Last week I met an old friend of mine at a "Southern Public House," which is just a pretentious name for a gastropub, which is just a pretentious name for a bar. He had come in from Los Angeles to shoot a commercial for Disney and only had one night available. He's not a big baseball fan, as most of my friends are not, but he asked a few obligatory Tiger-related questions. He knows me well.
At the end of the bar we were sitting at, one lonely television was featuring the only baseball game available in Central Florida. Baseball is not a huge interest here, and having meaningful baseball conversations can be difficult to come by. Toward the end of the night, and after a few drinks, my friend started migrating over to a few other acquaintances seated at an adjacent booth. I needed another drink, so I headed over to the bar and kept my eyes on the Tampa Bay Rays - Cincinnati Reds game that was being shown. I was the only person watching the game, save for one other gentleman wearing a Boston Red Sox hat.
We exchanged a few words about the game, and quickly I found myself sitting down and talking baseball with him.
His name was Olivier. He was originally from France but adopted the Red Sox as his team of choice when he came over to the United States in the early part of the century for school. He works as a web developer. That is all I know about him, other than the fact that he gives some very intelligent insight into the game -- a game that he didn't start following until 2004. Oh, so that's why he's a Red Sox fan.
I asked Olivier if I could share some of his answers about baseball and the Tigers. He obliged.
Sean: Tell me how you became a baseball fan.
Olivier: I knew nothing of baseball when I came over. I had met a girl who was staying on my couch in Paris and we kept in touch. I visited her in 2004 after we had maintained a long-distance friendship. The night I flew in she was supposed to go to a baseball game with her boyfriend, who was a Rays fan. He dumped her, but she still had the tickets. I went to my first game that night. I had no idea what the hell was going on.
Sean: Who were the Rays playing?
Olivier: I don't remember.
Sean: Sounds like you had fun.
Olivier: I did. I really did. I just don't remember. I was trying to figure out what was happening in the game. I suppose I could go back and look, but I don't know if it matters.
Sean: But it wasn't the Red Sox?
Olivier: No. (thinks for a minute before laughing) I guess it could have been. That night was such a blur. I actually became a Red Sox fan later that year when I started becoming more interested in baseball. It would be highly coincidental if my first game was a Sox game, but who knows? Maybe it was implanted into my brain.
Sean: Tell me about Stephen Drew. Would he be a good fit for the Tigers?
Olivier: Yes. He would. I always liked the way he played, but I understand why we let him go. He makes sense for you, even if you have to lose a draft pick. Who is the guy you picked up? The old guy?
Sean: Alex Gonzalez.
Olivier: Yes. Yes. He has not impressed me, and honestly I thought he was retired. Doesn't your owner have a ton of money? Go out and get Drew. He could put you over the top. He just... he plays hard. He isn't the best at anything, but he is really good at a lot of things. And he could probably be had for a one-year deal.
Sean: So how do you assess the team from an outsider looking in?
Olivier: I am a big fan of some of the moves your front office made. When I started following baseball I always heard about (Theo) Epstein and the job he was doing for the Red Sox. I didn't know one guy was pulling all the strings. Your general manager (Dave Dombrowski) makes a lot of... interesting moves. I didn't understand trading (Doug) Fister, but I really like getting Iggy (Jose Iglesias).
Sean: Talk to me about him. You saw him some last year before he was traded to Detroit. What was your impression?
Olivier: Like I said, I didn't start following the game until 2004. I hear a lot of people compare him to past shortstops and that he reminds them of them. This friend I have in Brooklyn said he reminded him of Rey Ordonez. I don't know because that is before my time, but I know that he is the best shortstop I have seen in ten years. It's a shame he is hurt.
Sean: David Ortiz or Miguel Cabrera. Who is the better hitter?
Olivier: Imagine the two of them in the same lineup! It's hard to say. Obviously I am biased, but I have seen enough of Cabrera to know how good he is. He is probably the best hitter I have seen since Albert Pujols. I was at a Rays game a few years ago, and there is this obnoxious cat-walk wrapping around...
Sean: Yes, yes. I hate that thing.
Olivier: ...Cabrera hit that thing twice. Two times. Both would have been home runs. I have never seen someone hit the ball that hard. So, yeah. I'll take Cabrera. Unless it's a big moment in the playoffs. Then, sorry, I'll take Papi.
Sean: Last question. If Torii Hunter catches the (David) Ortiz home run ball last year, what is the outcome of the series?
Olivier: (laughs) That's what is great about this game. I have no idea. It's so damn unpredictable. That was the turning point, yes? What a game that was, too. (stops and reflects) I think if he catches that ball the Tigers take the game and the series. Momentum is everything.