Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Monday, July 31, 2006

Breaking Tigers trade news!

WXYT-AM (1270) is reporting that the Tigers have acquired first baseman Sean Casey - a long-awaited left-handed bat - from the Pittsburgh Pirates, in exchange for minor-league pitcher Brian Rogers.

Here's the shocker with the deal, however: With Casey coming to Detroit, the Tigers have decided to send Chris Shelton down to Triple-A Toledo (which is something I know The Daily Fungo has advocated). From Babe Ruth in April to Crash Davis in August? Ouch, babe.

And the news just hit ESPN.com. Here are the details.

Are the Tigers still alive for Soriano? Considering they gave up a Double-A pitcher of little note (at least to me), it would appear that all of Dave Dombrowski's bullets are still in the chamber. I think this is it for them today, but I suppose we should stay tuned.


Soriano Watch until 4 pm?

Today's the day we find out if the Tigers make that big move. The urgency to do so might be lessened after a very successful week against the White Sox, Indians, and Twins. But if Dave Dombrowski is still itching to put an impact deal together, there's still a chance Alfonso Soriano could end up in Detroit. How? By calling up his old team, the Florida Marlins.

From Jayson Stark's trade deadline "Stark Market" (yeesh!) at ESPN Insider:

Meanwhile, the Nationals had another surprise shopper on Soriano on Sunday -- the Marlins. Florida seems like the least likely bidder out there. But if you think creatively -- which is the Marlins' specialty -- it's actually the most likely bidder. If the Nationals want bright young pitching prospects back, there's no team that has more of them than Florida. Heck, the Fish traded for about 12 of them last winter. So the Marlins could lop off some of their pitching depth, reel in Soriano and then spin him to address its position-player needs, to a bidder that couldn't make it work with Washington. There was some buzz Sunday afternoon, in fact, that the Marlins and Tigers had had some conversations about Soriano in the event Florida pulls this off. So watch out for that possibility.

Stark preceded that tidbit with rumors that the Red Sox were kicking the tires on Soriano in lieu of the Yankees acquiring Bobby Abreu, but that a deal was unlikely since Theo Epstein isn't eager to deal his organization's young arms.

A Soriano Watch has thus been issued until 4 p.m. for the areas of Minneapolis, Houston, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Boston. In the event of a trade, please take cover from all of the subsequent analysis from baseball reporters, analysts, and bloggers.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Time to give him a nickname?

It's probably a bit too early to propose giving Craig Monroe the nickname "Clutch" - and that could make The Daily Fungo nauseous - but the man has come up with two damn important hits over the past week that led to two huge wins over AL Central opponents.

Francisco Liriano was as good as advertised. There were a few times I was fuming over the high strike Bill Welke was giving him, but I suppose Welke did call it both ways. Zach Miner's pitches just weren't smoking by the Twins' hitters. But he did his best to match Liriano on the scoreboard and keep the Tigers in the game. That gave the Tigers a chance to see if they could beat the Twins' bullpen instead.

And once Monroe yanked that clutch single down the left-field line off Juan Rincon in the 10th inning, Detroit won one of the games in this series they were likely expected to lose.

Plenty more post-game analysis to be found in the Tigers-Twins corner of the blogosphere:

▪▪ Thank You Brian Sabean notes that each time the Tigers put runs on the board, a grounder past Luis Castillo fueled the score. Could a younger Castillo have made those plays?

▪▪ The aforementioned Daily Fungo sings the praises of Zach Miner (as does Mack Avenue Tigers) and Bert Blyleven, while pondering Joe Nathan's approach to the Tigers hitters.

▪▪ Todd's Twins, along with questioning age's effect on Castillo, laments the lack of patience at the plate, especially by Justin Morneau.

▪▪ The Detroit Tigers Weblog wonders why Detroit's hitters were so impatient against Liriano, yet made Nathan and Rincon work so hard later in the game. (Credit goes to Liriano's stuff.) Also, Billfer tips his cap to the Tigers' bullpen.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Five Questions... about your Minnesota Twins

As promised, here's my conversation with twins15 about this weekend's suddenly important Tigers-Twins series. He and I exchanged five questions about our respective teams. You can read my answers over at Complete Sports and/or Thank You Brian Sabean. And now, let's get to know those Minnesota Twins.

Me: What's been the biggest reason for the Twins becoming a factor in the AL Central/wildcard race?

twins15: It's hard to point to one specific thing and point that out as a factor. They've really been better in all aspects. But if I had to say the biggest reason, I think it's consistency in the starting pitching. Johan Santana has been great all year, and we all know what Liriano has done since joining the rotation. But Brad Radke was postively awful for the first 2 months of the year, and he's now 5-1 with an ERA in the mid 2s in his last 11 starts. Carlos Silva hasn't been overly impressive either, but he too has settled down since he was demoted to the pen earlier in the year (and then put back in the rotation). So I'd have to point to consistent from the starters as the biggest reason for all of this.

Me: Did the Twins possibly cost themselves a playoff spot by waiting to put Francisco Liriano in the starting rotation, or is that oversimplifying what changes the Twins have made?

twins15:Yes and no. By giving starts to Silva/Lohse at the start of the year and not Liriano, it seems pretty obvious that this cost the team at least a couple of wins. Although in defense of the team, it looks a lot worse in hindsight. Everyone knew Liriano had the talent to be special, but no one could have expected him to be a Cy Young contender right out of the gate. And of the starters, Carlos Silva was coming off back to back solid years, Kyle Lohse finished last year strong, and Scott Baker has a strong track record.

More to the point, I think the insertion of Liriano into the rotation coincided with a couple of other moves the Twins made which have also had a huge effect:

A) They traded Juan Castro and made Jason Bartlett the everyday SS. Bartlett's batting over .300, has an OBP over .400, and is playing good defense. Heck, he basically single-handedly won the game Tuesday, hitting a 3-run HR of Jose Contreras to make it 4-1, and then making a great defensive play the next inning. Bartlett has been worlds better than Castro offensively and defensively.

B) Getting rid of Tony Batista for Nick Punto. Ok, we could all see that Batista was a terrible move right away. He's a free-swinger without a lot of power, and he has cement in his shoes defensively. So getting him out was an upgrade almost no matter what, but Punto has been a revelation there. He's hitting the ball great (currently on an 18-game hitting streak), and playing great defense at the hot corner.

C) Getting Jason Kubel consistent ABs.

D) Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer hitting better behind Joe Mauer.

Really, adding a couple of younger guys to the lineup, combined with Liriano pitching like there's no tomorrow is what's sparked this. But yeah, I think it's a little bit of an oversimplification that just putting Liriano in the rotation caused the turnaround, but that sure didn't hurt.

Me: What sort of move would you like to see Minnesota make at the trading deadline? What's their biggest need?

twins15: Personally, I'm not in favor of doing anything like trading a top prospect for a rental player like Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Lee, so I'm in favor of them standing pat if they have to part with a guy like Matt Garza. At the same time, their biggest need is a power-hitting corner OF, which pretty well fits Soriano/Lee's game. If you can trade a Grade B prospect + a reliever for a guy like Lee, I like that move because it provides more balance without mortgaging a big part of the future.

At the same time, the Twins have to look at this in the bigger picture, which they are generally excellent at doing. The core of this team is all young (Santana, Liriano, bullpen, Matt Garza, Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel), so they have a team that can contend for a few years barring unforseen setbacks. Of all the contributors, Radke's the oldest and will be retiring after the year, but everyone else that plays a big role (with Hunter's status in the air) should be back. So I wouldn't like and can't forsee them trading a top prospect for a 2-month rental, even if that rental will help them make the playoffs this year.

Me: Do you worry about Joe Mauer tiring out as the season wears on? And do you think he'll eventually be changing positions?

twins15: I'm not overly concerned at this point, because Gardy does seem to do a decent job of taking Mauer out of the defensive lineup and putting him at DH a lot of games. Mauer doesn't sit out a lot of games because he's such a good hitter, but he has played 13 games at DH this year, which is a good thing. So I'm not too concerned about him wearing down this year, because if he does tire a little the Twins have an excellent backup catcher in Mike Redmond, so they can afford to give Mauer days off/put him at DH.

Over the long run, that's kind of the million dollar question. He's a big guy at 6'4'' to be playing catcher full-time. But if I had to put money on it, I think Mauer will stay at catcher, but more and more he'll play DH as he gets later in his career to help with the wear and tear. But he's such a defensive asset that it's hard to move him away. One more knee injury, and he may be moved, but until that time I think he'll stay.

Me: How do you like the Twins' chances in the AL Central or wildcard race? Who do you see as their biggest competitor?

: I get more optimistic by the day. I think at this point, with the way the Tigers are playing, the AL Central race may be getting out of hand quickly depending on how this series goes. But obviously the Twins are a 1/2 game out of the Wildcard now and playing better than any team in baseball, making them the trendy pick.

If I had to bet now on the Twins or the field, I'd probably still take the field at this point, just because the Twins have had troubles at the backend of the rotation, and because their biggest competitors generally have more cash to get deals done. I think the Sox are probably still the biggest competitors, because they were so good pitching last year, and Thome-Konerko-Dye is as good as any 3-4-5 combo in baseball. Of course, the Yanks won't be going anywhere with their lineup, but we'll have to see if they can consistently get good starting pitching.

Either way, it's going to be a fun couple of months as we make our way towards the playoffs!

The Twins are coming!

Didn't the Tigers already have their "biggest series of the season" last week? But here come the Minnesota Twins, surging over the past two months into the AL Wild Card race, and might now be Detroit's closest competitor in the AL Central. And with probably the two best starting pitchers in the American League in their rotation, along with the emergence of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau at the plate, the Twins are looking seriously formidable. They've become the team you really don't want to play right now.

You thought the Tigers were playing well? The Twins have won 34 of their last 42 games, actually three games better than Detroit's recent pace. If you didn't notice Minnesota before, as they were behind the White Sox, they should definitively get your attention now, after sweeping Chicago at U.S. Cellular Field earlier this week.

Three games at the Metrodome, facing the Twins' three best starting pitchers? It would've been bad enough if Detroit was matched up against either Johan Santana or Francisco Liriano this weekend. But no, they have to face both - along with Brad Radke, who's really the embodiment of the Twins' season. He looked terrible early in the season, like a guy who was done. But he's turned himself around, reminiscent of the guy who'd been one of the best starters in the American League.

Detroit, by the way, will counter with Zach Miner, Nate Robertson, and Jeremy Bonderman, respectively.

For more on this series, I swapped e-mails with one of my favorite bloggers earlier in the week - who happens to be a big Minnesota Twins fan. Twins15, whom you may know from both Complete Sports and Thank You Brian Sabean, shared his thoughts on the Twins, while I said my piece on the Tigers, which you can read here and/or here. I'll be posting his views up here shortly.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Turn that frown upside down

After getting the Floyd Landis news from the K-Dog this morning, I needed some chuckles.

And when it comes to this Harold Reynolds story - which, in my world, has been the biggest sports story this week so far - I only laugh to stop from frowning. So when I saw (via Deadspin and its commenters) that The Dugout was chiming in, I had to check it out. Not as funny as the infamously hilarious Dmitri Young AIM conversation, but who isn't up for taking some shots at Fox Sports Net?

Here's how a chat between H.R. ("You guys are horrble. How do you get to stay on TV?"), John Salley, and Rob Dibble would go.

Watch out, Tom Emanski!

Just found this on the Sports Inferno message boards. Included in today's edition of ESPN.com's "Short Hops" is a video demonstration from the new Brooks Robinson, Brandon Inge, on how to field a bunt.

Inge goes through the four-step process on making this kind of play: 1) Watching the hands (or the feet) of the batter, 2) Taking his first two steps toward the foul line to create the best throwing angle to first base, 3) Catching the baseball with his bare hand, planting on his right foot, and 4) Getting a good four-seam grip on the ball, while shifting to his left foot before throwing.

Fielding a bunt looked easy enough after watching Inge's tutorial, so I just gave it a try in the backyard. It was a little more difficult with no one to bunt the ball toward me. And I think my neighbor's pissed after I rocketed a ball off her house to get a ricochet. But hey, I fielded it pretty cleanly. And I made a good throw, which would've been caught had she not ducked out of the way. C'mon, lady! It's baseball. And if you owned a bigger dog, maybe he could've caught it instead.

It's not easy being a backyard baller, man.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hey! Aren't you the guy who... ?

How are you feeling this week if you're Mike Tirico? Not that he's having as bad a week as Harold Reynolds, but in almost every story, several blogs, and a few message board postings I've read concerning Reynolds' dismissal from ESPN, Tirico's name is frequently mentioned.

Why? According to the book, ESPN: An Unauthorized Biography, Tirico found himself in the same sexual harassment hot water at the network that just prompted management to kick Reynolds out of the hot tub.

So much for that story going away and being forgotten, eh? You think Reynolds is getting any phone calls from Tirico right now?

"Hey, H.R. - yeah, THANKS pal! The wife reads Deadspin every day. No, giving me one of your 12-button, pinstriped suits will not placate me. I'm mad at you, man.

Okay, I gotta go. Kornheiser's on the other line. Probably gonna ask if we can carpool to the Monday night games. If he makes any jokes about Kolber or Tafoya, I will slap the taste out of his mouth."

Nice timing, too, with two nice recent local profiles of Tirico in the Ann Arbor News and Ann Arbor Observer. Ah, what are you gonna do, right?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

So this is how the other team feels...

Dinner wasn't tasting quite as good after watching Kenny Rogers get slapped around by the Indians like Glass Joe. As Rod Allen might say, Cleveland beat the Tigers' elder pitching statesman "like he stole something."

Dude didn't even make it out of the first inning. It took him eight batters to record his first out. Check out this box score: 2/3 of an inning, five hits, seven runs (all seven earned), three walks.

U-G-L-Y! Kenny's got no alibi.

Not that I'm complaining. The Tigers have been doing this to the opposition for the last three games.

... And after checking Mack Avenue Tigers (yes, I had to walk away from the TV to finish dinner), I see that a three-run homer by Brandon Inge has made the score 7-3. Maybe this'll be an interesting game, after all.

This is surely why the Indians are 12 games under .500, yes? It certainly can't be because of their offense. That's a seriously potent lineup.

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I was thinking about changing the name of this blog to Less-Than-Complete-Sports, since I had absolutely nothing to say about Tiger Woods winning the British Open (as Mr. Eno did) or Floyd Landis keeping the American victory streak alive at the Tour de France (Brian is suffering through cycling withdrawal).

But the Sweaty Men Endeavors legal team has advised me that Complete Sports might have something to say about that name change, and I'd be really bummed out if legal fees prevented me from maintaining my Netflix membership, so we're going to stick with what's been working.

While I deal with my anxiety over the White Sox possibly acquiring Alfonso Soriano, instead of the Tigers, here's what's in the thought jar today:

▪▪ Isn't it more likely that White Sox GM Kenny Williams is just hoping to raise the market for Soriano, hoping that the Tigers offer too much in a deal? (Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times says yes.) I don't think Dave Dombrowski plays that game.

▪▪ It's right there in print for me to read, so it must be true, but I'm having trouble believing that the Tigers now have a seven-and-a-half game lead over the aforementioned Pale Hosed Competition after last night's victory over Cleveland.

▪▪ One more White Sox thought: I've defended Ozzie Guillen before, but I'm having trouble maintaining that stance after watching him chew out Jon Garland for not hitting a Texas batter in retaliation for Vincente Padilla plunking Alex Cintron. Ozzie, by the way, doesn't think his behavior warrants a suspension. Imagine that.

▪▪ Something else I'm having trouble believing, despite actual evidence to prove it? The Indians are 23 1/2 games behind Detroit. And 12 games under .500. Chief Wahoo cannot be smiling over how fast that Tribe train derailed.

▪▪ I don't know what Harold Reynolds did to get fired from ESPN, but given the abruptness of the move, one's imagination can be left to wonder. If it's serious, then this is obviously a trivial remark, but Reynolds was the only ex-jock I liked on "Baseball Tonight." If this means we get more of "The Cowboy," Jeff Brantley (and we've already gotten way too much), I might have to wean myself off that show completely. And it's a daily fix for me.

▪▪ It was nice to see Michigan athletic director Bill Martin speak out on the need for renovations at Crisler Arena, but like Angelique Chengelis in today's Detroit News, I kind of doubt it will happen any time soon.

Such a project is probably low on the athletic department's priority list, and I'm not sure it would receive the same financial support that other renovations (Michigan Stadium, Fisher Stadium, Alumni Field) already have. Plus, I wonder how many people look at Crisler and think no more than cosmetic changes to boost the game-night atmosphere are necessary. But hey, renovations could probably be done in the upper bowl throughout the season without worrying about anyone getting hurt.

▪▪ Actually, I do have something to say about Tiger Woods' victory. As someone who lost his own father just over a year ago, I became very emotional as I watched Tiger break down into tears, knowing he couldn't share his latest triumph with his dad. As great as it's been to have some of my writing be published in Motor City Sports Magazine recently, it truly saddens me that my father isn't here to see it.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Take 'em out at the ballgame

If you're going to Comerica Park tonight to see the first-place Detroit Tigers take on the Oakland Athletics, make sure you check if the start time might be delayed.

See, the Tigers' groundskeepers might have to maintain the chalk outline near second base for a few more hours while investigations of a collision are still being conducted.

Did anybody get the license plate number on the truck that plowed over Tadahito Iguchi yesterday?

Eyewitnesses have reported seeing a "RVR TMS" or "THMS 33," but if you saw anything yourself and have information to offer, feel free to leave it in the comments section of this blog.

If Craig Monroe's grand slam on Wednesday showed the White Sox that the Tigers have arrived (and that A.J. Pierzynski's bull$#!+ mind games wouldn't work), Marcus Thames' take-out slide on Thursday signaled that they're in this pennant race to stay.

Dirty play? White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who's not known for keeping his opinions to himself, said no, calling it "a great play" and "the way baseball is supposed to be played."

According to Thames, Iguchi should blame his third baseman for getting laid out at second base.

"The third baseman hung him out to dry," he said to MLB.com's Jason Beck. "It was a bad feed from him. I don't want to hurt a guy, but I want him to know I'm coming in and trying to make sure he doesn't get off a good throw."

It wasn't just a defining moment, but a winning one, as well. Thames broke up a double-play opportunity, keeping the inning alive, and allowing Chris Shelton to bring in the go-ahead run with a double. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said it was "the difference in the ballgame."

Tigers 2, White Sox 1. And Detroit's lead in the AL Central is now 5 1/2 games. Even in Chicago, they're saying the Tigers are the better team right now.

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¿Quién es un fracaso más grande?

¿Un Darko o Mike grande Williams?

After Tom Kowalski's revelation that "Big" Mike Williams was fined a total of $400,000 last season, largely (no pun intended) for being overweight and arriving late to team meetings, a question comes to mind.

Who is a bigger flop? Darko "The Human Victory Cigar" Milicic or "Big" Mike Williams?

Of course, in their respective drafts, Darko was the #2 pick, while BMW was #10.

But I'd argue that Darko was considered something of a project, with all of the potential and upside in the world, yet some doubt as to when or if he'd develop into a NBA player. Big Mike, on the other hand, looked like the surest of sure things coming out of USC, where he could run over or blaze past any defensive back or linebacker who dared try to cover him.

I know Lions fans and observers were divided as to whether Williams was a good selection for Detroit in 2005. Some thought Matt Millen should've used the pick on a defensive player, to shore up a unit that arguably needed more help and a fresh infusion of talent. Others - such as myself - thought that the Lions had filled many of its holes through free agency and thus were in a position to take the "best player available." Obviously, we got that wrong.

Ranking a close second in mistakes behind the actual draft pick was probably (definitely?) the team's decision to guarantee BMW $9.5 million of his $13.5 million contract up front, as a signing bonus. Hopefully, he didn't spend all of that bonus money yet, as his subsequent yearly salaries will be eaten up by the fines.

So how does that $400,000 break down? Well, consider that under the terms of the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Lions could fine BMW $9,300 each time he was late for a meeting and $457 per pound for every day he was overweight. Those were probably the most expensive Krispy Kremes ever eaten.

Also consider that BMW was late so often that the Lions asked him to move closer to their Allen Park practice facillity. No word on whether or not they also suggested that Big Mike jog to work from his residence.

Meanwhile, we can spend the next month waiting to see if BMW can beat out Saginaw Valley State's (undrafted) Glenn Martinez for one of the final two wide receiver spots on the roster.

And one final question: Why don't either the Detroit Free Press or Detroit News have something on this story today?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

With one mighty swing...

Had I posted yesterday, I would've made a joke about the Tigers suffering a power outage, like many other thousands (including me) in metro Detroit during Monday night's thunderstorms.

One run against Jon Garland? Ouch. That's enough to get a general manager on the phone to ask for Alfonso Soriano.

And last night, after Jeremy Bonderman gave up home runs to Joe Crede and Jose Uribe, while everything off the Detroit bats seemed to land in White Sox gloves, you might have been entitled to wonder just what the Tigers had to do to beat these guys. As Rod Allen said (dutifully transcribed by Big Al), the world champs were flexing their muscles. How would the challengers respond?

Do any of you guys watch Deadwood? Something similar happened in an episode two weeks ago. (Here's a blow-by-blow account from a guy with too much time on his hands.) There was a big brawl between the main villains' muscle men. But one was clearly more imposing than the other. Everyone expected the smaller guy to get pounded, if not killed. And once his face was being held underneath a puddle of mud, the outcome appeared certain. Even the smaller guy's boss was resigned to defeat, slumping with resignation and embarrassment.

But it didn't end there. He wasn't going down like that. So he fought his way out of the predicament, got back up to settle things, and (with the help of some dirty tactics) finally beat the man who looked unbeatable.

It's amazing what one swing of the bat can do, eh?

I went from slouching in my armchair to standing up and cheering, once Craig Monroe yanked a ball down the left-field line for a grand slam. (Is anyone else more impressed by a home run when it goes over Comerica Park's old left-field fence?) I imagine the fans at the ballpark were roused from their malaise a bit earlier, with the bases loaded and the possibility of something big about to occur.

And that's exactly what happened. From down and beaten to proud and still fighting. It was a triumphant moment, one that could make you believe that something bigger and better might be in store for this team.

Let me know if I'm overstating this. But hasn't it been happening all season? Just when you think these guys might finally fall back to not-ready-for-prime-time status, they show that they're not going down that easily. I know we've moved beyond the "bona fide" questions with the Tigers, but it's always nice to see some affirmation.

From there, Detroit's pitching was outstanding. Bonderman kept the White Sox in check until the eighth inning. And each of Jim Leyland's calls to the bullpen worked out beautifully, particularly bringing in Jamie Walker to face Jim Thome in the ninth.

Can the Tigers carry that winning feeling into this afternoon's rubber match? We'll see. But at least they know they won't be pushed around.

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My favorite post-game reaction

You have to respect a man who sticks to his convictions, even when his emotions might compel him to do otherwise. (Or not.)

The Daily Fungo has led the "Craig Monroe is not very good" train all season long. My first e-mail to Mike was a defense of Craiggers. Mike put on his engineer's cap, tossed my e-mail in with the burning coals, and forged ahead with an impassioned "Choo-Choo!"

Even after Monroe's grand slam last night - the kind of blow we could be talking about in this town for years, if the Tigers can keep this magical run going - the Fungo was unphased. Mike's reaction? “Good, he's just improved his trade value.”

Hilarious. Yet admirable. And probably quite astute, if Mr. Monroe finds himself playing left field for the Phillies or Nationals in the next couple of weeks.

A tip o' the cap to you, Mr. McClary.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Monday morning reminiscing

As Detroit gets psyched up for a three-game showdown with the White Sox, I have one last thought about the departing Royals, who salvaged a 9-6 victory yesterday.

Wilfredo Ledezma hit Joey Gathright in the back in the seventh inning, prompting Gathright and Vance Wilson to share (one would guess) unpleasant words with each other on the way to first base. With such animosity and tension in the air to match the oppressive humidity, and the players in each dugout ready to pounce onto the field for yet another Tigers-Royals brawl, do you think Jeremy Affeldt began to backpedal his way toward the clubhouse?

Had a fight broken out, would someone have found Affeldt curled up in the shower, bobbing back and forth, crying "Please don't body-slam me, please don't body-slam me."

(Just for the memories, here's The Detroit Tigers Weblog's post from last year.)

And after the situation was defused and the game resumed, did a teammate, bat boy, or clubhouse attendant inform Affeldt that Kyle Farnsworth was no longer with the Tigers, and thus wouldn't zero in on him like a heat-seeking, body-tackling human missile?

Oh, let's cue the video on that, shall we? It's almost been a year to the day.

To quote Rod Allen, "You knew when Big Boy got there, it was gonna get on!" If you're pressed for time, it "gets on" about halfway through the file, at the 2:50 mark.

Ah, The Farns. What a guy. Tackles Royals in brawls and fetches Zach Miners in trading deadline deals. Who's your former Tiger?


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Watch the bridge!

Okay, we need patrols at the Ambassador Bridge. Check every car approaching from Detroit. Watch the walkways. I want at least one boat circling underneath, too, with searchlights aimed upward.

Officers: You're looking for a gentleman in his late-50s. About 6' 2", with sandy blond hair. Kind of like a heavier Robert Redford. You might recognize him, since he used to work here.

His eyes might be red from crying. He could be muttering something about how he used to be an All-Star third baseman. Oh, and he might still be in uniform, which should make him extra easy to spot.

Just hope the clubhouse attendants made sure to take away his belt and shoelaces. Approach him cautiously. But take it easy on the poor guy. Not just because he used to work here, and got kind of a rough deal, but because the guy has a terrible job right now.

Poor Buddy Bell. Two straight nights, his Royals have blown a 4-0 lead against the Tigers. But Friday night's probably hurt the most. A fly-ball-to-left-field-still-going-wait-a-minute-is-that-gonna-be.... it is! home run in the bottom on the ninth off Jeremy Affeldt sends everyone walking off the field, and a swarm of white uniforms with the Olde English D waiting at home plate to greet the hero, Carlos Guillen.

Tigers 10, Royals 9. Somebody check on ol' Buddy in the morning. Let him try to sleep in, because he probably didn't get much rest after that one. Painful stuff, man. Just painful.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Like stripes on the fur coat of a tiger...

▪▪ Mack Avenue Tigers echoed a thought I had during the Tigers' 6-4 comeback victory over the Royals last night. Should we read anything into Fernando Rodney pitching the 7th inning, and Joel Zumaya pitching the "set-up" 8th before Todd Jones came in to close it out?

▪▪ Here's a quote to make Tiger fans smile, if you didn't read it in this morning's Free Press. When asked about possibly being the new left-handed bat for Detroit, Kansas City's Matt Stairs said, "Everybody talks about Detroit needing a left-handed hitter. Why? That team's stacked. They're scarier to face than the Red Sox."

▪▪ Something else to make you smile: Check out Billfer's post on the pre-game atmosphere surrounding Comerica Park last night. Consider that we're talking about a Thursday night game against the Royals, too. If you have Tigers tickets, you'd best plan to get down to the Foxtown area early. Tip your hat to those who have often insisted Detroit is a baseball town.

▪▪ I used to drink a shot of whiskey every time Buster Olney said "no question" on "Baseball Tonight," but when that resulted in me waking up in the neighbor's backyard, sprawled on their picnic table, remote control in hand, it was time to stop. When Buster says he doesn't "have any question that the Tigers are going to make the playoffs" on his blog, however, it's enough to make a guy go back on the sauce. I just hope I remember to bring a blanket this time.

▪▪ And kudos to Mike McClary for scoring an interview with Tigers TV play-by-play man Mario Impemba for The Daily Fungo Podcast. The man's been working hard to get some more "insiders" on the show (the Detroit News' Lynn Henning was interviewed last month), so it's nice to see that labor bear some fruit. Go give it a listen; Mike gets some interesting insights on Mario's day-to-day routine.


Okay, maybe I got that wrong

Back in May, after Jeff Backus signed a one-year contract with the Lions, I figured the guy just wanted to get the hell out of Detroit, and if he had to play here one more year to earn his unrestricted free agency, and a ticket out of football purgatory, then so be it.

Well, I misread the situation pretty badly, as Backus signed a six-year deal to stay in Detroit yesterday. So either he thought staying here was worth it, or he and his agent figured out he wouldn't get $15.5 million in guaranteed money from any other team besides the Lions.

Clearly, Matt Millen just can't get over his first - draft pick, that is.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Play something... play anything... !

♦ If Ben Wallace's introductory press conference with the Bulls is televised this evening, will you watch? (Eno, how about you?) Here's the Chicago Sun-Times' John Jackson, introducing him to readers with a career retrospective.

♦ Uh-oh, is that Carlos Delfino squawking to the Argentinian press again? Oh Carlos! Você assim silly! (Hat tip to MLive.com's Full-Court Press.)

K-Dog mentioned it a couple of days ago. (Have you stopped by The Hangout, by the way?) Deadspin posted on it today. Are you looking forward to the new "Rocky" flick? I have to admit, after watching the trailer, I'm in. I'm buying. I might be a huge sucker, but this thing - with a broke, battered, old Rocky Balboa - looks pretty good. "Let's build some hurtin' bombs!"

And I can't get over the fact that Sylvester Stallone is sixty years old. My father was 61 when he passed away. Wow.

♦ Speaking of Deadspin, I hope Will hasn't jinxed the Tigers by picking them for the Wild Card spot in the American League. They're looking too good to pick against, though. Oh, wait - J-Lits just did it.

♦ Now that Aubrey Huff's been traded to Houston, are you beginning to get the feeling that the Tigers might not be getting the left-handed bat they and their fans want so badly? What if Dmitri Young is the lefty bat they bring in for the stretch run? (Next rehab stop for Da Meat Hook? Toledo.) 17 days and counting until the MLB trade deadline... (Hat tip to The Daily Fungo.)

♦ Here's what the Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice thinks of the deal.

♦ Some more Tigers-related predictions, courtesy of Mack Avenue Tigers.

♦ Did you see who stopped by to comment at The Wayne Fontes Experience? Congratulations, Big Al. You must be very pleased.

I met Pat Caputo in the Comerica Park press box a couple of weeks ago, sheepishly complimenting him on his new blog. We didn't talk very long (maybe because we were both on our way back from the bathroom) but he said he liked blogging, and is glad people are checking it out. Big Al, if I see him again, I'll ask him what he thinks of TWFE.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A salute to Shanny

I had the sound turned down on the TV when I saw the news on Sunday morning. But I didn't need to hear anything. Over Jay Harris' shoulder on SportsCenter was a head-shot of Brendan Shanahan with a New York Rangers logo next to it. And I sat down on the corner of my bed and said "damn."

Maybe it was the cumulative effect of three of Detroit's biggest stars leaving within a week. Or maybe this was the one that got to me, because I'd expected Steve Yzerman and Ben Wallace to leave town. I realized Shanahan could leave too, but I guess I thought he might retire as a Red Wing. And now, it looks like we really are seeing the end of an era in "Hockeytown."

It doesn't feel quite right to be writing on Shanahan when I haven't written about Yzerman yet. There aren't many other Detroit athletes I feel more strongly about. On the other hand, there are plenty of other tributes to find elsewhere in the blogosphere and internet, and I'm not sure I have much else to add - for now.

Had Shanahan really been here for 10 years? (Okay, nine seasons.) That's the first thing that struck me. Man, time really flies. I still remember the talk that the Wings might get him in a deal, and how incredible that would be for their Stanley Cup prospects. Even when he first took the ice against Edmonton wearing the winged wheel (arriving at Joe Louis Arena shortly before warm-ups), after Budd Lynch announced his name, I couldn't believe it. Because this was the guy. This was the guy that truly made Detroit a championship team. A big power forward who scored goals and wasn't afraid to fight, not one the quick little gnats that made for great, high-scoring regular seasons, but got pounded by the New Jersey Devils.

And if there was any question as to whether he was truly a Red Wing, Shanahan answered that for certain months later when he sped across the ice to cross-body block Patrick Roy like a pro wrestler. Darren McCarty had to beat the $#!+ out of Claude Lemieux that night, to defend the honor of his teammate, Kris Draper, and to show the Avalanche that Detroit was the best team in the NHL. Shanahan knew that, and was right in the middle of it. It didn't become official for another three months, but I'd make the argument that the Wings won the Stanley Cup in late March.

My favorite Shanahan moment occurred later in that '97 postseason. It might seem kind of strange because it wasn't a particularly spectacular goal, nor was it terribly important. But oh man, was it symbolic. When I think of Shanahan's career as a Red Wing, I think of his empty-net goal against Colorado in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. That absolutely clinched the game, and the series, and a hard-fought playoff victory over one of the most hated rivals the city of Detroit has ever had. I don't need a TV highlight; I can see the smile on Shanahan's face - arms raised triumphantly, his teammates celebrating with him - when I close my eyes.

There were other Stanley Cup victories and celebrations, of course. But I suppose you never forget your first, as a fan. And that one's always going to be special.

Was that really almost ten years ago? And now, Shanahan - seeing the proverbial handwriting on the wall with an early-round playoff loss and Yzerman's retirement - is moving on to New York, seeking a "new challenge," and acknowledging to the Free Press' Mitch Albom that he's more a part of the Red Wings' past than its future. That's about as honest an exit as I've ever heard from a professional athlete - especially in recent years.

I've heard some bitterness from jilted Detroit hockey fans, and I understand that. The usual sentiment is to say "Fine! We didn't need you, anyway!" when a guy decides to leave town. (And Shanahan's poor playoff performance vs. Edmonton adds some bile to that venom.) But I don't agree with that - not this time. This isn't about taking more money. This isn't a sour split between a team and a player.

Is there a little bit of getting out while the getting's still good? Probably. But I can't blame Shanahan for that. Things are going to be changing at Joe Louis Arena. Have you ever been at a job when most of your buddies have moved on? Did you feel like you didn't want to be the last one to turn the light off? He sees fewer familiar faces in that locker room. An icon just retired. And maybe a better opportunity exists elsewhere - especially in regards to his post-hockey career.

If the rumblings are true, Shanahan eventually wants to work in the NHL offices. And having organized the "Shanahan Summit" during the most recent NHL lockout, he's already shown a knack for negotiation, organization, and vision. So New York is a smart place for him to be right now. How can you begrudge him for seeing that?

So no hard feelings here. If I had a hockey stick, I'd raise it in salute. You were a part of one of my favorite teams ever. Thanks for the memories, Shanny. I'll be keeping an eye on you with the Rangers. See if you can get those poor New Yorkers a Stanley Cup in the process.

(Photo by David Guralnick/ Detroit News)

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Emptying out my head

Deadspin already covered just how bad Chris Berman is during the All-Star Home Run Derby. But it really is him at his absolute ("back, back, back, back, back!") worst. Scanning the stands for "You're with me, leather" signs probably isn't enough to get me to watch.

♦ Has the home run derby ever $@%ed with a guy's swing worse than it did with Bobby Abreu last year? I don't watch the guy on a regular basis, but judging from the dip in his power numbers, it looks like he's never fully recovered. I'd hate to see that happen to any of the participants this year.

♦ In lieu of reports that Ben(edict?) Wallace nixed any attempts by the Pistons to work out a sign-and-trade deal that could benefit both sides, Kevin Antcliff has decided that Big Ben is dead to him. Harsh, man.

♦ The Detroit News' Terry Foster has some other musings on why things just didn't work out between the Pistons and Mr. Wallace.

♦ Something for Tigers fans to keep an eye on: ESPN's Buster Olney says he's heard rumors that the White Sox might trade Brandon McCarthy and Brian Anderson to San Francisco for Jason Schmidt.

♦ If you haven't seen this already, Ernie Harwell's keeping a close eye on the Tigers. But from a distance, because he doesn't "want to be one of those retired guys who hangs out in the corner." Oh, Ernie.


Put those fingers away, son

I didn't watch a whole lot of sports over the weekend, so I very well could've missed other and better candidates. But my vote for Sports Moron of the Weekend goes to Seattle's Yuniesky Betancourt for pointing to his dugout and celebrating after hitting a ninth-inning drive to left field off Todd Jones. That ball went deep!

... And then landed in Alexis Gomez's glove a step in front of the fence.

Jones bent forward, hands on knees, with a sigh of relief, and a Saturday night save. Betancourt skulked back to the dugout looking like a Jeremy Shockey-esque idiot - especially considering that his error earlier in the game led to the Tigers' game-winning run.

Strangely, the Baseball Karma Gods saw fit to reward this preening schmoe the next day, guiding his ground ball with a remote control under and around the gloves of Brandon Inge and Carlos Guillen. Go figure.

▪▪ So let me get this straight, Rob Parker: The American League has a 56-win advantage against the National League in interleague play this season, but the "senior circuit" guys are still better?

"Don't be fooled by the outcome when the two leagues met head-to-head"? What? 56 more wins! Is that some kind of optical illusion? Are those bats really magic wands?

"AL fans can basically sit back and simply wait for someone to hit a three-run homer." Right, because that's exactly how the Tigers have accumulated the best record in baseball this season. Again, what?!

This is why I'll need to eat soft food in my old age. My teeth will have been ground to powder.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Still workin' through a holiday hangover

♦ Isn't there supposed to be a limit on the number of times you can vote for the final All-Star? I'm about to get tendonitis here, stuffing the online ballot box for Justin Verlander.

In good conscience, however, I voted a few times for Travis Hafner, the guy I think actually should make the team.

♦ But what about Francisco Liriano? I hear you, and I agree. And then I blame the Minnesota Twins for not putting him in their starting rotation from the beginning of the season.

♦ My choice in the National League, if you care: No-MAH!

♦ And isn't it long past time to ditch the rule that every team in Major League Baseball should have a representative on the All-Star team?

Ken Holland, I have 1999 on the line. Are you available? Abel to Yzerman has already covered this well, but I had to speak my piece on the Wings looking at The 40-Year-Old Goalies, Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek.

So the Wings are thinking they want a veteran goaltender to hold the position for a year or two until one of the kids - Jimmy Howard or Stefan Liv - are ready. I'm on board with that.

Here's my question: Isn't Chris Osgood already on the roster? Can he really do a worse job, at this point? And if he hadn't gotten hurt, wouldn't he have taken over for the mentally shot Manny Legace during the playoffs? Bringing in guys almost solely based on their past name value doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

♦ Sure, he can't replace Ben Wallace, but I think Joe Dumars brought in the right guy with Nazr Mohammed. Joel Przybilla would've been a disaster. Big Al calls him "Eric Montross v2.0." I see a big stiff who would've cashed in on being seven feet tall, deposited his $30 million contract, and sat back, counting his money for the next five years. I realize Przybilla's numbers are (slightly) better than Mohammed's, but to me, the Pistons signed the better role player.

♦ Here's a good question that was brought up on the Sports Inferno message boards: Who will be the first Piston to comment on Big Ben riding his $60 million truck west on I-94 to Chicago? I say Chauncey Billups, but I'd stick a tape recorder in front of Rasheed Wallace first.

♦ One point that might bring groans from the people: This is where Darko completely crapping out as a viable prospect truly hurts the Pistons. If he'd been ready to contribute, I wonder if Joe D would've ever made a $48 million offer. Darko would've stepped right in and looked ready to move into the future. And considering Darko was traded largely to create salary cap room to re-sign Wallace, how is that deal looking now?

♦ I can take Jim Thome beating the Tigers almost single-handedly, but I couldn't handle watching Jay Payton get game-winning hits on Monday and Tuesday. C'mon, man. At least Detroit finally figured this guy out yesterday.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Big Ben's gone, off to Chicago

In my post earlier today, I meant to write about Ben Wallace terming the Pistons' 4-year, $48 million contract offer as "disappointing," and "not at all what [he] expected." It's certainly easy to say now, but to me, that was it. That was Ben saying he wasn't coming back to Detroit.

What did Ben expect from the Pistons? Well, obviously more. But I look at Detroit's $48 million vs. Chicago's $52 million and think Joe Dumars made a fair market offer. Then again, the difference between $52 million and $48 million is four million dollars - more money than most of us will likely see in our lifetimes.

Taking the negotiations to the press and trying to make the Pistons look bad aren't the tactics of a man who wants to return. And toward the end of this past season, Ben Wallace looked like he'd had enough here. The refusal to go back into a game in April, an apparent resentment toward his teammates who wouldn't involve him in the offense, and a growing disenchantment with Flip Saunders' overall system each seemed to provide small indications that this was becoming a tense relationship.

K-Dog tells me ESPN News is reporting that Wallace actually signed with the Bulls for $60 million, not $52 million, so we're not talking about a seemingly small difference between offers. There had been talk all throughout the season that Chicago would come strong after Big Ben, and that definitely happened. $15 million (reportedly, as I write this) a year? For Ben Wallace?

I'm sure Joe D's going to take some heat for this, but I think he and the Pistons handled this exactly the way they had to. They figured out Ben's financial value to the team, set their price, and didn't budge from that. Going above that number would've thrown their entire salary structure out of whack, and teams that are interested in staying successful don't often do that.

(Want an example? How about the Hornets signing Peja Stojakovic to a 5-year, $64 million deal. The Oxford English Dictionary is changing its definition of "insane" as we speak. According to MLive.com's A. Sherrod Blakely, Wallace was even more offended by the Pistons offer after seeing that one.)

Maybe you can criticize the Pistons for letting other teams set the market, rather than aggressively establishing it themselves. But would it have ultimately mattered? Especially when Ben seemed like he wanted to leave, anyway?

So this is goodbye. It's going to be very strange seeing Ben Wallace in another team's uniform next season. And this surely hurts the Pistons' chances next season. After all this sinks in, I'll probably be really pissed that he'll be playing for the Bulls - a team I've always hated - in a city that's arguably Detroit's natural sports rival.

(When K-Dog got the news, he said - and I hope he doesn't mind me revealing this - that "Ben can kiss my ass." I'm not quite there yet, but might be in a few months. Once a guy leaves, that door is closed, man.)

But I still think this is the right move, one good teams sometimes have to make.

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Still slacking, but still standing

Okay, I'm having some trouble getting back into the swing of things, following my MCSM deadline crunch, and facing a holiday of sleep, beer, and burgers on the grill. But here's some stuff I've been shaking out of my head this afternoon:

♦ I'll certainly be writing more about this later in the week, but if you haven't already heard (meaning you've been a newspaper, radio, and TV slacker like I've been lately), Steve Yzerman made it official a couple of hours ago: He's retiring.

  • Abel to Yzerman saw this coming, as soon as a press conference was announced.
  • Evan over at Orotundity responded almost immediately to the Free Press hastily (too hastily?) posting the news, and wrote his tribute.
  • Snapshots has some excerpts from the Yzerman presser.

♦ My inner Tigers fan isn't very happy with me about this, but when I look at the five vote-in candidates for the last spot on the American League All-Star team, I'm not sure Justin Verlander is the one who deserves to go. Do I want a third Detroit Tiger to join Pudge Rodriguez and Kenny Rogers on the team? Of course I do. And it's not like Verlander wouldn't belong. He already has 10 wins for the best team in baseball and is good for a quality start and giving the Tigers a chance to win every time he takes the mound.

But Travis Hafner is hitting .312, with 22 homers and 66 RBIs. (Do the disappointing Indians deserve only one All-Star?) Has there been a better pitcher in the American League over the past month than Francisco Liriano? (Thank You Brian Sabean makes the case for Liriano here.) And Ramon Hernandez might be having the best year for a catcher not named Joe Mauer.

I'm glad I have until Thursday to decide my vote(s).

♦ Do the Tigers disrespect their little baseball brothers across the state? The Grand Rapids Press says yes, the big-league club continually treats the West Michigan Whitecaps like a minor-league step-team. I'd love to hear from some Whitecaps fans on this one.

♦ The writer who was the first to ask Mark McGwire about androstendione use during his "magical" home run chase of 1998 is now burned out on writing about steroids (and sportswriting in general).

♦ And maybe you're sick of hearing about Jay Mariotti, but a writer from the Chicago Reader is also taking him to task for keeping a distance from the environment he covers. The story also has some quotes from the embattled sports columnist himself.

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