Thursday, June 29, 2006

Playing Catch-Up

Since my blogging has been lacking as of late and I cannot decide what to write about first, how about I do what I usually do--take it all on at once. In small doses, of course.

* Larry Brown is filing a grievance? Are you kidding me? Shouldn't Knicks fans be the ones filing a grievance against Brown? Or Isiah Thomas? Or both? It's fairly clear that neither Brown or his agent have a shred of dignity.

* Greg Eno is all behind Danica Patrick. Me? I can't decide. I don't root against her. I don't root for her, either. She's great for the IRL and open wheel racing, as she brings in new fans and increases interest, but I think it's the media overkill that stops me from embracing her. It's just too much and also makes very good drivers--Dan Wheldon, Helio Castroneves, Sam Hornish, Sebastian Bourdais, to name just four--seem insignificant.

While, as Greg points out, Patrick appears to merit her ride, I do wonder what affect the possible IRL/Champ Car merger might mean to her chances of success? Simple math says if the boys from Champ Car are added into the mix, the field of quality race car drivers increases, thus Patrick's chances of winning decrease. Will America continue to support a middle of the road open wheel racing queen?

* I realize that as a member of the vaunted Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes, I've been strangely silent on our remarkably successful baseball club. What can I say about the Tigers that hasn't already be said? Remember I was the one who had some optimism about the Motor City Kitties in March?

At this point, my pre-season thoughts are almost scary in how close they are to being dead on. Although, I never could have envisioned the overwhelming success the Tigers have enjoyed thus far. Regardless of how the remainder of the season plays out, the first three months of this baseball season have been nothing short of spectacular.

* Who is your Tiger All-Star? That's the question I've been pondering for a couple of days. Kenny Rogers might make the team. Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman (especially if Bonderman can get to win number ten next time out) also deserve serious consideration in a crowded field.

Curtis Granderson's numbers probably aren't quite good enough, although I doubt any Tiger fan would argue that he's been their best everyday player. Magglio Ordonez has the numbers to get his name into the OF logjam, but I think Ozzie Guillen might still hold a grudge no matter what he says in public.

Carlos Guillen would have to be shortstop number three behind traditional stars Miguel Tejada and Derek Jeter, both of whom I just assume play in Pittsburgh this year. Pudge Rodriguez has a similar dilemma as Jason Varitek will probably win the vote and Joe Mauer would be the likely number two catcher on the junior circuit roster.

I would like to think at least two guys with Olde English D's on their caps play in the Steel City come July 11. My guess is that it's Rogers and Guillen.

* I couldn't help myself, but I had to skim through's Michael Silver's ratings of NFL owners. If you want to know where Mr. Ford ranks, as if you couldn't guess accurately, head towards page three of his article.

* I've yet to purchase a single NFL or NCAA Football preview magazine. I wouldn't quite equate this feat to someone laying off cigarettes, but it's a difficult habit for me to break. Normally, I would have, at least, one of each lying around the house by now. Yet, last year, I promised no football magazines would be obtained prior to MLB's All-Star Game.

Why am I setting such clearly ridiculous standards? Because in recent years, I've become overdosed on pigskin long before season's end. I love football, but our national obsession has become too obsessive for even me. I need the off-season to be an off-season a little while longer. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

So far, I've been able to maintain last year's objective. No magazines have made it into the house or even into the checkout lane. Oh, I've looked, but have not purchased. I've even refrained from joining the one fantasy football league I've been invited to join. Football must wait. (One caveat-These rules do not apply to the CFL that is already underway. I have watched a portion of a CFL game.)

* I'm not sure what it says when I am more familiar with the names of the players taken in the first round of the MLB Draft than the names of those taken in the same round of the NBA Draft?

UPDATE: So, I'm a moron. I could have sworn Bonderman had nine wins heading into the weekend, not seven. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, either way, it's incorrect information and seven (or even eight) wins will keep Boderman from making his first all-star appearance this year. Hey, it's a blog, isn't passing along wrong information standard operating procedure?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

U.S. Stumbles Out Of World Cup

It's difficult to be anything less than very disappointed with the United States Men's National Soccer Team's performance. In fact, I'm struggling to be anything less than angry. No wins. One tie. Two losses. And an early exit from the 2006 World Cup. It's unacceptable.

Plenty are going to call for Bruce Arena's job and I suspect Arena might oblige them tomorrow. There is simply no question this wasn't Arena's finest hour. The team appeared to lack chemistry. They lacked fight. They lacked many things that lay at the feet of their head coach. Thus, Arena will probably step aside.

However, Arena is far from the only culprit of this debacle. The players are as much to blame as their coach. In particular, Claudio Reyna, Landon Donovan and DeMarcus Beasley seemed to collectively slip between invisible, barely visible and visible, but making us wish they were invisible.

Some have suggested the PK before the half did the U.S. in today. If it did, then shame on both Arena and his captain, Reyna, for not getting the team's mind back into a WC match they trailed by only a single marker with a half to go. That's why we pay a coach, that's why a guy gets to wear the armband.

As for Donovan and Beasley, they were simply dreadful. One of them really needed to become the offensive centerpiece and neither was up to the challenge. Of course, Arena could easily be blamed for putting both players in positions that made it difficult for them to succeed. And I do. However, in futbol, like any other sport, your stars have to play like stars in order for you to win. For the USMNT, their stars failed to do so. That's why they are done in World Cup '06.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Great Sports Weekend

I love this time of the year. We've got Major League Baseball in full flight. College baseball's super regionals are televised all weekend long. World Cup soccer is going to be part of my steady diet for the next several weeks. There's IRL racing tonight, I'm guessing the NASCAR boys go at it tomorrow, too. Although, I must admit to not being sure about that.

The Stanley Cup is up for grabs (but does anyone still believe Edmonton has a chance?) and, of course, The Finals of the NBA are underway. Golf is certainly in swing and tennis only gives us a major--The French Open. Outside of, perhaps, October, this is probably the best time of the year for sports fans.

I could sit in front of the old television all day long. Yet, responsibility calls. Guess I can't sit in front of the PC any longer, either. Enjoy the weekend.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The New Drug Frontier

I have to clear something up. Sports are never going to be clean again. Ever.

This is something that we as fans need to understand. Yes, it's depressing. It makes you wonder what is really and what is fake. It makes sports' records even harder to compare. It makes us worry if every youngster is going to have to inject chemicals into his/her system to compete at the highest level. There is nothing about the current drug climate that make any of us feel real good about where sports have gone. Yet, that is where we are at.

We also need to understand that a whole bunch of handwringers want us to believe, or make believe, that more staunch testing will alleviate the problem. (Insert the Napoleonic Dick Pound, head of the World Anti Doping Agency, and a whole bunch of sportswriters here.) This group is about to launch it's usual assault on Major League Baseball for it's lackluster drug testing policy without providing all of the details. (Thank you, Jason Grimsley.)

What none of these folks is willing to confront is that performance enhancing drugs, and the chemicals used to conceal them from detection, are far superior to the tests we now have. That doesn't mean we should stop testing. It just means that Mr. Pound, the International Olympic Committee, the United States Congress, and anyone else that is trying to "clean up" sports is selling us a bill of goods.

Sports will never be clean again. They can legislate to their hearts desire. They can pass more strict penalties. They can even start using blood tests, too. And while some will get caught, some will not and we will not know the difference.

Those who feel compelled to take the issue of performance enhancers head on are leading people to believe that other sports are somehow "clean" in comparison to baseball. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Everyone from NFL lineman to Tour de France cyclists to Olympic swimmers are taking something illegal. Does that mean all of them are? Of course, not. Yet, I cannot tell the difference and, if they are on the right designer drug, neither will any test we mandate they take.

I am completely in favor of testing for steroids, human growth hormone or whatever other drug comes along to make athletes abnormally bigger, faster and stronger. I support strong penalties for those caught using any or all the above. I encourage both notions as I'm actually concerned about the long-term health affects of these drugs. I'm also enough of a romantic to think that hard work and talent should prevail over laboratory created cocktails.

However, neither you or I should be naive about where we are at. We need to comprehend that no matter how many more tests are instituted or how much tougher the penalties get, sport will never be clean of chemically enhanced performances again. Ever.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tigers Draft Day

I'll be to the point. I love the Detroit Tigers draft thus far. Now, I caution both my readers. I have an affinity for college baseball and the Tigers have gone heavy towards the college players so far, so that alone would please me. However, I do have a somewhat more rational reason for liking the college kids--they tend to get to The Show quicker.

This group also has something the Tigers might be lacking on the farm--quality hitters. Not that the Tigers' minors are void of such players, but they could stand to use a few more. Couldn't everybody?

In spite of the hitters, let me start with Andrew Miller. I was listening to the draft on the radio and when the Tigers selected Miller, I just about cheered. This guy was thought to be the first pick overall. If not, he was certainly not going to fall to number six. Yet, there he was.

Yes, Miller wants too much money. Yes, he needs a change-up. However, the lefty from North Carolina also has allowed all of one homer at a level where everyone is using a metal bats. He's got a 2. something ERA. He's 12-2. Miller has done this all in one of the better baseball conferences in the land--the ACC.

Oh, by the way, Miller can throw a 92 mph fastball with accuracy and one 95 mph, only he's not as sure where that one might land. He's also got a nasty slider according to those who have gotten a good look at it.

Of course, he could fail. Most prospects never live up to the hype, but the Tigers probably selected the most polished pitcher in the draft. (I haven't exactly seen all the others, so I'll take the "experts" word on that.) Regardless of how this plays out, in terms of his success and his contract demands, I think the Tigers did the right thing in taking the player with the best combination of ability, production and playing at the highest possible level.

For comparison, think of this as the Lions unexpectedly landing the quarterback with the most pro-ready game, with lots of upside, who has won a ton of games playing in one of the top flight football conferences in the country. Imagine how most fans in Detroit would act right now. That's about how I felt when I heard "Detroit selects Andrew Miller, pitcher, University of North Carolina".

On to a few other names that caught my attention. First, Ronnie Bourquin from Ohio State. As you may have heard, I do a bit of blogging about Big Ten baseball and I've seen Bourquin in person about five times this year. He's only looked dominant once, but there is simply no arguing his numbers.

As has been pointed out everywhere else, Bourquin paced the Big Ten in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage to name just three things. (A fact you would all know if you visited my other site. Sure, it's a shameless plug.) I also concur with those who question whether Bourquin will remain at third. His defense isn't what I'd like at the hot corner, so I do envision a move elsewhere.

The easy comparison is to ex-Buckeye Nick Swisher. I'm not sure Bourquin's quite as good as Swisher. It seems to me that Swisher exhibited more power. Bourquin might make a bit more contact, but that's just an impression off the top of my head, I haven't gone back to compare numbers.

I don't know that much about Brennan Boesch and I have not seen him play. I like the thought of drafting a centerfielder, though. Not that I don't like Curtis Granderson, I do. I also like the thought of a pure CF roaming Comerica Park's spacious outfield. I'm going to have to do some research on Mr. Boesch.

Conversely, I have seen Ryan Strieby. I'll say this about the Wildcats 1B, he can flat rake. He's a JUCO transfer to Kentucky who walked into the powerful SEC and grabbed Player of the Year honors. Strieby's coach at UK believes in plate discipline. If you are on the OBP bandwagon, both Bourquin and Strieby should appeal to you.

This is another random observation, but Strieby seems like a more dynamic force that Bourquin. Now, any number of reasons could account for that including I may have seen Strieby on his good days and Bourquin on his off nights.

I'm not sure if he will stay at first, my inclination is that he will, but I still think drafting as many top flight college hitters as you come across is a good thing no matter what position they play.

Yeah, yeah, aluminum bats. I know. The guy could be a product of the bat. He could also be an all-star caliber slugger. The draft is a crap shoot and you try to play the odds. I figure if Strieby can pound SEC hurlers the odds of him hitting at the pro level have to be reasonably good.

Like the Scott Sizemore pick, too. Yes, he's had a down year, but he's a secondbaseman with power who hit in the Cape Cod League where they use wood bats. Again, I embrace selecting middle infielders who can hit with some pop.

The Tigers have selected a few more college players that intrigue me, but I've got to move on to the next task. Like checking the Tigers/Sox score. Bottom line is that if this were the Lions draft people would be very excited. For now, I will be excited for everyone else.