Category Archives: Spring Training

spring sickness









Everything is wicked important in the spring!

Also, did you know that Jose Valverde has his very own record label? Because he does. And while we’re talking Jose Valverde, please also check out his website. The opening video made me laugh so hard that I started crying. Why does it just keep going? I do not know. Jose Valverde! BOOM!

Tigers maul abstract nationalism in the Spring


photo by Samara Pearlstein

I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to actually watch a Spring Training game again, but I happened to be around for this one. It seemed like a good idea to settle in with some sun, some cats, and the computer to take notes on all the glories sure to be contained within the game. Stephen Strasburg vs. FredFred Porcello, how bad could it be?

Then I discovered that it was the MASN broadcast. Let us put it this way: Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble are pleasant enough, I suppose, but they are most certainly no Rod and Mario.

Oh well.

The Game, Because RotT Does Not Give Up in the Face of Unexpected Obstacles, Even Such Potentially Deadly Boring Ones as a Washington Nationals Broadcast

–I feel kinda bad for this Strasburg kid. He’s being hyped all to hell and back, and these are the Nats… there’s very little to distract from him. Except for Ryan Zimmerman. The announcers take a moment to actually talk about Zimmerman’s “magical glove” at third.

–Your Tigers starting lineup: Austin Jackson, Clete, Magglio, Miggy, Guillen, Don Kelly, Alex Avila, Scott Sizemore, Santiago. Oh wait, Sizemore was a last minute scratch, Brent Dlugach will be at second. That better not be serious. Austin Jackson is wearing Polanco’s #14, I make the saddest of sad faces. Our Placido. :(

–The announcers are pronouncing Dlugach as “dih-loo-gawsh”. Is that right? I thought it was more of a “gitch” sound at the end. Please advise.

–The piping on these new Tigers BP hats is wicked distracting. Better than the ear half moons, though. Relatedly, what the HELL is this? Holy cats. No. It looks like the hat has Detroit chicken pox.

–Strasburg gets the first three Tigers to ground out, variously.

–Nats announcer: “Not that records and numbers mean much, in Spring Training, but you do want to win one…” I guess they’re 0-and-6 so far this spring.

–Don Kelly gets the first hit of the day, a single, on a Strasburg fastball that rode up a bit. Alex Avila comes up, he is so clearly trying to be as clean-shaven as possible, but his chin is blue. I love it. His facial hair is like magic. He also singles.

–Nats announcers talk about how the Tigers are a good example of a team going from awful and “having some difficulties with young players” and going on to be very good. Talk about Dave Dombrowski’s “prudent decisions”. Kind of sad how hard they are hoping here. You just keep your little chins up, Nats. You got Pudge, that was the first step for us too!

–Oh wow. They have a ticket package deal where you pick four games and get a fifth one free. I would do that so hard if I lived in DC. I’m also trying to imagine that happening at Fenway and I seriously can’t wrap my mind around it. It would be, like, the End Times. Apocalypse Boston.

–FredFred looks good through two. Sharp, pitches working, not struggling or looking freaked. Now they’re talking about how Strasburg was the only collegiate player on the 2008 Olympic US team and how all his teammates relentlessly teased/harassed him, until he went out in his first game and took a no-hitter into the sixth. Well. Alrighty then.

–Talking about how smart Miguel Batista is: “He’s a very very smart kid, he speaks a bunch of languages, he’s very cerebral.” Miguel Batista IS really smart, but he’s also almost 40, so… kid?

–“He recognized that Stephen [Strasburg] had a million dollar arm… of course, a $15 million bonus.” Scott Boras ruins everything.

–Talking about Cabrera’s alcohol incidents, talking about Allen Iverson’s substance and gambling problems. “You can have the talent to play in the big leagues, but you have to be able to handle yourself off the field… you have to be a model citizen. Like Ryan Zimmerman!”

–Nyjer Morgan is super freaking fast. He also slides hard into second base on a steal… Santiago was covering, and Nyjer either spiked him, or bonked his knee into Santiago’s shin. Ramon comes up hobbling. THIS IS SPRING TRAINING, WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT THERE GUNNING FOR TIGERS? Paws will get you for this later, young man, mark my furious blogger’s words.

–AAAAHHH SEAN CASEY ON MLBN AD AAAHHHHHHHH LOVELOVELOVE

–Guillen walks, first of the game. Awww, they called him a “dangerous left-handed DH.” Don Kelly doubles, sort of dribbled to the wall, Carlos hustles home! 1-0, Tigers. He’s not moving real fast, but he got there without mishap, I feel a little better having seen that.

–Jim Riggleman: “You have to evaluate on something, and spring training is what we have right now to evaluate on.” These are words of wisdom.

–“We always look forward to seeing the third baseman with that bat!” Man, they are obsessed with Zimmerman. If there was a “Who’s Your Nat?” campaign, Ryan Zimmerman would be loudly and man-crush-ily claimed by this announcing team.

–Holy cats we are playing at SPACE COAST STADIUM. Immediately my mind goes right here. Spectacular.

–“Someone asked me today, is Strasburg pitching today the biggest thing to ever happen in Viera? I said yes! Ever since they opened up the movie theater down the street.”

–Adam Kennedy described as “scrappy”, then immediately compared to David Eckstein. I wish I was making this up, but I am not.

–Dugout interview with John Lannan, pitcher, boring Twitterer. “As always you know, I’m humble, but at the same time I’m gonna go out there, make up for last year’s Opening Day.” Uh. That sounds pretty awful on several levels. For one, dude, you don’t declare yourself humble, that kind of defeats the purpose. For another, make up for last year’s Opening Day? Do I even want to know what he did? (Oh. Ouch.)

–Some incredibly white dude pitching for the Nats now. Tyler Walker. His hair is white and his face is red, he looks just like the Nats uniforms.

–Magglio drives one out to right. Three run homer. Maggs! 5-0 Tigers. Of course this Walker kid looks pretty bad right now buuut that was a nice homer regardless. Announcer says, “He sweet-spotted the ball the opposite way!” Apparently the wind does blow through the stadium left to right, so it may have been helped somewhat by the wind. Still. Let me feel my momentary happiness.

–Talking about how they can’t believe the Dodgers don’t have spring training in Vero Beach anymore. “How about Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax now has to fly from Vero to Arizona to work with the Dodgers pitchers?”
“Bring him up here.”

–Reminiscing about Jose Valverde, who is now pitching. “I remember the Nats spoiling a save or two against him…. A very animated presence on the mound.” That sounds… worrying. Oh, now they’re talking about the massive Tigers pitchers’ fielding fail in the 2006 World Series. Screw you very much, Nats announcers.
“They were favored going into that series!”
“Oh goodness gracious, I remember!”

–Talking about UConn women’s basketball: “They’re like the ’27 Yankees… they beat the hell out of you, then compliment you after the game.” I don’t think either one of these announcers was alive in 1927, so, OK.

–Austin Jackson pops a home run over the centerfield wall. Very nice swing. Nats announcer sez, “That kid is good! Wow…. He makes general manager and president Dave Dombrowski look great when he does that.”

–Brennan Boesch pinch hits for Magglio. Announcers call him “Brandon” several times.

–Every so often the crawl on the bottom of the screen brings up Joe Nathan’s busted UCL, and I feel good every time.

–Eddie Bonine is pitching now. Audy Ciriaco at short, Larish at first, some dude who is not Alex Avila playing catcher. Robinzon Diaz, maybe. Nyjer Morgan steals second, again. You knew he was going to do that, Eddie.

–Top of the seventh, the Tigers have 13 hits. Three for the Nats. Zimmerman is out of the game, the announcers promptly lose interest in life itself.

–Already sick of this Joe Mauer Playstation game ad. I don’t want to look at his stupid MVP face any more than I have to, MLBN.

–“The most dangerous six inches between a guy’s ears is his brain.” Wait, what? They say they’re quoting Bob Uecker making fun of pitchers, but still, how does that make sense?

–They say there may be temporary broadcast disruptions due to a solar outage as the sun crosses the equator and goes behind the satellite that they use, swamping the signal with microwaves. Uh. Between 3:31 and 3:41 this is expected to be an issue. Oh. Kay.

–Interviewing Wil Nieves, who is adorable and now we can appreciate that since he’s no longer a Yankee. They should just interview him for the rest of the game, that would make me happy. Oh, they’re asking him about Pudge. “I always say he’s a blessing. When I first start catching he’s one of the guys I first admired as a catcher… now having him on the same team, I just want to learn everything I can from him because I know my game will improve…. He’s just a great guy, a great player and a better person.” Actually, where is Pudge? I WANT TO SEE PUDGE.

–They finally say ‘Brennan’ correctly, possibly because they flash his name up on the screen so it’s, like, right there in front of you, dudes.

–Bottom 8, they are now interviewing some random MASN sportswriter. Wow. I could not care less. Why are they talking to this guy? May as well interview a blogger. I know some of the types of people who write for NESN, they are often bloggers. Bring Wil Nieves back, talk to him some more. Eddie Bonine is still in.

–The announcer is now talking about their MASN announcer blogs. And now he’s desperately begging for people to comment on their blogs. This is the saddest broadcast.

–Eric Bruntlett! I forgot he existed.

–The Nats third base coach is eating sunflower seeds during the game, on the field. He has them stashed in his back pocket.

–Alfredo Figaro in, combining with Diaz for some struggles and whatnot. Not the pretty pitching we were seeing from FredFred, or even from Bonine earlier in his outing.

–Jeff Larish and Miguel Cabrera both have more hair right now than Magglio Ordonez does. This is a deep wrongness.

–Chris Duncan singles in a run, it’s now 8-4 Tigers, because things have been happening. One of the announcers says, “There’s no borderline when you’re falling behind!” I think he’s talking about Figaro not getting borderline pitches called strikes right now, but it sounds like a song lyric.

–Announcers wondering how they will sneak food into the booth now that they have new robotic cameras up there. I wonder how many people are desperate for glimpses of Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble. Then again I am not familiar with the DC-area media market, maybe there’s a mad demand for that sort of thing.

–“And I’m thinking, this is Yankee Stadium, and we’re preparing sea bass. In a rain delay.” This is Carpenter talking about a 6-hour rain delay at Yankee Stadium last season that the Nats were in, and how he looked up at one point and on the board was a video about how to prepare sea bass. I agree with him, that is a distinct ‘what in the hell is wrong with you, Yankee Stadium?’ moment.

–Dibble: “Do you think that solar flare had anything to do with that four run outburst?”
Carp: “You know, that’s an interesting theory. Seems to have as much credibility as most of the theories out there.” Sedate chuckling.

–Jay Sborz in to pitch the bottom of the 9th. They’re pronouncing it “sporez”. I shall think of him as a fern. Out of nowhere Carpenter says, “Once a Mudhen, always a Mudhen,” even though Sborz has pitched a total of like three games at the triple-A level, so I don’t really know what’s going on there.

–Ron Dibble on Mike Morse: “Mike Morse is in there, featuring the long hair this spring. I went up to him, Are you hitting well? He said yeah. I said keep the hair.”

–Oooo, Brennan Boesch makes a fantastic, diving, sliding, snow-cone-y catch on a hit that may or may not have been heading foul from Eric Bruntlett, who may or may not actually exist.

–Aaaaand the game ends. Tigers win 9-4. The Nats are 0-and-7 in Spring Training so far. Remember the important lesson we all learned today, kids and kittens: things could always be worse.

Lakeland, land of sun and hurt


Postcard Paws by Samara Pearlstein

Ah, Spring Training. Where nothing means anything, unless someone gets hurt. But who cares? THERE IS BASEBALL (of a sort).

So far it has all been good meaningless fun, as no one has gotten hurt yet… wait, I lie, poor Brennan Boesch took a baseball to the face and had to go to the hospital to get stitches. It doesn’t sound like anything is broken, displaced, or otherwise complicatedly maimed, and I haven’t heard mention of any concussion symptoms, so hopefully this will just be an unfortunate cosmetic situation for our BB.

Other than THAT, the injuries have been kept down. Inge, as we all know, is ahead of schedule. Scott Sizemore, recovering from a broken ankle and desperately needed at second base this year, played in a game without hurting himself. Bondo pitched a couple of good innings today, did not hurt himself. Carlos Guillen, so far as I know, has managed to walk around and breathe and occasionally move his arms and things without hurting himself.

Joel Zumaya, also In Recovery, has remained uninjured. But he did injure someone else: pitching against Florida Southern on Tuesday, he hit one of the college kids in the back. Even if he’s not throwing triple digits just yet, I can’t imagine it’s terribly fun to get beaned by a Zoom pitch. It led to this:

“I got the ball, I started walking back and I heard the crowd,” Zumaya recalled Wednesday morning. “So I turned back and I see the kid getting held back. I take my hat off and I’m like, ‘Oh, you little kid, I hope you’re 18 years old, because I’m going to beat your butt.’

“When I started walking back, the kid winked at me, and I’m like, ‘All right, all right.’ And I’m like, ‘Come on. This is not time to play show. [Team president/general manager] Dave [Dombrowski] is in the stands right now.”

Zumaya met [Florida Southern outfielder Tyler] Benzel along the first-base line to apologize and shake his hand, completing a moment that would’ve made for a great highlight if the game had been televised.
Jason Beck/DetroitTigers.com

Getting hit by Joel Zumaya, then posturing like you want to fake-fight him? Someone give that kid a high five from me, please. Most other college players or minor leaguers would have been either lying on the ground in agony, or soiling their sliding shorts in fear. Mr. Benzel, we are impressed/delighted.

Tigers blooming in the spring


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Spring Training! FINALLY!

Stupid news for our favorite stupid cats:

Joel Zumaya knows he’s used up 8 of his 9 lives already. It remains to be seen if this is just word-vomit, or if he’s actually taken it to heart.

Dontrelle speaks. “To me, the issue is, I’m terrible.” Oh, Dontrelle. Don’t make me cry. :(

Johnny Damon’s wife likes Chicago better than Detroit. ENOUGH. I wish he would just disappear into a forest somewhere, lost to the world for 50 years. At the end of that time he will emerge, having transformed into a magical tree sprite who, having inhuman powers, is not allowed to play professional baseball.

Two from the same article:
–Nate Robertson had surgery on his groin back in November. Why are we only hearing about this now? I guess if it had gone badly they would have just let him slip silently into the murky recesses of the minors.

–Clete Thomas has made a Wee Clete! Brooks Massey Thomas was born on January 30. Big Cat Congrats to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas!

Tigers vs. Spring

I feel like I draw kind of a lot of Gary Sheffield cartoons. This one, naturally, is because our BFF Sheff took a batting practice ball off of his elbow and I guess that he did not have his regular season armor plating on or something, because it actually hurt him.

Things do not sound too dire, though. He should be back wagging his bat and stiffly lumbering around the bases soon enough, and it’s kind of nice to get this out of the way early– you thought Gary Sheffield was going to be uninjured this season? Ha! Think again, fool.

The latest minor ouch involves Jeremy Bonderman, who was supposed to start on Saturday but will now pitch a simulated game instead due to concerns about shoulder stiffness. As with Sheff, it does not sound like things are too horrific, and Bondo was allegedly annoyed that he was being held out of the ‘real’ game (of course, given his history, I am not thrillingly convinced of Bondo’s ability to correctly gauge his own level of Hurt, but, you know, whatever).

Thus far the Tigers have been relatively lucky and have not suffered horrific injuries and losses in what are basically meaningless games and practices. Let us hope that the trend continues.

(And do you think we should start worrying about Miggy, Armando, Curtis, Maggs, Carlos, and Ni now, or should we wait until the WBC actually starts? I wouldn’t want to keep them from getting their proper amount of nail-biting by not starting early enough.)

let's talk Tigers Photo Day

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Photo Day! Not Roster Photo Day, those are the standardized shots that end up on MLB websites; Photo Day is when the team brings in a photographer to do proper studio portraits of the players. Sometimes they’re pretty straightforward, sometimes they are artsy and deranged. This spring, as it happens, the Red Sox and Tigers had the same photographer, and he used the same general concept for both teams.

It’s… um, interesting. Since RotT is ALL about the art and the photography, I reckon we’re gonna need to talk about it.

You can see the Tigers shots over here. They’re by a Getty Images photographer named Nick Laham. The first image that comes up on his personal site, at the moment, is Fernando Rodney, which in and of itself is good for a hearty chortle or several. If you poke around his site, or search for him on Getty, you’ll see that he has a lot of really nice work, so it’s obviously not like he doesn’t know how to handle studio lights or whatever.

I also feel obligated to point out that he’s responsible for this wholly amazing Braylon Edwards photoshoot (start there and click to the right), which is just… yes.

Ahem. Anyways. The Tigers photos! There are a few things going on.

First off, I’m not sure exactly what lens he’s using, but whatever it is, he’s shooting it WIDE open (my initial guess would be some sort of 50mm f/1.4 lens, but that’s probably my own bias talking– I love that lens like burning). The result is a wicked shallow depth of field.

What does that mean?

Check out this terrifying image of Miguel Cabrera. Ignore the horror of the chin pubes, if you’re able, because the only person we can blame those on is Miguel himself. Do you see how Miggy’s eyes are in sharp focus, but his nose is blurry, and his face falls off into blurriness as it recedes backwards from his eyes?

Imagine that Miggy’s face is divided up into vertical slices or planes. Some of them, like the slice containing the tip of his nose, are closer to the camera lens, and some of them, like the slice containing his ears, are farther away from the lens. A shallow depth of field means that only a very narrow group of slices are going to be in focus, and everything in front of and behind them will be out of focus to some degree– the farther away something is from the in-focus slice, the blurrier it will be.

A camera takes photos through a little opening in the lens. A photographer controls the size of this opening (aperture), making it bigger or smaller. A relatively big aperture (the lens ‘wide open’– at 1.4 or 2.8, for instance) will result in a shallow depth of field, while a relatively tiny aperture (the lens at 8 or 11, for instance– yes, it’s backwards, don’t ask) will have a deep depth of field, where foreground, mid-ground, and background will mostly be in focus together.

Shallow depth of field. See how blurry the background gets?

Broader depth of field. See how the foreground, mid-ground, and background are all mostly in focus?

Miggy’s eyes, eyebrows, the tops of his cheeks, and some of his (ugh) chin pubes are all on more or less the same plane, so they’re in focus. This isn’t actually bad– you’re usually ‘supposed’ to have your sharpest focus on the eyes, if you’re shooting a portrait, and that’s clearly happening here. But my personal preference, at least, is to try to avoid a big blur in the middle of the face. Mr. Laham did it with the high key shots (see how Miggy’s nose is blurry, but less blurry than before, and more of his face is in focus? I’d guess that the aperture isn’t quite as wide open, which means more depth of field– more slices are in focus at the same time), so you KNOW not doing it with the blue background shots was a deliberate choice. Harumph.

The other main issue here is the lighting. It’s not one of the standard portrait lighting set-ups, which is FINE– I went to art school, yanno, I LIKE when things are weird and different and ~*~edgy~*~. But this… this is something that was probably better as a concept than photographic reality.

Let’s use this shot of Granderson as an example, because it takes a special sort of WTF to make Curtis Granderson look less than perfect. You can see the depth of field shenanigans clearly here too, but ignore that and look at the lighting on Curtis’ face.

The main light sources are off to the sides, kinda angled in– you can actually see them reflected in Curtis’ eyes. Now, I don’t know if this rig consists of two lights, or a light and a reflector, or how many fill lights there are, or whatever, but the result is that every Tiger, to a greater or lesser degree, has a shadow line down the center of his face. It sounds like a cool concept, EXCEPT FOR THE PART WHERE IT MAKES THEM ALL LOOK CROSS-EYED.

You can see more examples of this problem in the Red Sox photo day shots, which, as noted above, were done by the same guy, with the same (or a very similar) lighting set-up. I said this elsewhere, but poor Michael Bowden barely even looks human, and Rocco Baldelli’s photo almost makes ME go cross-eyed in sympathy.

What’s going on?

This sort of side lighting doesn’t just draw a pretty shadow down the line of the nose: it also creates shadows on the inside halves of the eye sockets. You darken someone’s eyes where they’re close to the nose, and that person is going to look insane and cross-eyed. It’s that simple.

Since there’s plenty of evidence that Mr. Laham knows how to light a face so that this DOESN’T happen, I can only assume that it was intentional. So….

Roar of the Tigers at Spring Training

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Well, Orioles Spring Training. But there were a couple things that may be of mild interest to Tigers fans, and I thought I’d share with you lot. Totally not forcing this one at all. Nope. Not a bit of it.

(clicking these takes you to their respective Flickr pages, where you can see them more clearly)

Yes, it is our old chum Jamie Walker, representin’ in the spring with a pretty awful mustache. I still have a soft spot for Jamie, because he was mostly quite good with Detroit, and he was always armed with a glorious and occasionally hick-tastic quote or two, and he always seemed to genuinely want to play in Detroit, which is something you certainly cannot say about everyone.

Did you know that in 2006, his last season with the Tigers, Jamie Walker’s WHIP was 1.146? That is better than EVERY SINGLE TIGERS PITCHER in 2008, with the exception of Freddy Garcia, who only pitched in three games. Ah, memories.

Why, it’s 2002 Detroit Tigers first round pick Scott Moore! We ended up trading him to the Cubs in ’05 as part of the Farnsworth deal, and he’s bounced around in a desultory sort of way ever since, but, you know, there he is.

Pay no mind to that fellow in the front– the dude in the middle, fully facing the camera, is former Cub Rich Hill, or perhaps I should say: RICH HILL, MICHIGAN WOLVERINE. Is this related to the Tigers? Not really. Is this awesome? Yes.

Matt Wieters is a 6’5 switch-hitting catcher who will be 23 years old in May and hit .355/.454/.600 at a combination of high-A and double-A last season, after having kicked all kinds of butts at Georgia Tech. I have an insane baseball-fan-lust for his skill-set and hereby declare that he should be traded to the Tigers immediately. For Great Justice.

The rest of the photos from my (sadly all too brief) Spring Training excursion can be seen here. There is rather a lot of orange– which, as we all know, is a fine color for a baseball team to use.

It is also perhaps worth mentioning that Placido Polanco will not be playing in the World Baseball Classic after all. Of course this means that at least one of our worries has been somewhat alleviated.

little Tigers blooming in the spring

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Thank cats, thank cats, the day is here! The air is fresh and full of fragrant floral promise! The birds are singing! Greenery erupts! Sort of! In some places! The cats are shedding their winter coats and throwing up many more hairballs than usual as a result! Joel Zumaya thinks optimistic thoughts about the closer’s role! Pitchers and catchers report!

Spring Training. Ah, such a delicious tease. It does not REALLY fulfill our insane thirst for baseball, because it is still basically a series of puff articles about grown men frolicking in the warmer climes and not playing any games that count. But we love it, because it is SOMETHING, and any miniscule amount of baseball at all is still much, much better than, say, stock car racing, or televised poker.

It is minutely possible that something post-worthy will come out this weekend– I don’t know, maybe Dontrelle will turn on his turbo-robo-arm and incinerate a backstop?– but I, alas, will be in Florida and will not be able to post on it until either Monday night or Tuesday.

I might also come back with baseball photos! Potentially! But they would be photos of baby Orioles, because that’s the only Spring Training facility that will be in my vicinity. When I realized that I was going to be in Florida while baseball (in an admittedly extremely attenuated form) was happening but that I was going to be inconveniently far away from Lakeland, I made many sadfaces. Such is life.

Spring! When a young Tiger’s thoughts turn to roster assignments. Truly a beautiful season.

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.

HOWEVER.

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*)

in which Roar of the Tigers finally watches a spring training game

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Finally, FINALLY I get to see a Spring Training game, ON MY TV, and my thoughts are mainly thus:

1. Wow, it’s windy there. Like, really windy. Extremely windy. Joyous-laughter-at-the-sight-of-Magglio’s-hair-flying-freely-in-the-breeze kind of windy. Feeling-bad-for-the-outfielders kind of windy. We’re talking serious AIR CURRENTS, people.

2. If I never have to see those green hats ever again, it can only be a good thing. They were hideous, especially on the coaches, where they were paired with the solid navy Spring Training jacket things. We need to never do that again. Next year can’t we have everyone celebrate by wearing a green armband or something? Something small? How many guys on the team are even of Irish ancestry anyways? Like, seriously, we think St. Patrick’s day holds great meaning for Placido Polanco?

Of course I did pay attention to the actual baseball at times. And it was fun! Baseball, on my TV! Dusty Baker deciding to lead off with Corey Patterson! (I know it’s just Spring Training and all, but… why? Or is that a stupid question when the obvious answer is “Dusty Baker being Dusty Baker”?) Magglio’s hair is extra long now! Rod and Mario! Getting to glare at Miguel Cabrera in an attempt to negatively compare him to Brandon Inge before grudgingly admitting that he does in fact look to be in pretty good shape and is probably as good as everyone says he is, dammit! (Sigh.)

The fact that (as we heard today) Kenny Rogers hasn’t thrown a single breaking ball yet this spring is both encouraging and worrying. Hear me out. It’s encouraging because he looked like he was doing OK out there even without it, so his other pitches are coming along nicely. It’s also encouraging because it means that he’s acknowledging his recuperative limitations and isn’t trying to push himself unduly out of some sort of misguided macho urge (take note, Pudge). It’s worrying because holy freaking cats there are two weeks left ’til Opening Day and Kenny Rogers still doesn’t feel comfortable throwing his breaking ball.

While we’re on the subject of Kenny, can we talk about his at-bats for a minute? He didn’t even TRY for the first one, just stood there with the bat on his shoulder and looked stoic, and he STILL almost worked a walk (again, Pudge, take note). The Cincy pitcher KNEW Kenny wasn’t going to swing, and he still couldn’t get the ball over the bloody plate. I don’t know what they’re saying about this Cueto kid out there in Ohio, but that was a pretty weak at-bat. And then, Kenny’s next time up, for reasons possibly known only to himself, he was hacking gamely away. He actually managed to make pretty sharp contact, but he hit it right back up the middle, and Josh Roenicke speared it neatly out of the air. After acting like hitting was a filthy action completely beneath him the first time up, Kenny actually looked upset that he didn’t get his hit the second time around. Weird.

Like I said before: this was my first time seeing Miguel Cabrera in anything other than short clips and photos this spring, and he looked good. The Brandon Inge fan in me most emphatically does not want to admit this, but there it is. The kid looks like he’s in shape, and, as if to prove this, he made a diving grab in the bottom of the second inning for a ball that landed fair and bounced to the foul side of third. It wasn’t elegant: he landed awkwardly and was sort of slow lurching to his feet again, but he made a great throw more or less from his knees and got the runner anyways.

So he doesn’t have Brandon Inge’s range and he’s not going to be as defensively pretty as Inge is. We knew this already. His arm strength will make up for some of that, and I guess his bat will make up for the rest. I will not sulk.

I don’t like how he slides, though. He goes down really hard, right on his knee. Kinda looks like David Ortiz’s sliding style, which, to be perfectly honest, is not a sliding style that anyone should want to emulate, if they actually like their knees.

A few more things from this game:

-WHAT was up with Dane Sardinha’s catcher’s mask? It was, I don’t even know, navy and white scalloping. Nary a tiger stripe in sight. Dude, if you’re gonna go with the hockey-style mask (I think we all know how I feel about that anyways), the LEAST you can do is get something cool in a vaguely tacky way. It definitely has to have Tiger-related imagery plastered all over it. There wasn’t even any ORANGE. I can’t support that.

-At one point I very distinctly heard a Reds fan in the crowd yell, “C’mon Dunnsy!” when Adam Dunn was up to bat. Dunnsy? Really?

-That WIND! Can I emphasize again how crazy-strong it was? When Denny Bautista was out there (listed at 6’5, 190 lbs, uniform hanging off him like a bloody topsail) I seriously worried for a bit that he was going to blow right away and our bullpen situation would resolve itself without our input.

-I didn’t even know Kent Mercker was still in baseball. Shows how much I’ve been paying attention.

-Kenny Rogers’ dad was at the game. His dad is nicknamed Big Earl and has that strawberry farm we hear about all the time when people talk about Kenny Rogers’ childhood. Rod Allen is quite possibly in love with Kenny Rogers’ dad, or at least in love with the pure concept of Kenny Rogers having a dad named Big Earl who owns a strawberry farm.

-Speaking of Rod Allen… I might have missed the beginning of this, since I missed the pregame stuff and what-have-you while I was getting home from my afternoon class. But apparently Rod Allen has a new measure of ballplayers, something he’s calling “comfy/strong” [Ian correctly points out that this was a result of distorted hearing via my congested head, and Rod actually said “country strong,” which makes a lot more sense in a Rod Allen kinda way. Still hilarious]. He applied it to Adam Dunn. It seems to boil down to something along the lines of “that dude is large” and “that dude can probably hit for power” and “that dude looks kind of cuddly”. I don’t know. I just… I don’t know. He called Dunn “a mountain of a man,” in that admiring Rod Allen voice he has, and.

Yeah.

I’m so glad there was baseball on my TV today.

ETA of WOE: Mike Hollimon, who tried to dive just like Inge or Cabrera at third later in this game, dislocated his shoulder and is out for the rest of the spring for sure, possibly much longer than that. Ugh. You just hate to see crud like that happen, especially in a spring game.