Baseball is as American as apple pie, old ladies playing bingo at fundraisers, and pick-up trucks and, like America, it has had it’s fair share of scandals over the years. Gambling scandals have plagued the sport since it’s inception but more recently steroid and substance abuse allegations have rocked national headlines.
The Louisville Grays Scandal of 1877 was one of the earliest controversies to effect Major League Baseball. The Grays were in first place at the beginning of the season that year but then started losing game after game, eventually losing 12 out of their 20 games. Their inexplicable losing streak arose the suspicion of league president William Hulbert who had the team investigated. The investigation showed that players Jim Devlin, George Hall, Al Nichols, and Bill Carver had agreed to throw games in exchange for money from gamblers. The four players were subsequently banned from the sport and the Grays never played again once news of the scandal surfaced.
The Black Sox Scandal is probably the most famous scandal in the history of baseball. In the 1919 World Series The Chicago White Sox faced off against the Cincinnati Reds and lost. The White Sox gave an exceptionally poor performance and were immediately suspected of throwing the game. In 1920 eight players, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were brought up on criminal charges. Though the players were acquitted they were banned from organized baseball for life.
1919 was a year of controversy for the MLB. Center Fielder Benny Kauf led the Federal League in batting for two seasons and then moved on to play for the New York Giants in 1916. Three years later, in December, 1919, Kauf was charged for operating a car-theft ring. Kauf case was heard in 1921 and was acquitted of all charges. Despite being acquitted he was banned from the MLB by commissioner Kenesaw who believed that Kauf’s acquittal was “one of the worst miscarriages of justice ever to come to my attention.”
In the 1980’s you the Pittsburgh drug trials and the Pete Rose gambling scandal. Pete Rose, manager of the Cincinnati Reds and baseball’s all-time hits leader, was accused of betting on Major League games while he was the manager. Rose, facing harsh punishment and damning evidence, agreed to a voluntary lifetime band from baseball. Since 1989 Rose has tried to be reinstated twice but was turned down both times.
The Pittsburgh drug trials made national headlines in September of 1985. Several players for the Pittsburgh Pirates, including Dave Parker, Lee Lacy, Lonnie Smith, were summoned before a Pittsburgh grand jury to testify about drug abuse. Tales of prominent baseball playings purchasing and consuming a variety of drugs, such as amphetamines and cocaine, during games shocked the jury. Even the team’s mascot was implicated and accused of selling drugs and introducing players to drug dealers. In the aftermath of the trials seven drug dealers pleaded guilty to a variety of charges while several players were suspended from playing for varying lengths of time by baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth.
Substance abuse among professional baseball players once again made headlines in the mid to late 2000’s. The controversy was a result of a book (written by former MLB outfielder and designated hitter Jose Canseco) called Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big. In the book Canseco claimed that a vast majority of MLB players used steroids to enhance their perormance.
Rafael Palmeiro was one of the players Canseco called out in his book and appeared before congress in March 2005 where he, and several over of the sport’s top players, testified about substance abuse. It was during the trial that Palmeiro uttered the famous words, “Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.” Despite his ardent denial of steroid abuse Palmeiro tested positive the steroid stanozolol just five months later and was thus suspended for ten days.
Most professional baseball players have never thrown a game in order to get some extra cash or used steroids to give them an edge over the competition. However, when the ones that engage in these illicit activities get caught the image of baseball itself gets tainted.
Thank you interleague play. The Tigers won another series and it was their first since they swept the Twins and it’s just their second series win since they took two of three against the Pirates in mid-May. Sunday’s win was particularly fun because not only did they come back from a nice sized deficit, but they did it against the nearly unhittable Aroldis Chapman. Now the Tigers have three games against one of the worst teams in baseball, the Chicago Cubs. Let’s do a glass half full piece and look at some of the positives.
Austin Jackson is back. He was one of the starts on Sunday and he still has the team’s best OPS with .955. Also on offense, Miguel Carbera and Prince Fielder are having good (but unfortunately not great) seasons. If one or two other guys get their stuff together, this offense can really start humming. Even with all of their struggles this year, they’re sixth in the American League in runs scored (263) and fifth in OPS (.742).
On the pitching side, Verlander has been Verlander. His walk rate is up a little as has his hit rate but his home run rate is down. Ignore the 5-4 record because that’s pointless but he’s a couple of good starts from being right where he was at last year. After that is where I get worried. Doug Fister is on the shelf again and everyone else has been erratic. Casey Crosby has struggled and while I think he’ll be a good back of the rotation pitcher, he just doesn’t look ready yet. Even more important has been Jacob Turner’s struggles for the Hens. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see Thad Weber up soon. He’s not a blue chip, but he’s been the best of the rotation farm hands with Toledo this year.
Tonight it’ll be Max Scherzer against Paul Maholm. Sherzer was roughed up in his last start against the Indians but prior to that, he had three decent starts in a row. Maholm hasn’t had a good season but he’s been very good against Prince Fielder. Prince is just six for 48 with no extra base hits in his career against Maholm. He’s given up nine home runs in 60 innings though so I expect a home run or two today.
If a guy like Brad Penny continues to struggle you wonder how long they’ll be able to keep Jacob Turner down when he pitches like this.
This is courtesy of MLB.com’s Game Notes, Phil Coke is going to get the start for the Tigers and he’ll be facing Brett Cecil. Duane Below, Alberto Alburquerque, Brad Thomas and Robbie Weinhardt are all scheduled to pitch today. A familiar face will be throwing for the Blue Jays as Wil Ledezma will get some throws in. Also scheduled to make the trip is Jim Leyland’s son, Pat.
since I messed with the links in my sidebar. Still had links to Tigers Central (does anyone know what happened to Ryan Sosin?) and Bleacher Guy (another good, but long passed blog). Time for a much needed update. If I missed you (going to stick with Tiger sites for now, so check out the blogroll), leave a comment.
Just got this off of the video feed. Analysis to come.
Happy New Year everyone. The Hall of Fame announces who gets in on Wednesday, so I’m curious as to everyone’s thoughts as to who gets in. Not who you think should get it, but who the writers will vote in. My guess is Bert Blyleven and Robbie Alomar get in with no first ballot guys getting the nod. And the stuff with Jeff Bagwell is a joke. My hope is eventually he gets in, but I don’t see it happening on this first ballot.
In other news, it’s Hank Greenberg’s birthday today. 100 years ago the Tigers legend was born. You can check out his Hall of Fame video bio here.
Baseball Prospectus recently put out a piece on pitchers who might be forced to take minor league deals in order to keep their careers going. Former Tiger Nate Robertson made the list after a rough 2010 season.
I always liked Robertson. He was a solid middle of the rotation lefty for a while and he stuck around Detroit in the offseason. For a while, it looked like he was more unlucky then bad but the past couple of years have been pretty poor. It’ll be interesting to see if Robertson can catch on somewhere.
This has nothing to do with baseball, but if you want to check out some top notch comedy this weekend, Mike Green is going to be performing at Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak this weekend. He’s a local guy, a Tigers fan and he puts on a great show. You can check him out at his website, Oreo Man.
The Tigers had a chance to stay in a virtual tie for first place with the Twins yesterday but a rough outing by the bullpen combined with some pretty weak hitting turned what was a nice outing by Max Scherzer into a loss. The Tigers managed just three hits in this one and they didn’t score their second run until Carlos Guillen hit a solo home run in the top of the ninth inning. They scored another of their runs on a Miguel Cabrera ground out and then their third run in the 4-3 loss came on a bases loaded walk. Austin Jackson and Ramon Santiago had the other two hits.
Scherzer had his struggles but he didn’t allow a run in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out eight and that helped to offset the four walks and one hit batter that he gave up. He also got some help in the sixth from Joel Zumaya when he left two man on with two outs. Scherzer had just struck out Eric Hinske for that second out so it was interesting to see Leyland go to the pen. Wasn’t sure if it was going over 100 pitches or not.
Of course Zumaya then got into his own trouble in the seventh inning and he gave up the deal breaker. He walked two batters then he gave up a three run shot to Chipper Jones. Eric Hinske doubled home a run off of Enrique Gonzalez in the eighth and that set things up for the Tigers as they headed into their ninth inning down 4-1.
As far as the former Tigers watch, Omar Infante got in to pinch hit. He’s found a nice little role for the Braves since he went over there. He’s consistently hit over .290 without much punch in a reserve infielder/pinch hitter role.
Overall, it was a tough loss. You’re not going to win many games when you walk eight batters and while Scherzer got away without giving up a run after half of those walks, they finally came back to haunt the team. This afternoon the Tigers try to avoid the sweep in a solid pitching match up between Justin Verlander and Tommy Hanson. Then it’s off to Minnesota for a big showdown against the Twins.
I had a chance to meet former Tigers’ announcer Paul Carey yesterday and that was a special treat. He and Ernie Harwell worked in the booth for most of my childhood and I have fond memories of listening to them both on the radio. Ernie is a pro no doubt but I’ve always thought that Paul Carey was vastly underrated and I know at one point, was making a push to get him on the Frick Award ballot. He was a nice guy and he gave a great speech about working with Ernie at our SABR chapter meeting yesterday.
This has been an “interesting” year for me and unfortunately, Tigerblog hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. Between some personal issues and a heavy workload things have been tough and while I can’t make any promises, the writing bug is coming back. It also helps that the Tigers are in the mix for the division title. At this point, if you rolled the magic eight ball, the answer that most applies to me is “the future is unclear.” So while I’d love to write everyday, there’s going to be weeks where you don’t hear too much from me. Thanks a lot for your patience along the way.
Rick Porcello had a rough start but he walked away with the win because the Tigers put 10 runs on the board. The Tigers hit three home runs in an eight run fourth inning. Gerald Laird belted a two run shot, Scott Sizemore had a solo home run and then Brennan Boesch hit a grand slam to finish up the damage. For Boesch and Sizemore, it was his first career home run.
Austin Jackson went five for five with two runs and his fifth stolen base. The last time a Tiger had five hits in a game was Curtis Granderson on 7/30/2008. The last time a player went five for five was Placido Polanco on 7/27/2007 so it’s been a few years.
The only Tiger starter who didn’t have a hit was Magglio Ordonez and he only played half the game. Johnny Damon also had a nice game and he went three for four with a double, a triple, two runs and two RBIs.
Rick Porcello gave up five runs in 5 1/3 innings and while he continues to struggle, he evened his record to 2-2. It’s Porcello’s third straight rough start. I didn’t get to watch much of the game so I’m not sure what the problems are but he’s still keeping the ball down (11 ground ball outs to three fly ball outs). Ryan Perry helped Porcello out in the sixth and he struck out three in 1 2/3 shutout innings. Jose Valverde pitched a perfect ninth in a non-save situation.
Heading into the game, the Tigers bullpen ERA was 2.22 which is best in the American League. They’re holding the opposition to a .614 OPS although I was a little surprised that the strikeout rate wasn’t a bit better. Then again, guys like Brad Thomas and Eddie Bonine don’t strike out a lot of guys and they counter balance guys like Fu-Te Ni and Joel Zumaya.
Speaking of Zumaya, he had another nice outing yesterday (two shutout innings) after an outing in which he gave up his first earned runs. He still hasn’t walked a batter, which is phenomonal. In 55 plate appearances, he’s only gone to three balls eleven times and he’s gone to a full count nine times.
And what’s gotten into Fu-Ten Ni. He has 14 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings this year. Last year, he had 21 strikeouts in 31 innings. Unfortunately, his walk rate is up as well. Still, he’s been effective although his 1.69 ERA is a bit deceiving when you look at his 1.500 ERA.
The Twins won so the Tigers sit a game and a half back of first. Still, a 14-10 April isn’t anything to scoff at. They’ve done well in their division which is big and while they had the rough stretch, they’ve bounced back and are playing some good baseball. Tomorrow afternoon, it’ll be Scott Kazmir against Jeremy Bonderman. Bonderman’s had two mediocre outings, one good one and one really bad so we’ll see which Bonderman we’ll see tomorrow.
The Tigers have now gone through all five of their starters and it’s been so far, so good as all five have gone at least five innings. The latest was Jeremy Bonderman, who needed 92 pitches to get through five innings just five innings. Fortunately it was enough to get him his first win in almost two years. He gave up a run on one hit and two walks with five strikeouts. He was consistently in the low 90s for the first few innings with quite a few 93 mph fastballs. It’s not the Bonderman of old because he also mixed a lot of changeups in there but it’s nice to see him have some success. A big concern was by the fifth inning, Bonderman’s velocity was down and he was having a hard time even touching 90. Something to keep an eye on in future starts.
Brad Thomas gave up a run in two innings of relief. Fu-Ten Ni struck out one in two thirds of an inning while Ryan Perry got the final four batters out to pick up his first career save (first of many?).
Magglio Ordonez had the big hit with a first inning two run home run. It was his second long ball of the season and it’s half of his 2008 first half total (4). He and Miguel Cabrera have punished pitchers so far this season and hopefully they can keep it up. Brandon Inge also had a nice game and he went two for three with a walk and an RBI.
The Tigers go for the sweep this afternoon with Justin Verlander going for his first win of the season. Jake Westbrook throws for the Indians. The ESPN game tonight has the Cardinals against the Brewers and the Sunday afternoon game on TBS has the Yankees and Rays (unfortunately, it confilicts with the Tigers).
Mike Cassidy is covering the Tigers minor league system for the fourth straight year. The Tigers four full season affiliates kicked off their seasons yesterday. Unfortunately, all four lost.
It wasn’t the pitcher’s duel that everyone thought and while Justin Verlander didn’t have his best stuff, the Tigers still walked away with an 8-4 win over the Royals this afternoon. The Tigers were down most of the game but then they rallied for six runs in the seventh inning (once Greinke was out of there) to pull away with the win. Johnny Damon made a pretty big impact in his first game as a Tiger and his two run double drove home the tying and go ahead runs in this one.
Austin Jackson picked up his first major league hit. He doubled and drove in a run in the big seventh inning and he later scored on Damon’s double. Miguel Cabrera singled twice and drove in a pair while Damon also finished with two runs in the contest.
On the pitching side, Verlander needed 93 pitches to get through five inings. He gave up four runs on six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Joel Zumaya struck out one and gave up a hit in a shutout sixth inning and he picked up the win. Phil Coke (2/3 of an inning), Ryan Perry (1 1/3 innings) and Jose Valverde all pitched in to shutout the Royals in the final four frames. Valverde got into trouble in the ninth when he walked Jason Kendall and then had a second runner get on after Ramon Santiago’s fielding error but he pitched out of it in the non-save situation.
I was hoping to dig into the Gameday data but it looks like MLB.com is bogged down (too many people stopping by?). The WPA graph on this is pretty interesting so I’ll touch on that. Things peaked for the Royals after Billy Butler made it 4-1 (giving the Royals a 87.6% chance of winning). Austin Jackson’s RBI double was actually worth more (.189) then Damon’s two run double (.175). It was actually Cabrera who led the team in WPA (.206) and Ryan Perry led the pitchers (.067).
The Tigers are off tomorrow and then it’s Max Scherzer against Luke Hochevar in the Tigers first night game of the season. Scherzer makes his Tigers debut in a battle of 2006 first round draft picks.
The Tigers first spring telecast is today. Fortunately I’ll be home most of the day so I should be able to catch most of the game. Even better, there’s four night games (including two 10 pm games) on MLB.TV so hypothetically, you could start watching the Tigers at one pm and watch pretty much non-stop baseball until 1 am or so. The internet is wonderful thing.
MLB Trade Rumors brought up an interesting discussion today. Should Justin Verlander make more then Felix Hernandez? Jon Paul Morosi seems to think so but Dierkes brings up some great points as to why this might not be the case.
Last week, I talked about my confusion regarding the direction, or lack of, that the Tigers are taking. Well, I’m still thinking about it and I think one of the big missing pieces is how the Tigers are going to look after the 2010 season and not before. If I take a look at the the Tigers coming off of the payroll after 2010 (thanks to Cot’s Baseball Contracts), it’s safe to say that the 2011 Tigers are going to be a much different team then what we’ve seen the past couple of years. Here are the contracts that end:
1) Magglio Ordonez $15 million? – I put a question mark here because the Tigers have an option that vests, much like last season, if he gets 540 plate appearances (or 135 starts) in 2010 or a combined 1080 plate appearances or 270 starts combined in 2009 and 2010. The Tigers let this option kick in for 2010 and I don’t see it happening again. I think the team’s announcement that Ryan Raburn will be playing most everyday in the outfield is going to be the Tigers insurance policy because my bet is he’ll be spelling Ordonez more then the other two outfield positions. Of course Ordonez could call the Tigers hand if he comes anywhere close to his 2008 (or even better, 2007).
2) Jeremy Bonderman $12.5 million – Nothing like a little pressure, but Bonderman’s fate could be decided in 2010. He’s been penciled in as the fourth starter and if he performs, I can see the Tigers signing him again but unless he’s lights out, he’s not going to be making the $12.5 he made in 2009 and that he’ll make in 2010.
3) Dontrelle Willis $12 million – I’m not going to touch this one. Willis has already begun talking about how his anxiety disorder was misdiaganosed. He’ll get a look in spring training but I think the Tigers cut him loose before the 2010 season just so the Tigers aren’t tempted to ride the D-Train one last time. It’s too bad because everything I’ve heard is that Willis is a top notch guy, he just lost his game.
4) Nate Robertson $10 million – My bet is Robertson comes out of spring training as the fifth starter just so the Tigers can use him as trade bait. Robertson’s been one of the guys I’ve liked (being a southpaw myself) but he just hasn’t gotten it done the past couple of years. If he’s back with the Tigers in 2011, it’ll be at a much lower price then what he’s made the past couple of years.
5) Brandon Inge $6.6 million – If he plays like he played in the first half last year, he might make more money but I don’t see it happening especially with Inge coming off an injury. Maybe the Tigers will try getting Larish a full season at Triple A at third base so he can play everday their in 2011. Third base would also be a spot the Tigers could fill in the off-season next year.
6) Gerald Laird $3.95 million – A lot depends on how Al Avila develops. With the trade rumors surrounding Laird around the winter meetings, I don’t see him in a Tiger uniform next year.
7) Bobby Seay $2.475 million – The Tigers have some arms coming up in the system so Seay could be gone as well.
8) Adam Everett $1.55 million – Gustavo Nunez’s development this year will determine what happens with Everett. A resurgance by Cale Iorg could also push Everett out of town.
There’s a few more guys (like Zach Miner and Joel Zumaya) but they make less then a million. So if the Tigers clean the slate, they’ll have close to $65 million coming off of the payroll after 2010. Some of that money is going to go towards Verlander’s long term deal (yes, I’m optimistic) and that will also free up some money for Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, who should also anchor the Tigers rotation for years to come. It just probably means we’ll be throwing away (as in, we’ll do just enough to contend in a weak AL Central but little else) 2010 and potentially 2011 to get to where we need to be. Of course the Tigers may not be done and that could fill in some blanks so as always, we’ll see.
Bob Nightengale at the USA Today has reported that the Tigers are close to a deal to trade Edwin Jackson and Curtis Granderson is still being shopped. So much for the “no fire sale” comment from Jim Leyland. I knew this was going to crazy week but the back and forth on the Tigers has been pretty interesting.
It looks like Gary Sheffield wants to make one more run. I think the whole thing about him reaching 3,000 hits and 25 home runs (much less 40) is a stretch but he did have a decent season last year while also playing in the outfield. An .823 OPS, even in limited time (268 at bats) isn’t anything to scoff at but he did struggle after the All Star Break (0 home runs, versus 10 prior to the break).
One thing the story didn’t mention was that he now appears to be more open to being a designated hitter. It’s funny how when your back is against the wall, you’re willing to make concessions. I just hope whoever signs him calls the Tigers front office before hand because I think I’ve heard the whole “I’m willing to play DH” thing before.