THEY AIN’T PERFECT, FOLKS!

To celebrate Father’s Day, I dedicate this previous blog to my dad, who appreciated great baseball talent. JV and Miggy were among those players. Happy Father’s Day Dad!

Totally Tigers

By:  Kurt Snyder

We have had 2 baseball players in this city who, together for so many years, changed the landscape of the game in Detroit. And one day, we may see them both representing the Old English D in Cooperstown.

Being too quick to judge Justin Verlander has burned people before, and let’s be careful not to do the same thing with Miguel Cabrera.

It’s really easy to get caught up in the off-the-field battles and mistakes players make during their careers. Some players, like Derek Jeter, like Al Kaline, can go through their entire careers without seemingly doing anything to raise the eyebrows of fans or the press who are waiting for any kind of slip up. But many players don’t.

Justin Verlander had so many great years with the Tigers; so many mind-numbing performances, that they will stay imbedded in our brains forever. But during those years…

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WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU (AND DON’T)

As we celebrate this Father’s Day, let’s return to a blog written 6 weeks ago. How many names on each of the lists should remain? How many should leave? And are there now names that we should be adding?

Happy Father’s Day!

Totally Tigers

(with apologies to The Romantics)

By:  Holly Horning

What can we say about this new Tigers team so far this year? Certainly not as much as we’d like. Afterall, those infamous 40 games haven’t been played yet.

Players who are hot, may cool off. And some may not have found their groove yet. And Ron Gardenhire, like all experienced managers, is still exploring how to maximize his team’s ability.

But in the meantime, as we watch the games, we’ve come to have expectations about certain players and how the team performs. There are those we can’t wait to watch and also others who make us cautiously peer out from behind a pillow when they step up to the plate, walk to the mound or wait to catch a hard-hit ball.

Call this the “first impressions” era of the season. A time of the year where we have a decent idea…

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CASTELLANOS & THE NEW GUARD SHINE

At some point, if you want to stay in the game, you need to recognize the brains behind the technological end of the business.  Just in case you were wondering who keeps us up and running, well, it’s Alex Hosmar.  And he can write, too!

So we have given Alex the opportunity to take the spotlight for a bit and give us a rundown of the Tiger game from Sunday afternoon.  Alex attended the game and has provided one heck of an analysis from a detailed game account to some tidbits from the crowd.   Take it from here Alex!


By:  Alex Hosmar

Typically, my role with Totally Tigers has been under the hood, making sure the site is operational and aesthetically pleasing, so that each day, you are able to immerse yourself with some of the best opinions and commentary there are about the Tigers.

But on Sunday, with the added privilege of viewing the game live from the stands, I had the honor of writing this post, recounting the 3-2 victory at Comerica Park. Because let’s face it, writing every day is a tall task, and Holly and Kurt could use a day off!


So, what about the game?

Well, this was a fast game with few stoppages, as the Tigers’ pitching staff ruled the day. After getting to the ballpark and reading the scouting report, it dawned on me that long reliever, Blaine Hardy, would get another start to allow Jordan Zimmermann to rest his shoulder. Like most spot starts, you just hope he can keep the team in the game.

Instead, Hardy gave the Tigers 7 strong innings, giving up 3 hits, issuing only one walk, striking out 6, and retiring the last 14 batters he faced. The hardest decision Ron Gardenhire had to make was whether or not to put Hardy out there for the 8th. Other than one mistake with his fastball to Yolmer Sanchez, who plated a run on a 3rd inning triple to tie the game, Chicago’s offense could not solve Hardy’s arsenal.

Joe Jimenez came on in relief to strike out the side in the 8th inning, which set up Shane Greene for the save opportunity. In what looked like a sure-fire save, with 2 strikes and 2 outs and the crowd on their feet, Jose Rondon roped a home run into the Tiger bullpen to make it 3-2. But despite this setback and walking the next batter, Greene settled down to record the final out, clinching not just the game, but a series win over the White Sox.

As for the offense, the Tigers did just enough to win the game, but unforced errors on both sides made the score closer than it needed to be. Grayson Greiner opened the scoring with an RBI double in the 4th inning, which marked the most consecutive games a Tiger has hit a double since 1934!

With runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out after Greiner’s double, the Tigers had an opportunity to open up the game early against James Shields. But just as the crowd was getting into the game, John Hicks was picked off at 3rd (yes, 3rd base) for the 2nd out of the inning, taking the sacrifice fly out of the equation.

And, as luck would have it, a few pitches later, Jose Iglesias flew out to deep right-center to end the inning. What should have been 2-0 Tigers was only 1-0.

In the next half inning, after Chicago had tied the game, another run appeared to score on a dropped 3rd strike past Greiner. But after a video review between innings, MLB announced as the Tigers were coming to bat that due to batter interference, Jose Rondon was called out, and the run was wiped off the board—a huge break for the Tigers.

After looking at the replay, the tip of Rondon’s bat clipped Greiner’s helmet, something even the umpires didn’t catch in real time.

But the hero of the day was Nicholas Castellanos, who plated the 3rd Tiger run in the 5th inning to give them a 3-1 lead, which after the home run given up by Greene in the 9th, proved to be the game-winner.

Not only did he win the game, but he did so on his bobble head afternoon with family and friends in the stands! Sunday’s game was a sound effort, both offensively and defensively. The pitching staff threw strikes and timely hitting proved to be the recipe for victory on this incredibly hot Detroit afternoon.


How about off the field?

While the crowd may have looked sparse, any shaded area, whether it be the updated Pepsi Porch, Kaline’s Corner (definitely recommend), luxurious club seating, or even stands underneath the upper deck overhang were packed with passionate fans who were engaged and excited to see the Tigers.

Speaking to fans at the game and overhearing conversations around me, there is still talk of the past, but also a greater sense of optimism for more impressive performances by the new guard of Tigers, particularly Blaine Hardy, who could make the case for a starting rotation spot with performances like these.

Interestingly enough, Miggy’s lengthy stint on the DL did not even come up until I brought it up.  But the couple I spoke to seemed more fixated on Joe Jimenez as he struck out the side.

Let’s face it, it’s tough to roam the grounds of Comerica Park without thinking about the past. The statues of Tiger greats in center field are a popular photo-op for spectators. But my favorite trip down memory lane was experiencing the interactive exhibits in the lower concourse, recounting the World Series victories, filled with newspaper headlines, informational graphics, and priceless images that define Tiger history (cue vintage Gibby in 1984 with both fists in the air).

Of course, many fans still wear Gibson, Trammell or Kaline on their back or gear with the circular “Mr. I” patch worn by the Tigers and Red Wings after their beloved owner and leader passed on last year.

While the loss of Mr. I and the effects of the recent trade deadline fire-sales are undoubtedly still in the minds of Tiger fans, Sunday’s game wasn’t just a great example of what’s to come on the field, but also a fan base that is fully focused on the future.

A healthy dose of reverence for those who brought the Tigers organization to this point can never hurt, but that no longer consumes as much bandwidth as it once did. Who knows, the newest statue could be playing right now.

Now…back under the hood!

BASEBALL STOPS WHEN THE ARMY CALLS

As we recognize Memorial Day, we kickoff summer. Yet we never forget the people who allow us to celebrate our freedom. Today, it’s appropriate to recognize all who have served.

Totally Tigers

By:  Kurt Snyder

On this Memorial Day, it is our duty as Americans to treat the holiday for what it is. To honor those who have fought for our country and protected our freedoms.

Join me in taking a look back at a piece written last year at this time. It is appropriate for this holiday and future Memorial Days to come.  Enjoy your day today!


https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2016/05/29/baseball-stops-when-the-u-s-army-calls/

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IS THE FIRST CUT ALWAYS THE DEEPEST?

On this Memorial Day weekend, while we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, here is a blog from 6 weeks ago. Still as relevant today as when it was first written. And a refresher in advance of Wednesday’s blog that questions the extent of the Tigers’ rebuild.

 

Totally Tigers

By:  Holly Horning

Tiger fans are expecting another year where famous and familiar faces will be leaving the team at some point this summer. Players like Nicholas Castellanos and Jose Iglesias who will be traded because of impending free agency.

Iggy is a free agent after this year and currently makes over $6 mill/year. It’s no secret that the Tigers have been trying to trade him for the past 2 years now.

Castellanos is due to become a free agent in 2 years but 2018 is the best year for trading him in order to get a higher return before he becomes a rental. He is also making over $6 mill this year and arbitration, should he stay next year, will zoom to somewhere around $9-$10 mill. There have also been stories that report the Tigers tried to extend him and he refused.

But when he was asked, Nick said…

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WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU (AND DON’T)

(with apologies to The Romantics)

By:  Holly Horning

What can we say about this new Tigers team so far this year? Certainly not as much as we’d like. Afterall, those infamous 40 games haven’t been played yet.

Players who are hot, may cool off. And some may not have found their groove yet. And Ron Gardenhire, like all experienced managers, is still exploring how to maximize his team’s ability.

But in the meantime, as we watch the games, we’ve come to have expectations about certain players and how the team performs. There are those we can’t wait to watch and also others who make us cautiously peer out from behind a pillow when they step up to the plate, walk to the mound or wait to catch a hard-hit ball.

Call this the “first impressions” era of the season. A time of the year where we have a decent idea about what will happen during the course of the season but with the understanding that performance levels may not yet be set in stone.

And with that, here are my lists of the Tigers and trends I am loving right now – and the ones who are making me frown.


THUMBS DOWN

1. Bullpen – (Gee, what a surprise.) The concern level is further raised with multiple poor outings by Alex Wilson and Shane Greene.

2. Medical Issues – Why is it that once Zimmermann, Miggy, Norris and others get injured, their issues seem to linger forever and never be fully resolved?

3. Nick Castellanos – That bat will only get him so far but it’s not enough to compensate for his inability to play the outfield or to run the bases without error.

4. Dave Clarke – New levels of bad have been reached with the infamous one hand signaling to score and the other one to stop both at the same time.

5. Sloppy Play – Old habits are hard to break so it may take a while to hammer home the importance of fundamentals.

6. Scoring Position – How many additional games could the Tigers have won if only they had managed to score those runners on third?

7. Norris – This riddle wrapped up in an enigma has the talent but maybe not the mental tools with time running out as the Tigers try to figure out how to unlock his potential.


THUMBS UP

1. Ron Gardenhire – How refreshing it is to listen to a manager who speaks clearly, decisively and with a sense of humor – and isn’t afraid to rein in his players.

2. Attitude – No longer disengaged zombies, this team appears more focused and actually looking like they are having fun, including Miggy and VMart.

3. Fight – These cats aren’t giving up and remaining feisty and competitive late in the game unlike previous years in which they rarely fought back after the middle innings.

4. Accountability – Players aren’t making the always-present excuses of the past and are being called out on bad performances by Gardy and his coaches.

5. The Young Starters – Aren’t Michael Fulmer and Matt Boyd the pitchers you build a new team around?

6. The New Starters – Francisco Liriano and Mike Fiers have surprised us all and calmed the critics who disliked their signings.

7. The Sparkplugs – Leonys Martin with his .829 OPS and versatile Niko Goodrum who are both sassy, loud and the cheerleaders that keep this team going.

8. The Speed – Stolen base co-leaders Niko Goodrum, JaCoby Jones and Jose Iglesias show how much fun speed is – and how much we’ve missed it in the field and on the basepaths.

9. The Two J’s – JaCoby and Jeimer look to be showing the potential we were promised with both their bats and still-emerging defensive skills.

10. The Man – Miggy has lost that dead look in his eyes from last year and has once again returned to leading all his teammates in BA/OBP/SLG/OPS.

11. J Squared – I’m not gonna say it. I’m not going to jinx it. But you know what I’m thinking about Joe Jimenez.


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WHAT’S IN A TITLE?

On this holiday weekend, please enjoy a previously published blog that continues to be relevant. Happy Passover and Easter, everyone!

Totally Tigers

By:  Holly Horning

When we talk about baseball players, we usually understand their strengths. Whether they are great at hitting or at fielding. Sometimes solidly possessing both skills.

And then there’s the phrase “5 tool player” which refers to a player who is solid at all the top baseball skills.

But what about GMs? They’re people, too.

And for some reason, many in the baseball world – from owners to fans – believe that every GM should be strong in every aspect of their job.

But is that a fair assumption to make?

Should every GM be required to excel in every facet?

And how many of today’s GMs actually do?


Before we can analyze, let’s identify the primary skills required of a GM:

– Scouting

– Drafting

– Signing current players/free agents

– Trading

– Negotiations

– Creating and implementing a vision and strategy

– Hiring Front Office personnel

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WATER COOLER CONVERSATION STARTERS

By: Holly Horning

For the first time in many years, we no longer have the luxury of understanding this Tigers team.  Even just a little bit.

Sure, we know this team is rebuilding and will probably be bad.  But this is such a different team.  A different owner, a different roster, a different manager and different goals.

Is it any wonder that we are scratching to learn more about what the future holds based upon this year’s spring training?

It is too soon yet to make any predictions or even educated guesses about anyone associated with this organization.  We need to wait at least 5 more days until Opening Day before any clues are revealed.

Given all of this, we still need to throw some meat out there for fans to digest and discuss until the results of this season’s first Opening Day.  And I know that Kurt joins me in refusing to write those silly blogs weighing in on who is going to the World Series or prospects already deemed to have starting roles in the lineup when they are still in AA ball.

And if we ever do, you have our permission to come after us with torches and pitchforks.  Or put us in an adult care facility.

So to help tide us over until the season begins, here are 5 conversation starters to keep you going until Friday.

CAPTAIN RON

I doubt we will hear “That’s baseball!” this year as we did from the former manager and almost all of his players almost on a daily basis to explain away poor performances.  There’s a new sheriff in town and he is setting the example by calling out players publicly and holding accountability meetings when play is sloppy.  His best quote yet is “You don’t want to hear the explanation” to describe a player who attempted to make excuses as to why he misplayed the ball.

THE FANS HAVE SPOKEN

The pop-up ads are everywhere.  Ads telling you that there are still good seats available for Opening Day.  And quietly, the Tigers are selling tickets on Groupon.  If you can’t sell out Opening Day, especially in Detroit, it’s not a good sign.  But it does reveal that fans are now sending a message and demanding more.  At least the marketing department has changed the ads that once touted Opening Day showing a big picture of Michael Fulmer as the starting pitcher.

CALL ME BY MY NAME

If you had any doubts about Miguel Cabrera being a leader of this team, you now have proof.  In a recent interview with both Miggy and several former teammates, Cabrera has admitted to not knowing many of his teammates’ names through the years and not just this season when many of the faces are unfamiliar.  He didn’t know a number of veterans he played with for a number of years. Miggy calls all of the nameless “bro”.  Worst of all, he confessed that he didn’t feel the need to learn their names.  He also admitted to refusing the team’s medical staff requests over the years to examine him when he was injured because he knew he would be benched.  There’s no “I” in “team”, bro.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Kudos to the Baltimore Orioles for coming up with an ingenious strategy to build interest in baseball among the young.  For the coming year, any adult buying a full-prince ticket will be allowed to bring 2 children with them for free.  Families get a price break on tickets and the Orioles fill the seats and sell more concessions.  But most importantly, they are building a younger fan base.  Studies show that getting more kids interested in baseball at an early age helps to keep them interested in the game as they get older.  It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

SELECTIVE MEMORY

OK, ladies, I know you are with me.  We have men in our lives who can’t remember stuff 24 hours after it happens.  But in baseball, players are able to remember HBP transgressions with specific opponents and teams from 2 years ago.  This was the catalyst in the 5-man ejection game the other day.  Guys, please tell us that there are other ways to get you to remember what we tell you that don’t involve having to throw a baseball.

(Totally Tigers loves your comments!  But please remember that responses are only published if they address today’s topic, are respectful and do not exceed the maximum response length.  All rules are at:   https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/commentsrules/.)

THERE IS NO “I” IN TEAM

By:  Holly Horning

Nick Castellano probably never dreamed that he would be the biggest name and attraction at the annual TigerFest given the Tigers’ yearly star-studded team. But that’s what happened this past weekend after a year in which more than 10 familiar faces were either traded or released.

And then there are 3 others, one a franchise face, who also didn’t show for the event. Coincidentally, all of them due to “health” issues.

And it was at TigerFest that Ron Gardenhire admitted that he had yet to talk to Miguel Cabrera, one of those missing. Not that he hadn’t tried. He did leave messages for Miggy.

After a year in which the Tigers offered a myriad of excuses for Cabrera all season long – Venezuela, his mother, injuries, World Baseball Classic, different injuries – they extended their strategy into the off-season. This time, more health concerns and some time out of the country. The latter, rather a reach considering that this is the 21st Century, where everyone has the ability to stay connected 24/7.

In one respect, it is admirable that the organization remains professional and doesn’t throw its members under the bus as we’ve seen this off-season with other teams.

Yet it continues to point to a continuing problem that just becomes more visible each year when it comes to certain players.

Gardenhire was signed on October 20th. He has spoken to every player on the roster except for 2. And somehow, in over 3 months, Miggy hasn’t been able to find the time to return his new manager’s calls.

Can you guess the other player who doesn’t practice proper phone etiquette?

The same one who was declared at the end of the year to be a significant clubhouse problem with both management and fellow players. The same one who was fraternizing with enemy Yankees during the infamous brawl, angering his own teammates. The same one who tried to take a swing at Justin Verlander before being held back by Nick Castellanos.

VMart. The guy who had a hard time connecting with the ball in 2017 and is now having problems connecting with his manager.

Regarding TigerFest, Miggy, in reality was busy preparing for his big court case that starts in a couple of weeks. And while Al Avila reported that Victor was back to preparing for baseball, he was excused from TigerFest because of the concern that riding a bus would be too taxing on his health.

Someone in media relations either has wonderful creativity or a sense of humor.

In actuality, it was a good idea to exclude these two from this annual event. One needs to focus on getting his personal issues successfully behind him so he can focus on getting back to his usual high level of performance without having to continue to deal with last year’s distractions. The other, let’s call him “DH Downer” (for you SNL fans), probably more for the comfort and enjoyment of the event by his teammates.

The concern though, is what happens when spring training starts. When the clubhouse fills up and a new manager and coaches take the helm.

So far, we’ve yet to see some tangible proof that Miggy and Martinez are willing to play ball when it comes to the team’s priorities. They are ignoring the new man in charge.

These are 2 players earning a total of $48 million this year. Over one-third of the team’s total payroll. Salaries that seriously need to be earned because they have entirely sucked up the funds available to do anything else to this roster. But their failure to connect and communicate supports the story that both are focused on themselves. Not on their team.

And when you’ve got 2 players, conceivably 2 of the most important ones on the team, unwilling to do the basics, it doesn’t bode well when it comes to putting the team’s needs first.

I hold out hope that Ron Gardenhire will be able to resolve or at least mitigate this issue. He has a strong presence and personality with a resume of inspiring athletes to play well together. And according to correspondence between a Tigers’ official with our loyal reader, Chuck Terry, it was mentioned that hiring Gardy was done, in part, with the hope of changing the clubhouse culture.

Don’t expect Gardy to try to force two strong-willed individuals to change right off the bat. He’s more of what the French call “the iron fist in the velvet glove.” He’ll likely have a steady process and strategy that he’ll incorporate into his managerial blueprint.

But there is one thing we do know. Gardy will certainly have his work cut out for him – both on the field and in the clubhouse.


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TIGER BRASS CAN’T BE TRUSTED

On this holiday weekend, please enjoy a blog published almost a month ago but still as timely today as it was then.

Totally Tigers

By:  Kurt Snyder

Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating.

That’s the most positive way to explain the position the Tigers are in as a franchise and the missteps that have led them to this day.

Every baseball franchise, regardless of the method they use to get their team in a position to contend, has a window of opportunity.

But there is a timeframe. Once you have built what you think is a team that can win it, your opportunities are not endless. Of course, teams try to make smart decisions with their roster every season to sustain and expand that window of opportunity. And some have been very successful in lengthening that timeframe, having success and winning championships along the way.

On the other hand, some teams are not smart with their window. But for the purposes of a Tiger baseball discussion, I am not talking about an open window. I am talking…

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