Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Sporting Noobs are on the air!

After spending much more time working on it than anticipated, Episode #01 of The Sporting Noobs Podcast is here!

In this week's inaugural edition of the show, Kevin and Ian conduct discuss the World Series that was. Did the Cardinals win it or did the Tigers lose it? Should MLB make future concessions for the late fall weather? And after coming so close to winning an improbable championship, what should the Tigers do next?

The Noobs also recap the spotlight match-up from Week 8 of the NFL: Colts vs. Broncos. What happened to that Denver defense?

And with the NBA kicking off this week, the Noobs look at each division and make their picks for the playoffs.

You can download the show via the podcast's home page. And thanks to a super-speedy approval process, The Noobs are also available via iTunes. (If you like what you hear, please leave some positive feedback at iTunes. The show is young, and our egos are fragile.) Get the word out! Tell your friends! Let the women and children know!

Please tell us what you think and sign up for the weekly Noobsletter at noobsletter@thesportingnoobs.com. And for more, stop by thesportingnoobs.com. Thanks for listening!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The long way home

I'm not ready to write that "If you'd have told me back in April that the Tigers would make it to the World Series..." post just yet. Obviously, it was a fantastically surprising baseball season in Detroit. As Big Al said, it's been the "most unexpectedly enjoyable season" many - if not all of us - in this area have ever experienced. And in a couple of days, I'll be able to articulate my thoughts on the 2006 Detroit Tigers, which I've been wanting to write for the last couple of months. (Billfer is already way ahead of me - and eloquently so.)

What's most disappointing is how the Tigers played on baseball's biggest stage. I don't want to say they beat themselves, because that sounds like sour grapes and I was sore enough after Game 4. But I don't think most of the country (those who bothered to watch the World Series, if you pay attention to all the chatter about ratings) didn't get to see these Tigers at their best. They weren't able to see what we witnessed all summer long in Detroit, as our team danced with the best record in the majors.

But as I watched the Cardinals get their trophy, I felt really good for the St. Louis fans. Two years ago, I was able to visit a friend out there and I demanded that we spend a big chunk of the weekend at (the old) Busch Stadium. And that was some of the most fun I've ever had at a baseball game. The fans are great. It's like a college football game out there, with the love, support, and spirit they show for the Cardinals. So I'm really happy they get to celebrate.

I'm also happy for Jeff Weaver. Okay, I took a shot at him in the comments of my last post, but it was good-natured. After the Angels cut him earlier this season, he looked like he might be done. But he revived himself in St. Louis in the best way possible.

Weaver beating the Tigers to clinch a World Series victory is the kind of situation that compels a lot of sportswriters to abuse the word "irony." But he gave a lot to the Tigers during the four years he was here, racking up a bunch of innings without many positive stats to show for the effort. He fought hard to give his team - which was usually bad - a chance to win, and was easily the only thing worth watching during some rough years at Comerica Park.

And I was pissed when Dave Dombrowski traded him in 2002. Obviously, that deal worked out for the Tigers. Weaver was essentially a sacrifice for a franchise that just finished losing the World Series.

(I even remember where I was when I heard about that deal. I was helping my sister put together a TV stand at her first apartment in South Carolina. And I whapped one of the shelves with a screwdriver when I saw the news on TV. Don't tell Lil' Sis that's why the VCR shelf was kind of wobbly.)

So here's a sincere tip of the cap to the Cardinals and their fans. If the Tigers weren't involved, I surely would've rooted for them to win the World Series.

And warm hugs and pats on the back to the Tigers and their fans. It was one hell of a season, as we were all reminded just how fun baseball could be in Detroit. Let's hope this is the start of some sustained excellence at the corner of Montcalm and Witherall (I know - it'll never have the same ring to it), a la the 1991 Atlanta Braves. It didn't have the ending we wanted, but it's been just about the best story we've read in a long time around here.

P.S. Kudos to Mike McClary for a great title to his pre-Game 5 post. I wish I'd have thought of that one. Further thanks to Mike for asking me to participate in The Daily Fungo Podcast throughout this season. He picked one hell of a time to get into the Tigers blog and podcast business.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Ramblin' through the Game Four follies

You can tell me that this series isn't over yet, the fourth win is often the toughest to get, and the St. Louis Cardinals have blown 3-1 leads before (perhaps most memorably - for old-time Tigers fans, at least - in 1968). But it sure feels like the Detroit Tigers lost the World Series last night.

This one hurt, man. Because there was so much that the Tigers did right. Pudge Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson joined the got-a-hit club. Sean Casey hit a home run (alas, a day too late to give America a free taco), which had me thinking today's post would be titled "The Greatest Trade EVER." And Jeff Suppan (whom I like a lot more after watching his instructional pairing with Scooter), the Cardinals' second-best pitcher in the playoffs, was gone by the sixth inning.

(Quick digression: I'm glad I won't have to watch Suppan pitch anymore in St. Louis, because all the signs with plays on his name were brutal. "Supp's On"? "Tonight's Supp: Tiger Stew"? Go crazy, folks! I was waiting for "Pardon me, sir, but do you have any Jeff Suppan?" Or "The Tigers are good... for me to Suppan!"

Never mind that someone went to the trouble of making a "J-Rod" sign for John Rodriguez, or "Coming Up Next... Late Local News," a blatant ploy to get on TV. Okay, I might be bitter.)

Meanwhile, Jeremy Bonderman fiercely maintained the oh-so-precarious one-run lead that his teammates gave him, and Fernando Rodney made Jim Leyland look like a stinkin' genius for holding that lead to close the sixth. It was the kind of effort that should've earned a win.

Unfortunately, the Tigers have gotten clumsy at the absolute worst times in this series. You could make a highlight (lowlight?) tape of Detroit's blunders set to Benny Hill music. Errant throws, players colliding, outfielders slipping... Oh, I'd love to watch that this offseason - while stabbing myself in the thigh with a Swiss Army Knife.

Of course I don't fault Granderson for slipping. (Yeah, yeah, yeah - Curt Flood in '68. A little before my time, okay?) That stuff happens - especially on a field that's been pounded by rain. It was just one hell of a moment for the grass to give out under his feet. And Craig Monroe's misplay of David Eckstein's drive into left-center field was just... unfortunate. Did Monroe misjudge the ball? Maybe. Probably. But he was also playing shallow to make a play at the plate. Eckstein just hit the ball in the right place. At the risk of tossing out a hollow, throwaway cliché, that's baseball.

(Besides, there never would've been a runner to score on that play had Joel Zumaya been able to find the strike zone. What is that, anyway? Is he too amped up? Does the wrist still bother him? Is he trying to throw the ball 150 m.p.h.? Forget the radar gun, kid. Throw a strike.)

But sweet Lord Jeebus, if another Detroit pitcher besides Kenny Rogers has to field a ground ball, I might just go stick my head in an oven. I'm ready for Leyland to go off on a Joe Riggins-esque tirade ("This... is a simple game. You throw the ball... you hit the ball... you catch the ball!") during PFP. And the Tigers' pitchers - especially the relievers - need some #@$%ing PFP right now.

Rodney's lollygagging toss to first base - don't you dare give me that "wet grass" excuse - should be used as an example to Little Leaguers for years to come as to why you throw the ball after you field it, not lob it like an alley-oop to Yao Ming (who's probably the only guy who could've caught that ball).

All the good that Rodney had accomplished - and he was well on his way to saving this game for the Tigers - just sailed away with that toss down the right-field line.

Sure, Detroit can do this. Just... play better. Sounds simple, right? If they can keep the mistakes to an absolute minimum (Pitchers, if the ball is hit back to the mound, run away like it's on fire) and maintain a tough approach at the plate, the rest of what they've been doing has been enough to win. I don't like the Tigers' chances against Chris Carpenter in a possible Game 7 (though it would be at Comerica Park), but the series has to get there first.

The Cardinals, of course, will want to close this out at Busch Stadium with the home folks going crazy, and will surely try like hell to make that happen. Personally, I think Tony La Russa is doing the Tigers something of a favor by starting Jeff Weaver tonight over Anthony Reyes. (What, did he not watch Game 1? Did he miss something while his sunglasses were on?) But maybe he figures Weaver will be extra motivated to beat his original team. Or he just honestly thinks that scarecrow is his third-best starting pitcher.

And if Justin Verlander gets rocked tonight, it'll be one cold winter of second-guessing in Detroit. (Hell, it's already started.) I'm not exactly sure why Leyland is so adamant against starting Kenny Rogers "in this environment." Maybe he thinks the Cardinals fans will rattle Dirty Hand Kenny, and perhaps compel the umpires to inspecting Rogers' hand, glove, and uniform closely. Or maybe he just thinks Rogers is in a zone at home and doesn't want to mess with a good thing.
Besides, Verlander would have to pitch at some point. Tonight's game isn't any more "do-or-die" than the next two would be. So does it really make a difference?

Either way, I know I'll be wearing gloves tonight, to prevent myself from biting my fingernails down to the bone. And yes, I love this. I could just use a bit less anxiety with the whole thing.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Who are The Sporting Noobs?

Over the past few months, I've become pretty damn enamored with this podcasting thing. Ever since getting an iPod last Christmas, listening to podcasts has been one of my daily addictions, and thanks to them, I think I've gotten more done outside - whether it's exercise or work - than I have in years.

I've also been fortunate enough to be invited onto both The Daily Fungo Podcast as a guest and That's What She Said (a podcast about NBC's The Office) as a co-host recently, and have had a blast doing both shows - despite still having some issues with hearing the sound of my own voice. And as a result of those experiences, an itch has developed - one I increasingly feel the need to scratch.

I had high hopes for a podcast project earlier this summer, but that never quite took off, and I felt the need to move on. Kevin Antcliff, who's now working his magic for Mile High Sports Online found himself with similar ambitions and frustrations. We'd both been trying to learn all we could about podcasting, and bounced plenty of different ideas and questions off each other, so when our respective plans stalled, the answer eventually became obvious: Why not do a podcast together?

Remember those old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercials when a guy eating a chocolate bar bumped into a guy who was inexplicably eating out of a peanut butter jar while walking the street? Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter! You got your peanut butter in my chocolate! Once the two gentleman realized their happy accident resulted in two great tastes combining, you had a great candy bar.

So here's our candy bar. Kevin and I are going to try out this podcasting business. Together, we'll be The Sporting Noobs.

Why "Noobs"? Well, we thought it sounded funny at the time. One or both of us may have been drunk, but there's really no way to know for sure.

Anyway, the plan is to do a weekly podcast (which, if all goes according to plan, will be available each Tuesday), and since Kevin is in Colorado and I'm in Michigan, we'll try to cover a variety of national sports topics. (And that means we need to start boning up on that stuff.)

So we're hoping that a slight majority of you who read our respective blogs and pal up with us in this here internet community will take an interest in our little project. (And start getting that phone or microphone voice ready, because we'll surely ask plenty of you to sit in on the show as guests.)

If you're so inclined, please sign up for our weekly Noobsletter - either at the show's home page (which should be dazzling within the next week or so) or through e-mail. In addition to previewing that week's show, we'll be linking to our favorite blogs of the week and including some original material from me and Kevin. And look out for a show next Tuesday (fingers crossed).

Thanks for reading, and we hope this is the beginning of something really fun and really cool.

Doing the anti-rain dance...

▪▪ In his piece detailing the havoc that rainouts will wreak upon this World Series (70% chance of rain tonight, by the way - and Friday isn't looking so good, either), ESPN.com's Jayson Stark includes this gem of a quote from Jim Leyland.

When asked how he spent the three hours of waiting while MLB decided whether or not Game 3 would be played, Leyland responded: "I smoked about a carton. It was probably one of the worst days of the year -- for my lungs."

▪▪ Also at ESPN.com, Jerry Crasnick asks several Tigers and Cardinals a question I've heard from several casual-to-non-baseball fans over the past week: Should the World Series be played at a neutral (warmer) site each year? (You can probably imagine what most of the answers were.)

▪▪ Why would the media even bring up such a subject? Well, they hate the Busch Stadium press box, which is exposed to the elements. The Baseball Writers' Association of America hates it so much, in fact, that they're asking MLB not to award the 2009 All-Star Game to St. Louis until those facilities are improved.

▪▪ Did the Cardinals dial down the Busch Stadium radar gun to mess with Joel Zumaya's head? MLB.com's Jason Beck explores yet another conspiracy theory surrounding this series. (So does that explain Zumaya trying to throw to third on Tuesday night? Maybe he was trying to loosen up his arm some more?)

▪▪ I don't have any feeling for this, but Slate's Larry Borowsky seems to think that America is annoyed that the Cardinals are in the World Series (and two wins away from a championship). No rooting for the underdog, apparently.

▪▪ And here's a guy who seems annoyed that the Tigers are in the World Series. Former major league pitcher Mark Knudson now writes for Mile High Sports and holds Jim Leyland in rather low regard for the job he did in Colorado. Knudson also doesn't care much for Kenny Rogers - and he felt that way before the recent "pine tar" controversy in Game 2.

[Edited at 11 a.m.]

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hey, self-defeaters - quit looking down

First thing this morning, my buddy Rob told me not to worry. I wish he'd have been there for me last night when I was chewing on my remote.

It's not that I'm worried. Actually, I'm kind of mad. Because Chris Carpenter was very good - maybe great - but I think the Tigers more than helped him out with that.

How about making the opposing pitcher work for his victory? These were the "bad" Tigers creeping up again - impatient at the plate, swinging at bad pitches, making it easy for the opposing starter.

82 pitches in eight innings? As Billfer points out, no Tigers batter ever reached three balls in the count. No one in the road greys saw more than five pitches in an at-bat. I'm ready to join Jim Leyland in the smokers' lounge after typing that out.

And Carpenter was a guy that looked spent in the NLCS. Tony La Russa squeezed that sponge dry during the division series against the Padres, pitching Carpenter twice, getting anything and everything he could from the Cardinals' ace in order to advance to the next round. Against New York, he was tapped out. And the Mets didn't bail him out by chasing pitches out of the strike zone, either.

But last night's game also provided plenty of other stuff to worry about. Things that the Tigers had found dependable virtually all season, such as Placido Polanco at the plate, suddenly aren't looking working out for them. (Curtis Granderson and Pudge Rodriguez are obviously concerns, too, but they've been prone to strikeouts and lunging at bad pitches throughout the season.)

And then there's the bullpen, which perhaps had been the Tigers' most fearsome weapon. That was one hell of a meltdown by Joel Zumaya. Had his two-week respite taken away his edge? Is his wrist still bothering him? Regardless of the reasons, Zumaya essentially lit himself on fire by walking the first two hitters. ESPN.com's Keith Law thinks Zumaya was getting squeezed by an inconsistent strike zone. Yet Law's colleagues at "Baseball Tonight" said after the game that Detroit's Voodoo Child didn't look very sharp while warming up, either.

But Zumaya almost got himself out of trouble when he got Albert Pujols to hit a grounder back to the mound. A sure double-play ball. Just turn around and toss the ball to second base, and everyone on the Detroit side could exhale.

Well, not so much. For whatever reason, Zumaya opted to go to third, which no one expected, least of all Brandon Inge. What the hell was he thinking, especially when Jim Leyland came to the mound and told him to throw to second if just such a situation arose? Who knows? It was infuriatingly similar to Justin Verlander's ill-advised decision to try and pick Pujols off first base in Game 1 of the series.

Both of the runners Zumaya put on base scored, and the game was pretty much over after that. I was screaming at my television until I caught a glimpse of Zumaya looking up at the sky for answers. You could see it in his eyes. He knew he made a huge mistake and probably cost his team the game. At that moment, he looked a lot like the kid that his age says he is, and it was difficult to stay mad at the poor guy.

Still, some extra "PFP" with Todd Jones before tonight's game might not be a bad idea.

Yes, Carpenter had great stuff last night, and deserves plenty of credit for a dominating performance. But I just can't shake the feeling that the Tigers largely beat themselves. And if they don't begin to find some discipline at the plate - as well as some more bat finding the ball - this series, despite my friend's assurances, likely won't be coming back to Detroit.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Oh, right. The Lions.

After finally scoring their first victory of the season (in Week 6) over Buffalo, the Lions - now swishing that winning feeling around in their mouths - would surely march into the Meadowlands and try their best to take a two-game winning streak into their bye week. Even if it resulted in a loss, the Jets would know they were in a battle with a team that is coming together, that is ready to pound the rest of the NFL like they've been pounding Sgt. Marinelli's rock. Right?

Well, no. Because these are, after all, the Detroit Lions. Maybe it was expecting too much for the Lions to go on the road (where they've hardly been competitive) and hang tough with an improving Jets team. But if you were still thinking this is a team that's getting close, Sunday's game should probably tell you otherwise.

What's the sign of a bad team? How about when they can't even do something they'd previously been good at all season? If the 2006 Lions could brag about anything - if they even dared to try - it would've been their run defense. They didn't allow a 100-yard rusher until Week 5. The reigning MVP, Shaun Alexander, only notched 51 yards against Detroit. If there was one thing these Lions could do, it was stop the run. That should keep them in most games.

And then there was Sunday's game against the Jets. Leon Washington gained 129 yards. Kevan Barlow added another 49. Brad Smith - who was playing quarterback for Missouri last year - needed only three carries to gain 16 yards. Even wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery had big plays on end-arounds. It was like watching a monster truck rally. The Lions may as well have had tire marks on their jerseys, as New York rolled up 221 yards on the ground.

Go ahead and point out Shaun Rogers' absence, due to his four-game suspension. He's the Lions' best defensive lineman. But, c'mon - does he mean that much to the run defense? Shouldn't they have been able to contain a previously-less-than-impressive Jets' running attack? Apparently not. So much for the depth the Lions supposedly had at the position.

Now, at 1-6 heading into the bye week, the Lions look well on their way to another top 10 draft pick for Matt Millen to screw up. That is, unless you believe the false rallies of Jon Kitna and Roy Williams, who are saying things like "Why can't we win nine games in a row?" with a straight face.

Game Balls & Extra Laps will be moving over here to Sweaty Men Endeavors for the foreseeable future. So if you're interested, they're after the jump. Enjoy the bye week. It comes at a great time, actually, giving the Tigers - who will hopefully be celebrating a World Series victory - the complete spotlight they deserve (although, really, they already had it).

Game Balls & Extra Laps

Game Balls

♦ The offensive line – Is it possible that the Lions' offensive line is playing better since Damien Woody was lost for the season? Considering Woody's lackluster play since coming to Detroit, that probably shouldn't be a surprise. But Kevin Jones likely would've gotten his second-straight 100-yard game, had the Lions not fallen so far behind. And Jon Kitna was only sacked once.

♦ Mike Furrey – With the Jets double-covering Roy Williams all day, Kitna needed to find someone else in the passing game. And Furrey made the most of his opportunity, catching nine passes for 109 yards. It was easily his best game in a Lions uniform, and maybe gives the offense a credible second receiving threat to give Roy some room.

Extra Laps

♦ The defensive line – I think I covered this already. You don't want me to repeat it, do you?

♦ The linebackers – Even Boss Bailey admitted they missed plenty of tackles, which was frustrating because "it's not something that's real hard to do." Somehow, the Lions made it look difficult, though Ernie Sims still managed 10 tackles.

♦ Jason Hanson – It feels like I'm picking on the guy, but his short kickoff after the Lions made it a 31-24 game did not help the comeback attempt. Instead of starting from around their 20, the Jets had the ball near midfield.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Moving past "The Smudge"

You guys have probably already heard or read this stuff elsewhere, but I hate deleting drafts unless I really have to...

♦ Following up on Bill Madden's report that Alan Trammell would be brought onto Lou Pinella's coaching staff in Chicago, it's now official, if you haven't already heard: Tram will be wearing the blue pinstripes of the Cubs as their bench coach next season.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Tram's been a man in demand this off-season. He was also being considered as hitting coach for the Colorado Rockies, and could've either joined Bruce Bochy's staff if he was to take the manager's job in San Francisco, or succeeded Bochy as manager of the Padres.

I think there will always be some argument as to whether or not he was a good manager in Detroit. Me, I think he was always hired as a fall guy, to buy Dave Dombrowski both time and good will while he put together his team for just the right manager. We'll probably never know the entire truth on that, though Jim Leyland's success with this year's team might just render all that speculation moot.

The point I'm trying to get to is this: Trammell ultimately had to go because it became pretty clear he lost the team. But it killed my inner child Tigers fan to see him booed and mercilessly criticized (to those who say they want Steve Yzerman to be Red Wings coach someday, think hard about that), and I'm glad to see him landing on his feet elsewhere in baseball. Giving him the honor of throwing out a ceremonial pitch before Game 2 was a nice touch.

♦ Speaking of nice touches, it was also fantastic to see Sparky Anderson back in Detroit. Comerica Park suits him well. Mike McClary invited me to another Daily Fungo Podcast roundtable, and at the end of the show (which was recorded last Thursday), I expressed my hope that this meant the Tigers and Sparky have finally buried the hatchet, paving the way toward giving #11 the ceremony he deserves. Put that man's number up on that wall with the other retired numbers, Detroit Tigers.

♦ A buddy of mine in the St. Louis area e-mailed me earlier today and asked if Todd Jones was always like that in the 9th inning. Oh, Dave - you have no idea. Booting a relatively easy ground ball? Hitting a batter to load the bases and bring NLCS hero Yadier Molina to the plate? Standard operating procedure this year in Detroit, my friend. I know I'm not the only Tigers fan who had trouble using the bathroom this morning and damn near ate his cell phone in anxiety last night.

But at least we got a good Leyland line out of it: "He'll be taking PFP - pitcher's fielding practice - before we get on the bus tonight."

To the rest of America: That is what we endure in Detroit - bad public transit and adventurous 9th innings with Todd Jones. Oh, and the Lions, but no one cares about them right now.

♦ How much of a role did agent Scott Boras play in the building of the 2006 Detroit Tigers? How much credit does he deserve for steering Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, and Kenny Rogers to Detroit? What did he say to convince Pudge? What did Mike Ilitch do to impress Magglio?

Here's an interesting piece by Tyler Kepner from yesterday's New York Times about Boras' relationship with the Tigers - especially owner Mike Ilitch.

And if the Tigers end up beating the team that Boras toiled in the minor leagues with? I suppose that's some tasty gravy.

♦ Also from yesterday's NY Times is a feature on Marcus Thames' mother, Veterine, who's been bedridden in Mississippi for the past 24 years as the result of an auto accident. It's quite an insight into Thames' upbringing, and if you ever wondered why he never gave up trying to make it to the major leagues, this should give you a pretty good idea.

And just in case you wanted to know, Veterine reveals that Marcus was nicknamed "Slick" as a kid because he sucked his thumb.

(Salon's King Kaufman, by the way, thinks Leyland might be looney for not putting Thames in the line-up.)


If you weren't already sick of "The Smudge"...

The New York Times' "Bats" blog would like to bring you... "The Cap."

Rob Mackey's post cites Paul Luka's "Uni Watch" column at ESPN.com, which points out that Kenny Rogers' cap is worthy of some scrutiny, as well. Why's that?

Rogers prefers the batting practice cap, rather than the standard issue "5950" New Era version that everyone else wears. Normally, you'd be able to tell because of the bill of the cap has a white brim, which wouldn't be allowed in regular game-play. But Rogers apparently colors that in with magic marker. Why would this be any sort of issue?

The BP cap has a black underbill, instead of the Tigers' usual light gray. Now ask yourself, if you wanted to take a foreign substance out to the mound with you, wouldn't it be easier to hide it against a black background than a gray one? Far be it from Uni Watch to accuse the Gambler of taking cards from the bottom of the deck, but you have to admit it's an interesting coincidence at the very least. Uni Watch's suggestion: Make Rogers wear a 5950 like everyone else, and then let's see who holds 'em and who folds 'em.

(Besides the stuff about Rogers' cap, the rest of the column has an interesting analysis of the slight differences between the Olde English D on that cap and the one on the Tigers' jerseys. Did you know they were different? I sure as hell didn't. Of course, I haven't had a jersey in my hands to examine, either.)

If there's a Game 6, Rogers might want to plan on getting to Comerica Park early. I have a feeling he'll be inspected like a bag of luggage at the airport. Oh, and probably steam cleaned.

So are you ready for Game 3 to start already? I'm not sure I can take another day of this stuff. By tomorrow, we'll probably find out if Rogers has any allergies or a cold that might result in a runny nose while on the mound. And why were his eyes so moist following the game when he was interviewed by Chris Myers? What is he putting in his eyes that makes them tear up like that? Emotion? Bah! What happens if you put those tears on the ball?!

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Deep World Series thoughts

▪▪ So did anyone else watch a "pumped-up" (surely because it was cold) Eric Byrnes on FOX's pre-game show and think of Pepper Brooks from Dodgeball?

Effin' A, Jeanne Zelasko! Effin' A!

I missed my chance at making fun of Byrnes' hair while he appeared on Baseball Tonight during the Tigers-Yankees series (though I felt strongly enough about it to text-message Mike McClary from Hawaii), but when did this guy become the go-to player analyst? And what exactly does he offer, other than looking and acting like he had way too much Red Bull in his trailer?

▪▪ While I'm at it, when Ronnie Belliard (not to be confused with Tigers' infield coach Rafael Belliard, as I briefly was) took second base for the Cardinals in Game 1, and you saw his unbraided, unfurled afro barely contained under his hat, were you at all reminded of Shirley from What's Happening?

No? That was just me?


Ooooh, that smudge!

Kind of a shame for the post-game chatter to focus on that "big clump of dirt" on Kenny Rogers' pitching hand during the first inning, eh?

Considering Rogers' pitched seven amazing innings after that with clean hands, the mysterious "discoloration" on his left hand would seem to be a moot point. I had kind of a sick feeling in my stomach, however, when ESPN showed clips from Rogers' other post-season starts, in which he also appeared to have something on his left hand.

But hey, if the umpires didn't think the smudge was suspicious enough to examine Rogers' hand, glove, hat, or anything else on his uniform, and if the Cardinals weren't demanding that kind of examination - or his immediate ejection from the game - then I guess it's not an issue, and Rogers isn't the real-life version of Major League's Eddie Harris.

If La Russa says "it's not important to talk about," Aaron Miles doesn't think Rogers was cheating, and Albert Pujols didn't notice anything, then that's it. No accusations. No excuses.

Or, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bryan Burwell (welcome back to Detroit, Bryan) speculates, Tony La Russa just didn't want to pursue that route. He wants his team to win because of their play on the field, not from pointing at the rule book.

As you might imagine, however, Cardinal Nation doesn't agree with that and is more than a bit upset about the smudge. Viva El Birdos cites the exact rule and calls Rogers a "cheat." Go Crazy, Folks! thinks Rogers was busted, should've been tossed, and may have still been cheating later in the game. (I'm eager to see what Mr. Leitch might have to say on the matter later today.)

Who can blame them? If Jeff Weaver had something on his hand last night, and the Tigers lost, I'd probably be writing about it right now, too. I'd like to think I'd let it go if Weaver pitched even better after washing his hands, but who knows?

But if Rogers ends up pitching Game 6 of this series back at Comerica Park, I'll bet he receives some much closer scrutiny, whether it's from the umpires, the FOX television cameras, or the Cardinals' dugout. Hey, if the series is on the line, that rule book could suddenly become quite a handy weapon.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

And knowing is half the battle

So now we finally know. A rematch of the 1968 World Series, if you haven't already heard. Even though I said yesterday that I wanted the Mets because they looked weaker, pitching-wise (and Vance Wilson could wreak vengeance upon the team that spurned him), I'm glad the opponent is the Cardinals. It's more of a "classic" match-up, and I like that two supposed cornerstones from the Randy Smith regime will be returning to Detroit.

The Midwesterner in me also loves that the East Coast is being frozen out. But really, I'm most excited about the Battle of the Soul Patches, between Brandon Inge and Scott Spiezio. Keep the color natural, Ingie. (Note to FOX Sports, take it easy with the close-ups on Spiezio's red stripe.)

Let's create some new baseball memories, Detroit. Bubba Helms is dead. (There's a potential title for a new Tigers blog, if anyone wants it.) That brings us to the World Series edition of...

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

▪▪ ESPN.com's Buster Olney lists the reasons why the Cardinals are in trouble. First and foremost? The Tigers have been watching you, St. Louis. And they've been taking notes.

▪▪ Anyone else looking forward to Jeff Weaver likely starting one of the first two games in Detroit (probably Game 2)? If I were FOX, I'd try to make sure Weaver bumps into Dave Dombrowski at some point during workouts or warm-ups. (Too bad he won't be matched up against Jeremy Bonderman...)

▪▪ Of all the nicknames I've tried to give Craig Monroe this season, "Monroeguez" never once occurred to me.

▪▪ I missed Endy Chavez's catch when it happened (I was joining Mike McClary for a recording of The Daily Fungo Podcast - to be posted within the next day or so, I'd bet), but after seeing the highlight a half-dozen times now, I'm thinking that has to rank among the all-time catches (especially among post-season highlights).

King Kaufman says it might have been considered the greatest, if the Mets had won the game. Slate's Josh Levin also has some thoughts on that subject.

▪▪ Do you think Carlos Beltran suffered a knee injury from the way he buckled at that last Adam Wainwright curveball? That, as they say, was nasty. (Mets GM Omar Minaya called it "unhittable.") Prediction for future Beltran nickname: Mr. Freeze. Or is that too lame?

▪▪ You already knew Deadspin's Will Leitch was a huge Cardinals fan. But apparently, an editor at Gawker (a colleague of Will's within the Gawker Media blog conglomerate) is a huge Detroit Tigers fan. Thus, the two editors are making a World Series bet: On the Tuesday following the completion of the Series, the loser has to post not only on his own site, but cover the posts at the other site, too. (Thanks to Fried Rice Thoughts' New York Bureau Chief, Mis Hooz, for passing this along.)

So if you really, really like Will Leitch (and here's his side of the bet), you'll root for the Cardinals, I suppose. Deadspin's been berry, berry good to us over the past year, but we're still going to cheer for the Tigers.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thinking (and linking) over lunch

♦ I'd been re-reading Buzz Bissinger's Three Nights in August, hoping I might glean some insight into Tony La Russa's managerial approach in a pending match-up with the Tigers and his old friend, Jim Leyland. But after last night's 4-2 loss to the Mets, I'm wondering whether I should bother trying to finish the book before Saturday. I don't suppose Willie Randolph has a book on the shelf I can flip through?

♦ I'm kind of hoping the Mets win the NLCS and come to Detroit on Saturday. It's not (necessarily) about beating the other New York team for the championship. Or fearing a Cardinals team with arguably the best hitter and starting pitcher in baseball.

I just like the Tigers chances in the World Series against a team that is starting Oliver Perez (who the Pittsburgh Pirates decided was no good for them) in a do-or-die Game 7 tonight.

(Previously, the Mets had strongly considered giving Darren Oliver - now a middle reliever - the starting nod. As a Tigers fan, can you imagine Detroit starting Jason Grilli for a Game 7? I'm sorry; I didn't mean to scare you. But think about the situation the Mets find themselves in after spending much of the season fighting the Tigers for the best record in baseball.)

♦ Was the rainout before the original Game 2 (10-04-06) of the ALDS vs. the Yankees the turning point in the Tigers' post-season? Mike Bauman of MLB.com thinks so. The perception that the Yankees received preferential treatment (or worse, were deceitful) during the rainout ticked the Tigers off, giving them an edge that they may have taken all the way to the World Series.

Complete Sports thinks Michigan is currently the best team in the country, and will eventually play Auburn for the national championship.

I'm certainly not going to argue, but am beginning to wonder if a potentially great Michigan football team has ever received less attention from the local sports community. (I'm speaking more of the metro Detroit area. Not Ann Arbor. People definitely care here.)

That's not a bad thing. It's just an indication of how Tigers-crazy it is around here. Fans will be pleasantly surprised, once the Tigers smoke clears (hopefully from celebratory fireworks), to see just how good a team the Maize-and-Blue have right now.


Ticket blasted?

Raise your hand if you actually managed to snag some tickets to Games 1 or 2 of the World Series this weekend at Comerica Park. I haven't talked to everyone - or even a lot of people - but almost all of the stories I've heard or read were frustrating accounts from those who spent hours trying to get tickets online and eventually had nothing to show for the effort.

Obviously, there was going to be a huge demand for tickets - not just from Tigers fans, but also from out-of-town baseball followers, as well as those who just want to take part in a big sporting event.

But the apparent World Series freeze-out kind of affirms a sad belief I've held for many years now: so-called "average" fans just aren't meant to attend events like this anymore. They've been priced out. Now, that's not to say that those able to acquire tickets through corporate means aren't "true fans." I don't want to get into that argument.

However, it would be nice to see everyone get a fair chance. And given how the ticket situation shook down, it seems pretty apparent that - despite the supposed best efforts to prevent this - ticket brokers were able to score a significant majority of the available seats. (Am I off-base on that?) It bums me out when people have decided to make a commitment to see something special, something they may never have another chance to witness live, and are left to watch on TV - especially when it's not a question of availability, but of affordability.

I've heard quite a few stories this summer from people who attended the 1984 World Series and 1987 ALCS at Tiger Stadium. Maybe it's not an entirely fair comparison, since Comerica Park has a lower seating capacity and we now simply live in a different era. But I just have a feeling that I'm not going to be hearing the same kind of nostalgia about the 2006 World Series 25 years from now. I hope I'm wrong about that.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Looking for that Brush St. glory

I would never, ever root for the Tigers to lose - especially in the post-season. But before the game on Saturday, I thought that it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if Oakland won Game 4, pushing the ALCS to a Game 5 on Sunday. Of course, the people in attendance at Comerica Park - suffering in that fall chill and eagerly waiting for their baseball heroes to give them a moment they'd never forget - would've strongly disagreed with me. And they deserved to have their devotion rewarded, not delayed until the next day.

What exactly was I thinking? Well, I wanted the Tigers to completely obscure the Lions and keep them off the Monday morning sports front page. (K-Dog laughed heartily when I told him this.)

The boys in Honolulu Blue have already been (more than rightfully) overshadowed by the men in the Olde English D this fall (which had probably taken some attention away from that Mornhinweg-esque 0-5 record). And if they were going to push that record to 0-6 (which was entirely within the realm of possibility), Detroit (at least the people still paying attention) didn't need that kind of buzzkill.

Naturally, the Lions took the field and won their first game of the season, 20-17, over the Buffalo Bills and old buddy Dick Jauron.

They couldn't let the Tigers hoard all of that Brush St. mojo, right? (Or maybe there was just more than plenty to go around.)

So after a two-week absence, I wrote up some Game Balls & Extra Laps for the Motor City Sports website. Except this week, in lieu of the Lions having found that winning feeling, I just couldn't find anyone who needed to run extra laps after practice or spend more time in the film room. And believe me, I tried. But it all seemed like nitpicking after going over the list I scratched out.

(Really, the Bills should be the ones to run the extra laps for wasting what I thought was an impressive performance by J.P. Losman. That young man can throw on the run, people.)

Congratulations to the Detroit Lions. I suppose they had to win one of these weeks. Seriously though, now that they've cleared that hurdle and Sgt. Marinelli's teachings have finally yielded a positive result, it could be interesting to see what happens from here on out. New York Jets, you're next on the list toward football reclamation.


Thanks, Steve Lyons!

Well, it's pretty easy to bash Steve Lyons in lieu of his dismissal from FOX over the weekend for "inappropriate" comments. I mean, the guy just wasn't that good of a baseball analyst. (And he'll always be the guy who pulled down his pants at first base in Tiger Stadium to me.) Plus, he's not nearly as funny as he thinks he is, which I think is a particularly annoying sin for anyone who works in sports or entertainment.

But I'm feeling pretty indebted to the guy this week. I've been getting a lot of hits from people looking for something on the story - what he said, what he may have said about Lou Pinella, etc. On a whim, I checked my stats, knowing that Sunday's almost always a slow day, and was astounded to see numbers that usually means I was "Deadspun."

And that couldn't have been the case, unless there was a surge of Friday Night Lights watchers or Shaun Bodiford fans flooding Google. And it was only then that I realized what had happened. Type in "Lyons" and "Pinella" on a search and this lil' blog pops up rather prominently. Luck of the Ian.

Sure, I noticed that Lyons wasn't in the booth Saturday evening. But I couldn't be absolutely sure who was or wasn't talking, as I watched 3/4 of the game in a bar. As unusual as replacing a broadcaster during a playoff series would be, I just hoped figured FOX had somehow come to its senses. Or that Lyons had some kind of emergency that took him away from the game.

Like Deadspin and Salon's King Kaufman, however, I'm a bit baffled by this - mostly because I just don't really get what Lyons was trying to say. At the time, I just thought, "What the hell is he talking about?" (Another ill-fated attempt to be funny, I guess.) I suppose I can see - especially with the remarks in print - why someone might get a little skittish about Lyons (who has a history of idiotic comments) inching close to anything racially insensitive. But he was just making a dumb joke about his broadcast partner. It's not like he was Al Campanis on Nightline.

But that's not even worth getting into anymore. The point is Steve Lyons has been unwittingly good to Sweaty Men Endeavors, and I'm grateful. Hello to all of you who have stopped by over the past couple of days. I hope you've found something enjoyable to read.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

El Magglio Poderoso!

I don't suppose they're referring to Saturday night's hero as "Magglio F---ing Ordonez" out in Oakland, eh? Probably not. There's just not the same pent-up animosity between the Tigers and Athletics. But if Maggs was persona non grata in Oakland for the rest of his career, that'd be kind of cool, wouldn't it? Don't worry, Maggs - we'd have your back.

In this fantastic season that we'll be talking about for years around here, when fairy dust from the baseball angels continues to sprinkle down upon Comerica Park, was there anyone else who should've been at the plate in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday besides Magglio Ordonez?

That was some serious affirmation. Or redemption, if you think Magglio was something of a disappointment during the regular season, with diminished power numbers and a creaky knee in right field. But with one whip-like swing, Detroit's mighty Samson became the hero we'd all hoped for when he signed that huge contract with the Tigers.

Talk about a no-doubter of a home run. That thing absolutely soared toward the left-field seats, taking 22 years of frustration into the sky, hanging in the air just long enough for the reality to completely sink in.

All the worries and fears that this season wasn't "for real," that we'd have to settle for "Well, if you told me back in April that the Tigers would've made it to the playoffs" justifications, that stuff disintegrated like a meteor entering the atmosphere. And when that baseball landed, far past the original Comerica Park fences, it was like the world exploded - in a good way. In the best of ways.

And from home plate, the man who sometimes seemed like the loneliest man in Detroit last season - nursing a sports hernia, then rehabilitating in Toledo, before joining another disappointing Tigers team - while watching his former team win the World Series, slowly stepped toward first base like he was living a dream, like he couldn't believe, as Jack Buck would say, what he just saw.

Then the walk became a jog, a triumphant trot around the bases for a victory lap that we've all dream about whenever we picked up a bat. And if Magglio did indeed feel lonely last season, he had an entire team (and city) awaiting him back at home plate this year for the warmest of hero's welcomes.

You, Mr. Ordonez, will never be lonely in this town again. Cerveza libre para usted the rest of your life, if you know what I mean. (I remember reading that Magglio's more of a wine guy, however. Okay - make it vino libre.)

Do we really have to wait an entire week for the World Series to begin? That's okay, I suppose. (Especially if it means Joel Zumaya and Sean Casey have time to heal up.) This could be the best kick-back-and-enjoy-it week we've ever had in this town. Besides, that was a moment that truly deserves to be savored, and watched over and over again.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Step toward the "Lights"

Please indulge me while I help out a buddy. My old friend Clint - who was often mistaken for me (and vice versa) when we worked together at Borders (perhaps we're brothers from different mothers?) - moved out to Los Angeles earlier this year and recently scored a working gig on the NBC show Friday Night Lights, based on the 1990 book and 2004 film. (You can read his MySpace blog here.)

Clint can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe he's an assistant to one of the writers. It's a really exciting opportunity for him (and as you might imagine, I'm more than a little envious - but hey, he took the chance on moving out to L.A. while I'm playing part-time sportswriter in Michigan.)

Anyway, Friday Night Lights has been getting great reviews from TV writers and critics around the country. "Great" almost isn't the proper adjective for the praise it's been getting. (Even Tom Shales of the Washington Post loved it, and he seems to hate everything lately.)

Unfortunately, as Troy Patterson pointed out in Slate on Tuesday, if it's one of the best shows of the new season, it's also drawing some of the worst ratings. Frazier Moore of the Associated Press says NBC "plans to stick with" FNL, but don't TV execs always say that sort of thing?

And that's where the point of this post comes in. Clint's wondering what non-critics - especially sports fans - think about the show. So let me put it to you guys. Is it on your radar? If not, why not? Have you heard of the show? Are you familiar with the book or movie? And if you are watching, what do you think so far? Does it seem authentic to you? Are you into the idea of a TV drama about a high school football team? Is there not enough football in it?

Of course, I'm sticking up for my friend. I want to see his awesome opportunity continue. But Good Lord, I love watching TV, and would hate to see a quality show get canned, especially by a network that's clearly struggling, as NBC has been.

I have to admit, however, that I haven't watched the show yet, either. I was en route to Hawaii when the season premiere aired. And this week, FNL was pre-empted by the Michigan gubernatorial debate. Also, a little event known as Game 1 of the American League Championship Series happened to be running at the same time, so I probably would've taped the show, in all honesty.

And I suspect that's a big reason for the bad ratings, especially among male viewers. Sports fans are watching playoff baseball. Meanwhile, non-sports fans figure they won't be interested in a show that centers around Texas high school football.

If I'm any kind of hypocrite for asking people to watch when I haven't myself, so be it. I still intend to give FNL a chance - if NBC gives me a chance to keep trying. But chime in here, if you've seen it, and have a minute to pitch in two cents. I know Clint's damn curious to find out why people aren't watching - while also getting the word out about the show.

And yes, I promise I will watch next week, Clint. Unless the Tigers are playing, of course. But I'll remember to tape it!

A sit-down with Shaun Bodiford

I didn't get a chance to link to this before I left for Hawaii, so as we're waiting for Game 3 of the ALCS to begin, please allow me to point over to my recent interview with Lions wide receiver Shaun Bodiford for the Motor City Sports Magazine website.

He was sitting all alone at his locker while the rest of the media horde feasted on Roy Williams, Kevin Jones, and Jon Kitna after the Lions' Week 3 loss to Green Bay. To me, it looked like a great opportunity to score my first locker room interview - a rookie sportswriter sitting down with a rookie NFL player.

I'm probably biased, but Bodiford seemed like a nice guy who was flattered that someone wanted to talk to him. Little did he know that I was thrilled that he gave five minutes of his time to a guy walking around in a wide-eyed daze, trying to look professional. Hey, I had a cool little pocket digital recorder - just like the big guys, man.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the interview. I'd love a chance to talk to Bodiford again some time down the line, when both of us are a little more comfortable with the whole process. Maybe he'll open up a little bit more, and maybe I'll come up with some better questions.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

It's starting to take on that look...

I often cringe whenever the words "team of destiny" are strung together in a sentence, but I'd be lying if I said that particular phrase didn't run through my brain a couple of times last night (as well as throughout this entire season). When the Tigers' shining star in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series is Alexis Gomez - a guy who kept the pavement warm on I-75 between Toledo and Detroit all summer - it's becoming pretty clear that things are going their way.

Last night's batting order - with Gomez and Neifi Perez (batting 2nd!) on the field - could almost have been mistaken for one of those Sunday lineups where regulars get their one day of the week off. But Gomez certainly made Jim Leyland look like a super-genius for matching his left-handed bat against Esteban Loaiza. He put up the numbers you would've expected from one of the usual big boppers in the lineup, like Magglio Ordonez or Craig Monroe. Four RBIs? A two-run homer crushed down the right-field power alley in Oakland's canyon of a ballpark? (The "Anti-Virus Coliseum," as Mike McClary - who was in attendance last night, by the way - calls it.)

And how about Gomez calmly circling around the bases, like he's done this sort of thing before? This wasn't Mickey Hatcher in 1988, running at full speed with his arms raised up and waving around like a madman. Or even Milton Bradley, who blazed around the bases like he wanted to step right back up to the plate. Cool exterior aside, Gomez may have been savoring this one. Who the hell could fault him for that?

I have to agree with A's bloggers who point out (as linked to by Billfer) that Oakland's played well enough (or at least hit well enough) in both games to still be considered a factor in this series. (And it was scary as hell - sphincter-puckering frightening - to see Frank Thomas facing Todd Jones with the bases loaded in the 9th. So was that pitch from Jones that Thomas just missed.) Of course, we're still talking about a team down 2-0 and set to play the next two to three games in Detroit. If the Tigers were in that position, how would you be feeling about their chances?

A few quickies:

▪▪ I don't understand Oakland's rotation in this series. Someone explain to me why the A's are holding Dan Haren back until Game 4. I know Rich Harden can be great - if healthy - (and some putz picked him to win the AL Cy Young this season) but the ALCS could pivot on tomorrow's game. Why wouldn't you send out the guy who's been at least your second-best pitcher?

▪▪ Has any player (on a good team) in recent memory been more reviled by Detroit fans than Neifi Perez?

▪▪ Does any manager seem more invisible than Ken Macha? (Especially in comparison to Leyland, who seems to be working everything. But maybe that's TV coverage for you.)

▪▪ Do you wish either the Tigers or A's had a junkball/knuckleball pitcher, just to see if FOX's radar gun would clock them at 95 mph too?

▪▪ I'm not usually one to hope for such things, but I'm really hoping the Tigers draw my name for tickets this weekend. With the weather forecast, watching at home might be more comfortable, but I really want to be at Comerica Park now - especially after missing out on the Yankees series.

▪▪ Is anyone selling Magglio-esque wigs by the ballpark? If I attend a game, I might be sporting some fake curly locks. Think about it, Detroit - this could be the new 'fro.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

So this playoff thing is pretty cool, eh?

I feel a bit funny writing about the Tigers now, since I pretty much neglected them for the final weeks of the season, as they let the AL Central slip away. And I was out of the country (at least it seemed that way with the six-hour time difference) while they completely shut down the Yankees in their first-round playoff series.

(The New York papers were so much fun to read during my layover in L.A., however. The NY Post had me laughing all morning on Monday. "Fire Torre," "Trade A-Rod, "Sheff's old as dirt," "Unless your last name is Wang, you're a Yankees pitcher that sucks." I'm paraphrasing (slightly), but those back page headlines are a delight of absurdity - which was much-needed, since I was shoehorned into a table at the airport Burger King, trying to ration out my $5.00 Croissanwich. Yuck.)

The Leelanau Sports Guy already called me out on whining about being in Hawaii during the Tigers-Yankees series, so I won't try to pretend that I wasn't enjoying the sun and beach while Detroit was apparently shocking the baseball world. But I did feel like I was missing out on something really special. I heard the last inning of Game 4 through the Batphone, so I wasn't completely tuned out.

But I was a lone doofus, standing in the thoroughfare of Honolulu's Chinatown, with one arm raised and yelling "Yes!" (Now that I think about it, I looked a lot like that Japanese dude on Heroes, after he teleports himself to Times Square... Hai!)

I've seen footage of the Tigers celebrating with the fans at Comerica Park (which ESPN's Buster Olney called "perhaps the greatest team celebration you will ever see"), Kenny Rogers soaking policemen with champagne, and Jim Leyland appearing to kiss anyone who'd stick his or her lips through the netting, and wish I could've seen that live - even if it was just on TV. Reading assorted blog posts about the victory is great, but makes the whole thing feel kind of distant to me.

"Boo-hoo"? Don't cry for you, Joel Zumaya? Okay, okay... You're right. Besides, I came back with a great-looking tan.

My biggest fear was that the Tigers' playoff run would flame out - start to finish - while I was away. So I wasn't just happy that Detroit would still be playing post-season baseball (and humbled the overlord Yankees in the process) when I came home. I was thrilled that I'd be able to watch some of that action. So last night's Game 1 vs. Oakland was my first real taste of playoff baseball, Detroit-style, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

That 4th inning may have been more enjoyable than any one particular inning I can remember. Not only did the Tigers chase Barry Zito - possibly Oakland's best chance for a win from a starting pitcher - after making him work as we've been begging and pleading for them to do virtually all season long, but Nate Robertson came back from what looked like a stomach churning "Oh, $#!+" situation to blowing away the next three batters. If that wasn't a fist-pumping moment - one that could make a poor guy tear his rotator cuff - then I'm not sure I've ever seen one.

It seemed like a microcosm of the entire season. The Tigers did something unexpected, and showed that they’re capable of playing truly good baseball. Then they allowed their comfortable lead to suddenly become precarious. But when faced with adversity – a situation in which it looked like they’d wilt – the Tigers flexed their muscles and demonstrated just how tough they really are. It was an exhalation and an exclamation. Robertson yelled to no one in particular, yet to everyone watching, and walked back to the dugout triumphantly.

How was Oakland going to win the game after that?

But I think I could've done without seeing Sean Casey's left calf snap/spasm/explode like warm taffy in super-duper-X-slo-mo a dozen times, though. FOX Sports, thy name is not restraint. Was anyone else wondering if they were feeling a leg cramp after the first three or four viewings of that? Casey won't play tonight? No, you're kidding me.

Besides that 4th inning, however (and, well, you know, the Tigers winning), I think my favorite moment of the game was the awkward silence after Steve Lyons teased Lou Pinella about managing Tampa Bay. (Pinella: I like winning, too. Lyons: Then why'd you take that Tampa Bay job?)

Did the FOX director fall asleep there? How could you not get a camera shot of the look Pinella had to shoot at Lyons after that? (Yes, Mike McClary, I think Sweet Lou wants to deck Psycho Steve. Fiercely.) Or was he too in love with switching over to that stupid "Diamond Cam," which has to be the most useless camera angle in the history of sports. (The under-the-basket cam used in NBA games might be a close second.)

Let's see Milton Bradley strike out again from... a little lower angle than the one you just watched. Wow, that added something, huh? Hey, do we have a shot of Casey's calf exploding from that camera?

Okay, I'm definitely ready for tonight.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

All apologies

(Or "In the sun, I feel as one" - whatever Kurt Cobain meant by that.)

I meant to post a message early last week before leaving, but ran right into a deadline crunch, and found myself trying to finish a magazine article just before I had to leave for the airport.

If you've been stopping by for the past week, wondering where the hell I was, or if I joined the many who finally crapped out on blogging after giving it a good try, I apologize for not saying anything. (And I'm not even going to look at my hit counter, for fear the numbers will make me cry.) This was quite possibly the worst week in the recent sports calendar to leave the continental United States, with the Tigers in the playoffs (and beating the Yankees!), along with Michigan playing Michigan State. This is what happens when the females of the family make the arrangements. (Just kidding, ladies.)

So where'd I go? Well, I've been in Hawaii for most of the past week, spending time on the beach in Waikiki with my family, after bouncing around northern California for a bit. And only now that I'm trying to kill some time before we're set to head back did I finally find the internet station here at the Marriott.

Thanks to my tricked-out test Sprint batphone, I was able to keep up on the Tigers' fantastic (and surprisingly dominant) first-round victory over the Yankees. But most of the games were during the day out here. The rescheduled Game 2, for example, started at 7 a.m. I tried to get up and watch, but didn't have much success. It's pretty cool to wake up that early and turn on some baseball, though. (If anyone's able to keep up with sports around here - other than, say, University of Hawaii football - they must be pretty damn dedicated. Hell, I thought I was.)

Back in Michigan on Tuesday, and I'll get back on the blogging horse - or try to, after readjusting to Eastern Standard Time.

Mahalo, as the people with grass skirts and coconut breast cups say here.

(Meanwhile, did you catch me on The Daily Fungo Podcast last week? It's interesting to hear our roundtable's thoughts, compared to what's actually happened with the Tigers recently.)

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