January 2007

TV notes not involving DirecTV

If you’ve checked the Spring Training schedule lately, you’ll see the television slate is out — two games on ESPN, four more on FSN Detroit. Both ESPN games are against the Yankees. (I’ll let you insert your own editorial comment here.) FSN has another Tigers-Yankees tilt on March 25 and a game against the Rays on March 18, both Sundays. Then FSN has back-to-back games in the final week against the Braves at Disney World and then at home against the Dodgers.

Also, if you look ahead at the regular-season schedule starting in May, you’ll see some 3:55 p.m. starts on Saturdays — three of them in June alone. That is the new start time for games on the FOX network — not FSN, but the FOX broadcast network. Not sure whether all those games will end up on FOX, nationally or regionally, but they’re strong possibilities. It’ll be a different feel from Saturday night starts (or even early Saturday afternoon), but if it means the Tigers on TV more, I’m guessing most folks won’t mind.

Extra Innings package only on DirecTV

Considering how many emails I’ve received about the Tigers radio broadcasts over the years, especially recently, I was surprised I didn’t see more in my inbox about Major League Baseball’s deal with DirecTV to show Extra Innings exclusively on their service. Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus put in his two cents about it the other day.

One thing I learned from last season is how surprisingly nationwide the Tigers fan base is. I’m guessing that many former Michiganders used the package to watch the Tigers, including some who can’t get satellite TV. How does this affect you? Even if it doesn’t, what’s your feeling on it?

For what it’s worth, I don’t have satellite TV where I live. So it affects me, but it’s not going to be a huge loss from a selfish standpoint. I used to subscribe through cable but gave that up last year and went with the MLB.TV package only, since I was traveling so much during the season that I wasn’t home watching enough games to justify it. It was an adjustment, but watching the games online turned out OK. I didn’t appreciate when they tried to show some HD broadcasts on a mis-sized screen, leaving the whole picture stretched out vertically, but that seemed to happen less often as the season went on. It’s not as quick switching from game to game, since the broadcast has to be buffered on the online player.

When everything works (and mind you, I’m somewhat biased here), it’s pretty good, and it was the way I kept up with the AL Central race down the stretch. I’m hoping they come up with a way to put the broadcasts in the corner of the screen and leave them on top of other applications so you can multi-task while you’re watching.

TigerFest at Comerica Park

How many of you had a chance to go to TigerFest on Saturday? I was indoors in the media area for most of the time (wimpy, I know), but I ventured down to the concourse quite a few times since MLB.com had a booth down there. It was cold, no doubt — really cold when the event first started — but once the sun was up over the stands and there was a good crowd inside, it didn’t feel too bad. I thought they did a pretty good of using the space they had to put a lot of activities inside, though I can imagine it must’ve been tough to try to figure out who was signing autographs where. If any of you were there, what did you think of having it at the CoPa?

More on Sheffield

Lots of cheers for the returning Tigers on Wednesday, but Sheffield was the primary story and a very good interview. As I wrote in my story for the site, he’s an outspoken personality. But I don’t think he’s going to be a distraction for the Tigers. If anything, I think he can benefit this club because he knows how to deal with attention.

I couldn’t get all of Sheffield’s quotes from the caravan stops in the stories, but here are a few others:

On leadership: "I don’t see myself as a leader yet, because I haven’t gotten in the locker room and gotten to know the personalities. One thing people have to realize is when I come into a locker room, I don’t ask for any of this [role]. Guys gravitate to me because I’m open. You can approach me. I don’t put myself on a celebrity status where I go dress over here and everybody else dresses over there. I do everything with the guys. I play jokes with guys. A lot of writers might not see it, but I’m just like one of [the other players]. I think that’s where my leadership comes from."

On watching the Tigers from afar: "Obviously everybody in the league knew they had a great pitching staff and they were becoming a great team. And as the season went on, they became that great team. Now, going forward, it’s pretty much the same team with the addition of myself. Hopefully I can just add to the pieces."

On his goals as a home-run hitter: "My goal is always in the 30s. I know that I can reach 40 home runs, somewhere in that range, but I’m always consistent in the area of the 30s. If I can do that, I’ve done my job, but the main thing here for us is to win championships."

On his book: "It’s an inspirational book. I looked at a lot of guys’ books, and a lot of it is all about baseball and what their experiences were when they were in a 3-2 situation, things like that. I think my book is more along the lines of when you’re going through certain situations, what is your mindset and how you get out of it. It’s inspirational to younger people."

It must be winter caravan time …

when you’re hitting the road thinking about jersey numbers that go with the temperature readings outside, and the jersey numbers are either infielders or catchers. It’s either Lance Parrish or Vance Wilson cold as I leave home this morning. But at least you’re thinking baseball. Off we go.

Sheffield autobiography

Here’s the link to the NY Times article on Sheffield’s upcoming autobiography. It goes into more topics and more detail than the wire story, on denying steroid use and other topics. Here’s one cutout from Ben Shpigel’s article:

According to the book, after agreeing to train with Bonds in Northern California after the 2001 season, Sheffield grew tired of Bonds’s uncompromising control over their workout routine. He nevertheless agreed when Bonds said he would give him “vitamins” from the Balco founder Victor Conte Jr. Sheffield said that Conte gave the vitamins to Greg Anderson, Bonds’s trainer, who gave them to him.

As he acknowledged during testimony before the Balco grand jury, Sheffield said that he rubbed cream on his knee after surgical stitches popped out while working out. Sheffield said that Anderson gave him “some cream that’ll heal you up in a hurry,” but he went to a doctor anyway.

“My understanding was that the cream was no different from the Neosporin you buy at Rite Aid. Only it worked quicker,” Sheffield said. “It did work fast. It healed me in about a week.”

As far as how much of a distraction the book could be, time will tell. What was mentioned in the article really isn’t different from what he has said in the past. It’ll keep him in the headlines for a while longer in NY, but that might be it. At least now you have something to do with that bookstore gift card you received for Christmas.

The buffet line starts in RF

Nothing new on the Tigers front today, so if you missed it, I’ll leave you with this new chapter in ballpark marketing: All-you-can-eat concessions with your ticket to a Dodgers game. From the L.A. Times (registration required):

A ticket to the right-field pavilion — at $35 in advance and $40 ongame day — will entitle fans to an endless supply of ballpark staples,
including hot dogs, peanuts and soda but excluding beer, which hasn’t
been sold in the pavilion for years. The Dodgers tested the concept
several times last season.

"The fans really liked it," spokeswoman Camille Johnston said. "We know it’s a good option for groups."

Good option for groups. A potential adventure for individuals.

Tigers radio

Look for the Tigers to announce their much-rumored radio deal in the next few days. The arrangement with CBS Radio is expected to involve both WXYT-AM 1270 and WKRK-FM 97.1 locally, giving the Tigers a clearer signal in Detroit while still giving them an all-sports station to package and promote the games. AM 1270 has its first Inside Tigertown show scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. The on-air tandem of Dan Dickerson and Jim Price will remain the same, with Dickerson and Dan Petry doing Inside Tigertown.

Interestingly, the Orioles announced their move to FM – also with a CBS Radio affiliate – on Monday after 19 years on WBAL-AM. The Pirates announced last fall they’re moving their games from superstation KDKA (where they’d been since 1955) to WDVE-FM, operated by Clear Channel. The Braves have had the AM/FM arrangement for a while. So there’s definitely a trend.

Jason Johnson to pitch in Japan

One former teammate the Tigers will not face is Jason Johnson, who according to FOXSports.com has signed a one-year contract with the Seibu Lions. He’ll be trying to help the Lions replace Daisuke Matsuzaka. Much as he could struggle at times with the Tigers, I’m not sure how many people imagined he’d bounce around three teams last year.

Footnote on Gomez/Perez

If there were any lingering questions about whether the Tigers tried to re-sign Alexis Gomez, the answer was that they couldn’t. Talking with Dave Dombrowski, the road block was that because of Gomez’s situation, where the Tigers signed him back in August and then took him off the roster last month after the Rule 5 draft, the Tigers couldn’t have re-signed him until March 15. So they effectively had no shot at bringing him back.

As for Perez, he’s expected to serve as insurance and start at Triple-A. Part of his value is that he can play all three outfield spots. At this point, barring any more moves, it would be very difficult for the Tigers to fit in a reserve outfielder besides Marcus Thames, who isn’t likely to be traded.