Category Archives: Pudge

thoughts on a retiring catcher

images by Samara Pearlstein

He isn’t really ours. Pudge Rodriguez, when he hits the Hall of Fame, will almost certainly be wearing a Rangers cap. He got his World Series ring with Florida. Detroit is just ‘that place Pudge played for a while after doing most of the things for which he will ultimately be known.’

But, you know, it’s more than that. After 2003, the Tigers were as low as they could possibly be. They were bad enough in ’03 to make one yearn for Euro-soccer-style relegation, so that some other team, staffed by surely less incompetent players, could have a crack at this whole MLB thing. Screw the results; the Tigers’ reputation couldn’t get any worse, which had set up a nasty cycle, leaving them in a situation where the team desperately needed quality free agents to boost themselves into emergency respectability, but would never be able to attract those free agents due to their horrible Baseball Death Sentence rep. Being in Detroit did not exactly help.

Then Pudge signed.

It was hardly an act of altruism– this was a 4-year, $40 million contract for a catcher in his 30s, the age at which most catchers’ knees start to liquefy. Pudge is not most catchers in this respect, but no one had any way of knowing that yet. Detroit had to offer something significant, both because of the aforementioned reputation and because of the Scott Bora$ factor. Nobody was doing anybody else any favors.

Yet… yet… Pudge signed. He didn’t have to come to Detroit. Yes, it was a big contract for an old dude, but he probably could have gotten that, or similar, elsewhere. He’s one of the best catchers ever, and was certainly one of the best, if not THE best catcher in MLB at the time. Why sign with Detroit when you stand a chance of getting an offer from somewhere warmer, somewhere more likely to get you another ring, somewhere less fraught with immediate baseball agony of the highest degree?

Because Scott Boras is convinced this is the best offer you will get, and tells you it’s in your best interests (and his) to sign.

Or whatever– the exact reason doesn’t matter. The important bit is the fact that Pudge DID sign. He was the big-name, strong-rep, blockbuster free agent that the Tigers had been angling after, the one who would help lift them up out of the swirling mire of terribleness with his bat and his glove and his veteran leaderability and his ten thousand teeth bared in a high-wattage smile.

And he did!

Say what you will about the end of his Tigers tenure– and much of it was said, right here on this very blog– but Pudge was instrumental in bringing the Tigers back from the brink. The Tigers lost 119 games in 2003. In 2006, they were in the World Series. This was not entirely down to Pudge, of course, but he was a huge part of it, on the field and off.

You all know what I mean; you know how it went. When WHO’S YOUR TIGER? was still A Thing, many of you will have had Pudge as your answer.

So Pudge will be known as a Ranger. He’ll be remembered for what he did in Florida. There were plenty of bad times here, and there was a lot of soiled kitty litter that went down towards the end. But we shouldn’t– and we won’t– forget him in Detroit.

Pudge returns! And, you know, other things.

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Pudge! Pudge! You’re back, and you’re not wearing the outfit of evil, and we know you’re probably sad that you’re not still in Texas, but you are ALIVE and PLAYING BASEBALL and HERE YOU ARE IN DETROIT and we love you! For real! In fact:

Uh huh, uh huh. Never forget 2004, friends. Never forget.

Anyways, Max was OK, the bullpen behaved themselves (although the Big Potato gave us a bit of a scare), and Ryan Raburn hit a home run for the shock value. Oh, and Magglio Ordonez, fresh off a non-DL rest period for his balky oblique, went 4-for-5 with two doubles. Everyone heaves a sigh of relief. That said, Gerald Laird was 3-for-4, so grain of salt, grain of salt.

The Tigers left a million men on base and still won, because these are the Nationals and Stephen Strasburg does not have to be faced in this series. Thank cats.

So, Pudge, we meet again.

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Friday’s game was not the first time the Tigers had faced Pudge since he moved on to less awesome things– they played the Yankees once after the ’08 Farnsworth/Pudge Swap o’ Surliness. But that was just a makeup game. This was the first time the Tigers and Pudge came face to face at the start of a proper series, having spent the entire season thus far apart. DUN DUNNNNN.

–Pudge looks exactly the same. I don’t think he’s actually aging. Also, Rod and Mario claimed that Wandy Rodriguez was the first Rodriguez he had ever caught in his career (making for a Rodriguez-Rodriguez battery), which is kind of remarkable if true, but I am WAY too lazy to fact-check them on that.

–Miguel Cabrera’s homerun was enormous. Vast. Gargantuan. It hit the back wall of the stadium, on the edge of the windows. Placido Polanco also homered in this one, although it was not nearly so jaw-droppingly magnificent. He compensated by hitting his with two men on base.

–In his return to Minute Maid, Adam Everett had only one hit, a double. He looked awfully relieved after he hit it, though.

–Late in the game, Josh Anderson stole second off of Pudge. Oh my holy cats was Pudge angered by this. He very plainly thought that he had thrown Anderson out (it looked like the throw beat Anderson, but the tag might not have gotten down fast enough), and he uttered a few choice words when the ump called Anderson safe. Ballsy of Josh Anderson, especially since he’s been vaguely disastrous on the basepaths in the last few games.

–According to Rod and Mario, Magglio’s hair was weighed after it had been cruelly shorn from his head, and it was found to weigh TWO POUNDS. I am not sure that I believe that, because HOLY CATS TWO POUNDS. But, if true… well, it could definitely explain his at least temporary hitting bounceback. Imagine losing that much weight from your scalp all at once! Didn’t help today, though, as Maggs stranded something on the order of seven billion Cats on base.

–Verlander was back to his early-season inefficient ways. Very disturbing to see, I kind of felt like I was having some sort of hallucinatory flashback. He threw 118 pitches in 5.1 innings. Wandy Rodriguez wasn’t that much better (106 in 6), but I just found it particularly worrying to see Verlander regress like that, you know?

Quoth Justin: “I’m not gonna adjust until I have to.” Oh, OK.

–Polanco made a brilliantly good turn on the 6-4-3 double play that ended the 6th. Michael Bourn slid directly at him, but he held his ground and managed to get the ball out of his hands about a millisecond before Bourn upended him. The kind of play that makes you love double plays a little bit.

–The Return of Tim Byrdak! He struck out Donnie Kelly and walked Curtis Granderson. He was not wearing pitching goggles.

–JOEL ZUMAYA. We need to have some STERN WORDS here.

At one point Zoom hit 105 on the Minute Maid radar gun (not the FSND gun, they don’t take it on the road, they just use the readings from the local stadium gun), and he was throwing in the triple digits for pretty much the entire 8th inning. Now, I would suspect that the Houston gun was running a little hot, because 105? Really? REALLY?

But there’s no denying the fact that Zoom was leaning HEAVILY on his fastball tonight, and he was pumping it up as high as he possibly could– it doesn’t really matter if that actual speed was 105 or 100 or 99 mph. We have discussed the fact that Zoom tends to get in trouble when he relies on his fastball too much. That happened here. He wasn’t locating it, but he just kept going right back to it.

Zoom, darling, if you can’t control your fastball at 99, the solution is not to pump it up to 103. Throw a different pitch. I know you love the fastball like most people love their children, or their pets, but some days your kid is gonna be an unrelieved brat, and some days your cat is going to be all hairballs all the time, OK? And that metaphor is going to get convoluted pretty soon so I’m going to abandon it now, but you know what I mean.

The blown save and the loss both belong to Zoom here. Double-whammy. I can’t say that he didn’t deserve it tonight, though– Justin was in position to get his 9th win, a respectable number of runs had been scored, the winning streak was in order, Fernando Rodney was not likely to pitch. All seemed well. Alas, alas.

–G-Money got hit in the nuts on a backswing. He went down like he’d taken a bag of bricks to the face, and it looked like he was crying (or screaming) into the trainer’s shoulder for a bit. He stayed in the game though! And people say baseball players aren’t tough. A soccer player would have milked that for 8 thousand years.

–Mario made the obligatory Darin-Erstad-was-a-college-football-player mention, but Rod spiced it up by immediately mocking him for calling a punter a proper football player. We were then treated to a story about how Rod used to perform all manner of football kicking duties when he was in high school, except he was terrible at field goals.

–Saturday’s game will be Alfredo Figaro vs. Felipe Paulino. Felipe isn’t related to Ronny Paulino, right? They’re both from Santo Domingo and they’re a couple years apart, but I just don’t know.

Pudge comes back, Verlander is terrible; these events are probably unrelated

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Yeah that’s RIGHT, possibly incorrectly deployed semicolon in the post title! You love it.

As you may or may not have noticed, the MVN transition was apparently postponed due to murky and mysterious technical issues. I’m not sure when it’s going to happen now and I’ll try to warn you guys ahead of time, but in any event if you try to access the site and you can’t for a couple of days, that’s probably what it is.

So I assume that by now we’re all aware that Monday was Pudge’s first time back in Comerica after being traded from the Tigers. If you did not see the game, he got a nice big standing ovation from the crowd his first time up, which he acknowledged with a tip of his helmet and a fairly adorable little fist pump. I had a moment of XTreme Longing, where I got all sniffly at the sight of Pudge in front of the sold-out crowd that in many ways he helped create, where it seemed deeply and fundamentally wrong that he should be in Comerica in anything other than home whites. MY LOWER LIP WAS ALL A-TREMBLE. I don’t particularly miss Pudge in the lineup– despite the higher average, his OPS is basically the same as Inge’s, and, perhaps incredibly, Inge has 11 homers to Pudge’s 7– but I really do miss just having him on the team. SNIFFLE.

He struck out on three pitches his first time up, perhaps as a gift to Verlander, who was busy redefining the word ‘struggle’ as it applies to people who have thrown no-hitters in the recent past (he and Clay Buchholz are making it a collaborative effort). Later in the game, Inge stole second base off of Bruney/Pudge, which was very passing-of-the-guard-y. Still: Pudge. SNIFFLE AGAIN.

Meanwhile, Justin Verlander had what I think might be the worst outing of his career. He gave up 8 runs (5 earned) on 7 hits and 2 walks, in 1.2 innings. That’s right: he did not even make it out of the second inning alive. He managed to cram a glorious 64 pitches into those 1.2 innings, so it was kind of like a break for him, in the sense that he didn’t throw 110+ like he normally does.

The rest of the game was laughable. Pitching? What is pitching? I suppose it’s nice that we made a game of it, although who knows if that would have happened if Ponson had not been hit on the hand by a comebacker.

Since I don’t really want to get into the rest of it, I’ll just run through some of the ridiculousness from the YES Network broadcast, which is the only broadcast of the game I could get, for whatever reason. The announcers were Ken Singleton and John Flaherty.

– Singleton: “That ball had a lot of English on it! And maybe a little Spanish, Polanco’s the one who hit it!”

– The two of them had a long discussion about how weird it was that Brandon Inge has the most home runs in the history of Comerica (Singleton: “If I told you Brandon Inge had the most homers in this ballpark, would you believe me?” Flaherty: “No!” Singleton: “Well he does! And he’s a little guy!” ~*~discussion on bat speed vs. power~*~). Immediately following this, Brandon Inge came up to bat and hit a home run.

– Yankee pitcher Phil Coke made his big league debut.

Singleton: “We’ve been told by the locals that Coke probably won’t be too popular here, because Pepsi provides all the drinks in Comerica!”
Flaherty: *small, painfully embarrassed laugh*

There were no comments on the relative largeness/smallness of the players, so I keenly felt the lack of Rod Allen.

Rosters are expanding, but the Tigers are waiting until Tuesday to bring up a lot of guys, so I’ll run through the full list then. For now, Freddy Dolsi is up (he pitched two good innings today, actually; I would have been happy to shut him down for the year, because what exactly are we straining his already overloaded arm for? ugh, whatever) and Dontrelle is on the big league roster (hopefully not for relief, but is he seriously ready to start? ugh, whatever).

Tuesday the Tigs take on the Rally Monkeys, 7:05 pm EDT. Joe Saunders (14-7) will pitch against Chris Lambert (0-1, fresh up from the minors once again). I fully expect this to be as disastrous as Lambert’s last start. It seems kind of unfair to keep doing this to Lambert, but remember what we did to Bonderman and Maroth in 2003? Trial by fire! Go Tigers!

nom nom nom: Nate Robertson overfeeds his gopher

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

How appropriate that I already had this image of Nate Robertson feeding his gopher.

Let’s face it, Nate is terrible. I could temper that with a ‘right now’ tacked onto it, but I’m not feeling particularly charitable tonight. I know it was the Rangers and they can hit, blah blah, Ranger Park at Arlington blah blah bandbox blah blah hitter’s park blah blah blah. Nate has managed to get through 6 innings only once in his last 5 starts. He is terrible. The end.

For extra fun details on his terribleness, let’s look at what he did today: 8 runs (6 earned), on 8 hits and 4 walks, with 5 home runs, one double, and two triples. In other words, of the 8 hits Nate gave up, NONE WERE SINGLES. They were ALL extra-base hits. Chew on THAT for a little while and see if it doesn’t make you vomit.

Oh, and he did all that in 3.2 innings. You know, just for added hilarity.

You think I’m done? I’m not done. It gets worse. Nate didn’t just give up 5 home runs in under 4 innings, he gave up TWO SETS OF BACK-TO-BACK HOME RUNS. Brandon Boggs/Michael Young went back-to-back to start the third, and Josh Hamilton/Milton Bradley went back-to-back to chase Nate from the game in the 4th. The lone home run was courtesy of Travis Metcalf, and was a two-run job. Nate was not just feeding his gopher, he was actually force-feeding it, as one would do if they were trying to make a sort of gopher foie gras.

So, OK, that’s about it for the sheer humiliation of this game, right? WRONG! See, they set off fireworks in Texas when a Ranger hits a home run. This is fine if home runs are being hit every so often, and there’s a bit of a wind to disperse the smoke. But tonight home runs were being hit CONSTANTLY, they were being hit in bunches, and there was almost no wind at all. This meant that after the Bradley home run (so 5 Rangers homers had been hit in under 4 innings), the ballpark was covered in a dense grayish fog. It was the smoke from the fireworks, see, and it wasn’t dispersing rapidly enough because a) the aforementioned meteorological conditions and b) there was so damn much of it at this point.

Brandon Inge actually had to check with Aquilino Lopez, when he came on in relief, to make sure that he could see the plate through the haze. Embarrassing? Yes. Not nearly as embarrassing, however, as what happened with Aquilino’s first batter. Marlon Byrd hit a fly ball to right. Magglio went after it… and almost immediately started waving his arms wildly. The ball dropped in for a double. Maggs had lost it in the pale fog, much in the same way that white baseballs are sometimes lost in the white roofs of domed stadiums.


I suppose we should all thank the Rangers for so beautifully illustrating what would have otherwise been mere metaphor for the Tigers.

Fun side note!

Apparently when Edgah was slumping (and oh, how he was slumping: recall his lovely .220/.264/.293 line for the month of July), Pudge started getting him up earlier in the mornings so that they could work out (and I guess hit?) together. The increased fitness apparently helped Edgah with his hamstring, and he changed his batting stance slightly, probably under the tutelage of Pudge, and has been hitting better ever since (.322/.385/.508 so far in August). This little anecdote came to us courtesy of Rod Allen on the FSND broadcast during tonight’s game.

According to a New York beat writer, Andy Pettitte refuses to throw to Pudge.

Kyle Farnsworth has been terrible with the Tigers, while the Yankee bullpen has acted like they actually MISS his presence.

Why did we make this trade again?

Thursday is an offday, thank cats. Hopefully it will give us some time to lick our wounds and all that. Friday we’re in KC for an 8:10 pm EDT matchup between Justin Verlander and Brian Bannister. Bannister has been worse than Verlander this year even though Verlander has had significant struggles, so you would think the odds are in our favor, but that is clearly an unproductive line of thinking this year. Black is white, cat is dog, Tampa Bay is first in the AL East. Go Tigers!

a day of many traumas

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

What a thoroughly absurd game to end a thoroughly absurd day.

Thirteen innings. A little over five and a half hours.
Forty-one hits total: 22 for the Tigers, 19 for the Racist Logos.
Twenty six runs total: 14 for the Tigers, 12 for the R.L.s.
Six total errors: 2 for the Tigers, 4 for the R.L.s.
A total of 526 pitches thrown: 271 for the Tigers, 255 for the R.L.s.
A total of 14 pitchers used, 7 for each team.

Nate looked terrible. He threw over 60 pitches in 3 innings, he gave up 8 runs (all earned), he basically looked like a guy who starts to get battered and then just has no idea how to proceed. He is very, very lucky to not get a loss here, and he is very, very lucky that his offense was able to eat into Cliff Lee a bit. I don’t know what we’re going to do with him; I don’t know that there’s anything we CAN do with him, because it’s not exactly like we’ve got extra starters just waiting in the wings.

Casey Fossum got himself into, and then out of, remarkable amounts of trouble. He is after all the Fossum Possum, and, like the pale marsupials that almost share his name, he used his sneaky wiles, long hairless prehensile tail and innate ability to play dead to lull opponents into a false sense of victory that he could then snatch away from them. It worked, so it seems great NOW, but it’s not something I would get used to relying on.

Pretty much everyone got hits, blah blah, long game. Granderson went 5-for-7 with 3 runs scored and a couple RBI. Miggy and Inge both homered. It’s nice to see Inge go deep a couple of games in a row, especially since he’s going to be hitting while a catcher for the foreseeable future.


I thought that if I waited long enough, the rest of this deal would come out. I thought that if I waited long enough, the prospects we were getting in addition to Farnsworth would come to light, or the cash amount would become public, or something. ANYTHING. It’s just not there, though. This is a straight one-for-one trade, Pudge Rodriguez for Kyle Farnsworth.

Here’s the thing: I don’t object to The Farns on his own merits. He’s not The Pitcher That Will Save Us, not by any means, but he’s having a pretty solid year and he has good stuff when he’s on and not injured. If we had traded away some prospects, or a middle-level player and cash, or something like that for The Farns, I would probably be… well, if not exactly OK with it, at least mostly ambivalent about it.

And I know that Pudge is not what he used to be. I know that his power has declined every year he’s been with the Tigers. I am fully aware that he’s 36 years old and has been a major league catcher for 18 seasons, which is a LONG time for any ballplayer to be active at the pro level and is even worse for catchers, who take such a beating. I know that there was an extremely good chance that Inge would be the starting catcher next season.

But if you had told me, a few weeks ago, that Pudge Rodriguez could be had for the price of one Kyle Farnsworth, I would have laughed in your lying hallucinating face and told you to stop taking that pinstriped LSD.

I still want to say it now. Pudge for The Farns? The Farns for Pudge? Straight-up? Really? Honestly? Pudge Rodriguez, 14-time All Star, 13-time Gold Glove winner, 7-time Silver Slugger winner, 1999 AL MVP, 2003 NLCS MVP, for…. Kyle Farnsworth, zero-time anything? Oh, I know most of those ‘awards’ mean little if anything, but if you have a guy who’s accumulated THAT many of them, over that many years, I tend to think they’re indicating SOMETHING worthwhile as a whole that maybe they can’t indicate individually, y’know what I mean?

I heard Dombrowski’s ‘explanations’. They did not in any way explain this to me. This whole thing caught me by surprise, I’ll freely admit that, but once I had some time to sit down and mull it over, I realized that it was not that I objected, on the face of it, to trading away Pudge (still not a move I’m 100% behind, but we WERE going with Inge next year, I can at least sort of understand the rationale). And it’s not that I objected, on the face of it, to acquiring The Farns. I think we all saw tonight that we’re going to need as much bullpen help as we can get if we want to survive this second half.

Pudge for The Farns, straight-up? A Type A free agent (who, if offered arbitration, would get the team losing him a supplemental pick and a compensatory pick in the next draft) for a probably-Type B free agent (who only gets the team losing him one supplemental round pick)? No. This is not OK. THIS I cannot agree with.

Oh, it’s a great trade. I understand that. It is, from some perspectives, an amazing and flawless trade.

Unfortunately for us, those perspectives are the perspectives of Yankees and Yankee fans.

So I don’t know what Brian Cashman did to Dave Dombrowski in order to do this to him so brazenly. Hypnotism, maybe, or satanic rituals. Voodoo. Maybe good old-fashioned intimidation via horse head on the pillow and Jason Giambi smiling at the foot of his bed. Whatever it was that he did, we must not forget that he’s done it. We must not forget that terrible, evil behavior on the part of the Yankees FO is the only thing that can make this trade make any kind of sense.

We must not let them get away with it. I’m not sure what we can do, just yet, but we must not let them get away with it all the same.

Thursday’s game is at 12:05 pm EDT for reasons that are murky and unknowable to me at the moment. Lunchtime with Rod and Mario, nom nom nomalicious. It will be Justin vs. Dr. Fausto Carmona. I’m hearing that The Farns might not make it to Cleveland in time for the game. No big deal, right? I mean, it’s not like we used much of the bullpen…. tonight… thus rendering them… unavailable… for tomorrow… I…. oh…. well. Guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, eh? Go Tigers!

ETA: Todd Jones to the 15 day DL with the ever-vague ‘shoulder soreness’. I suppose we had to figure something like that was going to happen.

Pudge for The Farns; excuse me, my brain has exploded

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Apparently the Tigers have just traded Pudge Rodriguez to the Yankees for Kyle Farnsworth.

Of all the unexpected moves we could have made, this had to rank near the top.

Brandon Inge is the starting catcher. We knew it might come to this next year; I don’t think any of us expected it right now. I don’t think INGE expected it right now. Goodness knows that he’s more capable of catching every day and not falling apart than Pudge is, at this stage in their respective careers, and even with Inge’s anemic batting average he’s currently OPSing a hair over Pudge, but. Pudge is still… you know, PUDGE, and capable of playing quite well, and is more USED to catching every day than Inge is, plus he’s much more used to dealing with pitchers and has a much better sense of how to handle opposing lineups. With a lights-out rotation this is less of a big deal; when your best starter is Armando Galarraga, you have to wonder if you really want to get rid of that kind of veteran.

We have a shaky bullpen, but was it really THAT shaky? Is The Farns really the piece that’s going to put us over the edge into contention? I don’t expect so.

Was this really the most we could have gotten for Pudge? I know that he’s old and generally averse to taking walks, but in a world without catchers on the market, dealing with a team whose catcher is DLed for life… really, Kyle Farnsworth? I love The Farns in a ‘wow that dude is crazy ha ha remember the fun we had with him when he was beating up Royals?’ kind of way, but… really, Kyle Farnsworth?

Kyle Farnsworth, when we already have TWO injury-prone hard throwers in the bullpen? I just… REALLY?

There may be more to the deal; I don’t know right now. This is just what I’ve heard.

I would assume this is some sort of crazy joke, but it’s not April 1. If it turns out to be untrue or if the deal turns out to be something else, I will of course update this space for you, the presumably equally stunned readers.

I am having some trouble processing this, mainly because… because… um…


the midseason report card, Roar of the Tigers style

photo by Samara Pearlstein

OK, I’ve seen a lot of blogs on the magical internets doing these midseason report cards and scorecards. I am currently being bored to tears by the All Star game, so what the hell. Obviously this is going to be RotT-style, but you already knew that, didn’t you?


Jeremy Bonderman
Grade: n/a
Reason: deceased

the Bovine kid
Grade: C
Reason: Every time he goes out there and doesn’t sit down on the mound and start screaming, it’s a plus for us. He’s not handling major league hitting all that well but then again nobody really expected him to do so. In an ideal world (or a less-than-ideal world that nonetheless did not include the destruction of Bondo and Dontrelle) he wouldn’t be anywhere near the big league roster right now.

Freddy Dolsi
Grade: A-
Reason: I saw the very first ever pitches he threw in the big leagues in person, and it seemed eminently likely that the poor kid was going to be scarred for life. This has not been the case. Leyland has been leaning on him awfully hard and he’s bearing up under the pressure remarkably well for a kid who is 12 years old and weighs about 100 pounds.

the Fossum Possum
Grade: D
Reason: Look, it’s Casey Fossum, what do you expect? He doesn’t fail because a) he’s a lefty and b) he gives me an opportunity to say ‘Fossum Possum’.

Arrrrrrrmando Galarrrrrrraga
Grade: A
Reason: The thing with Arrrrmando is that he SHOULD be like Bonine– every time he goes out there and doesn’t start screaming hysterically on the mound, it’s a major plus for the Tigers. But Arrrrmando has been serviceable. Heck, more than that, he’s actually been GOOD. He has been performing so far above any reasonable expectations that it would be downright churlish to give him anything other than an A and a bunch of extra Rs in his name.

Rollercoaster Jones
Grade: B-
Reason: I know this is going to seem insanely generous to a lot of cats, but Jonesy is dead weird and cannot be graded according to the standards of normal people. Sure, his ERA sucks. Sure, his WHIP sucks a LOT (a 1.54 WHIP is pretty bad for a starter, let alone a closer; the best closers in the league right now all have WHIPs under 1.00). Sure, he only has 17 saves– of course the Tigers haven’t given him a ton of save opportunities. But, insanely, he only has 2 blown saves. This compares favorably with some of the best closers in the league. Mariano has none, but Joe Nathan has 2 and Papelbon has 4. Jonesy is frustrating in the extreme but he’s not ACTUALLY deadly most of the time. It’s weird. So, B- .

Aquilino Lopez
Grade: A-
Reason: He’s been fairly good, and kind of flying under the radar. It’ll be interesting to see if the Tigs do manage to convert him to a 5th starter at some point. The best thing about him is still the fact that his name is Aquilino.

Zach Miner
Grade: D

Clay Rapada
Grade: C
Reason: Eh. Sometimes he pitches OK. Mostly he comes up when we need a spare left hand in the bullpen, and gets sent down when more reliable options become healthy/available/sane. Probably the coaches have a good reason for this.

Nate Robertson
Grade: C+
Reason: Nate has had some hard luck this season, we all know that, and he’s pitched some amazingly amazing games, but he’s also pitched some awful games. In a beautiful world filled with fluffy kittens and the ballplayers who hug them, Nate would be a #5 starter. Unfortunately, we do not yet live in that world, and Nate has to play like a less marginal pitcher because we barely have 4 starters, let alone 5.

Grade: C-
Reason: Watching Fernando fail on the mound, when I KNOW that he has the latent ability to throw deadly, unhittable pitches, is one of the most frustrating things in the whole wide world of baseball. Fernando makes me want to pull out my own hair and at the same time reach through my TV screen to strangle him. It’s very healthy. He doesn’t get a D because he is at least still (slowly) (incrementally) dragging his numbers back down towards respectability, and because he’s from a city that’s only one letter off from my name. I dig that.

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in which Pudge makes meep!meep! roadrunner noises

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

I was all ready to be upset with this game. I’m not sure when I really braced myself for firm disappointment… probably either after the third error, or after Bobby Seay let in all of the guys Bondo had left on base. C’mon now, that’s like the bloody RECIPE for Tigers failure these days: frustrating errors and a shaky reliever.

Suddenly: PUDGE!

If Pudge was not the spark that lit the team’s collective tail on fire in this game, I don’t know what was. Right after Seay had his little… moment, Pudge started the next inning with a home run. The next inning, he TRIPLED. And what a triple it was, all hustle and grit and determination and all those other fun-to-abuse adjectives. Let us remember that Pudge is a) a catcher and b) a catcher who is 78 years old and has been in the league for 70 of those years. And there he was, tearing around the bases like a ballplayer half his age who has not subjected his lower body to, without exaggeration, 17+ seasons of professional catching.

Oh, and the way he came home! Jacque Jones hit a sac fly to Delmon Young. Now, Dmitri Jr. has a pretty darn good throwing arm, and he made a pretty nice throw to the plate. But Pudge had darted back to tag the base and sprinted down the line like the freaking Looney Tunes roadrunner, all legs turning into a circular blur and such. He slid in, clearly and cleanly dragging his hand across homeplate before Mauer could get a glove on him, and up came Pudge, doing his little victory fist thing even before he was off the ground. WHERE IS YOUR ACME ANVIL NOW, WILE E. COYOTE?

OK, it’s not really that Pudge’s performance was the spark that set the rest of the hitters on track for this game; I think the combination of Matt Guerrier and Pat Neshek had more to do with that than any kind of amorphous Team Spirit business (and I KNEW there was a reason I liked Neshek so much). But boy, even as a fan, it’s hard to see that kind of play, by that kind of player, and NOT get excited. I’m sure if it wasn’t THE igniting spark, it was pretty darn close.

Now, not to trod on the happy good feelings or anything, but we do need to talk briefly about the pitching. I’m not even going to get on Bobby Seay for this one; yes, he did not-so-hot, but he’s been relatively effective this year, so he gets a temporary pass (gosh, so easy to be generous when you have a win). No, we need to talk about Bondo.

He managed 6.1 innings this time, so, y’know, that’s better than 6. Or 5. But did you notice what he did again? His first inning was fine, 1-2-3, and his second inning kind of fell apart and made a mess. This is not the first time this season that Bondo has made a very splattery mess all over the second inning. I am beginning to be afraid that Bondo has Serious Issues of some sort.

Either way, we get ourselves a win, and a nice, hard-fought win too, just the kind of thing to rally around and declare a turning point and whatever the Tigers need to tell themselves in order to effectively do it all over again.

Pudge's powerful spring and other such pleasantries

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

I freely admit that I was concerned about Pudge coming into this season. Very concerned. Up all night gnawing on my fingernails concerned. And I have to say right now that I’m still concerned, because catching is a position that wears a player’s body down to tiny bloody nubs of flesh and bone, and Pudge is at an age where that happens pretty quickly. So he might be basically incapacitated by the All Star break. That’s what my insane, incessantly worrying mind is saying.


Holy freaking cats, have you guys SEEN the spring he’s having?? The dude has 8 home runs so far. That’s more than anyone else in the majors at the moment. Yes, yes, Spring Training, doesn’t count, won’t happen in the regular season, etc. I honestly didn’t think he still had it in him. I was fully expecting that this would be the season where we saw Pudge remain serviceable, maybe learn to walk a little more (learn to walk AT ALL, because one walk is more than none, and Pudge should come to learn this fact) but fail to hit for much power as he ages.

Is he going to regain his power this season? I don’t know. Spring Training pitches are not the same as regular season pitches (at least, pitchers sure hope they aren’t) and Spring Training ballparks aren’t Comerica. Still, you need power to hit them out, and Pudge sure seems to be doing his damnedest to prove that he has that power.

We can also perhaps factor in the rest of the lineup. Even without Granderson to start the year, the Tigers’ lineup is wicked and is rapidly approaching the point where opposing pitchers can’t afford to pitch around ANYONE. This bodes well for Pudge; he should be getting lots of relatively hittable pitches. Pretty exciting stuff.

He’s also been making some laser throws from behind the plate. Yes, he had an error today, but every time I’ve seen him he’s been gunning down runners like… well, like the Pudge of old. Rod and Mario even said, at one point, that it looked like he’d been putting on a little more weight this season. What does it all mean?! Who knows, but if it means a vintage-type Pudge for us, I’m in favor. How could you not be?

The aforementioned other such pleasantries:

-Brennan Boesch got stuck in a dugout toilet. Everyone had to watch the groundscrew pry the door off. THIS, my friends, THIS is what Spring Training is all about. Jason Beck has the amazing report here and this heartfelt quote from Jim Leyland:

“That’s why I love the game,” Leyland said. “I’ve never seen that in my career. If it was me in there, that door would’ve been down. I would’ve figured out somehow to get out of there. I would’ve panicked. I’ve never seen that in my life.”

Beck’s Blog

Ever the sympathetic character, Leyland is. You just know that, so long as he’s in the Tigers organization, Boesch is never ever ever going to live this one down. Poor cat.

-Deaner, the very very VERY dedicated Curtis Granderson fan behind The Grandy Report, got an interview with that very same Granderson! I love this so hard, because holy cats, if ever there was a blogger who deserved to talk to Curtis Granderson, it’s Deaner. You can read the Q&A right here.

-That Miguel Cabrera deal has been finalized and given the stamp of officialness. It’s 8 years, $152.3 million. That’s the biggest contract ever for a Tiger (although I don’t know if it’s the biggest ever corrected for inflation or not; I guess it very well might be), so hopefully he’ll make it worth our while. I think he will. Yes. Definitely. What could go wrong? (*bites nails*)