Monday, July 31, 2006

There's No Magic To Figuring Out A Magic Number

Some of you die-hard readers (and if you're reading ME, then you are definitely dying hard) have asked me how the "magic number" -- that figure that shows everyone how close a team is to clinching their division -- is calculated.

Simple, really.

1. Determine how many unplayed games the leader has remaining in the season.
2. Add one.
3. Subtract the difference between the leader's losses and the next best team's losses.
4. The result is the "magic number."

Let's figure it out for the Tigers:

1. They have 58 games remaining
2. Add one, so we're working from 59
3. They have eight fewer losses than the White Sox (59-8)
4. The Tigers' magic number this morning is 51

That means that any combination of Tigers wins and White Sox losses equaling 51 clinches the division for our guys.

Obviously, magic numbers don't get bantied about until September, usually.

But not here.

At WHYGJG, I will post, to the right in that blue box, the Tigers' magic number every day. It looks like a poll, but it's not. But if you would like to "vote", to show me how many folks are getting into this magic number thing, I'd appreciate it. The "poll" format was just the simplest way I knew of creating a "banner" -- being as non-web design savvy as I am.


Sunday's Hiccup Aside, Tigers In Good Shape
For "Dog Days"

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 4-2
This Week: (7/31-8/3: at TB; 8/4-6: CLE)

The Dog Days.

No other sport than baseball has them -- that I'm aware of, anyway.

They officially begin Tuesday, August 1st. For whatever reason, you can't have Dog Days until August. It's a month that has derailed many a pennant contender. Ballclubs with chinks in their armor have those chinks cruelly exposed during the Dog Days. Hopefuls who don't have enough of what it takes see their delusions of grandeur spoiled by the remains of the Dog Days.

Yes, even teams who close July with records like 70-34 -- as the Tigers are now -- have fallen victim to the Dog Days. But not very often. Teams who play at such a clip for nearly two-thirds of the season are rarely pretenders. 67% of a season played at a 67% rate of success isn't done with smoke and mirrors, folks. Those teams usually have nothing to worry about during the Dog Days.

The Tigers, whether they make a move or not before today's non-waiver trading deadline, are one of those majority teams who shouldn't have many worries as they navigate through August's Dog Days. They fumbled away a game in Minneapolis yesterday, but that's so atypical of them. You don't play sound, fundamental baseball with the kind of pitching the Tigers have, for 104 games, then see it all come crashing down in one month. They are shoo-ins, I believe, for a playoff spot -- most likely the AL Central crown.

The Tigers have put themselves in this position because they play aggressive, proper baseball -- both at the plate and in the field. The meltdown in Minnesota yesterday was, blissfully, a rare exception. The August schedule is chock full of divisional opponents, which is an excellent opportunity for the Tigers to, at the very least, maintain their lead at a comfortable level.

Even with Second Half Kenny arriving on schedule, don't fear the Dog Days.

The Tigers, baseball's dogs for years, are about to have THEIR day.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Look Out -- Second Half Kenny May Have Just Blown Into Town

Uh-oh. Here it comes. As Neil Diamond once sang, "Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies."

Here comes Second Half Kenny.

You know what I mean: the post-All-Star Break Kenny Rogers.

Whispers of Second Half Kenny started before the break, actually, as in the hope that he wouldn't make an appearance in 2006. For with Rogers, at least in theory, leading the rotation, the last thing you would want is Second Half Kenny leading it.

Rogers' history, at least recently, has been one of the wheezing pitcher down the stretch -- the second half slumper. Step right up and see a man's ERA expand before your very eyes, folks!

It happened like that in Cleveland the other night. Rogers got clobbered by the Indians, beaten like a redheaded stepchild to the tune of seven earned runs in 2/3 of an inning. His ERA ballooned from 3.98 to 4.45. And so did the anxiety of Tigers fans everywhere.

Second Half Kenny has arrived, right on schedule.

Maybe it wouldn't happen here, this year, cooler heads said, trying to prevail. Cooler heads, because they tried to blame Rogers' second half slump last season on the Texas heat. Rogers pitched for the Rangers, in a city so devilishly hot that just about every home game is played at night -- even on Sundays. Surely the heat had something do with his wilting after July, the Cooler Heads told us.

Well, here we are in Detroit -- far removed from Texas, both geographically and in hotness -- and Second Half Kenny is upon us, anyway.

Overreaction to a bad start in Cleveland? The Cooler Heads would tell you that. But it wasn't just the 2005 season that saw Rogers' performance in the second half slip. It's been a recurring theme. And you know what else is recurring?


But I'm a certified Cooler Head. I'm here to tell you that this Tigers rotation is so good, so deep -- Zach Miner's recent struggles notwithstanding -- that it doesn't have to rely on any one man to carry it. Rogers is an important cog, no doubt, but with Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, and Nate Robertson tossing every fifth day, and with the Tigers' playoff lead comfortable at the moment, maybe we can all abide a little mini-slump from The Gambler.

It remains to be seen whether GM Dave Dombrowski will feel the need to add another starting pitcher to the roster before the July 31st non-waiver trading deadline. The team will be getting lefty Mike Maroth back sometime in late August, most likely. So there's your extra pitcher, should Dombrowski so desire. But will that be enough to quell the GM's fears -- should he have any -- that Second Half Kenny will make more than a cameo appearance this late summer?

In four days, we'll all know.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Even With Soriano, White Sox Can't Catch Tigers

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 4-2
This Week: (7/25, 26: at Cle; 7/28-30: at Min)

According to reports, the Chicago White Sox are very close to acquiring Alfonso Soriano from the Washington Nationals -- that big name bat that some hand-wringers around here think the Tigers need so badly.

That's OK.

The Tigers are the hunted. They are the team others chase. And conventional wisdom -- not to mention common sense -- dictates that if you're the leader, then things must be going alright. A 7 1/2 game lead means it even more so.

So why change? Why do the tweaking, when your team is not the one that needs to be tweaked?

The White Sox need tweaking. They are on the business end of that 7 1/2 game margin. They're the ones who've pitter-pattered out of the gate following the All-Star Break to the tune of 2-8. They would seem to be the ones that need the help.

The White Sox, I believe, don't pursue Soriano if they're within, say, three or four games of the lead. But it's not the Tigers that they should be worried about anymore. The Twins are hot on their heels, and their lead for the wild card is razor thin.

So the Chisox think Alfonso Soriano might be the cure for what ails them. Again I say, OK. Let them tweak themselves silly.

The Tigers are in need of absolutely nothing. The hue and cry for a lefthanded bat is balderdash. Why can't Dmitri Young fill that bill? Young hit a homerun last night, and had two hits in the Tigers' 9-7 win over the woeful Indians.

The Tigers don't need fixing. They're not the ones trying to catch them. The other teams are, so they're the ones that need to be tweaking and scrambling leading up to the July 31st non-waiver trading deadline.

Being in first place by 7 1/2 games on July 25th means never having to say deal.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

2006 Tigers Unlike Other Great Detroit Teams Of The Past

1907-09 -- the Tigers teams of Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford. Managed by "Ee-yah" Hughie Jennings. A pennant-winning trifecta, but no championship. Drummed out of the World Series each year -- twice by the Cubbies. Imagine that.

1934 -- first pennant winner in a quarter century, an interlude from the vaunted Yankees. But despite names like Gehringer, Greenberg, and Cochrane, the Gashouse Gang from St. Louis takes them out in seven games.

1935 -- The G-Men and company do it! They bring home the world title, bumping the Cubs -- sweet revenge. Manager Cochrane's boys play with his personality: tough, relentless, fearless. Some say this is the best Tigers team ever.

1940 -- Not a great team, but another pennant winner. The Tigers have just enough to nip the pack, but a good Cincinnati Reds team spoils the party.

1945 -- World Champs, but history doesn't treat them well. The Tigers are "wartime champs" -- a kind way of saying they did it against watered-down competition. Again the Cubs are vanquished in the World Series.

1968 -- Legendary. The come-from-behind team. Denny McLain wins 31 games. Willie Horton slugs 36 homeruns. A 1-3 deficit in the Series is overcome against the Cardinals. Horton's throw to nip Lou Brock in Game 5. Mickey Lolich's three Series wins. The Best Tiger Team Ever -- for the Baby Boomers.

1984 -- 35-5. Wire-to-wire leaders. 7-1 in the postseason. Gibby off of Gossage. Bless You Boys!

2006 -- ??

Each of the Tigers' pennant-winning teams have something that identifies them. You don't win in a vacuum.

As the Tigers get closer to the playoffs, the question will arise. If not this season, for the history buffs: What was the face of the 2006 Detroit Tigers?

The manager? Jim Leyland is craggy, weathered, and brilliant.

The young pitchers? Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya -- to name but two -- are fierce stallions.

The rest of them? Not an easy call.

The Tigers this season are an all-for-one, one-for-all bunch. No true superstar -- Pudge Rodriguez excluded. But Pudge doesn't carry the team. They are, to be honest, reminders of the 2004 Pistons. Another one-for-all, all-for-one group -- Larry Brown's boys. The Tigers simply go out and play good, tough, hard-nosed baseball. There's no glitz about them. The spotlight is evenly cast throughout their roster.

If the Tigers win anything of any substance this season (read: at least the ALCS), I am telling you that it will be darn near impossible to classify them along with other Tigers pennant winners. They're unlike any of them.

They haven't won a darn thing yet, that's for certain. But it's not too soon to start thinking about how they stack up against the ghosts of pennant winners past.

Is it?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Shelton's 2006 Story Teetering Between Having A Happy Ending, Or Not

For all of the wonderful stories coming out of Comerica Park this season, there's one that is curious, because we don't know if its ending will be happy, sad, or somewhere in between. But as it's playing out, it has the potential of being more on the sad side.

Chris Shelton. Big Red. C-Shell. Call him what you will. His looked like the story of the summer -- and it was just the second week of April. He went 14-for-20 to start the season, with a sackful of homeruns among those 14 hits. We already knew the kid could hit, but this was off the charts. I wrote here that I wondered how Shelton would handle things when the expected cooling down occurred.

Well, the cooling down occurred, alright. Quickly. We weren't very far into May when it happened, as Shelton's BA started to fall like a lead balloon. He looked confused at the plate. The swing suddenly became long and he was practically screwing himself into the ground after some whacks.

Through May it went, and into June. It got to the point where even a .300 BA was uncertain, and that was unheard of theretofor. Then some life was shown just before the All-Star break, and a little bit afterward.

But the story still isn't anywhere near as grand as those salad days of April.

As Chris Shelton spoke about it yesterday, in the clubhouse prior to the Tigers' 5-2 win over the White Sox, there was but one interloper at his locker. Me.

"I put some work in. I'm continuing to try to get the swing back where it needs to be. But it's a work in progress," Shelton said when I suggested he appeared to be coming out of his funk.

Moments earlier, he bristled when this intruder asked him a straightforward question. Namely, what was wrong in May and most of June?

"I don't know. I'm not going to answer that," Big Red said.


It was a delicate, yet potentially volatile scene, and the feeling was that he's growing weary of explaining himself to the media riffraff, like magazine editors, bloggers, and the like.

But thanks to his jackrabbit start, Shelton didn't have to feel weary at all talking about his swing -- when times were good.

"Nationally and locally it was great," he said of the early acclaim. "It's not usually my thing to want the spotlight, but the best part of it was that the team got off to a great start as well."

The Tigers aren't a team built upon the premise that they need one or two players to be firing on all cylinders in order to prosper. They win as a team, they lose as a team. But not before "playing nine innings" -- quickly becoming the team's mantra.

So the fact that Chris Shelton's hitting has slipped down to "spotty" on the grey scale of baseball measurement hasn't caused the Tigers' carefully-built house of cards to collapse. But it's also evident that a consistently-producing Shelton in the lower third of the batting order would be awfully nice to have.

And then maybe the Chris Shelton Story - 2006 -- can have a happy ending after all.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tigers Have Trading Deadline History

As the July 31st non-waiver trading deadline fast approaches, the reckless and careless naming of names is beginning to pick up steam. Names of players who would be coming to Detroit, buyers for the first time in years. Names of players that would be going to other cities. Names of players who are going nowhere, but who are talked about nonetheless because that's what this time of the year is for. If winter's offseason is time for the Hot Stove League, then this might be called the Swimming Pool League.

The Tigers have had some success with the trade deadline acquisition, although it hasn't always resulted in a first-place finish.

1993. The Tigers are treading water, barely, about five or six games behind the frontrunning Toronto Blue Jays. Close enough to be a buyer. It's August 31st -- the cutoff date for acquisitions to be eligible for postseason rosters. Trades are still being made, but they must involve players clearing waivers first. The team swings a deal with the Dodgers for outfielder Eric Davis, who hits a homerun in his first game as a Tiger. He does OK. The Tigers fade in September, though.

1988. This is a real race. The Tigers, Red Sox, Brewers, Yankees, and Blue Jays all have a real shot at the division title. Another August 31st arrives, and so do some trades. Freddy Lynn is the big name, shipped over from Baltimore. The Tigers also get pitcher Ted Power from Kansas City. Lynn hits a few homers, makes some acrobatic catches. Power is serviceable. But the Tigers again suffer through a horrible September slump and finish one game behind the Red Sox.

1987. The Doyle Alexander-John Smoltz year. That trade's made on August 12. With a couple weeks to go, the Tigers acquire pitcher Dickie Noles from the Cubs for the legendary "player to be named later." Noles is a beer-drinker and a volatile personality. But he grabs two saves in four games for the Tigers. The Blue Jays are vanquished in the season's final week -- some of the most exciting baseball ever played in Detroit. Noles is returned to the Cubs in the offseason -- the player to be named. He's traded for himself.

1972. The team is in a dogfight with the Red Sox, Orioles, and Yankees. GM Jim Campbell gets manager Billy Martin the horses he needs to nip the pack: catcher Duke Sims, pitcher Woodie Fryman, and first baseman Frank Howard all arrive deep into the summer. Howard comes so late -- in September -- that he's not eligible for the playoffs, which the Tigers make on the last weekend of the season. All three -- Sims, Fryman, and Howard -- all have a hand in the Tigers' AL East crown.

1967. Eddie Mathews is a 500+ homerun guy that is in the twilight of his career with the Braves. He's such a Brave, that he's the only player in history to play for the franchise in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. The Tigers pick up the third baseman, who's with the Astros by now, for the epic '67 stretch run. He hits six homers in 108 at-bats, but the Tigers fall just short of the Red Sox.

What will happen this July 31st? Or this August 31st?

When the Tigers have been competitive, the deadlines have been strewn with activity. Not always have the moves panned out, but how often do they, really?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

WHYGJG: Abel to Yzerman's Featured Michigan Sports Blog Of The Week!

Whoa -- what's this? Looking at my sitemeter, I see all these referrals from Abel to

Let's check it out....

Well, lookie there! AtoY has named WHYGJG as its Michigan sports blog of the week! And not only that, but they gave the Grubber some very generous space.

Thanks a bunch! Much appreciated.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Bring On The White Sox! Tigers Ready, Willing, & More Than Able

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 3-1
This Week: (7/18-20: CWS; 7/21-73: OAK)

In June 1988, when the Pistons were on the verge of finally doing away with their playoff nemesis, the Boston Celtics -- up 3-2 with Game 6 of the Conference Finals scheduled for the Silverdome -- center Bill Laimbeer was seen carrying a long duffel bag into the lockerroom before the game.

"What's in the bag, Bill?," the media types wondered.

"I'll show you after the game," Laimbeer said.

The Pistons won, earning their first trip to the NBA Finals. Later, Laimbeer revealed the contents of the bag.

A sickle.

He explained to the very curious. "When you have a snake down," Laimbeer said with that cocksure grin of his, "you have to cut its head off. We cut the snake's head off tonight."

This week, the Tigers better bring their sickles to Comerica Park.

It's far too early to be able to cut anyone's head off in this playoff race, no matter how much you'd like to do so. The Tigers have a 4 1/2 game lead over the White Sox in the Central Division, and a 7 1/2 game lead over the Yankees for the Wild Card. There are still gobs of games to be played.

But the sickle reference is relevant, for if the Tigers can at least win two of three from the White Sox, who visit Tuesday-Thursday -- and better yet, sweep them -- they'll have at least taken a swipe at them with their imaginary sickle. Maybe they might make some contact with the sickle, and scalp the Chisox a bit in the process.

There's no better time to establish something against the White Sox than now. Detroit is 1-5 against Chicago, and that of course has led to the whispering: The Tigers aren't for real until they can beat the White Sox. And the Yankees. And the Red Sox. Their record against those three ballclubs is less than stellar.

I have been one of the whisperers.

But that kind of talk will be washed away, flushed down the toilet, if the Tigers can spank the White Sox this week. Chicago is 0-3 out of the All-Star Break. And didn't I write something the other day about the team taking control after the break is the team with the advantage?

I have whispered about that, too.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Justin And Joel: The Pitching Version Of Alan And Sweet Lou?

The Tigers have tried. Oh, how they've tried.

Jeff Weaver. Nate Cornejo. Dave Borkowski. Matt Anderson. Please don't make me go on.

But here's a name that will take that shudder off your face: Justin Verlander.

And here's another: Joel Zumaya.

The Tigers' search for a bonafide starting pitcher and a beastly late-inning reliever from within their farm ranks is finally -- FINALLY -- over with.

Weaver, the darling earlier in this century, has suddenly turned into a journeyman, still in his 20's. Cornejo, who followed him, recently retired -- retired. Borkowski is hanging on with the Astros. Anderson's career was torpedoed by arm trouble.

All of them -- every single one of them -- were once passed off as "can't miss" kids who'd help make this town go daffy over baseball again. But they were takes from the Randy Smith drafts, which automatically put them at a disadvantage, like an infant born to a crack-smoking mother.

So it's nice after those years of false messiahs and over-hyped hurlers that the Tigers present us with Verlander and Zumaya -- two arms who just might forever be linked as Tigers greats, similar to how two fellows named Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker stayed and became part of our fabric.

Don't laugh. Both of these kids are the real deal. They possess not only the sheer ability to throw a baseball in such a way that big league hitters cannot hit it, but they have "mound presence" -- that intangible that, if this were politics, would be called being "presidential."

Ahh, mound presence. It's hard to define. But let's try anyway.

Confident; not easily rattled; veins containing ice water; determined; aware; a bulldog mentality.

All these -- and more -- have been used to try to define mound presence. But however you choose to do it, it's pretty much universally accepted that Verlander and Zumaya possess it.

Last night, Verlander all but toyed with the Kansas City Royals. He surrendered but two hits in seven innings of shutout ball. He struck out batters with a variety of pitches -- some that raced over the plate, others that needed some twists and turns to do so. Throughout the game, Verlander seemed to be able to set the Royals down when HE wanted to; they were merely unwilling yet helpless opponents.

His ERA is now under 3.00, and his record is 11-4. He is 23 years old.

Zumaya may have his moments -- the occasional tater, a bases-loaded double (re: Friday night), an unwanted base on balls. But you can have moments like that when you have numbers like these: 98, 101, 102, 99. Those are some sample speeds of "Zoom's" fastball. And they have bailed him -- and the Tigers -- out of some sticky jams.

Zumaya is one who should be attached to the term "bulldog mentality" on the mound. The impressive part of this young man is his ability to shrug off the bad and simply insist on the good. He has consistently made big league hitters look as late as an overdue library book on his fastball. But he has some breaking stuff that should be written as "nasty", with the word appearing in a sinister, horrifying font style.

Zumaya is even younger -- he's 21.

Goodness gracious.

Trammell and Whitaker were each just a stone's throw away from 20 years of age when they joined the Tigers in a September call-up in 1977. And you know what happened there: they decided to stick around a while. They are generally acknowledged as being the greatest double play combination in baseball history.

Zumaya and Verlander. Verlander and Zumaya. Will they forever be attached to the hip as longtime Tigers?

Hundreds of big league batters would have me bite my tongue.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tigers' Performance After Break Crucial

Casual pro basketball fans -- and haters of the pro game -- will tell you that the only part of an NBA game you truly have to watch is the last two minutes.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The most important part of any pro match -- and I believe statistics would back me up here -- is the first several minutes of any given third quarter. For whatever team takes control coming out of halftime is usually the team that's on top at the final buzzer. It's the truest barometer, among folks who know the pro game.

The Tigers embark on the second half of their season tonight -- well, the final 74 games anyway -- beginning with a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals, at Comerica Park. It's a terrific opportunity, coming out of the gate, to get off to a good second half start. They hold a two-game divisional lead, and are eight games in front of the Wild Card.

I submit to you that how the Tigers perform in the first 20 games after the All-Star break will go a long way toward determining their end-of-season fate.

Very little went wrong during the 59-29 first half, frankly. Yes, they lost Mike Maroth to injury, but how can you lament that when the replacement was Zach Miner? They didn't have Dmitri Young, but where was the dropoff? In fact, some on the team would have DY stay home the rest of the summer. Don't stir the pot, you know.

The Tigers frolicked in daffodils and clover for 88 games, sprinkled with some sort of pixie dust that occasionally energizes a dormant team. But those three little days called the All-Star break can do funny things to your clover field, and it can wash away your pixie dust.

Momentum is a grand word in sports. Also one of the most overused. The Tigers had it from April 3 to July 9, no question. Will July 10-12 stop it, or at least slow it down?

Everytime you look, the baseball gods seem to be on the Tigers' side. They've given us the Royals for four games coming out of the break, just in case the Tigers are rusty and need to ease into the second half. Yes, KC has played better of late, but they're still the Royals. They're still 31-56. And the Tigers have beaten them like a drum this season.

If the Tigers can manage even a 10-10 record after this break, putting them at 69-39, I think they'll be fine. Two-thirds of the season will have been played, and they'll have reminded teams that they're not about to fold.

Even baseball pennants aren't decided only during the last "two-minute stretch" of September.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


What Can Derail Tigers?
A Monumental Collapse

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 3-3
This Week: (7/13-16: KC)

The 1978 Boston Red Sox, fritterers away of a sure-bet divisional title. The 1969 Chicago Cubs, leaders well into August, before a black cat crossed their path one evening -- literally -- and another sure bet slipped thru unsteady fingers. The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, perhaps the most inglorious artisans of gaggery, blowing the surest of bets with less than two weeks remaining. The 1987 Toronto Blue Jays, of course. Handers of the sure bet to our own Tigers.

Only these kinds of collapses -- and there has been precedence, obviously -- can rob the Tigers of their sure bet in 2006. Forget the two-game divisional lead, which is nice. It's the other lead -- the non-traditionalist, progressive baseball gurus are to thank for it -- that makes the Tigers a sure bet. The Wild Card race. The extra, made-for-TV playoff team.

The Tigers hold an eight-game lead for this made up playoff spot. The Yankees, no less, are scuffling along behind them.

An eight-game lead for any playoff spot -- real or extra -- at the All-Star break is supposed to be a sure bet. Of course, it truly isn't. The above mentioned teams had significant leads of their own, but far deeper into the regular season. It was the Yankees, in fact, who fell behind the Red Sox by as many as 14 games -- after the All-Star break.

So only a collapse of monumental proportion can derail the Tigers this season.

Yes, it could slip away, this sure bet. If the starting pitching falters. If there are multiple, catastrophic injuries. If the bats suddenly stop delivering key base hits. If the manager takes leave of his senses.

I submit to you that just about every one of these pitfalls would have to grab the Tigers, if they are to pass this sure bet to someone else.

Now, how this equates to their success in this year's playoff tournament is anyone's guess.

Teams have gagged there, too.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

You're An All-Star Because You HAVE To Be!

The Tigers are sending three players to Tuesday's All-Star game in Pittsburgh. This season, they're all worthies. Very unlike the recent past, when the team's lone representatives haven't exactly read like a Cooperstown-bound bunch.

Damion Easley.
Tony Clark.
Robert Fick.


When the teams in MLB numbered but 26, the rule mandating that at least one player be represented by every team in the All-Star game was OK, and at least do-able. Rosters were slightly expanded to accomodate this, and it was a good PR move as well.

Now, there are 30 big league teams. Four more clubs, meaning four more mandatory All-Star slots going to teams that, frankly, have no one that's truly an All-Star.

The talk about the "every team must be represented" rule gets louder and louder every year. Why should roster spots be taken away from more qualified players, just to placate the bottom feeders?

Why, indeed.

The spirit of the rule was that fans in every big league city should have at least one player for which to root, when they watch the All-Star game on TV. Apparently, the suspense of wondering whether certain players would get an at-bat, or pitch to even one batter, was supposed to trump league pride.

I've always believed that you root for your team's league -- not just your team's player. Growing up in the 1970's, the NL consistently kicked the AL's rear end. Eleven straight times, the NLers beat the ALers (1972-82). It bothered the heck out of me. And I can tell you, my motive to watch the game wasn't to see whether a Tiger would get into the game -- it was to see if MY league could FINALLY beat those evil NLers.

What's the name of the game, anyway? THE ALL-STAR GAME. And, in case there's still some confusion, let's emphasize the words "All" and "Star."

Can "all" the players on both rosters be genuine "stars" if some teams are playing wretched ball?

Is Mark Redman a star?

He's the Royals' rep. And Kansas City will do great just to avoid 100 losses this season. His stats in 2006: 6-4, 5.27 ERA, 87 hits allowed in 82 IP.

Yes, you read correctly. There's an "All-Star" with an ERA of over 5.00.

Francisco Liriano of the Twins is 9-1 with an ERA of around 2.00. But he will sit at home and watch Mark Redman be introduced as an All-Star.

It's time to change the rule.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

New Thursday Feature: Riffs & Whiffs

I'm writing this on two days' rest, so I should be fresh.

Here's a new weekly feature (every Thursday) on "WHYGJG": Riffs & Whiffs. These are random baseball observations, categorized as Solid Contact (ups) and Swing & A Miss (downs).

Solid Contact
The Florida Marlins. This was a team that was supposed to be putrid, and was for the first two months of the season. But Joe Girardi, the former catcher turned manager, whipped his players into shape, and before a recent slide, the Marlins had made an amazing run toward .500.

Swing & A Miss
The Cubs. Former Tiger Jim Northrup told me the Cubbies are "a Triple A ballclub with a Double A manager." What has Dusty Baker won?, Northrup says. Well, not much this season. Despite injuries, there are rumors swirling -- appropriate for the Windy City -- that Baker will get the ziggy, maybe as soon as next week. His coaches are in trouble, too.

Solid Contact
Julio Franco. God bless him. He's going to be 48 in August, yet still is a serviceable first baseman for the Mets -- no DH for him. I caught the Mets on TV recently, and when they showed a shot of the dugout, I said, "Who's that coach?" It was Franco.

Swing & A Miss
Jeff Weaver. The former Tiger -- he was going to be the best thing since Jack Morris, remember? -- was just traded by the Angels to the Cardinals for a minor league outfielder. The Cards are Weaver's fifth big league team. No matter where he's gone since leaving Detroit -- Yankees, Dodgers, Angels -- Weaver has been getting knocked around like a pinball.

Solid Contact
The Minnesota Twins (unfortunately). The Twinkies have flown even more under the radar than the Tigers, compiling baseball's best record in the past 25 days. They're still miles behind the Tigers, and since the Wild Card may come from the Central, they picked a bad year to get off to a bad start. Still, they're going to be a force to be reckoned with by the Tigers in the second half, with all those intradivisional games.

Swing & A Miss
The NL Central. It got its butt absolutely kicked by the AL Central, which is suddenly becoming the second-best division in baseball, right behind the AL East.

Solid Contact
Ozzie Guillen. I gotta give him his props, begrudgingly, after he invited former White Sox star Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers to the AL All-Star team, replacing Manny Ramirez. Ozzie has obviously gotten over any anger he had for Maggs' signing with Detroit.

Swing & A Miss
Jose Canseco. Need I say more?

Monday, July 03, 2006


National League: We Barely Knew Thee

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 5-1
This Week: (7/3-5: at Oak; 7/7-9: at Sea)

How come the Milwaukee Brewers got to switch to the National League?

Here's to a return to 19th century Detroit baseball, when the franchise was in the National League. Charlie Bennett's team.

The Tigers are done with interleague play. Well, phooey. Back to beating up on the Indians and the Royals. Maybe the Twins, too -- if they ever return to this galaxy.

Our Blessed Boys went 15-3 against the NLers. It didn't hurt that not only were they interleague games (the NL is being lapped by the AL these days), but they were against the dregs, otherwise known as the NL Central.

But again, the Tigers did what a first-place team is supposed to do: wipe their feet on the game's doormats.

But there's more fodder to come, AL-style, before next week's All-Star Break: the Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners, West Divisioners who aren't exactly the cream of the league's crop. They're more like day old bagels. But the Tigers can't play shoddy defense and give up big innings, as they did against the Pirates over the weekend, and expect to win. The A's and the Mariners aren't that bad.

The Tigers have a real shot at 60 wins before the break. Not bad, considering they've often needed to overlap into the following season to get a 60th victory.

Prediction: 60-28 at All-Star time.

That's still 45-25 minus those NL buffoons.