Category Archives: Clete Thomas

Lately, in cartoons.

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

You knew, in your deepest readerly heart, that I would lead with this. You did. You knew it and you accept it, because you read Roar of the Tigers and you know that HATERS GONNA HATE, but not here. No. Here we are excited by the return of Brandon Inge.

Against all reason? Yes. Against all currently accepted baseball wisdom? Yes, mostly. Once you accept the irrationality, it becomes quite pleasant, this place where up is down, black is white, and Brandon Inge is getting real actual at-bats.

You know what else happened recently? Of course the Terrible Cartoon tells you: everyone’s favorite walking emoticon made his big league debut.

It went ok. He only lasted 4 innings, and threw 90 pitches in that time, which is kind of… you know… not so great. But he managed to only give up one run. It was a Carlos Pena home run, which is not so great and also painful as it just makes us all miss the cats out of Carlos Pena (we waited so long for you, Carlos! SO LONG!).

He did walk three Rays, which is not so good when considered in the context of the aforementioned four innings. But none of them came home, which is… you know what, let’s just forget about it. He made his debut, now he’s got that out of the way, the team rallied ’round and won the game– let’s leave it there.

(In addition, this happened. IT BEGINS.)

Someone had a birthdaaaaaay! Happy 27th, Mr. Boesch.

In order to make room for Smyly, the Tigers had to put Clete Thomas on waivers, as he was out of options. I’m not sure what they thought would happen, but what did happen was this: the Twins snatched him up, and have accepted him into their loving sticky snackcake embrace.

Also, bears.

Sunday was Jackie Robinson Day. Forty-two for all! It is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, you know.

thank cats for Clete

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

–Lazy day, reusin’ the cartoon. Nobody can complain because Clete Thomas walked us off victoriously. It wasn’t as majestic as a walkoff homer to dead center, which is how he walked us off last time, but who cares? It never gets old. I never get tired of watching the team mob him at home plate, whaling on his helmet and rending his garments.

I mean, did you see Polanco picking Clete’s stupid titanium necklace up off the grass after the celebration today? They literally ripped it right off of him. Next time, Tigers, just rip his shirt off. Or even his pants. Whichever is easier. You know. For the good of the team.

–This was a huge game. Holy cats. The Tigers have been so abysmal on the road and they’ve got a road trip coming up, so coming out of this series with more wins than losses was a Big Deal.

–I am beginning to feel that Jarrod Washburn was false advertising.

–Relatedly: the Russell Branyan home run off of Washburn today is said to have traveled 425 feet, even though my bare eyeballs are pretty well convinced that it traveled 600 feet and also killed an endangered eagle before it landed.

–Zach Miner has a brand new baby boy! (Tip o’the paw to Mr. Beck.) MiniMiner number two is named Jackson Miner. I’ll bet Edwin is pleased.

–Win number 4 for the left half of the SeayLyon.

–Brandon Inge was a hot piece of baseball manmeat in this one. He made two excellent plays in foul territory; his front half ended up in the crowd for one, and his entire tiny body went into the crowd for one. In both cases he caught and held onto the ball. He also hit a home run and a sac fly. All without The Mustache. I’m just sayin’.

–Alex Avila: man or myth? Alex Avila’s five o’clock shadow: intriguingly scruffy or simply sloppy?

–Fu-Te Ni bows to the field before he comes out, because he says that the field is a holy place for a baseball player and he wants to show it the proper respect. Fu-Te Ni, you are too glorious.

–Ryan Rowland-Smith is allegedly the first player in MLB to have a hyphenated last name. Really?

–Is there anything in the entire world more boring than Michigan Golf Live during a rain delay? I submit that there is not. Why not just show us Spotlight: Curtis Granderson again for the 5,000th time? Sure, I can probably quote whole sections of that thing from memory by now, but it still would have been a massive improvement.

–The Orioles claimed Chris Lambert off waivers. OK.

–Gary Sheffield is gettin’ surly with the Mets. WHO WOULD HAVE EVER GUESSED THAT SUCH A THING MIGHT OCCUR?

Clete saves the day

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

You hear “walkoff homer to dead center in Comerica” and you don’t automatically think “Clete Thomas”. Unless maybe you are Clete Thomas. But tonight all of Clete’s walkoff dreams came true, and thank cats they did, because the Tigers REALLY did not need to lose a Verlander start, especially after what happened this weekend.

It was the bottom of the 9th, the game tied at 5. Granderson had run the count full, then struck out swinging; Polanco looked at four pitches before grounding out second. Clete stepped up with two outs and the entire team fervently praying that he would not make another one. After all, the Tigs had just played a zillion innings in a row, with back-to-back 12+ inning games followed by a day game that turned into a rout. And then they had to travel back to Detroit. Definitely not circumstances that would lead a Cat to look forward to the prospect of yet more extra innings.

Clete fouled off a couple pitches, giving everyone reason to fear, and then got something from Danys Baez that he felt good about. He felt so good about it that he dumped it 424 feet away over the center field wall. Apparently it was his very first walkoff ever.

Thank cats. Fernando had pitched the top of the inning and, given the way he’s been used lately, I was really, REALLY not

looking forward to seeing what would happen if this thing had extended into a 10th frame.

This was a fast game, under two and a half hours, and that was partly because Justin Verlander was so good for innings 2-through-8. About that first inning? He threw 25 pitches in the first inning and allowed 5 runs, including a leadoff homer for Brian Roberts. He gave up 9 hits in 8 innings, and 6 of those hits came in the first inning.

The fact that Verlander was able to get past that first inning and go on to pitch a fairly good game is worth noting. It shows good mental fiber, or whatever, and an ability to make adjustments, or whatever. It shows that while the Orioles may have made a very good study of him, they only came prepared for one version of Justin Verlander, while Verlander (and Laird, and Rick Knapp) had at least one other version lurking in the wings, waiting to be trotted out on the mound. Fine Pitching Qualities.

But what in the HELL happened in that first inning? The Roberts homer came on only the second pitch of the game, so maybe that shook Justin up… or maybe the Orioles really did have excellent Verlander video and had prepared so that they knew exactly what to do with his fastball, and when he started mixing it up a little bit more, they were lost. Maybe the Orioles were all set to bust butt out of the gate, and when the Tigers attacked right back with three runs in the bottom of the first, it took the wind out of their little orange wings.

Whatever it was, it needs to NOT HAPPEN ANYMORE, because with that many pitches early, Verlander was well over 100 pitches for his outing. AGAIN. You have to go all the way back to June 16 before you hit a game where Verlander threw fewer than 100 pitches. That’s ten starts ago. He’s already thrown 2,531 pitches this season, which is the MOST out of ALL THE PITCHERS IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES OF BASEBALL.

I love that he’s able to go deep into games, I love that he’s able to fight back so that he doesn’t need to be taken out after a first inning like the one he had today. I love that he hates seeing the bullpen pitch just as much as I do. But I DON’T love the number of pitches he throws on a regular basis with his history of tiring late in the season/in the postseason, and I don’t love how Leyland is so cavalier with his arm while at the same time treating Rick Porcello with unnecessarily starched kid gloves. I realize that I have been harping on this but I was probably traumatized by Jeremy Bonderman, I see doom and gloom at every corner now, and I will keep harping until Something Is Done.

Ahem. Anyways.

How about that River Thames? He made two good catches today: a running, diving grab to rob Matt Wieters of a hit, and then a leaping catch at the wall later in the game, which ended with his glove coming off his hand. The River held up the glove, with the ball still in it, to general overjoyed applause. In fact this post was mostly going to be about The River’s defensive display, but then Verlander just kept going and going, and then Clete went and got all heroic and whatnot. Good stuff.

Tuesday we get our first look at Jarrod Washburn in a Tigers uniform. ‘Most everyone looks good in the Olde English D, of course, and the Tigers have been much better at home than on the road, but it’s still worth saying that we really need this series, so, yanno, you want a warm Detroit welcome, Wash, please do all you can to earn it.

Happy New Year! (ignore the outcome, concentrate on the fact that there's baseball)

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Is this the tradition now? The Tigers enjoy the concept of Opening Day so much that they can’t stand the thought of only having 9 innings of it? Remember last year, which went, what, 10 innings? before Fernando Rodney blew it. This year we dragged it out for a whole 11 innings before losing. At least this year it wasn’t as obviously any one player’s fault (*cough*Grilli*cough*).

Even though this was Verlander’s first ever loss to the Royals (seriously! ever!), it looked like whatever Verlander was working on this spring was settled for today. Yeah, it would’ve been nice to see him go deeper into the game. It’s not that I expect or want him to be pitching complete games right out of the gate, but I would’ve liked to see him get through the 7th. Still. He looked pretty good; he didn’t allow a hit until the 4th inning and he didn’t give up a run until the 6th.

He was also INCREDIBLY smirky in his postgame interview. Gloriously so. It’s like when he’s happy, that side of his mouth (pretty much always the left; that is, his right) quirks up and voila! Verlander smirk. It was out in force after today’s game, so at least it seems like he’s not unsettled at all by the loss.

The bullpen was… pretty much what we would expect from the bullpen. It would have been completely, wackily unrealistic to expect Grilli to come in with men on first and third and nobody out and pitch his way out of that situation. Maybe if there hadn’t been a man on third. Insert ‘he’s no Chad Durbin’ comment here. Bobby Seay LOOGY’d successfully; fine, that’s how he SHOULD be used. Mark Teahen tripled off of Lopez. Jonesy did his job with a minimum of drama. Bautista looked like he was going to get out of it until Tony Pena had The At-Bat That Would Not Lie Down and Die Quietly No Matter How Nicely Denny Bautista Asked. Eh, what can y’do.

Brandon Inge was in centerfield today, playing like he had something to prove. Ha ha, OH WAIT. He had a walk (Brandon Inge! showing patience!), a double, and an AMAZING play in center where he came charging in and threw Teahen out at home. The ball didn’t even BOUNCE, kids and kittens, it was in the air the entire way from center field to Pudge at the plate. I may have made some potentially embarrassing noises, but if you didn’t see this throw I can only assure you that they were wholly warranted.

When it comes to patient Tigers, though, nobody compared to Gary Sheffield, who had FOUR walks on the day. We are all well aware of my many, many issues with the prickly package that is Sheff, but you kind of have to love a guy who’s willing to take 4 walks on Opening Day. When asked about the walks after the game, he said, “If I keep doing that, we’re gonna cash ’em in, so I just have to stay patient,” and, “In close games, walks count,” (of course they count in the blowouts too, but it’s the thought here that’s important). This is basically the exact opposite of the Dusty Baker Clogging-Up-the-Bases School of OBP Theory, and it is all kinds of awesome to hear it coming out of the mouth of a Tiger.

I found it kind of interesting that Sheffield was the first guy they asked about Gil Meche in the postgame interviews. Not Verlander, not Leyland, not Miguel Cabrera (at least not that we saw on TV). Sheffield was the first. Maybe a vet thing?

Hmmm, what else?

Expected start to the season: Carlos Guillen, who was 3-for-5 with an RBI, 2 runs scored, and no Ks. He had a double and a home run. Precisely what we’ve all been hoping Guillen will (be healthy enough to) do this year.

Not expected start to the season: Placido Polanco, who was 0-for-6 with 6 men left on base. Clearly this is just not very Polanco-like behavior. Hopefully he’ll be himself again soon enough.

Jacque Jones was using what sure looked like a Tigers-orange bat. I thought there was some sort of rule against bright/distracting bats? (Not that I’m complaining; I am totally on board with the shameless deployment of Tigers orange.)

Clete Thomas! The kid gets up– in his first very big league game– and his very first hit is a double. On Opening Day! He seemed fairly even-keeled about it right after the game, but I’ll bet he was making high-pitched squee! noises on the inside.

Seeing Edgar Renteria up to bat in important spots makes me hyperventilate. I can’t help it; his days in Boston conditioned the response. I WANT to believe, I really, really do, but he’s going to have to earn my trust, apparently.

Pudge got a buzz cut. It kinda makes him look younger.

Speaking of Pudge, since I know all you non-Detroit-market people hunger endlessly for Rod and Mario commentary, this is what Rod had to say on the subject of Pudge’s physique at the start of this year (and the fact that he seems to have put some of his old weight back on):

“He’s thick. But in a good way.”

I would agree that Pudge putting a little more muscle back on is probably a good thing, especially if it’s in any small way related to his power surge this spring. I probably would not have worded it… quite… like… that, though.

Tomorrow’s an offday, which was a good idea, given the sketchy nature of Detroit weather at this time of year, so we get our next crack at the Royals on Wednesday. It should be Kenny/Brian Bannister. Our offense ought to be able to get its collective act together and STOP STRANDING MEN ON BASE. Ahem. No big.