Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Flute Practice just started...

One of my favorite times of the day is when my daughter practices her flute.  Today it's times three, as her flute trio is here practicing for Solo & Ensemble Festival later this year.  Three lovely young ladies making some music together.  What a great thing.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Spartans Win! Spartans Win!

I should know by now. I really should. It doesn't matter what the spread is, it doesn't matter how good the opponent is. None of that stuff matters at all. Mark Dantonio and his team will find a way to pull it out in the end. (That Nebraska game notwithstanding). What a great win by a great team. 

Some really petulant comments by OSU players after the game, especially Ezekiel Elliot, who basically called his coaches idiots and then said he was turning pro. 

If I were Urban Meyer I would tell this crybaby kid he was going to be the backup water boy next week, and he wouldn't see the field even if there were only ten guys healthy. 

Seriously, if the kid plays next week it tells me a lot about Meyer and his program. 

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Road Funding Impasse in Michigan Continues

The road funding battle continues in Michigan.  A group of conservative Senators is digging in their heels against the tide of tax and fee hikes already passed by the House, and which the Governor has signaled his willingness to sign.  Nolan Finley, in today's edition of The Detroit News is calling for the Governor to "break some legs" among the group resisting the bill.

I'm not writing to rip Nolan Finley this morning, as disappointing as its weak logic is.  Apparently "clinging to the pretense that a billion dollars can be found in the General Fund without wrecking Michigan. If there’s that much fat in the budget, why haven’t these lawmakers trimmed it by now?", or more succinctly "If nobody's found it yet, it must not be there".  I guess Christopher Columbus should have just given up.  Or Jonas Saulk.  Alexander Graham Belll.  Edison.  Einstein.  Fill in your own insightful person who discovered something no one thought existed.  According to Nolan Finley they should have just given up and quit.  Nolan - that's pretty weak.  And in the face of an 80-20 rejection of a similar ballot initiative last spring, it's pretty tone deaf.  Might I suggest, Nolan, that if they haven't found it in there, it's because they aren't looking?  And if they aren't looking, it's likely because they don't want to find anything, because they would then have to make some really hard choices? 

No, today I'm writing to once again to rail against the political mindset that is completely insulated from the realities of the world around them which the rest of us little people have to live in.  That reality is that we citizens are taxed and fee-ed to the breaking point.  Every new "problem" requires the extraction of more money from the citizenry.  Every new project needs "funding" from the government and it's never-ending bounty.  And if we don't fund all these things, including 1.2 BILLION NEW DOLLARS to fix the roads, then according to Nolan Finley and a lot of other political class groupthinkers, we will "wreck Michigan".

I'm here writing once again to say something no one besides these stubborn, intransigent, conservative dreamers seems to be willing to say:  NO!

It's easy to raise taxes and fees - just ask the House.  Or the Governor.  Or the President for that matter.  It's the politician's default answer to every issue.  What's hard is to look at your constituents and say "sorry we couldn't fund your dog park - we had to use that money to fix the roads".

So, no we should not fund bike paths and hiking trails before we fund our roads.  We should not fund parks, malls, housing developments, windmills, or any other fluff the State funds until the road repairs are paid for.  And not just now, but five, ten, and fifty years from now.

So, no you politicians should not just add on more taxes every time someone finds a new "crisis".  You should not hike fees to fund your little pet projects.  And don't say that isn't what this is about, because that monstrosity of a proposal the voters of this state rejected emphatically and overwhelmingly last spring was full of that *ahem* crap. And what will we find in this new bill of yours?

Instead, you should learn to do what the people of this State have to do every time you politico's dream up some new project and get your buddies to vote to increase the budget to fund it: TIGHTEN YOUR BELTS!  Go over your budgets and get rid of expenditures that aren't necessary to continue to function.  (Sorry honey, we just can't take that vacation to Cancun this year.  The roof is leaking and we need to replace it.)  Reduce expenses you can't get rid of (If we start using our wood stove more and turn down the thermostat a couple of degrees, we can save a ton on our gas bill this winter.  Then we can afford to register our cars and get our license plates this year).

Those are the things that people out here in the real world do when there are really important things to do that need to be funded.  Because we can't just go and force our employer to increase our wages 40% to cover that new roof, or give us a 20% hourly increase to pay our heat bill this winter.  We have to make do with what we already have.

So I say Bravo to you stubbornly resistant conservative Senators!  You are doing the right thing for the right reasons, and you are listening to the 80% majority of voters in this State who said NO NEW TAXES so emphatically last spring.  We certainly did understand what the politicos wanted, and we rejected it soundly.  As you should continue to do.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

For Murphy's Law: Low Passes

There is at least one of your favorites here.  Personally I like the B25.
Apparently, the Zero is a real one, not one of the modified T6 Texans.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Is it too much to ask that professional writers and editors actually use proper English grammar?

Seen in The Detroit News sports section today:  "Spartans bit by injury bug". 


I see a lot more of this lately, and not just at DetNews. 

If you're going to claim to be a professional writer or editor, please take some pride in your profession and learn your grammar!

Thank You. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Late Breaking News: Melissa Gilbert to run for Congress in Michigan

The Detroit News is reporting this afternoon that actress Melissa Gilbert has announced she is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress, against Freshman Congressman Mike Bishop  in Michigan's 8th District. This is the seat previously held by Mike Rogers, and is considered a pretty safe Republican district.

Gilbert, and her husband, actor Tim Busfield, live in Howell.

I promise, no "an actor - really?" comments, as Ronald Reagan was certainly an actor, and he was successful both as Governor of California and President.  But of course, Gilbert is no Ronald Reagan.

Predictably, she says she is for "families", a "new economy", and "helping people who have fallen through the cracks."  Or in other words, the same old Democrat Socialist Redistributionist hogwash we have been hearing for the last 70 years.

If Bishop has any political chutzpah he should be able to deal with Gilbert and her tired rhetoric easily.  Her name recognition will help her, certainly.  I've never heard her speak as herself, so I have no idea how she carries and presents herself.  We shall see. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Wow! Big changes for the Tigers

If you've read my blog much you know I'm a big Detroit Tigers fan, and I do occasional commentary on them. And there is a lot to comment on this week!

To say that this season has been disappointing would be an understatement. But not necessarily unexpected, as a lot of stars would have to have aligned in order for them to have any success. Key injuries (Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera), a chronically bad bullpen, and other players who have not lived up to their billing, and you have a recipe for a flop. Which led to a selloff of their top talent to aquire prospects. 

Really, this needed to happen. This team was not the juggernaut they have been in the past, and they weren't going to win anything as currently constructed. All reports indicate the prospects they got were top-notch. 

The unexpected move was yesterday's firing of team President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski. 

Many fans have called for him to be fired over the last couple of years because for all the money spent on star players the team has not won a World Series.  Still, this was a bit of a surprise at this point in the season. Some had even thought that the deals he made in the selloff meant that ownership was going to let him continue the makeover. 

So now Al Avila, longtime assistant GM takes over, and apparently not as an interim. He has long been speculated as Dombrowski's replacement, especially last year when there was talk of him wanting the Commissioners job when Bud Selig retired. 

I expect there are more changes to come, especially in the offseason. Manager Brad Ausmus is on shaky ground, and probably some or all of his coaching staff. 

Whatever happens, they have to fix the bullpen. They score a lot of runs, but they give up a lot of late runs and cough up late leads at an astounding rate. That needs to be fixed first. After that, they need a solid starter to shore up the rotation, as Simon and Green are not getting it done. Green still has potential but Simon does not. After that they probably need some outfield help, unless Tyler Collins really impresses through the remainder of this season.  

We'll see. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

First Perry Update

First update, from the US Army Marksmanship Unit Small Arms Firing School, day one, Lauren reports she shot 92, 1X on rapid-fire prone.  I'm assuming 200yds and 10 shots, so that is a lot of 9's and 10's.

The Army supplies the real M16's and ammo for this 3-day school.  No Select-fire allowed though - bummer!

Pete Rose

I want to save the commissioner a little trouble as he is trying to decide whether to re-instate Pete Rose from his lifetime ban from Major League Basebell for gambling.  I know you are going to call me for some input, Mr. Commissioner, so here it is.

H--- NO!  He knew what would happen if he gambled and he did it anyway.  He needs to be kept out forever.  There is no forseeable reason why he should be re-instated.  You shouldn't have even let him near the All-Star game yesterday.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

When Cervid meets Steel at 75 mph

For those of you not up on your animal nomenclature, a Cervid is a deer. Or in this case, an ex deer. The deer lost but so did I, as my van is now consigned to the scrapyard. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Camp Perry here she comes!

The ammo is all loaded (550 rounds).  The shooting chair/cart is built.  All the gear is purchased or borrowed (except a mount for the spotting scope - I still can't find what is needed.  Perhaps one can be found at Perry).  Range lunch items have been purchased.  Money for gas and food has been set aside. Clothes have been washed and packing will commence tomorrow. Sometime in the afternoon/early evening she will be dropped off for the trip to Camp Perry.

I wish I could be there for it all!  Dad and I are going down for a day to watch her this week, but other commitments are keeping me here at home.

Shoot Straight, Lauren!!!

It's the All-Star Break, and the Tigers are stinking up the Central Division

There is a big debate going on right now as the Tigers stagger into the All-Star break with a .500 record, and sitting 8 games behind the division-leading Royals.  And 3-1/2 games out of a wild-card spot.

After watching this team bumble and stumble and give away games all season long (witness the wasting of a 7-1 lead late against the Twins this week as the latest example) I'm firmly in the camp of those who want to sell off assets to gain some payroll flexibility for next year, as well as some good, young talent.  The other side says "go out and get a quality starter and a quality reliever and things will be all right".  I don't think so.  There is more wrong with this team than a couple of pitchers.

Untouchables in this sell-off:  Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, JD Martinez, James McCann, Jose Iglesias.  Everyone else is fair game, even Justin Verlander.  Never thought I would say that about Verlander.

What should they get back?  Pitching first and foremost.  Good, strike-throwing, consistent pitching, not older than 25.  Left-handed if possible.  A closer candidate if possible.  Also a speedy corner outfielder with some pop that can hit .280 or so.  They have that last one with Cespedes, but he is a free agent, and there isn't much there on the farm to give the job to. 

They also need to start thinking about replacing V-Mart and Cabrera, as they are both at the point where their bodies are starting to fail them.  Cabrera can move to DH eventually, but that 4-year contract Victor got is going to be a problem in years 3 and 4, probably, when his knees finally give out completely.  It will be sad to watch a scintillating hitter fall apart physically like that.

When the year is over (or maybe before if they really go in the tank) they need to find a new manager.  Mr. Calm has not instilled the toughness in these guys that it takes to win it all.  I have no doubt he's a smart guy, and he may eventually be a terrific manager, but right now he seems more concerned with helping everyone feel good than he is getting after them for screwing up so much and giving so many games away.  It was good they sent Joba Chamberlain packing, it sent the message that if you can't get guys out, you're going to be gone.  Now maybe guys like Rondon and Soria will get the message.

The Tigers are soft mentally, and they can't pitch very well.  That's why they won't win anything this year.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Headlight lens restoration

OK, I admit it.  This is a little outside my normal realm of comment, but this really worked well for me so I thought I would share.

I have a beater minivan, a 2000 Grand Caravan.  It looks like crap, but it starts up and runs every time, so we keep driving it.  But its headlight lenses were really bad, to the point of having visible pitting.  And of course, lots of yellowing also.  To the point where it was making my wife nervous to drive it at night.  I have to admit, I was squinting a lot more to see at night too, so I decided to do this.

I already had much of what was needed, but the sandpaper I picked up at Walmart for about $3.50 a package for each of the 3 grits, and it took one sheet of each total to do both headlights.  I think the clear paint was about $3.50 also, at the local "big box".  Walmart didn't have what was recommended, or I would have gotten it there along with the sandpaper.

After completing the process as described in the video, my headlights are clear and bright, and they are back to being useful at night for seeing things in front of you, instead of just being seen by others.  I highly recommend it if you have this problem on your vehicle.

Now this guy's voice is kind of annoying, but he paces well and gets through the whole thing pretty quickly and thoroughly, so just hang in there:

Supreme Court Gay "Marriage" responses: "Ignore the Ruling"

While I am as disappointed with the recent US Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges about gay "marriage" as anyone else, I am also leery of those (including one congresscritter) who are planning to ignore the law or advising others to do so.

This would seem an unwise course.  Consider the Heller and MacDonald decisions from this court over the last few years, which found that the 2nd Amendment is indeed an individual right, and therefore individuals have the right to own firearms.  Those who say "ignore the law" are creating precedent that would allow governments at any level to ignore these two decisions simply because they didn't like them or thought they were immoral.

Do you think the politicos in Chicago wouldn't love to find some way to ignore those cases?  D.C.?  N.Y.?  You bet they would. And this would hand it to them.

This is just one of many possible issues this could apply to.  So let's not shoot ourselves in the foot over this one, OK?  Let's think this all the way through.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Sopwith Camel Restoration

I thought this was pretty interesting. From The Detroit News

"It was the space shuttle of its time," Kozura says.

Together, these authentic parts are being assembled in a suburban garage and basement in west Michigan into what Kozura says will be the finest airworthy Sopwith Camel reproduction in the United States.
And no, it doesn't look like this:
Image result for snoopy sopwith camel


Wednesday, July 01, 2015

It was a 600 yard day

Much scurrying around trying to get preparations complete to send Lauren to the National Matches this month.  I learned from my friend Aaron over at The Shekel that the Washtenaw Sportsmans Club in Ypsilanti was having a 300/600yd. practice session today which was open to the public, so we made the drive.

First, let me give a big THANK YOU to the Club and the members I met there today for taking us in, waiving the 600-yard qualifier (Lauren has shot several shorter matches, and knows the ropes) and letting her shoot for free.  This kind of support for Junior shooters is very much appreciated, and really helps to keep the shooting sports from fading away in the late, great U.S.A.  One of the guys even let Lauren borrow his cart so she didn't have to carry all her gear back to the firing line.  Everyone there was just as nice as could be, and glad to see a Junior there and doing well.

Second, if you are in the area and looking for a club for shooting sports, give them some consideration.  The facility looks to be first rate for many different shooting disciplines as well as archery.

Third, Lauren was kicking some serious backside today.  We got there too late to shoot at 300, so all we could do was 600, which was just fine with me, as there are so few 600 yard ranges available. Winds were fairly light with some gusts, moving left to right, the temperatures were comfortable in the mid 70's, and the sky was mostly cloudy so there wasn't a lot of glare to deal with either.  The range has military-style pits, so the targets were being spotted and scored there so we could see them back at the line (this wasn't a match so scores weren't being kept, but your hits were scored on the target for you to record if you liked).  She got lots of help from an experienced shooter, and he seemed pretty impressed with her shooting.  Her windage was really good, and once she got her come-ups figured out (the main reason for going today) she was knocking out 9's and 10's and a couple of X's with great regularity.

A shift in the pits capped our time there, and once again everyone was as nice as could be.  So thanks and a big thumbs up for Washtenaw Sportsmans Club!  We enjoyed our time there today!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Camp Perry Prep

My daughter is going to shoot at the National Matches at Camp Perry this year, on the Michigan Junior Team.  So we are loading ammo for her to take.  She has been away at camps the last two weeks, so I have been working on the cases she had begun prepping before she left.  I've primed 500 or so cases over the last few days, and now I've started loading them.  Here's what I did today:
That's 100 rounds.  Here's what I loaded them with:
I'm used to loading pistol rounds on my turret press and cranking out a couple hundred in an hour, but these we do single-stage and very exactingly.  It takes me a minute or so per round to throw the powder charge, carefully trickling the last tenth of a grain or so.  Seating the bullet is much faster than throwing the charge!  Those 100 rounds represent about 3 hours of work for me today, and that doesn't include clearning, sorting, depriming, resizing, trimming, and priming the cases.  And swaging the crimp out of the primer pockets of the military brass (that is a pain in the posterior!)  I'm glad Lauren helped with the prep work!

I can also say that Varget powder is Un-Obtainium right now.  None of the local shops has any, nor do any of the on-line retailers.  I even checked Jay's up in Clare (a couple of hours drive from here) and they didn't have any either.  I had a pound to start with and I'm down to about a third of a pound, and I'm shaking the trees for more to finish out her ammo loadout for Perry.  I'm hoping there will be some available at the vendor booths at the matches so we can get ready for next year!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Post Proposal 1 vote - What if it's voted down?

With most polls showing a 2-1 or 3-1 defeat for Proposal 1 in Michigan, I've been thinking about what would happen if the Proposal is actually voted down.  For those not familiar, Proposal 1 is a tax hike (sales and fuel) which ostensibly will be used to fix roads in Michigan (State roads anyway.  City, county, and Interstates not included).  All this at a cost of 2 billion dollars, not all of which will go to road repairs.  And what does go to road repairs will initially be quite small.  Plus a bunch of special-interest pork included to get Democrat votes in the legislature.

We can look to history for a clue as to what the Honorable Rick Snyder will do - specifically the Bridge to Canada project from a couple of years ago which the Governor lobbied hard for, but which the Senate rejected.  Rather than accept the fact that there were major questions about the cost estimates for this bridge and working with the legislators who voted down the bill in committee, our PO'ed Governor went around the legislature and got the Canadians to foot the bill for the construction, for which he didn't need any legislative approvals.

So, what does the Governor have up his sleeve this time to get around the rejection of his plans (if that happens)?  What new plans does he have to extract more money from the overtaxed populace of Michigan?

Governor - nobody disagrees with you that the roads are bad and getting worse.  We all know things need to be fixed.  But surely you understand that people are tired of tax hikes, fee hikes, and the ever-growing size and scope of government.  You really need to get your own house in order in State government before you come looking for more money from the already highly taxed populace of Michigan.

If you do that then we will all know you are serious about dealing with the problems in this state, rather than creating new burdens that only enhance your (already soiled) legacy.  You know, sort of like what you did with Detroit when you made them get their financial house in order.  You should apply the same firmness and critical eye to State Government.  If you look hard enough you will find the money you need to get the job done without raising anyone's taxes.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Proposal 1 Will Cost Average Michigan Household Up to $525 a Year in Extra Taxes

From the Michigan Capital Confidential:  (full article by Tom Gantert)

The average household in Michigan will pay as much as $525 more in taxes in 2016 if Proposal 1 is approved by voters on May 5, according to a study by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
The study estimated that increasing the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent would cost a typical Michigan household $389 and the change in the fuel tax would cost between $88 and $136.
I'm a pretty typical Michigan household (family of 4), and I know I could use $525 in better ways than these blundering politicians can.  I have a kid going to college next year, and that would buy a lot of books for her, for instance.

No, I'll say it again:  The State needs to get its own financial house in order before it comes knocking at my door for more money to feed boondoggles and the failing public education system.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Gov. Moonbeam doesn't like Ted Cruz because he's falsified global warming data?

As reported in WND.com today, Gov. Jerry Brown of California went on "Meet the Press" and said he thinks Ted Cruz isn't qualified to be President because he has falsified global warming data.  From the article:
California Gov. Jerry Brown on “Meet the Press” on NBC called Cruz “absolutely unfit” to seek the high office, mostly because of his views on climate change.
“That man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of scientific data,” Brown said, just hours before Cruz made his Twitter announcement. “It’s shocking and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office.”
That's pretty rich, Jerry, considering the long and storied history of falsified data from the true believers in global warming.

Hey Californians - maybe you should recall Gov. Loonbeam, as by his own standards he is not qualified to be governor.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ransomware and Michigan Road Proposal

In the IT realm where I spend my working hours, there is a class of nefarious software called "Ransomware".  It's a type of virus that infects your computer and encrypts the contents of your hard drive.  The next time you boot your computer all you get is a message stating your computer has been hijacked and you have to send money to a certain place to get the decryption key to recover your drive.

Michigan's Proposal 1, which we will be voting on in May, is similar to Ramsomware.  The State is saying that if the voters don't approve a 2 billion dollar tax hike, the State isn't going to fix the roads.

Frankly, I find this disgusting and there are a lot more like me out here who feel similarly.  Steve Gruber, at WJIM Radio, is one:  "Governor Says My Life is in Danger: Really?"

During one event highlighting the “Safe Roads Yes” campaign Snyder held up a chunks of what he said was from crumbling roads and bridges. “Can you imagine one of these coming through your windshield?” he said for effect.
It seems disingenuous and a bit silly at this point to be preaching doom and gloom and telling us frankly we could die- I mean how long have these people been trying to fix the roads anyway? And when they finally arrive at a $2 Billion dollar tax hike solution they lack the political courage to figure it out themselves. No, instead they send it back to the people… you know the ones that elected them to solve tough problems in the first place. At first I thought that was a good idea. Of course that was when I thought they actually intended to put the money, all of it, toward roads. That is a long way from the reality.
In fact only about $1.2 billion is actually intended to be used for roads and that won’t happen until at least 2018. The rest is why so many people despise politics and politicians because it is a pile of other spending that has exactly nothing to do with saving our lives from concrete falling out of the sky. According to the House Fiscal Agency $600 million a year would go to schools, cities, mass transit, the state’s general fund and tax breaks in the form of more earned income tax credits. With a debt far north of $75 Billion dollars it seems more likely our financial house will crash in on top of us before a stray piece of concrete gets us.
For myself, I'll say it again - Fix the problems with State Government bloat and overreach before you come for any more of *my* money.  MEDC and the Dept. of Education are two good places to eliminate if you want to find some more money.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Now this is interesting: Vincent van Gogh

From the Article:
Most of us know the sordid story of the lovelorn Van Gogh sending a nasty Valentine (his ear) to a floozy he hopelessly pursued.

Yet Van Gogh’s original heartbreak didn’t come from a French prostitute, but from the church.

The frayed narrative of Van Gogh’s crummy love life and repeated rejection at the hands of les femmes, ignores his original great passion in life – the ministry of Jesus Christ (or Jezus Christus in Dutch).

Vincent was a socially progressive and idealistic young pastor who clashed with the rigid respectability of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1878. Ministering to starving miners and roughnecks, he suffered along in complete solidarity – ill-fed, dirty, cold and ugly. The church at the time didn’t much care for his scandalous empathy and abruptly cut off all support.


Sunday, February 08, 2015

Uttering Sacrilege in the land of Sparty

So here is that which is sacrilege to even think around here:  Has Tom Izzo lost his touch?

It used to be he would find diamonds in the rough and coach the crap out of them and they would respond and win conference championships and go to Final Fours with regularity. But over the last few years he seems to find head cases that won't listen to him, and his teams have been more disappointing than anything else.  They might make a tournament run and get through the first couple rounds against flawed or outclassed teams, but when the competition gets better, they wilt.

We see this pattern far too often, as in the home loss to Illinois this weekend.  Spartans play bad, guys don't perform, and at the presser afterwards Izzo tells us all how mad he is and how he's taking full responsibility and is going to coach those guys like never before.  They come out and whack their next opponent, think everything is OK now, and then lose to a team they should beat by 15.  Izzo rants at his presser again.

It used to be he might do that once a season.  Now, it seems like it's every other game.

I'm just asking the question.  Has Izzo lost his passion?  Has the game passed him by?  Or, does today's player not respond to him like his National Championship team did 15 years ago?  Is it time for new blood at the Breslin?

Monday, February 02, 2015

Late word today - Former Tigers 1B Dave Bergman dead at age 61

One of my favorite players on the 84 World Champs, first baseman Dave Bergman died today after a long battle with cancer.

I still remember the game at Tiger Stadium that year against Toronto (who also had a really great team) when Bergman came up with 2 on in the 10th inning and commenced an epic battle with Toronto reliever Roy Lee Jackson.  Bergman fouled off pitch after pitch until finally, on a 3-2 pitch, he golfed one into the right-field seats to win the game for the Tigers.  Here is that memorable at-bat:

I was managing the women's softball team at my Church that year, and a couple of my friends and I went to Houlihans at the Lansing Mall after our game to have a little dinner and watch the Tigers game.  I still remember that at-bat after all these years.  The whole place erupted when that ball went out.

Bergman wasn't the big star of the team, and he didn't have big stats, but he knew his role on the team and played it very well.  Rest in peace, Dave.  You gave us some great memories.


We have had our first big snowstorm of the year since yesterday morning, which has dumped about a foot here.  I blew 8 inches out of my driveway last night, and another 4 inches this morning.  Fortunately, I had enough gas to mix up a batch for my snowblower so I'm set for this one and probably the next one too!

My daughter got her first experience driving in a big snow dump, and got stuck before she went 50 feet!  We dug her out and got her going again (with an assist from a neighbor and her snowblower.  She apparently made it to work, as I didn't get any other help calls from her - probably the main roads had been plowed by the time she left at 10:00.

There is enough firewood inside to last through the day, but I'll have to shovel a path to the woodpile to bring in more.  I do love my woodstove!

Now I know that anyone from the UP or Wisconsin or Minnesota would probably laugh at a 12-inch snowfall, but here in central Michigan, that's a lot.  School closings, snow emergency declarations, cancelled events - everything. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Offseason Detroit Tigers Musings

Well, pitchers and catcher report in about a month, so it's time for a little offseason baseball musing, especially since I have mostly boycotted the NFL this year and there isn't much to talk about now that college football is over (how 'bout them Spartans?) and college basketball hasn't really gotten interesting yet.

So, after getting briskly swept out of the playoffs this year, the Tigers have been reconstructing themselves a bit.  Gone are Tori Hunter, Phil Coke, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly, Joba Chamberlain, and Max Scherzer (maybe).  Newcomers are Shane Greene, Alfredo Simon to the rotation, a bunch of other "guys" in the bullpen, another "guy" from Toronto in center, and Yoenis Cespedes in left.  And the returns of Jose Iglesias at shortstop and perhaps Bruce Rondon in the bullpen.

The rotation is noticeably weaker than last year at the beginning of the season, with the losses of Scherzer, Smyly, and Porcello.  Still, when you have Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and David Price as your top of the rotation, you aren't exactly fielding a Triple-A staff there.  The keys will be:
  1. Will Verlander return to some semblance of his old self?  If you get 18+ wins out of him the answer is yes.  If he's the .500 pitcher he was last year, you're in trouble.  If you are the Tigers you are hoping that his healthy, normal offseason has him in prime condition for a bounceback year.
  2. Will Sanchez stay off the DL?  If so he will probably win you 18 games.  If not, you better hope there is someone down on the farm that is farther along than you thought he was to fill in for him.
  3. Simon and Green.  If both of them win you 12-15 games you are probably OK with that.  Your big 3 are going to get you through the playoffs, but your 4 and 5 guys are going to get you *in* the playoffs by giving you a chance to win in every one of their starts.  That's what you got with Porcello, and to a lesser extent Smyly.
  4. Scherzer.  The big offseason question is "Where will he end up?"  The Tigers obviously made some of the moves they did because they didn't think he would be back in Detroit.  And realistically, a 6-year contract for a 30-year-old pitcher is crazy.  I finally saw one suggestion that made sense in the Detroit News today: 4 years, 112 million (28 mil/year).  That is Verlander money without the long-term financial risk.  Maybe throw in a 5th year mutual option at 15 or 20 just to see if he bites.  But any contract beyond 4 years on a pitcher of his age is crazy for any team, not just the Tigers.  If he comes back they can trade off some surplus pitching or move someone to the bullpen.  But if Scherzer sticks to his guns he won't be back in Detroit.  EDIT: Scherzer to Nationals for 200+ million over 7 years.  Good for him, crazy for Washington.  Wow.
Once again this area of the team will be the biggest source of heartburn for the fans.  The bullpen was in shambles for much of last year and at the start of the year it doesn't look much different.

Joe Nathan was a disaster for much of the year, and Joakim Soria was just as bad for the short time he pitched before landing on the DL for most of the second half.  These two will have to become a reliable late-inning combination for the Tigers to have any chance of defending their division title this season.  That's the bottom line.  The rest of the guys have to do their part too, but these guys blew a lot of games last year, and they both had their reputations as crunch-time pitchers take a big hit.

One name that is always thrown around when talking about the Tigers bullpen is Bruce Rondon.  He has that 100 mph fastball that blows hitters away, but he has been hurt for most of his big-league career.  He is coming back from Tommy John surgery this year, and that puts a significant question mark on his ability to pitch at all for starters, at least at the start of the year.  After that the questions becomes "how effective will he be?"  Anything he gives will be a bonus.

Most everyone else in the bullpen is a collection of guys you say "who?" when someone tells you their name.  The team has been collecting relievers over the winter, and they'll all get a chance to sort themselves out in Florida.  Don't think there's much bullpen help in the minors right now.

Position Players
The first player you think of in this category for the Tigers is always Miguel Cabrera.  And this year there is another major surgery in his offseason, this time for fractures in his ankle.  As I write this in mid-January he is just getting out of the walking boot, and hasn't even started off-season workouts.  This doesn't bode well for his return to anything like his usual form anytime soon.  Still, even a hobbled Cabrera put up numbers that any other player would give his eyeteeth for, so if his ankle is strong enough to play he should put up at least those kind of numbers again.  Look for him to platoon with Victor Martinez a lot early on, just to keep him from overdoing it and not being available for crunch time in August and September.

And since we just mentioned him, let's talk about the second most feared hitter on the team, Victor Martinez.  If ever a guy deserved a big contract at age 35 it's VMart.  The guy just flat-out produces at the plate, and is a leader in the clubhouse.  If he stays healthy, there's no reason to think he won't continue to produce excellent numbers for the length of that contract.  Stay healthy, Victor!

Then there's the other Martinez - J.D.  All you can say is you hope he wasn't a one-year flash in the pan.  He'll be playing right field this year, pretty much full-time.  If he keeps hitting, he will be the biggest steal for the Tigers this side of Carlos Guillen. If not, Steven Moya is waiting in the wings at Toledo.

Center Field will probably a platoon of newcomer Anthony Gose and the surprising Rajai Davis.  Davis exceeded expectations last year and was a good guy to have when the Tigers traded Austin Jackson away.  He filled in decently in left and center field, and gave them a boost on the bases.  Gose is a .236 hitter in 2 years of part-time duty in Toronto, about 500 at-bats.  Hard to get a read on him, but he is supposedly very fast - an asset in the spacious outfield of Comerica Park.

Left field will be patrolled by one of the big acquisitions of the off-season, Yoenis Cespedes - he of the highlight reel arm and somewhat underwhelming offense (.263 career hitter).  We'll see what happens with him too - hope he was worth parting with Rick Porcello to get.

Others:  Ian Kinsler needs to have a better second half this year - he faded noticeably last year.  Seemed to be an improvement over Omar Infante defensively.  Jose Iglesias - who knows what we'll get.  Supposed to be a defensive wizard, but his hitting work so far has not been respected, even though his average is respectable.  Again, we'll see.  Hope he stays healthy this year.  Nick Castellanos, it is pretty much agreed, has to improve defensively.  He has been getting a pass after transitioning back to third base after a couple of seasons working in left field to try and get him to the bigs.  He was a prized prospect, and showed some promise at the plate as well.  Reports are he has lost some weight and has been working on his speed and first step this offseason.  If so, that is a good thing.  They need him to carry his weight over there at the hot corner.

Big concern for Alex Avila at catcher.  The man has taken a beating back there, and it shows in his offensive output.  Defensively there aren't many better, but Alex, you have to think of your future self.  You're going to be in a home drooling on yourself if you don't get out soon.  If this new mask you're working with doesn't help, you need to retire.  The Tigers need to use whoever their backup is more than they have in the past, just to minimize Avila's exposure to the concussions and keep his legs fresh.  Perhaps that will bring his average up from the .220 or so he has hit the last three or four years.

As for the bench, who knows?  Right now it looks like Don Kelly, Andrew Romine, and Hernan Perez are the potential extra infielders on the major league roster.  Tyler Collins is probably the extra outfielder.  There are a couple of other guys on the 40-man roster that they are probably protecting for the future, but the only one we might see this year is Steven Moya.  These guys will all be fighting it out for a roster spot.  Kelly can play everywhere but has a light stick and little power.  Romine and Perez play both middle infield spots, and if you can play those you can probably play third as well, but neither of them have been known to take a turn in the OF.  Collins is a guy that made the team out of spring training last year, but was sent down to Toledo so he could play instead of sit.

Edit:  Don Kelly is apparently a free agent, although the ESPN roster site I was looking at didn't show him as one, and he has reportedly signed with the Marlins, so count Kelly out of the mix.

The Central Division has gotten a lot tougher over the offseason.  Chicago and Cleveland have made marked improvements, especially in their pitching staffs.  And of course, Kansas City went to the World Series in 2014, but have lost several key players to free agency and may not be at the same level this year.  They still have some talent there, certainly.  In the long run, having a tougher Central Division may make whoever wins it a better team for the playoffs next fall.