Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tigers' Spring Schedule Is Out

In about ninety days, the Detroit Tigers will take to the field for their first Spring Training Game. It makes life a bit better just typing that. Here is the press release containing all the valuable Lakeland information.

More Mooch News

The Lions firing of Steve Mariucci certainly has created plenty for folks to write about. Here is more Mooch news than any one person should subject themselves to. If that's not enough, and it is, then check out these bonus rounds. Curt Sylvester makes a suggestion to Mr. Ford. Then there is this rather funny bit from Chris Lynch that I found via Eric McErlain of Off Wing Opinion fame. Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com wonders, like many others, why Matt Millen remains?

Last, but clearly not least, there is Dre Bly tossing Joey Harrington under the bus. I can't figure out which part of Bly's notion is more wrong: That Harrington is the primary reason Mariucci got whacked or that if Jeff Garcia had stayed healthy he would have solved the Lions' ills.

The problem is Bly dislikes Harrington personally. It's not surprising considering the lack of respect Mariucci consistently displayed for Harrington. His inability to commit to Harrington only fostered the environment of negativity towards the former first round pick. Bly overlooks the wideouts inability to show up for practice or perform (on any day of the week), the poor offensive line play and Garcia's own statements indicating he questions whether Detroit's management (Millen) is capable of assembling a winning team just so he can toss some smack at Harrington. Any wonder why some question Mooch's ability to control his lockeroom?

After watching, listening and reading the statements of coaches and players for a lifetime, I have come to the conclusion that many of them are no more well informed on the issues in front of them than the media they distrust or the fans they dismiss. Those directly involved do not always provide clear insight because they have their own set of built-in or built-up prejudices. They allow that bias to cloud their thought process just as they suggest the fans and media do.

Have you heard any of these ex-coaches or jocks on the talking head shows? They routinely disagree on strategy, coaching techniques and talent evaluation, to name just three topics. If neither party can agree on the basics why should the views of the media, or even us fans, on the same matters be summarily dismissed them? In fact, Bly's "Joey bashing" sounds more like the prototype angry caller to sports-talk radio than insider perspective.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Euro Footballer Of The Year

Ronaldinho was named Football of the Year. I'm quite confident that 95% of my readership has either never heard of him or couldn't care less. Both are a bit unfortunate. Ronaldinho is, in a single word, dazzling.

When the majority of sports fan in the U.S. think soccer they envision slow, methodical play. I don't deny that can be the case, as it can in any sport, but those who hold that view haven't seen Barcelona's star. I got my first protracted opportunity to watch the Brazilian international just recently and I was completely amazed. He is a blur. His dribbling skills are admired by even this neophyte soccer fan. And, yes, boys and girls, he does score. Quite a bit, in fact. He is clearly the best player I've seen this year. Apparently, the European football media concur.

In Happier Football News

The Edmonton Eskimos won the Grey Cup yesterday, 38-35. I'm an old Eskimos fan--when people mention Warren Moon, I recall his Alberta days before his NFL time. Of course, I can remember his college career at Washington, but many Michigan fans can as well.

While QB Ricky Ray was the game's MVP, I also give a tip of the cap to Jason Maas. Maas, Ray's back-up, pitched relief for Ray in the Eskimos prior two playoff contests and led Edmonton to victories. Maas, unfortunately, will probably now be dealt to Hamilton, but no Eskimo fan should pass up the opportunity to congratulate Maas. Without him, Edmonton doesn't even play for the Grey Cup.

Sunday night's championship game went into double overtime, I can honestly do without that much drama, but it made for great television. A little good news from the gridiron for this blogger was appreciated.

Mariucci Firing

By now you've heard or read pretty much all you can handle on Steve Mariucci's dismissal today, so I am just going to provide some random thoughts in the wake of the latest Lions coaching upheaval. (In case you haven't read enough, here are Sweaty Men Endeavors, Out of Bounds and the Detroit Lions Weblog take on today's events.)

* The Lions are so pathetic they can't even fire a guy correctly. Instead of canning Mariucci on Friday morning, as they should have, they let the poor fellow swing in the breeze all weekend long. Perhaps if the story of his firing hadn't leaked out, the Lions could have taken the "wait until the season ends" approach. However, once the story got wings, they should have had the decency to fire the man instead of letting him and his family go through another three days of questions.

* I'm neither elated or depressed about Mariucci's departure. Beyond, of course, normal sympathy for someone losing their job. (That's a bit off-set by the $10 or so million dollars Mooch is going to collect to stay at home, however.) I guess I'm just a bit too negative today. I just don't see things improving unless Matt Millen accidentally stumbles across a football genius in his coaching search. Now, whether he will have the smarts to recognize, then hire the genius even if he finds him, is an entirely different matter. (For your reading pleasure, here is a list of would-be candidates for the Lions gig from John Clayton at ESPN.com.)

* Then there are the Fords. They're not going anywhere, but neither have the Lions since the Ford family took charge. That is not a coincidence. I'm becoming a believer in "the Lions will stink until the Fords are gone" theory. That's so depressing, I cannot ponder it tonight.

* Did anyone else notice the similarities between the Mariucci firing and Alan Trammell's? Both men were lauded for being fine human beings. Their ex-employers went out of their way to point out what fine men they were firing. However, in being so good natured, both were perceived by some as "too nice". That led to disciplinary issues that both seemed ill-equipped to correct.

In both situations a player also made it clear there were few or no leaders in the lockeroom/clubhouse. In the Lions case, that was Mariucci man, Jeff Garcia. In Trammell's case, Brandon Inge spoke of the lack of leadership amongst his teammates.

I just found it odd that you could have almost replaced Trammell's name for Mariucci's and had almost identical press conferences.

*Millen's not going anywhere. I suppose if the Lions tank all five remaining games there is a tiny, tiny chance he could get the boot, but I doubt that's going to do him in, either. I know his supporters generally point to his good draft selections, but do we consider Charles Rogers and Joey Harrington (number two and three overall choices) good picks? Shouldn't he have some success drafting as high as the Lions do annually?

What of his free agent moves? Love that offensive line play this year? Those are his fill-ins upfront. Dare I utter "Schroeder"? It pains anyone with an ounce of common sense and halfway decent vision to see the Bears just smush opponents week in and week out with all those household names. Seriously, outside of Brian Urlacher, how many Bears could a casual, non-fantasy league participant, name?

Forget the flashy, early picks, how many mid to late round choices have become solid starters on this team? I can have a degree of success drafting high first rounders. Assembling a team takes more than that as we witness each Sunday.

* I was flipping through the stations early this evening when I came across a program on the NFL Network entitled "In Their Own Words". The feature was Part II of the Steelers of the 1970s. That team, a childhood favorite of mine, was arguably the best team ever assembled. I watched as the Steelers won and, occasionally, lost playoff games, but generally dominated an era. I began to wonder why the Lions couldn't have half that kind of success?

I'm not talking about becoming the greatest team ever, although that would be fine, I'm just talking about a run of success that gives their fanbase something to brag about. A succession of years where the playoffs are not only expected, but almost taken for granted. If only one Super Bowl championship emerged, wouldn't that be enough? Why in the world is that so darn hard to accomplish?

* Overall, I think today's news has me more negative than positive. Not because Mariucci shouldn't have been let go, again, that should have been done Friday morning, but because I feel we are stuck in a cycle that just isn't going to end. Poor season, high draft choice, renewed optimism, poor season, high draft choice, renewed optimism, poor season, fired coach, high draft choice........ It seems like the odds of the Lions being champions are only slightly better than me winning the lottery.

Part of me, the sane part, says forget the Lions. Root for someone else. It's plain stupid to care about a team that appears doomed for failure. It's crazy to support a team that doesn't give a care about you. (Of course, buying that logic would eliminate me from rooting for any team because none of them give a hoot about me or you.) Yet I care enough to type this little rant. I guess that means I wait for the "high draft pick" part of the cycle come April.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Remember This Guy?

While trying to get to Real Madrid's homepage in English, I learned that there is a basketball team by the same name. Look who I found playing for them.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Another Turkey Day Disaster

That was certainly ugly, wasn't it? After the Detroit Lions latest flop, this one on national television in front of a captive, turkey laden audience, does anyone not believe the 2005 season is over? Anybody? Didn't think so.

The final outcome doesn't really matter any more. There is no use in going over individual performances. No point in arguing play calling. Hopes for playoffs are gone. Hopes for Joey Harrington or Jeff Garcia? Adios. The 2005 season is all but finished. They just have to play out the string.

From here on out, the games themselves only matter as they may determine the fate of coach Steve Mariucci and President Matt Millen. If the Lions can maintain today's high quality of play over the remaining five games, I have little doubt that Mariucci will be let go. With only four wins in eleven attempts, I suspect a six win or less campaign might, just might, get Millen tossed out the door, too.

Now, in my more negative moments (like right now), I figure canning either or both of them won't amount to a hill of beans because this franchise is doomed. Unless the Ford family backs into a head coach or general manager that completely reinvents the organization (a la the Steelers and Chuck Noll in the 1970s), which would be the blind squirrel and nut theory in action, this team is going to keep on going at this terribly depressing pace for, well, eternity.

In my more positive spans, I figure that the Fords will have to be the squirrel eventually. The odds demand it. So, perhaps, moving Mooch and Millen elsewhere will expedite the odds of finding that oh-so-elusive nut, I mean coach.

If I was angry, I'd begin my rally to get both men dismissed right here. Frankly, I just don't have the energy. I'm tempted to blame the turkey (Did I mention I was the cook today? It went well, thanks for wondering.), but I know the bird had less to do with it than the years of watching poor, disappointing football.

Instead of dwelling on the huge pile of crap that are the 2005 Lions, I've decided to do what all diehard Lions fans do at this point in the season--look ahead to the draft.

The Lions have four wins, an amount I figured would almost secure them a top ten pick, but alas the race is tight in the Reggie Bush Sweepstakes. The Lions are one of thirteen teams with four wins or less. Forget about cheering on the Lions through the next meaningless five contests, we've got to start rooting for Arizona, St. Louis, Buffalo, Oakland and Cleveland (all with four wins heading into Sunday's games). Getting on the bandwagon for New Orleans, Tennessee, Houston, the New York Jets, Miami and San Francisco wouldn't hurt, either. (I'm not expecting too many in Motown to root for Green Bay, so I left them off the list intentionally.)

Because I am totally nuts, or a Lions fan, which may be the same thing, I've actually done a little draft research. Isn't that what all NFL fans do in November? I viewed these draft overviews with the notion that the Lions will be drafting outside the top ten, but I hold out hope they can live up (down?) to my expectations and get into the top ten or, dare I say, the top five? After the last couple of weeks, do you really think the top five is out of the question? I sure don't.

Sportnutz.com relays this list of the top 32 picks in the 2006 draft. Footballs Future.com offers their mock draft with the Honolulu Blue and Silver picking 13th. James Alder, writing for About.com, provides this very early look at the '06 draft. Mr. Alder has the Lions selecting eighth, which implies to me that he may understand all of the tiebreaking procedures. If he has factored those in, the Lions have a very good chance at a top five pick. (Yes, I know Millen will take another wide receiver, but we are thinking happy thoughts now.)

I haven't decided whom I want the Lions to select yet, but it's time to start looking at who is going to be available. After all, the Lions will be on the clock shortly.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Gambling On Rogers?

There are reports that the Tigers are amongst those interested in free agent lefty Kenny Rogers. You probably remember Rogers. He's the guy that went nuts on some media types, especially those with television cameras, in Arlington last year.

That got him suspended. However, Rogers appealed the suspension providing himself with an opportunity to get an All-Star Game nod. Rogers refusal to remove himself from the American League squad cost the Tigers' Jeremy Bonderman a chance to play in his first All-Star Game and before the home crowd at Comerica Park.

Rogers, of course, was booed by the locals in attendance when he came into the Mid-Summer Classic and he promptly allowed the National League back into the contest. For closure, Rogers also had another run-in with the media during his brief appearance at the police station. That's the Kenny Rogers the Tigers are now debating.

Like every other free agent move for the Tigers the question is one of acceptable risk. At what amount is Rogers worth adding to the ballclub? I'm not sure I know where I would draw that line in the sand, but it's probably an amount Rogers wouldn't embrace.

In trolling the internet for other rumors, I find Carl Pavano is supposedly ready to bolt the Big Apple. (I'd love to provide links to these things, but they are from newspapers that require subscriptions.) The Tigers, who pursued the righthander last winter, are amongst those the New York media are speculating might be Pavano's destination.

I have trouble believing the Tigers would be willing to part with anything that might tempt King George to move Pavano. The Yanks pitching staff wasn't all that in 2005, I can't see them moving a potential upgrade on the mound.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Black Saturday

Yesterday was about as bad a sports day as you can have, if you support the local teams. The Detroit Pistons got spanked in Dallas bringing their undefeated season to a close. The Red Wings dropped a 3-2 decision to St. Louis. Michigan State lost in both football to Penn State and in hoops as the highly ranked men's basketball squad lost unexpectedly to Hawaii. Too many, the harshest blow came when Michigan's football team lost to arch-rival Ohio State. The defeat ended their hopes of a co-conference championship and BCS berth.

Today, not surprisingly, the Lions were able to keep things going in the wrong direction by losing to Dallas. That is about as crummy a twenty-four hour period as I can recall in quite a while. I didn't have much luck counting on teams I like beyond our borders, as many of them found themselves on the short end of the stick. Most notably, Everton got beaten to a pulp by West Brom, 4-0. Losing to West Brom is one thing, losing by a 4-0 score is pathetic. The Toffees are squarely in relegation territory again. I wish I could find comfort in knowing that Reading looks ready to move up into their spot in the Premiership.

Yes, I know, my Golden Grizzlies did manage a victory this weekend, but it was to Notre Dame College. No, not the Notre Dame, Notre Dame College. That game might count on their record, but it really doesn't mean a great deal. My last shot at redemption comes as the Edmonton Eskimos attempt to beat the B.C. Lions and advance to the Grey Cup. Please Esks, a little help is needed here.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Questions To Tigertown

It's Hot Stove League time and that means rumor, speculation and good old fashioned lying are more popular than ever. With the spirit of the season in mind, I've got some questions for the citizens of Tigertown (and elsewhere) to ponder.

1) A.J. Burnett is supposedly getting offered ten million a season by Toronto. Let's assume that's going to be close to the figure it takes to land him. Do you still want the Tigers to pursue him?

2) If the Tigers feel the Burnett price is too steep, which free agent pitcher do you view as Plan B?

3) According to this report by Ken Rosenthal, the Phillies might consider trading Bobby Abreu. Contrary to what Tigers' management would have us believe, I still think the addition of a quality lefthanded hitter is important. It would be difficult to find one better than Abreu.

This is a two part, kids, so pay attention. a) Should the Tigers call Pat Gillick and make a serious run at the Home Run Contest Champ or b) they simply don't have enough to trade to obtain Abreu, so why bother?

4) In the same report, Rosenthal says a number of teams are calling Florida to ask about Juan Pierre. Adding Pierre would allow Curtis Granderson to move to left and provide the Tigers with another lefthanded bat plus a leadoff hitter. Should Dave Dombrowski get in Pierre sweepstakes? If so, who are you willing to part with to get the speedy CF?

5) The oft-injured Nomar Garciaparra is available. He might come at a reasonable price and would probably be willing to play thirdbase. If the Tigers could sign Garciaparra it would allow Brandon Inge to move to the spot I think he's best at: super-utility player. A) Should the Tigers consider the former batting champion? B) If so, how much a year would you fork out to put Nomar in and Olde English D?

Bonus point question: C) For the sabermetrically inclined, is Nomar's production going to be significantly better than Inge's at this point in their respective careers? (Billfer? Lee? Brian? Anybody?)

Five questions this early in the winter is a pretty good beginning. I'm sure we will have more of these discussions as the rumors spread. Feel free to debate these issues and leave your comments. Remember, this exercise is primarily for fun. I do not have any inside information. Don't let me hear one of you call into a radio station saying you "read on the internet that the Tigers are trying to get Juan Pierre".

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Channel Surfing

I have a new sports television addiction. It's the Fox Soccer Channel. It has become a daily destination. I often will now turn it on first. Yes, crazy soccer-loving Brian is flipping on the TV and heading straight for FSC before ESPN, Fox or anyplace else.

I have watched just about everything the network has to offer. English Premier League games? Check. French League matches? Check. EPL preview and review shows? Check. Fox Football Friday? Check. MLS playoff match? Of course. How about the U-21 UEFA contest between France and England? Check. (I hate to say it, but I enjoyed that more than the MLS title game.) Sky Sports? Yep. I'm telling you, I'm addicted. It's amazing I'm still typing and not heading for the TV. (I guess blogging is an addiction as well.)

I'm sure part of my infatuation is due, in part, to the fact that FSC is a new kid on the block for me. I had FSC added as part of something called the "Sports Pack" to my cable television upon my return from vacation. FSC is joined by Gol (another soccer network I frequent), three Fox College stations (Atlantic, Midwest and Pacific), NBA TV, The NFL Network and, yes, the Tennis Channel in this package.

Perhaps, my zeal to watch just about anything on FSC will subside once the initial thrill has passed, but for now the network gets a fair amount of my sports viewing time. Certainly, this will come to a crashing end once baseball returns.

During baseball season, I have two primary networks-Fox Sports Detroit (Tigers) and MLB Extra Innings (every other team), which I've subscribed to three of the last four years. Those stations are always first between April 1 and October 1. Even FSC will take a back seat to them.

The rest of my regular television rotation you can probably figure out all on your own--the ESPN family of networks, The Golf Channel, OLN, Speed, Comcast Local, the remaining channels in my shiny new Sports Pack, TNT, TBS, WGN and the traditional networks as they provide coverage of things I am interested in.

Yes, I do watch some other things--BBC America, The Cartoon Network, The History Channel, The Food Network and the cable news stations, although I'm avoiding news in general just to keep myself moderately sane. However, there is only so much time in a day and I have blogging to do, so my television veiwing has been limited. Lucky for you, though, I'm heading back to my tv right now. I wonder what FSC has on?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bowling With Steve

Stewart Mandel of SI.com takes a stab at predicting all the bowl game match-ups. For Michigan fans, Mandel envisions an Outback Bowl appearance against South Carolina. Not a dream match-up, but I know all the Michigan fans out there would love to beat the Ol' Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier.

Another Press Conference Hangover

I have to stop listening to Steve Mariucci's Monday press conferences. They annoy me to no end. Actually, it's the coach that annoys me. Even when the Lions prevail on Sunday, I'm usually angry by midday on Monday. Not only can Mariucci not answer a question, but he comes across as clueless as where to find the answers.

My first warning sign came last year when the media asked Mooch why Kevin Jones wasn't getting the football more. Mariucci basically said they had to find ways to get him the ball more. Um, coach? Isn't play calling part of your responsibility? Wouldn't the reason Jones isn't seeing the ball more be entirely your fault? What made matters worse is that each week when the question about Jones' carries arose, Mooch always offered the same stock reply. "We need to find ways to get him the ball more". As if the situation were out of his hands. I've been annoyed since.

Couple my pre-disposition to be annoyed at the coach with a horrible record and you have a frustrated fan that is only more perplexed after each Monday meeting with the media. Today, Mooch gave me two more things that forces your head to tilt like a dog's pondering what is going on.

First, Mariucci said that if Jeff Garcia is healthy enough he starts Sunday. That and when pushed on Joey Harrington's improved play yesterday, all Mooch could muster was "I'll give him that". You'll give him that? That's darn supportive, coach. Does anyone wonder why the rest of the lockeroom has turned on the kid? The coach can barely contain his love for Garcia even when Harrington is pulling his head off the chopping block for another week.

Nobody confuses Harrington with anyone from the Manning clan, but the guy just carved up Arizona and actually threw touchdown passes. As a bonus, he threw TDs to guys wearing the same jersey. Yes, I understand Arizona is crap. So is Cleveland and the incredible Garcia led the Lions to 13 points against the Browns. Not exactly a scoring binge. If I'm not mistaken, the only TD pass Garcia completed in '05 he threw to a Bears defensive back. Yet, nothing Harrington does is good enough for this soon-to-be ex-Lions coach.

As if his continued backhanded praise of Harrington weren't enough, Mooch got quizzed again about Jones' less than impressive fourteen carries. Well, it seems our football coach likes Shawn Bryson and Artose Pinner. If you like them so much, have them date your daughter, coach. In the meantime, please let Jones run a minimum of twenty times a game.

I'm sorry, but Jones is a Pro Bowl talent. Bryson and Pinner are not nor will they ever be. That doesn't mean they can't help a football team. That doesn't mean either couldn't get 100 yards rushing in a game. What it does mean is that nearly everyone with decent vision believes Jones is potentially special.

Bryson in six NFL seasons has gained 1,986 yards rushing. Jones had 1,133 last season. Six years vs. one year. See any difference? Apparently, the coach that witnessed all 1,133 yards doesn't. Even with the ridiculously small amount of touches Jones is getting in 2005, he has more yards rushing through eight contests this year than Pinner does in three years in Detroit.

Now, I realize these stats are slanted to make my point, but that's what I am here to do. Make a point about how mind-boggling it is that Jones isn't being used like an elite back. Jones, who, oh by the way, was getting all the carries last season when Pinner and Bryson were still on the roster, deserves to get the ball more. Having Bryson and Pinner take carries away from Jones is like pinch hitting for your best hitter because you want everyone on the team to play.

That reminds me. What is all this silliness Mariucci spouts off about in regards to a guy playing "X" number of snaps? It goes something like this "Mr. Third String cornerback, who has been inactive all year, had to fill in today and played 34 snaps. He's a tough kid." Thirty-four snaps? Is this Pee Wee ball or the pros? Doesn't matter if the guy ended up like burnt toast, he got to play today! Hooray!

On top of that, he's a tough kid? You've slapped Harrington around for years in public, the guy took it, shows up every week, never bad mouths you, gets killed by the fans and run over by opposing defensive players each week (because your O-line is horrible) and the third string CB is tough for playing 34 snaps? What a load.

Is it any wonder I have to turn off the radio long before the press conference concludes? This sort of nonsense goes on each week. The media did pound Mariucci pretty good the last two weeks, but he just seem confused why he is being questioned. That only annoys me more. I really do need to stop listening.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Multiple Bloggers

One more post of a personal nature before returning to the hard-hitting sports reporting you have come to expect. Or, at least, a return to the ill-conceived, poorly written sports posts I usually offer. Actually, that's what I want to talk about--blogging.

I have found that a number of my favorite bloggers, Ian, Sam and Billfer, to name just three, are writing multiple blogs. Ian cranks out both Fried Rice Thoughts and the newborn, Sweaty Men Endeavors. Sam apparently does not sleep ever and in between classes at the University of Michigan writes Blue Cats and Red Sox, Chicks Talk Football and Roar of the Tigers. Sam, please toss in any other blogging efforts I missed. Billfer is also busy with The Billfer Blog, the Detroit Tigers Weblog and TV for Tots.com.

It's not just that they are blogging, but they are producing high quality work at a number of venues all at the same time. Never mind they have lives beyond the internet to maintain. I'm both in awe and somewhat jealous of their prodigious work. (I'm not even mentioning Rob's podcasting which is far beyond my comprehension.)

I have attempted to run two blogs, this one and Big Ten Hardball, a blog about Big Ten college baseball. I've been running Big Ten Hardball, both as a dotcom and now a blog, for a number of years. I love the college game and couldn't find any information on the Big Ten scene, so I began my own site. Yet, I find maintaining two sites next to impossible.

I often wonder if I should combine content of both into this blog, maintain both, but re-double my efforts at the other blog or just can Big Ten Hardball? Forget quality content, as I so often do, I can't even work out a direction for two blogs.

I know what you are thinking. "Brian, the difference between them and you is simple. They have talent. Oh, and they are more internet savvy than you". Well, yeah, I knew that, but how on Earth can they crank out that much stuff? Seriously, I think all three have more to do than I (no kids or UofM classes for me) and they seem to be busy somewhere on the 'net all the time.

In the end, I'm not quite sure what my point is. (Proving the naysayers right about blogging.) I think the only thing I can do is just tip my cap to my three blogging allies. Thanks for quality work and keeping my inferiority complex intact.

My Adventure On Ice

This is probably better suited for my very popular "Things You Don't Care About" posts, however I'm going to share anyway. Most of you will be departing shortly, however I encourage you to come back again when the subject is something more to your liking. Perhaps, "Tigers Sign Free Agent......".

I'll just cut to the chase. I've started curling. No, not hurling, although I find myself a tad under the weather today, curling. Yes, the sport considered the private domain of Canadians. The sport of bocce ball on ice. (I'll bet if one of my instructors reads this I'm in big trouble with that analogy.) Yes, that curling.

Now, what could possibly make me do something so incredibly silly? My desire to have played or seen every sport known to man? Nope, although that's an interesting idea. Boredom? Perhaps, but I was looking for some type of winter recreation. See, your friendly blogger is getting older and far, far less active. Yet, what other sport can you take up in the winter?

Skiing is cool, but I see my doctor far too often as it is. No need for any extra time with the medical profession. Bowling? I just never got into bowling. I still don't have much desire for the game. No, it isn't much different than curling other than the ice, I guess, but bowling and I aren't made for each other.

Unfortunately, I am not the type to just start running aimlessly or heading over the the local gym/house of ill repute to pump iron for no reason. Exercise just to keep in shape? Please pass me the remote and a doughnut. It just seems pointless to me. I need something with a bit of competition. I need the thrill of victory, if not the hope of the thrill of victory, to get my juices running. So, when I found the curling course being offered, I joined.

Let me make this perfectly clear to all of you laughing and rolling on the ground right now, it's darn difficult. I kid you not. The best analogy I can draw is to golf. Sure, it looks easy on television and I guess knocking the little white ball around isn't hard, but to do it correctly and successfully requires far more time and effort than most are willing to expend.

Unlike golf, where there are driving ranges, putting greens and a number of venues to practice when away from a course, where on Earth can I practice curling except at the Curling Club? That lack of reinforcement makes it difficult to impove quickly as we only meet once a week.

Two weeks in and I, well, I am not good. Surprise! Ok, not a surprise. My muscles seem to be responding better, I'm not so sore this week, but the actual curling isn't going all that well. I feel like I do in the middle of a golf lesson--align to your target, check your grip, stay loose, envision your shot, open/close clubface, keep your head down, one piece take-away, make a complete shoulder turn, etc...... I'm trying to remember about twelve different things and I usually don't recall all of them, thus I am in a routine of poor shot, poor form, poor shot, poor form.

We are heading for week three of five of this endeavor into making me look even more ridiculous than normal. I haven't decided if this little foray into curling will persist beyond that time frame, but I can tell you that I have a new found respect for those men and women who do this at the highest level. I even have respect for those who get hammered while curling. I can't play properly while sober, the odds of success after tipping a Labatt's or two diminish significantly. (Oh, for your information, the kegs are stored next to the ice surface. It's about 39 degrees in the arena.)

Baseball Headline Roundup

Javier Vazquez took a step closer to becoming a Detroit Tiger by demanding to be traded. (In the interest of honesty, it should be stated that Vazquez moved a step closer to joining another team, not necessarily the Tigs. Why quibble over technicalities?) His current employer, the Arizona Diamondbacks, now have until March 15th to move the veteran righthander or face the prospect of Vazquez becoming a free agent.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rafael Furcal probably moved off the Tigers radar screen with his request to a ten million dollar a year free agent deal. Oh, how I would have loved to have Furcal at short and Carlos Guillen at third on Opening Day. Alas, it is not to be.

Bobby Valentine appears close to staying in Japan. Everyone cheered.

I just don't see Jim Beattie getting the Red Sox gig. If he does, I'm not sure I envision him succeeding. It's just a hunch, though.

I'm not a big Jayson Stark fan, but I completely embrace his concept of a Rollie Fingers Award for closers. Uncle Bud, do this now.

Rocco Baldelli inked a new deal with Tampa. I don't know if Baldelli is future Hall of Fame material, early evidence leans against that theory, but I like Baldelli for some reason. I don't know if it's the name or what, but Baldelli is a Beyond Boxscores favorite.

SI.com's John Donovan doesn't provide much insight into the Tigers off-season, but if your interested in a general overview of each MLB team's off-season shopping list, check this out.

Pudge Rodriguez enters the Texas Hall of Fame.

Mark Becthel, another at SI.com, ponders the fate of Theo Epstein and Paul DePodesta. Bechtel wonders if the young Moneyball-era G.M.'s might be great at assembling teams on paper, but struggle with the politics of the job, team chemistry issues and other items that can't be evaluated on a PC?

Ugie, Ugie, Ugie. That Placido Polanco deal looks better every minute, doesn't it?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Figuring Out The NHL Salary Cap

I listen to a fair amount of sports talk radio. Yeah, I'm nuts, but you knew that. Anyway, something that almost never fails to astound even this sports junkie is how many people can spit out data on the NFL salary cap.

A caller will say something like "The Lions are $3 million under the cap right now". It doesn't matter if "right now" is November 11th or April 1, this individual knows what the Lions salary structure is versus the cap this instant. Now, I'll admit he probably doesn't know what's in his checking account, but the caller does appear to have a grasp on the Lions cap number. Conversely, I can't even begin to guess what the cap figure is let alone what the Lions up-to-the-minute salary total is at any point in the year.

This leads me to the new NHL cap. While I'm sure the hockey mavens are probably all over this, I haven't seen or heard too much about the specifics of the deal. So, when James Mirtle offered his two cents in light of a Hockey News feature on the matter, I found it rather interesting. Seems their are some loopholes in the ol' hockey cap. Not all of them are producing smart hockey decisions, either.

Armistice Day

On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, World War I ended. The year after, this nation observed Armistice Day. Over the years, this day has evolved into Veteran's Day where we salute all of those who have served in our armed forces. I want to take a moment to thank all of those who have served and are serving currently.

Our Canadian friends annually observe Remembrance Day by donning poppies. I think it's a fine tradition and thank James Mirtle for providing the link to the picture seen here. It is provided by the Canadian Legion.

In the spirit of Armistice Day, I offer a special thank you to the few remaining who served in The Great War. Their numbers are now few, but their effort remains immeasurable.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Trading Pudge And Adding Arms

Figuring out what the Detroit Tigers should do in the off-season is always entertaining. Well, it's entertaining for me anyway. Trying to gauge what direction the Tigers are going, I bring you the following tidbits of media speculation and my pointless input, as well.

First is Lynn Henning's piece in Wednesday's Detroit News. Henning ponders a possible trade of Pudge Rodriguez. While he offers the obvious obstacle, Pudge's contract, he suggests the Mets might be a potential trading partner in the post-Mike Piazza era. They have both the need for a catcher and enough money to consider acquiring the future Hall of Fame member. It seems like a logical assumption.

Henning then provided a trade scenario I like even better. Here Henning wonders if Pudge could be dealt to Arizona for Javier Vazquez. Pudge is due around $20 million over the next two years while Vazquez is going to get $24 million. From a contractual standpoint, it's just about a wash. From a competitive standpoint, my initial reaction is "Oh, please let this deal happen".

I'll admit Vazquez' numbers don't knock your socks off, but a veteran who is still throwing 200 innings a season with nearly 200 K's is something that would almost have to help the rotation.
Vazquez is also the same age as A.J. Burnett, whom the Tigers and half of MLB is pursuing. While I have no idea what kind of coin is going to be tossed Burnett's way, I do know that Vazquez is only signed for two more seasons. If he fails, the Tigers aren't paying him for an eternity (see Higginson, Bobby and Ordonez, Magglio) which might be the case with Burnett.

While Vazquez has pitched far more innings than Burnett, I doubt Burnett is going to sign for only two seasons. Vazquez might give you the similar production, but for less money and/or over a shorter period of time. I like the concept of less long-term risk.

Here is the question we can debate. Who would you rather see on the mound in the second game of the year--Vazquez, Mike Maroth or Nate Robertson? Better yet, ask yourself who gives you a better chance of winning Game Two of a playoff series? Again, I'll opt for Vazquez.

If you ask me who the Tigers could use more in 2006, Pudge or Vazquez? I'd pick Vazquez. A veteran, reliable starter over a catcher not all that happy to be here? It's not that difficult a decision.

Now, let's remember something. Vazquez alone would not be my off-season plan. No, no, no. Then the Tigers need to follow that up by landing another free agent starter. Yes, I know Dave Dombrowski is implying only one starter is needed. I tend to disagree. If the Tigers could pull the Rodriguez for Vazquez deal, I would then go after another free agent arm.

Why? Well, how about an Opening Day rotation of Jeremy Bonderman, Vazquez, Matt Morris (for the sake of argument), Nate Robertson and Mike Maroth? Would you feel better about your staff then? Would you feel better about the Tigers in general? I would. Once again, I defer to my earlier question. Would you rather have Morris or Robertson or Maroth pitching the third game of 2006? Which is more likely to help the Tigers close the gap on the World Champion White Sox?

Some of you out there are going to wonder about Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya? The really geeky types might even ask about Roman Colon. Well, kids, I think the Tigers youngsters belong in Toledo. I want them to earn a spot in the big league rotation. Basically, I don't want them rushed to Comerica Park as Bonderman was.

Once they arrive, I want them firmly entrenched in the back of the rotation until they merit a promotion. Adding a couple of veteran arms should easy the pressure on the entire staff and allow the prospects to develop on their own timetable. I realize that's crazy talk, but that's kind of typical around here.

In spite of the company line that says the Tigers are only looking for one starter and a closer this winter, I would like the Tigers to find a way to add a bat or two (Rafael Furcal, please) plus a second starter (Morris, Jarrod Washburn, Paul Bryd, et al). That's a hefty "To Do" list. It's probably not even possible, but it's Hot Stove banter, so I'm going to dream big until given a reason not to.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Good News, Bad News

ESPN.com reveals it's very early MLB power rankings for 2006. The good news is the Detroit Tigers, ranked 18th, got some rather complimentary things said about them. The bad news is that three of the other four teams in the A.L. Central are ahead of the Tigers. Worse news is that Cleveland holds down the top spot overall and the defending champions, Chicago, are in at number two.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Time To Start Anew?

I want to make sure I understand this correctly. The Detroit Lions lost to the Minnesota Vikings today? The same Vikings that traded away one of the most dominant forces in the game, Randy Moss, this past off-season? The same Vikings that were playing their second string quarterback? The same Vikings that have played like crap all year even with their all-world, first string QB, Dante Culepepper healthy? The same Vikings who are now commonly known to all as "The Crew of The Love Boat" for their off-field antics just a few weeks ago? The same Vikings that nearly everyone had written off for dead? Those Vikings? No wonder Greg Eno hates them.

After watching even half of that debacle this afternoon, and you should earn some sort of Boy Scout Merit badge if you did manage to stomach that much of the game, does anyone think it's not time for the Ford family to start over? After watching this team fall to 3-5, can anyone honestly argue against tossing Matt Millen, Steve Mariucci and everyone else in a management role out and starting over?

I'll start with Millen. He's been given much credit for drafting well. I think we have evidence to the contrary. He took Charles Rogers second overall, that's second in the whole stinking draft, knowing he failed a drug test. He's failed, at least, three more since. Did anyone in the Lions' front office do a background check on the kid?

Roy Williams, invisible in big games at Texas, has been just plain invisible in Detroit. Williams was another first round pick that has been underwhelming. Mike Williams, the third straight wideout grabbed by the Lions in the first round, is also a non-factor. Did I mention their off-field problems-like not showing up for practice or not working hard once there? That's zero for three with three straight draft picks.

The Lions have a terrible offensive line. Millen's free agent attempts to shore up the O-line have failed. Period. That's an underperforming receiving corps combined with a poor offensive line. Not the recipe for success, is it?

And what of our lovely, albeit typical Lions, quarterback dilemma? We all realize Joey Harrington is done here. Harrington was another wasted first round choice and Jeff Garcia is old enough to have been Bobby Layne's back-up. So, neither Millen's draft pick or his free agent acquisition have solved the Lions signal caller problem.

We are left with a team that desperately needs to acquire a new quarterback and probably around two offensive linemen minimum. They also have what appears to be three underproductive malcontents playing wideout. That's just on one side of the ball.

What about Millen's eye for selecting coaches? Gary Moeller, Marty Morninweg and Mariucci. That's three guys so far. Anyone one of you impressed with Millen's decision making in this area?

With each passing week, with each first round pick fading or not even making an initial impact, I lose faith in Millen's eye for talent. Both in terms of player and coach evaluation.

As for the Honolulu Blue and Silver's current coach, his claim to fame was offense. Again, anyone watching this silliness think the Lions play well on offense? Even if you believe Mooch is a run-first, pass second type of coach, where on Earth is the ground game? Outside of the last eight games of 2004, has anyone seen a Lions running attack?

If, in fact, Mariucci believes in running as a priority, why did the team just take three straight wideouts in the first round of the draft and not O-linemen? I understand Mariucci isn't Don Coryell, but on paper, that's the type of squad he finds himself in charge of. Yet, he hasn't adapted.

For a guy who may be best known for working with Brett Favre, Mariucci has shown no ability to help elevate Harrington's game (or confidence) nor has his handpicked back-up, Garcia, shown much more than he exhibited in his stint in Cleveland last campaign. A quarterback guru, Mariucci is not.

I am frustrated. Again. Still, is a better word. I'm trying to think of a reason for the Lions current decision makers to continue in that capacity. I'm failing miserably to do so. Then, again, so are the Lions.

I just don't like saying people should lose their jobs. Mostly because I don't really think it's very nice. I also don't like to call for people to be fired because it tends to sound like typical blog over-reaction. Or angry sports-talk radio caller banter. You tend to lose credibility because you simply don't sound reasonable. However, I'm struggling to find reasons for the Lions to continue down the road they are taking.

I'm in no mood for rebuilding. In fact, I don't even like using the "R" word in relation to the Lions. If you are a Lions fan, neither do you. Who knows how long that could take? It's been almost fifty years as it is now. Why in the world would any of us want to sit through another make-over? Yet, I can't imagine this group succeeding, so what other choice do we have?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Future Tiger List?

Both regular readers here realize that when it comes to sports, I have attention deficit problems. As my blogroll alone would indicate, I watch just about everything. So with so many sports underway, what am I thinking about today? Baseball, of course. Perhaps, the one sport not being played this second.

I've been wondering exactly who is going to be a free agent, basically because I want to know whom Dave Dombrowski might be pondering. As such, I did what any dolt with a PC would do--I went to Google. My search revealed these lists.

The first is a complete rundown of anyone and everyone available. MLB4U.com also provided it's Top 50 Free Agents with a breakdown of potential suitors plus their guess as to where these guys may land. RotoAuthority.com also takes a guess at where it's Top 50 might sign.

As I mentioned in my last post, everyone and their sister knows the Tigers are interested in A.J. Burnett. However, it's also true that everyone and their sister are interested in signing Burnett which I thinks makes the Tigers chances of landing him much smaller. Not impossible, just unlikely. Frankly, I'm not sure that's entirely a bad thing.

I didn't like Carl Pavano last off-season and I feel much the same way about Burnett now. Sure, I'd love to see him in an Olde English D, but with his spotty career, I have trouble with the Tigers offering Burnett a big time deal. He probably has the most potential of any free agent starter, but he just sort of scares me.

Yes, he could be great. He could also be a total disaster. It's not like if he hurts his arm he can still DH. This could be said for any pitcher, but I'd feel better seeing Dombrowski give really big cash to a really big name, then giving Burnett a long term, big money deal. (Example: Roy Oswalt is a free agent. He's a big time pitcher. He wants $18 million per season? Where do the Tigers sign?) Hey, I could be totally wrong and Burnett could power the Detroit boys to the post-season in '06, but his history doesn't give me the warm fuzzies.

Looking over the lists, a few initial things caught my attention. First, Rafael Furcal is available. Don't go screaming, "We already have a shortstop, Carlos Guillen. He's one of the best in the game. Why bring in Furcal, you moron?". Easy, kids. I thinking bringing in Furcal and moving Guillen makes the Tigers infield better.

I also think Furcal could provide some speed and hit just a bit. I worry about Guillen's knee and think the Tigers would be wise to get another shortstop ready. If Guillen remains injured, I like the idea of Brandon Inge at 3B and Furcal at SS better than I like Inge at third and insert utility player here at short.

Then, I see Brian Giles is also on the open market. Now, I know D.D. claims the Tigers offense is set. Well, they had some bad spells last year and Giles could help. He is not in his prime, but with all the ex-Pirates now running the Tigers clubhouse, I wonder if Giles might get a call from an ex-Pittsburgh contact now in Motown?

If Giles isn't the Tigers leftfielder, how about Jacque Jones?

Matt Morris is projected by MLG4U.com to sign as Jason Johnson's replacement. I'm not sure how much Morris has left, but it's an interesting idea. Again, like everyone else, it depends on how much money these guys sign for. Where to draw the line is what Dombrowski is getting paid for.

There seems to be a ton of free agent closers on the open market. I have to think the Tigers can land a decent one. Jose Mesa might be my guess, again, because of the Pirate connection.

I could be plain crazy, but wouldn't signing Jarrod Washburn and Paul Byrd make the Tigers rotation better and for a more reasonable contract figure than just targeting Burnett? Honestly, I'll take all the arms the Tigers can afford to sign right now.

I did chuckle just a bit when I saw MLB4U.com implied the Tigers were the type of team Jeff Weaver might sign with. Call me crazy, but I don't think Dombrowski is interested in a second go-around with Weaver under any circumstance.

Well, there's little better than wild speculation during the Hot Stove League season. Enjoy the lists and feel free to remind me just how wrong I am.

Oh, and before I go, here is another Tigers blog for you to visit. Head over to Tiger Tales for far better baseball analysis than I can provide.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Burnett Begins Tour

Free agent righthander A.J. Burnett began his off-season tour of interested clubs in Toronto. Burnett, who by most accounts remains high on the Detroit Tigers list, will probably get a call from a number of teams including the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

They're Back

Joey Harrington is forced back into the starter's role with Jeff Garcia hurt. While in Pittsburgh, ex-Lion QB Charlie Batch will make a start for the Steelers. I'll let you draw your own conclusions on these bits of breaking news.

Belated Halloween Rant

It's time for my annual Halloween rant. My apologies for running behind this year. I realize most of you haven't slept in anticipation of this post. Anyway, while the age of our trick-or-treaters was a big issue with me last autumn, the dilemma arose again in '05. This time, however, the age problem went in the opposite direction.

In my corner of the planet, we tend to get an unhealthy number of semi-adults still out begging for chocolate. These "kids" are old enough to drive. Many are old enough to buy Jack Daniels and not get carded. These tikes need to be off doing whatever annoying things you do at that age not parading around the neighborhood Halloween night.

Now, this year, we had a slightly different phenomenon occur. The kids weren't even kids yet. Nope, they were babies. Some of them, actually, many of them, weren't quite up to walking effectively. A number of them were still stroller bound. Oh, a few were teamed up in the back of wagons, but either way, they weren't up to walking for long periods of time. (After the first couple of parents attempted to cram their stroller up my steps, I gave in and met them on my walk.)

Yet, there they were all cute and cuddly with their Halloween bag in hand. Well, that's not quite accurate, either. Just as they were too young to be walking very far, or at all, these ghosts and goblins weren't about to hold a plastic pumpkin street after street. They just weren't strong enough yet. So I tossed their Snickers into the container on their lap.

This is where my rant really begins. Who is kidding who here? These little ones are probably eating mushed peas for dinner, yet they are in desire of M&M's? They don't have teeth yet, but they are out mooching for bubble gum and Milky Way's? We all know what's going on here.

The babies are a front for a not-so-clever chocolate begging operation. Their parents, who no doubt use a similar method when dealing with grandparents, turn into extortionists. They toss a cute little one all dressed up on your porch and what are you going to do? Tell them to get lost? Don't think so. Nope, you are going to smile, say how gosh darn cute the baby is and cough up another Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, so their parents can get a free sugar high for the next couple of days.

It was bad enough when I was feeding young adults, but now I am feeding parents, too? These folks probably make more money than me and have far more popular blogs, too, yet I have to provide them with sugar based treats? Something seems wrong about the whole thing. Is it any wonder why I am not a fan of Halloween?

We need Congress to act. Set some age limits for crying out loud. Something like ages 3-10 seems pretty good to me. I'll even take five years to twelve year olds. After that, sorry, kids, you'll just have to wait for the Halloween bar scene. If our government won't act, I may have to.

I'm thinking about carding the older looking kids and asking for DNA tests from these parents. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if they just borrowed or rented the baby for the evening in order to solicit candy. Someone has to stop the madness.