Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Morning Manager: Week 19

Last Week: 5-2
This Week:  at CWS (8/12-14); KC (8/15-18)

So, What Happened?

First, MMM would like to apologize for being AWOL last week. MMM celebrated a birthday (the big 5-0) and Mrs. MMM put together a picnic last Monday. Hence, no update last week.

Now, on to this week's update...

In 1978, just after Labor Day, the New York Yankees invaded Fenway Park in Boston for a big four-game series with the Red Sox. The surging Yankees had whittled a huge Boston lead in the AL East (it was 14 games on July 17) down to four games.

The series became known as the Boston Massacre. The Yankees swept the four games, outscoring Boston 42-9 in the process. The race was tied, and you know the rest.

Last week, the Cleveland Indians, playing good baseball, welcomed the Tigers to Progressive Field for a four-game series. The Indians were a mere three games out of first place.

The Tribe got within three outs of  a victory on Monday night, which would have cut the Tigers' lead to two games. But then Alex Avila struck for a three-run dinger off closer Chris Perez, the Tigers won 4-2, and the lead was four games instead of two.

It all went downhill from there for Cleveland.

The Tigers swept the series, lifted their lead to seven games, and left the Indians staggering, like a punch drunk boxer.

The Tribe lost two more, to the Angels, before righting the ship on Sunday.

The Tigers left Cleveland and went to New York, and despite touching Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera for three shocking ninth inning homers on Friday and Sunday, lost two of three to the Yankees.

No matter. It was a fine 5-2 week, giving the Tigers a 17-5 record after the All-Star break.

Miguel Cabrera continues to be hampered by his hip/abdominal injuries, but he pulled a Kirk Gibson against Rivera, slugging two dramatic home runs despite featuring a noticeable limp.

Justin Verlander was slandered by now ex-radio host Jack Clark, who accused JV of using PEDs.

The person who DID use them, Jhonny Peralta, began his 50-game suspension last Monday.

Jeremy Bonderman (remember him?) returned to the Tigers after a three-year absence and was the bullpen hero in Wednesday's 14-inning win.

Alex Avila is on the 7-day concussion DL after being dinged by a foul tip on Thursday.


And that's not all of it!

Hero of the Week
MMM realizes he is not alone in being unable to describe the feats of Miguel Cabrera.

What does it say when Cabrera is dwarfing last season's Triple Crown numbers?

He is on his way to cruising to a third straight batting title, which for a right-handed hitter puts him in some rarefied air.

And now Miggy is just being ridiculous—creating legendary moments that is normally the stuff of fiction.

He blasted two monumental home runs against Rivera and the Yankees.

On Friday night, limping due to injury, with two strikes on him, two outs, and the Yankees ahead 3-1 with a Tiger on base in the ninth inning, Cabrera took a low fastball from the best closer in baseball history and lofted it over the center field wall, tying the game. And Cabrera did it in New York, a city that has seen more than its share of legendary baseball moments.

Not finished with Rivera, Cabrera again homered off the only man in the majors who wears no. 42, in the ninth inning on Sunday, drawing the Tigers to within 4-3. Moments later, Victor Martinez homered off Rivera as well, tying the game.

All this as Miggy battles a nagging hip/abdominal combo that allows him to hit, but which makes running and fielding dicey.

The homers, though both coming in eventual losing causes, were so dramatic and filled with hubris that MMM cannot let them go unnoticed. So Cabrera is HOTW. Period.

Honorable mentions: Alex Avila (huge homer off Perez on Monday); Max Scherzer (a win to go 17-1); Austin Jackson (big week with the bat); Martinez (ditto).

Goat of the Week
MMM is about to place Andy Dirks' mug on the side of a milk carton.

Even manager Jim Leyland is getting antsy over Dirks' year, which has been spent between .240 and .245 seemingly since Opening Day.

Dirks was again invisible last week, continuing a disappointing season where he chases balls out of the strike zone and has exhibited little of the flair he showed in 2012, when he hit .322 in 314 AB.

Dirks' 80-point drop in BA has been sort of hidden, as the Tigers are on this post-All-Star break roll. But it is plainly evident that the Tigers could still use Dirks' 2012 bat down the stretch and in the post-season.

MMM likes Dirks as a player, but this season has been confounding. And last week was another "meh" one for Andy. There have been too many of those.

Under the Microscope
MMM feels sorry for Alex Avila.

The catcher has had a tough year at the plate; everyone knows that. But AA1 (Al Alburquerque is AA2) perked up a little in July, driving in 19 runs and getting that BA near the Mendoza Line (if you're too young to know what that is, Google it).

Unfortunately, just as he was starting to show some life, Avila is on the 7-day concussion DL after getting dazed (again) with a foul tip on Thursday.

Avila went for an MRI, which was fine. He joined the team in New York and played on Saturday, but then felt nauseous after batting practice on Sunday. Hence the move to the DL.

Concussions are nothing to take lightly, if that is what Avila indeed is suffering from. Look no further than Jahvid Best of the Lions.

MMM is disturbed that Avila's nauseous feeling (which he felt on Thursday after the incident and was thus lifted from that game) returned after disappearing for a couple of days. This is the kind of thing that makes concussions (or concussion-like symptoms) so difficult to treat and monitor.

MMM hopes Avila is back soon, and that the layoff doesn't re-set his bat back to pre-July status.

Upcoming: White Sox, Royals
The Tigers have a rare eight-game week.

First up: the White Sox in Chicago, and MMM doesn't need to rehash the Chisox foibles.

Everyone in the AL Central (and the AL in general, actually) has been beating up the White Sox unmercifully, and this week it needs to be the Tigers' turn once again. There can be no let up, as the 10-game road trip winds down.

The three games in Chicago are doubly important because of what follows them.

Tigers starters: Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello.

 OK, MMM thinks the Kansas City Royals' push after the AS break is cute and all, but it needs to be over with.

The Royals' hot streak has matched the Tigers, and had Detroit played around .500, KC would be within three or four games by now. As it stands, the Royals are 7.5 games behind Detroit, and just one-half game behind the reeling Indians.

MMM noticed that after the Royals brought HOFer George Brett in to be the hitting coach in late May, the young KC hitters (notably Mike Moustakis and Eric Hosmer) surged. Now, whether that was coincidental or not, nobody knows for sure. But MMM finds it hard to believe that Brett had no influence.

Even after Brett resigned a few weeks ago, the Royals offense has remained in high gear. That had been the problem with KC: decent pitching but no bats. The offense has arisen, and look what is happening in the W/L columns.

The Royals visit for a five-game series: a makeup DH on Thursday, followed by single games over the weekend. Clearly, this is KC's last best chance to make up serious ground on the Tigers. But Detroit needs to really win only two of the five to keep the damage at a minimum. The Royals really need to go 4-1 to make up significant ground.

Tigers starters: Anibal Sanchez, TBA, Verlander, Fister, Scherzer.

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


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