This is too good. Really. You call Big Daddy on the off-day of the World Series, all travelled out, to suss out his thoughts on his son’s hitting funk and he can’t talk. Polite as ever, he’s just heading into a movie. “That new Ben Affleck one,” Cecil Fielder says.
A movie about hostages.
Had the popcorn and soda not been beckoning, you’d like to ask Big Daddy if he has an idea who’s holding his son’s bat hostage.
The Detroit Tigers return home to Comerica Park for Saturday’s third game of the World Series – down two-zip to the San Francisco Giants – after being out-pitched, out-bunted, out-executed, out-base-runned and out-whatevered in the first two games under National League rules. Now they get the thump and thunder of the designated hitter, which allows a player to be in left field and keeps Delmon Young away from the sharp defensive objects as designated hitter.
There is plenty of blame to go around for this pickle.
Justin Verlander was the third worst Cy Young winner to pitch in Game 1, behind Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum. Jose Valverde can’t close a car door let alone a World Series game. And third base coach Gene Lamont and manager Jim Leyland let the second-guessers out in Game 2 with a risky gamble on the basepaths and a defensive decision that yielded the first run on a double-play grounder.
But the grief is falling on Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, who combined to hit 74 home runs in the regular season, the most by a pair of Tigers since the elder Fielder and Mickey Tettleton combined for 75 in 1991.
Fielder and Cabrera are 2-for-11 in the first two games of the World Series, although Cabrera at least squared up a line drive in Game 2. More to the point, they were noticeably uncomfortable at the plate against soft-tossing left-handers Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner. Even the Tigers’ home radio crew was pointed in their criticism. The Tigers have now been shut out twice in 11 postseason games, as many times as they were shut out in the 162-game regular season.
It was suggested to Fielder, who is 9-for-44 (.205) in the postseason with one home run, that the Giants’ scouts must have zeroed in on the two of them. He shrugged. “It’s the World Series, nobody’s going to give you too many centre-cuts [pitches].”
Cabrera was blunt. “Our game is, I don’t know, too slow right now and we need to be more aggressive,” he said.
“They’ve had a lot of good things happen to them. All we can do is try to get our hits, worry about ourselves.”
The pressbox at AT&T Park was pretty much unanimous after Game 2: We’ve seen this before, specifically in 2010 when the Giants beat the Texas Rangers by cutting down their hitters and ripping into supposedly unhittable pitching. Verlander is this year’s Cliff Lee.
And it’s not just that the Giants have their two sharpest starters – Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain – working in Games 3 and 4. They also bring with them a team that had the best road OPS in the National League, and only the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim scored more runs away from home. In other words, all that patience and grinding at-bats and knack for the useful travel well.
But Fielder is not just a grip-and-rip guy, and neither is Cabrera, whose 44-homer regular season was the first 40-homer season for the Tigers since Père Fielder hit 44 in 1991.
Fielder was second in American League on-base percentage (.412), and it is the body language and approach that have caused concern. So far in this series, Fielder and Cabrera have been $366-million (U.S.) worth of millstone around the Tigers’ necks.
If signing Fielder to a nine-year, $214-million contract doesn’t get Mike Ilitch his first World Series, what will? Signing free agent Josh Hamilton?
Don’t laugh, it’s out there as a rumour, much like Prince Fielder’s hitting.