Tagged: AL Central

State of the RSBS Union, Take 2

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.  There is nothing there.  That whole thing about the White Sox winning the AL Central and the Tigers nose-diving at the unlucky hands of my delirious and oft thwarted colleague, Mr. Krause?  I know not that of which you speak.

Also, please don’t hate me ‘cuz I was wrong.

And don’t get used to it… me, being wrong that is.  It doesn’t happen often.  Of course, you already know this.

It’s just that this baseballing… it’s a fickle pastime.  One day you’re up, the next day you’re the White Sox.

(Seriously though, the White Sox tanking like this?  WTF?  How can one team be so bad at fundamental baseball so quickly?  I don’t get it.)

Naturally, by falling back into the trend, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tigers lose three in a row as the Sox win three in a row.  If that happens, just shoot me — but wait until AFTER the one-game playoff.

Meanwhile, bring on the Bravos…

And don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m (usually) right.

Peace,

Jeff

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Andy Williams had it all wrong.  I’m sorry, but I’ll take September’s non-stop MLB pennant chasing + NFL + Notre Dame losing to Michigan combination over cold and snow and fake Santas any day.  In fact, since it’s an election year, we get even more drama to go with our Irish-trouncing, and if you wait until the end of this post, you’ll even see that the Republicans have JOKES!

But first thing’s first: TUNE IN TO BASEBALL.  My lord, between the AL Central showdown, the A’s/Angels wild card battle and the AL East title three-way, I can’t imagine a more exciting scenario (except maybe a non-baseball related three-way, but that’s for a different blog).  Consider the NL wild card race and the fact that one of the three AL East teams could also nab the last AL West wild card spot and now allow your mind to be blown (again, maybe better for another blog).

And I haven’t even mentioned the myriad story lines decorating the start to the NFL and college football seasons!

The fact is, for dudes like Mr. Krause and I, it really doesn’t get much better than this.  Unless you want to throw in some flaccid punchline deliveries (ZING!)…

Hate me ‘cuz you can, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeff

Workin’ Hard or Hardly Workin’

Does Justin Verlander ever sweat?  Seriously, does he?  Not only does his velocity rise late in the game, but he also does it with an air of easiness that makes us mortals hate ourselves as we pile on another helping of chips and salsa.

I don’t doubt he’s one of the hardest workers in baseball.  Like Chuck Norris, Justin Verlander’s off days are probably harder than any busy day at the office I’ve ever had to endure.  In fact, I bet Verlander could kick Norris’ butt, especially since Chuck is currently distracted by the unfounded promises of his invisible friend.

Chris Sale has a Verlanderish look in his eye.  It says: I’m here to kick some ass and I’m gonna keep a straight, determined growly face just to show you that I really am an animal inside.  Except once the lid comes off that attitude and runners start spilling onto the basepaths, Sale loses his game face.

Maybe he just needs time to work on it.

It took Verlander some time too.  This whole ‘getting stronger as the game goes on’ phenomenon wasn’t something that Verlander started his Big League career with.  He learned it.  He perfected it.  And now he’s cutting through a hot knife with butter and swimming through land and threatening death with a near-Verlander experience.

Hate me ‘cuz I’m rallying around Mr. Krause’s hero today, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Happy Labor Day!

Jeff

And What if the Tigers DON’T Make the Playoffs?

Seriously.  There is no guarantee.  There is NEVER a guarantee (right, Red Sox?).

Whether you’re listening to the Worldwide Leader of Dopes or MLBN or that fat guy at the end of the bar who just won’t shut up, you’ve probably heard some variation of the following phrase regarding the AL Central:

Yeah, but the Tigers are the better team and they’re going to win the division.

Oh really?  Then what are they been waiting for?  Hockey season?!?  It’s coming!!!

Sure the Tigers have been playing better baseball the second half, but the truth is, the White Sox have been playing championship-caliber baseball.  And what is championship-caliber baseball?  It’s winning in walk-off fashion even though you allowed the Mariners to come back from 5-run deficit in the top of the 9th.  It’s getting gutsy performances out of nobodies like DeWayne Wise.  It’s having your MVP catcher thrown out of the game only to have his backup, Tyler Flowers, be the hero.  TWICE.

Verlander, Cabrera, Prince.  Indeed, these are mighty names with infinite possibility.

But possibility is no match for performance.  And as long as long as the White Sox keep getting more than the Tigers, then all those analysts and “experts” would do well to right their wordy ships and recognize the truth from potential.

Also, there is a White Sox fan holding a gun to my head as I write this.

And he asks that you don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeff

Ten Titillations!

April counts, yo!  And here are some reasons why, after just one month into the season, I’m as jazzed as Mitt Romney during a temple garment clearance sale!

The Oriole Way
I am old enough to remember the Orioles being a staple of sound, fundamental baseball.  And though those days seemed to disappear into Jeffrey Maier’s malicious mitt, it looks like they may be back!  Let’s hope they are back to stay.

The AL Central
The Tigers are going to run away with the division you say?  Not so fast.  I know it’s only been one month, but the White Sox and Indians are right there with ’em, and unless the Tigers start putting a hurtin’ on the opposition instead of Jewish folks at a New York hotel, things could get interesting.

Bobby V
Love him or hate him, he makes things interesting.  And oh how interesting things have been for the Boston Red Sox.  I LOVE IT!!!  The NBA may have all the drama, but when every day could be your last as a Red Sox, I start craving chicken, beer and video games.

The Not-So-Natinals
Best starting rotation in baseball.  Bryce Harper.  Strasburgers.  Um, throw in a presidential race worth watching and I’m ready for Mr. Krause to buy season tickets.

The Pujols-less Cardinals
I’m not gonna bask in AP’s struggles, but I am gonna point out that the Cardinals have yet to lose a series (except that one against the Cubs where they were gifted a win by the umpiring crew).  Onwards and upwards!

The AL West
Have you seen a Rangers game lately?  I’ve been watching them almost every day!  THAT’S how ya git’er done, folks.  Meanwhile, the Halos are as nervous as Rick Santorum at a Santorum Party!  As the Yankees and Red Sox learned before them, a bazillion dollars worth of free agent signings does NOT a champion make.

The Toronto Blue Jays
Not only do their uniforms look right again, but they’re also making the AL East insanely good!  If only they could make Colby Rasmus less whiny.

The Youth Movement
I remember the excitement involved with Ken Griffey Jr. breaking into the league.  Chipper Jones too.  Now that Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have made their debuts, a similar buzz is in the baseball air.  Throw in a slew of sophomores and third year players making headlines and baseball looks to be badass for a very long time.

Pitching!!!
The Year of the Pitcher enters its THIRD year and I couldn’t be more excited!  As a self-confessed pitchers duel fiend, I live off serious heat, nasty breaking balls and backdoor sliders.  We’ve already seen a perfect game and some no-hitter flirtations.  But it’s the heroics of Joe Saunders, Kyle Lohse, Colby Lewis and the like that really get my gears greased.

And finally… the most titillating of them all so far…

ADAM. FREAKING. DUNN.
As a longtime resident of the south side of Chicago, the last thing I wanted to do was waste my summer days talking folks down off the ledge like I did last year.  But since it appears Dunn sold his 2011 soul to Albert Pujols, I’m free to party my ass off at the fake B-Dubbs on 35th & Halsted.  HOLLA!!!  And buy me a drink!

Go ahead, hate me ‘cuz I’m easily titillated, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right!

Peace,

Jeff

Tiger Spring!

RSBS Special Correspondent and Wikipiebenga Creator, Mark “Pie” Piebenga reports:

As soon as Victor Martinez went down, I thought, “well, season’s over.” [1] But then the Tigers won the Fielder sweepstakes (at a cost that boggles the mind: apparently Little Caesar’s is a pretty lucrative organization. Everybody reading this please buy a five dollar Hot N Ready so they can pay the Prince. And here is my obligatory admission that the back end of that contract is going to be a total nightmare). A season that looked suddenly suspect just as suddenly became the most exciting spring I can remember.

If they can keep healthy, and get production anywhere close to last year from Delmon Young, Alex Avila[2], and Brennan Boesch’s first half, and get consistent quality from Messrs. Verlander, Fister, Scherzer, and Porcello (not to mention the newly Dotel-ified bullpen), it augers Another Very Interesting Year To Be A Tigers Fan.

There are still some big question marks. It’s looking like a platoon of Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago at second, which doesn’t do us a ton of favors at the plate. With the diminished defensive range and crInge worthy batting of the once-exceptional Brandon Inge,[3] the Miguel Cabrera return-to-third experiment will be interesting and hopefully not embarrassing. Danny Worth and Don Kelly[4] will probably spot start there as well. Finally, can Austin Jackson achieve leadoff effectiveness even approaching two years ago?

For the last seven years or so I’ve approached the start of the season with same kind of a nervous ambivalence. The most positive outlook I’ve had could be described as ‘cautious optimism,’ which I feel now. It’s a very strange feeling to see the Tigers as the projected favorite to win the A.L. Central (hell, until last year, we hadn’t done it since 1987. Didn’t even do it in ’84.) The Tigers have been good lately, but as a typically suspicious and superstitious fan, I’m always nervous. In ’06 they got in the playoffs as a wildcard. When they forced the 163rd game with the Twinkies in ’09, I never had the feeling that we were a legit contending team. Last year they didn’t really seem to have any implicit dominance until rifling off that twelve game winning streak in September. (My father and I credit ourselves for that, having seen live their last loss before the streak started at a blinding hot day game Sept 1st, when the Royals came to Detroit.)

Speaking of which, I am very nervous about the Kansas City Royals. They were rated the 11th best team in the league in the ESPN prospects power rankings (I don’t know if this is a remotely useful metric, but Buster Olney seems like a smart guy). At the game with my dad September First we were sitting along the third base line, and during a lull in the game Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas was shooting the bull with the umpire and throwing the ball around. He was basically standing in the coache’s box, well behind third and in foul territory, and dude scooped up lazy grounder that came his way. Barely breaking eye-contact with the ump, he made a throw off his back foot that looked casual as hell, but judging by the angry snap of the leather Eric Hosmer’s glove at first, it could’ve been shot from a rifle. The lineup is getting spooky over there.

It’s foolish to make predictions about what’s going to happen, and we’re still forty four days till opening. Naturally when things don’t go your way for a couple of decades, you begin to doubt that anything good is going to happen. But the Tigs lately have provided all one can demand of any team, and that’s meaningful baseball in August and September. It will be really interesting to see what this team does in the face of injuries, statistical regression, and the rigors of the season.


[1] I can be a little dramatic.

[2] Verlander’s remarkable season was well documented. While he was hardly under the radar, I think a brief digression on Alex Avila is in order here. He had a .389 OBP (10th highest in baseball), an .895 OPS (8th in the AL), and hit .295. All while catching 133 games, and ranking top five among AL catchers in most defensive categories (e.g., tied for 1st with 40 runners caught stealing). And one of my least/most favorite things was the sheer number of times he got hit by deflections. I know catchers get hit all the time, but honestly I can’t remember seeing anything like his 2011 season behind the plate. (for example, check out sparks flying off his mask, and him getting hit in the neck.)

[3] He seems ever so far removed now from his ridiculous first half in 2009 that made him an All-Star (21 HR before the break!).

[4] Don Kelly fielded eight positions in 2011, everything except 2B. It’s well documented that I am transfixed by this guy, and his huge ALDS Game 5 dinger versus the Wankees made me so happy for him.

Setting the Mahmud

RSBS Special Correspondent and lone Zambrano-believer, Mr. Johanna Mahmud reports:

Throw the Spaghetti in the Machine.  

I’m a burning bush. I’m a wildfire. I’m singing in the rain and dancing again. Like Tim Tebow, I have a big god. BIGGER THAN ZEUS. I can put away my Club Confidential and stop pleasuring myself while crying. My iguana, Dudley, is beside himself  too. We’re throwing confetti on each other, plowing through our best box of wine and eating marshmallows off the floor. For at least one week we’ll stop throwing flares at cars, getting arrested on our skateboards and falling asleep in alleys.

Why?

Because, for once, baseball took an unconventional route and picked fire-fire -flame-flame tapdancing bad@ss Justin Verlander as MVP. When we lost Buster Posey early in the season, Dudley and I had to act fast to find a baller we could have an unhealthy OBSESSION over; and Justin was our guy. He was the Hannibal Lecter to our Clarice. We even bought a special chianti.Dudley and I rarely missed a Verlander start. In between great Chrysler ads, he sat on my lap as we watched the Motown hero pitch deep into games, mystifying hitters, dropping jaws like change-ups. He was like Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler when he came back to take down Minnesota Fats. Nailed every rail. Hit every spot. Geometry and speed to perfection. (Fitting that Minnesota is in the AL Central too. See what I did there?)

It would have been easy to pick an everyday player like Granderson or Ellsbury. Sure, they had splendid seasons. But this was the year where a starter — the first since Roger Clemens — gave everything needed and CARRIED a team to the playoffs.

While defense in football can be boring, pitching and defense in baseball… I LIVE FOR IT. I wasn’t around for Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax. Wasn’t alive yet. But I love when the game offers pitchers whose starts you just can’t miss.  When Pedro Martinez was in his prime I would’ve rather eaten my dinner off a urinal than miss a start.

And for next year?  I’m looking at you, Stephen Strasburg. Throw the spaghetti in the machine and eat the children…

–Johanna Mahmud
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