Tuesday, September 28, 2004

College Hoops Polls

Over at the College Basketball Blog, Yoni has posted a chart listing a number of media outlet's pre-season rankings. Here is a link to the list.

Did You Get A Ring With That?

Last night, the Boston Red Sox clinched a berth in the post-season. The Red Sox secured their shot at the elusive World Series title by capturing the American League's Wild Card. However, by all accounts the Sox partied like, well, like they had won something.

Sure, many of the Sox offered up the traditional "We haven't done anything yet" speech, but that makes me wonder if they have poured champagne and beer all over each other after every victory this year? Because if they haven't, what's up with the party? (If they have partied like this all year, they are lucky to still be standing let alone winning games.) Securing your second place finish behind your long-time rivals, the New York Yankees, hardly seems party-worthy.

If the Sox were the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, their opponents last evening, and the D-Rays had made the post-season for the first time in franchise history, I would have spotted them a party. However, these Red Sox were built to win playoff games, not celebrate Wild Card clinchers. Having a party for such a non-event seems wrong. If they lose anywhere prior to the World Series it will seem even more laughable. (Trust me, Yankee fans are laughing right now. Really loud, too.)

Yeah, I'm probably making too much out of it. I readily admit to having a soft spot for the Red Sox. (Maybe it's the same reason I am a Detroit Lions fan. It's a misery loves company thing.) Maybe I'm just too darn cynical. What's a little alcohol and loud music anyway? Nothing really, I'd just prefer seeing the Sox do this in late October not late September.

Racing To Oblivion

Society seems to love a race. We run in races. Everything from a one hundred meter dash to a marathon. We skate and ski to see who will finish first. We bet races. The dog and ponies get wagered on each day. Mankind puts his transportation into action as well. We race all forms of bicycles, motorcycles, snowmobiles, boats and cars. Yet, I was still amazed at what I witnessed Sunday.

While flipping through television stations, I stumbled across a form of racing I didn't know existed. Lawn mower racing. Yes, that's right. Lawn mowers. No, no. Not the push kind. The riding variety. A rather large group of individuals were zipping around the course, complete with safety helmets, on lawn mowers to see who would win.

At first, I was just plain stupefied at the thought this idea had grown beyond a contest between drunken neighbors. It was an actual event. These guys were racing riding lawn mowers on a designed course. The longer I watched, and it wasn't for more than about five minutes, the more a second thought occurred to me.

What on Earth was this doing on television? Sure, go ahead. Race lawn mowers, if you want. You and your buddies want to crack a keg and tool around to see who wins, I'm all for it. But whose bright idea was it to put it on tv?

I'll admit, it probably got better ratings than the NHL, but just how desperate are we for programming? I realize it's Sunday afternoon and nothing is going to come close to NFL ratings, but I can't see under any circumstance broadcasting lawn mower racing. (Ok, the drunk thing might be one condition.) If we needed anymore proof that ESPN had "jumped the shark", this was it.

Then, I got scared. What if this is a pro league? What if this is only one stop on their season long tour? What if the drivers have endorsement deals with Toro, Briggs and Stratton and John Deere? There's got to be prize money, right? How much? If it's more than 50% of us earn in a year, I may lose it. That's when I changed the channel.

Afterwards, I was pondering what else could this lead to? If ESPN, albeit ESPN2, is willing to give up airtime to lawn mowers, why not edgers? How about the all-time classic battle between drop and broadcast spreaders? That would make for one heck of a race. Hey, if lawn mowers got on cable tv, wheelbarrel racing, a long standing American tradition, should be on network television.

If I recall correctly, Rome fell, in part, due to it's obsession with games. When we find lawn mower racing on television we should all start to worry about our nation's future.

Lions Diary

In case you haven't heard, the big story in Detroit sports right now is what Fox Sports' Tony Siragusa said about Joey Harrington during the game Sunday. Here's a link to the Detroit Free Press story getting into all the details. Basically, the ex-NFL defensive lineman questioned Harrington's manhood. Indirectly, of course.

Instead of taking the low road here, I'll just say that Mitch Albom sums up my thoughts pretty well with his column. (I should point out that Albom rarely shares my sentiments on anything, which I'm sure would please him.)

Is Anybody Clean?

Just when you think doping scandals in sports can't get any worse, they do. Here's a brief story about some Paralympians that tested positive for banned substances.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Lions Diary

It was over almost before it began. The Philadelphia Eagles showed the Lions' faithful why they are Super Bowl contenders. I didn't get to see any of the first half, but it was 7-0 Eagles when I turned my radio on, 14-0 shortly after and 21-0 when I decided I would turn the radio off and watch what was left when I got home.

When the tv went on, it was 27-7 Eagles and about the only positive thing I gleaned was that Philadelphia kicker Jeff Akers was having a good day. He started on my fantasy team this week. The final was a disappointing 30-13 score. I never expected a Super Bowl run from the Detroit football team, but I would have preferred a closer game against a quality opponent.

Of course, there was one other huge good sign for me and the Lions. Roy Williams was having his best day yet. The rookie wide receiver caught nine passes for 135 yards and scored both Lions' touchdowns. I started him on my fantasy team, too. More importantly, the Lions may actually have their first great offensive player since Barry Sanders retired and their best receiver since Herman Moore's glory days.

The game itself was never really that much of a contest, so I don't think I'll dwell on it. Philadelphia is very good and no one should be too surprised the Lions got slapped around. I heard Kevin Jones' was injured, so that will concern all of Lions' Country. They must have him back and healthy. Hopefully, the week off will help Jones and the other banged up Lions.

2-1 after three weeks isn't too bad. In light of their recent history, I'll embrace the winning record in September and hope October provides the Lions with another winning mark.

B.B. Baker's Dozen

There is no movement in my top 13 this week. There were some shaky performances, but not enough to demote anyone a spot. Both Virignia and Purdue are on the edge of being included, but I couldn't find them a spot right now. In all likelihood, one or both will join the party next week. Some big games next weekend will definitely shake up all the polls.

1. Southern Cal- Stanford is their second close call of '04. #9 Cal is on the horizon.
2. Oklahoma- Still number two, but a bit closer with the Trojans struggles.
3. Miami- The D got the job done this past weekend.
4. Georgia- UGA gets LSU on Saturday.
5. Texas- A nice win and Benson is still in the Heisman derby.
6. Ohio State- The Buckeyes hold their spot without playing.
7. Utah- Air Force was very pesky, but the Utes still merit their top 10 ranking.
8. West Viriginia- Mountaineers win, Kay-Jay Harris is out of the Heisman race.
9. California- Bears take on USC Saturday.
10. Fresno State- Bulldogs can't afford to slip up vs. La. Tech this week.
11. Tennessee- Freshmen QBs Ainge and Schaeffer get to host Auburn this week.
12. Auburn- Forget The Citadel game, Tigers travel to Knoxville this week.
13. Louisiana State- Georgia is next.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Your Heisman Leader

If I had to vote today, Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton would be my Heisman selection. Another +300 yard, four touchdown game this afternoon. It's becoming the norm for the Boilermakers signal caller. However, since it's only week four and I don't actually get to vote for the Heisman, Orton's going to have to convince quite a few others.

Friday, September 24, 2004

S.I.'s Donovan Tosses One Back At The Fans

I have a new brother-in-arms. Since the infamous chair tossing incident in Oakland a while back, I've been debating how to address my feelings. Now, I don't have to. Sports Illustrated's John Donovan relays my sentiments perfectly (here). Thank you, Mr. Donovan.

Green Sits

Shawn Green of the Los Angeles Dodgers won't play tomorrow. He's going to observe the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur. There has been some debate over Green's decision, but I can't fault him. Players in all sports miss time for all kinds of reasons nowadays. There are the obvious ones, the birth of children and funerals (which, by the way, few athletes missed games for thirty years ago).

There are also the mysterious "personal reasons" absences. These are rarely discussed, but they range from a fight with the spouse to substance abuse issues to doctor's appointments. Unless these days become repetitive, we rarely comment on them.

If Green wants to sit tomorrow, that's fine. At least he's not AWOL. Or retiring.

Bring On The Senators, Already

I have no idea if moving the Montreal/Puerto Rico Expos to Washington is a viable plan or not, but I suspect all baseball fans (and the team's players) are tired of waiting for MLB to figure that out.

Deadlines come and go. Seasons come and go. Yet Bud Selig and the boys still cannot decide if D.C. is the way to go. At this point, Bud, there are two options. 1) Leave the Expos in limbo for another season. 2) Move them to the nation's capital and find out what happens next.

I'm leaning towards the second choice. I know some feel moving the team to Washington, D.C. is a losing proposition right now , perhaps they are right. The question for me is "Will the would-be Senators fanbase financially support a bad baseball team (the Expos) in an old park (RFK) for a decade or more?"

If the answer to that question is yes, move the Expos this instant. If the answer is no, make the Expos play another two years in Quebec and give towns like Portland a chance to build a stadium. Two more years would even give the D.C. backers twenty-four months to get their city council to dig up some money for a new ballpark. (Not that I favor public funding, but that's another post.)

At the start of the 2007 season, the Expos should open in their new, hopefully long-term home. No more muffed deadlines. No more Puerto Rico. No games in three countries. Make a decision one year from now, give the new host one year to plan. End of process.

I'd love to see the Senators return, but I'd be just as happy to have the Expos stabilized. Just make a decision already.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

'Canes Owner Vents

Carolina Hurricanes' owner Peter Karmanos sounds more than a tad angry in this article by Nicholas Cotosnika of the Detroit Free Press. The Detroit resident went off during media day for the Plymouth Whalers, the team he owns in the Ontario Hockey League. Karmanos offered a number of opinions on the NHL lockout, here are some of my favorites.

First, Karmanos claims that the NHLPA is "way past the point of no return in terms of greed". Let me offer this tiny bit of public relations advice to a man who doesn't need it. In this post-Enron era of corporate greed, not many are going to side with the CEO of a major company (Compuware) who owns both a NHL and OHL franchise. Having someone with that kind of wealth calling others greedy is a tough sell.

Karmanos suggests he lost an average of $12 to $15 million per season since 1994. He claims he will only "lose half as much money by not playing". Again, to be able to afford to lose $12 million a year for a decade, his low figure, doesn't sound like a man hurting for cash. Worse yet, he appears more than willing to eat another $6 to $7.5 million a year to not watch his team play to prove his point. Yet, he maintains that $1.8 million dollar a year salary figure for the players is "ridiculous"?

Of course, you are losing big money Mr. K., you own a hockey team in CAROLINA. Who's bright idea was that? I'm sure there are some dedicated hockey fans in that area, but let's be serious. Hockey in the south was more wishful thinking than solid business strategy. Are you really surprised you are losing boatloads of cash when some Canadian franchises, with tons of tradition and far more interest nationally, are also having economic trouble?

Then comes the most unfortunate statement of the interview. Karmanos, while discussing his NHL losses, mentioned his cancer center. "Where do you think the I'd rather have seen the money go?" Karmanos questioned. I really want to be diplomatic here, as Karmanos has given a great deal to the Karmanos Cancer Institute and he should be applauded for that, but his suggestion irks me.

He is, of course, claiming if the 'Canes could turn a profit he could have put more into his cancer center. He is also claiming, indirectly, of course, that the NHLPA is to blame for this. I have two huge issues with this. First, blaming the NHLPA, even indirectly, for your poor business decisions and for costing the cancer center additional funding is out of line. Way out of line.

Second, if Mr. Karmanos really wanted to pump significantly more revenue into the Institute, unlike the rest of us, I suspect he could write a check this instant. If not, selling the 'Canes, Whalers or a portion of Compuware might create quite a bit of capital. That income could certainly go straight towards charity work, if that's his true desire.

Amongst other things, Karmanos also informs us that a salary is the only answer to the NHL's money problems and that the fans and media force teams into signing players to big contracts lest the owners be charged with not caring.

Unfortunately, all that comes across during this adamant discussion is that Karmanos is mad at everyone else for his team's finances and the problems that have resulted. Is it any wonder why so many believe the NHL lockout will be protracted? If half the owners share Karmanos' bitterness and inability to accept responsibility for the league's state, this lockout will easily last over a year.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Twins Make It Three

I don't know if anyone outside the Twin Cities noticed, but Minnesota won it's third straight American League Central division title last night. Not bad for a team that was darn near contracted. I know hindsight is 20/20, but did anyone, other than their sorry owner, really think the Twins should have even been discussed as a contraction candidate?

Lions Diary

Rookie WR Roy Williams gets some ink, or at least some internet space, on ESPN.com here.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Was This Larry Brown's Team?

As I suggested yesterday, the Ryder Cup has returned to Europe. The Euros not only retained Samuel Ryder's trophy, but pasted the Americans 18.5 to 9.5. Let me make one thing abundantly clear, this was an embarrassment. Losing to a talented European squad is nothing to be ashamed of. Contrary to all of the media that labeled Bernhard Langer's side "no names", this is a good group of internationally tested golfers. (In all honesty, I doubt even 50% of the media covering this Ryder Cup have a clue about the European Tour or the players on it.) They weren't the finest team the Europeans have ever assembled, but they were much better than the average person (or media member) recognized.

However, losing in such an overwhelming style on U.S. soil is a bit disgraceful. Now, I say "a bit" in part because I can keep sport in its proper perspective. This isn't a tragedy. It's just golf. In strictly golf terms, though, this was disgraceful because of the size of the defeat and because we all know that this isn't all that important to most of the top U.S. golfers.

I suspect Phil, Tiger and D.L. III would like to win the Ryder Cup, I just don't think they fret much over losing it. Woods, himself, stated that no one knows Jack Nicklaus' Ryder Cup record, only that he holds 18 major championships. Suddenly, I had flashbacks to USA Basketball. That group would have liked an Olympic gold medal, but they never grew up dreaming of one. They cared about NBA Championships, scoring titles and endorsement deals. This collection of U.S. PGA Tour stars only cares about tournament wins (majors, especially), money titles and endorsement deals. Notice a pattern here?

What neither group grasps is that if you want to be top dog, you need to win everything. The reason Nicklaus' Ryder Cup record seldom is discussed is two fold. First, the Ryder Cup wasn't as big back then. Second, Jack's side won. A lot. Winning and pushing the Ryder Cup forward by encouraging the inclusion of all of Europe into the format made Nicklaus legendary. Winning two Olympic golds only solidified the greatness of Michael Jordan. Winning one of them with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson as teammates only elevated the status of all three. It's something Tiger, Lefty and D.L. III could learn from.

I know I put much of the burden of defeat on Hal Sutton's shoulders and I stick by that, but a few points in Sutton's defense. Team play is hard. Just ask Larry Brown. It's particularly hard for the favorites. Again, ask coach Brown. It's also difficult when you have to juggle superstar egos. Yes, Brown knows a thing or two about that.

Like the U.S. Olympic basketball coach, Sutton, too, has his own large ego to lug around. Both men exhibited their egos through their inflexibility. Sutton by stubbornly attempting to force team chemistry by pairing Woods and Mickelson together. Brown by ignoring the international style of play and refusing to play to his team's strengths. Both pointed fingers at those they led. Neither came off looking very well and neither won.

I suppose both could claim they were slightly handcuffed by not being able to pick their entire squad, but both had more than enough talent to finish in first place. Sutton had far more talent than Brown did, but the golfers never really play a team concept, so that offset some of that advantage.

The United States has two years to regroup. A new captain will be picked shortly. He's not a man many will envy. He will have the weight of this crushing defeat on his shoulders and will face the Euros on their home turf. Hopefully, a more mature and hungry group of U.S. golfers will emerge from this mess.

Lions Diary

2-0. The Lions are undefeated after beating the Houston Texans 28-16. It wasn't an epic battle, it was just a nice win at home. It also moved the Lions to the top of the division. (Yeah, yeah, Minnesota can tie them with a win tomorrow. Don't be so technical. Let me enjoy the moment.)

I have to be pleased with Roy Williams who caught two touchdowns today (too bad I didn't start him in my fantasy league). He looks like a potential star after the first two weeks of the season. There seems to be little Williams cannot do. I wasn't much of a Williams fan in college, but his performance thus far has changed my mind. I hope he can maintain this level of play.

DT Shaun Rogers is heading straight for Hawaii. He is a dominant inside force. Joey Harrington didn't post spectacular numbers, but was steady and avoided big mistakes. I'll take a 3 to 1 TD/INT ratio anyday.

The concern has to be the defense that today allowed over 300 yards to Houston. I doubt the Lions can allow playoff caliber teams that type of output and still gain a victory. DE James Hall was offsides about four times. Again, that type of play will not earn you a win over a good team.

Next week, that good team arrives. Philadelphia pays Detroit a visit in Week Three. I suspect more than a few Lions fans will be watching tomorrow night's game between the Eagles and Minnesota to get a good look at next week's opponent.

I'll worry about the Eagles in a couple of days. After having so many bad starts, I'm going to enjoy this 2-0 beginning for a while longer.

B.B. Baker's Dozen

This week's topsy-turvy SEC battles altered my top 13. The top two remain the same, as Southern Cal and Oklahoma look strong, but everyone else is on the move.

1. Southern Cal- Did what #1 teams are supposed to do: Win.
2. Oklahoma- How many more weeks before frosh RB Adrian Peterson gets Heisman mention?
3. Miami- I can't believe I have them this high with Brock Berlin at QB.
4. Georgia- Yes, the Dawgs won, but fell a spot. They just haven't been impressive.
5. Texas- The 'Horns move up without playing.
6. Ohio State- I like Zwick more and more each week.
7. Utah- The potential BCS spoilers.
8. West Viriginia- Is beating Maryland really that big a deal?
9. Cal- Another team that moved up by sitting out this past Saturday.
10. Fresno State- It was a bit scary, but FSU did win again.
11. Tennessee- Part of the SEC turmoil. A close win at home vs. the Gators.
12. Auburn- More of the SEC upheavel. I had to put them above LSU.
13. LSU- That one point loss to Auburn is going to hurt for quite a while.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Bye, Bye Ryder Cup

Technically, it's not over yet. The Americans could post the most remarkable comeback in golf history and capture the Ryder Cup, but let's be honest. That isn't going to happen. Not only would a number of U.S. players have to rise to occasion, something very few of them have done the last two days, but the Europeans would have to choke in epic proportion. That's something they haven't done much of yet, either.

The pundits have already begun to analyze and criticize the situation. Much like USA Basketball's Olympic collapse, their is plenty of blame to toss around, but this thing was lost in the first pairing Friday morning.

Captain Hal Sutton probably cost his squad their best chance of winning by pairing Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson together. As nearly everyone on Earth knows, the top two players in the U.S. don't like each other. However, Sutton handled the pairing the way he's handled the rest of his captaincy, he shoved it down our throats.

Now, there is a time when the captain is expected to make a golfer do something he would prefer not to. I would think that would be on Saturday, especially if your team is behind. It's not first thing Friday morning. That type of "I don't give a crap about who you like" speech is probably best reserved for a dramatic moment. By pairing his team's biggest antagonists together first thing Friday morning, Sutton made Friday the dramatic moment.

Running the same pairing out for the afternoon was just plain suicide in retrospect. Sutton helped the Euros by taking all the pressure off them, not that they faced much to begin with, and put all of it on Woods, Mickelson and himself. Arguably the most pressured filled golf most of these men will ever face, was minimized as even casual fans wondered and watched to see if Tiger and Phil would play nice together.

Sure, neither threw a punch at the other, but neither enjoyed the day and their play revealed that. If you don't believe that, look at how much better both played Saturday. Paired with friend Chris Riley, Woods won. He even looked excited. Mickelson, after his Saturday morning benching, looked much better, too. He and partner David Toms won 4 and 3. The U.S. still lost Saturday, 4.5 to 3.5, but you have to wonder if the score on Friday might have been as close if Tiger and Phil had spent more time apart on the opening day?

Since Day 1 of his captaincy, Sutton has appeared to have two agendas. I have to believe the first was to win, but it's the second that seemed to be his pre-occupation. Sutton appeared driven to prove to someone, anyone that the U.S. was a "team" just like the Euros are perceived to be. They were every bit as close as the Europeans, dang it, as he would show us by putting Tiger and Phil together.

Sutton also acted as if any old pairing would turn out just fine. He played all of his players, including his rookies Friday, while European captain Bernhard Langer let his rookies sit on the first day. He skipped the previously successful Mickelson/Toms coupling and ignored the Woods/Riley friendship.

Then, Sutton let Riley excuse himself on Saturday afternoon when he should have offered up his "I don't give a hoot what you want" speech and made Riley play with Woods again. Woods needed Riley's friendship and Sutton needed a motivated, happy Woods. Sutton should have convinced Riley he was just going along for the ride, it was Tiger's job to do the work. Captain Hal refused to let go of the unsuccessful pairing of Tiger and Lefty Friday afternoon, but wouldn't force Riley to compete with Woods after they were successful Saturday morning. It's hard to explain.

I have to give Detroit Free Press golf writer Carlos Monarrez some props here. Monarrez suggested last month that Sutton would be the one to cost the United States the Ryder Cup. His analysis was, and still is, much more detailed than mine. He hammers Sutton harder than I do, but looking at the largest deficit in Ryder Cup history tonight, it's difficult to argue with his observations.

To be completely fair to Hal Sutton, there is plenty of blame to go around. Woods if often criticized for not caring about the Ryder Cup, something he almost admitted as much to this week, but Mickelson's recent club change also doesn't sound like a man too concerned about his upcoming performance. Riley's begging out of Saturday's afternoon pairings will not settle well with some, either.

In the end, it all came down to the beginning. When Friday concluded, after Woods and Mickelson spent their day look for their wild tee shots in the rough and losing matches, the United States faced the worst first day deficit in Ryder Cup history. It's a margin that now requires the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history. It's seems unlikely. Kind of like the odds of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson getting along.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The End of Hockey

When the World Cup wraps up tonight, hockey ends. The owners, barring some unforeseen miracle, will lock the players out of camp at midnight. I'm not even going to pretend to understand the whole mess, but I think the owners may hold most of the cards here. Why? Because many of us still over-estimate hockey's popularity.

In North America, we think of the Big Four team sports. The NFL, MLB, NBA and the NHL. Yet, there is almost nothing that indicates the NHL deserves that honor. A quick look some television ratings tell us all we need to know. The World Cup semi-finals drew a horrible .4 rating. The World Series of Poker got a 1.7 mark. Poker. That's men playing cards on television. People make fun of bowling and curling on tv. Please. Is poker any better?

However, poker is perceived as more exciting than an international hockey tournament. A lot more exciting if we judge strictly by tv ratings. That's simply awful.

Then, there's tennis. You remember tennis, right? It was kind of popular about twenty or thirty years ago. Connors, Borg, McEnroe, et al. Well, the just concluded U.S. Open drew a 2.5 rating. That almost double poker's viewership. Tennis, now considered a fringe sport by many, drew 2.1 more ratings points than hockey. Is there really any need to look at NASCAR or PGA Tour ratings? Didn't think so.

This is why I think the owners hold most of the cards. They can wait. They can close down a franchise, thus costing the NHLPA jobs. They can lose money, as you have to think based on tv ratings, a number of them probably are already. What's a couple of months more of losses with the possibility of salary limits on the horizon? Fans? Sure they will be upset, but there are so few of them, the backlash will be severe, but small. Besides, they are diehards. When the game returns, so will they.

There's only about three hours left before the doors around the NHL get locked. I guess I better get back in front of my tv before the World Cup is over. This may be the last pro hockey we see until sometime in 2005.

Lions Diary

The Lions are getting some love around the country aftering dispatching that 24 game road losing streak. ESPN.com's power ratings have the Honolulu Blue and Silver coming in at number twenty-two. It isn't like being in the top five, but it ain't the basement, either.

Mike Wilbon also gave Mooch and company some respect on PTI tonight. He mentioned how they are a good, young team and he feels they can get to nine wins. Wilbon said they might even make the playoffs. It's nice to hear some good things about your football team for a change.

Monday, September 13, 2004

No Kidding

I read Peter Gammons EPSN.com piece about the "Moneyball" general managers who have turned their eyes and calculators over to defense. Seems after years of studying offensive production, the stat boys are looking for ways to measure defense in baseball. Range factors, zone ratings and some double secret stats that none of the wonder boys are yet willing to share are all the rage.

Using these new concepts in evaluating defense, the stat geeks agreed that Mike Cameron and Mark Kotsay are really good defensively. That left me thinking one thing. No kidding. Welcome to the party, fellas.

Forgive me of my sarcasm, but I needed absolutely zero numbers to realize that Cameron and Kotsay were good defensively. I also have a tough time believing Billy Beane, Theo Epstein and the other uber-stat GMs didn't know that long before they glanced at each player's zone ratings. That's where the stat crowd loses me.

While I feel today's statistical numbers are enlightening and interesting, I'm concerned about over-analysis. A variety of managers, scouts, players and fans have all claimed stats are not the whole story, but the number crunchers just hate that notion. Everything in their world needs some type of mathematical validation.

Yeah, I suppose that the stats will reveal a player or two that aren't as bad, or good, as we think, but isn't the majority of this stuff kind of obvious? Does anyone who follows baseball not realize that Doug Mientkiewicz owns one of best gloves in all of the game?

I remember the year after Ryne Sandberg retired, the first time. Chicago could not turn a double play. They did all the time the year prior, with the steady should-be Hall of Famer at second. One year later, they struggled to turn DPs. No Cubs fan needed stats to realize what the difference was.

Oh, and what happened to the theory the stat guys offered about "Forget defense, if the guy can hit. He will drive in more runs than he gives up"? Apparently, Theo Epstein has tossed that one aside after watching his Red Sox give away runs for half a season. (I'll spot you that Nomar Garciaparra's impending free agency was a huge factor in making the deal, but even as a big Nomar fan, I think the Red Sox are more solid defensively with Mientkiewicz, Orlando Cabrera and Dave Roberts playing the field.)

I encourage the stat gurus to continue to turn out as many new numbers as they can. Again, I find it educational. (Beane wasn't the only one who loved Nick Swisher's bat in college.) If you are just trying to back up your theories or are looking for every possible edge, that's fine by me. Let's just try and be respectful of each other's opinion. Because every once in a while, if it looks like a duck...............

Lions Diary

It's over. Thankfully. The Detroit Lions' NFL record road losing streak came to an end on Sunday. The Chicago Bears were kind enough to help the Lions out of their misery, losing to the Honolulu Blue and Silver 20-16. It certainly wasn't a pretty win, but I'll take it. If your team hadn't won a road game since 2000, you would gladly take it, too.

Like any other contest, this game had it's good and bad points for the Lions. On a positive note, I liked Roy Williams' performance. Kevin Jones showed flashes. I'm a Teddy Lehman fan and thought he played pretty will in his first NFL game. Shaun Rogers is headed to the Pro Bowl, if he can stay healthy.

Health really was the big problem Sunday. Pro Bowler Dre Bly is out for a couple of weeks minimum and Charles Rogers is gone for the season. Rogers broke his collarbone for the second straight year. His loss is a huge disappointment. The Lions' medical staff seemed to be helping players around all afternoon.

I'll worry about the injuries closer to game time Sunday. Now, it's time to enjoy the end of this miserable streak.

B.B. Baker's Dozen

Southern Cal maintains it's top spot in this week's Baker's Dozen. However, there are a few new entries rounding out Beyond Boxscores' top 13 teams.

1. Southern Cal- Couldn't find a reason to drop Leinhart and company.
2. Oklahoma- Offense on cruise control.
3. LSU- A better performance in Week Two.
4. Georgia- Not looking like national champ contenders yet.
5. Miami- Berlin will need to improve if they hope to maintain this spot.
6. Texas- Little matters pre-Sooners game.
7. Ohio State- Another close win for the Buckeyes.
8. Utah- Second best team in the west.
9. Florida- Battle Tennessee this week.
10. West Virginia- Can ease into January 1 bowl game.
11. Iowa- Close call vs. ISU.
12. Cal- Arrington should get Heisman consideration.
13. Fresno State- Embarassed K-State in Wildcats' house.

I wanted to keep both Michigan and Florida State in the top 13, losing to traditional rivals, but could convince myself to do so. Both have plenty of get back into my rankings. Tennessee will be in the mix next week, if they can drop Florida.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

The Premier Pre-Game Show

The best pre-game show in all of sports is ESPN's College Gameday. It's better than many of the games the network broadcasts and far better than any other sport's pre-game fare. The only show that even comes close is CBC's Hockey Night in Canada pre-game.

Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso remain the heart of the program and create a nice blend of entertainment and information. The producers and directors also deserve credit for maintaining the program's high quality, as well. It's amazing how fast their hour and a half can go by. Is there any better compliment than that?

The Next Netminders

As the World Cup of Hockey '04 winds down, I noticed the future on display. The U.S. got a fine performance out of Robert Esche in this tournament, but the future of USA Hockey rides on the shoulders of Rick DiPietro. While Canada rides Martin Broduer yet again, as they should, their future lies squarely in the hands of Roberto Luongo. It should be fun watching these two young goalies battling over Olympic, World Cup and Canada Cup titles for years to come. Assuming, of course, the NHLPA ever goes back to work.

Where's Dickie V. When You Need Him?

In August, the Minnesota Twins traded minor league outfielder B.J. Garbe. In return, the Twins got veteran catcher Pat Borders from Seattle. This was a minor transaction in every sense of the word. Garbe, a first round Twins draft pick in 1999, seems to have little chance to making The Show. Five years after turning pro, Garbe is hitting a less than dazzling .201 in AA.

As for Borders, to be honest, I thought he retired years ago. He's got to be about forty years old. I can't quite see how this helps the Twins playoff chances, but I'm not that familiar with the Twinkies roster situation. Maybe they view him as a potential minor league instructor/manager someday? Regardless, this deal hardly sent tremors through the baseball world.

So, why did this transaction catch my eye? Well, Garbe was a highly recruited high school superstar. He had decided to attend Stanford, a college baseball powerhouse. Then came the draft and the cash. Garbe opted for the money and Stanford was left without it's prize recruit. However, unlike in college basketball where Dick Vitale or Billy Packer lament these type of things, no one pitched a fit or cried on national television about the state of college baseball or the plight of the athlete. No, things moved on without Garbe in Palo Alto.

In fact, before this year, the Cardinal had played in the last four College World Series. In theory, had Garbe gone to college, he would have been in the CWS each of his four years at Stanford. Instead, the former high school All-America now appears stuck in AA ball. It's the kind of situation that makes Vitale and Packer cringe and we all find a bit disheartening.

Maybe Garbe made the right choice for him. I don't know. I do know that kids make decisions like this all the time and their situations elude the spotlight. There is no Vitale or Packer to cry for them. To offer some balance, I thought I would turn my little flashlight on one such case.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Weather Or Not

Wednesday night I attended a prolonged rain delay courtesy of the remnants of Hurricane Frances. I had hoped to watch a baseball game, but instead I got to see a glimpse of a tropical depression. This would not have bothered me quite as much if even one local or national weather agency suggested a steady three hours or so of rainfall before the game.

Having tickets to this contest, I had some additional interest in the weather that evening. I checked all the national and local forecasts. 99% of them suggested nothing more than a partly cloudy evening. This was as late as an hour before the game. Now, having learned from previous experience, I kept looking at the national radar only to see this massive rain system heading right for Detroit. However, I was re-assured all day, rain was not coming.

The closest thing I got to an admission of an oncoming tropical depression, was a forecaster that hinted indeed some rain might pop up, here and there, but nothing too bad. In his defense, the rain wasn't horrible. It was just wonderfully consistent. It started about six thirty and ended, well, I don't know when it ended. I left the would-be seven o'clock game after two and a half hours.

What gets me is that didn't everyone see this rather significant storm heading our way since, oh, I don't know, a week ago? It's not like I live in Florida and you just can't tell where the sucker is going to land. I'm in Michigan. It's five days later. It's been inland for almost a week.

It's not like this is some rain pattern that quickly developed out of nowhere. It's a stinking hurricane. They've been tracking it since it was in the Atlantic Ocean. Yet, these morons can't even tell me where it's going to rain a week later? Remember, these are weather experts. (If you want to be really scared, think of these "experts" as cousins to scientists.)

If they can't accurately predict an oncoming tropical storm, maybe it's time to stop guessing. Just leave a continuous radar screen on the television. Let us reach our own conclusions.


Detroit is the home to the defending NBA Champion Pistons. It also is home to a charter member of the American League, the Tigers. The success of its hockey team, combined with a brilliant marketing idea, has many referring to the Motor City as Hockeytown. Truth be told, however, Detroit's love is the Lions.

If the Wings or Pistons won one playoff game, or even one playoff series, in the last forty years, they would not sell 50,000 tickets to a regular season game. The Tigers have had trouble getting 10,000 a game in recent years amidst a decade long decline. The Lions? They win one post-season contest in four decades and still could sell out the old 70,000 seat Pontiac Silverdome with some regularity.

Unlike the Pistons, Wings and Tigers who have all won World Championships in the last twenty years, the Lions last title came in 1957. Yet, they are the team most Detroiters love the most. Yeah, pro football is king nationwide (Los Angeles notwithstanding), but there is some special about Detroit's relationship to it's NFL franchise.

I'm beginning to think the Lions have become Detroit's version of the Chicago Cubs. Lovable losers. Often mediocre, at best. A team that rarely makes the playoffs and usually exits quickly once they arrive. Fans go because their fathers and grandfathers have. It's tradition as much as anything.

The team's failure will certainly spring criticism, even unimaginable frustration, but it won't turn the fans away. They return with new found hope come that first kickoff. I'm as guilty as anyone else. I adore baseball. Everyone who knows me acknowledges this. However, the Lions are probably my favorite local team. I don't know why, either. Maybe those ten years of sharing season tickets won me over.

It wasn't the drunken fights at the Silverdome. It wasn't walking over that stinking bridge between parking lots over M-59 in December. It wasn't the consistent ticket price increases. It sure wasn't the team's success, either. Just like the other mindless followers of this franchise, I love draft day (the Lions version of the Super Bowl) and hope they improve each season.

This year's opener comes Sunday in Chicago. The town is abuzz about the potential of newcomers Kevin Jones and Roy Williams. Added to previous first round choices Joey Harrington and Charles Rogers and the Lions faithful believe their might even be an offensive attack in Honolulu Blue and Silver this year.

Hockeytown may sell t-shirts, but Detroit is far and away Lionstown. I'm just one tiny example of that.

Motor City Soccer?

Much to my surprise, an organization called MLS Detroit is trying to lure an expansion franchise to the Metro area. I read about it over at ESPN's Soccernet and then checked out their website. They are looking for $10 deposits from potential season ticket holders. They hope to get some response from MLS by the end of September. Good luck, MLS Detroit.

Monday, September 06, 2004

B.B. Baker's Dozen

Combining my love of baked goods and college football, here is the Beyond Boxscores Baker's Dozen (that's thirteen for you low carb zealots) after the first week of gridiron action. Enjoy this over the doughnut of your choice.

1. Southern Cal-A solid, if unspectacular, win away from home.
2. Oklahoma-If they run like this all year they will be #1 in January.
3. LSU-A scare at home.
4. Georgia-Another less than impressive start for a top 5 team.
5. Florida State-Can Rix lead the Seminoles to a win Friday?
6. Miami-Can Berlin lead the 'Canes to a win Friday?
7. Michigan-Could be a QB controversy forthcoming.
8. Texas-Benson looked Heisman-like.
9. Ohio State-If Zwick plays this well all season OSU will move up.
10. Utah-Smith would get my Week One Heisman vote.
11. Florida-I like Chris Leak.
12. West Virginia-Good team, terrible conference.
13. Iowa-Probably a Big Ten bias vote on my part. Hey, I'm honest.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Vols Turn To Freshmen QBs

ESPN.com reports that Tennessee will start one of their two freshmen quarterbacks this Sunday. It will be the first time in SEC history a true freshman will start the first game of the year. That's kind of amazing considering the history of the SEC. However, I know how much football people frown on first-year starters.

I have always found it interesting how coaches, fans and the media cry aloud how a freshman just can't play QB. This is especially true at the "big programs". You can't expect a true freshman to play at places like Ohio State, USC or Tennessee. The way people go on about it, you'd think we are talking about aerospace technology, not football.

I guess what I find so interesting/funny/ridiculous, is that all of these freshman QBs that cannot possibly be good enough to play immediately were all unstoppable phenoms destined for greatness when they were recruited just six months ago. Now, they are incapable of ousting a mediocre junior who has taken all of sixteen snaps in two years.

Whomever Phil Fulmer picks, I hope the Vols new, young QB has a fine year. It will help make all this talk of quarterback play as rocket science die down a bit.

Overlooked In Oklahoma

I have never seen a Heisman Trophy winner take as much criticism as Jason White. Nor have I ever seen a defending Heisman winner so overlooked the next year. How many players coming off a Heisman Trophy aren't even considered first team All-America the following campaign? None, I would suspect. Yet, that's the position the Oklahoma quarterback finds himself in.

There is no denying White played horribly in the Sooners last two games, but his lackluster performances versus Kansas State and LSU have stirred an almost irrational response from the media. They almost seem vindictive. Somehow I get the impression they feel liked they got duped into voting for White, so now they are mad.

What these guys don't understand is why they voted for White in the first place. He was the best college football player in the country in the regular season. He threw for 40 touchdowns and 4,708 yards while playing for the number one team in the nation most of the season.

White is also a great comeback story. The kind of story people used to embrace. He battled back from consecutive lost seasons due to knee injuries. He walked right into the starting QB job on the team picked number one in the pre-season at a university steeped in football tradition. All White did was have the best statistical season any OU quarterback ever had.

Jason White was not Heisman-like in his last two games. Nor was he healthy. However, that doesn't seem to matter to some. They seem so bent out of shape over his two game post-season decline that they can barely put him on their Heisman radar in '04. I'm hoping White forces them to vote for him one more time.