Friday, October 7, 2011

They're grrrrrrreat!!!!!!!

Yeah, I know. I know.

Why am I writing about the Tigers when I barely care about the team?

I mean, when I think about them, my brain conjures up strange, disconnected images. Old white guys who looked like my dad (I'm thinking of the late '60s Tigers). A franchise dependent on mustachioed players (I'm thinking of the '80s crew of Morris, Gibson, Bergman, Parrish and Petry). A horrid team from about 10 years ago that relied upon Damion Easley and Mike Maroth.

A team that seems to have wacky-named players like:

Johnny Wockenfuss.

And Jim Walewander.

Also, way too many of their cards are covered in brown. Brown does not make for nice-looking cards.

It's apparent that I just don't care enough about them to really delve into their history and find out what they're all about. In the '90s, I kept putting Bobby Higginson on my fantasy team because I thought he'd be a star. If I had been paying attention, I'd know not to do things like that. The franchise to me is a few snippets of history and random names.

But I think they made a name for themselves Thursday night. That's right. After more than 100 years of playing ball in Detroit, Night Owl is officially recognizing the team. I'm such an ass.

But this is big. The Tigers have eliminated the Yankees. They have performed the ultimate task of the postseason, which is to take out a hit on the team that guarantees the most miserable postseason experience for me. A year with the Yankees in the postseason (and there are way too many of those) means pacing in front of the television. Getting myself involved in meaningless tasks that will prevent me from hearing anything on TV that might indicate that the Yankees are doing well. Yelling at fellow Yankee-haters for celebrating too early.

Do you think I like being like that? Do you think I like comparing Brett Gardner to every annoying gym teacher anyone has ever had? Do you think I like picking out the faults of every Yankee, from Teixeira's blowfish imitation to Russell Martin's over-acting?

I'd much rather root for someone than against someone. Frankly, it makes me look a lot better. Especially to those non-baseball fans who stare at you like you just punched an old lady when you yell, "Good god, Girardi get the (bleep) back in the (bleeping) dugout and quit (bleeping) whining, you micromanaging jerk!"

Thankfully, the Tigers just made me a happier person to deal with for the rest of the postseason.

And I will reward them by listing my 10 favorite Tigers.

This is not the list of a Tigers fan. So you won't see Kaline, Whitaker, Trammell, Lolich or guys like that. This is a list from someone who looks at the team from afar. And pays attention to them maybe once every five years.

Hey, it's more often than I pay attention to the Mariners.

10. Frank Lary

It's uncharacteristic for a favorite player of mine to be from the 1950s, unless he's a Dodger. But Lary was known as a Yankee-killer, and everything I like about him was mentioned in a post last year, when I was going through last year's Bout of Yankee Angst.

9. Willie Horton

Three reasons for Horton:

1. He grew facial hair like I wish I could grow facial hair.
2. He is one of 21 children. Yup.
3. His full name is either William Wallison Horton (what's on the back of this card) or William Wattison Horton (what's on his baseball-reference page). Either way, it's one of the greatest full names in major league baseball history.

8. Rusty Staub

I know Staub is thought of most often as a Met or an Expo. But Staub came into my consciousness as a Tiger. And his 1977 Topps card is spectacular. That's the real reason he's even on this list.

7. John Doherty

I covered a Tigers minor league team for a whole season. Doherty was the best player on that team. He was also the best quote. Very funny. Very accommodating. He'll always be on my favorite Tigers list.

6. Jack Morris

Let's review:

Morris played for the Tigers in 1984. A team that beat the hated Padres in the World Series.
Morris played for the Twins in 1991. A team that beat the hated Braves in the World Series.

He took care of everything that I asked.

5. Justin Verlander

Pitchers who can put together outstanding season after outstanding season are my favorite kind of athlete of all-time. One or two outstanding seasons means nothing to me. Kevin Millwood can do that. But five great seasons in seven years? If Steinbrenner was still alive, he'd be chasing Verlander around like a puppy dog.

4. Ron LeFlore

I don't think I ever thought of baseball players as squeaky clean superheroes. I didn't grow up in the 1950s. When I was a kid, there was a TV movie about a ballplayer who got into some trouble with the law and learned to play baseball in prison. He was good enough that he got signed to a major league contract and became on the best base stealers of the late '70s and early '80s. That player was Ron LeFlore. And I was always a fan.

3. Kirk Gibson

I'm really trying not to think of his current Diamondbacks manager gig as I write this. I'm hoping the Brewers will do what they should have done days ago on Friday and not make this worse than it is. But that aside, Gibson is one of those players I liked even before he became a Dodger legend. It isn't often that a team acquires a player you always liked and he delivers on the highest level. Kirk did that. And he didn't take any crap either.

2. Mark Fidrych

One of the first players to create a "buzz" that came along in my young baseball-rooting life. Fidrych was about as charming as a baseball player could be -- and I have a feeling he was like that during the rest of his life.

1. Jose Valverde

Yeah, I know. There's no way he stays at No. 1 on this list for long. Right now he's here because he struck out Alex Rodriguez in the 9th inning to end the Yankees' season. Right now he's here because I know for a fact that he annoys the hell out of Yankees fans, which is always a good thing, because they need to experience a little aggravation, what with the 27 World Championships and all.

But I guess that says what this list is all about. I only made it because the Yankees lost. Not because the Tigers won. More schadenfreude on my part.

Oh well.

This is why the Dodgers need to be in every postseason.

Otherwise, things just get ugly.


  1. Sometimes when you write about the Yankees it's like you're plucking the words from my own brain. I too am a bigger Valverde fan today than I ever thought I would be. That game was stacking up like a classically frustrating Yankee win. Valverde, one of the shakiest closers around (look at his stats beyond the saves), having mockingly declared the Yankees finished after Game 2 of the ALDS, not having blown a save all year, has to face Granderson-Cano-Rodriguez? When he went to a 3-ball count on Granderson, the outcome was flashing before my eyes. That was one of the sweetest 1-2-3 innings I've ever seen.

    Also, I love that the eventual winning run scored immediately after twitchy Joe Girardi ordered an intentional walk to bring a .330 hitter to the plate.

  2. What is with Alex Rodriguez striking out to send the team home? He did that last year against Neftali Feliz.

  3. You didn't notice the Tigers did the same thing in 2006?

  4. I might almost forgive the Tigers for 1987 and Bill Madlock breaking Tony Fernandez... Actually, no I won't. But I thought about it.

    Jack Morris also beat the hated Braves in 1992!

  5. Bo ~

    In 2006 I was too busy noticing how much I disliked Kenny Rogers. Wanted the Tigers to win, but there really wasn't anybody to root for there.

  6. I always enjoy reading your posts. I remember cheering for all but 1 of the ten. Willie was one of my favorites along with Aurelio Rodriguez. Go Tigers!!

  7. Valverde is a punk. He'll never be even half the pitcher Mo is.

    And, yes, these grapes are very sour. Thank you very much for asking.

  8. The picture of Valverde's (then a D-Back) monstrous victory face after eliminating the Cubs a few years back was on the front page of the Tribune's sports section. Sure, he put the nail in a long-sealed casket, but still. I needed a face to hate and it was his. And hated it will stay. -Andy

  9. Valverde eliminated the Cubs, too????

    He really IS my hero.