Category Archives: Spring Training

Some more important Spring Training matters.


illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

Here we are at the tail end of Spring Training. It is a wonder that we have arrived at this point, is it not? Many of us are looking out our windows right now at piles of snow surrounding more or less indifferently cleared sidewalks, piles of snow obliterating perfectly good on-street parking spaces, piles of snow melting off of rooftops onto the unlucky, uncovered heads of passersby, piles of snow that someone’s labradoodle has peed on. But real live Baseball That Counts is starting in two weeks. Truly it is enough to make one ponder the mysteries of the universe, or at least the mysteries of summer-associated sports played in April in northern climes.

In any event, things have been occurring. We all learned that Jhonny Peralta is allergic to shellfish, for instance. This vital information came to light after he consumed what he thought was clubhouse potato soup, later to be revealed as treacherously potato-white and potato-chunky clam chowder.

There are lessons to be learned here. The first one is for the kids still in school: don’t make fun of your peers for food allergies, because that stuff is serious, and also they might one day grow up to be a Major League Baseball player and then won’t you look dumb? You will. Be nice. Secondly: maybe the clubhouse spread should be labeled. Like, really clearly. With big black letters on brightly colored pieces of cardstock. In English and Spanish. Thirdly: Jhonny Peralta has a serious food allergy. This was not widely known information before this incident. Now you know.

Another thing that occurred: Miguel Cabrera was involved in a MLB Network video art project. It involved Rihanna and Adam Jones and the kind of digital video effects that one would in fact expect from video art created by, say, your average contemporary art student– a little more Ryan Trecartin than Nam June Paik, you know.

As much as I love Miguel Cabrera, obviously, I have to note that Adam Jones is near-criminally underused in this project. From his brief appearances it is clear that the man can, and more importantly, wants to (over)act, with a readiness and enthusiasm that all the props in the world cannot approximate. But while ruing our lost opportunities to see Adam Jones flower into his full performative potential, we must not fail to appreciate that which we are given, that being Miguel Cabrera flailing around in a scuba mask and having some sort of emotional moment with a baguette, for reasons that remain obscure even upon repeated viewings. I am sure you have all seen it by now, but I urge you to spend some more time with it: this is art that resists easy and immediate interpretation.

Another thing that occurred a while ago and it is just now showing up in this section of the internet because GRAD SKOOL: Spring Training, as we all know, is the period during which all the most important stories have the space and time to be written. The Detroit baseball writers stretch their fingers with ease in the humid Floridian air. Their minds are sharp, honed on a long offseason of laughing at the misfortunes of the hockey beat writers; sometimes this involves laughing at themselves, and this too serves to sharpen the mind. They are at the pinnacle of their unathletic game, and the athletes, lulled into a calm good mood by renewed baseball activities and covert clubhouse clam chowder, are willing to give them a little more attention than usual.

All this led to the most important reportage of the Tigers’ Spring: Phil Coke (the relief pitcher) met and conversed with Phil Coke’s Brain (the Twitter account).

MLive’s Chris Iott is a gentleman and a scholar. Phil Coke is hilarious and a jolly good sport. His Brain abides.

One last thing: Brennan Boesch, he of the surfer-boy hair and dubious oblique and frustrating 2012 stats, was finally jettisoned from the team. Mr. D said many expected things about “moving forward” and “potential” and “a change of scenery” and all those related phrases that mean the team believes there might still be a cache of talent lurking somewhere within the corporeal person of Brennan Boesch, but they’ve tired of trying to coax it out of hiding and have decided that someone else can give it a shot if they’re feeling feisty.

The Yankees are not feeling particularly feisty these days, but since they are already gunning hard for the prestigious Most Injured Outfield of 2013 award, they extended their grubby little Yankee paws and snatched Brennan up almost immediately. May he enjoy his time in New York, although not to the point where he’s enjoying it because they are actually winning games of baseball.

Why Spring Training is exciting.


illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

The Spring! A magical time of renewal and rebirth, birds stretching their wings and beginning to think about those long migrations, Canadian geese settling down to poop all over your city, a time for fresh green buds to appear only to be immediately buried by the next snowstorm. A time for people in cold northerly climes to sit transfixed by photos and videos on their screened devices, showing them what Florida looks like. A time for Ryan Raburn to be employed, although not, for once, by the Tigers. A time for the joyous resumption of baseball activities and all that that entails. But what does it entail? So many wonders. Let us share them, friends.

The Spring brings us Dave Dombrowski’s arbitration-stomping dance, executed with great style each year, this year no less than the others. Should a potential arbitration arise, there he is, our President/CEO/GM/savior-in-stompy-boots, ready to dance like a veritable superb bird of paradise, to dazzle his players and beat any hint of arbitration down into the dirt where it belongs. Filthy process.

The Spring also brings us a stunning new array of striped polo shirts for Mr. D to display at the ballpark, as is only fitting and proper.

(note: those are all Detroit News photos from this Spring)

The Spring brings us a healthy Victor Martinez, his knees filled not with loose shards of bone, or excess fluid, or anything else likely to cause pain, terror and trips to the DL, but instead filled with sunshine and flower petals and the tender breath of sleeping kittens.

Bound freely upon those knees, O Victor! But not too freely. Let us keep them nice and unhurt, yes?

The Spring brings us a delightfully fresh crop of quotes from Jim Leyland, such as when he says that one of his own relief pitchers is “rowing with one oar.” He says it with love, mind you. But it is a very Jim Leylandian species of love, one that blossoms best and most readily in the low-stress environment of early Spring Training and in the presence of one Phillip Douglas Coke, which must of course not pass unremarked.

You row that boat, Phillip. You row your little heart out, with your singular oar and your quixotic determination in the face of this impediment.

The Spring brings us an opportunity to gaze upon the sizable noggin of Bruce Rondon, so that we may wonder at his potential ability to be a Major League closer with the assistance of visual aids instead of the cold words and numbers that have tried to form our perceptions of him all this long winter. Can Bruce Rondon close? Let us look at him and see.

The Spring brings us a stimulating debate on the topic of the new batting practice hats. Are they good? Are they hairball-inducingly bad? Are they naught but mediocre? All have thoughts and feelings on the matter. We do not even have to debate the BP hat. We may engage in a BP hat dialectic if we find that mode of communication more pleasant and useful. All these things are permitted in the Spring.

The Spring also brings us Justin Verlander’s super super dorky golfing outfits. It may in the final estimation be the best wonder that the Spring has to offer.

Spring is here.


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Spring! Spring! Our favorite fuzzy little faces are all starting to show up in Lakeland! ‘Tis the season for all things fresh and green Detroit navy and growing. Rejoice in it, my feline friends. Enjoy the return to spring.

The Red Sox are still in love with Victor Martinez.


photo by Samara Pearlstein

This post is going to be a mess because I am basically just melting into the internet with the blinding power of my love for Victor Martinez, and melting does not lend itself well to molecular cohesion, or writing cohesion.

Oh my GOODNESS, the love that the Red Sox have for the Martinez family. First, before today’s game, there was this blurb in the Boston Globe:

Francona also had a great relationship with Martinez’s son, 6-year-old Victor Jose. The younger Martinez had the run of the clubhouse last year and Francona often pitched rolled up socks to him.
Peter Abraham/Boston Globe

During the game, the radio guys mentioned how much Francona liked Victor, and how much all the Red Sox had enjoyed having him around. After the game, Jason Beck put this puppy up:

Sure, Red Sox manager Terry Francona would’ve liked to have kept Victor Martinez in Boston. But he would’ve gladly kept his slugging son, too.

“We’re trying to make a move today,” Francona jokingly announced. “We’re trying to acquire Victor Jose [Martinez]. They’ve asked for [Carl] Crawford, but we’re holding out for a little less.”

Replacing the younger Martinez’s presence might be tough, though.

“I think he’s officially the cutest kid in the American League,” Francona said.
Jason Beck/DetroitTigers.com

To put this into even more context for you, let us recall that Roar of the Tigers was in Cleveland when Victor Martinez was traded from the RLs to the Red Sox. I was listening to sports radio immediately after the trade, while on a longish drive from Cleveland to beautiful Niles, OH (note: not actually beautiful). They put on Victor’s exit interview, where he sounded like he was crying in front of the reporters.

In this interview he said that he had tried to explain things to his son, Victor Jose, who was nearly five years old at the time and had known nothing but Cleveland baseball in all his young life. Little Victor had come up to him that very day and anxiously uttered, in his adorable little piping nearly-five-years-old voice, these immortal words: “Daddy, are we still an Indian?”

So Victor is crying, the reporters are probably crying, people calling into the radio stations are crying and threatening to drive their trucks off the road in anguish (fact), Little Victor is undoubtedly somewhere crying, and why? BECAUSE VICTOR MARTINEZ IS LOVE. He is adorable, his family is adorable, everyone loves his family and everyone loves him.

Maybe it was just Cleveland, desperately in love with one of the few viable signs of hope their team had left at the time? NO. Because THE EXACT SAME THINGS happened in Boston! EVERYONE LOVES VICTOR. Everyone loves Little Victor! THERE IS TOO MUCH LOVE, IT CANNOT BE CONTAINED. THERE MUST BE HUGS. HUGS FOR ALL. HUGS FOREVER.

So.

I listened to the webcast of the game today, which was just like a radio broadcast because it was Dan Dickerson and Jim Price and there were Detroit-local ads and things between innings, but it wasn’t a radio broadcast, because it was only available on the internet. It went well. The mics were picking up too much crowd noise, I think, but I don’t know what kind of set-up is normal for spring training games and there probably wasn’t anything they could do about it. The ads were awful but when you have Yanni, Thin Lizzy, Rod Stewart/Stevie Nicks, and Celtic Woman: Songs From the Heart shows to advertise, it’s just not going to be good and there’s not much you can do about it.

It didn’t randomly cut out at any point in the middle of the broadcast and really that is all I can ask for when it comes to MLB internet broadcasts.

THINGS THE RADIO GUYS SAID but don’t ask me if it was Dickerson or Price because I forgot to note that down.

– “When I try to do too much, I don’t do too much.” What Magglio told them about pressing at the plate.

– “You make your bed, you have to lie in it. But he can change the covers on that bed very easily.” On Justin Verlander’s bad Aprils and the fact that he has to hear a bunch of questions about bad Aprils as a result.

– “They are good-looking and bright, but they do mess up on occasion!” On young Tigers.

– “I’ve gotta talk to him about that, because there are books you can read during the day.” On Clete Thomas’ complaint that he learned more than he ever wanted to know about daytime TV programs while rehabbing from his busted knee.

– “Nothing the trainer can do except come out and offer moral support.” After Max St. Pierre got hit in the replicators.

The Tigers lost in 10 innings, in front of a record crowd of over 10,000 people at Joker Marchant, but it was hard to be too upset. Miggy homered, most the pitchers looked good (including Verlander), and there was just too much Victor-love in the air to hold onto any upsetting emotions.

Cliff Lee? Who cares? I only have eyes for Placido Polanco.


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

The Tigers played split-squad today, with no Detroit cameras. But the Phillies had their guys out at one of the games, and the MLB Network decided to replay it at 8pm for some reason. Initially I could not understand why this was happening, but I wasn’t complaining, because baseball! Tigers baseball! On my TV!!

I soon realized the game had probably been chosen for broadcast because CLIFF LEE, MAN OF PITCHERLY WONDERS was starting. As you will see. Liveblog from my notes follows.

Top of the first
–We join the broadcast in action to find that Will Rhymes led off the game and was beaned by Cliff Lee. So… thanks for not showing me what I would actually kind of like to see? Good start, MLBN.

–Ugh, I guess I had assumed this would be a neutral MLBN broadcast, but it’s not, they’ve just ganked the CSN Philly tape, so it’s Tom McCarthy, “Wheels”, and “Sarge”, although only two are in the booth at any given time. Wheels is Chris Wheeler, Sarge is Gary Matthews the Elder. Naturally enough they are concentrating on the Phillies. I don’t blame them, but I just want more Tigers focus. Stampy feet!

–One of them says this is Cliff Lee’s first appearance in a Phillies uniform. But… but…? I stare at the TV, begin questioning my own memories of 2009. Maybe they mean… first appearance back? First appearance this season? Maybe they should say that. Deep breath. Spring Training for everyone.

–Tigers scoring happens. Ryan Raburn triple! Don Kelly has high socks on. Ryan Strieby looks nice and solid, I don’t know why I’m commenting on this, it makes me sound like Rod Allen.

Bottom of the first
–Andy Oliver gets the start for the Tigers. Placido Polanco is batting second for the Phillies! I draw four sadfaces in a row on my notes. The announcers are still talking about Cliff Lee.

Top of the second
–I left the room to do some stuff, and when I came back, it was the next inning and they were still talking about Cliff Lee. CLIFF LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

–Brian Wilson is in the MLB 2K11 ad. “Digital Brian, I will come through that screen and rip you apart.”

–”Nobody has ever touched the beard. There’s a reason for that– you can’t. It’s too full of magic.”

Bottom of the second
–The ballgirls down the lines are Hooters girls. Don’t even know what to say to this.

–Is the Phanatic here? I wish they would show him. It’s a Philly broadcast, if he’s in the park they really ought to put him on camera.

Top of the third
–Placido Polanco throws out Audy Ciriaco. I draw another sadface in my notes.

–Kyle Kendrick has replaced CLIFF LEE CLIFF LEEEEEEE. He comes way inside on Rhymes. After Cliff The Precious Lee already beaned him! THEY ARE PITCHING HIM INSIDE WITH INTENT TO HIT, OOOOOO PHILLIES, YOU DID NOT. YOU DID NOT. No they aren’t, Kendrick immediately throws two balls carefully far outside. But it’s the principle of the thing.

–Raul Ibanez is currently bald up top, with a scruffy beard. Announcer: “Some folks said, you look like a professor!” Other announcer laughs. I didn’t realize bald + beard = professor. Is that a thing?

–On Jose Valverde: “He’s something to watch.” Stuff about his outings being “an adventure.”

“There’s not enough mustard in the world to put on that hot dog.”

“Most closers are put on this earth to drive fans crazy.”

Bottom of the third
–On the bench in the dugout, CLIFF MOST SACRED OF LEEs, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and even Joe Blanton are all sitting in a row. Announcer says, “I like the way they all hang together.”

–They aren’t even in our league and I have to admit that’s a hell of a thing to see. All those cats on the same bench. Like… that’s some All Star Game stuff going on over there. If you’re a batter and you look into a dugout and you see that, you probably pee your pants a little bit. Just a little.

–Directly transcribed notes: MY PLACIDO, walks, oh he looks amazing ugggggh healthy sleek handsome

–No shame, ladies and gentlecats, no shame. This is baseball.

Top of the fourth
–Cliff Lee on-field interview EVERY INNING IS CLIFF LEE INNING

–Cliff Lee talks about getting to know the pitchers on this staff, this amazing ridiculous hyped-to-death-and-back-to-life-again staff, and he namedrops Placido Polanco. All the stupendous pitchers, and he has to mention how he’s been getting to know Placido. The only position player he names. PLACIDO.

Bottom of the fourth
–Adam Wilk is pitching. He majored in criminal justice.

–Gary Matthews says that Andy Oliver was penciled in as the Tigers’ fifth starter. Um… this is news to me? Where did that even come from?

–Another direct notes transcription: Rhino —> Rhymes threw out S Victorino @ second trying to run stretching a single oooo! snap snap

Game continued AFTER THE LINK!
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The Tigers are all blue. Not sad. Blue.


photo by Samara Pearlstein

Not blue in a ‘look at these handsome blue high socks’ kind of way either. Wouldn’t that be nice, though? If all the Tigers were looking at photos like that and realized, hey, those kids have the right idea, that really looks sharp, I’m gonna wear my socks like that all season long… wouldn’t that be sweet? It would.

But that’s not what I mean. I mean REALLY BLUE.

Now, there is a fine history of ridiculous Spring Training Photo Day themes, which probably reached their peak with The Great Oakland Sunflower Seed Lulz of 2007. The Incredibly Blue Tigers Photos of 2011 are not a sudden departure from the solemnity of Spring Training Photo Day; they are simply another example of an already rich tradition.

They are also not the result of a photographer who doesn’t know what he’s doing. The gentleman responsible for the bulk of the Tigers’ Photo Day stuff this year was Getty Images shooter Nick Laham, who knows how to light a photo. He also shot the normal Photo Day poses which came out, you know… normal (to the extent that the thing currently inhabiting Daniel Schlereth’s face can be considered ‘normal’, anyways).

We are still left with the question WHY. I always thought that the portrait stations were supposed to generate stock-like images of the players that could then be used by the team (or whoever else had rights to use Getty or MLB photos) for a variety of different applications throughout the year. For instance, near the bottom of the Mothership right now there is a little image of Cabrera, Verlander, and Jackson. The shot of Miggy is from a 2009 Getty photog on Spring Training Photo Day (Nick Laham again, actually), Justin’s is from 2008 (also Laham), and Austin’s is from a 2010 MLB-licensed shooter. Stuff like this is what I imagined Photo Day was for.

But what purpose do the Blue Photos serve? For that matter, where in the world were those Sunflower Seeds shots ever used, or even last year’s photos with the giant Olde English D on the wall*– where were those used? What are they for? Have I totally misconstrued the point of Photo Day? Is there some SECRET PURPOSE involved, alongside the more easily-comprehended stock photo generation and head-scanning for video game modeling?

WHAT IS THE SECRET PURPOSE? I mean, does the team ask for these creative and, er, limited-application shots? Is it all up to the photographers? Is there a secret underground plot to turn Major League Baseball creative and artsy?? IF SO, WHY HAS NO ONE TOLD ME?

These are important mysteries to ponder, alongside the very serious question of what Miguel Cabrera’s absence from camp means in terms of Photo Day. He wasn’t AT Photo Day! Does he not get a Blue Photo? Turning Tigers blue requires a fair amount of equipment, and that’s a lot of set-up for just one cat at some unspecified future date.

I don’t know WHY the Tigers had to be blue this year, but if all the other starters had to turn blue, Miggy clearly has to be blue-gel’d too. This is what being a team is all about.

ETA: Oh ho! Now it comes out that the Phillies have been red gel’d, by the same photographer who blue gel’d the Tigers. What is happening here?

*Gregory Shamus for Getty Images was responsible for these.

Happy Valentine’s/Spring Training Day!


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Welcome, new cats! We are ready and waiting to shower you with love! All you have to do is play the game of baseball reasonably well and not get injured or arrested. I feel like this should not be too much to ask, but since so many cats of our recent past have had issues with these seemingly simple restrictions, let me lay it out for you, as a roadmap to our hearts. It’s all in the spirit of the holiday!

Victor Martinez: You have possibly the easiest task of the three, because we have been carefully training our expectations for the catcher’s position downwards for the last few seasons. We’re horribly used to saying things like, “Oh, any offensive production out of this spot is a bonus, we’re really just in it for the defense. That’s what’s important. The rest of the lineup should produce enough to make this lineup hole a non-factor!” Has it ever worked out like that? Not really. We kept saying it, though, because that is how we keep from crying.

Last year you batted .302 and OPS’d .844. We haven’t seen catcher production like that since Pudge… actually, we haven’t seen a catcher OPS like that since the 2004 version of Pudge. Just remember that Alex Avila is your little buddy and if you feel like bending over to pick something up might hurt your knees or back, make him do it for you. He has a young body and a beard of great health. Don’t be mean to the pitchers and don’t develop a taste for firing balls randomly into the outfield, and I think we will be great friends.

An additional suggestion: don’t go to any Phoenix Suns games. And if you absolutely MUST go to a Phoenix Suns game, don’t bring your grandpa.

Joaquin Benoit: I know that you’ve only ever called obscenely hot places or domes home, and Detroit is most definitely neither one of those things, but it will be OK. Invest in some handwarmers, and maybe a headsock or giant furry hat to wear in the bullpen. It seems impossible to imagine with all the snow on the ground right now, but soon enough it will be too hot for normal people again and we will all be complaining about it.

Perhaps you could form some sort of elaborate ritual with Papa Grande? This would help you become a full member of the bullpen community. Remember that you are setting up, not closing, so don’t feel like you have to put too much pressure on yourself and get injured. Keep your head down and your strikeouts up and maybe learn a few Australian slang words.

Your eyebrows are really something, and your goatee growth always seems robust. With Phil Coke out of the bullpen, you may have to pick up some of the slack in the tonsorial department. How do you feel about mohawks?

Brad Penny: I saw you in Boston, buddy. You can’t hide from me. I know what you’ve done and you are ON NOTICE in the American League. I know we have that big scary thing called THE DH over here, and I know we’re lacking in the soothing lineup presence of a pitcher’s bat. You’re just going to have to deal with it, and you’re going to have to deal with it in a way that does not make us think of Edgar Renteria. You probably don’t have as convincingly wibbly a sadface as Edgah did, but trust me. We will know.

That said… again, expectations are not high. We don’t need you to be Justin Verlander. We don’t even need you to be FredFred or Max Scherzer, and we don’t expect you to be; FredFred is like a fetus compared to you, with a correspondingly fetus-fresh arm, and you don’t have Scherzer’s magical eyes. We just need you to be better than the ghost of Nate Robertson (last seen heading east with a 5.00+ ERA) and more consistent than Dontrelle Willis. Quite frankly, this should not be difficult. Paws is more consistent on the mound than Dontrelle Willis and they don’t even let him pitch.

You do wear the high socks, and this is a positive. Don’t ever change that. We’re counting on it.

We are ready to love you, Brad Penny. We are all standing here, gazing at you hopefully with giant melty kitten eyes. When it comes to the back end of the rotation, things have been hard for us, and our little hearts have been much abused. Honestly, our number five guy right now is Phil Coke. We are scared. We want to give you our hearts. Please don’t stomp on them.

Now let the spring commence and the love blossom in the shining Lakeland sun! Which does not shine on me, but whatever. I can imagine it. With love.