Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Third Annual Authoritative Detroit Tigers Season Preview: Vol 1

Tonight I was presented with a conundrum as many different options presented themselves on how to spend this pleasant Saturday evening in Detroit.

1: Study. I have exams beginning in a few short weeks and am hopelessly behind in my reading, so the most practical and responsible use of my time would be to catch up on said reading. However, practicality and responsibility are not two of my strongest traits and I don't know what it would be like to actually be on schedule and have free time, I would probably turn into an alcoholic or something.

2: Identify the strange smell emanating from my kitchen, which I've narrowed down to one of three potential culprits. A) The pot I made macaroni and cheese in about a week ago, which has now been soaking for so long the stagnant water has developed a film on the top akin to pond scum. B) The overflowing trashcan next to the refrigerator that's perilously close to tipping over and in turn unleashing a smell capable of incinerating everything within a half mile radius. C) The pickled human hand in a jar at the back of my refrig....errr...that was here when I moved in, honestly..../nervous laughter/.

3: Watch "Gleaming the Cube" on Comcast OnDemand, and not in painstaking detail every way its inferior to "Rad", so I could present the findings during my Best Man speech at my friend Alex's wedding, decisively ending this argument between the two of us once and for all, before it devolves into some sort of, "Pistols at Dawn" tragedy.

4: Finally getting around to writing my Tigers Season Preview, for you my friend, confidant, and reader.

I choose option 4. Now you're probably sitting there saying "Why the hell should I read this? What kind of insight and information could you, an outsider, possibly provide that would be of any use and or interesting?" To which I would reply, "What's with all these questions, huh, just sit down and read it and I'll give you the antidote for the poison coursing through your veins...jerk." Seriously though, you should listen to me because

1: I've been running a Tigers blog since before it was cool to have one....what's that you say it's still not cool to have one...well, what else are you supposed to do on a Saturday night? Go on a date with a woman, you say....touche.

2: I know I'm humble to a fault, but I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that I am single handily responsible for ALL of the Tiger's success last season. Granted the addition of Leyland, Zumaya, and Verlander played a marginal role in their success, but I'm the one that picked them to finish in Second place in the A.L. Central and contend for a Wild Card spot, a position that was very controversial at the time and led to me not being able to walk about the streets of Detroit without hunch backed old ladies hissing at me and throwing a variety of fecal matter in my direction, but I persevered and after the Tigers clinched a playoff spot for the first time in 19 seasons and I was cleared of witchcraft charges in the subsequent and much publicized public trial, (I plead to the lesser charge of wizardry and practicing the dark arts and took two turns on the dunking wheel), I was able to hold my head high and basically turn into a smug insufferable jerk who constantly pointed out the fact that he finally got something right.

3: Seriously though, is there anything more exciting than the beginning of a new baseball season. It signifies the death of old man winter (he was 84, survived by "life partner" Michael Arnold) and the return of warm weather, unbridled optimism and
Ernie Harwell and his Singing Turtles...or something like that. If that wasn't enough to get you excited think about this, for the first time in twenty years the Tigers head into the season with the expectation that they will be good, as in legitimate World Series contender good. I've never consciously experienced this before, (I was 4 the last time the Tigers were relevant) and it's both exciting and unnerving, similar surely to what a caveman experienced the first time he ever witnessed fire, excited for the future, nervous knowing his life would change you need me to spell this out for you anymore or do you get the point I'm trying to I'm a terrible writer.

Alas!!! Here is Part 1 of Authoritative Season Preview detailing the pitching staff and others.


1: Jeremy Bonderman: I love Bonderman and think this will be the season he breaks out and enters the upper echelon of pitchers in the American League. I believe the success of the team throughout last season and Bonderman's personal success in the playoffs, (especially the series clincher against the Yankees when he had the most devastating slider I've ever seen) will go a long way towards him becoming a more mature pitcher. If his change-up becomes a pitch he can develop and trust he will be absolutely unhittable at times. I also love the fact that he made a commitment to the Tigers by putting off free-agency for two seasons and signing a reasonable 4 year $38 million contract, or two million less than the vastly overrated and half as talented Ted Lilly. A contract so reasonable it seems suspicious, especially given the fiscal insanity displayed this past off-season, where the Cubs gave the ghost of Mordecai Brown a two year deal $20 million deal. Prediction: 17-10, 4.00 ERA, 220 k's

2: Kenny Rogers: Roasters is fresh off one of the greatest post-season performances in the history of baseball aided by a mysterious substance on the palm of his hand. The Tigers should devise a plan to hypnotize Rogers into believing every one of his starts is a playoff game even going as far as hanging up those frilly red, white and blue banners along the upper deck. That way he can have that razor sharp focus and borderline insane intensity, throwing every pitch for a strike, screaming for the ball back, and pumping his fist maniacally after each strikeout. Sure his head and heart would simultaneously explode after a shutout performance in a meaningless late June game against the Royals but it would be worth it. Prediction: 15-9, 3.90 ERA.

3: Justin Verlander: Verlander had a sensational first year, walking away with A.L. Rookie of the Year trophy. So far he's having a pretty rocky spring going 0-2 with an ERA over 8. I know spring training stats are useless, (I remember my friend Bill drafted Ryan Vogelsong of the Pirates after a sterling spring training and....well...we know how that turned out...) but these numbers are a little disconcerting. I think Verlander will struggle a little bit at times this season, mainly because of all the success he had last season. I guess I wouldn't be surprised if Verlander had a bit of a cavalier attitude this year because everything was so easy for him last season. Think about this, he came into spring last year, won the fifth spot in the rotation, won 17 games, almost made the All-Star team, and pitched on a team that made it to the World Series all in his first season. If I won every case my first year after law school (hahahaha) I'm sure I would stop giving a shit and preparing until one day I got nailed with a malpractice suit and disbarred, it's only natural. Prediction 14-11, 4.20 ERA.

4: Nate Robertson: Robertson went from being one of my least favorite Tigers to being among my favorites in a little over a year, (there is hope for you yet Jason there isn't). As much as I hate to admit it, I did enjoy the whole Gum Time gimmick last season, even though Impemba tried his damnedest to make me actively hate it, but I can't be opposed to anything that leads to Big League Chew becoming more prominent in my life. Also Nate stopped starting every fucking game I was in attendance for, which was the main reason I didn't like him, as a matter a fact out of the 10 or so games I went to last season Nate only started one that I can remember. Robertson was also one of the unluckiest pitchers in all of baseball last season when it came to his record reflecting how well he had pitched and he handled it very well, unlike that no talent ass-clown Jason Johnson who would have a bitch fit after every error and implode for a six run inning. Hopefully Robertson's record reflects his talent this season because he deserves it. Prediction: 13-8, 3.70 ERA

5: Mike Maroth: Maroth makes me sad. He was such an important part of those terrible Tiger teams from earlier in the decade and took his beatings as the de facto "ace" without complaint, before settling into the number 4 spot last season and enjoying quite a bit of success over the first couple months. Then came the elbow discomfort, followed by surgery that ended his season even after a valiant comeback attempt in September. I wonder if the other guys in the clubhouse talk about how much fun they had last season and revel in the success and popularity they enjoyed before someone makes the "cut it out" throat gesture and everyone looks over at Mike sitting in the corner staring at them forlornly. I just hope Maroth enjoys some success this season and avoids any further injury. Prediction: 12-9, 4.40 ERA


Todd Jones: Oh sweet Jesus, it's Jones....again. I know it's fashionable to rip on Todd Jones, and that's why I'm doing it, because I'm shallow, easily influenced, and too damn lazy to form my own opinions let alone have reasons for them. Not only that but Jones recently took a shot at Matt Anderson saying he wouldn't mind handing over the closer role to Zumaya because unlike Anderson, he actually likes Zumaya. Anyone who reads this site regularly knows I have quite an affinity for Mr. Anderson so this comment did not fly over well at the lonely, depressing, MTMO headquarters. At least Jones bailed on having his entrance music be that grating Mr. Jones Counting Crows song and is now........some lame ass Christian rock band music !!!...God this guy is lame as hell. Prediction: 38 saves, 4.50 ERA, 700 heart attacks induced state wide.

Joel Zumaya: Zumaya is the rockstar of this team. He is the one guy coming out of the bullpen who changes the whole atmosphere of the ballpark, kind of like Rick Vaughn in the last scene of Major League, only instead of big haired, acid washed jeans, denim jacket wearing skanks with headbands deliriously belting out "Wild Thing.", Zumaya is greeted by overweight factory workers wearing ill-fitting Lance Parrish jersey's and chotch engineers more interested in the girl they brought than the game itself clapping tepidly. Zumaya also gained a lot of credibility with me, which I'm sure will please him immensely, by steadfastly refusing to blame his post-season injury and subsequently give up Guitar Hero. I'm still a relative newcomer to the game, only owning it since this past Christmas, but if I had to chose a game to leave my hands permanently crippled and unrecognizable as anything more than a gnarled clump of joints and stumps it would be Guitar Hero.

Jason Grilli: He is the polar opposite of Joel Zumaya, and completely drains the life out of the least for me. If Joel Zumaya is the Tigers rockstar, then Jason Grilli is that creepy uncle who has to register as a sex offender and no one really wants to talk to him but they have too because he's family, (Translation: Me at Christmas........kidding, kidding, kidding). I would be more excited to see Pol Pot, John Wilkes Booth, or Antonin Scalia, (ooooh, political commentary in a sports blog.....edgy) come strolling, or in the case of Pol Pot, sprinting, out of the pen. My friend Bill always tries to argue with me that Grilli is passable as the 12th man in the pen and I'm willing to give Grilli a chance, so let's take a look at his Spring Training stats. Let's see...... mmhmm......ok....HIS ERA is 8.00!!...This guy sucks end of discussion.

Jose Mesa: For some reason Mesa scares the hell out of me. Not from a performance perspective, I think he'll fill his role ably.....whatever the hell that is, but physically. He's such an intimidating and imposing presence at 6'3" and 235 pounds with an on-field demeanor that could only be described as surly. He seems like the kind of guy who if he weren't playing baseball would be walking around a prison yard with his shirt off, chest covered in tattoo's of flaming skulls and organizing an attack on a rival prison gang. I'm sure I'm dead wrong about this because I'm a terrible judge of people's character, and Mesa is probably an affable and good-natured team mate and....what's this post about again?.....Who cares, let's move on to.

Fernando Rodney: Speaking of being a terrible judge of character I've made numerous jokes about Rodney in this space over the past two seasons. Joking about him appearing on an episode of COPS and freebasing cocaine in the bullpen, and all sorts of other passive aggressive/ borderline racist remarks. Then I read in the dailies that Rodney is one of Leyland's all-time favorite players and is a very worldly, cosmopolitan, articulate, intelligent man. The idea of Rodney sitting in the clubhouse wearing a smoking jacket, smoking a pipe, reading an Abraham Lincoln biography and discussing the prudence of diversifying your portfolio and investing in Detroit's crashing housing market blew my mind to shreds. What are you going to tell me next, the friendly guy who used to host the Frugal Gourmet sexually assaulted every male that came within a fifteen foot radius of him? What? He did. Jesus I need to lay down for a few minutes.

Wil Ledezma: Fredo has been one of my favorite Tigers since his arrival via the Rule V draft a few seasons back. I'm legally obligated to mention that I said that Ledezma was going to become the new Pedro Martinez when I wrote my first season preview two years ago, but in my defense Wilfredo had been.......I'm sorry, there really is no defense to that statement. I still think Wil is on the verge of a breakthrough season though and will do an excellent job replacing Jamie Walker as the lefty coming out of the pen.

Zach Durbin: The fight for the last spot on the pitching staff is between Chad Durbin and Zach Miner. I know nothing about Durbin other than the fact he is a Royals washout and Lynn Henning advocated for him to replace Kenny Rogers in the rotation during the Tigers late season slide last year, which prompted me to write a late night, slightly intoxicated, e-mail to Henning during the playoffs calling him out for that article and asking why he doesn't look at me when we make love anymore. However I do know a little about Miner who was superb filling in for Maroth before tailing off badly late in the season know what, who cares, this "last man out of the bullpen" is the most fluid position on the team and will likely fluctuate between several people during the course of the season, many of whom I haven't even heard of, I know this is a cop-out way to end Part I of this preview but it's late, I'm tired, you're bored, let's just leave friends and check back soon for the Hitter's edition.


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