Thursday, August 27, 2009

Opening the Vault: Juan Gonzalez

Over a year ago Sports Illustrated posted their entire archives for free online. At the time I wrote about how fantastic this was for sports history nerds like myself, who could spend hours a day at work or in class reading articles about Mark Fidrych or Magic Johnson or Olympic heroes at the height of their glory or fallen stars like Dwight Gooden or Mike Tyson at their lowest. Little did I know how much time I would actually waste on this site. I've read articles ranging from an interesting profile on Michael Jordan after his first retirement to recaps of the 1991 NHL playoff semifinals. I became such a shut-in while reading these articles that in order to quell any suspicion about my disappearance I dressed a gorilla in human clothing and trained it to go out in my place to any social events that came up. Of course this plan backfired as my friends, family and girlfriend all preferred the more stimulating conversations, improved manners and decrease in feces throwing that my trained gorilla provided over my company. Now that same gorilla is my boss and dating my ex. How embarrassing. Anyways my time in the S.I. Vault reached it's nadir the other day when I found myself neglecting my duties at work for a chance to read an article grading the Major League Baseball free agent class of 1977. I had never heard of Wayne Garland before reading that article but I felt compelled to read a five page story dealing with his various struggles after signing the first large contract ever handed out to a free agent pitcher. This constant need to read S.I. articles had spiraled out of control into my worst obsession since I maxed out all my credit cards in college buying Precious Moments figurines from Hallmark.
Just so something positive can come out of my addiction to the S.I. Vault I thought I would post this article about Juan Gonzalez's disastrous season with the Detroit Tigers. I wrote one of these last summer about Matt Millen with the idea of making this a weekly feature on this site and here it is over a year later and I'm only posting my second one, which sounds about right for me. Once again I'm not going to be critical of Tom Verducci's writing, because 1: Verducci is one of the best writer's covering baseball today and 2: my writing is terrible and I'm barely literate so I have no room to speak. Instead I'm just going to focus on the parts of this article that are funny or painful now that we can look back on them with some historical perspective. This was a rather long article so I've only excerpted parts of it and if you want to read the whole thing go here.

One of the finer features of the home clubhouse in Comerica Park, the Detroit Tigers' new stadium, is a huge TV in the center of the team's clubhouse. The unit faces the right side of the room, and it inspired envy among a few of the Tigers with lockers on the left side when they checked out their new digs on the eve of their April 11 home opener. One of those players quickly calmed the others by noting that the left-side residents had an expensive addition of their own who would undoubtedly help them attain oversized-appliance parity: outfielder Juan Gonzalez. "Is Juan on our side?" said one of the left-side guys. "Then we'll have a TV of our own tomorrow."

Little did these players know that they dodged a bullet, because in Juan Gonzalez's media guide biography from the 2000 season it says his favorite T.V. shows were "Suddenly Susan" and "Caroline in the City." Speaking of "Caroline in the City", which is a sentence I never thought I would say or write, I have kind of a funny story about that show as it is directly involved in one of the only fistfights I've ever been in during my life since I retired from the Kumite after defeating Chong Li for the World Title in Martial Arts. Anyways, during my freshman year at State my room mate Mike, who I've talked about frequently on this site, stayed up until all hours watching whatever crap was on the television. This was back before I became the caustic, cynical and lazy person I am today so I was taking all morning and early afternoon classes and actually cared enough about my grades to read all the materials and attend all the lectures and take a copious amount of notes. Exams were coming up and my stress level was reaching an all time high. Mike of course could care less about how he did on exams as long as his GPA was high enough not to get kicked out of school, so he stayed up until ungodly hours watching whatever crappy movie or tv show was playing on TV. Since we lived in a cramped dorm room my loft bed was literally on top of the television so there was no way for me to avoid the sounds of the tv. Things started to get tense the night before when he stayed up until 4 AM watching "Enemy Mine" a terrible 80's sci-fi flick about a human and alien stranded on a deserted planet and the friendship they forge even though the two are at war with each other. I let this slide but the next day I was tired as hell and had an exam the following morning. I went and laid down in my loft and Mike started watching tv, namely an episode of "Caroline in the City" where Dill is trying to learn how to rollerblade. Without warning I sprung out of my loft bed and pulled the cord for the tv out of the wall. Mike got up and shoved me in the back and I picked up a case of Capri Suns (my weapon of choice that year) and started swinging it around my head. After this skirmish went on for about 10 minutes, our neighbors next door started banging on the wall so we stopped. I went to bed, he plugged the tv back in and we never mentioned the incident again because it was easily the most embarrassing fight either one of us had ever been in.

He must not be interested in a big-screen TV because another one has yet to appear in the clubhouse. But the Tigers are perfectly willing to make Gonzalez the highest-paid player in the game by a margin of more than 25% over what the Dodgers are paying righthander Kevin Brown, who is getting $15 million per year. Detroit offered Gonzalez $151.5 million over eight years shortly after the Nov. 2 trade with Texas, according to a source familiar with the proposal.

Let's play a terrifying game of What If? What If Juan Gonzalez didn't have an agent who must have been certifiably insane. What If Juan Gone's agent had acted like any normal rational agent would have and after waking up from passing out after receiving such a mind-blowingly large contract offer immediately said, "YES! YES! YES! He'll sign immediately! Where can I meet you? How soon do you want to do this? I'll draw the contract up right now! No takesie backsies!" Now I'm not sure how this contract would've worked. I'm assuming it would've kicked in like an extension after the 2000 season, which means the Tigers would've been paying Juan Gone at least $18,875,000 last season and that's assuming the offer wasn't backloaded. Now Juan rebounded and did have a couple of nice seasons after he left Detroit but he hasn't played an inning in the majors since he played exactly one inning back in 2005. That would've been the single most disastrous contract in Major League history. If Gonzalez signs that deal it would've crippled the franchise for the entire decade. No Dombrowski, no Pudge, no Maggs, no Leyland, no World Series run in '06, just a bloated payroll being weighed down by the contract of an oft-injured, useless and washed up old slugger. Even acquiring and playing Edgar Renteria wasn't as damaging as this contract would've been. That's the scariest thought I've had since my dream the other night that Matt Millen had been hired to run the Lions again and he hired a coaching staff that was the cast of the Puppetmaster movies.

General manager Randy Smith gambled on Nov. 2 that Gonzalez was the marquee player who would be the foundation of the franchise's revival and help sell tickets that go for as much as $75 at the Copa. Smith traded pitchers Justin Thompson and Francisco Cordero, outfielder Gabe Kapler, infielder Frank Catalanotto, catcher Bill Haselman and minor league pitcher Alan Webb for Gonzalez and two spare parts, catcher Greg Zaun and pitcher Danny Patterson.

What a bunch of crap for both teams. I remember when this trade went down I was excited to have a two-time MVP on the team but was wary with the way the Tigers had completely gutted their system to make it happen. Thompson was the centerpiece at the time but ended up suffering a major arm injury and was never the same pitcher after that. Kapler was a hot prospect at the time but seemed more concerned with modeling than playing baseball. I still remember when he played for the Tigers he would come up to the music "Whatta Man", preen in the batter's box and then strike out on three straight pitches. Catalanotto pieced together a solid career as a platoon utilityman and Patterson gave the Tigers a few solid relief seasons before succumbing to an arm injury himself. Cordero probably had the best career of anybody after this trade as he became a top line closer for the Rangers and has made a few All-Star teams in his career. The Rangers also managed to flip him to the Brewers for half a season of Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz, the latter of which has blossomed into an All-Star outfield slugger. In the long view this trade turned out pretty good for the Rangers due to the fact that they are still benefiting from the deal in the form of the production they are getting from Nelson Cruz. However if you break it down on the players traded in the original transaction and what they provided their respective clubs it turns out to just be kind of a "meh" trade.

There are those in the Tigers organization, however, who wonder why the deal was made in the first place. Peter Bragan Jr., general manager of their Double A affiliate in Jacksonville recently told the Detroit Free Press, "Did those boys up there have a brain spasm or something? They told us as far back as two years ago that their plan with the new stadium was to build the team around higher-caliber pitchers because they pushed the fences back.... Then they acquire a righthanded slugger in Gonzalez. That seems kind of strange."

This is a perfect indictment of the Randy Smith era. The fact that the general manager of the Double-A affiliate openly questioned the moves the general manager of the major league team in a major publication is unbelievable. This would be like the whitetrash assistant manager of a local Arby's going on the record in Forbes magazine with criticism of the company's decision to give away Roastburgers for free on Wednesday afternoons. The funny thing here is that the Double-A manager is right and was probably eminently more qualified to run the Tigers than Randy Smith was. I remember after it became obvious that Juan Gone was going to leave after the season, the Tigers made a bunch of noise about going out and acquiring Mike Mussina and another pitcher (Kevin Appier maybe?) with the money they had offered to Gonzalez with the idea they would assemble the great pitching and defense required to win at the expansive Copa. Of course both Mussina and Appier laughed in the Tigers faces and took big money to sign with the Yankees and Mets respectively and the Tigers were left holding their cash and making their hundredth trade with the Astros to acquire Chris Holt and drudging up Willie Blair's corpse for another abbreviated go-around. Ugh. I hate Randy Smith. He almost single handily ruined my interest in baseball. It's funny that he was viewed as some sort of general manager prodigy when he was first hired, and then turned into a disaster of such epic proportions that, if not for Matt Millen's reign of terror, he would have been viewed as the worst general manager in Detroit's sports history. This would be like if Mozart had been billed as a musical genius wunderkind and then ended up only playing keyboards in a Flock of Seagulls tribute band.

If you were to cast someone to play Rangers manager Johnny Oates in a movie, you'd choose an actor such as Wilford Brimley, someone with a grandfatherly manner and a twinkle in his eye. Oates says... "He's not a bad guy. He is sensitive and moody. Any little thing could set him off and ruin his day, and you weren't going to get anything out of him that day. But he's not a bad guy."

I know I promised not to be critical of Verducci's writing but it's just lazy to say the actor most likely to portray Oates in a movie is the guy whose most famous for being the Quaker Oats spokesman. My last name is Stout, so this would be like saying the actor most likely to play me in a movie would be Fatty Arbuckle while ignoring the fact that in real life I look like some kind of mutant cross between DJ Qualls and Sandra Bernhard.

"Juan will not play if he's not 100 percent," says Melvin. "He has so much pride, he doesn't want to go out there if it means he can't run full speed to first base. Because that means the fans might boo him. He is a prideful person. He's not a bad guy."

I'm pretty sure that if one person has to preface a statement about your character by saying "He's not a bad guy, but..." It means you are a pretty bad guy. However if multiple people, including nearly every person you've had a working relationship with over the previous decade has to preface what they say about you with, "He's not a bad guy, but..." then you might be the worst human being since Ivan the Terrible or at least Stalin.

That tag—he's not a bad guy—gets thrown at Gonzalez more than breaking balls a foot off the plate. He grew up in a drug-infested barrio in Puerto Rico, the same streets that claimed the life of an older half-brother, Puma, a heroin addict, in 1994. One brother dies of an overdose, another never so much as puts a cigarette to his lips and becomes such a Puerto Rican icon that shopkeepers build shrines to him behind their counters. "When you walk with him in Alto de Cuba," Smith says of Gonzalez's barrio, "it is like walking with a god."

Wow, being motivated by the death of a heroin addicted older brother named Puma. That sounds almost to badass to be true. It seems more like the backstory to a television drama about a motivated and serious young Puerto Rican undercover cop, who shoots first and asks questions later, plays fast and loose and blurs the line between following police procedure and stopping at nothing to get his man, all while butting heads with his straight-laced, by the book partner and hard assed sergeant who is always threatening to pull him off the case. Damn, for a minute there I thought I had an original idea for a television but I just realized that I just described pretty much every police drama going back to the Andy Griffith Show episode where town drunk Otis is coerced by Colombian drug lords into smuggling little balloons filled with cocaine into Mayberry for distribution. After getting drunk and ending up in the town's drunk tank one of the ballons burst inside Otis' stomach sending him into a murderous coke induced rage where he strangled town deputy Harry Fife to death before he could be subdued. Harry's brother Barney took over his deceased brother's position and posed as a bumbling and comically inept town deputy while coldly and methodically killing off the men he saw as responsible for his brother's tragic death. How could I forget such a landmark series.

Gonzalez reached the big leagues at 19 and won a home run title at 22. He spoke almost no English, so in 1992 the Rangers hired Luis Mayoral, a respected Latin American journalist and baseball executive, as a kind of guidance counselor for Gonzalez and his Puerto Rican teammates, catcher Ivan Rodriguez and outfielder Ruben Sierra.

Until this paragraph I never realized that so many former Rangers stars essentially ended their careers as productive players in Detroit, and this list doesn't even include Dean Palmer. I guess what I'm saying is I can't wait for 2020 when a past their prime Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler or Michael Young are slowly fading away while wearing the Olde English D.

...A few weeks later Gonzalez refused to dress for the Hall of Fame exhibition game because the uniform pants the Rangers brought for him were too large. Of the All-Star voting, he says, "The system is wrong. Any player who plays every day, works hard and puts up numbers like I do should be starting the All-Star Game. Players and managers should vote for the starting players." About the exhibition in Cooperstown, Gonzalez says, "I couldn't play because my right wrist was sore. The pants they gave me were size 40. I wear 34. They were clown pants."

I actually love this idea. The way the Tigers played from 1995-2005 was the equivalent of watching a group of drunk Shriner clowns mimic a baseball game. The idea of Juan Encarnacion kicking a ball around in right field while wearing some oversized green and purple polka dot pants while Roger Cedeno comes running over to help before slipping on a banana peel and Bobby Higginson is stuck in left field with his head up some horses ass kicking his legs around in a comical fashion while circus music plays in the background would've been a humorous way to watch some painful Tigers defense. I think it should be a written rule in baseball that the worst team from the previous year has to play the following season dressed like clowns. Attendance at Nationals games would go through the roof. They could even get a donkey to play left field. Hang on, my head is exploding with ideas right now.

Smith wasn't bothered by either incident. The Tigers G.M. had been badgering Melvin about a trade for Gonzalez since last June. Melvin kept telling Smith he didn't have the nerve to trade Gonzalez with the team still in a pennant race. The Rangers eventually lost to the Yankees in the Division Series. At the World Series, Melvin bumped into Gonzalez's agent, Jim Bronner. Knowing that Gonzalez's contract ran out after the 2000 season, Melvin asked, "Would Juan consider a deal similar to what Larry Walker [six years, $75 million] took from the Rockies?" "I don't think we can do that," Bronner said.

So now we find out that Juan Gonzalez turned down two contract proposals in the matter of months that were worth tens of millions of dollars more than he would make over the remainder of his career. I'm assuming his agent never represented anybody of note again and in fact I wouldn't be surprised if his body turned up in some lake in Puerto Rico. I wonder if he was this bad at negotiating in other areas of the law. "Ok so I got you out of your speeding ticket, but in order to get the prosecutor to drop it I had to agree to have you plea to a third offense D.U.I. Now you'll lose your license for life and you may end up serving a year in jail but at least you won't have to pay the $120 fine. Now I think this is a really generous offer but if you want to hold out and see if I can get him to agree to give you a vehicular manslaughter charge just let me know."

When the Tigers made their $151.5 million offer to Gonzalez, they also invited him to Detroit for an introductory news conference. Who knows, Smith thought, maybe he'll even sign the contract when he steps off the plane. Except Gonzalez didn't show.

Wow, as much as I hate Randy Smith for single handily trying to ruin my interest in baseball as a child reading this paragraph actually made me feel a little sorry for him. As a single man who lives with a cat and whose idea of an exciting Friday night is working on a cross stitch and watching old VHS copies of the Frugal Gourmet I know a thing or two about being stood up. I've asked out girls who never called me back, called me Allan when I was out with them, came up with fake illnesses to get out of seeing me again or just plain didn't show up. But that's mostly because I drive around in a windowless conversion van with "Sex Wagon" spray painted on the side and rope, duct tape and bags of lye in the back and my idea of a romantic first date mostly involves them picking up the tab after eating out at a gas station Rally's, so my bad luck with girls is more than deserved. However I think if I were taking someone out for the purpose of giving them a check for 151 million dollars they would at least show up regardless of how creepy my car was or how low on the shit totem pole of gas station fast food garbage I tried to feed them.

In his seven full big league seasons (not including the strike-shortened 1994 and '95 seasons), Gonzalez has averaged 41 home runs and 127 RBIs while batting .298. "I don't care if he's high-maintenance," says Detroit third baseman Dean Palmer, who played with Gonzalez in Texas. "When you produce like he does, it doesn't matter. I'm sick of hearing him take crap. The bottom line is the guy drives in 140 runs year in and year out and works as hard as any player in baseball. That's what counts."

Well, according to, Nostradamus Palmer's bold prediction of 140 rbi for Juan Gone was only short by 73. Juan's final line that year .289/.337/.505 with 29 homeruns and 67 rbi, which was hands down the worst season of his career up to this point. Since Palmer was so off-base on this prediction it makes me feel more secure that his prediction that the world will come to an end in 2012 and that I will die after being eaten alive by a grizzly bear in the ensuing chaos won't come true.

Says Smith, "If you invest the money on a star player, you want a guy who's as dedicated to the game as this guy. He doesn't want much. He wants to play, work out, go home, and do it again tomorrow."

Did Smith even talk to Melvin or Oates or anybody in baseball before he traded for Juan Gone? Because about five paragraphs up both Melvin and Oates talk about how he refuses to play unless everything surrounding him is absolutley perfect, including the size of his pants. By all accounts Juan was famous for being one of the most mercurial prima donna sluggers to play in baseball since Mercuilus McPrimadonna starred for the Boston Bees in 1938. Gonzalez would keep this reputation up for the remainder of his career until it eventually forced him out of the game. He was famous before his season with the Royals for training with a shirt on that said "162", for the number of games he was going to play in. He ended up playing 33. The next season he signed a one year deal with the Indians and had all of one at bat before straining his hamstring and sitting out the rest of the season. That's how Juan's career finished. That doesn't sound like someone who wants to play, work out and go home, it just looks like someone who will work just hard enough for someone to cut him a check, a work ethic that I'm trying my hardest to get named "the Beefshower method."

After dinner Gonzalez and his friends piled into his white Mercedes and headed for his downtown apartment. He drove the car through empty streets wet from a cold rain, past the silhouettes of abandoned and crumbling buildings. In such spots the utter darkness of Detroit is as complete and foreboding as Europe during the war.

It wouldn't be an article about Detroit without an unnecessary shot at how run down Detroit is. I'm surprised Verducci, whose writing I generally like just didn't go the whole nine yards when mentioning Detroit cliches and say something like, "As we drove back through downtown Detroit, past a group of fat fans holding up Tigers pennants and dancing around a burning police car, drug dealing prostitutes, sewer dwelling cannibals and a series of bombed out buildings that appeared to be straight from 1945 Dresden, I know longer wondered what it would be like to live in a Mad-Max style post apocalyptic world, where lawlessness prevailed and the streets were patrolled by a homo-erotic punk rock biker gang in search of gasoline because I was already in a place that was much worse."

The future Gonzalez said he didn't worry about now seems as murky as the air that night. Six months of courtship, and the Tigers still don't know if he will stay.

He won't

In a more hopeful moment, before Gonzalez had experienced the vastness of Comerica Park and the ineptitude of his new team, the Tigers printed pocket-sized informational brochures about the shiny new ballpark, with a smiling Gonzalez on the cover. The tag line below the photograph resonates with unintended irony: YOU'LL LOVE PLAYING HERE.

He didn't

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ty Cobb's Diary

Reading has always been one of my biggest hobbies and anyone who has ever seen me can attest to this fact by noting that I have the body of a heavy reader. I have been dishonest in the past when I've described my physique on this website. I'm not a seven foot tall, bronzed Adonis, I wasn't the inspiration for the Statue of David and I wasn't named the handsomest lawyer since Abe Lincoln by the International Association of Swimsuit Supermodels. In fact that organization doesn't even exist and the ribbon I claimed to have won from them is really nothing but an elementary school track and field day participation ribbon. This was probably all patently obvious to anybody who saw the ribbon, which featured a cartoon girl jumping over a hurdle, but everyone was either to polite or to terrified to ever correct me. No, the truth is I actually have skin that's so pale it appears translucent, skinny arms, a sunken chest, thick glasses and an asthmatic cough that is stereotypical of a nerdy bookworms body. I may only be twenty-five but from the neck down I could be mistaken for a feeble octogenarian or that frightening Zelda from the first Pet Semetary movie, but I digress.

I wanted to keep this post short but I couldn't get through the opening paragraph without going off on some tangential nonsense. Regardless, the point of this post is that whenever I'm reading heavily I'll target certain genres and read as much as I can about them before I get bored. For example I've gone through phases where I've read nothing but Russian literature, British literature, baseball history, the Revolutionary War, the Sweet Valley High Series and numerous online slash fiction that revolves around the cast of "Roseanne". However my most recent area of focus has been on biographies of great historical figures namely, Peter the Great, Ty Cobb, Henry Ford, Andrew Jackson and most recently David McCullough's outstanding biography about John Adams. One common theme from all of these books is that the author relied heavily on the subject's personal diaries and journals when reconstructing their past. This was especially apparent in the aforementioned "John Adams" where McCullough excerpts whole passages from Adams' diary dating back to his days as a student at Harvard University. These detailed entries from a young Adams were awash in the lofty ideals and ambitions that would shape the future president's political outlook as well as shedding light on his bouts with melancholy and vanity that would continue to plague him throughout his life. However fascinating and illuminating these passages were in giving life to the subject, the more I thought about it the more I realized that only the best and most interesting diary entries made the cut and appeared in the biography. Of course this is common sense, as nobody really cares to read about Henry Ford's grocery list, but it did get me wondering what the more mundane entries in a famous persons diary might look like. Unfortunately I wasn't able to procure John Adams diaries because he lived way the hell out in Massachusetts and I'm to lazy to walk up a flight of stairs let alone travel all the way to Boston to read some dead guys diary. However I was able to come across Ty Cobb's personal journal and found exactly what I was looking for. I've posted his unedited entry below, which I believe has never been published before and was surprisingly overlooked in Al Stump's biography of the Georgia Peach. It offers a fascinating look into the day to day life of the Tigers most legendary player.
July 22, 1911: Detroit

"Today I came closer to crapping my pants than I have at any point in my life. That's not the way I typically start one of these journal entries so let me do a little explaining. The day was already off to a bad start as we had dropped our third straight to the visiting New York Highlanders and saw our lead atop the American League diminish as we learned via the wire after our loss that the hard charging Phil(adelphia) A's had gained on us in the standings thanks to their smiting of the hapless Wash(ington) Sens. I was already feeling somewhat ill from having to frequently look at Hal Chase's disfigured pox marked face as I safely reached first four times this 'noon. After the game had finished I retired to the clubhouse and was surprised to find that our miserly, penny pinching bastard owner (Frank) Navin had actually sprung for a post-game buffet. I was immediately suspicious of this unexpected generosity bestowed on us by this owl looking Shylock, but my spirits were low and my body was famished so I partook in the spread of fruit and fish. I instantly regretted this decision and it later came to my attention that Mr. Navin had procured these provisions after he had passed a local market and saw the help disposing of the spoiled fish. Mr. Pinchfist couldn't stand the fact that the fish was going to waste, so he had his driver circle the block before he sneaked upon the trashcan, fended off a swarm of alley cats and made off with the rotten fish. Unfortunately these facts did not come to light until after I had eaten a substantial proportion of the fish. I immediately felt queasy and sat quietly in the clubhouse waiting for my insides to calm down as the rest of my team mates departed. I read the local papers and (racist comments redacted to protect the interests of this blog and it's proprietor). Finally feeling settled I gathered my things and hopped in my shiny, new Chalmers Touring Car I received for winning the batting title in 1910, despite the best efforts of that swarthy Frenchman Nap Lajoie and those sad sack St. Louis Browns. Little does anyone know that we ourselves cheated in an effort to get me that batting title, counting my stats twice from a game earlier in the season to boast my average upward. It's not like anyone will ever find out, I mean unless there is some nervous, sweaty jerk with no life perusing 75 year old box scores in some library will anybody ever know, and nobody in the future will be wasting their time looking at old stats, by that time everybody will be living on the moon and making love to beautiful moon women. Sigh...I wish I could live in the future, but I digress. Anyways I turned north on Trumbull on my way back to my nice little home over on Commonwealth, when, a little less than halfway to my apartment I felt the entire contents of my stomach drop into my ass. Not good. I spent the next two minutes focusing in a desperate attempt to turn the contents of my bowels from imminent diarrhea into a series of farts. Driving was of secondary importance at this moment in time as a much more serious and earnest matter was at hand. So the farts came slowly and they were "roll down all four windows" level of vile. I pushed this to the brink and it wasn't until the last fart seared my leg like hot steam escaping from a blast furnace that I decided to stop passing them. Luckily this had bought me enough time to get to the driveway of my residence. However, I feared that if I moved, even slightly, the floodgates would open and wouldn't cease and I would be stuck in my brand new touring car with pants full of feces. So I had to put myself in a trance, slow down everything that was happening around me and focus intently on not crapping my pants, not unlike the level of concentration required when staring down a Walter Johnson speedball or a knee buckling Chief Bender jughandle curve. After a few moments of meditation I was ready to calmly walk up to my residence, go inside and proceed to the bathroom. However, much to my infinite consternation, part way up the stairs the family mutt barked (note, make young Tyrus dig a hole in the back yard and shoot the dog he wanted in front of him as a lesson for not keeping his infernal beast quiet and angering his father. Also include this in your planned upcoming instructional guide to parenting tentatively titled "How to Raise a Son to be a Doctor but Still Make Him So Ashamed He Turns into a Suicidal Alcoholic.") and snapped my concentration and a cold sweat instantly poured over me. I sprinted for the front door with such fury that I would've assuredly beaten Don Lippincott in a foot race at that moment. I was simultaneously fumbling for my keys and disrobing on the front porch in full view of all the neighbors before finally getting inside. This led to a long turtle walk down the hallway and past the missus to the toilet where I was finally able to unleash all of my glory upon the porcelain throne. After a solid minute of such wrath I was contemplating if this was the end of my days and was embarrassed that the headline off tomorrow's Times would certainly read, "Baseball's Georgia Peach Found Dead After Crapping His Brains Out His Ass." Fortunately the terror soon stopped and after a quick cleansing I retired to my bedroom for the evening where I plotted a plan to make Wild Bill Donovan suffer what I had gone through this eve."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Progress Report Card: Starting Pitchers

As promised I said I was going to start posting more frequently than I did in the past, which had really slowed down to about a bi-annual pace, and then it takes me a week to follow through with my first posting. Once again I blame my lack of updates on being busy with work and also for having a lousy work ethic. I know that last sentence sounds contradictory, but I wouldn't be the nervous, sweaty and insecure person I am today if I didn't possess the amazing ability to immediately contradict everything I say and do. I always thought I worked hard. I got through school relatively quick. I eschewed all sorts of parties in college and grad school to stay home alone crying and sewing sweaters for my cats....wait.....I meant to say studying for exams and reading casebooks. In retrospect I realize that I was only working hard in comparison to my pothead friends from high school who still work at an outlet mall. So even during those days in college where I slept in until 1 in the afternoon I didn't feel like I was being too lazy because I knew at least one of my friends was probably sitting in a darkened room, eating a box of Cheez-It's and watching a seventh straight hour of "Married With Children" on DVD without having gone to bed yet. However, now that I've been working with my Dad for the past six weeks I get to see first hand that my work ethic is sorely lacking. My Dad is literally a machine programmed to practice the law. I wouldn't be surprised if one day he cut open his arm and revealed a titanium skeleton underneath, or some kind of motherboard that has all the Court reports programmed into it, or if he shot orange juice out of his finger and had a microwave where his stomach should be. Hmm, well I guess those last two things aren't really relevant for being a lawbot but it would be pretty convenient nonetheless. My typical day begins with me getting to the office at 8:30 bleary-eyed and ready to go back to sleep and I'll find him already there carrying on three separate phone conversations, writing out a fax, checking an e-mail and barking at his secretary. It's madness and it makes me feel like I'm a lazy slacker for having commissioned a guy to paint a "closed for naps" sign to hang on my office door. I've tried to keep up but it's been impossorous. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if my Dad, in his free time, already operated a Tigers blog that updated news daily, provided pre and post game reports, live game blogs and had 100x's more traffic than my site all while writing under the pseudonym Ian Casselberry.

Anyways, I was going to write a midseason report on the Tigers but I realized that by the time I actually finished it the season would probably be over and no one would care about mid-season grades anymore. So instead of a comprehensive mid-season report I'm going to break it up into smaller groupings and hand out progress reports. I hated progress reports when I was in school. It just seemed like another way for the slower kids to get in trouble for having bad grades. I always felt terrible for the Louis Morrises and Billy Thorns of my grade who were perpetually grounded during the school year because they were required to bring home a report card full of failing grades every four weeks or so. Of course I only felt bad for as long as it took me to turn my straight-A progress report cards into free video game rentals at the video store or free games of bowling at the bowling alley. Of course this is because I'm a selfish jerk and it was hard to feel sympathetic for Mike Rock, who was probably chained to a leash outside his house after he got a D- in Global Studies, when I was in the middle of trying to beat Double Dragon II or impress some girl by bowling a 150, but I digress. Fortunately the Tigers are off to a rousing success to begin the season and are currently leading the AL Central so the grades I hand out are going to be pretty favorable and that means none of their parents are going to have to beat them with a sack of potatoes. Well maybe Nate Robertson.

Edwin Jackson: I don't think I ever wrote about it at the time but I was one of the people in the long line of naysayers who thought the Tigers blew it by trading away Matt Joyce for Edwin Jackson. Like a lot of Tigers fans I fell instantly for Matt Joyce. The powerful left handed stroke, the frozen rope throws from the outfield, the fearlessness in the field and on the basepaths, the handsome face, the gallant stride, the confidence in his voice, his dreamy eyes, *sigh*, and all we got in return was Edwin Jackson. Sure he won 14 games in 2008, but who cares. He was extremely lucky as his peripheral stats, namely his strikeout and walks, were middling. He didn't even profile as an inning eating mid rotation guy as his inefficiency led to high pitch counts and therfore short outings. Sure he threw hard and he looked like he should be better than he was, but he had already enticed and frustrated two organizations with potential but had disappointing results. I thought Detroit was going to be burned badly on this one and I had visions of Matt Joyce on his way to a 30 homerun season as Detroit continued its search for another lefty bat to balance the lineup. All the meanwhile E Jack would struggle to keep his ERA under 5.00 which would leave me planning to raise Bobby Veach from the dead to platoon with Ryan Raburn in RF. However this is why I'm not a scout and why I only show up at high school games posing as one to leer at the players hot teenage girlfriends. This is also why I'm not allowed within 1,500 feet from a high school. Anyways Jackson has been a revelation this year and if he had any kind of run support, like he did last season with Tampa, he would easily be in double digits for wins. It looks like he's actually putting all the talent and promise that enticed for years together in one complete package, not unlike Vanessa Hudgens. Grade: A

Rick Porcello: Thank god I was to busy to write a season preview because if I had I would be eating more crow than usual because of Rick Porcello (Note: During my previous life as a Depression Era wandering vagrant I had to get creative at times when it came time to find my next meal. I found crow to be an excellent source of nutrition and much tastier than possum and voles. This Depression Era alter ego still comes out in strange ways, so don't be surprised if I write a report on Tommy Bridges or am carving hobo code into the fence surrounding your lawn.) My friend Bill and I had a pretty heated argument over whether bringing Porcello north coming out of spring training was a good idea or not. I was firmly opposed to the idea and had reams and reams of evidence printed from the internet to support my conclusions. Unfortunately most of the stuff I printed from the internet were just nude photos of Rue McClanahan which didn't really support my argument and ended up just being a colossal waste of time and resources. Anyways the crux of my argument was that I didn't think this year's Tigers squad had what it took to contend and I thought it was a desperate move that could end up hindering Porcello's progress. I've always wondered if the Tigers rushed Jeremy Bonderman. Granted the circumstances surrounding Bonderman's arrival were much different than Porcello's as the 2003 Tigers were essentially a minor league team playing at the Major League level, but it seems like Bonderman's biggest hindrance was his inability to ever develop his changeup. This seems like something that, had he been able to follow a typical path to the big leagues, he would have developed and gained confidence in at the minor league level. Who cares if you get your brains beat in at Erie because your throwing some rudimentary changeup that some 28 year old organizational soldier hit 450 feet for a homerun? However if that happens at the big league level, you are costing the team games, a chance at the playoffs and letting major league hitters know they don't have to worry about being fooled by some sloppy offspeed offering. After reading that Porcello had been restricted in what he could throw at A ball last year I thought for sure he was heading for disaster while testing out his full arsenal at the big league level, regardless of how good he looked in spring training. So far I've been proven wrong as he's been essentially a league average pitcher while showing an impressive amount of poise and ability to get big league hitters with a heavy groundball generating sinker. I wish the K rate was higher and hopefully that's something the Tigers can see improve in the second half. But so far so good. Grade B+

Justin Verlander: JV was another guy I was pessimistic about entering the season. Mostly because I'm a terribly negative person who sits alone in a large barren mansion surrounded by dozens of cats with human names like Paul and Brenda. With all the stimulating cat conversations I have who needs any human friends? Back to JV though. I was worried that he was going to be one of those pitchers who had his best seasons early in his career and then slowly regressed to a league average pitcher, while everyone else wondered what the hell happened to the guy who regularly touched triple digits and had the stuff to once throw a no-hitter. My biggest fear was that he would continue to pitch just good enough for the fan base to put pressure on the front office to reward JV with a big contract extension before he settled into relative mediocrity or worse. I call this the Bobby Higginson/Damion Easley/Tony Clark Effect. Of course, despite feeling this way about Verlander and since I have a self-defeating personality and like to needlessly torture myself I felt obligated to draft Verlander for my fantasy team, which would allow him to frustrate me twice as much as normal. The season got off to a predictably bad start as through JV's first four starts he sported a tidy 9.00 ERA and my personal frustration level was through the roof. However despite the ridiculously high ERA there were signs that the Verlander of old was returning as his strikeout rate remained high and his velocity and movement seemed to be at 2006/07 levels instead of last years debacle. The very next start at home against the Yankees Verlander began what may be the most impressive nine game stretch by a pitcher I've ever seen. He won 7 straight decisions, regularly racked up double digit strikeout totals and with the help of Curtis Granderson's spectacular game saving homerun catch against Cleveland Verlander recorded his first shoutout since that no-hitter against the Brewers two years ago. He's cooled off slightly in the past month but has still pitched well enough to sport the best ERA of his career and lead the league in strikeouts despite his disastrous month of April. If he can keep up this performance during the second half and hopefully into October, Verlander and Jackson could make up the most formidable 1-2 punch in the A.L. Grade A:

Armando Galarraga: Just to reinforce the fact that I know absolutely nothing about baseball even though I have been watching this game my entire life, that my predictions are terrible no matter how much I trust my gut or statistical projections and that you shouldn't even be reading this blog no matter how witty and engaging my commentary may be, I am going to share with you what my preseason feeling about Armando Galarraga was. I thought he was going to be the ace of this staff and surprisingly turn into one of the best pitchers in baseball. Instead, of course, after a brilliant April he has struggled mightily and during Jeremy Bonderman's abbreviated return this season Armando was in serious jeopardy of losing his job in the rotation. The thing that seems odd when I watch Galarraga (And by the way trying to spell Galarraga's name makes me feel dyslexic. Just in this post alone I've spelled it Gallaraga, Galaraga, Galaragga and Ggaallaarraaggaa. My brain hurts) this season is that, in most of his starts he looks fine. It seems like his two seamer still has a ton of movement on it and that his slider has good bite to it, but it feels like every time a batter makes contact with a pitch it gets hit hard. I know there have been a couple of occasions this year where I have been watching a game and seen a little slider that looks like a nice pitch get hit to the outfield and look like a routine lineout and when the camera pans to the outfield it's scraping over the fence for a homerun. Granted there have been a few times, namely a start against the Pirates back in June, where Armando has just looked terrible, but you could say that about nearly any pitcher not named Verlander or Jackson. I almost wish that there was some sort of website that had advanced statistics that was easily accessible and gave information like BABip and line drive rate. Maybe I'll invent it and name it Fangraphs or make a subscription website named Baseball Prospectus and charge people for that data! This is how I'm going to make my millions off the Internet and leave this whole law job behind. Suckers. Now to just go register those domain names seems someone has already done that. Crap. Well now I'm way to disappointed to actually access those statistics and make a point about Galaragga hopefully heading towards some kind of correction between his stats and performance. Here's hoping that he finds some middle ground between his April stats and his current ones and turns into a solid league average #4 starter down the stretch. Grade C-

Luke French: After the disaster with Jacques Jones last season I was ready to swear off any baseball player that had any kind of tangential connection to France whether it be cheese, froglegs, baguettes, a French sounding name or Steve Jeltz's gherri curl . Even if Napoleons skeleton rose from the grave and his tiny stature made him the most effective leadoff hitter since Tony Phillips or I found out the Curtis Granderson was a member of the Jacobin Club I was adamantly opposed to cheering for anything remotely French again. So when I saw some dude named Luke French was not only sliding into the rotation but was also replacing my latest Latin pitching obsession I was less than pleased. However French has slowly won me over because if there is one thing I love more than hard throwing Latin pitchers with a ton of movement, it's crafty left handed pitchers that get by with control, deception, moxie, guts, whatever name you want to call it, etc, and etc. French has only made three starts since joining the rotation following the demotion of Alfredo Figaro and has pitched admirably well in all three games, including a great start against a hot Yankees team that could've earned him a win if not for Joel Zumaya's final disasterpiece before hitting the DL. The Tigers top three starters have been so good this season that they really only need to get league average or so pitching from the other two spots in the rotation to be O.K. If French can keep up a league average performance as well as provide the rotation with the token southpaw that could give some of the left-leaning A.L. teams some trouble down the stretch, he would be a very valuable commodity. However this is also coming from someone who was genuinely excited about Andy Van Hekken's future. Grade: A

Alfredo Figaro: Anyone who has read this site over the past few years knows my endless obsession with tall, thin Latino pitchers who throw hard and have a ton of movement on their pitches. The obsession began with Wil Ledezma who, and I mention this every time because it may have been the most insane thing I've ever written and this is coming from someone who just wrote about Napoleans skeleton batting leadoff for the Tigers, I thought had the potential to be the next Pedro Martinez. Seriously I should have been Ledezma's agent just for the fact that it would have been hilarious for me to be on the phone with the Washington Nationals GM after they DFA'ed Ledezma this season screaming, "I hope you know he's going to mention what a jackass you are during his Hall of Fame speech, you assclown!". After Ledezma was unceremoniously dumped on the Braves my attention turned towards Yorman Bazardo. I didn't have as high a ceiling for Bazardo as I did Ledezma because I think I only compared Bazardo to the second coming of Luis Tiant. Of course that didn't work out either as I'm pretty sure Bazardo is selling oranges in a little cart outside my law office nowadays. So when Figaro made his debut against the Brewers on national TV I made a promise to myself not to get to excited no matter how well he pitched. Of course this lasted only until about the 4th inning of a stellar debut that had me online purchasing a customized and authentic Figaro jersey. That pretty much jinxed him for life and by his next start he was giving up second deck bombs to Kaz Matsui and earning a one way ticket back to Toledo. I hope he makes it back otherwise my Figaro jersey is going to look awfully foolish. Grade: Inc.

Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman: Of course with all good news there has to be bad news. Like "hey, some girl like Andy! Oh, she's got three legs and a hump....". So even though the pitching has been a pleasant surprise this year, ranking second in the A.L. behind only the Mariners, there have been two things that have gone horribly awry and their names are Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman. Both of these pitchers are dealing with serious problems that may be putting their careers in jeopardy. Dontrelle had the stunning news at the end of spring training that he was going on the D.L. with an anxiety disorder. After months of rehab in the minors as well as medication by team doctors, Dontrelle made his debut with the big league club. With everyone, including myself, expecting the worst D-Train's first start was solid. He followed that up with an impressive one-hitter against the Texas Rangers that had many people, again myself included, claiming he was back. Things slowly unraveled from there and by his last start in Pittsburgh he was a complete and total mess. Walking batter after batter and looking completely lost on the mound. It was painful to watch someone's career ending right before your eyes. Not surprisingly after the game D-Train was back on the D.L. with a recurrence of his anxiety disorder. Bonderman's issues were physical as he had major surgery last season on his shoulder to correct a blood clot issue. Rumors spread that there may have been damage done to a nerve during the surgery and Bonderman pitching ineffectively during spring training and his minor league rehab assignment did little to dispel those rumors. After making one start against the White Sox that featured below average velocity and stuff Bonderman was back on the D.L. for another extended stay. It appears that neither of these pitchers will be able to help the Tigers this season as the team pursues an A.L. Central crown but here is hoping that they both can get their health and careers back on track and contribute to next years team in some capacity. Grade: Inc.

Friday, July 10, 2009

New Content Coming Soon

To the five people who read this site that aren't my cat or my mom I promise to post some new content ASAP. For those who were wondering about my latest mysterious disappearance I'm sorry to say it's for a rather boring reason. I've previously explained away absences by blaming my meth addiction, taking journeys through Paris with the ghost of Ernest Hemingway or being abducted by a clan of underground ninjas whose secrets I threatened to expose but this time I was away because I passed by the bar exam (Hey 8th times a charm). This has led to me having to work hard at a regular 9-5 job for the first time in my life and the adjustment has been absolutely brutal. Now that my fledgling law practice is starting to get off the ground a little, I feel like I can get back to writing on this blog, which has always been one of my favorite things to do. Even better I can now bill a clueless client for the time I spend writing about some mundane Tigers transaction. It's really win-win for everyone.



Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Fifth Annual Authoritative Detroit Tigers Season Preview Vol. 1

Holy crap! Tomorrow is Opening Day. The only thing I had written in my planner for the whole month of March was....and to write my Annual Detroit Tigers Season Preview. Now here it is a week into April and I haven't written a single word about the Tigers. I think the reason this season has snuck up on me is because it doesn't really feel like spring yet. For example, as I'm writing this right now a heavy and wet snow is falling outside my window and I'm trying to stay warm in my apartment by burning all of my books and wrapping myself in layers of bearskins and beaver pelts while growing a long grizzled beard. I look and feel more like I'm getting ready to join Henry Hudson on an expedition through Arctic waters than I feel ready to watch Opening Day tomorrow night. I'm sure it will be just as cold and miserable in Toronto tomorrow night as it will be in Michigan and I hope the Blue Jays do something to commemorate the occasion of opening the season in sub-zero (Celsius, of course) temperatures by having their most famous citizen, Yeti, throw out the first pitch.

Wait, why am I complaining about some bad weather? Tomorrow is the beginning of baseball season, which for me is the most exciting day on the sports calendar not involving women's field hockey or Olympic Qualifying for German men's handball. If anything, when the first pitch is thrown tomorrow night all of the snow will melt away and flowers will bloom, the packs of hungry timberwolves roaming the streets will be replaced by singing robins and playful chipmunks and Old Man Winter will die a sudden and violent death gasping for air and clutching his throat as he's replaced by the smiling, giggling baby Sun from the Teletubbies.

In past season previews I have usually given a short recap of the prior year and tried to put a positive spin on it, but I'm going to skip that this year. This is because the Tigers 2008 season has to rank as one of the most depressingly disappointing seasons in the history of sports. Sure the Tigers have had several seasons with won-loss records worse than last years 74-88 record, but there were usually no expectations for those teams. However after the offseason trades that brought in Miguel Cabrera and Edgar Renteria, as well as the continued excellence of Magglio, Placido and Guillen, the rising stardom of Granderson and a dead cat bounce season from Gary Sheffield last years Tigers outfit came affixed with a guarantee to score a thousand runs and bludgeon opposing teams pitching staffs into submission. However in the time it takes to recite all the U.S. Presidents without consulting Wikipedia, (for me about a week because all the ones after Lincoln look identical, you know those guys...the ones with the moustaches) it became apparent the Tigers were over hyped and barrelling towards disappointment. The offense looked old and was wildly inconsistent, fluctuating between getting shutout on three hits by Gavin Floyd and scoring nineteen runs on a seemingly daily basis. The pitching staff wasn't able to pick up the slack as they dealt with injury, ineffectiveness and bad luck in almost equal doses. Finally the defense overwent a major facelift in the early stages of the season, with several players switching positions on the fly, and never seemed to gel. In fact I would go so far as to say the past year, dating back to the beginning of last April when Tigers began the year 0-7, has been the most difficult and trying year as a Detroit sports fan and Michigan resident in decades. It began with the disappointing Tigers season, then the Pistons losing to the Celtics in the playoffs, 0-16 for the Lions, 3-9 for Michigan football, Chauncey being traded, the Pistons struggling to make the playoffs this year, tens of thousands of people losing their jobs and homes and the Big Three teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. And to think, this is all Edgar Renteria's fault, and if Detroit were somehow relocated to 14th century Europe Renteria would certainly have been presumed to be some sort of warlock that had brought an evil spirit to the city and led to a year of darkness and bad hoodoo. Uttering his name in Detroit would lead to mothers covering their children's ears and elderly women blowing out their candles and slamming their shutters closed. Edgars swath of destruction in his one season as a Tiger is truly legendary and hopefully now that he's been banished to San Francisco happy days can return to Detroit.

Alas, the season preview...

Mike Ilitch: During the first few years that I wrote these season previews I was hard on Ilitch and his tenure as owner of the Tigers. I blamed him for sticking with Randy Smith as general manager for about 3 years to long. I cursed him for being reluctant to spend any money in free agency and failing to put a competitive team on the field during the first few seasons at Comerica Park, especially the 2003 season. I compared his appearance to Nosferatu with a gheri curl and blamed his cheap pizzas for giving me a heart murmur, but now I feel the need to defend him. We've become a version of the odd couple, the penniless, handsome, young and talented recent college grad and the billionaire, hideous, ancient and translucent pizza industry mogul. However I'm sick of all the rumors that the economy in Detroit will force some kind of massive firesale not seen in baseball since the '97 Marlins or early '90's Padres. The most egregious of these believers is Bill Simmons who has written about it repeatedly and even devoted a lengthy portion of one of his podcasts to the subject. He's practically counting down the days until the Red Sox trade for Miguel Cabrera in exchange for some middling overhyped Red Sox prospect like Ryan Kalish or something. Look I know shit in Michigan is bad right now. It's arguably the most economically depressed state in the country and if GM and Chrysler go under the damage would be devastating. However it's not like everyone in the state is penniless. Sure season ticket sales are down drastically but I think thats a product of a last place finish as much as anything. Also Ilitch's wealth isn't tied to the auto industry in the least (I think a lot of outsiders thinks the whole state of Michigan is employed by or financially dependant on GM/Ford/Chrysler) and his net worth supposedly went up in the past season (unlike several owners who have lost millions in this economy i.e. the Wilpons). He's also ridden out tough times in the NHL and isnt cut from the same cloth as some owners that care only about the bottom line. I believe that nothing motivates people like the icy cold hand of death approaching them. I don't mean to sound grim or insensitive but Ilitch is getting quite old and from everything I've read the one thing Ilitch wants more than anything right now, besides an endless supply of blood for sustenance, is to bring a World Series Championship to Detroit. I realize this is overly simplistic but so are many of the arguments about why the Tigers are facing economic disaster.

Jim Leyland: Leyland goes into this season with his managerial butt firmly on the hot seat, and not because he fell asleep on the couch with a cigarette in his mouth. After last season Leyland was a little miffed that he did not receive a contract extension. There were also rumblings of a growing discord in the previously tight relationship between Dombrowski and Leyland. How quickly past accomplishments are forgotten in a win now environment with the second highest payroll in baseball. It just seems like yesterday that Leyland was kissing his wife through the fence and getting carried of the field after Magglio's walk off homerun in the ALCS in 2006. There is no question that Leyland will be managing for his very job this season and Dombrowski is accommodating him by allowing him to take the 25 players that Leyland sees as the best fit for the team come north with him. Even if that did mean the embarrassing scenario of cutting bait and eating 14 million dollars in payroll for a much ballyhooed addition to the team just a couple of seasons ago, as well as allowing him to take a couple of pitchers who between them have very little pro experience and none above A ball.

Gerald Laird: Laird is the Tigers new starting backstop. If that statement doesnt really inspire a lot of confidence there is a reason for it. Laird broke out with the Rangers in 2006 while splitting time with Rod Barrajas. He was given the full time job in 2007 and promptly fell flat on his face. Last year Laird split time with a gaggle of Rangers catching prospects and after putting up slightly below average offensive production coupled with slightly above average defense was deemed expendable as the Rangers decided to flip him to the Tigers for a pair of live minor league arms. Laird is the definition of a league average catcher with decent pop, low OBP and decent defense. The thing that impresses me the most about Laird is that he has been able to succeed despite having an ugly sounding name. I'm a big believer that a person's name plays an important part in how their life will turn out. For example if your name is Colt McCoy is there really any doubt that you're going to grow up and become a star quarterback? Would Cole Hamels have grown up to be the ace of the World Champion Phillies and married to a model if his name had been Melvin Thorpe? If Gerald Laird were to exist in 1930's Hollywood I guarantee the first thing that would've happened is some cigar smoking, bowtie wearing studio executive would have changed his name to Jerry Sexington or Chase Powers or something outrageous like that. Just say Laird's name out loud and tell me it doesnt sound like the guttural sounds someone makes when they are having a stroke or vomiting.

Miguel Cabrera: There was some concern last season when Cabrera got off to a slow start at the plate, slugging about 100 points lower than his career average midway through June. This was coupled with his atrociously bad defense at third base, which prompted a move across the diamond (to replace the equally atrocious Carlos Guillen at first) as well as another round of questions about his conditioning and dedication to the game. Then over the course of the last three months of the season Cabrera caught fire and slugged over .600 and hit 21 second half homeruns which propelled him into the league lead. He also adapted quite nicely to playing first base and even though he may never cover much range he did prove adept at picking throws out of the dirt and making the occasional spectacular diving stab of a line drive shot. Questions about his conditioning still persist but with his natural talent and the fact that he's still so young, (he'll turn 26 in a couple of weeks) there is a chance that we haven't even seen his best seasons yet.

Placido Polanco: Polanco is entering the final year of the four year contract he signed with the Tigers shortly after his arrival in the trade that sent Uegeth Urbina to Philadelphia, back when Dombrowski was still making trades that worked out favorably for Detroit (Pre-Jurrjens/Hernandez/Renteria). No one can argue that Polanco hasn't been a bargain for the duration of this contract, back when Dombrowski was still signing guys for below market value (Pre-Robertson/Willis). It will be interesting to see what happens with Polanco following this season. If he puts up another .300/.350/.400 season with solid defense there will be a strong sentiment to re-sign him and possibly reward him for his past performance when he was vastly underpaid. However if there is one thing that my subscription to BP has taught me its that baseball is a business and the best route is to ruthlessly cut loose any player in his mid-30's regardless of sentimental value as they are likely on the downslope of their career. However, given the relative dearth of options on the free agent market following this season at the keystone (Freddy Sanchez anyone?) and the similar lack of options up the middle in the minors the Tigers may find themselves backed into a corner when it comes to negotiating with Polanco this offseason.

Adam Everett: When you live a fast paced lifestyle like I do, with sports cars (my 2001 Buick Century), illicit drug use (drinking cough syrup until I pass out), beautiful women (my obese cat Sgt. Hugs) and thousands of dollars ( student loan debt) you don't have time to regret anything. In fact "No Regrets" is kind of my motto to live by as evidenced by the large Hello Kitty crossbones tattoo that covers my entire back will emphatically tell you. Long story short I can't really empathize with the regret Dave Dombrowski must feel when he looks out at Adam Everett starting at shortstop every day. Sure Everett isn't really costing them anything monetarily as he signed a 1 year 1 million dollar deal this past offseason, but his anemic bat and slick glove are whats left to show for Dombrowski's decision to trade Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez for Edgar Renteria. I know I've mentioned that trade a hundred times already but it may take years of therapy for me to get over that deal, so instead of continuing to bitch about the trade I'll shift gears to something else. After the Rays shaved hundreds of runs off their runs allowed total en route to the World Series last year defense became the hot commodity during the offseason. Much of the credit for the Rays defensive turnaround was credited to their acquiring Jason Bartlett a no hit good-glove shortstop from the Minnesota Twins. Well lucky for Detroit they signed a similar scrappy white shortstop with a good defensive reputation away from their AL Central rival Twins. He should be a vast improvement defensively over Renteria who had all the range of my 84 year old wheelchair bound Grandpa. Did I mention we traded Jair.......whoops sorry.

Brandon Inge: I think the lesson I learned from Brandon Inge last season was that if things aren't going your way or your employee asks you to sacrifice for the good of the team the proper and professional way to act is to publicly question their decisions through thinly veiled passive aggresive remarks. Maybe even demand a trade or two or openly sulk to the point that it effects my job performance. Sure this method may get me called out by my boss and may even make my image take a hit but I would be so wildly overpaid that no one else would want me and eventually I would get my way and even a promotion. Probably from the sarcastic tone of those first few sentences its pretty clear that Inge isn't my favorite Tiger. He's joined the list of Tigers, headed by Bobby Higginson, who I once cheered for but who hung around long enough for me to grow to hate them. His defense at the hot corner is rather spectacular and he is exciting to watch while in the field but his performance at the plate has been putrid since his flukey 2006 power surge. His OPS the past two seasons have been sub 700, which means he has to be Brooks Robinson-esqe in the field to drag his worth above replacement value. However maybe now that he's been properly coddled and has the job he wants he'll be able to produce a little with the bat.

Matt Treanor: I don't know anything about Matt Treanor other than the fact that his wife is infinitely more popular and famous than he is and she's a professional beach volleyball player. This led to my startling discovery that there is such a thing as professional beach volleyball. Treanor joins the long line of backup catchers who passed through Detroit for only a season or two before fading away into oblivion, although there is still a chance that the team is waiting for Vance Wilson to return from his seemingly decade long rehab from Tommy John surgery. I'm a little disappointed in the teams decision to bring in Treanor as I had worked myself up into a hot sweaty lather over the prospect of the beginning of the Dusty Ryan era after his promising cup of coffee with the team last September. Oh well Dusty's absence will only make my heart grow fonder.

Ramon Santiago: I've always been a big fan of Santiago and I was hoping he would get a crack at landing the every day job after The Disaster Known as Edgar Renteria had his option declined within seconds of the 2008 season ending.

Magglio Ordonez: Magglio regressed from his MVP caliber 2007 season but still put together an impressive season. He's essentially a .300/.370/.500 player who will hit 20-25 homeruns and drive in 100 plus RBI's a season. He'll never come close to putting up the numbers he did two years ago but he's still well above average for a corner outfielder. Sadly this could be Magglio's final season in Detroit as his name constantly gets bandied about in trade rumors and if the Tigers struggle out of the gate and look to shed some payroll he could be moved. Given how critical many in the media were when the Tigers handed this contract out when Magglio was coming off a devastating knee injury that required some sort of radical surgery that wasn't even legal to perform in this country, this deal turned out surprisingly well for the Tigers.

Curtis Granderson: Granderson wasn't able to match his 2007 season at the plate or in the field. But he still had a productive season overall and ranks among the best centerfielders and most exciting players in the game. Even with a decrease across the board in Granderson's slash stats there were still improvements in his game that, like Cabrera lead some to belief that we haven't even seen the best of Granderson yet. Namely he increased his walk rate while slashing his strikeout rate for the third consecutive season. Also he learned to hit left-handers after previously being completely helpless against them. Granderson had been so bad against lefties before last season that there was a groundswell last spring to have him platoon with a 12 year old blind girl named Nicole Cramer who played in one of those leagues with the beeping baseballs. The only reason the Tigers didn't go through with it was because the idea of a 12 year old blind girl playing professional baseball would have made Rick Reilly orgasm to death and the Tigers didn't want that blood and.....uh....other matter on their hands.

Carlos Guillen: Once again Guillen is switching positions, this time heading to left field. Last year saw his odyssey take him from shortstop to first base, where his awful footwork around the bag almost led to him getting killed in a collision with someone barrelling down the first base line on several occasions. Once it became apparent that both him and Cabrera were out of place defensively the two swapped spots across the diamond where Guillen provided above average defense. He was sidelined at one point by a killer case of hemorrhoids, which is the worst possible injury imaginable. I know this from experience as I seemed to have developed a raging case of them just while writing this insanely long blog post. Anyways Guillen is still athletic enough to where he could be an asset defensively in the outfield and maybe the position takes some of the burden of his aching surgically repaired knees that will allow his bat to return to the level it was a couple of years back.

Marcus Thames: After years of being jerked around by the front office, dating back to 2005 when he didn't make the team coming out of spring training because the team was to gutless to cut ties with Bobby Higginson rotting carcass, Thames has finally forced his way into a major role on the team. A year removed from having the indignity of sharing the short half of a platoon with Jacques Jones it looked like Thames might once again lose significant playing time and possibly his spot on the roster to another aging and washed up veteran, this time future Hall of Famer Gary Sheffield. However, in a surprising move the Tigers cut ties with Sheffield and ate 14 million dollars in remaining salary just for the privilege of having Sheffield not play for them this season. If I were an owner with an infinite amount of money, I think a good way to punish a G.M. who had handed an ill advised contract would be to sit him down and make him actually eat 14 million dollars in singles with a knife and fork for my entertainment. With Sheffield gone Thames will appear to get a full seasons worth of at bats while rotating between the outfield corners and DH. He has the potential to put up the following slash stats in a full season of at-bats: .220/.280/.600. Just as an idea of what kind of player Thames could end up being Baseball Prospectus lists his top player comps as Dave Kingman, Pete Incaviglia and Steve Balboni. I've always had a soft spot for these kinds of all or nothing power hitters and I'm glad Thames finally seems to be getting a full season worth of playing time in Detroit.

Josh Anderson: Anderson is the newest Tiger, having been acquired for one of the several minor league relievers the Tigers seemingly throw into every deal. In this case a side arm reliver named Rudy Darrow. I know even less about Darrow than I do Anderson so I can't really offer any insight on to whether this is a good trade or not. I really cant offer any insight into anything though, so this couldnt really come as any surprise. Most of Anderson's value lies in his batting average, as a glance at his career number reveals little plate discipline and a modicum of power. He also brings a decent amount of speed to the lineup having stole 52 bases between AAA and the majors last season, while only being caught 8 times, so he could have his uses as a pinch runner. Supposedly he also brings good defense to the table, even though he might be a bit overmatched for the expansive centerfield at Comerica. But with a team currently running Magglio, Guillen and Thames out to play defense in the corners Anderson could have some utility as a late inning defensive replacement for any of the aforementioned aging/iron gloved trio. It's been awhile since the Tigers have had a legitimate speed threat on their roster, maybe since Alex Sanchez who was arguably the worst baserunner in Tigers history. Sanchez had as much sense on the basepaths as the squirrel in the video on those late night sports bloopers shows that ran around the paths to Benny Hill's theme music. Somewhere Andres Torres is wondering if Dave Dombrowski lost his phone number because Anderson's job was supposed to be Torres' destiny.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Return

I've been away for months and unlike my previous absences where I explained away my lack of posting by personally showing up at the doorsteps of my twelve faithful readers hat in hand and bindle over the shoulder and admitting to letting them down with my laziness. However if they were willing to just give this lonely vagrant blogger a place to stay, a laptop to write with, a little encouragement and some vittles I wouldn't disappoint them again. Of course this led to people asking who I was and what I was doing on their doorstep and the polite few who let me in to their homes were paid back by having their couch defiled, their appliances stolen and empty cans of beans littered about the kitchen. I had an opportunity to win back my readers trust and I blew it. This time though I have a legitimate excuse for neglecting my website for an obscene amount of time. It started off innocently enough when I travelled to the United Nations General Assembly to clear up a simple case of mistaken identity. Next thing I know the diplomat I'm talking to gets a knife thrown into his back, I'm accused of murdering him and I'm stowing away on a train bound for Chicago where I spend the night making love to a flirtatious young blond. Things just got crazier from there. I got shot at by a crop duster while traveling through rural northern Indiana (which, come to think of it really isnt that odd) and got into a fistfight at an auction for expensive artwork in Chicago before everything culminated in a wrestling match between a surprisingly strong and agile 77 year old Martin Landau and I on the side of Lincoln's face atop Mt. Rushmore. Aside from a few scrapes and bruises everything is fine now, my name has been cleared and as a bonus I'm proud to announce my recent engagement to the stunning Eva Marie Saint.
O.k. I must admit something. None of what I wrote in that first paragraph, aside from soiling my friends couch, is true. Yes, yes I know that's probably shocking to most of you that read this site and come to hear me regale my exciting adventures and epic journeys, such as my 2,000 word story about buying baseball cards from a homeless man at a Burger King drive-thru in Detroit. It's like I'm a modern day Sir Francis Drake or something. Anyways I just inserted myself into the role of Cary Grant in the famous and very entertaining North by Northwest, which was one of the many movies I watched during the months long depression that followed after I found out I failed the bar exam in November. Once again I know what you're thinking, partly because of the new mind reading device I've been tinkering with the past few weeks but mostly because you're so damn predictable (right now you're thinking about how delicious toast is and you're regretting skipping out on breakfast in lieu of the 9 more minutes of sleep you got for hitting the snooze button, you're that easy). You're probably thinking or rather standing up and shouting, "But Andrew you're the smartest man I know and if the Board of Examiners tested on the subjects that were actually important to the practice of law such as looks, personality, wit, taste in food and clothes and how to properly cut an onion you would be aces." Unfortunately they didn't test those subjects last summer, nor did they hit on any of my other areas of expertise like old Tigers statistics, Raul Julia's filmography and how to make cocaine. I spent hours listening to Clipse CD's and spent several hundred dollars enrolling in that bar review course run by a group of violent gang members who used to hang out in front of my building for absolutely nothing. Instead they asked about things called "Trusts" and "Secured Transactions" which surprisingly has nothing to do with confident transsexuals. Who knew.

With that being said it should come as no surprise that in early November I received a large first class envelope with a letter inside informing me that I had failed the bar exam but was more than welcome to come back and take it again in February. Now in all honesty there have been many times in my life that I have felt like a failure. When I've gotten bad grades, when I've been dumped by my girlfriend, when my parents call me a failure on my birthday every year, or the other night when I was in my apartment watching Extra at 3 A.M. as Mario Lopez profiled how to get in the best shape of your life with the advice of 20 something year old trainers as I sat on the couch with my obese cat laying on my chest picking out the Krackel's from a bag of Hershey's miniatures. It was exactly like that Garfield comic strip when John Arbuckle hangs himself with his belt in the last panel. However this was the first time my failure had been spelled out in bold caps on a piece of paper and mailed to my house first class. I didnt handle it well and for about two weeks I sat in complete darkness in my apartment, watched a million movies through Netflix and ate Shells and Cheese directly from the pan before finally deciding to re-dedicate myself to studying and passing the bar exam when I retook the damn thing in February.

I also had to move away from my beloved Detroit as the lease on my apartment (which was about a mile away from Comerica) was expiring and the job market in Metro Detroit wasn't exactly the best place for a 25 year old with almost zero work experience to find a job. So I went to the library and researched for vibrant cities with a rising population, a robust job market, a ton of young professionals and many attractive young women. The one city that came up every time was Flint, Michigan. So I rushed due north 80 miles and signed a lease at the first building I saw with a now leasing sign hanging in the window. Much to my dismay I later found out that the book I was researching out of was published in 1957, which I should have realized when it said by 1999 1/2 the worlds population will have relocated to the moon accompanied with a cartoon of Bob Hope and Dwight Eisenhower playing golf in space cadet suits with alien caddies. Oh well it's not like Flint is without its perks. The 25% unemployment rate within the city makes drugs more accessible, dangerous and cheaper than they ever were in Detroit, Halo Burger is the most amazing fast food restaurant in the world and Flint boasts the highest amount of soiled matresses laying on the side of the road per capita than any other city of 100,000+ in the North America (take that Mexico City!!).

This is all just a long way of saying I have nothing to do now. So I thought I would dust off the old blog and get back into chronicling the Tigers season and posting other odds and ends before the fumes from the meth lab above my apartment rot my brain and teeth to the point of not being able to communicate. This should be fun.