Thursday, October 31, 2013

Time to D-Funk

So... as you may have heard the Detroit Tigers didn't reach the post-season.

Yeah, I know... it sucks. I didn't realize until a couple days after Boston wrapped the series up, that I might be in some sort of funk. The wife and I went shopping at our local Meijer and I got really excited when I found all five of the 1984 World Series on DVD for $19.99! We ate a lot of junk the last week as well, and the temperatures here didn't help as they fell into lows in the 30's & high's in the mid-40's -- producing a wintery-wet mix of rain & snow that wouldn't stick -- So I have been feeling BLAH! (Plus I turn 37 years-old tomorrow & feeling possibly worse than Torii Hunter hitting that wall at Fenway).

Plenty has happened since my post Something Like a Boxing Match (Oct 19th), one thing the Tigers are officially out, Jim Leyland stepped down (which yet it shocked me) while something in the back of my mind told me something was going to happen -- I always felt if we won it this season, he was going to retire on top. Sad to see the skipper go, I enjoyed Leyland very much, he made us a winner from the moment he stepped in the Manager's office, he's old-school & he's a class act. I'm ashamed for the people out there that were asking for his head, no one is ever happy & it's so easy for these "fans" to sit there and blame, or look for excuses.

I felt in my bones & soul that this was going to be the year, the year that the Tigers restored the roar. I believe all of Detroit & the state of Michigan was feeling the exact same thing, I believe there has been a universal state of depression this last week here, you can feel it in the air. This one is going to sting for awhile.
What hurts the most is that the state and the wonderful people of this great state have been through so much with the economic strife that has plagued the state, it's still one of the biggest states hit with the economic crisis that the fans really needed an escape. There is not one fan base, or state that needed a World Championship more than the people of Michigan (maybe Pittsburgh); we are talking about a fan base that came to Comerica Park in droves (over 3 million fans -- packed Comerica once again in 2013). There is not a doubt in my mind, and Leyland also made note at his press conference that we let this one get away from us, we were supposed to be the 2013 World Champions of Major League Baseball, I do not believe that Game 2 of the ALCS ever played a factor in this series -- to say we would have went on to a 3-0 series lead on Boston (because we had Verlander on the mound for Game 3) would have been totally insulting a really good Boston Red Sox team.

My point is this, the Game 2 collapse didn't play a factor, what played a factor and was playing a factor since the beginning of September was Miguel Cabrera's oblique injury. It affected everything, he only had two extra-base hits that entire month, and to say that it didn't affect the lineup is downright ridiculous, and since the lineup slumped, it also mean't that our starting pitchers got worked more, got yanked earlier, and our weak bullpen got exposed. The bullpen worked effective actually for a really good stretch during the season, mid-year, wasn't doing too bad in the midst of Summer, but when everything starting hitting the wall in September -- everything was exposed. Looking at his numbers up to September, it's safe to say that Cabrera would have won back-to-back triple crowns. I'm also going to make an early prediction for the 2014 MLB Season, Justin Verlander will have his best season in 2014 to date -- bigger than 2011 even.

SCHERZER TO ST. LOUIS?!
Tigers fans have heard rumors circulating as early as the late LDS with the chances of Scherzer being a Tiger beyond the 2013 season. Scherzer is due to be a free agent after the 2014 MLB Season, and will be certainly getting a pay-raise. The problem is the Tigers have strapped themselves to the huge Prince Fielder deal, the current Verlander deal & a good amount to Anibal Sanchez. Rumor has it, he will be traded before the 2014 to get the best market value in return as possible -- most likely the deal will be done by December. The only way Scherzer stays a Tiger beyond 2014 is if the Tigers somehow can unload Prince Fielder, who Tiger fans are making out to be the scapegoat for the last two post-seasons; Tigers would have to eat $60-$80 million of Fielder's contract to even unload him, and not too many teams with big market money would be in the hunt, the two other biggest markets (Angels & Yankees) both don't need a 1B, unless they want to make him a DH.

The Cardinals name has popped up for Scherzer recently, because rival scouts of the Cards can see such a deal developing. For one thing, Scherzer is from Missouri, plus the Cards have the prospects to trade for the probable 2013 A.L. Cy Young winner. One thing is for sure, Michael Wacha (unfortunately for Tigers fans) won't be part of that package, most likely Joe Kelly, a reliever (or two) in Carlos Martinez, a up-end prospect or maybe someone like Jaime Garcia. Some Cardinals fans may say "We got plenty of pitching, we don't need to trade & acquire Scherzer" -- but on the other hand, their rotation could look like this...

1. Adam Wainwright
2. Max Scherzer
3. Chris Carpenter
4. Michael Wacha
5. Shelby Miller

That 1-4, would become the best 1-4 since, well... the 2013 Detroit Tigers -- plus not to mention the possibility of the Cards coming off a World Championship, with an addition of a Cy Young Winner. The Pirates & Reds would end up kicking themselves, because if this move goes down, the Cards have a legit shot at being a mega-force for years to come. Personally, I don't want to see Scherzer go, I say see what we can do with Fielder, because having a 1-2 pitching duo in Verlander & Scherzer is much more potent & important than that of Cabrera & Fielder (Tigers have other protection options) -- but if we do trade Scherzer, let it be St. Louis, because I think they have the best potential in trade bait.

Leyland: Cooperstown-bound?
Ummm... yeah, does a Bear sh#@ in the woods? Personally, it's a no-brainer. Let's get the one matter out of the way first, yes.. his career winning percentage is not amazing, but then again... was Connie Mack's winning percentage (.486) anything to marvel at? Here are some numbers to ponder...
  • Joined only two other managers (Tony La Russa & Whitey Herzog) in leading two different franchises to three consecutive division titles. Those two managers: Herzog is a current Hall-of-Famer, while La Russa (Leyland's mentor) certainly will be.
  • Led his teams to a total of eight League Championship appearances, winning two of them with the 1997 Marlins & 2012 Detroit Tigers (two World Series appearances).
  • His 1997 World Championship with the Florida Marlins, was the fastest expansion team to win the World Title in it's fifth year of existence (Arizona would later break that, by doing it within 4 years).
  • Three-time Manager of the Year Award winner.
  • Became the 7th Manager ever to win pennants in each of the Major Leagues.
  • Passed Tommy LaSorda on the all-time wins list with win #1,600 (LaSorda is a HOF'er).
  • 3rd all-time among the Detroit Tigers' all-time victories for a manager (behind Sparky Anderson & Hughie Jennings) with 700 wins.
  • 1,769-1,728 career record (.506) -- The Pirates were horrible when he took them over, made them into a power by 1990, had the "fire-sale" season of 1998 for the Marlins & a lousy season in Colorado -- take those out of the equation, and you definitely got a winner.
  • His 1,769 victories are the second-most in MLB history among managers who had no MLB playing experience. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sweet Lou Delivers Two!

(Game #23's)

                           R   H   E
1975 Reds          8   14   1
1937 Yankees   10  12   0     F

Cincinnati (15-8) / New York (12-11)

Both teams had four-run innings, Cincy first took a 4-2 leas with their 4-run inning happening in the top of the third, while the Yankees broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the 6th, with a 4-run inning of their own. Reds momentarily tied it up in the top of the 8th at 8-8, until Lou Gehrig hit his 2nd two-run HR of the day during the bottom of the 8th. Gehrig finished up 4-for-5 with 5 RBI. Joe DiMaggio also had a two-run HR, with a 3 RBI day for him.

The Reds couldn't make it a 3-0 series lead, but got plenty from Johnny Bench (2-for-5), a three-run HR & a two-run HR for Pete Rose, who went 3-for-4, plus a walk.

                         R   H   E
1946 Red Sox  7    6    1
1968 Tigers      2    5    1    F

Boston (8-15) / Detroit (8-15)

WP- M.Harris (3-1)
LP- E.Wilson (1-3)

Rip Russell went 2-for-3 with a two-run HR, while Ted Williams added three RBI on a single & sac fly. Mickey Harris pitched a solid 7.1 IP while allowing only two runs, as the Red Sox won their second straight against the Tigers.

                        R   H   E
1971 Giants     3    5    1
1944 Browns   2    7    0     F

San Francisco (8-15) / St. Louis (9-14)

WP- Je.Johnson (2-0)
LP- Caster (1-3)
SV- S.Hamilton (2)

Dick Dietz spoils George Caster's save opportunity with a two-run single, as Giants sneak by with the win.

                           R   H   E
1985 Blue Jays   4    3    0
1912 Giants        5    10   3    F

Toronto (12-11) / New York (14-9)

WP- Wiltse (4-1)
LP- Key (2-1)

Fred Snodgrass goes 2-for-4 with two steals, an RBI & run, while Chief Meyers made it on base all four plate appearances with two singles, a walk & Hit by pitch, plus an RBI & run.

                          R   H   E
1976 Dodgers   0    1    0
1969 Mets        2    4    1    F

Los Angeles (9-14) / New York (9-14)

WP- Gentry (3-2)
LP- Hooton (2-3)
SV- McGraw (5)

Craig Gentry kept the Dodgers quiet by pitching an excellent one-hit, 8 inning outing, while the Mets didn't do much better, with Tommie Agee's two-run HR in the bottom of the fourth being the difference.

                         R   H   E
1998 Yankees  3    4    1
1906 Cubs        4    8    1   F

New York (15-8) / Chicago (16-7)

WP- Pfiester (3-1) / CG (2)
LP- Pettitte (3-2)

Harry Steinfeldt's two-run double in the bottom of the 5th put the Cubs ahead for good, as the Cubbies improve 16-7, while the Yankees fall to 15-8. The Yankees are still doing great, but have been playing more .500 ball of late, while the hot 1998 Padres & 1995 Indians each have won 5 straight games; Padres have yet to play their 23rd game & can be within a game of the division lead with a victory.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

White Sox, Gandil Stay White Hot!

(Game #23's)

                             R   H   E
1993 Giants          3    8    0
1917 White Sox    5    9    0    F

San Francisco (11-12) / Chicago (15-8)

The up-and-down Giants can play with anybody when they are on top of their game, but have a difficult time winning without Robby Thompson in the lineup; Thompson is on his second stint on the disabled list already in this young season. Meanwhile, the White Sox are one of the league's hottest teams, after a 3-5 start to the season, the team has won 12 of their last 15 games! Chick Gandil keeps defying the odds, batting .402 this season with 22 RBI's through 82 at-bats (in the 6th spot of the lineup).



The White Sox also have the league's best scoring differential at +52 (15 more than 2nd best 1929 Cubs).

                             R   H   E
1995 Indians        7   12   2
1904 Giants         5   12   0    F

Cleveland (13-10) / New York (13-10)

WP - Ogea (3-0)
LP - D.Taylor (3-1)
SV - Mesa (8)

Albert Belle keeps plugging away at his mammoth season, hitting two more HR's to add to his grand total of 16 HR's & 30 RBI in just 23 games -- a pretty comfortable lead in both major categories, and has lifted his batting average up to .277 for the season. Belle also has a 1.270 OPS (.892 Slugging percentage)!

                            R   H   E
1981 Expos         6    7    2
1929 Cubs           1   10   0    F

Montreal (11-12) / Chicago (15-8)

WP - Sanderson (4-1)
LP - P.Malone (1-3)

The Cubs have not found a way to take advantage when the Crawfords do lose, the Cubs once again lost to the Expos on a night that the Crawfords lost to the 1993 Phillies -- so no movement in the standings once again. For the Expos, Andre Dawson was clutch, hitting a three-run HR during the top of the 8th, as the Expos kept the Cubbies quiet. Tim Wallach & John Milner each hit solo HR's.

                            R   H   E
1986 Mets           2    5    1
1954 Indians       4    7    0    F / 10 Inn

New York (7-16) / Cleveland (9-14)

WP - Narleski (2-1)
LP- Orosco (0-1)

A battle between two frustrated teams, the Mets once again blow a late lead (which has been their story all season long), this time by the usually calm & collective Jesse Orosco, who gave up a walk-off three-run HR to Al Rosen in the 10th! The Mets had a very tough schedule at the beginning of the season, but have yet to get on a roll. The good news is that the 1984 Tigers & 1977 Phillies continue to lose as of late, and even though the Mets are in dead-last, they are only 6 games out of first -- which means plenty of time.

Jesse Orosco entered the game, a perfect 5 for 5 in save opportunities.

                             R   H   E
1935 Crawfords    2    5    1
1993 Phillies         4   12   0    F 

Pittsburgh (18-5) / Philadelphia (12-11)

WP - T.Greene (4-1)
LP - Ro.Davis (3-2)
SV - Mit.Williams (5)

The Phillies win their 4th game in a five-game stretch, as the team keeps improving -- while the Crawfords have lost two straight for only the second time this season (last time was also at the hands of another Pennsylvania team, the 1971 Pirates). The Phillies won with timely hitting, as all 12 of their hits, were all singles. Tommy Greene held the Crawfords to three hits & a run in six innings of work.

                           R   H   E
1977 Phillies      1    6    0
1953 Dodgers    4    7    1    F

Philadelphia (13-10) / Brooklyn (13-10)

WP - Loes (2-3)
LP - Lonborg (0-2)
SV - Labine (3)

Duke Snider had a two-run double & Carl Furillo hit a solo HR, as Billy Loes held off the Phillies' sluggers with one run allowed in 5 1/3 innings, plus 5 K's.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Something like a Boxing Match

It's a match-up between the two best teams in the American League, there is no argument there. If you watched baseball all season long, you can see these two teams on their way towards a collision course named the 2013 American League Championship Series. Both teams ranked 1 & 2 in pretty much every offensive category, and pitching categories. In the pitching department, let's don't beat around the bush, the Tigers definitely have the better rotation, but the Red Sox have the toughest bullpen. The Red Sox hitters are probably more consistent 1-9, every player grinds out at-bats -- Shane Victorino's addition to this team was a brilliant move, he's always been a great on-base player dating back to the Phillies' glory years, especially during the 2007-2009 period -- adding him to a team that is well known for stretching at-bats in studs like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz has paid dividends.

It has been no secret what the Tigers' arms can do, but their lineup has hit some cold spells due primarily to the Miguel Cabrera's oblique injury that dramatically got worse since the very end of August -- It also doesn't help that Austin Jackson has struggled by striking out over a dozen times in the playoffs as well, something you don't want to see out of your table-setter.


In Game 1, Anibal Sanchez pitched excellent and did what was asked of him, he stayed out of trouble & racked up 12 K's in 6 innings -- pitching a no-no through all six innings, but his pitch count would lead to the unpredictable bullpen to keep it going, they stepped up to the task that night, not allowing their first hit until one out in the bottom of the ninth. Sanchez racked up his 12 K's, by confusing the Red Sox hitters, who have not seen Sanchez before -- despite the fan base's cries over umpire Joe West's strike-zone, look at the replays, the check-swings went around, and most of the calls were right on; they were simply over-matched. Jon Lester pitched a great game, trying to give his team an opportunity to win.

Game 2 will go down as a oddity for us Tiger fans, never have I ever seen a team in all of my time loving baseball, a team dominate another team, only to watch the bottom fall out. I unfortunately had to work that night, when I was gathering my last few things before heading off to work. I watched Miguel send one over the Green Monster, and watched my boys put up a 5-0 lead. The Fenway faithful were stunned & quiet, the 5-0 lead, looked more like a 10-0 lead. On my way to work in the car, I listened as Boston finally scored -- but I was not worried; there are many times in baseball where you sense the vibe that this one is in the bag. The game in many ways, was in the bag.

I got to work, place the radio at the backroom break-table, put it on a lower volume than I would for a close game, and went about my business like a normal work night. I was mopping the lobby, thinking of how great it's going to be, to be up 2-0 in the series with the dominating Verlander on the mound in Detroit -- how crazy is that?! Who knew? You see, before the series I felt this series would go the distance, just like I knew Oakland would push it to five games again -- to think otherwise, is to disrespect the Boston Red Sox, who still have a few of those guys from the 2007 World Championship team. They know how to win, and you know it's going to be even tougher than Oakland. So you can understand the sudden excitement of jumping up a possible 3-0, worse comes to worse, we are up 2-0, and they get one back, no big deal, we still have an edge. I go back briefly, and I listen to the radio announcers mention the game is entering the bottom of the eighth and that Boston still trails 5-1 -- so I went back to my business, I can almost taste the victory, I felt like a Tiger literally licking it's chops. At this point, I think I looked at the clock and it was 11:40, maybe 11:45 pm. I go back to work and about 20 minutes later, I ran some garbages out with a coworker, and knowing that it should be near the end of the game, I decide to go check on the game.

While I rounded the corner, I started hearing all this commotion from my radio, and I could hear the Fenway faithful suddenly loud, and then I heard the Tigers' radio announcers Dan Dickerson (play-by-play) and former Tiger catcher Jim Price announce "What a comeback victory for the Boston Red Sox...". At first, I wasn't sure if I was hearing some flashback clip of Red Sox lore in 2004 or 2007, and they continued to say something on the lines of "They even the series up a game apiece with Detroit", and then that's when the shocking revelation hit -- it was strange, I felt like I was literally teleported into some weird alternate reality, but no it really happened. The truck guy showed up with all the food for the store, and he was beaming "So, did we win?!" -- apparently, he wasn't listening to the radio, and I had to catch him up -- "No Way?!? We had that one", my brother called sometime after that.



Through all that, I was still optimistic, and this is the way I was looking at it --as long as our rotation stays dead-on, keeps doing what they have been doing, we can win with some timely & clutch hitting. I was also looking at the fact that our starting pitching held the Red Sox to 2 hits through 16 full innings, and that it took some ridiculous miracle for Boston to just pull-even. We have J.V. on the mound in Game 3 at home, sure this one will sting a bit, we win Game 3 & Game 2 will be just a thought.

The problem is our bats never showed up in Game 3, and Justin Verlander's one mistake, a solo-blast by Mike Napoli proved to be the difference-maker. Our hitters looked lousy, and we lost to John Lackey, who at times threw good pitches, was throwing a lot of junk outside that our hitters couldn't stop swinging at. Ask a Red Sox fan, you would have thought they watched Jack Morris in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series or something. We lost that game, we had our opportunities and once again gave Verlander no run-support, which has become commonplace since the beginning of September.

Entering Game 4, Jim Leyland did something drastic that raised a few eye-brows, switching up the lineup in which Austin Jackson was moved to the bottom of the lineup (understandable), and moving Miguel Cabrera up to the second-slot, with Torii Hunter leading off (Say What?!) -- The end result, a butt-whooping on Jake Peavy, who simply didn't have it. Austin Jackson played well, the Tigers all seemed to be clicking -- the series is tied 2-2, and Leyland looks like a genius.

Throughout the series, I had to listen to Boston fans getting annoyed by Fox announcers Joe Buck & Tim McCarver (Sure, I agree they can be annoying... Joe Buck has gone downhill since people or Budweiser declared him a legend). Apparently, they are sick & tired of hearing about Tigers pitching this, and Tigers pitching that; Well, this is the deal... it's their job to mention the records that are being set at a ridiculous rate, what we are seeing here is something that will be talked about for ages, and it's time to sit back and realize you are watching an historic rotation, the best rotation (without a doubt, in my mind) since the days of the 90's Atlanta Braves. For these Boston fans, maybe they really didn't know much about our rotation, Detroit is not known to be a "media market" in the ways of Boston or New York, but we have been a dominating rotation since acquiring Doug Fister from Seattle in mid-2011, added Sanchez in 2012, Porcello even got better in the fifth spot. I will say this, great pitching is more impressive than showing the world that you can grow facial hair -- even worse, naming the beards.

So maybe it's a surprise to them, I don't know -- I do know this, to keep your viewer glued you got to spill out the incredible stats -- Do you think me or every baseball fan really wants to sit through another David Ortiz time-frame of memories for the 10,000th time? Probably not, but what he has accomplished is impressive, and with that, the stats and timelines are repeated -- Anytime they show the greatest World Series moments ever, you can count on seeing three moments for sure. Those three moments are the Carlton Fisk (1975 WS) home run, Kirk Gibson's 1988 HR off Eckersley & the ball bouncing between poor Bill Buckner's legs in the 1986 World Series. The difference in media markets is funny, you would think that most Detroit teams or any teams in general outside of New York & Boston play in a dark cave somewhere, or in Alaska?! LOL! Seriously, the 2004 NBA Finals comes to mind when the world seemed to wake-up and go, "wow this Detroit team has a great defense"; we only set an NBA record of like 6 straight games holding an opponent under 70 points -- YET! It can't be that Detroit is winning the finals, there must be something wrong with the L.A. Lakers; newsflash, those Lakers had problems all year long, and it just happened to be exposed on the national spotlight, if it wasn't for a Derek Fisher miracle shot, we would have been playing San Antonio most likely (which we would in 2005). I have gone on the defense for my Detroit teams, because I feel whenever our teams do accomplish something... it must be a fluke. If Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker & Jack Morris wore pinstripes, they would be in the Hall of Fame or getting in very soon because of that. Another example of the differences in media markets, we still hear about the New York Jets -- last time I checked they have not won anything since the days of Joe Nammath, so why do I have to hear about the stinkin' Jets every single time I turn on ESPN or sports radio! The Lions suck (I'm a Cowboys fan, if anyone was wondering, don't ask) but we don't constantly hear about them, unless they are going 0-16!

Anyways...

The Red Sox would go on an win Game 5. The play of the game in my eyes was when third base coach / former 84' Tiger Tom Brookens (for some odd reason) sent hobbling Miguel Cabrera from second (around third) to score, and he was a dead-out by a good ten feet -- play of the game. It sucked the air & electricity out of Comerica Park, Boston came back up the next half-inning & Mike Napoli (boy, does this guy have power?!) crushes a 445-foot HR to dead-center!

Now you heard me go on a bit about the Red Sox fan base, to show I'm fair my own Tiger fan base on numerous occasions have got be irked. First I'll start with Game 3 of the ALDS at home against Oakland, sure... we lost 1-0 in that instant classic game between Sonny Gray and Verlander. Judging from what I saw on TV, the crowd of Comerica Park appeared to be sitting on their hands, c'mon get off your asses, you're acting as if we are down 3-1! I was pretty disappointed in the fans' efforts that day, maybe even more than our team that day.

During Game 5 of the ALCS, I witnessed some of my facebook Tiger friends, making remarks such as "ANIBAL SANCHEZ SUCKS" in all caps -- I jumped all over him, with a calm head of course, but I remarked sarcastically "Yeah, you're right... he only won the A.L. ERA title, but he must suck", sure Sanchez wasn't sharp, but he was hardly the reason for our problems. This guy also use to make statements looking at the paper in the break-area at my old job, "Oh, Verlander's not pitching tonight? We're screwed" -- Gee, good to have the rest of the team's back there buddy! By the way Verlander pitched the night before in that 2011 ALCS against the Rangers, he can't pitch every night!

The Tigers tried to climb back into Game 5, but failed (like i mentioned above). On my way home, sports radio was taking calls, and a Boston fan called and cried up a storm, in fact he cut off Dana Jacobson, and started losing his cool. He was upset about there was no mention of Lackey's "great" game, and that McCarver & Buck were rooting for the Tigers since they only interviewed the Tiger pitchers between the innings (Dana called him out, and said the teams both get equal shots of the choice to get talked to or not) -- Tierney stepped in and mentioned Yankee fans used to say the same thing about McCarver & Buck, so don't give us that. He finally put the guy in his place, "dude, you are one game away from going to the World Series, and you are complaining buddy, when you should be enjoying this moment." Exactly, listening to that got me fired up, our pitching has been dominate & yet were down 3-2, and this guy is on the radio crying like a 'B'. I guess some people want it all

Now off this fan stuff, let's get down to Game 6 & possible Game 7.

For the Red Sox to advance to the World Series, they will have to get through Max Scherzer, and if they don't succeed there they will have to face Justin Verlander in Game 7. The Tigers have the same thing the 2001 World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks have going for them, their best two pitchers left for the series, and possibly the best 1-2 punch since that of Curt Schilling & Randy Johnson.


Justin Verlander has been on fire during the entire playoffs, in his three starts (his two starts in Oakland, plus one start vs Boston) he has a 1-1 record & 0.39 ERA (his one run, the Napoli HR in Game 3 of the ALCS), with 31 K's & 3 BB's in 23 innings! Max Scherzer is 2-0 in the playoffs with 26 K's.

I still feel we are destined to do the unthinkable, I felt we had to win two of the last three regardless. I felt if we won Game 5, Boston would have got Game 6 back, and then it would come down to Verlander for Game 7. We just did everything out of order, I'm not going to bend now.

Cardinals by the way, wrapped it up against the Dodgers last night, now we need to join them and host Game 1 at Comerica Park. Sure, I could be wrong and we might be going home early tonight -- or we tie it up, and force a Game 7. If I am wrong than hats off to Boston.

I could be wrong, but I've been right all post-season long.

GO TIGERS!

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Path of the Tigers

    For those that know me, I'm a huge Detroit Tigers fan -- and being a huge baseball fan, I'm going to talk about the things that I am passionate about, so I will apologize ahead of time -- but you'll hear a lot about my Detroit Tigers.

    From the beginning of the season, opening day, I said that the Detroit Tigers will win the World Series, for the following reasons, we made it there last year, and we want redemption. We added free agent Torii Hunter, who is not only a great defender & hitter, but he's a wonderful clubhouse presence -- add that to the return of Victor Martinez (who missed all of 2012) & a full season of Anibal Sanchez as part of the rotation, with an contract extension of Justin Verlander... I felt like we were golden. I had the Tigers over the Nationals, but as we know the Nats would under-achieve and not live up to their expectations.

     By mid-season we would no longer have the headache of Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit would settle in as the closer, and we also added Jose Iglesias (which made our defense so much-better) and Jose Veras to the bullpen. So despite the fact that our lineup cooling off, basically due to the injury that has been affecting Miguel Cabrera & the fact that we got no-hit by the lowly Marlins on the last game of the season -- I still loved our chances.

     Our first round opponent was once again the Oakland Athletics, I really wanted to pick this team to win the A.L. West, but at the last second I changed my mind (should have kept with my gut instinct). They proved they were no fluke, and proved they can deal with the ups & downs of a baseball season -- to be in the hunt all season, after coming out of nowhere the season before is a tough task, and just shows why Oakland was no joke having to deal with division contender Texas once again. So if last season went all five games, I knew this one would indeed go five (and it did) -- I feel this team is better than last year's edition as well.

     My brother Jared and I walked around Wal-Mart one day while shopping and talked about the up-coming series, he brought up (Oakland Manager) Bob Melvin's decision to pick Sonny Gray to start in Game 2. I told Jared I felt it was actually a good move, here you got a struggling Tigers offense, and you have to face a young pitcher you never have seen before, many cases this actually favors the rookie, and there has been plenty of cases where a rookie was placed in a high-pressure situation -- one that comes to mind is when the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals started rookie Anthony Reyes against my Tigers in the World Series. Speaking of Bob Melvin, the D-Backs & Mariners must be sick to their stomachs to let him go, I personally think he's an excellent manager and if Oakland is smart, they keep him there as long as possible.

     The stinker of the series was the fact that both me and my brother both had to work that night, and it drove us nuts that Major League Baseball won't learn from the NFL and start their baseball games earlier, 9:30 for Game 1 & 9:30 for Game 2 -- the first game I could actually watch in full was Game 3 and that was on Becky & I's seventh wedding anniversary. So I took the radio to work, the first game we won 3-0, got all three runs in the first. The next game was Game 2, or otherwise the game the world or Baseball got to meet Sonny Gray, like I said before I felt it was a good move by Melvin, seeing the numbers in his brief appearances this season, but no one knew he was going to be off-the-charts that night. Justin Verlander also had his A-game on (has been rolling since beginning of September), checking on the game at the break-table (at work) became excruciating with a 0-0 game, and the more it dragged on without us scoring, I knew it favored the home team very much. Eventually Stephen Vogt smacked a single through for the walk-off win in the bottom of the 9th off of Rick Porcello. After I watched the highlights the next morning, I knew and predicted that Justin Verlander will be saved for Game 5.

     Game 3 was a nightmare on the most part, I tried to watch it at home before the wife and I go celebrate our marriage, but the cable service was being a pain in the ass, so we decided to go to a bar downtown where we had drinks for our first date. The Tigers would lose 6-3, Anibal Sanchez allowed three home runs.

    The next day was Game 4, and I happened to have that day off too. It was not looking good through four innings, as we trailed 3-0 entering the bottom of the 5th; the wife started giving me the "Oh.. I'm sorry honey, there's always next year speech". Our team at this point has not scored a run for 21 innings, and then Jhonny Peralta came up, smacking a three-run HR to tie the ballgame. Jim Leyland would later bring Max Scherzer in for relief, in which I felt was a clever move, stupid media was questioning why he did start Scherzer, because we have an excellent pitcher for Game #4 in Doug Fister. This is the thing with the Tiger, you can try to match up with us the best you can, but when you have a pitcher as legit as Fister who can be an ace on the majority of the ballclubs in the MLB, you know you got it made. Once they wrapped Game 4 up, there was plenty of reason for Tigers fan to sigh in relief, because we knew we had the series with Verlander going to the mound in Game 5.

Verlander almost pitched a no-no, having it broke up in the late 7th Inning, he was on like he was in Game 2, and was setting historic marks. He set a major league record of 30 scoreless innings (dating back to last season's playoffs) against a single-opponent, breaking a mark that was held by Christy Mathewson (of 28 innings) against the Philadelphia Athletics. Verlander also became the second pitcher (the first right-hander) in MLB history with 10 or more strikeouts & zero runs allowed in back-to-back starts, joining Sandy Koufax; Koufax accomplished this in his Game 5 & Game 7 starts against the 1965 Minnesota Twins.

Next is Boston, as Boston took care of the Tampa Bay Rays, 3 games-to-1. The final four teams in the MLB playoffs are the Red Sox, Tigers, Cardinals & Dodgers; which is all fitting, because I believe many baseball fans will agree these four teams were mean't to finish as the final four -- since they were the four teams that stood out, especially in the second-half.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Best of the Best / Making the Teams


My beautiful wife Becky got me my Birthday present a little early (two weeks early) -- It is Sports Illustrated's "Baseball's Greatest", an excellent book with great pictures & brief stats that are straight to the point.

I always like these greatest players debates, and there is certainly always going to be an argument one way another, with who's better than who? Well, yeah he played in a tougher era & well, he was playing with an unfair advantage by cheating, or when did he exactly start cheating?

This book was put together by seven of Sports Illustrated's writers & editors who have had a huge background in baseball knowledge, and of those seven writers, a name that I trust and have tons of respect for, is that of Tom Verducci. If you don't know who Verducci is, than you probably have no clue about the game of baseball, and certainly don't watch the MLB Network or read Sports Illustrated. Verducci, is a mild-mannered writer who flat-out knows his stuff, poetic with his love for baseball, and spits out stats that are straight to the point. He is my kind of guy, and in a lot of ways his words to me, is that of Baseball Gospel.

Even so, there is 6 other writers, and these countdowns or top 10's or whatevers, can be quite messy -- not so much with this book, it was pretty spot-on. One of the best groups of lists if you ask me...

So here is goes...

I started thinking on the lines of Pastor Rich, with his super-teams -- The Hitmen & the Hurricanes, and made a roster of SI's "Baseball's Greatest" -- Top 2 of all the normal positions & their top three RH starting pitchers& top three LH starting pitchers, top 3 relievers, with a few other things.

Then I was going to modify the roster afterwards, put some of the new era guys, on their own new era team, and then I took it further by a Today's stars team & etc.

The first draft of the SI's "Baseball's Greatest" roster

C - Johnny Bench
C - Yogi Berra
1B - Lou Gehrig
1B - Albert Pujols
2B - Rogers Hornsby
2B - Joe Morgan
3B - Mike Schmidt
3B - George Brett
SS - Honus Wagner
SS - Cal Ripken, Jr.
LF - Ted Williams
LF - Stan Musial
CF - Willie Mays
CF - Ty Cobb
RF - Babe Ruth
RF - Hank Aaron
RHP - Walter Johnson
RHP - Christy Mathewson
RHP - Cy Young
LHP - Sandy Koufax
LHP - Lefty Grove
LHP - Warren Spahn
RP - Mariano Rivera
RP - Dennis Eckersley
RP - Rollie Fingers

The players above were #1-#2 in each of their positons, the pitchers & relievers were what they were ranked #1-#3 in the book, on these lists I noticed that a few new era players made the lists, so I felt we have to somewhat separate the eras, just a tad bit. I felt the two players to move were Albert Pujols & Mariano Rivera, it's strange moving Mo over, because he is indeed the #1 reliever of all-time, there is really no argument there -- The Yankees would not have won most of the titles if it were not for Rivera. I made the moves only because for the new era I had RP-Trevor Hoffman (#5 SI's relievers) & RP-Billy Wagner (#10 SI's relievers), they needed one more. There is more old school relievers, so I can bring up Rich Gossage who was #4 on the list.

To replace Albert Pujols, I went with the next guy in line, according to SI's list, and that is Jimmie Foxx.

The first draft of the SI's "Baseball's Greatest" roster
C - Johnny Bench
C - Yogi Berra
1B - Lou Gehrig
1B - Albert Pujols
1B - Jimmie Foxx
2B - Rogers Hornsby
2B - Joe Morgan
3B - Mike Schmidt
3B - George Brett
SS - Honus Wagner
SS - Cal Ripken, Jr.
LF - Ted Williams
LF - Stan Musial
CF - Willie Mays
CF - Ty Cobb
RF - Babe Ruth
RF - Hank Aaron
OF - Rickey Henderson
RHP - Walter Johnson
RHP - Christy Mathewson
RHP - Cy Young
LHP - Sandy Koufax
LHP - Lefty Grove
LHP - Warren Spahn
RP - Mariano Rivera
RP - Dennis Eckersley
RP - Rollie Fingers
RP - Rich Gossage

Managers
John McGraw
Joe McCarthy
Casey Stengel

The three managers were exactly the way they were ranked, I'm not quite sure if I would make McCarthy #2, but then again he had a lot of success, I sometimes think due to the fact he didn't have the personality or was not as out-spoken as the other two -- maybe that's why he's often overshadowed, but there is also a long line of skippers that follow on this list in which you can argue was a better manager even. Like I said before, it's all up for debate. Will I add coaches? Will I use other managers to be the coaches, maybe pitching coaches? Not sure, as of right now -- three managers, McGraw will have the ultimate decision, while the other two are his advisors, while still playing an important role.

You may noticed that I added Rickey Henderson to the roster, he is ranked #3 among the LF category, and of course took #1 for best baserunner. I plan to make the roster with 28 players, so with his addition that makes it 26 players.

It turns out they also have a Designated Hitter section, so I will add their #1 in Edgar Martinez to the group, Frank Thomas (#2) would be added to the New Era Team Roster with #3 David Ortiz. I decided to add another DH to the Greatest Roster in Paul Molitor, who also can be a backup second baseman & third baseman. 

The second draft of the SI's "Baseball's Greatest" roster
C - Johnny Bench
C - Yogi Berra
1B - Lou Gehrig
1B - Jimmie Foxx
2B - Rogers Hornsby
2B - Joe Morgan
3B - Mike Schmidt
3B - George Brett
SS - Honus Wagner
SS - Cal Ripken, Jr.
LF - Ted Williams
LF - Stan Musial
CF - Willie Mays
CF - Ty Cobb
RF - Babe Ruth
RF - Hank Aaron
OF - Rickey Henderson
DH - Edgar Martinez
DH/2B/3B - Paul Molitor
RHP - Walter Johnson
RHP - Christy Mathewson
RHP - Cy Young
LHP - Sandy Koufax
LHP - Lefty Grove
LHP - Warren Spahn
RP - Dennis Eckersley
RP - Rollie Fingers
RP - Rich Gossage

Managers
John McGraw
Joe McCarthy
Casey Stengel

Meanwhile, this is the New Era roster which is not really "new era", more like post-LCS era team -- might have to think up, more clever names, maybe I can get more help from the guys on the APBA Facebook Page. Any Suggestions?

The first draft of the "New Era" Team (# The rank in their respective position)
C - Ivan Rodriguez (#4)
C - Mike Piazza (#9)
1B - Albert Pujols (#2)
1B/DH - Mark McGwire (#10)
2B - Roberto Alomar (#6)
2B - Ryne Sandberg (#8)
3B - Wade Boggs (#4)
3B - Chipper Jones (#6)
3B/1B - Miguel Cabrera (#9)
SS - Derek Jeter (#3)
SS - Alex Rodriguez (#7)
LF - Barry Bonds (#4)
LF - Manny Ramirez (#10)
CF - Ken Griffey, Jr. (#6)
CF - Kirby Puckett (#9)
RF - Tony Gwynn (#9)
RF - Ichiro Suzuki (#11)
DH - Edgar Martinez (#1)
DH - Frank Thomas (#2)
DH - David Ortiz (#3)
RHP - Greg Maddux (#4)
RHP - Roger Clemens (#7)
RHP - Pedro Martinez (#8)
LHP - Randy Johnson (#4)
LHP - Tom Glavine (#9)
RP - Mariano Rivera (#1)
RP - Trevor Hoffman (#5)
RP - Billy Wagner (#10)

Managers
Tony La Russa (#4)
Bobby Cox (#8)
Joe Torre (#9)

These three managers I feel represent this era the best, I don't necessarily agree with Tony La Russa being so high on this list; in fact the statements that I'm about to post will probably shock people to their baseball core, but everyone has preferences and opinions on certain matters. For example some people feel the all-time hits leader (Pete Rose) should be in the Hall of Fame, others say "Hey, he broke the Cardinal rule". So here it is, I don't question that Tony La Russa was a good manager, I feel he is a bit over-rated, and I say this because he had a great roster with the Oakland Athletics in the late 80's, and some can argue if any manager could have done just as well -- plus, I don't buy the B.S. that he had no idea that Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco & others on that team were using steroids.

Oh yes, I feel there was definitely a good handful of players on that "dynasty"/ powerhouse club -- seriously, there is a picture of that A's team along the 3B line for the playoffs, and when you compare them to one of the teams on the other base path, it is almost downright hilarious the difference in size, Ron Hassey even was huge -- Hello, Dave Henderson, Dave Parker? Parker suddenly went through a brief career rebirth in Milwaukee, just after Jose introduced him to some candy with his time in Oakland. 

Another thing about La Russa, I think Dave Duncan doesn't get enough credit as the pitching coach, La Russa took him everywhere he went, couldn't live without him -- just in the same way, Bill Parcells couldn't live without Bill Belichick; am I the only one that noticed that Parcels couldn't win without him? Back to baseball & La Russa; La Russa sometimes was a bit too smug, and I feel Cox has him beat in numerous areas. #4 is too high, when considering other managers like Earl Weaver, Sparky Anderson & Walter Alston.

You may notice above that Edgar Martinez's name crossed off, that's because I had him originally as a New Era member, but I bumped him up. All the guys who received votes, were noted in order in the back of the book -- I wanted Ichiro Suzuki to be represented in the New Era, and it turns out he was the next guy from that era (missing the top 10 to a questionable choice of Paul Waner at #10 for SI.

That puts the roster at 27, I did notice that I don't have a #3 LHP -- no other received a vote in this era, so that will have to wait for now. Looking at Miguel Cabrera started bothering me, because he seems to be out of place, and the whole idea that players of today's game like Joe Mauer, Joey Votto & Mike Trout started bothering me -- they would have to have a team for Today's stars. Plus I noticed that Jeff Bagwell was missing from the New Era in which he would fit perfectly & of course there was noticeable stars missing from the Greatest Team, especially ones that wore pinstripes. In the end Miguel with the current pace of his career will be on the Greatest Team, and possibly the greatest five or so, when it's all said and done -- but we will have to wait and see.

I also felt "Big Papi" would fit in with Today's Stars as well, so I added Jeff Bagwell & his teammate Craig Biggio.

The second draft of the "New Era" Team 
C - Ivan Rodriguez 
C - Mike Piazza 
1B - Albert Pujols 
1B/DH - Mark McGwire 
1B - Jeff Bagwell
2B - Roberto Alomar 
2B - Ryne Sandberg 
2B/C - Craig Biggio
3B - Wade Boggs
3B - Chipper Jones 
3B/1B - Miguel Cabrera 
SS - Derek Jeter 
SS - Alex Rodriguez 
LF - Barry Bonds 
LF - Manny Ramirez 
CF - Ken Griffey, Jr. 
CF - Kirby Puckett 
RF - Tony Gwynn 
RF - Ichiro Suzuki 
DH - Frank Thomas 
DH - David Ortiz (#3)
RHP - Greg Maddux 
RHP - Roger Clemens 
RHP - Pedro Martinez 
LHP - Randy Johnson
LHP - Tom Glavine 
RP - Mariano Rivera 
RP - Trevor Hoffman 
RP - Billy Wagner 

Managers
Tony La Russa (#4)
Bobby Cox (#8)
Joe Torre (#9)


Personally, I feel we can't have a roster without the greatest switch-hitting slugger of all-time, not to mention the fact he has tons of HR's & is the all-time postseason (World Series) HR leader -- No, Mickey Mantle? I don't think so. The tough thing is, he beats out Joe DiMaggio for the spot. Which also means someone's got to go, sorry Goose! Plus now with 8 outfielders, I feel having the extra DH in Paul Molitor is too much, to make me keeping Edgar the #1 DH legit, especially considering that DiMaggio is not on the roster, that means Mariano Rivera should be on this roster.


The third draft of the SI's "Baseball's Greatest" roster
C - Johnny Bench
C - Yogi Berra
1B - Lou Gehrig
1B - Jimmie Foxx
2B - Rogers Hornsby
2B - Joe Morgan
3B - Mike Schmidt
3B - George Brett
SS - Honus Wagner
SS - Cal Ripken, Jr.
LF - Ted Williams
LF - Stan Musial
CF - Willie Mays
CF - Ty Cobb
RF - Babe Ruth
RF - Hank Aaron
OF - Mickey Mantle
OF - Rickey Henderson
DH - Edgar Martinez
DH/2B/3B - Paul Molitor
RHP - Walter Johnson
RHP - Christy Mathewson
RHP - Cy Young
LHP - Sandy Koufax
LHP - Lefty Grove
LHP - Warren Spahn
RP - Mariano Rivera
RP - Dennis Eckersley
RP - Rollie Fingers


RP - Rich Gossage


Managers
John McGraw
Joe McCarthy
Casey Stengel


Which means we need to fix the reliever situation, instead of bringing up the next relievers in line to meet this era in John Franco, Lee Smith -- I noticed John Smoltz's name #13 on the relief list, he can work really well as the possible 6th/alternate starting pitcher as well, plus Glavine & Maddux without Smoltzie just seems wrong. Plus it was the era of the shortstop going to that next level, hello Barry Larkin!


The third draft of the "New Era" Team 
C - Ivan Rodriguez 
C - Mike Piazza 
1B - Albert Pujols 
1B/DH - Mark McGwire 
1B - Jeff Bagwell
2B - Roberto Alomar 
2B - Ryne Sandberg 
2B/C - Craig Biggio
3B - Wade Boggs
3B - Chipper Jones 
SS - Derek Jeter 
SS - Alex Rodriguez
SS - Barry Larkin 
LF - Barry Bonds 
LF - Manny Ramirez 
CF - Ken Griffey, Jr. 
CF - Kirby Puckett 
RF - Tony Gwynn 
RF - Ichiro Suzuki 
DH - Frank Thomas 
RHP - Greg Maddux 
RHP - Roger Clemens 
RHP - Pedro Martinez 
LHP - Randy Johnson
LHP - Tom Glavine
P / RP - John Smoltz
RP - Mariano Rivera 
RP - Trevor Hoffman 
RP - Billy Wagner 

Managers
Tony La Russa 
Bobby Cox 
Joe Torre


In time I will put together a roster of Today's stars, but here are the final rosters (or are they? LOL!) for the GREATEST TEAM & NEW ERA TEAM.

The final draft of the SI's "Baseball's Greatest" roster
C - Johnny Bench
C - Yogi Berra
1B - Lou Gehrig
1B - Jimmie Foxx
2B - Rogers Hornsby
2B - Joe Morgan
3B - Mike Schmidt
3B - George Brett
SS - Honus Wagner
SS - Cal Ripken, Jr.
LF - Ted Williams
LF - Stan Musial
CF - Willie Mays
CF - Ty Cobb
RF - Babe Ruth
RF - Hank Aaron
OF - Mickey Mantle
OF - Rickey Henderson
DH - Edgar Martinez
RHP - Walter Johnson
RHP - Christy Mathewson
RHP - Cy Young
LHP - Sandy Koufax
LHP - Lefty Grove
LHP - Warren Spahn
RP - Mariano Rivera
RP - Dennis Eckersley
RP - Rollie Fingers


Managers
John McGraw
Joe McCarthy
Casey Stengel


The final draft of the "New Era" Team 
C - Ivan Rodriguez 
C - Mike Piazza 
1B - Albert Pujols 
1B/DH - Mark McGwire 
1B - Jeff Bagwell
2B - Roberto Alomar 
2B - Ryne Sandberg 
2B/C - Craig Biggio
3B - Wade Boggs
3B - Chipper Jones 
SS - Derek Jeter 
SS - Alex Rodriguez
SS - Barry Larkin 
LF - Barry Bonds 
LF - Manny Ramirez 
CF - Ken Griffey, Jr. 
CF - Kirby Puckett 
RF - Tony Gwynn 
RF - Ichiro Suzuki 
DH - Frank Thomas 
RHP - Greg Maddux 
RHP - Roger Clemens 
RHP - Pedro Martinez 
LHP - Randy Johnson
LHP - Tom Glavine
P / RP - John Smoltz
RP - Trevor Hoffman 
RP - Billy Wagner 

Managers
Tony La Russa 
Bobby Cox 
Joe Torre

Now... what do we do with the left-overs? Make an "In-Between Team"?


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

May Day!?!

Guillen is hoping for a better June.
For my 2007 Tigers Replay, the Detroit Tigers knew entering the month of May things would get a bit interesting and definitely more challenging.

As you know, we were rolling entering the Metrodome ("Metrodome Blues") with a 11-3 stretch, and then Minnesota swept us in a three-game series, and then we had to head to Boston. The eventual World Champions of 2007 took three of four at Fenway. We would bounce back a bit by taking our first inter-league series of the year against the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-1 at home & we would also host the Angels, in which we took two of three from them as well.

Then it was our first series against our division foe, the eventual A.L. Champion Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Justin Verlander pitches his 2nd shutout of the season, as we defeat the Tribe, 7-0 for the opener; but then followed that with 8-2 & 11-8 losses. During the 8-2 loss, Jeremy Bonderman suffered his first loss of the season, at the hands of C.C. Sabathia, as Bonderman is 5-1.

We would travel down to Tropicana Field in Tampa, which we won the first game 9-4, and then followed that victory with a 12-inning 3-2 victory. With a chance of a sweep, I loved my chances with Verlander on the mound (coming off of his shutout), instead fielding mistakes by the Tigers and untimely walks by Verlander made it a short night for him with 4 ER's (7 runs) allowed in four innings. The Devil Rays' James Shields would shutout the Tigers, allowing only two hits.

Now we have to go back up north to face the Indians in Cleveland for a big, early four-game series. The opener was a rematch between C.C. Sabathia & Jeremy Bonderman -- and boy, did they deliver? Bonderman would go nine innings of one run allowed, while striking out seven; while C.C. struck out six through ten innings, allowing only a run himself. The game would go through 15 innings! Until Casey Blake hit a walk-off three-run HR as Jacobs Field went nuts.

The Tigers finish the month, with a record of 30-23; going a even .500 with a 14-14 record in the month of May, trailing first-place the Cleveland Indians by 2.5 games. Tigers will continue the rest of the four-game series starting in June.

The Tigers' bats cooled off dramatically in the month of May, dropping from a team average of .301 in April, while batting .267 in May. The Tigers had five starters batting over .300 by end of April, only Magglio Ordonez batted over .300 in the month of May with an amazing .417 mark. He is currently batting .389 with 17 HR's & 46 RBI (An OPS of 1.191)! Carlos Guillen had a rough May, batting only .147, while driving in only 10 runs (he also hit into 6 DP's).

The pitching remained the same with a 4.37 ERA as their starting pitching did better, while the Tigers' bullpen kept going south. Chad Durbin finished the month with a 6-1 record, despite a 4.66 ERA, while Jeremy Bonderman has been the most consistent starting pitcher with a 5-1 record & 3.74 ERA.

No telling where the Tigers will be by the end of June, but hopefully it will go better than May.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Autumn Days of Years Past

     Anybody that follows my blog knows that I breath, eat, bleed baseball, and for anyone who bleeds baseball they also bleed for their teams, especially when their teams go to the playoffs. I am a fan of both the Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves, if I was to absolutely choose one, I would have to definitely lean towards my home state Tigers. I still love the Braves, but the love is different, I loved the 90's Braves in which had all the great pitching led by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.

     The great thing about Baseball is that it comes to an end in my favorite time of year, in the month of October. I love the autumn, and so does my wife; for us we enjoy it in the same way as others enjoy summer vacation. We love all the leaves changing, the cooler, more comfortable temps & we both love Halloween. Another reason I love autumn, is that my Birthday falls on October 28th.

      It was the time of year, as a kid where we enjoy October Baseball, while the NFL is just getting underway, we get a few little games of baseball done outside before it got too cold, and we would also play football. There was always something beautiful about the smell of burning leaves, and that crisp breeze -- getting out of school and hanging with your friends, then when it got dark (which came early), it was dinner & time to do the homework. But there was something always magical for that time of year.

     My first memories of October playoffs, of course was the 1984 World Series. In those days, my dad was have the TV on, and there was Al Kaline & George Kell doing the television work. If we won the Tiger's head burst through the logo and roared, when they lost he meowed like a kitten and had a thermometer in his mouth & a bag sitting on top of hit. Sometimes it roared while biting on a bat, and sometimes in special circumstances like playing the Blue Jays, there would be Blue bird feathers floating around, yep... the Tiger had a snack. It was pretty cool to know that my dad graduated high school with Kirk Gibson of the 84' Tigers, one of my elementary classmates' mothers happened to be a cousin to another Michigan native in Dave Rozema. I will have to talk more of my dad knowing Gibby in the near future, but for now back to baseball memories.

     Though the 84' season was something to cherish, the first real post-season in which I absolutely fell in love with the game and have been hooked since, was the epic 1986 World Series. It had everything, many colorful characters (and nicknames.. Oil Can, Mookie), many young studs (Strawberry, Clemens, Gooden) and just so much drama -- Hello Game 6! I remember watching that inning unfold thinking.. you can't write this stuff, not to mention the brilliance of Vin Scully. From then on, I was hooked, I would go in my backyard, at times all by myself reenacting actual plays, or making up scenarios of me growing up to be some up-and-coming baseball hero, with me voicing over the plays in my Scully or Bob Costas voice. Sometimes I would have the theme of "This Week in Baseball" on repeat, bouncing around in the background of my head while throwing the ball up to myself.

     1987 would cement my love for baseball with the Tigers' wonderful run to catch the Blue Jays. I remember we had to go to my Aunt's and on the way back we listened to Ernie Harwell breaking down one of the games where we gained another game on them, and my getting excited. Talking about the young guys who helped our vets doing the impossible, a division that looked like the Jays. My dad talking about the brilliance of us acquiring Doyle Alexander. Alexander will go down as one of the most intriguing trade acquisitions in MLB history for both good and bad reasons -- the good, he set an impressive 9-0 record with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts; the bad? He was acquired from the Atlanta Braves, in exchange we would send Detroit-Native John Smoltz in the deal. We were 3 1/2 games out by the end of the day on Sept 26th, losing three straight to the Blue Jays, the Jays have now won 11 of their last 13 as well.

     But tomorrow is another day, and on that day we won a 13 inning game against the Jays to pull within 2 1/2. The next series we split 2-2 with the Orioles, while the Jays got swept by the Brewers in three games -- the Jays were 1 1/2 up and with Detroits 4th-game victory over Baltimore, Tigers pulled within a game now. The schedule had the Jays coming to Detroit for the last three remaining games of the season, Tigers edged the Jays in a night game with 4-3 victory (Alexander getting win #9 & a save to Henneman), we were tied in first, with two games remaining. I remember the excitement at school, and the talk on the playground, even the teachers were thrilled. The next game we would win in extras (12 innings) 3-2, with the win going to Henneman, the loss to Musselman. The last game of the season, the teachers brought the TV into the classroom, Larry Herndon hit a solo HR, the only run in the game. Frank Tanana pitched a complete-game shutout & it was off to the playoffs, I would remember the heartache that would follow when we lost to Minnesota. The "under-dog" Minnesota Twins won the A.L. West with only 85 wins-- their 85 wins would be the lowest total of regular season wins for a World Championship (the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals would break that record with 83 wins). The lowest total for a World Series contender belongs to the 1973 New York Mets, if you were all wondering. Another note on the Twins, they back-pedaled into the playoffs losing five straight & according to Baseball Reference.com, their Pythagorean Record was that of a 79-83 team. I do remember the heartache of 1987, but I also remember the thrill of catching Toronto that season, and thinking how we came so close.

     Little did I know at the time it would be another 19 years until my Tigers ever return to the post-season & another five years until a division title (24 years between division titles) -- So in some ways I can relate to the Pittsburgh Pirates' fans. The 2013 Tigers team would make it three-straight division titles for the first time in their entire (long) franchise history.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mariano Rivera's Journey (An Excerpt from SI)


Just to put Mariano Rivera's accomplishments into perspective, here is a nice piece by no other than Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci.

"The son of a Panamanian fisherman became baseball royalty, though it was a hegemony hard-earned, not given. Rivera signed with the Yankees in 1990 at age 20 for just $3,000 and promptly made the first airplane trip of his life to report to spring training in Tampa. He injured his elbow in '92 and had ligament-repair surgery. He was left unprotected by the Yankees in the expansion draft later that year but went undrafted by the Rockies and the Marlins, nearly was traded to the Tigers in '95 for lefthander David Wells and in '96 to the Mariners for shortstop Felix Fermin, and washed out as a major league starting pitcher with a 5.94 ERA in 10 chances in '95. Only then and in the bullpen, especially in October, did Rivera make his indelible mark."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Metrodome Blues

The Up's & Down's of Todd Jones.
The 2007 Detroit Tigers started the month of May exactly where they left off in April (winning 5 of 6); entering Game #32 (May 9th) the Tigers were 21-10, winning 10 of their last 12 games. After the Tigers won the first game against Seattle, they split the next two, as the Tigers headed to Minnesota with a 22-11 record.

I was thinking I had to be at least three games ahead of the actual season pace, turns out I was only a game ahead of pace for the most part (up to as many as 2 games ahead).

at MINNESOTA
Game #34 - Durbin (4-0) vs. Jo.Santana
Game #35- K.Rogers (0-3) vs. S.Baker
Game #36- Maroth (1-0) vs. Bonser

Originally with Justin Verlander being my ace, his turn in the rotation was due for a start on Game #36, but since the Twins had Boof Bonser pitching that game, I pushed Verlander's start back a game, so I can have my best four pitchers (including Verlander to kick off the series) in Boston for it's tough four-game series. Mike Maroth will get his 2nd start of the season for Detroit.

I beat Johan Santana a few weeks back at home, but now we face him in the Metrodome.

The Tigers at one point had a 3-1 lead, until Jason Kubel (batting 7th) hit a two-run HR, that's the thing about Rod Gardenhire's Twins then, they were tough, great fundamental team & had guys like Jason Kubel with HR power in the 7th spot!

The Twins' batting order:
1. Luis Castillo - 2B
2. Jason Bartlett -SS
3. Joe Mauer - C
4. Micheal Cuddyer - RF
5. Justin Morneau -1B
6. Torii Hunter - CF
7. Jason Kubel -DH
8. Jason Tyner - LF
9. Nick Punto - 3B

The team is usually a solid fielding one in APBA (43 pts), they have an ace in Santana (his last season with Minnesota), a closer in Joe Nathan. They would later trade 2B-Luis Castillo to the New York Mets, which didn't help the Mets from eventually choking the division lead to the Phillies.

The Twins would add 5 more runs with their 7th & 8th innings, as my bullpen (which was much-better of late, at least before Minnesota) reverts to it's problems. The final score would be 9-4, handing Chad Durbin his first loss (4-1).

In the 2nd game of the series, I started Ryan Raburn in left -- trying to get some batting average in there, Craig Monroe & Marcus Thames are my regular left-fielders. Monroe was over-achieving in batting average for quite awhile, but is now starting to come back down to Earth, as his average is now down to .247 (in real-life he batted .212 & would be traded to the Cubs in the 2nd half). Thames batted .242 in 2007, but has been lousy for me through 40 at-bats (.125 batting average)! The move for Raburn to start seemed to pay off as he hit his 2nd HR of the season with a three-run blast off of Scott Baker. The Twins of course, would fight back with a two-run HR by Justin Morneau, the Twins would score another run in the fourth to tie it up 3-3. It would stand this way until the Twins load up the bases & score the winning run on a grounder hit by Joe Mauer to Brandon Inge -- as Nick Punto the winning run scores, walk-off.

So I'm trying to avoid my first sweep of the season, entering the 3rd & final game of the series, I have Mike Maroth against Bonser. Maroth won his only start of the season (4 ER in 6 IP)on the last day in April against the Baltimore Orioles -- Maroth has pitched 6 relief innings allowing only a run this season as well. Maroth is an APBA D-R and would actually go deep into the game, not allowing a single run for the first seven innings, advancing his APBA Grade to an A-R entering the 8th. Maroth would allow a run in the bottom of the 8th, but still had a 4-1 lead -- thanks to Brandon Inge's three-run HR in the second inning.
Todd Jones entered the game with 9 saves, but would blow the save, the Twins would tie the game, force extras, in which Jason Bartlett (who came off the bench for Casilla) would hit a two-out triple & score the winning run off Luis Castillo's walk-off single. Grrrrrr...

So now it's off the Beantown, to face the eventual World Champions, coming off a deflating sweep & a bullpen that just doesn't have any answers -- Oh joy! Did I mention I am now a game behind pace of the actual season, and also have Cleveland at the end of the month.

The real-life Tigers started to hit a snag at this point as well, and would lose their first five meetings against the eventual A.L. Central Champion Cleveland Indians. Everything has mirrored actual life up to this point, hopefully we can reverse fate against Boston & Cleveland.

One thing is for sure, we have our work cut out for us.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Successful April for Tigers

For Sheff, there wasn't much to smile about at the beginning.
I started exactly a week ago, and have already finished the month of April with the 2007 Detroit Tigers ahead of pace record-wise; we finished the opening month 16-9 (in real-life they were 14-11), no to mention the two games I feel we totally blown as well, meaning we could have been 18-7 at the end of the month... but no crying over spilled milk -- like Tom Hanks says "There is no crying in Baseball!"

The cool news, I still have tonight on my two-day break to get half of May done! Pretty awesome, since I wasn't going to start until October 1st to kick this one-month break from the Crazy 48's. I even played three games of that league as well. So 28 games in a week, and I usually can bust up to 16-20 games overnight, only played 6 last night. So I feel like I'm on a roll... while still being able to do my wonderful husband duties as well.

The Tigers splits look good with 8 wins at home & on the road, and have won 3 of their 4 extra-innings games -- they lost 5 of 7 extra-innings games in real-life for the opening month.

The Opening Day Lineup was like this:
1. Curtis Granderson -CF
2. Placido Polanco -2B
3. Magglio Ordonez - RF
4. Gary Sheffield - DH
5. Carlos Guillen - SS
6. Sean Casey -1B
7. Ivan Rodriguez - C
8. Marcus Thames - LF
9. Brandon Inge - 3B

Sean Casey & Ivan Rodriguez every-other game was flip-flopping their slots, I have stuck with Pudge in the 6th spot (his natural spot that season) since coming back from his 5-game stint on the disabled list. Magglio Ordonez has always been an idea #3 slot batter for me, especially with that 2007 APBA Card of his, he consistently hits for his .363 batting average & also showed that in my Heritage League, being a force, batting 3rd for the Bay Area Athletics. In real-life, Jim Leyland had Gary Sheffield batting 3rd (who batted .260 that season), I never liked hitting a low-average guy in the 3rd slot, so Mags has hit in the 3rd slot all season for me. Craig Monroe has played the majority at LF.

SHIFTING SHEFF
Gary Sheffield, the newly acquired Detroit Tiger in 2007 was struggling for me through 15 games, batting only .156 (10-for-64) with a HR & 6 RBI -- it turns out in real-life (and I do remember this) he struggled as well, batting an even-lower .125!

For two games, I shifted him & Ordonez to their normal slots... and Sheff did better, but I didn't like putting Ordonez out of the desired #3 slot. While looking over the stats after 15 games, I did notice Carlos Guillen was batting in the .320's and was doing well.

Starting Game #17, I moved Sheffield to the fifth slot, and had Carlos Guillen batting cleanup, which is interesting because Leyland has used Guillen plenty of times in the cleanup spot as well. Since Game #15, Gary Sheffield has been on a tear, batting .471 (16-for-34), 3 HR's & 16 RBI in the 10-game span, his average moved up to .265, and now leads the team with 22 RBI.

LINEUP CLICKING
Curtis Granderson hitting .400 for most of the month has cooled off (4-for-17), having his batting average drop to .373, while Magglo Ordonez is 2nd on the team (.360). Ivan Rodriguez (.337), Placido Polanco (.333) & Carlos Guillen (.330) all follow; that's five regular starters over .330! Granderson leads the team with 6 long-balls & an extraordinary 29 runs (on pace for 188 runs), while Polanco has been benefiting by hitting in Granderson for 20 RBI -- that is almost one-third of his real-life RBI total of 67.

A MAN THEY CALL GRUDZ
I mentioned above that we had two games escape us, one of them was a game we led 7-2 after three innings (7-3 after 7 innings), in which Mark Grudzielanek sparked a four-run 8th on the Tigers. That series he killed us, batting .429 (6-for-14) with 2 HR, 3 2B's & 6 RBI! The other game may not look like much on paper, but the tone of the game was ours, we were up 2-0 in the ninth, and only allowed three hits to the White Sox (two of them by Pierzynski) when A.J. Pierzynski with two men on base smacked a three-run HR in the ninth. Bobby Jenks would come in to close the door.

KEEPING IT REAL
Just like in most cases with APBA and with Replays, it's very difficult to try to exactly duplicate things. I try to be respectful in trying to play it out as real as possible, by trying to respect the innings-pitched & at-bats counts -- but you can only do so much. All my relievers are well on their way to going over their innings and appearances, hitters in APBA usually have their offensive power a bit inflated (Albert Belle has 16 HR's in 23 games for my Crazy 48's already), which means lineups go further, more at-bats, games go longer (more extra-inning fun), which means in the long run you are not going to succeed in trying to keep the relievers in the neighborhood of their actual maxed innings. I try to keep it real by mixing it up, and keep them all around each other, and not have one guy go two-to-three innings every time he goes out there. Bobby Seay is my best relief grade at A-XZ, but I stay true and make Todd Jones my closer at a flat Grade C.

I once read a APBA fan's 1968 Tigers replay in which Al Kaline hit something like 40 HR's! Say What?! To me, that's not trying to be true to the Replay; in real-life Kaline only had 10 HR & 53 RBI in 327 at-bats, he was an injury rating J-3 for APBA. Sure I can say, hey I'm making Seay my closer, but to me that wouldn't feel right, because that would be a decision made on hindsight of the actual result -- I would be more behind a guy who was doing a 2006 Tigers Season Replay, in which the guy made Joel Zumaya the closer, because in a lot of ways, he was the closer-in-waiting -- it's unfortunate how the rest of his career has turned out, last I checked the Twins had him in the farm system somewhere.

I try to do the same with the bench, sure there is a part of me that would love to play Ryan Raburn a bit more, or Omar Infante, but to keep it real they will be bench guys for me in 2007.


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