Wither Interleague play…and a Giant problem

Interleague play logo

Interleague play logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN MAY 19, 2012…

As MLB begins it’s annual slate of interleague games tonight, I can’t help but wonder how much differently the entire baseball landscape will be in2013.

Next year, of course the Astros will switch to the American League, creating 2 15-team leagues and thereby necessitating an interleague game being played every night. Had the Brewers stayed in the AL 15 years ago instead of jumping to the NL, this would be a non-issue; but I digress.  My biggest hope is that going forward, we will see the lines between the AL and NL become a little more blurred.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no love for “radical realignment”;  in fact, I just want to see MLB stop acting as if the AL and NL are two separate baseball entities.  Hopefully, such a shift in the paradigm will lead to a unilateral decision on the Designated Hitter – one way or the other.

Also, earlier today it was announced that the Athletics may begin to explore the possibility of leaving Oakland, as a result of their stalemate with the Giants regarding a move to San Jose.   I can understand the Giants concern over losing a part of “their market”, but I believe that this a case in which MLB must intervene again.  It’s a foregone conclusion that an undisclosed amount changed hands between the Expos/Nationals and the Orioles when the Expos made their move to DC.  Orioles ownership was vehemently opposed to another team moving into the O’s home market. As it turns out, once the money started talking, the Orioles ownership started listening.

I think it’s pathetic that the A’s/Giants situation has come down to this.  The Giants, and ALL MLB teams need to realize they are not thirty separate corporations trying to put one another out of business.  They are thirty independent subsidiaries of one large corporation, namely MLB.  As soon as the owners realize that the good fortunes of one teams are beneficial to all of them, the league will be a much better place.

Thank you, Maggs!

The Tigers play so far this season has me disappointed beyond words, but that’s another post for another time.   Today I want to talk about something the Tigers’ front office is doing right.

Earlier today, it was announced, in conjunction with the Tigers organization, that Magglio Ordonez will officially retire from baseball Sunday; thereby retiring as a Tiger. I for one couldn’t be happier.

I wrote in an earlier post how the acquisition of Pudge Rodriguez was the front office’s first step in returning the Tigers to relevance.  That being said, the front office’s second step, and perhaps a greater step towards on-field improvement, was the signing of Magglio Ordonez.  That’s no disrespect to Pudge; but it was widely accepted that his best years of his career were behind by the time he signed with the Tigers.

The signing of Ordonez was at the time an even greater risk than that of Pudge.  After the injury that saw he and the White Sox part ways, Magglio was viewed as viewed as a player with loads of potential, whose injuries had made him something of a liability.  Through some brilliant foresight, the Tigers were careful to word Ordonez’s contracts with statistical benchmarks and performance incentives – protecting them should he fall victim to the injuries that plagued him through his White Sox tenure.    One trip to the World Series, one AL Central title (which should have been two) and one AL Batting title clearly illustrate the Tigers gamble paid off.  I’m sure Hawk Harrelson was shouting “Dad-gummit” on October 14, 2006 when Maggs did this:

That was quite simply the greatest moment in the history of Comerica Park and the the team’s wake up call to the baseball world.

I’m hoping the family has tickets for Sunday, and are planning to take a lot of pictures…

Muchas gracias Pudge!

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Pudge recovering a foul ball.

Though it was announced a few days ago, Ivan Rodriguez officially retired from baseball today.  The announcement was made in conjunction with the Rangers, no surprise there considering he spent 13 of his 21 MLB seasons in Texas.  While there’s no doubt he’ll be best remembered (and probably be inducted into Cooperstown as one) I naturally like to remember him for his 5 seasons as a Tiger.

Pudge joined the team in the winter of 2004 -following a 2003 season that saw him win his only World Series ring, while the Tigers set an AL record with 119 losses.  Of course, the media had fun with the tag-line “first to worst”.  still, Pudge said all the right things: he believed in Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski; that he believed the pieces were in place; that he envisioned the Tigers in the World Series within a few years (or words to that effect).  Pudge’s signing with the Tigers was a risky move for both parties: the Tigers were desperate to become relevant and probably overpaid him. To many, Pudge looked like a mercenary – cashing in on a huge payday from a down-in-the-dumps franchise. Fans couldn’t help but think that this would wind up like the signing and departure of Juan Gonzalez.

Fortunately for the Tiger front office, the acquisition of Pudge paid off huge dividends.  He instantly became the team’s marquee player.  2004 saw a 29 win improvement for the team. Other players  around the league started to take notice. 2006 saw the Tigers win their first AL pennant since 1984.  In fact, the Tigers return to baseball prominence started with the acquisition of Pudge.   The signings of Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder may have never happened had Pudge not decided to take a chance in the D.

As a fan, I would like to say to Pudge:  Thank you, for making Detroit Tiger baseball matter again.

We’ll see you in Cooperstown in 2017.

Reflections on 42.

Today is Jackie Robinson Day – with this year being the 65th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier.  I could sit here and extol the virtues of Robinson and his then-general manager Branch Rickey, but countless other writers have done that far more eloquently than I have; so I won’t even bother trying.  Instead, I want to talk about the number 42 itself.

It was 15 years ago today that Comissioner Bud Selig decreed that the number 42 would be retired  by ALL MLB clubs in honor of Robinson.  2009 was the first year that all uniformed MLB personnel would wear 42 on Jackie Robinson Day.  Some people, including many MLB player at the time, have said that they think having all MLB players and coaches wear 42 on JR day somehow dilutes its significance.Nothing could be further from the truth.  Not only is Jackie Robinson‘s debut the most important moment in the history of Major League Baseball; but it is, in my opinion, on a short listed of the most important moments in American history as well.

There is something almost surreal about seeing people wear 42 in MLB now.  Aside from Mariano Rivera, no one EVER sees the number anymore…except on April 15.  Then EVERYONE wears it.  MLB has managed to elevate this number to an iconic status, not unlike the Superman S shield.  It has become a symbol, of everything that Robinson represented.  Look at the photos and tweets on this page and you can sense the genuine reverence players feel not only for the man, but for the number and everything it represents.

Courage.  Determination. Teamwork. Persistence.  Integrity.  Teamwork.  Citizenship.  Justice.  Commitment.  Excellence.  Is it even possible to dilute the legacy of a man who dedicated  his life to these 9 values?

Opening Day 2012

I didn’t make the trip to the D this year for Opening Day, opting instead to spend it here in Chucktown. I read a great blog entry today that perfectly captures the essence of what I DON’T like about Opening Day in Detroit.

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From what I’ve seen on TV and on-line, the new video board looks great!  Even though the new board retains the footprint of the original display, the team greatly improved upon it by making the video display bigger – and HD, as well as making the whole display taller.  These alterations should make the score board much easier to see, especially from the first base side of the park.

As for the game itself, a win is a win.  My biggest complaint has to be the blown save by Valverde.  Verlander pitched an absolute gem for eight innings, only to be deprived the opportunity to be the pitcher of record.  Even in that, fans were treated to a real pitcher’s duel, capped off by a walk-off victory for the Tigers.  A silver lining to every cloud…

Even before signing Prince Fielder, this was a truly formidable Tigers team.  His addition has only convinced even more experts that the Tigers will win the AL Central in a rout this season.  I however, am trying not to get TOO excited about this year’s edition of Motown’s Boys of Summer.  Not to sound like “the glass is half empty” but I’m always reluctant to set my expectations too high for the Tigers. I’ve seen the proverbial rug get pulled out from under them. The bold pre-season predictions of 2008 still ring freshly in my ears.  Likewise, the images of the Twins walk-off victory on 2009’s Game 163 are forever burned in my mind.  On the flip side, I’ve seen too many seasons where this club has taken the filed known they are more-than-likely to lose. Who can forget cellar-dwelling seasons  of the early 2000’s?     Having said that, I too hope to see them hoisting the trophy-with-all-the-little-team-flags-on-it (Does the World Series trophy HAVE a name?) this October.

I’m also glad to see that Saturday’s game will be broadcast locally here in Charleston, on the local FOX affiliate.

My baseball book club – part 1

The Final Season coverAbout a month ago, I finally read Tom Stanton’s The Final Season, which chronicles the news writer-publisher’s plan to see all 81 home games during the 1999 season at Tiger Stadium.

Stanton’s record of all 81 home games is inter-cut with stories of his family; painting a picture of a multi-generational love affair with a sport, a team and of course, a stadium. The author spend much of his time at the stadium talking, both famous and otherwise.  He hears many of the same stories, before understanding how and why a place becomes more than just a ballpark.

I’m not sure how many fans outside of Detroit, or outside of Tiger fans more to the point, can appreciate a premise such as this.  However, as Michigan native and a lifelong Tiger fan, I instantly connected with this story.  Thousands, if not millions, of fans have been lucky enough to pass through the turn styles at Tiger Stadium, and therefore, can appreciate the full scope of this story.  For that matter, any fan with deep feelings of any team can at least relate and find his an enjoyable read.

Recommended to any passionate sports fans; but particularly to Tiger fans.