Wednesday, October 12, 2011

ALCS Notebook

After losing veteran outfielders Delmon Young and Magglio Ordonez to injury heading into the American League Championship Series, things have looked bleak for the Detroit Tigers.

Yet Jim Leyland's team rebounded Tuesday night to defeat the Texas Rangers in Game 3, 5-2. Texas still leads the series, 2-1, but don’t count the scrappy Tigers out.

Postseason play has often provided opportunities for little-known players to achieve and win the hearts of hometown fans, and the Tigers’ Andy Dirks and Don Kelly--Who?--are a couple of nobodies who will now have to step up and make some contributions to the cause.

Dirks is a 25-year-old rookie outfielder who hit .251 during the regular season in 78 games. Kelly is a 31-year-old utilityman with a career batting average of .240 in parts of four seasons. Both will play the outfield, though Kelly has also seen time at third base spelling regular Brandon Inge, who batted a woeful .197 this year.

Despite being undone by bad karma, and seemingly outmanned by the potent Rangers' bats, the Tigers still have some gamers in former longtime Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta, veteran Ramon Santiago (subbing in at second base for injured Carlos Guillen), speedy centerfielder Austin Jackson, plus super-DH Victor Martinez, who unfortunately seems to have pulled a rib muscle Tuesday night in the process of hitting a game-changing home run. He’ll have to limp along with the rest of Detroit’s walking wounded.

The Tigers still boast the American League’s probable Cy Young Award winner, Justin Verlander, and they’ll need him to get back to dominance after some less than perfect recent outings. But if there’s one single reason why the Tigers still have a shot at a World Series appearance, it’s first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who is probably the best player in the game that you never really thought about.

Check Cabrera out at His career numbers are astonishingly good--.317 career batting average--and he’s only 28. He’s been playing some tremendously good defense in the postseason as well. He’s the type of guy who can carry a team, though the Rangers have three or four guys like that themselves. (Cabrera has also rather famously been involved with some off-the-field booze incidents. Whatever. He looked stone-cold sober to me when he drilled that 7th-inning home run Tuesday night.)

I see the Rangers’ bats and bullpen winning the ALCS and returning them to the World Series, but the Tigers have already made things interesting.

Media Notes
Meanwhile, we remain stuck with FOX Sports’ godawful broadcasting team for the ALCS. There’s play-by-play guy Joe Buck--who refuses to acknowledge that since we’re watching the game on television we don’t need him to constantly, incessantly, interminably keep his pompous gums flapping with stupid speculations and pointless information. And is there anything worse than the FOX stats geeks putting up a graphic for us to see on the screen, and then Buck ponderously reading off every word and digit aloud? Clearly, Buck’s head is far up his ass, and we’re flummoxed by the network execs’ affection for pretty-boy Joe.

Worse on the announcer front is Tim McCarver. The so-called “color” guy remains an annoyance, mainly because he makes up all kinds of stupid stuff. McCarver seems bound and determined to turn baseball analysis into The Science of Tim and it would be flat-out embarrassing if it weren’t so gosh-darn laughable. Tuesday night, for example, he dared to suggest that guys that hit more home runs hurt themselves more when they foul-tip balls off their bodies. Really, Tim? REALLY???

McCarver doubtless was a popular guy during his playing career, which stretched from 1959 to 1980. Yeah, that’s a lot of “good-ol’-boy” back-slapping and high-five-ing and fanny-patting for the Timster, so someone like that is apparently tough to fire. Everyone knows him and I guess enough people think of him as an institution. Whereas I only think of him as a lucky SOB from Memphis. Maybe Donald Trump could help: “Tim? You’re fired!”

Go here-- you want to jump on the anti-McCarver bandwagon. There’s also this site:

Ken Rosenthal is the third wart on the FOX baseball ass. God knows who he blackmailed, or which relative called in a favor, but Rosenthal has ascended to the position of FOX’s lead baseball sideline/dugout guy. A weenie of the first rank, Rosenthal actually wore a puce bowtie on the job during Game 2 of the ALCS. Really, Ken? Puce?? REALLY??

Rosenthal is a corporate-clown dullard, and you can’t even begin to imagine that Kenny the little kid ever played an inning of baseball or a down of football, ‘cause his mom most likely wouldn’t let him out of his violin lessons. He never has an insightful thing to say, either. It’s all boilerplate. Not even the law of averages can help him out there. Plus, he looks like a dork on TV. We’d vote you off the island, Ken, but someone upstairs likes you so it would be pointless for us to try. Oh well, there’s always the mute button on the remote.

BTW, McCarver missed the first two games of the series due to a health check-up. Subbing for him was former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who was actually rather good--understated, friendly, just trying to call things as he saw them without a lot of meaningless blather. Too bad Francona can’t stick around. But maybe, since he’s no longer a manager--for the time being, anyway--he might be persuaded to do more broadcasting. (We certainly know who he could replace.) ;o)

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