UPTON IS MOYA’S PERSONAL NIGHTMARE

By:  Kurt Snyder

Baseball can be such a cruel sport for players trying so hard to make it to “the show.” You try valiantly to perfect your craft. You hope for that big break. You wonder when or if you will ever get an opportunity.

The life of a minor leaguer, especially at the AAA level, must be agonizing. But sometimes it’s agonizing for fans as well, especially when they hear about a highly-touted minor league prospect. They wonder when that player will get an opportunity and when they will be brought up to the big club.

But more times than not, the player finds out he’s just not there yet. Consistency in the minors gives them that chance. But try building on that in the majors when you just can’t find enough playing time to stay sharp or justify staying.

This is the plight of Stephen Moya. Tiger fans have been waiting for him to emerge. He is the one position player in the minors who seems to have the most upside, the most potential. He’s a left-handed bat with power. Someone sorely needed in a righty-heavy Tiger lineup. But Moya has struggled the last couple years with strikeouts and it has kept him from advancing.

Moya was brought up earlier in the month, sporting a brand new batting stance and a more aggressive look at the plate. And lo and behold, he looked good. He began to show the same promise in Detroit he had displayed in Toledo so far this season. He appears to be turning the corner. But Stephen has a big problem. His name is Justin Upton.

Upton was thought to be the piece of the puzzle needed to fill the void left by the departure of Yoenis Cespedes. But the whole transaction has left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Ironically, as Moya struggled with strikeouts last season, the one guy now standing in his path between playing in Detroit versus playing in Toledo, is striking out at an alarming rate.

Justin Upton is in a position to enter June baseball with 3 home runs and 11 RBI’s. And how many strikeouts, 71? Yeah, 71 strikeouts in just over 180 at bats heading into play Tuesday night! 71!

But regardless of how bad it has gotten, Upton remains Moya’s roadblock. What choice do the Tigers have? They have made their bed. They have invested big in Justin Upton. And I can’t imagine what Moya must think. It’s the cruel reality for a minor league player waiting for a chance. They constantly walk that fine line only to find themselves on the wrong side of the chalk over and over again.

But when you are sent home in favor of someone who can’t find a baseball in a bag full of … well, baseballs, it must be very disconcerting. Moya is at the point where his chances to play in Detroit are fleeting. There is too much money tied up in the corner outfield positions.

But I can’t spend the entire time here blowing smoke up Stephen’s ‘you know what.’ He needed to produce long before the Tigers even considered acquiring Justin Upton. It was his lack of consistent production in the minors that failed to instill confidence in him. The Tigers just did not consider him to be a candidate to properly grab hold of an everyday outfield spot. The strikeouts were just too debilitating.

But the Tigers invested big in a player who has given them little. The strikeouts have been debilitating. The guy we thought could replace Cespedes, strikes out at least once a night, if not twice and has provided next-to-no production over the course of the first 2 months. Upton has been shockingly bad.

This is the guy keeping Stephen Moya from playing, not because he’s playing well, but because he makes so much money. There’s no room at the inn. There is no real future for Moya in Detroit.

TWO TIMES TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

It’s Tuesday, so two topics will be tackled by our writers; the ever-evolving performance evaluation of Mike Pelfrey and the series loss to the Athletics.

What have Holly and Kurt noticed? What has stood out on both topics? Did they share their answers (you should know by now)? Nope, they are seeing them at the same time you are. So let’s get into it.


1. Is Mike Pelfrey as bad as many fans seem to believe?

HOLLY

Pelfrey has pitched in exactly 10 games so far and while he’s thrown a couple of stinkers, he’s more often been a victim of poor timing, team performance and management.

His job coming into the team was to eat innings, which he hasn’t done – averaging between 5 and 6 innings and his WHIP stands at 1.77. Neither good stats, however it’s conceivable that his WHIP could be lower if he wasn’t left in too long and if the bullpen had done its job.

Pelfrey has had one really bad game – his first, but he’s incrementally gotten better as time has gone on. To be fair, his next three games became losses in part because his teammates gave him a grand total of one whopping run.

His next 5 games were no decisions in which the Tigers won 3 out of the 5. In this case, he did his job by keeping the team in the game and in fact, there were a couple of games which should have put some “W”s on his card, but the team couldn’t hold the lead they were given. In two of those games, he only gave up 2 runs each. In his last 4 games, the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead.

In Sunday’s game, he was charged with the loss despite not giving up an entire earned run. If his team had hit, if the bullpen had done their job and if the manager had made more timely decisions, 9 of those games each had a greater than 50% chance of earning him a win.

KURT

Fans are enamored by stats and numbers and money. And the latter is probably what bothers them the most. If Mike Pelfrey had been brought over from the Twins on a 1-year, incentive-laden deal, they would be more forgiving.

I think most were in agreement that they could have done much better in their search for a 4th or 5th starter. Mistake #1 was making Pelfrey that acquisition. Mistake #2 was handing a 2-year contract to a guy you have a hunch about. No number crunching. No sabermetrics. A hunch based on years since his Tommy John Surgery.

He has not pitched poorly of late, the Tigers just need to be more aware of his ceiling; and unfortunately after the 5th inning, it’s warning time. But fans overall, aren’t happy because the Tigers committed so much on a guy who hasn’t turned a single head over the years and this season has yet to win a game.


2. What theme or factor was most often seen in the series loss to Oakland?

HOLLY

What stood out to me was the lack of focus by everyone, from the top to the bottom. A series that had 2 managers who didn’t appear to be seeing what everyone else was. One who claimed he didn’t see the plate controversy, one who didn’t see his relievers getting shelled and a coach who repeatedly sent runners to their doom.

In the field, a couple muffed plays by 2 outfielders. In the infield, an error by the most dependable second baseman and a play or two that could have been handled better by the SS.

At the plate, hitters unable to get runners in, not just from 2nd base, but from 3rd base multiple times and more than once with no one out. A series that saw a 4 for 22 RISP and 18 left on base that resulted in a whopping 6 runs for the entire series. And their most consistent hitter who just stood there after striking out and invoked a seldom-seen rule that nullified a runner at the plate.

Speaking of which, baserunning took a significant turn for the worse with multiple runners out at home plate, several extra base attempts gone wrong and a pickoff thrown in for good measure.

No one appeared to be fully in the moment, let alone playing as a team, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the Tigers lost a series to a last-place team.

KURT

Every team in the league will go into the city of a last place team and emerge having lost a series they should have won.

But it’s how you lose games that tell the story, not necessarily the result itself. The series was littered with poor defense. It was littered with a number of people left on base. And a game allowed to snow ball when the decision to remove a pitcher was far too late.

When you lose a series to a last place team, you are normally not outplayed. Actually, you do a fair amount of beating yourself. And the Tigers, outside of Game 1, made major contributions to the losing effort.

These are the kind of series that trouble you as you try to stay in a race and remind you of a team who can’t get out of their own way. It’s always a key detractor for a team hovering around the .500 mark; 1 step forward, 2 steps back.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

 

By:  Holly Horning

On this Memorial Day, it’s time to thank those who have served our country. While we take time to remember them, here is a blog from early May which still holds true.


What do Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Justin Upton, Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, CC Sabathia, David Price and Albert Pujols all have in common?

Big bucks, but you knew that. But also a scrutiny over their level of performance by fans that is unrivaled. Scrutiny over their every move.

And some of it is because these are guys who are playing a sport – entertainers and not humanitarians – and making more money than 99% of the world’s population.

But there are other fans who equate their earning potential with requiring the highest level of performance. Perfection.

But no matter where these fans sit on the spectrum, the bottom line is that with big bucks, comes big expectations.

Take, for example, the fan I sat next to at a Tigers’ game in Lakeland a month ago. A long-time fan, an experienced fan. A fan who could recite the starting lineup and stats, and could also keep score in the game book. A fan who cheered every time Miggy came up to bat.

And a fan who had a conniption when Miggy didn’t get on base. It didn’t matter to him that Miggy was having  a good day. He expected, as he explained, that for that salary, Miggy should get on base with every at-bat.

His baseball acumen had given way to his beliefs about money.

But its not just him. There’s an increasing number of fans expressing similar ideas on the social media threads. Just last week, I responded to a poster’s comment about Miggy “underperforming” the past 4 years. I pointed out that Cabrera had batted between .313 and .348 during those years. Had an OPS between .895 and 1.078. Won the MVP twice and also the highly-elusive Triple Crown. Also that much of it was done despite some significant injuries.

But it didn’t matter to him. He said that Miggy’s numbers should have been higher. Higher because “per hit”, he was still too expensive and not the best value. And if you’re wondering if he was a novice fan, he wasn’t.

Justin Verlander, one of MLB’s highest paid players, also receives this level of scrutiny. Fans who believed that core surgery shouldn’t have been a factor and demanded perfection immediately upon his return from the DL. Others who are upset that he’s lost velocity on his pitches or no longer pitching complete games.

But it’s not just Tigers who are being put under the microscope. Robinson Cano was expected to take the Mariners to the World Series last year. The pressure became too much for him and from reports, he expressed the desire to be traded.

And in a similar universe, there’s the tale of Prince Fielder when he was with the Tigers. A guy who earned the wrath of fans for his beyond-bad baserunning and fielding, inability to deliver in the playoffs – and of course, his choice comments after the Tigers were ousted from October baseball.

And this year, David Price, a guy we all admired during his stint with the Tigers, was booed off the mound by Red Sox fans. His sin? He gave up a lot of runs and lost the lead. The fans expected perfection from a player making $217 million.

Unrealistic? You betcha. But we all have our own beliefs about money that impact how we feel about players.

For some, it’s about business and what needs to be done today in order to get the best players. For others, it’s understanding that contracts are based primarily about previous performance. Yet others hold out hope that a big contract is a promise of top performance. And finally, there are those who see these contracts as an obligation the athletes make to guarantee playing perfection.

All of which brings us to Justin Upton. The Tigers newest multi-bazillionaire and third highest-paid player on the team. With a contract totalling $133 million, there are many fans who expected him to start performing immediately despite moving to a new team and league. But 4 weeks later, he’s barely gotten better and one of the categories he’s leading MLB in is not at all desirable.

Was last week’s “boo heard around the world” partially directed at him? Is it no surprise that social media threads are dissecting the “should have signed Cespedes instead” question?

But fans, too, are also dissecting the payroll of the entire Tigers’ team. Once again, one of baseball’s largest payrolls and a last-place finish in 2015. And based upon those figures, many of these fans are expecting perfection from this team and that means nothing less than the World Series.

BASEBALL STOPS WHEN THE U.S. ARMY CALLS

By:  Kurt Snyder

There are better times than others to dig deep into the big bag we call The Ralph Snyder Archives. But the celebration of Memorial Day certainly applies. This holiday serves a lot of purposes for this country. It’s the holiday that kicks off summer as thousands of Americans and of course Michiganders, head to cottages, campgrounds and golf courses.

It’s a weekend for BBQs and family gatherings as we take advantage of a long 3-day weekend. But unfortunately, for a lot of people, what ranks last in their order of celebrations is the real focus and purpose of Memorial Day. It’s a national holiday set aside for all of us as Americans to recognize and remember people who have served and people who have died in the line of duty, defending our country.

So certainly, Dad comes to mind. When Dad was drafted into the military, it was the second time he had been drafted in two years. Wait. What? Drafted twice? Well yeah, the first time in 1940, by the Cincinnati Reds and the second time by the U.S. Army in 1942.

Dad was an excellent catcher coming out of Scott High School in Toledo, Ohio.  So talented that the Yankees came calling before he graduated, wanting to draft him right then and there. But his dad (Ralph Sr.) pulled the plug on the notion and said “no” to the New York Yankees. He wanted his oldest son to finish high school.

So, immediately following his high school graduation, Ralph Jr. was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. As one of the top catching prospects in Ohio, Dad had an incredible opportunity; a chance to play in the big leagues someday.

He played in the Reds organization for almost 2 years, beginning his career in Cordele, Georgia at the D Level of the Georgia-Florida League. He played in 47 games all at catcher in 1941. So the 19 year old kid from Toledo was realizing his dream…until the U.S. Army called.

Dad’s baseball career ended in 1942. He spent 4 years in the Army, began officer’s training school just before World War II had ended and was sent to Japan to occupy the territory. He never had to endure a single battle as most of his military career was served stateside.

But what’s unusual is how Dad described it to us when we were young or even again when we were older. There was never any tone of disappointment. There was never any regret. Dad tasted baseball for a major league ball club; but only a taste.  He was needed elsewhere. He was called to fight for his country and he was very proud to be able to do so.

He had to have been disappointed when he was plucked from the diamond and planted at Camp Perry, Ohio on November 21st, 1942. Now 20 years old, his life had been turned upside down. In the blink of an eye he went from making a living playing a kids game to serving his country in the Army; where boys become men.

Thousands of families have their own stories about how a member or members of their family had served. However, we were lucky enough to have our father stay out of harm’s way. But many did not. Many were injured. Many severely. Many died.

But Dad was given another chance after returning home from Japan and the last of several camps in the U.S. where he was required to serve. Even though his playing days were no longer in the cards, he was a better man for what he had experienced.

But the baseball bug never left him and the first chance he got, he looked for a job in the game. The Detroit Tigers became his new passion, his new tour of duty, and this time for 46 long years. He met my mom at Tiger Stadium and the rest is history.

So even though Dad missed out on a potential baseball career in the major leagues, the game still gave him an opportunity that would change his life and define his destiny. The path from baseball to the Army and back to baseball again, led him to his wife of 62 years. So all of us 4 boys are pretty happy how it turned out.

Let me leave you with this on Memorial Day. When I stood next to my father during the national anthem prior to all those games at Tiger Stadium, his eyes never left the flag. His right hand never left his heart. And his posture was straight and proud. He loved baseball, but he loved his country more.

QUESTIONS, COMMENTS AND CONCERNS

By:  Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning

Saturday’s segment is a day to touch on as many issues as possible. With 46 games behind us, readers have the opportunity to read and think about a number of different topics.

The injury bug has hit the Tigers this past week, but they have fought their way back to .500 and back into the division race. But, what stood out? Saturdays are no different as Kurt & Holly don’t share topics prior to being published.

Are they channeling the same thoughts? Today, don’t be so sure.


KURT

CONCERN

It begins with Anibal and ends with Sanchez. I have nothing new to add. in other news, the rotation as a whole has been riding the coattails of JV and Zimmermann. So there is really little room for error, making the recovery of Zimmermann from his groin strain extremely important; a real test to see if the Tigers’ medical staff has improved their practices and can speed his recovery without any hiccups.

COMMENT

I’m not an “I told you so” guy, but this is how I envisioned the outfield would shake out when the Tigers acquired Cameron Maybin. I thought he brought more athleticism and a better bat, moving Anthony Gose to the bench. However, no one could have envisioned Maybin would hit like this, even in the short-term; and I never expected Gose would go as far down as Toledo.

COMMENT

With former Tiger Yoenis Cespedes dominating the NL power stats; home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage, he finds himself below the fold in baseball headlines, while Bryce Harper garners all the national attention. Has ESPN failed to share one of Bryce’s home runs this season? It tells you where Cuban stars rank in America’s game.


HOLLY

QUESTION

What’s up with the Tigers’ manager and coaches claiming they “didn’t see it” anytime a controversy crops up? Add to the list of baserunning blunders, outfielders and relievers flipping off fans, etc., the quick pitch to Castellanos the other day. This time, Gene Lamont absolved himself which doesn’t make the coaching staff appear to be at the top of their game.

COMMENT

The Phillies’ manager, Pete Mackanin, pulled his best hitter, Odubel Herrera, this week because he failed to run to first base. Here’s what he said:

“One of the ingredients to our success to this point is the fact that these guys play with energy, they play hard and we’re training them, basically, to play the game the right way. Not running is not the right way. And that’s why I did it. It’s more important to me to set that tone than to take our best hitter out of the lineup.”

As a number of former players, former managers and analysts repeatedly say, successful baseball is about making players accountable.

CONCERN

One of the jobs of a manager is to put his players in the best position to win, bringing me to Gene Lamont’s decision to run Anibal Sanchez back out to the mound the other day in the 7th inning. Despite Gene’s comments about Anibal needing to be eased back in, showing inconsistencies that day and not being able to get through the 6th inning at all this year, he pushed him beyond what was realistic and put Sanchez, and the entire game, in a position to fail. Anibal became very upset when he left the game and I’m sure significant damage has been done to his mental game going forward.

THE ABC’s

By:  Holly Horning

In my work as an image consultant, we evaluate clients on how well they address their ABC’s – Appearance, Behavior and Communication.  Awareness and work on these areas is directly tied to the goals and success you have in your professional, personal and social worlds.

Baseball is no different from any other profession and how the players look, act and speak tells volumes about how they are feeling and reacting to the things life throws in their way. Some do it very well while others, er, need some help.

So who are the stars for this week? And which ones failed to shine? And how did they impact the more interesting stories-behind-the-stories? Let’s take a look…


APPEARANCE

· The rule about judging someone by the shoes they wear also applies in baseball. Have you seen Cameron Maybin’s?

· Have you noticed how many Tigers now are wearing their socks/pants old-school? It just used to be Ian Kinsler last year.

· It’s highly unlikely that Gene Lamont would be named interim manager if the team goes south. He was walking out to the mound with extreme difficulty during Wednesday’s game and using the dugout railing for support. Hard to imagine that he would have the stamina and endurance required for the job.

· The relievers, and manager, seem to be getting shaggier while the starting pitchers and regular lineup guys are using the razor with more regularity. The latter are much more clean-cut this year than in 2015, which bucks the overall MLB trends.


BEHAVIOR

· It certainly is intriguing that Ian Kinsler has been sitting, once again, for experiencing “flu-like symptoms” several times within the past month. Even more interesting is that if he is sick, why is he sitting in the dugout in close proximity to his teammates and interacting with them? If it’s allergy-related, why doesn’t the team indicate that?

· Is Brad being crafty with making lineup changes under-the-radar? Is it just happenstance that Kinsler has the same bug once again that now allows Maybin to hit leadoff? Maybin who has done very well in that slot, btw. Could this be the way to introduce a new batting order surreptitiously?

· Have you seen how happy and animated Gene Lamont becomes when he gets to manage?

· Vmart’s knees may be much worse than expected. He’s grimacing when he runs and a routine slide into second base required the second baseman to help him up when he struggled to right himself.

· Ian Kinsler really is mentoring Iggy as mentioned. From last year’s scowls and negative body language, Ian is regularly giving encouragement and praise to Jose after plays in the field.

· The “JV no longer has the velocity” talk needs to stop. He may not throw hard all the time anymore, but he can dial it up when needed.. In his last game, he was hitting 95-97 MPH in the 8th inning.

· Mike Pelfrey gets visibly upset when he is forced to pitch behind in the game. His demeanor is calm until the opponents take the lead. Not good for a pitcher who received no or very few runs of support in most of the games he pitched.

· Cameron Maybin has been a joy to watch with his infectious energy and attitude. He’s re-introduced legitimate celebration at the plate after scoring with his bear hugs but it was his insistence that Justin Upton get his fanny over for a big group hug in the outfield after a game that gets the award. Justin had no option but to do so, and actually started laughing in the process.


COMMUNICATION

· In a radio interview, Al Avila got noticeably upset and angry when asked to talk about Justin Upton’s performance and Brad’s status as lame-duck manager. He could have used a few pointers from his old boss.

· Al Kaline made some very pointed remarks about Justin Upton’s struggles at the plate. While highlighting what J-Up is failing to do, he also diplomatically called out Wally Joyner.

· Wasn’t Brad Ausmus’ statement about the #2 slot in the batting order being the top one for RBIs a real puzzler? Batting second gets approximately 20% more appearances but the #4 slot accounts for the most RBIs with 14%, followed by #3 with 13%. The #5 and #6 slots are next. After that, it’s #7, #8 and then #2 with 9%. The only thing worse was reporters not asking him to clarify a remark that contradicts common knowledge.

· Wasn’t Dick Enberg’s calling of the game marvelous? He paired so well with Gibby. Unlike Kirk and his regular partner.

· Nick Castellanos is one of the better speakers on the team. His (radio) interviews this year have taken a huge leap forward. He comes across as much more markedly mature, confident and thoughtful.

So which Tigers received the highest marks based upon this past week and should be inducted into the Image Hall of Fame? And do any belong in the Hall of Shame? Please add your thoughts!

ONE TOPIC – TWO TAKES

This week’s Thursday topic addresses a tireless subject. What gets this team excited? What’s the source of their energy? What really floats their boat?

The Tigers, coincidentally or not, have found renewed energy since the now famous draping of home plate by Brad Ausmus last week. Outside of getting themselves back to .500 and back in the Central race, they seem to be more energized. Kurt? Holly? Your thoughts please.


When it comes to team energy, is Miguel Cabrera’s offense the engine that fires this team up?

KURT

I can’t imagine what it must be like for Tiger players to be able to watch Cabrera play from the same dugout, day after day, studying his craft, his work ethic and his dominance. They are playing with a Hall of Famer, something few players can say at the end of their careers.

He has done some pretty incredible things during his career in Detroit; but his ability to continue to dominate was severely questioned early in the season. Cabrera floundered, didn’t hit for much power and well, wasn’t Miggy; and when Miggy isn’t Miggy, the team suffers.

It’s no secret that this team, the way it is currently constructed, will go as far as Miggy will take them. Sure it’s a team game, but Miggy drives this bus.

Over the past week, things have taken a dramatic turn and we have watched Cabrera emerge once again. His immense power is back on display, he is hitting well over .300 again and when he’s in the box, that anticipation is back. Something great is about to happen, and pitchers are experiencing the return of that hopeless feeling.

You can rack your brain trying to figure out the source of this new-found energy; the kind that has been displayed over the last week or so. Is it Brad Ausmus and his episode of never before seen rage on the field? Is it Cameron Maybin, and his youthful exuberance and excitement over finally making it back to the field and contributing right out of the gate? Well sure, these things have played a big part.

But nothing brings more excitement to this team than seeing the old Miggy back. They know what he can do. They know how he can affect baseball games. They know where he can take them when healthy. So the anticipation of a Miggy-led team has to have breathed significant life into his teammates. How can you blame them? He is really something special.

Everything stops at my house when he’s at the plate; so I can’t imagine what the Tiger dugout is like.

HOLLY

It always helps to have bats booming, but you have to ask why the offense started to spark. Was it Miggy’s bat that did it? No, not as the first or primary catalyst but it became a secondary contributing factor down the road.

The Tigers were getting good output already from players like VMart, Kinsler and Castellanos, yet the team wasn’t fired up or inspired. So what was the spark that got this team going?

I believe it was the perfect confluence of four things.

First, sometimes reaching your lowest point becomes the catalyst for turning this around and the ghastly losing streak was that initial factor.

But it also took the media-wide rumors of Brad’s imminent demise to become the reality-check the team needed. Notice how when the team came home, those looks of disinterest disappeared from their collective eyes. It was a wake-up call for them to hear that the baseball world believed they were under-performing – an early-season report card that they didn’t like.

Add to that, Brad’s sweatshirt smackdown at the plate. A tirade born from frustration, a boiling point reached and a “nothing left to lose” attitude which did wonders. I liken it to Jim Leyland’s 2006 screamfest at the team which lit a fire under them for the rest of the year.

Whether Ausmus’ action was spontaneous or superb strategy, we’ll never know, but it served to pull every player under the team umbrella and start working towards a common goal.

But if Brad was the one who lit the candle, it was Cameron Maybin who became the gasoline. Immediately upon joining the team, he brought a palpable energy and positive dynamic that has rubbed off on all the other players.

Just fascinating to watch him keep everyone engaged in the dugout, while bringing de rigueur bear hugs to home plate celebrations and a missing outfielder end-of-game tradition. It was priceless to see him push Justin Upton into becoming a full-fledged member of this team.

The team has gone into the fire, found a common denominator and a manager willing to take a bullet for them. Now they have the glue in Maybin who won’t let them wander too far off the path.

TURNING DOUBTERS INTO BELIEVERS

By:  Kurt Snyder

How many sportswriters admit when they are wrong? How many throw up their hands declaring themselves “guilty as charged” when they are proven wrong about a team or a player.

Not many. But it’s happening here today. We share a lot of opinions. We ask a lot of questions. We drive a lot of discussion. But I am pretty sure we haven’t admitted to being wrong.

But I’m the black sheep of this little partnership here at Totally Tigers and I am the one who gets to throw the emotions around. I am the lucky one who gets to deliver the passion. I get to fly by the seat of my pants. To me, I have the easy job. So if I am going to spout off about someone, I have to be prepared to admit when things are just not what they seem.

So here it goes: Thank goodness the Tigers didn’t trade Nick Castellanos.

Yep, I was the one before the trade deadline last season who was in buy mode. I was the one looking for the Tigers to go get some starting pitching by sacrificing an everyday player; Nick Castellanos.

I admit it. I haven’t been enamored with a player the Tigers were hell-bent on keeping. Every possible suitor for Castellanos has been turned away over the last few years. Nick’s been an untouchable. He was the Tigers’ sure thing.

But when we started to see him play, the initial glimpses were not that impressive. He seemed to be very slow of foot, certainly not athletic enough to play an effective third base. And his arm? Average at best. Certainly not the kind of arm that could gun someone down on a bang-bang play in a close game.

But the Tigers figured the defense would come. And it has. They figured his vaunted talents with the bat would soon blossom. And they have. But last season, even at just 23, it was hard to see future stardom for this kid. It just was.

So to me, he was prime trade bait. Nick offered decent tools at the plate; he was still young and could have bagged the Tigers some more pitching. But young talent at a critical position like third base doesn’t come around often. I just wasn’t patient enough to let it all play out. I just thought I knew the game enough to know.

But I don’t care how much baseball you watch. I don’t care how many games you have attended or how much you think you know about this great game. You’re never going to figure it out. You can only trust your instincts that you hope will validate your knowledge of the game most of the time.

How many fans out there were losing their minds early in the season thinking Miggy had been reduced to just a singles hitter?

How many fans declared JV in serious decline at the beginning of this year? If you haven’t been paying attention, none of it is true. Miggy’s hitting bombs again and JV is back to baffling hitters.

And then there is Nick Castellanos; a young third baseman, still only 24 years old, hitting the ball harder than he has ever hit it. Hitting with the kind of power none of us have seen until now. It has all come together.

He’s more disciplined at the plate. He doesn’t go to the plate searching for his pitch, hoping he gets it. He waits, gets his pitch and drives it. No more guessing. No more indecision. He is a confident hitter who has that look when he walks up to the plate, a relaxed look he didn’t have before.

Nick is a young and very coveted talent, one the Tigers have been stubborn about keeping. Glad they stuck to their guns.

TWO TIMES TWO FOR TUESDAY

By:  Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder

Things have turned around since that last game in Baltimore and the bats have come alive. So what topics have drifted towards the top and are peaking our writers’ interests?

What’s on Holly’s mind? What’s on Kurt’s? Let’s see how they address these Tuesday questions. Will they be on the same page? Scroll down for the answers.


The Tigers have now played over Sparky’s magical 40 games. What kind of team do they have?

HOLLY

It is a mystery group in that the team isn’t yet settled. There are 4 factors at play that keep it from yet being defined for the long-term. First, the pitching with only one starter’s capabilities known. JV, cautiously looking better and better while Sanchez’s pattern is known yet they push him beyond that and then are surprised when he blows up. Pelfrey, while not knocking the socks off, has been the victim of multiple no runs of support yet is improving. And the mystery of who the fifth starter is makes this rotation half-formed jello.

Offense is clearly there but getting the runs in is another issue. It’s not for lack of talent but maybe a lack of fundamentals, motivation and team-play concepts. Maybe once Maybin settles in and the rotation has evolved, we’ll have a clearer view.

But the good news is that there is lots of talent here, but they need to find a way to harness it effectively.

KURT

Well, Sparky said a lot of things; but that doesn’t mean they all became gospel. But in 1979, he did say the Tigers would win it all in 5 years, and they did.

So after that, people tended to listen. But as far as determining what kind of team the Tigers have after 40 games; I am not sure yet. But Sparky must have come up with that number for a reason. Things must start to settle down and show their colors at the 40- game mark.

What we have learned so far is how inconsistent the Tigers are; in all phases. They’ve been very streaky – in all phases. But we are also learning that they can stay in this race, which given all the star power, we had to expect.

Streakiness can drive fans nuts but when you are a streaky team, you can lose ground and gain ground at the same pace, so what they do last may determine how much baseball they play this season.


The Tigers have climbed out of their horrendous nosedive. Is it due to them playing better or due to playing weaker teams?

HOLLY

It’s really a bit of both with timing hitting at the right place. Yes, they have a better record against teams .500 and below and a losing one with the top teams, but the recent mini-win streak really helped them psychologically. It builds confidence and that aides continued success. Monday night’s game will tell us more about their competitive levels.

But I believe the mental part of the game is truly underestimated. In the category of “that which does not kill you, makes you stronger”, the Tigers got a huge reality check with the extended losing streak and increased rumors of Brad’s imminent departure. It helped to frame how poorly the team is working together for many and inspired a number of the players to pick it up. And the addition of Maybin has been a huge catalyst.

How long will they stay strong, focused, motivated and cohesive? That remains to be seen but this next series with the Phillies will tell us much more.

KURT

You can’t discount how important it is to beat teams when they are down. Sometimes you don’t always win when you’re supposed to win.

But playing a weak team can be a blessing when you are struggling. You can emerge from any series sweep with a lot of confidence, sometimes when you need it the most. And suddenly you start relaxing and playing good baseball. Before you know it you can get on a roll regardless of who is on the schedule.

So is weaker competition the sole reason the Tigers have turned it on? Well, it sure doesn’t hurt. But the Tigers have ridden the momentum they gained in the Twins series, are playing better ball and are finally looking like a team having fun (with Cameron Maybin being the X factor). Winning, against anyone, can be the cure for what ails ya.

WATERCOOLER CONVERSATIONS

By: Holly Horning

If you’re a regular reader of Totally Tigers, then you know we are a cat of different stripes. We are not like the other blogs or news sites out there that dump information in your lap to be processed in mere seconds and then discarded like Brad’s sunflower shells over the dugout railing.

No, we are baseball’s version of a whey protein shake – we want to stay with you for much or most of the day. And hopefully, a good part of the week.

If you’re reading our blog, then you’re a serious – and smart – baseball fan. You just don’t want news thrown at you. You want to think about the information and viewpoints you are receiving. You want different types of information and you want to process it on your own.

Hopefully, you also want to discuss it. Not just with us, but with your family, friends and coworkers. Maybe even with your pets depending upon the results of the last game. Which brings us to today’s blog.

A lot has happened during the past week. And much has yet to be played out. Here are some “what if’s” to take with you wherever you go – and not just for this week.


1. How much of the rumors surrounding the recent horrendous road trip have been a catalyst or wake-up call for the team?

2. How long will Brad’s sweatshirt smackdown with the umpire influence the team to come together?

3. Is Cameron Maybin that missing piece the Tigers’ have needed for team chemistry?

4. How long can Maybin play out his great start to the year?

5. Will Maybin’s enthusiasm and energy for the game rub off on the other players?

6. Or, will Maybin start to come down to the team’s low energy level after a while?

7. Could McCann’s poor start be due to a weak and tender ankle?

8. Is Miggy’s absence of power until of late be due to re-adjusting his batting technique after 2+ years of being hurt?

9. Will Brad ever keep Castellanos at third base late in the game?

10. Will Ausmus move JD again in the lineup?

11. Should Brad move Maybin up in the lineup?

12. Should Salty play more than McCann?

13. Can Castellanos keep up his phenomenal hitting?

14. Will Upton work to improve the hitting deficiencies Al Kaline pointed out on Saturday? Will Wally be successful?

15. Will Anthony Gose ever make it back?

16. Is it the bullpen talent that is lacking or is it how it is being used?

17. With Fulmer’s steady improvement, and Greene’s imminent return, will the Tigers chose to play the best or will they feel obligated to work through some expensive pitcher contracts?

18. Will the Tigers and FSD make some changes in the radio and tv booths based upon positive reviews of the musical chairs?

19. Will Brad start showing more energy or fire to get the team motivated?

20. Will fans see 3 out of the 5 starting pitchers change by the end of the year?


How long will it take for us to have answers to most of these questions? Make this a memorable Monday and take these questions with you wherever you go. And make sure to start some dialogs here, too!