Welcome to Out With The Crowd, a semi-regular feature in which I interview a fan of a given team and see how s/he thinks it's going for his/her team – favorite (and least favorite) players, hopes and fears, and messages for the coach or manager.
This time around, I talked with Erin S., a Detroit Tigers fan based in Florida. We discussed the playoffs, pink-eye, and whether Prince Fielder needs to try the salad. Our conversation took place late last week.
Who's your favorite new Tiger this year?
Oh, man, I'll get disowned if I don't answer this one way and one way only. I mean, how can I not go with Prince?
Seriously, though, he's done amazing things for the team (if you don't count his defense, which, eeesh...). He's gone from just a power hitter to an all around excellent hitter since we got him and we desperately needed that.
Plus, all the jokes about other, smaller guys orbiting him just write themselves.
Oh my gosh, that's been fun for Tigers bloggers.
I'd like to add a plug for Omar Infante, as well.
Couch Baron and I used to call Fielder Sr. the Gas Giant.
Perfect! It was ESPN or MLBN that did this graphic a few weeks ago . . . They compared the weight of Fielder, Young, and Cabrera to three of the Lions defensive players. The Tigers beat them by like 30 pounds.
I know! I never would have guessed that. They put little pictures of them on a scale set. It was . . . awkward.
Fielder's defense has been a bit maddening, which isn't good on a team that isn't known for being sharp in that area. He'll pick a beautiful ball out of the dirt, but he'll also drop a pop fly after it lands in his glove.
I'll have to hunt that down.
There is a screen grab of it floating around somewhere, I know.
I root for a team containing Lucas Duda, so I can empathize.
Ha! Yeah, I forgot. Mets.
Speaking of negatives (hee), any least favorite new Tiger in 2012?
Hard to tell so far, because he's only had 3 or 4 starts, but Anibal Sanchez has not been the pitcher we hoped. It doesn't help that we gave up very, very good prospects to get him, either. Fans are going absolutely ballistic about that one.
I'd like to give the guy some more time. He just came from the NL and he hasn't had many starts, but when you're in a playoff race, your patience runs a bit thin, you know?
What's a "playoff race"? Just kidding.
Sorry, didn't mean to rub that one in.
We're used to it by now. Anyone you've been missing this year?
Hey, Tigers fan here. We've been through it.
…This is not a popular opinion, and it is based purely on emotion, but I miss Brandon Inge. I grew up with music majors for parents so I was late to the whole pro sports game and he was the first player I fell in love with.
Realistically, believe me, I know why we got rid of him. But he was a great clubhouse guy, did amazing things for the city of Detroit, and I desperately wanted him to retire as a franchise player.
I've always liked that guy without exactly knowing why. It...wasn't the bat.
Exactly! …Oh, no. Definitely not the bat. I mean, he's on the DL now for dislocating his shoulder, popping it BACK IN ON THE FIELD, and then drove in the game-winning run for Oakland. How do you not kind of love that?
That's some @OldHossRadbourn [nonsense] right there.
It was totally bad-ass and I loved it. I still root for the guy, and I'm not ashamed. He plays the game balls-out and I'm glad he's happy in Oakland.
And you have to figure Beane sees something there.
Definitely. He has something to give, still. And hey, Oakland, is putting together a fun season, so good for them!
Anyone you've been glad to be rid of?
No one really stands out, which I guess is a good thing, but I wasn't sad to see Wilson Betemit go unsigned. They signed him to take over most of Inge's playing time at the end of last year, and it just wasn't a good situation from the start. His defense is questionable and his plate discipline was just awful. Just didn't add much to the team, and I think a lot of people have probably already forgotten that he played for us, anyway. By the time the playoffs rolled around, he was practically benched.
I remember him as the guy the Yankees had to DL with pink-eye. What are you, five years old?
What's your biggest concern for the team right now?
Oh, I have choices here. At the beginning of the season, I had serious concerns about our defense once they put Prince and Miggy at the corners. Then they decided to go with, like, three guys at second base to start the season. Plus we had Young and Boesch in the outfield corners, which . . . ugh. But everyone kept harping on how defense wouldn't be an issue, because look at our bats! We're going to score a million runs a game! It will all work out!
I'll be honest, Cabrera has worked his ass off and has been far, far less of a concern than I anticipated (please see the 2008 season). Our defense has been mediocre at best. And we just haven't been scoring the way everyone hoped. Avila and Peralta have regressed somewhat. Boesch went completely cold and is streaky. Young . . . I don't even know what to say about Young anymore.
And where do you see them finishing? The pre-season chatter had the AL Central basically decided, and it hasn't worked out that way.
Exactly! Because we were supposed to score SO MANY RUNS that our defense giving away runs wouldn't matter.
I hate to say this, because I tend to be highly optimistic, but I think we're going to have to shoot for the wild card. I say second in the division to the White Sox (guh.).
Yeah, who'd have seen them coming?
I know! I mean, what the hell, Dunn? They've outpaced us for most of the season, and honestly, they're playing better baseball a lot of the time. They have a lot of guys putting up just monster numbers.
And the Royals helpfully [messed] the bed. I figured them for a #2 in March.
Yeah, I really thought they'd be in contention this year.
Or at least "not still horrible."
Heh. A lot of people predicted that, though. And I didn't expect much from the Twins, but man. They've just had a terrible year.
Oh, God. That is uncomfortable!
See, as a Tigers fan, I've been conditioned to hate the Twins. Especially after the tie-breaker game. But . . .
I'm embarrassed for them. It's so, so sad. And I feel like they went into the [toilet] at hyperspeed, too.
It did seem to happen SO quickly, you're right. They just dug a hole that there is no coming out of this season. And the Indians are exactly where you expect the Indians to be every year.
"We're over .500! Yaaaaay! [poot]"
HA! Exactly. There's a flash of hope, and then . . . failure. Chris Rose is an Indians fan, and he told everyone not to get excited.
The guy I want to interview for the Indians segment of this is still mad about Rocky Colavito. So...that should be a corker.
Oh, I look forward to that!
I'm just imagining Bob Uecker at the beginning of "Major League," with the bottle of Jack Daniel's.
Yeah, it can't be Verlander, Fister, Verlander, Fister . . .
Or play him in left, hee.
HA! GOD, Delmon. Please go away.
Who do you see in the World Series this fall?
I'd love to say the Tigers, obviously, and it breaks my heart to say this, but I don't think they'll make it that far.
I don't either, I'm sorry to tell you. You can't pitch Verlander every night.
But I'm not counting the Yankees out. They're like a plague.
Well, talk about no depth.
Exactly. I don't think they'll make it, because they're just walking on a wire right now.
There's too much that could go wrong too quickly. If they can get out of an LDS without someone having a stroke, it will be a miracle.
My concern about the Nationals is the whole Strasburg situation.
Yeah, I'm on the fence about that.
I mean, are they really going to not pitch him?
Pitchers being what/how they are, I think you have to try to win now. There are too many other variables. I mean, I think Dontrelle [Willis]'s ARM was fine. And look where that went.
Oh, God, talk about a train wreck. I feel for Dontrelle. I really, really rooted for him.
There would be flashes of greatness, and then he'd go out and forget how to throw strikes. I think the Nationals rotation is strong enough that they might be able to make it through the playoffs without Strasburg, but I'd hate to see that happen.
Well, the Nats make a good segue to the next question: Any pleasant surprises this year? Could be Tigers or non-.
I would have to say Austin Jackson's complete turnaround. I guess it shouldn't be a huge surprise, because he's always had the ability and had a great first year, but man, did he struggle at the plate last season. There were a good number of people who didn't want him ever hitting first ever again, and he's been the third best hitter on our team, now. I mean, his average is right there with Prince, and he's learned to take walks. THAT is a leadoff hitter.
As far as teams, I'd have to go with the entire National League. The standings right now are insane and predicting who gets to the WS out of those divisions is a real challenge, which I love.
Oh, me too. The last week of the 2011 season was hog heaven.
Wasn't that amazing? We had baseball on both televisions and I screamed myself raw at the finishes. More of that, please! I'm still kicking myself for not going to the Rays/Yankees final game. I live within an easy drive of Tampa and there were still tickets available. So. Much. Regret.
Any UN-pleasant surprises in 2012?
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His performance at the end of last year made us love him, he was extended and we were okay with that, and then . . . He can't play left worth a damn, he complained when they wanted him to DH fulltime, he went and got arrested for a HATE CRIME in New York, he swings at EVERYTHING, and then he grew that 'stache. Done with him.
If you could tell your manager one thing, what would it be?
Let me say, first, that I like Leyland. A lot. But I have notes. First, please stop stubbornly playing Brennan Boesch thinking that's going to fix anything. Leyland flat-out said that his problems were mental and he's not taking their advice.
Second, don't be afraid to use your bullpen more creatively. He's very strict about who he pitches in which inning/situation, and he rarely changes, regardless of results. I know that isn't exactly unique to managers, but seriously. If Phil Coke keeps giving up runs in close games, please stop pitching Phil Coke every other day like it will change something. He's been bad for over a month. Obviously, something is not working.
Yeah: Phil Coke. (It's been tried.)
Oh, that's right! You had him with the Yankees! What is up with that guy?
I can't say. It must be one of those "he throws hard so we'll keep giving him chances" things. Or he has naked pictures of...everyone?
The only good use I have for Phil Coke is to follow him around everywhere with a microphone, because dude is HILARIOUS.
He does give good postgame -- fortunately.
He's also great with fans. I've seen him sign at pretty much every spring training game I've been to, and sign for long stretches. I have his autograph from when we went to the Tampa series this summer and he's just a trip. He's great with kids and will sign all day if you let him. Not that that translates well into not blowing leads, but I have to at least give him that.
It's something. It's the only thing sparing Jason Bay's life right now.
Aw, Jason Bay.
Any other complaints? Anything else bugging you baseball-wise?
Shut up, entire Red Sox organization.
Oh, I am LOVING that [foolishness]. What a bunch of toddlers.
I know, right? That is SUCH a disaster, you just can't look away.
I mean, seriously? "Oh, we thought we hired the OTHER Bobby Valentine"? [Get bent].
Or younger and less injury-prone?
Or less . . . Beckett.
I'm back to hating Pedroia again.
See, I always hate him at least a little. It just keeps festering, and I'll forget about it for a bit, and then BAM. There it is again.
I'm finding the whole rookie-sensation thing a bit tiring, but it is a legitimately great story, and at least it isn't about Tebow. Trout is just ridiculous.
I keep expecting ESPN to formulate a graphic insinuating that he invented indoor plumbing.
There are a lot of other exciting things happening right now and all we hear about is Trout and Harper. Which . . . okay, Harper is my last "bug" for the season. Though watching him and Ozzie get into a public snit was amazing. Harper is going to ignite a brawl at some point, and he's going to get the [snot] kicked out of him, and I won't be sorry.
He gained some points with the "clown question" thing, but he's 19. There's plenty of [foolishness] as yet unseen.
Oh, yes. It will be glorious.
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