Miggy gets some (more) records.

cartoon of Miguel Cabrera climbing ladder of bats, number 50 behind ladder where he's standing

Miggy climbs the hit list.

With 3 series wins in a row, and this weekend’s sweep of the Twins, it can truthfully be said that the Tigers are in the midst of a very respectable streak. They’ve even managed to claw their way back to .500. Can we trust this? Of course not. Literally anything could happen at any moment, as this entire season is just a fever dream that we are all collectively experiencing. But on the whole, the things that we collectively dreamed this weekend were… good??

On Saturday Miguel Cabrera climbed to #50 on the all-time hit list with his 2,840th hit, passing Charlie Gehringer. On Sunday Miggy got his 2,000th hit as a Tiger. All very exciting, but the best bit Sunday was Miggy coming out to the top dugout step to take a curtain call, turning around to wave at the stands. The stands, of course, are empty. The part of me that believes that MLB needs to fully lean in to the post-apocalyptic aesthetic of their current situation really appreciated the reminder of Baseball as Theater.

As any long-time (mid-time?) Tigers fan knows, when Miggy is at his best he’s as much an entertainer as he is an athlete. Normally he has an audience– his teammates, players on the opposing team, fans in the stands, etc– but he’s been doin’ this since 2003, so I suppose there’s no reason why he shouldn’t have learned how to ply his craft before even an imaginary crowd.

Congrats to Miggy, and I’m glad we reached a critical mass of people who were tired of the 9-game losing streak that preceded this particular burst of competence. Let’s all do our very best to collectively imagine this team into some more wins.

mortal limbs

CJ Cron  -busted knee

kneecaps are not supposed to do that

CJ Cron is out for the year. He was trying to field a ball last week and something happened: the ball seems to have hit him, but he also maybe planted his foot wrong, or his knee just gave way for no real reason because that’s a thing that knees do when you’re 30 or older. He has described the kneecap as “just floating around.” There’s ligament damage that will require surgery to fix, the recovery period is long, and Cron was on a one-year contract with the Tigers, so that might be that and I suppose it was fun while it (extremely briefly) lasted.

sick Cardinals

this temperature would actually not be a fever for a cardinal bird but just go with it

Meanwhile, the schedule is all weird because we missed a load of games that were supposed to be with the Cardinals, who were busy letting pestilence work its way through their staff and roster. Will all these games be made up? Who knows?! I guess not?? Because I think there literally isn’t time???

The Cardinals actually returned to action today with a double-header against the White Sox. The Cards won both games. But don’t worry, the Reds are now missing games because they’ve crossed the Threshold of Positivity (not, as some imagine, actually a positive thing). The tragic fragility of human existence can thus properly remain at the forefront of our minds. Thanks, baseball.

records in Ks and innings

Tyler Alexander drawn as a letter K

Tyler Alexander maximizes the Ks

Two games, two losses. Much strangeness. So it goes for 2020.

Record Number One: Tyler Alexander, who came on in relief after Rony García only made it through 2 innings in the first game, matched and set a Major League Baseball record. With 9 strikeouts in a row, he matched the AL record for all pitchers (shared with Doug Fister, so this is a very Detroit record), and set the new record in consecutive strikeouts for relievers. This feels weird and fluke-y, but it’s definitely a good thing, so congrats to Mr. Alexander. Thanks for doing a good baseball.

Record Number Two: Due to the vast amount of shenanigans occurring at this moment in time, doubleheaders now consist of two games of 7 innings each. Like, that’s the actual rule now. The rain-out yesterday meant that the Tigers had a doubleheader today. This is apparently the first doubleheader where both games were shorter than 9 innings since 1912, and the first 7-inning doubleheader ever in Major League Baseball. There will be many more, but wet miserable midwestern weather made sure that the Tigers got there first. Hooray.

two small Detroit Ds jump holding hands, one big Detroit D looks confused

the shortened-game doubleheader

What a weird freaking day of baseball.

Next up are the Cardinals, although 6 of their players are down with the sickness right now, so is this the beginning of the end?? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of Baseball vs. The Hubris of Man.

Home Opener, 2020

groundhog gesturing to burrow with baseball hat on it, speech bubble says 'Check out my Beau Burrow'

this groundhog has made a very beau burrow

What a hot garbage pile of a home opener. There were a million home runs. The Tigers jumped out ahead early and then fell behind with horribly familiar speed. I dunno, it’s like a thousand degrees in my apartment right now so my ability to deal with any of this is… reduced. A thousand degrees, for the home opener? Yes. Sadly, tragically, yes. Remember when we used to have home openers threatened by snow? Those were the days.

This whole thing may swiftly become a moot point anyway. The Marlins have had a third of their team test positive for COVID-19 and are not playing today. The Orioles, who were supposed to play them, are obviously not playing today. The Yankees were supposed to play the Phillies today, but the Marlins had just finished up a road trip in Philly when they started testing positive, so the Yankees/Phillies game is also postponed, because nobody in their right mind would go into that visiting clubhouse right now. The Marlins are still stuck in Philly, because it is probably not a good idea to have a team get on an airplane when a huge chunk of their squad is shedding virus. There are 4 teams out of action tonight. It is at the moment entirely unclear when the Marlins will play again. What in the world are we doing? Are we really trying to have a season like this?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The one thing I wanted to make sure to mention was the fact that the Tigers had several players make their big league debuts today, and there are some delightful names involved that I am only capable of seeing in one way: through the medium of cartoons. Up at the top of this post is Beau Burrows, who is obviously working very closely with the many groundhogs who inhabit the state of Michigan.

And here’s Kyle Funkhouser:

Kyle Funkhouser wearing star sunglasses and baseball pant bellbottoms, doing a 70s-ish dance, with a tiger stripe background and funky lettering spelling out his last name

I don’t apologize. He has that mustache in real life right now, there was no other option.

Anthony Castro also made his MLB debut in this game, but it happened in the 9th and I had already drawn, scanned, and colored these cartoons by then, so let’s be real, there was never any chance I was going to make yet another drawing at that point. It’s after 10 pm and still the aforementioned thousand degrees in here. Sorry Anthony. If we ever play another game again and you get some more time on the mound, I’ll draw you as some kind of dumb pun.

Anyway, I just wanted to put these cartoons out there before this entire disaster show gets shut down because Florida doesn’t understand what a mask is. Final score: Royals 14, Tigers 6. Happy Home Opener, everyone.

Welcome back to baseball.

PawsspritzesMattBoyd

Paws sanitizes Matt Boyd.

Hey everyone. It’s July 24! It’s a global pandemic! It’s the first day of real live 2020 baseball! And the Tigers got whomped by the Reds. BASE BALL IS BAK BABEE!!

No need to worry. It’s very clear what happened. After all, we’ve got all these new pandemic-related rules and procedures in place, and folks are still getting used to them. Obviously Paws was just a little too overenthusiastic in his application of hand sanitizer to the players. Poor Matt Boyd must have gotten sprayed in the face with an extra-heavy mist of 70% ethyl alcohol. A faceful of scouring disinfectant would put anyone off their game, or at minimum seriously impede their ability to do things like see the strike zone. You can’t fault Paws for his scrupulous attention to sanitation protocol, especially for the first proper game of the year. I’m sure that he’ll figure it out as we get deeper into the season.

There’s so much that’s new and exciting about this season! Like the fact that more elaborately patterned high socks seem to be coming back into fashion across the league (at least a little). The fact that extra innings start out with a man on second base! There’s the fact that both leagues have the DH! There’s the fact that the Tigers are only playing teams in the Midwest during the regular season, so this very tired cat will not have to stay up until ass o’clock in the morning to watch west coast games! There’s the fact that fans can’t go to games, so MLB has chosen to pipe in crowd noise because… uh… because they can, I guess. Because they are terrified of silence. Because MLB knows that when there’s nothing but silence, that’s when the evil thoughts creep in.

Speaking of evil thoughts… I guess maybe because we don’t see him super often, sometimes I forget how truly terrifying Mr. RedLegs is.

MrRedLegs

But I know a cursed demon when I see one.

RIP Al Kaline

colored pencil drawing of young Al Kaline with tiger striped background

Al Kaline, drawing by Samara Pearlstein

It’s April 2020. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Opening Day has come and gone without any baseball– in fact, there are no major sports of any kind being played right now. The Tigers were not very good last year, but it turns out that even not very good baseball is better than no baseball at all.

And now we have to say goodbye to the man who confusingly introduced battery chemistry to so many young Detroit fans, the man who played his entire career in Detroit, who spent so many years after retirement dedicated to the team and its players, Mr. Tiger himself.

Rest in peace, Mr. Kaline. We’ll miss you.

new Terrible Cartoons in a new Terrible Era

Ron Gardenhire and Paws with building materials

(all drawings by Samara Pearlstein)

What can we say? It’s a rebuilding year.

The good news is… well, the good news is that it’s already May, I guess, and the team has not dissolved into screaming incoherence yet (I mean this in the literal sense that most everyone on the team is still walking upright and speaking normal human words, so far as we can tell; whether or not their gameplay is currently the baseball equivalent of screaming incoherence is up for debate). The Tigers already played through Boston, and of the two games I was able to attend, they won one of them. So that was nice. But for the most part: rebuilding.

What else? Oh yeah. Casey Mize was our first pick in the 2018 draft, and now he is pitching in the minors and everyone is all aflutter with hearts and butterflies and so on because

Casey Mize no hitter victory seal

THE BABY TIGER CHILD THREW A NO HITTER in his first game after being promoted to double-A. I don’t have much more to say about this, since I haven’t been able to see anything from him aside from the expected highlight reel clips, but in a rebuilding season, this rates a full cartoon celebration.

I have unfortunately been working much more than I’ve been watching baseball, so I don’t have too much else on hand in the way of Terrible Cartoons at the moment (can you tell that I’ve been teaching watercolors in my night class? TCs make handy warm-ups when I’m trying to make a new explanatory teaching piece). I have been trying to resist just drawing cartoons that are horrible puns on player names and nothing else. I am ashamed to say that I finally gave in on Jeimer Candelario.

Jeimer Candelario as a candle

Bad enough, but then I was listening to a game and realized that the announcers were calling him The Candy Man. Not only did I fall into the pun hole, I wasn’t even making the correct pun! UGH.

Jeimer Candeliario as candy

This has been your Terrible Cartoons update.

Everything is fine.

person holding stack of papers saying "I'm sorry, I'm just really really busy these days..." facing tiger mascot saying "It's fine, don't worry about it, we'll be fine."

person sitting at a laptop asking "How's Baseball Santa working out?" Older man squishing Tigers hat on top of Twins hat, Tiger mascot standing behind him says "He's great, all fine, no worries!"

Person hanging up artwork with a level asks "How's Miggy doing?" Tiger mascot holding baseball player with injured leg in his arms says "Great! Totally fine!"

Person sitting at drawing board asks "And what about Victor?" Tiger mascot smiles nervously hiding behind him a baseball player looking at a bat in confusion.

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

I think Paws and I might have a slightly different definition of ‘fine,’ but to be perfectly honest, I haven’t had time to watch as many games as usual this year, while Paws has seen all the games (or at least, we may assume, all the home games). Perhaps I should just trust his judgement on this.

Tiger mascot standing in front of AL Central standings showing Tigers with 38-48 record, saying "We may be way under .500, but so is almost everyone else!"

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on.

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.

Batya-Halloween17-2

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.

Batya-Halloween17-3

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)

The trade.

VerlandertoAstros1VerlandertoAstros2

VerlandertoAstros3

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.