Monday, July 02, 2007

Tigers Can't Afford Any Letdowns

And so five Tigers - Ivan Rodrigues, Placido Polanco, Justin Verlander, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen - were selected for the All Star Game. If that isn’t a sign a team is a powerhouse, then I don’t know what is. And, it is even more telling that at least three other Tigers players - Jeremy Bonderman, Curtis Granderson and Gary Sheffield - should be in San Francisco, too.
And none of the Tigers’ selections were unworthy. Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez have better stats than Pudge this season, but neither can carry his jock defensively or are going to the Hall of Fame. Pudge is having a decent year. He is still the best catcher in the American League as far as I am concerned. Bonderman may get in via the final fan vote. The way he pitched Sunday night can only help. So will his stats - 9-1 with a 3.58 ERA.
But I am not sure if the Tigers’ obvious talent presents a glass half-full or a glass half-empty scenario. The Tigers are not in first place. Before eking out a win Sunday, they had lost four of their previous five games at home. They have problems in their bullpen that are more than a little troublesome.
The Tigers are improved in many ways. Sheffield has been everything advertised. Sean Casey is often maligned, but he is effective in kind of a quirky way. Whether it’s because he is finally totally healthy or whatever, Ordonez has been brilliant where last season his performance level faded in and out. Polanco has improved and Guillen has been just as good. Granderson is a much better player. Verlander and Bonderman have both made strides.
The injuries to Kenny Rogers and Joel Zumaya have been a hindering factor, sure, but I do wonder why the Tigers haven’t taken off a bit more. Every organization wants to be them now. Yet, you could just tell this weekend the Twins are still going to be very difficult to shake. As for the Indians, when the likes of Ben Francisco start hitting walk-off home runs like he did Friday, you know a team is on a special roll.
My point is the Tigers better be careful. They can’t afford to fall into the mode that cost the Pistons so dearly this spring. You know, where they are so calm when things start going awry, they never do get it right. I do like their calmness and cool under fire, but it needs to be balanced with a sense of urgency. They have to play better are home, for example. Their strengths can make up for their weakness in the bullpen, but only if they are unrelenting with that muscle. And the bullpen can’t be a total gas can. Somebody besides Todd Jones has to get somebody out.


A Note

You can vote in our poll for the 10 greatest athletes in Oakland County history by just clicking on the Contest/Events page at theoaklandpress.com. Just write them in, 1-to-10 in order. I will be doing a series of columns counting down the Top 10 in the reader vote, combined with our staff vote, later in the month. It’s amazing when you look at the ballot how many great athletes have come out of Oakland County.

Random Thoughts

- Nothing against Brian Rafalski. He is a local kid who made good and a solid talent, but the Red Wings would have been better off re-signing Mathieu Schneider. Rafalski is exceptionally skilled and will equal what Schneider provided on the power play, but Schneider is much better defensively. Loved how Schneider wanted to be "closer to his Southern California home," though. What kind of hockey player is that? That’s the good part. Rafalski gets to come home.

- I am going to the All Star Game this weekend on assignment. Don’t forget to check out my stories and columns in the print edition of The Oakland Press and at theoaklandpress.com. I can’t help but wonder what kind of circus Barry Bonds is going to create there. It will be interesting to observe up close.

- Jose Capellan should help the Tigers. It could be immensely. This is the type of deal that usually pays off for relief help. He throws hard - in the mid to high 90s - and is more than capable of being the setup guy the Tigers need. He is still relatively young and may have just needed a change of scenery after reacting unfavorably, and going AWOL, after being unexpectedly sent to the minors to start the season. Capellan was definitely a good value for the marginal prospect, Chris Cody, the Tigers traded to get him. I really like the trade. Can you tell? It got lost in the shuffle of the All Star stuff, but was hardly insignificant.

9 Comments:

Blogger Eric Chase said...

Pat - Have a great time in SF!!!

1:47 PM 
Anonymous lennyw1971 said...

Can't explain the Tigers' malaise at home. The good thing is that the team seems to have an extra gear that they can call upon to start a streak.

This Oakland County athlete list is very tough to choose from. The one thing I can say is that Steve Howe seems to be the scariest to go against of this group. He was the nastiest reliever in his era and if the demons hadn't caught up with him, he could have all the relief records. LaFontaine and Ted Simmons seem to have long periods of achievement on their side.... Almost impossible to rank 10 out of the group. You're right Book... I had no idea that north of 8 mile was such a fertile ground for star athletes.

2:47 PM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Book, I listened to your show most of tonight - great show - interested to see you skate.

For awhile my little brother was ranked in the top 5 tennis players in Atlanta - in the late 70's early 80's . He made a bet he could beat this girl (we called her a little truck) 6 love and 6 love. She kicked his a**.
So you might be wearing pink my friend. Hold your head high while you do! I'll see about getting Cherry there - or Ron McClain - to officiate for you both.

Geeze that's funny.
Gimme a minute - I gotta catch my breath.

Okay.

Granderson DOES deserve to be an All Star. But not in 2007. You do not reward a guy for a season in midstream. Love the guy? I have been pushing his write-in ballot big time. But next year is Grandie's year. And there will be no question.

I wish Inge could get the same love. He's my Tiger.

Have a ball at the All Star game in your pink shirt. And pretend your the biggest Bonds fan going. I agree big time he would be in the HOF anyways.

PS - I saw Eddie Feiner - The King and His Court in 1973 play in Minnesota when I was 11. Is it you that put him in my mind? It was the most amazing "thing" I ever saw. 3 fielders and him pitching fast pitch softball.

"On my knees behind my back..."

"Strike three."

I love it.

10:39 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Eric Chase,
It'll pretty be pretty work from the time I get there until back, but it will be fun work. Should be a great event.
Caputo

1:07 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Lennyw1971,
I played against Steve Howe when I was a kid and at 18 he threw 95 mph with pinpoint control. He was a natural. I wonder what Dick Radatz was like at Berkley High. It is tough to figure the top 10, that's for sure.
Caputo

1:09 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
I ain't Wayne Gretzky, but I ain't Leo Ratsico (sp?) either (LOL). I like to play hockey a couple times a week. I think it's a great sport. I saw Eddie Feigner strike out Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente on TV when I was a little kid. He was a true legend. My column in The Oakland Press (click on sports columns) is about him.
Caputo

1:12 AM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

That's a great article you wrote on the King. Thanks for pointing me there.

I didn't know he passed away.

We lived in Apple Valley Minnesota in 1973 - and the King and his court came to play the national fast-pitch champion team.

My Dad must have seen the same TV game you did, because he was so excited to see him.

My Dad was a fast-pitch catcher in London and Windsor.

At 11, I thought I was good enough to play in the bigs. Floating under a fly ball was too easy, and I could grab anything at short.

Then I saw The King and his Court. I was as impressed with the 3 fielders as I was with Feigner. A first/second baseman, a third / shortstop, and a guy in centerfield who could cover center, left and right. He got almost everything.

And if I remember it right, the third / shortstop was a girl.

Since seeing that, I started playing fast-pitch when I moved back to Canada. It is still doing well up here.

If you have ever tried to pitch fast-pitch style, rotating your shoulder the complete 360 with power - you know how bad it hurts your rotator cup - and damn near crippled me. I played short and third.

Feigner threw balls you couldn't see. Just like your Dad said.

Thanks man, I needed to remember all that.

11:18 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
I can still vividly recall seeing that on TV. I do knew he came to my town, Birmingham, when I was a kid, but I didn't go see him play. I wish I had. He died in February. Traveled with the team right until the end, but didn't pitch the last decade or so.
Caputo

12:05 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your writing alot

2:14 PM 

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