Saturday, July 30, 2005

Hey, Peter King Was In Town

Sports Illustrated's Peter King stopped by Detroit Lions training camp today and filed this report.


It's Over

Summer that is. It's toast. I don't care what the calendar indicates. I don't care how high the temperatures soar in August. Summer ended in Metro Detroit when the Detroit Lions reported for training camp Friday. Like it or not, fall is upon us and everything in the sports world now takes a backseat to football.

I have to admit that I love the notion of a beautiful fall day with football on the airwaves-either radio or television. Watching in person is great, obviously, but the whole sensation of fall and football is only rivaled by baseball and summer. Therein lies my dilemma.

I have to admit that for the first time in a long, long time, I'm not ready for fall. I'm usually one of those people who starts preparing for fall around July 1st. When I was very young, I was the baseball geek who could easily be talked into a pick-up football game in August. Yet, something is different this year.

Oh, I still look forward to those spectacular fall weekends filled with pigskin action, but I'm very hesitant to let go of summer. Maybe it's my age. Maybe it's the fact we emerged from one of the snowiest winters in recent memory and I know the only thing standing between me and another dose of winter's fury is fall. Maybe I've just developed a love/hate relationship with football.

I still love autumn afternoons with football, but the sport has become so big it's bordering on overkill at times for me. Once the pigskins emerge from their increasingly brief hiatus, the analysis of the games is incessant. Yet, I love hearing the Monday Morning Quarterbacks embrace or lament the Lions performance after each contest. See what I mean about a love/hate relationship? On one hand, I love armchair QB's. On the other hand, I just don't want to hear them every waking moment for eight months.

In this unending barrage of football talk, baseball, hockey and basketball get pushed off the map. Who are we kidding? Economics, politics, spouses and family matters take a back seat to pigskins on parade. It's almost impossible to break football's command over media coverage. Yet, I'll be the last to argue against the appeal of Michigan-Ohio State, Oklahoma-Texas, Florida State-Miami or, for me, any Lions game over almost any other sporting event. See? It's clearly a love/hate thing.

There isn't much I can do about fall's arrival or the onslaught of football coverage that's been unleashed. However, I'll resist the transition for now. I'll try to watch loads of baseball. I'll disregard all the Back To School ads. I'll embrace the warmth as long as it remains. I'll try to hold off on purchasing any fall related products-coats, boots, a new Lions cap. I'll attempt to avoid the media's coverage of training camps. I don't want summer to lose sway just yet, although, I know it already has.

But The NHL Can't Get A Cable TV Deal?

Fishing. Darts. Competitive Eating. Those three "sports" were either on or had commercials about upcoming broadcasts on cable television's primary sports stations last evening. The National Hockey League can't find one major player to broadcast their games, but competitive eating is on in primetime on ESPN. That can't be good.

It would be too easy, albeit accurate, to slam the NHL, Gary Bettman and former NHLPA director Bob Goodenow over this, because if darts are getting better ratings than your sport, you shouldn't be arguing over a salary cap, but let's really think about this for a minute.

Our sporting interest as a society has gone from baseball, football, basketball and hockey to fishing, darts, competitive eating and, of course, poker? Forget what this says about the NHL's inability to get a decent cable TV deal, what does this say about us as fans?

Yes, I know it's summertime and most people aren't home watching television on a Friday night in late July. Yes, I know there are only so many MLB games available to broadcast. Yes, I know the other three sports aren't playing right now. I don't care. Competitive eating? Darts? Somebody quick find me a network showing Australian Rules Football. I need an actual sport.

This was the kind of fringe stuff ESPN showed at 3:00 am in its infancy. Now, it's primetime on the sports superpower and it's competition at Fox. I am left wondering if you, my fellow sports fans, are actually more interested in competitive eating than Canadian Football? How about track and field events? Would you rather watch darts than a 100m dash?

If so, where, oh, where did we go wrong?

Tiger Barely Makes The Cut

Is anyone else growing tired of the weekly "Tiger Woods Is Having Trouble" reports that appear on Thursday or Friday? Each time I hear Woods is "struggling" because he is 3, 6 or 8 shots back on the first two days of a tournament, I shake my head. Do these update guys no zero about golf or are they just trying to create a great comeback story? It certainly can't be because they haven't seen Mr. Woods in action.

This week was no different. Tiger is here in Michigan at The Buick Open, but had the misfortune of playing like only a good PGA Tour player on Thursday. The talk started in earnest about how Woods might not make the cut after his "poor" opening round. Woods was at -1. The projected cut? Three under par. Am I mistaken or is that only two shots? These folks who cover sports daily don't think the odds favor Woods going -2 on one of the easiest courses on the Tour?

This perceived dire situation plays out anytime the world's best golfer isn't in the top five on both Thursday and Friday. When I hear the reports that Woods is X under par, but trails the leader by X amount after any of the first two rounds, I think one thing. He's right where he needs to be. Forget the numbers, because unless Woods actually doesn't make the cut, which happens rather infrequently, he's in position to win.

When Tiger's struggles found him far behind Vijay Singh Friday, the fear mongers were out in force. Singh was cruising and Tiger wasn't. Then something funny happened. Woods teed off for the second round. The world #1 cranked out a 61. He went from almost missing the cut, as if that was really going to happen, to shooting an -11. Yes, -11. Woods finished his Warwick Hills round in second place, narrowly escaping the cut line. And narrowly missing a 59.

Please someone teach these update guys that Thursday and Friday often belong to golfers who will not be seen come Sunday. Teach them that Saturday is Moving Day on Tour. Teach them that Woods, unlike nearly any other golfer ever, has a chance to win as long as it's still mathematically possible.

Monday, July 25, 2005

No Tigers On TV, Again?

The Detroit Tigers, only four games out of a wild card spot, are not on television again this evening. This, of course, is ridiculous. I said this earlier in the year and I'll bet it's accurate. If I was living in Portland, Oregon, I would have access to more Tigers games on television than I do right in the heart of Tigertown. It would be laughable, if it weren't true.

This team may not stay within an earshot of the playoff chase, but how come folks in Oklahoma can watch the Tigers take on Seattle tonight, but the diehards right here in Detroit can't? There is simply no good reason for it.

I'm not even complaining for my own benefit. A 10:00pm start is pretty late for me to be awake. However, you cannot tell me most of Tigertown isn't interested in seeing this game. It's in Seattle, for crying out loud. It's not like the Tigers are missing out on ticket revenue if we stay home and watch on television. I'm going out on a limb here and guessing that whatever Fox Sports Detroit has on at the timeslot will not draw anything close to the ratings the Tigers would tonight, either.

Hello, they are a decent baseball team for the first time in over a decade. Please, let us watch them on the road. At very least, someone at the Tigers should encourage MLB to lift the local blackout of out-of-town Tigers games on MLB Extra Innings when FSN-Detroit isn't picking the game up.

Note to the Tigers: First, get your television deal done long before Spring Training next season. Then, make sure all games are on local television next year. Yes, I mean all 162. Even those midweek afternoon affairs. I know. It's a crazy concept. Some of your fans, like the elderly and those who work nights, are actually home midday. Humor us. Pretend like we are a baseball town and show all the games.

The NHL Returns

I'm excited about the NHL returning. Really. I am. Which is kind of odd because while I love hockey, it's provided some of my favorite sports moments of all-time, it remains in fourth place on my list of the supposed Big Four team sports. Maybe it's an "absence makes the heart grow fonder" sort of thing. I'm not really sure, but I do now that I am far more excited about the start of this season than most any other in recent memory.

I suspect part of my new found excitement is simply because this abridged off-season is going to be so jam-packed full of transactions. With so many players potentially changing sweaters over the next four weeks or so, the NHL will be like a rotisserie league on steroids. I would imagine that nearly every day between now and training camp, there will be players on the move.

Even better, there will be a nearly endless supply of unfounded rumors, innuendo and wild speculation about player movement that make off-seasons truly interesting. Forget a Hot Stove League, the NHL is going to have a Coal Burning Furnace League. Maybe a Nuclear Power Plant League is more appropriate. Has any league every faced the kind of potential player movement the NHL could see over the next month or so?

In reality, what could be better for the league than having it's players amongst the lead stories every single night in August? Does anyone outside of the most diehard fan talk NHL in August? Not with the NFL pre-season underway, MLB in the dog days and NCAA Football looming on the horizon. All of this potentially unrivaled wheeling and dealing will get the NHL tons of press at a time most people reserve for the return of pigskin play.

I'm sure part of my enjoyment also emerges from the fact that it's nearly impossible to figure out who the Stanley Cup favorites are. Even teams that get off to a fast start are not going to be assured of much, as I'm sure some teams will take longer to adjust to massive lineup changes. It would seem like nearly every team has a fair shot at a championship today. They just have to spend their money wisely.

I don't care what team you root for, right this second your guys could land Mike Modano. Or Glen Murray. Or Alexei Kovalev, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Adrain Aucion, Tony Amonte, Darien Hatcher, Nikolai Khabibulin, Brian Leetch, Gary Roberts, Sandis Ozolinsh, Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg, Teemu Selanne, Adam Foote, Sergei Zubov, Zigmund Palffy, Al MacInnis and/or Pavol Demitra. How would adding any of these guys not make a team better?

That's just a brief list of the unrestricted free agents and a couple of players who are about to be bought out of their contracts. Imagine who else might be available in the coming weeks. Some restricted free agents will probably swap teams, too. How could you not be enthused about your favorite hockey team possibly getting one or more of these guys?

Yeah, I know. Most of the really big young stars are going to stay put. But some of these players are going to change teams and, in the process, change the outcome of the 2005-2006 season.

This is a one-time deal, however. Maybe that's part of what I find compelling. This type of situation will probably never occur, again. Next year, no contact buyouts. No massive dumping of salaries to meet a new cap figure. This is a one-time shot that could not only affect this season, but could alter a franchise.

Call me crazy for being excited. Call me a geek for overdosing on rumors and potential press conferences announcing the signing of free agents. Call me whatever, as usual, it's probably accurate. But for the first time in quite a while, I'm excited for the entire NHL. How is that a bad thing?

As an added bonus, because of my interest in the NHL, I've beefed up my hockey links section. I encourage all who may be interested to visit one of the sites in the right hand column. I hope you find them useful.

The Good Old Days?

Most of us complain about the state of baseball. Even more of us whine about how much money the players make, how they don't play the game as well as the old timers did and that they are, in general, far more spoiled than the heroes of years gone by. I usually laugh at the majority of this because fans have always made these assertions.

Don't believe me? Check out this feature by Ernie Harwell in today's Free Press. Note the date on the quotes. The game may change, but our opinions on the players sure don't.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

More Ilitch Casino Talk

Nolan Finley penned this piece for today's Freep/News combo paper. Other than The Oakland Press' Jim Hawkins, Mr. Finley is the only person I know of who has questioned the Ilitches' link to gaming. I find the matter just a tad uncomfortable, at best.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Should Farnsworth Get A Longer Suspension?

While most everyone in Tigertown feels Jeremy Bonderman's five game suspension was far too long, SI's John Donovan thinks Kyle Farnsworth should have gotten more than the six games he received. Donovan is none to impressed with Farnsworth's WWF move. Here is piece from his mailbag segment starting with a reader's email:

You're one of the few writers to weigh in on the [Kyle] Farnsworth incident. Why hasn't more been said about this? Farnsworth picked up a guy and slammed him to the ground for no apparent reason. I believe Farnsworth should be suspended for just as long as Kenny Rogers, with a nice little assault charge brought against him. Your thoughts? -- Brian, Lake Zurich

It was brutal, and Major League Baseball slammed the Tigers' Farnsworth with a six-game suspension on Thursday, which he immediately appealed. Farnsworth's defense: K.C. reliever Jeremy Affeldt was "saying stuff." I think the penalty could have been stiffer, but I'll be happy if MLB doesn't back down (for once) and makes Farnsworth serve the whole six games. Totally uncalled for. Totally bush league.

I guess I see Donovan's point, but I still don't see how Bonderman got five games for doing essentially what Affeldt did- "saying stuff". Wasn't Hernandez' plunking of Carlos Guillen bush league, too? We all know I'm in favor of clunking a batter, but not in the noggin. That's taboo even by my low standards. You can toss Farnsworth for more games, but Hernandez had best get the same punishment.

The Other Phenom

Lost amidst the Michelle Wie hype is Paula Creamer. The 18 year old is tearing up the Evian Masters in France. If she holds on to her seven shot cushion, Creamer will post her second win on the LPGA Tour in this, her rookie campaign.

I'm as amazed by the 15 year old Wie as anyone, and I root for her, but it's Creamer who is the kid winning titles.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Worth A Thousand Words

I enjoy old baseball photos. This week, I've come across two places that not only offer a glimpse of some great old snapshots, but the opportunity to purchase them. First, The Detroit News is offering part of their photo archive to the public. I admit I find the cost a bit pricey, but the photos are terrific. As an example, here is Scoolboy Rowe.

Then, I found this collection from the Boston Public Library. Amongst their fine array of Red Sox material is a tremendous photo of Lou Gerhig playing defense at Fenway Park. (Well, at least, I think it's tremendous.) Hey, the Sox stuff is great, too.

As I was going to link the Boston Public Library, I stumbled upon a third photo resource, the Library of Congress. They, too, have some photos worth viewing. This is a quality look at Hall of Famer Honus Wagner. They also have old baseball cards, lithographs and stamps to admire. Some of the items date back to the Civil War-era.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Is Percival Done?

The Freep is reporting that Troy Percival will contemplate retirement if his injury requires surgery. The Tigers closer will get an MRI soon and if surgery and a prolonged rehab are in order, Percival suggests he may retire as he intended to retire at the end of next season regardless.

It's always something with the Motor City Kitties, isn't it?

Friday, July 15, 2005

I Wonder About This, Too

Skip Bayless doesn't think Rafael Palmeiro belongs in baseball's Hall of Fame. I can't quite decide if I believe Raffy is Cooperstown worthy, either.

Furry Friday Photo

Furry Friday Foto? Phurry Phriday Photo? I still like the original spelling better. Our subject today is Boots.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

All-Star Game Thoughts

Veteran readers will know that I really wanted to attend the All-Star Game. Well, I actually made it into Comerica Park Tuesday night. I even went to FanFest Tuesday morning, so I got a pretty fair look at the All-Star activities overall. I have tons of observations. How I am going to present them here is the bigger question. Grab a beverage, sit back and rest. This could take a while.

Let me start with a big picture view. I know lots of people, even those in Detroit, dismissed the All-Star Game. One sports talk station ran a poll of what their listeners would rather watch: the ever-popular poker or the Mid-Summer Classic? They took cards. I understand the general thought behind the sentiment, but it's a bit misplaced. (Okay, I don't understand the poker craze, but that's a different post and this one's too long now.)

People are turned off by the All-Star Game for any number of reasons. They don't think all the deserving players make the teams. They don't like the "every team gets an All-Star" concept, which is, in part, why some deserving players are left out. I think the biggest reason the ASG isn't as anticipated as it was, let's say, thirty years ago is that it isn't as important to the players.

I can't argue with that. When the two leagues were run as separate, but equal entities, there was no inter-league play (beyond the World Series) and the players needed all the money they could get, the ASG was a harder fought battle. League affiliation meant more as did the check to play. However, while the game itself has diminished for the players, I think the All-Star Game has evolved into a family reunion type atmosphere.

For three days in the middle of the summer nearly everyone associated with the game meets. There is food, drinks, plenty of people you recognize, but can't recall their name, lots of stories of previous events, games for the kids, plenty of picture taking and, yes, an annual baseball game. Even crazy Uncle Bud shows up. Sounds like a family reunion to me.

Now, this perspective encompasses the entire list of All-Star activities. The game itself, much like the family reunion softball game, is more tradition than heated rivalry. (Again, that could be altered somewhat, but that's another post.) Yet, the All-Star Game continues to be valuable.

It's the symbolic halfway point of the season. It's a much needed rest for many players. Many of whom won't get this much time off again until October. It's a mid-season celebration of the sport. Finally, it's a link to baseball's rich history. Few sports can boast of a past as impressive as baseball's. The league should take every opportunity to embrace it.

The All-Star Game may not be the knock 'em down, drag 'em out kind of contest it was fifty years ago, but today's festivities bring all of the sport's primary people together-players, coaches, league officials, owners, media members and fans-in one place for three days of celebration. It's also brings casual fans in that just enjoy a party. That may not translate to a good game or compelling television, but it is important for the sport and still kind of cool.

Quick Hits
* I noticed that Ichiro spent a protracted amount of time signing autographs prior to the All-Star Game. It may have been a half an hour. I'm not sure, but it was a very long time. Not one A.L. player signed for half as long. Ernie Harwell came in a distant second.

* Why weren't the Futures Game and All-Star batting practice jerseys done in Old English style lettering? Too hard too read? I thought that would have given them a distinct Detroit Tigers feel.

* I thought the crowd was kind of, well, tepid Tuesday night. The applause was polite, but understated. Of course, that could just be me.

* Biggest flashbulb events: The first pitch of the game. Every pitch by Roger Clemens and Dontrelle Willis. Yeah, Pudge merited more than the average amount of camera action, too.

* I know there were many not too happy with the Homerun Derby format. Many of the game's bigger sluggers got to avoid the event because of the players representing their home countries. However, I found it very funny how the complaining stopped somewhere around the time Bobby Abreu cranked out number twenty.

* Did anyone else at the All-Star Game notice how far the balls were not flying in batting practice. I saw a fair amount of dingers, including a couple of big bombs by David Ortiz, but none of the incredible shots we saw on Monday night. Coincidence or conspiracy?

* I don't know what the total amount of merchandise sales was, but it seemed pretty big to me. People were buying ASG logoed material in volume. (Yes, I helped that total some.) I think it's safe to say that Detroit was hungry for the All-Star Game after waiting over thirty years to see it return.

* MLB needs to can the "This One Counts" mantra. Actually putting up signs and having it painted on the field was overkill. It's an annoying phrase. Besides, if you have to tell us it's important apparently lots of folks don't think so. Just drop it.

* It was nice of the rain to hold off until the ninth inning. I was really worried that the game was going to get washed about by a leftover hurricane. Imagine the headlines.

* The City of Detroit, the Tigers and MLB deserve credit for putting on a great event. I send a special thank you to all the volunteers and all the security people (private, city, state and federal) for all their efforts.

Kenny Rogers
I was already on record opposing Mr. Rogers' appearance. Seeing him at Comerica Park just made me frustrated. Rogers wants to accept responsibility, or so he claims, but not the punishment. Unless, of course, it's a slap on the wrist. However, accepting responsibility means accepting the consequences. Rogers passed on taking the high road in order to stroke his ego and get a bonus check that is the exact amount of his fine.

I wasn't at all surprised that Rogers got booed. He should not have been, either. I'm sure getting that kind of reaction at an All-Star Game did throw him off a bit. Especially, if his family was in attendance. If they were, I do feel sorry for them. However, Rogers should never have put himself, the sport, or most importantly, his family in that situation to begin with.

Commissioner Selig deserves some blame here, too. I heard him in various interviews blame the restraints of the collective bargaining agreement as the reason he did not act more forcefully or quickly. This, if you remember, was Mr. Selig's excuse to Congress about the steroid issue. The labor agreement just didn't give him latitude to act.

Forgive me, but who negotiated that labor deal? That was Mr. Selig and if he doesn't like the agreement, he has no one to blame but himself. Neither do we.

Dancing With The Stars
I did run into a few celebrities at the All-Star festivities. I chatted briefly with Washington Post columnist/ABC News political analyst/noted baseball fan George Will at FanFest. From a local standpoint, I also had the pleasure of meeting Jamie and Brady, the morning hosts at WDFN, at FanFest, as well.

I exchanged greetings with Steve Garvey (at FanFest) and Richard Schiff of The West Wing (at the game). The only celebrity I hoped to bump into, but didn't, was Billfer from the Detroit Tigers Weblog. I did look for you, B.

Future Hall Members?
The guys sitting behind me Tuesday night were discussing who on the field would be a Hall of Famer? This conversation came about as the 1971 game in Detroit was filled with future Cooperstown members and the guys in row two were kind of disappointed this year's contest didn't have more big names. I thought there were a number of potential Hall of Fame inductees in action in Motown.

Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Mariano Rivera, Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza seem like locks to me. Manny Ramirez, Jeff Kent, Miguel Tejada, Vladimir Guerrero, Scott Rolen and Gary Sheffield would be very close. (Ramirez would get my vote now.) That's eleven guys. Weren't there sixteen in the '71 game at Tiger Stadium?

Jim Edmonds is darn close to HOF numbers and does anyone doubt that Albert Pujols is headed for the Hall, if he maintains his current pace? That's thirteen would-be HOF members. John Smoltz has to be closing in on a HOF career. He would still need several more solid seasons, but he's close now. Smoltz would bring the total to fourteen.

Now consider the rest of the field. A group that contains, amongst others: Alfonso Soriano, Michael Young, Garret Anderson, Ichiro Suzuki, Roy Halladay, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Mark Teixeira, Derek Lee, Amaris Ramirez, Jason Bay, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Lee, Andruw Jones, Roy Oswalt, Jake Peavy, Dontrelle Willis, Brad Lidge, Billy Wagner and Bobby Abreu. (My apologies to those I omitted.)

Would it be irrational to presume that two of the above group could be Hall of Famers? I don't think so. That would bring the total to sixteen. That's a good a group as in '71, even if none of them managed to bang one off the light tower.

Fulfilling A Dream
I had always wanted to go to an All-Star Game and I can honestly say I was not disappointed. I may be more cynical about baseball, the players and sports, in general, but it was a day to be a kid, again. It was a moment to embrace the first sport I ever loved and remember All-Star Games past. It was living out a boyhood dream. It will go down as one of the best days I will ever have.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

My Field Of Dreams, Part II

When last we left my little Iowa cornfield turned baseball diamond, I presented my Field of Dreams, Part I. Those teams were comprised solely of players I have never seen play. Today, in Part II, I provide my list of teams comprised of players of I have seen play.

As was the case in Part I, this is not my all-time all-star team. This is a group of players, technically, two groups, that I would like to see play if I were the owner of that field carved out of the Iowa corn. They could be my personal favorites, guys I felt were dominant, tough in the clutch, or just plain colorful.

Team 1
Johnny Bench, C-Considered by many the best ever backstop.
Mike Piazza, C- L.A. years, please. Perhaps, the most dynamic offensive player at his position ever.
Thurman Munson, C- I grew up in a great era for catchers. Munson was one of them.
Keith Hernandez, 1B- The best defensive firstbaseman ever. Won a batting title, too.
Will Clark, 1B- Just one of my favorites and a solid all-around player.
Jeff Bagwell, 1B- Probably a borderline HOF candidate right now. A N.L. MVP.
Ryne Sandberg, 2B- Did it all for the Cubs.
Lou Whitaker, 2B- One of the most underrated player of the era. Even by me.
Craig Biggio, 2B/C/OF- Versatile leadoff hitter. Power/speed combo.
Nomar Garciaparra, SS- A hitting machine in his prime.
Robin Yount, SS/OF- A.L. MVP. HOF member. One of Harvey's Wallbangers. Love that nickname.
Alan Trammell, SS- Paired with Sweet Lou, again.
Derek Jeter, SS- Yeah, lots hate him. Unless he played for them.
George Brett, 3B- One of the greatest hitters I've seen.
Chipper Jones, 3B/OF- I'd leave Chipper at third. A dangerous clutch hitter.
Brooks Robinson, 3B- The best defensive player ever at 3B. A.L. MVP in '64, too.
Bob Horner, 3B- One of my favorites. Short stroke with great power.
Carl Yastrzemski, OF/1B- Yaz was still pretty productive when I started watching baseball.
Henry Aaron, OF- Opposite of Yaz, he was more a shell of his HOF standard by the time I saw him. Still qualifies for this team. I'd say circa 1957 would be good.
Ken Griffey, Jr., OF- 500 homers and made as many spectacular grabs as anyone. I saw a homer-robbing effort at Tiger Stadium that I'll never forget.
Vladimir Guerrero, OF- Can't decide if I want Vlad at his MVP best with Angels or representing the late Expos?
Gorman Thomas, OF- Free swinging, pudgy CF.
Jim Edmonds, OF- Highlight reel plays provided almost daily.
Dwight Evans, OF- Power plus that canon of a right arm.
Rickey Henderson, OF- The greatest leadoff man ever.
Willie McGee, OF- N.L. MVP. Great post-season player. Tremendous speed.

Luis Tiant, P- Circa 1973-76. The whirling, twirling delivery standouts. An underrated pitcher.
Roger Clemens, P- The Rocket was an easy choice.
Ron Guidry, P- Circa 1978. I've seen very few pitchers better than Guidry in his prime.
Dwight Gooden, P- That power fastball plus a nasty curve.
Orel Hershiser, P- Bulldog was dynamite in 1988.
Greg Maddux, P- The definition of control pitcher.
Vida Blue, P- Probably the 1971 model. A league MVP and a pitcher who could hit.
Bruce Sutter, P- One of the closers that began an era.
Mariano Rivera, P- Finished off lots of batters in lots of big games.

Team 2
Carlton Fisk, C- I mentioned I became baseball crazy in '75, right?
Ivan Rodriguez, C- His last two seasons here helped him make this team.
Lance Parrish, C- Maybe more underrated than Tram and Lou.
Eddie Murray, 1B- A great offensive player.
Mo Vaughn, 1B- Yeah, I know. He fell apart fast, but he was an A.L. MVP and pretty good hitter.
Albert Pujols, 1B/3B/OF- Perhaps the best hitter in the game today.
Roberto Alomar, 2B- Offense, defense, Robbie did it all. Future HOF member.
Joe Morgan, 2B- Generally regarded as the best at 2B.
Rod Carew, 2B/1B- Yes, I can remember Carew at second. I also recall lots of batting titles.
Alex Rodriguez, SS/3B- Forget third, A-Rod would always play short here.
Cal Ripken, Jr., SS- Solid offensive player and ambassador to the game.
Ozzie Smith, SS- The best defender ever at his position.
Miguel Tejada, SS- A great hitter who continues to produce.
Mike Schmidt, 3B- Arguably the best at his position ever.
Wade Boggs, 3B- Multiple time batting champion. Improved defensively as the years passed.
Paul Molitor, 3B/2B/1B- Oh, could he hit.
Scott Rolen, 3B- A solid defender and very good hitter.
Frank Robinson, OF- I can't decide if I want the Cincinnati or Baltimore version. Probably O's. Hey, I'm an A.L. kind of guy.
Reggie Jackson, OF- I'd prefer the A's model (first generation) over the Yankees, but either is fine.
Fred Lynn, OF- A favorite of mine. A.L. MVP, Rookie of the Year and batting champ. Boston years, please.
Jim Rice, OF- Lynn's teammate. There may have never been two better rookie campaigns from teammates.
Tony Gwynn, OF- Plenty of batting titles and a good defensive player.
Manny Ramirez, OF- Maybe the best righthanded hitter I have ever seen.
Greg Luzinski, OF- Good hitter, provides team with counter to Gorman Thomas.
Kirby Puckett, OF- Puck could play.
Ichiro Suzuki, OF- All he does well is run, throw, catch and hit.

Fernando Valenzuela, P- Circa 1982. Fernandomania returns.
Pedro Martinez, P- A dominant hurler in an era dominanted by hitters.
Randy Johnson, P- You could make a case he's the best lefty ever.
Jack Morris, P- Won titles in Detroit, Toronto and Minnesota. That wasn't coincidence.
Curt Schilling, P- Was tough long before bloody sock made him legendary in New England.
Tom Glavine, P- A favorite who has had a strong career.
Mark Fidrych, P- Circa 1976, of course. The definition of phenom.
Rollie Fingers, P- The reliever of the early 1970's.
Dennis Eckersely, P- A great closer and an above average starter.

This list was much more difficult to compile. I had all kinds of problems eliminting guys from one of the teams. If you asked me tomorrow, I'd probably make the list a bit differently. Who am I kidding? If I did this again in an hour, my list would be slightly different. There were so many guys up for consideration that I'm not even going to bother to list the near misses. It's just too darn long a list.

I will, however, make one exception. If I was pressed for a 36th player, I'd take Frank Tanana. Twice. First, I'd have the hard throwing Angels' Tanana of the early 70's on one team and have him face the soft-tossing Tigers' Tanana of the late Eighties from the other team.

I may have missed someone, so I do reserve the right to edit this list if a name from the past, or even the present, comes to mind. Again, I urge you to undertake this project. It's a bit time consuming, especially if you are as old as I am and have seen lots of baseball.

Finally, I'd like to thank Billfer at the Detroit Tigers Weblog for plugging Part I of this.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Earth To Mr. Rogers

I see that Toronto's Roy Halladay is going to be out a month and, unfortunately, will miss the All-Star Game. Boston's Matt Clement has been selected to make replace the Blue Jays righthander. You know where I am going with this, don't you? The only thing now stopping the Tigers' Jeremy Bonderman from appearing is one Kenny Rogers.

Earth to Kenny: if you were really going to accept responsibility for your actions, you would not appeal your suspension, thus you would be ineligible for the game. If you were really sorry, you would avoid making the game look any worse and skip attending regardless of your eligibility. If you wanted to appear like a decent human being, you will not go and ask that Terry Francona take hometown guy Jeremy Bonderman to fill your spot on the A.L. roster.

There is only one thing between Bonderman and an All-Star berth, Kenny Rogers. Step aside, Mr. Rogers.

Tonight's Tigers Loss

There are only two things I've gleaned from tonight horrible Tigers loss at Tampa. First, I am starting to believe those who feel Troy Percival is more a gas can than a closer. How many late inning homers is this guy going to surrender?

The other thing I know is that tomorrow could be a beanbrawl. Friday night, Placido Polanco gets hit with the first pitch of the game. Nate Robertson throws one behind Carl Crawford, who lead of the D-Rays half of the first. The home plate ump, instead of issuing warnings all around, tosses Robertson instead. Thankfully, the Tigers held on to win last night.

Tonight, Jonny Gomes, yes, Jonny Gomes, admires his game winning shot for about a week before heading around the bases. Now, I'm not saying I would plunk him tomorrow, wait, yes, I am saying I would plunk him tomorrow. If he's not in the lineup, and I have doubts he will be, I'd have to hit somebody on the Rays. Not in the head, mind you, but I'd be sending a message.

Yes, this is old school thinking. Yes, I'm a Neanderthal. Yes, I'm promoting retaliation. Look, I'm not proud of myself, okay? However, this is only baseball, not a world conflict. In baseball, if you show up an opponent, you pay for it. I felt like Gomes showed up the Tigers.

Could it be I'm upset about losing? Of course. But, I'm also basing some of my thinking on history. We need to remember this is the same Tampa team that got into a beanbrawl war with the Red Sox early in the year. I watched a large part of that series and the D-Rays did the same sort of junk to the champs.

I don't know what's going on in Tampa, as they seem to love to showboat, but they are repeat offenders in my book. I expect the Tigers staff to plunk a Tampa hitter or two tomorrow.

IOC Strikes Out Baseball

The International Olympic Committee finally lived up to their threats today and dropped baseball as an Olympic sport. This only confirms what I have always maintained. The IOC has only two motivations. First, to make the Olympics the championship event in every sport. Second, to make lots of money in the process.

Many are arguing that the IOC's decision to drop baseball and softball is anti-American. It is, of course. One look at soccer, which doesn't send it's best players either, but doesn't appear to be in jeopardy as an Olympic entity, tells you all you need to know.

But the IOC's decision is also a result of their incredulous attitude about Major League Baseball's refusal to stop their regular season to play in the Olympics. The IOC is appalled and shocked that a lowly sporting league, let alone an American based one, feels its season is more important than participating in their spectacle. For an organization that is accustomed to being pandered to, this is quite a let down.

Forget this nonsense about the IOC being upset about baseball's drug testing policy. That's merely a smoke screen. Honestly, that sentiment, in light of the Olympic's nearly continuous losing battle against illegal substances, is not only laughable, but irrelevant. Regardless of MLB's drug testing policies, if the IOC's testing methods are so accurate, wouldn't all the cheaters get caught before they participated? So, what's the problem if the cheaters don't play?

The problem is, of course, that MLB players aren't playing. If tomorrow morning MLB decided to send their players, which, by the way, is exactly what the IOC is hoping for, the drug testing issue would go bye-bye quickly. The high and mighty IOC would reinstate baseball (and probably softball, too) immediately and hold it's collective nose all the way to the bank to cash those checks while proclaiming to be the first true World Series.

Therein lies the core of the issue. The IOC wants to be sports ultimate governing body and the premier championship in every sport. Why? In part because of ego, in part because it makes lots of money. Think of the IOC as a James Bond villain bent on world-wide domination through sport. Only the IOC is real and much, much worse.

In issuing their referendum on baseball, the IOC was demanding MLB to genuflect to their superiority. IOC members, who I am trying to find polite derogatory comments to describe, basically want MLB to crawl back to the IOC begging for forgiveness and acceptance.

Dick Pound, a veteran IOC member, reflected that tone when he suggested "A lot of members were fed up with the attitude of Major League Baseball". The IOC is fed up with MLB's attitude? Pot? Kettle?

Is there any other organization on the face of the planet with as much attitude as the IOC? Again, the James Bond villain analogy fits. (Insert maniacal laugh here.) The IOC has come to view itself as sports' moral north and its' last true defender. Just like a Bond enemy, the IOC views itself as righteous while actually being the most evil force alive. (Note they have Olympic flag bearers wear white gloves, while the IOC has a history of having their hands open for bribes, phony baloney jobs and other benefits from host nations.)

Unfortunately for the IOC, they are not dealing with James Bond. No, they are dealing with Bud Selig. Crazy Uncle Bud may not be a genius, but his ignorance is bliss. Bud can't understand what the IOC can't understand about not stopping the MLB season. And, in turn, the IOC can't understand what Selig can't understand about the Olympics being so wonderful.

Amazingly, Uncle Bud is actually providing the IOC with some true insight. The insight of baseball fans. For all his cluelessness (is that a word?), old crazy Uncle Bud does reflect the average baseball fans' opinion about Olympic baseball. They don't care. They really don't. The average baseball fan has zero memories of Olympic baseball. They have zero connection with Olympic baseball.

The average fan views the Olympics as the championship for all those other sports we don't have championships for. That's a jigoistic concept, I concede, but it doesn't make it any less true. It also doesn't mean Americans, or baseball fans, don't like the Olympics. They do. They just don't think baseball when they hear that Olympic theme music begin. Nor do they care to.

Uncle Bud also has the IOC's shorts in a knot for another reason. See, Bud may be crazy, but we must remember he's an old used car salesman. That means Bud likes cashing checks. So, while stopping MLB's regular season to participate in the Olympics doesn't yield him a thing (in fact, it may cost teams money in cancelled gate revenue), running his own international tournament means MLB can make money on the idea. That's annoying the IOC, too.

This nutty old guy not only refuses to acknowledge the greatness of the Olympics, but has the audacity to start up his own international tournament while keeping the majority of the profits all to himself? What type of neophyte is the IOC dealing with? Oh, he's plenty crazy. Crazy like a fox.

Unbelievably, Selig's old fashioned, simple ways may have blindsided the IOC. Unable to get him to see their superior ideals and unable to reason with the guy, the IOC tossed his sport out on its ear. They figure baseball will eventually have to crawl back. Well, maybe. Maybe, not.

The IOC may feel baseball needs the Olympics, but history thus far proves them wrong. The sport, ignored for the better part of a century by the IOC, has done nothing but grow in world wide popularity. Take a look at any MLB roster. It's littered with players from all over the globe. In some of those nations, baseball is the sport. It's elevated itself past all others without a bit of help from the Olympics.

Contrary to what the IOC may believe, the Olympics are not the only thing in sport that matter. Even Bud Selig can figure that out.

Renovating Detroit

On the heels of my post about Tiger Stadium, Free Press reporter John Gallagher offers some suggestions for getting Detroit renovation underway.

Wings Boot Lewis

When I heard the Red Wings might not re-sign Dave Lewis, I figured the organization felt he might not be well suited to coach younger players. Turns out GM Ken Holland was more concerned about the vets tuning Lewis out. Here is Mitch Albom's story on Lewis' departure from Detroit.

I can't say that I know if a new coach will help, but in a league nearly completely rebuilt by a salary cap and probably numerous rule changes, is anything going to be certain?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Furry Friday Photo

I'm starting a new feature today. As the title indicates, I'm going to post a photo of a critter of some sort each Friday. What does this have to do with sports? The answer is obvious-nothing.

I don't know if today's subject has a name, but it lives at the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

My Field Of Dreams, Part I

For a while now I've been debating an Earth shattering question. If I had built a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield, what players would I most like to see play? What? You haven't been thinking the same thing? Well, maybe you should take a few minutes and ask yourself the same question.

I have found the answers to be both incredibly easy and horribly difficult. Sure, some names come immediately to mind-Ruth, Williams, Mays. That's the easy part. The hard part is figuring out where to draw the line as you can't take everyone, but the list of players gets very large, very fast.

Gazing upon a list so long that it would make Santa dizzy, I decided some action needed to be taken. The first decision I made was to divide my Field of Dreams into two groups. The first group is of all the players I never saw play. The second group is of all the players I have seen. It didn't matter if I could recall one at bat, one season or entire careers, if I remember them in uniform, they made the second squad.

As a point of reference for you, I've been watching baseball since the early 1970's. Those early years are filled mostly with the Oakland's World Series dominance, but even those memories are scattered. The year I went baseball nuts was 1975.

My teams are not entirely the best players. I have selected guys I would want to see again and again. They could have only significance to me. They could be flamboyant. They could have connections to each other or baseball history. In the end, don't be hurt or surprised if your favorite player or obvious legend doesn't make one of my lists. Again, it's my field of dreams and I encourage you to take up the same endeavor on your own.

You will quickly notice that there are probably more Tigers and Red Sox represented than any other team. (Dominating the century does put a number of Yankees on my rosters, too.) However, Detroit and Boston are my two favorite teams and I consider myself more of an American League fan.

I have also tried to keep the rosters to 35 players per team. Technically, that's seventy players per era. It's still too many, and I may yet cut the lists down, but my objective is to try and stay as close to 70 total as possible.

My rules also include a minimum of nine man pitching rotations and the ability to field a complete lineup-one 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, etc......

I'll begin with the players I never saw play. I've roughly divided them into two teams, but my list isn't quite carved in stone.

Team 1
Josh Gibson, C- Negro League Legend.
Yogi Berra, C/OF- Great post-game quotes and lots of World Series rings to boot.
Lou Gehrig, 1B-Need I elaborate?
Harmon Killebrew, 1B/3B- 500 homers, two positions.
Buck Leonard, 1B- A chance to compete with his contemporaries.
Rogers Hornsby, 2B- The greatest hitting secondbaseman ever.
Harvey Kuenn, 2B- Tiger infielder won batting title. More to follow.
Bobby Doerr, 2B- First of many Red Sox.
Honus Wagner, SS- The best at his position. Ever.
Johnny Pesky, SS- Fine player. Gets plenty of chances to forget '46 Series here.
Phil Rizzuto, SS- How can I not take a guy named "Scooter"?
Judy Johnson, 3B- Another African-American denied a chance to play in the Majors. I get to correct that here.
Ken Boyer, 3B- 1964 MVP.
Babe Ruth, OF/P- Oh, I'd let him pitch, too.
Stan Musial, OF/1B- Stan The Man was another no-brainer.
Willie Mays, OF- In between Ruth and Musial? Are you kidding me?
Joe DiMaggio, OF- Yankee Clipper makes the cut.
Mel Ott, OF- If not for Mays, the greatest Giant?
Rocky Colavito, OF- Homer hitting Tiger outfielder. Traded for Kuenn, now playing together.
Joe Medwick, OF- Ducky. Had to have a Gashouse Gang member.

Christy Mathewson, P- There's a reason he was one of the first five HOF inductees.
Smoky Joe Wood, P- Made film and my version of Dreams.
Lefty Grove, P- One of the top 10 ever at his position.
Warren Spahn, P- Seems like we forget how good Spahn was.
Joe McGinnity, P- Along with Mathewson led Giants to titles and made HOF.
Carl Hubbell, P- The Meal Ticket. His All-Star Game performance is legendary.
Dizzy Dean, P- Could pitch the first game and call the second. A great pitcher before injury.
Daffy Dean, P- Had some good seasons with brother, Dizzy, in STL.
Johnny Sain, P- Spahn and Sain and pray for rain. How could I not take him?
Cy Young, P- You may have heard of him. He could pitch both ends of doubleheader.

Team 2
Mickey Cochrane
, C- Led Tigers to first championship. Could manage this club, as well.
Roy Campanella, C- Dodger legend. HOF member.
King Kelly, C- Dead ball era backstop.
Jimmie Foxx, 1B- Double X is one of my all-time favorites.
Hank Greenberg, 1B- Tiger legend, part of famous G-Men.
Charlie Gerhinger, 2B- My all-time favorite Tiger.
Jackie Robinson, 2B- Another simple choice.
Napoleon Lajoie, 2B- Nap was a great player.
Ernie Banks, SS/1B- A power hitting SS long before this era.
Luis Aparicio, SS- Motor for Go-Go (White) Sox.
Pee Wee Reese, SS- Rizzuto's NY counterpart. Robinson's keystone teammate.
Pie Traynor, 3B- Once considered the best ever 3B.
Eddie Mathews, 3B- 500 homers. Led Braves to titles. Member of 1968 Tigers, too.
Ty Cobb, OF- Greatest Tiger. Maybe greatest player. I've got rivals Hornsby and Wagner on the "other" team.
Ted Williams, OF- The Kid is another all-time favorite of mine.
Tris Speaker, OF- Lost in Cobb's shadow. A great player.
Mickey Mantle, OF- I put Joe D. on the other team this time.
Roberto Clemente, OF- Love those basket catches and whirling throws.
Harry Heilmann, OF- Another Tiger HOF member. A tremendous hitter.
Dom DiMaggio, OF- Slightly below HOF standards, but a good CF. Plays next to Williams and against brother, Joe, again.

Walter Johnson, P- Easy pick. Can pitch against Smoky Joe, again, in my field of dreams.
Sandy Koufax, P- At his peak, was anyone better?
Bob Gibson, P- Dominant righthander.
Bob Feller, P- Johnson, Koufax, Gibson and Feller? These guys throw hard. Real hard.
Bob Lemon, P- HOF member, Feller's Cleveland teammate.
Tim Keefe, P- Dead ball era hurler.
Satchel Paige, P- Let's see him in his prime take on the big leaguers.
Schoolboy Rowe, P- Another Tiger favorite of mine. A darn good pitcher, too.
Hal Newhouser, P- Back-to-back MVP winner.
Don Drysdale, P- Koufax running mate. HOF hurler.

Those of you with degrees in mathematics will note that these two teams have only thirty players per side. That's not bad. I can certainly include more names, I hate leaving the Waner brothers out, but I think I'll leave well enough alone for now. Although, as always, I reserve the right to alter the teams in any way I see fit. (Hey, I may have missed somebody. I didn't exactly do lots of research here.)

You probably noticed that I have a thing about "connections"- McGinnity and Mathewson, Koufax and Drysdale, Spahn and Sain, Dom and Joe DiMaggio, Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Lemon and Feller, Kuenn and Colavito, Johnson and Wood, Cobb and Wagner, Gerhinger, Greenberg and Cochrane, Williams, Doerr, Dom DiMaggio and Pesky. They were either teammates, brothers, traded for one another or noted rivals of one sort or another.

I'm still naive enough to believe baseball should be a sport about teammates, friends and family. That's why some players got extra credit in my selection process.

That concludes Part I of my Field of Dreams. Part II should posted before Monday. That list will include all the players I've seen play. That's been a much more challenging list to assemble.

It's Joey Season

Rabbit season? Duck season? Nope, it's Joey Harrington season. ESPN's John Clayton takes aim at the Detroit Lions signal caller.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Tuesday Night Moanin'

A week before the All-Stars arrive in Motown, here are some of the things that I've taken note of.

I'm sure most of Tigertown has seen the ads the team is running entitled "Who's Your Tiger?". In light of their early July swoon, and the trade deadline waiting at month's end, I wonder if we should start asking "Who's Your Ex-Tiger?". If the team maintains anything close to its current pace, you have to believe they will be willing trade participants.

Maybe a more uplifting promo would be "Who's Your New Tiger?". Names being floated around town to fill that category are Aubrey Huff, A.J. Burnett and Lyle Overbay. All three sound good to me.

I like hot dogs. However, eating forty-nine of the buggers in a month is ridiculous. Eating forty-nine in twelve minutes is crazy. Yet pounding down that many franks does get you plenty of media attention. I'm just not sure why, though.

In a lifetime that saw him inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, win a Super Bowl and provide commentary on both television and radio, the thing I remember most about the late Hank Stram was the NFL Films piece during his Super Bowl triumph with Kansas City.

Stram's performance, for lack of a better word, was the type of thing that made NFL Films what it is today. The coach was a one man show. The film was funny and enlightening because Coach Stram was. I consider the film part of Football 101. It's simply a classic.

Long-time Sports Illustrated football guru, Dr. Z., offers this recollection of Stram.

Larry Brown's future as coach of the Pistons remains in doubt. Anyone else not surprised? I actually feel bad for Brown, as I can appreciate medical set-backs, but this thing does appear to be dragging on. Much of the sarcasm about Brown's non-decision, mine included, is simply a result of Brown's history (and his in-season flirtation with the Knicks). Any other coach facing a medical problem would probably be given a pass from fans and the media.

Oh, no. I agree with the Free Press columnist Drew Sharp. I may get banned from blogging if others find out.

If Tigers phenom Justin Verlander makes his big league debut and no one in Detroit sees it, did it really happen?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Saving The Old Yard

I have an idea. Hey, don't be so surprised. I was at Greenfield Village this weekend and I was wondering why the Detroit community doesn't consider donating Tiger Stadium to the Village? While space would be an issue at Greenfield Village's Dearborn home, I'm sure there is a way those who run the Village could incorporate the historic site into their layout.

Even if there was simply no way the folks at Greenfield Village could house Tiger Stadium on their grounds, why couldn't they maintain it where it is and keep it as part of their attractions? The Henry Ford, as the joint operation of the Village and Henry Ford Museum are now called, could run shuttle buses down right down Michigan Avenue to The Corner. They already operate buses to their tour of the Ford Rouge Plant. Wouldn't running another set of buses downtown just be a natural extension?

Seriously, I know we live in the Motor City, but what would you rather visit-an old auto production facility or the ground Ty Cobb played his home games? If you were a tourist, which do think you would prefer? I'm not advocating keeping one over the other, both should be maintained from an historic perspective, but I'd like to think that just as many people would be interesting in touring the old ballpark as the old assembly plant.

I'd also like to think that a fair number of people would pay to get into Tiger Stadium, thus adding to The Henry Ford's revenue streams. How could that be a bad thing?

The Henry Ford could take over Tiger Stadium, build a baseball museum and library inside, play their old time baseball games at The Corner and allow fans to get onto the field Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gerhinger and Al Kaline called home.

My idea is simple, yet seems like a perfect solution for everyone. The Henry Ford gains a new attraction and, presumably, added revenue. The city gets someone to maintain the old place (assuming the stadium cannot be moved to Dearborn) and keep a part of it's history alive. Fans from around the world get a chance to visit the place where not only Cobb applied his trade, but where Lou Gerhig's career ended and where Reggie Jackson hit the light tower.

Yes, I know. The devil is in the details. I'm sure I am missing an obvious stumbling block to my plan. The city, the Tigers, the Henry Ford or someone else would probably oppose this idea for one reason or another. However, isn't it worth looking into? I'd rather see Tiger Stadium moved to Greenfield Village then get hit with a wrecking ball. Wouldn't you?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

All-Star Rosters

MLB revealed the All-Star Game rosters earlier this evening. Pudge Rodriguez is the Detroit Tigers lone representative. I'm a bit disappointed that Jeremy Bonderman didn't get named to the A.L. squad, but one thing I've learned watching baseball over the last thirty or so years is that the All-Star rosters announced are rarely identical to those that take the field on game day.

Injuries, no-shows and a variety of factors means that a few guys named today won't be in the Motor City a week from Tuesday. What I believe Bonderman fans have to hope for is that Kenny Rogers pulls himself from the Mid-Summer Classic. Frankly, Rogers has no right whatsoever playing when he should be suspended. Because the MLBPA has the league over a barrel on appealing suspensions, Rogers gets to be included.

(As an extended aside, Rogers should not only not be playing, he should not be appealing his suspension. His suspension should be about a month longer, minimum. Rogers should thank Bud Selig for not giving him the Ron Artest treatment, which is honestly what Rogers merits. Rogers should also be thanking his employer, the Texas Rangers, for not firing him on the spot.)

Considering the current climate, Rogers should graciously decline the invitation to Detroit ASAP. Do something right, Kenny. Step aside. If Rogers can muster that, and I have doubts, Bonderman should get his spot. Replace the angry poster child athlete of the hour with the hometown kid. Sounds like a good P.R. move to me.

Sure, some other pitchers deserve the next open spot as much as Bonderman, but it's not like Bonderman would be getting the nod solely because he's a Tiger. The guy does have ten wins and is fifth in the junior circuit in strikeouts. It's just a win-win situation. Rogers does the noble thing, Bonderman gets his first All-Star appearance in his own park and MLB gets a P.R. upgrade. Why am I not commissioner, again?

Even if Rogers decides to visit Detroit a week from now, and if his contract calls for an All-Star Game bonus you have to think he's going to cash that check, another hurler named to the team today could have to pull out before next Tuesday. That means Bonderman still has a shot to be in uniform on July 12. Obviously, I hope that happens.

I can't say that I am surprised that Pudge got another All-Star berth. He is still an elite level catcher, a certain Hall of Famer and the face of the Tigers to everyone beyond Tigertown. He hasn't been nearly as dominant offensively this year, but his average does still float around .300 and his production is far from awful. It just hasn't been incredible as in years past. I'm happy Pudge got selected. I hope he gets a great ovation from the Detroit citizens in attendance. I also hope he gets to play with at least one more Detroit teammate.

I was surprised to see the Blue Jays' Shea Hillenbrand named to the A.L. team. Hillenbrand is having a nice season, but with Roy Halladay getting the mandatory Toronto selection and with both Paul Konerko and Mike Sweeney playing back-up firstbase to Mark Teixeira, Hillenbrand's selection is curious.

Instead of Hillenbrand, I probably would have gone with Oakland 3B Eric Chavez, who has been hot lately, as the A's nominee and left Justin Duchscherer off the team. Sorry, Justin. What would I have done with the roster spot? Hmmmm? Maybe name another pitcher. Maybe a Tigers' pitcher?

Speaking of pitchers, how on Earth can Roy Oswalt not be an All-Star? I admit that I am a big fan of the Houston righty, but Oswalt is one of the best in the game. I also admit I wouldn't remove a single N.L. starter named to the team to put Oswalt on. However, if I was going to have to face any of those guys in one game and you gave me Oswalt to counter, I'd like my chances.

I'll probably have more All-Star observations later. Remember, just because someone wasn't named today doesn't mean they won't end up All-Stars in a week. Patience remains a virtue.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Nine Innings Later....

Before last night's game, even some diehard fans had to wonder if the Detroit Tigers were in a total free fall. In the wake of the club's latest losing spell, which included a painful sweep by division leading Chicago, the club announced that hitting coach Bruce Fields and bench coach Kirk Gibson were going to swap positions. The Tigers also announced that Magglio Ordonez was being recalled from his Toledo rehab assignment and put in Friday night's starting lineup. Finally, as if the previous two announcements didn't raise enough eyebrows, the Tigers announced that prized prospect Justin Verlander was going to start the second game of Monday's doubleheader with Cleveland.

Any one of those moves, in light of the losing skid, could have been seen as a panic decision. However, bundled together, they looked like something George Steinbrenner might pull off when he didn't get enough sleep the night before.

The citizens of Tigertown had to wonder what the motivation was to rush Maggs back into the lineup (he wasn't exactly tearing up AAA nor was he down there long) and bring Verlander north so quickly? (How many Double A starts did Verlander have under his belt? Three?) Of course, I pondered what real benefit the Fields/Gibson title change would bring and if it was indicative of a bigger issue, as well.

Couple all of these changes with the fact that the Yankees were Friday night's opponent, Randy Johnson was starting for N.Y. and Jeremy Bonderman, the Tigers starter, was coming off his worst outing of the year and I think it's safe to say that a few of us who watch this team regularly were concerned about where this ballclub was headed.

That all changed nine innings later. The Tigers pounded Big Unit and the Bronx Bombers, 10-2. Ordonez returned to bat clean-up and hit a two-run homer. Placido Polanco homered and drove in five runs. Chris Shelton hit a bomb, too. Oh, and Bonderman? He pitched a compete game allowing only eight hits while fanning five.

Remember all the pre-game paranoia? Gone. Clearly, Maggs wasn't rushed back. Bonderman was back in form. Shelton was starting to look like the all-star caliber hitter the Tigers hoped he would become. Polanco just keeps paying dividends. The Tigers looked like a playoff team and the guys from NY looked like, well, like the Tigers usually do.

What if Verlander can come up and pitch well? The Tigers could be a playoff contender! How could more quality pitching do anything less?. An eight run triumph over New York makes everyone an optimist. For a while, anyway.

Then along came another nine innings Saturday night. Tonight's tilt was a Tiger lovefest early, with Ordonez doubling to drive in a run and Dmitri Young homering to spot the Tigers a three run cushion, only to see the Yankees beat up the Tigers' bullpen and win 8-4.

Kyle Farnsworth pitching an ugly eighth (although escaping without allowing a run) and Troy Percival pitched a terrible, terrible ninth.

The supposedly good Tigers bullpen looked really bad tonight. Even with Ordonez back, the Tigers couldn't muster any offense after their one big inning. They blew a pretty darn good start from Sean Douglass, to boot.

Saturday's Tigers performance more closely resembled their early week losses against the White Sox than Friday's feel good story. The question is which team is the real Tigers? The answer seems to be-both. As the Tigers appear to be a .500 team. However, I am going to reserve judgment for at least nine more innings.