Category Archives: Craig Monroe

bats, bats galore

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Sometimes you see a baseball game that’s just stupid, and nobody deserves to win. There’s no way the Tigers should win a game where Max Scherzer lasts only 5 innings and gives up 5 runs, and then Charlie Furbush has to come in for long relief and he gives up 2 runs, and then the back end of the bullpen is so frustrating that Jim Leyland has to bring in Joaquin Benoit to get an out even though Benoit was supposed to have a firm night off. I don’t know what that is, but it’s not a game that the Tigers win.

Except they did, because HITS HITS BATS HITS CATS WIELDING BATS HOLY CATS HITSSSSSSSS, and Colby Lewis was crying on the inside. You know who got a hit today? EVERYONE. In fact there were only two Tigers hitters who didn’t get extra base hits: Don Kelly and Ryan Raburn. Don Kelly is Don Kelly, and Raburn probably used his entire week’s extra base hit allotment yesterday. Everybody else just went crazy out there.

Especially Brennan Boesch. Clearly the Texas-hot air and the nature of the ballpark lent themselves to home runs– there were 6 total in the game, some of them absolutely crushed– but it still bears mentioning, because Brennan hit TWO home runs all by himself, and a double just for the heck of it. He was responsible for 5 RBIs, which is often more than the entire Detroit offense can manage. Skow.

Other notes from this one:

–Max eats a huge roast beef sandwich before every start. He also hates bananas, but will eat one before deadly hot Texas starts, because he knows he needs his potassium.

–Austin Jackson has been using Victor Martinez’s bats lately.

–Glorious moment captured by the FSD cameras tonight. Leyland was leaning on the dugout rail next to Lloyd McClendon. He took a big wad of bubble gum out of his mouth and stuck it on the rail right where Legendary Lloyd was sure to put his elbow in it. He then kept glancing over and grinning to himself, quickly suppressing it each time so McClendon wouldn’t notice. This went on for a while, with the cameras cutting between game action and the shot of the coaches, Rod and Mario beside themselves with glee.

Eventually McClendon did notice and took the gum off. He gave Leyland a look like, “Dude, seriously?” Leyland responded to this with hearty laughter while McClendon shook his head in what we might safely assume was fond disgust.

During the regular season we all get used to Stoic One Word Answer Jim Leyland, and we’re familiar with Angry Sweary Jim Leyland, but Simple Prankster Jim Leyland is something else. A welcome something else, I might add.

–Rod and Mario mentioned Alex Avila’s superpower! They noted that he has the ability to appear clean-shaven one night, goatee’d the next, and full bearded a day after that. I KNOW GUYS ISN’T IT GREAT?

–Craig Monroe (!) was in the ballpark and stopped by the booth to say hi. Rod said that he had “saved his nickels” and in his baseball-retirement had opened a restaurant and bar. Sure enough, The Internet found it for me: the Twenty7 Sports Bar and Grill. Note the photo of Mr. Monroe posing with his own 2006 Detroit Tigers jersey on the homepage.

–Fabulous MLB article headline for this game.

Craig Monroe's revenge

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Sometimes you win games. Sometimes you lose games. Sometimes games are rained out. And sometimes games are just completely freakin’ weird (also you lose).

After putting up three errors and looking like a bunch of inept fielders in their previous game, the Tigers today decided to commit ZERO errors and to make FIVE double plays. Why? Monday is ‘what am a base ball gluv?’ day, but Tuesday is ‘I eat groundballs for breakfast’ day? This has not been a good year for Tigers infield defense in general, in part, YES, don’t deny, because Brandon Inge hasn’t been at third much, and in part because Guillen and Cabrera didn’t even know where they were playing for most of the season. So five double plays, that was all kinds of encouraging to see.

The Tigers also managed to come back from a big deficit again, as they were down 6-1 after the 5th (which was pretty much entirely Nate’s fault). They scored twice in the 6th and once in the 8th. Better than a poke in the gallbladder, but not enough. At least the bullpen looked OK… and by ‘OK’ I mean ‘pretty good if you discount the ultimately harmless but still kind of terrifying 4 walks issued by Miner’.

It seems weird that the Tigers could turn so many double plays, that the Twins could leave so many guys on base, and the Tigers still managed to lose. A big factor in that was Craig Monroe, who I think takes a special kind of glee in hitting Tigers. I can understand this, but cannot condone it. Today he used his Super Ninja Powers of Nate Robertson Prior Sekkrit Knowledgez to hit a 3-run homer. As the Tigers ended up losing by two runs…. ouch. The revenge of Craig Monroe wounds deeply indeed.

Miggy did manage to get into the game as a pinch hitter, which could mean one of two things.

Optimistic: The hip flexor really WAS just a little bit stiff or sore, and he’s already fine.
Pessimistic: They’re going to try playing him through pain that’s still there, thus preventing the bloody thing from EVER healing.

I tend to favor the pessimistic version of this, but hey, only because the team has set a precedent for behavior exactly like that!

Oh, and The River Thames homered again, bringing his season total up to 16. It is only barely July. We all remember Chris Shelton, but it’s hard to not get excited about watching The River come up to bat these days.

(PS: Dear Marcus, if it ever comes out that you use(d) steroids or other PEDs, I will cry. For serious. So if you were even toying with the idea, just bear that in mind. K?)

It’s still possible to dome-raid here. We just need to win this next game, which is at 1 pm EDT…. which I don’t quite understand. That’s noon for the people where the game is being played, and doesn’t that seem AWFULLY early for a mid-week game? Why not just have it be the regular 1 pm start? It’s not going to make a difference to most people on the east coast if it’s at 1 or 2 pm, and it might make a good deal of difference to the people heading for the real live ballpark. Is there some sort of actual reasoning behind this decision?

Anyways. At 1 pm, the Bovine kid goes up against Nick Blackburn, whose name is actually Robert. Just so you know. Go Tigers!

a taste of a Tiger-striped future, today!

photo by Emily Smith

Things are afoot!

Cameron Maybin has been called up, which will give us all our very first look at the much-ballyhooed tiger cub here at the big league level. He had just been bumped up to Erie last week, so talk about whiplash: the kid barely had a chance to get all excited about being promoted to AA ball, and now he’s going to be in a Tigers uniform in Yankee Stadium.

In order to make room for him, Craig Monroe has been designated for assignment. This makes sense. It had seemed more and more obvious, as the weeks wore on, that the Craig Monroe era was drawing to a close. There’s only so long that the Tigers could stick with his .637 OPS… for comparison, Maggs has a 1.025 OPS. Pudge has a .724 OPS, despite the fact that he walks basically NEVER, and even Brandon Inge has a .708 OPS. Mike Rabelo, the EMERGENCY BACKUP CATCHER, pressed into action only because the regular backup catcher is dead, has a .677 OPS. A .637 OPS is essentially unacceptable for a starting Tiger.

It was especially unacceptable because Cameron Maybin existed. Maybe, maaaaaaybe if the Tigers had had nothing of note in the minors, Monroe would’ve stuck around. But it made no sense to keep him with something a lot better in the wings. I mean, if nothing else, just think about how fast our outfield looks right now. Hot stuff.

It’s a LITTLE weird that this happens now. Why not wait ’til September?

Scary side-thought: Monroe will probably clear waivers. Jack Wilson, I think, just cleared waivers. I thought those trade talks had finally died, but if they haven’t… urgh. DO NOT WANT. Especially not since Wilson was only yesterday wheezing on the field.

The other move made was a call-up of Ramon Santiago and a corresponding demotion of Omar Infante to AAA. This makes less sense to me. Yeah, Omar’s not exactly tearing up the world with fire and vigor right now, but he’s not doing terribly for a bench guy, and I can’t see that Santiago is going to make much more of an impact. I would hope that the Tigers aren’t making moves just for the sake of making moves, and I doubt that they are, but the reasoning behind this one is not immediately clear to me.

edit: If you put some stock in the Monroe/Wilson rumor, I guess you have to consider the chance that Omar’s demotion was part of some machinations to send him to the Pirates along with Craig. If that is in fact the case, I hate it. Monroe for Wilson isn’t SO bad… I still don’t like Wilson for the money, but at least we wanted to get rid of Craig anyhow. But I do NOT like the idea of giving the Pirates anything useful for a player that we should not at all be trying hard to get. And I consider Omar to be quite useful. Also: young. So if THAT is what the plan is, yeah, I’m going to be fairly unhappy about it.

Tigers put up some fireworks

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein
Hope you all had a good 4th of July. It certainly seems like the Tigers did, judging from the way they came out swinging the bats today.
There was some chatter to the effect that this game, Sabathia vs. Verlander, would determine the All Star Game starter. If that was indeed the case, Verlander’s got to start now, doesn’t he? (Barring a crrrrazy-good outing from Beckett tonight, which is always a possibility.) One guy goes 7 innings and gives up 3 runs, only 2 earned, on 6 hits, with 7 Ks…. the other guy goes 4 innings and gives up 7 runs, all earned, on 10 hits, with 3 Ks. What do you call that? I call it Verlandomination (note to self and fellow bloggers: term does not work as well as “Bondomination”).
Stuff it was nice to see happen in this game:
-The aforementioned Verlandomination, with extra special happyjoyjoy because it came against the Indians, a team Verlander has had trouble with this season.
-Polanco’s third homer. As usual, Placido Polanco homering is a surefire sign of a struggling pitcher. Carlos and Sheffield homered as well, but it’s Polanco’s longball that made everyone in the world aware of Sabathia’s difficulty with all things baseball today.
-Magglio riding up on the All Star break batting .370. Nobody can say that it’s a small sample size anymore. In fact, his line is .370/.448/.613. Does that make you wee yourself a little in excitement? Or is it just me?
-Every starter getting at least one hit. Thank you CC!! Hugs and kisses!
-Mr. Capellan having a hit-free outing. More of this, please, good sir.
-Only 2 of the 12 Tiger batters who hit today have a BA under .240, and one of them is Neifi!!!, which is how the world should be.
The other is Craig Monroe, which is most emphatically NOT good (and I know some of you readers agree most wholeheartedly on that point). We’ve had quite a few ups and downs with the Craigger, but it may be time to start thinking about making him go away. Do we wait for Cameron Maybin to achieve a state of major league readiness and move Granderson over to left? Do we trade for help now? I don’t know. I just know that it’s not OK for us to be getting less production from our left fielder than we’re getting from a broken-toed third baseman who spent the entire first part of the season dragging his stats through the dirt.
Next up is Boston, which means a glorious period of brain breaky for me as I try to root for everyone at once. Expect insanity ’round these parts.
Oh, and voting just closed on the Final Man Vote for the ASG. I don’t know when they announce the results; most of the voting (all of it, maybe?) was electronic, so it shouldn’t be much longer before we know if Bondo’s going or not. Will keep you updated.
edit: Ah well, it’s Okajima. At least it’s not as though Bondo got beat out by someone less deserving.

so THAT'S what the lineup looks like without Polanco or Guillen or Pudge

a very :( Vance Wilson, photo by Samara Pearlstein

Hm. I don’t think I like it much.

Of course this game wasn’t REALLY the fault of absent-Polanco or absent-Carlos or absent-Pudge. The lineup held their own today, and it was the pitching that dropped the ball. Chad Durbin was not very pimp. I’m not complaining (yet); we still can’t expect too much out of him. Ledezma’s outing did not really inspire the greatest joy in my soul, but… such is our bullpen.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what might have happened if Polanco and/or Guillen and/or Pudge were in there… I mean, that 9th inning comeback involved the middle part of the order. We ALMOST had them! Polanco and Guillen are both good solid hitters who are likely to make contact and get on base in a situation like that. A couple more guys on base in that inning and we at least tie it up. OH, THE MIGHT-HAVE-BEENS!

Everyone’s gotta rest some time or other, though. I understand that. I do not begrudge Polanco his rest (poor dude’s got a virus), I do not begrudge Pudge his extremely rare days off (his much-abused ancient catcher’s body!) and I most certainly do no begrudge Carlos Guillen, Carlos Guillen’s groin, or Carlos Guillen’s Surgically Repaired Knee their day off. And of course I know that this was just one game (actually, no, I’m having a hallucination that involves time expanding like an accordion, so this game was actually 250 GAMES IN ONE. Yeah, your mind is blown, I know). But… everyone with an off-day at once?

The attempted comeback in the 9th still gives you that ‘ehhhh, we could have HAD this one’ feeling, and that’s hard to shake.
Also hard to shake: Craig Monroe’s complete and baffling inability to make contact with the ball today. Five strikeouts in 9 innings… good lord. I’m assuming this was merely a freakish occurrence that WILL NOT BE REPEATED, DO YOU HEAR ME, CRAIG? but I’m more concerned that this freak thing will send Craig off some sort of mental cliff, and he’ll be too psyched out to play baseball effectively for a while. Hopefully I am as wrong as it is possible to get and tomorrow he comes out and hits two home runs or something.

Sigh. Anyways.

Bad news for the small but extremely dedicated Vance Wilson fan club. Tommy John surgery on his elbow knocks Vance out for 9-12 months. Ouch. That could very well cut into next year; in fact I expect that it almost certainly would. Due to his age and to the type of wear that a catcher’s arm undergoes (no ‘relief catchers’ after every 5-6-7 innings…), I’m guessing that Vance will be at the upper end of that recovery time range.

You’ve got to feel for the guy. He’s an eternal backup, he finally finds a team where he’s appreciated enough to get a multi-year deal, he’s finally starting to get his bat in order, people actually LIKE him, gosh darn it… and he goes and blows his elbow to smithereens. He’s also 34, and will be 35 by the time he comes back from this surgery. Bearing in mind that 33 is starting to get into the upper end of effectiveness for GREAT catchers like Posada and Varitek and Pudge, and you have to wonder if Vance will even be able to come back from this at all.

So, small but dedicated Vance Wilson fan club: does loyalty revert to Mike Rabelo, or do you start dredging the minors for The Next Big Backup?

Aaaaand don’t forget, Placido Polanco is still leading the polls, but he and other Tigers need YOUR support in the All Star game if they are to get the recognition they so very richly deserve. Vote early, vote often!

I admit to being a little more conflicted about Maggs… at least with Polanco, there is NO contest, he is the best second baseman in the AL. Ze end. There are lots of really good AL outfielders, though, and you can only pick three. Magglio has been hitting so well this year that you really have to take him into consideration, though, and add him to your ballot. It is only fair.

And you’re a fair person, aren’t you? Don’t you like… justice? And… freedom? If you are not a filthy terrorist, vote Magglio Ordonez!

Craig Monroe: 1, Incredibly Drawn-Out Boredom: 0

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Let’s summarize this game.

First inning: no score
Second inning: no score
Third inning: no score
Fourth inning: no score
Fifth inning: no score
Sixth inning: no score
Seventh inning: no score
Eighth inning: no score
Ninth inning: no score
Tenth inning: no score
Eleventh inning: no score

Twelfth inning: Craig Monroe grand slam results in four Tigers runs; Bobby Seay balks in an Oriole run

The sad bit is that while Verlander and Loewen both looked something along the lines of great, I feel like we were seeing terrible offense more than amazing pitching. Especially on Loewen’s part… not to take anything away from him, but he just didn’t look all that sharp out there. This isn’t just me being team-ist; Verlander stretched his start to 7 innings, while Loewen had a high enough pitch count to knock him out of the game after 5.

It was cool to see Jamie Walker again, and although he too was quite effective against us, I don’t hold it against him one bit. Rock on, Walker. I really hope he and Millar are perpetuating their own brand of crazy in that Oriole clubhouse, because those two together would probably be ridiculous enough to warrant a reality show.

Still having trouble processing the amazing end of this game correctly. It’s like if you were watching a race with two runners, and they were running in lockstep for miles and miles and miles and miles and eventually one dude just pulls out a gun and sprays the other one full of bullets. Craigger’s grand slam was just that in terms of violence and unexpectedness.

Off to the Skydome. It’ll be nice to not have to worry about the weather, I guess… hopefully the pitchers weren’t too tired out by today’s marathon and they’ll be able to hold back/herd the crowd of Jays bats.

Happy New Year! (to everyone except for Fernando Rodney)

Brandon Inge is Mr. Tiger! by Samara Pearlstein

Because everyone knows that Opening Day is truly the start of the New Year. Everyone except for Fernando Rodney, apparently, who is still convinced that we’re in Spring Training. Newsflash, Fernando: this one counted. Yes, I know, you seem a little shocked. But I assure you that it is true. This one counted, and you bollocksed it up. YOOOUUUU. Not Bondo, not Zoom, not even Rollercoaster Jones. No, Fernando, it was YOU.

*insert steely warning glare here*

We should have known this was gonna happen, I guess. When they were introducing the team, Fernando tripped over the dugout steps coming out and nearly FACEPLANTED onto the field. The embarrassment probably ate at him all game so that by the time the 10th inning rolled around he was a psychological mess, wholly unable to deal with the concept of getting Blue Jays to go away without touching those special infield bases.

ANYWAYS. Ignoring the outcome of the game, and ignoring Fernando, and ignoring the not-so-hot day of Carlos Guillen… there was some good stuff that came out of this game. There were some things that it was good, or at least interesting, to see.

The American League Championship banner was unveiled before the game, presented to the crowd by some woman who’d been working in the minors for 50 years or something (sorry, was not paying attention, you will shortly see why) on one side, and on the other side, the Tiger who’s been with the organization the longest now, the Tiger who’s been in the system for 10 consecutive years…
…that’s right….

Brandon Inge with his dorktastic high-reflection sunglasses and his ri-freakin’-diculous strip of chin hair and his high socks and his general awesomeness, unfurling the flag. Because he is MR. TIGER, more so even than Paws. I’ll admit, I may have gotten a little verklempt. What can I say? It was a beautiful moment.

And if I am allowed a small digression here, I would just like to say that they did a good job on the banner. I realize that the general trend in MLB is towards the fancier these days, and that banner could have so very easily been way overwrought, design-wise… but it’s not. Plain white background, big simple base-shaped navy blue seal with the Detroit D in it, over that a simple navy banner form with a split ‘2006’ on either side of the word “Champions”, a simple orange border around all that, and “American League” above. No stars or stripes or buntings or seams or diamonds or silhouettes of Joel Zumaya playing Guitar Hero or anything. Simple. Classy. I know there are some people who were saying that they shouldn’t make a big deal out of the ALCS at all, that they should only ‘celebrate’ for a World Series victory, but since they’ve gone ahead and done this I have to say that we should all be happy they did it in so understated a fashion.

That said, I’ll bet the rings are hideous.

OK. More things that were good to see.

Unless I was VERY much mistaken, there was some scattered booing for Neifi Perez when he was introduced. Very scattered and generally overwhelmed, I will admit, but it was there. I think this is a positive sign, because we don’t want NEIFI!!! getting complacent out there. If he has to be on the roster at all, I want him gasping for air and scratching and squealing every step of the way.

Bondo had a fairly awful first inning, but this is, as I have said maybe 8,000 times, something that he tends to do. He settled down quite nicely and ended up having almost the same day that Roy Halladay had (5 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 3 Ks over 6 innings for Bondo versus 6 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 4 Ks over 6 innings for Halladay). The good news was that he looked damn good for most of the rest of the game, inducing flyball out after flyball out and generally being a scarily effective pitcher.

Since this First Inning Blues thing is starting to become really consistent, though, I’m starting to wonder if there isn’t something we can do to snap Bondo out of it. I mean, it can’t be that he’s stiff, right? Because if that was it, he’d just work longer in the bullpen before the game and he’d be warmed up properly. It’s got to be mental, like he needs a certain amount of time to get into the actual rhythm of the game, or something like that. I reckon we’ve got two options here.

a) Get a sports psychologist or somesuch person out here and into Bondo’s head. If he can get past the wooden “personality” of Bonderman and into the meaty tidbits of his mind, maybe he can figure this thing out.

b) Trick him. Somehow make him think it’s the first inning when really he’s still just being warmed up. I don’t know. Make Omar wear the opposing team’s uniform and stand in or something. Get it done. After Bondo gets over his rage at being so thoroughly tricked, he’ll realize that all those first inning jitters were worked out and he’s free to pitch like the big huggable pitchin’ stud we all know he is.

The very first Tigers batter to swing at the first pitch was Gary Sheffield, in the bottom of the 3rd inning. This means that Sheff was the 12th Tiger to bat (counting repeats, natch), and honestly? If Gary Sheffield sees a first pitch that he wants to swing at, who’s gonna tell him no? We should all assume that he probably has a better handle on that stuff than we do. Twelve batters before someone bit on the first pitch. The point here is that Tigers batters were TAKING like woah. The point is that this is… um, not very Tigerlike, but if we can MAKE it Tigerlike this year, I will probably be a significantly happier blogger.

The ump had a pretty generous strikezone, but it looked like he was applying it equally to Bondo and Halladay, so that’s ok.

Polanco was choking WAY up on his bat, so far up it in fact that it actually looked like he was uncomfortable during his at-bats. There was a good fist-length between the bottom of his bottom fist and the bulb of the bat. If it works it works, but it was certainly curious to see. I don’t remember him choking up that blatantly/much last season. Rod and Mario broke out the obligatory “Pujols and Bonds choke up and THEY have power” chatter… Plonkers isn’t going to be hitting with Pujolian power, but I guess it’s nice to see him taking more exact control of his bat in a purposeful fashion.

Craig didn’t have a great day at the plate, but I’m willing to give him a sort of pass because he made a couple of really nice catches in the field. Since Bondo does tend to induce the flyball, the outfielders have to be pretty alert, and there were a couple of balls that sailed into left, right where the bullpen is (and where the fence is accordingly short). Craig kept a good sense of where the wall was and managed a couple of nice catches up against or right in front of it. Proppers to the Craigger.

Got to see Zumaya today, which was cool. There were several good things about this, which were as follows:

1. I don’t think we saw a 100mph or over pitch today. That is good. For Zoom, 97mph is admirable restraint.

2. While I am not especially pleased that he went out and got his ARM tattooed over the winter (infection or allergic reaction possible even with the best of tattoo parlors arrrrgggghhh how much is your arm worth Joel arrrgggghhhh), I have to say that it does look WICKED sharp now.

3. The Jays knew what to expect with Zoom (everyone does by now), and he still blew the snot out of ’em. He threw a few changeups that had guys rocking back on their heels and whiffing ozone.

4. Although Zoom’s current chin fuzz does look scarily like either an extremely molded muffin or a mound of pubic hair, it somehow managed to NOT be the worst chin hair on the field. Reed Johnson had him beat with his “billy goat meets pharaoh meets idiot who thinks this facial hair looks good” offering.

5. He went to WrestleMania with Curtis Granderson and was basically a huge adorable dork about the whole thing. I can honestly say that I do not “get” the appeal of the wrestling thing… I get pro sports, obviously, but wrestling isn’t even real? I don’t know. Regardless. I view the obsession in most of my male friends (and, by extension, in Zoom and Grandy) as an amusement, something you smile and roll your eyes and pat them on the head about.

Gary Sheffield had the saddest fan club at the park ever. It was just two middle-aged lookin’ guys wearing chef hats and holding up a plain white sign with plain black hand-lettering reading “SHEFF’S CHEFS”. Just. Two. Guys. Wearin’ their chef hats, drinkin’ their beer. Laughably pathetic. Rod Allen predicted that the Chefs would catch on though, and declared “I might get me a hat.” Mario Impemba, always on the ball, immediately replied, “That would be sweet.”

Many sort-of former Tigers on the Jays: John McDonald, The Anonymous Jason Smith, and Matt Stairs. Apparently the Blue Jays are where mediocrely forgettable short-run former Tigers go to live out the rest of their journeyman lives.

And now the best part, something that I fully expect will be a regular feature this year. For now is the time when we take a look at

What Rod and Mario Said Today

Rod on the subject of his new TV: Finally saved up enough nickels.
They talk some more about the TV. Mario wants details, Rod does not want to give them. Rod jokes that it’s got all these features and he’s still trying to figure out how to get the VCR to stop blinking 12:00.
Mario: VCRs are so 1980s.

Another exchange on Rod’s new TV:
Mario: How big is it?
Rod: I ain’t gonna tell you.
Mario (laughing): How come?
Rod: ‘Cause you’re gonna think I got a lotta money.

Rod on the fact that they had John Keating running all over the stadium to interview fans in various locations: (more particularly, they at this point had Keating all the way up in what was almost the very top row of the ballpark) Keats’ gonna have to ice his hamstrings after the game. It’s a long run up there. Lookit him. He’s gonna need a massage after this one.

Rod, after Roy Halladay had just given up a hit to Granderson: He tried to sneak a piece of cheese by him.
(I am well aware that this is a perennial, traditional Rod-ism. But still.)

Rod: The opponents hit just buckets o’ change against Joel [Zumaya].

After Inge hit a ball into the Blue Jay dugout, and Lyle Overbay went over the rail to try and get it, almost tipping into his own dugout in the process and not getting the ball:
Mario: Paws would’ve made that play.
Rod (with absolutely no hesitation whatsoever): Every day.

On the subject of Fernando and Reed Johnson’s goatees:
Rod: They both got some length to ’em.

Just like last year’s home opener, a pretty good game in spite of the ending. It’s just nice to have baseball again.

the Great Seed Chucking Battle of Spring Training 07

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

The game was televised today, joy of joys, meaning that we got treated to things most marvelous: Rod and Mario! Interviews with various players! Players harassing each other while being interviewed!
I missed the first few innings due to scholarly things, but I took bemused notes on the rest of it, and here you have them.

Rod says there are the only two major leaguers to ever have 30 or more HRs with 5 different teams, and those two guys are Fred McGriff and Sheffield. I think this says less about the hitting ability of Sheff and McGriff (which no one doubts), and more about their attitudes; if you hit that well, why on earth would you be switching teams that often? Probably because you’re a wanker.

Craig’s knee, worry worry. Knee injuries tend to linger and tend to reflare and tend to be pretty easy to reaggravate in baseball… look at how they get torqued around when a batter twists his body. Craig HAS to play outfield too, we already have a bit of a logjam at 1B/DH. More things to concern me as we head towards the season proper.

This one’s for all the Vance Wilson fangirls in da house, yo.

Rod: Vance Wilson, backing up Pudge again this year… in my opinion, the best catching tandem in all of baseball.
Mario: I agree.
Rod: Between him and Pudge Rodriguez last year, they committed just THREE errors. You can’t run on them, they block balls in the dirt, they just do a tremendous job of handling the pitching staff.

I had NO idea they only committed three errors (and am far too tired/lazy to check Rod’s claims there). I don’t know about the BEST catching tandem, but day-um, that’s pretty bloody good.

Mario: Check out the bouncy house out there Rod [referring to the big inflatable tiger-striped structure in the outfield where small children can jump around and squeal to their heart’s content]. We’ve gotta do a broadcast from out there one day.
Rod: I’d get dizzy out there…. that’s for the little peeps.

Apparently just two lefties (Thome and Morneau) homered off of Nate last year.

Mario: What’s up with the hair?
[Verlander has this bizarre pseudo emo hair goin’ on, with big chunky shaggy bangs]
JV: Yeah, I’m trying to go Magglio-style, grow it out, it’s kinda in the awkward stage.
[Maggs’ hair works because it’s curly. Justin’s hair is straight as straw and manifestly does NOT work]

Someone is throwing stuff at him. It is… he says Mike. Maroth? I think they’re seeds. Mike Maroth is chucking seeds at Verlander from off camera. Roar of the Tigers proudly brings you this vital spring training bulletin.

Verlander says he asked Kenny and Bondo about his arm pain every day because he was so green last season that he didn’t know if it was fatigue or actual injury, since he’s not used to pitching that much and had no idea what to expect in the way of arm soreness.

Rod: Rumor has it you bought a little toy there in the offseason.
[everyone laughs… I immediately think, “Holy cats, he bought himself a vibrator??”]
Verlander: Ha ha, yeah… [shyly] it’s an 07 911 Turbo Porsche… it’s pretty fast… I like it.”
Mario and Rod together: PRETTY fast??!?!?
Rod: Well good for you, you earned it.
[everyone laughs]

Guys are getting a lot of walks, but I think that’s more because the DRays are having pitching issues than because anyone’s being particularly patient. I want to believe, but I’ll need some real season, longterm proof before I declare the team’s patience issues even partially resolved.

He freely admits that he was throwing seeds at Verlander, now Verlander is behind him ready to sneakily chuck seeds or something at Maroth.

He’s got a buzz cut and he’s wearing a light blue polo style collared short sleeve shirt that I SWEAR I have seen him wear before. Hmm.

Verlander comes up, grabs Maroth’s collar from behind… looks like he dumped seeds down the back of his shirt. Oh boys. I love it.

Maroth says his arm feels good, his arm feels good, his arm feels good times 10, Kenny was a big help, blah blah blah.

“It’s [his knee] feelin’ better, it’s better than I thought today, so you know what that makes me excited… I wanna be out there and havin’ some fun.”

When asked about Sheffield: “One of the big things, he talks about shrinkin’ the zone, last year you saw us swinging, you know we’re free hackers [no shizz, kid], so maybe we can… shrink the zone…. he [Sheffield] says ‘you’re in control, you gotta allow this guy to make a mistake’.”

So here is MY question. If we’re making an analogy of this, would it look like so?
Kenny Rogers:pitching staff :: Gary Sheffield:hitters

We hear second-hand from Mario that Leyland feels Clevlen and Dlugach are defensive big leaguers right now. If they could hit “quite a bit” they could be starters right now. See, hmm. You can teach hitting but you can’t teach a good eye. You can teach some aspects of defense and some you can’t. The breaking point with these kids will be how much they have and if they just need teachable things, because then they can improve. If they don’t have the, uh, unteachables, they can only go so far.

Just before commercial break they show him adjusting his headphones, making me wonder how they get them to fit on his enormous head.

“Yeah, I feel pretty good, Mario, right now, I’m working out a lot, taking some extra swings.” I love how he calls Rod and Mario by their names in that very particular way.

On what it’s like playing in the postseason: “Very fun, very fun, it’s like uh, once you’re in the playoffs you forget about everything what happen, I even forget about my shoulder…”

On the shoulder: “It is probably 85% [when he first came back], but I didn’t know how bad it was until the offseason when I was doing nothing and it still hurt, but… I’d say it’s very close to 100% [now].”

When asked about the lineup…
Polanco: You don’t know who to pitch to in this lineup, you have Magglio and Guillen and him [Sheff] and Pudge…
Mario and Rod together: And you, don’t forget about you!
Polanco: Noooo, ah, no.
[with a big grin]

Um, I think I adore him a little bit.

Big cheers from the crowd for Cameron Maybin after a diving catch fighting the sun (he didn’t see it ’til the last minute), and then another sunny but less eventful catch. Rod and Mario talk about how he’s only 19 years old (DAMMIT I AM OLD AND CLEARLY A FAILURE IN LIFE) and people want him up now, etc etc. HE’S JUST A BABY.

Mario: What’s 20 minus 11?
Rod: I don’t know, you the college graduate…. I gotta get my calculator out for that one.

“Honest guy [Leyland], man, he tells you what he expects out of you, you can’t take short cuts to win championships…”

On what he thinks of Detroit’s hitters: “I think here it’s a more balanced lineup… over there [in New York], you know, we’re lookin’ for a three run homer… if the pitcher’s on, it’s hard to scratch those runs out when you don’t got the guys…”

Did he seriously just say that Detroit’s lineup is better and more balanced than the Yankees? Gary Sheffield= lol. I mean, I love the Tigers and they’re definitely one of the best hitting lineups in baseball, but I think he’s more than a little bitter right now, you know?

Sheffield’s wife is a gospel (or something) singer… she had a concert in Tampa that Sheff invited some of the team and Leyland to.
Rod: Skipper get busy?… He said the Skipper was in there bobbin’ and weavin’…
Mario: Well we saw him doing the moonwalk in Toronto last year…

Neifi comes up to bat with the bases loaded, skitters a hit to third past a diving3Bman, SHOCK AND AMAZE. Two runs in, he doubled. Hm. Neifi delivering? Crazy talk!


bust a bird

What a game. Jeez.

As most of you know, I am, due to geographic and familial circumstances, a fan of both the Tigers and the Red Sox. And if you were watching your boxscores yesterday, you will have noted that both teams won in the 10th inning, in spectacular walk-off fashion– the Sox on yet another David Ortiz home run (deconstructing the myth of Clutch-as-Myth one blast at a time) and the Tigers on a River Thames homer in the 9th to tie it, followed by a Granderson walk and a Polanco double in the 10th to win.

So, yeah, heckuva baseball day for me yesterday. Plus my dad got a Varitek foul ball at the Sox game and then came home and gave it to me, so really just a day of pluses all ’round.

Now, trailing for so long, it would be hard to say that we really outplayed the Cardinals yesterday. Certainly we’re not outplaying them in the same sense that the Wrong Sox did. But I think we can all agree that we need to send Tony LaRussa a big cheery thank you note for pulling Jason Isringhausen after he had gotten two outs in the 10th. Immediately Johnson gave up a walk, and then the game-winning double. I had honestly thought that Isringhausen was going to finish us off in that inning and we were gonna hafta go to an 11th, so, thanks Tony!

Oh, and will someone please tell me what the noble base on balls ever did to Craig Monroe to make him hate it so much? Did a base on balls knock him down on the playground when he was a kid and steal his lunch money? Did a base on balls make out with his mom? Did a base on balls burn down his house? What?

Because seriously, an OBP of .273 is kind of freaking disgusting. He’s only batting .236 to begin with, but maybe that number would start going up if he would stop swinging at every single baseball that comes within 100 feet of the plate. I’m pretty sure there are strikes being thrown at Wrigley that Craig, while at home in Comerica, is swinging at.

Hey, I can’t really complain. Everyone else had on their hittin’ shoes (to get all Rod Allen about it) yesterday, and some guys showed marvelous discipline, like Carlos Guillen, who went 2-for-2 with 3 walks. That’s the sort of thing I like to see. Of course, I like to see The River Thames hitting game-tying blasts as well, but for the Tigers its a performance like Carlos’ that is cause for true excitement.

Nothing against the Cardinals. They’ve had a rough couple series so far against a couple of the best teams in the AL. And it still gives me absurd dorky joy that I can say something like that and have it refer, in part, to the Tigers.