Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Absence makes the blog go flounder - again

Oh, I've been a bad blogger. Bad blogger! And not the kinky, wrists tied, "Honey, I have to step out for a few hours" kind of bad. No, I mean flat-out lazy.

We've got stuff going on! Tigers swept the Astros! Garner ejected and tossing chairs! Clemens getting no run support (and giving dirty looks to C.B. Bucknor - also the man who ejected ol' "Scrap Iron" on Monday night) from his teammates. And that same problem afflicting his best buddy, Andy Pettitte, the next day! Man, the National League is just a sliver of meat stuck between the Tigers' teeth.

And yeah, the Pistons took some point guard from Iowa State. (Joe D., you should've talked to me. The Cyclones suck, dude.) Oh, and Maurice Evans is gone. Literally, this time, not just glued to the bench by Flip Saunders.

Thanks to my gig at Motor City Sports Magazine, I was a credentialed member of the media at Comerica Park on Monday. I'd love to write all about it - and if I get a chance, I hope to - but it was honestly one of the coolest, and most informative, experiences of my life. And yes, here comes the plug: my article can be seen in the August issue of MCSM, set to hit shelves in, um, August.

And in a classic case of "the gig giveth and taketh away," that's why my blogging has been near non-existent over the past few days. (And just as Abel to Yzerman and The Daily Fungo generously plugged me. Great timing, Ian.) I owe Mr. Greg Eno several assignments, and have been toiling away either at the computer or on the phone, trying to get my editor what he needs. Does this mean I can say I'm away "on assignment"? Because I've always wanted to say that.

So please stand by. I'm hopeful your regularly scheduled blog will resume tomorrow. And, as always, thank you for stopping by.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Three nights in June

Well, two nights and one afternoon, really. Hey, I'm trying to be clever, okay?

It's all I'm left with, in trying to describe what happened at Comerica Park this weekend. Maybe you'd prefer I contribute the 482nd piece on the friendship and professional admiration between Jim Leyland and Tony LaRussa?

If there's anyone still wondering how the Tigers might fare against "good" teams, how does a sweep of the second-best team in the National League (with their best player back in the lineup) suit you? St. Louis came into Detroit hoping to stop a three-game losing streak, and left with six straight losses pinned to their wings.

Pick a moment, any moment, your favorite moment from this weekend. Was it Marcus Thames' game-tying home run in Saturday night's ninth inning? (Or Placido Polanco's game-winning double in the 10th?) Brandon Inge doing his best Brooks Robinson impersonation on Sunday, with two highlight-film snares at the third-base line (and throwing out the runner at first from his knees)?

Me, I'm going with Curtis Granderson - who had a fantastic series - and his drive over Jim Edmonds' head (!!!) in the eighth inning yesterday. Not only was it a hard-fought at-bat versus Randy Flores. Not only did it happen on a 3-2 count. But it was a double over Jim Edmonds' head.

Doesn't Edmonds always make that catch? Didn't it look like he was getting himself in position for his latest over-the-shoulder, back-turned-to-home-plate web gem? (Am I overestimating him as a centerfielder?) Instead, Edmonds raised his glove up in vain and watched the ball sail past him. Alexis Gomez scores, Tigers take the lead for good. Get out the brooms and sweep up those Cardinals feathers.

Lest it need be mentioned again, Curtis Granderson is sooooo My Tiger.

Even better, the Tigers gained a game on Chicago. I went to sleep cursing Brad Lidge for giving up a ninth-inning grand slam to Tadahito Iguchi in last night's Astros-White Sox finale. Just can't shake those Sox! But my morning coffee tastes much sweeter with the news that the Astros pulled out the win in the 11th. Thanks, Willy Taveras.

Now let's see what you can do against these Tigers. Bring on that Clemens guy, too.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Lost among the epithets

Besides the obvious offensiveness of Ozzie Guillen's choice of insult for Jay Mariotti, what's unfortunate about him using such a slur is that it obscures a very valid criticism. If a sportswriter or columnist is going to bash someone in print, he or she should have the guts to face that person in the locker room the next day. And if Mariotti can dish it out, but can't take it, he deserves to be ripped for that.

Look, my sportswriting experience is limited. I know that. You know that. But it's given me an idea of how the job works. And sometimes, answering for your words is part of that - especially when you're expressing your opinions.

On his old radio show, Tony Kornheiser occasionally talked about the confrontations he had with Charles Mann and Darrell Green in the Redskins locker room. No, it wasn't easy, and he was scared a few times, but that's what (good) sportswriters do. And on his show yesterday, the Detroit News' Terry Foster mentioned an argument he had with the Lions' Brett Perriman, after he blamed the receiver for losing a game.

Should you take a bucket of ice water over your head, as Mitch Albom once did from the Tigers' Guillermo Hernandez? Of course not. But if you take a shot at someone, you'd better be in that locker room the next day to face up to it. Otherwise, you're not going to earn any respect from the people you cover or your colleagues.

Want an example of that? Check out the column from Mariotti's cross-town rival, Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune, in today's edition. To paraphrase the article, showing up and taking your punches is a badge of honor among sports columnists. If you're not doing that, you're not a columnist, you're essentially a blogger. The only difference between Mariotti and many of us who post our opinions most days is that he travels to the events.

And if you read and watch the reports and columns on this story, you'll see writers and analysts taking offense to Guillen's remarks and half-hearted apologies, but you won't see too many - if any - defenses of Mariotti. It's too bad that's not the story being written.

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Adulation is the sincerest form of flattery

A sincere thanks to Abel to Yzerman for their extremely kind words and acknowledgement in naming Sweaty Men Endeavors its "Michigan sports blog of the week."

The inter-blog love (and, yes, added traffic) makes me happy. Love thy blog neighbor. Complete strangers were coming up to me at the coffee shop this morning and asking my secret. It's not just eye cream, folks; it's joining other luminaries such as Big Al.

If you haven't seen it yourself, Abel to Yzerman (A to Y) isn't just a fantastic Detroit Red Wings blog, but a terrific hockey resource, in general. Over the past year, my interest in the Wings hasn't been what it once was, but it was easy to keep up on everything surrounding the team through A to Y because it's such a good read.

What's most flattering is that A to Y's author, IwoCPO, took the time to read so much of my stuff. Hell, I think he's read more of this blog than I have - and I love myself, man.

So if you're over here for the first time, thanks to A to Y, I appreciate you checking this thing out, and hope I can keep it interesting enough for you to come back plenty in the future.

Friday Stir-Fry

Thank You Brian Sabean probably said it best: "Francisco Liriano outpitches one of the top 3 pitchers of all time."

Maybe a bit unfair (though tongue-in-cheek), given it was Roger Clemens' first major league start of the season, but that was definitely the case last night. The other pitcher on the field was outstanding, giving up only two runs in eight innings, resulting in a problem that plagued Clemens frequently last year: His Astros teammates didn't score enough runs for him.

♦ If the Tigers don't pound St. Louis this weekend as the White Sox did earlier in the week, we probably shouldn't sweat it. Some of the Cardinals think Chicago's success was due to stealing signs from centerfield cameras.

♦ Do you think Larry Brown planned for a contentious exit from New York? Or did his experience in Detroit prepare him for this? According to the NY Daily News, L.B. has a clause in his contract that names NBA Commissioner David Stern as the arbitrator in any financial disputes between him and the Knicks. (The NY Times reports that the Knicks haven't offered a buyout, either, so they'd better hope Stern takes their side.)

♦ This should surprise no one, but Mike Lupica is taking Larry Brown's side on this one.

♦ So it's now official, right? I don't have to care about soccer for the rest of the summer? Not like I was doing a very good job of pretending to...


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Oh, you saw this one coming

Have you heard the latest news out of Knicksville, regarding our old friends Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas?

Hot off the press from the New York Daily News:
Larry Brown was fired as Knicks head coach today, less than one year after signing a five-year, $50 million contract to resurrect the franchise.

In a contentious early-morning meeting with Brown, Garden chairman James Dolan fired the coach after just 79 games. Brown missed three games with an illness.

According to sources, the Knicks have told Brown they are not going to pay him the full $40 million he is owed over the last four years of his deal. Sources indicate that the Knicks are going to allow NBA commissioner David Stern to arbitrate what compensation is owed to the Hall of Fame coach.

As reported last month, Isiah Thomas was named as Brown's replacement. The Knicks' president, who has also come under heavy criticism for the team's 23-59 record and its ill-conceived roster, has only three years of head coaching experience.

Apparently, Coach Brown was unavailable for comment, as he was back in the Hamptons, lighting cigars with $100 bills.

I just called myself for a comment on the story, but was too busy laughing to give a proper answer. Before I got off the phone with myself, however, I managed to spit out one word: schadenfreude.

How'd leaving the Pistons for the Knicks - his "dream job" - work out for ol' Larry? (In response to your point that Detroit didn't do so hot with their new coach, I will grudgingly say, "Touche.")

But I also kind of want to tip my hat to the coach. The man completely bilked the Knicks out of some serious cash. He probably won't get the full $40 million remaining on his contract, but what if an arbitrator awards him half of that? That's basically what happened in Detroit, when Brown left town with $7 million - approximately 50% of what the Pistons owed him. Even Anna Nicole Smith is looking on with envy.

Meanwhile, what does Isiah Thomas have on James Dolan? Does Zeke keep his owner away from the TV, newspapers, and internet? Did the two of them play NBA Live '06 with the Knicks roster and win the league championship? Is Dolan truly aware of the collection of players Isiah has assembled?

And now, Dolan's going to let Isiah coach these guys? Has he seen Zeke's coaching record? Are phone calls from Madison Square Garden to Donnie Walsh or Larry Bird blocked? Does Dolan realize the Indiana Pacers didn't become a contender in the Eastern Conference until Bird hired a different head coach?

Or maybe Dolan knows exactly what's going on, and figures making Isiah coach his roster is more of a punishment than firing him. Could that be the case?

Anyway, this is all just about as surprising as the end to The Lake House. (Spoiler alert: Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock end up together. Yes, I saw it over the weekend. Shut up. It was 90 degrees last Saturday and I needed air conditioning.) Did this ever have a chance of ending well? How could the people who get paid to make these decisions not have seen this coming?

And who's the next NBA owner to fall for Larry Brown's steaming pot of b.s.?

Throw 'em at the wall, and see what sticks

While sitting around, waiting for the gutters on my house to be replaced...

♦ Why talk about the John Smoltz-to-Detroit non-rumors when they've already been debunked, dismissed, and derided? Sure, why don't the Tigers make another trade with the Braves that they'd regret for 20 years?

Let's talk about a trade that did happen - not involving the Tigers, but what if it had?

When you saw that Joey Gathright was traded from Tampa Bay to Kansas City on Tuesday, did you think that was a deal the Tigers should've/could've made?

Granderson in left, Gathright in center - or vice versa - Maggs in right, and Thames at DH? Ooooh...

Or is Gathright another Nook Logan? Not the highest batting average and on-base percentage with that one. So probably not the ideal leadoff hitter I was envisioning. Que sera sera...

♦ I don't know if I'm in the minority on this, but I like Ozzie Guillen. Yes, he's obnoxious, insensitive, and thinks a bit too highly of himself. But I also think he's an entertaining alternative (I still laugh at how he summoned Bobby Jenks from the bullpen in last year's World Series) to what we often see and hear from baseball managers.

However, Guillen's latest gaffe makes it hard to defend him. Even if I think Jay Mariotti is an awful sportswriter and a repugnant TV personality who shouldn't have even addressed this in his own paper, this does nothing but make Guillen look like a prejudiced asshole.

♦ Is it far, far beyond a moot point now to look at what Dwyane Wade accomplished this season and not lament the following 12 words:

"With the 2nd pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select Darko Milicic."

I know, I know. Who knew he'd be that good? Other teams passed on him, too. But I'm not sure I'll ever get over it.

♦ Are we already at the point where we're looking for "the next Dwyane Wade"? Don't do that to those kids (Shannon Brown?!?), Chad Ford.

♦ I used to think Greg Cote of the Miami Herald was a decent sportswriter. After reading this, this, and this, however, I'll probably be changing that opinion. It's $#!+ like this that gives journalism a bad name and makes me think about how I idolized sportswriters as a kid.

♦ I hate to admit this, but I probably watched the NBA Finals for all of 30 minutes. I thought I was a bigger basketball fan than that. Sore feelings over the Pistons losing to the Heat? Maybe. Dreading Bill Simmons' prediction that a Miami championship could signal a return to the "everybody clear out while the superstar runs an isolation play" NBA? Possibly. A general disdain of Alonzo Mourning, Udonis Haslem, and Pat Riley? Surely. Burnout from watching so much basketball over the past four years? Likely.

♦ On the other hand, I think I'll be watching tonight's Twins-Astros game. (Thanks, ESPN.) It might be difficult to keep my eyes focused on the TV while kicking myself for cutting Francisco Liriano from my fantasy baseball team earlier in the season, but I've been hearing a lot about this Clemens kid.

♦ I can't believe I even attempted to make that joke. Thought I was better than that.

Okay, I just heard a loud crash in the driveway. That can't be good.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Cubs = Tigers food

♦ Finally, the Tigers kick Chicago around the horn, from left field to right, and up over the wall. A combined score of 26-9? Eight home runs yesterday? Okay, it was the Cubs, not the White Sox. And from most accounts, Wrigley Field sounded like Comerica Park West at times. But maybe they took notice down on the south side. And two of the recent thorns in the Tigers' paws got pulled over the weekend, with Todd Jones notching a 1-2-3 save on Friday and Chris Shelton hitting two homers on Sunday.

♦ No truth to the rumor (started by me, just now) that Dmitri Young called the Tigers' dugout from California, asking if he could come in to pinch-hit.

♦ Hey, at least the Cubs didn't get stomped like the Twins did by this Tigers dynamo back in April.

♦ I've been watching a lot of baseball recently, studying it for my blog and magazine writing. And I think it's increased my knowledge of the sport, which leads me to insightful observations like this one: Mark Prior didn't look very good yesterday. I think he's still hurt. Think that could score me a gig on "Baseball Tonight"? Maybe I could sub for Tino Martinez.

♦ But for Tigers fans, wasn't it fun to see the other team's pitcher knocked around like a pinata? I loved how Prior refused to look back when Shelton drove his first home run to centerfield, only to finally peek over his shoulder once the ball went into the bleachers. Dammitdammitdammit... okay, how far did that one go?

♦ And while I'm at it, Roberto Novoa didn't exactly make the Tigers regret trading him, did he? Four home runs? A double to Kenny Rogers? U-G-L-Y.

♦ Even "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was embarrassing for the Cubs. Gotta love Ari.

(Photo by Jeff Roberson/ AP)


Friday, June 16, 2006

This time, it would count

Earlier this week, I was disheartened to read that this time... it might not count. Baseball's All-Star Game, that is. The players' union and Major League Baseball still haven't agreed upon whether or not home-field advantage in the World Series will once again be decided by who wins the "midsummer classic."

The parties involved say that resolving the issue is merely a formality, so home-field advantage will likely still be the prize when the American League and National League "clash" in Pittsburgh.

But while the decision's still up in the air, I'd like to take this opportunity to raise the All-Star Game stakes a bit. I'm not cool with home-field being decided by an exhibition where the fans decide the starting lineups. Not when teams play 162 games for the right to play at home in crucial postseason games. Yet I love the idea of keeping the game competitive, so there's a bigger concern during the game than whether or not the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' representative gets to play.

So here's my proposal. I should be flying out to New York to give you this stuff personally, but I'd prefer to share it with my brothers and sisters in Blogville. Bud Selig, Bob DuPuy, Donald Fehr, Gene Orza, and anyone else who might have a say in the matter, pull out a pen and a notebook. Get your secretaries to take dictation. Because if you want the All-Star Game to matter, you'll jot this one down.

The loser has to wear shorts for the rest of the season.

That's right. If you don't win the All-Star Game, you and your league-mates have to rock out like the 1976 Chicago White Sox. You would have to endure the embarrassment of playing out your remaining 75+ games with your legs exposed and socks pulled high. And they would be pulled high, lest you leave a layer of skin on the basepaths.

You think you'd like that? Look at Chet Lemon in that picture. Dude is trying to hide his legs. I remember him smiling when he played for the Tigers. He ain't smilin' there. That would be you, if you didn't play to win this July.

And don't think the fans would like it either. Sure, we'd get a kick out of the shorts for one or two games, but after that, it wouldn't be fun to watch. I don't think we'd be seeing too many "Web Gems" on "Baseball Tonight" if infielders weren't wearing pants. The days of diving for balls in the hole between third and short would be over. No more going to the knees to snatch a ball down the line.

A few rookies might think showing the imprint of the seams seared onto their flesh when an in-between hop sends a baseball rocketing up into their exposed inner thigh could score some chicks. But I'm betting the majority of major leaguers would get the hell out of the way instead. With the exception of a few true gamers, of course. You could give Miguel Tejada all the short hops you could muster. He's not coming out of the game.

It could work for FOX, too. Have your little cartoon baseball, Scooter, explain what happens when skin meets dirt, and why no baseball player would want to put himself through that. Oooh, that looks like it could hurt, kids! Wheee! Anything but baseball to jazz up the telecasts, right?

No, the players' union probably wouldn't go for it. Until you showed them the windfall of endorsement dollars that would come from some athletic apparel company shelling out big cash for authentic MLB legwear.

They'd be hugely popular with the kids. The adults, too. We all love wearing shorts in the summer. This way, fans could go to games in complete uniforms - just like the players! And what better way to show which team you root for than by combining your St. Louis Cardinals short pants with that Hawaiian shirt you love?

Losers wear shorts. Think about it, Major League Baseball. Nothing motivates better than potential humiliation. The All-Star Game would matter. It would really, really, really count this time.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Expect nothing and you won't be disappointed

I meant to get to this yesterday, as it would've been more timely, but the day seemed to get away from me - and took my precious computer/blogging time with it.

Anyway, I was listening to some sports talk radio while tooling around town, and caught a promo for Sean Baligian's show, "It Is What It Is," on Detroit's WDFN-AM. In the teaser, Baligian mentioned blogs and his surprise at how many there are now. Was he really going to talk about blogs on his show? Okay, cool. So I made a point to tune in (which, frankly, I usually don't) because I wanted to hear where he'd go with this.

After an hour or so of Tigers talk to begin the show, he finally got to the promised topic. Baligian admitted he wasn't much of a blog reader, and didn't see himself becoming much of one. But he acknowledged their growing popularity and said the right writer or topic (say, TSN's Bob McKenzie) might attract his interest. And then he put it to the audience. Were blogs a part of any listeners' daily reading/checking/surfing routine? Had anyone opted for reading blogs over ESPN, CBS Sportsline, or other sports sites?

Hmm, this could be interesting. Here was a guy acknowledging a popular trend, yet admitting he wasn't much into it, but wanted to learn more from his audience. To me, that sounded like the beginnings of some good sports talk radio. And who knows what direction the discussion might take? What if a blogger called in? Would any particular blogs (gee, none come immediately to mind) be mentioned?

Unfortunately, the segment took a direction right into a wall. And after hitting that wall, it kind of slid slowly down, like a semi-rancid slice of bologna. Now that's not necessarily Baligian's fault. Talk radio usually goes where the listeners take it. A host can try to steer the discussion, but if people are calling in with "humorous" suggestions for whom they'd like to see a blog from (for example, Ron Artest), rather than talking about whether or not sports blogs add something to the general discourse or provide a compelling alternative to what the mainstream media offers, then that's how the show will go.

Wah wah waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh.

And it's not like I suddenly thought I was listening to NPR. I didn't have high hopes. But I did have some hopes.

When I joined Brian for a Michigan baseball game a couple of months ago, one of the things we talked about was how much less we checked traditional media sites for scores and analysis. By the time, say, the Detroit Free Press website has something about last night's Tigers game, we've probably already read at least two or three things about it. We checked the score at ESPN.com. We stopped by Billfer's site, or a handful of others. If we didn't catch the game, a news account might be nice. But if we did watch it, we wanted something more immediate, and more in line with what we were thinking and feeling.

That's what blogs give us. And that's what I hoped to hear on the radio Tuesday morning. But I didn't. And it was probably a mistake to expect otherwise.

After I switched from the radio to my iPod, I realized this was another reason blogs had become such a daily part of my routine - both as a reader and writer. When I'm not getting what I want from the newspaper, TV, or radio - sources I was previously accustomed to - I'm either going to find someone else who's saying what I've been thinking, possibly discover something I hadn't previously considered, or just create the damn stuff myself. And I think many, many more fans are beginning to feel that way.

Your instinct was in the right place, Sean. But the execution just wasn't there, man. Maybe you (or your listeners) will get it right next time. Or maybe I'll have learned not to have any expectations.

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What's that smell?

I don't really have to write about Todd Jones today, do I? Especially when others are doing it so well already.

How many ways can it be said? He stinks right now. Like a German cheese, wrapped in foil, that's been sitting at the back of your refrigerator for two years. And you can't even remember what compelled you to buy it. Except you'd have the option of tossing that hunk o' stink in the garbage. The Tigers probably have to stick with Jones, unless he pulls a Keith Foulke and just completely falls apart. Or decides to break out a more embarrassing facial hair ensemble.

For me, it's not quite there yet, but it's getting close to infuriating, because he's blown a handful of games that the Tigers should've won. And when he falls, he falls hard. Without that, guys like Jacob Luft - the current scourge of Tigers blog nation - really have nothing to write about. And I'm beginning to feel as I did when I frequently defended Joey Harrington to fellow Lions fans.

May I mention that Jones is killing my fantasy baseball team, too? It's like a double shot of suck straight to the gut. No? No one wants to hear about that? No one cares that I hit the "refresh" button when I check my team because the numbers under "ERA" can't possibly be correct? Okay.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Might want to sell those bikes, Ben

My initial thought when I heard about Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident yesterday was "Why the hell do athletes ride motorcycles?"

Visions of Jay Williams, Jeff Kent (um, allegedly), and Kellen Winslow filled my mind. And two of those three have likely cost themselves dearly, in terms of their careers. Granted, that's a tiny percentage of the pro athlete population. But how many examples does a guy need before thinking, "Hey, I could cost myself a lot of money by getting on this thing. Is it worth millions of dollars to ride my bike?"

There's a lot of different ways to go with this, especially when it comes to freedom of expression and choice. If a guy chooses to ride a motorcycle, if that's a hobby and lifestyle he enjoys, then he should be able to do that. And though it seems ludicrous to me not to wear one, if someone prefers to go without a helmet, despite the inherent and obvious risks, then maybe a law shouldn't make it necessary. On the other hand, maybe the government should force common sense on a person, for his or her own good. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, because this isn't something that would apply to me.

But when you read that Roethlisberger's head hit both a windshield and the pavement, you have to think wearing a helmet would've mattered significantly. Eyewitness accounts of the scene seem to indicate that Roethlisberger wasn't at fault. Someone tried to turn left without yielding to oncoming traffic, and seconds later, Big Ben was flying over his handlebars. Which situation did he have control over?

Should sports teams tell their players they can't engage in this type of behavior? If I were a general manager or owner of a franchise, I'd say "Hell, yes!" And if the athlete said I had no right to tell him how to live his life, I'd ask my legion of assistants to bring his contract to my desk, and ask him, "Oh yeah? How much am I paying you again, Norma Rae?" (I hope I'd also have a clause in the contract that my lawyers could immediately point to. And then I'd have someone fetch me a martini and a sandwich.)

It's not like I'd be telling the guy who he can or can't date. I wouldn't be telling him he should call his mother every day. Or visit childrens' hospitals. But wouldn't I be entitled to make sure I get the most for my multi-million dollar investment? That's not outrageous, is it?

But after seven hours of surgery to repair facial fractures, and who knows how many subsequent procedures to fix whatever other damage he suffered (sounds like he needs a lot of new teeth, for one thing), maybe Roethlisberger's already thinking about this stuff, and standing over him, wagging an "I told you so" finger, is essentially kicking the man while he's down. (Another kick? Well, pointing out that Roethlisberger didn't have a Pennsylvania motorcycle license might qualify.)

One would hope he'd realize just how stinkin' lucky he is 1) to still be alive, and 2) that his injuries reportedly aren't career-threatening.

▪▪ Has Tommy Maddox already sewn up the Sports Asshole of the Year award?
Representatives for Tommy Maddox called the Steelers to see if they would have any interest in re-signing their former quarterback. This offseason, Maddox has worked out for the Saints, Raiders, Dolphins and Texans. Maddox wants to play -- not at the expense of Ben Roethlisberger -- but he would like work. Perhaps this will give him a chance.

The report doesn't indicate if Maddox's representatives called the Steelers shortly after Roethlisberger's accident. But if they did, what a sensitive move - in the best interests of their client, of course.

(Photo by Steve Mellon/ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Now that the smoke's cleared...

Okay, how are we feeling about the Tigers today? They just finished a grueling stretch, the one that was supposed to prove whether or not they were "for real," and worth pledging our attention and devotion to for the rest of the summer.

16 games against their two closest AL Central rivals and the top three teams in the AL East. The Tigers took some heavy body blows and were brought to their knees a couple of times (or was that just Todd Jones?), but managed a respectable 7-9 record during that stretch. Shaken, but still standing.

In Detroit, we're pretty familiar with 7-9. During football season, anyway. At least we were, until Matt Millen started working in the Lions' front office. Nowadays, 7-9 might get someone a Coach of the Year award around here.

But is a 7-9 run satisfactory for the boys of summer? Considering the Tigers had the best record in baseball before those 16 games, maybe not. Yet the Tigers are still Kings of the Hill, even if they're standing on one leg and wobbling a bit right now. Ahead by a smidge? Hey, they're still ahead.

Despite what many of the naysayers - the ones with arms folded, waiting to say "I told you so" - predicted, the Tigers did not end up 40 games under .500 after taking on the Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, and Blue Jays. And the next 10 games, each against teams with sub-.500 records, could provide some much-needed Icy Hot to the strains and bruises suffered over the past two weeks. The minty aroma of that balm might give the Tigers just what they need.

Besides, a really good record is okay with us. We've seen what the best record can do for a team. Red Wings? Pistons? Watching the playoffs at home. Best records don't work for this town. Not these days.

▪▪ Mack Avenue Tigers has a much more detailed look at the team, post-gauntlet.

▪▪ Who's my Tiger? Curtis Granderson! I enjoyed the big feature on him in yesterday's Free Press. And #28 is also the topic du jour at Out of Bounds.

▪▪ Is it weird that both the Free Press and News have run articles about fan heckling in the past two days? Or just a co-in-kee-dink?

▪▪ Did anyone else watch Andrew Miller pitch for North Carolina on Friday night? I hate to say the first name that came to mind when I saw him - left-handed, all long arms and legs, blazing fastballs and sliders past opposing hitters - fearing a career jinx. Did the same thing occur to you?


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Like candles in my wind

While gratuitously mentioning that today is my birthday, I leave you with some random thoughts before mapping out where I can find free birthday food and drink to stuff into my face throughout the day (just like my favorite former sports columnist, Mitch Albom). Think of each thought as a candle on a cake (except if I typed a thought for every year of my life, you'd have a hell of a lot to read).

♦ For the Tigers' sake, it's a good thing women can only give birth once every nine months. Detroit needs Juan Uribe to get back in the White Sox lineup. What if the birth of his son is the determining factor in the AL Central race this season?

♦ So let's think about this: If Alex Cintron (whose name makes me think of vodka) and the Tigers' bullpen entered Thunderdome ("Two men enter, one man leaves!" Or would it be three men in this case? Whatever.), Cintron would be the one walking out victoriously to accept our finest meats and cheeses, and hear the lamentations of our women. How did that happen? Dude is a Tigers killer. Two nights in a row! He owns the Detroit bullpen.

♦ And for those of you who read both of my blogs (thank you if you do), yes, that's the second time this week I've used that movie reference. Hey, it's a good one. Even if I haphazardly slapdashed it with another movie reference in the previous thought. Did I mention it was my birthday today?

♦ As soon as I read that the Tigers drafted Ronnie Bourquin of (the) Ohio State (university) on Tuesday, I wondered what Mr. Big Ten Hardball, Brian, thought of the pick (along with the other players Detroit selected. Now I know, thanks to Beyond Boxscores. (The man has two blogs. Stay with me.)

♦ Speaking of the baseball draft, have you heard about Future Draft Day Legend Brandon Morrow yet? Somebody get this kid a Bluetooth headset.

♦ Would I lose your respect as a sports fan tomorrow morning if I opted to watch Season 2 of Rescue Me, rather than Game 1 of the NBA Finals? I watched the first disc of the DVD set last night and am totally hooked. Tommy Gavin is the man.

♦ The Chicago Sun-Times echoed a thought that occurred to me when this Jason Grimsley news hit the fan: Isn't Grimsley the same guy who swapped out Albert Belle's corked bat after he'd been busted for using it? Trouble seems to find this guy like batting gloves to pine tar. (Grimsley's affidavit can be found here, via Deadspin.)

♦ Remember the days when everyone assumed it was only hitters who took steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs?

Carry on with your bad selves. And, as always, thank you very much for stopping by. Barring a forehead-crushing hangover, I'll be back tomorrow.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Lookin' like a links day

Apparently, I spent all of my rage and vitriol for The Mother Ship today, so let's do links:

And I wanted to make this pretty with a picture of sausage links, but Blogger's being all hinky, so I guess we'll end it there. Get out there and grill magnificently tonight, folks.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Unbearable Heaviness of Losing

Yes, I would've rather been watching basketball last night, instead of passing time before The Sopranos. (And the "half-season finale" was almost as much of a letdown as the Pistons 2005-06 season.) Of course I wanted to see this team compete for another NBA championship. But I was also kind of relieved to be watching something else. Because I think we saw the end coming during the Cleveland series. And if not then, it certainly became apparent after losing Game 4 to Miami. It had become painful to watch the Pistons on their slow march off the cliff, trying to stay alive in the face of inevitability.

Was Miami just the better team, as Complete Sports says? I have trouble believing that, but I still haven't taken off my Pistons-colored glasses yet. This reminds me, however, of an argument I had ten years ago with my girlfriend's New Englander roommate. Michigan had just beaten Boston University in the NCAA hockey tournament, but Chowdahead maintained that BU was the better team. "Well, if they're the better team," I said, "why didn't they win?" She didn't have an answer then, and I'm not sure I have one now.

But the Heat was definitely hungrier. And that desire gave them enough fuel to surpass Detroit.

What's surprising is how it all unraveled. It wasn't the Pistons' defense that failed them (though the Detroit News' Bob Wojnowski feels differently), but their offense. And it wasn't necessarily because of an increased emphasis on offense. The Pistons lost because they suddenly could not shoot. Scoring 80 points became a struggle for this team. Even with their season on the line, as Big Al points out, the Pistons managed a feeble effort.

During this run of excellence, when the Pistons lost games, it was typically because their jump shots weren't falling. And you could expect that to happen in one or two games during a playoff series. But for an 11-game stretch? When did bad shooting go from the exception to the rule? Ever since Game 2 of the Cleveland series, when the LeBrons turned a blowout into a close game, the Pistons lost something. Did they hit the wall at that point? Is that when all the basketball they've played over the past four years finally caught up with them?

To me, this season proved one thing: A team can't just turn it on. Maybe you already knew that. I did, too, but kept thinking the Pistons might be the first team to do it successfully. A team can't keep creating challenges for itself, digging itself into deep holes, in order to stay interested and motivated. The other team will provide enough opposition, as it is. There's only so much energy to tap. And a team can't squander it. The Pistons certainly tapped themselves out against Cleveland, and just had nothing left for Miami.

But maybe Detroit burned up too much fuel in the regular season when they peaked extremely early. Is there such a thing as being too good? I think there might be - at least in the regular season. Ask the Red Wings what they think of that. Ask the Indianapolis Colts. Ask any team that's playing its best long before the playoffs have arrived. The Pistons were ready to win a championship back in November. Unfortunately, the NBA Finals aren't played until June.

I'll finish with one more thought: I was wrong.

I thought Miami tinkered way too much with its roster last offseason. The Heat were arguably one Dwyane Wade rib injury away from beating Detroit, yet Pat Riley overhauled half of the team. Riley did the same thing with the Knicks, taking a tough team that gave Chicago all it could handle, and neutered it by making too many changes.

And look who he brought in. Antoine Walker on the floor with Shaq and Wade? C'mon, who thought that would work? By January, someone would be crying about getting the ball, right? Shaq and Wade standing with hands on hips, as Walker jacks up a stupid three? Sure.

Jason Williams as the point guard? Oooh, he likes to shoot, too. More shots taken away from Shaq and Wade. Gary Payton? Excuse me, Gary Payton from 2003 just called. He's wondering where his game went. James Posey? Solid role player, but not usually someone the other team accounts for on defense.

And what about Riley himself? Was he still a good coach or were his methods and philosophies - most of which made for some of the worst NBA basketball we'd seen over the past 10-15 years - past their prime? Was he a coaching dinosaur who made a better executive? And why replace Stan Van Gundy, who came so close to beating Detroit?

Well, it worked. At least in getting past Detroit. Somehow, Riley made it all come together. We'll see if the tinkering can yield a championship. That'll give me something else to chew on over the next couple of weeks, as I decide whether or not I can watch other teams compete for a NBA title I - and many, many others - probably took for granted.

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The Pistons Post-Mortem Parade

I'm still trying to collect my thoughts on the Pistons' earlier-than-expected exit from the NBA playoffs. In the meantime, many bloggers and columnists are ready and willing to speak their piece.
  • What would Kevin Antcliff do? No more "what happened?" for the K-Dog. He's already on to "Now what?" and has several offseason notes and suggestions for Joe Dumars, including four key roster transactions.
  • Biggest offseason surprise so far? The Free Press' Drew Sharp isn't kicking the Pistons while they're down. Well... no more than anyone else, that is.
  • In response to Chris McCosky's "the sky is not falling" post-mortem in the Detroit News, Detroit Bad Boys has the first installment of the Pistons' offseason reality show, which could be titled "What About Ben?"
  • Need4Sheed needs some time.
  • Radio Free Detroit doesn't buy the theory that forces behind the Pistons' control (league office, rules committee, etc.) contributed to their 2005-06 demise, choosing instead to give Miami credit for being the better team.
  • Greg Eno (who played "What About Ben?" last week) thinks two changes can get Detroit back to the NBA Finals.
  • MGoBlog (who might retitle "What About Ben?" the "Kobayashi Maru") is aiming the Arrow of Blame squarely at Flip Saunders.
I'm almost done with mine. Be back with that in a flash. (Oooh wait - that's Dwyane Wade's nickname, isn't it? Poor choice. Yet still better than "in a jiffy.")

Friday, June 02, 2006

How good did that feel?

"Sorry Tigers, we’re not going to take you seriously until you beat the Yankees at least once."

-- Deadspin, 05/31/06

It wasn't looking like a good Thursday night for the Tigers. Earlier in the day, Mike Maroth found out he needs surgery on his injured elbow, which seriously cramps the style of a pitching rotation that had been such a key to the team's success. Was this the return of the dreaded injury plague that turned the Tigers into kitties last season?

And then Detroit, despite still holding the best record in Major League Baseball, was facing a four-game sweep - at home - against those damn New York Yankees. Is this what happens when the Tigers face a so-called "good team"?

(I say "so-called" because the Yankees were throwing line-ups with Terrence Long, Andy Phillips, and Miguel Cairo out there. No Jeter, no Sheffield. WDFN's Matt Dery called them the "Triple-A Yankees.")

Injuries and losses, swirling in a gas can that non-believers have been waiting to pour on the "I told you so" fire all season. And after the Yankees took a five-run lead against the previously dominant Justin Verlander, a sweep looked imminent. The Tigers were six innings away from a five-game losing streak.

Then the Tigers began staging a comeback. Three runs in the fourth inning. Two runs in the fifth (after the Yankees added one of their own). Yankees 6, Tigers 5. But they couldn't score against Scott Proctor in the seventh and eighth, which meant they'd have to face Mariano Rivera in the ninth.

But wait! Just before the game, Rivera's back went into spasms as he was putting on his shoe. No "Hammer of God" in the ninth inning for the Yankees, but the Tigers would still have to face "Superman": their old buddy, Kyle Farnsworth.

Does this mean we can call Carlos Guillen "Kryptonite"? After Magglio Ordonez drove in Marcus Thames to tie the game, Guillen (who was subbing at first base for the now-flat "Orange Crush," Chris Shelton) smoked a Farnsworth fastball down the right-field line. Pudge Rodriguez came home with his arms raised triumphantly, and the Tigers brought back that winning feeling.

And the reviews are in. The Detroit Tigers Weblog and Tiger Tales called it (arguably) the biggest win of the season. Mack Avenue Tigers said the Tigers proved something. The Daily Fungo thought it was beautiful.

Losing streak over. Yankees finally beaten. No sweep. Food tastes good again. Men are kissing women on the street. Birds are singing this morning. The sun is shining. (Well, I assume it is, behind all of the clouds.) Confetti is surely being tossed someplace in the world. Drinks are being raised. (It's five o' clock somewhere, as my lushing friend Mis Hooz might say.)

Damn, that felt good. Thursday night turned out just fine. Who's up next?

The Red Sox? Oooooh, boy. Well, okay - bring 'em on. (And cue the inner conflict - well, maybe - for Skippin' Samela.) But do not - do not - underestimate the run-scoring power of Nate Robertson's Big League Chew.

(Photo by Paul Sancya/ AP)

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Game 5: Still alive

So do we have a series again?

It's probably natural to overreact just a bit after a Game 5 victory, but the Pistons showed they still have some fight left, and if Miami's going to win this series, they'll have to earn it. That shouldn't surprise anyone, but it was still nice to see last night. (By the way, do I get any credit for correctly predicting Detroit's 91 points? No? Because Miami only scored 78? Okay. But I'm just sayin'...)

Any game analysis I could offer would be shaky because I was close to DEF CON 1 Fan Panic Mode as I watched the game. No superstition was left unused last night. It's probably a good thing I was alone, because I would've been annoying as hell to be with. I didn't watch the first quarter live, opting for the radio broadcast. When I did turn the TV on, and the Pistons seemed comfortably ahead, Miami would come back, cut the margin to two points, and I'd turn the channel. (And with Tigers-Yankees in a rain delay, there was not much else to watch.)

Eventually, however, I settled in and witnessed the most important plays of the game.

Alonzo Mourning picking on Tayshaun Prince? Probably not a good idea, as it turned out. 'Sheed only had seven points in the game, but getting in Mourning's face to defend his teammate stoked some defensive passion. Tayshaun, meanwhile, went on to score 29 points (a career playoff high, as the K-Dog points out).

And perhaps the most important of those 29 points were the three Prince scored with four-and-a-half minutes left in the fourth quarter. That three-pointer gave Detroit a six-point lead, and Miami never got close after that. Heat coach Pat Riley called Tayshaun's three "the biggest play of the night."

Oh, I beg to differ, Coach. So does virtually everyone else who watched that game. The pictures of the play that made the biggest difference, the one all the cool kids are talking about, can be found all over the internet this morning. Detroit Bad Boys and Need4Sheed have it from almost every angle available in the arena. Ben Wallace's block on Shaq, which forced a jump ball and made the monstrous Big Aristotle look rather feeble, was the play of the game.

And now, we can argue for the next two days over which team will feel more pressure in Game 6. After last night, Miami and Detroit players were tossing around the burden like a hot potato.

"The pressure's all on Miami," said Lindsey Hunter. Dwyane Wade countered with a definitive Nuh-Uh! "There isn't any pressure on us at all," he said. "They're the defending Eastern Conference champions." But wait, Big Ben says it's still on Detroit. ''I don't think they have too much pressure on them,'' said the man who made the magnificent, game-changing block (see above). "They're still up. It's tough to play from behind."

Scintillating $#!+, no? Oh, whatever.

It does make you wonder, though. Miami stayed close throughout the game, never allowing Detroit to establish a solid lead. But the Heat never could get over the top, and once the momentum of the game shifted, it seemed like they felt content to take the series back to Miami. And that can be a dangerous mindset to adopt in a playoff series. Look what's happened to the Pistons when they took their foot off an opponent's throat. Cleveland took Detroit to seven games. And Miami made Game 2 of this series a close game.

Being faced with elimination seems to sharpen the Pistons' focus. And with these guys rediscovering the effort - most especially on the defensive end - required to win in the playoffs, Miami could be feeling some Heat tomorrow night.

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