Interview: Tigers TV color commentator Rod Allen
Rod Allen has had a very varied 30 year career in professional baseball. His current gig is as the color commentator for Tigers broadcasts on FSN alongside Mario Impemba.
The 2007 season will mark Allen’s 5th season in Detroit. While he, along with pretty much everyone associated with the Detroit Tigers, toiled in relative obscurity the first few years, his calls during the 2006 season are now part of Tiger lore. The very genuine “CRAIG DID IT AGAIN” call after Monroe’s 9th inning homer in Yankee Stadium captured the emotion and excitement that all Tiger fans were experiencing at that time.
Rod was kind enough to do an interview with me over the phone. We talk about the 2006 and 2007 Tigers, Allen’s career, and I ask him “Who’s your Tiger?”
But I’d have to say 2nd to that was last year because it came out of nowhere – even though I predicted at the beginning of the year that we’d be a championship caliber team. No one else really believed it. Just to watch that team and everything come together, to watch the excitement of the Detroit fans and the whole history of the team probably made it a little more special than Arizona.
Arizona was just so new. They really didn’t even know they had a baseball team, and I mean that jokingly. But there’s 100 years of baseball tradition in Detroit. And they’d had so many losing seasons, but just to see so all the people come out last year was amazing.
Everybody would probably say the Yankees have the best offensive team, but I think the Tigers have the best offensive team. I really do. And I think they’re going to put up some huge numbers offensively.
As long as they stay healthy I’ think they’ll be the class of the division again. With that being said with their offense and pitching staff they have a pretty good chance of once again playing meaningful games at the end of the year.
The Twins, I’m not really sold on them even though they play hard every year. Ron Gardenhire their manager and Terry Ryan their general manager do a marvelous job. They always seem to pick the right people. But I just don’t think they’re in the same class the Tigers are – even though they won the division last year. On paper I don’t like that team nearly as much as I like the Detroit’s team.
When I played over there, there were probably only 2 or 3 guys who could have come over to the States and play and compete. Since then there have been so many that have come over, that either they’re getting better or we’re not as good, or dominant, as we used to be as players.
As far as Daisuke, I don’t know that much about him. I’ve heard he’s got a very good arm and control of 4 pitches. But it remains to be seen until he gets into Boston and appears in Yankee Stadium under that kind of microscope.
But also it was a decision I needed to make. If I was going to grow as a television analyst I had to do it someplace else because the job was promised to Mark Grace when he signed as a free agent 3 years before that. When they brought him over from the Cubs they promised that when he was done playing, he’d be the television analyst. It didn’t matter how well I did or how poor I did, that after that season I was going to need to find another job – either doing radio locally or television someplace else.
And then everything started to come together in Detroit. The whole 84 thing with Trammell and Parrish, and then Gibson moving downstairs. I knew Dombrowski from my prior days as a player and a coach in 2 organizations where he had been. It just seemed like a nice fit. But it didn’t hit me that I was leaving Arizona until I was offered the job. It was an extremely tough adjustment.
I think sometimes if you don’t have a huge name you’re going to get passed over by guys who have bigger names than you do. That doesn’t mean they’re better, just that they have a bigger name and that’s the appeal to the networks here in the United States. I know I’ve run into that already on several occasions. But even given that I’m still extremely grateful for the opportunity that’s been given to a guy like myself, without the big name recognition, to be able to broadcast games in Detroit on television is a tremendous honor.
But that’s no reason to quit. I know I’m a good announcer. I know I’m good at what I do and I’ll continue to wait my turn. But I think that’s what’s hurting me from getting a managers job is the fact there isn’t a lot of big league name recognition associated with the name Rod Allen as there has been with Larry Dierker, or Bob Brenly, or Jeff Torborg, or Joe Torre. These guys have done the exact same thing that I’m doing but they have been given opportunities to manage. If it happens great, I’d welcome an opportunity like that at some point in time, but I don’t really ever expect that to happen.
If you’re playing a team on that particular day you’ll pick up the newspaper and read all about that team and research on the internet to see if there are any questions you might have.
When you get to the ballpark about 4:00 that’s when you start asking question to some of the things that you read so you can validate it. You don’t want to say things with out validating them. So you find out what the truth is to some of the things you’re reading.
Then you go from there. That’s just the information you compile. If you have a good game, obviously it takes precedence over any of that information you’ve compiled. But if you have a bad game – and you have a lot of bad games over a 162 game schedule – that’s when you go to some of the information that may be interesting for your listeners to hear.
No disrespect to Alan Trammell, but he had never managed before and it’s a tough job to do. It goes back to what I was saying about myself, that would be like me getting an opportunity to go downstairs and manage. Although, I do manage upstairs pretty much all the time. I do a lot of first-guessing, I know what’s going on. You surround yourself with good people, and you allow the good people to work, and you kind of do your job.
Without question Jim Leyland was the difference maker in that team’s run to the World Series last year.
For a guy of that stature, 5’ 9” to dominate at that position, to dominate a game, to shut down running games. A couple years ago when no one else would come to Detroit, people said “he came for the money.” Well of course he came for the money, no kidding. Most guys go for the money. But as soon as he put that uniform on, the team was back on the map once again.
He’s my guy. He’s the guy I enjoy watching on a day-to-day basis. He’s the guy who takes all the heat in the organization. He’s just a bona fide superstar. For him to stop by Detroit for the last 5-6 years of his career (if he stays that long) Detroit fans should be absolutely elated. Any time you have Al Kaline saying it’s the best free agent signing the Tigers have ever had, there’s some truth to it.
I’d like to thank Rod Allen for taking the time to chat with me. When I was preparing for the interview, I noticed that Allen’s page at Baseball Reference hadn’t been sponsored yet. That spot is vacant no more and now Detroit Tigers Weblog is the sponsor of Rod Allen at Baseball-Reference.com.