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He was the shortstop on the Tigers’ first world championship team in 1935.

He was involved in one of the most bizarre plays in World Series history.

He was nicknamed “The Fire Chief” because of his competitive (some would say combative) style of play.

After retiring as a player, he was elected to the Detroit City Council in 1941 and served for 38 years.

At age 96, and wheelchair bound, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Frontier League game on July 24, 2001, in the last organized baseball contest ever played at Tiger Stadium.

And he got his start as a milkman in Illinois.

You may ask yourself: “Who is this man you speak of?”

It is none other than Billy Rogell, the Tigers’ shortstop from 1930 to 1938.

Rogell was born in Springfield, Illinois on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1904. Soon, his family moved to Chicago, where young Billy spent his childhood. He loved baseball from an early age, and played it all summer long in the sandlots of the Rosedale section of the city where he lived. He was so good, he became a semi-pro player in his middle-teenage years.

Around that time, he got a job driving a milk wagon in his neighborhood. The job was a good one, not just because it paid decently, but because Rogell figured it would strengthen his muscles, carrying all those bottles around all day. He could get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Not to mention he could drink all the milk he wanted.

One of Rogell’s stops on his route was the home of Oscar Melillo (also known as Ski, but his friends all called him Spinach). Melillo, a few years older than Rogell, had heard of him because by that time Billy had acquired quite a reputation as a semi-pro player. Melillo was also impressed with Rogell’s boundless energy as a milkman. When Melillo heard later that Rogell had signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox, he knew Billy would make good. Turns out he was right. Melillo made good, as well, starring for the St. Louis Browns as a second baseman for many years.

Rogell played a few seasons in Beantown before the Tigers acquired him in September of 1929. He didn’t become a full-time player until 1932. Rogell and Charlie Gehringer were a great double-play combination in the Motor City for many years. They were part of one of the best hitting infields in history in 1934. Rogell, Gehringer, first baseman Hank Greenberg, and third baseman Marv Owen combined for a whopping 463 runs batted in. Not coincidentally, the Tigers also won the pennant that year. And Rogell was at the center of a commotion that will forever go down in World Series annals under “Wacky.”

It was Game Four, at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, bottom of the fourth inning. The Tigers and pitcher Elden Auker were leading the Cardinals and Dazzy Vance, 4-to-3. St. Louis had runners on first and third with nobody out.

According to one account, Cardinals’ manager Frankie Frisch wanted to send in a pinch-runner for the lumbering Spud Davis on first. Frisch scanned the dugout, and was shocked to see Dizzy Dean suddenly leap up from the bench, race out to first, and tell Davis to beat it back to the dugout, that he was going to run for him.

Dean, of course, was a pitcher, and a very good one, having won 30 games in 1934. He could also be a bit flamboyant. Frisch wanted to yell out to Dean what the hell he thought he was doing. But Pepper Martin, the next Cardinal batter, was already digging in against Tiger pitcher Auker.

That’s when things got crazy. Martin hit a perfect double-play grounder to Gehringer at second, who scooped it up and flipped it to Rogell covering the bag. But his relay to first never made it; instead, the ball bopped an onrushing Dean right in the forehead. The ball caromed into the outfield, and the star pitcher went down like he’d been shot.

Dean lay unconscious on the ground, as all of St. Louis held its collective breath. He had to be carried off the field on a stretcher, and rushed to a nearby hospital. The Tigers wound up winning the game, 10-to-4, to even the Series at two games apiece. But most people in the crowd were wondering about the fate of Dean, who was scheduled to pitch the following afternoon.

Dean turned out to be ok, and, in a possibly apocryphal tale, a newspaper headline the next day read: “X-Rays of Dean’s Head Reveal Nothing.” He didn’t miss a beat, giving up only two earned runs in eight innings in the Tigers 3-to-1 win.

Years later, Rogell, who threw the ball that plunked Dean in the head, recalled it this way: “It really bothered me. That poor sight being carried off the field. Of course, it was Dizzy’s fault. He threw up his head in the way intentionally. Even said so. He wanted to break up the double play. And to tell you the truth, I never saw the play because I was coming to the bag at an angle. I caught the ball and threw. Actually, if I’d have known his head was there, I would have thrown the ball harder.”

In case you missed it, Detroit lost the Series, four games to three. And Rogell continued to carry his milkman union card in his wallet for the rest of his playing days. Just in case.

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We’re rounding into the end of November, and while we have seen some key signings around the league — like the Braves inking Travis d’Arnaud for $16 million — the only hot stoves in Detroit are in the homes of whoever is in charge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year.

As we reflect on what it is we may be thankful for in the coming days, let’s take a gander at what’s going on for the Detroit Tigers and the rest of the league.

Mr. Fix it
The Tigers’ new hitting coach, Joe Vavra, recently made a trip to the Dominican Republic to check in on Jeimer Candelario, Willi Castro, and Dawel Lugo — three guys that could probably use his help. Vavra has a tough road ahead of him this year in his efforts to turn around what, by all accounts, was a dismal offense. He seems to be focused on individual accountability, stating that getting better is on the player, and that they need to have a plan.

“This is going to be all about you. This is your deal, but you have to know what you’re up against and who you’re up against on a daily basis, and you have to come up with plans. And your plans have to be solid, because you’re going to be called out in front of your teammates every night on your plan. So, if you’re not prepared to have your plan or understand what a plan is, that’s what we’re here for, to get you through that, so you can actually understand what you’re planning. And that’s not an easy task.”

Vavra spoke also about knowing how to change approaches depending on the strike count, and spoke a bit about the incorporation of a modern analytics approach. Vavra should bring improvement in 2020; he has a low bar to clear.

A little bit pitchy
If you think hitting is the only area where changes are being made, you would be wrong. The organization has brought in a Director of Pitching Development and Strategies, as well as a Coordinator of Player Development and Analytics. Both of these are brand new positions. If you would like a clearer picture of who these two people are and what exactly they will be doing, David Laurila of FanGraphs spoke with general manager Al Avila about it and has a bit more detail for you.

Seek and destroy
Well, it seems MLB commissioner Rob Manfred may have gone and stepped in it. The backlash to the initial outlay of the ill-advised minor league overhaul brought forth by Major League Baseball was strong and swift. In response, MLB put out a statement that went something like, “Oh, hey guys my bad. Chill. I just want to make things better for… the players. Yeah, the players. That’s right.”

It didn’t take much time for most of the United States Congress to come out in opposition to the plan, and for New York senator Chuck Schumer to dip his foot into the “maybe baseball should lose it’s anti-trust exemption” pool. MLB responded with a letter laying out how they subsidize the minors. They are also continuing to beat the “we’re in this for the players” drum, identifying the substandard facilities of 40 minor league teams, a number that is almost double of what the league stated just months prior.

Bill Madden of the New York Daily News takes a deep dive on what is really going on here; spoiler alert: it’s basically that MLB is trying to save a few bucks — and it’s a very few — by instituting a plan that appears to be not too well thought out. The ends don’t seem to justify the means, but when has that stopped Major League Baseball?

Labor relations
When asked about negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and the characterization of the the statements he reportedly made to the players reps in negotiations over the summer, Manfred stated that those characterizations were inaccurate, and the players reps offered a proposal that would seek to “turn back the Basic Agreement 50 years.”

Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports does an excellent job of dissecting just how disingenuous and dumb that statement was while going on to further interpret Manfred’s statements in a manner that doesn’t look good for future negotiations. In short, it may be that MLB is unwilling to budge in the face of a threatened labor stoppage. That’s a pretty hard line to take at such an early stage. Who’s looking forward to a strike?

She’s a hit
Professional baseball continues to inch slowly forward. In recent news the New York Yankees reported that they have hired Rachel Balkovec as a full-time hitting coach at the minor league level. To piggyback on that good news, the Chicago Cubs also announced that they brought Rachel Folden on board as a hitting lab tech and the fourth coach for their rookie league squad in Mesa. It’s a good day to be a Rachel.

Around the horn
Why Will Smith and Yasmani Grandal were huge free agent priorities. Johnny ‘Schoolboy’ Taylor may be Hartford’s greatest baseball player. MLB investigation into sign stealing widens. Old friend Dixon Machado is going to play in Korea.

Baseball is awesome
Everybody likes a good bobblehead.

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Some of the most intriguing free agents for the Detroit Tigers don’t begin the offseason as free agents.

We’ve seen evidence of that already.

Eric Thames dropped onto the market on Monday when his option was declined by the Milwaukee Brewers. Wilmer Flores was added to the list of free agents last week when the Arizona Diamondbacks bought out his deal.

There will be more to come as teams finalize their decisions about who they will sign and who they will “non-tender” in the weeks ahead.

These players can be more alluring than traditional free agents (with six years of Major League service time) because they’re younger and sometimes cheaper.

Free agency is just getting under way and there’s no rush for the Tigers to sign anyone. They could even wait until January or February to do much of their shopping.

But they have money to spend and more needs than they can count. Here are five guys whose agents they should call right now and say, “Don’t make any decisions until you talk to us.”

AP photo by Jim Mone

Jason Castro

Yes, the Tigers have two young catchers (Jake Rogers and Grayson Greiner), but the Tigers desperately need some offensive help at the position.

If they could snag a veteran on a one-year deal (preferably a left-handed hitter), it would be ideal.

Castro, who turns 33 in June, fits the bill. A well-respected defensive backstop, he’s coming off a very solid offensive season with the Minnesota Twins. A left-handed hitter, Castro would fit nicely into a strict platoon with Greiner or maybe a 50-50 split with Rogers, depending on how the Tigers decide to approach 2020.

How much would he cost? He’ll probably seek a two-year deal, but we’ll say one-year, $6 million plus an option.

Backup plan: For all the same reasons listed above, how about Alex Avila? He’s a veteran lefty and, having played for the Tigers twice before, is very familiar with the pitching staff.

AP photo by Andrew Harnik

Eric Thames

The Tigers need to add some power to their lineup, and there’s usually no easier, cheaper way of doing so than signing a first baseman.

Thames, who turns 33 this month, has had success in Korea and might opt to go back overseas. But perhaps the Tigers can convince him to stick around.

Thames hit 25 home runs and slugged .503 in 149 games with the Brewers in 2019. He’s terrible against lefties, but that’s OK because the Tigers have plenty of right-handed options for a platoon (Jeimer Candelario, Brandon Dixon or maybe even Miguel Cabrera) at first base.

How much would he cost? No idea. The Brewers didn’t think he was worth $7.5 million. So let’s say one year, $6 million.

Backup plan: Justin Smoak. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a Tiger who could draw a walk every once in a while? The ex-Blue Jay would be a great fit in Detroit.

AP photo by Rick Scuteri

Wilmer Flores

Did you know that over the last four seasons Flores has posted a 110 OPS+ in 1,411 plate appearances? He’s very quietly been a solid and consistent hitter. And now he’s a free agent at the still-young age of 28.

Why is Flores unemployed? While he can play every spot on the infield, he plays none of them very well.

He could play first (and maybe even platoon with Thames or Smoak!), but he would deliver more value as a second baseman, where he’s been only a little bit below-average defensively, according to the metrics. He would deliver a huge offensive upgrade over Harold Castro or Ronny Rodriguez at second.

How much would he cost? One year, $4 million.

AP photo by Alex Gallardo

Kole Calhoun

The Tigers could use a veteran outfielder. If they can find one who plays great defense, that would be even better. That’s what makes Calhoun such a great fit. It’s been a while since the Tigers have had a competent defensive right fielder.

Calhoun had 33 home runs in 2019, a feat that he is unlikely to repeat in 2020. But he’s still likely to provide league-average run production with above-average defense. That’s worth a one-year deal, right?

How much would he cost? One year, $7 million.

Backup plans: Among affordable corner outfielders who play above-average defense, Corey Dickerson comes to mind. For a bounce-back candidate on a minor-league deal, what about Lonnie Chisenhall?

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila will be seeking a veteran catcher on the free-agent market this winter. He’s also looking to add a big bat — perhaps a first baseman or outfielder — to inject some life into a moribund offense.

But perhaps the most interesting tidbit he shared on Tuesday afternoon was about a position that the Tigers don’t plan to fill externally.

The Tigers plan to give Niko Goodrum every opportunity to win the starting shortstop job in spring training, Avila said during a break in the annual General Manager Meetings at the Omni Resort in suburban Phoenix.

“All the indicators seem to point to him being the guy that can play shortstop for us in 2020,” Avila said. “He’ll certainly receive that opportunity. He’s done a fantastic job as a super-utility guy and that’s really probably his best role. But in our situation right now, (shortstop) might turn out to be the best bet.”

What about 22-year-old prospect Willi Castro, who made his Major League debut last September?

“In a perfect world Willi Castro probably needs a bit more seasoning in Toledo,” Avila said. “In saying that, in spring training he’ll be allowed to compete and see what happens. But the player coming back that we feel good about that can possibly give us the most innings at shortstop is Niko Goodrum.”

Goodrum got an extended look at shortstop after Jordy Mercer was hurt and graded out well defensively. That audition may have convinced the Tigers to give the 27-year-old a longer look at one position rather than bouncing him around the diamond.

Signed as a minor-league free agent before the 2018 season, Goodrum has played in 243 games for the Tigers over the last two seasons, appearing at every position except pitcher and catcher.

Catcher Jake Rogers didn’t do as well in his late-season audition with the Tigers, and Avila confirmed that the Tigers will definitely sign a veteran catcher to pair with Grayson Greiner. Rogers is likely ticketed to Triple-A Toledo.

“I think last year we brought him up out of necessity,” Avila said of Rogers. “He got some experience, but it showed that he was a little overexposed and he probably needs a little more seasoning.”

Despite Rogers’ struggles at the plate and occasional defensive lapses, the Tigers haven’t soured on one of their top prospects.

“We have a high level of confidence that he’s going to become the player we think he can be. From a defensive perspective for sure. From an offensive perspective, I think that when a player struggles, it opens his mind and his eyes and he would be more open to making adjustments. I think we’re at that point and hopefully it works out for him and for us,” Avila said.

In addition to a catcher, the Tigers are seeking a “bat” to add some pop to a lineup that was the worst in baseball in 2019.

Will that be a first baseman, an outfielder, something else? Stay tuned, Avila said.

“Therein lies the issue,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’d just like to acquire a bat for sure.”

Brandon Dixon played first base for much of the year after Miguel Cabrera was consigned to DH duty and Jeimer Candelario moved to first after Dawel Lugo started playing every day at third base late in the year.

The Tigers have not given up on Candelario, Avila said, although it remains up in the air on which side of the infield he’ll play in 2020.

“Last year he obviously didn’t have a good year. We feel like he’s a good candidate to get back on track,” Avila said. “That could happen at first or at third. If we end up getting a first baseman, there might be more competition between him and Lugo at third base, which is good. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

The loser of the battle could just go to the bench, Avila said. (Both players are out of options and would have to be exposed to waivers before being sent to the minor leagues).

“There will be competition. It’s time we give these guys some competition,” he said.

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The Twins will — and have been — slowing down C.J. Cron and pulling back on his number of at-bats as they try to let his sore thumb heal.

Cron’s thumb has been bothering him for months, despite two stints on the injured list.

“C.J.’s been dealing with this for a very long time,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I’d like to say it’s getting better. It’s probably not getting better, and he kind of pretends like he’s doing OK and he mans up and he goes and plays and he continues to swing. I think we’re at a point where we might slow him down a bit.”

Cron first landed on the injured list on July 6 and missed just 10 days, but when he came back, he didn’t sound confident that he was fully healed. He landed on the IL again less than 10 days later and received a cortisone shot for the pain.

Although he came off the IL on Aug. 3 and has been playing since then, the results haven’t been as good as early in the season. Cron slashed .266/.326/.495 with 17 home runs and 54 runs batted in in the 78 games before his first stint on the IL. From Aug. 3 on, he is slashing .230/.293/.410 with six home runs and 21 RBIs.

Chief baseball officer Derek Falvey described the injury as a bone bruise and said the only recourse was rest and time.

“No one can play with what he’s playing with right now and swing the bat with the intensity that you need to swing the bat with to play at this level,” Baldelli said. “I think we’re still going to see him out there at times, but I think pulling him back a little bit I think makes sense.”

The Twins have been pulling back on his starts already, though he has entered a couple of games in the late innings recently. Cron was not in the starting lineup for Monday’s game against the White Sox.

“There’s not really a playbook for this one. It’s kind of a unique situation. He’s going to find himself into games. He’s going to go out there. We could turn to him potentially for an at-bat,” Baldelli said. “We could turn to him for some defensive play. We could do some different things with him. As far as regular at-bats in the starting lineup, they might be fewer.”

GONZALEZ RETURNS

The Twins did get good news on the injury front, as Marwin Gonzalez returned to the lineup for the first time since Aug. 27 in Chicago, when he injured his oblique/abdomen.

“It was frustrating to be out for this long,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted to be back a little sooner than this, but everything is done for my own good. I let it heal and, obviously, I’m going to be kind of scared the first couple games, but I feel good.”

Gonzalez started at first base Monday night as Cron rested. He will also be called upon in the outfield as Max Kepler deals with a lingering injury. Gonzalez’s return is especially important to the Twins as Ehire Adrianza, another option to play multiple positions, is dealing with an oblique strain.

“When you add him back into the fold, you’re not adding a player,” Baldelli said. “You’re not adding a first baseman. You’re adding a first baseman and a second baseman and a third baseman and an outfielder and a guy, if he’s not starting, you can hit him for a number of different people in a number of different spots. He just gives you a ton to work with, and it’s very helpful.”

BRIEFLY

Adrianza said he had started lifting weights and doing some “upper body stuff and some core” for the first time since suffering the strain on Thursday and felt good. He remains optimistic that he could return before the season ends.

Kepler (shoulder) was again out of the lineup after sitting Sunday. He did play in Saturday’s doubleheader. “We’re going to get him looked at again, and it’s something that we want to find a way to wipe out,” Baldelli said.

The Tigers claimed pitcher Marcos Diplan after the Twins had designated him for assignment over the weekend. Diplan, who was at Double-A this season, was acquired for cash by the Twins on July 31.

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PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — What can be said after a 114-loss season that was only a few games from being the worst in modern history?

How about cautious optimism that 2020 won’t be as bad as 2019?

Very cautious.

“If everything comes together, you would hope that we would have a better season,” said Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila during a break in the league’s annual GM meetings on Wednesday. “But (2020) is going to be challenging.”

While that slogan — “Tigers 2020: Probably better than the worst team in recent memory” — is unlikely to sell many tickets, Avila said the Tigers are trying to balance incremental improvement with the “big picture” goals of the rebuilding process.

The first order of business is upgrading their sluggish offense by signing a catcher and adding a run-producing bat — perhaps a first baseman or a corner outfielder.

But Avila pointed out that free-agent signings can be hit or miss. Two years ago, the Tigers did well with outfielder Leonys Martin and starting pitcher Mike Fiers.

“Last year we didn’t do as well in that category,” Avila acknowledged.

He was referring to winter signees Matt Moore, Tyson Ross, Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison, who collectively contributed little.

The Tigers have also had some trade discussions during the early parts of the hot-stove season, but other teams are primarily seeking low-cost, high-upside players (think Joe Jimenez or even Niko Goodrum) that the Tigers aren’t interested in dealing without a fair return.

While other teams are trying to unload veterans, Avila said he is loathe to part with even a borderline prospect at this stage of the rebuild.

“We’ve had some trade talks and a lot of teams will try to trade you an older guy or maybe even a guy that they’re going to non-tender,” Avila said. “And he might be able to help you this year. But if you’re looking at the big-picture, it’s not going to be a good trade: You’re going to trade a prospect for a guy that’s going to help you maybe win a few more games (in 2020)? You’ve got to keep the big picture in mind.”

On the free-agent market, the Tigers and most rebuilding teams will shop primarily for players willing to work on one-year contracts.

For example, it wouldn’t make sense for the Tigers to sign a starting catcher to a two-year deal if they envision his role only to be a short-term placeholder for Jake Rogers.

But Avila said the Tigers might be open to considering longer deals at positions where they anticipated a need beyond 2020.

Avila didn’t identify those spots, but first base is one position with no high-level prospect in waiting. Additionally, the club has some interesting outfield prospects scattered through the minor-league ranks, but no high-level power bat ready to take over a corner outfield spot in the near future.

So let’s say the Tigers sign a catcher and a first baseman and maybe add a starting pitcher to boot.

Will they be a better club in 2020?

Probably.

Avila said the production of returning players like Niko Goodrum, Jeimer Candelario, Christin Stewart and JaCoby Jones would also play important role in the Tigers’ success in 2020.

“If these guys get better and produce like we think they can, it could make for a better season. If they don’t, it could be a really trying season,” Avila said.

But regardless of what happens in Detroit, Avila prefers to zoom out to the “big picture.” In 2020, the Tigers will have a large crop of prospects on the brink of the big leagues, with Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Isaac Paredes and several others expected to start the year in Triple-A Toledo.

“The exciting part is that you’ve got more guys moving from Double-A to Triple-A, so you’ve now got the expectation of, ‘Who can be the next guy up?’” Avila said. “That’s another part of the process.”

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The Detroit Tigers have a long history of great starting pitching that goes back more than a century, but with Jim Bunning and Hal Newhouser being the only Detroit pitchers to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame, it’s easy for the city to forget just how good its starting pitching has been.

Obviously in recent years, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have won Cy Young awards, while Jeremy Bonderman and Kenny Rogers helped pitched the Tigers to a pennant and Anibal Sanchez claimed an ERA title. Former Cy Young award winner David Price also pitched and won one of the biggest games in recent memory, the final game of the 2014 season, clinching the AL Central title.

Championship teams have had great pitching from Jack Morris and Dan Petry in 1984 to Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich and Earl Wilson in 1968. Going back even further, Newhouser teamed with Dizzy Trout and Virgil Trucks to form a pretty good trio known as “TNT.”

In 1935, the team had Tommy Bridges, Schoolboy Rowe, Elden Auker and General Crowder, who all won at least 16 games.

But perhaps the best staff in Detroit history was during the trio of pennants from 1907-1909, led by George Mullin, who was born in Toledo in 1880 and arrived n the scene in Detroit in 1902.

In 1909, Mullin went 29-8 on the mound with a win percentage of .784 and an ERA of 2.22 and three shutouts. He led the Tigers to their third consecutive pennant and a spot in the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, where they lost in seven games. His 29 victories remained a franchise record until McLain topped it in ’68.

Mullin teamed with Ed Willett (21 wins, 2.34 ERA), Ed Summers (19 wins, 2.24 ERA) and Ed Killian (11 wins, 1.71 ERA) in ’09. Even Wild Bill Donovan chipped in with eight wins and a 2.31 ERA.

But it was Mullin who carried the load, leading the American League in wins and win percentage. It was his best season despite having several stellar campaigns for Detroit.

Mullin proved to be the ace in the World Series, too, going 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA against the Pirates. He completed all three games he started, including a shutout. Manager Hughie Jennings also used “Wabash George” in relief in one game during the series.

He won 21 games in 1905 and 1906 before leading the Tigers to three straight World Series appearances. He won 20, 17 and 29 games in those years. As the Tigers aimed for a fourth straight, Mullin had his last 20-win season with 21 wins in 1910.

In the first two World Series appearances in Tiger history, Mullin went 1-2. He lost both starts in 1907 against the Cubs despite a 2.12 ERA in the series. In the 1908 rematch, he went 1-0 with a masterpiece complete game with no earned runs allowed. It was Detroit’s only win of the series.

Mullin finished his career with a 228-196 record, 1,482 strikeouts and a 2.82 ERA. He is 15th on Detroit’s all-time list in wins above replacement with a career WAR of 47, which among Tiger pitchers, trails only Newhouser, Bridges, Trout and Lolich.

However, it didn’t start that spectacular for Mullin, who led the American League in walks in four of his first five years in the majors. But after walking more than 100 batters in five of his first six seasons, he only walked 100 in one other season.

As his walks went down, so did his ERA, remaining sub-3.00 for nine of his 12 seasons in Detroit.

Mullin’s last full season with Detroit was in 1912 when he pitched in the first game ever played at Navin Field, the Tigers brand-new ballpark on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.

He won his final game for the Tigers in 1913, his 209th for the franchise. All these years later, Mullin’s total still ranks second in franchise history, trailing only Hooks Dauss, who replaced George as the team ace.

It has been 103 years since Mullin put on a Tiger uniform. But in more than a century of baseball in Detroit, few pitchers have been able to match Mullin’s ability and accomplishments both in the regular season and World Series.

Those first three Tiger pennants are remembered as the Cobb-Crawford years, but they deserve to also be remembered as the Mullin years.

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The Detroit Tigers needed to find someone to replace legend Ty Cobb as the team manager. On this day in 1926, they hired former infielder George Moriarty, adding another chapter to an interesting baseball career.
During the 1910’s and the 1920’s, George Moriarty was one of the better known figures in baseball. The third baseman of the Detroit Tigers, he was the team captain for five years, gaining notoriety and respect for his ability to steal home and refusal to back down from anyone. In one infamous tale about Moriarty, he and Ty Cobb were about to come to blows, but the third baseman handed Cobb a bat, telling him that he needed it to even the odds. Cobb, who was also known for his refusal to back down from anyone, backed down from Moriarty.

After his playing days, Moriarty became an umpire in the American League. speaking a decade on the field in that role. However, after a 1926 season where the Tigers finished sixth with a 79-75, Cobb resigned as manager. In a move that would be truly bizarre these days, Detroit named Moriarty, the AL umpire and former third baseman, as their manager.

The Tigers responded in that first season. Although they finished fourth, their 82-71 record was an improvement on the previous season. As good as Moriarty was as an umpire, he appeared to have another calling as a manager. However, after a 68-86 record the following year, he went back to umpiring.

It was as an umpire that he cemented his legend. During a game in 1932, after some disagreements about his strike zone, Moriarty fought four members of the team at the same time. In what was considered a sign that the umpire was slowing down, he fought them to a draw. Then, in 1935, Moriarty threw out three Cubs players for heckling Hank Greenberg, an action that he was fired $200 for.

Even with those actions, Moriarty was considered to be an excellent arbiter on the field. In that same year, 1935, he was voted by the players as the best umpire in the American League. He may have been tough, but he was fair. In the players’ eyes, that was what mattered most.

A true renaissance man, Moriarty was more than an umpire. He also wrote a national baseball column about his observations on the game and his remembrances about those players who had passed. Later, after his umpiring days, Moriarty became a scout, discovering players such as Harvey Kuenn for Detroit.

George Moriarty held just about every job a person could in baseball. On this day in 1926, he took the unprecedented move of leaving his post as an umpire to manage his former team, the Detroit Tigers.

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New Pirates general manager, Ben Cherington, has stated that he plans on upgrading the pitching rotation of the team. With that as a primary focus of the new regime, a primary free agent target should be right-handed starter, Rick Porcello.
Rick Porcello is no stranger to high expectations. The former 2007 first round selection by the Detroit Tigers, was highly touted out of high school and carried those expectations through the minor leagues. By 2009, Porcello was the youngest player in the American League, but that did not prevent then Tigers manager, Jim Leyland, from turning to Porcello to start the tie-breaking playoff game for Detroit his rookie year, as testament to his abilities and makeup as a starter.

Porcello would pitch well in the big moment, allowing two earned runs over 5 2⁄3 innings in a no-decision, in a game the Tigers would lose in extra innings to the Twins. Porcello would go on to finish third in the AL Rookie of the Year Award voting.

The right-hander would pitch through the 2014 season with the Tigers, accumulating a record of 76-63 with a 4.30 earned run average during that time. Follow the 2014 season, Porcello would be traded to the Boston Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier.

Porcello would have an up-and-down career with Boston, seemingly finding success every-other-year, while pitching below average in the off years. The pinnacle of his time with Boston includes a Cy Young Award in the 2016 season. That season, he would win a league high 22 games, while posting an earned run average of 3.15 in 33 starts for the Red Sox.

In addition to having a Cy Young Award on his resume, Porcello also has a World Series ring, having won a championship with Boston in 2018. Given these major successes, one would be led to believe that Porcello should be one of the top commodities on the free agent market this offseason. However, the righty is coming off an abysmal year in Boston, which has significantly eroded his value.

This past season, Porcello went 14-12 with a 5.52 ERA and 1.39 WHIP, while striking out 143 batters. The 2019 performance was easily his worst in his professional career, so why should Pittsburgh make him a target? There are actually a number of positives that can be gleaned from the career stats of Porcello, that indicate that he would be a viable option for the Pirates.

While it is likely that he won’t pitch up to his 2016 Cy Young season levels again, Porcello can be an extremely valuable arm in the rotation. Despite some unsightly earned run averages at times, he isn’t typically the pitcher who doesn’t last in his starts. In fact, Porcello has thrown over 160 innings in 11 straight seasons, averaging 34 starts per year.

In addition to eating valuable innings, which helps preserve the bullpen, he pitches well enough to keep his team in the game, giving them the opportunity to win. This statement is supported by the fact that Porcello has averaged 15 wins per season throughout his 11 year career.

In addition to serving as a reliable source of innings and wins in the rotation, Porcello has always had the reputation of being a solid clubhouse guy and a charitable player in the community. These are strong traits to have from a veteran pitcher who could be utilized to mentor younger players.

Given the down season that Porcello just experienced, the likelihood is that he could be signed at a reasonable price, falling well within Pittsburgh’s price range. While he may very well decide to sign a 1-year deal, as an opportunity to have a rebound season and sign a more lucrative deal following next season, the Pirates should certainly be interested.

There is a solid chance that Porcello would experience a resurrection in statistics if he were to choose to move to the National League. Removing the designated hitter from the equation should allow Porcello to cut down on some of his earned run issues by virtue of having to face pitchers in the lineup on a regular basis.

The idea of signing a soon to be 31-year-old, former Cy Young Award winner, with playoff experience and a World Series ring on his resume, at a discounted rate, should be tantalizing for the Pirates. Given that Ben Cherington was the general manager of the Red Sox when the team traded for Porcello, he is likely on the new GM’s radar.

If that is the case, and the Pirates are able to land Porcello as a free agent signing, he should bolster the rotation of the Pirates, making it formidable, joining the likes of Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams and Mitch Keller. Therefore, Porcello should remain a top priority for Pittsburgh this offseason.

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As the Detroit Tigers offseason kicks off, take a look at who they could bring in for the 2020 season.
Last season the Detroit Tigers offseason moves were minimal but did not offer much for them due to injuries over the year.

Some of the names of players who were signed last year but will not be returning are Jordy Mercer, Tyson Ross, and Matt Moore. Josh Harrison was also signed, he was then injured and designated for assignment by the team. The Tigers need to make sure that this year’s additions will pan out, even as “rentals” on a rebuilding team.

The rentals are simply filling gaps with players in the minor leagues work their way into the big leagues. Sadly, the cold hard truth is that the Tigers will not sign Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg, who are two of the biggest names on the free-agent market. With the Tigers being roughly two to three years out from the competition, this will be another painful offseason, but who should they target?

The way things stand now, the Tigers will need to sign someone to play first base since Miguel Cabrera has essentially assumed the role of Designated Hitter. With catchers, Jake Rogers and Grayson Greiner to be splitting time with this year’s version of Bobby Wilson, expect a veteran catcher signing. To round out the infield, they will most likely bring in at least one middle infielder who can play second base and shortstop.

On the rubber, the Tigers have Michael Fulmer making his return to the rotation this season, and Tyler Alexander currently slated for that fifth spot. It should not shock anyone for the Tigers to go out and sign two starting pitchers, one proven veteran (like Tyson Ross last year) and one who’s a gamble (like Matt Moore last year).

The bullpen suffered some hits when the Tigers outrighted players to kick off the offseason; this will be replenished by minor league signings or low-value big-league signings. In other words, do not expect the Tigers to be making a run at someone like Dellin Betances or Collin McHugh.

There are plenty of names on the market, with starting pitching being the most talent-filled over relievers, which thin out very fast. Something to note, specialists like Daniel Stumpf have decreased tenfold in value since baseball implemented the three batter minimum rule for the upcoming 2020 season.

The value in specialists has been reduced a bit because of this, but nonetheless, the starting pitching market is primed for the biggest signings. The following recommendations on who the Tigers should target only mention a few names, this Free Agent Tracker offers a better look at which players are available at every position besides the players mentioned beyond this point.