Archive for June, 2011
Ordinarily I don’t allow myself to get caught up in the private lives of celebrities. It’s all I can do to manage my own private life.
But there is something fascinating, to me, about the schism between actor Ryan O’Neal and his daughter, Tatum, which is now being played out on a reality show called “The O’Neals” on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network.
The two of them each had their chance to state their case on recent, separate episodes of Piers Morgan’s show on CNN.
Tatum, who has a new book out, contends that her father is the root of many of her problems, like that of her drug addiction struggle. Ryan, for his part, says that Tatum never fully accepted his relationship with Farrah Fawcett, and that’s when father and daughter drifted apart.
“She made my life—and Griffin’s—very difficult,” Ryan O’Neal told Morgan, also referring to Tatum’s brother.
What captivates me about the O’Neals struggles is that they are, to me, genuine—which isn’t always the case with reality TV, a genre that often blurs the line between fact and made-for-TV fiction.
But this isn’t a made-for-TV estrangement; it’s been going on for decades.
Ryan maintains he was a single parent and a damn good one, helping Tatum forge an acting career and exposing her to a world of culture and the arts.
Tatum says he also exposed her to drugs—or, at the very least, he wasn’t exactly vigilant in keeping them away from her.
The father-daughter dynamic in this instance seems, on the one hand, to be broken—or at least damaged beyond full repair.
So why care?
Ryan O’Neal told Piers Morgan that if “The O’Neals” can help even one family examine their relationships, then the show is a success.
Ryan got emotional when the subject of his alleged “hitting” on Tatum at Farrah Fawcett’s funeral was brought up.
The story goes—and it wasn’t exactly denied by Tatum on Morgan’s show—that Ryan O’Neal, not recognizing his daughter after many years of alienation, took the opportunity of seeing this blonde at the funeral home to ask her for a drink afterward.
The woman revealed herself to be Tatum.
Ryan O’Neal vehemently denied that version.
First, they had seen each other not long before the funeral. Second, Ryan told Morgan, when Tatum was a youngster, father and daughter would pretend to be a couple at a lavish party. Ryan would ask her, “You want a drink? You want a dance?” as part of the innocent roleplaying.
At Farrah’s funeral, Ryan says he saw Tatum and, to break the ice, launched into the “You want a drink? You want a dance?” routine.
His voice quaking, lips trembling, Ryan asked Morgan, “Why throw your dad under the bus like that? Why portray him like that?”
As with any estrangement, both sides are to blame, and there are two sides to every story. Tatum was on Morgan’s show first, and after watching Ryan’s turn, it was impossible not to look sideways at Tatum’s version.
But Ryan could have handled things better. He could have done a better job assuring his daughter that she was not being replaced by Farrah, and that his love for Farrah was a different love than that of his daughter.
Ryan O’Neal’s acting career stalled out after films like “What’s Up, Doc?” Tatum told Morgan she has her own theories as to why that is. When asked to reveal them, she clammed up.
Ryan, on his acting career: “I was OK. I wasn’t great.”
I haven’t watched “The O’Neals.” I likely never will, because the two interviews on Piers Morgan’s show were satisfying enough.
I guess I still don’t trust reality shows, as much as I think the O’Neals have real issues that long pre-dated their show on OWN.
I wish them well.
Last week: 3-3
This week: TOR (6/27); NYM (6/28-30); SF (7/1-3)
So, What Happened?
First, MMM apologizes for the brevity of this week’s edition, as real life reared its head today. So this week’s MMM will be short and sweet!
The Tigers are a first place-by-themselves team today after a 3-3 week in which the Cleveland Indians continued to struggle.
The highlight was Sunday, when the Tigers rallied for seven runs in the eighth inning to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 8-3, on the same day the Tigers retired Sparky Anderson’s number. The Tigers clawed back to win the series after blowing Friday night’s contest.
3B Brandon Inge returned from the DL and RHP Ryan Perry was recalled from Toledo. IF Danny Worth and LHP Adam Wilk were dispatched to the Ohio town to make room for Inge and Perry.
Hero of the Week
Quite a menu this week.
Jhonny Peralta continues to mash. Justin Verlander continued to deal. Miguel Cabrera continues to gather clutch hits. Al Alburquerque continues to strike everybody out.
MMM, for the second week in a row, is going with Verlander, who is as good as any pitcher today, and who has been as good as any pitcher the Tigers have had in the past 40+ years.
JV vexed the D-Backs Saturday night, a day after Arizona rallied from a 4-0 deficit to nip the Tigers, 7-6. The “you gotta be kidding me” moment was in the eighth, when Verlander faced a no-out, runners on second and third scenario.
No worries; JV struck out the side as the Comerica Park crowd of 41,000+ roared its approval. That was some good stuff.
Verlander is 6-0 with an ERA of under 1.00 in his last six starts. The man is a freak.
And he’s also MMM’s HotW.
Honorable mention goes to Miguel Cabrera, whose clutch, two-out, bases loaded single plated the go-ahead runs Sunday in the eighth inning on a day where it looked like the Tigers might lose, 2-1.
Goat of the Week
Ryan Raburn continues to frustrate MMM with his sorry impersonation of a big league ballplayer. Strikeouts, suspect defense and an overall, season-long malaise is testing MMM’s patience.
In a week where most in the lineup contributed, Raburn stuck out like a sore thumb, as usual, with his limp noodle of a bat.
RR isn’t doing anything spectacular defensively to make up for it, either.
Under the Microscope
Who else could be UtM than 3B Brandon Inge, fresh off a bout with mono and a 28 at-bat rehab stint at Toledo?
Manager Jim Leyland got very testy before Friday’s game when he was asked about Don Kelly’s fate in the wake of Inge’s return. For his part, Inge told the press that he doesn’t feel like he should lose his job to injury.
All of which, naturally, got sports talk radio aflutter with phone calls and heated discussion about Inge’s place in the lineup—or whether he should have one at all.
Upcoming: Jays, Mets and Giants
Interleague play takes a pause as the Tigers play a makeup game with the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.
It’s Max Scherzer on Monday, gunning for his 10th win, despite an elevated ERA.
Then it’s back to the NL teams when the Mets and Giants visit, as the Tigers’ 10-game homestand wraps up.
The Mets feature Jose Reyes, whose name has been bantied about by Tigers fans as someone who should be pursued to shore up second base. Reyes is a free agent at the end of this year.
The defending World Champion Giants invade this weekend, but word is the Tigers will miss RHP Tim Lincecum. Oh, what a shame!
That’s all for this week’s MMM! Sorry for the brevity. See you next week!
Posthumously is an empty word, full of regret. It’s a parade rained on; a celebration muted.
Someone’s being honored in death, and so often the death wasn’t too long prior to the honoring.
Sometimes the posthumous honor can’t be helped. Roberto Clemente and Lou Gehrig, two of the youngest Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, come to mind. Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates died on New Year’s Eve, 1972, traveling on a doomed plane, trying to bring relief to some earthquake victims. Clemente was 38. The New York Yankees’ Gehrig succumbed to the neuromuscular disease that would bear his name at age 37.
It couldn’t be avoided, to pay homage to Clemente and Gehrig after they were taken from us.
This Sunday, the Tigers are going to hold a pre-game ceremony and the stories will flow and so will the tears and then the jersey will be retired and the whole thing will have an air of sadness about it—because the honoree won’t be there to see it.
The Tigers are going to do the right thing the wrong way, when they retire Sparky Anderson’s no. 11 on Sunday before the game with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
It was by design, of course, that the D-Backs are the team in town for this occasion, because their manager is Kirk Gibson and their bench coach is Alan Trammell, two Tigers heroes of the past who were touched deeply by Sparky, and who are influenced by him to this day.
But this is all wrong. This is closing the barn door after the horses are out. The Tigers had years to put Sparky’s number out of commission and they failed to do so. The reasoning isn’t very tasteful.
Actually, there’s something else wrong with this whole thing. The Tigers should be honoring two men on Sunday: Sparky and Bill Freehan, the old catcher who was no. 11 before Sparky and whose wearing of that number has seemingly been erased from the fans’ memory banks.
Freehan was, simply, the best catcher in the American League for most of the 1960s and maybe the best catcher in Tigers history—though Mickey Cochrane supporters would have something to say about that.
Freehan, a local kid who went to the University of Michigan, wore no. 11 from 1963-76 and was one of the greatest of Tigers. He was a class act who stayed with the team after retirement to instruct the young catchers in spring training and then only left to coach Michigan baseball. Freehan stayed true to both his baseball wives.
But Sunday is Sparky’s day, which means Freehan won’t ever get his due. Neither will Sparky, if you want to know the truth.
The Tigers blew this one. They had a big lead and frittered it all away. It was a choke job, perpetrated by one man—owner Mike Ilitch.
Ilitch hasn’t made too many PR blunders in his 29 years owning the Red Wings and 19 years owning the Tigers. His commitment to Detroit and his generosity to his players have been above and beyond the call of duty.
Except when it comes to Sparky Anderson, who died last November after a brief battle with dementia. This is where Mike Ilitch has shamelessly put personal vendetta ahead of his stewardship of the Tigers franchise.
The relationship between Ilitch and Sparky got off to a rocky start and didn’t get much better. It all started when Ilitch, as part of his agreement to buy the Tigers in 1992, had outgoing owner Tom Monaghan fire two of Sparky’s close friends—team executives Jim Campbell and Bo Schembechler.
Sparky, in his book They Call Me Sparky, said that things changed after Ilitch bought the Tigers and Campbell and Schembechler were canned. Nothing too shocking there; Sparky was hired by Campbell in 1979 and in the two years that Bo was the Tigers president, he and the skipper bonded fast. So no wonder things changed when Ilitch took over and brought in his own people.
It got worse in spring training, 1995, when Sparky publicly and vehemently refused to manage the replacement players who the owners were considering suiting up in the throes of the 1994-95 players strike.
Sparky dug his heels in and Ilitch didn’t care for that one bit. 1995 was Sparky’s last season managing the Tigers, and he couldn’t get out of town fast enough. When Anderson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, he infamously chose to be chiseled onto his plaque wearing a Cincinnati Reds cap.
Sparky managed the Reds from 1970-78—just a little more than half the time he spent piloting the Tigers (1979-95). Yet Sparky chose to be immortalized in bronze wearing the Cincinnati “C” instead of the Old English D. Speculation as to why, leads to no unsurprising theories.
Sparky could have handled things better, too, I’m sure. It’s a new owner’s prerogative to retain or dismiss staff from the previous reign. Sparky should have been more tolerant of Ilitch’s discretion.
But Ilitch is the owner and thus has way more influence over what does and doesn’t get done when it comes to who the Tigers choose to commemorate.
Sparky stopped being Sparky, those close to him say, about two years ago. He’d still show up to baseball events but he wasn’t all there. It was evident during the 25th anniversary celebration of the 1984 World Series team.
Before that—long before—Mike Ilitch had his shot at retiring Sparky’s no. 11 but chose not to take it.
Now, only after Anderson’s death, are the Tigers getting around to doing the right thing.
Gibson was quoted in Friday’s Detroit Free Press.
“I’ll just tell you this,” Gibby said. “The thing I’m going to least like about (the number retirement) is that (Sparky’s) not there. That’s going to be the toughest part for me.”
It’s going to be the toughest part for everyone—from Sparky’s widow Carol, who expressed similar sentiments shortly after the ceremony was first announced, to the old Tigers players who plan on showing up, to the fans.
Here’s something telling: the Tigers actually released a statement on Friday that said Ilitch would appear in person and on the field on Sunday to help retire Sparky’s number.
The Tigers needed to issue a statement to confirm something that should be a no-brainer?
The reason is simple. The statement was indirect acknowledgement that Ilitch’s past grudge still haunts him, and the Tigers, to this day—or else the statement wouldn’t be necessary.
They’re going to put no. 11 into moth balls for good on Sunday. With apologies to Dickens, it will be the best of times, and it will be the worst of times.
That’s what happens when you do these things posthumously—especially when it didn’t have to be this way.
If you’re scoring at home, the play is E-owner.
Peter Falk put on a trench coat and burrowed his way into our TV-watching psyche forever.
Falk was TV’s “Columbo”, but that was hardly the ceiling of his talents. Yet it was undoubtedly his most famous role in a career that wasn’t too shabby for a guy with less-than-classic good looks, one good eye, and a raspy voice.
Falk passed away yesterday at age 83, having suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease.
His brilliance in the role of police Lt. Columbo was that Falk didn’t need the typical weapons other cops were using on television, to solve crimes. Columbo didn’t need a gun—in fact, he never even carried one—he only needed his brain.
“Columbo” wasn’t really a whodunnit, because within the first few minutes of every episode, we already knew who the perp was. The rest of the hour was spent watching Falk peck away at the bad guy’s alibi until it resembled Swiss cheese.
Columbo did it all in a disarming—literally—fashion. He was a genuinely likeable fellow who came off, at first blush, as dundering and forgetful. But in reality he was whip smart and a crime-solving genius.
Falk’s trademark, “Oh, one more thing,” (or something similar) as he was about to leave the bad guy’s presence, only to ask another question that invariably caused the suspect’s knees to buckle, was one of the show’s constants. You just never knew when it was going to occur.
But Falk was more than Columbo. He was a gifted actor whose turn in comedies like “The In-Laws” with Alan Arkin showed Falk’s flair for comedic timing and sense of irony. Rent “The In-Laws” if you want to laugh out loud for two hours.
Falk was a New Yorker, born and bred. He had a glass eye (his right eye was surgically removed at age three) and it was after a failed screen test at Columbia Pictures that studio boss Harry Cohn told Falk, “for the same price I can get an actor with two eyes.”
The turning point for Falk came in 1960, when he was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as a crime boss in “Murder, Inc.” Later in the decade, Falk aligned himself with friend John Cassavetes and made some good movies like “Husbands” and “A Woman Under the Influence.”
Then came “Columbo” in the early-1970s, and Falk became indelibly marked in the public’s consciousness.
Falk was also an artist, a good chess player, and a huge fan of the NBA’s New York Knicks.
It was said that Falk had slipped so badly into dementia that he could no longer remember the character of Lt. Columbo.
How ironic, because we’ll never forget it.
Excuse me, but who does Jim Riggleman think he is?
I mean, besides a career long loser in the dugout who decided to use an 11-1 stretch to blackmail his employer?
Riggleman resigned from the Washington Nationals yesterday, abruptly, not long after his team swept the Seattle Mariners to cap an 11-1 run that has put the Nats above .500 for the first time in June in a long time.
His cockeyed reason? Because the Nationals wouldn’t exercise, on the spot and at his demand, a one-year option to retain him for 2012.
Riggleman told Nats GM Mike Rizzo that if Rizzo didn’t exercise the option, then the Nationals could go looking for another manager, forthwith.
Rizzo balked—I don’t blame him—and Riggleman walked.
Riggleman was making $600,000 as the major league’s lowest-paid manager. The 2012 option also called for a $600K salary.
It was a shameful power play attempted by Riggleman, right when the Nationals were tasting some success that had players and fans excited about the Nats’ chances to contend for a Wild Card.
The Nationals haven’t been so much as .500 at the end of a season since they were 81-81 in 2005.
The Nationals certainly were at no obligation to rubber stamp Riggleman’s option at this time, or at any time, frankly, between now and the end of the season.
Rizzo, for his part, said it was too early to make a decision on Riggleman’s fate.
Riggleman is a career loser. He’s tasted very little success outside of his playoff appearance guiding the 1998 Cubs. Yet he put a gun to Mike Rizzo’s head.
Who’s going to hire Riggleman now, after such a stunt? It’s not like the guy has a resume that would cause another GM to overlook this little indiscretion.
Here’s Riggleman explaining himself, according to wire services.
“I know I’m not Casey Stengel, but I feel like I know what I’m doing. It’s not a situation where I felt like I should continue on such a short lease.”
Guess what, Jim? That’s the contract situation, like it or not.
Funny how Riggleman didn’t run to Rizzo while the Nats were 27-36, isn’t it?
It was the ultimate selfish act by Riggleman, to quit on his team in the interest of what’s good for HIM. He seized on the first success the team had under his watch—he took over for Manny Acta in 2009—and tried to force his boss’s hand.
Riggleman may have cut off his nose to spite his face. I can’t see him ever getting another big league managing job after this stunt.
“I wanted a conversation when we got to Chicago,” Riggleman said, referring to the team’s next stop to play the White Sox. “Mike said we’re not going to do it.”
That’s because Mike doesn’t have to do it, Jim.
Why Jim Riggleman feels he’s entitled, in June 2011, to his $600,000 for 2012, is beyond me. There’s 87 games to be played this season. Rizzo was right in exercising caution, instead of Riggleman’s option.
Meanwhile, Riggleman can take his a-billion-games-under-.500 career record and stew all he wants, at home.
Dave Bing can’t hold the ball, turn to the ref and call timeout. He can’t gather his cohorts in a 100-second huddle at courtside, whip out a clipboard and design a play to get himself out of the mess he’s in.
Bing hasn’t been in the middle of an NBA huddle since 1978, when he retired from the Boston Celtics. But he’s still in a business filled with trash talking.
Bing, the mayor of Detroit, holds a job where the primary focus, always, is to battle the enemy from within. There are never any outside forces involved, really, when it comes to what ails Detroit. The city handles that department just fine, thank you.
I stumped for Bing to be Detroit’s mayor. I felt he was the city’s best shot—no pun intended—among those who would actually consider the job to begin with. There are several folks who would likely be better, but they either have too much sense or too low a threshold for pain.
So that left Bing, and what’s happened recently at City Hall surprises me.
His staff is a mess. In Bing’s NBA days, turnover was a dirty word, and it’s even dirtier now, with people who can’t beat it out of the mayor’s administration fast enough.
Another strong-willed female mayoral staffer has been at the center of discussion lately—just as one was during Kwame Kilpatrick’s tenure.
Karen Dumas, the mayor’s close confidante and holder of the title of Communications Director, resigned last week. This after a furor in which she was portrayed in a whistleblower suit as being a power hungry, well—you know. It rhymes with rich.
But Dumas was no Christine Beatty, Kilpatrick’s chief of staff. Dumas didn’t sleep with her boss, number one. At least, we don’t think so.
Bing: Last one out of the administration, turn off the lights!
Beatty was able to exert influence simply by flirting via text and making googly eyes at Kilpatrick. The ex-mayor, no small man, was reduced to pushover—like many men.
Bing was run roughshod over by Dumas, the suit alleges—culminating in a missed meeting with U.S. Senator Carl Levin so Dumas could instead go power shopping.
Dumas was just one of many who have packed their boxes and vacated their offices in recent days, as Bing desperately tries to fix a city without having to also worry about replenishing his staff.
The job of mayor of Detroit is hard enough, when things are going swimmingly among the ranks, without introducing mutiny to the mix.
Bing has been described by some insiders as lacking diplomatic skills and being more hands off than some would prefer. Too often, those people said, Bing would defer to his underlings in matters that he should be handling himself.
I don’t know if that’s true or not.
What I do know is that Dave Bing is spending too much precious time swatting at flies in his office than hunting for bear in the city proper.
Can’t blame that on the outsiders.
Last week: 4-3
This week: at LAD (6/20-22); ARZ (6/24-26)
So, What Happened?
The Tigers tied for first place, took first place over by themselves, tied for first again, and then slipped into second place—all within a matter of days. Just another roller coaster week in what has been a roller coaster season.
Oh, and Justin Verlander went 2-0, with two CGs and dominant in both instances. Just another week for JV, too.
Those rumblings you hear, by the way, are the Minnesota Twins.
Hero of the Week
MMM is almost sheepish to name Justin Verlander as HotW, because it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. But MMM has to give credit where credit is due.
JV, as mentioned above, tossed two CGs—against the Indians and the Rockies—and both games were crucial to the Tigers. On Tuesday, Verlander lifted the Tigers into first place with a gem in which he didn’t allow a hit until the eighth inning. On Sunday, Verlander mesmerized the Rockies, snapping a two-game Tigers losing streak and nipping any nonsense in the bud.
Verlander is in a zone that hasn’t been seen by a Tigers pitcher since the days of Lolich and McLain. Even Jack Morris wasn’t this dominant for this long of a stretch.
Honorable mention goes to Alex Avila, who had another solid week and who is stirring All-Star talk and looking more and more like the Tigers catcher for the next 10 years. AA does a great job driving in runners from third base with less than two out; his 71% success rate is 16 points higher than the MLB average.
Goat of the Week
Rick Porcello didn’t give the Tigers a chance to win Friday’s game in Colorado, the day after the team reclaimed first place from the Indians. The bullpen didn’t help, either. But Porcello gets the “honor” for laying an egg at a time when he looked to be finding his groove.
This might seem like an unfair GotW, but MMM isn’t always interested in justice!
Porcello must bounce back on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Under the Microscope
It’s only been a week, but how can MMM NOT put Magglio Ordonez UtM?
It’s only natural, although MMM has been a faithful and strong Maggs supporter.
It’s natural because now that Ordonez is back from his extended stay on the DL due to his bad ankle, prying eyes will be on him.
He came back last week to mixed reviews—hitting the baseball hard a few times and not getting rewarded, but also looking slow and old on occasion.
It’s too early to tell what, if anything, Maggs can give the Tigers at age 37.
But that won’t stop people from voicing their premature opinions. Just listen to sports talk radio if you don’t believe MMM.
With no other serious concerns aside from the much-maligned Ryan Raburn, Magglio Ordonez is squarely UtM for this week, and beyond.
Upcoming: Dodgers and Diamondbacks
Interleague play continues as the Tigers venture to Chavez Ravine to take on the LA Dodgers Monday thru Wednesday.
Yes, the Tigers visited the Dodgers last year, too. And yes, the Tigers entertained the Arizona D-Backs—their other opponent this week—last season as well. How can the IL schedule be so repetitive?
Regardless, the Dodgers have been a mess—on and off the diamond. They’re going through a nasty divorce with owner Frank McCourt, who’s dragged the good Dodgers name through the mud.
On the field, the Dodgers are still chasing .500 more than they are first place. Yet they have Matt Kemp, and he’s a beast.
Kemp has 20 homers, 57 RBI, and is batting .328. His partner in crime, Andre Ethier, has been in a power drought, but is still batting .313. A pleasant surprise has been SS Jamey Carroll, who’s batting .308, but he only has eight RBI for the season.
Lefty Clayton Kershaw starts Monday. He’s 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA and he averages about 9.5 Ks per nine innings. Kershaw is only 23 years old and is a rising pitching star.
Over the weekend some old pals return to Detroit—Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell. Gibby manages the Diamondbacks, and Tram is his bench coach. Gibson has the D-Backs playing surprisingly good baseball, battling for first place in the NL West behind clutch hitting and solid pitching.
Look out for OF Justin Upton, who’s batting .302 with 12 HR and 13 SB.
Righty Ian Kennedy, 26, is 8-2 and is scheduled to start on Sunday—the same day the Tigers take advantage of Gibson and Trammell’s presence to retire Sparky Anderson’s no. 11.
Kennedy leads a D-Backs rotation that features three starters with ERAs of 3.56 or lower: Kennedy (2.98); Josh Collmenter (2.09); and Daniel Hudson (3.56).
But the biggest variable is Gibson, who took over last July from A.J. Hinch, commandeering a volatile situation and seizing the opportunity—being rewarded with a new contract after the season. In 2011, Gibby’s bunch has been one of baseball’s biggest surprises.
But those who know and who have followed Gibson maybe shouldn’t be so surprised.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!
For the third time in the past four summers, the Detroit Pistons’ Joe Dumars is looking for a new basketball coach. It’s a search that is becoming so frequent in its repetitiveness, you don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or yawn.
Dumars, the Pistons president, has been unshackled now that the sale of the team has officially been finalized. For nearly two years, while the Pistons were on the block, Dumars says he was reduced to helpless bystander status while Rome burned around him.
As Pistons players mutinied against coach John Kuester, who was himself shackled—to a roster that was the antidote to winning—Dumars says he could only watch, unable to do anything brazen or bold, thanks to the pending sale.
Dumars confirmed this at the press conference introducing new owner Tom Gores. Personnel moves of any significance were placed on hold. Kuester never had a chance, coaching the prima donnas and stiffs that Dumars had provided.
Kuester is gone, but the prima donnas and stiffs remain.
Three coaching searches in four summers. Sooner or later, a cockeye has to be turned to the guy doing all the searching.
The next hire is likely to be another yawn inducer.
The candidates have been identified, parroted by newspapers and websites so much that their identity surely must be accurate.
The names don’t exactly inspire any Pistons jingoism.
Former college coach Kelvin Sampson, supposedly the front runner, is an NBA assistant coach with three years experience, all with the ho-hum Milwaukee Bucks. The extent of his experience in the NBA is that, period. He never played in the league, never coached in it as the head man.
Yet Sampson is the front runner.
Lawrence Frank—what do they say about never trusting a man with two first names?—is another who has been interviewed, according to those all-knowing sources.
Frank, at least, does have NBA head coaching experience, with the New Jersey Nets. But Frank never did anything spectacular with the Nets, and was fired after a 0-16 start to the 2009-10 season.
Mike Woodson is definitely in the mix, those sources say. Woodson was an assistant with the Pistons in 2004 under Larry Brown, the year of the franchise’s last NBA championship. Woodson, too, has been a head coach in the NBA, with the Atlanta Hawks.
Woodson’s first Hawks team won 13 games, but then they steadily improved to playoff status.
It should be noted that Kuester, too, was an assistant on that 2004 Pistons team. Despite Woodson’s OK tenure in Atlanta, it floors me that Dumars would even go there—to the 2004 assistant coaching well—again.
Dwane Casey has been mentioned as another who Dumars has either already spoken to, or will shortly. Casey is another former NBA head coach (Minnesota) who is now an assistant with the new champions, the Dallas Mavericks.
Casey might be a fine coach, but I’m fighting back a yawn just writing about him.
But finally, an intriguing candidate who you don’t dare yawn at—former Pistons Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer, currently an assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves. But Laimbeer’s candidacy seems perfunctory, and his interview (it’s supposed to be next week) has a bunch of courtesy to it.
The Pistons don’t excite. They don’t get anyone’s basketball juices flowing in this town. The empty seats nightly at The Palace for the past two years, where you once couldn’t get a ticket without doing so illegally, confirms that.
It’s a team bereft of star power and filled with unlikable characters, with an attitude that is the polar opposite of what blue-collar Detroit sports fans are all about.
The next coach must want to be an NBA head coach awfully badly to even consider leading this dysfunctional bunch.
But Dumars is headed for another yawner. Laimbeer, the only one among the candidates who’d re-pique interest in Pistons basketball, doesn’t have a prayer of landing the job. My opinion.
Dumars hired overmatched assistant Michael Curry in 2008, with nary a look elsewhere. Curry’s one year on the Pistons bench was all that Dumars needed to assess the former’s coaching skills.
In 2009, Dumars wanted Doug Collins, but Collins was put off by the revolving coach’s door at The Palace.
Dumars then set his sights on Avery Johnson, but Johnson quickly realized the Pistons needed him a whole lot more than he needed the Pistons, and so Johnson’s salary demands reflected that. Dumars flew home from Texas after meeting with Johnson, coach-less and twice rejected.
Enter Kuester, propped up as the offensive whiz that was behind the curtain with the championship-contending Cleveland Cavaliers. To hear some talk, you’d have thought LeBron James was taught everything he knew about basketball by John Kuester’s brilliant offensive mind.
Kuester, though, was Dumars’s third choice, and the results were not unexpected.
In the interest of full disclosure, Chuck Daly was Jack McCloskey’s third choice—at least—when Daly was hired in 1983. But Daly had decades of basketball coaching under his Gucci belt, unlike Kuester.
Whoever Dumars chooses as his next coach, that individual won’t do much for the casual basketball fan in Detroit. Neither Sampson, Frank, Woodson nor Casey is going to spur new season ticket sales.
The next Pistons coach isn’t going to be the one to lead them to the franchise’s fourth championship. The Pistons are too far away from contention for that to happen with this next fellow.
The Pistons almost need to go for style over substance with this next coaching hire. The roster, as it is now, isn’t going to make anyone get the chills, unless they’re symptomatic of the flu.
The man the Pistons should hire, but won’t, is someone they’re not even considering: Isiah Lord Thomas.
Thomas knows what being a Piston is all about. He’s been a train wreck after his playing career, but that’s been as an executive. As a coach, with the Indiana Pacers, Isiah did OK.
Thomas could work with disjointed guard Rodney Stuckey, to whom the team just tendered a contract, making Stuckey a restricted free agent.
It’s one thing to not listen to Kuester, as Stuckey was prone to do. It’s quite another to not listen to a Hall of Famer who essentially played your position.
Hiring Thomas would sell some season tickets. It would be a splash for the new ownership, and it would buy Dumars some time so he can assemble a proper NBA roster.
The hiring would have to be preceded by a heart-to-heart between the former Pistons backcourt mates, mainly to delineate boundaries between Thomas, who can be power hungry, and Dumars’s authority.
Thomas was asked by the media in April about his thoughts of coaching the Pistons.
“It would be an honor,” Thomas told them.
Yet none of this is going to happen. Dumars told the media that he wouldn’t even consider Thomas so as not to risk their friendship.
That’s chicken-excrement management.
Sometimes the job of the sports columnist isn’t to only write about what did happen, what is happening, or what might happen. Sometimes it’s to write about that which will never happen.
(note: the following is a guest column by my friend and colleague Dan Holmes, who is a frequent contributor to the Detroit Athletic Co. blog and a very knowledgeable Detroit sports historian)
By Dan Holmes
There has never been another player in the history of baseball like Denny McLain, he was truly one of a kind. He marched to the beat of his own drum. As teammate Bill Freehan said, “The rules for Denny just don’t seem to be the same as for the rest of us.”
McLain made his mark in baseball history for what he did both on and off the field, eventually earning a suspension from the game for shady relationships with known mobsters and gamblers. But on the diamond he was a gifted pitcher, winning consecutive Cy Young Awards and an MVP Award in 1968. That season, when the Detroit Tigers won the World Series, McLain won an incredible 31 games. No pitcher since has reached the 30-win plateau and no pitcher is ever likely to do so again unless a major change occurs in baseball.
In 1968, the 24-year old McLain started every four days with three days of rest in between. McLain started 41 games that season, with Detroit manager Mayo Smith utilizing three other starters and a spot fifth starter when needed. The four-man rotation was used by every team in baseball in the 1960s and into the early 1970s, as well. It wasn’t until the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1971 that the five-man rotation emerged and within a few years it was commonplace in the major leagues.
The reason the Dodgers made the switch to a five-man rotation was not to preserve the arms of their pitchers, by the way. It was because they had five quality starters on their roster. In Don Sutton, Claude Osteen, Bill Singer, Tommy John, and Al Downing, the Dodgers were pitching rich. Their farm system would continue to crank out solid pitchers for the next decade and a half, and with teams like the Baltimore Orioles doing the same, the five-man rotation soon was the default. Only a handful of managers, like Chuck Tanner and Billy Martin clung to the four-man rotation for a few years.
In a four-man rotation a pitcher will start 40-41 games. In a five-man rotation, pitchers will start 32-33 games. At the very most an ace pitcher will get 34-35 starts each year in a five-man rotation if his manager skips the #5 starter when an off-day allows him to. Greg Maddux, who pitched his entire career in the era of the five-man rotation, never started more than 37 games, and usually got between 32-24 starts. Roger Clemens’ career high was 36 starts, and Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, both considered workhorses, never started more than 35 games. Tiger ace Jack Morris, who started, won, and completed more games than any other pitcher in the 1980s, started 37 games twice. Roy Halladay, considered the most durable starter in the game today, has only started as many as 36 games once, and that was when he was 24 years old, almost a decade ago.
If pitchers are only going to start 32-35 games each season, they won’t get enough opportunities to win 30 games. A pitcher would need to win nearly every game he pitches, of course. In addition, pitchers in baseball today are throwing fewer innings and as a result they’re getting fewer decisions. The increase in no-decision starts has meant that many pitchers don’t even get 30 decisions in a season, let alone 30 victories. Halladay has had only two seasons in his career where he’s recorded as many as 30 decisions. A record of 17-8 or 16-10 is very common today for pitchers making their 32-33 starts.
Another reason McLain is likely to remain the last 30-game winner for a long time, is that teams are protecting their pitchers. With millions invested in the right and left arms of their pitchers, major league clubs are wary of overworking their starters. Pitch counts, something that McLain and his generation never pitched with, are now watched closely. OPnce a pitcher reaches the 90-pitch mark, many managers are warming up a reliever to be ready. Few pitchers, with the exception of Halladay and a few other workhorse starters like Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia and Detroit’s Justin Verlander, are allowed to throw more than 110 pitches and work their way out of late-inning jams.
Unless an organization has the guts to bring the four-man rotation back, no pitcher will approach the 30-win mark any time in the near future. And Denny McLain will hold onto his spot as the last of a dying breed.
Bill Murray has nothing on me. I’m living Groundhog Day every bit as much as he did in that movie of the same name.
Where have we seen THIS before?
Tigers get hot in June and move into first place, a position they hold until the All-Star break. Stars begin to emerge; Justin Verlander strikes everyone out. The team cleans up in interleague play.
This is a rerun.
Trouble is, we all know how the story ends up—with feats of daring do that cede the division to someone else, usually the Minnesota Twins.
It won’t be the Twins this season, so there’s some drama. Will it be the White Sox? The (gasp!) Indians?
I’m telling myself not to get sucked in. You know the saying: Fool me once, etc.
The Tigers are rolling. They’re 13-5 in their last 18 games and are avoiding the roller coaster feel of April and May, when winning streaks were canceled by losing streaks of the same length or longer.
They’ve moved to seven games above .500 and are alone in first place, natch.
Time to put the trays in their upright positions and strap yourself in—it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Color me wary.
It’s still my steadfast belief that the Tigers cannot consider themselves serious contenders—whether it’s against the Chisox or the Tribe—until they get second base figured out and/or they identify one more consistent bat in the lineup.
I’m also sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop when it comes to Jhonny Peralta and, to a degree, Alex Avila.
Color me unwilling to get fooled again.
The Tigers, despite their warts, are in a position to make a run, but with holes at 2B, 3B and maybe RF, offensively, their run at first place doesn’t seem to be sustainable.
The bullpen is still too dicey for my liking, with the exception of Jose Valverde. I worry that hitters will figure out Al Alburquerque, other than how to spell his last name.
Color me thrice bitten, four times shy.
The Tigers blew playoff appearances in 2007, 2009 and even 2010 with lousy second halves. In each season, they pulled what they’re pulling now—a strong June that leads to a promising beginning to July, that collapses into a heap in August and September.
The only drama has been, when will the freefall begin? In 2007 it was in August. In 2009 it was in the final two weeks. Last year, it was right out of the All-Star break.
And don’t forget the 19-31 finish that almost ruined their excellent 2006 start.
In fact, just writing about this gives me deja vu most vile.
Yet despite the familiarity of this show, I’m still tuning in.
Color me a sucker?