This weekend, the St. Louis Cardinals will play three games against the Detroit Tigers, a team they have not played since 2015, when the Tigers won two of three games at Busch Stadium. I attended the Saturday and Sunday games. In one of the games, the Tigers needed extra innings for Peak David Price to outduel Tyler Lyons. In the other, the Cardinals defeated Alfredo Simon and some guy in the bleachers heckled Jason Heyward for having the audacity to be acquired for Shelby Miller, who nearly pitched a no-hitter earlier in the day. 2015 was a wild time.
Both rosters, of course, have changed since then, but while I’ve maintained attention towards the Cardinals, I can’t say I watch a ton of Detroit Tigers baseball. However, I am very familiar with the music of Detroit. Few American cities can boast as impressive of a list of native artists, and those who can are much larger cities. In order to help you (and to help me, if we’re being completely honest) better understand this weekend’s opponent, here are the Detroit music equivalents to Detroit baseball.
- Jose Iglesias is The MC5: The MC5 were a divisive band–some thought they were intense, majestic political revolutionaries while others thought they were self-indulgent clowns. History leans more towards the former, and I believe history will view Jose Iglesias positively, as he represents a hotly contested category of baseball players–the glove-only position player. But there is room for a below-average hitter if he has a slick glove at shortstop, just as there was room for a Detroit protopunk band even if they weren’t as good as The Stooges. Note: Iglesias is on the DL and may not play in this series, but if you haven’t figured out yet that this is merely a hastily assembled framing device to allow me to write about music instead of baseball, you will soon.
- Victor Martinez is Bob Seger: Look, it got bad. Martinez is a dreadful hitter and he’s only a hitter. He’s one of the least valuable players in baseball, and likewise, Silver Bullet Band-era Bob Seger, aside from a couple of guilty pleasures, contributes very little to my personal enjoyment of classic rock radio. But the good times were deliriously good–Martinez’s 2014, in which he led the American League in OPS and finished second to Mike Trout in MVP voting, is his equivalent to Bob Seger’s excellent trio of albums with The Bob Seger System, particularly 1969’s Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.
- Matthew Boyd is Smokey Robinson: Have you seen Matthew Boyd’s numbers? Well, first, have you heard of Matthew Boyd? Boyd, part of the David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays rental trade, has been the Tigers’ best pitcher. For whatever reason (probably because his team is bad), he has flown under the radar while being utterly competent. Smokey Robinson is beyond competent and everybody acknowledges this but…how many people recognize him as one of the inner-circle greatest Motown artists? Consider “Shop Around”, a classic song that everybody knows, and now consider that despite playing every single time I’ve ever walked into an Oberweis, it isn’t even one of the five most streamed Miracles songs on Spotify. And that’s not even counting Smokey’s materially significant solo career.
- Miguel Cabrera is The White Stripes: As with the Detroit garage-rockers, my interest in Miguel Cabrera peaked in 2003 and also, like the musical duo, Cabrera has succeeded despite only having two tools.
- Nick Castellanos is Stevie Wonder: Stevie Wonder, probably objectively the greatest Detroit artist of them all, transformed over his career. He began as a child star, a harmonica-toting teen who made precocious pop songs (basically everything before “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”, which somehow came out when Wonder was only 15), before asserting his independence to become arguably the greatest album artist of the 1970s, combining R&B and soul with rock, pop, funk–whatever genre Wonder was doing, he was among the world’s best at it. Castellanos began his MLB career as a third baseman, and not a very good one. This is a bit unfair to Wonder, who was a good harmonica player (and still is; I have no idea why I wrote this entire section as though he was deceased), but Wonder didn’t really hit his stride until he switched positions. Castellanos is doing that now–the now-right fielder is having easily the best offensive season on the Tigers.
- Mike Fiers is Madonna: You know how after Madonna had two monster singles at the turn of the last century with “Music” and “Don’t Tell Me”, she magically started speaking with a British accent and hasn’t had a song come close to the cultural relevance of her earlier work since? This is Mike Fiers, who leads the Detroit Tigers of 2018 in Wins Above Replacement despite the fact that he is no longer with Detroit. Fiers is now on the Oakland Athletics.
- Francisco Liriano is Aretha Franklin: As firmly as the late, great Aretha Franklin’s legacy is tied in to a very specific moment in time–the patriarchy-shaking cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect” that she more than made her own. But her career continued for decades. She had a #1 hit twenty years later, dueting with George Michael on “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”, and managed a #1 hit on the dance charts in 2014 with a cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”. She may not have maintained her peak, but she remained a relevant part of the musical conversation. And Francisco Liriano may not be the pitcher he was in Minnesota, but he rebuilt himself as a crafty veteran in Pittsburgh and while he’s essentially a replacement level player in 2018, I refuse to count out the 34 year-old veteran until he officially hangs it up.
- Jordan Zimmermann is Kid Rock: Zimmermann is in the third year of a five-year, $110 million contract and has been worth less than two Wins Above Replacement in total. Now, some of you may be wondering why I am associating Kid Rock with “transparent cash grab with no visible effort to improve or even be good”. Most of you probably aren’t.
- Michael Fulmer is Iggy Pop: Fulmer’s three MLB seasons encapsulate the three stages of Iggy Pop’s musical career. 2016 Fulmer was pure magic–he was AL Rookie of the Year–much as Iggy’s time with The Stooges was the stuff of legend–if this weren’t at least supposed to be largely a baseball post, I’d go on a long diatribe about how they’re actually the greatest American band ever. 2017 Fulmer is early solo Iggy–competent, but less spectacular. I’ll listen to “Nightclubbing” or “The Passenger” and enjoy it just fine but I’m not going out of my way to listen. And 2018 Fulmer is…let’s just say that if Fulmer gets a win this series, I’ll probably end up giving most of the credit to Josh Homme.
- Pete Kozma is Eminem (and also ? and the Mysterians): Like Eminem, Pete Kozma now calls Detroit home, but like the St. Joseph-born rapper, Kozma’s baseball origin story began in Missouri. And like the 1960s band ? and the Mysterians, Kozma had just one truly big hit in his career, but like the classic “96 Tears”, Kozma’s big hit is worth remembering.
What an amazing music city. What a forgettable baseball team. Remember to check in next week when I compare every member of the Pittsburgh Pirates to Wiz Khalifa songs. Here are this weekend’s projected pitching matchups. All games listed in Central time.
Friday (6:10 pm)–Austin Gomber (5-0, 2.77 ERA) vs. Daniel Norris (0-3, 5.49 ERA)
Saturday (5:10 pm)–Jack Flaherty (8-6, 2.83 ERA) vs. Matthew Boyd (9-12, 4.24 ERA)
Sunday (12:10 pm)–John Gant (6-5, 3.19 ERA) vs. Michael Fulmer (3-10, 4.57 ERA)