I am in the midst of my 18th summer "vacation", the glorious three months where there are no classes to worry about, exams to take, or papers to write, and until the past two summers when I've worked off and on at my Dad's law office, summer consisted of sleeping in until 4 P.M. followed by 16 consecutive hours of consecutive video game playing.........needless to say three very lonely months. There always seemed to be one predominant summer theme for each summer, one thing that would define those three months and allow me to immediately recall the events of that year. For example I've had the Summer of BMX, the Summer of Mailbox Smashing (My hometown is small and boring when your 16), the Summer of Goldeneye 64, the Summer of 119 losses, and who can forget the Summer of Hate Crimes (It's also boring here when you're 8), ah good times indeed. But this summer has been entirely different. What I was hoping would be Andy's Summer of Sexy Parties, has turned into the Summer of Ill Health and Disappointment. First it was a battle with German Measles (seriously), followed by a disastrous Pistons playoff run, followed by a heart problem that went from benign, to potentially serious, back to relatively benign with medication, to finally Ben Wallace spurning the Pistons and signing with the Bulls. The one thing thats kept me happy for every day this summer is the continued stellar play of the Detroit Tigers who coming up on the All-Star Break have the best record in baseball (!!!!!) and are poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 1987. Had the Tigers been in the midst of another 100 loss season I would probably be locked in my room writing a play starring Viceroy Fizzlebottom and wearing dark eye liner. But enough of the melodramatic nonsense, its time to grade your 2006 Detroit Tigers. For a look at my ridiculous season preview click here and here. Enjoy.
Owner: Mike Ilitch. After another disappointing playoff exit by the Red Wings, Mr. Ilitch has been more public in his ownership with the Tigers and reveling in the teams early success, a great improvement over the brooding, reclusive, snippy owner he was when the team was a national embarrassment losing 119 games a season. Mr. Ilitch even did an interview in natural light without turning into dust during a Tigers pre-game show destroying my theory that he was a vampire, although he immediately feasted on John Keating after the interview was finished, so I have my doubts. My friend and I were also recently debating on who was the uglier owner/slash pizza entrepreneur Ilitch or Tom Monaghan, My friend said Monaghan but I'm going with Mr. Caesar myself. I was going to put their photos in here but Blogger won't let me upload right now anyways, here's their pictures. (Warning not for the feint of heart, wait, that's me now glehghkghckkhkch.........I'm O.k.) Discuss. What? Right the Grade: B-, is it possible to be a bandwagon owner.........we'll find out this October.
Manager: Jim Leyland: Wow, Leyland has been absolutely amazing. As good as advertised. He makes all the right moves, and he always puts his team in the best possible position to win the game, which is really all you can ask of a manager. What's not to love about Leyland, from his managing skills, to his metal spikes and stirrups, to his chain smoking. If it made Leyland happy to stay in Detroit I'd let him put his cigarettes out on my arm, all sixty a day. Thats how much I love this man. Grade A+++++.
Catchers: Pudge Rodriguez: Pudge has returned to form this year already drawing as many walks this season as he did last year, which is only 11 still not a great total. He has cut out the petulant crybaby crap that helped poison the clubhouse last season, and he's starting in his 10th All-Star Game Tuesday night, as well as keeping up the spectacular defense. Will he ever post his pre-steroi......his power numbers from past years, probably not but if he hits .310 with 15 homers , 85 R.B.I and another Gold Glove I won't complain. Grade: B+
Vance Wilson: Holy crap the Tigers have a backup catcher hitting over .300, start storing bottled water and canned foods. Seriously has this ever happened. Even in the immediate Pre-Pudge dark days we couldn't field a starting catcher who hit over the Mendoza Line. All Hail the mysterious powers of the BluBlockers. Grade: A-
Infielders: Chris Shelton: Nothing has run hot and cold or abruptly lost water pressure faster than the shower at my apartment other than Chris Shelton this season. There are games where it looks like he's getting locked in for another insane streak, followed by an 0-4 with 3 K performance. However I'm still pleased with Shelton, I expected him to bat about .300 with 25 homers before the season and it appears as though he'll still fall in line with those numbers. Grade: B
Placido Polanco; His average is down quite a bit from last year and from what I expected heading into this season. He also hasn't provided the energy/spark that he provided after coming over for Uegeth last June. However he isn't sitting in a Venezuelan prison for setting his ranch hands on fire either, so I think its safe to say that trade worked in the Tigers favor. I would be lying though if I wrote that I wasnt slightly disappointed in Plinko's play right now. Grade: C+
Shortstop: Carlos Guillen: I'm glad to see what is arguably my favorite Tiger, (and yes I do argue about this with myself all the time) return to form after not being completely healthy at any point last season. His defense has been a little sloppy at times this season but he is on pace to bat .300 with 20 homers and nearly 100 RBIS making him one of the three most productive shortstops in all baseball, not to mention providing a little Latin swagger, i picture Guillen, Maggs, and Pudge dressing like Miami Vice cocaine dealers, with the pastels, shirt lapels over the suit, layers of gold chains, and having Ledezma, Santiago and Infante run the streets for them. Regardless Grade: A-
Brandon Inge: Inge is doing his best to emulate Rob Deer circa 1986 this season. He has all the Deer tools, low average, high strikeouts, good power, atrocious facial hair, supple skin, etc. He has also turned in some spectacular defensive plays, such as throwing out Gary Bennett, (who was running about as fast as Tony Pena with a refrigerator strapped to his back) from foul territory after a diving stop. Grade: B-
Outfield: Marcus Thames: Everyone who knew anything about baseball knew that Thames deserved to be on the team coming out of spring training last year, instead of that dirtbag Bobby Higginson. Everyone except Alan Trammell that is, which was a problem seeing as how he was the one with the final say in things. This season Thames finally got his chance and he's making the most of it with an exceptional season, slugging over 1.000 and tying for the team lead in homeruns. Grade: A +
Curtis Granderson: I'll admit that heading into the season I had reservations about Granderson. I had a a right to be nervous seeing as how centerfield had been a talent vortex in my time following the Tigers. I remember only the tail end of Chet Lemon's career, and remember mostly the Milt Cuyler, Brian Hunter, Gabe Kapler trifecta. I even compared Granderson to Kimera Bartee and openly pushed for Nook Logan to make the team as he was my favorite and most exiting player from the aught five Tigers. However I am a fool sometimes.........most of the time......o.k. always as Granderson has been fabulous so far, playing error free defense, providing pop at the top of the lineup and drawing a ton of walks not to mention scoring ass loads of runs for my fantasy team over a 3 week stretch. Grade A+
Magglio Ordonez: So far Maggs has put his injury questions to rest bouncing back with an All-Star season and giving the Tiger a potential 30 homer 120 RBI season they had hoped for and that seemed like pure fantasy following his first catastrophic season in Detroit. It's nice to see Ozzie Guillen recognize Maggs with an All-Star selection. My friend and I thought Magglio had no chance in hell of making the All-Star game after the tiff between the two last season. We thought Dan Pasqua had a better chance given Ozzie's inclination to pick White Sox. (Seriously Buehrle over Verlander?!?) Grade: B
Reserves: Craig Monroe: My friend T.J. still gets a raging semi- everytime Monroe comes to bat, and since I hate my friend T.J. Im inclined to hate Monroe, luckily he's making it easy for me, with his low average, lazy defense, and abysmal OBP. Monroe lost his job to Thames and has become the topic of trade rumors namely to the D-Rays for the equally crappy Aubrey Huff. Grade: C.
Omar Infante/Ramon Santiago: I wish there was a way to get Infante more playing time because it seems like he's fully recovered from the nagging injuries that kept him down last year, but this years Tigers team is to stacked for him to get anything consistent which is kind of a shame. Santiago on the other hand has given up all pretense of the fact that he may get a hit in any way other than bunting, as he's sporting a healthy .194 average. I feel bad for Santiago because if he had been born 20 years earlier he probably could've turned his slick fielding/no stick into a 15 year career in the mold of Rafael Belliard or Jose Lind. Grade: B
Dmitri Young: Question: What's higher Dmitri's Blood Alcohol Level, or his batting average? It's closer than you think as Dmitri is batting a pathetic .169, which is probably lower than he blows on your typical Wednesday afternoon. He also has almost as many missed court dates/stints in re-hab than RBI. If he comes back and gives any indication of the old Dmitri I'll be happy but I don't trust him, if anything I see him getting a short time to prove himself followed by being stashed on the bench, before signing a minor league deal with the Padres before next season. Grade F-
Alexis Gomez: Thames personal pinch runner/defensive replacement has been decent doing the things he does, whatever those are. I was in attendance at the game where he hit his first and quite possibly only career homerun. However I was in the bathroom at the time so I missed it, which is like the equivalent of taking a crap as Halley's comet goes by. Grade C+.