The new manager of the Tigers

Ron Gardenhire is the new manager of the Detroit Tigers, replacing Brad Ausmus after 4 seasons. This is a hard curve in terms of team direction. Ausmus was a very veteran former player, but a brand new kitten of a manager. He was an Ivy League guy who looked like the hottest dad at the elementary school afternoon pick-up. Gardenhire is a very veteran manager– he led the Minnesota Twins from 2002-2014– who is known for prospect development and a general old-school disdain or distrust for Them Newfangled Statisticals. He looks like what Santa Claus would look like if Santa Claus played baseball (which means that instead of a full white beard, he has a short white goatee).

Most of us, I think, agree that it was time for a change. And with this new hire, things most certainly are going to change. But is this the right new hire? Experience, yes, we want that. But don’t we want to use all those numbers every team spends so much time, effort, and funds to gather nowadays? Don’t we want a manager who will lead the team with a strong personality in the locker room, but also a strong understanding of statistical analysis and how to apply it to Random Baseball Scenario X? Or at least someone who trusts and respects numerical truth-nuggets enough to let someone else tell them how they apply to the cats on the field?

We do want this. Of course we do. And I have the answer here for you.

Batya-Halloween17

all photographs by Samara Pearlstein

Meet my cat, Batya Pearlstein, the new NEW manager of the Detroit Tigers!

Batya will be the perfect manager. No player can resist her gaze, her soft fur, her fabulous little ear tufts, her beautiful long tail. There will be no arguments in the locker room, because the moment any player raises his voice against another, she will meow her adorable high-pitched meow, and all anger and resentment will drift away like loose cat fur in the wind. Press conferences will be easy for her, because all she has to do is look at the gathered reporters and photographers with her cute little cat face, and nobody will be able to have any objection to any gametime decisions she may have made.

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Batya believes strongly in the importance of stretching, cleanliness, getting enough vitamin D, and getting a good night’s sleep. She believes in eating a lot of protein and not touching junk food. She believes that practice makes perfect, and the more you ask someone to throw you a toy mouse, the better you will get at catching a toy mouse. She has the perfect values for someone who needs to keep a teamful of sometimes spoiled manboys in top shape. She models good habits in her own exemplary behavior. Sure, sometimes she might scratch the clubhouse furniture, or poop in the infield dirt, but there’s nothing wrong with using team resources to aid in your physical fitness, and so long as you bury your poop you’ve done nothing impolite.

Batya does not know much about sabermetrics, or basic baseball statistics, or numbers in general. She knows that some cat food is not as good as a lot of cat food but is still better than zero cat food. This intuitive sense will serve her well in many game situations, but she also knows that experts should be consulted to fully capitalize on something that is not her area of expertise. She has no problem bringing in assistant coaches with different skill sets from her own. She knows that she is not going to use a can opener to open that cat food, but she will let the can opening expert go out there and open that can. She will do her best at the things she knows how to do, and she is willing and able to smartly delegate the rest.

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Batya will have an extra special relationship with Paws, since they are both cats. I think this stands to reason.

I think we can all look forward to this new season of Tigers baseball with my cat as manager.

(Happy Halloween)

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The trade.

VerlandertoAstros1VerlandertoAstros2

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Images by Samara Pearlstein.

Thirteen years. That’s how long Justin Verlander had been with the Tigers. In this era of constantly shifting lineups, it seems unreal to think that we had a pitcher stick with us for over a decade. ‘Ace’ is a term that can be applied one year and gone the next, but if he wasn’t always our ace in these latest years, Verlander was at least still an anchor of sorts. Through all the drama and the frustrations and the big wins and near misses, the no-hitters and the playoff games, the scorching fastball (and the fastballs that later weren’t quite so scorching), he was a constant.

Verlander was 21 when he was drafted by the Tigers. Now he’s 34. He grew up with this team (with all the milestones and bumps in the road that implies), and we have a generation of Tigers fans who grew up with him.

I’m not saying anything revolutionary here, and I’m not saying anything you haven’t already read or heard in a million other places. This week Justin Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros for prospects Franklin Perez, Jake Rogers, and Daz Cameron.

This is not a great year for the Tigers. (Understatement.) The team was kind of already there, but with this trade the Tigers have firmly parked their butts in the unpleasantly dank and pee-scented subway station that is rebuilding (if rebuilding was a place). The Astros, after an abysmal stretch in the early 2010s, are now gearing up for a legitimate playoff push. Black is white, dogs are cats, the world is a strange place.

Nobody– neither the Tigers nor Verlander– is helped by his continued presence, and the continued presence of his contract, in Detroit. This should be just one more step in the Tigers’ plans to get that gross rebuilding subway’s doors closed so it can pull out of the station. And I think a lot of us are sort of numbed by this season anyway.

But thirteen years is a long time. Justin Verlander’s tenure on the Tigers was old enough to be Bar Mitzvahed. It was an adult member of the baseball community. We can agree that it is time to hand him over to a team that can maybe get him that ring, but we can still be sad about it. I think a lot of us will be. I know I am. (RIP my last remaining current-team-accurate Tigers jersey.)

Anyway, this is a bunch of words to say what the cartoon really says on its own. Good luck in Houston, JV. We may know it’s time, but Detroit will still miss you.

Miguel Cabrera vs. ray


illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

Because I do not live in Michigan, I am often subject to the vagaries of out-of-town broadcasts. The Tigers are currently in Tampa Bay, which means that I have to watch the games on Fox Sports Humidity or whatever they are. That is fact #1.

Fact #2: The Tampa Bay Rays have a tank in their ballpark that houses real live rays. I believe they are cownose rays. Even though the team has moved away from their literal-animal-ray original logo and now tries to identify with a vague comic book starburst– like, hey, a ray of light! We’re super into gleaming!– they still wish to pay homage to their humble origins and the majestic flappy fish that populate the bays of, uh, Tampa Bay.

Fact #3: In 2013 Miguel Cabrera hit a home run into the ray tank.

During last night’s (April 18) game, the Rays TV cameras captured a tank ray swimming at the very edge of his tank, head-on from the camera’s point of view, as though he was trying to watch the game. Miguel Cabrera was at bat. This sent the Rays announcers off on a long digression about that time Miguel Cabrera hit a home run into the ray tank, and look at this ray here, obviously he is mad, obviously he is glaring at Miggy, and now here he is 4 long years later, obviously seeking some cartilaginous retribution.

Someone in the Rays production team set up a beautiful split-screen view of the ray, nose to the glass, and Miguel Cabrera, innocently up at bat with no idea that the local fauna was coming for him.

I tried to take a photo of this amazing moment in baseball television but my phone was out of space, so you will have to settle for these cartoon approximations.

RIP Mr. Ilitch

Mr. Ilitch and a tiger cuddling
illustration by Samara Pearlstein

There’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. Mike Ilitch was committed not just to the Tigers (and the Red Wings), but to the city of Detroit, in a way that can be hard to fully understand. I don’t think that Major League Baseball will ever see an owner like him again. I am not sure that such a person exists.

Rest in peace, Mr. Ilitch.

the game within the game

pokemon baseball

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Let me tell you cats something real quick. The last time I was at a baseball game was when the Tigers were in Boston earlier this season (more on that shortly, when I have a hot second to catch my breath and upload the rest of these freakin’ cartoons). There was a fair amount of baseball and a lot of heat and a Bostonian gentleman who recognized my 2009 All Star Game jersey in the security line out front, expressed surprise at seeing it, then saw that it was a BRANDON INGE jersey and said, “Inge… Brandon, right? You don’t see a lot of those!” No sir. No, sir, you do not, but I very much appreciate your recall of short white third basemen refugees from the catcher’s mitt.

I also almost (literally) ran into Al Avila in the Fenway Park concourse, which was cool, but Mr. Avila, please do not stop on the ramp and block the way. C’mon now.

But I’m not cartoon-ically ready to talk about all that just yet. What I want to talk about is the fact that THERE WAS SO MUCH POKEMON GO.

Seriously. There were people playing Pokemon Go all over the park. Outside the park, in the concourse, in the aisles, in their seats. People were coming down the stairs playing Pokemon Go while looking over the shoulders of people in grandstand seating playing Pokemon Go, so that they could confirm that that other person was in fact playing Pokemon Go, and maybe to see what creature that person was pursuing (??), or whether they were battling for a ‘gym’ (????) or doing whatever one does at a ‘Pokestop’ (????????).

There were definitely more people playing Pokemon Go in Fenway Park than there were people scoring the game on paper scorecards.

pidgey at the park

Image obtained via Pokemon-Go-capable seatmate.

I don’t even have Pokemon Go on my phone (I couldn’t download it even if I wanted to; my phone is too old and is not supported by newer apps). But since my seatmate does, I was privy to the madness and the wonder of Pokemon at the Park. There was so much happening! There were small creatures in the stadium, not entirely unlike mantises! The gym was constantly changing hands! People had something to do between innings that did not involve spilling extremely expensive beer on each other! Of course people were also staring at their phones during the actual gameplay, sometimes, and missing out on some pretty decent baseball so that they could superimpose digital monsters on the very real Green Monster….

but…

I cannot remember ever seeing anything like this, where so many people were interested not just in the game that was happening on the field, but in playing a separate game in the stands, one that was in some ways its own thing, but in other ways was dependent on the particularities of Fenway Park (moving around to catch different Pokemon; the intensity of activity that was a direct result of the number of people in the park at one time; the pleasure of seeing your Pokemon not just on a digital landscape, but actually putting its butt in Justin Verlander’s face; etc.). I know that it is cool to poop all over the entire phone-tethered existence of which Pokemon Go is a part, but this seemed more fun and communally entertaining than anything else. These folks were delighted to see Pokemon at the baseball game, more so than they would have been to see Pokemon at the local CVS. That was cool and I have to say that I, a non-participant, did enjoy seeing it.

The focus on phones also prevented a few more people from doing the wave. Good outcomes all ’round, I say.

This election year, why not vote for what’s right?

Vote Kinsler 2016

Illustration by Samara Pearlstein

There are a lot of terrible choices you could make this election cycle. You could be voting for hate, fear, cronyism, corruption, stupidity, greed, and so much more. How can a responsible voter cut through all this mess and come up with an answer they can feel good about? Cat friends, we have your answer. Vote for the one candidate we all know to be correct.

Vote Ian Kinsler for All Star 2016!

This is the Final Man Vote and you have until 4:00 pm ET on Friday July 8. Happy clicking.

A couple things that are not cool.

JD Martinez and his broken elbow and its ghostly results.

Illustrations by Samara Pearlstein.

Not cool: JD Martinez breaking his elbow and being out six weeks. It’s not even like he broke it doing something irresponsible like skateboarding or jumping on a trampoline or carrying a bag of frozen meat up the stairs. No, he was just playing baseball and he played baseball a little too hard and there you have it, now the ghostly spirit of Tigers offense can waft right on up and out of that break. Not cool at all.

Also not cool: this situation.

Paws crushed beneath Sluggerrr and the dumb Cleveland C.

Just sayin’.