Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Above the Fold - Let's talk Tigers

Anyone else getting the baseball itch? We're in the middle of a January thaw in SE MI, with the mild temps and sunny skies today, it looks and feels like baseball weather. April baseball weather, but that's fine by me.

One Tiger blogger who has the itch is Sam at Roar of the Tigers. She's seen pictures of Tigers working out in Florida on, and has gone off the deep end. Just what were Sam's thoughts?


That's a fan who needs some Tigers baseball, stat!

Ian's not making funny noises at Bless You Boys, but he does point out the MSM, in this case, Buster Olney of the evil 4 letter, has chosen their season long storyline for the 2008 Detroit Tigers. They'll hit a ton, but will the pitching hold up?

So we can see the storyline that people are forming about the Tigers approximately six weeks away from the beginning of Spring Training. Conventional wisdom says they're going to score many, many runs with one of the best lineups we've ever seen. But that pitching staff has some question marks. Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis are coming off down years. We're not sure Kenny Rogers can make it through the season fully healthy. Who will be able to replace Joel Zumaya in the bullpen? And if he's able to come back as scheduled, what kind of thrower will he be?

My guess is the Tigers won't hit quite a well as the MSM thinks. There's talk of the Tigers scoring a 1000 runs. Anything is possible, but it's unlikely. They will score plenty, more than enough be hovering at the top of the league all season. The offense is the LAST thing we'll be worrying about.

What will we worry about? What will cause me to break out the infamous TWFE panic button? It won't be the starting pitching, which will be just fine. It's going to be all about the bullpen. I don't fully trust it. I'll bet all of you out there in Tigerland don't. I'd bet that the Tigers front office doesn't, either.

That'll be the storyline. The Tigers' bullpen, it's struggles, and the season long talk of a trade. I hope I'm wrong, but that's my gut feeling...

Where Have You Gone, Johnny Grubb? touches on another issue that could become a season long storyline, the "Brandon Inge situation". With his encyclopedic memory of Detroit sports, Eno looks back at a another fan favorite who, when unshackled from wearing the tools of ignorance, became an important super sub for the Tigers teams of the late 70's through mid 80's. He's the Tiger whose ultra closed stance is forever burned into this Tigers fan's memory. His swing gave him the appearance that he learned to swing a bat inside a phone booth...

there was another fan favorite who tossed away the catcher's gear and turned himself into a nice utility player.

Johnny Wockenfuss, he of the corkscrew batting stance and Fu Manchu mustache, joined the Tigers in the mid-1970s as a backstop. But by the time the 1980s were here, Wockenfuss had already worn a first baseman's glove, patrolled the outfield, and was a decent DH and pinch-hitter. And with some power.

Wockenfuss was well-liked in Detroit, because he looked like the fans: kind of rumpled, a bit weathered, and with lunch pail written all over him.

'Fuss is one of my all-time favorite Tigers. It goes without saying, and bears repeating, that he had "GREATEST BATTING STANCE OF ALL TIME!" If Inge would accept the super sub role that allowed Wockenfuss to have a long career, he'd become an invaluable piece of the Tigers. Almost irreplaceable, actually.

You won't find a fan who lived through that Tigers era that didn't love them some 'Fuss. Inge could be as beloved as Wockenfuss if he accepted a backup role. Working against that possibility is Inge's pride, which won't allow him to accept being a utility man, and the Tigers not wanting to pay a bench player $6 million a season.

We had the baseball hall of fame announcement yesterday, and Kurt opines on the candidacies of Alan Trammell and Jack Morris at Mack Avenue Tigers.

Trammell, to me, is a borderline case. It would be great if he did make it, because he hit well, he fielded well, and he signed a baseball card for your blogger in the late 80s. That last point is especially valid, I feel. But with so much argument both ways, among the statistically minded as well as statistically clueless, I can see how it’s an uphill battle. On the otherhand, I used the words “uphill” and kind of think he should gain some more momentum than he did, but instead, the Baseball Writers of America gave him just 18.2% approval. Certainly, Tram was more deserving of votes than more “famous” but less statistically accomplished Jack Morris, who got 42.9 percent.

You all know my feelings on the matter, but it also bears repeating. The BBWAA is populated with a bunch of...Actually, I'll let Clark W. Griswold voice what I think of the BBWAA.

I think we are all in agreement with Mr. Griswold, right? Right.

The biggest sign that baseball season is just around the corner is the annual Tigerfest. This year's gathering of all things and fans Tigers is this coming Satruday. The Detroit Tigers Weblog has all the pertinent details...

That's "Above the Fold" for Wednesday, 1-9-07!

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