Category Archives: Neifi!!!

woe is the Detroit Tigers


photo by Emily Smith

Holy freakin’ cats, stab me in the EYE. Did we just lose yet ANOTHER ballgame?

I am going to repeat this over and over to myself, like a mantra:

The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball. The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball. The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball. The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball. The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball. The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball. The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball. The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball. The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball. The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball. The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball. The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball. The Tigers have the most talented team in baseball.

THAT SAID….

The Tigers have an INJURED team right now. Kenny Rogers is on the DL, Joel Zumaya is on the DL, Andrew Miller is on the DL, Marcus Thames is on the DL, Vance Wilson is on the DL (I know, I know, shut up), Gary Sheffield is NOT on the DL but is definitely injured, Jeremy Bonderman is NOT on the DL but may as well be for the first inning of every game he pitches for the rest of eternity.

The Tigers also have a SLUMPING team right now. The bats have not been much raked over by injuries, but they are deathly quiet these days, and I know that they’re capable of so much more– we ALL know this– but for whatever reason they’ve just got themselves into a mire. Logically, I am sure we all know this. Logically.

Because of the definite ability of the team to play great baseball if they really felt like it, I still feel safe declaring this the most FRUSTRATING slump EVER. I speak with the assured authority of the short-sighted.

Were we seriously just swept by the Wrong Sox? Are the Yankees seriously riding up on us in the Wild Card race? UGH. Stab me in the eye AGAIN.

While we’re on the topic of failure, MVN’s own Catbird has a lil’ somethin’-somethin’ on the subject of Neifi!! I would quote it here but the Catbird really gives you everything we have to go on. Basically, if what Neifi!! says is true, then there is a major problem with the testing procedures (i.e, not informing a player of a first positive test in enough time to let him change his behavior before administering a second or third test).

Howeverrrrr, after saying that he’d been diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed medication (which he’s blaming the positive tests on) Neifi!! also says this:

I went to two different drug stores and they wouldn’t sell me the medicine, so someone from the team told me I could use any amphetamine and I started using something else.
ESPNDeportes.com, via Catbird (he didn’t provide a link, and a glance at the ESPND MLB homepage doesn’t help me find it)

Maybe that’s true. But, really, someone from the team told him to just use any old amphetamine? I find that KIND OF hard to believe, given the tenor of today’s “drugs in baseball aaaaggghhh the sky is falling” world. And I am confused: if he had been prescribed legal medication, by a real doctor, why would “two different drug stores” refuse to give him medication? Anyone else find that more than passing strange?

The Neifi!! plot thickens.

Neifi Perez won't stop haunting my dreams.


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Just when I was starting to get used to a team where I didn’t have to think about Neifi!!, ever, he goes and inserts himself into my line of vision again. Seriously. The team could have started him on a minor league rehab assignment a few days ago, and they opted not to. It seemed like Neifi!! was going to quietly slouch into the misty distance and we would be mercifully rid of him. But NO.

If you recall, Neifi!! tested positive for banned stimulants earlier this season. He was suspended for 25 games and had to undergo counseling.

He was just suspended AGAIN, this time for 80 games… which means that this is his THIRD positive test. If he tests positive again, he’s banned from baseball for life (take a moment to shed a nervous tear at the thought, my friends).

How is it possible for Neifi!! to test positive again and again and again, after counseling and the embarrassment of previous suspensions and the subsequent smack-downs by the team? I can only think of three scenarios that make sense:

1. Neifi!! is taking something that has a banned stimulant in it, and he doesn’t know it. Thing is, you would expect this to have been cleared up after the first positive test, and you DEFINITELY would expect it to be cleared up after the second.

2. Neifi!! is addicted to some kind of amphetamine. Which would be pretty sad. But again, surely counseling would have uncovered that fact and gotten him some help, right?

3. Neifi!! is a catdamned idiot, and keeps thinking that he won’t get caught taking whatever it is that he’s taking. Possible, but I have a hard time believing that even Neifi!! is that stupid and/or self-destructive. At the very least you would think he’d want to keep drawing that big league paycheck while big league teams are still insane enough to pay him. I suppose some baseball players have that “yarrgh I am invincible!” mindset, but… Neifi!! Perez? Seriously?

Am I missing a possibility?

So what is going on here? I want to not care, because, man, it’s Neifi!!, but something just seems weird. How on earth has everyone else in baseball managed to cut greenies out of their lives except for Neifi!!? And hey, remember what he said when his previous suspension came down?

“I say to my fans that I am not stupid. I know the difference between good and bad and there are things that are going to be known going forward, but my lawyer has advised me not to talk for now,” Perez told the Dominican radio program Impacto Deportivo in his homeland.
AP article via ESPN

Whatever happened to that? Did we ever hear “things going forward”?

This will take Neifi!! to the end of his contract, and it seems extraordinarily unlikely that he’ll be re-signed by the Tigers. So ends the Neifi!! era: awkwardly and surrounded by questions. Much like Neifi!! himself.

edit: Andrew Miller has a mild hamstring strain. As Rod Allen pointed out, of all injuries for him to have, that’s one of the “best”, i.e. at least it’s nothing to do with his arm. Not much to say about the rest of the game. Losing is beginning to grate on us all. Hopefully the team is bearing up under it with better grace than I am.

Neifi Perez is going to be the death of me


photo by Samara Pearlstein

Are… you… f’ing… serious.

Perez is first player disciplined for testing positive for stimulant.

Nobody gets publicity for a first positive test, which means that this is the SECOND time (at least) Neifi!! has been ingesting banned substances.

Catdammit Neifi!!, stay off the freakin’ greenies!

On the one hand, at least it’s not a player that we’ll particularly miss for 25 games. On the other hand, it’s a bit of an embarrassment for the team. In a way it’s even worse if he unknowingly violated the policy, because someone on the team would then be partially responsible for not keeping the players as fully informed as they ought to be. So I actually kind of just hope this is Neifi!! being a moron all on his own.

We’ve now gone from Neifi!! being an occasional defensive help and a constant offensive wasteland to Neifi!! being little more than a dustbunny for the team. You know what I mean. Useless, a little gross, nobody quite knows how it got there, and you really just want to sweep it back under the bed from whence it came.

edit! Wait, it gets BETTER.

“I say to my fans that I am not stupid. I know the difference between good and bad and there are things that are going to be known going forward, but my lawyer has advised me not to talk for now,” Perez told the Dominican radio program Impacto Deportivo in his homeland.
AP article via ESPN

Ha ha ha ha ha ha, oh man, Neifi!! thinks he has fans!

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!

Oh Seay can you see how bad his pitching is?


photo by Samara Pearlstein

Way, waaaaay more photos to come, obviously, but I wanted to get this thing rolling. I’m keepin’ it simple here.

1. Tigers fan bandwagon jumping not as great as expected. I expected to see a lot more Tigers fans this year, after last season. Didn’t pan out. For this game, at least, I would say there were about as many Tigers fans as there were last year at Fenway. Maybe more people around my age this time, but that’s really the only difference I noted (and it was slight). Could have had something to do with the fact that it was a Monday night, and the fact that it was Nate (not a huge draw even among Tigers fans) vs. Matsuzaka (a HUGE FREAKIN’ DRAW for Sox fans).

2. Nate Robertson: not made of fail. His outing was a lot better than his line shows. He threw about a billion pitches, which was his undoing, but he didn’t walk anyone. Not a one. He just allowed the Sox to work up these enormous pitch counts during at-bats. Jason Varitek was fouling stuff off like his spandex turtlenecks were going out of style and he had to slow down the game on purpose to milk the last possible moments of enjoyment from them. I don’t know. Many worse pitchers than Nate have been roughed up by David Ortiz and ‘Tek.

His line also looks a lot better if

3. you count those two “hits” in the second inning as errors, which is how I counted them on my scorecard. Hits, pfffft, whatever. The first one would have been an out if Brandon Inge had taken ONE step instead of trying to complete the play in a single shiny motion. The second one probably would have been an out, AT LEAST one out, if Carlos hadn’t bobbled the bobble right out of the ball. Hits? Hits? I guess that’s what the cool kids call “hometown scoring”.

And you KNOW I don’t want to see Brandon Inge get saddled with any more errors than he already has been, but I was pretty convinced that he could have had this play if he had taken just one more moment with it. If you didn’t see the play, it was a ball that Mike Lowell hit to third very softly, so it stayed more or less on the infield grass. Inge came charging in and in one single move scooped the thing up, while running, and threw it to first. TOWARDS first, rather, because what he actually did was airmail the ball to a point just above and behind Sean Casey’s head. Woe.

4. I asked Bondo during BP how his hand was doing. I was leaning on the back of the visitor’s dugout, as is my wont, and Bondo approached. Here’s the exact conversation.

RotT: Hey, Bondo! How’s your hand doing?
Bondo, with a startled and slightly blank look up: What?*
RotT: How’s your hand doing?
Bondo: Uh, oh. Uh, it’s OK. It’s getting better.

He then ducked down and into the dugout before anyone could hound him for autographs.

I find it worrying that he said “it’s getting better” instead of “oh, it’s doing great! feels dandy!”… which is what you would assume a player would say to some dumb fan hollering at them before a game. “It’s getting better” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in me that he’ll be back 100% by the time his next start rolls around.

For whatever it’s worth, he didn’t appear to have anything on the affected finger. Not even a bandaid or gauze wrap.

5. Bobby Seay must die. The Red Sox were winning anyways; that was just unnecessary agony to watch. In fact, we couldn’t stand it and actually walked out of our seats and into the concourse, where we watched the rest of his inning on a TV bolted to the Fenway concourse girders. Watching with us: a bunch of vaguely disinterested cops, and John Keating of FSN Detroit. Kinda surreal.

6. Tim Byrdak was not as bad as Bobby Seay. His lifetime stats are not pretty, though, so don’t get too excited now, kids. I was doing a last-minute poke at the Tigers roster before the game and noticed he had shown up, numberless and unexplained. I had the following conversation with my brother.

RotT: Hey, what’s a Tim Byrdak?
Brother: Generic white Orioles reliever.
RotT: Well. He’s a Tiger now.
Brother: Really? Huh. He sucks.

Still, today he was going strong. Why did we take him out to put in Bobby Trainwreck Seay? The world may never know.

7. Nobody likes Neifi Perez. Best Neifi!!! moment came during BP. Neifi!!! walked over to the dugout. A small child immediately began begging for his autograph, calling him BY NAME. Both pathetic and remarkable. Neifi!!! completely blew the kid off** and pootled around the edge of the dugout doing Neifi!!! things instead. A Tigers fan next to me (late teens or early 20s) yelled, “Neifi!” like he would if he was asking for an autograph. He then yelled. “LOOK AT YOURSELF!”, the implication in his tone of voice being, of course, that if Neifi!!! took the time to really look at himself, he would realize how loathsome he truly is.

My contribution to this scintillating exchange was a darkly muttered, “He should be thankful anyone even recognizes him,” which was loud enough for people on the back of the dugout to hear, but not loud enough for Neifi!!! This was either for the best, or a lost opportunity.

8. Mike Rabelo fan club? I sat with a Sox fan friend of mine for this game. I pointed Rabelo out to her a few times during BP, and later when he would poke his head up out of the dugout or when he ran across to the bullpen. She was quiet about him, but eventually admitted that she found him to be quite attractive. This is the very first time I have heard anyone mackin’ on Mike Rabelo. Welcome to the majors, kid!

9. When push comes to shove, I shove Gary Sheffield. I’m sorry. I tried. But this was the ultimate test: Gary Sheffield in Fenway, where I have hated him for many years. Turns out I hate him still. Go figure.

I have to admit, when he came up to bat, I was rooting Matsuzaka all the way, every time. I know I’m supposed to look at the good of the team and not the individual man, but apparently I’m not over Sheffield yet. I didn’t go so far as to join in the round booing he got whenever he so much as stuck his head out of the dugout, but I didn’t sob when he struck out.

10. You don’t really understand Matsuzaka fever until you see it in person. I know this is a Tigers blog, and this is a Red Sox subject, but it’s really, really something to see. People are CRAZY for this kid. There are Dunkin Donuts ads in Japanese. Programs and scorecards being given out with red headbands with the Japanese flag on them. Tons of little kids in tshirts that have a number 18 on the back and a nameplate reading “Dice-K”. It’s wacky, but awesome.

edit: I’ve posted about this game from the Red Sox fan side of my brain over at Blue Cats and Red Sox. Also, Ian of Bless You Boys has an “interview” with me about the series up at his place. I express my true feeling about Curt Schilling, and compare Chad Durbin’s performance to “gravy on the meaty team pie”. ‘Tis ace.

* This is a little embarrassing to admit, but when I yell, like yelling AT someone to get their attention or what have you, I… aspirate my Rs and nasalize (?) my vowels. When speaking normally I have no accent at all (‘though I do have New England terminology… it’s SODA, those shoes are SNEAKERS, that candy is a LOLLIPOP), but when I yell, I yell in a Boston accent. I blame my upbringing; there was not a lot of yelling in my house when I was growing up (you would never guess it from this blog, but my immediate family is actually pretty functional) and my house is basically accentless, while most of the people I DID hear yelling were people with thick Boston accents.

This is to say that when I first yelled at Bondo, it’s not surprising that he had a little trouble understanding me.

** I have no problem at all with Neifi!!!, or indeed anyone, blowing off the autograph hounds. In fact I applaud him for resisting the slimy charms of a small child trying to act innocent but really in bloodthirsty pursuit of a bunch of autographs (s)he doesn’t give two snotloads about, just to be able to say (s)he has them. I just strongly dislike Neifi!!! to begin with.

Nate breaks Oriole bats; Pudge breaks self


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Definitely a day of breakage all ’round.

In case you didn’t get to see the game, one of the weirder, “well what can you do except shrug?”-type defensive plays came when Nate threw a pitch that absolutely shattered Nick Markakis’ bat, to the point where a good-sized shard of it came flying up and chased Casey away from first base… so when the ball came back to first, what should have been an out resulted in a hit for Markakis.

We were robbed of an out because our first baseman was fleeing an airborne pointy scythe of wooden doom. Of course Nate managed to get us out of the inning OK, but the whole thing was just a bit absurd.

When he wasn’t breaking bats, Nate was pitching up a glorious pitching storm. It still surprises me sometimes when he pitches so well, even though it really shouldn’t. It’s so easy to forget that he “lost” a whole bunch of games last season through no real fault of his own.

Pudge, in a much less charming story, took a ricochet to the foot and went down for much longer than he normally would. He refused to leave the game because he’s a big macho manly man and/or he doesn’t trust Rabelo in such a low-scoring game. He was running and crouching a little gingerly but I think he’d have to be clinically dead before he’d take HIMSELF out of the game.

I don’t know if he’s gonna play tonight or not (no word from above so far as I’ve seen today), but I know that he’s going to WANT to… and I very much hope that Leyland tells him NOT to. He shouldn’t have even continued to play, giving his foot a chance to swell up and, who knows, explode inside his cleat or something. I want to see him in the dugout tonight with a big fleecy slipper on.

On the other hand, I’m not so sure I want to see Rabelo get his first significant Major League experience catching Verlander. Justin can be a little…. taxing on a catcher, what with the heavy fastball and the occasional wildness (especially with the cold weather everyone’s suffering from). Vance has always seemed to have a really good pitcher/catcher rapport with Verlander, and Pudge is Pudge. Rabelo is, I’m sure, a perfectly serviceable catcher…

I just realized that if Rabelo catches Verlander, the COMBINED AGE of our battery would be only 3 YEARS OLDER THAN JULIO FRANCO.

Let that percolate around your little head for a bit. That would be FREAKIN’ AWESOME, in a terrifying kind of way.

Oy. I’m not sure there’s a good answer to this one. Pudge will say that he’s fine, and may in fact BE fine, but given his age and our continued lack of Vance Wilson, I would really, REALLY rather not let his bulldog work ethic get in front of his overall health. I don’t want Rabelo to be traumatized by Verlander, though. BASICALLY I JUST WANT US ALL TO HOLD HANDS AND DANCE WITH KITTENS AND NOT HAVE ALL THESE PEOPLE GETTING BROKEN AND PERSISTING IN THEIR BROKENNESS.

I’m also not happy that Neifi!!! got into the game yesterday, because I resent him on principle, and for the simple fact that he is not Brandon Inge. Although now that I think of it, Inge is probably having this slow start specifically so that Neifi!!! can get some at-bats now, before the season has a chance to really rev up and he can do some actual damage to the team. Good job, Brandon. Always thinking of the larger picture.

I’m definitely going to keep thinking of excuses for Brandon Inge until he starts producing, by the way. So we had all better hope he gets his act together right quick, because the places my mind will go when allowed to run free in this fashion are not places that any of you marginally sane folk want to have to witness.

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.

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.

VERLANDER INTERVIEW
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.

EXCEPTIONAL MENTAL MAKEUP MIKE INTERVIEW
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.

CRAIG MONROE INTERVIEW
“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.

POLANCO INTERVIEW
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.

SHEFFIELD INTERVIEW
“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!

NEIFI PEREZ DOES NOT DELIVER IN THE CLUTCH. THIS IS CLEARLY AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE AND I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THESE SHENANIGANS. YOU CAN’T FOOL ME, ALTERNATE UNIVERSE!

pug marks, Feb. 28


Andrew Miller, photo by Roger DeWitt

pug mark 1
Andrew Miller: the next Justin Verlander?

Maybe.

Not in a direct he-pitches-the-same way, of course. But Miller has the potential to be the next baby Tiger to burst forth from the minor leagues fully formed, armed and ready, like Athena from the forehead of Zeus, which is of course more or less what Verlander did.

The correct thing for front officey sorts to say right now is that Miller will be in the minors this season, with a late-season call-up possible, depending on how he does and on where the Tigers are come, say, September. If someone manages to make their arm into a tendon-twisty mess (we’re watching you, Zumaya), though, I and everyone else think we’ll see him sooner rather than later.

Can you imagine? Verlander and Bonderman and Zumaya… Tata and Ledezma are possibilities… Miner is a possibility…. and then maybe, JUST MAYBE Andrew Miller. The average age of our pitching staff is going to be “third trimester”, and the only reason it’s not going to be “newly acquainted sperm and egg” is because Kenny Rogers is pushing up the curve.

He also pitched in the spring training opener today and struck out 4 in two innings. Me likey.

pug mark 2
Jeremy Bonderman speaks! Does he betray a personality??

I want to get better. I want to be a guy like Roy Halladay, or a right-handed [Johan] Santana, something like that. I want that when I come into a ballpark, they’ll be ‘Oh, [shoot], Jeremy’s going to be pitching in one of those games.’ And I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping to get there.”
MLB.com article

Word to the wise: he didn’t actually say “shoot” up there.

I like this. I like a Bondo who has crazy things like “ambition” and who swears at reporters (although of course it must have been done in a terribly monotone voice, so we shouldn’t get TOO excited). I like a Bondo who’s working on a changeup because he has this burning desire to be something more than a 4.00-ERA pitcher. Since he’ll basically be throwing it with the same motion he uses for his fastball and he’s just messing around with the grip, this seems like a wonderfully low-risk way to possibly propel him out of mediocrity and into the sheer dominance that he’s flirted shamelessly with ever since he’s been up, the little hussy.

pug mark 3
Chris Shelton has a strained tummy.

It’s actually being described as a “mild oblique strain” which, as is usual with sports injury reports, could refer to any number of things. Nothing indicates that it’s serious but since these things do tend to linger on and haunt the sufferers for years and years and Tim Hudson is wincing in sympathy right now, so. It gets a pug mark.

I don’t know how he did it, but I like to imagine that it was a particularly violent sneeze, all Sammy Sosa-style.

pug mark 4
Neifi!!! reaffirms his status on the team.

He did this by going 0-for-3 in today’s game. To be sure that we didn’t miss the FULL IMPACT of Neifi!!!, he also committed two errors. Thank cats. I am quite sure that it would not be a real spring training if we were not treated to the full range of skills that this golden archetype of baseball mastery possesses.

I mean, thank cats he’s here in camp, you know? Who else would set such an example for all the youngsters on the field? Who else will show them how to not catch the ball??? Who else will show them how to wear their socks at the most awkward half-high level possible so as to best display their curiously skinny and possibly atrophied ankles????? THESE ARE IMPORTANT BASEBALL SKILLS, PEOPLE. THANK CATS SOMEONE IN THE FRONT OFFICE HAS RECOGNIZED THEIR IMPORT AND HAS GIVEN UNTO US THAT FINEST SPECIMEN OF BASEBALL PLAYING HUMANITY, THAT INIMITABLE NEIFI!!! PEREZ.

pug mark 5
Not a Tiger pug mark, but apparently Bobby Jenks, THE CANE TOAD, had to leave their spring training game today with shoulder tightness. He says that he has had it all spring, but it’s all good because it’s not stabbing pain or something along those lines.
To which I say, ha! And ha again! I spit upon your ailing shoulder, Cane Toad, and may its tightness never ease.

pug marks, Jan. 17


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

From now on, when I have an odds and ends post that I can’t think of a better name for, it’s getting called “pug marks”. The zoologically-inclined among you will recognize the term, and for those of you who are not familiar with it, pug marks are pawprints left behind by tigers and their awesome tiger toe-pads. Pawprints, and post titles for lazy bloggers who don’t want to write “odds and ends” and see it glaring back at them from the top of the page.

pug mark 1
Dave Dombrowski is the anti-arb.

Signed to one-year contracts are Craig Monroe, Nate Robertson, Omar Infante and Fernando Rodney. This means that none of them go to arbitration, and Mr. Dombrowski doesn’t have to sully his hands with the base squabbles of commoners. You might think that, in this whacktarded market, Nate or Fernando could have gotten a bit more if they’d really pushed the issue, but nowadays the cool kids all WANT to come to Detroit, and don’t consider it quite the desolate punishment it once was (i.e. what it still is for pro football).

We have way too many Omar-equivalents on the roster right now. Ramon Santiago is basically a less interesting Omar, and Neifi Perez is basically a more loathsome Omar. This may not bode well for the actual Omar. Billfer thinks the amount of money Omar got may indicate a willingness on the part of the Tigs to stick with him, but Rotoworld seems to be under the impression that they don’t favor him.

The official RotT position on this is “yay Omar”, “boo hiss Neifi”, “eh Ramon”.

pug mark 2
Dear Gary Sheffield: I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that you are on a team that I root for and that I now, by extension, have to root for you. This is not an easy thing for me, because I hate your Yankee tenure, your bat wiggle, and your guts. But I am TRYING, because you are a Tiger now and I have to.

Why do you have to make it harder for me?

“I’m able to lift weights that I never lifted before,” he said. “My wrist had been bothering me since Atlanta, and finally it kind of gave way. Now I’m back and I’m putting up weights like I never have. I haven’t done the things I’m able to do now in a long time.”

MLB Tigers article

WOW THAT DOESN’T SOUND LIKE YOU’RE ON STEROIDS AT ALL. I MEAN IT’S NOT AS THOUGH YOU’VE BEEN UNDER SUSPICION OF THAT, SO THERE’S REALLY NO REASON FOR ANYONE TO EVEN GO THERE IN THEIR MINDS. THIRTY-EIGHT YEAR OLD BALLPLAYERS WITH DECAYING BODIES OFTEN SUDDENLY GAIN THE ABILITY TO LIFT WEIGHTS THAT THEY HAVE “NEVER LIFTED BEFORE”.

I’m not necessarily saying he’s ‘roiding, because holy freakin’ cats would that be stupid of him right now, but WHY DID HE HAVE TO SAY THAT? Why did he have to be SO BLOODY FREAKIN’ DUMB to say something as BATGUANO INSANELY INCRIMINATING/DODGY-SOUNDING AS THAT?

“But speak out intelligently. I think that’s the key. When you’re talking about stuff that doesn’t make sense, then it becomes a problem. But when you’re making sense, then it’s valid.

“I know I don’t always make sense. It’s just knowing yourself…. Because I speak on subjects that you might not get today, but you’ll get it tomorrow.”

Oh. Alright then. I suppose this will sound loads better tomorrow.

pug mark 3
Please turn your attention to this Free Press article, and more particularly to the photo at the head of it.

Apparently the Team of the Year trophy is a small green granite tombstone. Curious design choice.

And speaking of curious design choices… I don’t know if anyone has told Brandon Inge this lately, but he’s really, REALLY pale. I mean, blonde as all get-out, and wicked pasty white on top of that. So WHY would he go about wearing the kind of pumpkin orange shirt/orange and yellow 1974 tie/gleaming brown pinstriped suit combo that even Deion Sanders might scoff at?

(Note that this is complete hyperbole to make the point; Deion would wear that outfit in a second, with several pounds of diamonds distributed carefully over it, and possibly a matching orange fedora. Also, it would look better on Deion, because he’s not WHITER THAN NASCAR.)

pug mark 4
TigerFest is this Saturday. It’s sold out (!!!), so I will not be in attendance. If you’re going, have oodles of fun and rest assured that somewhere, in the dark cold depths of Ann Arbor, there’s a student cultivating a deeply jealous sulk because you are there and she is not. I’m probably not going to make it out to any of the caravan events either (sulk sulk SULK)… they’re in Ann Arbor at some point, but I think it’s the sort of thing you have to pay through the teeth to get into, and the art school is happily making sure I don’t even have any teeth left to pay through by the end of the semester.

pug mark 5
You may have noticed some difficulty reaching this site/getting it to load properly/etc., of late. The web dude is aware of the problem, and since I have bothered him at work I can assure you that he is trying very hard to resolve it. Basically the issue is that the entire server is dependent on a team of highly trained chinchillas, and the chinchillas are in revolt. It’s a pretty touchy situation. No one wants to oppress the rights of the chinchillas, but their sudden and unexpected demands are really putting a cramp in our web service style. Hopefully they’ll see reason soon, and things (and their frail yet finely furred little legs) will run smoothly again.