the catcher returns

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

It’s been quite a while, but Brad Ausmus is coming back to the Tigers, now one more step up the baseball evolutionary ladder. Time, environment, and mutation have helped him make the natural– but by no means inevitable– evolution from catcher to manager. The Tigers’ previous manager of course has just decided to step gracefully off of the phylogenetic tree main branch to a spindly side branch of vaguely affiliated front office types. Nature, as you know, abhors a vacuum, and the ecological niche thus vacated looks to be filled now by Ausmus.

He will be new to the role, with no big league managerial experience. If you are experiencing sweaty, shaking flashbacks to Alan Trammell, that’s okay. Breathe deep. It is a perfectly understandable reaction. Remember that you control the memories, and the memories do not control you.

Ausmus is also awfully young to be handed the reins of a big league team– he is only 44 years old. Detroit just went from years under the control of Jim Leyland, a 68-year-old man who seems 85. How will the Tigers react to a relative whippersnapper, a guy definitely still hot enough to raise the eyebrows of their girlfriends, a dude only 6 years older than Torii Hunter? We’ll have to wait until Spring Training at least to see.

(Fun fact: Torii Hunter is significantly closer in age to his new manager than he is to Rick Porcello. He’s 6 years younger than Ausmus, but 13 years older than FredFred. This tells you more about the remarkableness of Torii Hunter than anything else.)

The official RotT line on this one is trepidation, mixed in with a lot of hopefulness. It is hard to imagine that someone so inexperienced will be able to handle personality conflicts or issues, should they arise, with the irritable aplomb that Leyland brought to the table. But Ausmus is a smart cat, and I so want him to do well, having loved him from his playing days. This will make it all the more awful should he fail. But I am willing to hope that he can swing it.

And how exciting is it to have the Tigers managed by A NICE JEWISH BOY? For RotT, it is incredibly exciting, because this is how we do it around here, ok. He instantly becomes the only current Jewish manager in the majors (as the Jerusalem Post has already noted), and rabbis everywhere are running around in small circles out of sheer excitement. Detroit Tigers yarmulkes for everyone!

stepping down

all images by Samara Pearlstein

Jim Leyland announced today that he is stepping down from his position as manager of the Tigers.

Obviously we have all had our moments of doubt, exasperation, annoyance, and so on with decisions Leyland has made. His use of pitchers was often what might be charitably termed curious. His lineup decisions were sometimes hard to figure out. He was loyal to coaches and players, sometimes, some might say, to a fault. If there is any one among us who has not at some point over the past 8 years shaken a fist at the field or TV or radio dash of a car while screaming, “LEEEYYYYYLAAAAND!”, I would argue that that person is lying or apathetic about baseball or both.

But there is also no denying the good that Leyland did here. As that previously linked article points out, 6 of the 8 years Leyland was here, the Tigers had winning records; they went to the postseason 4 times; and they made at least the ALCS the past 3 years in a row. That’s not an insignificant record, and even all the talent the Tigers have socked away on their roster is hardly a guarantee of that kind of consistent success.

And, of course, there has been much to love. There’s his penchant for smoking in the dugout and clubhouse, and his secret amazing singing voice, and his baseball socks, and his dislike of things that are horsesh!t, and his intense war with all MLB umpires, and the fact that he was never really even mad at Gene Lamont for running over his foot with a golf cart, and his affection for Don Kelly, and the time he said that Phil Coke was rowing with one oar.

All these things and more made us love him, and we had many reasons to enjoy his tenure as manager. He is not entirely retiring– he says he will be remaining with the team in some as-yet unspecified capacity– but I, for one, will miss him.


turn out the lights

rally cat

photo by Samara Pearlstein

For Game 4, I declared that before every half inning when the Tigers were batting, I would kiss the cat. I did this very thing. The results speak for themselves.

This is Kaylee, internet, and you have her to thank.

This is Upsetting and I am Upset.

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

Seriously! What else was Justin Verlander supposed to do? He was more than good, and he left the Tigers more than enough chances to swing themselves back into the game. I am not a happy cat right now.

Also, John Lackey, gross.

Games 1 and 2 of the Conflict ALCS

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

Now that the Tigers have lost a game, we can safely bump Maneki-Paws from the top spot here. Not that we are giving up on the good luck power of Maneki-Paws, of course… we’re just acknowledging this momentary lapse in his ability to influence the world around him. I’m sure he will be back at full strength tomorrow night.

Game 2 can be safely summed up in the image above. Max Scherzer was pitching firmly on the side of the blue eye, the offense had for once managed to exert itself for more than the absolute minimum of runs, Torii Hunter laid himself all out on the line in a near-literal sense if you call the outfield fence ‘the line’… but it came down to Big Papi’s tendency to be, well, big, in the ‘coming up huge’ sense of the word. As a Bostonian I can assure you all that this is just what he does, especially in the postseason, and it’s nothing personal. Not that this makes last night’s game any better, but there you are.

Game 1 had a rather different outcome.

What happens when Anibal Sanchez and assorted relievers very nearly no-hit the Red Sox? ALCS victories happen, that’s what. That the Tigers should get such a pitching performance out of NotMax/NotJustin is inestimably valuable. Anibal did his bit and then some in the effort to move onto the next round, and in commemoration of his efforts I hereby present him with this Terrible Cartoon.

It has been, as is usual when the Tigers and Red Sox play each other, a brain ‘splodey experience for me. This time it’s ramped up to a particularly high and squealy pitch because of the playoff factor, and the fact that I conduct much of my daily life within technical walking distance of Fenway Park. I am honestly a little surprised that my Olde English D’d car has not been keyed yet, but maybe Boston has mellowed out. Certainly everyone was perfectly pleasant when the Tigers were in town during the regular season, even when I was wearing more Tigers gear in public than anyone other than an actual Detroit Tigers employee would ever reasonably need, and I haven’t gotten more than a side-eye for wearing a Tigers hat out and about this past weekend.

The tough thing is that, when they aren’t playing the Tigers, there has been precious little reason to dislike this 2013 version of the Red Sox. It’s hard to not be sort of fond of David Ortiz swearing in public, or Koji Uehara’s various weirdnesses; the beards, while objectively horrific, are actually pretty fun. So I do like these Sox. They aren’t quite as cranky and drunk as they have been in the past, they’ve provided the city of Boston with a highly entertaining season, and they have absolutely no sense of tonsorial propriety. I don’t especially like rooting against them.

But I do especially like rooting for the Tigers. That’s pretty unambiguous. And John Lackey’s starting Game 3, against Justin Verlander. Nobody likes John Lackey, and all right-thinking folk like Justin Verlander. Should make things easier.

Go Tigers.


Come on, Tigers.