[Editor’s Note: With the regular season just a week away, we asked some friends and frenemies of the 35th Street Review to weigh in with what they see from their corner of the baseball world. If you would like to contribute a blurb or two, drop a line to email@example.com.
Today, a trifecta of dispatches from Motor City, including the high hopes of Life in Birmingham’s Lindsay Peterson and our old friends Denise Haberlain and Ed Yieklak. Enjoy.]
I work in advertising, and one of the first things I learned in building client relationships was the art of establishing connections – talk about what people want to talk about, and don’t hesitate to offer up yourself as a starting point of conversation. Most people in any kind of sales field will tell you to stick to the “soft” topics: weather, wacky news, movies, sports and so on.
For several years, one of these soft topics was the matter of being from Michigan. I live in New York, where most people are from some place else anyway so it was always a safe starting point and any businessperson I found myself speaking with generally had the same comments to make, usually asking me about whether I liked the Sparties or the Wolves (Wolverines all the way), if I was into hockey (totally), if I ever thought the Lions would turn it around (it’ll be a few years), and so on. Very briefly, it was the Tigers everyone would ask about, which was absolutely wonderful. I like most sports but baseball has always been my one true love, the one I was hoping would show up at my door with a bouquet and a ring.
But as everyone knows things are not so great in my home state these days. I tell people I’m from Michigan and I usually get an earful about stupid auto companies and incompetent executives and, this being business, I just kind of smile and nod and hurriedly change the subject. Normally this would upset me, these people venting their anger about bailouts at me despite me and nearly everyone I know having little to nothing to do with the situation, but not talking about Michigan means I don’t have to talk about the Tigers and, frankly, to look at this year’s team, that’s kind of a relief. I know Grandy, Maggs and Miggy will still be offensive powerhouses, but one look at this team’s defense and pitching and the best I can hope for is for them to be an entertaining sort of loser as opposed to just another run-of-the-mill last-place team.
I could of course try to argue that the division is up for grabs, that Cleveland isn’t as good as everyone says. The Twins are totally unproven. The White Sox are still old and slow. The Royals are still a good five years away from competing. These things would all be great, if it weren’t for the fact that my Tigers, unfortunately, are all of those things at once.
So people don’t want to talk about the Tigers anymore? Good. I don’t either.
— Denise Haberlain
While I always say I’m a fan of baseball, the only team I can really call my own are the St. Louis Cardinals (and that’s solely because as far back as I can remember growing up in St. Louis, I followed those boys in red).I listened to games on the radio, read articles in the newspaper, followed them on television, attended as many games as my parents would purchase tickets for, collected their baseball cards, dragged my parents to their fan signing events, cherished the letters from my Mom with newspaper clippings from their 1998-2002 seasons while I was in college, and will always remember my birthday week in 2006 when the Cardinals won the World Series.There’s history there, a whole lot more than a blog post can even mention.
Anyway, this doesn’t mean I can’t still grow a collection of baseball caps from other cities, and when I moved to Chicago, somehow, I picked up on the Cubs.Yes, I realize the rivalry.Yes, I do own some Cubs gear. But I am such a fan of baseball that rivalries aside, any chance to go to a live game wherever, I’m there.I even got caught up in the Cubs emotion in 2003 when they made what I believe was their finest effort in the playoffs.Those games against the Atlanta Braves to clinch the NLDS for the first time since 1908 were something else.Let’s just say I spent a lot of time at the Wrigleyville bars watching and yelling alongside “real” fans.Despite my affinity towards the Cubs, this doesn’t mean I didn’t cheer for or attend some White Sox games in the South Side.
Since moving to Detroit mid-2007, the summer of baseball managed to fly by me, and I only made it out to my first Tigers game in August against none other than the Chicago White Sox. A win for the South Siders. 2007 wasn’t Tiger year. Last summer, I quadrupled my attendance at games because the Tigers were pre-season shoe-ins for the playoffs. How did that work out for us? Yikes. But coincidentally, my second Tigers game came opening week against, well, the Chicago White Sox. Since I had very little knowledge of the Tigers, in both games, I think I paid more attention to the stadium itself, the foul balls heading in my direction, and my childhood favorite baseball player, first base coach Andy Van Slyke. But I did notice, both times, the South Siders prevailed.
For my 2009 predictions for the Detroit Tigers, I say, sure, they are a contender team, but will they contend, that’s for the players and coaches to decide.With all the NCAA Basketball hype right now, all I can think of is “bubble team”. Will they dance? Because if you look at these boys, they should be another talented team and they should be stronger, faster, deeper, healthier, and defensively capable but will they become a team of many rather than a bunch of odd talents that never seem to find their niche like last year’s utter collapse. I believe that’s certainly in Mr. Leyland and his staff’s hands to help prevent. People always blame the players and in most cases, rightfully so, but there’s something to be said for the right coaching at the right time.
Anyway, if I were in the American League, I’d watch out for the Tigers pitching once again this year. Despite their poor performances last year and the slow start in Spring Training, you have to believe they’ll kick it in gear this season.You have returners Verlander, Bonderman, and Zumaya with rookies Edwin Jackson and Ryan Perry (first pick in the draft looking solid so far).Not to mention Robertson, Porcello and Willis if they ever get their acts together in Spring Training. Now in the field, there’s Miggie, Polanco, and Inge returning which I can’t really say is a bad thing, but with Renteria out (and I’m sad to see a former Cardinal leave on such a rough note), that opens up a spot for most likely, Adam Everett, who has been looking strong in Spring Training. In addition, they could bring up lefty rookie Jeff Larish to come off the bench in the infield. I love to see them use rookies (and lefties!). Lastly, my favorites, the outfield, it’s pretty solid out there with Mags, Granderson, Guillen and maybe a little Sheffield action. On paper, they look like a contender, but will they dance? I say, bubble team.
Now as for the White Sox, since I’ve left Chicago, I have to admit, I’ve followed very little of them.I’m a huge Thome fan and I was rooting for a Chicago World Series but that didn’t work out so well.Best of luck to you in 2009, and I’ll see you in D-etroit…or St. Louis for a World Series?
— Lindsay Peterson
Wings over Hawks in five in the Western Finals, Wings sweep the Capitals for the Cup. This and this alone gives me reason not to be sad about this year’s Tigers finally living out the dream of losing 120 games. Mark your calendars: fire sale begins May 15th.
— Ed Yieklak