Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Morning Manager: Week 12

Last Week: 3-3
This Week: at Tex (6/25-27); at TB (6/28-7/1)

So, What Happened?

Interleague play is done for 2012, and for the Tigers it's bittersweet.

In a way, they're happy to have once again fed on the NLers to the tune of an 11-7 record, but the National League rules on the road were starting to wear on manager Jim Leyland, given his injury-riddled roster.

What's more pressing is worrying about getting through the rest of this 10-game road trip while also staying within shouting distance of the Indians and White Sox.

The Tigers managed to go 3-3 while their offense again abandoned them. During one four-game stretch (Wednesday thru Saturday), the Tigers scored a grand total of five runs. They lost three of the four.

Even Sunday's 3-2 win, though huge, made MMM uneasy because after scoring twice in the first inning, the Tigers bats again turned into cooked spaghetti until the eighth, when Delmon Young's single broke a 2-2 tie.

A win is a win, but after taking Game 1 of the Cardinals series, the Tigers are 2-3 and have scored eight runs in those five games.

MMM is getting antsy again about the offense, something that appeared to be correcting itself last week at this time.

Oh, and Justin Verlander is very good at pitching baseballs.

Hero of the Week

MMM certainly isn't going to dole out a Hero to anyone who swings a bat, not in a week when runs were as plentiful as teeth in a hockey player's mouth.

So MMM finds himself selecting the default hero, when the offense is slumbering.

You get one guess.

Justin Verlander, once again, saved the Tigers' bacon, tossing a complete game victory at the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Sunday, salvaging the final game of the series and ovcalmlercoming a stunning two-run homer by Garrett Jones in the seventh inning which tied the game, albeit briefly.

On Tuesday, JV started the Cardinals series in Detroit with a win. He's 8-4 and on a three-game winning streak after going 0-3 with a 4.10 ERA in the four starts prior.

Sunday was classic Verlander, classic pitching that Jim Leyland described afterward as "The horse pitching like the horse," in remarks to FSD's John Keating during post-game coverage.

Verlander didn't let Jones's shocking home run---the Bucs had managed just two soft singles prior to the seventh inning---bother him. The Tigers offense, to their credit, scratched out a run in the eighth and Verlander calmly set the Pirates down in the final two innings, like a reigning Cy Young and MVP winner should.

JV bookended the week with victories for the Tigers, and he did it in style, especially on Sunday. And that's why he's MMM's Hero of the Week.

Honorable mention (and MMM DOES mean honorable): Max Scherzer, for a courageous pitching performance on Saturday, which came just two days after his younger brother passed away.

Goat of the Week
MMM is getting cranky with catcher Alex Avila.

Al-Av just returned from the disabled list on Thursday, but it didn't take long for him to get into MMM's dog house.

Actually, it's a carry over from before Avila's DL time---way before.

MMM has been sour with Avila since the season's opening weeks. His walk-off homer on Easter Sunday has been his lone highlight, really.

Avila has been one of the many drags on the Tigers offense---but more specifically, one of the 2011 All-Stars whose performance this year has left a lot to be desired.

He joined the team for Thursday's game, played all three games in Pittsburgh over the weekend, and had one bad at-bat after the other. Saturday, Avila struck out on three pitches to end the ballgame, representing the tying run. None of the three swings were good, and neither were any of the pitches.

MMM is losing patience, fearing that Avila's 2011 was an aberration and the 2012 version is closer to what we should expect.

There's still 90 games to play, but MMM isn't seeing any signs of a turnaround.

Under the Microscope
This week, MMM almost literally means Under the Microscope.

The Tigers lost closer Jose Valverde last week due to a wrist sprain. Right now it's not deemed serious but who the heck knows? MMM has seen plenty of so-called "non-serious" injuries turn into season-long annoyances.

The image of Papa Grande in obvious pain, as beamed by FSD during Tuesday night's win over the Cardinals, was more than a little disturbing.

So MMM doesn't feel that it's an overreaction to place Valverde UtM until further notice. Any long term absence would have serious implications for the bullpen. Joaquin Benoit would move into the closer's role, thus vacating his eighth inning setup job, at which he's been brilliant this season.

The dominoes would then start to fall, as Valverde's loss would change some key relievers' roles and the way Leyland manages the pen. The potential for disaster makes MMM cringe.

MMM wouldn't be surprised to even see Phil Coke close some games if Valverde's injury suddenly gets upgraded from non-serious to, "UH-OH."

Upcoming: Rangers, Rays

The 10-game caravan continues with stops in Texas and Tampa this week.

It's not getting any easier, this road trip!

Nothing like a couple of serious playoff/World Series contenders to juice up a trip.

The Rangers, however, did stumble a bit in late May as the LA Angels made a move and climbed back into the AL West race. All-World player Josh Hamilton spent a night in the hospital recently due to dehydration brought on by a stomach virus.

Oh, who is MMM kidding? The Rangers are a kick ass team and that's exactly what they did to the Tigers in Game 6 of last year's ALCS---kicked their ass.

The Rangers took three of four from the Tigers in April. Funny, but that's exactly when things started to go sideways for Detroit. The Tigers were 9-3 when the Rangers came calling, and before long, Leyland's boys were 10-10 and beginning their free fall into mediocrity.

The Rays are, once again, all about pitching. They love to beat you, 2-1 or 3-2, especially at home, where they can use that fake grass to their advantage, particularly in the late innings when scratching out runs usually means the difference between winning and losing.

This isn't good news for a Tigers offense that has been more miss than hit this season. But, who knows? These things sometimes have a way of surprising you.

Last week the Tigers looked to be turning the corner. This week we'll find out if a mugging awaits them around that corner.

That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Morning Manager: Week 11

Last Week: 4-2
This Week: STL (6/19-21); at Pit (6/22-24)

So, What Happened?

Is that actually a winning record MMM sees next to "Last Week"?


The Tigers won a couple series last week, and that makes three in a row, to go with the one they racked up in Cincinnati a week ago Sunday.

As usual, the Tigers are cleaning up on the National League; they're 8-4 so far in interleague play.

As vintage "Saturday Night Live" character Chico Consuelo might say, "Interleague play be berry berry good to me."

Or, should MMM say, Berry Berry good---as in Quintin Berry?

The player that FSD analyst Rod Allen started calling "Q" after about a week in a Tigers uni, Berry got the nod on Sunday afternoon as the starting left fielder, batting in that revolving door no. 2 spot.

So what did he do in response?

How about 5-for-5 (all well struck singles), a stolen base, an induced balk, and a run scored?

Naturally, Twitter and sports talk radio is now buzzing with Berry Mania, something that MMM alter ego Greg Eno cautioned against, in a piece written before Berry's Sunday outburst.

MMM understands all this, however misguided it might be, and it is dealt with if you continue reading.

But Berry aside, the Tigers finally are starting to look like the team that was unanimously picked to win the AL Central.

Austin Jackson returns and the Tigers go 6-2. Coinkydink?

MMM thinks not.

Hero of the Week
This is a tough one, and for a change, it's tough because there are several worthy candidates; not tough because of a dearth of possibilities.

MMM could go with Prince Fielder, who continues to drive in men in scoring position. He could go with Miguel Cabrera, who hasn't been shabby, either. Or how about the aforementioned Berry?

Ah, but Austin Jackson, International Man of Baseball, gets the nod.

Jackson came back from the disabled list a week ago Saturday in Cincinnati and since then, the Tigers have won six of eight and there is absolutely a connection between the two.

Jackson is drawing walks, for one. He's laying off the high fastball out of the strike zone. He's swinging with confidence, and doesn't the Tigers offense simply look better with him included in it, anchoring that leadoff spot?

Jackson is looking more like a pure 21st century leadoff hitter everyday; the fast guy with some home run power who can draw walks. Kind of like a Rickey Henderson Lite.

Honorable mention: Fielder, whose two-out hits with RISP are looking very Victor Martinez-esque. Fielder pounded those kind of hits out all week, in Chicago against the Cubs and at home vs. the Rockies.

Goat of the Week

Who says life in this space every week is fair?

Who says that just because a guy had been going good, one bad game shouldn't make him eligible for MMM's GotW?

Sorry, Papa Grande.

Jose Valverde was practically a one-man wrecking crew on Friday night, when his laughable play of a bunt in the 10th inning led to an unsightly eight-run rally by the Rockies, thus denying the Tigers a chance at a must-needed sweep.

Valverde's lollipop toss to Fielder---who frankly should have caught it, regardless---put runners on first and third with none out, instead of a runner at second and one out.

Was that alone an eight run mistake? No, but Valverde compounded his error by surrendering hit after hit, until he was mercifully yanked by manager Jim Leyland in favor of Luis Marte.

The outing didn't hurt Valverde's ERA all that much; of the six runs charged to him, only one was earned.

MMM is Goating Valverde because now we'll never know if the Tigers could have snagged Friday's game  and pulled off a sweep that would make them 33-33 this morning instead of 32-34---and two games behind the first place Chicago White Sox, instead of three.

Forget that Valverde was working on a streak of four straight 1-2-3 inning outings---he's still MMM's Goat of the Week.

Under the Microscope
Let Quintin Berry Mania commence.

It was already out there, in light of Berry's initial performances while filling in for the injured Jackson.

After Sunday's 5-for-5, the campaigning for Berry as an everyday player will be ratcheted up just like the presidential one that's going on right now.

Berry is the Flavor of the Month. And he's UtM because with Andy Dirks remaining out with a bad Achilles tendon, skipper Leyland has to almost go out of his way to not write Berry's name on the starting lineup scorecard.

Not that he'd admit it.

After Sunday's win, 97.1 The Ticket's Jeff Riger tried to intimate to Leyland that Berry's play must be making it tough for the manager to keep Quintin out of the lineup. The scene was played out on FSD's "Tigers Live" coverage after the game.

"No, not really," Leyland said. "Not really. We'll have the best lineup out there."

Leyland went out of his way to repeat the edict a few moments later, almost as if he was disdainful of Riger's attempted inference.

MMM's take? That Leyland was, indirectly, trying to deflect the Berry Mania by saying, boldly, "I don't give a rat's behind if Quintin Berry just went 5-for-5---that doesn't change his status on the team."

We'll see.

Upcoming: Cardinals, Pirates

Tony LaRussa won't be managing against his friend Leyland, but the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals invade CoPa Tuesday-Thursday.

The Cards, of course, lost Albert Pujols to free agency, but they also gained Carlos Beltran, and Beltran is having a wicked year.

In fact, the Cardinals as a team rank first in the NL in team batting average, partially led by Beltran with his 19-48-.306 and .983 OPS. No less than six Cards have BAs of .300 or better.

Then it's off to Pittsburgh for a return engagement with the surprising Pirates; the Tigers took two of three from the Bucs in Detroit last month.

Conversely from the Cardinals, the Pirates rank 29th in MLB in team BA with a paltry .228 mark. They have scored just 222 runs in 65 games---a 3.4 average per game.

But oh, the Pirates can pitch.

The Bucs rank seventh in MLB with a 3.51 ERA. But the rotation is kind of Jekyll and Hyde.

What does MMM mean?

James McDonald and AJ Burnett have ERAs of 2.32 and 3.52, respectively. However, Erik Bedard and Kevin Correia have ERAs of 4.36 and 4.43.

Still, not bad overall.

Last week MMM said it was time for the Tigers to get on a roll, given that the opponents were the sad sack Cubs and Rockies. The team went 4-2, though that included a gift-wrapped win for the Cubbies on Tuesday, and an implosion at home on Friday.

Otherwise, a 6-0 week may have been in the offing.

See how greedy MMM can get after a rare winning week?

That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Berry Did His Job, But His Place Is On the Bench

It’s not Quintin Berry’s fault that he’s not Austin Jackson, just as it’s not saccharin’s fault that it’s not sugar, not Dan Quayle’s fault that he’s not Jack Kennedy and not analog’s fault that it’s not digital.

Berry played the role of Jackson, the Tigers’ dynamic center fielder, for a couple weeks and the reviews were rather kind. Too kind, in fact.

Berry, 27, is on his fifth MLB organization with the Tigers. He’d never set foot on a big league diamond until the panic call went out a few weeks ago, the Tigers in Cleveland.

Jackson, in the third year of a career that has more upside than a room full of first-round draft picks, was being bothered by an abdominal strain. And if you’ve ever strained your abdomen, you know how painful that can be. And you’re not a starting center fielder who bats leadoff.

The Tigers, bereft of position players in their farm system that can actually play in the majors right now, sent for Berry, who was minding his business playing for the Toledo Mud Hens.

That’s how so many Tigers have started this season—as Mud Hens.

Berry wasn’t even Jackson’s understudy, per se. He was grabbed off the bargain rack by the Tigers over the winter, a body to assign to Toledo. His was a minor league contract.

It was like going to a Broadway play and not only is the star ailing, the replacement hadn’t even seen the script.

Berry was put in center field and penciled in to bat leadoff for the Tigers on May 23 in Cleveland. He didn’t even look like Austin Jackson: Berry is a beanpole who bats left-handed. Jackson is a buff, compact player who bats right.

The Tigers, though, were desperate and thus brazenly tried to pass Berry off as a suitable replacement
for the bourgeoning star Jackson.

Berry then went out and did his best impersonation of Jackson over the next week or so. He slapped some hits around the park, made some fine catches in the field and didn’t embarrass himself, which was probably the best thing he did of all.

The reviews of Berry were kind because the expectations weren’t exactly high. It would have been difficult for Berry to disappoint, but quite easy for him to impress.

He was following Jackson, but not in the way that a rookie singer follows Sinatra on stage at the Sands in Las Vegas. In this case, Sinatra had laryngitis and the rookie crooner needed to only carry a tune for a few songs, trying not to have the audience members throw tomatoes at him.

The longer Berry stayed in the lineup, the more the mystified Tigers fan base, looking at the rest of the scuffling team with a sour puss, wanted Quintin to stay there—even after Jackson’s scheduled return.

Bench Brennan Boesch! Put Berry in right field!

Bench Delmon Young! Put Berry in left field!

The fans were beside themselves with ideas for what the Tigers could possibly do with Berry once Jackson returned to the lineup.

Then Jackson came off the disabled list last Saturday in Cincinnati, reclaimed center field and leadoff in one fell swoop, and in the five games since that’s happened, the Tigers were 4-1 in no small part because of Jackson’s bat, glove and mere presence.

Berry didn’t get returned to Toledo, but he didn’t return to playing, either. Not as a starter, anyway. And that, my friends, is exactly how it should be.

Berry moved Tigers fans for about 10 days, but let’s peel back a layer or two of skin away from his onion.

Berry bailed the Tigers out for a few games, no question, helping the team to tread water while their All-Star-caliber center fielder recuperated.

But Berry is no Austin Jackson. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and nor has a crime been committed.

The highlight reel catches Berry made in center field looked pretty, but—and I don’t mean to tell tales out of school here—they were necessitated by his poor reads and circuitous routes to the baseball.

But he did make those catches, and for that we all should be grateful. Still, if you put Jackson and Berry in center field for separate teams for 150 games each, it will be very plain who the better outfielder is—and it won’t be Berry.

I haven’t come to bury Berry, but I haven’t come to overly praise him, either. He is a very fast player who is also very marginal. His speed mesmerizes the folks around town because the Tigers have been so bereft of it for decades.

Even the mainstream media—folks who should know better—are being sucked in by Berry Mania.
Just yesterday I heard my friend Jamie Samuelsen and partner Bob Wojnowski on 97.1 The Ticket bemoaning the lack of Berry in the Tigers lineup against the Colorado Rockies, even though a left-handed pitcher was on the mound.

Before Boesch’s bat heated up last week, there were calls for Berry to replace him. Young, also, was being run out of town by Berry maniacs.

Jackson is the straw that stirs the Tigers drink. I’ve said it before and, after the team’s resurgence after his return to the lineup, I’m saying it again. When Jackson is doing his thing at the top of the batting order, the Tigers offense is a different animal, plain and simple.

The Tigers’ fall to as many as six games below .500 ran concurrent to Jackson’s absence. This is no coincidence.

But in Detroit, we get enthralled by the scrappy, by the fast, by the underdog. I can still remember the cries for quarterback Mike McMahon when he played for the Lions as a backup—mainly because McMahon was mobile and ran around the backfield like a chicken with his head cut off. Certainly not for his passing skills.

Jackson, one of the premier center fielders in baseball, went down, and here came Berry, riding in from Toledo on what some people thought was a white horse.

Berry did his best at being Jackson’s stand-in. For a few games the Tigers got a lift from the journeyman. It didn’t hurt his standing that, at the time of his promotion, Boesch and Young were terrible.

But let’s not get carried away. Berry may not even be with the team come September. He might be long forgotten by then, as the Tigers, it is hoped, scramble for a playoff spot. Or, his speed alone may keep him on the roster. We’ll see.

Who will not be forgotten, who will not be a footnote to this season, is Jackson. And, I submit, Boesch and Young, when all is said and done.

Jackson has the potential to be the best all-around center fielder the Tigers have had since Al Kaline roamed there in the late-1950s.

No, I haven’t forgotten about Curtis Granderson.

Berry played his rear end off trying to give the Tigers Austin Jackson when they didn’t have Austin Jackson. For that he should be commended.

But not only is Berry no Jackson, he’s not even Boesch or Young.

Berry is who he is, and that’s OK.

Trouble is, too many fans believe him to be something that he’s not, and that kind of thinking never leads to anything good.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday Morning Manager: Week 10

Last Week: 3-3
This Week: at CHC (6/12-14); COL (6/15-17)

So, What Happened?

MMM thinks that's the question Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker was asking himself after Sunday night's nationally-televised game went sideways against the Tigers.

The Tigers enjoyed perhaps their most unexpected win of the season Sunday night, rallying from a 6-2 deficit to beat the Reds, 7-6---and doing much of it off Cincy's lights out closer, Aroldis Chapman.

The Reds seemed to have the game salted away, going into the seventh with a 6-2 lead.

But then the Tigers used clutch hitting and Reds wildness to steal the game in the eighth inning.

The rest of the week was up and down, as much of the season has been.

The Tigers dropped two of three to the Indians at home, but then played a tense, playoff-like weekend series in Cincinnati that might---might---help turn their season around.

Then again, MMM recalls several occasions in May when a so-called "big win" was supposed to catapult the Tigers out of their malaise. And MMM is still waiting for that to happen.

But Sunday night's win had a different feel. First of all, it wasn't one of those deals where the Tigers hang on for dear life after moving ahead by several runs. In other words, it didn't feel like the win over the Indians on Thursday or that epic Saturday night win at home vs. the Yankees.

Only time will tell, but MMM has watched enough baseball to know that in those occasions where a team turns its season around, it's wins like Sunday night's that often gets pointed to as THE win that jump started everything.

We'll see.

Hero of the Week

Prince Fielder continues to be an RBI machine in June.

Fielder is making one harken to the days of Victor Martinez, with his two-out RBIs of late.

Fielder was huge on Saturday; his two-out single scored Brennan Boesch with the eventual game-winning run. He did it again on Sunday, drawing the Tigers closer in the seventh inning. Both hits came off the same lefty reliever, Sean Marshall.

Fielder's overall numbers might not be as eye-popping as some would have hoped at this point in the season, but MMM thinks he's doing just fine---with the bat---considering the guys hitting behind him haven't exactly been setting the world on fire.

Saturday's hit was huge, but MMM cautions you not to underestimate the importance of Sunday's, which made the score 6-3, Cincinnati. Those hits can be overlooked when the comeback inning is of the four-run variety, as it was in the eighth inning. But they're no less important.

Honorable mention: Jose Valverde, who has now turned in four straight 1-2-3 innings, and who saved the two wins in Cincinnati (and the one in Detroit) with no drama whatsoever.

Goat of the Week

Why is Matt Young with the Tigers? Why is he in the big leagues, period?

Young was called up last week to take Andy Dirks's spot on the 25-man roster and was immediately inserted into the no. 2 hole against Cleveland. He went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.

In fact, Young has struck out nine times of the 10 plate appearances he's had.

Not only that, the strikeouts have all been of the swing-and-miss variety; MMM hasn't seen Young make contact, let alone put a ball in play.

In the field, Young badly misplayed a ball into a triple in Cincinnati on Friday night, which led directly to the Reds' walk-off win.

MMM can't abide players who can't even foul off big league pitching.

Chapman, ahead of Young 1-2 Sunday night, "hit" Young with a pitch, even though TV replays disagreed. Chapman certainly would have fanned Young. The score was 6-3 at the time, the bases loaded and nobody out. The HBP forced in a run.

MMM wants Matt Young out of a Tigers uniform forthwith. Andy Dirks can't get healthy soon enough.

Under the Microscope

Is Brennan Boesch truly snapping out of his funk or was his weekend in Cincinnati an apparition?

MMM says, "Stay tuned."

MMM is putting Boesch UtM because, after a supposed flaw was detected in his mechanics last week, Boesch went on a mini-tear, including a base hit off Chapman, against whom opponents were batting .090 (9-for-100) against this season.

If Boesch is indeed "cured," it's huge for the Tigers' offense.

But if this is a mirage, then it's not, obviously.

MMM is eager to see Boesch over the next few weeks, to see if the mechanical flaw has indeed been rectified.

And MMM apologizes for using the word "rectified."

Boesch is one of those guys who MMM has identified as being fraudulent this season---one of those hitters who we all expected a whole lot more from in 2012.

Let's hope the Cincy weekend is a sign of good things to come from Boesch AND the Tigers as a team.

Upcoming: Cubs, Rockies

Ahh, the Cubbies.

2012 has been a nightmare so far for the North Siders.

The team is buried in the NL Central with no end in sight. The Tigers better win two of three in Wrigley Field. This is how you mount a comeback: you follow up a big, clutch series win on the road with another against an inferior opponent.

No let downs. Every big league team can get you.

MMM cautions that the series opener on Tuesday finds Max Scherzer on the mound, who is as predictable as Michigan weather. Then it's Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander (Casey Crosby gets skipped because of Monday's off day).

A Cub to watch is 1B Bryan LaHair, who has 12 homers and is batting .310.

The Cubs actually have three solid starting pitchers (Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Jeff Samardzija), but the hitting has failed them.

MMM thinks it's always better to play the Colorado Rockies anywhere other than in Denver.

The Rockies are a different team at home, i.e. the games are different because of the high altitude and thin air. This year they're 15-18 at home, 9-17 on the road.

This could have been a great chance for Tigers fans to see just how good SS Troy Tulowitzki really is. But Tulowitzki is on the DL with a bad groin and though he's eligible to come off the list on Friday, it's uncertain.

The Cubs and Rockies are a combined 31 games under .500.

It's time to get on a roll.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!


Monday, June 04, 2012

Monday Morning Manager: Week 9

Last Week: 2-5
This Week: CLE (6/5-7); at Cin (6/8-10)

So, What Happened?

The Tigers played seven games against the Red Sox and Yankees, and the week was like walking across hot coals.

The result? Two wins, five losses, and the injuries are piling up almost as fast as the defeats.

The Tigers a beaten down, desperate team which is sinking further in a division that they were supposed to dominate.

Righr now, the only thing the Tigers are dominating is in the area of supreme disappointment. Hell, even Justin Verlander is on a three-game losing streak. Isn't that one of the signs of the Apocalypse?

How much longer can MMM say that the season is early?

Sunday's game marked the one-third mark of the season. That's right; if the season was a baseball game, the Tigers have already completed the first three innings.

Now on to the top of the fourth.

Andy Dirks is the latest to wind up on the disabled list, with a disagreeable Achilles tendon. Speedy OF Matt Young has been called up from Toledo.

The Tigers' lineup is looking more and more like what the Toledo Mud Hens fielded on Opening Day.

Yesterday MMM was watching the game and as FSD went to break, they displayed the three Tigers hitters scheduled to start the next inning: Omir Santos, Quintin Berry and Danny Worth.

It was a face palm moment.

Hero of the Week
You're kidding, right?

MMM knows he's contractually obligated to pick a Hero. Doesn't mean he has to be happy or enthusiastic about it.

So this one might surprise you: Delmon Young.

Why DY?

Well, his bat is heating up, and that means Young, stationed normally right behind Prince Fielder in the batting order, can lengthen innings far better than he was doing earlier.

Young had a couple homers in the Red Sox series in Boston, and even though he still has the maddening proclivity to swing at the first pitch and bounce into inning-ending ground outs, Delmon was one of the few Tigers last week not named Cabrera or Fielder who did anything of note with the lumber.

Honorable mention: Joaquin Benoit, if only for his amazing effort in the seventh inning of Saturday night's game against the Yankees, when he wiggled out of a two-on, no-out situation by slithering past Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez, preserving the Tigers' lead, which was huge at the time.

Goat of the Week

Now HERE'S a menu!

MMM almost doesn't know where to begin, because it was another week of foolishness and sluggishness. MMM thinks it's ironic that the word "slug" is found in sluggishness when it comes to the Tigers' popgun offense.

MMM is indicting Brennan Boesch, who had a 1-for-12 series against the Yankees and who is simply not giving the Tigers what they need from an everyday corner outfielder.

MMM understands that Boesch is merely a symptom, but he's being called out this week because he's one of the few guys who are healthy now and the Tigers need his bat big time. They're just not getting it right now.

Dishonorable mention: don't get MMM started.

Under the Microscope
MMM senses that batting coach Lloyd McClendon is UtM anyway, regardless of what is written here.

But MMM agrees, and is placing "Mac" squarely on the glass slide, to be focused on.

The media is starting to call for McClendon's head. The Free Press' Drew Sharp hinted at that in his latest column. Of course, sports talk radio callers have been beating that drum for weeks.

The comparison is being made to last season, when the Tigers fired pitching coach Rick Knapp in mid-season and replaced him with Jeff Jones. The move was credited with jump starting the Tigers' second half uprising.

The Knapp move, obviously, has set a precedent which may or may not be dangerous.

MMM could understand why McClendon would be replaced (the Angels fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, part of manager Mike Scioscia's inner circle, and the team has come around since then), but don't count on it. McClendon is tight with Jim Leyland and it was a lot easier to jettison Knapp than it would be to do so with McClendon.

Still, MMM thinks Mac should be UtM. There was a telling quote from Leyland after Sunday's miserable offensive performance against New York's Phil Hughes. Sharp included it in his column:

"(Hughes) just pounds the ball inside, and we didn't look in there to turn on the ball at all," Leyland grumbled afterward. "We just kept letting him pound it in there, and he kept jamming us. It was pretty disappointing. You have make adjustments in the game. ...

"You could see what he was doing, but we made no adjustments whatsoever. We kept letting him beat us and fighting off (pitches) the other way. That was not a good day of hitting. That upsets me a little bit. It was a disappointing."

So....who's responsible for initiating adjustments?

MMM is just wondering out loud.

Upcoming: Indians, Reds

Last week MMM said that, despite the competition being the Red Sox and Yankees, the week was still more about the Tigers than about who they're playing.

Nothing that happened since then has changed MMM's tune for this week.

When you're 25-29 and underperforming, it's not about the opponent. It's just about getting wins. It's about playing better.

The Tigers continue to have their hands full with themselves, let alone with the Indians and the Reds.

But having said that, MMM would advise that it's always a good thing to beat the teams in your division---even if you are your own worst enemy.

The Tigers were 8-1 against the Indians at Comerica Park last year, but as we have seen, last year is so...last year.

Should the Tigers have any added incentive to beat the Indians in light of what big mouth closer Chris Perez said about them following the Tribe's sweep of the Tigers in Cleveland two weeks ago?

See the third paragraph of this section.

Interleague play kicks off in full force this weekend as the Tigers visit Cincinnati.

It'll give Tigers fans a chance to see 2010 MVP Joey Votto, who's off to a pretty good start for the Reds. Verlander pitches on Saturday, hoping to snap his three-game losing streak and mini slump.

But aside from Votto (.346, 9 HR, 33 RBI), the Reds have their problems on offense as well. No other regular is batting .300+. But look out when RF Jay Bruce is up. The lefty slugger has 12 homers and is sluggng .541, though his BA is just .259.

That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!