Tag:Detroit Tigers
Posted on: December 8, 2009 7:54 pm

Something wrong with picture in Granderson trade

INDIANAPOLIS -- Here's the world in which we live today:

The Detroit Tigers, due to financial pressure, essentially were forced to trade Curtis Granderson to the Yankees in a mega three-team deal Tuesday while keeping Miguel Cabrera.

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: October 5, 2009 12:28 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2009 12:31 pm

Whatever is going on with Miguel Cabrera. ...

I think it's a very good thing for the Tigers that they're getting out of town and playing the one-game playoff with Minnesota in the Metrodome.

And at this time of year, with all of this on the line, and with all the money the Tigers are paying Cabrera ($152 million over eight years) ... that's pathetic.

Posted on: April 24, 2009 12:21 am

Tigers no longer need map for strike zone

 One of the most impressive transformations in the majors this season is taking place in the Detroit pitching staff where, through Thursday, the Tigers had issued the fewest walks in the American League (42), and the second-fewest walks in the majors behind Philadelphia (40).

This after walking more hitters a year ago than every AL team except Baltimore.

There are several reasons why the Tigers were 8-6 and tied with Chicago and Kansas City for first in the AL Central heading into their series finale in Anaheim Thursday night -- as opposed to 4-10 and dead last after 14 games a year ago.

But the fact that their pitching staff is pumping strikes -- Edwin Jackson's rocky fourth inning later Thursday night notwithstanding -- is among the biggest.

"I don't say, 'We're not going to walk guys', but I want them throwing strikes," first-year pitching coach Rick Knapp says. "I want them to attack the strike zone.

"I want them to think analytically how they're going to approach each guy in the strike zone with their strength, not necessarily pitching to a hitter's weakness."

The Tigers hired Knapp from Minnesota, where he spent the past 12 seasons as the Twins' roving minor-league pitching coordinator, after firing Chuck Hernandez following the '08 season. While manager Jim Leyland is reluctant to praise Knapp excessively because he does not want to disrespect Hernandez, it's clear that the fit has been a good one.

"When a guy is in the minor leagues for 12, 13 years, you know one thing: He likes baseball," Leyland says. "He's going to work his ass off because he loves the game. That's one thing I really liked about him."

Part of the Tigers' early strike-zone sharpness is because of winter changes, such as the additions of starters Jackson (acquired from Tampa Bay) and Rick Porcello (Detroit's first-round pick in 2007) and reliever Brandon Lyon (signed as a free agent). Part of it is the program Knapp has incorporated with those who were here last year, such as veterans Justin Verlander, Zach Miner and Armando Galarraga.

"One of his things is to avoid the three-ball count," backup catcher Matt Treanor says. "He keeps an unofficial stat on three-ball counts, that there are a lot more foul balls on those. And then you get a couple of foul balls, then you try and trick somebody and you go away from your game plan."

Too, as Knapp says, "One sure-fire way not to walk a batter is, don't throw three balls. If you don't get to ball three, there's a pretty good chance you're not going to walk the guy."

Another thing the Tigers pitchers do several times a week is "touch the mound."

Translation: "All of the pitchers have the opportunity to throw off of the mound every day," Knapp says. "Not top-speed, eyeballs-popping-out."

It's from the practice-like-you-play philosophy. Knapp likes his pitchers to throw at least every other day from a mound, even if it's just playing catch, so that they can work on their deliveries. Lyon, for example, has a higher release point with his curve than with his fastball, and in a recent game he lost track of his arm slot on the fastball. He was a prime candidate after that to cruise by Knapp a day or two later and say, as Tigers pitchers do now, "I need to touch it today."

"You have to tip your cap to the pitchers, they've worked very hard," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski says. "And it's something Rick Knapp has brought along with him."

Together, it's worked very well. But it remains way early, and this newfound familiarity with the strike zone, of course, will remain a work in progress. Thursday night in Anaheim, Jackson, who went to a three-ball count just once against 26 batters in his Saturday start in Seattle, walked two Angels home during a rocky fourth inning.

No doubt, he'll get a few subtle reminders from Knapp long before his next start, Tuesday in Detroit against the Yankees.

"When you get into an advantageous count, you can dictate what they swing at," Knapp says. "There's not much you can do when it's 2-and-0. But there's a whole lot you can do when it's 0-and-2."

More often than not, Detroit pitchers have been living that first-hand this season.

Likes: Did you see Milwaukee third baseman Bill Hall's spectacular play in the eighth inning as David Bush was gunning for a no-hitter against Philadelphia Thursday? The Phillies' Greg Dobbs smashed a bouncer down the line, and Hall absolutely robbed him.. ... Interesting watching the subtle changes in Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera. He's been around so long it seems like he's older than 25 (he broke in at 19), but now in his second season with Detroit, it's clear he's more comfortable with the organization, the American League and with himself. "He considers this his team now," Tigers batting coach Lloyd McClendon says. McClendon also adds that Cabrera "thinks he had a bad year last year." This after leading the AL with 37 homers, collecting 127 RBI but hitting only .292. So how does McClendon respond to that? "I told him I dreamed of years like that," McClendon says. ... Bob Verdi's column in the Chicago Tribune on late Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas brings it on home. ... National Public Radio's Don Gonyea, proud son of Monroe, Mich., on Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. ... U2 heading out on tour this summer. ... Claritin. If we had allergy medicine like this back when, I would have set some serious cross country records in high school (ha! hahaha!). It helps to run when you can breathe. It helps to do anything when you can breathe.

Dislikes: The NFL draft is proof that if you're a clever enough marketer, you can sell anything. The draft might be the single-most overrated thing in the country. I'd rather weed a garden for 12 hours straight in 100-degree temperatures than watch even one round of that thing.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well some say life will beat you down
"Break your heart, steal your crown
"So I started out for God kno ws where
"But I guess I'll know when I get there"

-- Tom Petty, Learning to Fly


Posted on: April 13, 2009 6:52 pm
Edited on: April 13, 2009 8:27 pm

Requiem for The Bird

 I missed the Monday Night Baseball Game in 1976 when Mark Fidrych introduced himself to the world, through the serious tones of Howard Cosell and the magic of the old game of the week.

I think I was the only person in the entire state of Michigan to miss it.

Back then, I was going to be a basketball star -- ah, the idealism of youth -- and I had spent the week at Digger Phelps' camp at Notre Dame. What I clearly remember is my parents picking me up at the end of that week and my mother excitedly telling me all about this curly-haired kid who talked to the ball while he pitched.

The way I figured it, if even my mother was all that hopped up about some new phenom, he must be quite the story. And what a story Fidrych was, from the shooting-star exuberance of that '76 season to the stunningly quick flameout less than two years later.

Sitting here across the country in the Dodger Stadium press box, it is impossible not to think back to those days as the news hits -- and hits hard -- that Fidrych is dead at 54.

If you were in Michigan or anywhere close, the Bird was the word during the summer of '76. You hung on his every start, watching the crowds swell at Tiger Stadium for what was a bad, bad baseball team.

Fidrych was a one-man gate attraction, between his uncanny knack for keeping the ball down (19-9, 2.34 ERA in '76) and his even uncannier knack of talking to the ball and dropping to his hands and knees to groom the mound between innings.

Nobody was more exuberant. Nobody was more cool. Nobody was more intriguing.

Fidrych spread like a wildfire, drawing huge crowds with each road start as well. And this was way before clubs had marketing departments or ESPN instantly spread the gospel of the newest phenom. Fidrych's act was genuine, not contrived to get himself some publicity and more dough.

Everybody loved The Bird. By summer's end, after school started, I remember an eighth grade classmate of mine named Wendy St. Bernard entranced in one of those quickie paperbacks that already had been produced on The Bird's life. He was all of 21.

Odd what you remember all these years later, isn't it?

By the next summer, it was finished. The Bird had wrecked his knee hopping over a fence during spring training in Lakeland, Fla. While we all hung on updates and prayed that the knee would heal, it never did. At least, not before his arm went.

And now, Detroit has been hit with a double dose of sadness this spring, Fidrych's death following closely that of beloved television broadcaster (and Hall of Fame player) George Kell.

And the start of this season is unspeakably sad, with Fidrych's death following those of young Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and Hall of Fame Philadelphia broadcaster Harry Kalas.

I remember running into Fidrych at the final game at Tiger Stadium in 1999, when they brought back so many of the old Tigers. It struck me as odd that he spoke in a thick New England accent. I don't know why it would strike me as odd. He grew up in New England and returned home after he retired.

But when someone as exciting as Fidrych comes along, it's as if he belongs to all of us. It certainly seemed that way back then.

In one sense, he'll always be 21 with curly, blonde hair, yapping away at the baseball. And even though he's sadly gone, the mere mention of his name will always take those of us who were there back to that wonderful summer of '76, the bicentennial in full flower, a wide-open future in our hearts.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take a minute and close my eyes. And I'm going to picture one of the greatest Sports Illustrated covers ever: Fidrych in full windup (and full smile), with Sesame Street's Big Bird standing behind, peeking around him.

If you were there, you know.





Posted on: March 25, 2009 5:29 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2009 6:29 pm

It was always swell listening to George Kell

 Some of you older readers heard about the passing of Hall of Famer George Kell this week and no doubt flashed back to his slick fielding and quick bat for five clubs over 15 seasons in the 1940s and 1950s.

Some of you younger readers saw the news and wondered, who's George Kell?

Then there's a third group, those who lived in Michigan in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and knew him as the television voice of the Detroit Tigers.

That's when and where I cut my baseball teeth, and that was my good fortune.

Ernie Harwell is the legendary radio voice from that part of the country, and I always thought that partly because of Ernie, Kell was underrated for what he did.

Kell, too, helped teach baseball to a generation of fans, describing and illustrating the Tigers with that soft, lilting Arkansas accent. He, too, was part of your extended family each summer if you watched and cared for the Tigers.

He was as pleasant in the summer as Dairy Queen and the county fair, and along about late February or March, often more eagerly anticipated.

Among other things, Kelly represented stability. He worked during the time before broadcasts bounced around the radio dial and the television channel lineup like a free agent utilitymen. Every single season in the 1980s, George Kell and Al Kaline were in the booth. With them on television and Harwell and Paul Carey on WJR radio, things were covered.

Not only was Kell's delivery and accent as addicting as peach cobbler, it was easily imitated. I bet every Michigan high school kid who even had a passing interest in baseball did some version of Kell at some point in his youth.

In 1983 and 1984, George Baier of WRIF radio did a hilarious, spot-on impersonation of Kell and Kaline, culminating in a send-up of The Police's Every Breath You Take. Baier's version, as "George Swell", was Every Swing You Take.

Sample lyrics:

Every Sweet Lou (Whitaker) stab
Every (Chet) Lemon grab
We'll be watching you

I don't know whether or not Kell enjoyed it -- I hope he did, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery -- but for those of us young baseball fans with a bit of a rock 'n' roll tilt, we loved it.

We're all a part of where we came from. I know I'm not alone in being grateful that Kell brought a little bit of Arkansas into Michigan on so many warm, enjoyable summer nights, with the ballgame on television and the thought that anything was possible on the other side of that screen door.

Bless you, George.

Likes: Burgers. ... The World Baseball Classic championship Monday night between Japan and Korea. Textbook baseball and a great atmosphere. My ears are still ringing. ... A boy who looked to be about 7 or 8, walking with his dad (both of them wearing Cubs caps) and opening a pack of baseball cards outside of Peoria Stadium before Wednesday's Indians-Padres game. ... Roster decisions being made daily now. Shouldn't we be to opening day by now? ... Cole Hamels back on the mound in Philadelphia. ... John Smoltz ahead of schedule in Boston. ... U2's new disc, No Line on the Horizon. Not a classic, but some good stuff. ... Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band in rehearsals, preparing for the new tour to begin April 1. What a treat, we get two opening days this year. The baseball version, and the new Springsteen tour version.

Dislikes: OK, I get it, that some Roman Catholics in Detroit are upset that the Tigers' home opener is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. on Good Friday. It's not optimal. But here's a thought: If you're offended, don't go to the game. And don't watch on television or listen on the radio.

Sunblock Day? Warm sun, but temps only in the high 70s. Which isn't bad. It can be over 90 at this time of year in the desert.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The more you see the less you know
"The less you find out as you go
"I knew much more then than I do now"

-- U2, City of Blinding Lights




Posted on: February 20, 2009 10:42 pm

Where have you gone, Dontrelle Willis?

LAKELAND, Fla. -- New spring, new start for Dontrelle Willis, the former Florida Marlins ace who has been covered in rust since landing in Detroit last season.

"Every year, I feel like I have to win a job," Willis says, referring to both his golden years in Florida and his current, slump-ridden stretch. "There's no different mentality."

There is a different vibe, however. The Willis who was selected as National League Rookie of the Year in 2003, named to two NL All-Star teams and once was one of the game's most dominant and effervescent pitchers, is gone.

In his place is an older (27) model who is attempting to keep his career from slipping away. Willis appeared in only eight games during his first season in Detroit in 2008, starting seven, and going 0-2 with a 9.38 ERA. Most baffling was his 35 walks against only 18 strikeouts in just 24 innings.

New Tigers pitching coach Rick Knapp is watching a determined Willis who has tweaked his mechanics on the advice of the club's minor-league coaches who worked with Willis in the midst of his control problems last year.

"The stuff the guys in the minor leagues worked with him on really took," Knapp says.

While Willis' delivery remains unorthodox, his current version is simplified. He doesn't twist away from the plate quite as dramatically as he once did -- "he's not as violent with his head," Knapp says -- and his leg kick is a little more deliberate and not quite as high.

"He still has his personality," Knapp says, adding that he is relieved with that.

"As a teacher, sometimes the more you get in guys' heads where his mechanics are concerned, the more chance you have to lose him," Knapp says.

So Knapp is attempting to take it slow with Willis and sprinkle in timely suggestions.

So far, it's been a good first impression on Willis.

"He's explained a lot of things, like about us playing catch properly," Willis says. "Things I had never heard before about things that are like second nature to me."

The theory being, of course, is that if you play catch properly, the odds of developing bad habits lessen. Proper arm angle, proper footwork ... it all goes hand in hand, so to speak.

Willis, who has been one of the game's hardest workers since breaking into the majors in 2003, arrived in Lakeland on Jan. 2 to begin preparing for 2009.

"He had some goals in mind, delivery-oriented, that he wanted to achieve," Knapp says. "He's looked pretty good."

Next step: When the Grapefruit League season begins on Wednesday. Baby steps for now. Willis is no longer the sure thing he once was. But it's spring, and at this time of year, there's always hope.


All set for the Oscars on Sunday night? I think I'm the only guy in America who did not like Slumdog Millionaire. Bet it wins best picture anyway, but I thought it was extremely overrated.

Based purely on personal enjoyment -- not technical filmmaking, scripts or anything else -- here's how I see the five pictures up for Best Picture this year:

1. Frost/Nixon. Frank Langella is captivating as Nixon.

2. The Reader. Kate Winslet is so good.

3. Milk. Sean Penn should win Best Actor over Mickey Rourke. Rourke (The Wrestler) was really, really good. But part of it was, and this isn't to diminish Rourke, he was playing himself. Penn was acting the whole way. And while everyone is talking about Penn and Rourke, Langella deserves a big mention here.

4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Too long and not balanced enough. Too much time spent on Button as a young man in an old man's body, and not nearly enough on him as an old man in a young man's body. I thought the latter was when it really started to get interesting, and that only came in the final 45 or so minutes of a movie that lasted for nearly three hours.

5. Slumdog Millionaire. The uplifting ending? The Bollywood dance during the credits? Give me a break.

Likes: Toronto center fielder Travis Snider, one good-looking rookie prospect. ... That the media relations director of the Toronto Blue Jays is named Jay. Jay Stenhouse. How perfect is that? But I am glad that Detroit doesn't have a media relations director named Tiger. Tiger Britten instead of Brian? Nah. ... Pitchers throwing live batting practice. After the first couple days of spring, camps begin to get a little boring. Then, when the position players begin to arrive, the pitchers begin to throw to them, and that really puts some juice in camp. Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera batted against Justin Verlander the other day -- I wasn't in Lakeland then, but I would have loved to have seen that one. ... The large dinosaur statues off of Interstate 4 next to the billboard that reads, "You're leaving Dinosaur World." Kitschy. ... Lemon Grass Thai Kitchen on West Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa. ... The Huevos a la Mexicana at Tapatio's in Lakeland.

Dislikes: You mean that steroid Alex Rodriguez said his cousin got over-the-counter in the Dominican Republic wasn't available by prescription, even in the D.R.? Shocking.

Sunblock Day: Cold. I mean, like 40-some degrees cold at 7 this morning. Nice, bright sun, and I know some Tigers-related folks spoke with family back home in Michigan and it was only 15 or so and snowing. That quieted the weather-related complaining in Florida very quickly.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It was 1989, my thoughts were short my hair was long
"Caught somewhere between a boy and man
"She was seventeen and she was far from in-between
"It was summertime in Northern Michigan"

-- Kid Rock, All Summer Long

Posted on: December 9, 2008 7:19 pm

Tigers, Brewers inquire on M's Putz

LAS VEGAS -- The market for closers began taking shape Tuesday with the New York Mets signing Francisco Rodriguez and Cleveland nearing a deal with Kerry Wood, and some clubs with little money to spend began positioning themselves to avoid getting shut out.

Specifically, the Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers, two clubs in need of a ninth-inning guy, are talking with Seattle about acquiring J.J. Putz, sources with knowledge of the Mariners' activities said.

One source cautioned that nothing is imminent because neither the Tigers nor the Brewers appear to have the proper package of players that would satisfy the Mariners. Or, at least, they weren't offering them as of late Tuesday afternoon.

One thing to keep in mind is that new Seattle general manager Jack Zdurencik spent the past nine seasons in Milwaukee's organization, most recently serving as the vice-president and special assistant to the general manager for player personnel. As such, Zdurencik knows the Brewers' organization as well as anyone.

The Mariners, sources say, have not necessarily decided to trade Putz, but Zdurencik is said to be investigating all of his options. And one of them is to move set-up man Brandon Morrow into the closer's role and deal Putz.

The Mariners also are said to be listening to offers for third baseman Adrian Beltre.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com