Hey, it's raining in Chicago

As I had mentioned before, I’m helping out on MLB.com’s coverage of the Rays-White Sox series. As many of you no doubt know, the series turns to Chicago, where the Tigers had rain delays or postponements almost every day they were here this season. No exaggeration, it rained more days than not over the Tigers’ four trips here — the last trip, of course, for the makeup game following back-to-back rainouts in mid-September.

My spirits were bright on Saturday, when I came to the park for the off-day workout with sunny weather on a beautiful fall day in the Windy City. The forecast was iffy for today, but there was optimism that it would stay dry. The sun was out this morning, after all. They were even able to get in batting practice for the White Sox this afternoon. Some sprinkles started falling around the time the White Sox were wrapping up, but maybe it was a passing shower.

Sure enough, I’m in the press box looking down at a field covered by that familiar red tarp while a steady rain comes out. It’s like one of those deja-vu moments, like you know you’ve lived this before.

19 Comments

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d love to see a Rays-Angels ALCS. Baseball played as it’s meant to be played.
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Bringing forward the Leyland comments from GK on the previous thread. I can only speak for myself, GK, but I wasn’t much of a JL fan from day one. I thought Trammell got hosed with his firing, then JL was given the gift of Verlander and Zumaya. The “loveable ol’ coot” act is interesting for a short time only. Dan, I want to extend full credit to you for coming up with that term, as it’s become a classic on this blog. Anyway, Carlos Pena was cut too soon, IMO, to be replaced by a guy who was also cut, Shelton. So began the confusion. Even this spring, we have Tim Byrdak who had supposedly made the team and was working on his pitching as he should be, only to find himself cut too. But getting back on point, I never thought this guy was great guns as a manager.
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JL gets a lot of attention for his “legendary” explosion in April of 2006, which supposedly got the team going. I disagree. We flew to Oakland and lost the next game before blowing them out in game 2, behind Rogers. Game 3 was the turning point of the season, in my eyes. We came from behind in the 9th behind Inge’s 15(?) pitch AB and a timely hit from Alexis Gomez, and that’s what started the roll. Yes, chemistry came out of that game. Chemistry. Something JL blows off. That season was a celebration of timely hits and luck, all the way to the stretch run. I think Trammell would have enjoyed the same results myself. I doubt Tram would have continued to plug Neifi Perez into game after game while Omar Infante sat there. Omar had a .293 season with Atlanta this year, BTW. I won’t go into the weird pitching selections for the WS, and this year’s decision making has been well documented here.
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Personally, I think JL is too soft on his players, and they’re not motivated other than their own self-motivation.
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I haven’t turned on him. I was never impressed in the first place.
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–Rich

I agree with you Rich on all points. I liked Carlos Pena. I liked his background and upbringing. If that sounds weird, my point is that he is a lot like Curtis. They are both intelligent and thoughtful type players and individuals, credits to their teams. I guess Carlos just struck out too many times and maybe he won’t ever hit for high average but he has very good power and was a good first baseman as I recall. They gave up too soon on him.
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Tram got hosed (he did the crap work, JL got the credit)……check.
Omar was twice the player Neifi was. We could all see that pretty clearly………check.
JL’s insistence on starting JV in the WS was wrong. He played some kind of hunch over the obvious hot hand in Rogers……check.
Byrdak deserved better. Another good story……check please.
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Yep, we agree.

Hey GK, you are right, JL is only the manager. The players have to go out and play. He can’t play for them. Unfortunately, and fortunately for the managers, they take the criticism for poor play, but they also get to take credit when the team does well.
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The irony is that Tram was fired after the 05 season for having a very similar year to the one the Tigers just had. Had they won 8-10 more games maybe he would have kept his job. You could argue that he didn’t have the same talent on his team either. Magglio was there but he was injured much of 05 with the hernia surgery and there was something else too I can’t seem to recall. So now JL remains the manager for having one very good season followed by two digressive seasons of increased losses. Is it fair? or does it make sense?
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Actually I like JL. He is a “lovable ol coot” after all. Seriously, I think he must be a pretty decent guy in general. My impression is that he is very generous with fans, he takes time to chat and give autographs. He’s personable. And I think he is respected as a knowledgeable baseball mind by his peers. But over the last 3 years I have found myself disagreeing with him on many decisions he makes. Not that my ideas mean anything, but I do disagree with him a lot. I think a lot of us here have.
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One thing in his defense, with the pitching this team had in 08, I doubt many managers could have done any better than JL.

Cannot believe that the stupid Red Soxs are moving on. Anyone but them please baseball gods.????? It still kills me to see Sean Casey in a Red Soxs uniform.
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Tim Byrdak was unfortunate really unfortunate. He didn’t do well and wasn’t given the chance and while he started out hot in Houston I don’t believe he finished well. Still better than almost anything we had that is for sure. What if we would of had Chad Durbin back?
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I think that JL should get the benefit of one more year. But like I said I don’t know exactly what everyone wanted him to do??? And for that matter not one of us knows what did or did not happen in that clubhouse?? To me on the bench it looked like guys who got along, where as some insisted that it was toxic in there. I don’t know?? And whether at times we would of liked Santiago play or whomever the lower priced player I just don’t think that you can do that on a regular basis. It is also a business and you cannot sit regularly men making millions over a guys making much less. You hav got to try to get the millionaire out of his funk. I watch other teams and when Big Poppy was scuffling most of the year he wasn’t benched. And I can come up with other examples as well but you get my point. You have got to give the higher paid guy more at bats whether we like it or not. Again just my opinion, what do I know.

Hey guys,

Long time no post. Interesting comments… though– and don’t jump on me right away– I’d say some of the comments could fall into the “revisionist history” box. (one example: Pena was a nice guy but a bum for a looooong time. hard to criticize that move in hindsight.)

Rather than try to address the various comments regarding Leyland head on, let me see if I can establish some consensus points. I think we can all agree on the following statements:
– This year was really frustrating. (not worded hearly strongly enough)
– The Tigers have some great pieces for the future: namely Granderson, Verlander, Porcello (maybe reaching a bit), and Cabrera.
– The Tigers have some aging superstars whose time may be up or will be soon: Sheffield, Ordonez, Guillen, Polanco (not so old), and Renteria to name a few.
– The Tigers have a lot of questionable pieces: Larrish, Robertson, Rodney, Zumaya, Inge, Matt Joyce, Brent Clevlen, Dontrelle Willis, Bonderman, Santiago, Raburn, Dusty Ryan.

I guess my point is this: We can look back at the past trades (the toughest to swallow for me is the Renteria/Jurrjens trade) but when you look at the big picture over the past three years, the progress– despite this disappointing season– is really staggering. Assuming the health of the superstars at the top, we have a reasonable expectation of having a competitive team for the next 10 years. That is pretty amazing and we need to keep that progress is mind.

As far as Leyland is concerned, I have honestly been disappointed in him this year but I question whether it is his fault. The Tigers are paying a ton of money to the aging superstars listed above and despite our preference to see others play, its not cut and dried who should play over Renteria, Guillen, and Sheffield. I know I’d argue that the Tigers would have been a much better team with Thames playing left field, Santiago starting at short, Inge at third and Guillen DHing with Sheffield bounced out on his nose but I don’t have to worry about the financial ramifications of such moves. Furthermore, while these are my opinions, I know others will argue that Inge is a bum, Santiago can’t play every day, and Thames is at best a platoon player. Simply put: the decisions aren’t cut and dried.

However, while I’ve been disappointed in Leyland this past season, I do know that the Tigers have made major progress as an organization these past three years and I think that he’s played an important role in that progress. As far as next year/the future for Leyland, if the Tigers have a bad year next year, its very clear that Leyland won’t be back. (he probably won’t survive the season.)

I think the goals should be pretty clear for this offseason including:
1) Decide what holes can be filled by the questionable players listed above.
2) Decide what holes to fill with free agents.
3) Convince Sheffield to retire (sorry, couldn’t help myself.)
4) Hope and pray to God that the Tigers pitchers remember how to get guys out.

Assuming that #4 comes true and the front office doesn’t bungle the first two points, we should be very competitive next year. In the end– isn’t that all we want?

That’s all for me now. I’m cheering for the Rays the rest of the way…

PS– it could be worse…. we could be Cubs fans :)

Great posts lately guys. Point #4 above to me is the most crucial thing – we pitched horrible this year and nothing will get better until the pitching staff gets better.

Isn’t it crazy that guys getting paid more money and producing less still get to play? Brent, I get what you are saying, there is probably much more behind having to play these guys, but as regular people it is so frustrating. it reminds me of part of a movie I saw the other day about an open tryout for a football team and a local boy went and tried out and made the team and the guys with big contracts were not happy about it.

But – I still think player contracts need to be held to certain parameters barring injury – like a certain dollar amount for so many years, but if your batting average falls below .220 then you get dinged for it.

I have a hard time watching baseball teams I am not rooting for, so haven’t watched much lately, but I’ll root for the Rays, like to see the underdog come out on top!

I may not even watch the ALCS since the Red Sox are there again. I just find their games boring and annoying.
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I did want to touch on last night’s game, if anyone watched it. We had a scoreless tie in the 5th, I think it was. Boston with men on 1st and 3rd, one out. The pitcher gets the DP grounder but the secondbaseman bobbles it. Instead of an inning-ending doubleplay, he recovers the ball and throws out the guy at first for a fielder’s choice, so no error. It is, however, one of those plays not made. There should really be a stat on this type of thing. So not only does the first run score, the next hitter knocks in a second run. All because of a PNM.
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This kind of thing must have cost the Tigers 15 games this year, if not more, and may have added a full run to the team ERA. There’s no way of knowing for sure. Of all the team sports, baseball is the one where defense is underrated the most. I can look back to the three best infields the Tigers had in my lifetime. You’ve got the 1972 quartet of Aurelio Rodriguez, Eddie Brinkman, Dick McAuliffe, and Norm Cash. Then there’s the 1984 and 1987 teams with Tom Brookens, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, and Dave Bergman/Darrell Evans. All three of these clubs won their division.
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I’m glad to hear Dombrowski talking about the defense now. It’s imperative to tighten that up.
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–Rich

Rich,

I thought the same thing when I watched that game. As I was rooting for the Angels, it felt like a Tigers game with that botched play. And it ended up being a one run decision…..

-Tracey

Some belated thank you’s now that the pain of the season past is starting to slowly recede.
Special thank you to you Jason for this forum – great that you are not a player – I enjoy seeing the Rays win (other than against the Tigers) and their equivalent site with Carlos Pena is just not the same – way too polite and not open enough.
Thank you Dan for your ongoing comments and humour – your entries are always insightful, entertaining and with passion. Likewise Rich – the Blog guru.
Special thanks to the girls – great to read your comments amongst the armchair experts us males like to think ourselves as.
I am not a Detroit native, far from it, so wish you all well – the Lions are unfortunately going to make it a long winter for you.
Hopefully the soul searching seemingly going on with DD continues and we get some good trades and young prospects on board for 2009.
Cheers everyone!!

2009 Predictions:

Clev, KC, Detroit +5,

Minn even,

Chisox -5,

Final Standings:

Minn 88-74
Clev 86-76
Chisox 83-79
KC 80-82
Det 79-83

here’s my predicition:
KC and Chisox battle for the cellar– I think Chicago’s pitchers overperformed this year and their lineup is really aging. Instead, I see Detroit, Cleveland, and Minnesota duking it out next year. Minnesota scares me: I think they grow baseball fundamentals in all their lakes up there. Still, I see the Tigers getting much improved starting pitching (Verlander 20 wins, Bonderman and Galaragga 15 wins, and the rest of the starters are solid) and think that the moves made over the Winter to shore up the Defense, bullpen, and infusing the lineup with youngsters in key spots and relying heavily on Cabrera/Granderson and a surprisingly strong Ordonez/Polanco… the Tigers finish with 92 wins and Central division championship. They bring up Rick Porcello in September and he becomes a key cog in the bullpen, helping the Tigers immensely…

There’s my glass half full prediction for next year… Let’s hope it comes true.

Well, it’s kind of hard to make predictions when we don’t know the composition of next year’s team yet, but I will make one: I think Bonderman is going to be a monster next season. I think he gets his fastball back up into the 94-95 mph range and that makes his slider a killer. I also think his challenges this year will make him a stronger person.
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We’ve pretty much decided here to make another visit to spring training next year, because that was a whole lot of fun this past March.
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Dave, thanks for the kind words. You also bring up a good point in that many of the MLB team sites don’t have someone like Jason who spends his own time in making this blog available to us. That’s going above and beyond.
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Jason, are you doing anymore postseason work this year for MLB?
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–Rich

Respect your positive outlook Brent, but I don’t think so. Tigers are going to win 18 more games than they did this year? I don’t see how.
Bonderman had basically the same injury that Rogers did and Kenny was never any good after that. Wouldn’t count too heavily on him. Verlander, never did right the ship. Even his last win was a 5 inning, high pitch count struggle. Penciling him in for 20 is really hopeful. But I guess it’s good to have hope.
Who are these other two “solid” starters? Nate the Great has always been a favorite of mine, but he’s absolutely done and shouldn’t be allowed to appear in anything but “mop up duty”. Really, it would be a shame to have him take some kids roster spot. Certainly you’re not counting on D-Train?
Also, if any of you are optimistic, I’d like to hear how we plan to turn around one of the worst divisional records in baseball. Don’t we have like nearly half of our games against those four teams? I know, Jimmy’s going to conjugate on that over the off-season. James you’re an old dog and I assume if you knew any new tricks, you’d have used them in 2008.
Afraid we will only be marginally better in 2009 but it won’t be quite as frustrating because expectations are shot. I hope you guys are right and I’m wrong.

To clarify, Bonderman had the same surgery that Rogers had in 2001. For the next five seasons following Kenny’s surgery, he averaged a 15-8 record with a 4.10 ERA and 203 innings per year, making the All-Star team three consecutive seasons. All this in his late 30s and early 40s. I have high hopes for Bondo.
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Good game in Philly tonight. That’s a great ballpark they play in, albeit somewhat small dimensionally. Anybody that can should take in a game there someday. And Philadelphia is an interesting and fun city to visit, too.
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I may compromise and watch only the ALCS games played in Tampa Bay. I’ve seen so many TV games at Fenway Park that I’m beginning to recognize the season ticketholders on sight. :-)
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–Rich

Rich I know what you mean about the season ticket holders at Fenway. There is a guy that we have noticed that sits right behind homeplate. He doesn’t show any expression, doesn’t seem to ge too high or low. We crack up everytime we see him. (He has blondish hair).
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Go Rays.
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I also agree about Bondo, I think that we have every reason to believe that Bondo could go back to 2006 form. I remember Kenny told him that he pitched and felt better after he had the surgery.

What can I say? I’m a hopeless optimist. :)

Rich– I’ll second the comments on Citizens Bank Park in Philly– a very fun stadium to take in a game. The park itself is great but the fans really make it: they’re cranky and knowledgeable and they’ll boo their grandmother. I’m not usually a fan of the boo birds but when you’re as enthusiastic as Philly fans, its somehow enjoyable. Fun game last night too… here’s hoping the Rays can get to Dice-K early…

Sorry, was referring to Rogers 2007 surgery which is basically very similar to the Bondo procedure. I forgot about the 2001 surgery. Perhaps it’s not fair of me to compare the two as Bonderman is so much younger and hopefully will heal faster and better. However, it’s got to be a heck of a deal to go thru and I think suggests being cautious about his prospects in 2009.

In general, this time around I’m going to be extremely careful about drinking the kool-aid regarding a JL led team. They’re not getting me again this year, the crash and fall are too painful and make me a miserable person.

Yeah I know, JT. I was comparing the surgeries from the standpoint of the rib removal procedures. But it’s all guessing by us, I just decided Bonderman would be the one prediction I’d go out on a limb to make. I’d love to be right about that. Avoiding the kool-aid is very wise, very wise indeed.
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Jason has an article on the main site about Freddie Garcia. Sounds like he really wants to come here, so this bears watching. I’d have quite a bit of confidence in a healthy Chief out there.
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Anybody see Chad Durbin sitting in the Phillies’ bullpen? We could have used him this year.
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Regarding the Boston fans, I’ve named that one guy Jerry Springer, and a few seats to his left is Denny Crane (William Shatner). The one that looks like Stephen King is, of course. :-) There’s also a guy in Chicago that I’ve seen for some years. Do we watch too much baseball or what?
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–Rich

R6-
It’s funny that you named that guy Jerry Springer because it’s actually Jeremy Kapstein a Special VP of the Red Sox. I met him when I used to work for Pawtucket their AAA team (no big deal, I was an usher). He’s actually a really nice guy. What a job he has as kind of the eyes and ears of the owners at the ball park. Near as I can figure, one of his main jobs is to go to all the home games and kind of be a liason between the fans and ownership. Some guys have all the luck.

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