Archive for May, 2011
Last week: 3-3
This week: MIN (5/30-6/1); at CWS (6/3-5)
So, What Happened?
MMM looks at last week’s record, sees 3-3, and shakes his head, because it didn’t “feel” like a .500 week. It felt much, much worse.
Let’s start with losing three straight to the Red Sox over the weekend, which only accentuated why MMM doesn’t believe our Motor City Kitties are ready for prime time.
Then there was the strange Scott Sizemore trade, and the demotion of Ryan Perry and the handing of the 2B job to Ryan Freaking Raburn.
All that, and yet the Tigers played .500 for the week. Go figure.
The week began with a pair of victories over hot Tampa Bay, if you can remember that far back, because everything described above happened after the Rays left town.
The Tigers also lost an opportunity to gain ground on the Indians, who have lost four of five.
Hero of the Week
MMM is tempted to give the honor to young lefty Andy Oliver, who pitched well in his 2011 debut on Sunday.
But it’s tough to go against Justin Verlander after what he did on Sunday night in the DH nightcap.
The Tigers were semi-reeling, looking like they were about to go off on another of those long losing streaks (it was at three and looking ominous) and be swept in four games at home to Boston, when Verlander came to the rescue.
JV shut the Bosox down, throwing a career-high 132 pitches and allowing zero, zip, nada runs.
He did what he had to do, when he had to do it—especially given the Tigers’ popgun offense.
Anyone else want to argue that Max Scherzer, not JV, is the Tigers’ ace?
Goat of the Week
MMM can’t understand, nor stomach, manager Jim Leyland’s stubbornness.
Why he continues to bat the consistent Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila in the lower third of a batting order that is on life support is beyond MMM’s comprehension.
MMM says top load the order with Austin Jackson, Peralta, Avila, Miggy Cabrera and Victor Martinez and see what happens.
Then Leyland declared that Raburn was his everyday second baseman on Friday night, and said the season for RR “starts tomorrow.”
Well, on Opening Day, Raburn did his usual strikeout boogie, and ended Sunday’s first game by being emasculated by Jonathan Papelbon on three pitches.
MMM is making Leyland the goat for his refusal to shake up a batting order that badly needs it.
MMM is tired of seeing the likes of Don Kelly and Andy Dirks (no offense, kid) in the two and three holes.
Under the Microscope
This week it’s not a player, per se, who’s UtM, but an entire position.
While you could make a case that that position ought to be 2B, MMM is putting 3B UtM.
This is because suddenly there’s a pseudo platoon going on at the hot corner, with Brandon Inge and Kelly taking turns, against lefties and righties, respectively.
Inge told the media the other day, “I think (sitting out the last two games) was a way to get me fired up and to bear down.”
After which Inge promptly went out and put on another couple of feeble offensive displays.
Neither Inge nor Kelly can hit. Kelly’s RBI single late in Sunday’s nightcap was just his THIRD ribbie of the season—and Don’s been on the roster since Opening Day!!
Eyes should be trained on 2B, too, because there may be a trade a-comin’.
But for now, let’s focus our attention on 3B and see what plays out there. Why? Because MMM is a masochist!
Upcoming: Twins and White Sox
The 17-34 Twins invade CoPa for three games. The Tigers must make sure the Twinkies leave town at least 18-36.
That’s all MMM is going to say about that series. Nothing more needs to be said.
As for the White Sox, they’ve been showing some life lately, though they’re still “scuffling,” as Rod Allen would say.
The Tigers, for whatever reason, have owned the Chisox in a winning streak over the South Siders that goes back to last season. MMM has lost track of how many games in a row the Tigers have won between the two teams, but it’s a lot.
Will the streak continue through the upcoming weekend?
You’ll never get MMM to put a bet down where the Tigers are concerned. They’re more unpredictable than a woman choosing a pair of shoes.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!
Folks who’ve been reading me lately know how frustrated I’ve been with Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who is in the last year of his contract. The frustration stems from the Tigers having a golden opportunity to seize a division while their arch enemy White Sox and Twins are struggling, yet they are giving games away (my opinion) with questionable lineups and personnel moves.
While the latter isn’t Leyland’s responsibility, the former is, and with the Marlboro Man not having been extended yet by owner Mike Ilitch, it begs the question: who should the Tigers look at as a possible replacement?
The team isn’t likely to move on this during the season, unless the Tigers completely go into the tank. The Tigers have only made three in-season managerial moves since 1973 (1979,1998 and 2002).
But if they’re looking for a new skipper, the Tigers might want to add the following five guys’ names to their speed dial.
Tom Brookens, Tigers third base coach.
I’m a little squeamish about promoting from within, especially a guy who was hand-picked by Leyland to replace Andy Van Slyke as first base coach before the 2010 season.
But Brookens only has 212 games of Leyland’s stench on him, and he was a great Tiger and a pretty good minor league manager. One of my first thoughts after I heard that the former third baseman was returning to the big club was that he might be Leyland’s successor one day.
Could that day come next season? Tommy’s a long shot, because typically first base coaches don’t make the leap to manager, but Brookens has managed before, just not at the MLB level.
DeMarlo Hale, Red Sox bench coach.
Hale was promoted to bench coach for the Red Sox before the 2010 season by manager Terry Francona, after several years as third base coach.
Hale is an astute baseball man who was rumored to be among the finalists for the Blue Jays managerial job last winter.
Hale’s managerial career began in 1993 in the Red Sox lower minor league system. He managed at the AAA level in 2000-01 while in the Texas Rangers system.
Hale’s promotion speaks volumes, and his being in the running for the Toronto job tells me that he might be a hot commodity of the up-and-coming variety.
Hale will turn 50 in July, and he’s a Chicago guy, so he knows the midwestern area and how passionate the baseball fans are around these parts.
Pete Mackanin, Phillies bench coach.
Pete Mackanin, the Phillies bench coach, has served as a big league manager twice in interim stints—with the Pirates in 2005 and with the Reds in 2007. He didn’t overwhelm in either instance, but he was interim.
Mackanin has been the right hand man of Charlie Manuel since before the 2009 season. Mackanin’s been a big league player, a scout, a coach, and an interim manager.
If the Tigers want to poach a bench coach of a successful organization from the National League (a la with Hale of the Red Sox), then they could do a lot worse than Mackanin.
Jerry Manuel, former White Sox and Mets manager.
Jerry Manuel is another who has ties to the Tigers organization, having made his big league playing debut with them in 1975.
He’s also managed in the big leagues, and in the Tigers division—with the White Sox. He’s also noted for being left twisting in the wind with the Mets as their skipper.
Manuel, nicknamed “The Sage,” is a little longer in the tooth these days (he’ll be 58 in December) but if you can handle managing in New York and survive with your dignity (and sanity!), then you would presumably be well-prepped to manage the Tigers.
Manuel was the AL Manager of the Year in 2000.
Bob Brenly, former Diamondbacks manager.
Bob Brenly, currently broadcasting for the Cubs, hasn’t managed in the big leagues since 2004, and only has managed for 3+ seasons at the big league level, period.
But oh, how successful they were.
Brenly’s first Arizona Diamondbacks team, in 2001, won the World Series, ending the Yankees stranglehold on the Fall Classic.
In 2002, Brenly’s team again won the NL West with 98 wins, but flamed out in the NLDS, getting swept by the Cardinals.
In 2003, the D-Backs won 84 games but finished third. The following season, Brenly was relieved after a 29-50 start.
But he still wants to manage; Brenly has been applying and interviewing, but hasn’t been able to find his way back into a dugout.
Brenly, a former big league catcher (those types seem to make good managers) is an Ohio native, which would suit him well managing for the Tigers.
And two who’d be great but who aren’t coming: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays manager; and Kirk Gibson, Arizona D-Backs manager.
Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon, I think, would be terrific for the Tigers, and his effusive praise of some of the Tigers young players last week while the Rays were in town raised my eyebrows.
But Maddon is under contract with the Rays through the 2012 season, making it highly unlikely that he’d be hired by the Tigers.
Also under contract through 2012 is Arizona’s Kirk Gibson, and I don’t think I have to list why Kirk would be a good fit in Detroit, especially seeing the success he’s having so far with the D-Backs.
It’s Memorial Day weekend—a time to reflect on those who’ve served our country and to honor their memories of lives lost on the field of battle.
And to grill sausage, of course.
Really, I don’t take this holiday lightly, especially these days, with our boys all over the globe, it seems, trying to restore peace and spread democracy and freedom—and risking their lives on a daily basis in the process.
Nor am I one of those who compare sports to war, which I’ve always felt cheapens what our soldiers have done and continue to do. Nothing that happens on a gridiron or on the ice or on a court even remotely compares to war in the literal sense.
But this can also be a time to be reflective about sports.
There are so many random memories I have about things and people and just plain stuff about sports—all that will never return to our great games.
So without further ado, in honor of Memorial Day, here are five things about sports that I miss, and why.
Helmet-less hockey players. When I first started following hockey, the sport was full of bare heads. Those wearing helmets were the ones who stood out like teeth in a player’s mouth. Then the NHL, in 1979, suddenly recognized that skating recklessly on the ice on a surface that was surrounded by hard wooden boards, without a helmet, was at the very least foolish and at worst insane.
So the league instituted a rule that said that any player who entered the league from 1979 on would have to don a helmet. Those who signed contracts prior to ’79 would be grandfathered in and thus would have the option of wearing buckets or not.
So as the years went on, the helmet-less players dwindled, like an endangered species. Gradually, it was the bare head that was the exception.
The last Red Wing to play sans helmet was Brad Marsh, in the early-1990s. The last player, overall, to do so was Craig MacTavish.
I forget how much I pine for the bare head until someone in today’s game inadvertently loses their helmet during a shift. Suddenly there’s a head of hair on the ice!
It doesn’t last long—maybe 15, 20 seconds, tops, but my eyes become glued to the helmet-less player. I could care less about what’s happening on the ice. For those precious seconds it’s 1973 again, when the helmet was for wimps—or Europeans.
Exterior chest protectors for umpires. This one kind of slipped past me, until I woke up one day and realized that the likes of Nestor Chylak weren’t umpiring anymore.
The American League umps continued to use the exterior chest protectors behind home plate after their National League colleagues went to the sleeker version that fit inside their shirt or jacket, like bulletproof vests.
The exterior chest protector, to me, screams umpire.
They hung around the umpire’s shoulders—those big black padded shields. They’d dangle there, until it was time for the pitcher to make his delivery, at which point the ump crouched and shoved the chest protector into position, as it cupped his chin and covered him from head to waist.
Not sure why I miss that, but I do.
Twenty-four second clocks on the floor. Whenever I happen upon old NBA footage, say circa 1972 and earlier, the first thing I do is to look for the 24-second clocks.
Back then, they weren’t located on top of the backboard—which makes perfect sense, by the way.
No, in those days, the shot clocks were placed on the floor, angled, usually in one of the corners—which made imperfect sense.
I don’t know what it is, but to me there’s a certain cozy simplicity to those old NBA and ABA films that feature shot clocks on the floor.
Again, having the clocks perched up top makes all the sense in the world. But shot clocks on the floor make me think of Afros and shorts with belts and smoke-filled arenas and players with names like Erwin Mueller and Hawthorne Wingo.
Quarterbacks with one face bar on their helmets. I believe Joe Theismann might be the last of this ilk.
I like the idea of a singular face bar on a football helmet, anyway—and they were mainly worn by place kickers and punters, naturally.
But every so often you’d see a wide receiver wear such a skimpily-equipped helmet, or better yet, a quarterback.
Joe Kapp, anyone?
Billy Kilmer did the one bar thing, too, along with several others. You gotta love a quarterback who’s willing to pull that off, because the one bar helmet may as well have been the no bar helmet, for all the protection that single bar—which was usually somewhere near the chin—provided.
Today the QBs wear facemasks that used to be reserved for linemen—cage-like apparatuses that were worn by players named Otis Sistrunk and Vern den Herder.
Here’s to Theismann, the last of his breed, who wore the Horst Muhlmann-style, one-bar headgear.
Straight on kickers. Back in the days of the 40-man pro football roster, teams didn’t necessarily opt for the luxury of carrying a player whose only purpose was to lay his foot into the pigskin, be it a place kicker or a punter.
Did you know that Lem Barney, the Lions’ Hall of Fame cornerback, also moonlighted as the team’s punter in his first three years in the league?
Barney was no exception. Kickers and punters were also everything from tight ends to quarterbacks to linebackers to linemen.
And the kickers used their toes to thwack the football, not the sides of their insteps. After all, Hall of Fame kicker Lou Groza’s nickname was “The Toe,” not “The Instep.”
Ahh, the straight on kicker!
Mark Moseley was the last one, and his final year in the NFL was in 1986.
The straight on kicker wasn’t conspicuous by his puny size, like today’s sidewinders, or “soccer style” kickers. The straight on kicker was big and beefy and his jersey was dirty, too—because he was a real football player, not strictly a specialist.
He wore numbers like 76 and 55 and few things, to me, say old school football like a straight on kicker with his squared off shoe, readying himself, arms gently swinging by his side, as he glances at the goalposts—which were on the goal line, by the way and shaped like an H.
Then the moment—when he steps into the kick and swings his leg gloriously like an American football kicking leg should be swung, like a pendulum, not a tennis racket.
Yeah, I miss that.
And many other things, too, but this is a column, not a book.
I hope these memories are ones you share, too. If you’re over 45, the chances are good.
Imagine going to a magic show and the beautiful girl gets turned into a witch with a mole on her nose.
That’s what happened in Tigertown yesterday, when GM Dave Dombrowski managed to turn Placido Polanco into a journeyman left-handed reliever who’s on his third team this season.
The Tigers’ trade of 2B Scotty Sizemore to the Oakland A’s for lefty David Purcey completes the magic trick. Dombrowski is quite the magician; he’s also managed to make all the Tigers’ positional player prospects vanish, too.
The Tigers let hitting machine Polanco walk after the 2009 season and then handed the 2B job to Sizemore, no questions asked. Even after Scotty snapped an ankle in Winter League ball, the Tigers were resolute: Sizemore would be the starting second baseman, gimpy ankle or not.
Mainly because the organization had no one else of note.
Sizemore limped around for two months last season before the Tigers wisely put him out of his misery and called up Will Rhymes, who did OK, batting .300 in about 200 AB. It looked like the Tigers might have, at the very least, some healthy competition at second base; at the worst, Sizemore would be the odd man out, given Rhymes’ performance in 2010.
Rhymes won the job in spring training from Sizemore, who I got the feeling the Tigers weren’t quite ready to believe in, for whatever reason.
You know what happened to Rhymes—he couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag, and became a bunting specialist. He became a National League pitcher at the plate, and batting second in the order, no less. So the Tigers called up Sizemore a few weeks ago.
This morning, the Tigers are on their fourth second baseman, and we’re not even to Memorial Day yet.
Manager Jim Leyland—we’ll get to him later—announced yesterday that Ryan Raburn will be the new second baseman until further notice.
Will Rhymes. Scott Sizemore. Danny Worth (don’t forget him; he was recalled this week). And now Ryan Raburn?
Raburn, who strikes out a third of the time while hitting .200 and whose glove has to be welded together, not laced, is going to be the Tigers’ everyday second baseman.
Unless this is all temporary until Dombrowski pulls off a blockbuster for a real second baseman, then you have my permission to curl up into the fetal position and sob.
Don’t forget the Tigers’ third baseman, Brandon Inge, who is playing on two bad knees, bats .200, also strikes out about a third of the time, and whose power has been disconnected as if he forgot to pay his DTE bill.
Dombrowski’s MO has been to stockpile young power arms, which is fine, but position players have been an afterthought in his drafts and personnel development.
How else to explain the likes of borderline MLB players such as Raburn, Don Kelly, Rhymes, Sizemore, Worth and Clete Thomas—and I could go on and on—occupying spots on the 25-man roster in recent years?
Sometimes DD trades for or signs guys who can’t hit; he doesn’t always recall them from the minors.
Neifi Perez, Jacque Jones or Adam Everett, anyone?
Dombrowski has been the GM since early in the 2002 season. That’s going on 10 full seasons now. You can count the number of stud prospects the Tigers have produced in that time frame—not including those who toe the rubber—on one hand.
Unless DD is trading them away, like Matt Joyce and Cody Ross.
Look at the hitters who are worth a damn in the Tigers lineup. Not one of them came through the system.
Miggy Cabrera. Magglio Ordonez (yes, he still remains in this category until further notice). Victor Martinez. Austin Jackson. Jhonny Peralta.
Don’t come at me with Brennan Boesch. He’s still very much an unknown entity. I have no idea if the kid is going to be good or not. I wouldn’t wager on him with anything more than half a sawbuck, I’ll tell you that.
Dombrowski’s milieu seems to be the trade or the free agent signing—not so much player development. And even the former has had its cockeyed moments.
Again, Jacque Jones? Edgar Renteria?
But DD, I must admit, has brought some good folks into the organization from outside it. Pudge Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Kenny Rogers, to name a few. But see the trend? Aging guys. Ordonez was signed in his prime, but usually Dombrowski brings in guys whose better days are behind them, with the distinct exception of Cabrera.
Dombrowski let Johnny Damon go because he didn’t feel that Johnny could play the outfield on a daily basis, which he really can’t. But how would Damon look in the two hole right now, even if he plays a stilted left field? Johnny is having himself a fine year down in Tampa.
The trade of Sizemore—and you can argue that it was a quick trigger—and the subsequent shift of Raburn to 2B combine to form an indictment of the Tigers minor league system. It was the white flag of surrender: we have no second baseman.
Dombrowski said after the trade that the Tigers weren’t in a “developmental situation” that would allow for Sizemore to work out the kinks in his MLB offensive game. DD said the Tigers didn’t have that “luxury.”
That’s GM speak for, “I’d better win now, because my contract is expiring at the end of the year.”
So is Leyland’s, and I’m losing faith in him by the day.
Let’s play a little game called “Which lineup looks better?”
See the below lineup:
The above is a typical Leyland lineup, would you agree?
Now compare it to the following:
Which one looks better to you?
Why Leyland insists on suppressing Peralta and Avila, two of the guys who can actually swing the bat, in the bottom third of the order is beyond me.
Can you imagine the increased quality of pitches Jhonny and Alex would see batting 2-3? Especially Avila, who would be protected by none other than Cabrera.
The 1-thru-5 slots in my proposed order—especially if Austin Jackson finally steps it up—certainly look better on paper, don’t they?
I heard Dennis Fithian on 97.1 The Ticket yesterday say that moving Avila to #3 might be a risk because the kid may not be able to handle it. And, Fithian said that if you move Avila and Peralta, what do you do if they go into a slump after the switch?
The Tigers have a division to win, despite their warts. The Indians, I’m convinced, are not for real—not yet. The White Sox and the Twins are down, though the Chisox are playing better as of late.
This is the time for ACTION, not for babying anyone—not for worrying about slumps that may or not even happen.
The Tigers need a shakeup, badly.
The Frick and Frack tandem of Dombrowski and Leyland are beginning to make people in Detroit look at them cross-eyed, and for good reason.
This is a team constructed from a blend of AAAA players and veterans, but it could still win the division, which speaks more about the division than the Tigers.
The Tigers have no second baseman. They have no third baseman, either, really. Nor do they have two thirds of an outfield, as far as that goes. And they have a suspect bullpen.
But they can still win this thing, if the manager stops being stubborn and the GM gets off his duff and makes something happen. The owner isn’t getting any younger, and neither are we.
So Sarah Palin says she has the “fire in my belly” to make a run for president in 2012.
That’s funny, because I also get a sensation in my belly at the thought of Palin as president, though I somehow doubt it’s the same as hers.
Actually, bring it, Sarah; a Palin campaign would be a carnival like few we’ve seen in recent presidential election years.
How fun it would be to hear what she says next. There’d be thrills and chills and spills. You wouldn’t be able to look away, while the “Palin for President” show tours the country, the star speaking to us from the back of its caboose.
At least a snake oil salesman has snake oil to cure whatever ails you. Palin is all talk and no solutions. Her snake oil seems to be nothing more than placebo.
She says she wants to “preserve what is good for America.”
If that doesn’t sound like the usual “I’m more American than you” blather that the folks on the right incessantly spout, then I don’t know what does.
Sarah Palin is an attractive woman, no question. She would not only be our first female president, but also the first real eye-grabber since John Kennedy. President Obama isn’t a dog, either, but Palin’s looks are sizzling. My opinion.
But sooner or later, you see, you have to stand for something when you run for president. And this is where Sarah falls woefully short of the smell test.
It’s oh-so-easy to rail against folks, but sooner or later you have to offer up what you would do in their stead.
Palin, to me, only stands against things. Yes, she makes cornpone sound bites like the one I cited above. But tell me, what does Sarah Palin truly stand for? Better yet, what is her vision? What is her foreign policy agenda? What does she want to accomplish in her First 100 Days?
Where does she want to take the country? What’s her plan for Medicare? For Social Security? For handling North Korea? How would she continue to stimulate a sluggish economy? How would she create jobs? What are her views on energy? What plans does she have for fixing our education system?
To name a few.
Come on in, Sarah! The water’s fine!
We don’t really know her views on any of the above; certainly, we haven’t heard her game plans for any of them.
Sarah Palin’s supporters, I believe, like the idea of Sarah Palin. They look at her as the anti-Obama, which is true.
But cut a little deeper—say, one layer will do it—and they’ll find that Palin has no substance. Not to mention she’s an intellectual lightweight that we haven’t seen the likes of since Dan Quayle—or maybe George W. Bush.
Regardless, Palin is eye candy and little more. We can all blame John McCain for this, by the way. Had he not made the inexplicable decision to pluck her as his VP candidate in 2008, Palin would still be harmlessly roving Alaska.
And as for this “fire in her belly”?
“It’s a matter for me for some practical, pragmatic decisions that have to be made,” Palin said on FOX News last week.
What’s the over/under as to whether she even knows what “pragmatic” means?
I’m not suggesting that Sarah Palin is a dumb blonde.
Last I checked, she’s brunette.
Jim Leyland, in case you haven’t heard, is a rocket scientist.
He presides over a job so sophisticated, so complicated, that it defies the understanding of those who aren’t rocket scientists.
He stands above all in his knowledge of his very scientific vocation, and therefore has no use for those whose brains simply cannot wrap themselves around the mesmerizing theorems, laws and corollaries that one must know in order to manage a baseball team.
OOPS—did I say Jim was a rocket scientist?
I made an assumption, since that’s how he treats his job, and those who dare question his logic.
Actually, in the World According to Leyland, it’s perfectly OK for fans of the sport to second guess and question. He thinks that’s great. It shows passion and proves that Detroit is a great baseball town.
But if the second guessing and questions come from those who wear announcers’ headsets or who scribble on a notepad or bang away on a keyboard, then he has no use for those types.
Or, in Jim’s words, “People who don’t know s**t about baseball.”
The Tigers manager is as transparent as an icicle on this one.
He’s OK with the fans second guessing him, because he doesn’t have to talk to the fans. The fans don’t show up in his office before games or afterward, daring to ask why he did what he did that night.
If they were, Jim wouldn’t be so gung-ho for the fans’ right to bitch.
Leyland’s latest escapade with patronizing the media came on Monday, before the Tigers started their series with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The day before, Leyland’s removal of Rick Porcello after eight shutout, one-hit innings with a pitch count at 84 raised some eyebrows. In his rant on Monday, Leyland seemed to take the eyebrow-raising in stride—because it was coming from the fans, i.e. those he doesn’t have to face.
But when 97.1′s Jeff Rieger asked the skipper if the second guessing bothered him, Leyland attacked the media, distinctly placing them in a different category from the fans in terms of their knowledge of the game.
I don’t mind the fans, Leyland said, but I do mind people “who don’t know s**t about baseball.”
Hmmm….by process of elimination, who was Jim talking about?
Rieger himself? Perhaps. But likely, the slap was directed at others on the airwaves and in print who’ve dared to criticize the way he handles a ballclub.
In talking about Leyland’s rant to retired Detroit and New York broadcaster Bob Page on “The Knee Jerks” two-year anniversary podcast, Page said, “I’ve been a baseball fan since 1959. I covered it for over 30 years as a reporter and broadcaster.” Page went on to say that while those years don’t necessarily make him a manager, they don’t make him an idiot, either.
Besides, how complicated is baseball, anyway? Funny how it can be portrayed as very simple—even by guys like Leyland—but when the heat gets turned up, the game suddenly takes on quantum physics-like properties that only a manager can understand.
Page also astutely wondered out loud, “Can you imagine this guy managing in New York? For either the Mets OR the Yankees?”
I replied that the Marlboro Man wouldn’t last much longer than a cigarette in a New York dugout.
Earlier in the season, Leyland made fun of those who very reasonably wondered why he didn’t bunt Brennan Boesch in Cleveland during that extra innings affair that the Tigers lost, when the only goal at that point was to score a single run.
“That’s Little League stuff!” Leyland said. “Oh, ‘little Johnny can bunt the guy over,’” he said as those in the room laughed.
The Tigers lost, which I didn’t find too funny.
Since when is bunting a runner over “Little League stuff”?
And since when is Boesch above bunting? The manager said that he would “never” bunt Brennan Boesch, who at the time was hitting well over .300.
Boesch has been a major leaguer for less than one full season, pretty much. He’s not Miguel Cabrera.
And what about Leyland’s decision to save Max Scherzer for the home opener, rather than pitch him on opening weekend in New York against the Yankees?
The manager pretty much got a free pass on that one from those mean old media people.
The sardonically funny irony here is that I look at Jim Leyland’s resume and I wonder how he considers himself so smart, and so above everyone else. He’s not Joe Torre or Tony LaRussa or Ron Gardenhire, in case you were still confused about that—because I know Jim can try awfully hard to make you think that he is.
Here’s what Jim Leyland did before coming to Detroit: he f***ed up NLCS series with the Pittsburgh Pirates three years in a row.
Then he caught lightning in a bottle with the 1997 Florida Marlins, then stole a paycheck from the 1999 Colorado Rockies.
In Detroit, he nearly blew a playoff spot in 2006, bungled a great first half in 2007, didn’t have his star-studded team ready to open the season in 2008, blew a three-game lead with four to play in 2009, and saw another team fade in 2010.
That’s how smart he is.
Just because you’ve managed for a long time doesn’t make you a good manager.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
Imagine, a kid from Livonia, my hometown, growing up to be president!
No, not talking about me. My political aspirations don’t even extend to school board.
I’m talking about Thad McCotter, the Republican House member who is, according to reports, putting together exploratory committees and other things that would-be presidential candidates do about eight months before the primaries.
McCotter plays electric guitar, quotes from Led Zeppelin lyrics, and is in his fifth two-year Congressional term. He would be the first president born after me, which should either make me feel old or wise.
McCotter plans to formally make his announcement in two weeks, according to POLITICO.
Never mind that Thad would be a virtual unknown, because if there ever was a time to enter the fray as an unknown Republican, it’s now.
Clinton had his sax, and McCotter might take his licks, too
In a race where “No, not him” and “No, not HER” are the two leading GOP candidates, the Republicans, who badly need new blood at the top of their political totem pole, might be best served to prop up someone like McCotter, who’s been praised a few times over at FOX, by people like conservative columnist S.E. Cupp.
McCotter has some moderate in him, and appears as a peacemaker when it comes to labor-management disputes, as opposed to staunchly in favor of one or the other.
Besides, it doesn’t look like President Obama can be had; the prez is gaining momentum and as we saw in 2008, he’s a marvelous campaigner.
So why not put someone like McCotter at the forefront and see what kind of support someone of his ilk can garner? Yeah, it might be like waving a white flag, but if it helps the GOP cause in 2016, when they won’t be running against a sitting president, then what do they have to lose?
Besides the presidency, of course, but they may not be able to snatch that anyhow.
Thad McCotter, Livonia kid made good.
Talk about showing the rest of us up.
Last week: 1-5
This week: TB (5/23-25); BOS (5/26-29)
So, What Happened?
MMM is getting dizzy riding this roller coaster our Bengals are putting us on.
The Motor City Kitties went 1-5 following a 5-0 week, which was part of a 10-1 stretch.
They manage to beat the high-profile teams and struggle against mediocrity.
Last week featured two games in Boston played in London fog that were about as miserable and frustrating as any you’ll see—if you’re a Tigers fan.
The Tigers put base runner after base runner on the paths, yet had the maddening inability to drive said runners home. The result was two one-run losses against the surging Red Sox.
At one point last week, MMM saw a graphic that said the Tigers were in a 2-for-31 funk with RISP. They should just take the “S” out of that acronym, for a performance like that!
Oh, and the Indians keep winning, which didn’t help MMM’s mindset.
Hero of the Week
Seems like MMM is presented with a quandary every week, in this up-and-down season.
Either there are too many heroes to pick just one, or there are too many goats to pick just one.
This week it’s the latter, which means it’s not easy finding a hero.
But MMM is going with Jhonny Peralta, the smiling shortstop.
Peralta has a little bit of clutch in him, and he’s driving the baseball with power. Plus, he’s playing a competent, if not spectacular shortstop.
Peralta slammed another jack in Pittsburgh on Sunday, and with the way Rick Porcello pitched (a close second in HotW, btw), the homer gave the Tigers an insurmountable 2-0 lead.
One could make a good case for Ricky as HotW, but MMM is sticking with Peralta as a reward for his consistency of late.
Goat of the Week
Ahh, quite a menu.
Could it be the Tigers hitters, who were allergic to a clutch RBI?
Could it be the bullpen, aka Gasoline Alley?
Could it be Mr. Popup/DP/K Brandon Inge?
No, it’s none other than Ryan Raburn, who is making MMM think the young man doesn’t belong on a big league roster. At least, MMM would prefer it if RR wasn’t on the Tigers’ payroll.
Raburn is having a horrific May, but what has MMM up in arms is that we seem to see little to no improvement in his hitting approach. His strikeout ratio makes Austin Jackson look like Felix Millan (look it up).
Raburn is a butcher in the field, so it’s not like you can live with his atrocious bat, a la Inge.
Here’s an honorable mention to batting coach Lloyd McClendon, while we’re at it. MMM couldn’t help but notice the strides Curtis Granderson has made against lefties under Yankees batting coach Kevin Long. The Tigers have been a poor RISP-hitting team ever since Lloyd has been here, pretty much.
Under the Microscope
There have been whispers lately, which are growing into murmurs. Soon to follow might be rumblings and then outrage.
Why? Because of McClendon.
What’s a struggling team and a frustrated fanbase without a scapegoat?
McClendon is looking mighty bad in the wake of Grandy’s mega-improvement under Yankees batting coach Kevin Long, which has lit up the switchboard at sports talk radio with folks beginning to look at McClendon sideways.
You know what? MMM thinks those are valid concerns.
The Tigers have never, really, been a good team with RISP. They’re even worse with a runner on third base with less than two outs. MMM hasn’t seen any significant improvement under Mr. McClendon. The natives are getting restless, as they see a division there for the taking, the Indians notwithstanding.
Which is why Lloyd McClendon is UtM.
Upcoming: Rays and Red Sox
Here we go again. The Tigers slumping, about to entertain a powerhouse team.
First the Texas Rangers, then the New York Yankees breezed into town and both times the Tigers were scuffling. Both times, the Tigers lost the opening game of the series. And both times, the Tigers won the remaining games of the series.
Now here come the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays, followed by the hot Red Sox. Same scenario: Tigers struggling, good teams invade Comerica Park.
In this season of ups and downs, don’t be surprised if the Tigers get hot, inexplicably, this week.
MMM wants to call the Tigers the Six Flags Amusement Park of baseball: more roller coasters than you can shake a stick at!
BTW, the Rays series marks the return of one-year Tigers wonder Johnny Damon, who’s having a good year down in Florida.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!
It’s not easy being Blue these days.
The University of Michigan football program isn’t used to this. It isn’t used to staring up at half the Big Ten/Eleven. It isn’t used to fielding a defense that was perilously close to scraping the bottom of the barrel—nationally—and giving up more points in a season than Michigan teams used to surrender in three.
Michigan football had been living in the penthouse and is now slumming. This is a program whose name wasn’t just spoken, it was said with a sneer—by both supporters and rivals.
Michigan didn’t get hurt, it inflicted it on others.
It started in earnest with the hiring of Bo Schembechler in 1969, and for the next four decades, just about, Michigan football was 10 wins, a Top 20 ranking (or higher) and a conference championship or very close to it. It was fall Saturdays spent terrorizing visitors to the Big House before 101,000-plus pairs of leather lungs.
It was a win over Michigan State, one over Ohio State at a rate of at least once every two years, a helluva tussle with Notre Dame and a bowl game—where the mystique sometimes took a hit. But at least there was a mystique.
Michigan football was a monster, being fed by the media, the fanbase, the alumni and the larger-than-life personality of Schembechler, the Chairman of the Board. Frank Sinatra had nothing on Bo.
Even after Bo retired in 1989, the program didn’t miss a beat. His disciples took over—Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr—and the monster stayed fat and it kept devouring MSU and then it even slapped Ohio State in most years.
Michigan football was, at the same time, real and mythical. The players arrived as teenagers and left as men. It wasn’t so much a program as it was a place, like West Point. It’s a wonder the players could move every Saturday, what with the weight of so much history and tradition on their backs. Yet no matter how much blood, sweat and tears were shed, the participants declared that it was all worth it.
But it’s not easy being Blue these days.
Carr retired and Rich Rodriguez—square peg, meet round hole—breezed into Ann Arbor from West Virginia and ever since, the Michigan program has been Humpty Dumpty, post great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men…
Rodriguez is gone, given the ziggy by Athletic Director David Brandon in January, a move only slightly less necessary than when Moses raised his hands at the banks of the Red Sea.
The Man Who Would Save Michigan Football is so far removed from Rodriguez that you need a protractor to measure the difference.
Brady Hoke, ever since he was hired by Brandon from San Diego State, has been walking around Ann Arbor and other parts like his hair is on fire. Everywhere Hoke goes, he talks up Michigan football. As a former assistant at the school, Hoke gets it.
No one has to remind Hoke how important it is to beat Ohio State, squash Michigan State and give Notre Dame fits. Hoke doesn’t need a GPS to find State Street or Packard or the Diag. And certainly no one has to slip him any caffeine.
Under Hoke, Michigan isn’t “going” to do anything. With Hoke, you’re not going to do something; you’re “gouhnna” do it.
As in, “We’re gouhnna work hard. We’re gouhnna fight. We’re gouhnna battle. This is gouhnna be a winning program again.”
When you say that someone conveys something in their own words, it’s literal when it comes to Brady Hoke—he really does have his own words.
Hoke also has his own style, and it’s just what Michigan needs right now.
For all his inferring that the cupboard was near bare when he arrived in Ann Arbor three years ago, Rich Rodriguez has left a mess for Hoke.
The image of the university has taken a major hit. Michigan is pitied by some, laughed at by others. The last time that happened simultaneously, the Wolverines were being stomped on by Ohio State in 1968.
Then Bo was hired.
The word about Hoke when he was hired was that he could recruit a little bit. Nothing since then has changed that belief; Michigan has been widely praised for bringing in a competent class, which wasn’t easy because Hoke had mere weeks to get commitments after his hiring.
Then there’s the matter of that school down south.
Hoke started talking about Ohio State early in his introductory press conference. Only, he called OSU, simply, “Ohio,” or “that school in Ohio.”
Hoke made no bones about it; OSU is the biggest game on Michigan’s schedule. He said as much—in his own words.
Sorry, MSU fans. Three straight wins over the Wolverines hasn’t elevated your school past “Ohio” in terms of importance. Nor should they.
Ohio’s coach—for now—Jim Tressel, is either bemused by Hoke or admires him, depending on how you read Tressel’s comments about Hoke, made at the recent Big Ten coaches gathering.
“Brady’s great. Anything that’s good for the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is good for college football. And Brady’s good for the rivalry.”
It’s become a one-sided rivalry, and those trends in the past have cost some coaches their jobs—both in Ann Arbor and in Columbus. The Buckeyes fired John Cooper because Michigan was beating OSU like a drum every November.
Rodriguez, incredibly, actually admitted that he, basically, didn’t know “how big of a deal” it was to beat Ohio State until he’d been at Michigan for a while.
Hoke has only known it to be a big deal. The biggest, in fact.
But Hoke needs to start beating Michigan State, too. And continue to beat Notre Dame. And he needs to keep having good recruiting classes. He needs to restore pride and faith in Michigan football once again.
Brady Hoke has one charge and one charge only: He has to save Michigan football. That’s all.
And you know what?
I think he’s gouhnna do it.
If there ever was a year where the AL Central was for the taking, it’s this year.
Take a look at the standings.
The Minnesota Twins, often the division’s kings, are playing like court jesters. The Chicago White Sox, though showing signs of life, are still five games below .500. The Kansas City Royals are already fading after their surprising start.
And the Cleveland Indians? Still too early for me to buy what the Tribe is selling.
It’s all there for the Tigers. They’ll never find a storm as perfect as this one to seize their first divisional flag since 1987.
And that’s what they ought to do.
It’s wonderfully timed in that this opportunity coincides with the expiring contracts of GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland. Never again will these two men be in this situation—their fates undetermined while the division is up for grabs.
Owner Mike Ilitch, who isn’t getting any younger, better be presented with proposed moves to sign off on, involving players outside of the organization. Because the Tigers, as they are now, cannot win the division simply by showing up and willing it to happen.
There are too many holes to stand pat, but they can be band-aided over.
Mortgage the future, I say. Go for it now. Never again will the chance be this good.
When else will the Twins and the White Sox be this down, in the same year? Those were the teams that the so-called experts—me included—figured would be the Tigers’ main competition. Well, look at them now. And look at the Tigers.
The Tigers are 22-21, on a three-game losing streak in a maddening year of streakiness, good and bad. They tease us with clutch hitting and good pitching, then retreat back to remedial baseball—losing baseball.
Still, they are the best team in the division right now, if only for their supreme starting pitching. But that pitching needs help—both from the back end of the bullpen, re: the 8th inning set up man, and from the hitters.
The Tigers play with a third baseman who’s hitting .200, a second baseman that still has question marks, and only one-third of an outfield that is somewhat reliable. Even the stud, Miguel Cabrera, is scuffling.
But it’s all there, the division. The Tigers won’t have a better chance to grab it than right now. It’s their only pure chance of making the playoffs. The Wild Card is unlikely to come from the Central.
So they ought to go out and do it. The Tigers ought to do whatever it takes to win this thing. Trade Jacob Turner, trade Andy Oliver if you have to.
Just win the damn thing now, when you have this good of an opportunity.