Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fun with the 2009 Holiday Catalog

I get the feeling it’s starting to become an annual tradition for me to receive the Holiday Catalog. I shared my thoughts on last year’s edition at my old site. I meant to get this out earlier, but hey, if you’re the stereotyped male who waits until the last minute, consider this a guide (and I’m sure they have some sort of exorbitantly expensive shipping that’ll guarantee delivery by Christmas). Now, t-shirts, jerseys, and hats make wonderful gifts for the baseball fans in your life, and that’s probably the way to go, but doing a blog post on those would be downright boring. So I’ve decided to focus on the quirkier items in the catalog. I’ve tried to display the Tigers version of the item as they are available (If there is no Tigers version, I’ve just gone with the team that was in the catalog). When I first saw these in the catalog, I thought they were candles, but they’re not. Instead, they are salt and pepper shakers. Perfect if you need more salt on your corn chips (see the background). And I’m sure they’d make your dinner parties even classier.

Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who has come through these troubled economic times unscathed. If that’s the case, you might want to plunk down $2249.99 on this beautiful pool table (of course, you’ll end up paying much more than that after purchasing the requisite accessories such as cue sticks, an overhead lamp, bar stools, etc). It should be noted, however, that I love playing pool and if one of you wants to buy me this, I’ll accept it gratefully.
This is described in the catalog as a “Comfy Throw,” but I think we all know it better as a Snuggie. Apparently, Major League Baseball and Snuggie must not have agreed on licensing terms, so the knock-off “Comfy Throw” swooped in and won out. Now you can take “Cult of Clete” to a whole new level.

Back in early November, Ian over at Bless You Boys did a post on gifts you shouldn’t give Tigers fans. He included such items as bobbleheads of Gary Sheffield and Edgar Renteria. This plaque should have been in that post. Because it’s $89.99. Nobody is going to buy this.
Obviously, this is a wall clock (there is also a desk clock version). But it’s really hard to get a clock to look like a baseball scoreboard. Stuff just doesn’t fit (for instance, there’s no such thing as the 69th inning). It looks like someone just took a football or basketball clock and tried to adapt it to baseball.

Since we’ve had to bid farewell to the creepy Polanco photoshopped mousepad, this becomes the new “creepy” item in the catalog. WHY would you put a face on a tree? If you buy this, I hope you don’t have small children because they’ll be having nightmares about the tree monster. By the way, I just arbitrarily chose the Yankee tree. The tree in the catalog did indeed sport the Olde English D, but the image was not available online, for some reason.

Well, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pain, Pondering, and Promise

Before I begin this somber task, I must apologize once again for my tardiness. Someone like Curtis Granderson deserves a lot more promptness. Unfortunately, the Winter Meetings happened smack dab in a two-week period where I am swamped by exams, assignments, etc. as the semester winds down, not to mention work. I deeply regret this. This year’s Winter Meetings will be remembered as a dark time in the Motor City, when Tigers fans were forced to bid farewell to one of our most popular players (and hey, I think most of us were fond of Edwin Jackson as well). I was understandably a lot more upset when Pudge got traded, but Curtis Granderson was in my top 5 (#4, to be precise) and was one of the classiest and smartest human beings, let alone baseball players (and if I was deeply saddened by it, I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who considered Curtis to be “their Tiger,” to quote an old promotional campaign). And he’ll always be remembered for the numerous sensational catches throughout his tenure. I have longed to be able to watch a great player destined to be a lifelong Tiger. Having been born in 1983, Al Kaline is ancient history to me and I have no memory of Alan Trammel. I badly want a Kaline/Trammel for my generation, and I had high hopes that Granderson would be it. So to have him be gone, just like that, well…it hurts. It hurts a lot. And it will hurt for a long time. I will miss him terribly.

My objective assessment of this trade has taken a day or so to formulate because I have had to gather information from other sources on the background of the acquisitions (though I have watched a surprising number of Diamondbacks games). I wasn’t too sure what to make of Max Scherzer because my perception of him was that he has good stuff but has trouble pitching deep into games. However, I had a tendency to watch games in which the D’Backs lost, particularly if they lost spectacularly (reason being is that Darron Sutton and Mark Grace are downright hilarious when the Diamondbacks lose, but unbearably smug when the Diamondbacks win). Therefore, I probably didn’t have the best sampling, and I admit this. Likewise, I did not know the background on Daniel Schlereth, other than the fact that he was left-handed and his father played in the NFL. All I knew was that the Diamondbacks’ bullpen was so bad that they kept calling up anybody and everybody they could get out of necessity. However, both Scherzer and Schlereth are very highly thought of, as it turns out. In that case, the return on Edwin Jackson looks to be a pretty good one (as an aside, one annoying aspect of this trade is there are too many players with either similar-sounding or downright identical last names). However, I feel like we could have and should have gotten more for Granderson. The word on Austin Jackson from Tiger fans isn’t particularly favorable (though most of their arguments delve a bit too much into the slippery slope of sabremetrics for my taste). They seem to think he’s overhyped. Of the four players we got, Phil Coke has probably been talked about the least. I may have seen him back in July when the Tigers were at Yankee Stadium, but I’m not sure. I did see him in the postseason, but maybe that’s not a good representation of him. In any case, he seems to be serviceable enough, but Grandy was worth more (And as a side note, what is it about Tigers I like constantly getting traded to the Yankees? Cecil…Pudge…now Grandy. Perhaps the reason I don’t hate the Yankees is a simple act of mental self-defense).

Several bloggers more knowledgeable and established than I have come out with numerous posts wherein they basically shed tears and scratch their heads. They absolutely cannot make sense of this trade. On the surface, I agree with them. However, the Tigers have to have some line of thinking to have made this move. It may be flawed (or not), but there has to have been one. This leads me to ponder Dave Dombrowski’s possible motive, and from here on out I will speak almost exclusively on Granderson since I have already reached the conclusion that Edwin Jackson got a good return (Whether you put any faith in the rumor that the Diamondbacks offered Max Scherzer for Edwin Jackson straight up depends on whether you’re more inclined to believe Josh Byrnes or Joel Sherman, so this is the only time I will mention it and it will not figure into my deductions). Dombrowski can be a hard man to figure out at times because his sound bites are so annoyingly cryptic. I’ve become more and more skeptical about the national media’s standard line of saving payroll due to the Michigan economy. For one thing, it’s too simple an explanation, and things are never THAT simple. For another thing, I have read a couple of very well-written articles from
TigsTown and The Detroit Tigers Weblog that attempt to determine where the money comes from and both articles make the assessment that the Tigers’ financial situation is not as critical as one would be led to believe. These articles are very well-researched and their arguments are extremely well-constructed and well-thought out, much moreso than anything the traditional media has come up with. In addition, it would be very uncharacteristic of Mike Illitch to order a huge payroll slash. It’s well-noted how he desperately wants to win a World Series, but the man’s eighty years old. He probably doesn’t have time for another 5-10 year rebuild, and I would guess he knows that. Also, Granderson’s contract for next year was a mere $5.15 million, and everyone knows about how much payroll gets freed up for 2011 anyways, making his contract even more affordable in the long run. So unless I get concrete evidence to the contrary, for now I am ruling out payroll as the (primary) motivation. That leaves “baseball reasons” as the likely explanation. And to that end, I have three theories (and bear in mind that I am merely attempting to gauge Dave Dombrowski’s line of thinking; if they are true, I do not necessarily agree with the logic). The first is that Dombrowski felt that Granderson had peaked and was trying to “sell high” on him. He has done this before (and here I am venturing into unfamiliar territory and am forced to rely on the assessment of others). I do not remember Jeff Weaver as a Tiger, but I do know he did his best pitching in the Olde English D. Since he was traded away, he hasn’t pitched as well (though he did have a decent year for the Dodgers out of their ‘pen in 2009). And I’ve talked to Tigers fans who strongly objected to the Weaver trade at the time it happened (We did get Carlos Peña and Jeremy Bonderman out of the deal). And there was evidence to suggest that Granderson was headed in that same direction (although at this point I believe it was merely a down year). The second theory is that Dombrowski or someone in the front office thinks incredibly highly of Austin Jackson. Jackson was always thought of as the centerpiece of any potential deal for Granderson. Perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence to support this theory is that once the three-way trade talks were believed to be dead, the Tigers suddenly re-opened them and by doing so, they lowered their asking price for Granderson. This would suggest that they believe (erroneously or not) that Austin Jackson will eventually be better than Granderson, and likely within the next two years or so. The third theory is a combination of the first two theories, and of the three, this is most likely candidate. Again, I’m not saying that I agree with any of these. I’m just trying to take a stab at what the Tigers think. Now, it could be that my train of logic is totally off and this was purely a cost-cutting move. It could be that I’m right and Dave Dombrowski’s line of thinking is completely wrong and this’ll blow up in his face. Or it could be that I am right and so is Dombrowski. For all our sakes, I hope this is the case.

The last few days have seen Tigerland rather melancholy, morose, and depressed, and this is understandable. I feel those same things myself. HOWEVER, there is reason for hope. The sun will rise again, and it may rise as soon as next April as far as we know. My best guess is that the Tigers are trying to position themselves for a big run in 2011 (provided they don’t trade away Verlander or Cabrera), but that doesn’t mean that 2010 has to be a wash. The loss of Granderson will cripple the Tigers…if they let it. But what if they could be motivated by it instead? Motivated to not let it happen again, motivated to inspire Austin Jackson and Phil Coke (Grandy’s “final contributions,” as it were) to reach their full potential, motivated to win in Granderson’s honor, or whatever. Now, making some sort of “win-now” move this offseason would not be prudent (with the exception of maybe signing a closer, provided you can get one for one year and less than $5 million). But the team we have right now is certainly capable of providing plenty of wins, especially when you consider the weak division we play in. There’s an awful lot of talent in the front end of the rotation with Verlander, Scherzer, and Porcello, and it’ll be even better if Bonderman/Robertson/Galarraga can shake off their injury woes and pitch like they’re capable of doing. Of the gaggle of relief prospects in the minors, most won’t be ready until at least 2011, but some may make their presence felt in 2010 and one would hope guys like Ryan Perry continue to improve. The offense may be down two men but most of the remaining guys are still capable of putting up better numbers than they did in 2009. A few things that went wrong in 2009 would have to go right in 2010, of course, and some things that went right in 2009 would have to keep going right. But I have a good feeling about 2010, even though I can’t explain why. As a matter of fact, I’d had a feeling of some dread ever since the season ended, perhaps before. Starting about 36 hours after the Granderson trade, that feeling went away. I have absolutely no logical explanation for it, and so you may discard it and that is your right. But I have a fairly good track record as far as the team’s fortune is concerned. After the acquisition of Miguel Cabrera, Tigers fans everywhere were ordering their champagne in January, and yet I had misgivings (nothing to do with Cabrera, of course). Last year, I was one of only a handful of Tiger writers and bloggers who still believed in the team. Now I feel as though SOMETHING good will happen to the Tigers in 2010 (Bear in mind that it may be something like a division title but it could also merely be some sort of individual achievement; I do NOT believe it would be something so indirect as the Tigers finishing with so bad a record they get the #1 pick in the 2011 draft). If I have to be the sole beacon of hope in Tigerland, so be it. And if there was any way at all that I myself could do to personally ensure victory, I would do everything within my power. Admittedly, I have nothing to back this up, and it is contingent of the Tigers not trading away any more franchise players (a loss of Verlander and/or Cabrera WOULD cripple the team in most circumstances I can think of). But as it stands right now, it goes right back to the two things that I preach are essential for success: Ability and execution. The Tigers still most certainly have the ability. Now they must execute.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Adios, Placido Polanco

We all knew it was coming, but yesterday officially marked the end of the Placido Polanco era in Detroit (Yes, I know four-and-a-half years is kind of short to be considered an “era,” but it’s the same amount of time as Pudge was with the Tigers and I frequently refer to his time in Detroit as “the Pudge era,” so I’m applying it to Polanco). Our old second baseman is moving across the diamond and becoming the Phillies’ third baseman for the next three years (And I’m not a real big fan of the Phillies, but it’s definitely better than having him with the Red Sox or with another AL Central team).

Most of what needs to be said has already been said on other blogs which you’ve probably already read. Polanco wasn’t in my top five (which is the only segment I bother to rank), but if I ranked a top ten, he would’ve been sixth or seventh. He was a hell of a #2 hitter and a hell of a defender (the concept of “E4” has been virtually unknown to Tigers fans these past few years). I know Scott Sizemore is probably ready to take over and I know it’s probably the right strategic move, but it’s still sad to see Placido in another uniform. I have lots of good memories of him, most notably that shot of him rounding the bases and leaping for joy after Magglio’s walk-off home run in the 2006 ALCS, all the while wearing that stupid hood. I’ll certainly miss that large cranium of his (and by the way, this is my favorite picture of Polanco that I have, and not just because Pudge is in it; I just love Polanco’s expression in it).

And so, the Tigers Amateur Analysis bids farewell to Placido Polanco, and I hope you readers will enjoy this Photoshop tribute:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Quick Bits

I wish I had more for you the other day, but I couldn’t think of anything and I felt the need to post something. Today’s post isn’t going to be organized very well, as real life activities have kept me occupied, but here’s a random collection of my thoughts on this Wednesday morning:

--My take on the whole trade situations: I fervently don’t want to trade any of the names mentioned, though you can’t be totally against trading a player ever. The only scenario in which a trade would be acceptable to me would be if the Tigers managed to pull off a big steal (and by that, I mean it would include someone who would make a major positive impact NOW, not five years down the road). The payroll argument is not a particularly strong one at this point because of all the money that’s coming off the books at the end of next season, so salary relief really won’t be needed. Now, it’s possible to pull off a steal by trading away Edwin Jackson (and if the reports that Dave Dombrowski was asking for Brandon Morrow and Shawn Kelley from the Mariners are true, it looks like that’s exactly what they are trying to do, at least right now). It’s still possible with Granderson, but less likely because Granderson isn’t that expensive and he’s a vital part of the team. With Miguel Cabrera, it would be nearly impossible to recoup his value. It’s unlikely that any prospect would measure up, and any money saved by trading away his contract would eventually go towards signing a player like him.

--The arbitration decisions panned out pretty much the way everyone expected them to. Even Dave Dombrowski has publicly stated that he expects both Rodney and Lyon to decline. I, like most I’ve talked to, would like to see them re-sign Lyon, but I wouldn’t go more than two years. Also, if Jason Beck is correct and the Tigers would have to move payroll, I might be a little more hesitant (see above bullet point).

--Over the weekend, MLB Network was running a marathon of old All-Star Games. I happened to watch the end of the ’97 ASG, the entire ’94 ASG, and the beginning of the ’95 ASG (back when the National League won on occasion). It was…amusing, for lack of a better term. I don’t remember if I actually watched either game back in ‘94/’95/’97 (I would’ve been in middle school at the time). With several players, I definitely knew who they were regardless of whether I remembered them playing or not (like Cal Ripken Jr. and Mark McGwire). There were others with names I recognized but didn’t know much more about them beyond that (Chuck Knoblauch, Matt Williams, etc), and this included guys who I know better as broadcasters (such as Mark Grace). Then there were a few to whom I thought, “Who the hell are you?” It certainly shocked me to see how young Mariano Rivera looked in 1997. Along that same line, it was funny to hear the broadcasters refer to certain players as “kids” when I view them as hardened veterans.

--Fun fact: Off all the players who participated in the 1994 All-Star Game, three are still active: Ken Griffey Jr, Randy Johnson, and Pudge Rodriguez (though there’s a strong possibility that the Big Unit will retire now that he’s got his 300th win). Pudge in particular was of interest to me (not surprisingly). It was funny hearing Bob Costas refer to him as the “young, 22-year-old catcher from the Texas Rangers” because I’ll never see him as a 22-year-old. And apparently his nickname wasn’t widely known at the time because the broadcasters never used it (though it did say “Pudge” on his wristbands). It must’ve become more prominent by 1995 because those broadcasters DID call him Pudge. Three random things that I observed were that he looked shorter in those days, his pants were too tight, and he had pretty much the same amount of plate discipline that he does now (which is, to say, not much). Also, Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver were slightly less annoying in the mid-90s.

--This has almost nothing to do with baseball, but I tried playing a Madden game for the first time last night. Now, I suck at video games, so I played it on that super-simplified “Family Play” setting that they put in there for, like, 8-year-olds. Well, I ended up winning the game 73-0 (That included a touchdown on the kickoff return, sacking the quarterback in the first two defensive plays, at least three interceptions that were returned for TDs, and one player who scored five touchdowns). I get the feeling that “Family Play” is a little too easy even for me, but then I look at the instruction manual and see the 3000 different commands that you have to know on normal play and it’s a bit much. I’m the same way when it comes to MLB The Show. I always play in manager mode on that game, and on the easiest setting. Plus, I know it’s just a game, but I’m not real thrilled at the prospect of commentators talking about how bad I am.

--I am currently working on a light-hearted feature regarding the Holiday Catalog. Provided tragedy (i.e. a bad trade) does not strike before I get it finished, I will have it up as soon as I’m done (It might not be until next week, though. Exams and work are taking up a lot of time).