Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Friday, March 31, 2006

Two days 'til Opening Day

With Major League Baseball's Opening Day on Sunday, it seems like the right time for some preseason picks for the 2006 season. (And to be completely honest, I saw Complete Sports' MLB Predictions, and wanted to say my piece on the subject.)

Since we mostly deal in Detroit sports here, I'll begin with some thoughts on our beloved Motor City Kitties.

▪▪ This might be drunk with homerism, but I think the Tigers will win 85 games this season. They're good enough to finish over .500, and Jim Leyland's a strong enough leader to push his guys past that threshold. The biggest obstacle to a winning record, however, might be the other teams in the AL Central Division, each of which look improved. It's possible that the Tigers could be better, yet still find themselves in fourth place.

So where does an 85-77 record leave the Tigers? I see them finising behind Chicago and Cleveland in the AL Central. But it'll be a tough race with Minnesota for that third spot. If Detroit's pitching improves, and the Twins still struggle with the bats, that could be the difference.

AL Central Standings:
1. Chicago
2. Cleveland
3. Detroit
4. Minnesota
5. Kansas City

▪▪ I think the Tigers' most important player this season will be Curtis Granderson. Obviously, a healthy Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez will go a long way toward dictating Detroit's success. But when Detroit's had quality play in centerfield - Remember Brian Hunter in 1997? - the Tigers have been competitive. And if Granderson can be a suitable leadoff hitter, giving the big bats someone to drive in, while also displaying good range and glove in centerfield, things could look good this summer at Comerica Park.

Other predictions for the season?

▪▪ In the American League, the division winners will be the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and Oakland Athletics. The Wild Card will be the Toronto Blue Jays.

▪▪ In the National League, the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, and Los Angeles Dodgers will win their respective divisions. And because it wouldn't be the playoffs without them, the Atlanta Braves will be the Wild Card.

▪▪ Most Valuable Players: It's a boring pick, but Alex Rodriguez will repeat as AL MVP. This year, we might notice how great a season he has. And though we'll hate it in the Midwest and West, we'll have a New York sweep, as Carlos Delgado will love playing for a contender, and win the NL MVP with the Mets.

▪▪ Cy Young Awards: Oakland's pitching should carry them to the postseason, and if Rich Harden can stay healthy for a full season, he'll lead the way. In the National League, Mark Mulder is playing for a new contract, and if the Cardinals win the NL Central, their pitching will have to cover for their diminished hitting.

▪▪ And though Dave Sheinin pointed out that Major League Baseball is in an era of parity in Wednesday's Washington Post, I think we'll see a repeat World Series champion. The Chicago White Sox were largely dominant last season, holding off a last-minute regular season challenge by the Indians, and then just plowing through the playoffs. And with the additions of Jim Thome and Javier Vasquez, this year's team could be even better. So why won't they win again?

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Not Interested Tonight

It's my fault. I jinxed 'em.

The one game I sit down to watch (and actually can watch - thanks, ESPN) during Michigan's NIT run is a total snoozer. As I write this, South Carolina is up by 15 points with five-and-a-half minutes left, and I don't see Tommy's guys making a game of it. Maybe Michigan never had a chance. If there's one school that's better at this NIT thing, it might be the defending NIT champ Gamecocks. I bet those "back-to-back" shirts will sell like hot pimento cheese in Columbia. Maybe I can get my sister to drive up from Charleston and snag me one.

Speaking of my Lil' Sis, this NIT match-up was worth it, if only to get a "Beat the Cocks!" e-mail from her today. What has the South done to my little sister's mouth? This from a woman who refuses to get me one of those "COCKS" hats (for which I should probably be thankful).

I was ready to take some notes so I could have some actual analysis for tomorrow, but this thing has just bored me to tears. Wiping the dust off the top of my TV seems more interesting. So as my mind drifts to other, random thoughts, we'll call this my Larry King post...

▪▪ Was Tuesday's Pistons-Mavericks match-up the best regular season game you've seen in a while? I don't watch anywhere near as much regular season NBA basketball as I used to (when I'd sit through entire TNT doubleheaders), but I can't imagine many games having the same kind of urgency I saw on Tuesday. The fans were making serious noise, and the players seemed to drive harder to the basket, fight more fiercely for rebounds, and stand tougher on defense.

▪▪ And then the Pistons follow that up the next night - when they could've been understandably worn out - with a win over Philadelphia on the road? If anyone was worried about these guys over the past couple of weeks, I think you can stop now. They're getting serious again.

▪▪ So Joey Harrington's going to have a free-agent tour across America? Someone should make t-shirts. Seven teams are interested in him? (Oops, make that six teams. Scratch Denver off the list. Thanks, Kevin Antcliff.) But Joey's still going to Kansas City, isn't he? Doesn't that make the most sense for both teams involved?

▪▪ And if Dallas is interested in Harrington, what does that say about the Cowboys' opinion of Drew Henson? Apparently, Parcells isn't much of a Rhein Fire watcher.

▪▪ I'm already tired of this Barry Bonds $#!+, and George Mitchell's Steroid Probe (hey, there's a title for a blog, if you were looking for one) hasn't even started yet. The best thing I've read on the story, however, was Buster Olney's ESPN blog today. This investigation brings up far more questions - Why now? How deep will it really dig? - than any answers it'll hope to provide.

▪▪ During a fantasy baseball draft I was in this week, someone took Curtis Granderson, and then asked me if he'd be this year's Grady Sizemore. And I started to shiver. If Granderson plays well enough to score a six-year extension like the one Sizemore just signed with Cleveland, the Tigers will be looking good.

▪▪ This is my first year playing fantasy baseball, and I can already see that I'll be way too into it. I've been checking over my rosters obsessively since my drafts, wondering where I came up short. I think I underestimated stolen bases with most of my picks. Any veteran fantasy players have a thought on that?

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The three magic letters of success

I don't know as much about basketball coaching as Tommy Amaker. My experience on the bench consists solely of helping my friend Scott coach a recreation league team of high schoolers about seven or eight years ago. Coaches were mostly there because teams needed an adult to sit on the bench. Those guys didn't need us, though I'd like to think our coaching played a role in the team winning the league championship.

Actually, I wasn't there for the final few games. I was sick of dealing with those kids by then. But like I said, they didn't really need us.

But I did learn some things about strategy and motivation. And that's what brings me to Amaker and the Michigan basketball team. After last night's 66-43 stomping of Old Dominion, the Wolverines are one game away from winning the NIT tournament. No, it's not the "real" tournament, and hardly anyone remembers NIT championships years later. But Michigan is winning the games they're playing right now, even if it would've been better for them to play this way three weeks ago.

(Photo by Steve Perez/ Detroit News)

Amaker's players seem to focus when the NIT is on the line, and the coach needs to take advantage of that. Look at Courtney Sims: 18 points and seven rebounds last night. Michigan fans (along with coaches and teammates) have been waiting for that kind of game out of Sims for a long time.

Somehow, the coach needs to convince his guys next season that they're playing for the NIT again. Maybe he can post NIT logos, posters, and banners all over the locker room. Cover up anything that says "NCAA." Get one of the assistants or a student to dub "NIT" over "NCAA" whenever the players watch SportsCenter. Make anyone who dares mention those four letters sleep in the dark and scary upper deck of Crisler Arena.

But that seems like a lot of work. Maybe there's an easier way. And I think Daniel Horton alluded to it in a post-game quote from today's Detroit News:

"We're backed to the three H's that coach talked about," senior guard Daniel Horton said. "That allows us to be a better team. And we're sharing the ball better."

Three letters. Something about that number, regardless of the letters involved, gets these guys' attention. But the combination of the letters "N," "I", and "T" really keeps them sharp. Amaker needs to keep them in that zone. And after carefully considering this for the last 30 minutes over my morning coffee, I think I know how he can do it.


Courtney Sims, you are getting very, veerrrry sleeeeepyyyy. We're playing in the NIT. Relax. Forget the pressure of the NCAA tournament. We're going to hang another banner in Crisler. When I count to three, you will become a dominant frontcourt player, like you were in New York City. Maize rage... maize rage...

I think it's worth a shot. And in case it doesn't completely work, and you have Michigan basketball players wandering the streets of Ann Arbor looking for Times Square or Central Park, put in some trigger word safeguards, like "Webber" or "Ellerbe" to snap them back to reality when it's necessary. Just to be safe, maybe Amaker can just whip out the watch before important conference games. Or just use it in March.

Anyway, like I said, I don't know a lot about basketball coaching. I think I threw away Jerry Krause's book on coaching around the same time I told my buddy that I hated those punk-ass mother#@$%ers we were babysitting every Sunday afternoon. But I think I'm onto something here. Consider it free advice, Coach. No charge.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Even better than it looks?

Billfer already wrote about this at The Detroit Tigers Weblog, but I wanted to chime in on the subject, as well. In Saturday's Detroit Free Press article about Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya making the trip north to Detroit, Jim Leyland explained one of the influences on this decision:

"Our 13 position players -- and this is a big factor -- would look at me like I was nuts if I didn't take those two guys.

"I think I would lose some credibility. They'd look at me and say, 'What are these guys doing? What are they looking at?' "

Like Bill, I think Alan Trammell made a mistake when he gave Bobby Higginson a spot on last year's team instead of Marcus Thames, who'd clearly outperformed him in Spring Training. And that may have been the beginning of Trammell's end as Tigers manager.

I think he lost the team before they even left for Detroit, thanks to that decision. Not only did it obviously divide some players in the clubhouse, but sent the wrong message of status over merit to a largely young clubhouse - especially once it became clear that Higginson just couldn't play anymore.

I have no idea if this is something that factored into Leyland's thinking. I doubt it. And even if it did, he wouldn't say so. But it seems to show that the new manager has a better read on his clubhouse than the former manager did.

It's difficult not to note Leyland's approach and praise him for it without at least indirectly criticizing Trammell. And I know Leyland's been very conscious of that. But in an offseason that made few changes on the roster, thus demonstrating what the Tigers' front office thought the problem really was, it's virtually impossible not to point out the differences in philosophy. It'll be interesting to keep track of whether this decision will have as much of an influence on the upcoming season.

▪▪ If you haven't read them already, check out Big Al's painful rehashing of the Mike Ilitch and Tom Monaghan ownership reigns in Detroit at The Wayne Fontes Experience. You might have to bite down on something while you read them. It'll hurt. But talk about thorough. The man didn't miss a point.

▪▪ Does it matter whether Carlos Pena was released yesterday or today? Probably not. But Pena forced the Tigers hand a bit by asking where he stood with the team, according to Tom Gage. (And if the Detroit News' website could figure out what the #@$% it's doing with its blogs, I could give you a proper link. It's the 03/26/06 entry.)

▪▪ Danny Knobler puts the Pena saga in financial terms: The Tigers spent $4 million trying to figure out if he could play. Ouch.


Sure, you had George Mason. Right.

So did virtually everyone get eliminated from their NCAA tournament pool yesterday? Or did your chances to win suddenly receive a fresh infusion of hope?

Is there anyone who didn't have either UConn or Duke in their Final Four? The many of us who did surely had one of those teams winning the tournament. But the more daring of you out there didn't. Maybe you picked Gonzaga. Or Villanova. Boston College? Texas?

Of course, some of you are still alive in your pool. Some of you had UCLA, Florida, or LSU (I definitely underestimated the SEC) in your Final Four, a few had them in the championship game, and a handful maybe even had one of those schools winning the whole thing.

Me, I'm hanging on by the hairs on a UCLA Bruin's chinny-chin-chin. They're the only one of my Final Four left, and I had them losing in the title game to UConn. So I guess I'm still standing.

(Back in high school, I used to have a UCLA hat. I'd wear it around the house to scare my parents into thinking that's where I wanted to go to college. And apparently, it caused some whispers. My dad once pulled me aside and said my grandma asked him if we could really afford to send me there. I still laugh about that. Unfortunately, I ruined the hat beyond all recognition in a softball game played on a rainy, humid day, so I won't have it to wear for some bandwagon rooting on Saturday.)

But raise your hand if you picked George Mason. Maybe you picked them to upset Michigan State in the first round. Maybe - maybe - you had them over North Carolina to get to the Sweet 16. And that's where most of these runs end. But it's appropriate that a mid-major made it to the Final Four this year. It had to happen this way, right? After the flak the NCAA took from guys like Billy Packer for letting too many of these schools in, one of them had to rise up and show us that it's a new world in college basketball.

Four people picked this Final Four correctly in ESPN.com's Tournament Challenge. My hat's tipped to them. I'm still shaking my head and rubbing my eyes. And not just because hearing the name George Mason still makes me think of Raymond Burr in a courtroom.

I watched the games. I saw the highlights. I've read the game recaps. And I'm looking at my bracket right now. I'm still having trouble comprehending this. But even those of us who didn't watch much college basketball until the NCAA Tournament (guilty as charged) could see that this day was coming.

Before the tournament started, I wondered if I really wanted to see the rise of the mid-major. Yes, the early-round upsets are fun to watch - even more so, when you've picked them in your bracket. After that glow wears off, however, the ensuing match-up isn't quite as appealing as watching the favorites play each other. That's how I felt, anyway.

But not anymore. This has been fun as hell to watch. It might be the most fun I've ever had, besides the times a team I rooted for (Michigan, usually) made it to the Final Four or national championship. And I'm actually sad it's ending next week.

▪▪ While comparing George Mason's victory to Chaminade's upset of Virginia in the 1982 preseason, the Washington Post's Michael Wilbon asks if this was the greatest upset in NCAA tournament history.

▪▪ ESPN.com's Andy Katz recaps the Patriots' amazing tournament run.

▪▪ Yoni Cohen poses the question of whether or not the NCAA Tournament truly determines the nation's best team.

▪▪ Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn says the "Chalk Era," the days of picking a favorite and sitting back to watch that team win the national title, is over.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Metro Detroit 2, South Beach 0

Tell me you didn't have a bad feeling in the first half of last night's Heat-Pistons game. It usually doesn't end well when the Pistons miss that many jump shots. And they missed a lot of them. Think of any jokes about laying bricks and building walls, and they'd fit.

Detroit shot 35% from the field. Chauncey Billups was 5-for-16 (but made up for it big-time by going 11-for-12 at the free throw line). 'Sheed was 3-for-12 (and only went to the line twice).

And I know it does no good to complain about this, but I will never be comfortable with 'Sheed shooting that many three-pointers. Call me "old school" - I don't believe a big man should be taking shots that far from the basket. That belief is affirmed when those shots don't go in. Rasheed Wallace, you are not Dirk Nowitzki.

He could go 4-for-4 from three-point range, and my teeth would still grind. I hate it. Last night, the Pistons needed a low-post threat, and the one guy on the team who can provide it chose to stay away from the paint. And that was with Shaquille O'Neal looking like he was wearing cement shoes and Alonzo Mourning out of the game with a pulled calf.

(Photo by Julian H. Gonzalez/ Detroit Free Press)

Of course, the Pistons did win the game, 82-73, so maybe I'm fretting over nothing. (Greg Eno says I am.) To have played that badly, yet still win a game over their closest competitor in the Eastern Conference is an impressive feat. I've heard a lot of jabber on sports talk radio today from people scared over how the Pistons are playing. But Miami should be freaking out, if you ask me. Detroit was just asking to be beaten last night, and the Heat couldn't get it done.

Teams shouldn't be able to win games by suddenly "turning it on," but the Pistons seemed to do exactly that. When they decided to crack down on defense, Miami was shut down. Big gold stars to Rip Hamilton and Lindsey Hunter, who did a good job holding Dwyane Wade to 13 points on 3-for-15 shooting. Pistons killer? Soooo last month, Dwayne.

Meanwhile in Ann Arbor, Michigan made it a doubleheader sweep for metro Detroit. The Wolverines and the Maize Rage are apparently off to the NIT semi-finals in New York after beating Miami's other basketball team, 71-65. I say "apparently," because I didn't see it. But this time, it's because I couldn't see the game. Raise your hand if you have ESPNU? Where does that channel come in? On campus? In the dorms?

It's not like I'm mad about it; I would've watched the Pistons game, anyway. But it would've been nice to watch the NIT during commercial breaks.

Is it silly if I feel a bit excited about Michigan going this far in the postseason step-tournament? Probably. It's like winning the "Toilet Bowl" in Gus Macker 3-on-3. You only got that chance because you lost when it really counted. But I'll still enjoy watching them play for a trophy. Unless ESPN sticks the games on ESPNU again.

(Photo by Kirt Dozier/
Detroit Free Press)

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Painfully familiar

I really wanted to comment on the Alfonso Soriano/ "Hell no, I won't play left field" story yesterday, but there was already so much good stuff written on the subject that I didn't think I had anything original to add. If you didn't catch any of it, here's a sampling:

  • Off Wing Opinion points out that the Nationals are in full C.Y.A. mode.
  • Capitol Punishment makes the case for Soriano.
  • Beltway Boys explains what putting Soriano on the "disqualified list" would mean.
  • The Washington Post's Dave Sheinin asks why Nats GM Jim Bowden made the deal without finding out if Soriano would move to left field, while also attempting to figure out the motivation behind Soriano's stubbornness.
  • Sheinin's colleague at the Post, Barry Svrluga (who, in my opinion, is one of the best baseball beat writers in the country), writes that this could be exploring uncharted territory in pro sports labor relations.
  • And Tony Kornheiser makes Bowden sound like the Matt Millen of baseball.

But for you Tigers fans in the room, doesn't this Soriano situation remind you of the Juan Gonzalez deal, back in 2000? Take a General Manager who's maybe a bit worried about his job status, feels the need to grab some headlines, and then makes a trade for a supposed superstar player without receiving any assurances in return. It looks like the same recipe that resulted in $#!+ soup for the Tigers.

Initially, I thought the Nationals made a worse deal because they gave up a player - Brad Wilkerson - who was essentially the face of the team last year. But look at the players Detroit gave up for Gonzalez: Francisco Cordero and Frank Catalanotto certainly would've helped the Tigers over the past five seasons. And Gabe Kapler probably would've disappointed, but could've at least become a valuable role player.

That Gonzalez deal was the beginning of a long, painful slide to rock bottom for the Tigers. Randy Smith tried to build a team for a big ballpark and then decided to trade for a guy who would've played better in Tiger Stadium. It was a drastic move that stunk of desperation and set a franchise back for years.

Is Jim Bowden about to do the same thing with the Nationals?

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

¿Quién es más macho? ¿Jack Bauer o Dion Harris?

Am I a bad sports fan (or more specifically, a bad Michigan fan) if I watched 24 last night, instead of Michigan's NIT game vs. Notre Dame?

Well, that's not entirely true. I did watch a little bit. And I suppose I could've clicked back to the game during commercial breaks. But once Notre Dame built up a 12-point lead, I decided to check out. If Michigan was going to lose that game at home, to a team they'd already beaten earlier in the season, I didn't want to see it. I wasn't going to bother.

I don't know what you guys think, but I feel like I was a bad sports fan. And my punishment for that was missing Dion Harris' buzzer-beating, game-winning three-pointer in double overtime. Michigan 87, Notre Dame 84. Bring on the Hurricanes. One more win on Wednesday night, and Michigan's back at Madison Square Garden for the NIT semi-finals.

Since we're talking about the NIT, does this really matter? Is this run in college basketball's step-tournament better than a quick first-round exit in the "Big Dance"?

I'm trying to look at this through Maize-and-Blue glasses, asking myself "Hey, how many Big Ten teams are playing basketball right now?" (If Minnesota loses to Cincinnati tonight, that number shrinks to one.) But when I take those glasses off to rub my eyes, I also ask myself where the hell this kind of effort was at the end of the regular season. And no matter what happens, that question will affect my enjoyment of this.

Or maybe I'm just a little sore because 24 wasn't that good last night.

▪▪ Schembechler Hall has the best headline on the game, while still questioning what exactly Tommy Amaker's offensive and defensive philosophies are.

▪▪ Michigan Sports Center notes an interesting coincidence between this postseason and 2004's. Is it a good sign for Michigan that MSU was upset in the NCAA's first round?

▪▪ Notre Dame's Chris Quinn kind of wants to laugh, if only to keep from crying.

(Photo by Julian H. Gonzalez/ Detroit Free Press)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Shining moments? BAH!

Previously on Sweaty Men Endeavors:

"... after the first day of games, I'm doing pretty well, going 13-3 with my picks, tying me for first place with Complete Sports."

"Along with Boston College, I have UCLA, Iowa (Is that a homer pick, now that I'm living in Michigan?), and Connecticut..."

"But things can change, of course, and change fast."

Well, so much for that. How's your bracket looking right now? Are your Final Four picks still intact?

It's a good thing yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, and there was beer easily on hand. After Jermaine Wallace's fadeaway baseline 3-point prayer went in with 0.5 seconds left to send "my" Hawkeyes to an embarrassing first-round defeat vs. a #14 seed, I curled up in the bathtub for almost an hour while the shower washed away my pain.

Wallace had his visions before the game. I'll be having visions for months after the game. And the clock's already running on the Steve-Alford-to-Indiana countdown.

I didn't even watch college basketball for the rest of the night. It was too painful. And, um, I zonked out early in the evening. So, of course, I was very surprised to see Michigan State go home, too. A 10-point loss to George Mason? Oooh, I bet nobody sat near Coach Izzo on the team bus afterwards.

Didn't I learn enough about karma from My Name is Earl? Don't go bragging about picks after the first day of the tournament, when all of the opening-round games haven't even been played yet.

On the bright side, I can now just sit back, watch the games, and enjoy them, rather than fret about how the outcomes will affect my bracket and chances of winning a pool. That's what I'll tell myself, anyway, as the taunting phone calls and e-mails pour in.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

The life: college basketball and green beer

As I said last week while "NIT-picking" at the Michigan basketball team (who showed some passion against UTEP last night, in a 82-67 victory), it feels a bit strange to be writing about college basketball when I've barely paid attention to the sport all season.

For bloggers who really know what they're talking about on this subject, check out Complete Sports, which has been doing a great job covering the sport over the past few weeks, along with The Gatorade Dump, the live-blogging Deadspin, and of course, the one-stop shop for college basketball, Yoco Hoops.

But like most sports fans yesterday, I turned in my NCAA tournament brackets before noon and had the TV on most of the day to keep tabs on the opening games. And within a couple of hours, I came close to losing one of my Final Four picks in the first round. Oh, Boston College - you made me hug and bite things unnecessarily for most of the afternoon. I'm glad I was alone in such a vulnerable moment.

I'm also glad Bruce Pearl wore a darker suit for Tennessee's nail-biter against Winthrop. (Why can't I find a picture of Pearl completely sweating through his suit when I need one? Maybe it's for our own good.) And former Michigan coach Steve Fisher came oh-so-close to sticking it to an old Big Ten rival that often had his number.

(Speaking of Coach Fisher, if you missed it, the New York Times ran a feature on him in Tuesday's edition. His Aztecs have been through quite a bit. Incidentally, since I love making things all about me, I'd like to mention that our Ann Arbor phone number was apparently very similar to the Fisher household's. So when Fisher was fired by Michigan in 1997, we got a bunch of wrong-numbered calls from reporters.

I sometimes regret not working on my Fisher imitation so I could've fed quotes to the press, such as "Tom Goss #@$%ed me right up the @$$, man," "I use blush and apple butter to get my cheeks that rosy," or "Oh yeah, the baggy shorts and shaved heads were my idea. That's how I rolled in college." C'est la vie. I'm digressing, aren't I?)

Along with Need4Sheed, The Wayne Fontes Experience, Leelanau Sports Guy, Mickey Tettleton Memorial Overpass, the aforementioned Complete Sports, and a few others, I'm participating in Kevin Antcliff's Yahoo! tournament pool. And after the first day of games, I'm doing pretty well, going 13-3 with my picks, tying me for first place with Complete Sports.

I got the two upsets (Texas A&M and UW-Milwaukee) right, but wasn't exactly stretching with those picks. The one game I got completely wrong, thus exposing my shallow knowledge of college basketball, was Wichita State's 20-point victory over Seton Hall. Oops. (Oh, I'll pick the Big East team - that's a good conference!)

But things can change, of course, and change fast. Since I'm more than willing to brag when I do well, I'll post my Final Four picks here, so you can point and laugh when I'm wrong later. Along with Boston College, I have UCLA, Iowa (Is that a homer pick, now that I'm living in Michigan?), and Connecticut, with the Huskies my pick to win the tournament. Pretty safe picks, I suppose. But picking a UConn-Duke final didn't seem like too much fun.

How did I not follow this sport all season... ?

Okay, I'll be watching "my" Iowa Hawkeyes play at noon, here in Michigan. (Hopefully, the Lions won't sign another quarterback today and I can just enjoy some hoops.) Northwestern St. is going down, and going down hard. Hawkeyes fans are free to crash at my place this weekend, but it's B.Y.O.F, because my refrigerator is empty. And I hope you brought your own fried pork tenderloin sandwiches, 'cuz you ain't finding that around here.

Carry on with your bad selves and have a great weekend. Be safe with that green beer.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Baseball equipment gets stranger each day

Are my eyes deceiving me or does it also look to you like the Tigers' Alexis Gomez has a pink ribbon tied around his bat in this photo?

If you take a closer look at it, you can see it's something of an optical illusion. But maybe I need new glasses. The light, she's playing tricks on me.

Or perhaps I was influenced by the article accompanying the photo, in which Jim Leyland said he didn't want his team to "be tiptoeing out there."

(Photo by Keith Srakocic/AP)

The REAL March Madness?

I think I might finally get it. I see what the Lions are doing. On a day when most of us are concerned with making sure we got our NCAA tourney brackets in before noon and trying to remember whether we picked the correct upsets or not, the Detroit Lions are making sure we talk about them. Sure, I (and we) could ignore them, but if you're a fan of the team, you can't ignore this.

WXYT-AM is reporting that the Lions have signed quarterback Josh McCown. After some searching around, I found a Detroit Free Press article confirming the news. Nick Cotsonika reports that McCown agreed to a two-year, $6 million contract, and will receive a $2 million signing bonus.

So that's six years and $17.5 millon worth of contract handed out to free-agent quarterbacks in the last three days. And that's on top of whatever money counts against the salary cap when Joey Harrington is released. If you're Harrington's real estate agent, you're probably on the phone. The movers and trucks have probably already been booked. After Joey gets back from Thailand, someone will likely hand him a set of keys. How can he not be gone now?

According to MLive.com's Highlight Reel, Tom Kowalski reports that the Lions plan to grant Harrington his wish, and could cut him by Monday. Maybe signing two quarterbacks wasn't part of the original plan, but things changed - fast - when Harrington let the Lions know he didn't want to be in Detroit.

Meanwhile, for those keeping track, the Lions have signed no free-agent offensive lineman, linebackers, defensive lineman, or defensive backs. Contrary to popular belief, the primary offseason needs were apparently quarterbacks and wide receivers. Oh, and giving $20 million to defensive ends who have done nothing to warrant that kind of contract.

Is there an alert setting higher (or lower, whatever) than Defcon 1?

Don't be surprised when the Lions make some sort of big announcement on Opening Day, so they can hijack the sports spotlight from another event getting (and deserving) attention from the fans and media. We can't be talking baseball in April. No, sir.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Joey's end?

That didn't take long, did it? Less than 24 hours after the Detroit Lions signed Jon Kitna to a four-year contract, their incumbent quarterback might want to start packing for another city.

On MLive.com this morning, Lions beat reporter Tom Kowalski wrote that Joey Harrington is unhappy with the developing situation in Detroit, and if he has to start all over again - which is apparently what Mike Martz has asked him to do - then he might prefer to do it someplace else.

There were rumors over the weekend that Martz and Harrington didn't hit it off very well in the new offensive coordinator's "quarterback school." (And maybe that's why Kitna received a four-year contract.) According to Kowalski, Martz essentially told Harrington that the last four years of his career in the West Coast offense were meaningless. The coach wants his quarterback to forget everything he's been taught and re-learn how to play the position.

Does that sound like a surprise to anyone? Hasn't it been clear that Harrington was coached terribly under Steve Mariucci (and Marty Mornhinweg)? Wouldn't we expect Martz - the offensive guru who created "The Greatest Show on Turf" - to break Harrington of his bad habits and de-condition him from what he was previously taught?

Sure, Harrington might initially find himself in a padded room, curled up into a ball, biting down on a wood splint, as he detoxed and sweated out the poison Mariucci fed him. And outside the door, looking through a small glass window, Mike Martz would be scribbling notes on a clipboard, peering down at his data through his professor's glasses.

"Aren't you being a little rough on him?" Matt Millen might ask, while trying to peek over Martz's shoulder. "I picked him #3 in the draft."

"No," Marinelli would respond. "He needs this. Have you seen the kid's tape? He needs to be broken down."

"Guys, you have to trust me," Martz would say, as he tapped his lips with his index finger. "This is why you brought me here. He can be a good quarterback. But we have to rebuild him."

From there, we might see Harrington strapped down to a gurney with wires taped to his chest, arms, and forehead, needles and meters moving frantically, while he watched tapes of Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger playing quarterback. Martz would sit in another room, behind a pane of plexiglass, taking down more notes, devising more ideas. In the more difficult moments, maybe Martz would sit by Harrington's bedside, holding his hand when the re-conditioning was at its most painful.

Soon, we'd see a Rocky-esque montage of Harrington, still with wires taped to him, pushing a treadmill to its upper limits. Throwing footballs through tires. Deftly dodging oncoming giant boulders and fiery javelins meant to resemble ferocious pass-rushers. And then hitting targets attached to golf carts moving down and across the Lions' practice field.

As blue chalk marks hit the various bullseyes, Martz would nod with approval. Marinelli's jaw would set with definitive belief. And Millen would be smiling and pumping his fist. Jon Kitna would high-five him, saying "Way to go, Stallion!" And up on a catwalk, high above the field, even Dre' Bly could be looking on with admiration.

Unfortunately, it sounds like Joey doesn't want any part of that. (Did I get a little carried away? I probably got a bit carried away.) Even if it would almost surely benefit his career, Harrington isn't sure he wants to endure that kind of reconstruction here in Detroit. He doesn't want to start all over. He doesn't think his last four years have been a waste. He wants to build upon what he's already learned. Maybe he just thinks that he's already been through too much in this town and if he has to be completely broken down, it's better to do it someplace else, where fans and teammates haven't already campaigned against him.

Personally, I hope that's not the truth. I hope Harrington's eventually willing to put himself through Martz's quarterback boot camp, with the realization that he could finally become the quarterback some of us (the less-than-vocal minority?) think he's capable of being. As Kowalski said in his column (which I should point out is an opinion piece), it's understandable that Joey might look at this, feel somewhat insulted and beaten down, and wonder whether it's worth the effort. Don't his four years count for something? Of course, the answer is no. And Harrington has to get over that. Martz is in his corner. He thinks Joey can succeed in his system.

If Joey thinks he'll go to another team whose coaches are happy with what he's already learned and want to go from there, he's likely very much mistaken. They'll want to break him down, too. Maybe not to the extent that Martz does. But he'll have plenty of re-learning to do. Detroit is still the best situation for him. (Jeffri Chadiha said this a month ago in Sports Illustrated.) Maybe he feels it's too far gone, with fans and teammates railing against him, and doesn't want to deal with that anymore. But whether he deserves it or not, the man who drafted him still believes in him and has done virtually everything to help him succeed. Is he going to find that anywhere else?

And if Joey thought the fans were on his case before, wait until they hear that he'd rather be someplace else. I don't know how it is in other cities, but in Detroit, if someone doesn't want to be here, the "Get the #@$% Outta Town" mob will not hesitate to shove him on a bus.

The Lions and Harrington have until June 15 (when Joey's due a $4 million roster bonus) to figure out whether this is going to work. At this rate, however, it probably won't take that long to make a decision. For Joey's sake, I hope he sees what the right one is.

▪▪ For a look at this from another (less pro-Joey) angle, check out what Kevin Antcliff has to say.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

So this is free agency... ?

Just when I think I might not have anything to write about, our Honolulu Blue and Silver fighting warriors serve up some material. Following up on yesterday's acquisition of Corey Bradford (which Evan and I have been batting around in the comments section) and re-signing of Eddie Drummond, the Lions have just reached an agreement with quarterback Jon Kitna.

Here's the part that might raise some eyebrows among Lions fans: According to the Detroit Free Press' Nicholas Cotsonika, Kitna has signed a four-year deal.

Is that noise outside my window the weather or the onset of a quarterback controversy? Is Kitna truly here as a back-up to Joey Harrington? If so, I think this is a very good move. But... how many back-ups get four-year deals? Doesn't that strike you as strange?

(We could get into a discussion of how NFL contracts actually work and whether most of them are actually played out, but that's probably another post entirely.)

Congratulations, Jon Kitna - you have now become Detroit's favorite quarterback.

(Has he always wanted to come here? Is that a Michigan hat on his head in this photo?)

As Big Al said yesterday at The Wayne Fontes Experience, what's been most disheartening (and perplexing) about the Lions' initial approach to free agency is their lack of urgency. What bothers me is the apparent absence of a plan. I see teams like the Redskins, Browns, and Vikings targeting their guys right away and jumping on them with contracts. The Lions seem to be sitting back to see what the market dictates while players that could fill obvious needs are getting snatched up.

But both Big Al and Evan brought up a point that's likely close to the truth: Matt Millen might think the players are already in place. (After all, that's essentially what he said when he fired Steve Mariucci, right?) Maybe he feels the Lions already made their big "free agent" move when they signed Sgt. Marinelli to be their head coach.

Of course, most of this agonizing will be moot if the Lions bring in someone like Julian Peterson, Simeon Rice, or John Abraham. Then it'll look like these guys are serious. But maybe our expectations are too high (though justifiably so, if you ask any Lions fan). Tom Kowalski said last week that the team was much more likely to sink money into re-signing its own guys than go heavily after other free agents.

But c'mon - that's no fun, is it? The offseason is our playoffs, man! Don't take that away from us, too!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hardly a trivial pursuit

While you're either filling out your NCAA tournament brackets or waiting for the Lions to make a move in free agency (I mean a significant move, not signing Corey Bradford), please allow me a moment of self-indulgence.

The new March issue of Motor City Sports Magazine hit newsstands last week, and there's a little bit of Ian sprinkled throughout the issue. My hairy face adorns the column on page 10, which explains a recent trend I've noticed in Detroit sports. Fortunately for aspiring artists, the photo is big enough to draw upon with markers. Devil horns, missing teeth, nose hair - knock yourself out. We could have a contest with the best submissions.

My only beef is the editing done to my short biography at the front of the magazine. Eno took out all the stuff about me dating Uma Thurman and Ashley Judd, and turning down a role as the Penguin in the next Batman movie. But I guess I understand, since that's not really sports-related information.

Other than that, however, I also wrote a short piece on Zamboni machines (which was previewed here) and participated in this month's Roundtable discussion, in which my head could be used as the actual "roundtable." (Could I be on human growth hormone and not even know it? Speaking of that, have you read the Barry Bonds stuff in Sports Illustrated yet? I just read it today - hoo boy.)

I'd like to thank MCSM's editor-in-chief, the aforementioned Greg Eno, for giving me this opportunity, which has already led to some amazing experiences (one of which I'll probably share later this week). And I'm also indebted to Kevin Antcliff, without whom there would likely be no magazine to write for, and who graciously mentioned me to Greg when he was looking for contributors. (Have you joined KA's Tourney Challenge, by the way?)

should be available at most newsstands, if you'd like to take a peek. The final product looks good, and there's a lot of fun stuff (trivia!) in this issue. If you can't find the magazine or you're not in the metro Detroit area (or outlying regions of the state), and are interested in reading my work, drop me an e-mail and I'll see what I can do.

NIT-picking, indeed

I can't even frame this in a good news/bad news scenario, can I? If I told you the good news, that Michigan earned a #1 seed in its upcoming postseason tournament, you'd figure out the bad news almost immediately. Because you know the only tournament Michigan would receive a #1 seed in is... the NIT.

I only caught bits and pieces of the NCAA tournament selection while working on "magazine stuff" (which I'll probably write about tomorrow). The people around me were mostly buzzing about the teams (including "my" Iowa Hawkeyes) playing in first-and-second-round games at The Palace on Friday, while wondering where Michigan State was being placed and what seed they'd receive. By paying more attention to who was in and where they were going, the teams that weren't invited to the NCAA tournament kind of got lost in the shuffle.

Maybe it's because I didn't expect Michigan to get a NCAA bid. I was surprised that any so-called "bracketologists" (a term that is thankfully retired until next year) would predict the Wolverines to be invited after losing their last two games to Indiana (oh, look who received a bid over U-M) and Minnesota. (Or was it just Jay Bilas stumping for his fellow Blue Devil, Tommy Amaker?) Anyway, I didn't even think about what happened to Michigan, until I heard the news on the drive home.

Did Michigan get "jobbed"? I'm sure plenty of fans (those that care about Michigan basketball, by the way) will say yes. Sports talk radio is already burning about that, and probably will be all day. If you ask whether or not Michigan is among the best 64 teams in the country, then they probably did get snubbed. But that's not how it really works, and we all know that. Besides, Michigan had control over its tournament fate, but acted like their hands were soaked with lotion. At least their hands should be left smooth this postseason.

▪▪ Michigan's Graham Brown says there's a big difference in motivation between this team and the 2004 squad that won the NIT.

▪▪ The M Zone points out that this is probably the worst overall performance by the Michigan athletic program in 25+ years. (Softball team, a fandom turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo woo woo.)

▪▪ Big Al watched Michigan's tournament die a slow death.

▪▪ Michigan Sports Center praises Jim Nantz and Billy Packer for questioning Craig Littlepage, head of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, about the apparent inconsistencies in the selection process.

▪▪ The Detroit Free Press' Michael Rosenberg explains why Bill Martin won't be firing Tommy Amaker any time soon.

▪▪ Beyond Boxscores is conflicted on Amaker, wanting him to stay, but wondering whether he should.

Is this a bad time for an Iowa alumnus to talk about "his" basketball team, and its #3 seed? Right. Wrong blog, wrong state, wrong time. But I am proud of "my" guys today, even though my two years in Iowa City did nothing to transfuse my Michigan blood.

I should point this out, however: Two years ago, Steve Alford was in much the same position Amaker is now. There was a lot of talk last year that Alford might lose his job if the Hawkeyes hadn't made the NCAA tournament. But he turned it around. That's how fast it can change. Of course, his seniors developed more and played a hell of a lot better, which says a lot about where each team is right now.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

What are you doing, Greg Eno?

A while back, Greg Eno asked me, "How do you write two blogs?" (Brian at Beyond Boxscores also once expressed his admiration for "multiple bloggers.")

And it was kind of a funny moment, because it felt like everyone in the room (actually, I think Josh Bartlett was the only other one) stopped to wait for my answer, like I had some nugget of wisdom to share.

I sheepishly shrugged my shoulders and admitted, somewhat embarrassingly, that I simply had the time to do it. No, of course it wasn't easy, but if you have a lot to say and you love to write, you'll find a way to make the time for more than one blog.

Obviously, I didn't do enough to discourage Mr. Eno, who's also the editor-in-chief of Motor City Sports Magazine, from signing on for what is surely a ticket to blogging nutsville. They'll run your life, Eno!

Or maybe he realized that he had more to write about, but felt he needed another venue for it, which is something I can certainly relate to.

I used to write about sports at Fried Rice Thoughts (many of those posts are listed on the sidebar here), but felt like most of the regular readers weren't all that interested, unless it was a story that mattered to the culture-at-large. Yet I wanted to write material for sports fans (and frankly, the sportswriting was attracting attention from places like the Detroit Free Press), like game stories, long analyses, or humorous rants. Thus, Sweaty Men Endeavors was born. (And once I came up with that name, I knew it had to have its own blog.)

Anyway, the point of all this wasn't supposed to be about me, it was to mention Greg's new all-baseball blog, called Where Have You Gone, Johnny Grubb? If someone else is willing to join bloggers like Billfer, Samela, and the aforementioned Brian, and kiss sanity and remaining free time goodbye, the least I can do is point and laugh give him or her a shout-out. Please check his new blog out. After one week, there's already some very interesting stuff to read, such as feeling adulterous in other ballparks.

I hope you know what you're doing, Greg. Welcome to the Multiple Bloggers Club.


I've barely written about the Michigan basketball team this season (and have been rather out of touch with the sport overall), so to jump up and down in outrage or to call for Tommy Amaker's job after the Wolverines' loss to Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, when I haven't watched many of their games, rings false to me.

I was hoping to point you toward several blogs that could provide what I can't, but it appears that the Go Blue blogosphere mostly feels the same way about Michigan hoops that the general majority of Michigan fans do. Football? HELL YES! Basketball? Eh. And that shouldn't be a surprise. Sports blogs reflect the fanbase, right? These are the Michigan blogs that stepped for us all today:

▪▪ MGoBlog has a live blog of the game's radio broadcast. (Why I love the idea of someone live-blogging from the radio isn't quite clear to me.) Brian sums up the season nicely:

This probably excises Michigan from the tourney. They played a paper soft non-conference schedule. They're 18-10 against a crap schedule, finished the year 2-7, and just lost to a team that couldn't find its ass with both hands in the halfcourt.

▪▪ Ronald Bellamy's Underachieving All-Stars recaps what the so-called experts are saying about Michigan's NCAA tournament chances, and promises "anguish and scathing tirades" later.

▪▪ Michigan Sports Center has an excellent game summary. He watched so the rest of us didn't have to.

▪▪ Westsider Rider laments the opportunity Michigan squandered, with the rest of the college basketball landscape doing its best to allow the Wolverines into the tournament. Kenny also tries to look at this through maize-and-blue glasses:

Maybe this senior class will be able to say they won 2 NIT championships.

▪▪ Lester Abram told the Detroit News' Jim Spadafore that selfish play cost his team the game. (Abram's ankle injury might have cost Michigan its season.)

▪▪ Mark Snyder's game story in the Detroit Free Press has a lead that might explain just why this team has been so frustrating.

There were no tears in the Michigan basketball team's locker room late Thursday.

No one was weeping. No one was furious. Everyone was simply quiet.

The team looked like it did on the court for the previous two hours: passive and resigned to its fate.

I can't really say what should happen to Tommy Amaker if Michigan is relegated to the NIT again this year. As I said, I haven't watched the games. I can't point out any clear reasons as to why they're not succeeding. I don't know if Amaker's coaching is costing them wins.

What I do know is that this was a baffling team. After beating Illinois, a tournament bid seemed assured. Maybe the players felt the same way, and just coasted through the rest of the schedule. Unfortunately, with three straight losses to close out the season - the last two of which were to teams they should've beaten, in games they needed to win - Michigan likely cost itself a spot in the 64-team pool.

What I do know is that Amaker has had to clean up a huge mess in the basketball program, dealing with matters that many coaches would've run away from, screaming in horror. He's had a lot of support and patience from an athletic department that knew what it was asking Amaker to do. Maybe this was a much bigger project than we realized. Or maybe it's an insurmountable task for Amaker.

But how much time should Amaker be given? Five years is five years. He's had time to bring in his own players, and this senior class should've progressed to the point of an upper-tier finish in the conference and an invitation to the NCAA tournament. Yet that senior class seemed to reach a plateau, in terms of achievement. His players haven't gotten better in four years under his tutelage, which to me, might be the most damning indictment you can throw at a college basketball coach.

Amaker is probably the beneficiary of a school and fanbase that regards its basketball program with second-string interest. But Michigan fans aren't ones to let their expectations lower as the years go on. And college basketball - especially when your team plays in the Big Ten conference - isn't a sport that will allow Amaker to continue to hover under the radar. Not at this time of the year.

(Photo by Dale G. Young/ The Detroit News)

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

The new Canadian pastime?

So does this mean Canada owns us?

In baseball, that is. Canada 8, USA 6? What are ya TAH-kin a-BOOT?

The game wasn't even that close - 8-0! - until Jason Varitek hit a red-white-and-blue grand slam in the fifth inning. The Canuck hitters knocked Dontrelle Willis and Al Leiter (Big Al's poster child for World Baseball Classic mediocrity) around like curling stones.

And this Adam Stern kid didn't do squat for the Red Sox last year, but he was the hammer to the United States' nail yesterday. Four RBIs! He ran around the bases like a 19-year-old American kid sneaking beer and Cuban cigars back across the border from Canada for an inside-the-park home run.

This is an outrage! (The loss to Canada, not my strained metaphors.) I was going to eat Canadian bacon with my breakfast this morning. It's leaner, they tell me. It's better for you. Man, #@$% that! I'm flushing that $#!+ right down the garbage disposal, driving to the grocery store, and getting me some good ol' fat-laden American bacon that gets crispy when you cook it and turns your paper towels yellow with grease!

And I might pour my Molson down the drain, too! But I'm going to think about that before I do anything too rash. 'Cuz, like, that imported stuff's more expensive. I will, however, take a hammer to any Rush CDs that I might still have in my collection. Oh, wait - I already did that because I hate Rush. But you see where I'm going here. Bryan Adams? Glass Tiger? You're getting shredded! Because we're supposed to be better at baseball!

Are you with me? Let's grab back some national pride! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Wasn't the United States supposed to compete with the Dominican Republic and Venezuela for the WBC championship? Now, after being crushed by our North American neighbors, the United States is a loss to South Africa away from being eliminated from the tournament?

Of course, any sense of alarm should end with the knowledge that South Africa - a team with no recognizable names, let alone major leaguers - is standing between the United States and its progression toward total world baseball dominance. (Jerry Crasnick detailed other scenarios that could eliminate the U.S., but let's keep this simple: South Africa needs to go down, and go down hard.)

Unless the Rainbow Nation comes up with some strategy like parading a naked Charlize Theron through the U.S. locker room before the game or letting Dave Matthews' tour bus dump human waste all over 'em, I think the U.S. has this one.

Oh, they'd better have this one. USA Baseball ain't goin' down like this, mother#@$%ers! I'm not living in that world! Show some pride out there, fellas!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

No, Mr. Bonds - I expect you to fry

I have to plan my Wednesdays better. After being kept from my computer for most of the day, the Barry Bonds stuff I had in the ol' draft box is looking pretty stale. I am fashionably late to the party.

But as Kevin "Dude, I am HUGE in Texas" Antcliff pointed out, there are miiiilllllllllllions of places to find thoughts, comments, analyses, and rants on Mr. Surly McMusclePants and his Magic Mexican Beans today.

I will say this, however: El Gigante is going to need a much bigger wig to make this mess go away.

It also may now be clear (no steroids pun intended) just how that makeshift tube top was able to stay up on the Winstrol Wonder's chest.

If there's a bright side to all of this, it's that ESPN's decision to produce a reality TV show around Deca-Durabolin Man and his Hormone Juice now looks really, really stupid.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The smile is gone

I was already in a sad, melancholy mood last night (which I should probably save for my other blog), so it's possible that the news of Kirby Puckett's death affected me a little harder than it might have at a different day or time. But when I first read the news online, I had to stop what I was doing because it was such a punch in the chest to me.

Yesterday, after hearing about Puckett's stroke, I was going to write a brief note expressing my disbelief that it'd been 10 years since he retired from baseball. Since I didn't have much more to say than that, however, I left it unwritten while hoping that, like my father seven years ago, Puckett would recover and resume a productive life.

To me, the guy is still the Minnesota Twins. And whenever the Tigers played them, even 10 years after Puckett retired, I expected to see him in centerfield. I wanted to see him, because even though I wasn't a Twins fan, per se, Puckett was one of my favorite players to watch. It was probably that squat, roly-poly body of his. If he could do that, while carrying around that kind of luggage, then maybe I could, too.

(Photo by Tony Tomsic/ US Presswire)

In high school, I wrote a term paper on Negro League baseball for a history class. And I used Puckett as my entry to the subject, writing that I couldn't imagine baseball without a player like him, someone who brought so much joy to the game. Whenever I think of my favorite calls in baseball history, my memory pushes Jack Buck's "We'll see you tomorrow night!" after Puckett's home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series to the top of the stack.

Retiring the way he had to, due to glaucoma taking away the vision in his right eye, seemed unfair. He should've been able to retire on his terms, to make that decision himself, when he knew he couldn't play baseball the way he had before.

It was jolting to see Puckett's physical deterioration - the afflicted eye that could barely open, the significant weight gain - once he stepped away from the game. And his public image suffered greatly when his name was attached to extramarital affairs, divorce, and sexual assault lawsuits (of which he was eventually cleared). What happened to the man who seemed to derive so much joy from his life? But how many know of us what it's like to have your livelihood taken away like that? How would it feel to be so good at something, only to have the body that once brought prosperity ultimately fail you?

Kirby Puckett was only 45 years old, days away from his 46th birthday. It just doesn't seem right. I really do miss that smile. And I miss his joy.

As you might imagine, with so many great baseball columnists and bloggers out there, plenty of people have written tributes to Puckett:

▪▪ Batgirl is the blog to read when you want stuff on the Twins. Here is her goodbye.

▪▪ The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, of course, has a lot of coverage in today's edition, led by Joe Christiansen's obituary.

▪▪ Both The First Ring and A Day in the Life explain what Puckett meant to Minnesota.

▪▪ Greg Eno remembers Puckett's tenaciousness, which often seemed to come at the Tigers' expense.

▪▪ ESPN.com's Jim Caple covered the Twins for 10 years with the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

▪▪ According to Tim Kurkjian, everything you need to know about Puckett was seen in that sixth game of the '91 World Series.

▪▪ While also remembering that memorable Game 6, Sports Illustrated's John Donovan says no one showed more exuberance than Puckett.

▪▪ Puckett was the only person to ever call Peter Gammons "Petey."

▪▪ FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal shares his memories of an amazing ballplayer.

▪▪ The Cheap Seats has an image of Puckett's Hall of Fame plaque.

▪▪ Finally, here's a transcript of Puckett's Hall of Fame induction speech from 2001.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Some crow with your haterade, sir?

Okay, I've been a bit of a hater with Kobe Bryant this season, so when his team beats my team, I have to eat it. That haterade tasted nasty when I watched a tape of the fourth quarter on Sunday morning. I taped the rest of the game because I went to bed midway through the third quarter. Why? Bill Laimbeer (arrogantly) said the Pistons already had the game.

Apparently, the guys in the blue jerseys heard that, too. During a six-minute stretch between the third and fourth quarters, the Pistons went cold, while the Lakers ran off 18 unanswered points. Oops. Detroit went on to lose the game, 105-94.

Detroit Bad Boys broke down the 18-0 stretch in painful detail. And while looking at each of the shots the Pistons missed in those six minutes, one of the major reasons for Detroit's recent struggles is glaringly obvious. They're settling for too many jump shots.

And here's the part that had me roasting crow for dinner last night. Kobe Bryant, despite scoring 40 points in the game, didn't notch a single point during that run. His teammates, the players whose primary role seemed to be standing around to watch Kobe shoot, scored those 18 points (led by Lamar Odom's nine). How about them apples?

So today, I'm still munching on crow. Considering it came from the Kobe Lovers Club, I probably should've had someone else taste it first.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

It's the weekend! Take some links with you

▪▪ I hesitate to make light of a man going to the hospital, but should we be at all surprised that Larry Brown sought medical care for chest pains Tuesday night? The amazing thing is that L.B. didn't go all Fred Sanford as soon as Zeke traded for Steve Francis. (By the way, the man who left the Pistons for the Knicks says he's fine.)

▪▪ So with all the potential free agents that will probably be available in the NFL on Monday, the Lions signed Shaun King today? Shaun King? I didn't even know the guy was still in the league. On the other hand... I bet he still throws better than Jeff Garcia. Joey Harrington can relax this weekend. (Maybe he'll watch the Oscars.)

▪▪ According to Richard Justice's blog, which Houston Astro is drinking Yoo-Hoo to replenish himself in Spring Training?

▪▪ Kudos to Greg Eno for his post on the 1991 Detroit Tigers (and not just because he mentioned me). That was hardly a championship team, but they were so fun to watch. Anybody in the order could jack it out of the park.

(And thanks for reminding me about Tony Phillips. I love Tony Phillips. I still remember what Sparky Anderson said when somebody asked about signing him: "Well, he can catch the ball." Phillips may have been my favorite Tiger. It was fun to watch him push himself into becoming a good major league hitter.)

▪▪ Don't get too close to the monitor; it's bad for your eyes. But check out this picture at Deadspin, and tell me what you see. Or don't see.

▪▪ Have you nominated your favorite sports blog for Kevin Antcliff's upcoming poll? (And no, I am not shamelessly soliciting votes. I have shame. I didn't even vote for myself.)

▪▪ And did you take the M Zone Collegiate Wonderlic test? Hey, I did pretty well!

▪▪ I found this blog while doing some research on the Tigers last night. It's a Pirates blog, but its title - Where have you gone, Andy Van Slyke? - made me feel like someone out there might actually envy the Detroit Tigers.

(That reminds me - I have to take a road trip to PNC Park this summer. Maybe in July.)

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Magglio's WBC hokey-pokey

You know how it goes. He put his left foot in, he took his left foot out, he put his left foot in, and Venezuela shook him all about. So Magglio Ordonez did the hokey-pokey and turned himself around.

As you likely already know (because I'm a day behind on this), Maggs bowed to pressure from teammates, family, and country, and agreed to join the Venezuelan squad in the World Baseball Classic. As MLive's Danny Knobler explained on his blog (fast becoming a daily addiction), Ordonez was hesitant to play, fearing injury and believing that he owes the Tigers a great season for the money he's being paid. But the WBC is important to the Latin American countries involved in the tournament, and he felt he couldn't ignore the call.

Keep your fingers crossed for Magglio's continued good health. As Big Al points out, the Tigers have lacked a legitimate cleanup hitter in their lineup for far too long and it would be nice to see some base-clearing thunder at Comerica Park this season.

And for Magglio's own piece of mind, we should hope he has a good season, too. Check out the lead from Mike DeLuca's story in Wednesday's Chicago Sun-Times:

It was April 13, 2004, and All-Star right fielder Magglio Ordonez was counting down his final months with the White Sox. Free agency loomed, and Ordonez knew negotiations to keep him in Chicago weren't going well. That's when he said something that seemed silly at the time.

''It would be sad,'' he said of a future without the Sox. ''If I went someplace else, then this team won the World Series, I would kill myself.''

Hoo boy. Thankfully, Magglio was apparently on a no-belt-or-shoelace watch during the 2005 postseason. Or he was surrounded by people watching out for him. Maybe he just didn't watch the playoffs and World Series. (And I really can't blame him for that. Despite the closely contested sweep by the White Sox, FOX's baseball coverage almost made me want to kill myself.)

But hey, maybe playing for his country will further rejuvenate an already motivated Magglio Ordonez. Man, wouldn't it be great to see him have a great year?

And maybe it's because I've been largely TV and sports-deprived this week, but I'm getting a little excited about this WBC thing. Anyone else with me? Yes, Beyond Boxscores - I see you there. Sportzilla? Okay, not so much. But I'm looking forward to the USA-Mexico tilt on Tuesday. And what about the Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela? Should be a good one. Hell, I watched some China-Japan action this morning. But not much. Need coffee that early.