Monday, October 31, 2005

DIBS Awards

A couple of weeks ago, I received a request from Billfer at the Detroit Tigers Weblog to participate with a number of other Detroit sports blogs to vote on our Tigers Players of the Year. This group of united bloggers had been given the name DIBS, an acronym for Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes. That or we've been named by a Rob Dibble fan.

DIBS was formed by Brian at the, Ryan at Detroit Tigers Central and the aforementioned Billfer. All three deserve credit, praise and possibly ridicule for allowing me to vote. We voted for three categories in the first annual DIBS Awards: Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Breakout Player of the Year. Each site selected a first, second and third place nomination in each category.

The DIBS ballots have been tabulated by two very nice senior citizens from Florida, known for their acumen in such things, and here are your winners. The DIBS Tigers Player of the Year is
Placido Polanco. Our Tigers Pitcher of the Year is Jeremy Bonderman. Chris Shelton got a unanimous selection as Breakout Player of the Year.

For those of you dying to know how I voted, here is how my ballot looked. Player of the Year I gave to Chris Shelton, followed by Polanco, then Craig Monroe. I felt Shelton's body of work in a Detroit uniform merited him a tad more pull than Polanco, who was also stellar for a bad team, but wasn't here as long.

My pitcher of the Year nod went to Bonderman. His second half was a disappointment, but he's still rather young and led the squad in a number of categories. Mike Maroth got my second place vote, then Kyle Farnsworth.

My Breakout Player of the Year vote went to Shelton, then Polanco (mostly for his "breakout" here, not in MLB.) Curtis Granderson claimed my last vote in the Breakout category.

For those of you curious, here are all the blogs that currently make up DIBS. I believe I have links to all the members in my blogroll, but for handy reference here is a list.

Detroit Tigers Weblog
Detroit Tigers Central
Roar of the Tigers
Motown Sports Revival
The Cheap Seats
Out of Bounds
Detroit Sports Squad
Bless You Boys
Beyond Boxscores

While DIBS is in its infancy, I would suspect that all parties are hoping that this affiliation will bring fame, fortune, media credentials, more hits (both for our sites and the Tigs' offense) and possibly quality time with Brandon Inge (Sam's not-so-secret desire). Seriously, I would hope this would be our first of many yearly awards and, perhaps, other joint ventures.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Same Old, Same Old

Twenty-three of thirty-five for 197 yards. No touchdowns. One huge interception. Those were Jeff Garcia's stats from today's 19-13 loss to Chicago. New quarterback, technically, new old quarterback, same old results--a loss that can be attributed to a poor decision by the Detroit Lions quarterback.

In overtime, Garcia threw a pass across his body only to have it picked off for a Bears touchdown. It was about as easy a TD as you will see, about as bad a decision as you will see and about as typical a Lions loss as you will see.

While the cries for Joey Harrington's return are not forthcoming, we should all realize that this is what you get from Garcia. When plays breakdown, Garcia goes to work. Sometimes that results in good things, sometimes bad things occur.

Critics or Garcia supporters (see Mariucci, Steve) might argue that Garcia is trying to "make plays" for a bad team with a poor offensive line and third string receivers. Yeah, and when Harrington tried to force action he was just stupid. Garcia gets nailed play after play because his line can't block and he's considered tough and gritty. His mistakes occur because he's a playmaker looking to make plays. Harrington gets beat up behind the same offensive line and he isn't tough and is trying too hard to make big plays.

Today's loss was just the latest disappointment for anyone that cares for this football team. It's wasn't, however, anything new. Just more of the same.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Friday Night Rambling

Before I head off to watch tonight's important British Columbia at Edmonton CFL tilt, and the less critical, but very entertaining The Kumars at No. 42, I've been piling up some notes around here and it's time to share my complaints and observations with you. I know. You are thrilled. Go Esks!

* Phil Garner's not exactly getting rave reviews for his World Series, is he?

* I know some say the World Series was boring, but the games were all very close and most of the casual sports fans I know enjoyed the Series.

* What is up with Bobby Valentine? This guy just can't shut up about a "true" World Series between the Japanese League winner and the MLB World Series champs. I'm not sure what his motives are, but Valentine just seems obsessed with this international world series concept of his. Note to Bobby: Shut up, already.

Three points, Bobby V. First, whining about it isn't going to help your cause. Second, there is a true lack of interest in the States for international baseball of any kind. Olympic baseball can't draw flies. The upcoming World Baseball Classic is illiciting mostly yawns at this point. Baseball fans I've talked to are indifferent at best to any international series under any format. Third, if the ratings are falling with teams from Chicago and Houston in the World Series, does anyone really think a Chicago versus Chiba Lotte match-up is going to be a ratings winner?

* The Detroit Lions are playing the Chicago Bears for first place Sunday. Really. The Lions could be alone in first place by Sunday evening. No, I'm not kidding.

* The other day I'm watching PTI. The boys are kind of chuckling at the lack of attendance at NHL games. Fair enough. Within a half an hour, I'm watching a Carolina/Boston contest where the fans have come dressed as empty seats. It's either poor attendance or the greatest Halloween promotion ever.

Later that same evening, I'm watching C-SPAN. Me? Watching C-SPAN? Scary, I know. However, I digress. I'm watching a representative from Florida pleading for an independent Hurricane Katrina commission. The rep. from Florida actually had displays made to support his statements. The one I saw look like his middle school kid did it for homework. (At least it got an A.)

Anyway, the Florida member is talking to about five people in the chamber. There are three members of the House present plus a couple of aides. That's it. Five people in the United States House of Representatives. Which seems more ridiculous? The small amount of people who refuse to pay to attend a professional hockey game in the South or the even smaller amount of people, whom we pay to govern, actually sitting in the House while business is being carried out?

* Maybe I'm just not well versed enough in football, but when the list of would-be Hall of Famers is announced each year I find that I think the majority of players named should be inducted. This year is no exception. No, I wouldn't vote for every guy, but I'd give the nod to a large percentage on the ballot.

* In this edition of Things You Don't Care About, I offer the Breeders Cup. If I'm home tomorrow, I'll be watching. You will not.

* Hoops season is about to begin. I think the Pistons will still be a force. If the bench can come through, they can still beat everyone in the East. Yes, even Miami and Indiana. Here is's power rankings for the NBA. Apparently, Marc Stein shares my sentiment on the Pistons.

* Can a Boston Celtics fan please, please explain to me what Danny Ainge is doing? Thank you.

* For you college basketball fans, here is there look at ESPN's college top 25. If you love college hoops, here are two blogs that are mandatory reading. Yoco: College Basketball and Big Ten Wonk. Neither needs an ounce of my support, but in the remote chance you haven't come across one or the other, let me encourage you to do so now. Why are you still here?

* Oil companies weren't gouging us at the pump. I mean Exxon barely increased revenues in the third quarter. You can't make money with a 75% increase in revenues each quarter.

Well, I've got more, but kick-off is nearing. Contrary to the rumors, I do have priorities. Skewed priorities, but priorities nonetheless.

Post-script: The Eskimos prevailed. I know you are as happy as I am.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Different Pair Of Sox

While I openly admit to rooting for the Houston Astros, I congratulate the Chicago White Sox on winning the World Series. In particular, I congratulate the Sox' fans. They are the overlooked baseball fans in Chicago, but they get their much deserved, and long awaited, moment alone in the spotlight. The White Sox are unquestionably the best team in baseball in 2005. Congratulations to all.

In the inevitable comparison to last year's champions, the Boston Red Sox, some have wondered why the White Sox triumph after 88 years of failure isn't getting the same attention as Boston's much anticipated crown after an 86 year long drought? That's easy. Here are the reasons.

1. Babe Ruth- You've heard of him, right? See, the Red Sox had Ruth and a mini-dynasty going when he was sold to New York. In moving the lefthanded hurler, the Red Sox unloaded a man who went from great pitcher to unrivaled hitter to baseball legend to American icon. Ruth is as synonymous with baseball as any player in the game's history. Ruth completely altered the game. "He changed the game from one of hit and run to a game of hit and watch" (Can't recall where I got that quote from, but it stuck in my head.)

Not only did the selling of Ruth end the Red Sox pre-1920 dominance and send the Red Sox spiraling down until some kid named Ted Williams arrive, it gave birth to the......

2. New York Yankees Dynasty- In selling Ruth, Harry Frazee did more than end the Sox early 20th Century success. He gave birth to the most successful franchise in baseball history and left the Fenway Faithful wondering if their former legend had placed a curse on their team. That's one stinking bad deal.

Conversely, can you even name the White Sox biggest rival? It's probably the Cubs, a team they didn't play regularly until inter-league play was born. The ChiSox don't have to live with selling their best player to their rival, watching him become the biggest thing in the sport and triggering an unprecedented era of success.

The 88 year wait was awful by any stretch of the imagination, but if the Cubs had won twenty-six world championships since 1919, the ChiSox win would even be a greater release of frustration. (Honestly, after watching both Sox win titles, aren't the Cubs fans alone in their misery now?)

3. The Painful Near Misses- The White Sox went to one World Series, post 1919, in 1959. The Red Sox didn't appear in many more (four-1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986), but they managed to lose each in agonizing fashion. All were seven games series.

Those post-season losses don't include all of those second place finishes, mostly to the hated Yankees, and playing in the first two one game playoffs in baseball history. Losing both, first to Cleveland in 1948 and the second to, of course, the Yankees in 1978.

The White Sox don't have a history of historically painful close calls in the post-season. Those kind of meltdowns make for great literature, but only lead to more frustration and suffering for fans. The White Sox may be lucky not to have had that added on to their near century long wait for a crown.

4. A House Divided- The White Sox don't even own all of their city's fanbase. The Cubs own, at minimum, half of the hardball fans in the Windy City. It's hard to get all the attention when you aren't even the only attraction in town.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Red Sox own most if not all of the New England states. In having so many universities, Boston also has a developed a legion of fans who end up scattered throughout the country. The White Sox struggle to sell their merchandise in their home town. That's a big difference.

4. The Black Sox Scandal- Say what you will, but post 1919, the White Sox just didn't give too many folks the warm fuzzies. White Sox Nation wasn't going to be born in that shadow. (Although, it could have been born last night.) The White Sox have a small, but devout following, not a fanbase with a nickname.

5. East Coast Media Bias- Come on. You knew I had to toss that one in there. I think it's difficult to argue that with all the media hubs so close to Boston, the Red Sox title simply seemed more important in places like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York, etc... Thus, the Red Sox win got more ink nationwide.

While the White Sox championship isn't getting the press the Red Sox did a year ago, it isn't any less significant. Eighty-eight years is a terribly long time to wait for anything. The odds of Chicago's baseball entry going that long without their next championship have to be near as bad as me winning the lottery tomorrow.

For now, that just doesn't matter. All that matters is that the protracted frustration of White Sox fans has finally ended. I hope they spend a good year embracing and rejoicing in this moment. They have suffered through the downtime, they've earned the right to cherish this. Congrats, again, White Sox fans.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Harrington Era Ends

It's finally over. The moment so many in Detroit have openly pleaded for has arrived. Joey Harrington's reign as the Detroit Lions signal caller ended today. The story of Harrington's future in Motown closed with two huge punctuation marks.

First, was Harrington's benching. Coach Steve Mariucci, who was not at all enamored with the former Oregon All-American, opted to start the wobbly Jeff Garcia instead of Harrington. Mariucci's hand-picked back-up QB got the nod because 1) the defense had grown weary of Harrington's inability to move the offense, 2) Mariucci had grown tired of Harrington's inability to move the offense, 3) the offense had grown tired of Harrington's inability to move them downfield, 4) Lions are somehow in the playoff hunt and, thus, desperately needed a road win and 5) Garcia is Mariucci's boy.

Let's not kid ourselves about number five, either. Did you hear Mariucci's post-game press conference. If Harrington had done exactly the same thing, lead his team to an underwhelming road win, do you think Mooch would have been so glowing about his QB's effort? Please. Mooch just plain disliked Harrington. I don't think it was personal, but Harrington just isn't Mariucci's type of quarterback.

The Lions' coach was so completely unimpressed with Harrington he had difficulty saying anything nice about Joey. And I do mean anything. I think if he was told Harrington saved five people from a burning building, Mariucci would suggest that if Harrington's timing was better Joey could have saved the building, too.

Mooch could never openly commit to Harrington in any fashion and everyone knew how much he loved number five. So, having Garcia start over a slumping Harrington surprises no one. However, that move alone didn't cement Harrington's fate.

No, what has done Harrington in is punctuation mark number two-Garcia led the Lions to a 13-10 win over Cleveland. Any hope Harrington had of returning as a starter here is now gone, shy of Garcia getting re-injured. Wins have been few and far between with Harrington at the controls. To see Garcia, basically, get his cast removed one day and lead the team to a road win the next makes Harrington look even worse. For all intents and purposes, Harrington's career in Detroit ended with the Garcia-led victory.

As with any move, there are short-term and long-term implications. The short-term is simple. Garcia is the starter. Period. A road win without Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, Kevin Johnson, Shaun Rogers and Dre Bly (the last three falling to injury during the course of the game) merits Garcia the position. He showed a nice aptitude for improvisation. Garcia also seems to have a degree of respect from his teammates. Note Garcia's post-TD celebration. It wasn't a solo act, as Harrington's so often were. Nope, Garcia was warmly greeted by others wearing the same uniform. That implies to me that Mariucci made the right decision for the entire team.

However, let's not confuse Garcia's triumph with something grander. The Lions did only score one touchdown. Forgive me, but they ain't exactly Air Coryell, yet. We are all hoping that as some of the wideouts get healthy and Garcia works with them in practice that some of the offensive potential the Lions seem to have on paper will appear on the field. Today's win is just that-today's win. Let's see how Garcia and this team progress before we anointed Garcia the next Bobby Layne.

Garcia may well lead the Lions to the post-season this year (it's a bad, bad division) and may get the same opportunity in 2006, but that's where our little quarterback shuffle makes things less clear. Garcia isn't a puppy anymore. In fact, he's AARP eligible. In the long run, the Lions are going to have to, please sit immediately, the Lions are going to have to draft a quarterback. There I said it. The Lions will need to draft a QB in 2006.

Garcia simply isn't the long-term answer for the Lions. The Lions should draft a quarterback next year and have him sit behind Garcia for '06. Give the kid the a chance to learn from a veteran quarterback for a year, then hand him the reigns in 2007. (Although, having watched this offensive line, it's hard to imagine the Lions taking something other than a OL with their first pick in the draft.)

Garica is, however, the Lions' best short-term solution. Harrington's poor play over a protracted amount of time just couldn't be tolerated any longer. It had divided the team. Garcia came in and showed what a decent NFL quarterback can do. It was only one game, but it signaled two things. The end of the line for Joey Harrington in Detroit and the push for the 2005 Lions to make the playoffs.

The quarterback changes means the team will worry about the future in the future. (A concept, by the way, that will scare many of us in the future. Remember, I warned you.) Right now, Garcia gives them their best chance to win each week. That's all that matters.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Adu Acts His Age

Soccer phenom Freddy Adu has been speaking out about his lack of playing time. It's easy and probably correct to shrug off Adu's comments as typical. Typical as soccer star and petulant are nearly synonymous. Typical as high paid athletes are always lamenting something. Typical because, well, because Mr. Adu is a teenager.

How many sixteen year olds that you know would be upset over not getting to stay out later than normal? Or not getting to take the car? Or not being allowed to go somewhere they wanted to go? Darn near all of them I suspect. Adu may well be a teenager, but the difference is the thing he covets is playing time.

Like every other teenager, Adu lacks an important quality that only time and experience provide-perspective. Adu seems to believe that because he was MLS Player of the Week, he should be starting and logging more minutes. Perhaps, he is right. However, what Adu needs to do is consider everything.

First, he is on a championship team. D.C. United has a number of quality players. It's more than a bit derogatory to his teammates to assume he should be handed a starting role.

Second, does Adu think D.C. United's management or the MLS, in general, want to see Adu sit? Nothing would garner the team or the league more SportsCenter highlights (which would then bring the total to one) or revenue than Adu in action. If he was clearly better than his compatriots, I have to think coach Peter Nowak would play Adu.

Third, just because you are MLS Player of the Week doesn't mean you are ready to start for Chelsea or AC Milan. If you cannot beat out D.C. United's midfield or forwards, you aren't going to see much playing time in Europe anyway. Just ask Landon Donovan how that works.

Better yet, ask another former teen phenom, Bobby Convey, about playing time overseas. Convey left Adu's D.C. United squad to play for Reading. (Think AAA baseball, non-soccer friends.) Convey sat for the better part of his first season. He became discouraged, but didn't quit. This year, Convey is significant part of Reading's fine start. Adu may be better than Convey, but Bobby isn't in the Premiership, either.

I realize Adu wants to be on the U.S. side during the 2006 World Cup and feels Nowak's lack of playing time has eliminated his chance. I'm not sure that U.S. coach Bruce Arena, who doesn't appear to be one ounce less a disciplinarian than Nowak, would take Adu even if he was playing and scoring for a different MLS side.

Unfortunately, Adu is living up to the stereotype of overpaid soccer star and teenager simultaneously. He is carrying the weight of all that hype the way almost anyone his age would. At sixteen, it may be going as well as can be expected.

Stern Dresses Up NBA

The NBA has adopted a dress code for its players. More specific details of the plan came out today. We know a number of players have already voiced displeasure over the plan and some have even gone so far as to imply they would need a stipend to cover the cost of all those tailor made suits. What the opposition to the dress code doesn't understand is that their rhetoric is precisely why David Stern tossed this idea into the collective bargaining agreement in the first place.

Having multi-millionaires complain about a dress code when everyone from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to the fry guy at McDonald's have to adhere to some form of dress code only makes the players look bad.

When guys who make an average of four million dollars a year hint that they might need some extra cash to pay for the upgraded threads, it makes them all look like Latrell Sprewell complaining about not being able to feed his kids. It makes them look shallow, spoiled and out of touch.

I understand the players not liking someone, especially Stern, telling them what to wear. It does seem kind of un-American, at best. Unconstitutional, at worst. However, as we all know, it's neither. (Well, maybe it is sort of un-American.) The opposition to the NBA dress code would argue that they are being told what to wear after work, as opposed to the majority of us who are only confined by such guidelines during the work day. This notion is off-base.

The players are on company time, in some fashion or another, far more often than they probably care to consider. Going to work tonight? That's company time, at least once you are on the team's premises. Going to the airport to take a team paid for plane ride to your next game? Sounds to me like you are representing your company on a trip. How is that not company time? Were you going to go to Sacramento if the league didn't have a game there? Nope? Then that's company time.

Are you staying in a team booked and paid for hotel? That sounds like something your employer might have something to do with. Again, that's company time. Practice? Well we are all well aware of many of the players' distaste for such repetition, but, again, that's a team mandated appearance like any charity event they force you to attend. If they can make you show up, they can probably decide a minimum attire standard, too.

In light of last year's fight at The Palace and Kobe Bryant's continuing soap opera, is it surprising that Stern decided to take some action to clean up the league's appearance? The fact the NBAPA went along for the ride on this issue leads me to believe that some in the players association might agree with Stern's perspective, as well.

In the end, it's hard for the average fan, especially those making less than four million a season and finding themselves subjected to a company mandated dress code, to feel much sympathy for the players on this one. Welcome to a small portion of the real world, fellas.

Ed. Note: For a very good analysis of the dress code check out C.Y. Ellis of

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lions Diary

It's October and, let's be honest, the future looks pretty bleak for the Lions. They are a pitiful football team. To make matters even more deflating, the boys in the Honolulu Blue and Silver can't stop talking trash about each other and their coach to the media. Beautiful.

Last November, I gave up on Joey Harrington. This October, I have officially given up on Steve Mariucci. This team is in no way, shape or fashion progressing. In addition, it appears there is lockeroom dissension and a lack of discipline. (The latter being standard fare for the Lions.) I don't think Mariucci can turn this around. I don't think his players think so, either.

I'm not going to dwell on this much now, but suffice to say, it appears the Lions are headed for a "worst case scenario" in 2005. Harrington is done here. Mariucci ought to be. Charles Rogers seems compelled to crash and burn. Roy Williams is revealing why Texas lost every big game they were in while he was in school. The players appear to neither like or trust each other. They give the impression that they think even less of Mariucci.

A team with five first round draft picks at the skill positions can't score points? How is that anything but a worst case scenario?

If Matt Millen is forced to let Harrington and Mooch go, as it appears he will be, how is this team not in a complete rebuilding mode come January? How are any of us supposed to be happy about this?

For the first time ever, I am apathetic. I'll watch a few minutes of action here and there, but invest time and emotion in a franchise that struggles to finish above .500 in the league that invented parity? Sorry, I just can't do it right now.

Just let me know when the draft is. By the way, how many losses do the Lions need to draft Matt Leinart?

Update: Here is more good news on the Lions front courtesy of Michael Smith at

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Soccer's Hall Of Fame

Part of my vacation was spent at the Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, New York. Which I am sure makes Eric at Ramblings of a Soccer Junky impressed and, perhaps, envious. (I tried to post a picture, but Blogger keeps rejecting it. Must be because I am actually in said photo. When I get a different picture uploaded, I'll try posting again.) The Hall was better than I expected. Which either means I had incredibly low expectations or my lack of knowledge about U.S. soccer history made the place seem more interesting. Of course, both are possible, as well.

The Soccer Hall of Fame is in Oneonta for one primary reason. They are trying to lure the baseball junkies from Cooperstown about twenty miles down the road. It basically says so at the very first exhibit you come across. Honestly, it may seem kind of pathetic at first, but why not take advantage of a natural drawing card?

I would call myself a casual soccer fan, so I doubt I would have traveled too far out of my way to visit the Soccer Hall of Fame. However, since it was just down the road from the hotel I stayed at, it was an easy decision. See, it is always about location, location, location.

As for the displays, I enjoyed the NASL exhibit probably most of all. It having been the pro league I was most familiar with (Beckenbauer fan here). I was a bit underwhelmed at the quantity of NASL material on display in a fairly large room, but I believe all the former teams had some representation.

The history of the sport is fairly well documented and I enjoyed learning about the game's past here in the States. Obviously, there is a heavy emphasis on the U.S. National squads, both men's and women's. There is also a display of all the current MLS teams kits.

The top floor of the two storied structure is basically all interactive. Translated that means you could kick the old football around. Having limited soccer skills, I took a pass on that.

The gift shop was fair. I was surprised at the lack of MLS items available. There were a number of Chicago Fire jerseys, but maybe only two other teams apparel present. (Any place that isn't selling D.C. United items must be called into question.) However, Bruce Arena can rest easy as I did cough up the cash for a Soccer Hall of Fame sweatshirt.

Overall, I'd probably give the place a C+. I might even be convinced to up that to a B-, but in a building as large as they have, they really need to fill the place more efficiently. The history stuff was great, again being ignorant might have helped, and the National Team materials were also very good.

Both the NASL and MLS displays need to be more filled. It's a National Soccer Hall of Fame, let's try and make our leagues (NASL and MLS) seem important. Maybe have a running tab on all-time scoring leaders. The jerseys of all-time scoring leaders, perhaps? It's just a thought.

The Hall has spurred my desire to learn more about the game's history and given me greater respect for those who donned the red, white and blue long, long ago. I would definitely go again, if I was in the area.

Midnight Madness At O.U.

Oakland University will be hosting it's version of Midnight Madness Friday. Unless I've read the press release incorrectly, there will not be a practice session for either the men's or women's teams. Have I lost my bearings again or wasn't the point of Midnight Madness to begin practicing the moment it was legally possible to do so?

Fresh off their first NCAA tournament berth, I would have thought the men's squad would take to the floor for something more than just introductions. No offense to the band, dancers and imported entertainment scheduled to perform, but I can't even see a practice session (which I am willing to admit would be lame anyway), I'm not venturing out towards O.U. Friday night.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Link Love

Ian Casselberry of Fried Rice Thoughts fame now brings you the somewhat distrubingly titled Sweaty Men Endeavors blog. Ian's providing us with his views on sports at this new venue. I encourage both of my loyal readers......oops. Wait a second. Ian is one of my loyal readers. Let me start over. I encourage my loyal reader to check out Ian's new endeavor.

Ian, I'm sure your hit total will jump to unforeseen heights with my recommendation. Good luck, anyway.

Baseball's Hall

If you read my last post, you know I warned you about photos from my vacation. If you didn't read my previous post, shame on you.

Here is the primary entrance to one of my favorite places on Earth, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Much has changed at the Hall since my first visit almost thirty years ago. However, it remains a special place for many of the same reasons it captured my imagination in the Seventies.

It is, perhaps, the only place on Earth where the game's stature hasn't been diminished by time. The labor discord, the big money deals and all of the game's ills are on display, but they are pushed aside under the weight of over one hundred years of history. The game is, as it once was, the center of the sports world.

At the Hall, Babe Ruth is still larger than life. Jackie Robinson is still stealing home. Willie, Mickey and The Duke still roam centerfield in NYC. The Dead Ball Era lives on.

Ty Cobb is as surly and proficient as ever. Roberto Clemente is making basket catches. Bud is still trying to explain to Lou that "Who is on first".

In the Cooperstown shrine the echoes of Bobby Thompson's homer and Lou Gehrig's farewell speech can still be heard. Ebbets Field is alive and well.

Fans huddle around radios and televisions following every play of every game. Ernie Harwell, Curt Gowdy and Harry Caray are still behind the mike. Boxscores remain mandatory reading.

Kids in the country are playing the game in an open field, while kids in the city are playing stickball in a crowded street.

The Hall of Fame is a living, breathing timeline of the game. It provides both a history of baseball and of our nation. It exposes it's own shortcomings, but overwhelmes them in a celebration of the game.

I could go on for quite a while in this Bart Giamatti-esque rambling about the Hall. I won't as a courtesy to you, but I could.

While I don't approach the place with quite the same awe as a young boy, I do cherish the Hall because it not only maintains the essence of what baseball should be, but still, on occasion, gives me the same feeling about the game as I had so long ago. I consider that to be worthy of a sappy paragraph or two.

Note: I promise future posts concerning my Hall of Fame vacation will not be as sentimental.

Back Home

Hi, boys and girls. You may have been wondering where I have been. (Honestly, I suspect you are thinking "What a terrible blog", but that's not as self-serving. Nor does it make for as good a segue.) Well, I went on a little road trip. Where did I go? In order, I visited the Hockey Hall of Fame, Baseball Hall of Fame and Soccer Hall of Fame. Six days. Two countries. Three Halls. 1,400 miles (approximately).

I will discuss the road trip at greater length in my next post, unless something bigger happens between now and then. For now, though, I want to review some topics I may have addressed had I been sitting where I am now and not in Ontario or New York.

* First, Jim Leyland's hiring. It's hard not to like Leyland. He's seems like an honest guy. Although, I remain fearful of him bolting a sinking ship as he did Colorado. It's even harder to argue with his credentials. He is precisely what Alan Trammell was not-experienced. Success in two cities, Miami and Pittsburgh, should give him far more respect in the clubhouse. In theory, anyway.

What's not difficult to argue is the short-sighted way Dave Dombrowski approached the matter. I don't care if Bruce Fields and Juan Samuel were willing participants in the minority interview charade that took place, it's still wrong. It's also wrong not to interview, in no particular order, Jim Tracy, Ken Macha, Don Baylor, Cito Gaston (whose inability to land another job gives me great pause) and any number of other credible candidates.

At the press conference where Leyland was announced as manager, Dombrowski first said that many of those men became available "after" Leyland was hired. Well, if you would have waited say, oh-I-don't-know, maybe an hour after the season ended, perhaps, a larger base of candidates would have emerged. Wasn't every media source speculating that both Tracy and Macha were about to get the boot?

When pressed on the issue, Dombrowski claimed to "like" all the names brought to his attention, but liked Leyland better. Fair enough, but I have to think Dombrowski has put all his eggs in Leyland's basket. If Leyland fails for any reason, he will probably be the last Tigers manager Dombrowski names.

* For those fans who were always uncomfortable with a coaching staff that resembled a 1984 Tigers reunion tour, how do you feel about a Pittsburgh Pirates reunion tour at Comerica Park in 2006? Leyland, Gene Lamont (he's an ex-Tiger, too), Lloyd McClendon, Andy Van Slyke, Rafael Belliard and Don Slaught are on the Tigers coaching staff and are all ex-Bucs. Three ex-managers on staff does give this group tons of experience, but we will see if the results improve with all the ex-Pirates in charge of the ship.

* The Lions won. I didn't see or hear a minute of it. Nor have I read a thing about it, either. Anyone care to enlighten me on this one?

* I also know that Michigan lost to Minnesota. That's 3-3 on the year for Michigan. The Motor City Bowl gets closer and closer.

* Hockey is back. I was in Toronto for the Maple Leafs opener (no, I didn't go) and was impressed with the zeal the town had for their team. Why? Because I wonder if any other city, with any other sport would have been as keyed up as TO was after losing an entire season due to a labor/management dispute?

There are a number of people who still hate other sports, most notably baseball, for their lockouts/strikes. The majority of hockey fans in Toronto, at least from the impression I got, weren't anything other than happy to have their sport back. That's a limited perspective, I admit, but it was interesting to note the difference in tenor.

Finally, I'm happy to be back home. I'll bore you with a vacation slide show later. Bring lots of coffee.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Observations On Trammell's Departure

To the surprise of no one and the disappointment of many, Alan Trammell was fired as Tigers manager. Here are some random observations I have about Tram's dismissal and what Dave Dombrowski and some of the fans have said since.

Should Tram Have Gotten The Boot?
I have no idea if Trammell should have been let go or not. Was he learning on the job? Without question. Did he make some bad decisions? Yes, but even Joe Torre and Bobby Cox make decisions that could be second guessed. Can they find a better manager? Yes, but that doesn't guarantee the team will perform any better. Did he lose control of the clubhouse? Sure sounds like it. Was Trammell even 25% of the Tigers problems? No way.

You can make a case to keep Tram and one to fire him. In the end, I think Dombrowski felt like Trammell was runover by his players and was just too nice to enforce the law. Thirty or forty years ago a guy with Trammell's history might have been given five years to work things out. Today, with the size of payrolls and the increased pressure fueled by more media coverage than ever, patience with a new manager is in short supply.

Low Key Press Conference
I'm sure some will wail about the Tigers' non-press conference press conference in regards to Trammell's firing. Some will state that the Tigers should have made it a traditional press conference, not an informal meeting with Dombrowski. Honestly, I was surprised, but maybe we shouldn't be.

I doubt a single Tigers employee wants to over-promote Trammell's departure. I'm sure management, out of respect for Trammell, tried to make a low key announcement. It did seem odd, but I think it may have best represented the uncomfortable feeling we all have about the situation.

Of course, I could just be a Tigers slappy. (We all know how much I praise the organization.)

Leyland's Arrival
Is there much question that Jim Leyland will be the next Tigers' skipper? The guy is interviewing, perhaps, right at this moment. Did Tram have time to clean out his stuff before the interviewing began?

Dombrowski had already interviewed Juan Samuel this morning and was going to interview Bruce Fields this afternoon. Both appear to be little more than token minority interviews. I have to admit I find it more than a tad shameful at the apparent speed at which this process is moving. Both because it looks like Tram's successor was picked long ago and because the Tigers don't appear to be interested in really interviewing a broad field.

The Tigers owe it to the players and to those of us who pay to sit in Comerica Park to find the right guy. They should wait to see who else becomes available. I know they want a guy with experience, however, what's wrong with interviewing more than three guys?

The way the Tigers are going about this makes it look like they are thinking "Let's hurry up and interview an African-American and an Hispanic so we can hire Leyland and keep Bud Selig from fining us". That may be totally unfair, but that's the way it's going to look if Leyland is named manager. Especially if it occurs before noon tomorrow, as some have suggested it might.

Not only is it going to look like the Tigers are just providing token interviews to minorities, which in light of the last twelve years of failure is even more pathetic, but it's going make the Tigers look like a second rate organization. Pretend like you are searching for the best guy, even if you really want Leyland to start tomorrow. It's good P.R. and you might just find a better candidate.

If we have a Jim Leyland presser before the playoffs start, with the Tigers interviewing only two other candidates, the hiring will be a poor decision on Dombrowski's part. One worse than firing a Tiger legend.

Help? What Help?
A number of those in Tigertown, including some in the media, are discussing what the Tigers should do this off-season. One of my favorite suggestions is "They need to get a frontline starting pitcher". No, really? I have a question for those who want the Tigers to acquire said "frontline" pitcher: Where the @#$% are they going to get this mythical pitcher from?

Seriously, where is this mystery hurler coming from? There aren't any quality starters available via free agency this winter. Unless, you have a crush on A.J. Burnett. Burnett can barely stay above .500 or healthy or out of trouble with a good team in Florida. Why on Earth would the Tigers sign Burnett to a small fortune with that background?

If you are thinking trade market, then maybe you can get someone, but who would the Tigers surrender to get top flight pitching? Craig Monroe ain't going to bring you Johan Santana in return. Pitching is a limited, pricey commodity. Not many teams are willing to part with good pitching.

The Tigers might acquire a decent starter, either via free agency or trade, but they would probably have to settle for a number two or three-type guy. Sure, that player could pull a Willie Hernandez and have a miraculous season in Motown and capture a Cy Young Award, but that would be more by luck than design.

Saying the Tigers should get quality starters and actually getting them are nearly like planning a trip to Mars. It's fun to think about, but getting there is far more complicated.

The Most Important Tigers
We can talk all we want about the next Tigers manager. We can debate how much time Dombrowski has left in Tigertown, too. However, we fans probably need to concentrate on the most important Tigers. Those would be Jeremy Bonderman, Chris Shelton, Joel Zumaya, Justin Verlander, Curtis Granderson and Cameron Maybin.

They are both the present and core of the future of our local baseball team. All are at different points in their careers, but all need to continue to make progress. All need to be here after Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez are gone. All need to be with the Tigers as a unit by Opening Day 2008.

Some might think that's rushing Maybin. It is. The Tigers, however, desperately need to develop their own superstar and Maybin looks like their best bet right now. Trammell always said "The good ones come fast". The Tigers need Maybin to develop fast.

Are They Contenders In '06?
Dombrowski is implying that, perhaps, they are. However, D.D. is also saying that he doesn't think major roster changes are necessary. I disagree. They need a lefthanded power hitter. I think they need an everyday thirdbaseman. They may need a shortstop if Guillen cannot play full time. I wouldn't mind a new outfielder, but that's just me. Of course, they need pitching-both starters and relievers.

Maybe in Dombrowski's mind, that's tinkering, not a major overall. It sure seems like a minor overall, at best.

For a change, the Tigers do have some tradeable players. Whether or not Dombrowski can acquire what he needs with the cards he has dealt himself is another question.

I think the Tigers can make 2006 interesting, but many things have to fall their way. When was the last time that happened?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

McGwire Opts For Silent Treatment

Mark McGwire, you remember him, showed up in St. Louis and refused to answer any steroid questions. In fact, McGwire now states he will never speak on the subject. Period. I'm sorry, but did we miss when he first spoke about the matter?

The man who originally eclipsed Roger Maris' single season homerun mark, now says he has nothing to add to his testimony before Congress. Did he actually say anything during his remarks? Sure, we all implied he was using the juice, but he didn't actually say that, did he?

Apparently, McGwire is taking a page out of the book of Pete Rose. McGwire, like Rose, never denies anything. Nor does he admit to anything. It's a state of limbo where these beloved athletes wait in a self-imposed purgatory counting on their adoring public to sway opinion in their favor. This technique also buys them their most valuable commodity-time.

In this form of spin, McGwire is figuring time will heal all wounds. He suspects that the general sports fan will simply grow weary of watching him get pounded with steroid questions year after year. He figures even the most ardent critic will eventually fade while his supporters will gain momentum from the lack of resistance they encounter. In the long run, McGwire is hoping, or his legal counsel is, that he will become a sympathetic figure in the eyes of many.

The campaign is well underway. In addition to refusing to speak on steroids ever again, McGwire has already deftly deflected questions by making the media the problem, painting them as too negative and living in the past. That's quality public relations advice in action.

What McGwire doesn't understand is that this tactic won't help his cause. Unless, of course, McGwire chooses a Bill Buckner-esque method. If McGwire moves to some remote area and avoids baseball, especially all MLB games, and refuses all interview requests, he can stay in a denial mode and it may work. Maybe.

However, if McGwire hopes his no comment stance will give him a free pass so he can attend MLB functions without scrutiny, he's kidding himself. In fact, quite will contrary occur. Instead of facing the heat for a single prolonged period, which would occur if McGwire would come clean, he is going to drag his reputation and the game through the mud on a regular basis, perhaps for years.

A generation of players took steroids with no concern for their personal well being or any respect to those who played before them. They have created a situtation where all the statistics from their playing days will be called into question. McGwire and his baseball brethren may hope that silence will make the matter disappear, but unfortunately, it won't. Their collective silence will only be seen as a tacit admission of guilt. The repercussions of their actions will last forever. Even if they never utter another word.