20 MAY THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

A May without baseball was about as enjoyable as April. It left us wanting for more, or anything. But we wrap up each month the way it should be, regardless of what is going on, or not.

Just like normal, topics will be random and all over the map, the way we like them. Holdovers remain important for thoughts that need more time to simmer.

Now that the season would have been entering its third month under normal conditions, it is safe to say that these wrap-ups have never been more difficult.

But, it’s no time to shy away. We’re going to give it another go, wrapping up May the way we should.

So let’s get rolling! Please enjoy another monthly accumulation of 20 Thoughts.


1. With the MLB Draft approaching, a third name has entered the picture as an intriguing choice for the Tigers at #1. Drafting pitcher Esa Lacy would add a nasty lefty to the Tigers’ stable of talent. But here is the deal. Despite a high end arsenal of pitches, his deceptive delivery could be a good and a bad thing. It’s a delivery that appears hard to repeat and may even be conducive to injury down the road. Two high end position-player prospects await the Tigers if they want them. They should choose one of those.

2. With baseball on hold, one player always stays on the minds of Tiger fans. Miguel Cabrera. How is he? What has he been doing? Is he still in good shape? Well, Miggy has released a rap single. Is there anything else you need to know?

3. Austin Martin and Spencer Torkelson. They continue to be the most talked about players when it comes to the Tigers and who they will select at #1. I have read quite a bit on these 2 and the Tigers probably can’t go wrong with either, but there is one thing that may separate them. Martin is said to be a player who can play anywhere. And that is all well and good, but what that usually means is that he doesn’t have a position. Let’s take the slam dunk, Torkelson, who will play first base for as long as we can keep him, earn a ton of walks and flat out hit bombs. That’s my take. (Carryover – Let’s carry this one over through the draft.)

4. I am still simmering over the Commissioner and his proposal to dump 42 minor league teams. (This has been a carryover and will continue to be. Sadly, this appears to be something that has legs. Fans continue to fall down the priority list for the Commish.)

5. With the draft the biggest thing to look forward to other than, of course, a season, I am reminded of my dad who always felt that you could never have enough pitching and if there is one pitcher that separates himself from all the rest in the draft, then you should take him. Sorry Dad, but in 2020, I don’t feel that way.

6. It’s amazing what and who can be forgotten about on your team when there is no baseball being played. But if there is a season this year, Michael Fulmer should be part of the starting rotation. And that’s important news for the team. Remember the goal though. When the time is right, he needs to be traded.

7. Throughout the course of the “off-season”, there always seems to be a random article about Daniel Norris. His quirky personality seems to gather interest and for years people have been waiting for a reason to love him.  Fans have rooted for him throughout his bout with cancer and all the injuries that have kept him from having success. Will 2020 serve as just another roadblock for the career of Daniel Norris?

8. When I first heard that MLB was targeting the 4th of July as a potential date to start the season, my first thought was, how cool would that be? America’s game kicking off on America’s birthday? My second thought was, that’s going to be tough. (Holdover: Why? Well, think about it. America’s game opening on America’s birthday, without fans? Takes the pizzazz right out of it, doesn’t it?)

9. I have been looking forward to a season of baseball with the universal DH. There, I said it. A traditionalist has indeed gone to the other side. If MLB is going to insist on inter-league play, this is a change that is desperately needed.

10. Players on one-year free agent deals are in never-before-seen situations. They have been introduced in their new cities, met their new teammates and are ready for the next chapter in their careers. Incredibly, they may all be skipping their next chapter. Amazing times indeed. (Update: skipping that next chapter seems more and more real every day, opening up the possibility that these new Tigers will never put on a uniform in Detroit.)

11. It is almost more important from a franchise point of view, for notable prospects not be forced to ‘skip a beat’ this season. Burning a season without competitive play is no good for anyone, but from a developmental standpoint, your future is taking a hit. (Carryover – must stay until future of the 2020 season is decided.)

12. Remember, this is the year where the rule kicks in for the 3-batter minimum for relief pitchers. It’s a new rule I am good with and I am looking forward to seeing how it changes the game. I think it is one of the few good proposals which, remember, changes strategy. It doesn’t remove strategy.

13. If the time comes where minor league baseball is confirmed finished for 2020, the Tigers need to include those AAA arms on the major league roster. Whatever the role, it would be better than no role and going home.

14. We have seen on our own forum, some emotional responses to Justin Verlander and his disappointing responses to questions about the Astros’ cheating scandal. Tiger fans hated it and swore him off as someone they had admired, but no longer. Then Al Kaline died and JV’s fight to hold back tears showed us that he is still one of ours. I think in time fans will forgive him. Time heals. (Carryover: Personally, I have been pleased with how JV and Kate have been so active raising money for all the many causes during this pandemic; raising and giving as a matter of fact. It makes everything else that upset us about JV seem so petty.)

15. Let’s jump back to the DH topic for a minute. With Miggy continuing on as the Tigers’ DH for potentially the rest of his career, it begins to remind me of the tedious situation we were in when VMart was closing out his career on his last contract. Remember how restricted it was on the roster to have a full-time DH with no ability to play a position? Are we heading there again?

16. One more thought on the 3-batter rule. Situational lefties of the past have a job to do. Time to remake themselves. With the days of lefties coming in for one batter over, how many of those pitchers will still be able to be valuable on a major league roster?   Or will they make them at all?

17. So many of my thoughts continue to gravitate towards the minor leagues and specifically the Tigers’ system. It’s a shame that emerging talent like Riley Greene has been stifled. But I suppose, in the end, the cream will still rise to the top. Prospects who are able to power through this interruption in the game will show their resiliency.

18. From a fan’s perspective, there is a lot of disdain for any kind of baseball that represents a departure from what we are used to seeing. A drastically shorter season would diminish the accomplishments of the champions when the season is over. The winner standing at the end will always be that asterisk champion. But why is that a problem? Any kind of baseball in this disaster of a year would be huge for the game. And I think it would be huge for fans as well, who will not get the taste they prefer, but it is a taste all the same.  Keep in mind that the World Series champion of 2020 would never be forgotten.

19. Highlights from May? Classic games from that 2012 season. So much pitching. So much disappointment. But plenty of action.

20. I have been thinking about this return to baseball all month. What would it take for MLB to have a season? What would bring the 2 sides together? Well, after seeing so many minor leaguers clean out their lockers around baseball, my intensity and desire for seeing the big boys play has switched gears. What does the game need more than anything? It could be that we need a full-on minor league season. After all, the very lifeblood is being sucked from the game from the bottom up with minor league baseball getting bloodied. Sadly though, it is a major stretch to expect to see minor league games in 2020.


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IT IS TIME

By:  Kurt Snyder

So what do you think, folks? Are you ready to spread the good news of the designated hitter across both leagues, once and for all?

In my mind, if there was ever a good opportunity to introduce the designated hitter across the board, this is the year.

There isn’t a lot of risk associated with trying something different this season, assuming MLB works out a deal that will allow one to happen.  

With this forum of ours, I take a pretty big risk angering our trusted readers, when a fair amount of them can be found in the ‘traditionalist’ category of baseball fans. And those readers still yearn for the old days before the designated hitter.

But it’s been a long time now, since the American League introduced the DH in 1973. It’s been so long that I don’t remember what I thought about it when the AL made the move.

However, for quite a while now, I have appreciated seeing both sides. Watching NL games is like a refreshing return to the past when strategy was so much more a part of the game. But that doesn’t mean I am interested in ditching the DH. It is actually the opposite.

Since inter-league play began, AL teams had to make the adjustments when playing games in the NL parks. Adjusting to the NL rules with pitchers batting is a big deal for the American League; an adjustment that NL teams didn’t have to make when they were the visiting team in the AL park.

The only adjustment for the NL? Add a DH to your lineup. Here ends the adjustment. It just wasn’t right.  And it hasn’t been right for a long time.

It got worse when MLB started spreading inter-league games all across the schedule. Even in the midst of pennant races in September, AL teams were still saddled with visiting NL parks and all the necessary changes that came with it.   

It’s been crazy. And finally, our game is ready to make the appropriate change – the designated hitter for all. Meanwhile, traditionalists everywhere are screaming at their screens.

Sorry, folks. But the designated hitter in both leagues is what is right for today’s game.

Did you get that?

For today’s game.

Yes, there was a time when the game didn’t need the DH. But now, this is the time it is needed across the board.

Try explaining to someone who is new to the game, that half of baseball uses the designated hitter and the other half doesn’t. The first question is why and then when you tell them why, they will think it’s stupid.

Why? Well, because it is! And I can’t for the life of me believe that this arrangement has been in existence for so long. Having a professional sport exist under 2 sets of rules has been unprecedented. And I am being kind.

I do appreciate the strategic value of the game played in the National League, but I can also appreciate the need to make changes in order to jumpstart the game and this is the time to do it.

You know what the game has become. How offensive it has become. And you can interpret that statement any way you like.

But the game has become all about the home run. Manufacturing offense, which includes using pitchers to move runners along via the bunt in most cases, does not fit with the new business model.

New fans don’t understand the complexity of baseball and we need for them to understand it so they can grow to like it. Yes, traditionalists who cherish the strategic roots of the game must take a back seat. They must sacrifice. For the good of the game.

As you know, we are going to see the universal DH in action if and when the 2020 season kicks off. The NL will then get their identity back for 2021, as the game renegotiates the new bargaining agreement. But beginning in 2022, pitchers will more than likely never bat again.

It is sad. I completely agree. But it is also time. And it has been time for quite a while.


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YOU ASKED…

By:  Kurt Snyder

Welcome to another edition of You Asked. You could say it is Part 3 of a question from Toledo Bandito on the Hall of Fame merits of 2 Tiger greats.

Parts 1 and 2 addressed Hall of Fame pitchers and Part 3 addressed catchers. Hope you have enjoyed what Kurt has discovered.

Thanks for the topic TBand!


ToledoBandito:

Can we talk Holly or Kurt into an article or two on HOF credentials for Bill Freehan and Mickey Lolich? Both deserving of the honor in my opinion.


KURT

He was one of the greatest catchers in Tiger history. His number 11, unretired, of course, serves to remind us of his 11 All-Star seasons, with 10 of them coming consecutively. Bill Freehan was truly one of the best catchers of his era.

Defensively, he led the league as many of those Al- Star seasons were coupled with a Gold Glove, earned in 5 of those 11 years.

But Freehan isn’t a Hall of Famer. What held him back?

With only 19 catchers in the Hall of Fame, the competition is tough. And with 3 of them playing in the highly-regarded and talent-rich Negro Leagues (4 with the addition of Roy Campanella), Freehan really needed to post some good numbers.

But think of the catchers who played in and around his era. Johnny Bench won 2 MVPs during Freehan’s career and is commonly known as one of the best catchers to ever play the game.

Carlton Fisk starred in Boston towards the end of Freehan’s career and was among the best the American League had to offer.

Ted Simmons played over 20 years in the big leagues and was just beginning his great career in the middle to the end of Freehan’s 16 years.

It’s just tough sledding for catchers in the Hall. Anyone close? Well…

Rick Ferrell, a former executive in the Tiger organization, held the American League record for most games caught, 1,806, when he retired.   He was inducted into the Hall in ’84 via the Veterans Committee; four years later, that record was broken by Carlton Fisk.

The Hall of Fame holds that record in high esteem, because Ferrell’s trumps Freehan’s by any means. But it’s that record that did it for Ferrell.

That’s as close as we get for big Bill. But don’t be misled, he ranks highly in Detroit and deserves the greatest of accolades in the city where he spent his entire career.


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OLD GAMES FRESHEN MEMORIES

By:  Kurt Snyder

What would we do without the old games? No, really! Haven’t they saved us?

I know that ultimately we will grow tired of watching the old classics. And some of you are there already.

In watching, there are some big moments that we all remember. But I am finding that some details had escaped me. And it has really hit home for me this week as the 2006 Divisional and ALCS games took center stage.

In particular, the bullpen of that 2006 Tiger team. The Tiger bullpen over the years has always been our favorite place to take all of our criticism and unleash it. And what I don’t recall is how we felt about the pen in 2006. That bullpen was really quite good.

The headliner of that 2006 group was Joel Zumaya, who brought so much swag and excitement to the pen. Boy, he threw hard. And his talent wasn’t more on display than in those games broadcasted this past week, during the ’06 series with the Yankees. The raised fist after dusting ARod to end the 8th inning in Game 2 got me charged up all over again.

Todd Jones was called The Rollercoaster for good reason. A 3.90 ERA isn’t typically what you are looking for in your closer. But the Tigers went a long way with Jones as theirs.

The thing that turned my head the most about that ’06 bullpen, was the depth. I just don’t remember it being that deep, but it was. And it’s these games that have helped me to remember.

Dave Dombrowski caught plenty of flak for his failure to build pens during his time in Detroit, but I don’t know how you can include the ’06 team in that sentiment.

Yes, Todd Jones really tested the strength of our hearts, but he was effective enough to get the job done. Joel Zumaya? It’s just a shame he couldn’t have had a longer career. So exciting and such lethal, lethal stuff.

But the others? The list goes on. Jaimie Walker, the prototypical situational lefty, just did his job. And late in the season, Will Ledezma was that power lefty who was so effective.

But we aren’t done. Fernando Rodney was another power arm with a lethal change up. Sure he tested our nerves as well, but I am not sure we knew how good we had it.

Any more? Yep. Jason Grilli. Who knew how successful he would go on to be after he left the Tigers?

Just think back at how much we complained about some of these guys; Jones, Rodney and Grilli took some major blows.

But as a whole, the 2006 pen was a major piece of that run to the Series.

These games have revealed it all again. The replays have been instrumental shedding light on all the pieces of the puzzle and how important it was for them all to come together to form the perfect formula for success.

The lineup? What Tiger team ever, had the kind of power numbers that the ’06 team had in the last third of their lineup? And they were names that would only be remembered in Detroit.

Craig Monroe, Marcus Thames and Brandon Inge contributed more pop than you will see at the bottom of the order, yet they were very much unsung when it came to offensive talent in the American League.

All year long, I felt that Placido Polanco was the MVP of that team.  And it was never more evident than when he was injured in Boston.  The team suffered mightily without him.  And recharged when he returned.

The starting pitching? How valuable was it for someone like Justin Verlander, in his rookie season, to be able to rub elbows with a seasoned veteran like Kenny Rogers; especially one who could still pitch?  Both Verlander and Rogers won 17 games in ’06.

But the workhorse on the staff was Jeremy Bonderman who won 14 games and led the staff in IP with 214. That was 6 innings more than 13-game winner Nate Robertson. So, very quickly, that tells you about the talent in that rotation.

Defensively? They were very good up the middle, which is always a good sign for a team looking to contend.

Pudge behind the plate, Guillen and Polanco at short and second and Curtis Granderson in center formed a very strong foundation up the middle.

The 2006 Detroit Tigers were an upstart team that developed into a powerhouse and then sucked wind down the stretch as they settled for a Wild Card berth after dominating the division for much of the season.

Maybe the best part was that they were able to forget the slide at the end and gain some renewed vigor against the Yanks and then the Athletics.    Thankfully, we won’t see  those World Series games versus the Cardinals. 


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YOU ASKED…

By:  Kurt Snyder

Welcome to another edition of You Asked. It is Part 2 of Kurt’s portion on Mickey Lolich and his case for the Hall of Fame;  with the original topic request coming from reader Toledo Bandito.

Part 2 addresses Hall of Fame pitchers on the right-handed side of the ledger. You should enjoy what Kurt discovered.  And if you don’t, he probably still did.

Thanks for the topic TBand!


ToledoBandito:

Can we talk Holly or Kurt into an article or two on HOF credentials for Bill Freehan and Mickey Lolich? Both deserving of the honor in my opinion.

KURT

If you missed Part 1 last week, I have included the link below. But don’t worry, it’s not like binging a Netflix series, you can read today’s part and still know what’s going on!   

But you are encouraged to click the link since Holly’s portion of last week’s You Asked is a must read…

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2020/05/06/you-asked-6/


You have to be careful when you ask me to write a blog based on stats and monotonous research. I can only take it so far before I find something more interesting. And you are going to see what I’m talking about in Part 2 of the Mickey Lolich case for the Hall of Fame.

Last week, I took a little trip into the land of left-handed Hall of Fame pitchers and determined hardware is where Lolich falls short among the lefties.

This week, yes, more hardware among the righties, but also more ‘shake your head’ worthy discoveries.

Catfish Hunter and Jim Bunning certainly make this analysis as Hall of Famers who could certainly be rivaled by Mickey Lolich.

Where Hunter earns his keep is with his 8 All-Star appearances, his ERA title and his Cy Young Award.

Did you say Cy Young? Yeah, check this out!

Cy Young (yeah, that Cy) pitched for 22 seasons versus Mickey Lolich’s 16 and won 511 games versus 217 for Lolich. That’s right! He almost won 300 more games than Mick! Yes, he pitched 6 more seasons, but geez!

So, knowing that, if you didn’t have a suspicious bone in your body, would you believe it if I told you that Mick struck out more hitters? Well, it’s true! Cy struck out 2,803 versus Mick’s 2,832.

Eras do make a difference, I guess.

So, where was I? Oh yeah, Jim Bunning.  He spent his first 9 seasons with the Tigers, was an All-Star 5 times during his days in Detroit and went on to have 4 more All-Star seasons.

Lolich was beloved for his work in the 1968 World Series. But Bunning never went to a World Series, much less win the WS MVP!

But what about his numbers? Well, they are reasonably close to where either could have been enshrined in Cooperstown and no one would have batted an eye.

The numbers?  Bunning played for 17 years versus Lolich’s 16.  Bunning won 224 games versus Mick’s 217.  Bunning had a career ERA of 3.27 versus Lolich’s 3.44.  Bunning struck out 2855 versus Lolich’s 2832. And if WHIP is your thing, well, Bunning had a 1.18 compared to Mick’s 1.23.

So, we found what we wanted. And as it turned out, we hardly had to leave our own backyard. Bunning and Lolich practically mirror each other. But only one is a Hall of Famer. The one who never tasted a World Series, much less take one over.

Bunning did pitch a perfect game with the Phillies the year after he left the Tigers. Maybe that’s where his career in Philly trumped his 9 years in Detroit. He had that historical moment. But no, that can’t be it, because he had a no-hitter in Detroit, too, and a immaculate inning!

In the end, does that tip the scales in favor of Bunning?   Well, the Phillies retired his number and he made the Phillies’ Wall of Fame.  Great ideas, don’t you think?   

Bunning played more years in Detroit than he did in Philadelphia.  But no number retirement.  Shouldn’t the Tigers have done that?  

Shouldn’t the Tigers do that for Lolich?

Decisions. Decisions.

Wait … what about Cy Young?  Uh oh!  Besides throwing no-hitters in both leagues,  Bunning won 100 games and struck out 1,000 in both leagues.   He had become the second pitcher to do it … behind Cy Young.

Sorry Mick … I think we have a winner.


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MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

By:  Kurt Snyder

I guess they thought we couldn’t wait.

Next month, we will celebrate 10 years since the ‘almost perfect’ game.

So, why are we talking about it now? Well, FSD has done their best to keep us watching, even without the game. All we have seen over the last couple months are big game replays.

The Detroit Tiger Baseball Classics.

And it’s been fun. Or as fun as it can be.

We have all seen them. The 1968 World Series Game 7. The 1984 World Series Game 5. Mark Fidrych’s victory over the Yanks in 1976 on Monday Night Baseball. Jack Morris’ no-hitter over the White Sox in 1984. Even Matthew Boyd’s 1-hitter from 2017.

And just this past week, Armando Galarraga’s ‘imperfect game’ found its way onto the airwaves.

Ok! If you are going to shove it back in front of us, let’s talk about it. Because the call that stole a perfect game was not as cut and dried as it may have seemed.


We all remember the scenario. On June 10, 2010, Galarraga retired the first 26 Cleveland Indians he faced. The 27th hitter, Jason Donald, hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield, to Miguel Cabrera’s right. Miggy grabbed it and threw to a covering Galarraga at first base.

Donald was clearly out. Or was he? Jim Joyce, the umpire behind first base, said no. Donald was safe.

The perfect game was gone. The no-hitter was gone. But as we all know, what we had witnessed was the game’s first 28-out perfect game.

We all knew it. So what was Jim Joyce thinking?   Well, have you ever heard the theory?

When it comes to the senses, umpires behind the bases and specifically first base, generally use more than just their eyes to make a call.

Close plays demand more than just your eyes. They demand your ears, too. While umps watch the play, they are also listening.

They listen for the thrown ball hitting the glove and they listen for the runner’s foot hitting the bag. And together, they ought to be able to make the correct call most of the time.

OK, well, so what? Are you saying Joyce couldn’t hear the ball hit the glove before Donald hit the bag?

Well, probably not. You see, when Armando fielded the throw from Miggy, he didn’t catch the ball clean. There was no pop into the back of the glove. Galarraga caught the ball at the end of the webbing, the proverbial ‘snow cone’, before the ball rolled into the pocket.

Is it a stretch? Maybe, but certainly something to consider when wondering why Joyce missed the call. He said he was sure that Donald beat it.

Why?

The catch, no doubt, made little or no sound. As a result, it could have been that Joyce heard only Donald’s foot hit the bag and immediately called him safe.


So here we are almost 10 years later, talking about it all over again. It was by far the highlight of Galarraga’s career. And at the same time, one of the most controversial outcomes of any game you can remember.

But what if we had instant replay in 2010? Well, of course, we wouldn’t be talking about a controversy right now.

We would be talking about a perfect game.

We would be talking about how Armando was like a surgeon carving up the Indians lineup. We would be talking more about the incredible catch that Austin Jackson made in centerfield to keep the perfect game alive in the ninth inning.

We would be talking about a perfect game. Or would we?

You see, even with instant replay, calls in baseball have still been screwed up. Even with the greatest of all tools, the game is still struggling with getting calls right.

So let’s take a look at the play again. If that game was played today, with instant replay, could the call still have been screwed up? Could Donald still have been called safe?

My first answer is no. My second answer is yes, because so many seemingly obvious calls have been screwed up both before and after reviewing instant replay.

So look at the play and contemplate what is considered when a close play at first base is further reviewed. Can’t you hear the play-by-play guy saying something like this: ‘Remember, it’s not when the ball reaches the glove, but when the ball hits the back of the glove’ that’s important.

Now take that requirement and look at the play again.

There is probably a second from when Galarraga caught the ball at the end of his glove to when it reached the pocket.

Imagine how many times we would have seen the replay. And how many angles. Imagine if the play was too close to call.

Would the league office and the umps have the guts to call Donald safe?

We will never know. Thank God.


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BEHIND EVERY GOOD MAN…

By:  Kurt Snyder

In honor of Mother’s Day, I have decided to re-post a blog from 3/4/16.   Of course, it’s about my Mom and her important role in holding down the fort.  Hope you enjoy.


While Ralph was pulling his hair out rebuilding Detroit’s farm system, his biggest cheerleader and guiding force was his secretary, Jeanette Steinke.  The two were inseparable.   And it wasn’t long until there was more on their minds than who was holding down the hot corner in Durham.  No longer free agents, in 1949, Ralph and Jeanette signed a long-term contract …with one another.                         

                                                                     –  Bill Ward, The Little Poison Newsletter, January 2009


It’s at this time of year that I think about my parents the most. It’s the time of year that must have really tested their marriage when my father worked in scouting for the Tigers.

This time of year represented relief for my mother as she finally could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Spring Training was ending and my dad would finally be coming home with the team.

Every season, before pitchers and catchers would report to Lakeland, my dad would head off to Florida – for almost 3 months. Every year my dad would leave his family – for 3 months.

Certainly this is nothing like the husbands and wives of those who serve in the military. Those are situations where spouses walk out the door for several months or years of service, something my mom could not comprehend, mainly because for her, 3 months was enough to endure.

Three months to fly solo with 4 kids while my dad watched baseball games and gathered data on Tiger prospects. It was a challenging job certainly, but it was a different kind of challenge. It’s a job he wanted. It’s a job my mother wanted for him.

But taking care of a large family alone, for a quarter of every year for 2 decades was not a job she had envisioned. Since I was just a toddler at the time, my brothers shared what it was like for her during Spring Training. Sure, all of their focus was the 2 weeks or so that they managed to visit Lakeland (and it wasn’t every year) while my dad was working, but they always seemed to end every story with, “I don’t know how Mom did it.”

Whenever I have shared stories about my dad’s career with the Tigers, people are always very interested. But all they focus on is what is on the surface. What a great job! He worked in baseball? What a great way to grow up. Did you know a lot of players? He must have a lot of memorabilia.

It goes on and on. But the part of the story that we never tell is the effect my dad’s career had on my mother. I would imagine that the short trips to Lakeland during the Spring Training Marathon were welcomed times for Mom. But they were only short reprieves and it wouldn’t be long before we would all be getting back on the plane or in the car heading home to Michigan again. Yes, sometimes we drove. I guess I am glad I don’t remember those trips because I am sure they didn’t provide much joy for Mom.

But I guess that’s what marriage is all about. You take the good with the bad. My brothers had experiences that would last a lifetime and my mom took great joy in watching them have fun and watching the experiences they were able to have, being so close to professional baseball. She was not consumed with herself. She knew that through all the hard work, her boys were getting the opportunity to have life experiences that most kids could only dream of.

I suppose my mom earned her just reward after dad moved from scouting to managing Tiger Stadium. Dad was no longer required to go to Spring Training. He had enough of a mountain to worry about in the off-season right here in Detroit and it stood proudly on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.

Without the burden of Spring Training, my parents would take a month of vacation together, first spending many years vacationing in Delray Beach until they finally stumbled on their favorite place in the whole world, Sanibel Island.

In Dad’s Tiger Stadium years, Sanibel Island represented the calm before the storm. And they were lucky, for over 25 years, to spend at least a month there before the season would start in April. My mom loved it there. It was her reward for all her dedication to the family while Dad worked in scouting.

But when that season kicked off again in April, Dad’s job took over our lives again. Nothing was planned without the Tiger schedule in front of us. And many things were planned without Dad, who had at least 81 days a year unavailable for family time, unless of course his family came to him. How else do you think we fell in love with that Old Girl at The Corner? It’s where my dad lived.

I guess you could say my mom spent most of their married life chasing my Dad around. Whether it was down to Lakeland early in their marriage or down to Tiger Stadium in the 70’s and 80’s, it seemed we were always running off to see Dad. We had no choice; night games meant we wouldn’t see him at all some days, because he would get home so late. Let me tell you, he loved getting that call from any of us saying, “Hey Dad, we want to come to the game tonight.”

When you grew up learning the game and growing to love it, having to drag yourself down to Tiger Stadium a couple of times a week doesn’t sound so bad does it? You’re right. I would never trade those memories for anything. And as difficult as it was for Mom, there wasn’t another man in the world she wanted to be with, no matter where she had to go.    She probably knew that the very day they met … at Tiger Stadium.


Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please be aware that there are specific rules for posting and that comments may be edited in order to meet our specific requirements.  Responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum 3-4 sentence response length.  Please become familiar with all of the rules at:  https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.

20 APRIL THOUGHTS

By:  Kurt Snyder

So, an April without baseball. It’s everything we thought it would be and, well, less. Not much fun. But, we wrap up each month the way it should be, regardless of what is going on or not.

Just like normal, topics will be random and all over the map, the way we like them. Holdovers remain important for thoughts that need more time to simmer.

A month ago, March was declared to be by far the most challenging month to digest. Well, guess what, April has taken that over. But we do what we gotta do!

So let’s get rolling! Please enjoy another monthly accumulation of 20 Thoughts.


1. Nope. I didn’t know. I was blown away when I read this. Kirk Gibson is the only player in MLB history to win the MVP yet never played in an All-Star game. That’s crazy!

2. Maybe all of you realize this already. But that’s ok, it takes me a while sometimes. But there is something I just realized. Former Tiger Curtis Granderson. Remember him? Picture him running. Who does he resemble on the base paths? Give up? It’s Jackie Robinson! Yeah, that Jackie Robinson!

3. Austin Martin and Spencer Torkelson. They continue to be the most talked about players when it comes to the Tigers and who they will draft at #1. I have read quite a bit on these 2 and the Tigers probably can’t go wrong with either, but there is one thing that may separate them. Martin is said to be a player who can play anywhere. And that is all well and good, but what that usually means is that he doesn’t have a position. Let’s take the slam dunk, Torkelson, who will play first base for as long as we can keep him, earn a ton of walks and flat out hit bombs. That’s my take.

4. I am still simmering over the Commissioner and his proposal to dump 42 minor league teams. (This has been a carryover and will continue to be. Sadly, this appears to be something that has legs. Fans continue to fall down the priority list for the Commish.)

5. Well, the verdict is in on the Red Sox as you know and it smells. Rob Manfred doesn’t stray far from where his bread is buttered and he’s not messing around with the blue blood clubs of baseball. It’s sad but true.

6. The Houston Astros would never admit it, but they caught a break. Heading into spring training, talk of retribution against the Astros was running rampant. Road trips around the league were going to be nightmarish for them. Every team it seemed was going to want a piece of them for what they had done on their way to their title. But consider all of that dead now. Especially if there is no 2020 season. By 2021, it will be long forgotten.  (I rewrote this one.)

7. When it comes to baseball, so many future stars have long been described as 5-tool players. But now we talk about ‘generational talent.’ These words were used to describe Spencer Torkelson, the first baseman considered to be a no-brainer for the first pick in the MLB draft. (Holdover: The ‘generational talent,’ Torkelson, is now considered to be the #2 prospect behind Austin Martin! So does that make Martin ‘generational’ as well? We have to hold this until the draft…have to!)

8. When I first heard that MLB was targeting the 4th of July as a potential date to start the season, my first thought was, how cool would that be? America’s game kicking off on America’s birthday? My second thought was, that’s going to be tough. (Holdover: Why? Well, think about it. America’s game opening on America’s birthday without fans? Takes the pizzazz right out of it, doesn’t it?)

9. The Last Dance, the Michael Jordan special running early to appease fans looking for sports-themed programming, is an edgy, sometimes controversial documentary. But it’s Michael Jordan, so people want to watch, love him or hate him. Who is that player in our sport who would command that kind of attention?

10. Players on one-year free agent deals are in never-before-seen situations. They have been introduced in their new cities, met their new teammates and are ready for the next chapter in their careers. Incredibly, they may all be skipping their next chapter. Amazing times indeed.

11. It is almost more important from a franchise point of view, for the notable prospects not to be forced to ‘skip a beat’ this season. Burning a season without competitive play is no good for anyone, but from a developmental standpoint, your future is taking a hit.

12. What’s going on with Al Avila and his staff? Are they having on-line Zoom meetings? How tech savvy is Al anyway? I miss Al, don’t you?? How dare they stop our game and deny us continued opportunities to complain about our Tigers? (Holdover: Don’t we have to keep this one around for fun?)

13. Al Kaline passed away on April 6th. In 2021, the Tigers owe it to the fans to celebrate the career of Mr. Tiger. If there was ever a face of the franchise, Al was it.

14. We have seen on our own forum, some emotional responses to Justin Verlander and his disappointing remarks to questions about the Astros’ cheating scandal. Tiger fans hated it and swore him off as someone they had admired, but no longer. Then Al Kaline died and JV’s fight to hold back tears showed us that he is still one of ours. I think in time fans will forgive him. Time heals.

15. Hey, at least we didn’t have to freeze our butts off watching April baseball in the Midwest.

16. What do I remember most about April at Tiger Stadium? Dad’s least favorite month as Stadium Manager. Weather. The stinkin’ weather. Rainouts. The cold. The nasty cold. Snow. We would have it all in April and it drove him crazy.

17. I like the idea of the new divisions being proposed for this year. It freshens the game reshuffling the deck. And I think it is something to consider going forward into 2021 and beyond. The unbalanced schedule is getting long in the tooth and I am tired of the AL Central. How do you feel?

18. In watching old games to fill your time or get your fix, which has been the most enjoyable to watch? In March, it was the Fidrych game on MNB. In April? Anything at all, like July 1, 1990. Tigers versus the Royals. George and Al on the call. Classic.

19. What do I look forward to? Well, the obvious, of course. But I look forward to seeing those players run out onto the field. It’s time for simple pleasures. (Holdover: I want some sort of baseball in 2020. It’s a wildly different year. Let’s see wildly different baseball.)

20. I anticipate I will love this game more than ever when it returns. ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ is no joke. You learn to appreciate things just a little bit more when it’s gone.


Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please be aware that there are specific rules for posting and that comments may be edited in order to meet our specific requirements.  Responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum 3-4 sentence response length.  Please become familiar with all of the rules at:  https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.

With MLB on hold, we have been mixing it up a little bit.  Three new interactive blogs that allow you, dear readers, to have more input.  Which means, we need your ideas and questions for several of them.

1. Send us your questions that you’d like to see addressed about baseball and we’ll pick at least 2 each week to answer.

2. What questions do you have specifically for Kurt and Holly?  They can be on anything (nothing political or religious though) so you can get a more complete picture about baseball’s infamous (mostly) odd couple.

 

SALT IN THE WOUND

By:  Kurt Snyder

“It’s not really tough for me,” he said. “It’s over. I’ve got kids I’ve got to take care of. I’ve got things I’ve got to take care of. For me, it’s over, bro.”


Do you remember this? Of course, you do.

Last week, when we shook off the cobwebs and took everyone back to the night when David Ortiz hit the nightmarish grand slam against the Tigers in the 2013 ALCS, all of our wounds were suddenly exposed.

You see, as fans, we never really healed from that game. The Tigers had gone from a dominating position heading home 2-0, to a decimating defeat in Game 2 and then the series in Game 6.

Those wounds never healed between Game 2 and Game 6. And when the Red Sox officially took out the Tigers, those wounds began to bleed. The Red Sox celebrated while we all stood in our living rooms staring, exasperated and defeated.

Then in came the salt. Prince Fielder.


You remember Prince. He was Mike Ilitch’s #1 pick in his own personal fantasy draft. In a move made purely out of panic after an off-season injury suffered by Victor Martinez in 2012, Dave Dombrowski got his orders. The question? Who out there is a difference maker?

And the answer was Prince Fielder and no one else. So, Mike told Dave to go get him.

It was a deliriously popular decision within the fan base. Initially.

The anticipation for a 2012 lineup that included Miggy and Prince back-to-back was trumped only by the possibilities for the following season, assuming VMart would return to form a dizzying triumvirate in 2013.

The meat of the order? Yeah, you could say that.

But right from the beginning, Prince began to introduce glimpses of what the Tigers were going to become. They were going to become even slower and plodding. He would have to play first base because, athletically, that’s the only place he could play.

That meant that Cabrera would have to move to third, which from the beginning, made you feel uneasy as Miggy was becoming a pretty good first baseman. So, the defense got worse.

Just because Prince could only play first, didn’t mean he played it well. Moving Miggy to third downgraded the defense at both first and third base, as Miggy struggled.

The Fielder teams of 2012 and 2013 were very good teams.  And Prince had good seasons in Detroit, knocking in over 100 in each year.

But that 2013 team, it was our chance. All that talent. All those stars. All that pitching. It. Was. The. Team.

We faced Boston in the ALCS. They were a team the Tigers should have beaten, but did not. We had wasted an extremely talented team, after enduring that nightmare in Game 2 and the end in Game 6.

Unfortunately, our own player, Prince Fielder, in a post-game interview, rubbed salt in the wound.

“It’s not really tough for me,” he said. “It’s over. I’ve got kids I’ve got to take care of. I’ve got things I’ve got to take care of. For me, it’s over, bro.”

The Red Sox hadn’t even left the field, it seemed, and our beloved Prince was already ‘over it.’

The player that Ilitch needed. The player we moved all the puzzle pieces around for, had come to Detroit, following in his father’s footsteps.

Yes, Cecil was an immensely popular player in Detroit. And we were introduced to his son while he played here. So when Prince came to Detroit to play, it felt like we already knew him.

Bigger than life. Certainly big in stature. And a big star.

But after 2 seasons and a bitter, bitter playoff loss, Prince faced a microphone. And in just a few words, we found out how big his heart was.

The answer? Not so much.

No heart. No fire. And no real desire to win at all costs. It was just the end of just another season.   And that doesn’t fly.   It didn’t fly.

We are done. Turn the page.   It’s great to be Prince.   See you next season.

That’s what we got from Prince Fielder in the end.   And it was disgusting.


Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please be aware that there are specific rules for posting and that comments may be edited in order to meet our specific requirements.  Responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum 3-4 sentence response length.  Please become familiar with all of the rules at:  https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.

With MLB on hold, we have been mixing it up a little bit.  Three new interactive blogs that allow you, dear readers, to have more input.  Which means, we need your ideas and questions for several of them.

1. Send us your questions that you’d like to see addressed about baseball and we’ll pick at least 2 each week to answer.

2. What questions do you have specifically for Kurt and Holly?  They can be on anything (nothing political or religious though) so you can get a more complete picture about baseball’s infamous (mostly) odd couple.

 

 

GIBBY’S HALL OF FAME

Happy Friday, everyone!  Today we have chosen to address another reader’s question.  It’s a topic centered on a former Tiger near and dear to the hearts of one of our writers as well as baseball fans everywhere.

Only one writer will tackle this topic today, as it was, well, just meant for him.   Thanks to Sprocket for the topic and the intriguing questions that go with it.

So, here we go!


From Sprocket:

Is there anyone who is more recognizable and famous who hasn’t made it into the HOF than Kirk Gibson? I am now watching on MLBTV for the 3rd time Eckersley going thru, pitch by pitch, the homer he gave up to Gibby.

I would be willing to bet that his face is as well-known as any player from any sport, any time. Would he have been any more famous if he would have made the HOF?


KURT

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Kirk Gibson, my all-time favorite Tiger.  It is indeed a joy to address a topic that is definitely in my wheelhouse.   Thanks to Sprocket for bringing it forward.

The greatest moment in my baseball life was when Gibby blasted that home run into the upper deck in right field at Tiger Stadium to clinch the World Series title in ’84.

But as great as it was, that Gibby moment ranks second in the memories of baseball fans outside of Detroit and across the country.  Of course, #1 is one of the most storied home runs ever hit in a World Series, the one hit off Dennis Eckersley in ’88 in Gibby’s first season with the Dodgers. 

There was so much unexpected drama when Gibson limped to the plate, previously unable to play due to debilitating injuries to both legs.  But all he needed was one at-bat to make history.  It was a World Series for Gibson that began and ended with that plate appearance.

The 1988 World Series and its history was dominated by that home run in Game #1.  You would have to dig for any highlights of the rest of the series.  For the Dodgers, it was an unlikely Series victory over the A’s.  And for Gibson, he was the unlikely hero, considering his chances of playing in the Series were close to zero.

Two home runs.

In both cases, Gibby hit historic homers off pitchers who are now in the Hall of Fame.  Goose Gossage and Dennis Eckersley were 2 of the greatest closers in baseball history.  So Gibby’s heroics were not small feats.

They were Hall of Fame worthy highlights, with Hall of Fame worthy drama.  They come with stories we will always remember. 

Fringe baseball fans may know very little about Gibson’s career with the Tigers and the Dodgers.  But they  know about those home runs.  They know his face when they see him.  Gibson’s World Series clouts have been seen hundreds of times.  But his homer in Los Angeles serves as one of the showcase moments for MLB. 

Gibby has had Hall of Fame moments, but there weren’t enough to have a Hall of Fame career.  His success was reinforced by great drive, spirit and fire.   Just watching him round the bases after those home runs demonstrated that fire.

In 1988, he won the National League MVP  without a single league-leading offensive statistic.  It was a bit controversial, but no one in LA doubted what Gibson had given the Dodgers in the form of leadership.  He willed that team to a World Title.

And no Hall of Fame induction would have made his career any more satisfying.   He made a name for himself in 2 different cities, and cemented himself in the memories of baseball fans all around the world.   

There is no Hall of Fame for Kirk Gibson, but maybe much more.


Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please be aware that there are specific rules for posting and that comments may be edited in order to meet our specific requirements.  Responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum 3-4 sentence response length.  Please become familiar with all of the rules at:  https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.

With MLB on hold, we are mixing it up a little bit.  Three new interactive blogs that allow you, dear readers, to have more input.  Which means, we need your ideas and questions for several of them.

1. Send us your questions that you’d like to see addressed about baseball and we’ll pick at least 2 each week to answer.

2. What questions do you have specifically for Kurt and Holly?  They can be on anything (nothing political or religious though) so you can get a more complete picture about baseball’s infamous (mostly) odd couple.