Category Archives: Mario Impemba

some honors for our friends


illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

Barry Larkin was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I guess he played in Cincinnati for a while or something, but that’s not important. Barry Larkin, Michigan Wolverine, is in Cooperstown. That’s all you need to know.

The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association named Mario Impemba the Michigan Sportscaster of the Year. Mario has swag.

Sorry guys. I just don’t know.

Opening Day is awesome when you win. Today was awesome.


Yeah. That’s a win. You’re catdamned right it is. Photo by Samara Pearlstein, emphasis by Miguel Cabrera.

I took notes. I know these posts are your favorites.

Opening Day 2010. Justin Verlander vs. Zack Greinke. The game and what happened in it.

–The Royals are wearing their powder blues. I am a big fan of the actual royal blue, but these are kinda nice. They should’ve gone with the full royal blue hats, though, not powder blue with royal brims. Kansas City boos Johnny Damon lustily. You’re not so bad, KC. I could grow to like you a little bit.

–Carlos Guillen pops one up over the infield, nobody calls it, Greinke throws his hands out as if to say I DON’T KNOW GUYS WHERE IS IT I JUST DON’T KNOW. Bloomquist makes a last-ditch dive for it, but misses. Magglio scores from second I think, making it 1-0 Tigers. These are the Royals I remember.

–The FSND Verlander scouting report: Workhorse. Repeat delivery. The Butler did it.
Mario: I can’t believe you used that.
Rod: I said it!
Mario: Especially to a Spartan…
Shortly thereafter Mario calls Billy Butler “one of Verlander’s nemeses”.

–Here comes Scott Sizemore with his yellow body armor batting gloves. Rod calls Greinke “The Truth”, caps verbally implied.

–Verlander is riding at 97-99 mph so far today. In the second inning, Jose Guillen singles up the middle. A couple guys later, Yuniesky Betancourt survives a long at-bat to blast a two-run homer. 2-1 Royals. Whhhyyyyyyy

–Damon booed again in his second at-bat. Mmmhm. In the bottom of the third, David DeJesus strikes out on a 98 mph fastball way outside, then hops around several times because he can’t believe he let himself be beaten so badly. Mmmmhmm.

–Rod Allen describes Willie Bloomquist’s knee surgeries as ‘orthoscopic’. He means ‘arthroscopic’, unless Bloomquist has eyes in his knees. Although, really, what do I know about the physical mutations of the Royals?

–Scott Sizemore has an excellent HURR DURR batting face. He kind of lets one side of his mouth hang open when he’s concentrating really hard up there. Pretty great. He breaks his bat; the barrel flies all the way out to third, skipping just past Bloomquist’s feet as he goes to field the ball. Bats these days, why I tellya, they oughta take action, action I tellsya.

–Saturday at Comerica will be a Year of the Tiger celebration! Oh man, if you are going to that game, you better live it the hell up. That sounds amazing. In other important promotions news: the only bobblehead giveaway so far seems to be the Justin Verlander K-counter bobbleheads on April 30, which somehow manage to look nothing like him. There is a ‘Paws foam tail’ giveaway on July 11 that sounds intriguing, but it’s only for kids. I’m a kid at heart, shouldn’t that count? I think so.

–Fifth inning, two outs. Chris Getz singles up the middle. DeJesus, up next, shows bunt but pulls it back. Laird catches the ball cleanly, but while trying to transfer it to his hand somehow throws the ball straight up into the air (??). While he’s waiting for it to come back down, Getz steals second base. Not kidding. I’m still not entirely sure what happened here.

–DeJesus singles. A few pitches later he steals second, making a TERRIBLE slide. He faceplants about a foot and a half away from the bag, losing his helmet and somehow bollocksing up the front of his belt. He lies there for a few seconds in shame, then picks his head up and starts laughing at himself. We would laugh with him, but Verlander walks Scott Podsednik to load the bases, and Billy Butler follows that up with a two-run single to make it 4-1 Royals. Verlander threw Butler only fastballs, including the last two pitches in the at-bat, which were both clocked at 100 mph by FSND’s gun.

CLICK THE LINK FOR MOAR OPENING DAY!
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now THAT is how to start a Tigers season


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Let us forget the first game of the season. Yes. Wipe it from our minds. I vote that we instead make the home opener the official first game. Don’t you think that would be much more appropriate? In case you have forgotten:

season opener (road)
–Justin Verlander gently sobs, goes 3.2 innings, gives up 8 runs
–Juan Rincon secures a 27.00 ERA for himself
–two Tigers errors, including one from a player acquired specifically for his defense (Everett)
–game delay as rowdy fans throw things onto the field
–damn Canada
–loss, 12-5

home opener
–Armando Galarraga goes 7 innings, gives up 1 run, strikes out a career-high 8
–all three opposing pitchers made to feel very bad about themselves
–Miguel Cabrera hits a grand slam, has 6 RBI on the day
–Detroit fans do nothing to impede the game in any way
–win, 15-2

Yes, I do believe I know which game I will be choosing to remember.

We could not have Verlander start this game because he had ‘earned’ the ‘honor’ of opening the season proper. We could not have little Frederick start this game because he is seven years old. We could not have Zach Miner start this game because he is Zach Miner. Armando was the only option, and he rose to the challenge admirably. Gloriously. With strikeouts and dramatically stern facial expressions. He should have had a cape attached to his jersey, so that he could swirl it for effect after each K. It could be navy blue velvet with a giant Olde English D on the back in white. If this would not making pitching so much more difficult I would petition for its addition to Armando’s uniform RIGHT NOW.

Maybe he gets an extra kick out of showing Texas how wrongity-wrong-wrong they were to trade him away? I support your quest for revenge through better living, Armando!

Miguel Cabrera also had a game of glory. Although I wouldn’t expect him to remain on precisely this pace (11 hits and 3 homers in 5 games), it is more likely that he will continue to hit than, say, Inge (although Inge was 1-for-3 with 2 runs scored and 2 walks today, so… shut up!).

The crowning touch, of course, was the fourth inning grand slam, which came with two outs in the inning. Magglio had just struck out, and the Tigers had stranded a whole bunch of cats on the bases in the previous inning, so I was all set to write 500 incoherent words about leaving men on base and how it’s bad for the environment or something. The Puma to the rescue!

After Cabrera’s grand slam:

Rod Allen: I’m gonna go out on a limb here, podner.
Mario Impemba: MVP?
Rod: Player of the Week!
Mario: Ha ha, that’s not a very long limb!
Rod: I’m gonna write it on my ballot!

I missed Rod Allen this winter, I will not lie. Orestes Destrade helped to fill some of the void, but it is like two different but equally delicious flavors of ice cream. The presence of one is enjoyable, but at the end of the day if you have a hankering for mint chocolate chip, you’re still gonna want that mint chocolate chip.

Rod was also in fine form during last night’s game:

“[Michael] Barrett’s putting down a series of signs, I’m not smart enough to know what they are. Not yet!”

After a Brandon League pitch that went to the backstop, Rod said that the catcher had no chance at all to get the ball, none: “N-U-N, none!”

Actually I guess that I should mention yesterday’s game too, as it was Frederick’s major league debut, and it’s a big deal when a seven year old kid makes it this far, this fast. I thought he looked OK. Not spectacular, but also not terrified out of his Pampers. He seemed to have a little trouble getting his offspeed stuff to consistently do what he wanted it to do, which to be quite honest reminded me of the first couple times Verlander got called up. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen.

He gave up a couple of home runs and he needed an awful lot of pitches (89) to get through 5 innings, but he only walked one guy. The Jays’ starter gave up 2 runs; Porcello gave up 4, but one of those was an inherited runner that Nate brought home. So, I don’t know. I still think it will all end in tears, but I was grudgingly, mildly impressed by his first outing.

Two 1:05 pm starts this weekend, I suppose to try to maximize the exposure of the ballplayers to sunlight, so that Detroit does not kill them with its usual seasonal weather. Verlander on Saturday, Jackson on Sunday. Here’s hoping that Jackson repeats his prior performance, and Verlander does not.

Dontrelle Willis comes back from the dead and other such pleasantries


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Defying expectations: Dontrelle Willis

Kind of? He went 5 innings, giving up 3 runs on 2 hits and 5 walks, with 4 Ks. All that was on 89 pitches. So, obviously, the control is still something of a problem for him, and you HATE to see a guy allow more runs than hits. But to be quite honest I was expecting/fearing something much, MUCH worse from him. Three runs in five innings was enough to keep the Tigers in it, and at times Dontrelle looked pretty good out there, like maybe he could actually contribute at some point next season (maybe), so we’ll count it as a positive. Consider my expectations defied.

Meeting expectations: Kyle Farnsworth

There’s nothing quite like giving up a grand slam and a two-run triple in two consecutive outings to make people question your ability to throw a baseball, eh? After last night I fully expected Rally Killer Kyle to be an emotional wreck on the mound, and so he was! He shook Inge off a number of times, although I’m not sure if that was a contributing cause of his struggles, or if it was just a symptom.

I was not really expecting another bullpen meltdown after a semi-inspiring offensive showing: that would have been TOO CRAZY. Surely it couldn’t happen TWICE, right? Shows what I know. This time it was Gary Glover who gave up the grand slam, but The Farns did his fair bit. Consider my expectations met, and perhaps exceeded.

I have to be up in less than five hours, so I’m just bulleting the rest of this thing.

Mario: And here comes Fabulous Freddy Dolsi!
Rod: You dropped a ‘fabulous’ on him, huh?

– Gary Sheffield hit his 497th home run. It was a screaming line drive to left field, as is typical for Sheff. Of course 500 is an arbitrary number that is no more or less inherently notable than 498, or 503, but whatever, we like zeroes, he’s shooting for it.

– Jim Leyland was ejected in the bottom of the 6th for arguing a hit-by-pitch call. He made it all the way back to the dugout before he got tossed, and he came CHARGING back out onto the field, prompting Rod and Mario to start cracking up and saying that they had never seen him move that fast before. He was all up in the face of homeplate ump Eric Cooper, and at one point Cooper (suppressing laughter, it looked like) made a gesture all up and down his own front as if to say, ‘Dude, you’re spitting ALL OVER me.’ Leyland was certainly close enough and, uh, vehement enough for that to be the case.

– The grand slam off of Glover was hit by Taylor Teagarden. It was his first ever at-bat with the bases loaded. Also his name is TEAGARDEN.

The Race to .500!

With this loss, the Tigers still need those 11 wins to reach the promised land, and only have 2 losses left to spare. Our prospects are grim.

Tuesday. 8:05 pm EDT. Zach Miner vs. Kevin Millwood. Miner’s ERA and WHIP are actually both better than Millwood’s, but Millwood’s middle name is ‘Austin’ and he pitches in Texas, so he may have mojo-rific powers on his side. We shall see what we shall see. Go Tigers!

death by walks


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

What is this? Armando can pitch against everyone EXCEPT for the Twins? I would blame the Gopher Dome but half of his Twins-related losses this season have been in Detroit.

The walks were what killed him today. Well, OK, Justin Morneau’s grand slam also killed him, but he only got that grand slam because Armando was walking guys all over the stupid turfy place. The run they scored in the first inning was also mostly the result of walks. Six walks in six innings… blech. That’s also very unlike Armando’s usual style. Maybe he’s allergic to pixie vests?

Liriano pitched a great game, so I got half the wonderful pitching duel I was hoping for yesterday. Somehow this fails to please me.

The River Thames was the only bright spot in the game, and I do mean the ONLY one. Nobody else had an extra-base hit (only 3 other guys had hits, period!) and none of the pitchers did particularly well. The River, however, managed to hit two homers off of Liriano. His line is a marvelously absurd .238/.291/.534. Just a teeny tiny bit lopsided.

ETA: OK, I lied, I remember one other awesome thing. Apparently Curtis Granderson was wearing a suit on the plane to Minnesota that had Rod and Mario beside themselves. It was (we are told) powder blue, with white pinstripes, and “bright white shoes.” Mario was making cracks about wearing white after Labor Day, and then we got this amazing/typical exchange –

[amidst bouts of semi-hysterical laughter at the memory of this outfit]
Mario: “You were all over him!”
Rod: “I wasn’t the only one!”

Rod and Mario are the gift that never stops giving. But WHY ARE THERE NO PHOTOS OF GRANDERSON IN THIS SUIT? How can you fail me at this vital moment, Internet?

The Race to .500!

Wow, give this team ONE goal, they do everything they can to avoid even that. Sad. With this loss we still need 14 wins to reach the promised land, and we’ve got only 7 losses left to spare. How pathetic would it be for this team – which was supposed to be the best and most expensive and shiniest and sparkliest powerhouse of them all before the season began – to finish the year under .500? REALLY PATHETIC.

Fourteen wins, kittens. Get cracking.

Saturday’s game is at 3:55 pm EDT. Gopher Dome. Verlander vs. (Timothy) Scott Baker. Verlander is coming off his Worst Outing Ever, so he’ll be pitching like he’s got something to prove. Whether this is a good thing or not remains to be seen. Go Tigers!

Miguel Cabrera is the Puma


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Why didn’t anyone tell me that Miguel Cabrera is in some circles nicknamed ‘the Puma’ (not, I don’t think, ‘the Big Puma’, which is Lance Berkaman)??? THIS IS VITAL INFORMATION, PEOPLE! Plus it meant that during today’s game we got the following glorious series of exchanges between Rod and Mario…

Mario: You know what a puma is, right?
Rod: *uncertain pause* Cat. *another pause* Big cat.
Mario: Jamie Walker’s nickname was ‘the Cat’.
Rod: Uh huh!
Mario: Not the big cat. More like medium cat. *pause* Medium-sized cat.

Oh man you guys I love baseball so hard.

The Puma went yard twice off of Racist Logos pitching today, which is excellent, because the Puma still cannot run much on his bum hip. After each home run he lumbered around the bases, returned to the dugout, and consumed a deer haunch. He then buried the rest of the deer carcass under the pitching mound so that he could come back to eat it tomorrow (true puma behavior FACT!).

The River Thames, sensing competition, also homered, as is his wont. It was one of those ridiculous little afterthought bat-flips that makes you squeal in high-pitched appreciation for The River’s power, because a swing like that should in no way result in a home run, especially in a park like Comerica. There is of course no telling how The River’s power will hold up after the All Star break, but he is certainly seizing his moment as best he can.

To add insult to the already emotionally injured Racist Logo pitching, Pudge also homered. Pudge this season has all the power of a pygmy marmoset (this was only his 4th home run, and pygmy marmosets have wee tiny hands that can barely hold baseball bats), so if the R.L. pitchers weren’t already planning to cry themselves to sleep tonight, this would have cemented it.

I must say that I was pleased to see the R.L.s wearing their alternate hats for this game. I find it much easier to spend 9 innings looking at that swoopy I, as opposed to the horrific Chief Wahoo.

ALSO THIS HAPPENED:

Their afternoon visitor didn’t seem like a good sign. With rain forcing the Tigers inside for batting practice, they were in the cage when someone heard the sounds of a cat’s meow. Matt Joyce grabbed a chair, took a look above the cage and inside the stadium and found a black kitten tangled in wires and cables.

Joyce and some teammates took the kitten into the clubhouse and fed it a little. Then Tigers personnel found an animal rescue program to help out. But the superstition was not lost.

Some players got a kick out of it. Others stayed away. Starting pitcher Justin Verlander stayed away because he’s allergic to cats. Cabrera avoided it for the superstition.

“I thought that was hilarious,” Joyce said. “I said, ‘Yeah, this thing’s gonna bring us good luck.'”
Jason Beck/MLB.com article

DEAR MATT JOYCE,
WE LOVE YOU FOREVER.
-ROAR OF THE TIGERS

Although it’s very disappointing to hear that Justin is allergic to cats. I guess this could explain some of his struggles this season… Paws needs to stop with the pregame hugs.

Wednesday’s game is at 7 pm EDT and pits Eddie Bonine against Paul Byrd. Misspelled cows vs. misspelled avians! ANIMAL FIGHT!! Go Tigers!

Gosh, did the Tigers play today?

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Naaahhh. That wasn’t a baseball game. I mean, there wasn’t any offense, and there wasn’t any real pitching to speak of, so what did I just watch? I’m not sure. I think maybe it was the Rod and Mario show.

In fact, yes, let’s talk about Rod and Mario. Let’s discuss how they were WEARING SHIRTS THE COLOR OF THE COTTON CANDY THEY ALWAYS TALK ABOUT for tonight’s broadcast. Mario in blue, Rod in pink. Please tell me I’m not the only person who noticed that. Please.

I also enjoyed their discussion on the dangers of treadmills, and the story of how Mario nearly killed himself when his MP3 player unplugged and fell and shot off the end of the treadmill, and Mario nearly followed it. I really appreciated that diversion from whatever was happening on the field. What was happening down there? No, y’know what, don’t even tell me. I don’t want to know. La la la…

….

……ggaaaaahh OK, OK, WHAT WAS WRONG WITH VERLANDER? He looked GOOD in his last start! It wasn’t reflected in the numbers at the end, but he did actually look good for most of the game! And tonight he just, ugh, did NOT look good. His control was way off from what it ought to have been, hell, what it USUALLY IS. Why? Is it just the Jake? (or whatever awful corporate name it is now) I know he struggles in the Jake, but… come on! What WAS that?

Alright. Alright. Nevermind. Rod and Mario dressed up as the Comerica cotton candy. That was what happened tonight. Onwards with the season.

Justin Verlander: 0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

I’m going to lay it right out there for the slow folks:

JUSTIN VERLANDER THREW A NO-HITTER.

Read those words. Savor them. Revel in them.

Now go outside and scream them at your neighbors.

Don’t you feel like the world is a better place already? I know *I* do.

Let me tell you something. I have sat through two, TWO almost-no-hitters in recent weeks. The first one was Curt Schilling’s game, which he lost with two outs in the ninth to Shannon “there is a Playboy bunny with the same name” Stewart. The second one was the first game in the NCAA Super Regionals matchup between Michigan and Oregon State, which Zach Putnam pitched beautifully, but ALSO lost with two outs in the ninth. I am a veritable EXPERT on almost-no-hitters by now.

So let me tell you: when Verlander threw a fastball at 102 mph (gun inflation? maybe. I think it might be more or less accurate, though, and was juiced more with adrenaline) IN THE NINTH INNING, after he had already passed the 100-pitch mark… the game felt different from those other two almost-no-hitters. Everyone could feel it. Verlander wasn’t just still pitching; he was STILL DOMINATING.

Now, I may or may not have vomited in my mouth a little when that ball came to Neifi!!! Perez’s backhand, but the sea slug clipped it and tossed it from his knees, behind his back, to Polanco, easy as you please. And Polanco somehow sent it along to first for the double play to end the 8th. I thought that was a hit, that was ZE END, I was going to have to shed a wee little tear for yet another lost no-hitter, but NEIFI!!! PEREZ CAME THROUGH IN THE DEFENSIVE CLUTCH.

Read THOSE words. Savor them. O THIS WACKY WORLD WE LIVE IN.

Offense: also magical. Curtis Granderson’s 13th triple… what do you even say to that? What kind of triple-hitting/running pace is that? It is not a pace that anyone else in MLB is on right now. And most of them hit outside of Comerica… you just kind of have to gesture wildly at Granderson, all “THIS MAN HAS HIT 13 TRIPLES AND IT IS ONLY JUNE”. And yeah, that makes you look like a crazy homeless person, probably, but it’s worth it in order to properly express our awe at this fact.

Brandon Inge hit another homerun. People are going to start advocating breaking his toe every year from now on. Rod Allen thinks that the way he’s gingerly landing on it in the batter’s box now is keeping him from pressing, which is improving his timing. This is the Brandon Inge we know and love and defend to the death even when it makes us look like… well, whatever it is that I’ve looked like all season as I continued to staunchly defend him and his sub-.200 batting average.

But this was not a night for giving a brewer’s bottom about offense. This was a night about JUSTIN VERLANDER. And his NO-HITTER. Which he threw, you know.

Touching moments for those who didn’t get to see it on TV:

(this is an edit, I forgot it the first time ’round, but it’s important so it goes up top in this here list) Major, MAJOR props to Rod and Mario for not mentioning the no-hitter. They would show the stats, with all the zeroes, and say “that tells the story…”, they would say that Justin had THIS many strikeouts and… oh, look at the board… and then drift off without EVER saying the word (phrase?) no-hitter.

I know some announcers will say it out loud because they think it’s their duty, they aren’t superstitious, whatever. And, to be honest, I’m not a superstitious person in most of my daily life. Even in most of my baseball-fan life, I’m not that superstitious. But when people mention a no-hitter, it drives me CRAZY. Absolutely bat-guano up the wall crazy. So I CANNOT thank Rod and Mario enough for treating this with the respect (and delicacy!) it deserved tonight.

–After Maggs drifted back to get that last out (heart attack much?), Pudge dashed up to the mound and power-hugged Verlander. Well, of course he did. That is the Pudge Rodriguez way. When the whole team came up to congratulate him, Pudge came back for another round of hugging, which was equally intense, and was followed by a series of rapid chest pats so hard that you could hear the thwacking through the camera.

–Verlander’s girlfriend (who is at least a head and a half shorter than him, adorable) ran onto the field, jumped up into his arms, and gave him a (disappointingly chaste) little kiss.

–Jim Leyland hugged him, lips compressed and, as Mario gleefully yelled, “with tears in his eyes!”

–After Verlander’s interview with the FSN dude, Todd Jones came running over in a cutoff sleeve tank (urk) and got Verlander right in the face with a shaving cream pie. Classic.

And, perhaps most importantly

THE SEAGULLS WERE BACK.

Last time they confined themselves to the outfield. This time they were all over the outfield, and the infield, and all the foul territory around the field. There was one that kept pacing back and forth behind the batter, and as each new batter came up you could watch him just going back and forth, back and forth. At one point the umpire had to tell everyone to pause because a seagull was between Verlander and the plate.

You would be watching a shot of the pitcher and suddenly a little blurry seagull head would pop up on the bottom of the screen. Seagulls fled at every flyball hit to the outfield, only to return moments later. Brandon Inge’s homerun ball nearly hit an indignant seagull as it cleared the wall. During Verlander’s postgame interview, there was a seagull pacing directly behind him. SEAGULLS EVERYWHERE.

I hereby declare them GOOD LUCK SEAGULLS, and may they grace every game from now on. I am going to go out tomorrow and blow kisses to the first seagull I see (which will be the second I step out the door; I live in a seaside town).

Seagulls + Justin Verlander = true love

This was Comerica Park’s first no-hitter and, if I remember correctly, the first no-hitter thrown by a Tiger since Jack Morris did it in 1984 (before I was BORN, holy freakin’ cats). Verlander had 12 strikeouts, a personal record for him and tying Bonderman’s record.

You guys. You guys.

JUSTIN VERLANDER THREW A NO-HITTER.

I’m not getting tired of typing it. I bet you’re not getting tired of reading it either.

JUSTIN

VERLANDER

THREW

A

NO-HITTER!

(ps seagulls!)

Oh and also! Polanco has pushed ahead of Cano for now, but don’t think for one second that those rabid Yankee fans are going to rest on their pinstriped laurels. We must keep the pressure on! DON’T FORGET TO VOTE PLACIDO POLANCO ONTO THE ALL STAR TEAM, WHICH IS HIS RIGHTFUL PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE!

frozen cats wielding frozen bats


bat icicles by Samara Pearlstein

Man, snood central out there today. I was DELIGHTED to see the trend extend past Polanco; Pudge started the game with a head sock (which I think he later discarded) and Magglio at times had every part of his face except for his eyes covered. Sadly, this awesome attire did not cause correspondingly awesome play. Maggs had trouble in the outfield AGAIN, and the entire offense just was a frozen lump of woe.

I’m not ready to panic about Maggs yet, though. I think he just really, really, REALLY hates/can’t handle cold weather. All we can do is hope it warms up right quick so he’s not as miserable as he clearly is right now. (And before he injures himself in some cold-stiff joint or other.) Lynn Henning is on FSN right now saying that Maggs is (and last year was) a defensive liability. I really don’t think he was as bad as all that. If he’s still doin’ this kind of crud when it warms up, I’ll bow to the debatably superior wisdom of Mr. Henning, but we shall see.

Verlander looked pretty darn good, which is on the one hand a big positive, given the concerns about his readiness and his tired arm and all that jazz. On the other hand, these are the Royals, and not to disrespect the Royals or anything but… these are the Royals. I’m not exactly pleased with the number of walks he issued, but the fact that the only run he gave up over 6 innings was unearned is a pleasant thing to contemplate.

Now, you KNOW I’ve got to mention Brandon Inge. Because Brandon Inge showed us today that he has RANGE at third, hurling himself all over the infield dirt. Brandon Inge. Stoppin’ balls, makin’ plays. Seriously, that play where he hurled himself on his stomach basically into shortstop territory, stopped the ball, and sent it sharply along to first for the out… hawt? Yes. Hawt.

Of course, Sean Casey made an EXCELLENT play on the other end of that ball, scooping it backhanded at first and just managing to keep his foot on the base long enough for the out, after which he immediately fell over onto his rump. I appreciated that play as well. I would maybe not go so far as to call it HAWT, but I would definitely say that it made me SQUEE.

Also SQUEEworthy was seeing everyone in the dugout all bundled up in their jackets and things. Especially Bondo, who was standing at the rail with a BRIGHT RED NOSE and you just wanted to give him some hot chocolate (with marshmallows in, natch) and, I dunno, a bunch of mittens or something.

All of this would have been much easier to enjoy if we had WON. We’re barely into the season and already I’m getting restless. But much less despairing than I normally would be at this time of year; I think last season has mellowed me somewhat.

Except when it comes to Fernando. He’s feeling “out of synch”. No, really? I never would’ve guessed. *insert rude, exasperated gesture here*

MIKE MAROTH HAS A BUZZ CUT. They interviewed him after the game, since he’s starting tomorrow… not that any of us will be able to see it unless we’re there, because the game isn’t televised. (Not that I’d be able to see it anyways if the Wolverines don’t have another game snowed/frozen out… but they did today, so, who knows.) “Anything to try to add a few miles per hour… heh, I don’t think it will though.” Mike Maroth: painfully adorable. I hope he blows the snot out of ’em tomorrow, so we can stop worrying about his arm and so that we can feel less embarrassed about losing to the Royals. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Sigh. At least we didn’t get ACTUALLY snowed out like they did in Cleveland today. That’ll make you frozen AND frustrated, because you waste all that time playing/watching people play, and it’s all for naught.

What Rod and Mario Said Today

Apparently they have a people-in-hot-dog-suits race in KC these days… red vs. yellow vs. green. Presumably meant to represent condiments. Rod and Mario were tickled by these oblong wonders.

Mario: Oh… oh no…
*both laughing*
Rod: Red’s got some nice form.
Mario: Ketchup’s comin’ on hard.

Then Rod broke out this gem, which any Michigan native will appreciate.

Rod: They should put Belle Tire out there, he’d beat ’em all.

You know that wasn’t an endorsement either; he just came up with that out of his own deranged mind. I love it.

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.

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.
(eeeek!)

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