Tag Archives: Detroit Tigers

Day Baseball Vital to Game’s Popularity

The picture to the left comes from the 1984 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres. It shows Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell taking a lead, with Padres 1st baseman Steve Garvey holding him close.

In Game #4 of that World Series, Trammell, a borderline Hall of Famer whose case will continue to correctly be argued moving forward, hit a pair of homeruns to lead the Tigers to a 4-2 victory and a 3-1 lead in the series that they would win a day later. Well, actually they would win it a night later. And that would be end end of World Series day baseball.

That Game #4 in which Trammell homered twice had a starting time of 1:30pm EDT. It would be the last World Series game played completely in natural daylight. The following day’s Game #5 had a start time of 4:30pm EDT, but by the time the Tigers were celebrating their victory it would be dark. That would be the last World Series game played in natural daylight at all.

I say “in natural daylight” because Game #6 of the 1987 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and Saint Louis Cardinals was played during daytime, but the game was indoors at the Metrodome, and thus was not the beneficiary of a natural daylight atmosphere. Still, at least that game was played at a time when most kids could stay up and watch the entirety.

So it has been 30 years since baseball fans have enjoyed the beauty of the game in a championship setting played when it was most meant to be played, in daylight on a beautiful afternoon under a sun-soaked sky. It has been almost those same 30 since most kids have been able to stay up and watch on TV as a World Series victory celebration takes place.

These days, thanks to more playoff rounds, the World Series is generally played during the last week of October. The average daytime high temperature for that week in Detroit and Boston is in the upper-50’s, in Saint Louis it is the low-60’s, even in climate-friendly Los Angeles the average daytime high is around 70 degrees.

However, the night temperatures at the normal game time for each of those location is about 20 degrees cooler. As anyone who has ever played the game, or sat outside to watch a game, can attest, baseball was most certainly not meant to be ideally played in temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s. But because of television network contracts, that is what we usually get – the championship of our national pastime decided in conditions not normally seen all during the rest of the playing season.

Not only is the quality of the experience diminished for the fans in attendance, and the game itself often made more of a challenge for the players in these conditions, but that aspect of growing the game by allowing young fans to experience the thrill of watching a full World Series game has been lost to at least a couple of generations. Who let’s their 10-year old stay up until midnight to watch the World Series, unless perhaps it’s their hometown team playing?

There is nothing like the experience of sitting outside on a nice, sunny afternoon watching baseball. That experience would certainly be better on a Saturday afternoon in Detroit or Boston or Philadelphia than it would on a Saturday night during the last week of October. It is time for baseball to recognize this vital aspect of their game, and build it into the next television contract, if not amend the current deal.

There should always be at least one World Series game played during full daylight hours. A 2:30pm EDT start time for all World Series games played on Saturday should be the norm, built into those TV deals. There should also be an effort by MLB to ensure that during the regular season, there are at least a handful of weekday games played during daylight hours, ideally with at least one such game every single day.

Day baseball is when many young fans get introduced to the game. There are also many MLB fans who have shift work, and who cannot watch and follow games during night hours. Opening up more opportunities for these fans, even on a limited basis, should be a priority for the folks running the game.

There are billions of dollars involved in these television contracts these days. Having a few dozen of the involved games played during daylight hours by contract would certainly not affect those big deals in any truly measurable way. Meanwhile, the accompanying good will and outreach would be appreciated by many fans currently restricted.

Baseball was meant to be played during the daylight hours, under cloudless skies with the sun shining brightly, on a green grass. The realities of television, and fans ability to follow the majority of the season after work hours during evening and nights is the new reality. That is understandable. But MLB should always be looking for opportunities to embrace more that ideal of the day baseball experience for it’s fans.

MLB 2014: American League Central

The 2014 MLB predictions continue today with the American League Central Division, home to half of the now 113-year old league’s charter franchise clubs.

Founded in the old Western League in 1894, the Detroit Tigers are the oldest continuous one-name, one-city franchise in the American League, and one of those 8 junior circuit charter franchises.

The franchise has won 4 World Series crowns, 11 American League pennants, 3 division titles as a member of the A.L. East division, and now the last 3 consecutive division titles as a member of the A.L. Central.

For the Tigers to add a 4th consecutive division title the team will have to overcome a number of big off-season personnel losses. On the mound, starting pitcher Doug Fister was traded and setup man Joaquin Benoit left via free agency. Infielder Jhonny Peralta also left as a free agent.

But the two biggest losses to overcome will be slugging 1st baseman Prince Fielder and one of the game’s top managers, Jim Leyland. Fielder was dealt to Texas, while Leyland finally walked away at age 69 after eight seasons guiding the Tigers.

Still, any team that wants the crown, and there are contenders, will have to go through Motown. Remaining are one of the game’s most dominant pitchers, and the envy of many red-blooded American males as swimsuit model Kate Upton‘s steady date, Justin Verlander, the reigning A.L. Cy Young winner in Max Scherzer, and the best hitter on the planet, 2-time defending A.L. MVP Miguel Cabrera.

Here are my predictions for the American League Central in 2014:

1) Detroit Tigers
Sure, they suffered all of the losses that I described above. But for most of the questions raised by those losses, the team appears to have enough answers to win a 4th straight division title. On the mound, Drew Smyly should be ready to step right into Fister’s steady shoes, and Rick Porcello at age 25 now should be ready to take a step forward as well. They follow behind the outstanding trio of Verlander, Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez. Given health, that group is far and away the best rotation in the division. In the bullpen, Detroit signed Joe Nathan as the new closer, and has a talented bullpen mix with arms such as Al Alburquerque, Phil Coke, Joba Chamberlain, and future closer Bruce Rondon. The infield has a chance to be one of the best in the league. Besides the 2-time MVP in Miggy, the Tigers have veteran Ian Kinsler now at 2nd base. He came from Texas in the Fielder deal, and brings an all-star caliber of play to the middle infield. His doubleplay partner is tremendous defensive shortstop Jose Iglesias. At 3rd base, rookie Nick Castellanos will finally get a chance to show that his minor league production and prospect hype are for real. The regular DH is Victor Martinez, one of the game’s elite hitters, and the catcher is the capable Alex Avila. The starting outfield trio of Austin Jackson, Andy Dirks, and consummate pro Torii Hunter is supported by speedy Rajai Davis. And Detroit has a pair of reliable bench players in Don Kelly and Steve Lombardozzi. The Tigers enter the season as the favorites to 4-peat in the A.L. Central. Whether they can win another A.L. pennant, even win their first World Series since 1984, remains to be seen.

2) Kansas City Royals
For me, it’s verrry close for the runner-up spot in this division between KC and the Cleveland Indians. I’m going on a bit of a hunch with the Royals, the only franchise in the division that is not one of the original 8 charter members of the American League, feeling that perhaps they are ready to grow into a legitimate playoff contender. A year ago the team registered the first winning record since 1994, and their 86 victories were the most since 1989. The difference with the Tribe, and the main reason that I pick them for 2nd, is an under-rated starting rotation that is supported by a shutdown bullpen. ‘Big Game’ James Shields gives them a legit Ace at the front, and arms such as Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas, Bruce Chen, Wade Davis, and Luke Hochevar are all talented, with the latter two likely battling for the 5th spot with fireballing youngster Yordano Ventura. The two who don’t make the rotation will join a bullpen that includes Greg Holland as the closer, with lefty Tim Collins and righties Kelvin Herrera and Aaron Crow setting up. If healthy, that trio can be as good as any end-game trio in baseball. The everyday lineup finally began to see 1st baseman Eric Hosmer tap some of his vast raw potential in 2013. In the coming season, 3rd baseman Mike Moustakas and catcher Salvador Perez will be counted on to take similar steps forward. They join veteran leaders in DH Billy Butler and leftfielder Alex Gordon. Lorenzo Cain in center and newcomer Norichika Aoki in rightfield add nice speed, and veteran 2nd baseman Omar Infante is a steadying presence for the kids. If players like Moustakas, Perez, and Ventura actually come through as star-caliber, KC could surprise and contend for the division title. But there remain enough questions to think that the wrong answers may dump them back towards the bottom.

3) Cleveland Indians
The Indians finished in 2nd place a year ago, and earned a berth in the A.L. Wildcard playoff game where they were shutout 4-0 by Tampa Bay. The franchise has won 7 American League Central Division titles, the most recent in 2007, and the most by any of the division’s 5 teams. But the franchise has won just two World Series crowns in it’s 114-year existence, none since 1948, the longest such streak in the league among teams who have won it at least once. They don’t appear to have enough pitching to end that World Series drought, but they might have enough to return to the playoffs, even challenge for a division title with the right breaks. The everyday lineup has depth and versatility. 1st baseman Nick Swisher brings energy and leadership on a daily basis. 2nd baseman Jason Kipnis is an all-star caliber player now, and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is solid. The outfield will feature speedy Michael Bourn in center, steady newcomer David Murphy in right, and multi-talented leftfielder Michael Brantley. There is depth as well with still-dangerous DH/PH Jason Giambi, infielder Mike Aviles, and IF/OF utility man Ryan Raburn. The most intriguing story line for the Tribe is the move of catcher Carlos Santana to 3rd base, a move they now appear committed to as the season opens. He is also still likely to catch a bit, with Lonnie Chisenhall getting the hot corner when he does. Yan Gomes will catch when Santana is at 3rd base. On the mound, Justin Masterson is more of a #2-type, and is now in his free agent season. Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, and Carlos Carrasco are back and are all capable starters, though none is dominant. Young Danny Salazar gets his first full shot, and he may bring that dominant, strikeout type stuff to a rotation that could use it. Cleveland signed former Milwaukee closer John Axford to finish games, and his presence allows arms such as Vinnie Pestano, C.C. Lee, and Cody Allen to settle into what should be nice setup/matchup pieces in the bullpen. Shaun Marcum and Josh Tomlin provide the Tribe with swingmen who give the rotation depth and the pen some long arms. If Salazar proves for real, and manager Terry Francona keeps pushing the right buttons, Cleveland should at least be in the Wildcard hunt.

4) Chicago White Sox
It will be a big summer for the Chisox, no matter what happens on the field, as former superstar slugger Frank Thomas is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. While the team and city celebrate the career of the man known as “The Big Hurt”, they hope that there will not be a repeat of last season’s last place divisional finish. Aside from the fact that Minnesota just does not appear talented enough to avoid that cellar, there is room for optimism on the South Side of Chicago. That positivity begins with Cuban import 1st baseman Jose Abreu, who the team hopes can provide some of the type of pop that Thomas once gave their lineup. Another newcomer, centerfielder Adam Eaton, is expected to bring speed and energy to the top of the lineup. Even with those new bats, young outfielders Avisail Garcia and Dayan Viciedo must step up and produce if the club is to rise beyond 4th place. The club would also love to see prospect Matt Davidson, who arrived from Arizona along with Eaton, take the 3rd base job away from Conor Gillaspie. Speedy Alejandro De Aza in the outfield, and steady vet Jeff Keppinger in the infield, provide lineup depth. At the DH spot the club is likely to split veteran sluggers Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, the latter in a swan song for the Sox former hero. On the mound, young lefty Chris Sale gives the club a true Ace to build upon. Veteran John Danks needs to stay healthy and remain another strong option. Behind them, a pair of youngsters in Jose Quintana and Erik Johnson are likely to take steady rotation turns. Felipe Paulino and Andre Rienzo provide depth to the rotation and pen. If Nate Jones can shoulder the closer role, then arms such as Matt Lindstrom, Ronald Belisario, Mitchell Boggs, and Scott Downs could make the bullpen a strength. The White Sox could use a couple more reliable rotation arms. But if what they have should overachieve, and the kid bats come through, it could be an interesting season for the Pale Hose. Right now, that has to be seen before it can be believed.

5) Minnesota Twins
The Twins are really bad right now. So bad that it’s hard to remember that in the last decade they were the division’s dominant team. Winning 6 of 10 division titles, and nearly a 7th, the Twins and the “M&M Boys”, stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, were constant contenders. Despite all those division titles, those teams did not have much playoff success. They will have to wait awhile before even talking about playoffs again. Mauer, a hometown crown jewel player, is moving from his longtime home behind the plate and out to 1st base, where he is likely to spend the remainder of his career. He will never be a prototypical slugger at the position, so will have to keep his batting average and on-base percentage high while proving that he is not a defensive liability at his new position in order for him to not become a problem for the team as it moves forward. The rest of the infield is average at best, with Brian Dozier at 2nd, Pedro Florimon at short, and Trevor Plouffe at 3rd. The catcher will be some combo of veteran Kurt Suzuki and young Josmil Pinto. Reliable vet outfielder Josh Willingham gives them some pop, and Oswaldo Arcia is a coming young run-producer. The rest of their production and depth will come from a questionable mix of Alex Presley, Chris Herrmann, and Eduardo Escobar. It’s not much better on the mound. The rotation has some experience with Kevin Correia, Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey, Samuel Deduno, Scott Diamond, and Brian Duensing all in the mix. But none are close to being a true Ace. Closer Glen Perkins is solid, and might be trade bait in the end. The arms that don’t make the rotation will join Anthony Swarzak and Jared Burton to fill out the pen. The Twins do have a pair of elite prospects, two of the best in baseball in Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. But Sano suffered an injury that likely leaves him out until 2015, and backs his arrival up until at least mid-season next year. It may be 2016 before those two arrive and help begin to truly turn things around in the Twin Cities.

The Tigers were somewhat weakened in the off-season, and should their pair of superstars in Verlander and Cabrera have any injuries or production slippage, either or both of the Royals or Indians could put it all together and beat them out. But for now, Detroit still looks like the best team in the division, and they also look to be the team with the most answers should troubles strike. New manager and former catcher Brad Ausmus should be able to pick up where Leyland left off, winning a 4th straight division title. And they have enough talent that, with health and everyone producing to their capabilities, they could return to the World Series, where they lost in both 2006 and 2012.

MLB 2013 Predictions

Embed from Getty Images

Miggy and Prince should lead Detroit back to the Fall Classic in 2013

 

As much as it pains me to say it, the best team in the National League East Division is no longer my beloved Philadelphia Phillies. In fact, the Fightin’ Phils no longer have the best starting pitching rotation either.

Just two years removed from Philly winning a franchise record 102 games behind their “Four Aces” rotation, a Washington Nationals team that finished below .500 that same year has passed them on both counts.

The Nationals are my pick to not only win the NL East, but to capture the National League Pennant as well as win the franchise’ first-ever World Series crown. There are a number of reasons for that pick, which I will get into in a bit.
But don’t count those aging Phillies out either. They may no longer be favorites, but they are most certainly at the very least a Wildcard playoff contender.
Let’s begin, however, with the American League. A year ago in the AL, I chose as my division winners the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Texas Rangers, and said the Wildcards would come from among the Red Sox, Rays, and the Angels. Not too bad, as the Yanks and Tigers did indeed win their divisions, and the Rangers made the playoffs.
What I never saw coming the the AL in 2012, you never saw coming either – the Orioles and the Athletics. The O’s took a Wildcard, and the A’s won the AL West, and neither teams was predicted by many to even have a .500 season in them. The Rays and Angels did each have strong seasons, falling just short of the playoffs, but the Red Sox collapsed completely.
At this point, I am a little bit worried about what I see coming in 2013 for the American League. Worried, because it seems pretty clear to me what should happen. I’m calling the Divisional winners as the Toronto Blue Jays (east), Detroit Tigers (central), and Los Angeles Angels (west), and the Wildcards as the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers.
No disrespect to either the A’s or the Orioles, but I just do not see their runs continuing, though both teams have enough talent to finish above .500 and make life miserable again for the front-runners. But I believe the overall talent of the other clubs will be enough over 162 games.
In particular, I think the Detroit Tigers should once again be the favorites to return to the World Series by successfully defending their Central division crown and A.L. Pennant. With Justin Verlander fronting a rotation that includes Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister, and a potential breakout from Rick Porcello, the Detroit rotation is in the top 3 of the league.
A year ago the Tigers offense was almost exclusively made up of the dynamic 1-2 punch of MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and his cleanup protector, Prince Fielder. This year the Tigers add veteran outfielder Torii Hunter and returning DH Victor Martinez, making them deeper and more dangerous.
The Blue Jays made the biggest off-season splash, and it rightly puts the pressure on them to take an Eastern crown. Last year’s NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey fronts a rotation that includes talented Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson. The offense has Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Melky Cabrera, and one of the game’s best youngsters in 3rd baseman Brett Lawrie.
For the second straight off-season, the Angels signed the biggest name offensive player available. Now Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, and 2012 Rookie of the Year Mike Trout are joined by Josh Hamilton. The Halos rotation needs top guy Jered Weaver to stay healthy and productive, and could use a bounce-back by C.J. Wilson. They have a strong, deep bullpen that could help any rotation issues.
The wheels fell off a year ago for the Red Sox. They may be about to fall off for their main rivals, the Yankees, in 2013. A pair of darhorse teams reside in the Central, where both the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians have renewed spirit and improved rosters. Yet to be seen is just how much better those clubs will really be on the field.
Now on to the National League, where 4 of the last 5 World Series winners have come out of, and where the winner should again come from this season. My personal crystal ball is not as clear here as it seemed to feel with the AL clubs, and so it will take some sorting out to pick the winners.
In the West division, the San Francisco Giants have won 2 of the last 3 World Series crowns, have the NL MVP in catcher Buster Posey, and return an imposing rotation fronted by Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, and Ryan Vogelsong. They have a deep, veteran bullpen. The offense again leaves much to be desired on paper, but Posey has proven run producers around him in Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, and World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have spent a ton of money since taking on new ownership last year that features former Lakers icon Magic Johnson. They brought in the top arm on the FA market in righty Zack Greinke to go with ace lefty Clayton Kershaw. But this is also a team with a number of high-priced players that have been either physically or emotionally fragile in the past. If they want the Division crown, they have to prove they are better than the Giants on the field.
In the Central division, the Reds and Cardinals again appear the class of the race. Shin-Soo Choo should further deepen the batting order which already included MVP candidate 1st baseman Joey Votto, veteran 2nd baseman Brandon Phillips, slugger Jay Bruce, and young left-side infielders Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart. The rotation is sneaky good with Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, and Homer Bailey.
Perhaps the biggest decision in the entire National League will be made in the next week or so, as the Reds decide what to do with fireballing Cuban Aroldis Chapman. It says here he should be the closer, where he would simply dominate. But if they feel he can hold up in the rotation, that may be best, and there is bullpen depth to make up for his loss there.
The Cardinals are always good, and will be again. With Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, David Freese, and Allen Craig at the dish, and Adam Wainwright fronting a rotation that should be bolstered soon by the arrival of top prospect Shelby Miller, they may be just a little short to actually beat out Cincy.
The NL East could be one of the most fascinating in the game in 2013 among the top 3 teams, with my call being the Washington Nationals to successfully defend their Division crown, and with the Phillies and Braves to battle for 2nd place and for a Wildcard spot in the playoffs.
The Nationals have the top rotation in all of baseball in Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Dan Haren, Gio Gonzalez, and Ross Detwiler. They have solid veteran run producers in Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam LaRoche. And they have the NL Rookie of the Year, one of the best young talents the game has ever seen, in left fielder Bryce Harper. They are strong up the middle with center fielder Denard Span, shortstop Ian Kinsler, and 2nd baseman Danny Espinosa.
Another factor that cannot be overlooked with the Nationals is that this is likely manager Davey Johnson’s final year at the helm in their dugout. One of the best in the business, he will definitely be motivated to go out on top. And this is a team that is built to win. They have depth and flexibility with their backup players and in their bullpen, rotation, and minor leagues.
The Atlanta Braves are advertised as having one of the best outfields in all of baseball after the big off-season splash of adding the Upton brothers, B.J. and Justin. They will play center and left, with Jason Heyward in right. Two strong youngsters in 1st baseman Freddie Freeman and shortstop Andrelton Simmons, slugging 2nd baseman Dan Uggla, and all-star catcher Brian McCann give the Braves a lot of weapons if healthy and productive.
On the mound, Atlanta leans on veteran Tim Hudson to front a talented group of kids including Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Julio Teheran. Veteran Paul Maholm has also done well since coming in trade. Their bullpen is as talented, led by the games top closer in young Craig Kimbrell. He is set-up by a variety of tough left-right combos including Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, and Jordan Walden.
I am picking the Divisional winners as the Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, and Cincinnati Reds. My Wildcard picks are the Braves and the team whose post-season hopes I simply am not yet ready to completely let go of: my hometown Philadelphia Phillies.
Why do I think the Phils’ can return to the playoffs? It starts with what remains a strong rotation. Cole Hamels is now the ace, being paid like it, and getting the Opening Day nod. Cliff Lee had a terrible win-loss record last year and all-star caliber stats in every other way. Roy Halladay is one of the greatest pitchers of the last decade. I have confidence that he will find a way to overcome his struggles and remain effective. Kyle Kendrick has gotten better and better, and is a prime breakout candidate.
The lineup was crippled a year ago by the loss of the big right-side infield combo of first baseman Ryan Howard and second baseman Chase Utley effectively missing the entire first half of the season. Once they returned and began clicking, the Phils made a run to finish at the .500 mark. Both men look healthy this spring, and those will be a pair of huge bats in the lineup from Day 1.
A pair of newcomers, veteran Michael Young and young Ben Revere bring talent to the third base and center field spots. Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz (after serving an April suspension) return with leadership and productive abilities.
Perhaps the biggest revelation in the lineup could be right fielder Domonic Brown, who this spring seems to finally be living up to his hype and promise. With Howard, Utley, Young, and Brown making a difference, the Phillies lineup is much stronger than a year ago.
The Phillies have one of the game’s top 1-2 bullpen punches now in closer Jonathan Papelbon and primary setup man Mike Adams. With Antonio Bastardo, Chad Durbin, and a cast of big, strong, young arms supporting them, the bullpen should prove to be a strength this time around for manager Charlie Manuel.
So there you have it, my crystal ball for the teams of Major League Baseball in 2013: Toronto, Detroit, and LA to win the AL Division races, Texas and Tampa Bay to take the Wildcards there.
Washington, Cincinnati, and San Francisco to win the NL Divsion races, with Atlanta and the Phillies to take the Wildcards in the senior circuit.
And at the end, the Washington Nationals will defeat the Detroit Tigers to capture the World Series crown.