Do the Tigers Have What it Takes?

I have
been accused of being an “over-the-top” fan of the Detroit Tigers. I
have been called a, “slappy” and a “homer.” Monikers, I must say, I have
been happy, and proud to display.

But
because of the “name calling,” sometimes I tend to be reserved in my
opinion, or view of a game, or a play.

When I
write, regrettably, I don’t always convey the thoughts of one who
easily wears the exhilaration of a win, or bears the pain of a loss.

In truth, this site can accommodate both —
the emotional point of view and the reserved re-cap. Both can share this
space. And at times it has — just not as often as I would like.

Let’s
face it, that is what being a fan of any game or sport is about.

So
where am I going here, with all of this, you ask?

Of
course, I will tell you.

I have
watched every game the Tigers have played in 2010. Yes, all 86 games in
the first half of this season.

I am
sorry to say that I have emotionally paced myself throughout the past
four months.

But
while I was at Friday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, for the first
time the “slappy” in me knocked on the door of the more conservative fan
inside. When I reached for the handle, I began to get those goosebumps
you feel when you know you are witnessing something bigger than you.

I felt
I was watching something very special. A special team. Although I am
loath to use the word destiny; that is as close to describing the
feeling as I can get. But there was no doubt. I began feeling that this
team will be something special. Am I talking about World Series
special?

Yes.

For
the first time, I felt like I did in 2006, when I thought that each
game, win or lose, was a stepping stone to the bigger prize. I truly
believe that this team can win the Central and take this all the way to
the end. But before we can get the “prize,” most would agree that some
changes need to be made in the second half.

NOW
DOWN TO BUSINESS

What
is it going to take for the 2010 Detroit Tigers to flourish?

Do the
Tigers need to make changes — additions/subtractions — to their
roster? Yes. They do.

I feel
that starting pitching is going to continue to be a problem in the
second half of the season. Of course, there are question marks after
Andy Oliver, Armando Galarraga, and Jeremy Bonderman’s names. You can add Rick
Porcello to the list, too.

When
those names are mentioned, I can not give you a solid, beyond-doubt
prediction about how I think they will do in the next half. I want to
feel as strongly about the bottom of this rotation as I do about the
top of it — Verlander and Scherzer.

The
bullpen needs to be shored up. Let’s get another arm or two in there that
we can count on. Phil Coke, Ryan Perry, and Eddie Bonine all have high
WHIP’s. That
means a lot of trouble down the road.

Also, I
want to see some consistency at shortstop. Santiago and Worth have
been good, however I want to see one or the other in the role full-time.
Preferably Ramon Santiago. If the Tigers don’t want to commit to
either one as the full-time guy, then they need to find one.

SECOND
HALF THRILLS

Our
rookies have performed above and beyond the call of duty in all
instances. The addition of Johnny Damon has been huge to this team.
Brandon Inge continues to impress me everyday with his defensive skills.
Miguel Cabrera’s bat continues to find faraway places to put the
baseball. Gerald Laird has an arm that threatens any runner trying to
steal second base. The strike-out counter goes off the charts whenever
Justin Verlander is on the mound, and Magglio is being Magglio everyday
— again.

I love
the excitement of seeing those sliding catches from our rookies, tight
double plays, and bats hotter than Hades that hit with runners on base
to score those game-winning runs.

I love
the thrill of watching pitchers who have fire in their eyes, while
throwing heat with their arms, and the unabashed showing of a clinched
fist and a hop on the mound as our closer has just forced another batter
to swing and miss.

My heart pounds for the rookie, and
the veteran, who have just gone deep for yet another one long gone,
and is still in mourning for the one who brought such plays to life
through my radio.

Yes, I
have a feeling that this is the year of the tiger -the year of the
Detroit Tiger!

The Tigers are
10 games over the .500 mark going into the second half. They have been
in — and are flirting with — first place.

I have
been happy to share the first half of what will be one of the most
exciting years in Detroit Tigers history.

I am
looking forward to sharing the second half of 2010 with you, too!

Go Get ‘Em
Tigers!!

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Galarraga and Joyce Mend Fences

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
INDIANS 0 0 1 5 0 0 0 0 0 6 7 0
TIGERS 0 2 3 0 1 1 5 0 12 17 4

W: B. Thomas (2-0)  L: H. Ambriz (0-1)

I am sure that many of you, like me, lost a lot of sleep over last
night’s blown call. When I finally did fall asleep, the alarm went off
and woke me up.

Not only was I tired, but for most of the day, I was crabby.

The events from last night bothered me. They angered me.

Prior
to the start of today’s game, at Jim Leyland’s suggestion, Armando
Galarraga delivered the lineup card to Jim Joyce. A teary-eyed home
plate umpire took Galarraga’s
offered handshake and soon afterward the game began.

I can say with tremendous pride; what the Tigers did today was the
RIGHT call.

Good sportsmanship should always trump
on-field anger.

Armando Galarraga, Jim Leyland, and the entire Detroit Tiger’s
organization are as classy as they come.

Of course, I’m still not happy, however I
am pacified. I would
still like to see Major League Baseball overturn the call and give the
Detroit Tiger’s and Armando Galarraga their perfect game.

But I am feeling a lot better about things this evening.

One last note before I call it a night
and get some much-needed sleep. Jim Joyce “manned up” and admitted his
error. His tears and anguish were real and heartfelt. Because he stepped
up he has my respect.

If I had been in Galarraga’s shoes, I don’t
think I could have handled it with an equal amount of grace and poise.
In my eyes he took a few steps up on the character ladder.

Armando Galarraga might not have pitched a perfect game, but he has
been a perfect example of good sportsmanship. No one can deny him of
that!

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“I cost that kid a perfect game.”


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
INDIANS 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
TIGERS 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 9 0

W:
Galarraga (2-1) L: Carmona (4-4)

Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game. I don’t care what the
boxscore says. He pitched a perfect game.

First base umpire, Jim Joyce blew the call that would have made it
official.

“I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said. “I thought
he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the
replay. The biggest call of my career, and I kicked the **** out of it.”

So where do we go from here?

Can Major League Baseball overturn the call?

I would hope that something can be done. I am sure they don’t want to
set a precedent of overturning safe/out calls at first base, but
honestly — this wasn’t a regular game!

I could be forgiving if it was. If the scenario that played out was
this — the Indians are down, 3-0. The Tigers are already trotting out
their fourth pitcher because Cleveland has six hits on the board and the
bases are loaded for the second time. A little nubber out to first is
shoveled over to the pitcher covering the base. The umpire blows the
call at the bag and a run scores. Big Deal.

BUT TONIGHT WAS DIFFERENT!

One batter to retire — and Galarraga has the first perfect game in
Detroit Tiger history.

One batter to go — and he has thrown the third perfect game this
season.

One batter to go — and he has thrown the 21st perfect game in major
league baseball history.

I will ask it again. Can Major League Baseball overturn the call?

Obviously, tonight’s game wasn’t your typical run-of-the-mill
ballgame, and let’s face it, umpires have already been taking heat for a
barrage of blown calls — especially in post season play.

I’ve heard many tonight who have talked about the “human element” of
the game. Even Jim Leyland spoke after the game, and said, “That’s
baseball.”

Sure. It is.

But I believe that if this call is allowed to stand, it would be
disastrous to the integrity of the game itself.

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Athletics 6, Tigers 0

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(Photo by Associated Press)

Last night’s loss makes the fourth in a row for Detroit, and they have
dropped nine of their last fifteen games. It is the fourth time they
have been shut out this season.

Rick Porcello was tagged with the loss, and his record falls to 4-5.

DONTRELLE WILLIS

After the game, the Tigers announced that Dontrelle Willis had been
designated for assignment. Willis had tried to overcome a number of
personal issues, and this spring it seemed as though he had righted his
ship. He was given the opportunity to be a part of the rotation at the
start of the season. But uncertainty remained every time he was on the
mound.

The move will make room for the return of pitcher Max Scherzer (1-4,
7.29), who will start in tomorrow’s game.

Oakland will counter with Dallas Braden (4-4, 3.23). Braden pitched a
perfect game on Mother’s Day.

SKIP’S

NOTES

  • Trying

    to change his luck, Gerald Laird is now sporting the number 12 on his
    jersey. Previously, he wore the number 8 on his back. Unfortunately in
    his first at-bat, he was robbed of a home run by Athletics left fielder,
    Gabe Gross.

  • Rookie

    Brennan Boesch had the night off. He was replaced in the lineup by Ryan
    Raburn.

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Fans Pay Their Respects to a Legend

While driving to Comerica Park this
evening I wondered how I would react as I walked past the coffin of
Ernie Harwell.

Several times along the route downtown I fought back tears.

I thought of the hundreds of times I heard his voice.

I thought about particular moments during my life when I could recall
that a Detroit Tiger’s broadcast was playing in the background.

I shared much of my life with him.

Oddly, I thought that my memories were unique – special.

They are special – to me, but they are not unique.

Thousands that walked past his body shared similar stories of growing
up in Michigan listening to baseball games that were broadcast by Ernie
Harwell.

Tonight I saw people from all walks of life stand in line waiting to
pay their final respects to a baseball broadcaster who became a member
of the family, a friend, and a hero.

I fought back the tears for as long as I could. I stood across from
him and I could no longer hold them back.

A piece of us is gone. The memory will live on in our hearts always.

THANK-YOU TIGERS

Ernie Harwell was a class-act.

The Detroit Tiger’s organization is also a class-act.

Tigers president, CEO, and general manager, Dave Dombrowski, along
with owner Mike Ilitch, stood to shake the hands of mourners as they
left Comerica Park today.

Outside, park employees handed cups of Gatorade to fans who were
standing in line. Medical personnel walked the length of the line should
someone fall ill during the 35-minute wait.

The Detroit Tigers honored Harwell’s loyal fans with their kindness.

A FORMAL TRIBUTE

On Monday night the Tiger’s will pay special tribute to Harwell at
Comerica Park prior to a game with the New York Yankees.

Jose Feliciano, who caused controversy in 1968 with his rendition of
the National Anthem prior to game 5 of the World Series, will again
perform the anthem. (Many may not know that he was hand picked by
Harwell to perform that year.)

Paul
Carey
, Harwell’s longtime broadcasting partner, will toss the
ceremonial first pitch.

Also, a flag with Harwell’s initials upon it will be raised in
left-center field.

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Ernie Harwell Passes Away at 92

His death was expected. Yet, it still came as a shock. Tonight the
baseball community is  mourning the passing of broadcasting legend Ernie
Harwell.

In honor of Ernie, here is a past post about connecting with the
voice of the Detroit Tigers.

THE ERNIE HARWELL CONNECTION

Thumbnail image for 0713081324.jpg

Despite the efforts of many, including Ernie
Harwell
, Tiger Stadium began to come down in 2008. Crowds
lined the streets of Michigan and Trumbull to watch, film, and to
reminisce about summer days of baseball games played at The Corner.

I was one of the them. Moving along the ballpark’s perimeter, I kept
trying to get a peek through the heavy tarp that draped the fence.
Occasionally, while walking down Trumbull to Michigan Avenue, and over
to Cochrane,
I would find a spot where someone had taken a knife and sliced a hole
big enough to see through.

0802081519.jpg

Although I had been ready for the stadium to come down (and had even
started to embrace the idea), it was difficult to watch its
destruction.

Memories raced through my mind of games with my dad. I recalled
games that my step-son and I watched, and I tried to piece together
vague, flickering images of my grandfather, the proprietor of a
parking lot, guiding cars into their spaces for families going to see
the Tiger’s play ball.

I eased my way back down Trumbull to Cherry Street, then over toward
the freeway. There was a line of cars serving as foot stools for
photographers, and onlookers hoping to grab a glimpse over the fence. I
proceeded up the ramp, over the freeway, for a birds-eye view inside
the ballpark.

As I peered into the yard where boyhood heroes once played, through
my minds-eye, I saw a game played upon the torn field. One voice
pierced through the memories. As the stadium was coming down, I heard
the play-by-play of Ernie Harwell on a sunny, September day when Detroit faced Oakland.

“Well, this is the big day for the maestro, Denny McLain,
Saturday afternoon at Tiger Stadium, September the 14th, 1968, and Denny
will be going for win number 30.” said Harwell
.

I chose to envision this game, because two years earlier I paid a
personal tribute to my grandfather on the 105th anniversary of his
birth. (You can read the original post here.)

This had become a field of
dreams
, and I watched a Tiger’s team from the past play ball
through Ernie’s call of the game.

“Ernie Harwell and Ray Lane at Tiger Stadium, and we’ve
got a dandy here. The Tigers need one to tie and two to go ahead.”

My thoughts slowly shifted from the field. I turned my body, and my
gaze, toward Trumbull.

I closed my eyes.

There was Poppy, at the foot of the driveway, on the sidewalk,
seated in an old aluminum folding chair.

“Denny McLain has gone eight innings for the Tigers… and
now the Tigers send up their leading home run hitter, Willie Horton,
to see what he can do about starting something in the eighth inning.
It’ll be Horton, Cash and Freehan – the middle three batters in Mayo
Smith’s Tigers batting order.”

The Tiger’s tied the score at 4, and with one out in the ninth,
Willie Horton approached home plate.

Poppy inched toward the edge of his seat.

The last pitch was thrown to Horton, while Mickey Stanley on third
edged home. Harwell’s voice, thin through the small speaker, set the
stage,

“… now the count on Horton is 2 balls – 2 strikes.
Campaneris comes in from short to talk to his pitcher – Diego Segui.

A
moment passes, and Harwell continues,

Here’s
the set by Segui. The pitch — swung on! A drive to left… and
that’ll be the ballgame…

The
Tigers win it 5 to 4!

Denny
McLain is one of the first out of the dug-out, racing out… and
Horton is mobbed as the Tigers come from behind, and McLain has his
thirtieth victory of the 1968 season.”

My grandfather heard his voice, my dad heard his voice, and I heard
his voice. Each of us had watched (in the mind’s eye) baseball through
Ernie Harwell. For a few moments that afternoon, his voice connected
cherished members of my past – one more time.

These days, when I hear him speak, I see and hear more than a
ballgame – much more.

The nexus to a time gone by is Ernie Harwell. That is much more than
any mere baseball broadcaster could deliver.

Of course, Ernie
Harwell
was more than a broadcaster. He brought ball games to
life, and made the players heroes. He was our trusted friend, the one
who always got the best seat in the stadium.

Simply put, he made baseball better. Thank-you, Ernie!


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Dontrell Willis Impressive in Win

MINNESOTA 3, DETROIT 0

232x131.jpg

Confidence in the Detroit Tiger’s pitching staff has taken a beating
lately. Not a heavy beating — but a beating nevertheless.

That is what makes today’s win from Dontrelle Willis that much more
impressive.

I don’t have to rehash the problems he has had the past two seasons.
They are well-known. When it came to his career, this season seemed to
have a do-or-die feel to it.

So far this year, Willis has pitched with confidence, and has had
none of the control problems he had shown in the past.

Today he pitched six innings, giving up four hits. He walked two
batters and struck out six.

With two outs in the first inning, Jim Thome, arguably the most
dangerous hitter Willis faced in today’s Minnesota lineup, was called
out on strikes. Thome looked at home plate umpire Mike Estabrook in
disbelief as Willis confidently strode off of the field and into the
dugout.

“I think it all comes full circle,” Willis said later. “I
think if I wasn’t the person I am and someone who really truly works
hard and really appreciates everything — and I think people from the
outside see that — I think you wouldn’t get that. I firmly believe it.
I was upset because I walked a guy, but I’m really thankful.”

Good job, Dontrelle!

THE MAGIC NUMBER

As a 23-year-old player with the Chicago White Sox, Magglio Ordonez
got his first big league hit.

Today, he hit number 2000.

Ordonez is the sixth Venezuelan to carry out the feat. He joins Omar
Vizquel, Luis Aparicio, Andres Galarraga, Dave Concepcion, and Bobby
Abreu.

“It’s huge, because there are only 260 players who have done
it in more than 100 years of baseball,” Ordonez said. “I’m happy for
me, my family, my country and my team. This means a lot to me after
everything I went through last year.”

This weekend the Detroit Tigers will face the Los Angeles Angels at
Comerica Park. Look for Rick Porcello, Jeremy Bonderman, and Justin
Verlander to pitch for Detroit.

(Photo Credit: AP)

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