Category Archives: Spring Training

Sheff's stiff legs and other spring pleasantries

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Ah, spring. When our idle thoughts turn to minor injuries and blow them all out of proportion as we descend into an irrational mad panic and begin plotting ways to steal away various players and store them in bubble wrap and padded rooms until they can promise to listen to their mothers and their trainers, to look both ways crossing the street, to wait at least one hour after eating before getting into a swimming pool, and to always stretch extensively before games.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Most of the problems are the kinds of things any reasonable cat would expect after a long offseason: sore quads (Cabrera), balky shoulders (Renteria), long recoveries (Wilson), elusive recapture of “the feel” of pitches (Rogers), crippling fear of first innings (Bonderman), simmering resentment (Inge), etc. Even though the days when ballplayers spent all winter sitting on their couches drinking beer and watching football are gone, and most of these guys spend the winter training in one way or another, there’s still going to be a transition from offseason training to baseball almost every day in Lakeland. Guys are gonna get stiff and sore.

Jim Leyland understands this and is sitting the older/more problematic Tigers a little more often this spring. Which is good! I am totally on board with this plan. It’s kind of like the reasonable, managerial version of me ambushing Kenny Rogers when he gets back to Detroit and cocooning his entire upper body in styrofoam and fear.

If guys really ARE running into trouble from overuse, this is a fine way to start combating it. Maybe a tighter reign on Bondo’s pitch count, for instance, will keep him from falling to pieces late in the season (you’d think that at this point we wouldn’t need to have him on a pitch count anymore, but we’ve gotta do SOMETHING to solve The Great Enigma That Is Jeremy Bonderman). And I’m sure most of our elderly Tigers, like Pudge, would benefit from some more time off (although he’ll hate every second of it, because in his own mind Pudge is 21 years old and a hot piece of catching meat).

Still, there’s only so much the team can do with this approach, which brings me to Gary Sheffield and Gary Sheffield’s stiff legs.

Namely, he has them. They’re stiff and sore and crankypants. Now, if you’ll recall, Sheffield had shoulder surgery this past October, so presumably his offseason workout wasn’t as strenuous as normal. It’s not like some soreness in his legs is unexpected, or even necessarily something to worry ourselves over.

BUT.

(You knew there was a ‘but’ coming.)

Sheffield’s old. I know this keeps being said, and even from my relatively youthful perspective I know that 40 isn’t exactly graveyard-bound. But you have to remember that while Gary Sheffield is (in November going to be) 40, the tendons/ligaments/etc. in his body are probably a good deal ‘older’ than that.

We’re all well aware of how unnatural a motion pitching is, but watch these guys batting sometime. Do you see how their knees bend and twist sharply around? Does that seem like a fun, natural motion to put your knee tendons through a bazillion times a year? On top of that… well, I’m loathe to bring up the S word, but I think it’s pretty clear by now that Sheff DID take something or other (even if he thinks it didn’t count because he didn’t stick anything in his butt), and steroids are bad bad BAD for your connective tissue.

I don’t know how much resting Sheffield is going to help out here. Well. What does Sheff himself have to say about all this?

He knows that with his 40th birthday coming up in November, people will say that his body is showing his age as well as wear and tear. That, he admits, helps keep him motivated.

“Once you get to this age,” he said, “that comes with the territory.”

“I feed off when people say you can’t do something, and then you do it,” Sheffield said. “That’s the only thing that bothered me. I didn’t get a chance to do it [over a full season].”

DetroitTigers.com article

Oh, well, in that case…

HEY GARY SHEFFIELD WHY ARE YOU SO OLD YOU CRAZY OLDSTER! YOU COULDN’T HIT JOE TORRE’S NOSE IF IT WAS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! MAN YOU DON’T HAVE ANYTHING LEFT EXCEPT FOR CRUSTY JOCKSTRAPS AND SAD OLD DREAMS! YOU’RE A BROKE-DOWN OLD LEGLESS SKINK! A SKINK I SAY!!

I hope that helps.

a tale of two 35s

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Well, I’m back from Spring Break. Apparently the University of Michigan follows the MLB Code of Spring, that being: if you’re super optimistic, it can totally be in February! The only difference is that MLB kicks off spring in Florida and Arizona, where it IS kind of spring-ish, but U of M kicks off spring with four inches of snow on the ground and a layer of ice underneath that. Also, I have the Scratchy Throat Cold of Doom, which I feel fairly certain I would NOT have if I was in Lakeland right now. WHATEVER, MICHIGAN.

I’m going to throw myself into a deep blue funk if I continue in that vein, so hey, Spring Training? Dontrelle Willis!

What does Dontrelle think about being on the Tigers?

[Dontrelle] I must say i miss 35 but number 21 looks good on me so i’m not even mad about that.

[commenter th0mas] verlander wouldn’t give you 35?

[Dontrelle] i didnt even ask for it from him to be honest

Dontrelle Willis blog post

Folks, that is CLASS.

Whatever Dontrelle did in Florida, Verlander is The Man (established) in Detroit, and Dontrelle understands that. To ask after his number would put Verlander in a position where he either has to give up his number (a number he, the incumbent, pitched a no-hitter in), or be the jerk who refuses to give his number a “senior” player. It’s not like someone pulled Dontrelle aside and told him this; he just GETS it. Dontrelle Willis clearly has an intuitive understanding of human psychology and behavior, and uses his knowledge in the service of Good. I, for one, feel better knowing this.

Aside from the odious Clemens-esque associations with 21, I’m sure it’ll look just fine on Dontrelle. Assuming, of course, that his pitching looks just fine. He could be wearing 98.65 on his uniform and if he had an ERA under 3 we’d be declaring it the prettiest uni number out there. Beauty is relative and all that.

For more Dontrelle-love, check out this DetroitTigers.com article about the enduring friendship between Dontrelle and CC Sabathia. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but the article does contain this lovely bit:

Both have a unique touch to their games. Sabathia’s big frame and bigger uniform are almost impossible to mistake for another player when he takes the mound, just as Willis’ high leg kick in his delivery is a signature.

Yes. The fact that CC Sabathia is the size of like 3 Justin Verlanders is directly comparable to Dontrelle Willis’ signature wacky leg kick. I just. Eesh. There are parallels that actually exist between these guys; why try to invent random, inaccurate ones on top of that?

Well. I know you were all hoping to escape this, but alas, no, because it’s not a RotT post without discussion of Brandon Inge, we must make note of the fact that he’s actually catching now, 100% of fact. Brandon Inge: back in catcher’s gear. And as we all could have expected, he hates it.

Catching right there absolutely reinforces that third-base is my all-time love,” Inge said.

“That feeling that I got today was much more of a downer feeling. Don’t get me wrong: The actual catching part of the game [was] fun. It was awesome. But what fires me up is the offensive part. It’s very frustrating to me.

“It’s a fine line. I’m not saying that I’m frustrated about them making me catch. It’s frustrating because the way I feel offensively, and then how I feel catching offensively. It’s two completely different things. My mind’s not in it. Mentally, if you’re not into hitting, you’re not going to hit. Especially with the game plan I have now offensively, it’s tough.”

DetroitTigers.com article

He hates it so hard.

Brandon Inge can catch. We know this! Physically, he has the ability to play this position. And look (with what’s coming here, I feel like I need to keep reiterating this): I love Brandon Inge. You guys know me as The Crazy Blogger Who Won’t Stop Talking About Brandon Inge Ever. Roar of the Tigers is like Brandon Inge Central! Also Random Capitalization Central! But the problem here with Brandon Inge and catching is simple, and I hate to admit it, but he admits it himself.

His mind is too tiny to handle catching and hitting at the same time.

He said it first! He freely admits that the mental stress of catching and hitting all in the same game is too much for him to handle. It’s not that he can’t catch, or that he can’t hit (last season notwithstanding): his brain just can’t contain the two concepts at once.

Of course this is part of why good catchers are so rare and so desirable. It’s not enough to have simple physical ability; a good catcher also has to be smart and mentally quick and mentally nimble and all sorts of things that Brandon Inge, MUCH AS WE ADORE HIM, apparently isn’t.

It pains me to type this, seriously. Ouch.

Ouch. Bleh. Moving on. You remember that podcast I mentioned doing however many posts back? With the Daily Fungo dude and the Bless You Boys dude? Well, it’s made its way onto the internet. Apologies, internet.

You can find it right here. It starts off with just Mike and Ian, because I was in class, but about halfway through I show up and make an idiot of myself in a variety of ways. Lessons learned: I can’t remember individual games or dates, ever; Ian needs to not talk about music with me, EVER; I sound like a walrus on internet audio. Can you even do that? A colon followed by a bunch of semicolons? Eh, I just did it. SUCH REBELLIOUSNESS HAS NOT BEEN SEEN SINCE THE HEADY DAYS OF NEIFI!!!

It’s not all that exciting (we didn’t record the best bits, because we’re PROFESSIONAL IN MANY WAYS, obvs), but if you’ve ever had a deep, burning desire to hear me talk about blogging, well, this is your lucky friggin’ day.

Florida Southern goes down; blogger gloats.

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Well, not really. OK, a little bit. C’mon! The Tigers beat Florida Southern (the Moccasins, hence the image up top) on Tuesday 17-4, which is a veritable THRASHING. Of course the exhibition games are always lose-lose for the pro teams. If you win, yippee, you beat a poor little college team; if you lose, you are completely and utterly embarrassed because you lost to a college team. So even a 17-4 victory shouldn’t seem like much to the Tigers.

But!

The University of Michigan Wolverines TIED the New York Mets, 4-4. AND the Mets only tied it up at the very end of the game, on a controversial home run. The ball hit above the yellow line, and was called a homer, despite the fact that an over-the-line-but-not-outta-the-park ball hit by a Wolverine earlier in the same game was NOT called a homer, and resulted in a triple. I mean, yeah, OK, he came around to score, but it took another out to get him there. CONSPIRACY!

The point is obviously that college teams CAN compete against the third-stringers and minor leaguers invited to big league spring training, so Florida Southern gets no passes from Roar of the Tigers. Legit Tigers win! Legit Tigers win!

One little worrying snag: all 4 Moccasin runs came off of Jordan Tata. Now, it’s early, everyone is still warming up, nobody expects the pitchers to be in anything like top form just yet, etc. etc. Todd Jones, who started the game (bloody WEIRD, that), did just fine, but he’s also something like 243 years older than Tata and thus has 226 more years’ experience getting himself warmed up come spring.

I’m not concerned. I’m just saying that if Dontrelle doesn’t work out, and Bondo’s still convinced that first innings are hiding under his bed at night, and Kenny Rogers undergoes spontaneous decomposition, and Nate’s just not very good… well, we’re going to need a Rick Porcello/Virgil Vasquez/Jordan Tata-type kid to step up and save the rotation. The Tigers have shown time and time again that they’re willing to let young guys develop at the major league level if they think there’s the slightest chance it will help the team. The kittens must be ready.

On a related side note, can you imagine how insane/awesome it’d be if in a couple of seasons our veteran presences in the starting rotation, aside from Nate, will be Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander? I’m getting anticipatory giggles just thinking about it.

he has much to learn of our Tigerlicious ways

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Miguel, Miguel, Miguel. What are those? You call those baseball socks? Those are more like… baseball ankle socks. And unless you’re Greg Maddux– you’re not Greg Maddux, are you, Miguel? I didn’t think so– you just can’t wear baseball ankle socks. It’s just… no.

I saw the spring training photos coming out and I couldn’t even concentrate on whether he looked in shape or not, because I was too busy being horrified by the socks. Have a little self respect! Hike those kittens up! I mean, hey, I guess he’s in shape. He looks in-shape-ish. But those SOCKS!

Anyways, Jim Leyland, as usual, said it best:

“He knows where he needs to be and where he feels his best,” Leyland said. “Some guys are big guys. They’re big guys for a reason. I don’t want to turn him into Twiggy.”

DetroitTigers.com article

Amen. Granted, I believe on some deranged, sub-rational level that David Wells’ belly gave him mystical pitching powers, so I may not be the best judge of these things, but I still think Leyland gets it.

Also, suddenly, Brandon Inge’s new and vital role on this team becomes clear: he’s going to lead Miguel Cabrera back to the Sock-Related Light. I’ve seen him wear them properly up before, so he theoretically knows how it’s done, but maybe he got out of practice over the winter or something and needs the veteran expert sock-wearing hand (leg?) of Brandon Inge to guide him.

Speaking of Brandon Inge… I know, I know, I know I said I just wanted to ignore the whole controversy and the whining and wait for it to go away, but it’s like a wound that I can’t. stop. poking.

Somewhere near the Georgia-Florida border, they [the Inge family] stopped at a gas station to let their son Tyler out of the car to stretch.

“We’re playing catch just to rest,” Inge recalled, “and we see a family car pulling a U-Haul. The parents get out, they run around the back, grab a wheelchair, go back, pick their kid up and take him into a hotel. I don’t know what [condition the child] had, but it made you think: There are people much worse off, much worse off. It puts everything in perspective, makes you sit back and kind of appreciate what you still have. I’m still able to put a big league uniform on.”

DetroitTigers.com article

Plink! In the time it took you to read that word, a Michigan resident lost their job. Zoop! Somebody, somewhere in the world, just died. Flibble! A tiny puppy goes hungry. Neeps! A child just had old tires and sewage water for breakfast. And you, Brandon Inge, are a Major League Baseball player getting paid millions of dollars and being forced to play catcher instead of third base. I’m glad you were able to reach this enlightening moment of self-awareness.

YES, THE SITUATION OF PARENTS DEALING WITH A YOUNG DISABLED CHILD IS A MORE DIFFICULT SITUATION THAN YOU SHUTTING UP AND CATCHING. I LOVE YOU, INGE, BUT I’M NOT GOING TO PAT YOU ON THE BACK FOR REALIZING THAT. That would be like me congratulating a fully grown, perfectly cognitively functional adult for announcing that grass was a different color than the sky. NO, REALLY? I NEVER WOULD HAVE GUESSED.

“Catching was the tougher years of my life,” Inge said. “It’s a big job. You’ve got to run a pitching staff. The equipment you have to put on and off, and you’ve got to juggle a whole bunch of things at the catcher’s spot.”

Sentence structure, baby.

However, upon reading the article, I must say that I had nearly forgotten he played much of last year with a Real Actual Broken Toe. Even if he hadn’t, he would have lost his job to Cabrera, but just remember that, kids and kittens: he was playing on a broken toe. I’m not saying it excuses all of his batting woes or all of his errors, but it was there, and he played through it. Just a little something to think about.

Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

We’re almost to spring training, kids and kittens! Reeeeeeaaaach for it! Eeeeengh, eeeengh, additional strainy reaching noises and such.

Of course the report date means very little except in a symbolic sense, since most of the pitchers and catchers are already down there by now (check out Roger’s photos for glorious sunny proof). And it’s all really for naught until games start up again and we can start to see the boys in action, even if it’ll be mostly Tiger cubs in the spring training games.

(On a side note: I know the Wolverines play the Mets on Feb. 26, but does anyone know if that game’s going to be televised anywhere or what? Because, um. That’s over U of M’s spring break, so I wouldn’t even have to skip class to watch it, so. Uh. PLEASE, TV GODS, I BEG OF YOU?)

Anyways, soon we’ll have Real Actual Baseball News to pay attention to, so this is our last chance to wallow shamelessly in baseless speculation about the coming season. And this is a blog! We’re all about the baseless speculation! Because it’s MY blog, the baseless speculation tends to run along the lines of “Things Roar of the Tigers Has Found to be Paranoid About”. Yeah, I ended that pseudo-title with a preposition. The last few days before ST are heady, rebellious days indeed.

Catchers!

My favorite chew-toy of the offseason, worked over and returned to often. I must have found a billion different ways to say “Pudge is old and an injury risk” this winter, and I really don’t want to have to find more ways to say it once the season starts up. BUT I PROBABLY WILL. Because HOLY CATS AM I UNCOMFORTABLE WITH OUR CATCHING SITUATION. I have to admit that I am STARTING to kind-of-sort-of-MAYBE come around on the whole “Inge as backup”… mess. That doesn’t mean that I think it’ll necessarily end happily if we have to do it; just that I’m starting to think it’s at least possible and a better option than, say, waiting for Vance Wilson’s genetically engineered arm graft to finish growing in its vat.

The bullpen!

They give me The Fear! I keep saying to myself, “Self, you just don’t know. Maybe someone will step it up and be this year’s Chad Durbin.” In fact, I was talking about that very thing today over coffee and an audio recorder with Ian and Mike (more on that later*). And it’s totally possible that one of the completely underwhelming names on our roster right now will turn in some great unexpected games and he’ll be 2008’s Chad Durbin. The whole point of a Chad Durbin, I guess, is that, like the Spanish Inquisition, you never expect him.

Yes, I’m totally being mean to our bullpen. But I look down the list of names and I’m just thinking to myself, “Denny Bautista? Color me unimpressed mauve. Jeez, at least we still have Tim Byrdak.” And, hey, no offense meant to Tim Byrdak, because I remember some pretty sweet Tim Byrdak outings last season, but when I’m seeing his name on a roster as a point of refuge from my serious team-paranoia, I’m not inclined to view that roster as a glorious document. You know what I mean?

Jeremy Bonderman!

THE FIRST INNING CAN’T HURT YOU JEREMY, IT CAN ONLY HURT YOU IF YOU LET IT HURT YOU. IT DOESN’T HAVE ANY POWER ON ITS OWN; IT ONLY GETS POWER IF YOU GIVE IT POWER. STAND UP AND TELL IT NO. TAKE BACK YOUR LIFE, JEREMY.

Edgar Renteria!

Because I still remember what happened to him in Boston, and watching a man get flayed alive while hot pokers are shoved through his eyeballs and stinging nettles are applied to the soles of his feet is really something you only need to see happen to the same guy once. Of course that’s a metaphor, but only barely.

Injuries!

This barely even warrants its own section, because I am always paranoid about injuries to everyone, all the time, even though I enjoy drawing anatomical diagrams of them when they actually happen (and when they bother to give us enough info to make it possible for me to figure out what to draw, which is not often enough, in my irritated opinion). Still: injuries. Sends a shiver down your spine just to see the word, doesn’t it? INJURIES. Ooooh. Eurgh.

Anyways. I know I said that the report date this Thursday doesn’t mean much, and it doesn’t, but I’m looking forward to it all the same. It’s another benchmark in the long dark teatime of the soul that is the offseason, another notch leading us to the promised land of Another Season of Baseball, and nobody’s going to complain about that. Except maybe for football fans who don’t like baseball, and seriously, just feed those people to a badger or something.

*Footnote! Like I said, I had coffee with Ian from Bless You Boys and Mike from the Daily Fungo today, and I guess we did this thing that the cool kids are calling podcasting, although it was really more like rambling without direction or intent for upwards of an hour in the general direction of a pocket mic. Who knows if any of it even came out? If it does, and it turns up on the magical internets, I’ll be sure to let you guys know, so that you can experience Roar of the Tigers in stunning, possibly terrifying audio format.

I don’t have a Boston accent (much; I don’t think I have ANY accent, but Midwesterners I know have differing opinions. Pop-saying freaks. Even if I do have one, it’s not strong), so no worries on that front, at least.

the early Tiger gets the delicious feast (hopefully more than worms)


photo by Roger DeWitt

Imagine a sound. A high-pitched, keening sound of sheer wordless glee. A sound accompanied by hopping around. That’s approximately the sound I made when I saw that hueytaxi (of Motown Sports) had posted photos of REAL LIVE TIGERS out doing REAL ACTUAL BASEBALL TRAINING!!

YAY!

Obviously the guys are just warming up, working out, gettin’ some reps in. Mr. DeWitt reminded me that the guys who showed up (Verlander and Seay, as pictured above, apparently along with Ryan Raburn and Javair Gillett, the trainer) have homes in Florida, so it’s not like they’re exactly going out of their way to report at this ridiculously early date. That’s cool. It’s still January. I can wait for baseball. It’s not like I’m gnawing my own hands off or anything OH HOLY CATS WHY ISN’T THERE BASEBALL YET WHY, CRUEL UNIVERSE, WHY??

So, yeah, when I saw even a few Tigers out and about, doing baseball-ish things, it warmed my frenetic little heart even more than the unseasonable January thaw (it’s crrrrazy out here).

Look at their happy smiling sunny faces! Look at Bobby Seay’s beard! Look at Verlander totally not wearing MLB-issued apparel!

Squeeeee!

Oh, and while you’re here on the Internet, check out this official Tigers article about our catching situation. Basically it sounds like Vance Wilson is our man for the backup spot. The article tagline is “Rodriguez, Wilson give Tigers veteran duo behind the plate,” which is a very very nice way of saying that our catchers are OLD. Both of them. So old.

“I’m feeling good,” Wilson said. “I’m getting there.”

“One day you feel great, the next day you don’t,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of one of those things where I’d be disappointed if I’m not ready for Opening Day, but I’m not going to set any goals.”
DetroitTigers.com article

My concerns have not exactly been assuaged.

the Great Seed Chucking Battle of Spring Training 07


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

The game was televised today, joy of joys, meaning that we got treated to things most marvelous: Rod and Mario! Interviews with various players! Players harassing each other while being interviewed!
I missed the first few innings due to scholarly things, but I took bemused notes on the rest of it, and here you have them.


Rod says there are the only two major leaguers to ever have 30 or more HRs with 5 different teams, and those two guys are Fred McGriff and Sheffield. I think this says less about the hitting ability of Sheff and McGriff (which no one doubts), and more about their attitudes; if you hit that well, why on earth would you be switching teams that often? Probably because you’re a wanker.

Craig’s knee, worry worry. Knee injuries tend to linger and tend to reflare and tend to be pretty easy to reaggravate in baseball… look at how they get torqued around when a batter twists his body. Craig HAS to play outfield too, we already have a bit of a logjam at 1B/DH. More things to concern me as we head towards the season proper.

This one’s for all the Vance Wilson fangirls in da house, yo.

Rod: Vance Wilson, backing up Pudge again this year… in my opinion, the best catching tandem in all of baseball.
Mario: I agree.
Rod: Between him and Pudge Rodriguez last year, they committed just THREE errors. You can’t run on them, they block balls in the dirt, they just do a tremendous job of handling the pitching staff.

I had NO idea they only committed three errors (and am far too tired/lazy to check Rod’s claims there). I don’t know about the BEST catching tandem, but day-um, that’s pretty bloody good.

Mario: Check out the bouncy house out there Rod [referring to the big inflatable tiger-striped structure in the outfield where small children can jump around and squeal to their heart’s content]. We’ve gotta do a broadcast from out there one day.
Rod: I’d get dizzy out there…. that’s for the little peeps.

Apparently just two lefties (Thome and Morneau) homered off of Nate last year.

VERLANDER INTERVIEW
Mario: What’s up with the hair?
[Verlander has this bizarre pseudo emo hair goin’ on, with big chunky shaggy bangs]
JV: Yeah, I’m trying to go Magglio-style, grow it out, it’s kinda in the awkward stage.
[Maggs’ hair works because it’s curly. Justin’s hair is straight as straw and manifestly does NOT work]

Someone is throwing stuff at him. It is… he says Mike. Maroth? I think they’re seeds. Mike Maroth is chucking seeds at Verlander from off camera. Roar of the Tigers proudly brings you this vital spring training bulletin.

Verlander says he asked Kenny and Bondo about his arm pain every day because he was so green last season that he didn’t know if it was fatigue or actual injury, since he’s not used to pitching that much and had no idea what to expect in the way of arm soreness.

Rod: Rumor has it you bought a little toy there in the offseason.
[everyone laughs… I immediately think, “Holy cats, he bought himself a vibrator??”]
Verlander: Ha ha, yeah… [shyly] it’s an 07 911 Turbo Porsche… it’s pretty fast… I like it.”
Mario and Rod together: PRETTY fast??!?!?
Rod: Well good for you, you earned it.
[everyone laughs]

Guys are getting a lot of walks, but I think that’s more because the DRays are having pitching issues than because anyone’s being particularly patient. I want to believe, but I’ll need some real season, longterm proof before I declare the team’s patience issues even partially resolved.

EXCEPTIONAL MENTAL MAKEUP MIKE INTERVIEW
He freely admits that he was throwing seeds at Verlander, now Verlander is behind him ready to sneakily chuck seeds or something at Maroth.

He’s got a buzz cut and he’s wearing a light blue polo style collared short sleeve shirt that I SWEAR I have seen him wear before. Hmm.

Verlander comes up, grabs Maroth’s collar from behind… looks like he dumped seeds down the back of his shirt. Oh boys. I love it.

Maroth says his arm feels good, his arm feels good, his arm feels good times 10, Kenny was a big help, blah blah blah.

CRAIG MONROE INTERVIEW
“It’s [his knee] feelin’ better, it’s better than I thought today, so you know what that makes me excited… I wanna be out there and havin’ some fun.”

When asked about Sheffield: “One of the big things, he talks about shrinkin’ the zone, last year you saw us swinging, you know we’re free hackers [no shizz, kid], so maybe we can… shrink the zone…. he [Sheffield] says ‘you’re in control, you gotta allow this guy to make a mistake’.”

So here is MY question. If we’re making an analogy of this, would it look like so?
Kenny Rogers:pitching staff :: Gary Sheffield:hitters

We hear second-hand from Mario that Leyland feels Clevlen and Dlugach are defensive big leaguers right now. If they could hit “quite a bit” they could be starters right now. See, hmm. You can teach hitting but you can’t teach a good eye. You can teach some aspects of defense and some you can’t. The breaking point with these kids will be how much they have and if they just need teachable things, because then they can improve. If they don’t have the, uh, unteachables, they can only go so far.

POLANCO INTERVIEW
Just before commercial break they show him adjusting his headphones, making me wonder how they get them to fit on his enormous head.

“Yeah, I feel pretty good, Mario, right now, I’m working out a lot, taking some extra swings.” I love how he calls Rod and Mario by their names in that very particular way.

On what it’s like playing in the postseason: “Very fun, very fun, it’s like uh, once you’re in the playoffs you forget about everything what happen, I even forget about my shoulder…”

On the shoulder: “It is probably 85% [when he first came back], but I didn’t know how bad it was until the offseason when I was doing nothing and it still hurt, but… I’d say it’s very close to 100% [now].”

When asked about the lineup…
Polanco: You don’t know who to pitch to in this lineup, you have Magglio and Guillen and him [Sheff] and Pudge…
Mario and Rod together: And you, don’t forget about you!
Polanco: Noooo, ah, no.
[with a big grin]

Um, I think I adore him a little bit.

Big cheers from the crowd for Cameron Maybin after a diving catch fighting the sun (he didn’t see it ’til the last minute), and then another sunny but less eventful catch. Rod and Mario talk about how he’s only 19 years old (DAMMIT I AM OLD AND CLEARLY A FAILURE IN LIFE) and people want him up now, etc etc. HE’S JUST A BABY.

Mario: What’s 20 minus 11?
Rod: I don’t know, you the college graduate…. I gotta get my calculator out for that one.

SHEFFIELD INTERVIEW
“Honest guy [Leyland], man, he tells you what he expects out of you, you can’t take short cuts to win championships…”

On what he thinks of Detroit’s hitters: “I think here it’s a more balanced lineup… over there [in New York], you know, we’re lookin’ for a three run homer… if the pitcher’s on, it’s hard to scratch those runs out when you don’t got the guys…”

Did he seriously just say that Detroit’s lineup is better and more balanced than the Yankees? Gary Sheffield= lol. I mean, I love the Tigers and they’re definitely one of the best hitting lineups in baseball, but I think he’s more than a little bitter right now, you know?

Sheffield’s wife is a gospel (or something) singer… she had a concert in Tampa that Sheff invited some of the team and Leyland to.
Rod: Skipper get busy?… He said the Skipper was in there bobbin’ and weavin’…
Mario: Well we saw him doing the moonwalk in Toronto last year…

Neifi comes up to bat with the bases loaded, skitters a hit to third past a diving3Bman, SHOCK AND AMAZE. Two runs in, he doubled. Hm. Neifi delivering? Crazy talk!

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

pug marks, Mar. 17


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

pug mark 1
Bondo gets the opener, Kenny Rogers secretly plots to destroy him.

Ha ha, no, Kenny isn’t plotting to destroy anyone. Except maybe the photographers who first captured a shot of the UNDETERMINED stain on his palm. And video cameramen. He hates those guys.

I reckon this is Leyland telling Bondo that he’s got as much confidence in his Bondermanly ways as the general media does. Which, you know, I agree with. If Kenny still needs to be propped up at this late stage in his career, dude’s got problems, but Bondo, often as we may forget it, is still essentially a kid. It’s a nice move on Leyland’s part.

pug mark 2
Curtis Granderson is a Buffalo Bills fan.

Smart. And by “smart” I mean “smarter than any of us poor idiots who still identify as Lions fans”.

pug mark 3
Nate Robertson hints at a shameful clubhouse secret.

…we also did that with American Idol — some of us. I’m not going to say who, but there are some American Idol buffs in that clubhouse. A lot of guys are pretty down on this voting system with American Idol here lately. There’s a guy that keeps on getting through that a lot of guys are disappointed on. You’d be surprised how disappointed some of these guys get, man. It’s a topic of discussion.

He’s right. I am surprised. Also horrified. American Idol?? SERIOUSLY, AMERICAN IDOL? Boys, why can’t you be into 24 or something? Oy. Anyways, he won’t name names, but I think we need to baselessly speculate. Who’s into this tripe? I’m gonna go ahead and say Verlander to start with.

pug mark 4
Brandon Inge loves the little childrens.

He’s donating $100,000 to the Mott Children’s hospital at U of M. People who are good to the Wolverines automatically earn my love unless they give me big fat reasons to dislike them. Of course Mr. Inge did not require that aid, and I don’t suppose it’s possible for him to go much higher in my estimation (although some patience at the plate would be nice this season, BRANDON ARE YOU LISTENING), but this is still a nice little bonus for everyone.

pug mark 5
Emily’s at spring training, and she’s taking photos.

Go see, and be happy.

pug mark 6
More Tiger blogging joy? I think we can all agree that this is a good thing.

Ian, formerly and sort of currently of general Michiganly sports blog Sweaty Men Endeavors, has accepted an invitation to blog about the Tigers over at Bless You Boys. I think the network that BYB is on counts as a rival to MVN, so obviously this means WAR.

I shall fire the first salvo.

HEY IAN. YOUR BLOG SMELLS LIKE NEIFI PEREZ.

I expect nothing but intelligent humor and exhilarating battles from this new blogging force as the season progresses.

Readying his Bondermanly roar? MAYBE!


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Ohhhhh maaaaannnn am I getting excited. Of course it was like this last year too. It seems like Bondo always looks promising this time of year and I have to keep telling myself “it’s just spring, it’s just spring” so that I can try to stop the hyperventilation.

He’s just been…. ON. From what I can tell. And it sounds like his changeup is starting to take root. And. Yes. Deep breaths.

It’s just that SO many people are tagging this as a year when Bondo really breaks out, even more than he’s already done. We can see it. His awesomeness is a Ford truck barreling down the M-14 highway of the years, to use a Michiganish metaphor; we can see it coming down the road and unless something unexpected happens (a sinkhole opens up in the ground, there’s a twelve car pileup, a giant radioactive raccoon starts picking cars up with its little raccoon hands and eating them like candy, etc.) we know it’s just a matter of waiting for him to get there.

I realize that I’ve been banging on about this only, oh, a squillion times this offseason and spring.

He’s given up two runs (I think only one earned, ‘tho I could be wrong there) in nine innings pitched, with 8 Ks. For this time of year, that’s miiiighty fine, ESPECIALLY when you consider the fact that he always seems to get hit hard earlier in games rather than later, and that he’s ONLY working early slots right now, naturally.

Irrationally excited? Again? Me? Surely you jest.

The point is that I CAN’T HELP IT because BONDO AAHHHHHHH and he REALLY does not help me maintain the thin thread of my composure and dignity when he has the kind of tidy little overpowering spring that he’s been having this year.

oh dramatic male posturing, you make for the BEST fights!


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Ha ha ha WHAT

No, there weren’t any punches thrown. But I still love that this escalated as far as it did.

The story, as near as I can make out (having not listened to the game):

–Josh Beckett walks people like a mad crazy walking machine. Sign number one that his control is not the best today.
–Josh Beckett hits Gary Sheffield somewhere nonvital but fairly high up (I think on the arm). Sign number two that his control is not the best today, and that he should, y’know, MAYBE STOP THINKING ABOUT PITCHING INSIDE, since it’s March and all.
–Josh Beckett hits Magglio Ordonez in the head.
–Everyone immediately has flashbacks to 2005.
–Magglio falls over and writhes for a bit, ‘though thankfully most of the blow is cushioned by his voluminous curls.
–Todd Jones comes in and stews lightly over Beckett’s lack of concern for humanity.
–Jonesy throws behind JD Drew which, OK, maybe not the best move, but it’s JD FREAKIN’ DREW. Even Boston fans are kind of wishing he’d gotten plunked.
–Jonesy gets ejected.
–Jim Leyland comes out to make the pitching change. Now, judging from some photos, it looks like Jonesy and Red Sox third base coach DeMarlo Hale were “exchanging information” before Leyland got onto the field (I would assume DeMarlo objected to Jones’ retaliatory instincts; honestly though, anyone who saw that business go down in ’05 should be aware that Tigers do not take headshots lightly), but most every writeup I’ve seen has described Leyland as a catalyst of the mess to follow.

–Regardless, Leyland comes on to remove Jonesy and somehow gets in the middle of a screaming match with DeMarlo Hale.
–Both benches clear.
–Everyone stands around squealing at each other, because it’s March and nobody wants to get Kyle Farnsworthed out there.
–Umpires dramatically restrain Leyland from going after DeMarlo and, who knows, kicking him in the shins with his cleats or something.
–Somewhere in all this, Leyland is ejected.
–At some point in the game, Beckett injures his jaw (!) by colliding with Sheffield at home plate (!!). I have no idea how this happened or when in this timeline it did, but I think it’s worth throwing in there.
–Near the end of the game, Travis Hughes hits Chris Shelton with a pitch. No one cares, because who the bollocks is Travis Hughes?

The moral of the story, as ever, is simple:

Don’t mess with Jim freakin’ Leyland, yo. He will bust your business up.