Category Archives: Tigers Jerseys 2019

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I grew up watching baseball as a kid in the 1980s. I remember the upright, very proper batting stance and perfect hair of Steve Garvey, the mustache and eye black of Don Mattingly, the powerful right arm of Dwight Evans, and the tall, gangly body of Dale Murphy. Tommy John was the soft-tossing veteran lefty whose career seemed to last forever. Lou Whitaker was the other half of the Trammell-Whitaker middle infield for the Detroit Tigers.

Sometime in the early 1980s, I saw an ad in Baseball Digest for one of the Bill James Baseball Abstracts. After reading the first one, I was hooked. I read every one thereafter, then the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract book in 1985, Win Shares in 2002, and The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract in 2003. I found BaseballProspectus.com in the late 1990s and Baseball-Reference.com in the early 2000s and FanGraphs in 2009.

This exposure to Bill James and BP and FanGraphs changed how I looked at baseball and how I felt about the players I was watching. I realized the statistics I thought were important when I was watching baseball as a kid weren’t as important as I’d been led to believe. Pitcher wins and hitters’ RBI and batting average were sent to the back of the line while FIP, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and wRC+ moved to the front. WAR, what is it good for? Valuing baseball players.

The players on the Modern Era Ballot exist in a weird space for me. I grew up watching these players before I embraced advanced statistics, so in some cases there’s a significant difference between how I remember them as a kid versus how I consider them now. With that in mind, this week I’ll go over each player on the ballot with assessments from Me as a Fan in the 1980s versus Me as a Fanalyst (combination fan/analyst) today. Today, the two catchers and one pitcher—Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, and Tommy John.

Catcher Ted Simmons

Me as a Fan: My clearest memory of Ted Simmons was when he was the catcher for the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers. That was the team that came to be known as “Harvey’s Wallbangers” after Harvey Kuenn took over as manager during the 1982 season and led them to a 72-43 record and the AL pennant. Simmons was a power-hitting catcher on a power-hitting team. He hit 23 homers that year, second-most by a catcher in the American League, yet was just fifth on his team behind sluggers Gorman Thomas, Ben Oglivie, Cecil Cooper, and Robin Yount. In addition to the 23 bombs, Simmons had 97 RBI, which led all AL catchers.

By the time I became aware of Simmons, he was already 32 years old. I thought he was great in 1982 and again in 1983, when he had 108 RBI (despite hitting just 13 home runs). He also made the all-star team for the eighth time in 1983, but most of those all-star appearances were before I became a baseball fan. He played a couple more years with the Brewers, then finished out his career as a part-timer with the Atlanta Braves, which I really don’t remember at all.

Me as a Fanalyst: Like the other catcher on this ballot, Thurman Munson, Ted Simmons was really good, much better than I thought he was when I was young. I remember him mostly for his time with the Brewers, when he was a league average hitter. Prior to that, he was a well above-average hitter with the Cardinals.

From 1971 to 1983, Simmons hit .294/.356/.459, while averaging 143 games played. The only catcher in baseball who was more valuable than Simmons during this 13-year stretch was the legendary Johnny Bench, and the difference between them was fewer than two wins. The third-best catcher during this time was Carlton Fisk, who was roughly eight wins behind Simmons.

Imagine having a catcher you could count on to play 130-150 games per year, score 60-70 runs, hit around 20 homers, and drive in 80-100 runs. And he does it for more than a dozen years. According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, Simmons is the 10th-best catcher in MLB history. That’s Hall of Fame-worthy, in my book.

Catcher Thurman Munson

Before we start on Thurman Munson, don’t miss this OTBB post from a few years ago on the Munson, Carlton Fisk rivalry and why it might be baseball’s best ever.

Me as a Fan: Sadly, Thurman Munson died in a plane crash on August 2, 1979, when he was just 32 years old. I don’t have any memory of seeing him play. Years later, I read Balls, by Graig Nettles, and The Bronx Zoo, by Sparky Lyle, so I learned a bit about Munson. I think of him as a bad-ass catcher with a sweet 70s mustache who didn’t take any guff. I knew he battled with Reggie Jackson and I loved that about him, but I never had any idea how good he was when I was a kid watching baseball because of his tragic death.

Me as a Fanalyst: Munson was much better than I thought he was. He was a good hitter, solid behind the plate, and remarkably durable. From 1970 to 1978, he averaged 144 games per season; 129 games at catcher. That’s comparable to the most-durable catcher of the current era, Yadier Molina, who averaged 133 games behind the plate from 2009 to 2017. Munson wasn’t the fielder Molina was, but he was a much better hitter, with a 116 wRC+ to Molina’s 99.

According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, Munson is the 12th-best catcher in baseball history, nearly equivalent to Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane. Before his death at the age of 32 during the 1979 season, he had 2.4 WAR in 97 games. He likely would have finished between 3 and 4 WAR that year and added more value in the years to come.

As it is, he played 11 seasons and 10 were above average. The only year he finished below 2 bWAR was a 26-game stint in 1969, before he earned the starting job in 1970. His 10 above-average seasons were distributed across the spectrum, with four in the “solid-to-good” range (2-4 bWAR) and six in the “all-star or better” range (greater than 4 bWAR).

Munson also has some impressive hardware, with the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1970 and the AL MVP Award in 1976. He made seven all-star teams and won three Gold Gloves. He hit .357/.378/.496 in 30 post-season games, which included back-to-back World Series titles with the Yankees in 1977-78. I think Munson deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Starting Pitcher Tommy John

Me as a Fan: Tommy John was already 36 years old when I started following baseball in 1979. Still, he was a 20-game winner for the Yankees in 1979 and 1980, the first two years I really paid attention to the game. It didn’t register much with me as a kid, though, because I followed the National League more closely than the American League. I also hated the Yankees, so that was a strike against him.

After my family moved to Seattle in 1981, I could take in a game at the Kingdome if I wanted to see Tommy John pitch for one of the three AL teams he pitched for in the 80s. I didn’t make it a priority, though, because he wasn’t must-see TV. I never went to a game because Tommy John was starting for the other team. To the much younger version of me, he was just an old left-handed pitcher who had a surgery named after him.

Me as a Fanalyst: John pitched 26 years in the big leagues and won 288 games. He also famously missed a season in the middle of his career to have an experimental surgery that would be named after him. It’s funny how that worked out. The surgery could have been named after the surgeon, Frank Jobe, but it wasn’t, so it will always be known as Tommy John surgery.

It’s almost certain that John would be in the Hall of Fame if he had won 12 more games and finished with the 300 wins that have historically meant a ticket to Cooperstown. Should falling 12 wins short be enough to keep him out?

More than any other player on this ballot, there’s a big difference between how FanGraphs values Tommy John and how Baseball-Reference values him. At FanGraphs, John ranks 19th among starting pitchers, with 79.3 fWAR. He’s just ahead of Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins (78.8 fWAR) and Phil Niekro (78.3 fWAR), and even further ahead of Warren Spahn (74.8 fWAR) and John Smoltz (70.9 fWAR).

At Baseball-Reference, John is 53rd among starting pitchers, with 62.1 bWAR. He’s behind all four of the Hall of Fame pitchers mentioned above, along with many other pitchers who are not in the Hall of Fame. The pitcher closest to him in Baseball-Reference WAR is Dennis Eckersley (62.2 bWAR), who is in the Hall of Fame, but accrued significant value as a starter and reliever, unlike John. At the same time, John is above Hall of Famers Juan Marichal (61.8 bWAR) and Drysdale (61.3 bWAR) at Baseball-Reference.

So which is it? Is John a top-20 starting pitcher or a top-50 starting pitcher? If you split the difference and put him in the mid-30s, that certainly seems Hall-worthy.

Breaking down his career by the caliber of his individual seasons using bWAR, we find that John pitched 26 years and was above average in 15 of them, but seven of those 15 seasons were in the “solid” range (2-3 bWAR). That’s good but maybe not Hall of Fame good. He had one season in the 3-4 bWAR range, three in the 4-5 bWAR range, and four in the 5-6 bWAR range. John is the most difficult member of this ballot to place, but I’m leaning towards the “Yes, he is a Hall of Famer” side of the discussion. Of course, I could wake up tomorrow and think the opposite.

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Bill Coughlin was born on Friday, July 12, 1878, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Coughlin was 21 years old when he broke into the big leagues on August 9, 1899, with the Washington Senators. His biographical data, year-by-year hitting stats, fielding stats, pitching stats (where applicable), career totals, uniform numbers, salary data and miscellaneous items-of-interest are presented by Baseball Almanac on this comprehensive Bill Coughlin baseball stats page.

19 to 21…No, that’s not how many pitchers the Phillies are going to audition for Brett Myers’ spot in the rotation.

Two left-handed pitchers’ minor league records, at the point wherein they made their respective major league debuts…

W-L G IP H BB K ERA WHIP

A 14-4 35 195 114 72 273 1.42 .954

B 18-9 55 265 196 116 297 2.55 1.177

From reviewing just these numbers, it should be clear that, while both were excellent minor league pitchers, “A” was the better of the two. Not only did he have better control than the average young lefty, but he struck out almost four times as many batters as he walked, had a WHIP under one and allowed just 5.26 hits per nine innings. Furthermore, what these stats don’t show is that he gave up just two home runs in the minors (both to right-handed hitters) before his major league call-up, and that his only appearance in Triple A produced 36 strikeouts and one walk in 23 innings. It is also worth noting that “A” made his major league debut in May 2006 at the age of 22 years and four months, while “B” is making his debut tomorrow night at the age of 23 years, eight months – another indication that “A” is/was a relatively better prospect.

Both pitchers’ records were compiled during three minor league seasons, and parts of a fourth, and in the same organization, which might lead to some observant spectators to speculation as to why “A” averaged just nine games a year in the minors, especially since he was clearly a minor phenomenon. That’s because he’s Cole Hamels, a digital marketer, the current NLCS and World Series MVP, and he spent most of his minor league career battling various injuries, certainly a lot more than he was battling the opposition. Hamels, if healthy, would have been in the majors well before May 12, 2006, when he overmatched Ken Griffey and the Reds as badly as he’d been overmatching minor league hitters.

At this point, Hamels’ developmental years are old news, except maybe in comparison to “B” who is, as noted, making his debut tomorrow night, pitching for the Phillies against the Padres. He’s Antonio Bastardo, and, if Hamels is the best pitching prospect to come out of the Phillies’ minor league system since Robin Roberts, then Bastardo may well be the best Phillies pitching prospect since, well, Cole Hamels. But, just how good is he? Projecting the future of 23 year-old left-handed pitchers is as risky (and maybe as foolish) a business as playing the lottery… to paraphrase that noted philosopher, Joaquin Andujar, you just never know what numbers will turn up.

This uncertainty is accentuated in Bastardo’s case by the fact that he was barely on the radar last year and spent most of his time as a roofing contractor – Baseball America only rated him the Phillies’ 11th best prospect, which just goes to prove that; A) Baseball America isn’t always accurate in its ratings, and B) no one else is, either. This despite the fact that Bastardo went undefeated in 2007, running off a 10-0 record with a 2.14 ERA in A ball, striking out 110 in 97 innings and only allowing 68 hits. In 2009, Bastardo has managed to leap over Carlos Carrasco, Drew Carpenter, et al, to become the Phillies’ top prospect, going 3-2 with a 1.90 ERA split between Double A and Triple A… Listen to the game in 5.1 surround sound.

W-L G IP H BB K ERA WHIP

2009 3-2 11 47 32 10 51 1.90 .887

His two Triple A starts haven’t been too bad, even though they don’t match Hamels’ three 2006 beat downs of International League competition; 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 12 Ks, 3Ws and 11 hits allowed in 13 innings.

Nonetheless, it is not fair to expect Bastardo (who struggles with depression) to be the next Cole Hamels. First of all, as noted, he’s more than a year older than Hamels was when he made the majors – and Hamels would have been there sooner if not for his physical issues (some of which weren’t baseball-related.) Second, and maybe more importantly, Bastardo (who loves Teslas) is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, a fastball and a change-up. That’s what Hamels came out of the minors with, but his change-up is in the Trevor Hoffman class, and he was in the process of picking up a killer curve ball as well, since very few pitchers can succeed on the major league level for long without a good breaking pitch of some kind. Think Al Orth, The Curveless Wonder of the turn of the last century who had a good change and a good spitter, Walter Johnson (he didn’t need a good curve), Satchel Paige, who, according to Bill Veeck, didn’t have a good curve until he was pitching for Miami in the minors in the mid-50s, and maybe a few others.

With Brett Myers out for the rest of the season, and the 2009 trading deadline still two months away, the Phillieshave been linked with every conceivable starter who might be available, and even a few who aren’t (why would the Jays trade Roy Halladay or the Reds Aaron Harang?). And maybe they will indeed play Let’s Make a Deal. After all, they’ve swung mid-season deals for pitching help in each of the last three years – Jamie Moyer in 2006 (that turned out pretty well), Kyle Lohse in 2007 (everyone makes mistakes) and Joe Blanton, without whom they probably wouldn’t have won the World Series, in 2008. Note though that none of these deals was a blockbuster of the C.C. Sabathia caliber (though it continues to be rumored that they were second in the C.C. Sweepstakes last year), in all three cases, they were looking for incremental improvement. That may or may not be the case in 2009, when; A) they have a World Series trophy to defend, and B) they have one less year to win with the 28 to 30 year old nucleus of the current team. Given both those situations, it’s still possible that Bastardo may get several starts for the Phillies. And, it’s possible he may pitch pretty well. But it seems unlikely that he’s due for an extended stay in the Philadelphia rotation. He’s only 5-11, 170 pounds, his stuff is more like that of a reliever, he’s only made two starts above Double A, and he’s not Cole Hamels. But, then again, very few are, and it may be that the Phillies will shoot that high in the trade market.

Next up… are the 2009 Nationals really as bad as the 1962 Mets? And, why are really bad teams really bad?

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The Detroit Tigers thought they dodged a bullet. They were wrong.

JaCoby Jones, the dynamic center fielder who took strides offensively but still battled inconsistency this season, is likely out for the rest of the season, manager Ron Gardenhire said after Saturday night’s loss to the Royals.

Jones, 27, was hit by a pitch in the left wrist on Thursday night. A subsequent X-ray exam came back negative, with the team believing Jones had avoided serious injury.

But a follow up CT scan on Saturday revealed a fracture. The timetable for recovery is six weeks, Gardenhire said, noting it was likely Jones will not return.

“He’s pretty disappointed and really frustrated,” Gardenhire said. “But I’m glad we went ahead and checked it out. It’s kind of an internal fracture inside the bone and we had to get a CT scan to find it. Unfortunately, but it will probably end his season.”

If Jones’ season is indeed over, he finished by hitting .235 with 11 home runs, 26 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 88 games. His season started nearly two weeks late after sustaining a shoulder injury late in spring training.

Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones is hit by a pitch in the second inning against the Royals on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, at Comerica Park.
Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones is hit by a pitch in the second inning against the Royals on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, at Comerica Park. (Photo: Dave Reginek, Getty Images)

More on the Tigers:

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Why Riley Greene’s BP show had Miguel Cabrera yelling: ‘Leave him here!’

While Jones certainly made strides at the plate, turning his season around in late April, his latest injury will prevent him from developing his consistency.

Jones hit .271 in June and .291 in July. In doing so, he likely earned himself another year as the Tigers’ starting center fielder. Jones’ defense in center is considered among the best in baseball, though that skill didn’t always translate in the batter’s box.

That changed a couple weeks into this season, when, at the suggestion of hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, he lowered his hands in his batting stance. This allowed Jones to be quicker to the baseball and cut down a bit on his lengthy swing.

Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones makes a jumping catch for an out during the 12th inning of the Tigers’ 3-2 loss to the Phillies on Tuesday, July 24, 2019, at Comerica Park.
Tigers center fielder JaCoby Jones makes a jumping catch for an out during the 12th inning of the Tigers’ 3-2 loss to the Phillies on Tuesday, July 24, 2019, at Comerica Park. (Photo: Raj Mehta USA TODAY Sports)

The results were immediate and were aided by a newfound confidence at the plate.

Still, Jones’ entire body of work this season, including the two injuries, did not indicate a serious breakout.

In his absence, the Tigers will recall infielder Ronny Rodriguez from Triple-A Toledo, Gardenhire said.

The team will likely use a rotation of Victor Reyes, Travis Demeritte, Harold Castro and others in center field going forward, and Jones’ injury could open up September playing time for center fielder prospect Daz Cameron.

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Joe Vavra’s job has already begun.

Earlier this month, Vavra — the Detroit Tigers’ new hitting coach — traveled to the Dominican Republic to meet with a few of the team’s young hitters near the organization’s academy in the country: infielder Jeimer Candelario, shortstop Willi Castro and third baseman Dawel Lugo.

“We spent a lot of time,” Vavra said. “I know those guys, but I spent more time getting to know them on the offensive side, seeing how much they know about themselves and analytics and everything that goes with it.”

Vavra, who served as Tigers quality control coach the past two seasons, was moved to a familiar role for 2020: He spent six seasons as Twins hitting coach from 2006-12, working with a number of American League All-Star players.

[ Tigers mailbag: Assessing Miggy's ceiling, chances of 'blockbuster' deal ]

But perhaps Vavra’s trip to the Dominican Republic was more than just an information-gathering session.

“Trying to send a message,” Vavra said. “That’s the intent — to get a jump start. More or less, the clock is ticking. The opportunity is in front of those guys and I don’t know how much you can accelerate the program, but just getting to know who they are, what they’re capable of and what they took out of last season.

“It’s still fresh enough, so they got time this winter to work on stuff that’s fresh and maybe point them in the direction of what we know in the analytical side is some of the things that maybe they’re not used to trying to catch up on.”

Vavra is tasked with turning around an offense that struck out more than any team in major league history in 2019; an overwhelmingly inexperienced, impatient, powerless offense that figures to be returning a similar bunch.

Detroit Tigers quality control coach Joe Vavra (52) poses for a headshot on media day at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Detroit Tigers quality control coach Joe Vavra (52) poses for a headshot on media day at Joker Marchant Stadium. (Photo: Reinhold Matay, Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

Recently, Vavra spoke to the Free Press about his hitting philosophies and how he hopes to impact the Tigers’ young hitters in 2020:

On the primary point he will hammer home to Tigers’ hitters: “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.”

What exactly is the plan he hopes for hitters to adapt? “Player by player. Everybody’s different. Everybody’s from all different aspects, mentally, physically, emotionally and they’re challenged in different ways by the pitcher. …

Detroit Tigers third baseman Dawel Lugo (18) hits a RBI double during the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019.
Detroit Tigers third baseman Dawel Lugo (18) hits a RBI double during the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Photo: Raj Mehta, USA TODAY Sports)

“If you commit to a plan, you still have to understand what two strikes are about, you can sell out for the entire at-bat, which so many guys do, on one particular pitch or one location, that so many people do, I don’t think it gives them a very good foundation because they’re so young. So I’m still going to try to get them a little more fundamentally sound.”

On his main goal: “Our goal is to try to get them to use more of the center part of the plate and there’s some things, per guy, per individual that we’re going to have to do and understand themselves and it’s case by case, but everybody’s going to have to come up with a solid plan on a daily basis and they’re going to have to give us answers and do their homework on what they’re up against.”

Joe Vavra, the Detroit Tigers’ quality control coach, works on finalizing the team’s spring training workout plans on Wednesday.
Joe Vavra, the Detroit Tigers’ quality control coach, works on finalizing the team’s spring training workout plans on Wednesday. (Photo: Anthony Fenech/Detroit Free Press)

How important is hitting the fastball? “That’s my philosophy, you can’t get off the fastball. You just can’t get off the fastball. You have to be able to hit the fastball, good plus fastballs. A lot of people say hunting heaters. I had Jim Thome. It was about hunting heaters. Don’t get off the fastball, so yeah, never get off the fastball. You get guys guessing too much. We had a lot of guys guessing because from pitch to pitch, their plans would change and young guys are always known to get a fastball inside or to get something inside and it gets them excited and once you get them excited inside, you don’t think you can get to a (fastball) inside and also, they go something soft away so now you’re on the other side of the plate, you lose control and balance of the strike zone real quick. That’s why you just stay on the fastball, look for it down the middle.”

Rule 5 draft: Tigers protect six players. Here are their selections

On the intersection between analytics and coaching, and how it has changed the modern-day hitter: It’s even before that. We’re just a product of society, but that’s what’s happening in the game, your amateur, junior level, high school, college guys, they’re all going to be feeding off it and teaching it so it’s kind of what we are. But if you understand from Ted Williams, I mean, I believe in launch angle, I’ve always taught it but I also believe in how you have to understand to get on the plane of the ball and how to get plate coverage, you have to know where your outside corner is, you have to pretty much know the parameters of the strike zone to have a good solid base, you know what you can handle, what you can’t, first and foremost, before you can think about launch angle.”

What do you look for at batting practice? “I just think (players) have to know their strike zone, where the points of contact are, out in front of the plate, whether it be going the opposite way or pulling the ball, they have to learn how to get the bat on the ball. I don’t want any foul balls in BP. I don’t want to see them. I want to go right-center field gap to left-center field gap. … In BP, it’s about slow reps, slow speeds and you’re not getting your head out, you’re never going to be able to get that thing in the game. I’m all about spins off the bat. I want true spins coming off the bat. I don’t want side spins or angle spins, I want them to learn how to get the bat head out in the right way.”

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With the Washington Nationals nearing a World Series championship, it’s a good time to remember Hughestown’s Stanley Raymond “Bucky” Harris and his 1924 American League Washington team, the only team to win a World Series in the history of D.C. The franchise — interchangeably called the “Senators,” “Nationals” and “Nats” — was a charter member of the American League founded in 1901.

**

Bucky Harris, still living at home with his mother on Rock Street in Hughestown when 1924 dawned, slipped into Washington in January for a party. Unexpectedly, Washington owner Clark Griffith was there and saw Bucky had a black eye. Griffith correctly guessed it was from playing basketball. Furious over his second baseman’s defiance of a no-basketball clause in his contract, Griffith ordered Bucky to quit the game once and for all and go immediately to the Nats spring training site in Tampa with team trainer Mike Martin. Griffith hated basketball, he thought it ruined knees; Bucky loved it.

He was a world class player and believed basketball kept him in shape and was one of the reasons he was considered one of the fastest players in the major leagues when it comes to foot speed and reflexes. When he quit basketball in January, Bucky was fourth in scoring in the New York League at 9.5 points per game.

Griffith had released his 1923 manager, Donie Bush, in October and was looking for a new manager for the Senators. Speculation was rampant in the capital. Washington Post scribe Frank H. Young wrote there were 14 major candidates. Bucky Harris wasn’t one of them.

The day before the new manager’s name went public, there was a leak and Bucky, in Tampa with Martin, got a one-word telegram from friend George Marshall — one of Washington’s leading sports fans who would later bring football’s Redskins to D.C. — “Congratulations.”

Congratulations for what? Bucky thought maybe he had been traded to the Yankees. Later that day he got a telegram from Griffith offering him the Senators managerial job.

“My hand shook and I had to sit down,” Bucky wrote later in a newspaper article. “I knew how a man feels when an unknown relative has left him a fortune.”

Griffith was mocked for hiring a 27-year-old player with only three full seasons of playing experience to manage his team. It was all about money, they said. Griffith could save $20,000 a year by promoting his second baseman and not having to hire an outside manager. Or, Bucky would be a figurehead while Griffith ran the team on the field. The scribes called Bucky the “Boy Wonder” and “Griffith’s Folly” and speculated Bucky, as the youngest manager in baseball history, would be resented by the veteran players.

Bucky admitted he worried about how the veterans would react to him as boss, especially the 36-year-old Walter Johnson, the aw-shucks Kansas farmer, who was the greatest pitcher of the era. He would finish his career with 417 wins, a 2.17 ERA and 3,509 strikeouts.

During the season when Bucky tried to take Johnson out of a game, Johnson would say, “Stanley, let me pitch to one more batter. I know I can get him out.”

Bucky caved early in the season, but, eventually put sentiment aside.

“When I walked to the mound I’d say, ‘I’m sorry Walter, but it’s for the good of the club.’”

Griffith tried explain the hire of Bucky to the Post: “I consider Harris a hard and willing worker; a smart player with a thorough knowledge of the game and I believe that his aggressiveness cannot help but bring results.”

Bring results he did. Bucky led the Senators, 75-78 in 1923, to upsets of baseball’s two best teams, the Babe Ruth-led Yankees and the New York Giants with five future Hall of Famers. The New York teams had faced each other in the three previous World Series.

On Sept. 12, in never-forget-where-you-came-from fashion, in the heat of a pennant race with the Yankees, Bucky brought the Senators to the Wyoming Valley to play a game against his brother Merle’s team, the Pittston Craftsmen.

The Senators clinched the pennant on Sept. 29 with a 4-2 win in Boston with 20,000 fans rooting against their hometown Red Sox, simply thrilled to see the rival Yankees dethroned.

Batting in the first inning, Bucky received a tremendous ovation. In the eighth, he doubled and scored the final run on a single by Sam Rice. The game ended with Bucky turning a double play. After one more meaningless game in Boston, the season ended. Bucky led the league in double plays (100), sacrifices (46), batted .268 and scored 88 runs.

When the Senators got back to Washington, they boarded a caravan of automobiles at the Peace Monument and were escorted by mounted police, the United States Cavalry Band, The Riding and Hunting Club attired in scarlet coats and more to the Ellipse where President Calvin Coolidge waited on a reception stand. A crowd estimated at 100,000 stretched cross the Ellipse to the Washington Monument.

Bucky was escorted to the reception stand where the President gave him a loving cup and a golden key to the capital in a plush blue case. Overwhelmed by the turn his life had taken in a few short years from the coal mines of NEPA to the side the President of the United States in front of a throng of admirers, Bucky made no speech.

Fans, thousands more than could fit into Griffith Stadium, descended on Washington for the World Series. Special trains with 29 extra sleepers came from Buffalo, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Tampa. Fans paid scalpers $50 for tickets, 10 times the face value — the equivalent of $750 today.

The Giants, in their fourth consecutive Series, were managed by future Hall of Famer John McGraw, considered the greatest baseball mind ever. The Giants were the only team in either league to have a .300 team batting average. They led the MLB in hits and runs and were 8 to 5 favorites.

But none of that mattered to Bucky and the Senators. They won the World Series in seven games, with a run in the bottom of the 12th of the final game. Bucky tied for the team lead in hits with 11, scored five runs and hit two homers into the temporary bleachers erected in left field, after having hit one in 144 regular season games.

Bucky pulled off a “beard pitcher” gambit in the seventh game. Bucky knew McGraw did not play rookie Bill Terry against left-handed pitchers. Terry had been 6 for 12 with a home run and triple through the first six games. To neutralize Terry, Bucky started right-hander Curly Ogden then pulled him after two batters and brought in lefty George Mogridge. It worked. Terry went 0 for 2 before McGraw pinch hit for him.

Bucky is credited with inventing modern relief pitching. He was the first manager to bring in a pitcher in the late innings for the expressed purpose of protecting a lead. In 1924, Firpo Marberry filled that role. Marberry appeared in 50 games, leading the league in games finished and saves.

Washinton erupted in a chaotic celebration, shutting down traffic in the capital. In Hughestown, a band led an impromptu parade of nearly every man, woman and child in the borough. They marched from Hughestown through Pittston to a cacophony of church bells, fire engine sirens and mine and locomotive whistles.

In January of ’25, Griffith signed Bucky to a three-year $100,000 contract, the equivalent of $1.4 million in 2019. The Nats got back to the World Series in 1925 but lost to Pittsburgh.

On Oct. 1, 1926, Bucky married Elizabeth Sutherland, the daughter of a West Virginia Senator. President Coolidge was a guest. Bucky surprised this wife with the keys to a new home on Wyoming Avenue, known as Senator’s Row. Their next door neighbor was former president and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Howard Taft.

So by 1926 there seemingly was two men named Harris: Stanley Raymond, the mild-mannered, manicured gentlemanly manager who sailed to Europe for his honeymoon and moved in Washington high society; and Bucky, the uneducated, tough little baseball player from Hughestown with dirt under his fingernails who took no quarter from any man between the lines.

By 1929, the Stanley Raymond Harris had moved on the manage the Detroit Tigers beginning an odyssey that would take him to seven cities over a 50-year career as a player, manager and general manager.

But the Bucky Harris never faded away. He always stayed true to his roots in Hughestown, coming back to visit friends and relatives and in 1977 to be buried. He lies in the cemetery at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church where he played his first baseball with the Sunday school team.

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There is a photo in the Library of Congress of a gentleman handing a gift to a ballplayer at home plate. The caption reads, “Yankee outfielder gets remembrance from Laurel, MD fans. Washington, D.C., Aug. 18. Jake Powell, New York Yankee outfielder, was presented with a wallet today as a token of esteem from fans of Laurel, MD, where he played as a semipro. Brig. Gen E.E. Hatch, U.S.A. retired, now mayor of Laurel, is shown making the presentation.”

So, who was Jake Powell? And why was Laurel’s mayor presenting him with a gift?

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Who was Jake Powell?
Born Alvin Jacob Powell in 1908 in Silver Spring, he was one of the best baseball players in the area while growing up. He caught the eye of Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith back in the day when team owners would also sometimes scout potential players. As Powell worked his way through the Senators’ minor league system, his true nature became well-known. He was a hustler, thief, liar and, most notably, one of the worst racists in baseball.

While playing for the Dayton, Ohio, Ducks in 1933, Powell and his wife made their home there. Although he talked about becoming a police officer in Dayton during the off-season, he never did.

Powell’s thievery started early. According to Chris Lamb’s book, “Conspiracy of Silence, Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball,” “During a road trip to Zanesville, Ohio, he tried to leave his hotel room with a circular fan, the drapes, and the bedspread, but was caught. ‘He probably would have taken the mattress if he could have got it in his suitcase,’ his Dayton manager remembered.”

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After spring training in 1935, Powell was named to the Senators’ major league roster as an outfielder, but he got off to a bad start by missing the team’s train north to Washington. Being fined $200 didn’t seem to curb his behavior as he continued to make trouble for the team. It also didn’t help, according to Lamb, “when his creditors in Dayton threatened to sue the team to settle the ballplayer’s debts.”

His violence, especially against Jewish players, escalated with his promotion to the major leagues. Shortly after the start of the season, on what should have been a routine run to first base, Powell ran over the Detroit Tigers’ Jewish star and future Hall of Famer, first baseman Hank Greenberg, breaking Greenberg’s wrist and ending his season.

In an unrelated incident a few weeks later, in a game against the Chicago White Sox, Powell intentionally ran over two players on two different plays, second baseman Zeke Bonura and then first baseman Jackie Hayes. The White Sox pitcher, Ted Lyon, hit him with a pitch after the second collision. Powell was well acquainted with pitchers throwing at him in retaliation.

In June 1936, Powell was traded to the New York Yankees for outfielder Ben Chapman. It was an interesting trade, as the Yankees were as anxious to unload Chapman as the Senators were with Powell.

In 1938, Jake Powell charges Boston Red Sox player-manager Joe Cronin after being hit by a pitch, a common occurrence to retaliate for Powell’s cheap shots.
In 1938, Jake Powell charges Boston Red Sox player-manager Joe Cronin after being hit by a pitch, a common occurrence to retaliate for Powell’s cheap shots. (Associated Press file)
As characterized by Lamb, it “was a racist-for-racist trade, straight up.” Up to that point, though, Chapman was much worse than Powell. While still with the Yankees, Chapman provoked a fistfight on the field with a Jewish second baseman. After the benches emptied and order was restored, Chapman was ejected from the game. As he was being escorted from the field, he sucker-punched the opposing pitcher. He commonly made anti-Semitic comments and Nazi salutes to Jewish fans at Yankee Stadium.

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Powell’s behavior continued with the Yankees. He was hated by fans and even his own teammates, as displayed in a game in Washington against his former team, the Senators. Powell pulled his trademark cheap move, this time running over Senators’ first baseman Joe Kuhel.

As Powell and Kuhel starting swinging at each other, several former teammates from the Senators ran in and pummeled Powell before the umpires broke it up. When Powell took his position in the outfield the next inning, Washington fans pelted him with pop and beer bottles. He threw some back at the fans.

The worst — much worse — was yet to come for Powell with the Yankees.

Laurel Day at Griffith Stadium
Before that, though, in August 1936, the radio announcer for the Senators, Arch McDonald, came up with an idea for “Laurel Day” during a series with the Yankees. The voice of the Senators for over 20 years, McDonald is credited with giving Joe DiMaggio the nickname “The Yankee Clipper” and was one of the best baseball announcers to recreate ongoing away games from dry ticker-tape descriptions, a common practice in baseball’s early days. Crowds would gather outside the People’s Drug Store on G Street, NW during Senators’ away games to watch and listen to McDonald recreate the games through the store’s front window, where his studio was located.

Part of the Laurel Day pregame ceremony was for the fans from Laurel to honor Maryland native son Powell, who now played for the visiting Yankees. Contrary to the caption on the photo in the Library of Congress, Powell never played in Laurel, and there was no connection between the ballplayer and the town. It was apparently a random pairing for the sake of the promotion.

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The promotion, co-sponsored by The Washington Post and People’s Drug Store, was a big success in Laurel. According to The Post, a delegation of several hundred fans left Laurel “in a long automobile caravan behind an escort of Maryland State police.” At the D.C. line, the caravan was taken over by “members of the Metropolitan Police motorcycle corps and whisked to Griffith Stadium by direct route.”

The large contingent attending the game left Laurel “a virtually deserted township,” according to the Post. McDonald met the Laurel contingent at the D.C. line and rode the rest of the way with them “to get acquainted with his fans from the Maryland town.”

Led by Mayor Hatch, the delegation from Laurel also included J.F. Curtin, Laurel American Legion Post Commander; J.H. Fetty, Laurel Lions Club; William F. McCormick, American Legion; and Lee Whitmore and Ernest Stanton, Laurel Fire Department.

“Marching into Griffith Stadium behind the stirring rendition of the American Legion junior drum and bugle corps, the Laurel contingent proceeded to home plate for the pregame ceremonies,” according to The Post. In the Library of Congress photo, the Laurel fans and the American Legion drum and bugle corps are watching the presentation.

Mayor Hatch (incorrectly naming Takoma Park) “lauded Powell for his success as a big leaguer, cited the pride with which Maryland fans regarded him, and presented to the Takoma Park lad a handsome leather wallet,” according to The Post. It was an interesting choice, to say the least, to honor the despicable Powell.

Helping toward desegregation
Strangely, Powell is credited with helping baseball move toward desegregation, albeit in a perverse way. In an interview broadcast live on WGN radio at Comiskey Park in Chicago before a game in July 1938, , announcer Bob Elson asked Powell how he stayed in shape during the off-season. Powell, who had falsely claimed for years that he was police officer in Dayton, replied that he kept in shape “by cracking n—–s over the head with my nightstick.”

According to Lamb, “As soon as Powell made his derogatory remark, the station cut off the interview. Unaware he had said anything offensive, Powell went to the team’s dressing room to change into his uniform.”

The firestorm was immediate. Black leaders and newspapers kept up a barrage of coverage, demanding Powell be banned from baseball. Powell initially denied making the remark, despite hundreds of outraged callers to the station as soon as he said it.

The uproar put Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis in a quandary. This was the same commissioner who abetted baseball’s segregation and who once said with a straight face, “If a Negro player was ever to show the kind of talents necessary to play in the Major Leagues, there is no rule to stop it.” Now, he had to act concerned and respond to the public’s outrage appropriately. His response was to suspend Powell for 10 days for making racist comments. Meanwhile, it took baseball almost another decade before Jackie Robinson broke the color line.

A replica Jake Powell trading card from his days as a New York Yankee.
A replica Jake Powell trading card from his days as a New York Yankee. (Courtesy photo)
The Yankees also had business reasons to be concerned. Owner Jacob Ruppert owned a brewery and faced a boycott of his beer in black neighborhoods. Even though Yankees General Manager Ed Barrow didn’t understand the fuss — he told sportswriters that “his two colored servants thought it was an unfortunate mistake” — the team ordered Powell to make amends by going to bars in Harlem, offering his apologies to customers and buying the house a round. It didn’t work, as the pressure continued all season. Baltimore Afro-American columnist Leon Hardwick wrote of Powell, “It’s the unguarded moments that show a man for what he is.”

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The uproar over his interview pulled the curtain away from baseball’s hypocritical attitude toward integration and exposed it for all to see. It is felt by many historians to have united some of the factions clamoring for baseball to desegregate and helped sway public opinion.

The sad end
Powell played sparingly for the Yankees for the next two seasons, then spent two years in the minor leagues. In a fitting end to his career, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies midway through the 1945 season. The manager of the Phillies was none other than Ben Chapman. Chapman never changed his ways, either. As manager of the Phillies, he was famous for his race-baiting of rookie Jackie Robinson in 1947 and encouraging his pitchers to throw at the first black player in the major leagues. After 48 games with the Phillies, Powell’s major league career was over.

In 1948, Powell lived in a hotel with his mistress in the Washington area. He passed a series of bad checks until the DC Metropolitan Police arrested him at Union Station. He interrupted his interview with detectives and asked if he could speak to his waiting mistress.

When the mistress told Powell she decided against marrying the already-married Powell and going home to Florida, he said he would kill himself. Then, as described by Lamb, “the ballplayer suddenly said, ‘Hell, I’m going to end it all,’ and pulled a .25 caliber revolver out of the pocket of his sport coat and shot himself twice — once in the chest and once in the right temple. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.”

He was 39 years old.

Richard Friend and Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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No matter which team wins the World Series in the next few days, baseball’s offseason will officially begin later this week — and with it, the trade rumors and free-agent speculations that usually help fans through each winter. The Tigers won’t be at the top of those conversations, but they’ll be entering a new stage of their rebuilding phase, with prospects now either nearing Detroit’s doorstep or breaking into the big leagues. The veteran acquisitions should eventually be meant as supplements for the young talent, rather than simply placeholders for them.

On to questions:

Nick Ramirez was a big surprise to me not being kept on 40 man. Did something regress during season that I did not see? Guy ate some valuable innings

— Michael Siffer (@SifferMichael) October 28, 2019
In past years, Nick Ramirez probably would have been safe on the Tigers’ 40-man roster. He filled a versatile role in the bullpen, progressing from innings-eating long reliever to a late-inning lefty. His numbers were up and down — a .689 OPS allowed in July, then .939 in August, then .622 in limited work in September.

But the Tigers are at a different stage than they were when they would have protected pitchers like Ramirez. With several prospects needing to be added to the 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, Detroit is finally at a point where the front office needs to make tough decisions. Compared to such other relievers on the 40-man roster as Tyler Alexander, Matt Hall and David McKay, Ramirez’s age of 30 worked against him. And though Jose Cisnero is four months older, the Tigers liked his higher strikeout rate.

I would not be surprised to see the Tigers try to bring Ramirez back on a non-roster invitation.

Any early thoughts on maybe what one year veteran deals they might look at this season? I assume they’ll continue doing so while they rebuild

— Matt Mundy (@BOOfessorMundy) October 28, 2019
Tigers front office members and scouts spent the weekend meeting in Lakeland, Fla., to go over offseason plans. The one expectation is that they’ll look for a run producer to supplement a lineup that, by season’s end, had no proven hitters past Miguel Cabrera. The logical fits are either a first baseman or a corner outfielder. Like the last two years, the Tigers won’t be active at the top end of the market but will be looking for rebound types.

One free agent who could be interesting is former Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak, a switch-hitter two years removed from a 38-homer season in Toronto. He batted just .208 this year but posted a .342 on-base percentage thanks to 79 walks in 500 plate appearances, his third straight season with at least 73 walks. Smoak batted just .223 on balls in play this year, 43 points below his career BABIP, but his expected weighted on-base average and expected slugging percentage were both in the top quarter of big league players, according to Statcast. Even as he nears his 33rd birthday, he’s a strong rebound candidate, the kind the Tigers need to target. But he’s strong enough that other teams in better situations could target him, too.

Thoughts on a possible Curtis Granderson reunion?

— Evan (@Evan_19950) October 28, 2019
I would love to see it happen, though I wouldn’t bank on it. Besides bringing his career full circle at age 38, Curtis Granderson brings the kind of clubhouse presence and leadership the Tigers badly need. His productivity at the plate has not been good, including a .172 average and .603 OPS against right-handers this year and, against all pitching, nearly as many strikeouts (98) as hits and walks combined (99). The Tigers have had chances to pursue Granderson the last couple years and passed.

What’s the latest on the Tigers analytics department? Are they still expanding it?

— Nathan Rimmington (@nrimmo11) October 28, 2019
The Tigers have expanded their analytics department each year since Al Avila took over as general manager in 2015. It was up to 14 people this year, and manager Ron Gardenhire indicated at season’s end that they’re adding more folks. The Tigers have invested in such tools for player development as high-speed cameras, pressure plates and swing trackers, and they’ve partnered with the University of Michigan’s Exercise and Sport Science Initiative to complement that. They’ve spent four years feeding Caesar, their database of analytical, scouting and medical data. They’ve done a ton to move toward analytics.

So far, the Tigers face a recurring problem on the analytics front: Every team is in on it, and most of them enjoyed a significant head start. For all Detroit is doing, other teams also are advancing, meaning Detroit is still playing catch-up according to many outside the organization. If and when the Tigers catch up, simply doing the same thing as everyone else isn’t going to gain to edge, at least in terms of player acquisition. The initial purpose of the analytics revolution was to identify market inefficiencies that others were missing. When every team does the same thing and reaches the same evaluation, there’s a risk of groupthink. The Tigers need a creative edge, a distinguishing factor.

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Martinsville High School graduate Lou Whitaker is one of three names added to the Major League Baseball Modern Era Committee’s Hall of Fame ballot, it was announced on Monday.

Whitaker, a 1975 Martinsville graduate, spent all 19 of his MLB seasons playing second base for the Detroit Tigers, one half of a famed double-play combo alongside shortstop Alan Trammell, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.

The Modern Era Committee considers candidates who played Major League Baseball from 1970 through 1987 who have fallen off the regular ballot because they didn’t receive 5% of the vote or weren’t elected for 10 years. As with the regular vote, a Modern Era candidate needs at least 75% of the vote to be elected.

Whitaker received just 2.9% of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on his first and only Hall of Fame ballot appearance in 2001.

The Modern Era Committee will meet to vote on Dec. 8, ahead of MLB’s winter meetings in San Diego.

On the ballot with Whitaker are fellow newcomers Dwight Evans and Thurman Munson, and six holdovers from last year: Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker and Ted Simmons.

Those selected will be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 26 along with the new candidates elected by BBWA. Those inductees will be announced on Jan. 21.

“I’ve been saying this for a long time, this is the first thing he [Whitaker] has to do, get on the ballot,” Trammell said in an interview with the Detroit News. “This is great news. This is how he can make it. He had to get on the ballot, and I am just going to keep my fingers crossed… I am so happy for him.”

Whitaker, known around baseball as “Sweet Lou”, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up in Martinsville. He was both a pitcher and middle infielder in high school and was drafted by the Tigers in the fifth round of the draft following his senior year at MHS, forgoing a commitment to play at Ferrum College, which was at the time a junior college.

Whitaker was named American League Rookie of the Year in 1978. He played in 2,390 games, hitting .276, with 2,369 career hits and 244 homers.

He had a career fielding percentage of .984, tying for 57th best all-time among second basemen. He had just 189 errors in his career.

The Tigers won the 1984 World Series when Whitaker hit .278 with five hits and six runs scored.

He made five consecutive All-Star games from 1983-1987 and won three Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers.

The Tigers released a statement in support of Whitaker’s candidacy:

“Alongside fans from across the globe, all of us with the Detroit Tigers are thrilled to learn that Lou Whitaker has been named to the Modern Era Committee ballot… ‘Sweet Lou’ was a integral part of our 1984 World Series Championship team and is a key piece of the storied tradition of baseball in the Motor City. When the voting results are announced next month, we’re confident that all of us will be celebrating this Tigers legend’s election to Cooperstown.”

According to the Detroit News, when Whitaker retired in 1995, he, Joe Morgan, and Roger Hornsby, two Hall of Fame members, were the only second basemen in the history of baseball to score more than 1,000 runs, record more than 1,000 RBIs, and get more than 2,000 hits and 200 home runs.

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

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CARLSBAD, Calif. — Jose Iglesias is not returning to the Detroit Tigers.

That news, weeks ago, comes courtesy of Iglesias himself, who posted a farewell to fans on his Instagram account.

It likely did not take the Tigers by surprise, nor alter their off-season plans much.

After unsuccessfully trying to trade Iglesias for the past two seasons, the team is prepared to go in a different direction at shortstop — though how different, remains to be seen.

This winter’s free agent class of shortstops is not particularly strong, and the Tigers will likely be choosing from a handful of glove-first options at the position.

This isn’t surprising: Shortstops who play defense and hit are All-Stars.

The Tigers, trying to bridge the gap from Iglesias to prospects like Willi Castro and Sergio Alcantara, aren’t looking for a difference-maker, rather a guy who can play a steady shortstop with some pop in the bat.

In many ways, they are looking for Iglesias.

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So why not Iglesias?

In short, it’s time for both sides. Given the team’s motivation to trade him in the past, it’s clear they did not view him as a winning player, nor part of the team’s long-term future. Given Iglesias’ age — he turns 29 in January — and his very highly-regarded defensive ability, he will be seeking more money than the Tigers will be willing to offer. A change of scenery could stand to benefit him going forward.

Of the Tigers’ possibilities, a few stand out:

Freddy Galvis: Likely the best of the bunch, Galvis has played 162 games in each of the past two seasons with Philadelphia in 2017 and San Diego in ’18. He is considered an above-average defensive player and has hit double-digit home runs in three consecutive seasons. At 29 years old, he could be in line for a multi-year deal.

Adeiny Hechavarria: A bit of a journeyman, Hechavarria played with three teams last season. The reason? He is a solid defender at shortstop. He is a .254 hitter in seven seasons. Hechavarria, 29, has not played 100 games in two consecutive seasons. He likely could be had for one season.

Jordy Mercer: The Tigers have their eye on Mercer, who is a solid veteran. He isn’t flashy but could fill the role. In seven seasons, the 32-year-old is a .256 hitter. Mercer’s bat control is of note: He doesn’t strike out much and has the best on-base ability of the bunch.

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Detroit — The Tigers needed something positive, anything, and pitcher Drew VerHagen provided it.

The right-hander pitched five impressive innings in Tuesday’s nightcap of a day-night doubleheader, leading the Tigers to a much-needed 10-6 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 10, White Sox 6

The Tigers had to wait a while to secure the victory. The game was delayed 61 minutes with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning because of heavy rain showers.

Chicago won the opening game Tuesday, 5-3, extending the Tigers’ recent misery — and there has been a lot of it.

But VerHagen allowed only one earned run and walked none, while striking out five in his best outing this season to help the Tigers end a five-game losing streak and record only their third victory in the last 19 games (3-16) at Comerica Park.

It was also Detroit’s fifth victory in the 25 games (5-20) since the All-Star break.

“He (VerHagen) gave us a great opportunity with what he did,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It’s too bad the rain came, we could have gotten another inning out of him. He did a heck of a job, giving us a chance to finally break out and score some runs.

“We had some good swings and they got back in the game but we came back right again. It was kind of fun — a long night, a long day.”

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Miguel Cabrera had three hits — including an infield single in the sixth inning — John Hicks had three hits, and Jordy Mercer had two hits, including a two-run home run, and three RBIs to spark the Tigers’ 16-hit attack.

Whether anyone believed it would be VerHagen who carried the Tigers out of this losing streak is questionable.

But it was VerHagen who led the way Tuesday, showing a glimpse of his potential in his third start since being recalled from Toledo.

“I’ve had moments like that in the (bullpen) but I haven’t done it as a starter here in Detroit,” VerHagen said. “It felt good to do it in this uniform, and in this ballpark. It was a fun night.”

VerHagen didn’t get into any sort of trouble until the fifth inning, with the Tigers leading 3-0.

There was potential in the inning to wipe out all the good that VerHagen had woven together, but he wouldn’t allow it.

VerHagen got Tigers menace Jose Abreu to ground out to second base to end a White Sox threat after Chicago had scored a run and had two runners on.

“It was a little unfortunate it started raining. I was feeling good and didn’t feel like I was losing steam, either,” VerHagen said. “Honestly, all my stuff was working, throwing both breaking balls for strikes and fastball command was good.

“It was a fun night.”

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The Tigers scored two runs in the second against White Sox starter Hector Santiago, then added another run in the third.

The Tigers added two more runs in the fifth before the rain came. Cabrera ignited the rally with a single, his 1,000th career hit at Comerica Park.

With two outs, Hicks singled, moving Cabrera to third. Travis Demeritte then singled to right field, scoring Cabrera and earning Demeritte his first major league RBI.

Hicks moved to third on Demeritte’s single and scored on Gordon Beckham’s infield single before the game was delayed.

Mercer blasted a 421-foot two-home run in the seventh inning to make it 7-2.

“We had a good ballgame,” Gardenhire said. “Some guys got to run around the bases which is always entertaining. The big thing is they came back and got close to us and we turned it right back (and scored runs). That’s what we need to start doing a lot of.”

Chicago scored three runs in the eighth inning, capitalizing on Trevor Rosenthal’s wildness, but the Tigers countered with three runs in the bottom half of the inning to pull away.

“Every time they came close, we got some runs,” Hicks said. “It was a great offensive performance, but starting out with Vergie, he threw the ball awesome.”