illustration by Samara Pearlstein
I am not going to talk about the two interleague games the Tigers lost. I did not see them, therefore they did not exist. You may believe otherwise, but we are not here to cater to your personal belief system. Instead we will talk about stuff from the rest of the Texas series and that first (only) game of interleague and a little bit about the Memorial Day KC game, but before we get into all that we must discuss the game announced by Mario Impemba and John Keating.
The game where the fans could Facebook or Tweet in, and get their questions answered on the air. In the middle of the game.
Look, you insufferable goatlickers, I get it. I know what Twitter is. I know how it works. I am not confused by the phenomenon; I grok the Tweeting concept. I am a part of the demographic that is supposed to be all about the Tweeting. I. Just. Don’t. Care. I don’t want 5,000 inane updates on the bland minutiae of someone else’s life, I don’t want to see you stop in the middle of living life like a normal person so you can text a frelling tweet to your account from your catdamned iPhone, I don’t give an aphid’s sphincter who you’re ‘following’ these days, and I most especially
DO NOT WANT TWITTER IN THE MIDDLE OF MY CATDAMNED BASEBALL GAME.
I don’t want the space usually occupied by announcer banter (something that flies naturally between Rod and Mario, and drops like a crow stricken with bird flu when Mario has Keating in the booth) filled instead with the announcers’ infuriatingly mild reaction to a viewer asking a vacuous question like, “Why does pitch count matter?” via tweet. This doesn’t make me think FSN is cool and hip and down with technology, it makes me HATE EVERYTHING, AS HARD AS POSSIBLE. It is difficult for me to type these words because I keep balling my hands up into little fists of rage just remembering this game. Aaaahhhuurrrrgggh.
So, yeah. I just wanted to get that out of the way. Let us move on to happier things, mainly, as the image up top may suggest, the fact that the Tigers can play defense now. Seriously! I know there are many jokes on this website, but this is not a joke, it is a thing that has actually been happening, in real life.
The Tigers had some amazing defense over the course of this latest little winning streak. Some of it was more or less expected: it’s fun to see Curtis Granderson make a crazy leaping circus catch, of course, but it isn’t surprising, because Curtis Granderson is perfect. Excellent Brandon Inge plays are in the same family, because we are all very familiar with his athleticism/scrappiness/range/sure-handedness/third-baseyness/etc by now, and while we (I) will still make happy dolphin noises when he pulls off a particularly spectacular play, it is what we on some level already expect of him.
But some of this is still new. For example, shortstop. Adam Everett is small and kind of awkward-looking, yes, but we used to spend our Shortstop Contemplation Time worrying about which of Carlos Guillen’s bodyparts would implode next, or if this would finally be the day where Edgar Renteria burst into hysterical tears in the middle of a game. Not that long ago we were cringing in horror whenever we realized Neifi!!! was on the field. Now we watch Adam Everett play competent baseball! Times have changed, and we have found that it is good, or at least markedly less horrific.
Miguel Cabrera is also more fun to watch nowadays, and I’m not (just) talking about his plate appearances. Putting Inge back at third full-time was a good move for the Tigers’ defense, obviously, but putting Cabrera at first full-time has turned out to be almost as smart. I mean, we are talking about a metamorphosis that we have been able to see happen right in front of our fannish little faces. Gross squidgy caterpillar to delicate-winged butterfly! Ugly duckling to graceful if invasive swan! Miggy went from someone who was always unintentionally stepping into the paths of oncoming runners to someone who can do a near-full split to keep a toe on the base, who can lunge surprisingly fast in any direction, who turns difficult plays with confidence.
His instincts are quite good now (for example, he can now tag the bag and throw home to get a lead runner without blinking). When you stop to think about it, it is remarkable, not that his instincts are good, but that he has managed to develop Real Actual First Baseman Instincts at all. A stirring testimony to the powers of dedication, hard work, and classical behavioral conditioning in professional athletes indeed.
Add to all this the guys that Gerald Laird has thrown out lately; the balls that Josh Anderson has run down and caught; the way that Polanco, though struggling offensively, can still make a difficult play look easy; and Verlander’s still-startlingly-sharp pick-off throws…. you know what that amounts to?
It amounts to a team that is wicked freakin’ fun to watch.
I suppose that it may on some level seem a little obvious, fundamentals, blah blah, but when you compare the way the team is playing the field right now with the way they were playing the field, say, at this time last season, I think it should be obvious how much good defense impacts my ability to watch a baseball game without making me want to throw forks at the TV. And that doesn’t even get into how much it helps the Tigers, y’know, actually win games…