Sunday, July 31, 2005

End of the First Quarter

I am heading up to the northern Lower Peninsula today, and will be there through Thursday, so the blog will be on hiatus until then.

No internet, email, etc. Yes, TV/DVD. So, in addition to meditating by the lake, and practicing my kung fu, I will be doing alot of reminiscing with the aid of film. In the meantime, take the sports challenge.

Let me know how you did!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Questions that must be answered

This is year 3 of the Mariucci regime, and year 5 of the Millen experiment. While others have been more than eager to criticize Matt Millen for his bluster and early poor personnel decisions, I was very willing to give him the full 5 years to see what he could do. When he first arrived, the Lions were an aging team that had survived the 90's by having 3 stars at key talent positions (Porcher, Herman, and Barry) as well as Mr. Automatic, Jason Hanson.

He announced that the team would need to get younger and faster, immediately cutting ties with several key veterans, players who had helped keep the team competitive, but were clearly not part of their future. That is, Millen hastened the demise of the team much as one might implode a building before it became (a) an eyesore and (b) a hazard to the neighborhood. Unfortunately, early free-agent personnel miscues, an inexperienced coaching staff, and bad luck conspired to keep the construction project from taking off, leaving the remnants of a building that had been imploded without appearing to have (a) a plan, (b) a real estate developer, and (c) reputable contractors to see the project through. The result, in years 1 amd 2, was very poor performance from the team.

In the last 2 years, the accumulation of talent from the draft, development of the young players from years 1 and 2, as well as key free agent signings, all seemed to come together under the watchful eye of a respected coach, leading to expectations that this team was on the rise. However, the construction project hit another hiccup last year, as the team seemed uninspired, the offense didn't develop as expected, the team did not win some winnable games, and certainly wasn't ready to win games against the big dogs, leading to a somewhat disappointing, albeit not surprising 6-10 record.

Which leads us to this year. Year 5 of the construction project. The year when we get to ultimately measure whether the 4 years of growing pains were worth it. This is the year when we truly get to judge whether Matt Millen had the right vision --to completely take apart a competitive team before it became an eysore, in order to build a championship-caliber team. Now the team doesn't have to be championship-caliber this year, but considering the level of talent, depth, and youth on this team, a 10-6 or better season will be a sign of how things will be over the next 3-5 years.

So what do I need to see this year to be convinced that these Lions will be an elite team for the next 5 years? With the most talented bunch of players we've seen in years, and Millen's concerted effort to draft players from winning programs, I need to see whether this team will finally adopt a killer mentality: Will they win ALL the games they are supposed to and a few they aren't? That is, will they go out and grab victories, rather than waiting for victory to fall into their hands? Because we know teams who passively wait, come up short. Not only for a game, or a season, but for an era as well.

What do I need to see statistically?

Joey: Nothing less than 3400 yards, 25+ TDs, 13 (or less) INTs

Kevin Jones: 1150 yards, 7+ rushing TDs

Charles & Roy: 1800+ combined yards receiving, 15+ TD catches

Mike Williams: 500+ yards, 5 TDs

Kevin Johnson, Marcus Pollard: key veteran leadership, big time 3rd down catches


next week

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


The Lions are about to open training camp, and therefore I feel compelled to make my season predictions. This is a game by game breakdown of the Lions season. I reserve the right to modify these predictions if any major events occur between now and when the Lions break camp such as signing Ty Law or a season-ending injury to Kevin Jones:

Sunday, September 11
W 1-0

Sunday, September 18
@ Chicago Bears
W 2-0

Sunday September 25
Bye Week

Sunday, October 2
@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Raymond James Stadium
L 2-1

Ford Field
W 3-1

Sunday, October 16
Ford Field
L 3-2

Sunday, October 23
@ Cleveland Browns
W 4-2

Sunday, October 30
W 5-2

Sunday, November 6
@ Minnesota Vikings
L 5-3

Sunday, November 13
W 6-3

Sunday, November 20
@ Dallas Cowboys
L 6-4

Thursday, November 24
W 7-4

Sunday, December 4
W 8-4

Sunday, December 11
@ Green Bay Packers
L 8-5

Sunday, December 18
W 9-5

Saturday, December 24
@ New Orleans Saints
W 10-5

Sunday, January 1
@ Pittsburgh Steelers
L 10-6

Overall: 10-6
Divisional record: 4-2
NFC record: 7-5
Playoffs? Yes

Distance Diagnosing

It's hard to believe, but the Larry Brown saga continues in NY. Hard to believe because we Detroiters have moved on so fast that no one is bothering to be up in arms about his signing with the Knicks just a week after saying he wasn't healthy enough to coach. Yes, just a week after his agent, Joe Glass, said, "he said he wants to coach in Detroit, Now that he can't do that, in all likelihood he will NOT coach next year," LB is set to sign on with the Knickerbockers. Ho Hum. Surprise, surprise. Detroiters have become so jaded to this that we apparently don't care. We are so convinced that he plotted this all along, that there is really nothing to be mad about. He brought us Rasheed, and helped fine-tune a team primed for a championship run. He wore out his welcome by listening to all suitors during a time when the team needed his commitment most. Even his brother, Herb Brown, said today on the radio: " I love him, but every job is his dream job."

So what is up with Larry Brown? What makes a guy coach UCLA, Kansas, New Jersey Nets, LA Clippers, San Antonio, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks? I am missing two other jobs...these are the ones I listed off the top of my head. What makes a guy marry three times? Many armchair psychologists are going on talk radio, attempting to diagnose and understand Larry. Much like what happens whenever the news adopts a new freak, and various media whores/talking heads attempt to diagnose someone they've never met, explain said freak's motivation, childhood experiences, or what must be going through his or her mind (a) while doing the freakish act and (b) now that the media and legal system are on top of them, several "experts" are attempting to explain away Larry's behavior.

A word to all non-psychologists out there: A good psychologist is a scientist, one who develops a theory of what, when and how. S/he then gathers data in a painstaking way, weighs the evidence, and compares it to the theory. This occurs in clinical work as well. We meet with the person of interest, gather as much historical data as possible, conduct testing, confer with significant others (friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc) in the person's life, compile all the information, and deveop a picture of the person, including behavior and motivation as well as potential future behavior. When we do this, we are very cautious about drawing inferences from our data, attempt to not rush to conclusions, and always consider alternate interpretations of the data. In short, we do not provide sound bites, and generally speaking, any psychologist who considers him or herself a scientist would not be good for a sound bite. We understand the contextualized nature of behavior, we live in a world of gray, and we are not typically narcissistic, publicity hungry media whores who would make bold statements. So much of what you hear out there, even if coming from someone who identifies him or herself as a psychologist, is junk.

That being said, here is what I think is up with LB:

He is a very insecurely attached individual, and is particularly uncomfortable with love. People claim that he wants to be loved, but he was loved/respected here in detroit, and it made him very uncomfortable. He is histrionic, and likes to be as dramatic as possible, and when one tries to interact in a professional manner (ala Joe D.), he sabotages the relationship in an effort to confirm his belief that no one respects or loves him. Ultimately, he forces the scenraio that he fears -- a messy divorce -- and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. He continues to do this wherever he goes, seeking out people and behaving in a fashion that confirms his suspicions. Sure, the Pistons dumped him. But only because he gave them no choice. He is like the romantic partner who constantly tests you to see how devoted you are to the relationship, and when you come to your senses and say, enough is enough, that partner says, "I knew you would bail on me!!!" Of course, any rational person would realize that narcissistic, histrionic and insecure people may bring short-term excitement, but in the end cause more pain than having a relationship is worth. The Pistons realized this. They did not get sucked in to the drama. They moved on.

My suggestion for my 3 loyal readers is to look around you, examine those individuals in your life that create drama, tension, and force you to constantly exert energy to prove your loyalty and put out fires. Do you really need those people in your life? If not, take a page from Joe Dumars, and gently distance yourself from them. Let them accuse you of being a bad friend, of deserting them. If you are successful, there may be some short-term tension (during the breakup), but there will be long-term peace of mind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sports Fan IQ test

I am in a profession where being a passionate sports fan is considered a bit low rent, so I am an anomaly. My colleagues think my memory for individual game details, player game, season, and career stats to be quite Stanthraxian.

That being said, here is my criteria for what makes a KNOWLEDGABLE sports fan:


1. NHL- 2 complete lines (LW, C, RW), 4 defensman, starting goalie, head coach

2. NBA - starting five, 3 reserves, head coach

3. MLB - starting nine, 3 starting pitchers, 2 relievers including the closer, manager

4. NFL - Offense: At least 3/5 of OL, QB, RB, FB, 3 WR, K
- Defense: 8 of 11 starters, head coach


5. Champions of past 20 years for all 4 sports (and who they beat)

5A. Bonus points: MVP of those championships

5B. Bonus Points: Stats of those championship games/series

Individual Stats:

6. MVP/CY Young- At least 15 over a 25 year period.

7. Heisman Trophy - At least 20 over a 25 year period.

8. Playoff performances (if noteworthy for either excellence or failure)


1. Basketball- Champs and who they beat for the past 25 years (90% acceptable).

2. Football - Mythical champs for the past 20 years (80% acceptable)

Fans root for teams that have the confidence to take chances

We are now approaching baseball's non-waiver trade deadline (July 31st). For those unfamiliar with the rules of baseball, this is the last day that teams can trade players without worrying about other teams mucking up their trade. From Aug 1st through 31st, teams can still trade players, but only if that player clears waivers. What does it mean to clear waivers? If I have a player on my team, and I decide to put him on waivers, another team can claim him, and add him to their roster. Of course, they become responsible for the remainder of his contract, so teams typically will not claim someone off waivers unless they feel his contributions match his salary and/or fill a major need for the team.

However, occasionally, a team will claim someone who is put on waivers to prevent that player from being traded to a competitor. Teams may do this even if they don't want to add that player and his salary to their team. It is often a game of chicken, as the team that placed him on waivers may pull him back (you can do this once), or call the claiming team's bluff and let them take on the albatross of a contract (see San Diego 1998 and Randy Myers for an example of this). A team may put in a claim for Ken Griffey, Jr or Jason Giambi, but they'd be crazy to actually go through with adding one of those guys (and their contract) to their team. Teams who are interested in trading players and want to get them through waivers will often place them on waivers with several other players in the organization (some of whom they planned on waiving anyway), and will submit the list to MLB offices late at night or on the weekend, with the hope that the one player they want to clear waivers will manage to sneak through. This gamesmanship is part of being a good GM.

As you can see, it is much more difficult to pick up an important piece to a team's playoff puzzle after July 31st. So, a team must do their homework, assess their chances of making the playoffs as is, evaluate what the incoming player might add to their chances, determine what they are willing to give up to get that player, and then be bold and go out and do it. With only about 60% of the season complete, a team may not have had their full compliment of players, and will be forced to use statistics, scouting, and seat of the pants intuition to make the right decision. Does Dave Dombrowski have what it takes to make the right decisions? I think so, which means that, as badly as I want to see them go for it this year, I will put my trust in him and his braintrust to do what's best for this team's continued development. If that means trading away some valuable parts to fleece a desperate team, do it. Of course, when I say valuable, I mean valuable role player veterans, players who have pretty much peaked and are not going to be better than solid, serviceable players. Jason Johnson, Rondell White, Dmitri Young, Brandon Inge, and even Placido Polanco all fit this category. If you can trade them for even more talented but raw players who will make an impact next year (not 3 years down the road), I am willing to trust DD to make the right decisions.

However, fans (like myself) become passionately attached to teams that demonstrate they'll do anything to bring their fans and city a championship. Certain teams succeed, while others flame out trying to do so. BUT AT LEAST THEY TRY!!! The fan in me is sick of building for the future. I want to see them make a bold trade, add payroll, and go for it. We Tigers fans are desperate for a sniff of the post-season. Anyone who has been watching this team knows it needs more offensive pop, specifically from the left side. Mr. Dombrowski, go get that left-handed hitting power guy NOW! (even Jason Giambi or Junior Griffey).

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Detroit is taking a hit

Did you see:

Jason Whitlock?

Scoop Jackson?

Man, are we taking a hit. There is a lot of anger out there. People mad at the Pistons for breaking up such a feel-good story. A team in its relative prime having to rebuild with a new coach and new system while trying to win a championship? With an unproven coach?

What amazes me about the entire ordeal is not that it happened. As we've discussed in the previous post, this day was preordained, destined to happen from the moment Joe D decided to trade up and kicked Rick to the curb. I'm not even so surprised that it happened so soon. Larry isn't used to being on the mountaintop, and clearly was uncomfortable with being in a good situation. What has amazed me is that everyone is blaming everyone else for using the media to spread rumors and innuendo, trying to "get their story out," and generally behaving like spineless scum. Joe Glass says the Pistons had no plans to bring Larry back and orchestrated this so that they could justify moving on. The Pistons say Larry had no intention of coming back, and orchestrated this so HE could justify moving on. Joe Dumars says Joe Glass is lying and playing the media like a fiddle when he says Larry is the victim. Brown, with the help of Jackson and Whitlock, says Matt Dobek, Tom Wilson, and the entire organization, are not committed to winning, wanted him out, lined up Flip, and used this as an excuse to make a change.

Someone, help me. Please!!! I am tired of the drama, media attention, national scorn. We are a lunch pail city, and we need a lunch pail team led by a lunch pail coach playing in a lunch pail arena. Oh, 3 out of 4 ain't bad. Can we please move on, get back to the business of playing ball.

And memo to Chauncey, Ben, Rip, Tayshaun, and the rest: Don't let Brown, Whitlock, Jackson, Glass, Carlisle, or anybody else be able to come back next May-June and say, "I told you so."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bert Randolph Sugar

When I lived in New York, I befriended two brothers who had moved from Philadelphia. One was 10 years older than me, and the other was nearly 25 years older than me. What we shared, was a passion for all sports, and, coming from out of town, a desire to talk about the greater sports world (and not just whether Keyshawn Johnson was right about Wayne Chrebet). Aside from the usual talk about baseball, football, hockey, and basketball, we would discuss boxing. They being from the home of Rocky Balboa and I being from the home of Kronk boxing, we had a lot to talk about. Who would be the next great white fighter? What if Hearns didn't have a glass chin? Who was our top 5 pound for pound right now? Of all time? Who was the best in each weight class? Death match: Bob Arum vs. Don King, who would win? What was up with Rock Newman?

The debates were endless, and a lot of fun. There was one thing in which we were in absolute agreement: there is Bert Randolph Sugar, and there is everyone else. He is a boxing commentator by trade, a sports historian and afficianado by destiny. Walk into a sports bar and Manhattan, such as Mantle's near Columbus Circle, and there you might find Bert, in his Kangol and Cuban, with that distinctive voice of his dripping with perspective. He made every fight sound dramataic, and his knowledge, connections, and wisdom made for a rare and unique perspective. Bert knew boxing like others know their bank account. He made it his own. A boxing match was not an event unless Bert Randolph Sugar was there. And he was almost always there. He was everywhere.

And he still is everywhere. For years, I followed his whereabouts, read his books (, and, whenever I got lucky, heard his interviews. When they talked to Bert Sugar, I became like an extra in an E.F. Hutton commercial. I stopped whatever I was doing. When Bert spoke, life waited. I listened to alot of WFAN back then, and continue to listen to sports radio now. The local stations have national broadcasts at night, and that is when I'll listen intently to shows such as JT the Brick or ESPN Gamenight, waiting for them to talk about the next big fight, and bring on Bert Randolph Sugar to pontificate. In fact, JT just interviewed him a few days ago, talking about the Taylor-Hopkins battle. He also pimped his latest baseball book (buy it now). For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, look him up. Educate yourselves. And if you happen to be a talk show host yourself, invite him on. And let me know...

Sports Geekly (Today: Jeremy Bonderman)

There is a lot of negative energy emanating from 4 Championship drive, a lot of he said he said, and people covering their tracks, and stories being told, and frankly, I don't care. James Stewart, if he were still a part of the detroit sports scene, would so eloquently put it: "it is what it is." I do plan to post on that topic, but need a breather to do more fun stuff, the stuff that makes following sports so intoxicating, rather than focus on the seedy business side of sports.

So today, I present to you a comparison of Jack Morris' third season in the majors:

W-L, ERA, G, (CG), IP, H, R, (ER), HR, BB, SO
17-7, 3.28, 27, 9, 197.2, 179, 76, 72, 19, 59, 113

with Jeremy Bonderman's current numbers:

W-L, ERA, G, (CG), IP, H, R, (ER), HR, BB, SO
12-6, 4.05, 20, 2, 135.2, 128, 62, 61, 15, 38, 107

His ERA is elevated, but he is playing in an elevated power era. You can see that just in terms of the home runs he has given up. Hits: IP and BB:IP, are comparable, so the gopher ball is what has done in JB. He has almost the same amount of strikeouts in just 3/4 the starts, his SO:BB ratio is better, and he is on pace to better his win total. Oh, and, like Jack, he is a slump stopper! he is a true ace, a bulldog.

One more thing. Jack Morris' third season was 1979, the year Sparky came on board. 5 years later, he was a world champion. Mark my words: Jeremy Bonderman is going to lead this staff and this team to a World Series title within the next 5 years

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Bad, Bad Larry Brown

So pound for pound Larry Brown has done it. He has made it impossible for Mr. D. and Mr. D to keep him in Detroit. All his drama about dream jobs in NY, what a great player Kobe is, and how much fun it is to build a team finally reached the breaking point here in the D. You see, Detroiters have a thin skin when it comes to flirting with others, especially when you just about admit that we are the girl next door, and you'd rather take someone sexier to the prom.

My earlier post about the uproar over Jeannie Zalasko disrespecting Ernie Harwell really touched on this sensitive nerve that Detroiters have. What I didn't realize was that these feelings of insecurity extended into the Pistons front office. Let's see--LB is now the third coach in the last 10 years to be fired/forced out within 1 year after posting a 50-win season. That means, the Pistons organization is leading the league in firing good coaches because of behind the scenes issues. Either the organization does a great job of finding coaches who overachieve but burn out quickly, or they do a great of hiring geniuses that are impossible live with day-to-day or they cannot stand to share the spotlight with the coach. Say it ain't so, Joe!!! You have gotten yoeman's credit for turning this franchise around, move after move had the Midas touch, but now, for the second time in three years, you are looking for a coach. Is it your hiring? Or is it your ability to get long with and share the spotlight with these guys? You're bigger than that, Joe.

It appears as if Bad Bad Larry Brown, baddest man in the whole damn town, has even a tough guy like Joe Dumars feeling small, so small that he and Bill Davidson decided they would rather have Flip Saunders try to lead the team. And I emphasize try, because it is not that clear to me that he is a great coach. Or the right fit for this team. It is really not clear whether the players will be able to play as in sync with each other under him as they appeared to do under LB. Make no mistake, this team had a rythym, a sense of awareness, and a camaraderie that was something special, something that is not likely to be replicated. And it is gone. All because of egos that needed a little love. And a junkyard dog.

Monday, July 18, 2005


Today, I experienced bloggerblock for the very first time. I could not think of anything witty, intelligent, or relevant to say. Of course, judging from the lack of comments to my posts, it may be that others have deemed my previous posts to be utterly lacking in wittiness, intelligence, or relevance. So what does a blogger do when s/he experiences this: mail it in and submit something one is not particularly proud of--just to keep the streak going? Or wait until I can think of something interesting to write about? Which brings me to another unresolved question: Although the driving force behind this blog is to put my ideas down, to fully develop a thought, and to be able to articulate my sports belief system to myself, nothing beats good old fashioned sports dialogue. And dialogue typically means at least one other person to bounce my thoughts off of. So if anyone out there agrees, or even better, disagrees, with my posts, I encourage you to comment.

In the meantime, I'll be busy writing about The Dead Zone, Bad Bad Larry Brown, and Bert Randolph Sugar.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Here's to you, Mom and Dad

My parents celebrated 38 years of wedded bliss today. Aside from all the good things that has happened to them, and all that I and my siblings are grateful for, I'd like to speak of one specific gift that continues to reward day in and day out: a passion for sports.

My dad grew up in the 1950's, and played neighborhood pick-up games in the back alleys in northwest Detroit. He was always his favorite Tiger: George Kell. Not only did he get to see him play, but later, as a broadcaster, Dad got to hear George tell all the stories from his playing days, which my dad of course would share with me. He filled me in on what it was like to take the bus down to the corner, and watch 'em play two. Somehow, today, having Rod Allen do commentary just doesn't cut it for me.

My dad was also crazy about his Wings, who gave the city much to cheer about during his early youth. Like many, he loved #9, but was partial to several Red Wing heroes. Hearing him describe getting a standing room only seat at the old barn, Olympia, and watching them skating round in their home reds, was something special. My dad loved the Lions, and to a lesser extent, the Pistons. But clearly the Tigers and Red Wings were at the center of his sports universe.

I am grateful to my dad, for having the passion for sports, and for cultivating that passion in me. I believe there is great value in sports, teaching the lessons of teamwork, patience, hard work, and the value of measuring oneself with wins & losses. To know the pain of defeat provides the joy in victory. Sports teaches us to appreciate what it takes to succeed, and those lessons are translatable to our everyday lives. I am also gratfeul to my dad for sharing his passion, so that, even during times when we did not see eye to eye, and could barely speak without a fight, we could still sit down and talk about the season, who was doing well, what changes needed to be made, what strategy worked, and what players had to go. My mom, in her understated way, developed an appreciation for sports, could carry her own in a discussion, and was often one of the boys when we sat and watched. I am grateful to her for recognizing the value of sports, encouraging our ballplaying, and more importantly, recognizing the value of the male bonding experience. My mom often took one for the team, staying at home on a Sunday afternoon with the little ones while my dad and I headed down to Michigan and Trumbull.

We got cable in 1983, and life for me couldn't have been better. I was at the clincher game in 1984, the last game at Tiger Stadium in 1999, and of course, watched Gibby's 1988 homer live with my Dad on a Saturday night in October. I was recently visiting him and Fox Sports Net was doing a special on the home run. We'd seen the program at least a half-dozen times over the past couple of years. But we were still glued to the set, seeing, if Gibby could muster the strength one last time.

I can watch just about any sport at any time, and would pass it up for just about anything. NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL NCAA basketball, football, and hockey. Nascar, motorcross, strongmen competitions, boxing, live events, taped events. Especially anything played on ESPN Classic. Flutie's hail mary--wouldn't miss it for the world. Gibby's HR--see above. Any Bo Jackson, Dr. J, MJ, Gretzky highlight, I am there. I have an audiotape of the greatest home run calls of all time, a VHS of the best of Probert and Kocur. In short, I live and breathe sports. You want stats, i love stats! I learned math and the value of numbers paying attention to player's stats.

I continue to enjoy sports for the memories, nostalgia, values, and human connection. It is one of the best gifts a father can pass on to his son, and I hope to be able to continue that with my own.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Buyers or Sellers?

The all star break has passed, and now that the Tigers have decided to act like a major league ballclub, we get to join in the national conversation: do the Tigers buy, trading some of their younger players and prospects for veterans who can play now, or do they sell their veterans to teams willing to give up a premium prospect, even if it will hurt the Tigers 2005 record, and the fruits of the trade may not be apparent until 2007?

One can make a compelling argument for either side. First, buy:

The Tigers need to buy. They have stockpiled enough young pitching talent, and now is the time to use the trump card to get themselves a left-handed hitting bopper. The team has floundered for so long, that if they can even remotely sniff the Wild Card, Dave Dombrowski needs to do everything in his power to ensure the Tigers remain in the race until the end of the season. It generates interest, it shows the fans a commitment to winning, and it builds momentum toward next year. Of course, a fill-in vet won't work, we already have that in Rondell White. To buy means to buy, picking up a player that another team doesn't think it can sign long-term, but a player clearly in the prime of his career. Preferably a corner outfilder with power. If we wanted to go the pitching rout, A. J. Burnett has been talked about. I'd be cool with him, but he doesn't solve the lack of left-handed hitting power. I'm not sure who to add, but I will say buying only works if we take guys who will stay for 4-5 years and remain at the top of their game.


Sure, the Tigers have made it back to respectability. There is only one problem. Look at their roster. It is stacked with average players. Up and down their lineup are solid players -- players who are solidly average and really show no signs of breakout. They are what they are, and that is why this team hovers around the .500 mark throughout the season. They need great players, and can only get them by fleecing a desperate team. We have quality major leaguers on the roster: Rondell White, Dimitri Young, Craig Monroe, Jason Johnson, Troy Percival. Each of the named players can attract a top-tier prospect from a team desperate to make the playoffs (can you say Cubs? or Giants?). Use the trade dealine to sell one last time, and the Tigers won't have to worry about being sellers or the cellar for a long time!

Stand pat! What was that, you say? Stand pat? Yeah, let's go with the horses we have, let the season play itself out. By the end of the year, we'll know what type of team we have, and then Dombrowski and his brain trust can use the off-season to make thoughtful trades, and use the increased payroll flexibility (bye bye Bobby) to go get those dynamic players that the team currently lacks. It's a thought. It's not sexy, but it just might be the right approach.

The more I think about it, standing pat is the safest way to go. I just believe that the time for being conservative is over. It's time to be bold, for Dave Dombrowski to pull one out of Kenny Holland's book, and go get that championship. We've waited too long, and the future is now. Do it.


It's not easy being the next great thing, especially when you are 21-22 years old, in your 3rd year in the Bigs and being asked to lead a storied franchise back to prominence after nearly 2 decades of being moribund. An entire generation has been raised assuming the Tigers are the laughingstock of baseball, a "small market" team that cannot compete in the new age of corporate ownership.

Jeremy Bonderman is supposed to be the poster child of the new regime. And by all accounts, he will live up to the hype. Unfortunately, we have to watch the growing pains, and like a parent that sometimes has to watch their child fall and learn to dust him or herself off, we watch JB struggle. He showed a streak of brilliance tonight, but wasn't able to sustain it for a long enough period against a lineup he should dominate. His line: 6 IP, 8 H, 6ER. Not very good for our ace, especially (1) against a bad team, (2) at home, (3) coming off the momentum of the all star break and (4) when he had a chance to show baseball he was snubbed.

His stats for the reason are still impressive for someone at his stage of development. 11-6, 4.23 ERA, 102:36 SO:BB, .255 BAA. However, it would have been nice to see him take it to the next level. We fans are begging him to accelerate his growth curve. But we may have to be patient and content with the fits and starts, knowing that next year will be his true breakout season, and when he does, it will be our year to shine.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Pick 3 (or why I love sports radio)

My last few entries have been quite long, so here are a few brief thoughts.

I love Pick 3, the game played by Sean Baligian (It is what it is, 9-12 daily on WDFN 1130 AM). I get to test myself against the clock, against other loyal listeners of the DFN audience, and increase my short-term memory (a good strategy to foil aging). I recently sat down and tried to list out all the answers of previous pick 3 questions without the aid of the internet and without the limits of a timer. Mssportspsychbabe thinks I have a little bit of John Nash going on, but it works for me. Typical questions asked by Sean include: (1) Pick 3 champs during a specific calendar year from 1 of the 4 major sports (NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB), (2) Pick 3 (NHL, NBA, NFL, MBL) champs during the (1980's, 1990's, 2000's), (3) Pick 3 Big Ten (teams, bball or football coaches) outside the state of Michigan, (4) Pick 3 mythical college (champs, coaches) during the (1990's, 2000's). These are great questions because they separate the local sports follower from the true sports fan.

One of my pet peeves is listening to sports radio and hearing someone question a basic fact, or say "I have to check on that." If it were up to me, Sean would use Pick 3 as a hiring tool for any sports related job. He would go to Jeannie Zalasko, al michaels (lowercase intended), Tom Looney, the entire station up the dial, all sideline reporters, and people who have jobs that imply sports expertise and have them fill out a timed test of their sports knowledge. Then our airwaves would be left with just a few people who can actually recite who won what when, who played in what all star games, who belongs in the hall (with stats and logic to back it up).

Of course, those with other reasons to be on the air could be given a few provincials, as some talent is not worth wasting...

And on the seventh day, he rested

HOCKEY IS BACK!!! After all the fits and starts, the trips to New York, the mega sessions in Toronto, Trevor Linden getting involved, players demanding a deal get done back around the scheduled all star break, and more recently, several marathon sessions, hockey is finally, finally back. Yes, despite Jeremy Roenick's wishes, we are back, we WILL come to the arena, and we will cheer, boo, and live and die with our hometown heroes.

How do I know it's back. Not because the NHL announced it is back. Not even because of the full page spread in USA Today apologizing to us for taking it away. No, what convinced me that the NHL is back is that our franchise, in Hockeytown, is taking a take-no-prisoners approach to the new era of hockey. Kenny Holland is being as aggressive as he wants his coaching staff and players to be, reaching out and grabbing that Cup, rather than lazily assuming it will be handed to us by other teams. Hockey is back because Lewis is gone, Babcock is in, heavy forechecking is in, the red line is out, shootouts are in, and hopefully Nikoli Khabibulin is in (net) as well. No disrespect to Manny Legace, the greatest backup goaltender ever. Oh, I almost forgot, the Mick is in, and Hatcher is likely out.

Times like these are when Mr. Holland has to prove why he makes the big bucks. Detroit fans are counting on him to maintain our presence as the preeminent franchise in hockey. We have cultivated a reputation here, are claiming to be Hockeytown, and must prove that it is our knowledge of the game (and not just our bigger budget) that has brought us back to prominence. Ken Holland has s short period of time to re-create the Wings in his image, first by separating the eras, identifying players of today (light) from those of yesteryear (night). Now is not the time to be nostalgic. If they can't play on a high level, do not pay them to be on the roster. Next, he must plant saplings, develop young talent. Add some veteran bruisers, and finally, create man (Babcock). Then, and only then, can Kenny rest, satisfied that the team he has formed will have the staying power to compete in the new era NHL.

And the rest of us, the fans that support the team, those who wear the sweater proudly, that look to the Wings as our jewel, our place in the national spotlight, anxiously await the finished product, looking forward to the day that Kenny rests, so that we can rest, knowing, that last night, we sipped again, from Lord Stanley's Cup.

It's a Detroit Thing (or why are we so sensitive to national perception?)

So the All Star Game has come and gone, and by all accounts, it was a huge success. So why are so many Detroiters not happy? Most of the national media gave Detroit relatively rave reviews, and the players themselves acknowledged that the event was well done, and that they had a good time. The problem? Jeannie Zalasko. Apparently, during an on air interview of Hall of Fame broadcast legend Ernie Harwell, she cut him off mid-sentence, saying, "..we could go on and on..." implying that Ernie was a bit loose and tangential, and that we was not really interested in hearing what the great legend (who she probably thought was some goofy old man) had to say.

This was an act that generated outrage in the Detroit community. Our beloved Ernie! One of the few sports icons that Detroiters have that other cities wish they had. One of the few sports icons that puts us on par with the great baseball cities of the country (along with NY's Red Barber, St. Louis' Jack Buck, Chicago's Harry Carry, and L.A.'s Vin Scully). How dare she not treat him with respect. In fact, disrespecting Ernie is a sign she doesn't view him in the same vein as other broadcast legends, and it must be that she doesn't give him the same credit becasue he did his fine HOF work in Detroit! So, Jeannie Zalasko disrespected us.

And back it comes to our thin skin. Whether it's al michaels (no caps intentional), Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno, or Jeannie Zalasko, we as a community get pretty easily offended when we aren't given "our props." I completely understand it; we get our share of negative pub, so when we do something right, or have someone special, we want the national media to recognize it (or him or her). A part of us wants the recognition b/c we would like "a little love" once in awhile. Another part of us wants the positive press b/c the only way to change the perception of Detroit that many unfamiliar with our community seem to have, is for those who are aware of our gems to celebrate them, not walk all over them as Zalasko had done.

This is where patience must be exercised, and thought placed before action and protest. My belief is that one (or in this case, a community) cannot demand respect, but rather over time, one commands respect with one's attitudes, ethics, and behavior. Someone who has developed a well-earned reputation for being boorish, obnoxious, and angry will require a long period of engaging in genuine loving acts of kindness before those around him/her will believe the change is relatively stable. It is not always fair, but that is how we are. We don't want to believe that someone has genuinely changed until we are certain. Perhaps we don't want to be fooled by them. Sometimes we will doubt that person for their entire life. If that person was changing in order to earn our respect, and that respect wan't coming quickly enough, s/he might throw his or her arms up in despair, say, "this isn't worth it," and go back to being boorish and obnoxious. But if that person had a genuine change, and was beginning to recognize the value of being a genuine good person regardless of the notice of others, s/he will be a much happier, satisfied, and fulfilled person knowing the effort that it took to make the change and watching life bear the fruits of that change.

So, too, Detroit. While I agree that we have been, and continue to be, disrespected, much of that is beyond our control. What we can control is to continue to develop as a community, to improve social services, enhance diversity, and make our community one in which people feel safe and welcome. We do it for our sake, and we feel better for it. And perhaps, eventually, others will respect us. However, if we continue to demand respect, others will think we are trying too hard, and they'll continue to step on us.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet

Growing up, marathon oil co. was one of the major sponsors of Tigers games (back when they were heard on the Great Voice of the Great Lakes). They had a jingle in their radio spots implying that Marathon "best in the long run" was as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.

While I never knowingly purchased Marathon oil, it made me think about things that are truly "American." I am not sure I want to devote space to a personal compilation of that list, but I'd like to reflect on something that I think the ad was pulling for: It is seeking to make people nostalgic for yesteryear, a time when life was simple, people were happy, and the world was a safe place. Last night, I had to make an airport run. I tuned the radio to the All-Star game, and Ernie Harwell, the famous great voice of the great voice (see for further discussion of the great voice) was in the booth with the current announcers talking about Detroit. Then for one batter, he took over the mike and called the game. For the length of time that it took for the batter to draw a walk, I was back to being 10 years old, with no worries about food, bills, safety. Ole Ernie, with his southern drawl calling it the only the way he can: "Hernandez checks his sign and peers in at the batta. Outfield playin him straight up, as they often do here at Camerica Paak. He sets and delivas, breaking ball just a little low...almost had him reaching for that one, but the batta checked in time."

I drove while experiencing Nirvana for about 5 minutes. Then the batter walked, Ernie left the booth, and I made it to the airport, where I was awakened from my brief trip back in time by the Sheriff's deputy, who told me I couldn't wait curbside...for security purposes.

It feels good to be a Detroiter

Today is the day after. We have had all-Star festivities for the better part of a week. National media, fans, celebrities, and sports dignitaries from all over came to Detroit. They sampled our food, wine, and women. They came hesitantly, questioned whether Detroit could "put on a show," and openly mocked us as unsophisticated.

I hope they left with a better appreciation of the breadth of our entertainment venues, the diversity of our community, and our knowledge and support of our sports teams. I hope they recognize that fans who booed Kenny Rogers did so out of respect for the game, and not because we are (in the words of Tom Looney from BDSSP), brutes.

I am proud today to say I am a native metro Detroiter. I am proud of my fellow metro Detroiters. We know, even if we never get national respect (or if it comes grudgingly), that we are the greatest sports town in America (so says Page 2's Jason Whitlock). Yes, blue collar Detroit is the greatest, and that is because we celebrate the Travis's of the world and not just the Ted Williams's (for the uninformed, read about who broke up a potential game ending DP to allow Williams to come to bat to hit the game-winning HR) .

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Welcome to detroit, national fans

Author note: Some of the companies listed below are not actually responsible for sponsoring what is listed. I exaggerate for effect.

Today is the John Hancock All-Star Game brought to you by Mastercard. The Budweiser first pitch will be thrown by Billy Bob Thornton, manager of the Bad News Bears presented by Disney. The official photograph of that pitch is brought to you by Kodak, while the official poster is presented by Fuji.

Honorary captains include Al Kaline presented by alkaline and Ernie Banks presented by MBNA. The Taco Bell seventh inning stretch will include a performance of God Bless America sung by Detroit's very own Winans brothers, presented by Sony Music.

The saturation of ads in the game, as well as the blurring of lines between sports and entertainment, is so over the top, that it is no longer news to write about it. I guess my thought today is that I've come to accept all the advertising and the fake authenticity of product placement and product endorsement. What has begun to unnerve me as a sports fan is how these cynical thoughts creep into my head where I can no longer trust the authenticity of the sport performance outcome. I'm not talking about steroids or other forms of cheating. That is a forum for another day. I speak today of the conspiracy. It used to be an NBA thing, but now seems to seep into every discussion when an event plays out in such a Hollywood-esque manner, that one is convinced that it is contrived. Back in '88, who would imagine that Gibby's HR (I still don't believe what I just saw) was staged? Today, though, there is a different vibe. Athletes with rap albums, rappers as agents, footballers wanting to play hoops. These days, it seems that nearly everything is staged. It's about buzz, controversy, getting your name/product/movie/brand identity out here in a crowded and oversaturated market. The last few days have been no different. Pudge making it to the final of the Home Run Derby? Bobby Abreau setting home run records at Comerica Park? An Oscar style red carpet show brought to you by Chevrolet? Now, I love my Chevy, especially the Vette, but when I think of red carpet, Chevrolet is not the first thing that comes to mind.

Tonight, I am going to sit back in my couch by La-Z-Boy, drink Nestea, and most importantly, eat lots of Rold Gold pretzels. Perhaps the game will remind me of my youth. Ah nostalgia (brought to you by Ballantine).

Oh, I almost forgot: My post is brought to you by the great people at Blogger, who have given a voice to the people.

Monday, July 11, 2005

So this is hello

Beginnings are so difficult, so I will start with a few thoughts:

1. This blog has been many years in the making, harmonizing my passion for psychology, sports, and Detroit into a single forum. For many people, this may be a weird combination, one that produces jarring noises, and must be left alone. For others, this may be a fun, entertaining, insightful, and empowering place to be.

2. The rules of my blog are simple: Opinions are encouraged, but respectful discourse is required. Self-examination as it relates to why someone would have a specific opinion of a sports figure (why do I think Jack Morris should be in the hall?) is always a plus. Bigotry, hatred, and discriminatory views are unacceptable (yes, I know that makes me, ironically, discriminatory).

3. I will occasionally reference facts and incidents from long ago (a disorder known as Stanthrax), and will very often reference other sports web sites, local talk radio, and psychological phenomena. I intend to model myself more after John Feinstein than Russ Salzberg, but admit up front that I am no John Feinstein.