April 2012

The Unconditional Release of Brandon Inge

Well, I’ve had a few days to mull this over…after the inevitable happened to (former) Tigers‘ third baseman and mainstay, Brandon Inge. I really don’t think any other player has had this love/hate relationship with fans as he does. Detroit faithful either love him, or call for his head on a platter. Very few seem to be in between. From a business standpoint, the Tigers organization had to do this, and with the majority of the fans leaning toward the ‘hate’ side, it was the right time. I give the Tigers credit, though, as they really gave him every chance this season to play and be effective. After going 2-20 (.100), it was apparent that he just wasn’t going to be the hitter he was during is All-Star year in 2009. In fact, he hasn’t done much since then. I also think that the Tigers are giving him a chance by releasing him. Giving him a chance to maybe catch lighting in a bottle somewhere else, and if that doesn’t happen, then he’ll be welcomed back into the organization in some capacity. I wrote a post back in February on why he’d make a fine Minor League coach, and would probably be in Toledo or West Michigan do to their proximity to Detroit, where Inge and his family live year round. That can be found here: http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com/2012/02/12/the-future-of-brandon-inge/

Now, it looks like he’ll get his chance as a member other of the Oakland Athletics, who reportedly signed him yesterday. He’ll be patrolling third base as usual, ironically replacing former Tiger and Whitecap Scott Sizemore, who is out for the season with a torn knee ligament. If things don’t work out for him playing ‘moneyball’ on Oakland, I’m still believe that Tigers’ owner Mike Illitch will find a place for him in the organization somewhere. He’s a great owner, who is very loyal to players loyal to his teams. And Inge is the longest tenured Tiger since Alan Trammel and Lou Whitaker

Photo courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

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A streaky season so far

After being swept at home by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the West Michigan Whitecaps came back with two impressive wins over the Beloit Snappers, but were unable to complete the sweep. The ‘Caps suffered their worse loss of the season, by the score of 8-0. They had their chances, but have not been very good at the plate with runners in scoring position. With the bases loaded in the sixth inning, they came away with no runs due to a called third strike. Dean Green and Patrick Leyland each had two hits in the game, though. The team has been getting hits, but not the ones that count…the ones that drive in the runs and win games. During the current home stand, the Whitecaps had eight to ten hits in each game, but they left approximately nine runners on base in four of those. With runners in scoring position, the team was 11 for 59. Ouch.

The Whitecaps are now 9-10, not horrible, but it’s been a season of streaks so far. Already in 2012, they’ve had two three-game winning streaks and one three-game losing streak. If they could have pulled out a victory yesterday, it would have made for three consecutive sweeps in the last three series, with the ‘Caps sweeping Lake County, being swept by Wisconsin, and taking the first two from Beloit. Manager Ernie Young still have confidence in his young team, though.

“We had opportunities…sometimes you just have to find a way to get that big hit,” Young told the Grand Rapids Press. “The timely hits will come. The guys just have to get up there and see it happen and it will. Two wins in six game? Yeah. Tough. It would have been nice to go ahead and get that last one a salvage a home stand with a split, but we’re going to be fine. We have a lot of games left. No time to panic. There’s no panic from me and none on staff members.”

The Whitecaps are getting some good production from guys like Steven Moya (.400 average), Green (.268, 5 home runs), and Brandon Loy (.300), but are getting little help from the lead-off position, as well as the bottom part of the line-up. Today is their first day off since April 8, and then it’s off to Quad Cities for a seven game road trip.

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Life in the Minors…

Such is the life of the Minor League baseball manager. Sometimes you just gotta work with the players the big team gives you… Peanuts comics are still the best.

Peanuts comic courtesy of the great Charles M. Schulz

Snakebitten at home

After being swept by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, it seems the West Michigan Whitecaps could be snakebitten at Fifth Third Ballpark. The ‘Caps seemed to be on a roll, after sweeping the Lake County Captains on the road in Eastlake, Ohio. The T-Rats didn’t return the favor, though, beating the ‘Caps in three straight games. It seemed that West Michigan had a great chance to steal a victory on Saturday afternoon, but couldn’t find the winning run and lost 3-2 in twelve innings. Eugenio Suarez had a good game at the plate, though, going 3-5 with a double and RBI. On another good note, ‘Caps relief pitcher Nick Avila pitched over four scoreless innings to keep his team in the game. The winning pitcher for Wisconsin was Tommy Toledo, who had one of the best baseball names I’ve ever heard. The Tigers need to trade for this guy and put him on the Mud Hens roster immediately. The 7-9 Whitecaps now must take on the Beloit Snappers in a three game set starting this afternoon, and hope they can give their fans something to cheer about with a victory or two, or three.

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Rookie bat heating up for Whitecaps

Brandon Loy gets a hit during his streak last week against the Bowling Green Hot Rods.

As for the readers who’ve read some of my other posts, I’ve stated that I’m a former second baseman when I played the wonderful game of baseball. As such, I really follow that position when I watch live games. As a fan of the West Michigan Whitecaps, I also follow that position, and the personnel assigned there, with great interest. From Will Rhymes, Scott Sizemore, Justin Henry, to Brandon Douglas, I’ve done my best to keep track of them all as they make their way through the system, even after a trade or two. This season, second base has mostly been occupied by first year player Brandon Loy. Loy has played a little short-stop as well, but defense wasn’t much of an issue with him early on, as much as his hitting. Getting off to a rough start in professional baseball, he went 0-10 with four strike-outs to start the season. With some hard work, Loy has been hitting well recently, though, and is on a 13-game hitting streak. He has six multi-hit games, is now batting .390, and has four steals.

“For me it was just a matter of getting started and getting accustomed to this atmosphere,” Loy told MLive.com. “When you strike out a few times, you tend to start swinging at bad pitches. So I just told myself to relax and I’m just seeing the ball much better now.”

He’s also getting help from outfielder Steven Moya, who’s on a 12-game hitting streak of his own, and now leading all ‘A’ ball players with a .436 batting average. Batting in front of Moya is giving Loy some decent pitches to hit.

“That helps out a lot because I’m seeing a few extra fastballs because he’s (Moya) hitting the ball so well,” Loy stated.

Brandon was a fifth round draft pick of the Tigers last June. It will be fun to watch him play this season, and move up through the Tigers system. Detroit doesn’t really have a number one at that position, so maybe in a few years he can fill that role.

Photo property of M.I.B.

Classic Ballparks turn 100

Yesterday two classic ballparks turned the century mark: Fenway Park and Tiger Stadium. The obvious different between the two, is that the Red Sox organization had the foresight to maintain and upgrade their classic stadium and make it a monument of the most historic sport in the country. Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers opted to abandon their abode on the corner of Michigan and Trumble for a new, state of the art, corporate named stadium, in Comerica Park in 2000. I was only at Tiger Stadium a few times, but those memories will stay with me forever. I can even remember being 5 years old an at my first game ever. I get recall all of the sights, sounds, and smells. It was a glorious place. I’m sure when I take my kids to Comerica, they’ll love the carousel and merry-go-round, but they’ll miss out on ambiance that Tiger Stadium held. I’m not saying that Tiger Stadium was a palace, and that it didn’t have its problems in the later years, but renovation was possible, as it was with Fenway. Ahhh…Fenway.You don’t have to be a BoSox fan to appreciate what Fenway is. The experience of watching a baseball game there simply can take your breath away. This was something that was on my bucket list that I was lucky enough to cross off thanks to last years baseball trip. The ghosts don’t haunt you there, but they welcome you, and show you around. The best way to describe it, is that you never really leave Fenway Park. It’s like you leave a part of your soul there, and it’s constantly beckoning you back….

The ponchos were cheesy, but they kept us dry

Photos property of M.I.B.

Whitecaps hand Lansing first loss

The Lansing Lugnuts are having a great season. No doubt about it, with a current record of 9-1. Their only blemish, however, came at the bats of the West Michigan Whitecaps on Friday night. The hero of the come-from-behind victory, was Danry Vasquez, who went 3-4 with the winning two run homer in the eighth inning. The 18-year-old Vaszuez is also ranked 18th on the Detroit Tigers prospect list by Baseball America. ‘Caps closer Dan Bennett made it interesting, but held on for the save, while relief pitcher Jade Todd earned the win. Also pitching in offensively, was Steven Moya, who was 2-2 on the night with a home run of his own. Eugenio Suarez also went yard to help West Michigan’s 5-4 victory. The team was unable to bottle that late game lighting, however, as they fell to the Lugnuts on Saturday by the same score of 5-4 in 12 innings. Sunday’s game would be another close one, and it was made a little more exciting with a home town boy on the mound for….Lansing. Jesse Hernandez played for Grand Rapids Community College and Central Michigan University before being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Lugnuts slugged their way to another 5-4 win, but Hernandez wasn’t involved in the decision. He did seem to appreciate the home town support, though, despite pitching for the visitors.

“It was amazing, and I can’t put it into words how it felt,” Hernandez told the Grand Rapids Press. “It is nice knowing that you have so many people behind you supporting you and I’m just very appreciative of those people. It was great having them their.”

The Whitecaps took a 3-1 lead, but were unable to hold it. They had the scoring chances, but were unable to come up with the big hits to drive home runs. Seven of these first ten game for the Whitecaps have been decided by just one run. It was enough to frustrate manager Ernie Young a bit.

“I look at it as not taking advantage of all the opportunities we had,” Young also told the Press. “We’re not going to take advantage of  all of them, but however, when we have an opportunity to get a pitcher out of a game, we have to find a way to do it. I hope that we will grow from this-losing by one run these three games-and get better. Hopefully we can find a way to pull for each other, to get a big hit or big stolen base, or take and extra base, something.”

The 4-6 Whitecaps now travel to Eastlake, Ohio to take on the Lake County Captains for three games before returning home to face the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Grand Rapids native Jesse Hernandez on the mound for the Lugnuts

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Super fun day kicks off 2012 season

Not too many fans can have more fun at the ballpark than we did on Wednesday. The sun was shining, and we were more than ready to soak up some baseball. The kids got to spend the day with their Papa, too, as us taking him to the game was park of his birthday present. Not a huge crowd for a noon game on a weekday, so we had plenty of space for us to walk around, watch the warm-ups,  and the kids had to play on the park before the game, too.

Dean Green and Colin Kaline

The new manuel scoreboard and high tech video board bring a lot of character to Fifth Third Ballpark

The highlight of the afternoon, especially for Brian, was the Crash Dash. Each game one lucky kid gets to race the Whitecaps’ mascot Crash around the bases. Lucky for Brian, his number came up and he didn’t fail. We got to hang out down by the West Michigan dugout, then got on the field for the race. Brian darted around the bases like a pro, and left Crash in the dust! He looked great on the big screen, too. Thanks to Lily, because she took some great pics while I was on the field with Brian. I was able to snap a few with my phone, also. I think Brian was pretty happy with himself after his performance, and we were all pretty happy for him, too!

Rounding second!!!


Brian looks so cool up on the new video board! At one point the whole family was up there!

Trevor was busy during the game also, as he caught a stuffed egg (yes, like a stuffed animal, but it was an egg) to give to his sister. He was also given a game ball by Jason Krizan that he is very proud of. Lily, Brian, and I snuck over to the seats that were taken from Tiger Stadium, and sat there for a little bit. Those seats are usual always empty, because they cost twice as much as the others.

The Eyeball Race!

In the game itself, the Bowling Green Hot Rods hit the ‘Caps pitchers pretty hard, nailing 18 hits for the 9-4 victory. Krizan had a good day at the plate for West Michigan, though, he hit a sac fly in the fourth innings for the Whitecaps first run, then walked in a run for an RBI seventh. He had a solo home run in the ninth inning to, but the team was unable to score any more runs. Dean Green extended his six game hitting streak with a bunt single in the fourth inning. He’s now batting .423 with two home runs. On the mound, Josue Carreno took the loss, allowing three runs on six hits.

In all, it was a great day at Fifth Third Ballpark to kick off the 2012 season. We would’ve liked a Whitecaps victory, but had a great time regardless. With the sun shining, a cold beer, the little guy running the bases, Lily’s stuffed toy, and Trevor’s game ball, we all went home happy. We ended the day at Chuck E. Cheese’s, too, just to make it even more fun for the kids!!!

Relief pitcher Nick Avila

Photos property of M.I.B.

‘Caps win home opener

After being shut out on Opening Day by the Dayton Dragons, the West Michigan Whitecaps earned a bit of retribution by shutting out the Bowling Green Hot Rods 4-0 in their home opener. The ‘Caps got the offense going early, getting RBI singles from Brandon Loy and Steve Moya in the first inning. They added two more runs in the sixth inning, one off a home run from Dean Green. The other run came from another RBI single by Moya. Aaron Westlake added two doubles for West Michigan. For Green, this was his second home run of the season, and manager Ernie Young is taking notice.

“He’s a big hitter,” Young told the Grand Rapids Press. “He’s someone who this organization hasn’t seen in a few years.”

Young also praised starting pitcher Brennan Smith, who threw five shutout innings for this win. He only allowed four hits, no walks, and had a pair of strikeouts. He was limited to 79 pitches on the night.

“He pitched a great game. He competed well, and hopefully next time he goes six innings,” stated Young. “Coming out of spring training, these guys are on a low pitch count and we have to take care of their arms.”

The bullpen got the job done for the Whitecaps, too. Ryan Wooley gave up only one hit in two innings, while Michael Torrealba and Daniel Bennett pitched one inning each without giving up a hit. The Whitecaps host Bowling Green tomorrow night, and then we’ll be at the game on Wednesday at noon. I am sooo ready for live baseball, and the kids are pumped!!!

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

Opening Day preperations

Opening Day of the 2012 baseball season is finally here in West Michigan. A lot more goes into this event, and every other game for that matter, than the coaches strategies and the players batting practice. The grounds crew, vendors, and maintenance workers are tirelessly getting Fifth Third  Ballpark ready for the thousands of fans. This Miller Lite‘s for you….for all the workers who make it possible for us fans to enjoy the ballpark experience. We can’t make it tonight, but the kids and I will be there on Wednesday! The Whitecaps are 1-2 on the young season, beating Dayton Saturday night in 11 innings.

Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Press

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