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.)
I ran the Chicago Marathon yesterday, so pain is on my mind today. Obviously, the Cardinals’ loss to Milwaukee didn’t make me feel much better; but as I sit here with ice on my quads, a beer in my hand and a masochistic grin on my face, I continue to remind myself that a) things are gonna get better b) it’s a MARATHON not a sprint and c) we signed up for this.
With every pitch, with every swing (every stride, every step) our feelings and emotions are fully invested. We worked hard to get here and we’re not gonna lay down and die just because we’re a little knocked down. Instead, we’re gonna lace ’em up, pound the pavement and enjoy the burn.
With a smile.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
(Image via Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Back in April, if you would have told me that our Democratic president would support a federal resolution that would forgo taxing the über rich while opening the door to make major cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, I would’ve thought that I’d perhaps gotten a bit too tipsy during happy hour.
But I’m as sober as a Mennonite on Christmas.
Might not be too bad of a deal though really. I mean, back in April, reflecting on the season ending injury to Adam Wainwright, I also thought the Cardinals didn’t have much of a chance to get anywhere in the 2011 postseason — that they might not even get there at all. Add Pujols’ early struggles and several untimely injuries to Holliday, Skip, Punto and Berkman and I thought we really were just on borrowed time.
But John Mozeliak went out and made things happen this past week. He sent Colby (and his dad) packing to bring us Edwin Jackson, Scrabble, Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson, plugging up some bullpen holes while bringing in a surging starter and a journeymen utility man, TLR’s favorite type of player. Then Mo went out and made shortstop better by bringing in a healthy Rafael Furcal.
The Cardinals went out and took care of business.
Now I know my malleable and oft gloomy colleague, Mr. Allen Krause, would like to think, as he put it, that the Cardinals had a “lack of trade deadline imagination”, but let me assure you: he is blind.
And when it comes to imagination, his beloved Tigers are full of it if they think a 3-12 Doug Fister is something to get excited about.
Hate me. Just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
No offense, Buccos, but Akinori Iwamura (as decent a middle infielder as he is) isn’t quite the fella you build a franchise around. Octavio Dotel? Please. And while the Yankees and Red Sox use their loud coin purses to court free agent princes yearning for a shot at a crown, the lowly Pirates do… well, they do nothing.
Chris Bootcheck, Vinnie Chulk, Tyler Yates…
So, I know it’s early and all, but if I were self-loathing enough to be a Pirates fan, I’d at least want to know that there will be something interesting to see at the ballpark in 2010 — an aged veteran past his prime… a blockbuster trade for a superstar player… those two Indian dudes named Rinku and Dinesh.
Yes, I think I’d take the two Indian dudes.
Because if Indian culture can do half as much for the Pittsburgh Pirates as it did for Jingle Bells, then the Steelers and Penguins better move on over, ‘cuz Title Town just became Pittsburghgoa.
Hate me ‘cuz you got that song stuck in your head now, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
(Vid link from BuzzFeed)
On Wednesday, in his Bold Names column of sneezes from around the Major Leagues, Chicago Tribune reporter Mark Gonzales enlightened us on the snazzy stylings of White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Gonzales wrote that Ramirez “opened some eyes among his teammates when he walked into the visitor’s dinky clubhouse at Wrigley” because he “sported a white Cuba jersey with his name and number on the back.”
Nothing wrong with that. So Alexei is cool. The Missile dons dapper duds. I’m down.
“Reliever Octavio Dotel, a native of the Dominican Republic, liked the jersey so much he wore it for a few minutes. Unfortunately for Ramirez, Dotel said he might be subjected to a fine for not adhering to dress code rules on the road — yes, even at Wrigley Field.”
And after wearing Alexei’s jersey for a few minutes, Dotel told Gonzales:
“‘The jersey smells good… he’s [Ramirez] still learning and a young guy from Cuba but doesn’t know a lot of things about the States.'”
Yeah, you’re obviously dead on, Octavio. I mean, I cannot think of a more common pastime, in the States, than going around sniffing your friends’ clothes.
That crazy Cuban Alexei… jeesh, he’s got a lot to learn.
Hate me ‘cuz I don’t sniff my buddy’s clothes, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Dear readers, these are the things that keep me up at night:
- The St. Louis Cardinals
- Erin Andrews (click *here* to see why — Yum!)
- The destruction of our environment (click *here* to join me in my mission)
- Wal-Marts, Super Wal-Marts, and Super Wal-Marts Beijing Style
- Erin Andrews in a sexy bathing suit
- Flashbacks of the Malarchuk injury
- Jesse Jackson getting his n***s cut off — ooh, did I say that? Whoops. Hot mic! Hot mic!
- Bill O’Reilly
- Erin Andrews in a sexy bathing suit making out with Lucy Liu who just so happens to be wearing a leather body suit while wielding a whip
- White people
With all of these sensitive and sensitive subjects on my mind, I was grateful that my memory recounted a comment that was posted here at RSBS several months ago:
“When I need a nap, I usually tune in to a Sox broadcast. Hawk and DJ
work better than a handful of ambien and a bottle of Jack. Their actual
commentary goes beyond irritating, yet their vocal tones could induce a
Now it’s no secret that I follow the Sox very closely. And I have admitted here before that at times, even I, Fulbright Scholar that I am, find Ken “the Hawk” Harrelson and Darrin “DJ” Jackson’s over-the-top homerisms amusing; but if I really want to enjoy the game from start to finish, I turn on the radio and let Ed Farmer and Steve Stone call a sound game.
But it has been a long week, folks. Still recovering from myriad things I can’t remember from the 4th of July weekend and endlessly troubled by the aforementioned list of sleep-stoppers, I decided to take waltcproductions’ advice and turned the sound up on the television.
The Sox were in Kansas City to face the Royals. Buehrle v. Greinke. Potential for a pitcher’s duel. It was… though I wouldn’t have known it.
I nestled into my couch without a beer in my hand — shockingly, for the first time this month — and made sure I was comfortable enough to accept sleep if it so decided to fall upon my eyes. It did. I remember my lids getting heavy around the bottom of the second; Hawk and DJ were — surprise! — rehashing the ‘old days’ by talking about their .239 and .257 career batting averages, respectively. I remember thinking, ‘Gee, I’ve heard them say that before… about a thousand times…’
…but I was already long lost in a blissful land of somniferous slumber.
I woke up in the bottom half of the 8th to the roaring crowd of 29 people at Kauffman Stadium cheering on their Royals who had suddenly taken a lead, which inspired Hawk to grunt one of his trademark utterances: “Doggone it!”
Immediately, I hit ‘mute’, turned on the radio and listened to Stoney explain how a Konerko error combined with a less than Dotel outing for Octavio Dotel turned a brilliant Buehrle performance into a loss for the Sox.
At least I got some sleep.
You can hate Hawk and DJ, but don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.