Category Archives: Ryan Raburn

When position players pitch, we experience true magic.

I don’t even have time to scan this in, let alone color it properly, but I cannot let this pass by without a cartoon. So here it is, cruddy phone image and all.


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Ryan Raburn pitched a 1-2-3 inning. The best part is that the Tigers were up by so many runs that we were all able to enjoy this surreal little baseball moment with a sort of wry fondness. If the Tigers had been losing, the sight of Ryan Raburn striking out Matt Tuiasosopo might have led to mass defenestration of Tigers fans. As it was, it just elicited astonishment and amusement, along with a bit of sympathy for Tui.

Turns out Raburn is not the worst ever at pitching. Who would’ve thought it? Terry Francona and Ryan Raburn, apparently.

of spitballs and other things


illustrations and photos by Samara Pearlstein

Holy cats you guys, Papa Grande might be throwing a spitball! Or maybe he isn’t! Or maybe he is but it doesn’t matter because everyone is doing that, or something even more sinister! Or maybe he’s the worst cheater this side of Roger Clemens’ left buttcheek!

To me, it sure looks like he’s spitting into his glove in that video linked above (if it’s still up), but I’m not so sure that I particularly care. I suppose I have been assuming that this– or something similar– is a tactic used by, if not every pitcher, at least some number of pitchers on every team, thus leaving us with a more or less level spit-slicked playing field. Perhaps I am simply being a homer about this, because it’s Papa Grande and I adore his crazy eyes and his crazy goggles and his crazy dances and his lawn sprinkler pre-pitch routine and his high socks and his potato-shaped body, and if this was a discussion surrounding Chris Perez or somesuch I would be less sanguine about it.

Here is a true fact: if we accept that, given the high stakes assigned to it (financial if nothing else), there will always be some sort of cheating in baseball, I would much rather see that cheating revolve around mechanical doctoring of the baseball by pitchers, as opposed to biochemical doctoring of the players themselves. You can argue about the level of dishonesty involved in each variety of deceit, but only one is likely to end with high school kids landing in the hospital, veteran players with sudden tendon explosions, and/or the zombie apocalypse– and it ain’t the spitball.

Did you get a good look at the blister that curtailed Drew Smyly’s last start? Holy cats. That wasn’t a small affair; we’re talkin’ about a massive blood-filled hellbeast of pocketed fluid and Paws knows what else, camping out on Smyly’s finger like some sort of glowering, malignant parasitic squatter. Jim Leyland said it was “the worst one I’ve seen in my life“.

Don’t read the rest of that linked article if you’re squeamish, by the way. There’s one passage, with Smyly describing the hellbeast’s development, that definitely made me cringe a bit.

I don’t know what they do with this thing– lance it? Blast it with radiation? Exorcise it? In any event, it’ll be something to keep an eye on, as blisters tend to recur. I know this from my learnings and from living in a place where Josh Beckett is employed.

Remember when the Tigers got so fed up with Ryan Raburn’s complete inability to play the game of baseball, and the fans’ increasingly strident reactions to all things Raburnian, that they finally struck him from the roster and shipped him out to Purgatory/Toledo? In some ways, this was a victory: Raburn had seemed entrenched in Detroit for basically no good reason, and before you start in with me about Brandon Inge, at least Brandon Inge had a significant history with the team, and even if that’s a BAD reason to hang onto a dude, it is a real thing that you cannot fairly ignore. OK, SHUT UP.

In other ways, this was a move that failed to deliver its expected rewards. The team did not start winning immediately, the lineup did not suddenly start producing run after endless run, and the removal of one black hole of production served only to highlight the presence of others. Oh well.

We can still acknowledge the fact that Ryan Raburn is just, like, this basic bench-type dude who played sort of well for a couple of years, and has been real bad ever since. He’s batting .154 in Toledo right now, by the by. Brandon Inge meanwhile is batting .364 over the last week and has 26 RBIs, which is better than every single Tiger on the current roster not named Prince Fielder or Miguel Cabrera. I’m just sayin’.

Speaking of Prince and Miggy, have you seen their batting averages lately? The Super Best Friends are skipping right along together, and it is so beautiful to behold. SOMEHOW this has not translated into much winning of late, but if they keep this up, surely it will… it has to. HOLD FAST TO THIS BELIEF.

Unrelated to everything, but I was recently in Miami, and had a chance to take in the new ballpark. There is a great deal that could be written about it (and maybe I will at some point), but for now suffice to say that one of its features is a BOBBLEHEAD MUSEUM. It’s just standing there in the middle of the concourse, and some mechanism inside jiggles its shelves a little so that all the displayed bobbleheads do in fact bobble. It is spectacular.


A few of the Tigers bobbleheads, including the famous RotT Placido Polanco bobble.


Wrong uniform, but still a glorious bobblehead.


A completely terrifying Austin Jackson bobblehead. WHY IS IT LIKE THAT?


Ernie!

I have no good way to conclude this mess of a blog post, so here’s Prince Fielder in Boston, catching sight of the camera and being more adorable than puppies.

moonshots for victory


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

I was going to wait until the end of the weekend and do a wrap-up post, but yesterday’s game really demanded some sort of response.

The Tigers were down almost the entire game. After the top of the 5th they were losing 8-1. If the Tigers were going to make up that difference, it would have to be their largest comeback in three years. Brad Penny was being Brad Penny. It was by all accounts excruciatingly hot, making the slow Pennyish pace of the game even more intolerable for fans and fielders alike. The crowd was annoyed, the Wrong Sox were feeling feisty, and if the Tigers had actual tiger tails, they would have been dragging. You don’t come back from that.

Except when you do.

Austin Jackson tripled in a run. Delmon Young hit a two-run homer. (8-4) Wilson Betemit homered. (8-5) With a man on second, Jhonny Peralta singled in a run. (8-6)

At this point it was the bottom of the 9th. Betemit struck out to start. Action Jackson tripled (again!). Ryan Raburn came up, representing the tying run. No way, right?

Oh, but he did. The Rhino hit one 424 feet, a soaring moonshot that tied the game at 8. Rain had lowered the temperature on the field. The Wrong Sox were stunned.

It was still far from inevitable that Detroit would win the game, but there is a certain inexorable slide towards Tigers victory that begins when you give up the tying run in the 9th inning and leave time for Miguel Cabrera to come up to bat. After Raburn, Delmon Young struck out (2 outs), and then Cabrera came to the plate.

He only needed one pitch.

With nobody on base, the only way he could win it immediately was with a home run, and that is what he proceeded to do. Boom, moonshot #2, game over, walkoff Tigers win and a great big pile of happy hugging cats at home plate. It was such an extreme turnaround that it was hard to even remember what Penny had done to the first half of the game. And that is good; that is as it should be.

lots of busted Tiger hands, but Max has no such excuse


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Ryan Raburn jammed a finger on his hand while sliding into second base. Brennan Boesch has a torn ligament in his thumb that will require surgery at some point. Both were out of the lineup Monday with their pained paws.

But what was Max Scherzer’s excuse? His paws were in great shape, so far as any of us know, and after we all saw him get tormented by the Royals, you would think that if there WAS an injury brewing in his fingerbits, the team would be quick to get that news out. Injuries explain bad outings. Suddenly forgetting how to pitch to Alex Gordon and his royal blue buddies… that probably does not have a good explanation behind it.

There is a bit of a cushion in the division, but the Tigers DO need to string some wins together, and with the games at home… well. We need to win. You hear, Max? DO YOU HEAR?

Because of the cushion, I am refusing to freak out. Pitchers have bad outings. Even Justin Verlander has days when he’s off, and Max is not Justin Verlander (nobody but Justin Verlander is Justin Verlander). So I am calm. I am totally calm. Calm calm calm.

a slight switch of uniform


Now just imagine that Carlos throws him a spare jersey. Photo by Samara Pearlstein

–The Tigers got Delmon Young. This was a waiver wire deal that was then worked into a trade. DYoung the Second for lefty Cole Nelson (21 years old, at high-A Lakeland) and a Dude to be Named Later. There was some Internet Chatter about the DTBNL being someone the Tigers weren’t happy moving, but who knows.

When DYII showed up in the Tigers clubhouse today, some of the other Tigers were angry because they thought he was violating baseball protocol by waltzing into the opposing team’s space. They had no idea he’d been traded to Detroit. Of course, with the Tigers playing the Twins, all DYII had to do was stroll across the hall to join his new squad.

–In his very first at-bat for the Tigers, DYII hit a home run against his very-recent former team. He later made a nice running catch in the outfield, and also got to see Jim Thome’s 600th home run fly right over his head.

–Yeah, Jim Thome hit homers #599 and #600 in Comerica. Good for him and so on, but I think we all wish he’d done it somewhere else. Even against the Tigers but in Minneapolis would have been preferable.

–Will Rhymes was up yesterday because Carlos Guillen has been placed on the DL with Old Man Wrist. Today he was back in Toledo, sent down to make room for DYII. This is particularly harsh because, well, what is the point of Magglio right now? Can’t the Tigers come up with some sort of injury for him too?

Boesch is expected to get lots of playing time when he returns. Obviously Action Jackson has center field. With DYII in Detroit, Magglio is going to see his playing time (hopefully drastically) reduced. But he gets to stick around while Rhymes gets the fast track back to Muddy.

–At least he has a sense of humor about it. Laughing instead of crying, or maybe crying while laughing, but also Tweeting.

–The Rhino also displayed a sense of humor today. He had made a couple of really bad defensive plays. One should have been a double play, but Raburn somehow sat down at second base instead and only got one out. I forget offhand what the other one was but he looked real silly doing it.

He finally made a catch and throw without screwing up one or more parts of the play, and the crowd responded with a very, very obviously sarcastic cheer. Instead of sulking, or even just ignoring it, the Rhino gave a small, guilty smile and tipped his cap a tiny bit.

–Who is honestly surprised that Carlos Guillen is back on the DL? Show me that person. We have many questions to ask them.

–Even though Brennan Boesch was not supposed to be back from his thumb injury until Tuesday at the earliest, he pinch hit in Sunday’s desperate and ultimately unsuccessful comeback scramble. He came up to bat with what looked like a piece of foam actually taped in place on top of his glove. SPORT SCIENCE.

–Alex Avila is some sort of superhero. He keeps getting abused behind the plate, either by his own pitchers, or through the cruel medium of foul balls. Today he blocked the plate on an attempted inside-the-park home run and got blown up, but held onto the ball for the out. He also went 3-for-4 with a single, double, and triple. Alex Avila, the catcher, hit a triple.

Avila has caught 36 of the past 39 Tigers games. He’s caught 12 of the last 13. He’s caught the last 10 in a row. And that doesn’t count the All Star game, in which he also played.

I know he’s young and in good shape and can take a lot of abuse because of that, but this is getting RIDICULOUS. I understand that Victor Martinez is semi-injured and the Tigers are unwilling to make a move to bring up a spare catcher, but this can’t go on. I don’t care how emergency Don Kelly is supposed to be: put him in there for a game. That potential mass of comedy mishaps would be the price you have to pay if you’re not willing to call up a more legitimate backup.

–Meh.

Ryan Raburn spilled the Coke.


hasty illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Phil Coke spilled. The Coke fizzed out. Coke all over the table. I don’t know. It wasn’t pretty. It was ugly enough to make me resort to Phil-Coke-as-soda talk.

Seven runs in 4.1 innings. One of those was an inherited runner that Brayan Villarreal brought home, and one of those was the Raburn-aided home run. So that’s like 5 runs and change that Coke truly gave up by himself. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still firmly on the side of Not Good, but it’s slightly less horrific than 7 through 4.1. This is what Phil Coke needs to concentrate on, this slightly less terrible fact. The last thing we need is for him to start getting into his own head even more than he already has.

There’s video of the Raburn play over here at the Mothership, in case you didn’t see it but you still feel like feasting your eyeballs on some painful absurdity.

I’m not even sure how that happens. The ball hit Raburn’s glove, shot into the air, and went over the fence. If he hadn’t touched it, it would not have been a home run. If he had… you know… caught it, it would not have been a home run. If the ball had gone into his glove and he had immediately dropped it, it would not have been a home run. So how was this a home run?

It was almost like he reached out and threw it over the fence. Obviously that’s not what happened, because Ryan Raburn does not hate the Tigers and want them to lose, nor does he (presumably) hate Phil Coke and want to ruin his life. But that’s what it LOOKED like. Then there was that dive at the end of the play, which also had the potential to be bad. Raburn’s lucky that he ran out of skidding momentum before he smashed his head/neck into the fence or its posts.

Maybe Raburn got himself all used to playing second base, so he was rusty in the ways of the outfield? Who knows. Just weird. Weird and awful.

Consolation: at least it was the Mariners and not a more loathsome AL Central team. At least it was a King Felix start, which always has the chance to be a loss even under normal circumstances. At least Brad Thomas had a confidence-building scoreless inning. At least Will Rhymes got on base and came around to score, even if he didn’t have a hit.

At least tomorrow is Verlander.

Verlander stumbles, creates confusion and general havoc.


illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

Where to even begin with the weirdness that Justin Verlander contributed to this game? I suppose we can start by trying to describe the actual play, and we’ll work from there.

In the official MLB play-by-play report of the game, the play looks like this:

Bottom 5
Daric Barton walks.
With David DeJesus batting, Daric Barton advances to 2nd on a balk.
David DeJesus walks.

But that doesn’t even BEGIN to come close to explaining what actually went down.

David DeJesus was batting with Barton on first. Verlander ran the count to 2-1 on DeJesus, then he threw… a thing. It was the weirdest looking throw, and the ball took a correspondingly bizarre path to the plate, ending up behind DeJesus, who executed a frantic hop-n-skip to get out of the way. DeJesus claimed that he had been clipped by it (after replays, I’m still not sure if he was or not; if he was, it was just a slight brush of the pantleg) and was initially sent down to first base.

But the umpires had to get together, because nobody knew what the hell Verlander had just thrown. It didn’t look like anything you should ever see in a professional baseball game. In general, it looked like Verlander meant to throw a pickoff to first, only his brain cramped up and he threw it to homeplate instead. A pickoff toss to home.

Obviously the umpires weren’t sure what to do with this. What should be done with DeJesus? Was he on first, or still at the plate? If he was batting still, what was the count? And what about the runner at first, did he stay on first base or move up to second? How should this incredibly weird play look in the official scorebook? Does baseball have words to describe what just happened? Is there a scoring symbol for it?

When the dust settled, Barton had been placed on second, but DeJesus had been called back and was still batting, with a 2-1 count. It was all rendered more or less moot shortly thereafter when DeJesus walked anyways, but… but…

Initially they ruled it an E1, basically saying that it was a bad pickoff throw. This didn’t explain why Barton was moved up to second, because in the original play he just stood there at first watching until DeJesus had been fake-awarded a HBP and took his base. Then they changed the ruling to a balk, which explained the guy moving up to second, but, as Rod pointed out, Verlander had stepped fully off the rubber, as he would when making a normal pitch. He just looked ridiculous while doing it, because half his body was acting like it wanted to throw a pickoff to first and half his body was acting like it wanted to throw a pitch to the batter. That’s not really a balk.

The problem is that Justin Verlander had executed a play that did not exist in Major League Baseball. The umpires couldn’t agree on the correct way to score it and the right things to do with the runner/batter/Justin because there WAS no baseball-correct answer that would cover every angle. Attempts to fit that play into the constraints of an acceptable baseball action were always going to fall short, especially once they sent Barton ahead to second base. It was an impossible situation.

If baseball was the fabric of spacetime, Justin Verlander basically just generated a black hole in it.

WHO’S YOUR TIGER?

Notes from the rest of the game:

–I hear you, Baseball Game Vuvuzela.

–Do any of you actually vote in that Player of the Game McDonald’s thing? Do you know anyone who does? Who are the people actually texting in their votes to that thing? I feel that if we can figure this out, we will learn why the winner 85-90% of the time is Brandon Inge, and in the process we will make important sociological discoveries. This is a thesis paper waiting to happen, people.

— “He’s walkin’ on his tippy toes, I see you JV.” This from Rod, after Verlander had struck out 5 through three innings. What does this even mean?

–At one point the cameras focused on the bullpen, where Jose Valverde was sitting next to Enrique Gonzalez. They were chatting, the pink backpack underneath them (AlAl is carrying it these days), and then they fist-bumped. Bro-tastically. This team is really into the brotastic fist bump.

–Verlander had been cruising along until the 4th inning, where suddenly the A’s had four hits in a row (three doubles) and scored three runs and all the wheels fell off. All of them, everywhere. He had thrown 100 pitches by the 4.2 innings mark. JUSTIN. WHAT HAPPEN.

–I wish you could have all heard the way Rod Allen said “Whaaaaat?!” when informed of Craig Breslow’s Yale degree (molecular biophysics and biochemistry). I can tell you that that was his reaction, but you really need to have heard it.

–Brad Thomas for the Tigers was followed by Grant Balfour for the A’s. Aussie Time in Oakland!

–Here’s what I like about Oakland: not that many people show up to the games, but the A’s fans who DO show up tend to be completely insane, over-the-top, foaming-green-and-gold-at-the-mouth A’s fans. You have to respect that.

–April 17 is Ryan Raburn’s birthday! He’s turning the big 30. Congratulations on surviving into adulthood, Rhino!

the Return of the Rhino


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

He’s a smooth talker, a tough negotiator, a man who drives a hard bargain with a big pizza purse. He also hates arbitration. And Dave Dombrowski, GMPres of Many Striped Shirts, gets to avoid another possible arb hearing, because he has signed Ryan Raburn to a two-year deal.

My reaction: quiet yay.

Really. I am neither overjoyed nor plunged into a cold, icy despair. It seems like $3.4 million is kind of a lot for a guy who might not even be used as an everyday player, but spread out over two years it sounds much more sensible, and it’s not a radical amount of money in any event. He’ll probably start the season in the outfield anyways and the Tigers will see where to go from there. He will be 30 years old in April, and, aside from the ATV Incident, he hasn’t been very injury-prone. He’s definitely been more durable than Magglio or Guillen.

This one can count as a fairly good signing.

Plus, I do so enjoy seeing Mr. Dombrowski use his management magicks to keep the arb away.

Gerald Laird is still crispy, and other such things.


image by Samara Pearlstein, sadly

–Every single time Rod Allen says, “Gerald Laird’s back is still crispy,” as he did today, the above is what happens in my mind. I can’t help it. I know that what Rod really means is something along the lines of ‘Gerald Laird has some persistent soreness and general pain in the muscles of his back,’ but he SAYS ‘Laird is crispy’, and I just can’t run that through my brain without turning Gerald Laird into some sort of fried food item first. Tell me you thought the same. Come on. SOME of you did.

–Thank cats for the last two games, even though one was a loss. I was starting to worry that the Tigers had forgotten how to finish a baseball game in 9 innings.

–Ryan Raburn was not in the lineup Sunday, apparently because he is sick. But if he was sick, why was he sitting in the dugout during the game, all getting his germy hands on everyone else, all breathing his sickly breath on people, getting his pestilential saliva all over the place, hmm? It’s bad enough that ballplayers never use a tissue when a shirtsleeve or bare hand will do, but this seems to be courting team-plague disaster. You wonder how a simple illness seems to rip through every other guy in a clubhouse? THIS IS HOW.

–They had Brad Thomas warming up very very early, before Armando Galarraga was even in a panickingly huge amount of trouble. I assume they would not have had him starting if he had pain in his arm, but why have Thomas up so early? Maybe Armando was feeling ill too and they had to be ready to send someone in if he started projectile vomiting or whatever.

–Mario was making a real effort, but Rod refused to even try to pronounce ‘Ka’aihue’.

–Miguel Cabrera is back and, yes, he went 0-for-4 tonight, but phew. PHEW. It’s just good to see him out there, hopefully not reinjuring himself.

–Max St. Pierre got his first big league hit! For justice! For perseverance! For CANADA!

–The Monday game (a day game, remember) will be Wrong Sox Edwin Jackson vs. Max Scherzer. I really hope St. Pierre is catching. It could be Maxwell throwing to Maxim, and that would be aces.

Ryan Raburn loves August


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

And August loves Ryan Raburn.

He’s up to .319/.373/.585 with 6 homers and 17 RBI .323/.374/.636 with 8 homers and 21 RBI for the month so far. That includes the two homers he hit in the Sunday game. Ryan Raburn, you guys. Seriously.