Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:47 pm
DETROIT -- The scariest sentence of the summer for Yankees fans turned into the most surprising sentence of the year.
From "The season depends on A.J. Burnett" to "Good Lord above, look who saved the day!" in 81 pitches on a gorgeous night at Comerica Park for everything and everyone but the Tigers.
Mark it down. Burnett rides in on a white horse. The Yankees blast Detroit 10-1. This Division Series is headed back to New York even-steven at two games apiece, with the winner Thursday spraying champagne.
All hail A.J.
Maybe it was his 2009 World Series victory frozen in time inside of his laptop that spurred him. Perhaps it was getting kicked one too many times while he was down, getting taunted one too many times in public, getting spurned one too many times from the Yankees' brass.
Whatever it was, after a wobbly first inning in which he loaded the bases with walks -- including an intentional pass to Miguel Cabrera -- Burnett was, dare we say it, ace-like. He lasted 5 2/3 innings, the perfect amount for a bullpen that includes Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera.
And the thing is, after New York's six-run eighth, the latter two weren't even needed.
"You can't count me out," Burnett had said on the eve of his latest make-or-break start. "I'm going to bring everything I've got and just let A.J. loose out there."
Good thing for him, they let Curtis Granderson loose, too. That bases-loaded first inning? Two out, and Don Kelly smoked a screaming liner dead ahead to center field. Granderson broke in at first, then quickly recovered, scrambled back and made a leaping stab that ended the inning.
It was a spectacular catch made possible by an initial misread. Bottom line, it saved Burnett at least two runs and possibly an inside-the-park grand slam.
Granderson would make another sensational catch to end the sixth. But, by then, the Yankees led 4-1 and thanks to Burnett, they were out of the rough.
"I've been proving people wrong my whole career, it seems like," Burnett had said on Monday evening. "People are entitled to their opinion.
"Obviously, I give them reasons here and there do doubt."
In Game 4, Burnett gave them reasons neither here nor there to doubt. The dude was stellar, just in the nick of time.
Tuesday was a very, very good night for the Yankees also in that the blowout allowed Robertson and Rivera to watch idly from the bullpen and maybe get some crucial rest for what should be a terrific final act to what has been a riveting series.
Posted on: April 27, 2010 8:24 pm
Juan Pierre is godfather to both of Dontrelle Willis' daughters, little Adrianna Rose (3) and Bianca (1), giving the White Sox outfielder and the Detroit pitcher one more common bond in a couple of careers that have followed strangely (and intriguingly) similar arcs.
Best buddies from their early days in the Florida organization, both Pierre and Willis emerged as key figures in the Marlins' 2003 World Series championship run, had varying degrees of success afterward ... and then each man, for different reasons, hit the skids over the past two seasons before getting a renewed chance this year.
Like many of us at various times in our careers, their jobs turned sour and their strength of character was severely tested.
Except, well ... with Willis now in the final season of a three-year, $29 million deal and Pierre in the fourth season of a five-year, $44 million contract, maybe their challenges are a little different than those of most working stiffs.
"Come on, is it really that tough?" Willis asks of the challenges he and his buddy have faced over the past couple of years. "Really, in the grand scheme of things?"
Unlike a lot of guys, the affable Willis gets an 'A' for his perspective.
Yet, even that doesn't fully take away the sting when a guy can't -- or isn't -- performing.
Willis, who had been traded to Detroit, suddenly couldn't throw strikes for the Tigers in 2008.
Pierre could have sulked and demanded a trade when Manny took his playing time. And while he did have his moments of moodiness as a fourth outfielder in '08, he came to camp in '09 determined to make the best of the situation -- and this positive attitude aided in making Pierre hugely instrumental in sparking the Dodgers to first place in the NL West when Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for a dirty performance-enhancing drug test.
Willis was so bad for Detroit over the past couple of seasons that he landed on the disabled list twice in 2009 -- for something called "anxiety disorder."
Yet each man persevered and is hoping in 2010 to come out the other side. Willis opened the season in the Tigers' rotation. Pierre is in the White Sox outfield after Dodgers' general manager Ned Colletti, in a class move, kept his promise to try and find a spot for Pierre where his playing time would increase.
"We hit it off because we have the same personality," Willis says. "We get to the field early, we work, we expect a lot of ourselves.
"Sometimes things are a blessing in disguise. We handled [the tough times over the past two years] with class. And now there is a situation for both of us where we're both turning it around.
"I don't think Juan would be in that situation if he didn't stay focused. It's made me proud. It's a testament to what kind of man he is and what kind of teammate he was."
Pierre, playing left field, is off to a slow start in Chicago, hitting .222 with a .282 on-base percentage. He does have nine steals in 18 games.
Willis, 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in four appearances (three starts), like Pierre, impressed teammates last year with his upbeat attitude despite tough personal times.
"We're not here to rock the boat," Willis says of he and his buddy Pierre. "We want to get along. Our work ethic speaks for itself. To give your best effort, that's all you can ask for whether you're a player, a writer, whatever."
Both within and outside of their own clubhouses, it's not difficult to find people rooting for both Willis and Pierre, so much so that yes, Willis says, he often feels the love.
"I appreciate it," Willis says. "I wasn't down when I was struggling. Everything was fine at home. Just because I was struggling doesn't mean everything was going bad. My family is good.
"It's one of those things where when you struggle, people think everything is wrong in your life. And it's not. I told Skip [manager Jim Leyland], 'Thanks for the opportunity.'
"I really like my teammates, this coaching staff, and the city of Detroit. I'm from Oakland, and Detroit is similar. I do feel a lot of people pulling for me, and I really appreciate it. And I think Juan is the same.
"We're really thankful."
Likes: Sure is going to be entertaining watching the near-future gyrations of the agents for Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez after Ryan Howard signed his five-year, $125 million extension. ... This hilarious item in The Onion the other day: True Yankees, Regular Yankees to Now Wear Different Uniforms. Among the beauties in the story: "To have Javier Vazquez don the same pinstripes as Mariano Rivera or Jorge Posada is…well, it's unthinkable," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said as Curtis Granderson modeled the sterile, black-and-white uniform with a large, boxy, non-interlocking "NY" stitched across the front of the chest. ... Really enjoyed Adventureland, a film about a high school graduate having to forego dreams of a European trip before starting at an Ivy League school when his parents have a financial setback, leaving him to a summer job at a Pittsburgh-area amusement park in 1987. Lots of funny (and painful) stuff. James Brennan and Kristen Stewart are terrific. It's out on DVD now and definitely worth catching.
Dislikes: The one television show my wife loves that will drive me out of the room every time: Glee.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Me and some guys from school
-- Bryan Adams, Summer of '69
Posted on: December 8, 2009 7:54 pm
INDIANAPOLIS -- Here's the world in which we live today:
Now, understanding that they're different players, and Cabrera produces more offense. ...
Granderson was highly popular among Tigers fans, a pillar of the community in Detroit and an incredibly impressive representative for both the Tigers and major league baseball.
He is signed to a five-year, $30.25 million deal through 2013.
Cabrera, on the final weekend of the season with the Tigers fighting to hang onto a shrinking AL Central lead that they would eventually lose, stayed out all night drinking and was picked up by police at 6 a.m. on a Saturday on a domestic dispute call. Cabrera, according to police, had a blood-alcohol level of .26 and police named both Cabrera and his wife as aggressors in the assault.
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski picked Cabrera up at the police station early that morning, and the slugger then went hitless in his next two games -- which, as things played out, were Detroit's two most important games of the season.
He is signed to an eight-year, $152.3 million deal through 2015.
The Tigers blew a three-game AL Central lead with four games to play in 2009, and now, as a few bad contracts (Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson) and the poor Michigan economy squeeze them, they must cut costs.
Granderson was a beloved figure in Detroit, and now he's gone.
Cabrera, after a spectacularly selfish act that undoubtedly hurt the Tigers as the playoff race culminated, after essentially flipping off die-hard Tigers fans -- many of whom are either struggling to stay employed or already laid off -- remains. Largely because, with his contract, he's virtually untradable.
It's just the way it is. The sports world today, hard at work.
Posted on: March 4, 2008 4:53 pm
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Michigan's 7.5 percent unemployment rate this winter is the highest in the country. Since 2006, more than 70,000 homes have been foreclosed in Detroit alone. And property values are down nearly 20 percent.
Yet after the Detroit Tigers traded for shortstop Edgar Renteria, third baseman Miguel Cabrera and pitcher Dontrelle Willis this winter, they sold so many season tickets that they eventually halted sales to make sure last year's season ticketholders didn't get shut out.
And, incredibly, when the Tigers put 2008 individual game tickets on sale Saturday, they sold 80,000 in the first two hours, 176,000 over the first eight hours and 192,000 by noon Sunday.
And the Tigers themselves absolutely have noticed.
"It's one of the best sports towns I've ever been in," slugger Gary Sheffield says. "I didn't know that much about it. But they're the most passionate fans I've ever seen."
Center fielder Curtis Granderson, beginning his third full season with the Tigers, shakes his head in awe at the number of tickets that are flying off of the shelves for '08.
He knows it's because these Tigers are loaded, and he believes there's another reason, too.
"I think it's the fact that we play hard," he says. "It's a hard-working area, and I think people are like, 'Hey, I'm working hard, and I want to enjoy watching others work hard, too.'"
Whatever, as the auto industry sags, concern over job security grows and homes sit unsold, maybe Tigers rounding the bases will at least ease the suffering for some.
"I have no idea how many runs we scored last year," Granderson says, chuckling. "I know it was a lot.
"It's a good buzz for the city of Detroit. They want to be excited, and they should be."
Likes: There are few finer people in the game than Curtis Granderson. ... The paw prints in the carpet in the Tigers' Lakeland clubhouse. ... Thunderstorms, like the one that just rolled in following the Tigers-Astros game this afternoon over in Kissimmee. ... Even without Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, the Astros have as loose a clubhouse as you'll find. ... Watching election returns. ... The prospect of a couple of days at home this weekend before landing in Arizona and the Cactus League next week. ... Astros broadcaster Jim Deshaies. ... Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour on XM. And Dylan's Modern Times disc.
Dislikes: Orlando traffic. ... Kissimmee traffic. ... Route 192.
Sunblock day? Not really. Warm, but very overcast. Dry, but thunderstorms expected later this afternoon and evening. Check that. The T-storms are here. It's dry no longer. I'm going to get absolutely soaked walking to my car.
Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:
"Have you seen the flags of freedom?
-- Neil Young, Flags of Freedom