badly.  My rule applies pretty simply to the first problem.  Disagree with facts, not insults.  Instead of “You’re an idiot”, why not try “I disagree for the following reasons”?  I know the first is easier, curb that wrath.

The second point is one I feel a bit more strongly about and can be a bit trickier.  Look, there are 162 games.  Your team is going to infuriate you, and individual players are going infuriate you.  This is inevitable.  Some guys will make mistakes that will make you question their skill or intelligence, and some of these guys will be managers.  Someone may even have a terrible season.  Venting is healthy, and I have no problem with you airing your feelings about Leland’s handling of pitchers or Raburn’s truly terrible first half numbers here.  However.  Can we agree to do this without being insulting to the people themselves?  Let’s just remember that players are people and operate under the assumption that Austin Jackson did not strikeout yet again because he hates winning.  I’ve heard the derogatory nicknames that have made the rounds about current players and I will delete any comments that include them.  I don’t want this to be that kind of blog.  I also ask you not to make derogatory comments about the city of Detroit itself.  There’s just no reason for that, ever, especially not when they’re already down.

So, as Wil Wheaton says, “Don’t be a dick!”.  Do that, and we should get along just fine.

Change of Plans

This was originally planned as a simple post commenting on the Tigers signing their remaining arbitration players.  That will probably still happen, as I love Don Kelly’s story and have many snarky comments to make about Delmon Young’s abilities as a left fielder, but as I was planning my post, this happened.

There may be be worse things a Tigers fan could hear than “Victor Martinez likely out for 2012 with a torn ACL”, but I put it solidly in the top three.  Those signings were no longer news.  Every program on MLB Network that evening attempted to dissect what a player like Victor means to a team and how the Tigers should replace him, if that’s even possible.  The general consensus seems to be that the Tigers still easily win the AL Central, just maybe not in a complete blowout.  I guess that should be comforting, but for any fan who watched the last month of the 2009 season unfold, it very much is not.  Even I didn’t panic when I first read the headline (to be fair, though, I swore a lot).  At least we have time to deal with it, this is only one player, we have plenty of depth, etc, etc.  The more I’ve processed it, though, the more I’m . . . uneasy, maybe?  We’re talking about losing a left handed hitter who posted a .330 average and kept Miguel Cabrera from having to take a walk every other freaking at bat.  And can I just say right now, on the record, that signing Laird never looked like a better idea.

My opinion (because you really care, I know)?  I don’t think we sign anyone just yet.  The Yankees need a DH, too, so it will be tough to beat them for the best hitters.  The Tigers are fortunate enough to have a plethora of young players who can play multiple positions and an great hitter who places mediocre left field ( . . . Delmon).  We’re already platooning two infield positions, so I really don’t see why we can’t add DH and left field to the player carousel.

Except that we still need a left handed hitter.  Hey, Damon’s available again!

 

2 Welcome Backs and 1 Farewell

Plenty of Tigers pitching news in the past 24 hours and none of it is particularly surprising. First up, both Coke and Porcello were signed to one-year deals to avoid salary arbitration.  I think the only remotely surprising part of this was that Porcello’s deal was only for one year given how young he is, though given his numbers, I don’t blame them.  While his record isn’t bad, the 4.75 ERA is a bit high.  I think the Tigers need to see a consistent year out of him before he’ll be able to pull a better contract.  My hope for this season is that we’ll see more of the Porcello who came out after the rain delay and pitched two no-hit innings against the Yankees in the postseason. Finally, we have the increasingly tragic saga of Joel Zumaya, who has now signed a one-year contract with the Twins.  I’ve followed Joel’s story since he debuted and there isn’t a player I’ve rooted harder for, save maybe Brandon Inge (a story for another post).  I can’t even imagine listening to the world rave about your potential and immediately go through the endless string of injuries that he has suffered.  2010 looked so promising before the horrifying elbow fracture in June (and having witnessed it on television that night, believe me when I tell you that “horrifying” may be an understatement), then Spring Training in 2011 came with such hope before everything fell apart again.

Zumaya at Spring Training in Lakeland, FL, 2011

Zumaya working at Spring Training in Lakeland, FL, 2011

I will always root for Joel because his attitude impresses me.  It would have been so easy to give up after the last surgery, or each surgery before that, but he didn’t, and he’s now found a team that wants to give him a shot.  Would I rather him be with us than the Twins? Hell yes.  But I understand both sides of the situation.  He’s proven he can be a great pitcher when he’s healthy and he desperately wanted a guaranteed roster spot going into Spring.  I get that.  I also get the Tigers position, which was apparently the position of a few other teams who showed interest, which was that they wouldn’t guarantee anything until they saw him in Spring Training.  Mario Impemba wrote a wonderful piece about Joel this week and mused that “the one thing that struck me about Zumaya’s style was that he possessed one of the most maximum-effort deliveries this side of Troy Percival”.  If you’ve watched him pitch at any point in his career, you know this is true.  You know what it is like to wonder how his arm doesn’t break right off his body with every pitch.  The Tigers have invested a lot in his health.  I think they truly like him as a person (he did throw out an opening pitch in the playoffs, after all) and wanted to give him a chance, but I think they’re also appropriately wary about his durability.  And so, as he takes a position with the greatest rival in our division, I’ll still follow his career closely and genuinely root for him all the way, because I don’t see how you can’t.  Unless he starts blowing 100+ fastballs by our guys.  Then I may need to seriously re-evaluate the situation.

Zumaya, October 2011

Zumaya after throwing the first pitch, October, 2011

An Introduction

I was raised in a household that was generally indifferent about sports and even more indifferent about watching them on television.  My grandfather loved watching professional tennis and women’s college basketball but I rarely paid much attention to either.  I vaguely recall my dad falling asleep in front of the odd football game and he got pretty excited about the Houston Rockets in the mid-90’s when everyone had Olajuwon fever.  We lived in Michigan, though, so that excitement was limited to when he was on the phone or visiting his Texas family.  I distinctly remember being asked by friends if I was rooting for Michigan or Michigan State and having absolutely no opinion whatsoever.  Asking my parents if we had picked a side was no help, either, since they went to college in Texas.  Also, they were music students.  That last point probably explains a lot.

This didn’t keep us from playing sports, and of course my parents always encouraged us in our athletic ventures.  I put in my obligatory time playing right field for two summers of softball before becoming discouraged by my lack of skill and our team’s appalling record (we won one game my second season).  I went on to play sports every season through middle and high school and turned out to be a good competitive cheerleader and a moderately “okay” runner.  I never tried softball again.

In college, I had close friends who were baseball fans (Indians and Cardinals, respectively) and, in an effort to be a sports fan, I halfheartedly kept track of whether or not the Tigers were winning. This was not particularly difficult in the early 2000’s.  In fact, the first professional baseball games I attended were a Cardinals game in St. Louis while on a church youth trip and an Indians game in Cleveland with the aforementioned friends during college.  I wouldn’t see the Tigers play until 2007, well after I moved to Florida.

I know, I know. If you’re a Tigers fan, and you read that I went to my first actual game in 2007, that just screams “bandwagon”, and you’re justified in saying that.      Yes, I fell in love with the team in 2006, and this is why I felt it important to explain my history with sports.  Following a sports team with devotion was not part of my world view until that year.  It was, however, part of my husband’s, as his father loved the Tigers and Lions, and he is partly responsible for my jump onto the bandwagon.  I remember grinning like a fool as Kenny Rogers sprayed the fans with champagne and being surprised that a sport could make me feel what I felt that night.  I endured the (slightly intoxicated) phone call from my best friend to gloat after our World Series loss to her beloved Cardinals.

I never, ever pictured myself as a sports fan.  I never pictured myself becoming so devoted to a team, and I certainly didn’t see myself becoming such a fan of a sport that I wanted to follow it and learn more even when it didn’t even pertain to my particular team.  And yet, here I am, attempting to jump into the the blogging world.  I was prompted to try this after an individual made a perplexing comment to me on multiple occasions.  While waiting for my husband to finish with a meeting, I would hide out in the car and listen to games on our XM radio.  Each time he would see me doing this, or catch me checking scores, he would mockingly ask “Are you sure you’re actually a girl?”.

So yes, I am a girl. And, yes, I adore baseball more with each year.  This is why, as pitcher and catcher report draws closer and I begin to plan my Spring Training plan of attack, I’ve decided to start this blog.  If you want to follow, I can’t exactly tell you what to expect, but it will be related to baseball, hopefully funny at times, and have a heavy Tigers bias.

Welcome, and here we go!