December 28, 2013

15 Years Ago Today: Luis Gonzalez for Karim Garcia

On this date in 1998, the Tigers signed free agent Gregg Jefferies to a two-year contract and traded outfielder Luis Gonzalez to the Diamondbacks for Karim Garcia.

A lifetime .289 hitter, Jeffries hit just .231 with a .639 OPS in 111 games for the 1999 and 2000 clubs.

In Gonzalez’s lone season with the Tigers he hit .267, 23 homers and 71 RBI with a .816 OPS. So you can understand why the Tigers were eager to deal him. He would become a legend in Arizona over eight seasons, hitting .298, with 224 homers and a .919 OPS.

Garcia? Well, he had less remarkable career in Detroit: in parts of two seasons, 1999 and 2000, he hit .236 with 14 homers and .708 OPS.

December 12, 2013

The Case for Jack Morris – and Everyone Else

Scott Raab of Esquire lobs this grenade into the Jack Morris/Hall of Fame discussion:

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America was founded in 1908 and boasts more than 800 members, many of whom were hypnotized at some point during the 1980s and programmed to vote Jack Morris into the Hall of Fame because — they really say this — “Jack Morris knew how to win,” which means that although Jack’s numbers aren’t dazzling in the context of Cooperstown, he had grit, and he was savvy, and he was a warrior, a legend, one of the best big-game pitchers baseball has ever seen.

In the other corner, living in their parents’ basements: the Sons of Bill James … He is Yahweh to a 30-year generation of dweebs, baseball writers and broadcasters, and general managers, and there is a general consensus among them that — based on a fair, square preponderance of data — Jack Morris, while a very good pitcher, was not among the very greatest, and is thus unworthy of the Hall.

Read the rest here.

 

 

September 19, 2013

Video: Today in Tigers History: McLain Wins #31, Surrenders Mantle’s #535

On this date in 1968, Denny McLain earned his 31st win and along the way, grooved nothing but heat* to Mickey Mantle, helping The Mick hit his 535th career homer.

Five years ago, in a nod to the 40th anniversary of that 31-win season, The New York Daily News caught up with McLain:

Who has only two of his own teeth, could pass for a sumo wrestler and yet still eats a pack of Twinkies most every day?

Turns out that Dennis Dale McLain is still pitching after all these years. It’s just not fastballs and curves anymore, and not with his signature leg kick.

“I am who I am,” McLain says. “I’m not going to change after 64 years. I get up every day and do Denny.”

On that night 45 years go, before just 9,063 at Tiger Stadium, McLain went the distance in the Tigers’ 6-2 win – the club’s 99th of the season.

Here’s Mantle telling his side of the story:

*From Baseball-Reference: McLain allegedly calls catcher Jim Price** out and tells him to inform Mantle he’s throwing the slugger nothing but fastballs. The home run gives Mantle undisputed hold of third place on the all-time home run list. Mantle tips his cap to McLain as he rounds third base. Joe Pepitone, the next
batter, signals where he would like the ball, and McLain dusts him. The Tigers win the game, 6-2, the 12th straight complete game for the Tigers staff.

**Price went 0 for 4.

 

September 18, 2013

Video: PASS TV Intro to 1984 Tigers Division-Clinching Game

September 18, 2013

Sept. 18, 1984: Tigers Clinch American League East Title

On this date in 1984, the Tigers clinched the American League East title, beating the Brewers 3-0.

Randy O’Neal pitched seven shutout innings, allowing four hits, one walk and striking out six. As he often did, Willie Hernandez earned a two-inning save, his 30th of the year.

Tom Brookens hit a solo homer off Brewers’ starter Bob McClure. Lance Parrish drove in Detroit’s other two runs.

If you want to take a deep dive into the ’84 club, pickup a copy of Detroit Tigers 1984: What a Start! What a Finish! from Amazon.com. (Disclosure: I wrote the bios of Rusty Kuntz, Johnny Grubb, Chet Lemon and Carl Willis that appear in the book.)

September 17, 2013

Bob Uhl’s Bitter Cup of Coffee with Tigers

Bob Uhl

Here’s a nod to the late Bob Uhl, who was born on this date 100 years ago (he died in 1990). Uhl appeared in two major-league games – one for the 1938 White Sox, one for ’40 Tigers.

In his only Tigers appearance, three days before his 26th birthday, Uhl entered the game in the middle of a Yankees route and in front of a sellout crowd at Briggs Stadium.

With one out in the sixth inning and the Tigers down 7-5 (after taking a 4-0 lead in the first), Uhl relieved Tom Seats.

Things didn’t go well.

Uhl faced six batters, retiring none of them, allowed four hits, two walks and five runs – four of them earned. Dizzy Trout relieved Uhl and retired the Yankees in order.

Final score: Yankees 16 – Tigers 7

September 10, 2013

The Non-Sequiturs: The Peralta, Sardinha and Pirates Edition

We’re now so far into the Post-Jhonny Peralta Era that we’re starting to talk about his possible, potential and highly unlikely and not improbable return to the Tigers for the last weekend of the season – and presumably the postseason. This whole saga calls to mind a couple of things. First, it’s how fleeting these controversies can be. In the course of five days, the Tigers trade for José Iglesias, keep him warm at third base for a couple of games, watch Peralta get suspended and then … crickets. Or what seemed like crickets.

I’ll admit there have been several game situations in which I wished Peralta was in the lineup, but for the most part it’s bygones. What about you?

The second thing is that when you think about all the things we Detroit fans have endured over the years, we haven’t witnessed a key player at the center of huge MLB-wide story. Think about the occasions when the national spotlight shone on a Tigers player it was,by and large, for positive reasons. Here are the stories that come to mind:

Am I missing anything? I don’t think so.

The last baseball scandal I can remember which remotely approaches Biogenesis is the mid-’80s Pittsburgh cocaine trials, but no Tigers were implicated in that one. But this time, man, the Tigers were in the thick of it. (Unlike when fringy player Exavier Prente “Nook” Logan was named in The Mitchell Report back in 2007, but he was hardly a household name or an essential part of the Tigers future – or present for that matter.)

Even though he’s working out with the Tigers now, I still can’t imagine we’ll see Peralta again in a Tigers uniform. Stranger things have happened, I suppose, but I can’t see the Dombrowski/Leyland Administration brining that level of distraction to the club during a playoff run.

Apropos of nothing:

  • Now, can we talk about Rick Porcello? Actually, I’d rather not; it’s too frustrating. Some other time.
  • I can’t believe I’m writing these words: I wish the Mets were better than they are. This is quite a statement given my deep-seated hatred of those mid-‘80s teams led by Davey Johnson. The only redeeming quality from those clubs was my favorite undervalued Tigers player: Howard Johnson. I always felt like he was the solution to Sparky’s third-base problem but instead, the skipper saw the future at third with Tom BrookensChris PittaroDarnell Coles, Jim Morrison and whomever else they could plug into that spot. And more often than not, it was Brookens. Where was I going with this? Oh, yeah, the Mets. Never mind.
  • If the Tigers’ current situation leaves you unsettled, contrast it with last year’s Sept. 10 dilemma: they were three games back of the White Sox. A 5.5-game lead over a flawed Indians club works better for me.
  • I was glad to see Tony Paul’s article last week on how this team is not the 2009 Tigers – and it’s not simply because there’s no Dane Sardinha, no Zach Miner, no Fu-Te Ni. This team just doesn’t have the feel of a club that will cool along with the September temperatures. Am I wrong? (Just for fun, look back on some of the names on that ’09 roster. Oy.)
  • Don’t look now but thanks to his four-hit night on Tuesday Alex Avila is hitting .221.

Finally, speaking of Pittsburgh: congratulations to the Pirates and their fans on a long-deserved winning season. Pittsburgh officially might have suffered more years of losing baseball than Detroit fans, but we’ll always have this on them and any other awful team: 2003.

September 9, 2013

225 Words about Cup-of-Coffee Tigers RHP Jim Proctor

Jim Proctor

There’s always an interesting story about the Tigers birthdays. Take, for example, Jim Proctor, who was born on this date in 1935.

He debuted at age 23 for the Tigers on Sept. 14, 1959 against the Senators in Washington, pitching in relief of starter Ray Narleski. In the bottom of the sixth, he allowed one run on three hits — also, he allowed a sac bunt by future Tigers bench coach Billy Consolo and a walk to Harmon Killebrew.

In the seventh, he gave up a leadoff triple to Julio Becquer before retiring the next three men in order.

Proctor’s next appearance was on Sept. 26 at Briggs Stadium against the White Sox and Hall of Famer Early Wynn. It would Proctor’s first and last career start and the second and final big-league appearance as well. He wouldn’t escape the first inning, allowing four runs, all earned, on four hits and two walks. The final hitter the right hander faced was the eighth man to bat in the inning, Sox left fielder Johnny Callison.

One interesting side note from this game: Norm Cash replaced first baseman Ted Kluszewski in the bottom of the second, batting cleanup. He went 0 for 1 with a flyout and a walk.

As for Proctor, his major league career came to a close less than two weeks after it began. His career line:

W L ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
0 1 16.88 2 2.2 8 5 5 0 3 0 4.125
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/9/2013
August 2, 2013

This Just In: Dave Dombrowski is Still the Best GM in Baseball

This post will not please the mouth-breathing, knuckle-scraping, Sports Radio-calling, Dombrowski haters. But it is the truth. Dave Dombrowski is the best GM in baseball, and he just proved it again. For the third year in a row (and in a lousy market for contenders needing to shore up a position or two), DD went out and made a move that no one saw coming to address his team’s needs.

First he got a much-needed veteran back-of-the-bullpen arm in Houston’s closer Jose Veras for a 19-year-old OF prospect. Veras gives Jim Leyland plenty of depth and options for the late innings, and lessens the chance that he’ll have to rely on someone he doesn’t trust (Coke, Alburquerque, Valverde, etc.).

Then, in the closest thing to a blockbuster that this year’s trading deadline produced, he solved shortstop for this year and for the next few years. Jose Iglasias is universally regarded as the second coming of Omar Vizquel and Ozzie Smith defensively (and if he hits like them, that would be pretty good too). He is only 23 years old, and he can play all over the infield. Right now, that’s pretty important, what with Miggy’s hip/ab issues, Infante’s anke, and Peralta’s impending PED suspension. When the other shoe drops for Jhonny, Iglasias will slide into SS, and immediately improve the left side of the infield, because Miggy won’t have to cover as much ground. While Peralta is here (most likely through the weekend) Iglasias provides the luxury of resting Cabrera against a team that they shouldn’t need his help to beat.

Now, Iglasias didn’t come free. But hey, nothing worth anything does. But Dombrowski got him without giving up the jewel of the farm system, Nick Castellanos, who now moves to the front of the line for a call-up when injuries or ineffectiveness strike the major league roster. It will hurt to see Avisail Garcia in a White Sox uniform for the next few years, but seeing Iglasias scoop up everything hit near him for that same amount of time will ease the pain. Garcia was projected to be a very good ML outfielder, maybe even an All-Star. But the Tigers had a surplus at OF in the minors AND the majors, and a dearth of sure-fire middle infield prospects, and nobody that was close to being ready to step in now or next year at SS.

Once again, Dombrowski never tipped his hand, and the deal he eventually made caught everyone by surprise, and solved the exact weakness of the roster as it stood. In 2011, it was Fister, last year Sanchez and Infante, and now, Veras and Iglasias. Each time, he gave up highly-touted prospects to get exactly what he needed. So far, the young players haven’t come back to haunt him or the Tigers. Garcia, and Jacob Turner may yet do that. But even if they do, Dombrowski and the Tigers are still WAY on the positive side of the ledger when it comes to trades. Just ask the Marlins.

June 29, 2013

Saturday Non Sequiturs: Memories of 2003, Infante’s Future and Wang Chung Tonight

Catching up on this and that while the temperature hits 111 on my back porch — in the shade.

Earlier today I tweeted the recap of the June 29, 2003, Tigers/Diamondbacks game at Comerica Park. The most notable nugget from the boxscore was Jose Valverde‘s six-pitch, four-strike, three-batter save. What a difference 10 years can make. Of the players appearing in that game, only Valverde, Andres Torres, Ramon Santiago and Fernando Rodney are still in the majors.

Then-Dbacks manager Bob Brenly is back in Arizona’s TV booth (from where he was plucked in 2001 to replace Buck Showalter). Alan Trammell and his Tigers bench coach Kirk Gibson have swapped roles and now lead the Diamondbacks. And, we know where Jose Valverde is these days.

Baseball really is the game of retreads.

***

Every time I see Omar Infante make a nifty play or have a multiple-hit game, I can’t help but think back to 2009 and Placido Polanco. Coming off a Gold Glove season in which he hit .285, the Tigers didn’t offer him a contract and handed the keys to second base to the (still) unproven Scott Sizemore.

Are we heading toward a replay after this season with free-agent-to-be Infante? I sure hope not.

When the Tigers cut Polanco loose after five-ish seasons, he was 33. Infante turns 32 the day after Christmas. Why would they part ways with him again? Hernan Perez is hitting. 299 at Erie these days and earned a sip of coffee last season with Detroit, but is he the answer at second base? I’m not so sure.

I’d like to see Infante re-signed for two more seasons and keep at least part of the keystone combo intact for awhile … and avoid another Sizemore situation.

What do you think?

***

Like most Tigers fans, I’m waiting for Victor Martinez to thaw from his low-.200s freeze. He will, right? Yes, I think he will and it will likely be after the All-Star Game. I don’t mind Jim Leyland riding it out with Martinez in the five hole. What other option do they have? None, really.

***

When Leyland selects reserves for the All-Star Game in two weeks will Drew Smyly be among the final roster? I think he should be. I mean, look at his line coming into play today:

W L W-L% ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP BB/9 SO/9
3 0 1.000 2.25 28 7 2 48.0 36 12 12 1 14 48 1.042 2.6 9.0

Yeah, that’s an All Star.

***

By any chance did you catch this story last week on Gary Sheffield, Baseball Agent, in The New York Times? Sheff’s only client is Jason Grilli and here’s some gold from the agent himself:

As a middle reliever in Detroit, Grilli had used sinkers and curveballs to minimize his pitch count and save the rest of the bullpen.

Sheffield did not approve. As with everything, he was blunt in his assessment of his client.

“I told Jason my honest opinion of his pitching style, and he knew I didn’t like it,” Sheffield said. “I let him know, ‘Your stuff and your results don’t match up.’ He’s a big guy with a hard sinker and filthy slider, and when I see that, I think that’s closer stuff — he just had to believe it. Just because someone tells you you’re not that type of pitcher, that don’t mean anything to you.”

Man, I miss Sheff.

***

Finally, enjoy this bit of ’80s goodness courtesy of Dr. Frasier Crane:

Have a great weekend.