Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Man, I frikking love that photo. Exuberant Dmitri, and exuberant Pudge, and they just happen to be our two biggest team leaders, and shiny helmets, and that bright sunlight because it was such a bloody perfect day in Detroit yesterday, and the height difference that never fails to make me giggle happily... yeah, just a great shot.
Due to the evil necessities of the art school and life I had to watch this game once it had archived on MLB TV, which is normally fine but for whatever obscure reason was not so cool last night. Either the wireless or the MLB TV was having issues, and the buffering was about as bad as I've ever seen it. I managed, and I caught the last couple of innings on FSN when I got home anyways. Let me tell you kids, I am ever so glad that I didn't just throw up my hands in frustration and not bother to watch the game.
I was jotting down some notes on the game in between violent fights with the sewing machine, and they're nearly unreadable now. I have an entire page of things like 'Brandon Inge!!!! HOMERUN BINGEY! BINGEYBINGEY!' and 'DaMeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeat!' and 'Jesus this is BUFFERING LIKE SHIT' and 'Mmmm SlimPudge'. I also have a largish doodle of a tiger with a baseball in his mouth. Sane? Who, me? You're kidding, right?
Anyways, Jeremy Bonderman. Jeremy. Frikking. Bonderman. Could we have possibly asked for anything better? The answer is no. No we could not have.
He was all, "Hi, I'm Jeremy Bonderman and I'm 22 years old and I will just go right ahead and have 7 strikeouts after 4 innings and allow exactly one run in 7 innings if that is alright with you. What's that? You'd rather I didn't? Oh, well, I'm sorry Ruben Gotay, I'd like to be able to accomodate everyone, but I'm afraid I'll be inducing a pop fly off of you now. Say hello to Mr. Craig Monroe out there in center field. Oh, and give my regards to ol' LimaTime. Ask his Missus how the, ah, twins are doing too, wink wink nudge nudge."
No, I jest, Jeremy Bonderman is a happily married man! At, uh, 22 years of age. Mrs. Lima has no attributes that would attract the attention of a 22 year old guy. I am just being silly. Also, if you listen to an interview with Bonderman, he seems to have about as much excitability as a piece of driftwood, but we just love him all the more for it. And it makes Jamie Walker sneaking up and smashing a shaving cream pie onto his face during a live TV interview* just that much more hilarious.
Dmitri Young. Oh, DaMeat, the things you do for us. Just, you know, Opening Day, Comerica Park, and three Dmitri blasts into the stands. It just happened to be one of the most dominant slugging performances on Opening Day ever, and THE most dominant in Tigers history. When he went into the dugout after his third homerun he got a standing ovation from the record-size crowd and came back out to tip his batting helmet amidst thunderous cheers. And afterwards, what does Dmitri have to say for himself?
"I don't even know what to say. I just saw Bondo, wanted to win for him."
First off, DaMeat refers to Jeremy Bonderman as 'Bondo'. Secondly, DaMeat has one of the best games of his career (tied his career high with 5 RBIs on the day) and he says he did it because he wanted to support Bonderman's pitching. Or the kid himself. Or whatever. In any event, let's all say it together:
Brandon Inge. I had a mildly heated little chat with Kyle about him the other day, in which Kyle claimed that Inge sucked as a third baseman and was going to continue to suck, based on the fact that his OPS was under .800 and this is apparently terrible for a third baseman. Well, this means approximately nothing to me, because, you know, NUMBERS, and I may not be the handiest with them but at least I know where to find the little buggers. Inge's OPS last year was .793 which OK, yes, under .800, but close! And it's not even like he was at third base all season, he had that catcher? third baseman? some other random position? thing going on all year.
Now, with 44th Round as our steady backup catcher, and the droolworthy, newly slim Pudge as the regular catcher, Inge can spend all of this season at third. He had a wonderful spring, and don't ask me to find the numbers for it, but he hit a lot of balls and he hit them well. And on Opening Day, he hit a beauty out of the park that would've been a huge deal if it wasn't for the fact that Dmitri had the sort of day that can easily overshadow someone else's awesome day.
Without having to think about catching I tend to think Inge's numbers are going to go up this year-- he himself has said that catching was just way too much thinking for him, he's not that smart, and third base is much more his style. He never was a catcher to begin with, he played shortstop in college. I have no idea why they tried to convert him to a catcher when they drafted him, but whatever, 'tis in the past. Brandon Inge: he won't suck this year. Mahk mah words.
Some other Opening Day tidbits:
For some unfathomable reason** the Tigers announcers (Mario Impemba and Rod Allen) had actor Jeff Daniels in the box with them for the game. At one point they were asking him if he had any good Tiger Stadium memories. Turns out that Daniels knew a guy who coached some little league team that got to play at Tiger Stadium one day when the team wasn't using it, so he tagged along. The story went that he walked into the visitor's dugout and saw this... trough. It was evidently where the visiting team would, er, relieve themselves during the games, rather than going all the way back into the clubhouse. It was all rusted and old and whatnot because at this point of course Tiger Stadium was near the end.
So Daniels was looking at this trough, and he started thinking, 'Huh... Joe Dimaggio... Mickey Mantle...' At this point he turned to Rod and Mario and said, grinning, "So of course I, you know, added to the history," which caused both Rod and Mario to groan and grouse and Rod to say, "I never shoulda asked that question." I don't know, I was amused.
One of the reporters was interviewing Mike Illitch, the Tigers' owner, and I realized he looks an awful lot like the Little Caeser's cartoon mascot. Which would make a vain sort of sense, since Illitch also owns Little Ceaser's.
Jeff Daniels: "You gotta love Bonderman today."
Rod Allen: "Oh, every day."
Jeff Daniels: "He's gonna have a huge year. You listen to all those national guys, talking like he's 12 years old..." (said with great disgust. He kept saying things like 'the national guys say this' and 'well, that's what the national guys would have you believe.' Pretty obvious that he thinks the 'national' sports people are anti-Detroit)
Carlos Pena (Massachusetts boy!) was up to bat, two out, bases loaded, and some guy in the crowd shouts out, very clearly, "Walk one in, Pena, walk one in!" Not 'drive 'em in, Pena!' or 'hit us a grandie, Pena!' Walk one in. I loved it. 'Specially because that's just what Pena proceeded to do.
One of the reporters interviewed a couple of middle-schoolish kids hanging on a fence looking in at the field who, it transpired, had skipped school to see Opening Day. Mario and Rod chuckled indulgently and made the obligatory, "Is there any more perfect time to skip school than a sunny day in Detroit on the season Opener? Oh, but of course the teachers don't like to hear that," remark. My immediate thought was, 'If you're a teacher in downtown Detroit and your students are skipping to go watch a baseball game, you're probably kind of thankful that that, of all possible things, is what they're skipping for."
Dmitri fouled a ball off of his own feet just prior to his third homerun and was hopping around to get over the pain. Mario reacted to this by saying, "Dmitri doin' the foul ball dance right now," to which Rob responded, "Yeah, them puppies are precious." Them puppies are precious? Wha?
Just like the Red Sox game, I realized that this is the first game of many, and it doesn't mean too much. I realize that it was against the Royals who are, well, the Royals. But it wasn't a fluke of a game. It was a direct continuation of what the Tigers had been doing in Spring Training. The lineup was murder up and down all spring, and it was dangerous on all sides yesterday.
I also just realized something kind of funny yesterday. I actually have more faith in the collective Tigers bullpen than I have in the collective Red Sox bullpen. The Farns, Ugie and Percy (as official closer) versus Mantei, Timbree and Foulke (as official closer).... I don't know, I might be insane, but I'm going Tigs on this one. And, like I said, I think our offense is going to be good. It's really going to come down to defense (can Craig Monroe not suck? Will Inge settle in? Will everyone stay healthy?) and starting pitching.
Still, regardless. That was one heck of an Opening Day in Detroit. It's 71 and sunny out today, and maybe it's just because I'm still in Detroit--maybe this won't last once I get back east for the summer--but, this early in the game, I've got nothing but good feelings for the future of Tigers baseball.
*I'm not making this up. Happened at some point last year. Jamie Walker sometimes makes me tear out my hair in rage over his pitching, but he's sort of the Kevin Millar of the Detroit Tigers-- universally regarded as the clubhouse 'redneck clown'.
**Well, not that unfathomable. Apparently he's a huge Tigers fan. Still, weird.