Here's John Hiller warming up this morning before he and other former Tigers played the campers at the second Tigers Fantasy Camp. His teammates included Mickey Lolich, Juan Berenguer, Dave Rozema, Frank tanana, Steve Kemp, Ike Blessit, Walt Terrell, Jim Price, Jon Warden Guillermo Hernandez and Mike Heath. For more pictures see ://
Check back in a day or two as I'll add more photos.

"Dear Mr. Fantasy"

The Detroit Tigers held the first of two fantasy camps last week at Tigertown here in Lakeland. Several former Tigers took part, including Willie Horton, Mickey Lolich, Dave Bergman, Johnny Grubb, Ike Blessit, Dan Petry, Milt Wilcox, Larry Herndon and Jon Warden.

Cabrera in rehab

There was a a story on the news last week that said Cabrera spent the last three months in a treatment center for alcohol abuse. The story said he entered on his own free will. Leyland and Dumbrowski might have pushed him. Whatever yhe reason I say it was a great move for MIggy. When he was interviewed he seemed most sincere. It is spring so let's hope last year is behind him and that he has a MVP season this year.

A's Top Prospect Quite Baseball and Enters Seminary

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Oakland Athletics prospect Grant Desme is retiring from baseball to enter the priesthood. Desme was recently selected the 2009 Arizona Fall League MVP and was considered one of the top prospects in Oakland's system.

The A's need star hitters if they're ever to get somewhere, and Grant Desme didn't look like a future star, writes Rob Neyer.

"We respect Grant's decision and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors," A's general manager Billy Beane said in a statement.

The 23-year-old outfielder batted .288 with 31 homers, 89 RBIs and 40 stolen bases in 131 games at Class-A Kane County and Stockton last season. He then hit .315 with a league-leading 11 home runs and 27 RBIs in 27 games in the fall league.

Desme was a second-round pick selection in the 2007 draft after being named Big West Player of the Year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Can you believe this!!!!!!!!! God Bless Him. I bet he can't hit the curve!!

The Hot Corner

OK Tiger fans, Gregg is taking this week off (although he is editing my piece). I am breaking down third basemen into two categories. I am starting with the four candidates for best single season for a Tiger third baseman. Then I will list several other third basemen that I remember and interesting tidbits, just for yucks.


George Kell – Tiger favorite and All Star. Hall of Fame. Younger Tiger fans will remember him as a broadcaster with Ernie and Al.

Kell was a 10 time All Star, batted over .300 - 9 times, and led the American League in fielding percentage 7 times. Kell’s finest season was 1949. In that year he led the American League in hitting with .343 average. On the last day of the season he hit better than Ted Williams, taking the Triple Crown away from Ted.

Don Wert “#8”. Was nicknamed Coyote. Played for the Tigers from 1963-70. Never known as a good hitter, but was one helluva fielder. His best season was 1965 when he played all 162 games. He led the American League with a .976 fielding percentage. 1965 was the only year in the 60’s in which Brooks Robinson did not lead the American League in fielding.

Auerilo Rodriguez was with the Tigers from 1971 – 1979. One of the Detroit sports writers nicknamed Rodriguez as the “original A-rod.” His finest season was 1975 in which he won the Gold Glove Award, the first third baseman to beat out Brooks Robinson since 1959. Funny thing about Rodriguez – in 1969 his baseball card did not have his picture, but had the picture of the Angels batboy, Leonard Garcia.

Brandon Inge started with the Tigers in 2001. His real first name is Charles (what a name!). A fan favorite who has played at third, catcher, and in the outfield. Not known for his hitting – did poorly in the Home run derby last year. Was honored to be an All Star in 2009. His finest season was 2006 in which he had 398 assists, setting a Tiger record. The all time record for third base assists was set by Craig Nettles in 1971; Inge was only 14 short of that record.

Honorable mentions

Tommy Brookens – returning this year as a coach. Very popular. In 1980 he had four errors in one game and led the league in errors. On August 20, 1980 he went 5 for 5 and started a triple play.

Travis Fryman was here from 1990-97. I hated it when he was traded to Cleveland.

Marty Castillo played third and caught. Was with Tigers from 1981-85. Could not be located for the reunion last year of the ‘84 Tigers.

Dean Palmer 1999-2003 – won Silver Slugger in 1999. Career shortened by injuries.

Darrell Evans 1984-88. First player to hit 40 homeruns in both leagues. First player to hit 100 home runs with three different teams. He hit 60 home runs when he was in his 40’s. When I worked for St. Vincent de Paul, he donated a washer to the charity and gave the helper on the truck an autographed ball. The helper asked for a second ball for my son and Evans was happy to oblige – my son lost the ball.

Tony Phillips (Tony the Tiger), with the Tigers from 1990-94. Led the AL with walks in 1993 with 132. Only player in history to have 100 or more hits, walks, runs, and strikeouts in the same season, but he also hit less than 10 home runs in the same season.

Ray Boone was a third from 1953-55. His son Bob played major league ball, as did his grandsons, Aaron and Brett.

Tommy Matchik 1967-69

Howard Johnson 1982-84 – excelled with the Mets. When we traded him to the Mets we got Walt Terrell.

Ozzie Virgil 1958-61. Was first non-white player on the Tigers. Went 5 for 5 in his first game with the Tigers on June 6, l958.

Steve Boros quiet man in 1961 he played din 116 games, hit .270 and 62 rbis.

Eddie Yost 1959-60 walked a lot 1614 walks in career, 11th place on list.

Darnell Coles 1986-87. Career high of 20 home runs. I attended a game in which he was so frustrated that when he came out to play third at the top of an inning, he threw the ball out of the stadium and was ejected from the game.

Enos Cabell 1982-83. In 1986 with another team was convicted of cocaine abuse. Was suspended for a season, but avoided suspension by doing community service and making anti-drug donation.

Tory Lovullo 1988-89. Sparky dubbed him the next Brooks Robinson and his career went down hill form there.

Eddie Matthews ended his career here in 1968.

(Note from The Commissioner - Thanks for a wonderful ballot, Chuck. Anybody want to write the right field ballot for next week?)

OK, he was never a Detroit Tiger, but...

without doubt, Sachel Paige was one of the greatest pitchers in the game's history. Listen to this interview on NPR and you (like me) will want to own the book "Satchel: The Story of an American Baseball Legend."

Verlander and arbitration

OK guys so how much does Justin get? He filed for abitration on Friday. One of the cruelest parts of the arbitration (how do you spell that word?) process is when the team tries to justify why not to pay out the big bucks. Justin has been The Tiger for a few years and now Dumbrowski has to argue as to why not to give him a hefty raise. I always feel that does more harm than good. Depending on how it is worded, you end up downgrading your star. A delicate situation for sure. He deserves a long term contratc for sure.

Who had the Best Season at Short?

Granted, Ray Oyler might have been the slickest guy with the glove, but we're looking for somebody who had the total package, hitting, fielding, team leadership, and did it all in one glorious season.
He only hit .281, and didn't get a homerun all year, but "Pixie Shortstop" Donnie Bush led the league in runs scored in 1917. Of course, it's easier to do when you got a guy like Cobb (.387) hitting behind you. Unfortunately the document trail on Donnie is rather thin. Most of our Dads wouldn't remember him, and even our grandads wouldn't.
Not to be too hard on a great Tiger like Billy Rogell, but it's interesting that he is in the Hall of Fame, and Alan Trammel isn't. Billy had one of his best seasons in 1934, hitting .296 in a league that was loaded with hitters and sluggers like Greenberg, Gehringer, Gehrig, and Ruth. (By my count, 25 guys hit .300 or better, and got more home runs than Rogell in this seven-team league.) I'm not taking anything away from Rogell, but clearly pitching was on the decline that year, and the Tigers won the pennant with 20-win seasons from Tommy Bridges and Schoolboy Rowe.
I imagine Rogell was a good influence in the dugout and locker room; Rogell went on to become a long-tenured city councilman in Detroit. (See a You Tube clip of Rogell firing the last first pitch at old Tiger Stadium at
Billy, we love ya guy, but for my vote, I don't think your season in the sun can match Alan Trammel's 1987. Tram was on fire, hitting cleanup for the first time, and leading the Tigers to an eastern division flag. He hit .343, punched 28 long balls, and got 105 RBI's. Trams went to the All-Star game in 1987, earned a Silver Slugger award, and some say he should have been AL MVP (including most of us.)
In 2004 Carlos Guillen put in a fine season, with 20 HRs, 97 RBI's and hitting hitting .318, second only to Pudge. He made the All-Star team for his efforts. And now to end on a depressing note for my fellow classmates of 1970: did you know Carlos was born in 1975?

Jose Valverde

Hey we got a closer!! Sounds great. I am not that familiar with him because he is is the National League, but his stats look great. After Roller Coaster Jones and Roller Coaster Rodney - we need a strong closer. I am excited. Of course in January I am always excited. Other observations .....

McGwire admits steroid use – yawn

Shocking news Monday, wasn't it?

Mark McGwire did what? Used steroids? Are you kidding me? Next thing we know, the finger will be pointed at Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa or Roger Clemens.

Forgive the sarcasm. But how else should we react? With a yawn? That would be more appropriate.

Steroid use in baseball has become as commonplace as stupid quotes from Ozzie Guillen. We're no longer shocked by any of this. So, sadly, McGwire's admission doesn't evoke outrage; it evokes this reaction: "Whatever." It is simply confirmation of what we already knew: McGwire was on the juice.

His admission does explain, however, why he sat in front of a congressional committee and said, "I'm not here to talk about the past." His "inside voice" certainly must have added these words: "Because if I talk about the past, then I'll have to lie to save my tail, and if I lie to save my tail, I'll face perjury charges later." (Are you listening, Roger Clemens? Oops, too late. Good luck with that).

While McGwire says he “knew” this day would come (on his death bed, perhaps?), the truth is there’s only one reason he stepped forward now. After years of living in seclusion (and avoiding the issue), McGwire put himself back into the spotlight by accepting a coaching position with the Cardinals. He knew he would be bombarded by questions day after day after day. So he HAD to fall on his sword.

Tony LaRussa says McGwire showed courage by coming forward and telling the truth Monday. That’s courage? Give me a break. This is what courage sounds like:

When McGwire retired in 2001, he could have stepped to the podium and said, "I am here to announce my retirement from baseball. Not because I don't want to play anymore – because I love this game – but because I simply can't play anymore. My body won't allow me to. And the reason is steroids. I took them, and I was wrong. Along with giving you the ability to increase muscle mass and recover more quickly from injuries, they’re dangerous and your body may eventually pay a high price. Each one of us can give reasons for our actions, and I can deflect responsibility by saying, 'I didn’t take them on a regular basis or I'm not the only one who took them.' But the simple fact is, I'm responsible for me. It's time to own up to what I did, pay the price and make amends. I apologize to my family, my friends, my teammates and my fans, and I offer my full cooperation to Mr. Selig and Major League Baseball in moving forward. This issue is bigger than Mark McGwire; this is about cleaning up the greatest game in the world and delivering an important message to kids: Taking steroids is wrong. Questions?"

Now, that would have been courageous.

But it didn't happen. So Monday's admission changes nothing. The fact that Mark McGwire admitted taking steroids on Monday doesn’t change what we already knew in our hearts on Sunday.

His words are just words, spoken not out of courage (or even guilt) but out of necessity.

Big deal, Big Mac.

Second Sacker Season Sizzlers

(Alright, corny headline, but I couldn't help myself.)
This week we have something a little different; unlike some of our ballots, most of the nominees for the best season by a second baseman have been played recently (so you saw them.) Except for one of the very best.
In 1937 Charlie Gehringer "The Mechanical Man" took the batting title with a .371 average, got 96 RBIs, and scored 111 runs. He did hit for power, getting only 14 HR's, but that's why they had Greenberg behind him. It was the day of station-to-station baseball, (the league leader only got 35 stolen bases.) Get on, and let the big boys bring 'em around was the modus operandi.
If I recall my Dad's tales about him, he earned his nickname because of his almost "mechanical skills" in playing a ball hit to him. He led the fielding percentage for second sackers. Teammate Doc Cramer said "You wind him up on opening day, and forget him."
Sadly even though our boys had a pretty good year in '37 with Gehringer getting the batting title, Greenberg getting the RBI crown, the Tigers came in 13 games behind the Yankees. (Geez, I'm getting tired of writing that line.)
Gehringer won the MVP in 1937 despite some incredible All Star talent on the Yankees and other Tigers, and was elected to the Hall of Fame for his career achievements.
On to the modern era.
"Sweet Lou" Whitaker was similar to Gehringher in many respects, a quiet, talented man playing a long career only with the Tigers, that paired him with a great shortstop (Alan Trammel and Billy Rogell respectively) and both renowned a good bat and smooth glove work. He had and great year in 1983, hitting .320 and earning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award. We can all agree "Sweet Lou was a joy to watch in his day.
Poor Damion Easly, just like Rodney Dangerfield, could never get any respect. In 1998 he had an All-Star year, hitting 27 HR's and 100 RBI's with an average of .271. But by the end of 2008 he had the ignominious record among active players of playing in the most the games (1,706) without making the playoffs.
In 2007 All-Star Placido Polanco hit .341 average and had the lowest stikeout percentage in the major leagues. He earned a Gold Glove and set many records for his fielding, including 144 straight errorless games, and consecutive chances by a second baseman without an error.
Here's a trivia question: (don't look it up on-line) Who did the Tigers send to Philadelphia in exchange for Placido in 2005?

BBWAA elects Dawson to Hall of Fame

Jan. 6, 2010 (from National Baseball Hall of Fame website)

NEW YORK, NY – Andre Dawson, a five-tool player who won eight Gold Glove and four Silver Slugger Awards in a career spanning 21 seasons with the Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in balloting verified by Ernst & Young. He will be inducted into the Hall July 25 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Andre Dawson will join manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey as the Hall of Fame Class of 2010. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)
Dawson, whose fielding prowess earned him the nickname “The Hawk,” will be honored along with manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey, who were elected last month by the Veterans Committee, at the ceremony that will include the presentation of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for baseball writing to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. The Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting will be announced February 1.

In the BBWAA election, 539 ballots, including five blanks, were cast by members with 10 or more consecutive years’ service. Players must be named on 75 percent of ballots submitted to be elected. This year, 405 votes were required.

Dawson was listed on 420 ballots (77.9%) to win election in his ninth year on the ballot. His election brings to 292 the number of elected members of the Hall. Of that total, 203 are former major-league players, of which 109 have been through the BBWAA ballot. Dawson is the 68th outfielder overall elected to the Hall.

A .279 career hitter with 438 home runs, 1,591 runs batted in and 314 stolen bases, Dawson was the National League Rookie of the Year with the Expos in 1977 and the NL Most Valuable Player in 1987 with the Cubs. The eight-time All-Star underwent 12 knee surgeries during his career but ended up with more than 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases, a feat achieved by only two other players in history, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds.

For the first time in BBWAA balloting, two candidates failed to gain election by fewer than 10 votes. Pitcher Bert Blyleven, on the ballot for the 13th time, got 400 votes (74.2%). Second baseman Roberto Alomar, on the ballot for the first time, had 397 (73.7%), the most for a first-year candidate without being elected.

Blyleven’s five-vote margin was the fifth fewest in history, trailing only Nellie Fox (1985) and Pie Traynor (1947), who each missed by two votes, and Billy Williams (1986) and Jim Bunning (1988), who each missed by four. All were eventually elected, Traynor in 1948 and Williams in 1987 by the BBWAA and Bunning in 1996 and Fox in 1997 by the Veterans Committee.

Players may remain on the ballot for up to 15 years provided they receive five percent of the vote in any year. There were 11 candidates who failed to make the cut this year, all among the 15 players who were on the ballot for the first time.

The first-year candidates who received sufficient support to remain other than Alomar were shortstop Barry Larkin with 278 (51.6%), designated hitter-third baseman Edgar Martinez with 195 (36.2%) and first baseman Fred McGriff with 116 (21.5%).

Other holdovers who will remain on the ballot are pitchers Jack Morris and Lee Smith, first basemen Don Mattingly and Mark McGwire, shortstop Alan Trammell, outfielder-DH Harold Baines and outfielders Tim Raines, Dave Parker and Dale Murphy.

The vote:
Andre Dawson 420 (77.9%), Bert Blyleven 400 (74.2%), Roberto Alomar 397 (73.7%), Jack Morris 282 (52.3%), Barry Larkin 278 (51.6%), Lee Smith 255 (47.3%), Edgar Martinez 195 (36.2%), Tim Raines 164 (30.4%), Mark McGwire 128 (23.7%), Alan Trammell 121 (22.4%), Fred McGriff 116 (21.5%), Don Mattingly 87 (16.1%), Dave Parker 82 (15.2%), Dale Murphy 63 (11.7%), Harold Baines 33 (6.1%), Andres Galarraga 22 (4.1%), Robin Ventura 7 (1.3%), Ellis Burks 2 (0.4%), Eric Karros 2 (0.4%), Kevin Appier 1 (0.2%), Pat Hentgen 1 (0.2%), David Segui 1 (0.2%), Mike Jackson 0, Ray Lankford 0, Shane Reynolds 0, Todd Zeile 0.

What was the best season by a Tiger First Baseman?

I really haven't looked too far ahead in the lineup, but this is a fascinating call for many reasons.
Remember, going by the nominations you can see at
pick the greatest season by a Tiger first basemen in history. I challenge you to consider the era in which each of these guys played (eg. late 60's was a pitcher-dominated era, while 90's was the re-birth of the long ball) but I further challenge you to go beyond Sabremetics, or whatever the mathematically formulas are: how much did these guys contribute to the team in fielding, leadership, intangibles. I list them chronologically.

When I first saw the name Dale Alexander, I thought "Doyle Alexander?" No, stupid. In 1929 Dale "Moose" Alexander had one of the finest rookie seasons our guys have ever seen at the plate. He hit .345, with 24 home runs and 137 RBI's, good for third in a hitter's league. He collected more extra base hits than anyone except a few guys named Ruth, Gehrig and Foxx.
Unfortunately, he also led the league in errors, and according to wikipedia, was notorious for lack of mobility. Apparently a DH before they had a DH.
The Hank Greenberg story has so many angles, it's hard for me to focus on the 1937 season as a Tiger. (Look it up yourself online. The first Jewish major league hero, he challenged Babe Ruth as the premier power hitter of the era, went on to be CEO of AIG, and lost it all when
AIG fell apart.)
He was Hammerin' Hank before Aaron. He was affable, and powerful, and in '37 he led the league in batting average, (.371) RBI's (183) and put-outs. Remember, this was a league that included DiMaggio, Gehrig, Gehringer, Bill Dickey, Jimmy Foxx and many other sluggers. And he did it with "Iron Mike" Cochrane as a notoriously difficult boss and Tiger manager. (The Tigers closed just three games behind a great Yankee team.)
And so we move into the "modern era"
; long balls and hitting were about to end, but Stormin' Norman Cash put up some great numbers in 1961. He led the league with a .361 batting average, hit 41 home runs, and a darned good glove to boot, leading the league in put outs.
But he was known for his prodigious power. One June 11, 1961, he became the first player to hit a ball out of old Tiger Stadium.
Sadly, even though the Tigers had a great year in '61 with 101 wins, they came in second to the Yankees again. (Do we see a pattern here?)
Of course, Norm was also known for his sense of humor, and space restricts us from going on in that regard. (Can you tell Norm is one of my favorite Tigers?) A hard liver, a hard hitter and a guy I wish I had met.
Cecil Fielder was another hale and well met fellow who had a great season in 1990, hitting .277, but smashing 51 home runs, and getting 132 RBI's, as well as breaking my thumb on a foul ball in Texas Stadium. (First aid tip-immersing the broken appendage in ice cold beer while drinking a lot will get you through the seventh inning.)
On Aug. 25, 19990 Fielder became (and remains) the only Tiger ever to hit a ball over the left field roof of Tiger Stadium.
And so, that brings us to Miguel Cabrera. Does one night of partying and beating up his wife take away all the contributions of 51 home runs and 132 RBI's last summer? What do you think?

Gerald Laird

Happy New year! The Tiger catcher was arrested for causing a disturbance with his brother. Why is it so hard for these athletes to just behave themselves and enjoy life - of course their definition of enjoying life is probably different than mine.
Can't wait for spring training.