Twins vs. Tigers: Who Do Sox Fans Cheer For?

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By Soxman

Two teams, one game, and the winner moves on to the postseason while the loser goes home for the winter.  Sox fans know this scenario oh too well as we needed the famous “blackout play-in game” in 2009 to earn our central division crown.  For Twins fans, it is as Yogi Berra says, “dejvu all over again!” So as the Twin vs. Tigers game on Tuesday approaches, several perplexing questions are likely peculating through White Sox fans minds:twins_logo

Who do I cheer for?  Is it wrong be interested in this game at all?  To pick a side?  Can I cheer for my enemy and still be called a Sox fan? As Hawk Harrelson would say:  “YEEEEAAASSS.” Before you read my pick, understand a couple of  things.

First, while I’m a diehard Sox fan, I’m also a fanatic of the game of baseball…period.  A tiebreaker represents all that is exciting in this game, even if a team only needs 87 wins to reach the postseason. Second, there is no right or wrong answer in this equation.  That’s the beauty of the game. Let’s examine some points of debate:

The “ex” Sox factor
The Tigers have Magglio Ordonez and former coaches Jim Leyland and Gene Lamont. “O wee OOOO…MAGGGLIO,” left Chicago via the Scott Boras express, and the perception among Sox fans was he used the Sox to get a better offer from the Tigers.  It was the first shot heard ’round the Cell, that the Sox would refuse to play ball with Boras. The Twins have Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Orlando Cabrera and World Series Hero Joe Crede. Crede was a “Don’t Stop Believin” voice of the 2005 World Champion Sox.
Advantage:  Twins.


The Underdog Factor

Often synonymous with payroll, this year there is even more at play.  The Twins will be without their best power hitter Justin Morneau, and defensive stalwart Joe Crede, who both are out with back issues. The Tigers are without Dontrelle Willis and Joel Zumaya. Team Payroll?  Detroit has the 5th highest in baseball at just over $115 million. The Twins rank 24th at about $65.3 million. Advantage:  Twins

The Economy
With the flaying automobile industry and a depressed economy, Detroit has been referred to as a city “that needs the play-offs” as an emotional shot in the arm. Opponents argue, the Detroit Red Wings domination should be plenty.  People then counter argue with the Detroit Lions. Seriously though, according to a 2007 census study, Michigan has a 12% poverty rate, while Minnesota has an 8.1% poverty rate. Advantage:  Tigers

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Always the Bridesmaid Factor

While the Tigers won the AL Pennant in 2006, they did it as the AL wildcard team and have never won an A.L. Central Title since the 1998 realignment. The Tigers last won the World Series in 1984, their 4th in team history. The Twins have won the AL Central 4 times since 1998. They last won the World Series in 1991, their third in team history. Advantage: Twins by numbers, Tigers by Underdog Factor.

The Sox Hate Factor
This is pure opinion here.  I hate the Metrodome as a Sox fan because of our record there.  I hate the Metrodome as a baseball fan, as it’s a horrible place to watch a game.  I respect the Metrodome as an outsider because of the electric advantage it gives the Twins.
Detroit Tiger fans invade U.S. Cellular Field at a far greater rate and with a higher rate of irritability than Twins fans do.
Advantage: Tie

For me, its always about the underdog, or the little guy.  I’ve got to go with the Minnesota Twins.  With a total team salary that is 45% less than their opponent, and two of their better players injured, it’s amazing they made it this far.  Say it is so Joe…Crede that is. So for now….big gulp….larger swallow…Go Twins!  At least it’s not the Cubs.

And as Sox fans we can always say that we helped the Twins get there by taking 4 of 6 from the Tigers to end the season. To Twins Fan and Sportsbank Writer Peter Christian, remember who said your team would be here in August?  You can remember me in the Call Outs. Now that all the information has been presented to you, who are you cheering for Sox fans?

Tigers must buck expectations to sew this pennant up

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By H. Jose Bosch

Thank you Ozzie Guillen.

Thanks to your tirade, not only are we blessed with another great sound bite, but you also fired up your club enough to win the series finale and keep the American League Central pennant “race” alive.

And let’s be honest, this isn’t a race as much as it’s two teams trying desperately to be the first one to hit the golf course this offseason. During this last month of the season I can’t help but think of the South Park episode — The Losing Edge — where South Park and all the other Little League teams try to lose so that they can enjoy their summer.
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Are the Tigers so sick of playing that they’d rather lose on purpose for comfy couches and college football? Well, no, obviously. They’re trying, despite what their results show. But trying doesn’t mean anything if there is 1 in the loss column at the end of the day. (I’ve filled my hokey coach speak quote of the day)

Detroit now has seven straight home games to end the season, the next four against the Twins, who stand just two tiny games back behind Detroit.

The good news is that the Tigers have played well at home all season. And three wins during the series would clinch the division title. The bad news is we’re relying on the Tigers to do just that, win when it matters and put this title away.

Nothing from this season has shown me Detroit can put this division away during this one series. Not that the Tigers don’t have the talent to win. But if Detroit sews this pennant up, it probably won’t be until the last two days of the season.

My heart says the Tigers will take the first three games and the rest won’t matter because they’ll be bathing in Champaign. But my head says Detroit will go 2-2 during this series and will need to clinch against Chicago on the weekend.

This post also appears at Michigan and Trumbull.

RIP Tiger Stadium: 1912-2009

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By H. Jose Bosch

Tiger Stadium, which stood watch at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull for nearly a century, will most likely be laid to rest today or tomorrow.

All that remains is a portion of the lower deck wall at the corner of Cochrane and Michigan.

The official age of death will be 97.

The corner of Michigan and Trumbull, known as Bennett Park, became the Tigers’ first home on April 28, 1896 — a 17-2 win over the Columbus Senators.

On September 24, 1896, Bennett Park became the site of Detroit’s first night baseball game when the team’s owner George Arthur Vanderbeck had workers string up lights above the stadium.

Bennett Park officially became a Major League park in 1901 and in 1907 and 1908 the field famously became the location where the Cubs clinched their last two World Series. The Tigers played their final season at Bennett Park in 1911.

Following that season the Tigers had acquired the rest of the block, demolished the “wildcat” bleachers beyond the left field fence, and reoriented the field by 90 degrees with the new home plate standing in the old left field corner.

On April 20, 1912, Navin Field was born and the orientation of the field and stadium would remain the same throughout the rest of the 20th century.

1935-wsIn 1935 the new owner, Walter Briggs, oversaw the expansion of Navin Field, increasing the seating capacity from 23,000 to 36,000. During that same year the Tigers won their first World Series, defeating the Chicago Cubs 4-2 and clinching the title in font of a capacity crowd at Navin Field.

Three years later, in 1938, the left field was double-decked to increase the capacity to 53,000 and the stadium was renamed Briggs Stadium. This was also the year the Detroit Lions began playing its games on the same grounds as the Tigers. Football was played at Michigan and Trumbull until 1974.

Briggs Stadium saw its second World Series championship in 1940 when the Tigers lost to the Cincinnati Reds in seven games and its first All Star Game in 1941. The series came back in 1945. The stadium hosted games 1-3 and Detroit went 1-2. But the Tigers became a part of Cubs lore once again when it went 3-1 the rest of the series and clinched the title in the last World Series game ever to be played in Wrigley Field.

The All Star Game came back to Detroit in 1951 and the National League won 8-3.

In 1961 the Tigers’ new owner John Fetzer renamed the stadium for the final time, giving it its most famous moniker, Tiger Stadium. That year was also one of the few times a team has won over 100 games without making the postseason. The Tigers, with 101 wins, finished eight games behind the Yankees.

The name Tiger Stadium wouldn’t see its first World Series until 1968 when Detroit battled the heavily favored St. Louis Cardinals. Detroit hosted games 3-5. For the first two games of the home stand Detroit’s fortunes were grim as the Tigers lost by a combined score of 17-4 and trailed 3-1 in the series.

But it was during that game five in Detroit that the momentum changed with the help of Willie Horton and Bill Freehan. The Cardinals had raced to a 3-0 lead and in the fifth inning Lou Brock doubled and St. Louis brockplaythreatened to break the game open. But following a single to Horton in left, Brock tried to score from second and was thrown out at the plate — thanks to a great block by Freehan — ending the rally and possibly saving the series. Detroit eventually won the game and the series for its third world championship.

By the 1970s Tiger Stadium was showing its age and the team and city decided to give the park a face lift. But before the park was changed, Detroit hosted its final All Star Game at Tiger Stadium in 1971. It was during this game that Reggie Jackson famously hit a home run off the light towers, estimated to be 520 feet from home plate. It was also Roberto Clemente’s final appearance in an All Star Game.

The Tigers won the American League East pennant in 1972 but the quality of play declined after that. In 1977 the old green wooden chairs were replaced by plastic blue and orange ones and the stadium itself was repainted blue to match the seats.

gibsonThe World Series came back to Detroit during that season as the Tigers squared off against the Padres. Detroit clinched the series in Game 5, at Tiger Stadium. Kirk Gibson provided the series’ exclamation point with a three-run homerun in the eighth.

The Tigers came close to another World Series in 1987 but fell short in the American League Championship series against the Minnesota Twins. On October 12, 1987, Detroit lost to the Twins 9-5 in what was Tiger Stadium’s final postseason game.

In 1992 new owner, Mike Illitch made more improvements to the stadium by adding the Tiger Den — a section between first and third on the lower level with padded seats — and Tiger Plaza — an outdoor concession area built in the old players’ parking lot.

Unfortunately the improvements were only cosmetic as the team itself played poorly for the rest of Tiger Stadium’s lifetime.

The final game at Tiger Stadium was played September 27, 1999. The Tigers defeated the Royals 8-2 and Robert Fick notched Tiger Stadium’s final homerun, hit and RBI with his eighth-inning grand slam off the right field roof. The ball was retrieved by Tiger personnel but its whereabouts are unknown.rob_fick

As are the whereabouts of Robert Fick.

In 2000, Tiger Stadium was the filming location for the HBO move *61 and played itself and Yankee Stadium for the movie. One year later, on July 24, 2001, the stadium hosted a Great Lakes Summer Collegiate Game between the Motor City Marauders and the Lake Erie Monarchs. It was the final time a baseball game of any kind was played at the corner.

The Tigers sponsored a fantasy camp in July 2002 in what was the final baseball-related public event held in the stadium.

On February 4 and 5, 2006, Tiger Stadium hosted Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Bowl 2006 as a part of the festivities for Super Bowl XL. It was the final time a public event of any kind was held in the stadium.

Since then the stadium has been standing dormant at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, slowly but surely rotting and crumbling.

Its final fate was decided long ago but today the remaining physical vestiges of the stadium will be torn down. Rather than a rotting ball park, the corner of Michigan and Trumbull will now just be a large empty lot.

tiger_stadium_6-562x384Both scenarios are pretty depressing for Metro Detroiters.

Throughout the entire debate over whether or not to keep the stadium I always had a soft spot for Tiger Stadium and those who wanted to preserve it. I’m a traditionalist and love old historical buildings.

I’ve been to Wrigley Field and Fenway Park and fell in love with the history of both. My first Major League baseball game, the only time my dad caught a foul ball and the only time I’ve been on a jumbo screen are among the many memories I associate with Tiger Stadium. I would’ve loved to see it have the same fortune as Fenway or Wrigley but, unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

As much as I wanted to see the park standing, I couldn’t defend allowing it to rot the way it was.

So, for the final time, I want to say goodbye Tiger Stadium.

Goodbye.

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This post also appears on the blog Michigan and Trumbull.

Detroit Tigers’ midseason report

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By H. Jose Bosch

Unlike Miss America 2008 — Michigan-native and first pitch thrower outer Kirsten Haglund — the Tigers have managed to be in first place without looking pretty. Granted, it’s like being the one-eyed man in the land of the blind, but I’m not one to complain about first place.

The starting pitching has been solid, the bullpen has been holding together and even though the offense isn’t as explosive as the last first-place team (2006) it has gotten the job done up to this point. Since the Tigers haven’t reached astronomical highs like they did in the first half of 2006, maybe their second half will be better.

miguel_cabrera1First half MVP: Miguel Cabrera (.321 BA, .384 OBP, 18 HR, 50 RBI, 31 walks, 50 strikeouts)
I could have gone with Brandon Inge since he has more home runs and RBIs and he’s an all star this year while Cabrera is not. But Miggy is hitting much better than Inge, striking out less and has been a better fielder statistically. Inge is an excellent fielder and he is clearly a better athlete, but Cabrera plays his position better than people give him credit for and he hasn’t made too many goofs this season. As for the offensive numbers, if Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco weren’t having off years (for them) Cabrera might have 70 RBIs. If those two have better second halves and Marcus Thames stays healthy, look out. Cabrera cooled down quite a bit after storming out of the gate, but my goodness if I performed at life like this after “cooling off” well I’d be at the New York Times already. Hehehe … (turns into uncontrollable sobbing).

inge2Most improved player: Brandon Inge (.268 BA, .360 OBP, 21 HR, 58 RBI, 35 walks, 85 strikeouts)
If you can’t be the best player, there is nothing wrong with being the most improved. At the break last season Inge was still not hitting well (.220) and had considerably less pop in his bat (7 HR, 23 RBI). Now you could make the case that if Inge’s improvement coincided with Detroit’s than he really is the most valuable player of the first half. I’m not going to buy that. Regardless, Inge has done a great job so far this season. He could have a year similar to his career best in 2006. Even though the Tigers aren’t going to live and die by his bat, having that pop near the bottom of the order in the second half is going to be a major help.

Biggest strength: Starting pitching
Two all stars and a rookie-of-the-year candidate in the starting rotation make life a living hell for opponents on most nights. Detroit is third in the American League in team ERA and has held hitters to a .259 BA (fifth-best in the league). The starting pitchers, particularly Nos. 1-3, have a major hand in that.
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After a slow start Justin Verlander has been as dominant as any pitcher in the American League. He’s at the top of the strikeouts pile with 149 strikeouts, 18 better than the next highest pitcher. He is also one of just seven pitchers with 10 or more wins.

Edwin Jackson is walking fewer batters and giving up fewer hits than his career average. In fact, he has lowest WHIP (walks/hits per nine innings) in the American League. He also has the A.L.’s second-lowest ERA (2.52). With more run support Jackson would probably have at least as many wins as Verlander right now.

Rick Porcello was roughed up in his last two outings but received a long rest during the all-star break. His numbers are strong for a pitcher in his first full season with the big club (8-6, 4.14 ERA, 31 BB, 47 SO) and there is no reason to believe he can’t keep that up.

If the Tigers decide to make any majors moves, it could be to acquire a stronger No. 3 starter. Whatever happens, Nos. 1-3 are steering this ship. If Armando Galarraga pitches better in the second half, it’ll be icing on the cake.

Biggest weakness: Consistency
One look up and down the Tigers roster and I think this is a damn good team. There are places where Detroit could be better. I’d love to swap out Magglio Ordonez for a left-handed hitter with some pop. I wouldn’t mind acquiring stronger middle reliever to get to Rodney in the ninth. And the team could use a functional fifth starter. Heck I’d take a fifth starter period. Most of the time what Jim Leyland throws out on the mound in that place has been anything but a Major League starter. But not one of theses problems are so glaring that it could be considered the biggest weakness.

granderson1What will solve the Tigers’ problems is more consistent play. Ordonez has slowly turned his slow season around and if he, Placido Polanco and Curtis Granderson can get back to beig .300 hitters (even if they don’t finish the year over .300) the offense will be very formidable, even without a left-handed bat.

In terms of relief pitching, Leyland needs to trust one man in the 7th inning and stick with him. Brandon Lyon has done well after a rough start and he seems like the perfect guy to use in the 7th. I love Bobby Seay at the specialist role between the 6th and 7th inning. Joel Zumaya he needs to start mixing in his change up and slider and throwing them consistently well if he wants his fireball fastball to be effective.

As for the fifth starter, Leyland will have to be content with a parade of pitchers in that spot until the playoffs when a No. 5 starter doesn’t matter. As long as their collective numbers do well, it’ll be a non issue.

Final forecast: As I said earlier, this division is weak and no one, Detroit included, will run away before September. But the Tigers are just as competitive as the White Sox and Twins at the moment. If the stars keep playing like stars and the struggling few pick up their performances just a bit, Detroit can expect its first division championship since 1987.

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