Failed Bunt Attempt Hurts Detroit

Welcome to Coach’s Corner, brought to you by Coach Billy Heywood.

Last night the Tigers showed how important bunting can be. In the bottom of the eighth, trailing the Cleveland Racist Mascots by two runs with a runner on first, Ian Kinsler laid down a great drag bunt and beat the throw to first base. After an unsuccessful challenge from Terry Francona, Kinsler was confirmed to be safe at first. This play was followed up with a sacrifice bunt attempt by Torii Hunter. Hunter, a 16-year MLB veteran, failed to get the bunt down on two different attempts and his eventual fate was the dreaded GIDP.

toriihuntertigers

The difference between a successful bunt — runners on second and third with one out — and a double play — a runner on third with two outs — is pretty significant, especially when you consider the fact that Miguel Cabrera (who is worth having two guys in scoring position for) came up to bat next and delivered an RBI single. The runner-on-second-who-could-have-been probably wouldn’t have scored on that single, but he certainly would have on Victor Martinez’s single in the following at bat. Instead of heading to the ninth with a tie score, the Tigers were left with one run on the inning and runners stranded on 1st and 2nd when Austin Jackson struck out to end the threat.

You could make the argument that Francona would have elected to walk Cabrera with first base open, but even if he did the Tigers would have been looking at a one-out, bases-loaded situation with Martinez and Jackson coming to the plate. Not a bad situation to be in.

I can think of no better situation to emphasize the importance of bunting and the impact it can have. It is definitely a positive that Ausmus called the sacrifice where Leyland almost certainly would’ve waited for a double to the gap, but execution is key. Hopefully with this approach, and future execution, the Tigers will be able to win some tight ball games that would otherwise slip through the cracks.

The Relay, Tigers Links for the Week of 04/11

Here at Musings, we often find ourselves scouring the internet for any Tigers information we can get our eyes on. Sometimes we stumble across some pretty interesting things; The Relay is our chance to pass them along to you. Anything you may have missed this week in a single post.

Will Miguel Cabrera be best hitter ever?
ESPN’s Jayson Stark looks at the tale of the tape, and how Cabrera stacks up against the likes of Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, and Hank Aaron.

For Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus, long road began in San Diego
Tigers.com with a longform (for Tigers.com) about how Brad Ausmus got to where he is today – the manager of the best damned baseball team on the damned earth.

Off-Season in Review: Detroit Tigers
MLB Trade Rumors takes a look at the Tigers’ off-season, breaking it down in terms of Needs Addressed, Questions Remaining, and the Deal of Note. Which actually segues pretty nicely into our final link, if I do say so myself.

Last but not least…

Trust in Dave Dombrowski
Unsure of this off-season’s moves? Grantland suggest you Trust In Dave, reminding us all that:

“[The Tigers'] success is not the product of signing and developing amateur talent; rather, their success is the product of identifying professional talent better than anyone else, and using that talent to rip off other teams in the process.”

 

Truer words were never spoken. In Dave We Trust.

 

What Does Joe Nathan’s Dead Arm Mean for the Tigers?

Joe Nathan has been a thorn in the Tigers’ side for his whole career.

So far, this season is no exception.

Prior to the 2014 season, Joe Nathan was 36 for 36 in save opportunities against the Tigers, and 19 for 19 in Comerica Park. In other words, he’s been automatic against the Tigs for his entire career. Needless to say, Detroit was excited to land Nathan this offseason. The closer woes the Tigers have felt over the past few seasons appeared to be over, the misery of back-end bullpen inconsistency gone forever.

Joe NathanJoe Nathan got his first save opportunity in a Tiger uniform this season on April 2nd against the Kansas City Royals, and he fucking blew it.

On April 5th, Nathan got an opportunity to redeem himself. He recorded the save, but not before allowing two hits and an earned run in 2/3 of an inning. And last night, against the Dodgers, Nathan blew another save, walking two batters and giving up a home run to blow a three-run Tiger lead. Joe Nathan has not been, how you sayyyyy, “effective” in the early going of 2014.

Joe Nathan acknowledged his early struggles in a recent interview with Sirius/XM Radio’s Adam Schein:

“I think I’m still at a case of maybe some dead arm going right now. Usually that happens to the middle or later part of spring and hopefully you get through it. But mine is going more into the season and I’m still fine tuning things but fortunately it hasn’t hurt us too much and my tougher outings still resulted in wins for us.”

So, Joe Nathan is pitching through what he calls “dead arm.” But what even is that? According to Core Concepts Muscoloskeletal Health Group, Dead Arm is

“…a common term used in the athletes in sports requiring precision throwing like baseball. The term ‘Dead Arm’ is defined as any pathological shoulder condition in which the thrower is unable to throw with pre-injury velocity and control due to pain. Dead arm usually occurs during the acceleration phase when the arm is moving forward and the athlete suddenly feels pain, and the arm goes “dead” and is no longer able to throw the ball with his usual velocity.”

Okay.

Other sources on the subject claim that Dead Arm may or may not be accompanied by pain, and that sufferers of Dead Arm may report feeling as though their shoulder is “catching” midway through the throwing motion, resulting in decreased velocity and command. Joe Nathan claims that this is pretty common, and not even a big deal at all, you guys.

“It’s not an injury. It’s something that every pitcher goes through every year. It’s not even newsworthy. You guys shouldn’t even waste your time writing about dead arm, because it’s basically like knowing there’s second base on the field.”

Maybe Dead Arm is common for pitchers, and maybe all pitchers experience it at some point. And maybe Dead Arm is not, in and of itself, newsworthy. But what is newsworthy is the fact that the Tigers are paying $20 M over the next two years for a closer who, so far, hasn’t done much in the way of pitching well.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not sounding the alarm just yet. I have confidence in Joe Nathan, and really in almost every pitcher currently in the Tiger ‘pen (I’m looking at you, Phil Coke). At the same time, it’s hard to not feel at least a bit apprehensive about the bullpen situation given what the Tigers have suffered ever since The Great Valverde Meltdown of Postseason 2012.

So what does this whole Dead Arm situation mean for the Tigers this season?

Well, hopefully it doesn’t mean much. Hopefully it means that Nathan is a bit clunky and rusty right now, as many pitchers are, and that he’ll be just fine in another week or so. Hopefully it means that everyone in the Detroit bullpen maintains a consistent role.

Hopefully it does not mean that Joe Nathan is a few more appearances away from a long-term shoulder injury. Hopefully it does not mean that the Tigers will have a revolving door of closers in 2014. Hopefully it does not mean that Detroit has taken 20 million dollars and figuratively pissed it into the proverbial wind, getting their metophorical clothing all covered in hypothetical urine. Hopefully it doesn’t mean the Tigers have to burn the whole thing to the ground — not the bullpen, but The Whole Fucking Thing — and totally transform the bullpen on the fly, attempting to fill yet another gap left by either injury or ineffectiveness.

And if the Tigers are faced with a Bullpen Apocalypse, then what on Earth are they going to do about it?

Well, if shit hits the fan, I suppose the Tigers could always go with Al Alburquerque in the closer’s role, but that move would upset the order of the rest of the bullpen. Another option, perhaps one more suited to the DOOMSAYERS out there, would be to consider bringing Kevin Gregg or Joel Hanrahan aboard AND FIAR JON NAYTHEN. But that’s a bit extreme, don’t you think?

In all honesty, everything is probably fine. Nathan is getting old, and it’s just taking him a little longer than usual to make like Stella and get his groove back. But I think I speak for Tiger fans everywhere when I say it behooves him to figure things out sooner, rather than later. Actually, maybe I don’t. Do any of you guys say “behooves”? No? Alright, cool. Still, you get my drift.

If that arm is dead, someone needs to do something to bring that bitch back to life. Kevin Rand, where you at?

Go Tigers!

 

Seeing Is Believing: The Summer of “The Bird”

Today’s special contribution to Musings of a Displaced Tigers Fan comes from a man named Mike. Mike has been a Tigers fan longer than anyone else who writes for this blog. That’s because he’s older than anyone else who writes for this blog. We’d all be silly not to listen to what he has to say. Respect your elders.

In this entry, Mike shares his experience of growing up watching Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. Look for his musings to appear periodically throughout the season, and let him know what you think in the comments section.

*****

So, a couple of fifteen year olds were milling around in my classroom a few weeks ago, about ten minutes before a new trimester was to begin.  I heard them arguing back and forth about something when one suddenly exclaimed, “Dude, seriously, YouTube it if you think I’m bullshittin!”  It was as good a start to the trimester as any.

The friend tapped YouTube Dude on the elbow and pointed at me.  “Oh, sorry,” he said, with just enough pseudo-politeness to derail a self-righteous, middle-aged loon who might want to shake him down for casual swearing on day one of the trimester, and he said it with just enough laid back sarcasm to show his friend that he wasn’t a suckass.  YouTube Dude made all that happen with just two words.  I liked him immediately.

He’ll never know this, but he actually got me to thinking about the 90 or so argumentative essays I’d graded over the previous weekend which responded to one district-given prompt:  “Should your school install surveillance cameras in the hallways?”  About 86 of them argued in the affirmative and most expressed incredulity than anyone could possibly disagree.  Maybe two of the four NOs expressed something resembling the rebellious teen nature of which I was hoping to read more.  The other two were, of the “no, but, like, it’s just my opinion and everybody has opinions right or wrong” variety.  The lopsided responses made me ponder, as I do from time to time, how much, and how little, our world has changed in the past thirty years.  I’m certain that, if we were able to ship that lame prompt through a time machine to thirty years ago and administer it to my generation, the essays 1) would have been just as rife with mechanical errors and 2) would have been just as polluted with faulty logic BUT, 3) the majority of us would have argued for the other side.

Ah, well. It is what it is, as the newest old saying goes, and truth can be a tricky thing to get ahold of.  If a fifteen-hundred-dollar camera mounted prominently in the corner of a hallway makes young people think their peers will behave more civilly than they would otherwise, then maybe the right answer is to spend the cash and put one up there.  On the other hand, if enough of the young people being filmed feel insulted, patronized and invaded, then that becomes truth for a while.  It’s the tension of opposites, YouTube Dude.  We attempt to define our reality as our reality attempts to define us.

*****

And oddly enough, this leads me to reminiscing about absolutely the most incredible one-year wonder in Detroit Tiger history and, quite possibly, in all of MLB history, my absolute favorite Tiger of all time, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych.   If there was a Hall of Fame for magnificently bright shooting stars, this guy would have been a first ballot inductee.

He was drafted by the Tigers in the 10th round and was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training in March of 1976, and somehow earned a spot on the team.  Now, before we get to the big stuff, seriously, does that even happen anymore? I mean, twelve-year-old travel team rosters these days are practically finalized by the time the kids are eight.  But I digress.

Fidrych pitched in his first major league baseball game on April 20th, 1976.  He threw one shutout inning in a throw away loss.  He didn’t see the field again for a month, and only got his first start because the regular guy had the flu.  In this, his first real major league game, Fidrych threw six no-hit innings, and ended up throwing a two-hit complete game.  The Tigers, destined for fifth place that magical summer of my 9th year on the planet, won 2-1, and “The Bird” was hatched.  (One of his pitching coaches supposedly gave him that nickname because of his passing resemblance to the gigantic yellow Sesame Street mutation).

Just a few weeks later, Fidrych pitched TWO STRAIGHT eleven inning games, and won them both.  Eleven innings.  Twice.  In a row.  Say what you want about today’s GMs doling out salaries that rival the GNP’s of developing countries, but one good reason we will never see pitchers throw two straight 150-pitch games again is because sheer economics makes it impossible for professional baseball managers to ever be that stupid again.   Anyway, two months later, rookie phenom Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was named the American League starting pitcher for the 1976 All-Star Game.

Fidrych 77

Now, while you’re Googling, or YouYubing this guy, you might check out the ‘76 Yankees, destined to sweep Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” in the World Series that year.  Some call that Yankees team one of the best ever. Fidrych beat them twice though, 5-1, and 3-0. He went the distance in both games, and both games were nationally televised.  Eight of those Yankees, including Reggie Jackson, ended up in the Hall of Fame.  Jackson was in that first generation of free agents, of whom Yankees owner George Steinbrenner gobbled from the Baltimore Orioles/ Oakland A’s for $3 million over three years.  (Yes, Google the complexity of the trade if you’re so inclined.  Sometimes scheming, motivated human beings defy words).  Jackson went 0 for 7 against Fidrych that summer though.   And what, you ask, did the Tigers’ very own rookie phenom make that year?

How about $16,500?  No zeroes missing there.  Sixteen thousand, five-hundred dollars.  It was the league minimum at the time.  While Jackson, who famously called himself “the straw that stirs the drink,” polished four Caddys in the garage of his mansion in upstate New York, Fidrych drove a lime green, sub-compact piece of shit to work each day. When a sportswriter asked him about it, he said, “It doesn’t fit my style, but it fits my budget.” Now, you might have to dig a little deeper than Google if you want to verify this next part, but I swear it’s true:  Some state legislator tried to pass a bill that would have forced the Tigers into renegotiating his contract mid-summer. The bill got lost in committee, as good ideas tend to do, and that’s all Fidrych ended up making. But I imagine the politician got re-elected for his well-intentioned, though slightly socialist idea, and this 47-year-old blogger, nine at the time, filed away the memory forever.  And, while I KNOW you won’t be able to verify this part, I promise you it’s just as true as anything you can Google: at least half of the pitchers in the Howell, Michigan Little League that summer were mimicking Fidrych’s crazy mound antics, including this strong-armed, wild lefty.

Oh, the antics.  Fidrych talked to the ball between pitches.  Yeah.  No typo there.  He talked TO the ball.  Kind of a Zen Buddhism meets 1970’s America type thing.  He would also, quite often, get on his hands and knees to manicure the mound between innings, and sometimes between batters.

539wWhen there was no one on base, with the ball in his glove, he’d aim his right hand and throw a phantom dart where he wanted the ball to go.  Babe Ruth called-shot: meet The Bird’s called-dart.  Every bit as cool, and ten times as weird.  And if the ball didn’t go exactly where The Bird told it to go, he’d whip himself around, extend both arms with palms down, tilt his head, and drop his palms like a cartoon maestro silencing the orchestra in his head, as if to say, “calm down, dude.  You got this.”  When he stepped atop what famed announcer Ernie Harwell began to call “his perch,” Fidrych would bend at the waist about 45 degrees, always keeping his long, skinny legs straight as stilts, toes tightly together, and giving his catcher that far-away stare, lips always mouthing words that mesmerized viewers could only imagine amounted to a silent, lonely, adrenaline-inspired prayer.  ‘Please, make this next pitch the best one I ever threw.’  He really didn’t look or act like a professional athlete even back then, much less now.  He looked and acted more like a loveable, dorky, frizzy-haired teenager zoned into a game of Pinball at the Howell Rollerrama because the hottest girl at Highlander Junior High wouldn’t skate with him under the disco ball to “Fox On the Run.”  (Spotify it, dude.  It’s a sweet song, and Barb Bauer, wherever you are, I forgive you.)

Baseball purists, the first thing I think you’ll notice from these old 70’s clips is his oddly non-athletic physique.  Fidrych went about 6’2″, a buck seventy-five.  Also, whereas all the pitchers these days, even the ones with the more unique motions, look EXACTLY the same on every single pitch, Fidrych looked DIFFERENT on every pitch, arms and legs flailing in every direction.  Also, if he’d lasted, great as he might have been, I doubt he would have ever won a Gold Glove because his wild righty momentum and gawky frame carried him across the entire circumference of the mound.  On that note though, looking back, knowing what even casual baseball fans now know, the Bird’s one-of-a-kind windup didn’t have a long shelf-life.  Too many moving parts, as we say nowadays.  Mechanically unsound.  Because of it, though, his slider, like his motion, is something of which we won’t see again. He’d start that thing on the left part of the batter’s left ass cheek and catch the low outside corner of the right side of the plate almost at will all summer.  Yes, despite his appearance, his salary, his demeanor, and every logical molecule in every 1970’s American brain telling us all that there was no way what we were really seeing what we were seeing—actually, maybe BECAUSE of all of that–The Bird truly was the word in the Summer of 1976.

The Tigers averaged 15,000 in attendance when he wasn’t pitching, and 45,000 when he was.  After the All-Star game, even though he got tagged for two runs in the first inning, opposing teams began asking the Tigers management to re-arrange their rotation so Fidrych could pitch in THEIR park.  In his thirteenth start, at Minnesota, they released thirteen pigeons on the pitching mound just before game time, in a semi-clever nod to his nickname.  He made the cover of Sports Illustrated that summer too—it was a really cool shot of him in the finish of his crazy motion as Sesame Street’s Big Bird cheered him on in the background.

Again, The Tigers were no match for the mighty Yankees that summer, or the talented Red Sox, or even the mediocre Minnesota Twins EXCEPT when Fidrych was pitching.  If he was on the mound, we really could beat anybody on the planet.  I still can’t help but make the mystically weird connection between Fidrych and the fictional Rocky Balboa, who electrified movie theatres for the first time that very same summer, and I remain convinced that neither the fictional Italian Stallion nor the real life Bird could have emerged in any other decade.  Dude, imagine a nine-year old actually believing, really BELIEVING that any individual—anyone at all–can come out of nowhere and shut down the best baseball team in the history of the game, or knock the world heavyweight champion on his ass.  Good thoughts to think.

YouTube Dude, you’ll like this part:  There was one “major” scandal involving Mark Fidrych that summer.  They were playing the Twins in August and, even though they were totally out of the division race by then, it was on national television because The Bird was pitching.  This was one of his rare off days, though.  He got pulled in the 4th inning, and when the interviewer asked for his thoughts, he said, “I was complete bullshit today.  Sorry.  I’m just sharing my feelings with you.”  Yes, there were more than a few catcalls about “poor role models” and “the declining morality of today’s youth,” just like there are today, and just like there always have been, probably since some caveman’s son annoyed his father by crawling out of a cave and killing a tiger with a rock instead of his bare hands about a million years ago.  Seriously, on a side note here, whenever some older dude starts giving you shit about your generation, do that thing you did with me a few weeks ago when you thought I might shake you down in my class ten minutes before the trimester began: Blow ‘em off in that cool, non-confrontational way. Squaring off against a self-righteous, middle-aged poser is about as productive as swinging at a Fidrych slider in the dirt.  Anyway, a story quickly spread that the league was going to fine him $250 for using profanity on television. Tiger fans were outraged and actually started passing around hats at the stadium to pay his fine, but it turned out that the letter he got, on official American League stationary, was from his teammates.  They were just pranking him!  I remember the Tigers broadcasters at the time, George Kell and Al Kaline, mentioning that all the money collected at the park would go to charity, and I remember hoping that they’d just give it to The Bird. I still hope they did that, actually.

So how does this end?  Why does no one under forty remember this guy?  The answer is sort of inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time.  He finished 19-9 that season, sported a 2.34 ERA and was named Rookie of the Year.  He finished 2nd for the Cy Young award, behind future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer.  The Tigers coughed up a little more dough the next season, but not much more.  He got a $25,000 bonus, and $255,000 for the next three years.  Then, sometime in the spring of 1977, he torked his knee goofing around in the outfield, and that changed his wild, flailing motion just enough to tear a rotator cuff in his shoulder.  Unfortunately, this was before torn rotator cuffs were promptly diagnosed and treated.  In May of that season, he was quoted as saying that he felt his arm, “just go dead” midway through a game.  He got invited to the 1979 All-Star Game anyway, but declined due to injury.  He still finished the year at 6-4 with a 2.89 era. Fidrych had to sit out the entire 1979 season due to the mysterious, nagging shoulder stiffness.  He came back in 1980, fought the injury throughout the summer and finished 2-1.  He pitched what would be his last major league game in August of that year, and got tagged for four runs in five innings.  About every other month for the next five years, there were “Bird sightings,” and rumblings of a possible comeback, but it was not to be.  In 1985, he was FINALLY diagnosed with that torn rotator cuff, and, because of his efforts to make a comeback during the previous nine years, too much damage had been done to repair it.

Here’s the inspiring part. Fidrych took whatever savings he had, bought himself a truck and started a gravel business in New England. Nothing big.  Guy-down-the-road stuff. Adjusting for inflation, he probably made the equivalent of $16, 500 a year until the day he died.  About once a season until his death in 2009, the Tigers would fly him back to Detroit to throw out the first pitch to the roar of the crowd, which seemed to get more polite and less enthusiastic as the seasons passed.  And the last few times he did that, I swear, a summer breeze from 1976 would swirl up a few conflicting emotions and kick up some dust in the eyes of this wild lefty as I sat in my living room recliner and watched from a distance. It was comforting to see his cheerful, who-gives-a-dammed 70’s attitude still firmly intact, it was kind of mind-numbing to me that only Fidrych himself and Tigers’ fans my age and older would ever really get what a huge deal he was for one incredible summer, and I was kind of amazed that he seemed to give less of a shit about all of that than the rest of us who still remembered.  Kicked up some dust just now, actually.

Dude, you can’t Google that, but I’m dead serious.

And here’s why they’ll never make a movie about him.  He didn’t pickle himself to death, as the poets and novelists might have liked.  He didn’t get gunned down by a crazed fan or a jealous lover, as the screenwriters might have liked. And he didn’t croak from the ravages of steroids or a haze of drugs, as the self-righteous posers might have liked.  Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was underneath his truck, doing some repairs, and the jack gave way.  He was 55.  Talk about bullshit. But it’s true.

What else is true?  Well, the Rocky franchise has made about a billion dollars and counting since the summer of 1976.  And, that summer, at age nine, I actually came up with a billion dollar concept myself and didn’t even know it. (I used to spend hours in my room with baseball cards, lining them up, by position, on the imaginary diamond that was my bedroom floor. My green shag carpet made for a pretty good-looking, well-manicured outfield.) I’d spend half a day holed up in there matching up my beloved Tigers against Steinbrenner’s mighty Yankees, or Don Zimmer’s talented Red Sox, or the great Rod Carew’s mediocre Twins, or whomever, and imagining that I had ultimate control of the outcomes of any and every game I willed my teams to play.  I’d even make my cards “run-out” doubles off my bedroom wall, slide head-first into third, and endure bone-crunching collisions at the plate. Nowadays, my two sons play a video game that has everything I was imagining on my bedroom floor almost forty years ago.

Let’s see, what else is true?  The real Tigers are really pretty awesome now.  They would have slaughtered the mid-1970’s Tigers, except, maybe, when Fidrych was pitching.  Also, the players these days, unlike Fidrych, are much less likely to get hosed by management, which is a good thing of course, but the tradeoff is that, because there is so much money involved, and SO much media following the money involved, unlike with Fidrych, we can pretty much see the phenoms coming from the time they’re in Junior High School.  Oh, get this:  Everybody’s favorite player, Miguel Cabrera, just signed a ten-year contract worth $300,000,000.  No zeroes added there.  Three hundred million dollars.  My oldest son told me just the other day that Cabrera will make about $49,000 PER AT BAT this season, which is the average annual salary for a person working in Michigan these days (and, I might add, three times as much as Fidrych made in his entire rookie year).  The reason we got Cabrera in the first place though, is that the owner, Mike Illitch, was a Double-A Tigers player in the 1950’s who couldn’t quite make it to the next level, so he decided to make some pizza instead, and he actually made enough of it to afford to pay the salaries of a three-time batting champion, two Cy Young winners and a few other potential Hall of Famers too.  A World Series might be in the cards this season, so to speak.  Oh yeah, the pizza dude also owns the Red Wings.

Simply put, YouTube Dude, my favorite personal truth I’ve managed to piece together in forty-seven trips around the sun is this: Truth really is stranger, more wonderful, sometimes more tragic, but more exciting than any fiction, and it’s still a tricky thing to get ahold of. Finally, yes, it is what it is, but sometimes, seriously, we, meaning any single one of us, can actually make it what it is.

YouTube it if you think I’m bullshittin’.

Game 2: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled

displacedtigersfan:

The beginning of this article is particularly interesting to me. Also, high five to Jason Beck for the title. Anyway, I never realized how effective Nathan had been against the Tigers over the years. As Beck points out, “Joe Nathan has inflicted plenty of pain on the Tigers over the years. He’s 36-for-36 in save chances against them, including 19-for-19 at Comerica Park. He pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings against them in Game 163 back in 2009. He held Detroit to 2-for-20 with no runs scored in 2005, then 2-for-26 with no runs in 2008.” This certainly makes the result of his first save opportunity with Detroit ironic, but it’s not cause for panic just yet.

Originally posted on Beck's Blog:

Joe Nathan has inflicted plenty of pain on the Tigers over the years. He’s 36-for-36 in save chances against them, including 19-for-19 at Comerica Park. He pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings against them in Game 163 back in 2009. He held Detroit to 2-for-20 with no runs scored in 2005, then 2-for-26 with no runs in 2008.

None of that damage he inflicted against the Tigers would compare to the damage he could do as a Tiger if he had nothing left. And as the tweets chimed in after Nathan’s blown save Wednesday, one blown save, you could sense the panic in Tigertown.

“89 mph on Nathan’s fastball,” one tweet read. “Two years/$20 million down the drain without getting any productive outings out of him.”

“Glad we got that lockdown closer!” another tweet read.

“Joe Nathalverde,” chimed in another.

It’s like the grand final act in his tormenting the Tigers!…

View original 915 more words

The Greatest Tigers of All Time

Today’s contribution comes from Jon Jager, a lifelong Tigers fan and all-around solid dude. He asked me to give you this note:

Alright here we go: From Cecil to Prince, the Tigers and I have been together a long time. Here’s to another season of yelling into the TV, translating what Rod is trying to say and watching Miggy’s latest hijinks.

These are Jon’s favorite Tigers.

*****

When it comes to being a sports fan, it’s easy to get caught up in discussions of statistics and strategies. I wanted to take a different tact today though, and pay tribute to the moments and players that have defined my journey with the Detroit Tigers – those magic moments that still make me smile years later, and those players that have embodied the last generation or so of Tigers baseball.

Magglio Ordoñez

Magglio-Ordonez-Detroit-Tigers-2006

My favorite Tigers memory hands down is the 2006 ALCS walk-off home run. Some others have come close, but when Ordoñez hit that home run, I sprang from my chair in a state of pure giddiness and ran around my house screaming. I could watch the video of that home run every day and never get sick of it. Even with all the celebration then and after the game, the best part of the home run was seeing Placido Polanco skipping around the bases just like I was skipping around the house.

Carlos Guillen

carlos-guillen

In July 2011, the Tigers were taking on the Angels in Comerica Park. Jered Weaver (Probably my 2nd least favorite player ever, but that’s a different list) was pitching for the Angels when Ordoñez hit a home run, but paused at home plate, watching to ensure it didn’t go foul. This didn’t sit well with lil’ Dreamweaver, who heckled Ordoñez as he rounded the bases. In turn, Weaver’s heckling irked Guillen, who promptly hit a home run in the 7th inning, flipped his bat, skipped out of the batter’s box and made Weaver lose his mind. Weaver eventually got thrown out of the game a batter or two later, and it felt like sweet, sweet justice.

Brandon Inge

ALCS Game 4: Oakland A's v Detroit Tigers

Inge has a funny relationship with Detroit. Batting-wise, his bad years seemed to outnumber the good ones, but he always showed up when it came to third base.* He could also sell some damn jerseys. I remember going to games when he was still with the team and it seemed like almost every female in the park was wearing a Brandon Inge jersey. Maybe it was the goatee? One great memory of Inge, even though he wasn’t with that Tigers anymore, is when he dislocated his shoulder ON THE FIELD AND POPPED IT BACK IN HIMSELF. Say what you want about Inge, but the man has some cast iron balls.

*We are not going to talk about the 2009 Home Run Derby. Nope. What Home Run Derby? Pretty sure they skipped it that year.

Todd Jones

Todd Jones could be the headmaster of a school on how to close games in the most dramatic way possible. The man knew how to come into a game and make you BELIEVE that the opposition was going to hit nine straight home runs to end the game. I won’t ever forget how he looked taking the mound and warming up, with a wad of chaw the size of his fist in his mouth and that porn star Fu Manchu mustache on his face. But he was so damn likable! Despite how it felt, old Jonesy really knew how to rack up the saves, amassing 319 over the course of his career. Fun fact: Todd Jones autographed my baseball glove when I was 12 years old.

toddjones

Kenny Rogers

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THE MUH-FUGGIN GAMBLER! Most prominent memory of Kenny Rogers: the 2006 playoffs when he just flat out pitched. Regardless of whether he had pine tar or shit on his hand, he was straight dealing. While he was throwing around 547 scoreless innings in the playoffs, he endeared himself to Detroit fans completely. After eliminating the A’s in the ALCS, Rogers jumped on top the dugouts and sprayed champagne all over himself, the crowd and a police officer who acted like he didn’t want to be sprayed but really did. He still helps the Tigers out in spring training, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Honorable Mentions

These guys are some of my favorite players, but I felt like I either had more to say about the players above or they already get enough attention (*cough cough Verlander, Cabrera). I still wanted to include them here though:

Pudge Rodriguez – Right-handed cannon attached to a human body. I feel like Detroit fans owe Pudge, since he basically turned the entire franchise around.

Placido Polanco – Run-danced around the bases after Magglio’s HR in 2006 against the A’s. He pretty much did on camera what all Tigers fans were doing wherever they were watching the game.

Miguel Cabrera – What else is there to say? The man is a machine, and has shoulders broad enough to carry a team.

Justin Verlander – He’s good. Like real good. And he keeps adapting and getting better.

*****

Who are some of your favorite Tigers? What are some of your favorite Tiger moments? Let Jon (and the rest of us) know in the comment section below.

Opening Day in 18 Sentences

Top 1

Justin Verlander’s first inning is a sign of good things to come, I hope.

Bottom 1

It’s a bit chilly in the D, but Tigers fans gave Miguel Cabrera the warmest of welcomes in his first AB.

Top 2

I don’t think there’s anyone who could have predicted that Torii Hunter would commit the first error of the 2014 season, let alone on a routine fly ball.

Bottom 2

The only reason Martinez hit that BOMB so damn far is because Kevin Costner snuck into the Royals catching gear and told Victor Martinez what was coming.

Top 3

It took a couple innings, but Justin Verlander notched his first strikeout of 2014.

Bottom 3

MLB.tv took me on a profanity demon hellride and I barely saw any of the Tigers ABs, but at least I didn’t miss much.

Top 4

For the first time in the 2014 season the Tigers feel the pain of missing Jose Iglesias; Gonzalez fails to get to a groundball, then commits an error later in the inning.

Bottom 4

After Cabrera’s line-drive double, V-Mart blasted another one down the right field line, but it hooked foul at the last minute, saving my couch from the weight of a full grown man jumping up and down on it.

Top 5

The new defensive coordinator made his presence known as the Tigers applied a big shift against Mike Moustakas, who flied out to end the frame.

Bottom 5

Nick Castellanos looked like the rookie he is, attempting to stretch a single into a double against a solid defender in Alex Gordon.

Top 6

I know that not a lot is going right at this point, but I feel confident: Verlander just went 1-2-3, and the Tigers have the top of the order coming up in the bottom of the inning.

Bottom 6

All confidence is dashed as the Tigers go 1-2-3.

Top 7

The Justin Verlander show was done after six, but the defense stepped up its game with fine plays from Kinsler and Gonzalez — now it’s time to score some runs.

Bottom 7

The Tigers flashed their wheels and got triples from Jackson and Gonzalez to tie it up heading into the eighth.

Top 8

Al-Al made a strong appearance and put a zero up on the board; can the Tigers take the lead with Kinsler, Hunter, and Cabby due up?

Bottom 8

No, they can’t.

Top 9

The first Joe Nathan appearance of 2014 is a 1-2-3 inning, putting the Tigers in position to make some noise in the bottom half of nine.

Bottom 9

Alex Gonzalez came up big with a big hit with runners at the corners, making up for his earlier miscues by scoring Tyler Collins to give the Tigers the walk-off victory!

The Relay, Opening Day Edition

Here at Musings, we often find ourselves scouring the internet for any Tigers information we can get our eyes on. Sometimes we stumble across some pretty interesting things; The Relay is our chance to pass them along to you. Anything you may have missed this week in a single post.

Since today is no ordinary day, this is no ordinary edition of The Relay. No, today is Opening Day and today we’re giving you a whole slew of links to get you ready for this afternoon’s season opener. Get ready, Tigers fans. It’s almost here. Without further ado, here we go.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Tigers
Bear with me, there are a lot of videos here. A couple of weeks ago, MLB Network rolled into Lakeland and caught up with Miguel Cabrera as well as Nick Castellanos, new manager Brad Ausmus, and newcomers Joe Nathan and Rajai Davis. They even ran an outfield demo and took the time to predict the 2014 campaign.

SB Nation’s 2014 MLB Preview
The fine folks at SB Nation, home to our other favorite Tigers blog, have a wonderfully in-depth preview for the upcoming season. I agree with their choice in the AL Central.

Mario Impemba on 2014 Tigers
From Tigers.com, Jason Beck sits down with Mario Impemba and gets his thoughts on your 2014 baseball Tigers.

Forecast: American League Preview, ESPN
ESPN joins in the fun with their preview of the American League. Gotta say, I like their pick in the Central, too.

Last, but not least…

Miguel Cabrera, Tiger for life
If you haven’t already, take the time to watch the press conference announcing Miguel Cabrera’s new contract that will see him retire in the Old English D. Bask in the knowledge that we’ll be seeing this time and time again for the next decade.

All the Best Things from 2013: Number 1

A wise man by the name of Nelly once asked, “What does it take to be number one?” Two, he argues, is not a winner; three, he says, nobody remembers. But what does it take to be number one?

In our countdown, it takes being the most baller-ass thing in a collection of baller-ass things. This countdown has been that: a collection of baller-ass things. This edition is about the most baller-ass thing. The ballerest-ass.

When we reach moments like this, it’s good to look back and remember how we got here. Let’s recap for a moment. These are All the Best Things from 2013.

10. Victor Martinez Calls Grant Balfour a Bitch

9. Chris Perez Takes a Time-Out from Blowing Smoke to Blow a Save

8. Victor Martinez Makes an Amazing Play at First Base

7. Anibal Sanchez and the Bullpen Combine for a 1-Hitter in the ALCS

6. Jim Leyland Puts on His Dancing Shoes

5. The MVP and the Cy Young

4. Max Scherzer Escapes a Bases-Loaded Jam in the ALDS

3. Jose Iglesias Being a Defensive Wizard

2. Miguel Cabrera Walks It Off

What could possibly be better than some of these things, dear reader? You’re right. I can’t think of anything either. Nothing that happened in 2013 was any cooler than the nine things already on this list.

That’s because the coolest and best thing from 2013 didn’t happen in 2013. It happened in 2011.

But wait… how can something that happened in 2011 be on the list of All the Best Things from 2013? Simple. Because it’s the best goddamn thing that has happened in the last several years. Its greatness transcends time, space… and even greatness itself.

1. Carlos Guillen Pimps Jered Weaver in the Most Bodacious of Ways

In July of 2011 the Tigers played the Angles in what was slated to be a duel between Cy Young hopefuls. You might remember that Justin Verlander won the Cy Young that year; Jered Weaver did not. Anyway, in the 3rd inning of that game, Magglio Ordoñez hit a deep fly down the left field line and stood to see whether it would go fair or foul. Jered Weaver took this move from Ordoñez as a sign of disrespect: Weaver thought Ordoñez was admiring his own work. He had some choice words for Ordoñez after the play. Carlos Guillen did not appreciate Weaver’s shit talking, so this is what happened. And if you want to skip listening to the butt-hurt Angels announcers whining about their poor pitcher getting his shit pushed in (you do) then just go right to the 1:26 mark.

Displaced Tigers Fan: Obviously, this is one of the most bitchin’ things that has ever happened in the history of sports. There are reasons why we decided on this as the best moment of 2013, even though it fucking happened in 2011. Those reason are that Jered Weaver is a bitch, fuck the Angels, and Carlos Guillen is an ultra-mega badass deluxe for doing this.

Let me start with this: Jered Weaver thought that Magglio Ordoñez was standing at home plate to admire his work. When in the good goddamn has Ordoñez ever done that in his MLB career? Ordoñez was always considered a class act, and he was hardly in his prime in 2011, so I find it very unlikely that he was doing anything other than checking to see if the ball would stay fair and deciding whether or not he needed to haul his old ass around the bases. But Jered Weaver thought he was being disrespected, and it hurt his feelings. Like a bitch.

Carlos Guillen proved that he is the best teammate by hitting a homer later in the game specifically so he could get vengeance for his fellow countryman. Here’s a true fact: the homer went so far that it actually landed in Jered Weaver’s front lawn and called Weaver a bitch when he got home. After he hits the thing, Guillen walks out of the box like some Ken Griffey Jr./Barry Bonds hybrid monster and stares at Weaver FOREVER. And that bat flip. OOOH, THAT BAT FLIP. Look at it. Here it is, in all its glory.

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God, it’s fucking great.

Travis: I can not accurately describe how much I fucking love this entire series of events. I watch these highlights with all the reverence and reserve that one would normally hold for some sort of opera. This is poetry in motion. It’s the fucking Karate Kid incarnate, where the bully gets a taste of his own medicine and then gets told to take his stupid goatee the fuck home.

We here at Musings have deemed this The Most Badassed Anyone Has Maybe Ever Been. Ever. The lead-up to this game had billed it as a grudge match between the AL’s best pitchers. A fight for pitching dominance. A battle for the Cy Young. In truth, both Verlander and Weaver pitched well, but it will always be remembered as the day that JV flirted with a no-hitter and Jered Weaver lost his shit after being made to look like 8 bitches on a bitch boat. After the dust settled and Guillen had gone all Pompeii on everything that Jered Weaver held most dear, the Cy Young conversation was all but over. Not because Weaver failed to pitch well for the rest of the year - on the contrary, he pitched quite well afterwards - but I’m nearly positive that the esteemed Baseball Writers Association of America decided they simply could not vote for a man who’d been made to look like such a total piece of shit by another human being. Weaver hasn’t won the award yet, either – despite a stellar 2012 – further proving our theory that on this day Carlos Guillen ruined Jered Weaver.

Bless you, Carlos. I could watch this shit on repeat forever.

*****

So that’s it. We made it. We hope you enjoyed our list of All The Best Things from 2013. Here’s hoping 2014 brings more great shit for us to enjoy.

And with that, let us bask in the glory that is Opening Day.

Go Tigers!