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!

Top of the fifth
–I can’t watch these Golden Corral ads, they are grossing me out. Oh holy Paws look at that fish. Urk. I need Tums or something.

–Eddie Bonine pitching for the Phillies. Oh boy. Awkward. There are a couple kittens in the lineup he might not know, but in this inning he still has to face Clete Thomas, Will Rhymes, J(h)onny Peralta, and Ryan Raburn (Rhino blasts a two-run homer off of him). WICKED AWKWARD.

–Announcer calls Audy Ciriaco “Andy See-reek-oh”. Congratulations, you have butchered the poor kid’s name in every possible way.

–Talking about Bonine’s knuckleball. Matthews asks how hard he throws it. They start talking about other knuckleballers… they mention the Niekros, then RA Dickey, then stop. Um, how about TIM WAKEFIELD? Gosh.

Bottom of the fifth
–Apparently Matt friggin’ Anderson pitched for these Phillies yesterday. Yes: THAT Matt Anderson. They’re talking about his outing, saying that he impressed Charlie Manuel, that he was “lighting up the mound”. What is this parallel universe in which we are now dwelling?

Top of the sixth
–McCarthy calls Ryan Strieby “Steeby”. It’s cool, man, he wasn’t using that R anyways.

–Josh Barfield bobbles a ball, but manages to get it to first in time for the out. McCarthy says, charitably, that it’s still early and he’s probably breaking in a new glove. Matthews says that if you’re trying to break in with a new team (Barfield of course has been with the Racist Logos the past few years), you better leave the new glove at home and go to work with the old one you already know.

–Andy Dirks and Adam Wilk keep mixing up in my head. Not sure why, although I suspect it’s the number of letters and the A-names.

Bottom of the sixth
-Jimmy Rollins, now out of the game, walked down the Wall of Fans trying to hide his face with his hat. When he got to the end he took the hat away, smiled and laughed, and started signing for people.

–AHHHH PLACIDO POLANCO ON-FIELD INTERVIEW JUST HEARING HIS VOICE AAAHHHHHH. Talking about how excited he was to come to camp this spring, “to see my family– I call everyone here my family.” AAAAHHHH

–Al Alburquerque is pitching, with some new catcher, dunno who. It had been Avila before. Too bad they switched; the Alex Avila/Al Alburquerque battery promises to be Absolutely Amazingly Alliterative.

–Gary Matthews asks questions that have so many parts, and he kind of rambles through them. Placido is visibly struggling to follow the thread of the question through to its end, biting his lip, looking concerned as he waits for the question mark at the end of yet another complex composite statement. I WANT TO HUG HIM FOREVER.

Top of the seventh
–The Brian Wilson video game ad again. At least it’s not the Randy Johnson/Tim Lincecum/Plastic Lincecum shower scene again.

–Jeff Larish playing at first base now for Philadelphia. Wow, so… awkwardness abounds here in Clearwater.

–Cut to the broadcasters, my brain goes, “WHOA, Gary Matthews turned into a white guy!” Matthews left the booth and was replaced by this Wheels fellow, but they are similarly shaped while seated and are wearing the same shirt and were in more or less the same pose, so there was a moment of fearful concern there.

–Talking about Cale Iorg’s dad and uncle (both former Major Leaguers): “That was a name. When the first Iorg arrived, you didn’t know how to pronounce it. First time up, that was Eye-org!” It’s properly pronounced “Orj” with the G sounding like the J in “juice”.

Bottom of the seventh
–The announcers thought the Iorgs were from Utah, although they are not (Cale went to high school in Tennessee; his uncle and father were both born in California). Then they had to spend some time working out why they associated the Iorg name with Utah. Cale’s uncle went to BYU, and they’re all Mormons. So: Utah. That was the connection. And half of the inning.

–They spent the rest of the inning explaining the Rule 5 draft.

Top of the eighth
–Jimmy Rollins is still out there signing. FOREVER SIGNING.

–Danys Baez pitching for the Phils, which weirds me out for some reason. My brain still does not want to see him as a Phillie. Get out of here, Danys Baez. Go be an Oriole or something.

–Rob Brantly was the kid who replaced Avila at catcher. According to his college website he majored in “history and law and society”. I don’t know what that actually entails.

Bottom of the eighth
–Short version of that Detroit Chrysler ad. I know exactly how it’s playing on my emotions and I still like it. UGH. Dammit, Chrysler.

–Jeff Larish’s batting face is super focused and serious. He looks wicked locked in. He looks like he’s seeking justice and/or revenge. He strikes out looking. Sigh.

–The Phillies have this big kid in to play first. Matt Rizzotti. They’re giving his stats as 6’5, 265lbs. Rod would LOVE this kid. Meaty. Announcer sez, “Looks like Thome, don’t he?”

Top of the ninth
–Spring Training for everyone. At this point I fell asleep on the couch.

When I woke up, Mitch Williams was on my TV wearing a suit and objecting to something about dances celebrating home runs, and then he got into some sort of argument with Kevin Millar over who you would pick, Ryan Braun or Carlos Gonzalez. Millar picked Braun (for whatever this is), Williams looked at him like he had just leapt up, dropped trou, and taken a dump on the MLBN desk.

I can’t even. I’m pretty sure the Tigers won, and nobody got injured, so it was a good day. I’m going to bed. Goodnight, kids and kittens!

17 responses to “Cliff Lee? Who cares? I only have eyes for Placido Polanco.

  1. I love Spring Training baseball because the kittens get to play! Funny story about Rob Brantly…He was catching for the Single A Whitecaps in Fort Wayne over labor day weekend. Jake the Diamond Dog was there to retrieve bats, etc. Jake was taking too long to take the bat from Rob, so Rob tossed the bat to the dugout. The entire Fort Wayne crowd booed and barked at Rob. Every at bat afterward they would play ‘Who let the dogs out’ to get the crowd upset again. That must be why he went 0 for 5 that day!

  2. I liked how just as they started talking about Bonine’s curveball, Raburn jacked what looked like a flat knuckleball over the left field wall (barely).

    Also, I love that Chrysler commercial but I love it as a fist bump for Detroit. It doesn’t really make me want to buy a Chrysler. I’ll still check Consumer Reports and all that and purchase the car that is reliable, holds value, is quick, gets good gas mileage, catches my eye, etc. If Chrysler comes out on top after all that, great. But thanks to them for the lovely ad for Detroit.

    • I’m definitely not gonna go out and buy a Chrysler. I just mean that it’s an obviously manipulative commercial, I can see exactly HOW it’s manipulating me, I am aware that I am the more or less precise target of that manipulation, and… it still kinda works (not in terms of wanting to buy the car, but in terms of my reaction to its depiction of Detroit). HARUMPH.

  3. ivantopumpyouup

    //Ryan Strieby looks nice and solid, I don’t know why I’m commenting on this, it makes me sound like Rod Allen.//

    I let out an undignified snort here. I think to match Rod Allen you’d have to throw in a “so I was down by the batting cages” and say “Mario” and “pahdnuh” at random intervals.

  4. Surely what they were referring to was that this was Cliff Lee’s first appearance at Clearwater and/or the Phillies’ spring training. The last time the Phillies had Clifton Phifer Lee (actual middle name, you can’t make that shit up), they traded for him in mid-season, then traded him away in November, on the same day they traded to Toronto for some kid named Halladay. So Cliff Lee had never pitched in a Phillies uniform before in Spring Training.

    • That must have been what they meant, but in that case they were leaving out a vital “here”… as in, “This is Cliff Lee’s first appearance in a Phillies uniform HERE.” Otherwise it’s just weird! It is comforting to hear that they were working with some sort of logic, though.

  5. I think that is the first bobble head I have seen where they actually made the head proportionally smaller than it is in real life.

  6. So much wonderfulness! THAT Matt Anderson is back?? I love him so much, I’ve been waiting for him to make a comeback. Still have his poster on my wall, heehee. And as long as we’re talking about people who should’ve been mentioned in any conversation about knuckleballs and were not, how about Steve Sparks? Who once shut out the Yankees in a complete-game 85-pitch masterpiece of an outing? (Yes, that is my favorite SparkyFact.) And please let’s get Polanco back (and Grandy too while we’re fantasizing!)–they’re just too wonderful to be anything but Tigers.

    • It was just like… I understood the Niekros, since they’re historical at this point and were wicked famous for the knuckleball. Then they brought up Dickey as a modern-day knuckler. But Wakefield is still pitching, and he’s had a much longer career with the knuckleball than Dickey has. WEIRD OMISSION, GUYS.

  7. I’m not going to lie… I loved the inning-by-inning summary, but the cat with the Polanco bobble-head sold me.

  8. * Thank you for finding out how to pronounce Cale Iorg’s name for us. All this time I’ve been saying “Yorgg”.

    * I am still amused by the Brian Wilson commercial. I reserve the right to change my opinion some point before the All-Star break if they play it this much all season long, though. (This has also happened to me with the Evan Longoria cap commerical.)

    * Polly!!!

  9. iheartFredFred

    not sure if you have seen this or not: Will Rhymes tweeted a picture that you drew of him! I just thought that that was super cool and needed to be shared.

  10. The photo is one of my all time favorites!

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