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JMMA winner preview week: Chris Bootcheck hasn’t quite emerged from his slumber

Chris BootcheckA long winter combined with a minor league contract without an invite to major league spring training  left a long period of silence between us and Chris Bootcheck. I expected that all to change on this week, as the Lehigh Valley IronPigs set their roster and prepped for their first games.

Then I looked at their roster and saw Bootcheck was on the seven-day disabled list. According to IronPigs beat writer Tom Housenick of the Morning Call, he’s got trouble with the middle finger on his pitching hand. Bootcheck himself refused to comment when reached by Twitter. Word on the street is that his middle finger is fatigued from being utilized so much in day-to-day life.

The setback has left some of the most basic facts about Bootcheck’s season in question. He’s listed on the Lehigh Valley IronPigs’ roster, but doesn’t have a number. We know he’s a pitcher, but nothing’s been revealed about how he’ll be used.

All we know, really, is that he’s on the IronPigs, which is no small feat in itself.

Lehigh Valley is a stretch of Pennsylvania towns near the New Jersey border, according to Wikipedia. The actual team is based in Allentown. The IronPigs name is a reference to the region’s proclivity to produce pig iron, which is used in manufacturing steel. But the best part of the team’s name is that it allows them occasionally wear this bacon hat:

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JMMA winner preview week: Jose Alvarez, the other Jose Alvarez and both of their quests for redemption

Throw back

Throw back

At the start of the most recent James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (sponsor pending) competition, I told the story of the other Jose Alvarez. He was a police chief in Caseyville, a small village outside of St. Louis, and had bogged down the Google News Alerts that were set up to capture any news about the true Jose Alvarez. Right around the time we started looking for the real Jose Alvarez’s replacement, Police Chief Alvarez was fired. It seemed fitting.

A month and a half later, the two continue to live parallel lives.

Each has been a victim of a little bad luck, each has put them in precarious positions due to their performance, and each went into late March with a chance at a renaissance.

Police Chief Alvarez got fired, reinstated, fired again, reinstated again and then had a meeting with the Board of Trustees to determine if he’d be fired again. Before I continue, I should mention that this story has nothing to do with Jose Alvarez the baseball player and has zero relation to sports in general. It’s just an odd story and I felt like you would enjoy knowing about it.

According to the St. Louis Post-DispatchAlvarez got fired by the Mayor of Caseyville, Leonard Black, and claimed he was dismissed because he wanted to fire probationary police officer Steve Romanik. Why Alvarez desired this is unclear, but Romanik is the son of a radio host, Bob Romanik, who is a friend of the mayor and has criticized Alvarez heavily.

To recap: Alvarez claimed he was unjustly fired for personal reasons, with the tipping point being that Alvarez himself wanted to fire somebody unjustly for personal reasons.

The Board of Trustees reinstated Alvarez unanimously. Not long after, Alvarez turned into a psycho at a public meeting (you can watch the video here, it gets pretty good right around the 0:45 mark). He screamed at people, pointed his finger in the mayor’s face and went chest-to-chest with a couple dudes while a number of scared suburbanites nervously scurried out the building.

After that episode, the mayor fired him again. A judge then reinstated him temporarily, citing that Alvarez didn’t have due process, and said a Board of Trustees meeting needed to decide his fate. Articles like “Secret letters, lies, video: Caseyville bubbles before police chief vote” in the interim. When the meeting finally did come, on March 20, Alvarez was unanimously reinstated again.

Two days later, Jose Alvarez, the baseball player, was traded to the Angels.

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JMMA winner preview week: Blaine Hardy’s season might be really good or really crazy

(Photo: Tom Hagerty)

Blaine Hardy in a hallway with a cell phone and an empty water jug. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. (Photo: Tom Hagerty)

It’s officially opening day in Major League Baseball, opening week in the minors and preview week for JMMA winners at The Detroit Hustle. All week we’ll look at what to expect this season from our current winner of the James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (sponsor pending), Blaine Hardy, and our two previous baseball winners, Jose Alvarez and Chris Bootcheck.

Today it’s Hardy, who was just crowned on Wednesday.

Hardy’s seven-runs-in-2.1-innings blowup at the end of the spring training might’ve cost him a spot on the opening day roster. He was one of the last two players cut. (In a cruel twist, the other was Jhan Marinez, the man he beat out in the JMMA finals.) The demotion prevented Hardy from history. Had he made the squad, he would’ve been the first JMMA winner to make an opening day roster. Instead, the only barrier Hardy broke down is that he’s the first JMMA winner to have the same birth date as me (March 14 in the house! Woo woo!”. He’s the third straight pitcher to win the award, the third straight be sent to Triple-A Toledo and the third straight to not be on the 40-man roster at the beginning of the season.

Fortunately, that last point isn’t all that important. As we saw last year with Jose Alvarez, the Tigers won’t waste time making a roster move to get somebody up to Comerica Park to nearly pitch a no-hitter.

Still, it’s going to be an uphill battle. Hardy’s role Triple-A hasn’t been defined. All we know is that he’s going to the bullpen. That single piece of clarity is important, though. Hardy now has an impediment to the majors. He can’t prove he’s worthy of being called up when the Tigers need a spot starter if he’s not starting and he can’t prove he’s ready for the most wildly available bullpen spot, the long reliever, if he doesn’t pitch more than one or two innings at time.

If his role doesn’t change, there are only two ways Hardy gets the call to The Show:

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The five best giveaways of the 2014 Detroit Tigers season

(Photo: Baseball Backs)

(Photo: Baseball Backs)

Last week we outlined the five worst giveaways of the 2014 Detroit Tigers season. Today is the thrilling conclusion. The five items I’m about to share you’ll use for longer than you realize and enjoy more than you should. At the very top you’ll find some items that are guaranteed to make money on eBay.

Let’s get to it:

5. Stars and Stripes Tumbler  — Friday, July 4 vs. Rays (First 10,000)

I’ve not seen it, but I can almost guarantee the tumbler is made of plastic instead of glass. Because of this, you’ll have less expectations for it. Instead of saving it for proper alcohol drinking you’ll use it for water, orange juice, pop and anything else. It’s not something you’re going to value high when you get it, but you’ll be using it three years later and only realize you’ve had it that long when one your friends asks where you got it.

The downside is that the giveaway comes on July 4.  Tickets are going to be high due to the Tigers’ “dynamic pricing” and people are going to get there early, so you’ll have to do some extra work if you want to snag one.

4. April in the D gloves  — Wednesday, April 16 vs. Indians (First 10,000)

If you’re reading this, chances are you live in Michigan. If you live in Michigan you know that Michigan is gray and cold and snowy and miserable and all of those things at the same time for eight months a year. A pair of gloves is even less exciting than a tumbler glass, but it’s even more useful.

The problem is we don’t know the quality of gloves. Some giveaways are made out of legitimate material. Others are made out of fabric found in a dump in Thailand. The gloves might be made of the latter. They might not be able to withstand a Michigan winter, and if they are, they might get lost in the pile of all your other gloves. You do live in Michigan.

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The James Mungro Memorial Award finale: A sputter at the end and a controversial finish

Never forget the legend

Never forget the legend

The last time we checked in on our competition for the James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (sponsor pending), we had the greatest comeback of all time still alive, a pitcher with a chance at a scoreless spring training and the people’s champ.

Now we have none of those.

Jhan Marinez started the spring competition with a 40.5 ERA but hadn’t given up a run in weeks. I promised that if he stayed scoreless through the rest of the spring, the man with the many nicknames would get the crown.

A day after the last update, Marinez allowed one run in one inning of work against the Mets. Four days after that, he gave up another to Blue Jays. On Tuesday, I watched part of the Tigers’ spring training game against the Braves. When I flipped to it, Marinez was pitching. The first ball he threw went right down the middle. Some scrub from the Braves wearing a number in the 90s sent it off the top of the right-field wall. A few pitches later, Marinez missed his spot by about five feet, slapped at his leg, yelled at himself, then came back and let something called a Kubitza to hit a double that bounced all the way to the right-field wall, scoring two runs.

Marinez’s 9.95 ERA is the third worst in the Tigers organization this spring and his seven walks are second on the team, just one behind Drew Smyly. Jhan Marinez a.k.a Yanny Fountain a.k.a Yanny Baseball a.k.a Chico Pappas 2.0 can’t win this. He has the nicknames, but nothing else. Following him would be day after day of frustration.

That leaves us with just two competitors: Blaine Hardy and Craig Albernaz. Hardy was the wildcard, the guy who had anger issues when it came to Apples to Apples and the man who hadn’t allowed a run in nine innings of work this spring. He had the ability and the quirkiness to be a champion. He just had to go out and win it. He didn’t.

Hardy pitched 2.1 innings these past 10 days, allowing eight hits and seven runs — three earned.


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Breaking down the Red Wings’ seventh segment, which says things besides Gustav Nyquist is really good

(Photo credit: Bridget Samuels)

(Photo credit: Bridget Samuels)

(The JMMA finals are coming down to the wire and needed a few extra days. The winner will be named on Wednesday)

When the Red Wings began this segment they were one point out of the final playoff spot and four points behind the Maple Leafs for the first wildcard. At the end of it they sit tied for the first wildcard with Toronto and have two games in hand. That has more to do with a Maple Leafs collapse than a Red Wings resurgence.

Detroit had the same record for this segment as it’s last (5-3-2) and equaled the median point total for their segments all year with 12 and was lucky to even do that. The Red Wings’ goal differential dropped from +1 to -5 this segment, with their 5-on-5 goal differential dropping from +1 to -2.

Seg 1 Seg 2 Seg 3 Seg 4 Seg 5 Seg 6 Seg 7
GF 25 29 31 21 22 30 26
GA 29 27 22 33 21 29 31
5-on-5 GF 16 20 21 17 19 19 17
5-on-5 GA 19 21 12 25 12 18 19
PPG 7 7 7 4 3 8 7
OPP PPG 8 3 7 5 7 6 5

(*The splits don’t add up to the total because I didn’t include empty-net goals, short-handed goals, 6-on-5 goals, etc. on the chart.)

Even with those changes, it was a thoroughly unspectacular segment on either side for Detroit overall. It posted average numbers across the board. Seventy-one games into this season, the Red Wings are who they are: a slightly above-.500 team.

Individually, it’s a different story. Individually, Gustav Nyquist is the hottest scorer in the NHL. Here’s a look at the top five Red Wings in GRM this segment:

1. Gustav Nyquist,  +3.95 (+4.20, -0.25)

2. David Legwand, +2.04 (+2.87, -0.83)

3. Riley Sheahan, +1.62 (+1.95, 0.33)

4. Daniel Alfredsson, +1.54 (+1.54, 0.00)

5. Todd Bertuzzi, +0.84 (0.84, 0.00)

Nyquist’s total GRM is the highest recorded by Red Wing this season and his +2.92 5-on-5 GRM is second only to the +3.08 he put up in the last segment. With the GRMs dropping below +1.00 after just four players, Nyquist has basically carried this team, but you already knew that. Let’s move on to something you might not.

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The king is gone: Tigers trade International Pitcher of Mystery Jose Alvarez to the Angels

Jose Alvarez

It’s black Friday.

Jose Alvarez was mere days away from handing off his crown as baseball’s James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (sponsor pending) representative. Now he won’t even be there to see it go.

Apparently the need at shortstop was enough for the Tigers to give up on a guy who nearly threw a no-hitter in the big leagues and spent most of the season scorching every International League town he went to and then salting the burnt earth so that nothing could ever grow there again.

Since he’s a former JMMA champ we’ll follow him like we follow all former JMMA champs, but make no mistake: this is a sad, sad day.

More on this later.


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