May 2005

No hitter exhibit

The baseball from Eric Milton’s no-hitter against the Angels. Boring to look at, but it is the only no-hitter I have called in the big leagues.

Cooperstown

Doubleday Field, located next to the museum where the Tigers beat the Red Sox 6-4.

Georgia Peach

Ty Cobb display.

Roar of ’84

The Tigers 1984 season display featuring Jack Morris, Gibby, Tram, Lou, Lance and Evans.

With a great in front of all the greats

Standing with the Voice of Tigers Baseball, Ernie Harwell, in front of his plaque in the Ford C. Frick wing of the Hall.

Head Games

Ingy_2With Carlos Pena struggling so much this month, I decided to ask Brandon Inge how he handled his hitting slump two years ago when he was sent to the minor leagues. 

I asked him if he has talked to Pena to give him words of encouragement, but Brandon said that based on his experience, that might not be the best thing to do.  "The last thing I wanted was for everyone to say ‘Hey, hang in there, it will get better,’ because every time someone did, it reminded me of how bad I was."  In other words, you hear it so much that it becomes counter productive and it makes the situation worse.

Carnac Interestingly enough, Inge said what helped him the most to turn things around were sessions with the Tigers Performance Enhancement Instructor (read that psychologist) Brian Peterson.  Inge said in 2003 when things were going so badly, Peterson got him to change his mindset through visualization.  "He always stressed keeping things in the present," said Inge.  "Focus on what is happening in the present and don’t worry about what has happened in the past.  If you focus on what is happening right now, there are no negative thoughts from past failures on your mind."  Brandon, through his work with Peterson, adopted a pretty simple approach.  "All I think about is the pitcher, seeing the ball and hitting it off his forehead (he doesn’t actually want to mame anyone, just hit it back up the middle).  No mechanics enter my mind.  That is my visualization."

Brandon did admit that it is easier said than done, but once it clicks in it can be a very effective tool.  He also said it took him a while to approach Peterson, because nobody wants to admit they need a head doctor.

As for Pena, his teammates have been very supportive.  Every player has gone through a slump at one time or another.  In fact, usually multiple slumps.  Carlos just has to find a way to work out of his as quickly as possible.

With Pena struggling, many fans are calling for the promotion of Chris Shelton who is tearing up the International League.  At last check, Shelton was hitting .331 with 8 homeruns and 37 RBI.  While those are impressive numbers, there is still the issue of defense.  I think the feeling may be that he needs a little more time to improve his glove.

Hangin’ in the Hall

Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame is a national treasure that every baseball fan should experience at least once in their lives.  This season, the Tigers and Red Sox squared off in the annual exhibition game in Cooperstown.  For me, today was a day I won’t soon forget.  We did not telecast the game from Doubleday Field today, but our FSN crew was in Cooperstown to shoot some segments from the Hall for use in our Tigers Weekly and pregame shows.  The doors to the Hall of Fame opened at 9:00 am, but our crew was given access to the museum to shoot our segments before the doors opened to the public.  Joining us on this journey was 1981 inductee and Tigers Hall of Famer, Ernie Harwell.  Harwell_ernie

For my part, I spent a few minutes interviewing Ernie in the writers and broadcasters wing of the museum.  Ernie was also there to shoot about eleven other segments for future shows.  I learned today how truly talented Mr. Harwell is.  After we wrapped up our interview,  Ernie was whisked to different exhibits in the Hall where he would work his considerable magic.  "We need two minutes on Charlie Gehringer, Ernie."   Ernie would then, off the top of his head, tell a two minute story about Gehringer.  Two solid minutes of info you likely have never heard before.  He did this for about two hours, popping from exhibit to exhibit telling tales of the games greatest players.  It was truly amazing to watch.  None of these segments were scripted, all were spontaneous and add-libbed.  Here I was in the Hall of Fame, with Ernie Harwell and we had the run of the place all to ourselves.  I’m sure there are more than a few people that would have given almost anything to trade places. 

All of us who grew up in Detroit should realize how lucky we are to have had the opportunity to listen to Ernie.  He truly is a special person.  In fact there is no one like him.  There are twenty nine Ford C. Frick award winners in the broadcasting wing of the Hall, but in my mind, Ernie is the total package.  Keep in mind that Mr. Harwell went on to broadcast for twenty one years after he was inducted.  Impressive.

After we finished with Ernie, I took some time to wander the museum before doors opened.  One of the first exhibits I ran into was that of the Red Sox World Championship in 2004.  On display was Curt Schilling’s bloody sock from last year’s post season run.  After about 30 seconds, I was sufficiently creeped out and moved on, happy in the fact that I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet.

Favorite exhibits:  1984 Tigers World Series championship(naturally), and the Ty Cobb display.

Most bizarre:  The Angels’ Rally Monkey display.  Imagine that, The Rally Monkey is in the Hall of Fame, but Pete Rose isn’t. 

Ctown

As for the game, the Tigers won on a two-run, walk-off homer by minor leaguer Derek Nicholson who was called up for a day to play in the game.  Afterward, Gibby removed the lineup card from the dugout so he could give it to Nicholson as a lasting memory of his game winner.  And I thought I was having a good day.                                                                                                                           

Most impressive moment:  Dmitri Young hitting the roof of the house beyond the right field wall in the homerun hitting contest before the game.Dy  David Ortiz hit he most homers, a total of eight, but Dmitri’s was the most impressive.  Almost took out a window.

Maggs in the house

It was great to see Magglio Ordonez back in the Tigers clubhouse before Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay.  It has been three weeks since his surgery for a sports hernia and the original prognosis was for an 8-10 week recovery.  So, while Mags has plenty of recuperating to do, it was great just to see him walk around the clubhouse with a smile on his face.Mags   Dmitri young has had the surgery in the past and his advice was to take it slow.  Mags agrees.  "I’m going to take my time," he said.  "It’s something you can’t control.  You have to stay positive."  All he could really do was stand and watch during pregame stretch, but you could tell he was really happy just to put the uniform on.

Another Tiger on the DL is closer Troy Percival.  You don’t see him moping around the clubhouse.  In fact, he still rustles up a daily card game and is still very much a part of the clubhouse.  It’s not much fun being at the park if you can’t play, but Percival realizes there is much more to the game than what takes place on the field.  I’ve known Troy since he broke in with the Angels in the mid ’90’s.  He is the definition of a teammate.  Tuesday night during the telecast we showed Troy in the bullpen and in the dugout during the game.  He could easily have been in the clubhouse ten toes up watching the game on the big screen, but he’d rather be around his teammates.  Per

There is no question he has already had an impact on the relievers in the pen, but it doesn’t stop there.  Craig Monroe told us in Texas on the last trip that Percival, who lockers next to Craig, has taken the time to help him with how other relievers are apt to pitch him.  Not only do other pitchers benefit from being around Troy, but the young hitters do as well. 

There’s a whole lot of money sitting on the DL right now between Magglio and Troy, but the club has already gotten some return on it’s investment.  And, if things go well, it won’t be long before the payout increases.

Shrewd move, Dave

After watching Carlos Guillen play on a daily basis for over a year now, there is no question in my mind that he has been the Tigers MVP.  With another hit today, he stretched his hitting streak to 12 straight games.  It appears that a change of scenery has turned Guillen into a perennial all star.  After playng in the shadow of a lot of big name players in Seattle, he has become one of the leaders of a Tigers organization on the rise. Guillen

Credit the sharp insight of President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski for signing Guillen to a three year contract extension last June before Guillen could test the free agent market.  And, while it’s true that his injury at the end of last year may have dulled his value a bit, he certainly would have commanded more that the three year, $14 million contract he inked.  A relative bargain by today’s standards.  Guillen’s numbers match up with many of todays big time shortstops who earn considerably more greenbacks.  The following numbers are from the start of the 2004 season through May 14th of this season:

                         2005 salary                 Average             RBI         On Base %

Guillen               $4,000,000                    .328                  107          .390

Jeter                 $19,600,000                  .297                    95          .366

Nomar               $8,250,000                    .279                    41          .338

Renteria            $8,000,000                    .279                    83          .322

Cabrera             $6,000,000                    .259                    73          .306

Salaries are courtesy of USA Today.

If Carlos can stay healthy the next month, Tigers fans will no doubt have the chance to see him in the All Star game sporting a home Tigers uniform.  Great sign, great bargain, outstanding player.

 

Upon further review…

After watching Uggie Urbina struggle in the early part of April, many Tigers fans were hoping the ball club could trade him to anyone…for anything…even a bag of balls or a pine tar rag.  Really, who could blame them.  Uggie gave up seven runs in his first six outings out of the pen.  With the addition of Troy Percival to the team, it was easy to cast aside Urbina as a washed up former closer.  Not so fast.  Uggie slammed the door on the Angels in the nightcap of the doubleheader, earning his team a split.  With Percival on the DL, this whole scenario is proof positive of how you have to exhibit some patience when early season struggles hit.  Especially with veterans who have done it before.

Speaking of the Tigers pen, how about Franklyn German?  Every time I say Franklyn, it reminds me of the kids TV show starring that green turtle. 

Franklin_2

Pretty fitting considering German had a tendency to retreat into his shell every time he pitched in a big league game.  He is finally  starting to show a ton of confidence at the big league level.  Twice today he had to get Vlad Guerrero.  Twice he did the job, getting him to fly out to right field.  Franklyn has allowed just one run in his last seven innings out of the pen.  With Percy out for a while, German becomes a big piece to the puzzle if he continues to shine.  The bullpen is starting to pitch the way the Tigers had hoped coming out of camp.