Looking for a groove

Pudge_4It’s very tough to sit around. The mental part of it is so difficult. Even all day today, not knowing, hearing the weather reports and saying, "Here we go again." I think it’s hurt our club more than anybody because we haven’t played. We played a game, then had a day off, which affects the timing for our hitters. There’s only so much hitting you can do inside.

It’s draining, even for me, the broadcaster. I’m drained. I’m thinking, "Should I start thinking, going through things in my head?" How long do we have tonight?" You gear it up, no matter what you do. So you think of a player that really has to be physically and mentally ready at the same time, it’s a tough deal. This is tough for both teams, but timing-wise, I think it really affects us.

I don’t think a day off can help the hitters. You have to be in action to play. You can take all the batting practice you want, look at video, work on things, but I think the problem with our team’s batting average is we haven’t played, starting with the week off before the Series started. We played two games at home, got a day off, played one game, day off and who knows what’s going to happen tonight? Game action is the thing. To me, it’s an advantage to the Cardinals more than us.

These guys, they don’t change their routine. There are some guys playing cards, some guys hanging out in the trainer’s room telling jokes and stories with the trainers — they all have their own different areas to go. Some guys are watching TV; they’ve probably done all the video-watching of the opposing pitcher and all that stuff. Once their meetings are over with, then they gear it down again. They have one indoor cage here at Busch Stadium, so they take turns having their swings, but for them, tonight, they have to say to themselves, "When do we turn it on?" Because it’s starting to rain again and the weather reports are horrible, so it makes it tough.

I think what happened in New York with the Game 2 rainout in the AL Division Series has something to do with why Major League Baseball waited so long last night. I don’t think anybody’s to blame for what happened in New York. It was just a little mixup. I think in a way it was used to our advantage: the big boys in New York, and here we are, the Tigers. Remember, all they heard when we got in Sunday was "Subway Series." Well, no Subway Series now!

I like what Jim Leyland said about keeping the rotation the same. These are the guys who got us here. Here’s our guys — they’ve earned the spot. I would think if he would change it, though, it would be done the right way. He would know the right way to do it, communicating and so forth.

In ’68, Mickey Lolich pitched the seventh game on two days’ rest and had nasty stuff. I asked Mike Shannon last night, "Mike, how was Lolich in the seventh game?" "Nasty," he said. But Mayo Smith didn’t change the lineup or give anybody a day off. There was no reason to do that. You have the guys who got you there, and nobody’s tired at this point. They’re hyped up.

Waiting to play

GrandersonNot knowing if we’re going to get a game in tonight, this is horrible. So much of the game is mental, especially in a short series like this. Here we are, the Tigers are down one game, and mentally, you try to relax during the day, but your mind keeps going to the ballgame — if you’re a hitter, who you’re going to be facing; if you’re the pitcher, going over the players all the time. And then you try to block it out, you try to get some rest, but then you try not to get too much rest where you’re lethargic when you get to the ballpark, so it’s really a tough deal.

And then you come to the ballpark and sit around awhile longer because of the rain — it’s a killer. Everybody has their own routine, what they do, when they get dressed, maybe when they get worked on at a certain time, when they put their pants on. I know it sounds funny, but maybe some guys will put their pants on at a certain time and their shoes and their socks and just a T-shirt, or vice-versa. So it messes up the whole routine and everything you do. It’s tough, it really is tough, because the mental part, especially in a short series, is even more important.

The worst weather we had in that ’68 Series was Game 4 in Detroit. It didn’t seem to be cold during that Series. I don’t remember being cold, like it is now. There’s normally rain, but now it’s cold. The World Series was done, I think, by Oct. 10, when we played. That’s a major difference. This is the end of October.

I don’t know what they’re going to do, but they have to start thinking about the fans and the quality of play. I know everybody wants all these games, but holy mackerel. What happens if the Minnesota Twins, who are going to have a new stadium outdoors with no roof, are playing in October? I mean, come on. I know revenue is important, but maybe the Players Association and the owners need to get together and say, "Look, we have to think about the quality of play and the fans here."

Look at it in April: Opening Day is packed. The day after Opening Day, you can have your own section. So in April, all around baseball, except maybe in a couple of major markets like Boston and so forth, April is not a big month for most of the clubs. We all know Spring Training is too long, we all know the season is too long, and here’s a perfect example of what’s happened because of those two situations. Here we are, we don’t know if we’re going to play tonight, and they’re saying it’s going to rain for three days. It’s horrible. I don’t know what they’re going to do.

As far as last night’s game, I think the problems the Tigers had had a lot to do with Chris Carpenter. He was good last night. I remember saying that I only saw one or two balls above the belt all night, and one was when he got Curtis Granderson to swing at one up and away. Carpenter’s one of the top five in baseball, and he had it all going. He was on a mission, and he hit his spots. When you have a sinker like he has, a power sinker and a power cutter, a straight-down curveball, a slider-type breaking ball, and you got it all going … yes, some of our guys are definitely not swinging, but he made it even worse for our guys. You expect your horse to do that, and he’s their horse.

He also doesn’t walk anybody. His last 79 innings or something, he walked 10 hitters in the regular season. There’s a power arm who’s not going to walk you, so from a hitter’s standpoint, do you say, "Work the count"? What count can you work? If you get a pitch that you think you can hit, in my opinion, against a guy like that, you’ve gotta swing.

Now, Suppan tonight is a different story. You’ve got to make him throw strikes, get the ball up and over the plate. But Carpenter, that’s a different animal. To a lot of Tiger fans, it might have looked like "here we go again, swinging early in the count, not working counts." But they couldn’t. Do you want to go behind in the count against a guy like that? That’s my thinking. He came close to walking Brandon Inge, fell behind 2-0, trying to pinpoint outside because the pitcher was up next. He ended up striking him out. I mean, that’s as close as he came. He was good.

If you’re Jeremy Bonderman, this start tonight is the next step in "getting" the playoffs. This is the World Series. The other one, that was great, that was a postseason game, but this is the World Series. And if I’m Jeremy Bonderman, I’m going to show them. And now the team even needs him more than the last game. Tonight’s a must-win. The Tigers can’t go down 3-1. We came back in ’68, but that doesn’t happen very often. You don’t want to take that chance. So to me, for this organization, this is right now, get a win.

You can’t think ahead to the possibility of facing Carpenter in Detroit in order to win the Series. You have to think about tonight. I think their focus is tonight, tonight, tonight, and a combination of Bonderman keeping them in the game and having the at-bats that we saw in the earlier stages of the postseason.

A growing sentiment

U4qxvnt2I said on the air the other day when I saw Kenny Rogers’ hand on the monitor that, obviously, people showing it aren’t Tigers fans. They did show a close-up on it. All I can go is what’s in the rulebook — that you can’t have foreign substances on your hand, gloves or any part of your body. We don’t know what he did, but it’s interesting that when they had him wash it off, he got better. So, let’s have him wash his hands every inning. Here in St. Louis, they are going crazy. There’s some sentiment about Tony La Russa about not being stronger about protecting his team more. I think if they had gotten Kenny out of the game and gotten into the bullpen, it maybe would have helped the Cardinals. I think that sentiment is growing.

All I can say is if the guys I caught, if they ever did anything, I didn’t want to know about in case I was quizzed.

Anytime a ball hits the dirt or grass now, they get it out of the game. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, the ball stayed in the game. But here, if the ball touches the ground, they get it out.

To me, Kenny didn’t need anything. He’s proven it with his 23 scoreless innings. But they’ll keep talking about the controversy here.

This is a great franchise. We knew that in 1960. These fans are crazy. Our fans are great, but this is a storied franchise. This is the Cardinals’ 17th World Series. You think of the Gas House Gang, Dizzy Dean, Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, guys like that. So, it’s a great, great franchise. I know in ’68 we had great respect for them, but I don’t think we got our respect until we played them.

When I saw Bob the other day, I said, "We are going to beat you again." In those days, we wanted to beat each other, but now we are buddies. We kid about it, but I’m sure they still resent it. We got the ring and they didn’t.

When we won the American League pennant, we went right to the World Series. Now, with a five-game series and two seven-game series, to me, they have to do something. We are going to be playing to the end of October. For the fans’ sake, to see real good baseball, in my opinion, either the season is too long, Spring Training is too long, or something. I think it’s tough when the games start late. I think it’s very tough on fans. You’re going to see great baseball, but you might see better baseball if the weather wasn’t so tough.

Pudge_2Ivan Rodriguez, who is struggling right now, is probably his best hitting coach. He knows what he is doing. I’m sure Don Slaught is working with him. Pudge could be feeling the pressure, because he was our first guy we went out and paid the big money to. But to have him behind the plate and his throwing ability, it cuts down the running game. It’s so important.

A must-win for Tigers

I think the time off for the Tigers hurt. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, because you can practice all you want and practice against regular pitching, but once you get into game action, it speeds up. The game speeds up. And that’s what happened last night. Our guys did go after a lot of bad pitches, but they got jammed a lot, right-handers and left-handers.

Anthony Reyes took advantage of that week off, I think. He pitched off his fastball, but from the scouting report, the Tigers are thinking going into the game that maybe his fastball wasn’t that good. But you ask our hitters, that was a pretty good fastball last night.

Justin Verlander‘s issue, I thought, was movement. I just didn’t think he had the bite at the plate that he normally has, even in the low 90s. I don’t think he had it last night, and to me, that’s the difference. The one thing about Verlander is he can throw in the low 90s during the regular season and have bite, and in the high 90s and have more bite. It’s a rare combination. But last night, I didn’t see that movement at the plate.

The pressure, the anticipation — Justin’s a rookie, and he might have thought about it a lot. That was not the real Justin Verlander that we saw last night. It was one of those rare occasions where if he did make a pitch that was hittable, they hit it. And a lot of strikeouts — it was a tough combination.

This is a must-win tonight, no question about it. In ’68, we lost the first game and won the second game — momentum, momentum, momentum. Against the Cardinals, the Tigers can’t afford to lose tonight. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. The Cardinals play so well at home. But I said it last night, the Cardinals are battle-tested, battle-weary and battle-scarred. That says a lot for being in stride like they were last night.

There is no other sport like baseball where momentum can swing on one day, because you normally play back-to-back games. I’m not sure of many other sports where you actually play back-to-back. You might have a day or two off in between. I think baseball is unique from that standpoint. Even inning to inning, momentum can change. Look at the first inning last night — we could have scored maybe three runs. It could have been a whole different ballgame. But we weren’t able to do it. And then Reyes got more pop in his pitches.

The Cardinals heard what we heard when we went to New York before we played a game and heard everybody talking about a Subway Series. We hadn’t played a game. The Cardinals came here after a grind-out win over the Mets in seven games, and all they heard was Tigers in four, Tigers in five. If you’re with the Cardinals, you’re not saying much. You’re listening to this and you’re digging deep. They handled themselves quite well. They really did, a really professional team.

1968 and 2006: My Thoughts

The minute I found out St. Louis was in this World Series, I said, "Boy, that’s great." What’s your poison, the Mets or St. Louis? But because of the story of the franchise in St. Louis and ours, too, I thought that was great. I was fortunate enough to play on that 1968 team, so I thought it was great to get together again. I know they’re great fans in St. Louis.

St. Louis is one of the great baseball cities in the world. They always have been. When you look at their history, all the good teams they have, this is their 17th time in the World Series. That’s amazing. It’s a great, great baseball town. And anybody that has played there will tell you, they are great fans.

Seeing Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa managing in this World Series, I think it’s great respect for each other. Two baseball people. And when you say baseball people, to me it means so much. Because you know how I broadcast — I love the art of pitching, I love the art of the game within the game. Here are two guys who are big in that regard. These two guys are at the top of their craft, and communication is so important. I think Leyland, learning under La Russa and managing in the National League, has helped him in the American League. Because the AL, with the DH, there’s not a lot of moves. Leyland has brought that National League feel, in my opinion, to managing in the American League.

Detroit has home-field advantage in this World Series because of the AL winning the All-Star Game, and that home-field advantage is great. Our outfielders know how to play this ball field better than any other outfielders, and Leyland knows how to take advantage of it, also. We don’t have great speed, but he takes advantage of what speed we do have. I think it’s a great combination.

When I think back to that 1968 World Series, what we heard about St. Louis and the Cardinals when I was playing was, they were the highest payroll at that time. We weren’t paid a lot of money, and there was no Interleague Play at the time, so they didn’t know much about the Tigers. But we were really good. We were underdogs, but we didn’t think we were underdogs. I know the guys on the Tiger team right now, they have great respect for the Cardinals. They understand you gotta strap ’em on and play.

Now we’re seeing the teams meet again, and this World Series is all about pitching. If you’ve heard my broadcasts from Day One, it starts with pitching, the middle’s pitching, it ends with pitching. And good pitching makes good defense, good defense helps pitching, then you figure out a way to score some runs. But I think our offense, the pressure they put on the opposing pitcher — outside of Ramon Santiago, who’s a different type of hitter — anybody can hit the ball out at any time. That pressure, to me, wears down an opposing pitcher.