RSBS Special Correspondent and Wikipiebenga Creator, Mark “Pie” Piebenga reports:
As soon as Victor Martinez went down, I thought, “well, season’s over.”  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, 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, the Miguel Cabrera return-to-third experiment will be interesting and hopefully not embarrassing. Danny Worth and Don Kelly 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.
 I can be a little dramatic.
 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.)
As a Tigers’ fan, I’m proud of Justin Verlander. Not only did he carry his team into the playoffs, he also brought home the Cy Young and the MVP. That’s a lot of hardware for one season and like him or not, the guy deserved it.
However, for all that he is (human cannon; Detroit’s great white hope; tiger-striped aphrodisiac) there are also things he is not. For instance, he is not a comedian as we found out on Conan O’Brien the other evening.
Look, I love the guy and I’m glad he plays for us. But, let’s face it. He’s no Brian Wilson.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5609xjVLvM8]
Of course, unlike Wilson, he’s also sane…..so there’s that.
During the playoffs and the brief period between the end of the baseball season and the handing out of the postseason awards, the debate raged about whether or not Verlander would or indeed should win both the Cy Young and the MVP. There are those who I’m sure continue to claim that since the pitchers have their own award, they should not be considered for the MVP award. I have only one thing to say to that:
Happy Friday! The weekend starts now.
And so in this Podcast brought to you by Lifestyles…
The RSBS crew celebrates its 30th episode by taking a stroll down podcast memory lane, remembering things that busted our (and hopefully your) guts. AIDS salad and Ron Santo’s memory get rehashed while new memories (like gay ponies v. horsicorns, an iguana named Dudley and how you can cure your foot problems) are created! Jump on board the RSBS crazy train! No stops til you question how you spend your free time!
Don’t forget to getcho Crown Royal and enjoy some happy time!
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Recorded Saturday, November 26, 2011
The Drah-mah in Bahhhh-ston
Leave it to the Red Sox to be all dramatified in the offseason. As if their 2010 free agent signing flop and subsequent September fail-to-the-finish that included video games, fried chicken and an “Adios, Tito!” (let’s leave the beer out of this, shall we?) wasn’t enough drama for one year, they had to go and add to the pile by involving Bobby Valentine in their managerial search. Don’t get me wrong. I love Bobby V and I really hope he gets the job ‘cuz he’s a bad@ss whose mere presence makes the league better (and more entertaining); but he also comes packin’ drama. And the fact that the owners interviewed him before allowing new GM Ben Cherington to have his say suggests that the drama between ownership and the front office will continue to rival that of its on-the-field representation.
Pepper Spray: “It’s a Food Product, Essentially”
Fox News host Megyn Kelly should consider a move to the Food Network. I think spraying Emeril Lagasse with a jumbo-sized canister of pepper spray would add some much needed tension to their programming. And besides, pepper spray is “a food product, essentially”.
At a time when a Lil Wayne-impersonating white dude from Pittsburgh is tops on the music charts — in effect CRUSHING my hope for a revival of real, genuine rap music — I would like to personally thank the Toronto Blue Jays for coming back to earth, for finally being real. When you have a classic look, there’s never a reason to change it. The Yankees have managed this. So have the Cardinals. Sure they update to keep up with trends, but the core design never changes. The Blue Jays had one of the classiest, cleanest, most memorable unis in all of baseball.
And then they changed it all for… black and gray?
It’s good to see them making good decisions again.
We have many reasons to be thankful this time of year. Of course Jeff is still aglow from the Cardinals winning the World Series and I still get a heart flutter when I think back to the final out between the Tigers and Yankees. Add in Verlander’s Cy Young and MVP awards and how could I not be a grateful person?
But more than that, we are thankful for all of our readers who make writing this blog so much fun. And of course, we’d like to show you how grateful we are by sharing our gift from the Pass the Crown contest. If you haven’t already sent a picture to RSBSblog@gmail.com showing why you’re RSBS‘s biggest fan, there’s still time to do so.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us and please try to stay out of mom’s way unless you know what you’re doing.
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.
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…
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