Archive for October, 2012

Free Agency Moves

1. The Tigers exercise Jhonny Peralta’s option. Considering that I’m not a big Jhonny fan, this does not leave me excited. Jhonny’s 2011 season was a career-year anomaly, and we saw a regression to the mean in 2012. I’m also ridiculously tired of people talking about his low error count; it’s a result of his brick-foot range, not some tremendous fielding capabilities. However, the free agent market at shortstop is super thin, and my dreams of trading for Elvis Andrus are unrealistic.

2. The Tigers re-sign Gerald Laird. I laugh every time I see the scoreboard flash “Be Scared of Laird” at Comerica Park, because he’s far from being an intimidating hitter. That being said, he’s a very serviceable backup to Avila and should demand a relatively cheap contract for what he provides.

3. The Tigers DO NOT re-sign Delmon Young. Ninja Turtle Yankee Killer is going to fetch a much higher contract now than he would have if the season ended in September. Regardless of price, I think the Tigers were planning on heading in another direction with the outfield anyway, and V-Mart is going to return to his role as the club’s designated hitter.

4. The Tigers DO NOT re-sign Anibal Sanchez. As much as it pains me to say it, I think the great late-season performance Sanchez put on display for Detroit pushed him out of their price range this offseason. Sanchez would be the fourth starter in the rotation for the Tigers, and I expect Sanchez to sign a big multi-year deal with a team that expects him to take over a role as their number 2 starter.

5. The Tigers exercise Octavio Dotel’s option. Dotel was reliable as the 7th-inning specialist for the Tigers for the majority of the 2012 season, and he brings experience and a wins-driven mentality to the table. Add the fact that his option is relatively affordable, and I think we see him return for another year as the organization’s 7th-inning hurler.

6. The Tigers DO NOT re-sign Jose Valverde. I’m pretty sure that Tigers fans would riot if Dombrowski offered Valverde a contract to stay in Detroit, considering the hell he put them through in the 2012 postseason. Adios, and good riddance, to the fat potato and his chicken bone arms and obscenely torpid delivery to home plate.

7. The Tigers sign Francisco Rodriguez. The man affectionately known as “K-Rod” struggled mightily this year in Milwaukee, logging the highest season ERA and WHIP of his career. This should allow the Tigers to get Rodriguez at a discounted price, and I’m of the belief that this poor showing was the exception in what has otherwise been a stellar career. He’s only 30 years old, he’d join fellow Venezuelans Miguel Cabrera, Brayan Villarreal, and Omar Infante in the clubhouse, and he could take on the role of closer (OR setup man, if Leyland and company believe Benoit would be more well-suited for the 9th inning).

8. The Tigers sign Josh Hamilton. I would much rather see the Tigers go after someone like San Francisco’s Angel Pagan, who could offer a .285 hit clip and 30 stolen bases. However, with fans clamoring for another major offseason signing to push the Tigers over the top, I expect Illitch to open up his pocketbook even further for a (maddeningly inconsistent) power hitter.

Hypothetical Lineup

1. Austin Jackson – CF
2.
Victor Martinez – DH
3.
Miguel Cabrera – 3B
4.
Prince Fielder – 1B
5.
Josh Hamilton – LF
6.
Andy Dirks – RF
7.
Jhonny Peralta – SS
8.
Alex Avila – C
9.
Omar Infante – 2B

Hypothetical Rotation

1. Justin Verlander
2.
Doug Fister
3.
Max Scherzer
4.
Rick Porcello
5.
Drew Smyly

Hypothetical Bullpen

1. Phil Coke, LHP
2.
Brayan Villarreal, MRP – RHP
3.
Al Alburquerque, MRP – RHP
4.
Darin Downs, MRP – LHP
5.
Octavio Dotel, Gap Pitcher/7th inning specialist
6.
Joaquin Benoit, Setup Man
7.
Francisco Rodriguez, Closer

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Tomorrow, two football teams will take the field in Ann Arbor, MI and wage a battle for one of the most abominable-looking trophies in all of sports. Those two teams are the University of Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans, and that trophy is the Paul Bunyan Trophy (not to be confused with Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the ill-conceived replacement reward for the winner of the Minnesota/Wisconsin game, which replaced the apparently outmoded, but nonetheless fantastic, Slab of Bacon they used to play for).

Make no mistake about it – this is a rivalry game for both teams, regardless of what some Michigan fans may say otherwise. Yes, Ohio State is a more loathed (and respected) rival, but that doesn’t take away from the ferocity and barbarity on display between fans and players when these two in-state adversaries meet on the gridiron.

Through my experiences in the rivalry, I can say that the fan bases from each respective school love nothing more than to make sweeping generalizations about each other. Michigan fans seem to believe Michigan State fans and the school itself both have an inferiority complex, and wish so desperately that they could be as cool as the University of Michigan and their fans. In perfect contrast, Michigan State fans tend to believe that Michigan fans and the school itself could not be more pompous and full of egocentrism, like the over-confident popular kid in high school. I’m of the belief that both of these widely-held viewpoints hold some validity; however, to say that they are representative of even a majority of the fan base of either side would be a gross hyperbole. The whole “Little Brother” fiasco is a perfect example of this.

I’m not going to beat around the bush or try to hide my affiliation; I am a University of Michigan alumnus. Thus, I do get a kick out of referring to Michigan State University as little brother, but only because of how bent out of shape Spartans get when I do this. It’s just like what they teach you in elementary school as a kid – when someone teases you, if you react strongly, they’re going to keep doing it to get on your nerves. When you learn how to ignore it and show them that it no longer bothers you, then odds are they will stop doing it. Another potentially effective method is to win four consecutive games in the rivalry.

In any of the most recent football-related tete-a-tetes between fans from these schools, the Spartan representative is almost certainly going to bring up the last four years. A young, naive Wolverine will inevitably resort to one of two responses – (A) Highlighting the prestigious history of the University of Michigan football program, or (B) Belittling Michigan State academics and the students who attend the university. It’s identical to the “Little Brother” theory, but is achieved simply as a result of a different mechanism. Michigan fans are unnecessarily embarrassed about losing to Michigan State in football 4 years running now, so they get defensive and resort to desperation; it’s just silly. Michigan State had a better football team than Michigan in 2008, 2009, and 2010, and they outplayed an evenly matched Michigan team in 2011 – it’s really that simple. The best thing to do as a Michigan fan right now is to stop rubbing salt in your own wound and focus on forward-thinking, i.e. what’s going to happen this year?

Brady Hoke is undefeated at home as Michigan’s head football coach. Unlike the past 4 years, Michigan is back to having a better, more athletic football team this year than Michigan State. Michigan is coming off two blowout victories and Michigan State just suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss to Iowa on their homecoming weekend. The majority of sportsbooks in Vegas are giving the Spartans 10 points. All signs point to Michigan finally ending the streak.

Nevertheless, signs have been wrong before in sports. All you have to do is take one look at the Cleveland Indians from back in the day – who would have thought in mid-July of that fateful year that Ricky Vaughn, Willie Mayes Hayes, and Pedro Cerrano would lead the Tribe to the postseason? But, I digress. I’m going to be cheering on the Wolverines as vigorously as possible come 3:30 PM on Saturday, and I hope for my own personal sanity that they are able to finally put this thing to bed, so I can stop hearing the conveniently arbitrary number of days since Michigan last won a game in the series.