Tagged: Detroit Tigers

A Huge Log on the Hot Stove….

Wednesday night’s huge (what other word do you use for a transaction involving Prince Fielder?) deal between the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers — Fielder to Texas, Ian Kinsler to Detroit — could have a ripple effect on the Red Sox.

Napoli and Ells

For one, it may take the Rangers out of the bidding for free agent first baseman Mike Napoli, although it’s still conceivable that the Rangers view Napoli as an ideal complementary bat to the left-handed hitting Fielder, who could DH while Napoli plays first. The Rangers ranked 14th in the league in OPS at first base (.700) — only the Yankees were worse — and they were slightly worse at DH (.698, ninth in the league).

Less than two years after boldly signing Prince Fielder to a $214 million contract, the Detroit Tigers traded the slugging first baseman to Texas in another blockbuster move.

Fielder was dealt to the Rangers on Wednesday night for second baseman Ian Kinsler. The Tigers agreed to pay the Rangers $30 million as part of the swap, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the amount of money exchanged was not revealed when the teams announced the trade. The $30 million is payable from 2016-20.

”Obviously, a very exciting trade for us in adding Prince Fielder to the organization,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. ”Also a tough trade to make in that Ian Kinsler’s been with the organization since he was drafted in ’03, and we’ve signed him here a couple of times. Been here, a catalyst for our World Series clubs, and a huge part of this. A winning guy, a heart-and-soul guy, and Detroit got a tremendous player and person.”

The Tigers, meanwhile, made it known last week at the GM meetings that contrary to speculation, they are not in the market for Ellsbury. Moving Fielder wouldn’t seem to alter that. The Tigers’ priroities remain re-signing pitcher Max Scherzer and extending two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera, whose current deal runs out after the 2015 season.

It’s the first headline-grabbing move of baseball’s offseason, and it involves two of the American League’s top teams. Detroit has won three consecutive AL Central titles and reached the World Series in 2012, while Texas won the AL pennant in 2010 and 2011.

Prince FielderFielder, a five-time All-Star, had to consent to the trade before it could be completed. The big first baseman signed a $214 million, nine-year contract with the Tigers before the 2012 season that includes a limited no-trade provision.

”We’re thankful for what he did for us,” Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski said. ”It’ll be a bat that we miss at times – there’s no doubt about it.”

Kinsler just finished the first season of a $75 million, five-year contract.

With stars like Fielder, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Anibal Sanchez in the fold, Detroit’s payroll had become one of the game’s biggest. And although Fielder hit 55 home runs over the last two years for the Tigers, his numbers dipped this season and he struggled in the playoffs when Detroit lost to Boston in the AL championship series.

Fielder hit .279 with 25 homers this year. He drove in 106 runs, but it was his lowest home run total over a full season. He did not have a single RBI in the 2013 postseason and hit .182 in the ALCS.

Daniels said the trade came together quickly – the first discussions took place Tuesday. The Rangers will welcome the durable Fielder, who has played 162 games in four of the last five seasons. Texas was interested in Fielder when he signed with Detroit as a free agent.

”Our offer was well below what it ended up being, so we weren’t that close,” Daniels said. ”I thought he was a genuine guy that really loved the game, really loved playing the game, loved his boys, his sons.”

Kinsler batted .277 with 13 homers this year. The a three-time AllIan Kinsler-Star was limited to 136 games because of injuries to his ribs and right side. Kinsler stole 15 bases in 2013 – not a high total by his standards but more than any player on the Detroit team he is joining.

The trade could save the Tigers more than $75 million in the long run, giving them more financial flexibility with Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer a year from free agency.

Fielder is still only 29, and the Rangers are set to add a big bat to the middle of their lineup while also resolving a logjam in the middle of their infield. Jurickson Profar, a highly touted 20-year-old prospect, appeared to be blocked by Kinsler and shortstop Elvis Andrus. Now, Profar should have a chance to play regularly.

The Tigers signed Fielder to a huge contract shortly before spring training in 2012 – after designated hitter Victor Martinez injured his knee. Martinez came back in 2013. With Fielder gone, Cabrera may move from third base back to first.

”I’m really not sure what we’re going to do as we sit here now today,” Dombrowski said. ”Eventually, we see him as a first baseman. Will it happen this year or not? I’m not sure.”

The 31-year-old Kinsler fills a need at second base for Detroit after Omar Infante became a free agent.

Fielder is due $168 million through 2020, a salary of $24 million per season. Under his no-trade clause, he submits a list of 10 teams each year that he can be traded to without his approval.

Texas was not on that list this year, but Fielder agreed to accept the trade and instructed agent Scott Boras to approve the deal.

”If he was coming off the best year of his career, he’s not available,” Daniels said. ”I think that’s kind of the whole idea of this deal – if anybody feels like that’s a sign of things to come, that he’s slipping, you may not like the deal. We don’t feel that way. We don’t feel that way at all.”

Kinsler is guaranteed $62 million through 2017: $16 million in each of the next two seasons, $14 million in 2016, $11 million in 2017 and a $5 million buyout of a $10 million option.

It’s already been an unpredictable offseason for the Tigers. Manager Jim Leyland stepped down after the season and was replaced by Brad Ausmus. Detroit could have come back with a similar roster and probably been favored to win the division again, but now more changes seem possible.

”If you put Kinsler’s bat at the top of the lineup, that’s an instant threat,” Ausmus said. ”It changes the dynamic, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less potent.”

If Cabrera moves back to first base, prospect Nick Castellanos might replace him at third. Previously, it appeared Castellanos would have to play the outfield if both Cabrera and Fielder were still on the team.

Andy Dirks is still available to play left field, but that’s a spot the Tigers could still try to upgrade. They also have six capable starting pitchers – Drew Smyly was used in the bullpen this year – so that’s a surplus that could come in handy in a possible trade.

Detroit’s bullpen will likely undergo a makeover after struggling last season.

The Rangers lost slugging outfielder Nelson Cruz to a late-season suspension as a result of MLB’s investigation in the Biogenesis case. He’s now a free agent, and if Texas loses him, Fielder, who hit 50 homers in 2007 for Milwaukee at 23, should help replace his production.

”A huge focus for us this winter was finding some kind of middle-of-the-order presence and power, and at 29 years old, I still think there’s still a lot of big run production and years ahead of him,” Daniels said.

The Rangers also were thought to be on the margins for free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, but taking a contract that pays Fielder $24 million a year through the 2020 season would seemingly be a deterrent to GM Jon Daniels adding another $20-million-plus per year in Ellsbury. The Rangers have two outstanding outfield defenders in Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry, so it would seem they would be better served going after catcher Brian McCann.

Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios are among the dangerous hitters under contract next season in Texas. Beltre had an AL-high 199 hits and Rios, acquired from the Chicago White Sox in August after Cruz was suspended, has a year left on his deal.

The Rangers lost a one-game tiebreaker to Tampa Bay for the second AL wild card this year.

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A lil’ Championship Fun….

I picked this up from SB Nation:  And I can’t really argue with it.

Papi WWE Champion

These comparisons are based on the 2013 editions of each team. Yes, the all-time Yankees would be “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase or Hulk Hogan or whatever; the 2013 Yankees are neither of those. So kick back, enjoy and try not to take things too seriously.

Just kidding; it’s pro wrestling discussion on the Internet! Tear each other limb from limb!

The Boston Red Sox are John Cena

Cena at FenwayNo one over the age of 12 wants to admit it, but John Cena is absolutely outstanding at what he does. The problem is that everyone is sick of him. They’re sick of his dumb shirts, they’re sick of his Sincere Serious Voice, they’re sick of him constantly Beating the Odds and they’re sick of him in general. That’s the Red Sox. They’re terrific this year — again — after an epic collapse and a lost year. They used to be America’s darlings until they won 3  World Series’ and the country got exposed to Red Sox Nation. Wait a minute … Red Sox Nation … the “Cenation” …

The Tampa Bay Rays are Daniel Bryan

You know the story of the Rays by now. They don’t get any help from anybody. They’re a small-market team in the second-worst stadium in the league, playing in front of no one, with one of the smallest payrolls in the league. But it’s okay; they’ll still be one of the best teams in the world, year after year. They’ll do it their own damn selves. Daniel Bryan, AKA “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson has been wrecking shop coast-to-coast in independent federations for 13 or so years and he’s always been exactly this good. Always. Now he’s the hottest wrestler on the planet and wrestling fools for an hour on Raw and everyone is like “lol where the hell did this guy come from?”

The New York Yankees are the Undertaker

Red Sox versus Yankees

Spends most of the year injured, but will still never lose.

The Baltimore Orioles are Booker T

Everyone likes the Orioles in some way. They’re not really a team that lends itself to intense hatred. They probably don’t even have a real arch-rival (maybe the Giants for stealing their colors). I bet they think they do, like the Padres and Mariners have arch-rivals. But they don’t. Everyone loves that the Orioles are doing well again (except Yankees fans). Everyone likes the team’s history (except Yankees fans) and of course everyone is crazy about those gorgeous uniforms. (Yankees fans, you like the uniforms okay, right?) The Orioles have been up, they’ve been down, they’ve been the best, they’ve disappeared. That’s Booker T: no one really hates the guy; lots of people think of him very fondly. His career is all over the place. I mean ALL OVER THE PLACE. He was a tag team specialist, he was a guy who lost the rights to his name so he had to start wrestling as G.I. Bro, he feuded with a guy over shampoo, he was suddenly a foreign king, he kicked around in TNA hating everything before reinventing himself as an announcer. Like the Oriole’s, there is some aspect of Booker T’s career that you can recall fondly.

The Toronto Blue Jays are 2013 Chris Jericho

Jericho 2013 Rumble

We had such high hopes, but then it was all just terrible.

The Detroit Tigers are Kane

Kane has been extremely popular and successful for like 15 years. He’s been pretty much every champion there is, crowds love him, he sells merchandise and rarely makes a fool of himself in the ring. All that said; there’s nothing really getting worked up over. At the end of the day, he’s still just Kane.

(I am so sorry, Tigers fans.)

The Cleveland Indians are Tatanka

Yep.

The Kansas City Royals are Chainsaw Charlie

It should have been a can’t-miss opportunity. Mick Foley was just starting to set the world on fire as Mankind following his infamous interview with Jim Ross and being tossed off that cage. Everyone knew he was a crazy guy who would do just about anything to get ahead. Who better to bring in to be his tag team partner than Terry gosh dang Funk? So Funk and the (then-)WWF put their heads together and … introduced Terry Funk as “Chainsaw Charlie,” a guy in suspenders who wore panty hose on his head.

The Royals during the offseason were determined to make a big splash. They traded away the top prospect in all of baseball and got woefully shortchanged on the deal. They traded, they spent, they seemed to make a bunch of bad decisions and now… It could have been amazing. Instead, they’re wearing panty hose on their heads and wondering what went wrong.

The Minnesota Twins are The Miz

Because WHOOOOO CAAAAAAARES

The Oakland Athletics are ACH

I know; you’ve never heard of ACH. ACH is an amazing pro wrestler who is out there killing himself in front of 15 people in a rec hall in a ring that looks like it has linoleum for a mat. But he’s not going to stop; he’s just going to keep being great at what he does. And the people who DO show up love him to death and realize they’re watching something special. So you can see how there might be SOME parallels. Just throwing it out there.

The Texas Rangers are Ricky Steamboat

Ricky SteamboatRicky Steamboat is probably one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. But he never rose much higher than “second fiddle.” His contemporaries were more colorful, or more charismatic, or just more interesting. He got right up against superstardom, but never really got over the hump. That’s where the Rangers are finding themselves now. Ricky Steamboat won that match at WrestleMania III, but Randy Savage will always be more beloved. Can the Rangers find a way to make themselves memorable?  (For those who don’t know, he’s pictured here holding the WWF/WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship: It’s like winning the American League pennant but not winning the World Series… sorry)

The Seattle Mariners are Al Snow

In one of his books, Mick Foley uses “Al Snow” as a euphemism for taking a poop. The Mariners are not as bad as all that. Mostly because the Astros are in their division now. But I mean, come on; the Mariners are Al Snow.

The Chicago White Sox are Zack Ryder

From tarnished and shamed, to a long stretch of awfulness, to a relatively-brief period of intense success. Then they vanished from the face of the earth, never to be seen again.

The Los Angeles Angels are Scott Steiner

Once amazing, but now bloated with … contracts. Flashes of brilliance interspersed with deep slumps of sheer insanity. Either way, you can’t look away. Always, always, always entertaining. For better or for worse.

The Houston Astros are Dennis Rodman

Yes, Dennis Rodman wrestled. He fell asleep on the ring apron. He’s one of the worst wrestlers in history, but you can’t even be mad, because he’s Dennis Rodman. Like, what else is he gonna do, you know what I mean? I hope you know where I’m going with this.

Farrell surprised by Leyland retirement…

Leyland exits

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland’s retirement took Red Sox manager John Farrell by surprise Monday morning.

“Very surprised,” Farrell said. “I had sent him a text yesterday morning just to congratulate he and the organization on not only a great team, but a great year. I expressed the respect that we have for him, and certainly I have personally for him for all the success he’s had in his career.

The Red Sox defeated the Tigers in Game 6 of the ALCS on Saturday night at Fenway Park to clinch a World Series berth.

“To see the announcement today, and to listen and know early September this was very clear on his mind, that’s surprising.

“But my gosh, when you take a step back and you’ve seen someone who has managed for 22 years, it’s a hell of a career and one I’m sure he’s extremely proud of.”

Between the likes of Terry Francona (whose shoes he’s already filling fantastically) and a Jim Leyland, I’d say Farrell has some great mentors to take his cues from.

Erin AndrewsYou don’t think Leyland packed up his rocking chair and called it a day because Erin Andrews ratted him out on live National television (during the 30 minute power outage delay in the Sox-Tigers series) for smoking in the dugout do you?  Nah.

‘Tis The Season…Tick.. Tock..Tick..Tock

Let the clock-watching, the countdown or however you want to refer to it begin!

October is closing in fast, and that means the 2nd Season.

MLB team roster

Red Sox record: 87-58

Games left: 17

Lead in AL East: 7½ games over Tampa Bay (78-64)

Magic number to win division: 12

What does magic number mean? If Tampa Bay wins all 20 of its remaining games, Boston would have to win 12 to win the division.

How to calculate magic number: You calculate your magic number by looking at the number of games remaining in the season and assuming that your nearest competitor will win all of their remaining games. Then you see how many games you still need to win to ensure the division title even with your nearest competitor winning all of their remaining games.

Overall ranking in league (important for determining home field in playoffs): First, 3 games ahead of Oakland, 4 games ahead of Detroit

If season ended today, teams in playoffs: Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Rangers, Rays.

What about the Yankees? Salvaged the final game of a four-game series against the Red Sox with a 4-3 win. They remain 2½ games behind the Rays for final wild-card spot.

Who’s hot?: Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks has five straight multi-hit games, the first time in his career he’s done that. He’s batting .500 (11 for 22) in that stretch, with 4 home runs, 8 runs, and 7 RBIs.

Who’s not?: The Indians fell two games behind the Rays in the wild-card race when they were beaten, 2-1, by Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was agonizing for Terry Francona to watch in his last years in Boston and really tormented him Sunday.  Matsuzaka, who had begun the season with the Indians, had lost  his first three starts for the Mets, posting a 10.95 ERA. Against the Indians, he allowed one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked three on 103 pitches.

Red Sox latest outcome: Lost to the Yankees, 4-3, on Sunday.

Rays latest outcome: Beat the Mariners, 4-1, on Sunday.

Notable: The Yankees, who don’t expect to have shortstop Derek Jeter for at least a couple of days as his bad ankle flared up again, begin a four-game series Monday night with the Orioles, who are two games behind the Rays in the wild-card race. CC Sabathia faces Chris Tillman in the series opener Monday night. The Yanks then come to Boston on Friday, so this week will be critical to their fading wild-card chances.

Playoff format: AL wild-card play-in game on Wednesday, Oct. 2. AL best-of-five division series begins Friday, Oct. 4.

Playing Catch Up…

A few days taken for a family emergency… but nothing too exciting had been missed, in Red Sox Nation anyway.

The Patriots won 23-20 over the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game:  The Patriots advance to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis on Feb. 5.  It will be the team’s fifth Super Bowl appearance in Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach (2000-present) and is the Patriots’ seventh Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.  Tom Brady and Bill Belichick become the first starting quarterback/head coach combination to advance to five Super Bowls.  For Brady, he ties his boyhood idol, Joe Montana, with his  16th career postseason win as a starting quarterback.

Just a ‘Classic’ game.  At one point, Brady’s emotions showed as he was jawing with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis after the quarterback scored on fourth down goal-line drive in the fourth quarter, a play in which he took a big hit from Lewis.  The Ravens had a chance to win with 22 seconds left when Lee Evans dropped a touchdown pass. Then, after cornerback Sterling Moore deflected a pass on third down, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal wide left that would have tied the game. A breath-taking ending.

The Red Sox signed free agent outfielder Cody Ross to a one-year deal worth about $3 million:  Boston had maintained an interest in Ross throughout the signing season, but pounced after his asking price dropped significantly (initially, he was seeking a three-year deal) and after left fielder Carl Crawford underwent surgery last week to address an arthritic condition in his left wrist.   The signing followed the Sox’ trading of infielder Marco Scutaro and his $6 million salary to the Rockies, which freed up the money they privately said they needed to have before making additional upgrades.   Even before Crawford’s injury, the Sox had maintained a healthy interest in Ross, who has hit left-handed pitchers well, with a career .912 OPS, even though his 2011 season could be considered a slight disappointment.  Ross, 31, is a .261 career hitter with 100 homers in eight seasons with Detroit, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati, Florida and San Francisco.

Right-hander Scott Atchison was designated for assignment to create space for Ross on the team’s 40-man roster.

The Sox are still interested in adding another starter to the mix at the right price.  Roy Oswalt remains their No. 1 target, though a team source acknowledged fears that Oswalt would prefer to pitch for either the Rangers or Cardinals (the free-agent turned down an offer from Detroit).  If they do not succeed in signing Oswalt, to whom they have made an offer (supposedly for $5 Million), a team source said Wednesday night, they most likely will shift their focus to trying to swing a deal with the Chicago White Sox for right-hander Gavin Floyd, with free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson a long-shot option at this stage.

The Sox also are thin at shortstop after dealing Scutaro, with veterans Nick Punto and Mike Aviles and rookie Jose Iglesias their only options at this time. The Sox have indicated they do not want to rush the 22-year-old Iglesias, who has fewer than 700 professional at-bats, and with neither Punto and Aviles the answer on an everyday basis, the Sox are expected to seek more help there. Punto is the better glove of the two, Aviles a better bat.  At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much shortstop help available. Even the soon-to-be 45-year-olds have signed, Omar Vizquel coming to terms Monday with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Clay Mortensen, received from Colorado in the Scutaro trade, will compete for a spot in the bullpen, but more likely will open the season in Pawtucket.  Don’t look now, but the Sox have the makings of a potentially strong bullpen, especially if Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller can click from the left side.  If the Sox succeed in acquiring another starting pitcher and elect to return Alfredo Aceves to the pen, on paper they look strong with Andrew Bailey closing and Mark Melancon sharing setup.  If Bobby Jenks can be healthy and Matt Albers proves he just ran out of gas last season, the Sox pen has a chance to be strong and deep.  If.. If.. If…

With Jorge Posada announcing his retirement Tuesday after 17 seasons with the Yankees, it would appear to be a matter of time before we hear similar announcements from Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek.  Wakefield’s agent, Barry Meister, said the 45-year-old knuckleballer just returned from a vacation in Mexico, and that he hasn’t had substantive conversations with him in about 10 days.  He acknowledged that while there have been inquiries from other teams, there’s nothing in the works.  As Bobby Valentine noted the other day, it’s inconceivable that Wakefield would accept a minor-league offer from the Red Sox.  Varitek turns 40 just after Opening Day and got married in the offseason. No word from the player or his agents on Varitek’s plans, but the signing of Kelly Shoppach virtually closed the door on a return to Boston, and while Varitek last spring expressed a desire to play for as long as he can, he may have reached the endgame.

Tim Thomas Skipped the White House:  Boston Bruins president Cam Neely admitted Tuesday that he would have liked goaltender and Stanley Cup MVP Tim Thomas to be with the team when they visited the White House on Monday, but that Thomas “felt very strongly about not going” so the team respected his wishes.  He said the team didn’t make the event mandatory because “we didn’t think it would be an issue.”  Neely said he doesn’t expect the controversy to adversely affect the Bruins’ chemistry, pointing out with a laugh that not a lot of political discourse occurs in an NHL locker room.

Thomas explained Monday night in a Facebook page posting that he skipped the White House event due his disappointment in the federal government. His post read:

“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”

Later Monday night, Neely released this Bruins statement:
“As an organization we were honored by President Obama’s invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team’s achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject.”

Of course, Timmy ‘The Tank’ is not alone.  Theo Epstein, who had made a campaign appearance on behalf of John Kerry, was not on the stage when President Bush honored the team in 2005, choosing to sit in the front row of the audience next to Stacy Lucchino, wife of the Sox CEO.  The reason, he said, was because he wanted attention focused on those most deserving.  Epstein was with the group of players who subsequently visited wounded vets at the Walter Reed Medical Center.  Bush was still in office when the Sox won again in 2007.  Epstein did not attend the ’08 ceremony, citing “family reasons,” and his absence barely registered.  It was overshadowed by the no-show by Manny Ramirez, whose absence from the stage was noted by the President himself.

 

And then of course… there’s this:

Prince Fielder stood with a smile and recalled his earliest memories of old Tiger Stadium, when he would hang out at the ballpark where his father hit so many massive home runs.  “For me, it was always Sparky saying I was going to pinch hit—and I really believed him,”  Fielder said, referring to former manager Sparky Anderson. “I’m just glad I get to come back.”  The Tigers introduced Fielder on Thursday after finalizing a $214 million, nine-year contract with the free agent first baseman, who is expected to hit a lot more home runs than his dad.  Detroit plays at Cecil Fielder (45) played for the Tigers from 1990 to 1996. His son, Prince (with ball), will follow in his footsteps after reportedly signing a nine-year $214 million contract with Detroit.Comerica Park now, and times have changed. Jim Leyland manages the Tigers, not Sparky Anderson.

Fielder was born in 1984, the last time Detroit won the World Series.  After luring him back to Michigan with the fourth-largest deal in baseball history, the Tigers are hoping Fielder will help usher in a new championship era for the Motor City.  “This is awesome, it’s kind of a dream come true. I’m excited.”  Detroit began seriously pursuing Fielder after designated hitter Victor Martinez tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during offseason conditioning.  Now the Tigers have three of baseball’s biggest stars—Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander—all in their primes. Detroit won the AL Central by 15 games last year but lost to Texas in the AL championship series.

It will be up to manager Jim Leyland to figure out where to play all of his powerful hitters. He said Thursday the Tigers will move Miguel Cabrera from first base to third to make room for Fielder. He also listed a possible batting order, with Cabrera hitting third and Fielder fourth.  It’s a lineup based on power, not speed.  That much is clear.  Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski indicated he’s satisfied with his roster heading into spring training, although it’s hard to rule out any more moves after the Tigers shockingly emerged with Fielder.  The pitching rotation is anchored by Verlander, who won the Cy Young Award and MVP last year, but Detroit’s fifth starter spot is still uncertain. Dombrowski said the Tigers could bring in some non-roster invitees to compete for that job.  “I think positional player-wise, we’re pretty well set,” he said.

Fielder’s father Cecil became a big league star when he returned to the majors from Japan and hit 51 home runs with Detroit in 1990.  Cecil played with the Tigers into the 1996 season, and young Prince made a name for himself with his prodigious power displays during batting practice at Tiger Stadium.

Fact or Fiction… ?

Well, Congrats to Barry Larkin, the singular inductee to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for 2012.

Now comes the hard part.  The 2013 Ballot will be flooded in worthy, clouded and questionable candidates. Of the first year candidates hitting the ballot for 2012, only Bernie Williams, @ 9.6%, earned enough votes (above 5%) to remain on the ballot for next year.  Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines and Alan Trammell made fairly significant increases in their percentage numbers, however a few of those numbers will look to drop as ‘hold-overs’ tend to dip when big name newbies hit the ballot.  Those names will include;

  •    Barry Bonds: OF Pittsburgh, San Fransisco
  •    Roger Clemens: RHSP Boston (A), Toronto, New York (A), Houston
  •    Mike Piazza: C/DH Los Angeles (N), Florida, New York (N), San Diego, Oakland
  •    Curt Schilling: RHSP Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia (N), Arizona, Boston (A)
  •    Kenny Lofton: CF/OF Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago (A), San Fransisco, Chicago (N), Pittsburgh,  New York (A), Philadelphia (N), Los Angeles (N), Texas
  •     David Wells: LHSP Toronto, Detroit, Cincinnati, Baltimore, New York (A), Chicago (A), San Diego,  Boston (A), Los Angeles (N)
  •     Sammy Sosa: OF/DH Texas, Chicago (A), Chicago (N), Baltimore
  •     Craig Biggio: C/2B/OF Houston

Now, looking at the list, one doesn’t see a first ballot inductee (as opposed to the 2013 ballot and Greg Maddux’ 1st year of eligibility).  Both Bonds and Clemens carry the statistics of greatness but are deeply embroiled in the PED issue due to various and on-going reasons.  Piazza, arguably one of the greatest offensive catchers in the game, played in the Steroid Era and, like Bagwell, will have to endure.  Craig Biggio and Kenny Lofton were big-name stars but are on the bubble at best.  Sammy Sosa, like McGwire and Palmeiro, will probably earn enough votes to stay on the ballot as voters continue to judge the Steroid Era for its’ fact and fiction.  David Wells, well who knows.  He’ll probably survive to the next ballot but with Schilling taking some votes away and Jack Morris still on it, who can say for sure?

So let’s take a look at what appears to be the next great debate;  Curt Schilling versus Jack Morris.

Some say that Curt cannot get into the Hall if Jack Morris is excluded and vice-versa.  Others believe that a few of their average to just above average regular seasons give way to their post-season efforts, while experts contend that the HOF isn’t based wholly on post-season theatrics.  As Brian Kenney of Clubhouse Confidential put it, “Many people mistake Jack Morris for being the post-season pitcher Curt Schilling actually was.”  So, let’s see where this takes us.

  •                                  Luis Tiant (19)         Jack Morris (18)         Curt Schilling (20)         David Wells (21)
  • Wins/Losses(%):  229/172 (.571)            254/186 (.577)              216/146 (.597)              239/157 (.604)
  • ERA:                                3.30                               3.90                                 3.46                                4.13
  • ERA+:                              115                                 105                                   128                                 108
  • Strikeouts:                     2416                               2478                                3116                               2201
  • K/BB:                              2.19                                1.78                                 4.38                                 3.06
  • WAR:                               60.1                               39.3                                 69.7                                 50.7

Well, those are the basics.  Wells is eliminated on ERA alone.  At 3.90, Morris has the highest ERA of any legitimate Hall of Fame candidate and if elected, would have the highest ERA for a starter.  Wells played for some great teams and Championship teams to accumulate that winning percentage, including some great personal accolades and 3 All-Star appearances, but he’s out.

Now let’s take a look at the post-season stats in the three-horse race.

  •                                     Luis Tiant (3 Series)         Jack Morris (7 Series)         Curt Schilling (12 Series)
  • Wins/Losses (%):            3/0 (1.000)                             7/4 (.636)                                 11/2 (.846)
  • ERA:                                        2.86                                          3.80                                            2.23
  • Innings Pitched                     34.2                                           92.1                                            133.1
  • Strikeouts:                                20                                              64                                              120
  • K/BB:                                       1.82                                           2.00                                           4.80

Tiant broke through in 1968, after he altered his delivery so that he turned away from the home plate during his motion, in effect creating a hesitation pitch. According to Tiant, the new motion was a response to a drop in his velocity due to an arm injury. Twisting and turning his body into unthinkable positions, Tiant would spend more time looking at second base than he did the plate as he prepared to throw. In that season, he led the league in ERA (1.60), shutouts (9, including 4 consecutive!), hits per nine innings (a still-standing franchise record 5.30, which broke Herb Score’s 5.85 in 1956 and would be a Major-League record low until Nolan Ryan gave up 5.26 hits/9 innings in 1972), strikeouts per nine innings (9.22, more than a batter an inning), while finishing with a 21–9 mark. Beside this, opposing hitters batted just .168 off Tiant, a major league record, and on July 3 he struck out 19 Minnesota Twins in a ten-inning game, setting an American League record for games of that length. His 1.60 ERA was the lowest in the American League since Walter Johnson’s 1.49 mark during the dead-ball era in 1919, and second lowest in 1968 only to Bob Gibson’s 1.12—the lowest ever during the Live Ball Era.

Known as El Tiante at Fenway Park, in 1972 Tiant regained his old form with a 15–6 record and led the league with a 1.91 ERA on his way to winning the Comeback Player of the Year award. He would win 20 games in 1973 and 22 in 1974. Though hampered by back problems in 1975, he won 18 games for the American League Champion Red Sox and then excelled for Boston in the postseason. In the playoffs he defeated the three-time defending World Champion Oakland Athletics in a 7–1 three-hitter complete game, then opened the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. His father and mother, having been allowed to visit from Cuba under a special visa, were in Fenway Park that game to watch their son defeat The Big Red Machine in a 6–0 five-hit shutout. All six Red Sox runs were scored in the seventh inning; Tiant led off that inning (the designated hitter was not yet in use in World Series play) with a base hit off Don Gullett and eventually scored on Carl Yastrzemski’s single for the first of those six runs.  Tiant won Game 4 as well (throwing 163 pitches in his second complete game in the series) and had a no-decision in Game 6, which has been called the greatest game ever played, after Carlton Fisk’s dramatic game-winning walk-off home run in the 12th inning.

In his 19-season career, Tiant compiled a 229–172 record with 2416 strikeouts, a 3.30 ERA, 187 complete games, and 49 shutouts in 3,486.1 innings. Tiant is one of five pitchers to have pitched four or more consecutive shutouts in the 50-year expansion era, with Don Drysdale (six, 1968), Bob Gibson (five, 1968), Orel Hershiser (five, 1988) and Gaylord Perry (four, 1970) being the others.  He was inducted to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997.

  •      4 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in ERA, leading the league twice.
  •      5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins.
  •      7 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Shutouts, leading the league 3 times.
  •      8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.

3 All-Star Games.  4 time 20 game winner.  3 times appearing on the American League Cy Young balloting, twice finishing in the top five.  4 times appearing on the AL Most Valuable Player ballot, twice finishing in the top ten.

Jack Morris played in 18 big league seasons between 1977 and 1994, mainly for the Detroit Tigers, and won 254 games throughout his career.  Armed with a fastball, slider, devastating splitter and a fierce competitive spirit, Morris played on three World Championship teams (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, and 1992 Blue Jays). While he gave up the most hits, earned runs and home runs of any pitcher in the 1980s, he also started the most games, pitched the most innings and was the winningest pitcher of the decade.  On April 7, 1984 Morris no-hit the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park.  In 1986, Morris racked up 21 wins, but was overshadowed by eventual Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox.  Despite a sub par season in 1989 when he won only 6 games, he still finished as the winningest major league pitcher of the 1980s, with 162 wins during the decade.

In 1991, Morris signed a one-year contract with his hometown Minnesota Twins. He enjoyed another great season, posting 18 wins as Minnesota faced the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. Morris started for the Twins three times, with his final outing being Game 7. In a postseason performance for the ages, the 36-year-old hurler, known throughout his career as a clutch “big game” pitcher, lived up to his billing by throwing 10 innings of shutout baseball against the Braves as the Twins won the World title on a 10th inning single by Gene Larkin that scored Dan Gladden.  Morris was named the World Series MVP for his fantastic performance.  Following the 1991 season, Morris spurned the Minnesota Twins, his hometown team, and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He earned 21 wins for the second time in his career (and the first ever 20-win season for a Blue Jays pitcher), though he rode the wave of superior run support from his offense, given his 4.04 ERA that year. The Blue Jays reached the 1992 World Series against the Braves and despite a sub par World Series performance, he won a third championship ring as Toronto beat Atlanta in six games. He won a fourth in 1993, as the Blue Jays repeated as World Champions with a victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. Morris did not pitch in the postseason, however.

  •      5 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in ERA.
  •      8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.
  •      8 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Shutouts, leading the league in 1986.
  •      10 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Complete Games, leading the league in 1990.
  •      12 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins, leading the league twice.

5 All Star Games.  3 Time 20 game winner.  Appearing on the AL Cy Young ballot 7 times, 5 time finishing in the top five.  Morris appeared 5 times on the AL Most Valuable Player ballot, twice finishing in the top 15.  4 Time World Series Champion including the 1991 World Series MVP award.

During the Phillies’ pennant run in 1993, Schilling went 16–7 with a 4.02 ERA and 186 strikeouts.  Schilling led the Phillies to an upset against the two-time defending National League champion Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. Although he received no decisions during his two appearances in the six-game series, Schilling’s 1.69 ERA and 19 strikeouts (including the first 5 Braves hitters of Game 1, an NLCS record) were enough to earn him the 1993 NLCS Most Valuable Player Award.  After losing Game 1 of the WS to the Toronto Blue Jays, he pitched brilliantly in his next start. With the Phillies facing elimination the day after losing a bizarre 15–14 contest at home in Veterans Stadium, Schilling pitched a five-hit shutout that the Phillies won, 2–0.  Schilling was named to the NL All-Star team in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and started the 1999 game.

With Arizona, he went 22–6 with a 2.98 ERA in 2001, leading the majors in wins and innings pitched. He also went 4–0 with a 1.12 ERA in the playoffs. In the 2001 World Series, the Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in seven games. Schilling shared the 2001 World Series MVP Award with teammate Randy Johnson. He and Johnson also shared Sports Illustrated magazine’s 2001 “Sportsmen of the Year” award. During the World Series Schilling received two other honors, as he was presented that year’s Roberto Clemente and Branch Rickey Awards, the first Arizona Diamondback so honored for either award.  In 2002, he went 23–7 with a 3.23 ERA. He struck out 316 batters while walking 33 in 259.1 innings. On April 7, 2002, Schilling threw a one-hit shutout striking out 17 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Both years he finished second in the Cy Young Award voting to Johnson.

On September 16, 2004, Schilling won his 20th game of 2004 for the Red Sox, becoming the fifth Boston pitcher to win 20 or more games in his first season with the team, and the first since Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley in 1978. Schilling ended his regular season with a 21–6 record.  On October 19, 2004, Schilling won Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees.  Notably, he won this game playing on an injured ankle—the same injuries that contributed to his disastrous outing in Game 1 of the ALCS.  These injuries were so acute that by the end of his performance that day his white sock was soaked with blood, which is now referred to as “the bloody sock”.  Schilling was once again runner-up in Cy Young voting in 2004, this time to Minnesota Twins hurler Johan Santana.  Later, the entire Red Sox team was named Sports Illustrated’s 2004 Sportsmen of the Year, making Schilling only the second person to have won or shared that award twice.  For the 2006 season, Schilling was said to be healthy.  He began the season 4–0 with a 1.61 ERA. He finished the year with a 15–7 record and 198 strikeouts, with a respectable 3.97 ERA.  On May 27, he earned his 200th career win, the 104th major league pitcher to accomplish the feat.  On August 30, Schilling collected his 3,000th strikeout. On June 7, 2007, Schilling came within one out of his first career no-hitter. Schilling gave up a two-out single to Oakland’s Shannon Stewart, who lined a 95-mph fastball to right field for the A’s only hit.  He earned his third win of the 2007 playoffs in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series leaving after 5 1/3 innings, striking out four while allowing only four hits. With this win, he became only the second pitcher over the age of 40 to start and win a World Series game (Kenny Rogers became the first just one year prior). As Schilling departed in the 6th inning, fans at Fenway Park gave Schilling a standing ovation.

Schilling has the highest ratio of strikeouts to walks of any pitcher with at least 3,000 strikeouts, and is one of four pitchers to reach the 3,000-K milestone before reaching 1,000 career walks. The other three who accomplished this feat are Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux, and former Boston Red Sox ace and teammate Pedro Martínez.

  •      1 time finished in the top 10 in the AL in Wins, leading the league in 2004.
  •      2 times finished in the top 10 in the AL in Strikeouts.
  •      4 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Wins, leading the league in 2001.
  •      7 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Strikeouts, leading the league twice.
  •      8 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in ERA (1 time in the American League).
  •      10 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Complete Games, leading the league 4 times.
  •      10 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Shutouts (1 time in the American League).

6 All Star Games.  2 time 20 game winner.  Schilling appeared on a total of 4 Cy Young Award Ballots (3 National/ 1 American) finishing second 3 times.  He appeared on the Most Valuable Player ballot 4 times (3 National / 1 American) finishing in the top 10 twice.  3 time World Series Champion including a 1993 NLCS MVP award and 2001 World Series MVP award.  A Roberto Clemente Award/Branch Rickey Award/Babe Ruth Award winner in 2001.

At the end of the day, it becomes a two-horse race, my sentimental favorite Mr. Tiant dropping off.  But as we have seen, there are questions, answers and some of the numbers are deceiving.  Yes, Morris has some great numbers but has negatives to go along with them.  For all the experts who tout Jack’s big game post-season prowess, Curt buries him.  Sure, Morris has four WS titles, but pitched below average in one and didn’t even pitch in another.  The big 1991 performance against the Braves?  The Bloody Sock game in 2004.  Looking past Morris’  wins and the fact he has more losses, Schilling sports a higher win percentage.  Who played for more perennial contenders?  Who played for better run producers?  And on and on…..

The questions will wage on, but the timetable is fairly limited, adding more fuel to the fire.  This year marked Morris’ 13th on the ballot, leaving two more attempts.  In two years, this could be a battle for the ‘Golden Age’ Committee or Veterans committee or whatever the guys who keep deserving but still breathing players out of the hall, therefore keeping their divided annual shares in tact, call themselves.

Didn’t I just say something like that..?

The Boston Red Sox have no idea how long Tim Wakefield will pitch.

He might just go on forever.

“As long as Wake wants to keep working the way he does, I don’t see any reason for this to stop,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “He’ll be done when he wants to be done, I guess.”

The 44-year-old held the Detroit Tigers to two runs on five hits in seven innings Friday, as the Red Sox picked up their 12th win in 14 games, winning 6-3.

“I’m just doing what I’ve always done—trying to help my team win games,”said Wakefield, who picked up his 195th career win.

He’s been with the Red Sox since 1995, picking up a pair of World Series rings.      -Yahoo Sports

Now in my last blog, I referred to Tim Wakefield as a 900 some odd year old Time Lord… and damn if I wasn’t right (The series Doctor Who premiered in ’63… Wake born 3 years later!! He’s older than the Impossible Dream team).  It was 1992 when he impressed the baseball universe with the final stand of the Pittsburgh Pirates dynasty that never was and following a fade out and release resurfaced with the Scarlett Hose for a near Cy Young campaign in 1995.  He’s been here so long, he played with that guy who was once on the tip of everyone’s tongue as possibly the greatest pitcher of his and many a generation… The Rocket.  That means he’s been in Boston for the majority of the last two roller coaster decades… Kevin Kennedy and Jimy Williams through Joe ‘Oops” Kerrigan and Grady “Managers should manage” Little and possibly the best manager since Bill Carrigan (Joe Cronin got to a WS but as we know…) in the man known as “Tito”.

And as we know, Wake is in the driver’s seat.  He has the awesome responsibility of deciding just when he’s done… holding his repeating one year player option.  Though I’m quite sure no one can really imagine him tipping his cap for the final time to the Fenway faithful… we know it will it happen.  And after all the nights of wild butterfly pitches, passed balls, hit batters, bases on balls and flashes of Cy Young brilliance how will we say goodbye?  One hopes with the same class and dignity the multiple Clemente award nominee (1 win and counting) has shown us over the years.  Luckily we won’t have to find out for some time but at least we can be at peace in the knowledge this will be the last man to wear the number 49 in Red Sox font.  Sure we may never see anyone wear 21 either, but 49 will be placed in a white circle on retirement row.  (I’ve had this discussion before… in fact I may just re-post it.)

Now many have countered “He’s a knuckleballer, so what?” Well at an age where most mortal men would be nearing the end (unless you’re the aforementioned Rocket.. and juiced up…) and looking for the studio job to give analysis and color commentary (Ask the ageless Jamie Moyer… he’s just taking a year off), Wakefield is still going strong.  Yes he has a balky back and it’s a problem at times… but Wake had one of his best seasons as a possible Cy Young contender and his first AL All Star break after the age of 40… and it was the balky back that cashed his season in.  Now as a part-time / spot starter and stop-gap he can flash his brilliance as needed and step up in those high-pressure situations to save a starter or a bullpen.  And like The Doctor, he saves the world a thousand times over yet hardly gets the recognition he deserves and never asks for it or even expects a Thank You from the doomed he has saved… he’s not a ‘knuckleballer’, he’s a madman with a big blue box.  He’s the myth of ‘forever young’, a legend of ‘The Nation’. 

Well baseball… bask in the legend.  In another five days the blue box will re-appear and Tim Wakefield will emerge to once again challenge the doubters, defy time and common sense and just plain win the game.

Thank You.. Time Lord.