Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday Morning Manager -- Season's (Almost) Over Edition

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 3-4
This Week: 9/29: at CWS

It's funny how fast coaches get dumb.

Two years ago, Chuck Hernandez was hailed as being a major reason why the Tigers had a league-leading ERA of 3.84. He was instrumental, they said, in the development of rookies Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya, and for the emergence of another rookie, Zach Miner.

Now Hernandez is a dummy. And he's also out of a job.

Hernandez and bullpen coach Jeff Jones were the first two lambs sacrificed in the wake of this most disappointing Tigers season.

Several things contributed to Hernandez's loss of pitching coach intelligence.

Injuries to: Jeremy Bonderman; Zumaya; Fernando Rodney; Todd Jones. Disappearing acts by: Nate Robertson; Dontrelle Willis; Verlander.

All those things, plus Kenny Rogers' age catching up to him, and the regression against lefties by Bobby Seay, made Hernandez stupid. So throw him out and find someone smarter, I suppose.

I laugh when the name Leo Mazzone gets brought up.

Mazzone was the Atlanta Braves' pitching coach for the glory years of the 1990s and into the 2000s. A veritable genius, that hackneyed sports word.

Hernandez: injuries, down years, and other implosions lowered his baseball IQ considerably

Mazzone was smart because he had the good fortune of having pitchers on his staff named Avery and Maddux and Smoltz and Glavine. And a reliever like Mike Stanton. And other competent pitchers -- way more than most teams could ever dream of having. Yes sir, Leo Mazzone was smart -- and lucky.

Then Mazzone was lured away from Atlanta to the Baltimore Orioles in time for the 2006 season. And by the time Leo got into Crabtown and looked around and didn't see any future Hall of Famers on his staff, it was too late: Leo Mazzone got stupid in a hurry.

The pitching genius coached the O's staff to an ERA of 5.35 in 2006. The next year he got a little smarter: 5.17.

Funny how talent will make a coach more brilliant.

So is Leo Mazzone a good pitching coach? Probably. To be fair, those big name guys gave him a lot of credit. But then again, what else are they going to say? "We did it despite Leo?" But is he great? Is he a genius? Can he make chicken salad out of chicken feathers? Can he bring results when his staff isn't filled with superstars?

I'm not out to get Mazzone here. I'm just saying, that so many things are out of a coach's hands.

Yet, this is a results-based business, professional sports is. And no one really cares, truthfully, what you were up against, if things go sideways.

The Tigers' bullpen, amazingly, turned 13 seventh-inning or beyond leads into losses this season. Someone's got to pay for such foolishness.

Funny, but I never heard how smart Hernandez was in regards to the surprising season turned in by Armando Galarraga. But one diamond in the rough wasn't nearly enough to save the Tigers' staff this year.

And it's true that a coach can prove how smart he is best when the odds are against him.

It's totally up to conjecture as to just how much influence a pitching coach or a hitting coach has on his charges' performance. I'm sure they get way more credit than deserved, and the same with the blame. It's the nature of the beast. And Chuck Hernandez and Jeff Jones know that.

You simply can't have the pitching meltdowns that the Tigers had this season and expect that everyone is going to get off the hook. It doesn't work that way, especially after a season in which many people thought the Tigers were going to be world's champions.

In 1968, the Tigers' pitching genius was Johnny Sain. Denny McLain won 31 games. The starters led the AL in complete games, and the staff was third in the league in ERA. Sain was hailed, and hailed loudly. Then, less than two years later, after a dispute with manager Mayo Smith, Sain got dumb and was fired.

One of the smarter ones being mentioned as a replacement for 2009 is Mark Wiley, who was the pitching coach for the great Indians teams of the mid-to-late 1990s. He was also Willis's coach with the Marlins in 2005, when Dontrelle won 22 games and had an ERA of 2.63.

Wiley, or whomever is hired, will have the luxury of being smarter than his predecessor, for the time being. Until he gets dumb, sooner or later. Then it's out with the dumb and in with the smart, once again.


I have mixed emotions about today's makeup game with the White Sox. I always want the Tigers to win, but in this case, a Tigers victory means the Minnesota Twins make the playoffs. And I absolutely HATE the Twins. So, best case scenario: Gary Sheffield hits his 500th home run -- in a losing effort. And the Twins lose the playoff with the Chisox Tuesday, and all will be OK in my world.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Three Straight Bad Second Halves An Indictment Of Leyland

The Tigers are bringing Jim Leyland back for the 2009 season. Understood. He is contracted thru then, after all -- not that that's ever stopped a team from giving a manager or coach the ziggy before. But I can see the logic.

The Tigers have been under Leyland's charge for three seasons now, and they've pretty much laid out like this: 1. World Series; 2. Playoff contention till early September; 3. Biggest disappointment in Detroit sports history.

Some would say that no. 3 trumps nos. 1 and 2, combined. Also understood, though maybe a tad harsh.

But here's what's not harsh.

It's not harsh of me to simply direct your attention to a troubling statistic that I have railed about in this space in the not-so-distant past. Today's edition of the Detroit Free Press had the temerity to print it.

The Tigers' winning percentage, under Leyland's watch, in games played before and after the All-Star break, lays out like this:

2006: (before) .670; (after) .486
2007: (before) .582; (after) .493
2008: (before) .500; (after) .387

Those "afters" don't look too good, do they?

You can play around with numbers in baseball to your heart's content. Figures and stats are often like Silly Putty; you can make them look pretty much like anything you want.

But these aren't Silly Putty numbers. These are of the cold, hard variety. You can't make those "after" percentages look good, no matter how much you try.

In '06, the cool second half cost the Tigers their supposedly in-the-bag divisional title. In '07, it cost them a playoff berth, period. This year, it cost them some dignity, if nothing else.

Would I bring Leyland back for a fourth go at it? Probably. It's kind of hard to justify canning him, with 2-of-3 seasons being pretty decent, overall.

But those second half winning percentages make me a little uneasy. Once can be a fluke. Twice can be some bad luck. Thrice is an indictment of the manager.

Here's what I think when I look at those cold, hard numbers.

In 2006, it tells me that the Tigers were destined to cool off, because they weren't going to play .670 ball all year. Fine.

In 2007, it tells me that they wilted in the dog days of August, when teams like the Yankees, conversely, were kicking it up a gear or two.

This season, it tells me that the Tigers -- and I hate to use this word -- kind of quit.

So who's to blame for all this?

What does it say for a manager when his teams have played the worst baseball of their season, collectively, in the second half, when the games mean more?

I'm not quite sure myself, but I don't think it's very good, whatever it says.

You can cry me a river about injuries and guys having down years. Don't want to hear it. If a manager is truly worth his salt, he finds a way to overcome all that. Billy Martin was great at that. And that's why he was one of the best managers in baseball. Ever.

Sparky Anderson had his issues, but he did his best work in 1987. That year, the Tigers started 11-19 and were considered by many to be middle-of-the-pack, talent-wise, in the AL East. They had just lost catcher Lance Parrish to free agency, and their pitching looked sketchy. The 1984 heroes were three years older.

But Sparky rallied them to an 87-45 finish, including swiping the divisional title from the Toronto Blue Jays in the season's final, frantic week. Forget the meltdown in the ALCS; the Tigers were spent by that time.

All I know is, it's been three years and for three years I've seen Jim Leyland's Tigers nosedive during the crucial months of August and September.

The rest I leave to you.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 1-5
This Week: (9/22-24: KC; 25-28: TB)

Well, it's almost over. Finally.

The Tigers are sputtering to the finish line, wheezing. The end can't come soon enough, it appears, for this bunch. What else do you call it when a 1-9 record in the last ten games is seen next to their name in the standings?

By the way, I seem to remember the "Last 10" designation first appearing in newspaper standings sometime around 1984. Not sure how it started, nor why there was deemed a great interest in a team's previous 10 games. But I must admit that the standings would look "naked" without a "Last 10" column. And it truly is a neat way to see how the teams have been doing lately, at a glance. I notice that NHL and NBA standings are showing it now as a matter of procedure.

Now, let's play over-and-under, hindsight version.

What do you suppose was the over/under on the Tigers' win total for 2008? You could have made a mint if you had picked anything less than 95. Less than 80, and they would have had you committed. But the Tigers may not even win 75 games, which would have been off the books in March. You couldn't have gotten any self-respecting bookie to even take you seriously with such a prediction.

How about this one? If you would have shown someone the Tigers' schedule, and pointed to the four season-ending games with the Tampa Bay Rays, and said, "One of these teams will have sewn up a playoff spot by this time -- and it won't be the Tigers", how long before the white coats would have arrived? And none of this backing in, Wild Card nonsense for the Rays. They are in as all baseball teams should be in -- by winning their dadgum division.

Forget the stock market, pre-collapse. Your best bet at making money would have been in the bars and casinos and sports books across this country, wagering against the Tigers and their rosey outlook. You would have cleaned up.

It's a shame, of course. These final seven home games could have really been something: teeming with playoff implications, or a nice warm-up to the post-season. Even a Battle of the Titans-like series with the Rays this weekend would have been a nice playoff preview. Instead, they're like so many other September home games around here over the past 15 years, save the 2006 and 2007 seasons: meaningless and just something that needs to be done, like mowing the lawn or cleaning out the attic.

But there's always next year, right?

Manager Jim Leyland promises, among other things, "no hanky-panky" in spring training '09 when it comes to who's playing which positions. Maybe someone should school the manager as to what "hanky panky" means, but whatever. Basically, he says that some disorder over positions -- he mentioned Brandon Inge by name -- last March contributed to the slow start this season.

I really don't care what Jim Leyland thinks is the matter with his baseball team, as long as he fixes it. He says the Tigers aren't far away from being "back in the thick of things" in 2009. He's probably right. It's hard to imagine so many bad things happening to the Tigers again next year. Correction: it's nauseating to imagine that.

Well, at least next year we won't have to hear about 110 wins and 1,000 runs and such. Let that be someone else's albatross.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Brewers Show Lack Of Intelligence By Firing Yost

I've seen plenty of dumb things in my time, following and/or covering baseball since 1971.

Baffling free agent signings. The designated hitter. The Houston Astros' rainbow uniforms. The Chicago White Sox wearing shorts. Jose Canseco having a baseball bounce off his head and into the stands for a home run. George Steinbrenner and Charlie O. Finley. Randy Smith.

Here's one more for the list: the Brewers firing manager Ned Yost. With less than two weeks left in the season. With the team in the thick of the playoff race.

In fact, this might be among the Top 5 in terms of stupidity.

Who does this, anyway? Unless it's another Steinbrenner-Billy Martin drama, who does this? And even King George never had the temerity to can a manager in the shadows of October, the post-season beckoning.

Does a team that's battling for its playoff life REALLY need something to add to the cauldron of emotions? Are the Brewers, who admittedly have been struggling lately, REALLY helped by a change of leaders at this juncture?

The Brewers haven't been to the playoffs since 1982, and they're panicking.

They haven't been quite the same since the Cubs came into Milwaukee in late-July and spanked the Brewers in four straight, by a combined score of 31-11. But they've managed to stay afloat, and are just one-half game behind the Mets for the Wild Card. But like I said, they're panicking. They haven't had much success to speak of since '82, and now they have no clue how to handle it, nor the pressure that a playoff race brings. Firing Ned Yost now is the ultimate panic move.

Yost: deposed in a fit of panic, and stupidity

The Yankees don't fire managers now. The Red Sox don't. The White Sox don't. The Twins don't. The Braves don't. The Mets don't. The Dodgers don't. And the Tigers certainly wouldn't, given the same circumstances. No one, in fact, does what the Brewers have just done, unless they, like the Brewers, are so foreign to money baseball that they overreact to a bumpy stretch.

It's a big PR risk, too. If the Brewers stumble and fail to make the playoffs under interim manager Dale Sveum, then they will be rightfully roasted and sliced and diced by the fans and the media for firing Yost. And if the Brewers would have failed to make the playoffs under Yost, do you think there would have been a bunch of folks saying, "If they only had FIRED him with two weeks to go!"?

I doubt it.

OK, but what if they make the playoffs after all?

Still doesn't excuse the move. In fact, you could argue that the Brewers dug deep and got themselves in, despite the boneheaded move to fire Yost.

If you want to fire a manager in mid-season, you do so in May, or June, or July. Sometimes in August. But there are two months in which you should not fire your manager, of all the months in the year: April and September. And September is only permissible if your team is way out of contention.

Baseball observers are especially surprised because the firing was done by GM Doug Melvin, who's regarded as being very conservative and not one prone to risk-taking. So naturally, speculation has begun that has Melvin simply being the hatchet man for the people upstairs.

But whether it was Doug Melvin on his own or the front office in collaboration, the decision to let Yost go now was dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Panicky and reckless, to boot. The move of losers who have no idea, really, how to win.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 1-4
This Week: (9/15-17: at Tex; 19-21: at Cle)
Magic No. for a winning record: 4 (four losses and the Tigers will finish with a losing record for the 13th time in the last 15 years)

The above magic number is also the number of home runs Gary Sheffield needs for 500 in his illustrious career. Believe it or not, the Tigers, in their long history, have never had a player hit his 500th homer in a Bengals uniform. And since it's still possible that Sheffield will not be a Tiger next season (there are few "untouchables" on the roster right now), if he doesn't get #500 in the team's final 14 games, then the Tigers will still not ever have a player hit no. 500 while playing for them.

Actually, it's not all that ignominious of a distinction.

First off, only a few dozen players in MLB history have ever hit 500+ home runs to begin with. And the home run "era" didn't really start until the 1930s or so. And players who initially hit 500 home runs did it for teams that they'd played most of their long career with. So right there, you're eliminating quite a few scenarios.

Al Kaline is the Tigers' all-time home run leader with 399. It's been that way since Al retired in 1974. In fact, the Tigers have only had three players hit as many as 300 home runs for them. And as far as all-time HR sluggers who've spent most of their career elsewhere, i.e. Sheffield, the Tigers haven't had too many of those guys, either. Eddie Mathews comes to mind. He played for the Tigers in 1967 and '68, after he hit his 500th homer for the Braves. Other than that, until Sheffield this season, the Tigers haven't really even come close to having someone hit home run no. 500 in a Detroit uniform.

It's just one of those statistical oddities -- one that may change soon.


Speaking of Kaline, he could have been the first American Leaguer in MLB history to have both 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. But even though he got his 3,000th hit late in the '74 season (his last), Kaline remained stuck on 399 home runs when he retired. He hit no. 399 in Boston on September 18 (according to, with 13 games left in the Tigers' season. But 43 at-bats later, Kaline was shutout when it came to the longball. So it was Carl Yastrzemski, not Kaline, who got the distinction of being the AL's first 400/3,000 man.


The Tigers look like they'll finish in 4th place this season, and there's your ignominy right there. Fourth place out of five teams. And likely with a losing record. Wasn't supposed to be like this, was it?

The Tigers can try to avoid that by sweeping the third-place Indians in Cleveland this weekend. So there's your "big" September series!


Friday, September 12, 2008

Rookie Galarraga Somehow Flies Under The Radar In His Own Town

Has any Tigers rookie had a more successfully quiet season than Armando Galarraga?

Galarraga, the right-hander from nowhere, is 12-6 with a fine ERA of 3.58. His strikeouts-to-walks ratio is exactly 2:1. He's giving up an average of only about eight hits per nine innings pitched. His only real vice has been the longball: he surrenders a home run about every seven innings -- but even that's not so awful. Besides, some of the greatest pitchers in modern history gave up a lot of home runs. It's often when you give them up that matters, and how many men are on base at the time. To show you, Bert Blyleven, for the 1986 and '87 Twins, won 32 games while giving up 96 home runs in the process (50 in '86 and 46 in '87). But Blyleven was a control pitcher, and those types are going to be susceptible to homers because they're always -- ALWAYS -- throwing strikes.

But back to Galarraga.

Armando Galarraga: the best rookie pitcher in Detroit that you've barely heard of

He was acquired from the Rangers in an oh-by-the-way manner back in February, traded for someone named Michael Hernandez. There didn't appear to be any reason to learn who Galarraga was, with a supposedly "set" rotation of Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson, and Dontrelle Willis.

But then Willis lost it early on, Bonderman got hurt, and now here Galarraga is, having made 26 starts and pitching in 163 innings. He's 26, and would seem to be a lock for a rotation spot for the Tigers in 2009.

Ahh, that's if the Tigers decide not to trade him for, say, an outfielder or a catcher. Galarraga could be the Jair Jurrjens of this off-season. But let's not go there.

The funny thing about Galarraga's season is that it's not getting all that much play -- and I'm talking about in Detroit, let alone nationally. All I know is, when the Tigers have needed a "stopper" in their rotation -- someone to stop a losing streak or someone to simply register a quality start -- Galarraga has been, more often than not, that guy. Several times this season I tuned in to a Tigers game, not knowing who was pitching, and noticed a well-pitched game in progress. Most of the time, it was because Galarraga was on the mound.

Yet hardly anyone touts him around town.

For a 70-76, hugely disappointing team, you'd think there'd be folks tripping all over themselves looking for a silver lining -- something to hang their hats on for 2009. To me, it's nice to know that the Tigers have apparently secured another spot in their rotation for next season -- a rotation that's likely not to include Rogers, who will probably retire, and still has some question marks due to the health of Willis, the debate whether Robertson can bounce back, and whether Freddy Garcia has anything left in the tank. That, plus the curious step backward taken by Verlander, and the recovery of Bonderman from surgery, casts all sorts of doubt over the starting pitching in Detroit in '09.

But with Galarraga -- barring some sort of sophomore jinx -- you feel like there's one spot you don't have to worry about.

Not that anyone in Detroit is talking about it or anything.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sabathia Ruling May Have Been Different If It Happened In Late Innings

It's been over a week and I realized that I never weighed in on the CC Sabathia/maybe no-hitter controversy.

You remember that, don't you? The Brewers' Sabathia pitched a one-hitter against the Pirates on August 31, the lone hit being a dribbler off the bat of Andy LaRoche that Sabathia tried to field bare-handed. But he couldn't come up with the baseball as LaRoche scampered to first base. Official scorer Bob Webb ruled the dribbler a base hit, reasoning that LaRoche was too close to first base for Sabathia to have thrown him out, even if the pitcher had fielded the ball cleanly. It's a call that happens hundreds of times during any given baseball season.

But it's not often that such a call will have no-hitter implications.

The play on LaRoche occurred in the fifth inning -- leading off the inning. So while Webb's decision technically broke up a no-hitter, it was only the fifth inning.

I wonder how Webb, or any official scorer, would have ruled the play had it happened in, say, the 8th or 9th inning?

The pressure would have been unreal on Webb. Doesn't matter where the game was played (it was in Pittsburgh), for a no-hitter is history, and it should be as unblemished as possible. I mean no disrespect to Webb, but I wonder if he would have ruled the play an error if it happened late in the game. Why? Because there's another adage in baseball that says a ruined no-hitter, when broken up late, should be the result of a "no question" hit, and certainly shouldn't be a bunt. LaRoche wasn't bunting, but his dribbler was like a swinging bunt. Webb, had he ruled "E-1", would have baseball tradition on his side; he could have rightly argued that a no-hitter should only be broken up if the play in question is unequivocally a hit. In other words, "ties" go to the pitcher.

Yes, Webb would have come under fire for that, too, but it wouldn't have been as hot as what he faced in the days after the Sabathia incident. The Brewers sent a DVD of the play to MLB offices, hoping for a reversal. It would have been the first no-hitter in history to be awarded after the game had ended. But here's a tasty little morsel of ruledom: any reversal, even if initiated by MLB, has to be agreed to by the official scorer himself. Talk about power!

Well, it didn't get that far; MLB supported Webb's decision, sparing him the pressure of having to change it with the baseball world breathing down his neck. Probably fell under the category of not being "conclusive" enough to change the call.

Anyhow, here's the Sabathia play. You make the call. My opinion? From the third base camera, it certainly looks like, had Sabathia made the play cleanly, LaRoche would have been out. I think Mr. Webb got it wrong, and CC got screwed.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 3-4
This Week: 9/8-10: OAK; 9/12-14: at CWS

The push to .500 is on!

That's this year's Great September Race for the Tigers: whether they can manage the same number of wins as losses. The "magic number" is eight. Meaning, eight more losses and you can kiss .500 goodbye. The Tigers are 69-74 and have to go 12-7 the rest of the way to be mediocre. It shouldn't be an impossible task, but the way things have gone post-All-Star break, you certainly can't count on it.

Yesterday, the Tigers won consecutive games for the first time since August 22-23, according to the Free Press's John Lowe. That's over two weeks, folks, and that's why the team never made any serious, late-season push to respectability, let alone playoff contention. It's also why they may not even make the break-even point. Or finish any higher than fourth place. Fourth place! Could you have imagined such a thing?

I gotta hand it to the naysayers -- the doomsdayers who said that, despite the Tigers' off-season trades and signings, the team was still in a heap of trouble, due to the uncertainty over the pitching. Specifically, the bullpen. And that was before injuries to Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney and Jeremy Bonderman and the curious vanishing of Dontrelle Willis, and the not-as-curious slide of Nate Robertson, and the capitulation of Todd Jones as team closer. But those folks were right; we were too quick to expect 1,000 runs and 105 wins and a World Series, as if it was fait accompli. Because the pitching -- and the DEFENSE -- failed the Tigers miserably this season.

I didn't really see the defense thing coming. The pitching, I was a little leery of myself. But the defense? It looked solid, if not great. I was expecting 20-25 errors at 3B for Miguel Cabrera, but wasn't going to sweat it in light of his bat. But then Miggy couldn't play third, and Carlos Guillen couldn't play first, and Edgar Renteria couldn't play short, and suddenly you had an infield in disarray. And that was in April.

Toss in all those four-out innings and all those blown saves, and, well, you're right where you should be: struggling like mad to finish .500.

It's still true, and always will be: pitching and defense wins. And, in the Tigers case, it also can lose for you, too.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

No Yankees In Post-Season, So Why Bother?

What will we do, with the New York Yankees not in the playoffs?

Who will we root against? Over whose misfortune will we revel, with the Yankees not in the post-season party, losing to an inferior opponent? Which player will we mock as being horse (manure -- a nod to Jim Leyland's rant about Justin Verlander yesterday) in the clutch, without Alex Rodriguez to cackle at? Which owner will we wonder is about to pop an aorta, with the Steinbrenner family gone fishing this fall?

It's real, folks. The Yankees are likely to be outsiders looking in for the first time in 14 years, when Fall Ball begins in a few weeks. Oh, they're in it, mathematically, but the magic number for their elimination is dwindling. It's 17 now, with only a couple dozen games or so to play.

So what will we do?

Well, there's the Tampa Bay Rays -- the "feel good" story of 2008. The Rays did it all in one year: changed their name (dropping the "Devil" portion), changed their uniforms, had their first winning season in team history, and are about to make the playoffs for the first time, too. That's quite an about face.

There's the sizzling AL Central race between the White Sox and the Twins -- the loser of which is likely to miss the playoffs entirely.

There's the wacky NL West -- a division where the winner, once again, will barely be over .500.

And there's Feel Good Story II -- the Chicago Cubs/Milwaukee Brewers, one of whom could either: a) end a 26-year-old playoff drought (Milwaukee), or, dare we say, b) a 100-year World Series drought (Cubs).

There's also the outside chance that the Tigers' wounds will have salt poured in them, if the Florida Marlins somehow sneak into the playoffs, and Andrew Miller pitches in October for them.

So there's a lot to watch as the season ends and the post-season begins.

But without the Yankees around for it, isn't some of the fun gone?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Monday Morning Manager - Tuesday Version

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 2-4
This Week: (9/1: L to NYY; 9/2-4: LAA; 9/5-7 at Min)

I knew someone in the mainstream media would come around.

As already mentioned here, back when the Pudge Rodriguez trade occurred, the Free Press's Michael Rosenberg wrote a column in this morning's fish wrap discussing Rodriguez's agenda when he signed with the Tigers in 2004. The timing was such because Pudge's Yankees were in town for a makeup game, and it was his first appearance in Detroit as a member of the opposition since the trade on July 30 that sent him to New York.

I didn't want to rain on the parade back on July 31 -- even the normally sour Drew Sharp called for the retirement of Rodriguez's jersey, of all things, for his decision to come to the Tigers on the heels of their 119-loss season of '03 -- but I also wanted you dear readers to remember the circumstances surrounding Pudge's arrival some four-plus years ago.

Rosenberg painted Pudge as a money-grubbing opportunist, which pretty much describes at least 50% of today's big league ballplayers. No real news there. But Rosenberg also dared to suggest that Pudge had zero interest in reviving baseball in Detroit -- and that's where even I won't go.

For all his warts, I think Pudge wants to win. His intensity in the 2003 and 2006 post-seasons should prove that. His almost maniacal look of joy when Magglio Ordonez rounded third base after his pennant-clinching HR spoke volumes. The guy likes to win, because it puts him on center stage, where he revels. So I think for Rosenberg to totally dismiss Pudge's desire to come here as being motivated 100% by money is a little disingenuous, and rough. And worse, wrong.

But I agree that Pudge Rodriguez didn't ride in on a white horse like a knight in shining armor, if only because there were few suitors for his services -- at his asking price -- in 2004. Even coming off a World Series win. The Tigers were desperate and crazy enough to fork over the kind of dough that I-Rod was looking for, and no one else really was ready to do that, truth be told.

Yet to infer that bringing winning baseball back to Detroit wasn't anywhere in Rodriguez's plans is, for my money, off base.

As for the Tigers this week -- the purpose of MMM, after all -- what is there to say anymore, really? The mathematical elimination will be coming soon (the magic number to eliminate the Tigers is 15); the torrid Angels are in town, and the Tigers are reduced to playing spoiler. Trouble is, the only thing they've managed to spoil thus far is their own season.