From the Detroit Free Press, Jan. 24, 2009
The Tigers have signed free agent relievers Brandon Lyon and Scott Williamson, the team announced at TigerFest today.
Lyon, 29, is the headliner, after saving 26 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. He spent most of the 2008 season as Arizona’s closer and should enter spring training with a good chance to win the same job here. Fernando Rodney, who has been more effective as a setup reliever, is among the other candidates.
Lyon's one-year contract includes a $4.25 million base salary and $500,000 in performance bonuses. He turned down at least one multiyear offer in order to sign with Detroit. Right-hander Eddie Bonine was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot.
Lyon struggled in the second half last year, finishing with a 3-5 record and 4.70 ERA in 61 appearances. He ultimately lost the closer’s job to Chad Qualls.
In an interview with the Free Press last week, Diamondbacks pitching coach Bryan Price called Lyon “a quality pitcher and even better guy.”
“The unfortunate thing is he had a stretch where he struggled at home in non-save situations and jacked his ERA up, but there were some periods of time where he was dominant,” Price said. “The ERA is going to be misleading because he really did have a terrific year.”
Price said a comparison could be drawn between Lyon and Jose Valverde, the National League saves leader in each of the past two seasons. Price alluded to the fact that Valverde had a 5.84 ERA as recently as the 2006 season.
“Valverde didn’t really figure out the role the first three years he tried it,” Price said. “He had a heckuva grace period and learned to be outstanding at what he does. That could apply to Brandon Lyon, too. He could be an outstanding closer.
“The one thing people know about him in the National League is that he’s a very, very good setup guy who can face righties and lefties.”
In explaining Lyon’s performance after the All-Star break last year, Price said he “got away from being a four-pitch pitcher.” Rather than keep hitters off-balance with an array of fastballs, curveballs, changeups and cut fastballs, Lyon relied on his fastball and curve. He became more predictable, and, consequently, more hittable.
Price said Lyon shows good focus on the mound and is “extremely prepared.”
“Brandon likes a challenge,” Price said. “He has one of those underappreciated skills – accountability. He’s going to take ownership of his failures and not make a big to-do about his successes. He’s old-school baseball. Coaches and managers love that.”
Williamson last pitched in the majors with Baltimore in 2007, when he went 1-0 with a 4.40 ERA in 16 appearances. Because of his injury history, Williamson, who turns 33 next month, signed a minor league contract.
Williamson has 55 career saves – but only one since 2003.
Along with Tanana I saw Mickey Lolich, Jon Warden, Jim Price, Dave Rozema, Steve Kemp, Guillermo Hernandez, Matt Nokes, Mike Heath, Ike Blessit, Darrell Evans, Milt Wilcox and Dave Bergman. I complimented Bergman on his great at bat in that nationally televised Monday night game in 1984, and he modestly claimed he got lucky. It was great to see the former Tigers having fun in the sun.
To see more photos visit http://picasaweb.google.com/Thomas.hagerty/DetroitTigersFantasyCamp#
(Hurts to see the Tiger's pitching coach is 11 years younger than me.)
DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers today announced the club has agreed to terms on a minor league contract with righthanded pitcher Juan Rincon. Rincon will be in major league camp with the Tigers this spring as a non-roster invitee.
Rincon saw action with both the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians during the 2008 season, compiling a 3-3 record and 5.86 ERA (55.1IP/36ER) in 47 appearances between the two clubs.
In eight seasons at the major league level with the Twins (2001-08) and Indians (2008), Rincon has posted a 31-27 record, 3.80 ERA (468.1IP/198ER) and 431 strikeouts in 409 outings (three starts). He is fourth among all American League pitchers with 395 appearances since the start of the 2003 season, while he is second among all league relievers with 31 wins and fourth with 434.0 innings pitched during the stretch.
Rincon was among the players selected to the Venezuelan provisional roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic announced Monday.
Using terms of affection like "The Jungeliers" threw me for a loop, and his style of telling the story of a ball game is quite a bit different that what we read today. Instead of the "inverted pyramid" style we read in the Free Fress today; "The Tiger bullpen had another blowout last night, giving up three runs in the eight, and losing the game 7-6." Lieb might write "It was dark and blustery as the Jungeliers took the field for morning batting practice yesterday..."
But Lieb does excel at giving some background, like the fueds between Cobb and Crawford and some of the other players. (Since Cobb was still alive and no doubt packing a pistol when the book was written, one wonders what reaction Lieb got from him.)
Lieb revels in the Tigers' 1945 World Series victory in closing the book with "Frank Navin must be happy; his Tigers are the World's Cahmpions and Briggs Stadium in Detroit is one of the few big-league parks where they still play all their games under the sun."
You can almost here him singing "and the home of the the braaave!"
All in all, I'm glad my bride gave it to me, and if you're interested, you can usually find it on E-Bay for $12-$50 depending on it's condition, first edition, second edition or paperback reprint. (No, my copy is not for sale.)
DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers today announced the club has agreed to terms on a minor league deal with lefthanded pitcher Fu-Te Ni from Taiwan. Ni will be in major league camp with the Tigers this spring as a non-roster invitee.
Ni spent the past two seasons pitching for the China Trust Whales in the Chinese Professional Baseball League. In 2008, he finished 5-12 with a 3.34 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 145.1 innings pitched. Ni led the CPBL with 132 strikeouts in 2008. He finished 7-12 with a 3.53 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 122.1 innings pitched during the 2007 season. Ni finished third in the CPBL with 125 strikeouts that season, while he was eighth with his 3.53 ERA.
“Our personnel that have scouted Ni project him as a major league pitcher,” Tigers President, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager David Dombrowski said. “The efforts by Al Avila (vice president/assistant general manager), Tom Moore (director, international operations), Kevin Hooker (pacific rim coordinator) and Allen Lin (Taiwan scout) have brought this well-scouted prospect to our organization. We are pleased to add Ni as we continue to expand our international scouting efforts.”
He saw action with the Taiwan National Team at the 2007 Baseball World Cup, while he also pitched for Taiwan at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. Ni is slated to pitch for Taiwan at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.Ni is the second native of Taiwan signed by the Tigers organization, joining outfielder Chao-Ting Tang. Tang was signed by the Tigers on April 28, 2008 and he saw action with the Gulf Coast League Tigers this past season.
No matter how they did it, though, few players frightened opposing pitchers more than the two newest members of the baseball Hall of Fame.
Henderson and Rice were elected in balloting announced Monday by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, vastly different stars now headed to Cooperstown together.
Henderson zipped in on his first try, Rice with a final swing. Henderson played for nine teams, Rice only one. Henderson built his game around speed, Rice a powerful stick.
“Rickey could make things happen. He was the type of guy that you wanted to keep off the bases,” said Rice, the Boston slugger who was previously passed over 14 times for the Hall. “During that time you needed players like that. You needed some excitement.”
The undisputed standard for leadoff hitters, Henderson received 94.8 percent of the vote, well above the 75 percent needed. Rice, among the game’s most feared boppers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, got 76.4 percent in his 15th and final year on the BBWAA ballot. Last year, he fell just shy with 72.2 percent.
“The only thing I can say is I’m glad it’s over with,” Rice said. “I’m in there and they can’t take it away.”
Henderson, baseball’s career leader in runs scored and stolen bases, became the 44th player elected in his first year of eligibility. Rice was only the third chosen by the BBWAA in his final year, joining Red Ruffing (1967) and Ralph Kiner (1975).
The pair will be inducted into the Hall during ceremonies July 26 in Cooperstown, N.Y. They’ll be joined by former Yankees and Indians second baseman Joe Gordon, elected posthumously last month by the Veterans Committee.
“It’s really just an honor to me. I’m really just spaced out,” Henderson said. “I haven’t really thought about what I’m going to say.”
Plenty of people are curious, though.
While Rice was known for his no-nonsense attitude, Henderson was renowned for his confounding comments. He has a penchant for referring to himself in the third person—at any point during a stream of sometimes indecipherable chatter.
“I can’t wait to hear his acceptance speech,” former teammate Willie Randolph said.
Henderson was picked on 511 of 539 ballots and Rice was selected on 412, just above the 405 needed.
Rice received only 29.8 percent of the vote in 1995, when he appeared on the ballot for the first time. He initially topped 50 percent in 2000 and reached 64.8 percent in 2006.
The highest percentage for a player who wasn’t elected in a later year was 63.4 by Gil Hodges in 1983, his final time on the ballot.
Some thought Rice’s prickly personality and acrimonious relationship with reporters during his playing days helped keep him out of the Hall all those years.
“I don’t think I was difficult to deal with for writers. I think the writers were difficult to me,” he said. “I wasn’t going to badmouth my teammates. When you start talking about my teammates or what goes on outside baseball, I couldn’t do that.
“I don’t know why it took me so long. I don’t even want to think about it,” he added. “I’m just happy I’m in and that’s what I’m going to cherish.”
What did he learn all these years?
“Be patient and wait until the last out,” Rice said. “I guess everything was just timing, because my numbers have not changed over the last 14 years.”
Andre Dawson fell 44 votes short with 67 percent. He was followed by Bert Blyleven (62.7 percent), Lee Smith (44.5), Jack Morris (44.0), Tommy John (31.7) and Tim Raines (22.6). John appeared on the ballot for the final time.
Mark McGwire, stigmatized by accusations he used performance-enhancing drugs, received 118 votes (21.9 percent) in his third year of eligibility, down from the 128 votes he got in each of his first two tries.
Henderson, who played with McGwire in Oakland, said the first baseman was one of the best people he’s ever been around.
“He played the game the right way to me,” Henderson said. “I feel he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.”
Henderson, the 1990 AL MVP, was a 10-time All-Star who swiped 1,406 bases. Lou Brock is second with 938.
A showman in every sense of the word, Henderson batted .279 with 297 homers, 1,115 RBIs, 3,055 hits, 2,190 walks and 2,295 runs. He owns the modern-day season record with 130 steals in 1982, and the career mark with 81 leadoff homers. He played 25 seasons for Oakland, the Yankees, Toronto, San Diego, Anaheim, the Mets, Seattle, Boston and the Dodgers.
“No one was able to impact the course of a game in as many ways as Rickey,” Randolph said.
Henderson wanted to be a football star before his mother persuaded him to give pro baseball a try, figuring it offered a better chance at a long career.
If it were up to Henderson, now 50, he’d still be playing ball.
“They said I have to be retired to go in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “Maybe they give me that day or two that I come back and it wouldn’t mess up anything.”
Henderson wasn’t sure which team’s cap will go on his Hall of Fame plaque. He gets some say in the matter, but ultimately it’s the Hall’s decision.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Henderson said about his election. “I was nervous, waiting.”
Rice, the 1978 AL MVP, was an eight-time All-Star who hit 382 home runs in 16 seasons with the Red Sox from 1974-89. He had a .298 career batting average and 1,451 RBIs, and from 1977-79 averaged .320 with 41 homers and 128 RBIs.
He becomes the fourth Hall of Famer to have spent his entire career with the Red Sox, joining fellow left fielders Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski, along with second baseman Bobby Doerr.
“That’s I think one of the biggest accomplishments,” Rice said.
In 1973 baseball decided to let fat guys and guys that could not play the field any longer a new way to stay in the game, and thus the Designated Hitter was created. Ron Bloomberg, a notoriously bad fielder, was the first DH in the American League. It has been great for the game and has extended the careers of many players so that they had an impact. Can you imagine what would have happened to the careers of Edgar Martinez, Tony Oliva, Willie Horton, and today, David Ortiz, Frank Thomas, and Jim Thome without the DH. The National League is crazy for not adopting the rule. Even Hank Aaron was a DH.
Now, everyone has the DH. Softball, Little League, Colleges, and High Schools. It is great for the game and participation for all levels. The object of the game is to play, and some guys can just flat out hit a baseball, even if they can't catch one. Specialists they call them.
I live in Northern Virginia where the Nationals are the home team, but I would rather drive to Baltimore to watch a real game instead of the pitcher sacrificing the runner 5 times a game. Besides, it keeps those old managers in the dugout and the announcers from getting a thrill talking about the double switch. Take that Tim McCarver. Here are some DH facts and firsts:
- Ron Blomberg became the first DH in major league history (1973)
- Tony Oliva became the first DH to hit a home run (1973)
- Dan Driessen became the first National League DH, and the first to hit a home run in a World Series (Games 1 and 3, 1976)
- Glenallen Hill became the first non-Series DH in NL history (interleague play, 1997)
- Rickey Henderson became the first non-Series DH to hit a home run in NL history (interleague play, 1997)
- Pedro Guerrerro became the first National League DH in an All-Star game (1989)Box score of the 1989 Baseball All-Star Game from Retrosheet
- Minnie Miñoso is the oldest player to have appeared as a DH (at age 53, 1976)
- Edgar Martinez is the only DH to win a batting title (1995)
- Al Kaline became the first player selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame to have ever played as a DH (1974)
- Rafael Palmeiro is the only DH to win a Gold Glove Award (despite playing only 28 games at first base, 1999)
- Frank Howard has been the tallest DH (at 6 ft 7 in, 280 pounds (127 kg), 1973)
- No player in MLB history has won the MVP Award during a season in which his primary position was designated hitter.
The Tigers have had their share of good and bad DH's. Remember that Robert Fick hit the last homerun in Tiger Stadium playing the DH spot. When I think of DH's and the Tigers, I immediately think of Gates Brown. The "Gater" was a joy to watch as he waddled to the plate and there was always excitement when he was at the plate because he had a flair for the dramatic. He did much more as a pinch hitter than a DH, but he was the Tigers first DH. Gates played in a career high 133 games in 1973, the first year of the DH.
In 1978, Staub became the first player to play in all 162 regular-season games exclusively as a designated hitter. Not playing the field at all proved beneficial, as Staub finished second in the Major Leagues with 121 RBI and finished fifth in American League Most Valuable Player voting. He was selected to the Sporting News American League All-Star team at the end of the season as the designated hitter.
Staub held out to start the 1979 season, and eventually he was dealt to the Montreal Expos in July of that same season.
I think that Darrell Evans was one of the greatest free agent signings of all time. He had very good years in Detroit and was here with the 1984 and 1987 teams. Darrell was an impact player.
Kirk (Two Swings) Gibson also had a productive career at the DH spot hitting 60 home runs from that position to go along with 220 RBI. The other prominent DH's for the Tigers were Willie Horton and Al Kaline, at the end of their careers. It is a pretty good field and I know how I would vote if looking at it objectively.
The Tigers throughout the years have had some pretty good relief pitching, and some pretty bad ones as well. Growing up in Detroit, I certainly remember some of the ones from the 60's. Do you remember Terry Fox, Ron Kline, Ron Nischwicz, and John Wyatt. And then there were some of those guys that we got at the end of their careers. Guys like Elroy Face and Johnny Podres, who made their fame in other uniforms. We also can't forget the big one that got away, or in our case, three that got away. Those might be John Smoltz, Phil Regan, and Mike Marshall. But the real time of the relief pitcher was in the late 60's, 70's, and 80's, when we had good teams.
As I look back now, the greatest Tiger relief pitchers are actually none of these. No, Tom Timmerman is nor under consideration. I do propose to you the following "Masters of The Final Out". Those great pitchers would be: John Hiller, who was the greatest left handed relief pitcher of his time, and still looks good; Willie Hernandez, who came to the Tigers on the last day of Spring Training in 1984 for Glenn Wilson and went on to become the MVP and the Cy Young winner in the same year; Aurelio Lopez (aka. Senor Smoke) who was a great reliever that became even better with Guilermo taking over the 9th inning duties; Mike Henneman, who was a good pitcher on a bad team; and finally, The Rollercoaster, Todd Jones, the alltime saves leader for the Tigers and served for two stints, both of which was pretty successful. All of these guys had great attributes;
Hiller ranks 22nd on the alltime saves list in spite of his heart attack and subsequent return. I saw him a couple of years ago and he looks like he could still get guys out.
1968 World Series
1972 American League Championship Series
Willie Hernandez ranks #38 among the Top 50 all-time at RP
1983 World Series
1984 American League Championship Series
1984 World Series
1987 American League Championship Series
Awards and Honors
1984 AL Cy Young
1984 AL MVP
Over the 1977 and 1978 seasons, Hernandez went 21 innings without allowing a run to the Pirates.
Best Season: 1984
Yeah, he went 10-1 out of the pen, but that was because he was in the right place to win a lot of tie games. But he pitched very, very well as Willie Hernandez's setup man. The Tigers really had two closers. Lopez was tough on right-handed batters, and he fanned 94 overall in more than 137 innings. He posted a 2.94 ERA and was on his game in the post-season, when he hurled six innings of shutout ball and earned two victories - one in the LCS and one in the World Series.
1984 American League Championship Series
1984 World Series
1986 National League Championship Series
Senor Smoke was good for a long time. He died in a tragic accident in 1992.
The Alltime Tigers Saves Leader
The Roller Coaster
Tiger broadcaster Ernie Harwell dubbed Jones "The Roller Coaster" because of his exciting, up-and-down relief appearances.
Mike Henneman replaced Jones as closer for the Astros in 1995, after coming over from the Tigers. Later, Jones broke Henneman's all-time save record for Detroit.
Awards and Honors
2000 AL Rolaids Relief
On May 18, 2006, Jones recorded his 154th save as a Tiger, tying Mike Henneman for the all-time Detroit franchise mark.
2006 ALDS, ALDS, World Series
Like I said, he was a good pitcher for a long time, and some marginal teams. He eventually wore out and was traded to Texas, where he ended his career. He held the Tigers save record until the Rollercoaster abolished it in 2006.
1987 American League Championship Series
Of all the positions we’ve looked at, the Tigers are, to put it mildly, a little thin in the pitching department. To put it bluntly, they sucked.
Of all the pitchers in the Hall of Fame, only two spent more than a year or two of their career in a Tiger uniform. They have some good pitchers, quite a few guys you’d like three or four deep in your rotation, but great? Not many. (I’ll discuss them going from the oldest to more modern days.)
One you’ve probably never even heard of deserves your consideration. “Wild Bill” Donovan
spent 11 of his 18 year career with the Bengals from ’03 to 1912, and then again for a short stint in 1918. He posted some incredible numbers, like pitching in 323 games for the Tigers, 3,000 innings total lifetime, with an ERA of 2.84 against the likes of Shoeless Joe and Ty Cobb.
Of course, in those days, “relief” meant that your team’s batters scored five runs or more. In 1904 he started 34 games, and finished all of them. In 1907, Wild Bill started 28 games, and completed 27 of them, winning 25 games and losing only four. Bill James claims he was “the luckiest pitcher of all time” with a team like Cobb, Crawford and other guns behind him. I disagree.
The Tigers did excel in having pitchers with really cool nicknames though.
Names like “Hooks” Dauss, Schoolboy Rowe, Dizzy Trout, Bobo Newsome and Stubby Overmire. (Alright, Stubby was barely good, let alone great, with a record of 43-49 with the Tigers, but I liked the way he sounds. At 5’7” he hardly deserves his moniker, and he’s a native Michigander, attened what is now Western Michigan University, managed the Lakeland Flying Tigers, and is buried in Lakeland. But as usual, I digress.
Let’s move ahead to a few more notable Bengal hurlers, like Tommy Bridges and Schoolboy Rowe. Both were fairly good pitchers, but they threw for a powerhouse lineup in the 1930’s and 40’s, with hitters like Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer and Hank Greenberg.
Bridges nearly led the league in wins in 1935, but his ERA was about a point higher than the league leaders. But give Bridges his due, he pitched for 16 years, won 20 or more games for three years in a row,and collected 194 wins, had a 3.57 ERA in an era when the hitters were running wild. It was rumored that the source of his deadly curve ball was use of a spitter; in fact when one opposing manager demanded that the ump examine the ball, Tiger cather Birdie Tebbets fired the ball into the outfiled, where all three outfielders handled it first before throwing it in.
The pride of Waco, Texas, Schoolboy Rowe threw for many of those same power-laden teams, and placed on three All-Star Teams. He seemed to be something of a holdover from the days of Bill Donovan, turning in a 12-inning complete game during the 1934 World Series, and in ’35 he had 21 complete games and six shutouts. But he was known for his youthful good looks, charm, and slightly erratic antics, like talking to the ball. (Sound familiar?) In a national radio broadcast, he asked his fiance “How’m I doin’ Edna?” in his Texas drawl, and the fans went crazy.
After 1936, the innings started to take a toll on his arm, and the Tigers dealt him to Brooklyn.
Dizzy Trout, another natty nickname, was in Detroit from 1939 to 1952 leading the league with 20 wins in 1943, 27 wins in 1944. but really, how good was the league during the war?
“Prince Hal” Newhouse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hal_Newhouser was another native Detroit boy who played for the Tigers, and perhaps was our best home-grown product. Signed at 18 in 1940, it took him a few years to get his control, but then he started to take a bite out of American League hitters, winning the MVP in 1944 and ’45, the only pitcher to claim consecutive MVPs. Critics said this was due to the fact that all the good players went to war (Hal tried several times but had a medical deferment.) He proved them wrong in 1946 by going 26 and 9, with an incredible 1.94 ERA. (Despite facing strong hitters like Williams and DiMaggio, with the top five hitters in the league all coming in above .316.)
When the Tigers traded him to Cleveland after 13 years in Detroit, he morphed into a great long reliever, going 7-2 with a 2.54 ERA, but maybe that’s outside our purview, as well as the fact that he was a great scout in retirement, identifying the young talents of Milt Pappas, Dean Cahnce and Derek Jeter.
Perhaps our only senator/pitcher is Jim Bunning. (how many can there be?) Bunning pitched for four teams, starting with the Tigers in 1956. He was a four time All Star with the Tigers, pitching a no-hitter. His earned run average and W-L record got a lot better after the stinky Tiger teams of the late ‘50’s traded him to the top division Phillies.
He made it to the Hall of Fame after numerous votes by the Veteran’s Committee.
He earned his nickname by going 28 – 13 against the pinstripes. Casey Stengel would alter his pitching rotation when the Tigers came to town, saying “If Lary is going to beat us anyway, why should I waste my best pitcher?" Lary was twice an All-Star and four times earned a Gold Glove.
One of the nicest guys on the Tiger teams of our youth was Mickey Lolich. In my recollection, Lolich was a good pitcher with a Poo-Bear belly, who seemed to eternally pitch with men on or from behind the count. But his career numbers reveal far more than a less than spectacular physique. A three time All-Star, Lolich won 14 or more games for more than ten years, and ranks third in career strikeouts behind Steve Carlton and Randy Johnson. He has more career wins than all but two other Tiger pitchers. Of course, most of us remember his great performance in the 1968 World Series, when he started, completed and won three games, the only southpaw ever to do so.
Denny McLain’s meteroic career hit its apex in 1968 with 31 wins, the last major leaguer to do so. He earned a Cy Young and MVP, the first pitcher to do so in history. He shared another Cy Young in 1969, but his career came apart in 1970, being suspended multiple times. By the end of the century, Denny had spend six years in federal prison.
Jack Morris Was another workhorse, pitching 14 of his 18 years in Detroit, working a lifetime total of 3,824 innings! His ERA was a respectable 3.9 and a five time All-Star.
It’s hard to note a tougher competitor than Morris, but I’m getting tired of writing. Make your choices, gents! Pick four hurlers to complete our staff.)