It is the middle of February and baseball is in the air despite the frigid temperatures that still grip a great deal of the nation. So while everyone is bundled up inside, what better time is there to put on a nice record while we wait for the temperature to rise?
If I may humbly make a suggestion, our most recent podcast here at Bless You Boys alluded to one of the greatest albums ever printed on wax: the Beastie Boys’ magnum opus Paul’s Boutique. And with baseball right around the corner, why not mash up two great things? Which leads me to the Frankenstein’s monster that I have created in my mad laboratory by crossing a pair of my favorite topics.
The methodology was simple. Drawing from decades of listening to the B-Boys — including that one time I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge screaming “HELLO BROOKLYN!” — coupled with years of following Detroit, I subjectively assigned former Tigers relievers to their respective tracks based on their individual qualities and quirks.
Some of these names may be a pleasant trip down memory lane while others could be a wet blanket and a slap in the face, but that is the price we have to pay for deep-dives such as this one. So drop the needle on the vinyl, let the opening track gradually fade in, then kick back and enjoy.
To All the Girls: Octavio Dotel
The winds of change are always blowing
And every time I tried to stay
The winds of change continued blowing
And they just carried me away
Dotel holds the distinction of pitching as a reliever for more teams than any other player in major league history with 13 total franchises employing his services. While the well-traveled Dominican played his final two years in Detroit, the winds of change had blown and carried him away from every one of his previous destinations... and then into retirement.
Shake Your Rump: Jose Valverde
Like eating burgers or chicken or you’ll be picking your nose
I’m on time homie that’s how it goes
There was one season that Valverde — despite many heart-attack-inducing outings — notched a perfect 49 saves in 49 tries back in 2011. It is none of my business what his food preference is when discussing burgers or chicken, so long as he does not pick his nose first, but his water-spout act coming out of the bullpen was anything but hygienical. Nonetheless, he was on time homie so that’s how it goes.
Johnny Ryall: John Hiller
Elvis shaved his head when he went into the army
That’s right y’all his name is Johnny
Hiller was not pitching yet when Elvis joined the Army but he did throw for the Tigers while The King was still alive — and three years after his death as well. Coupled with the fact that his name is “John” and he could have very well had “a rockabilly past of which nobody knows”, one of the greatest relief pitchers in Detroit history fits well with this track.
Eggman: Francisco Rodriguez
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
I egged the chicken, and then I ate his leg
The infamous Rodriguez finished off his career with the Tigers, putting up respectable numbers in his penultimate 2016 season before crapping the bed in 2017. He was often hard-boiled, but too many times runny, which ultimately led to his retirement. Sure people laugh, but it’s no joke that the K-Rod train came to a halt in the D.
High Plains Drifter: Joe Nathan
Cash flow gettin’ low so I had to pull a job
I found a nice place to visit but a better place to rob
Nathan finds himself associated with this particular song because of his cowboy-esque persona, especially given his time in Texas prior to his arrival in Detroit. Coupled with the big payday he got with the Tigers that he failed miserably at living up to — a bloated two-year, $20 million contract and a guaranteed spot as the closer— the franchise found itself handcuffed in the midst of World Series contention. Detroit may have been a nice place to visit for the former flamethrower but it turned out to be a better locale for robbery.
The Sounds of Science: Mike Henneman
Shea Stadium, the radium, EMD squared
Kicked out of the Palladium, you think that I cared?
Fun fact: Henneman pitched one career game at Shea Stadium in 1995 with the visiting Houston Astros — then a National League team. He threw one scoreless inning, surrendering a hit and notching a strikeout for his 23rd save that season between the Tigers and the ‘Stros. However, he did strike me as a rather mild-mannered chap, so I highly doubt he was ever ejected from a night club — I even doubt he was even ejected from a baseball game in his career. I think he did care.
3-Minute Rule: Phil Coke
Taking life as it comes, no fool am I
Going off, getting paid, and I don’t ask why
Coke gets this track because, I cannot lie, he strikes me as the kind of guy who stays up all night and goes to sleep watching Dragnet. Given that he had played previously for New York — and again later on — “on the mic [he] scores, just like the Yankees” just flows with his vibe. However, he never really found his footing in the majors and ended up a “dog on a leash like a pig in a (bull)pen” which led to a stint in Japan. Last we heard, he is “just chillin’, like Bob Dylan.”
Hey Ladies: Fernando Rodney
She got a gold tooth you know she’s hardcore
She’ll show you a good time then she’ll show you the door
Does Rodney have a gold tooth? I doubt it, but he is a man of style and one thing is for sure, given his 11-team tour of duty in the majors over his 17-year career, he showed plenty of teams a good time before showing them the door... or maybe they showed him the door — but you know what I’m getting at here. As far as we know, the man in the crooked hat never dated women on TV with the help of Chuck Woolery.
5-Piece Chicken Dinner: Todd Jones
Mmmm, the wine does go well with the chicken.
Delicious again, Peter.
Take one look at Todd Jones and you know how he earned this entry. We are not ones to body shame, but the former Tigers closer was anything but a paragon of athletic fitness. Not to mention, his performances on the mound were reminiscent of the digestive disturbances one has after consuming mass quantities of fried food, so go ahead and pour yourself a glass of wine before indulging in this track.
Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun: Joel Zumaya
I’m rolling down the hill, snowballing, getting bigger
An explosion in the chamber, the hammer from the trigger
This song makes perfect sense in light of Zoom’s bullet-esque fastball. One has to imagine him staring you down from the mound in the batter’s box, with a feeling of looking down the barrel of a gun about to fire a 100 mph pitch right at you. For a while, he was snowballing and getting bigger, until Guitar Hero and Southern California fires derailed his career. It’s gonna get’ch’ya, it’s gonna get’ch’ya...
Car Thief: Ugeth Urbina
Five-O caught me now I’m going to the mountains
Said goodbye to my girl, my lawyers and accountants
Unfortuntely, Urbina’s felonious escapades were not limited to simple grand theft auto, but instead, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison back in 2007 for the attempted murder of five workers on his family’s ranch. He was convicted of the crime after joining a group of men in assaulting the laborers with machetes and pouring gasoline on them, which he denied. Good thing the Tigers had already been traded him away for Placido Polanco prior to the events unfurling... before he said goodbye to his girl, lawyers, accountants... and professional baseball career.
What Comes Around: Aurelio Lopez
Bum cheese on rye with ham and prosciutto
Got more Louie than Phillip Rizzuto
Lopez never played against Phil Rizzuto, and as noted earlier I’m not one to question one’s dietary decisions, but Senior Smoke definitely brought things around in his seven seasons wearing the Old English D. A member of the legendary Bless You Boys squad of 1984, if anything is for sure, it is that he was not all mixed up like pasta primavera nor did he throw a chair at Geraldo Rivera. “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor” — Lopez was definitely the ceiling when it comes to historic Tigers relievers.
Shadrach: Joaquin Benoit
And the man upstairs well I hope that he cares
If I had a penny for my thoughts I’d be a millionaire
Boy, we wish the man upstairs did care a bit more about the hopes and dreams of Tigers fans when he threw that infamous changeup to Big Papi in the 2013 American League Championship Series. But it is a bit unfair to judge him on that singular event, as he did post excellent numbers that season, including a 2.08 with a 2.87 FIP in 67 innings pitched resulting in a career-high 24 saves. Fortunately for him, he is a millionaire so we can spare the pennies for his thoughts, though it would be interesting to hear things from Benoit’s side of the story.
Ask for Janice: Joakim Soria
The best in men’s clothing
Call Paul’s Boutique, ask for Janice
This brief interlude track that precludes the album’s grand finale reminds one of Soria’s short stint in Detroit, which spanned a year and a week over 56 appearances, totaling 52 innings. Thing is, he was pitching well for a team that needed it in 2015 when he was shipped off to the Pittsburgh Pirates for JaCoby Jones. As soon as he appeared, the next thing you knew, the team had moved on. Janice never did answer that phone.
B-Boy Bouillabaisse: Willie Hernandez
But it’s good to have turn to be a king for a day
Or for a week, or for a year, or for a year and a day
Hernandez is indisputably the best relief pitcher in Detroit Tigers history, especially given his simultaneous Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards in 1984 while leading the Olde English D to their most recent World Series title. However, his peak was extremely short, lasting just two seasons from 1984 to 1985 before regressing back to his perfectly mediocre self in his final four years in the big leagues with Detroit. But for those weeks, those days, that year... he had his turn to be king.