Archive for September, 2012

There was a time, in the not so distant past, when a no-hitter in baseball was so infrequent that you could remember the names of the pitchers who tossed such gems over the past several years.

The moments were recalled on the yellowed newspaper clippings of your memory.

The no-hitters dotted recent history, delicious in their stubborn and insistent rarity of occurrence.

You were sometimes lucky to see one a year. The no-hitter was Armageddon-type headline stuff for the newspapers.

Part of the beauty, too, was how the no-hitter often plucked mediocre pitchers from virtual anonymity and shoved them under baseball’s spotlight, all because for one game, that guy with the losing record and the ERA of 4.86 put it all together.

It’s part of my fascination with baseball—how the game has a wonderful way of occasionally making heroes out of the Walter Mittys who play it.

The list of men who have tossed no-hitters is hardly a Who’s Who of pitching.

The no-hitter was, until recent years, baseball’s version of being struck by lightning.

Emphasis on was.

It was around 1990 when the no-hitter increased in frequency. In the 1980s, there were 13 no-hitters thrown, total—13 for the entire decade. Three years in the decade (1982, 1985, and 1989) were devoid of no-hitters altogether. In contrast, the 1990s hit 13 no-hitters by 1991, and a new day had dawned.

But now it’s getting ridiculous.

Check the water in the cooler in the dugout. Better yet, have the pitching arms tested for uranium—or Nolan Ryan.

You ready for this?

Since April 17, 2010, 16 no-hitters have been thrown. They’re getting to be as common as complete games, almost.

Friday night, Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds tossed the latest gem, at the Pirates in Pittsburgh—the same Pirates team that was two outs away from being victimized by Justin Verlander in May, which would have been Verlander’s third no-hitter before the age of 30.

Bailey’s no-hitter is the seventh this season alone, a year that has seen three perfect games.

Bailey fits the bill as baseball’s latest no-hit artist. He has a career ERA of 4.59, so naturally he threw a no-hitter.

But seriously—seven no hitters, in one season? And three perfect games?

Call it the Dead Ball Era, Part II. Or the return of the Hitless Wonders, with apologies to the 1906 Chicago White Sox.

But more power to the pitchers, I say. It’s rather amazing that the spate of no-hitters have come at a time in the game where strike zones are squeezed more than Charmin. There are a lot of umpires in the game today who make the pitcher pour the baseball over an area the size of a postage stamp.

Yet we are seeing dominant performances almost every night. It’s not just starting pitching that has become filled with Ryans and Koufaxes and Johnsons. Every team, it seems, has a reliever or two whose ERA looks like the price of a newspaper.

Fernando Rodney, our old friend from his Tigers days and the closer for the Tampa Bay Rays, is having the year of his life.

Rodney, from 2007 thru 2011, never had an ERA of lower than 4.24. Tigers fans know all too well the trials and tribulations he had as the team’s closer.

This year, Rodney has converted 46 of 48 save opportunities and has an ERA of 0.62, or one-seventh of what he’s been churning out in recent years.

0.62 isn’t an ERA, it’s pocket change.

It’s a fascinating time to be watching baseball, because offenses are shrinking gradually, like that guy who loses weight but you don’t notice until you see photos of him from three years ago.

Number crunching time.

Every Major League Baseball season contains 2,430 games, or a few less if rainouts aren’t made up. Let’s take a look at total runs scored since 2006 (numbers from Baseball-Reference.com).

2006: 23,599 (9.7 per game)

2007: 23,322 (9.6)

2008: 22,585 (9.3)

2009: 22,419 (9.2)

2010: 21,308 (8.8)

2011: 20,808 (8.6)

2012: 20,298 (thru earlier this week with a handful of games left per team)

 

Now, I’m no mathematician or sabermetrics guy, but that looks like a trend to me.

So why the degradation involving those guys swinging the bats?

Well, they’re growing pitchers bigger these days. You see the sizes of some of these hurlers? Put them in plaid and they’d pass for Paul Bunyan. Some of these guys are so tall it’s like being pitched to by a giraffe.

The pitchers are getting bigger and stronger, but the bats are the same size.

Another theory? Teams are promoting players earlier in their professional careers, as a rule. And the pitchers are ahead of the hitters in their development.

The stuff out there is nasty. Sliders dropping off tables like cue balls. Curves bending like bamboo. Fastballs exploding and being applied to the strike zone with a paint brush. Change ups twisting hitters into the dirt like a corkscrew.

The poor hitters just can’t keep up, as the above numbers indicate.

So is the no-hitter being ruined? Is it being rendered meaningless? Are we on the verge of greeting the news of the latest no-no with yawns?

Sixteen no-hitters since April 2010. That’s nearly one a month, on average. And there are a whole lot more that are flirted with—getting as far as the seventh or eighth inning in many instances.

Poor Homer Bailey. He threw his no-hitter and it’s like you want to react by saying, “Put it over there, with the others.”

What can you say? The guy was born 20 years too late to thrill us.

Categories : Baseball, Detroit Tigers
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Sep
26

I’m Two Dads Now

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The other day, I officially became my father.

It’s inevitable, they say. One day you’ll become your parents.

Pop culture is usually the killer.

My induction into the Crotchety Old Man Hall of Fame occurred a couple of nights ago.

I was in the kitchen and on the TV in the front room was a video of a performer having a tantrum on stage. I couldn’t see the video; I could only hear the audio.

“I’m not Justin Bieber!” the male voice screamed, followed by some bleeped out expletives.

“Who’s that?” I called out, because the audio clip was rather shocking.

Our 19-year-old daughter answered with what I thought was “Billy Joel.”

Now, knowing Joel’s occasional drinking and drug foibles, and his notorious temper, I thought that made sense. Joel’s melted down in the past—on stage and off.

“Billy Joel? Really?” I replied, a little knowing chuckle in my voice.

“BILLIE JOE, dad!”

Now I was confuzzled.

“Billy Joe? Who’s that?”

I could literally hear her eyes rolling.

“BILLIE JOE, dad! From Green Day.”

“I don’t know who that is?”

Heavy sigh, followed by, “You’ve never heard of Green Day?”

“I’ve heard of them, yes (barely), but I don’t know the names of the people in Green Day!”

She groaned. “Oh God, Dad.”

Apparently I should know who this is (psst—it’s Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day)


 That capped a day in which when I got into the car, her radio station was on—95.5 FM.

“All this music sounds the same to me,” I told my wife, sincerely. The songs that played all did sound the same to me.

So you combine that comment with the “I thought you said Billy JOEL and who’s Billy JOE?” thing, and I have become my dad.

My father didn’t appreciate all of my kind of music, either, though we did intersect in our like for certain 1970s recording artists like Three Dog Night and Dave Mason.

That’s OK. I loved my dad to pieces, may he rest in peace. I don’t really mind becoming him.

Besides, our daughter’s lucky that I didn’t think she said Green BAY.

Now that’s more up my alley.

Oh, and I got her in the end. Referencing Joe’s meltdown, in which he demolished his guitar on stage, Nicole wondered aloud if I had ever seen that.

“Yeah—Pete Townshend of The Who used to do that regularly.”

She didn’t know who that was.

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Sep
24

Monday Morning Manager: Week 25

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Last Week: 3-4
This Week:  KC (9/24-27); at Min (9/28-30)

So, What Happened?
Just another bob and weave ride on the choppy waters inside the Good Ship Tiger Pop.

That’s what this team does to you: raises and lowers your hopes like a school flag.

The Tigers fell three games back on Monday after suspect (and MMM is being kind) defense doomed them in a makeup game in Chicago. That was followed by two straight wins over the surprising Oakland A’s, which got people thinking that the Tigers weren’t dead. But then the Tigers lost Thursday. Then Friday’s game was rained out, then the Tigers drilled the Twins on Saturday. As the White Sox were being broomed by the Angels, the Tigers then dropped a day-night DH to the Twins on Sunday, the second loss of which was another bi-product of shoddy glove work.

Whew! MMM needs to catch his breath.

Such is the AL Central race that the White Sox can be on a five-game losing streak yet still lead the division by a game this morning. Chicago’s last win was over the Tigers last Monday.

To bastardize the late Casey Stengel’s words, “Can’t anybody here win this thing?”

MMM still thinks the Tigers can pull this out. They finish the season with 10 games with the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins. Even though both those teams have been doing a great jobplaying spoiler this month, MMM will take that competition for the final ten games.

Yet MMM isn’t too naive to ignore the possibility that the Tigers’ defense may ultimately be their undoing. The inability to make the routine plays has killed them this year, especially in September, a month in which the Tigers are 10-11 so far.

The double play ball this season causes every Tigers fan, MMM included, to hold his or her breath.

In the name of Trammell and Whitaker, what’s the deal with being unable to turn a stinking double play?

Miguel Cabrera continued his assault on the Triple Crown, and in the process MMM hopes he is silencing those folks who would vote for Mike Trout as league MVP. For more on that race, read THIS.

Max Scherzer gave all of us a scare when he left Tuesday’s game against the A’s after two innings with a “dead shoulder.” An MRI proved negative, and Max made his next start on Sunday, as scheduled.

Hero of the Week
MMM is thinking of changing this section to “Miggy of the Week.”

It’s getting ho-hum, but MMM is going with Cabrera yet again.

How can you not? Cabrera is playing like he’s on a mission, like hewants to win the Triple Crown, the MVP, the Silver Slugger, the Player of the Year, and heck, maybe even the Cy Young for all we know.

MMM is kidding about that last one…sorta.

Cabrera’s onslaught continued last week: 9-for-26, 4 2B, 9 R, 4 HR, 10 RBI.

Yawn.

It’s getting ridiculous now, Cabrera’s beastiology. The man is playing as if possessed, like he is single-handedly trying to will the team into the playoffs.

Cabrera is simply the best player in baseball. If he wins the Triple Crown (he’s tied in HR and leads in BA and RBI) for the first time in 45 years, his place in the game must be in cement.

And in that cement will be the letters M-V-P.

Goat of the Week
When the Tigers traded for 2B Omar Infante in late-July, MMM was thrilled. The deal included starter Anibal Sanchez, and it looked like the Tigers had killed two birds with one trade. Infante was going to shore up second base, right?

Not so fast.

Infante’s bizarre degradation in defense has been dogging the Tigers all month. One night after the other, it seems, Infante is booting a ball or making a bad throw or is unable to complete a double play. And it seems that every mistake he makes is magnified by runs scoring as a result.

You can’t hide your second baseman, and when things are going bad defensively, the ball seems to find that struggling defender. The ball is finding Infante, who is ruling second base for the Tigers with an iron mitt.

MMM doesn’t care to list all of Infante’s foibles. Just suffice it to say that MMM could have made Infante the GotW a few other times but didn’t. This week, Omar isn’t getting a pass.

Under the Microscope
Usually, UtM is reserved for the negative. Whether it’s an injury or a player’s suspect performance, MMM doesn’t really use this space for anything terribly positive.

Until this week.

With the season entering its final full week, MMM must putMiguel Cabrera UtM because of his run at the Triple Crown. This is like a pitcher going for a no-hitter; you keep an eye on his performance specifically, and simultaneously hope your team scores enough runs to win the game.

We should all hope the Tigers win enough games to capture the AL Central, while also rooting for Cabrera to capture the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski did it for Boston in 1967. And Yaz tied for the home run title that year; Cabrera could win all three legs of the Crown outright.

MMM is placing Cabrera UtM, knowing full well that Miggy doesn’t shrink from the spotlight.

Upcoming: Royals, Twins
As MMM indicated above, the Royals and Twins have done a marvelous job of playing spoilers in the AL Central “race.”

Both teams have beaten the snot out of the White Sox and Tigers in recent weeks, trying their darndest to help Chicago and Detroit in the process. The help has been sometimes accepted, but most time not.

Kansas City comes to CoPa for four games this week, then the Tigers visit the Twins for three.

At home, the Royals have swept the Tigers and White Sox over the past month.

MMM declares: 3-1 vs. the Royals is a must—nothing less will do in order to apply increasing pressure on the White Sox, who have the Indians (3 games) and Rays (4) this week.

No fancy-shmancy scouting reports here. Just go out and beat these teams, for goodness sake.

Pitchers this week, in order: (vs. KC) Justin Verlander; Anibal Sanchez; Rick Porcello; Doug Fister; (at Min) Max Scherzer; Verlander; Sanchez.

Enjoy the heat in this AL Central kitchen.

That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!

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It has been the location of baseball’s glamour profession, the real estate of Cobb and Speaker, annexed by DiMaggio. Hallowed ground fought over for supremacy by Mays, Mantle and Snider, who all played a subway ride away from each other.

Its vastness has both swallowed the slow and incompetent whole and enabled the fleet and light-footed to appear as gazelles with mitts. John Fogerty wrote a song about it.

There’s a mystique about baseball and center field. It ranks in sexiness with the football quarterback. You think of a center fielder and a bunch of other s-words come to mind.

Sleek. Silk. Smooth. Slender.

The ace center fielder stands six-foot or a tad taller, has the body fat of Jack Sprat and lopes. He is the robber of home runs, the snagger of triples. He covers more of the diamond than a tarp. He’s not only the center fielder, he’s half a left fielder and half a right fielder, too.

It’s a position that is unforgiving to the butchers who would give it a go, because center field isn’t played, it’s conquered. Many an incompetent have dared wander into its jaws and were never seen again. Speaking of which, anyone see Ron LeFlore lately?

No position in baseball can rival center field when you’re talking style points.

The Tigers’ Austin Jackson is a conqueror. He’s the best center fielder in Detroit since Cobb. And I’m not forgetting that Al Kaline played a couple seasons in center.

Jackson is a loper. He possesses that brilliance all the ace center fielders have had since the dawning of the 20th century: the innate ability to break for the baseball at the crack of the bat, take the most efficient route and arrive just in time for the ball to settle into the glove.

Center-field greatness is passed down, like an Italian family business.

It was early in the 2006 season when I cornered Tigers first-base coach Andy Van Slyke in the glorified closet that passes as the coaches’ office at Comerica Park. The main topic of discussion was his then-new job as coach, but I had to bring up center field.

Van Slyke, in his prime years with the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1980s and ‘90s, was widely renowned as one of the best center fielders in baseball. He was a tall, galloping man who held dominion over the position.

I wanted to know how he learned to play center field so damned good.

“Well, I used to work with Bill Virdon a lot in Pittsburgh,” Van Slyke told me, and he needn’t have said anything else, though he did.

Virdon, with the Pirates in the 1950s and ‘60s, was one of the premier center fielders of his day, though he was far overshadowed by the New York trio of Mays, Mantle and Snider. Virdon could go and get it, so when Van Slyke mentioned Virdon’s name as a tutor, I understood completely.

Van Slyke told me that Virdon worked with him for several years every spring training, imparting his wisdom about routes and jumps and footwork, about angles and awareness.

Virdon passed center field down to Van Slyke. I’d be beside myself to find out from whom Virdonlearned.

Third base, on the other hand, is a position that a century’s worth of players have spent making look easy, when it’s anything but.

Third base can’t match center field in sexiness, and part of that is because where the center fielder can take, ahem, center stage for what seems like an eternity as the lofted baseball heads for the deepest part of the ballpark, the third baseman has a split second to make his move.

The third baseman has to have the reactions of a hockey goalie and the fearlessness of a fighter pilot. He can spend half a game on his stomach.

But a great third baseman makes it all look so easy. No matter how hard hit a ball, no matter if it’s skidding along the grass or bounding rapidly by, the great third baseman gloves the ball with seemingly routine effort and rifles a throw to first base to nip the runner by a quarter step. Every time.

It can be very impressive, but it’s rarely sexy. Center field is sexy.

That’s part of what Miguel Cabrera is up against, in his apparent two-man race for the AL MVP with the Boy Wonder Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels.

Trout plays center field, Cabrera third base, and I believe that’s a big reason why Cabrera isn’t considered a shoo-in for the award, despite being on the cusp of capturing baseball’s Triple Crown (leader in BA, HR and RBI) for the first time in 45 years.

Trout is a marvelous baseball player. He is, at 21 years of age, one of the very best players in the game, already. He hits for power, for average and occupies another glamour position—that of lead-off hitter.

“Batting lead-off, and playing center field…”

There is still magic in those words.

Cabrera is having a season that would be a runaway MVP year in just about any other, except for the kid Trout and his highlight-reel play in center field, which has combined with the power and cunning batting eye to give Cabrera a run for his money.

Trout has dropped off, however, at the bat in recent weeks. He hit .284 in August and is at .257 in September. His team is still in the playoff hunt, as is Cabrera’s, so that’s mostly a wash.

It would be easy for MVP voters to become enamored of Trout’s position of glamour, to recall the feats of derring-do he’s accomplished in center field, look at his total offensive numbers (not just the ones since August), and award him not only the Rookie of the Year, but the big enchilada, too.

Those voters will try to justify their vote by pointing to Cabrera and his sometimes uneven play at third base, which isn’t as sexy as center field to begin with, and offer that up as a reason to go with Trout as MVP.

If a man can win the Triple Crown, or come so damn close to it that we’re still wondering if he can do it on Sept. 22, his defense would have to be a combination of Dave Kingman and Dick Stuart’s to cancel it out enough to take him out of the MVP race.

Cabrera is no Brooks Robinson at third base, but he’s not a butcher, either.

If, as an MVP voter, you’re insane enough to wonder whether Cabrera’s glove has actually robbed the Tigers more than his bat has provided, then your vote should be revoked post haste.

Mike Trout has had a brilliant year, maybe the best of any AL rookie in decades. He has Hall of Fame potential. And he plays center field.

Miguel Cabrera might win the Triple Crown. He plays third base. So sue him.

Just be sure to vote for him as MVP before you do.

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Sep
21

Play It Again, Sam!

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We have a DVR at home, as do many people nowadays, and I admit it is spoiling me rotten.

For the few of you who don’t know, the DVR enables you to, among other things, record your favorite shows and store them for viewing later. You can even categorize and file them, digitally, so your TV suddenly turns into a sort of computer hard drive.

The other thing the DVR does–and this is the spoiling part—is allow you to pause, rewind and fast forward shows you are currently watching, including live sporting events. So you turn into your own replay specialist.

We are DVR reliant at home. We only have one, connected to the big screen TV in the front room. And it gets a work out. Lots of pausing, like when nature calls or my wife needs to check on laundry when she’s watching something of note. The pausing can sometimes lead to fast forwarding, especially during commercials.

By the way, there’s nothing better than fast forwarding through a four-minute commercial jam. Nothing!

We also like to have someone else in the house see and hear something that they missed, especially now with political season in full swing. So there’s a lot of “Honey, you GOTTA see this!” and “Listen to THIS!”

Being a sports junkie, I’m constantly going back and forth with the rewind and play, reliving great moments by my Detroit sports teams, like the latest Miguel Cabrera moonshot.

But with only one DVR, that means when you’re in the bedrooms or in the basement watching the telly, you don’t have DVR capability. And that’s rotten.

Oh, how many times lately I’ve been watching TV on a non-DVR set and have longed to go back and relive something, or try to catch something I missed. But I can’t. The moment is gone forever (sort of).

Then I have the audacity to actually grumble that I can’t go “back in time.”

It gets worse.

I’m having DVR withdrawal in the car now, while listening to the radio.

Since I am nothing other than a very responsible driver who does nothing other than pay 100% attention to the road (don’t look at me like that), things get said on sports talk radio that I am only half listening to, but which perks my ears up like a rabbit’s.

I have found myself, lately, wanting to hit “rewind” on the radio! It’s almost instinctual now, because I do it so much while watching TV.

That’s a sign of someone who’s gotten spoiled by the DVR.

It hasn’t gotten so bad that I have had the urge to rewind people, but I’m afraid that’s next.

Then again, if I had that power, I’d also want to edit what they said. And frankly, I don’t have time for that. Especially during political season.

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Sep
18

Chalk it Up to Nostalgia

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I was walking the pooch the other day when I saw something on the sidewalk that elicited a big grin and took me back about 40 years, instantly.

Kids had been playing with outdoor chalk and while I couldn’t make out what they had written, it didn’t matter, for just the sight of chalk on the sidewalk brought back a ton of memories.

When I was a lad of 6-10 years old, my friends and I would create whole worlds, just with some chalk.

Usually the theme centered around the automobile: roads, retail stores, gas stations, etc.

It would go like this.

Everyone would bring a toy car or truck or any other motor vehicle and those would be our “traffic.” Then the roads and highways would be drawn, up and down the driveway and the adjacent sidewalk, complete with exit ramps to simulate freeways.

We had a long driveway at our home in Livonia, so when you combined that square footage with that of the sidewalk that ran in front of the house, you had yourself enough space to create a good sized portion of Wayne County, as seen through the eyes of a child.

Store fronts would be drawn. So would the corner gas station, replete with bays for auto repairs and spaces for the gas pumps and a sign.

We also liked to draw parking lots—vertical or diagonal spaces, and a car or two would always be parked in one of the spots.

If I recall correctly, the fun wasn’t so much in the actual “playing” of cars and trucks, but rather in the creation of all the stretches of freeway, the roads and the side streets that made up our driveway/sidewalk commercial suburbia. That, plus the stores and houses that lined those thoroughfares.

I used to love how all the roads would intertwine and spill into each other, and always in a very logical way. We were meticulous in making sure there were broken lines in the middle, delineating lanes.

An example of a “chalk town” that we may have created back in the early-1970s



There were also the requisite signs, like those that called for stops and yields and speed limits.

Everything was one-dimensional, of course, so you had to use your imagination in order to give everything life.

Imagination—I wonder how many of today’s kids even know what that is.

Yeah, you’d scuff up a knee or two and your leg might fall asleep in creating the village, but it was all worth it. If nature intervened and washed everything away with a good rain, then it was a good excuse to create a whole different town.

Those kids who wrote on the sidewalk the other day have no idea how much joy they gave me.

I wonder if anyone walked past our sidewalk towns back in the day and curled their lips into a grin.

 

Categories : Enotes, society
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Sep
17

Monday Morning Manager: Week 24

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Last Week: 4-2

This Week:  at CWS (9/17); OAK (9/18-20); MIN (9/21-23)

So, What Happened?
Last week, MMM crabbed about all the one-run losses the Tigers have suffered on the road in 2012.

Sunday’s might have been the most insufferable of them all.

Three outs away from a sweep of the lowly Cleveland Indians, Jose Valverde imploded and the Tigers dropped a stunner, 7-6, on a day when it looked like Miguel Cabrera (who else?) had added to his MVP credentials with a three-run jack to erase a 5-3 deficit in the seventh inning.

Not so fast. And with the loss, the Tigers fell to two games behind Chicago, who swept the Twins in Minnesota.

MMM hates to write this, but the White Sox’s magic number to clinch the division is a mere 16.

And don’t get Wild Card happy. The Tigers are 4.5 games out of that race.

The good news? Two wins out of three in Chicago after dropping Monday night’s series opener. Thursday’s game was rained out and will be made up today.

But the goodwill in Chicago was partially erased by blowing Sunday’s game. Poor defense again dogged the Tigers.

MMM would normally be satisfied with a 4-2 week, but the Tigers’ early foibles have put them in a position where every game becomes “must win” in nature from here on out.

Twitter was abuzz over whether Don Kelly should have caught Carlos Santana’s triple on Sunday that drove in the tying run (Jason Kipnis) from second base. Kelly crashed into the wall while the baseball bounced off the heel of his glove. Forget catching the ball; Twitter also exploded over whether Kelly should be on the team, let alone in the game.

MMM feels it’s too late and unproductive to whine about personnel. Manager Jim Leyland isn’t going to change. Which means his infatuation with players like Kelly won’t cease.

It’s not that Kelly is a bad defender, but despite the acrobatic nature of the play, the baseball was very catchable. MMM wonders if the more athletic Andy Dirks would have caught the ball. Dirks was playing left field, but maybe Kelly should have been in  left, because typically your better corner outfielder plays in right field due to the longer throws needed.

But again, spilled milk.

The only thing that matters now is the next game. And after that, the next game. And so on, until the mathematicians say you’re out of it for real.

Hero of the Week
MMM wants you to go all the way back to last Tuesday.

The Tigers had dropped four straight games, all on the road. The fourth of those losses was in Chicago, dropping the Bengals to three games behind the White Sox. The wheels looked like they were coming off the Tigers’ wagon, which appeared to be heading down a mountain.

Enter Doug Fister.

Fister worked seven innings, giving up just two runs (both on solo homers; no hits other than those) and at one point retired 12 in a row. His pitching enabled the Tigers offense to cobble enough runs together for a badly needed win.

Fister came up huge in a huge situation. A loss on Tuesday might have been the beginning of the end for the Tigers’ playoff hopes.

MMM admires Fister. He might not be having as good of a year as he had in 2011, statistically, but Fister has battled through injuries to have a pretty darn good year. And games like Tuesday’s show that he can still be called upon in the clutch.

Honorable mention: Cabrera, for his three-run homer on Sunday that should have been the game winner, and for jawing with the loudmouth Cleveland closer Chris Perez after that game. If you can lip-read, you know that Miggy had some choice words for Perez, who was no doubt talking trash.

Goat of the Week
MMM was sad to see Prince Fielder, of all people, shrink when the games are growing in importance.

The Prince was more of a Pauper last week, going 3-for-24 with five strikeouts, lowering his average from .315 to .303. Fielder has never batted .300 in a season (.299 is his career high), and suddenly his .300+ is in jeopardy.

Prince did have a three-run bomb in Chicago last week, but other than that he was quiet.

MMM isn’t worried about Fielder, necessarily, and he’s liable to have a big week to cancel last week’s out, but 3-for-24 is 3-for-24.

MMM is confident in Prince’s ability to bounce back, but that doesn’t save Fielder from GotW status.

Under the Microscope
Yes, that was Quintin Berry in center field on Sunday, as Austin Jackson was a late scratch due to a bum left ankle, which he likely injured on Saturday, running into the wall trying to catch Carlos Santana’s triple that broke up Anibal Sanchez’s no-hit bid in the seventh inning.

Jackson might be able to play in Chicago, but nothing is for sure at all.

Clearly, despite his uneven second half, Jackson is too valuable to lose now. In fact, he was showing signs of snapping out of his most recent funk when the injury occurred.

MMM knows you know enough about baseball to understand why A-Jax is UtM this week.

Catcher Alex Avila is hurting, too—with a sprained jaw after running into the brick wall that is Prince Fielder in Sunday’s game. Remember how Fielder stopped Mike Moustakas in his tracks in Kansas City in that collision at first base a couple weeks ago?

Thankfully, it looks like Jackson’s ankle injury isn’t severe, but it’s enough to place him UtM, in MMM’s eyes.

Upcoming: White Sox, A’s, Twins
Is the Central race over if the Tigers lose Monday in Chicago? No. Crazy things can happen in pennant races. Remember 2009, for goodness sake!

But let’s face it: the difference between being one game out and three games out, with two weeks to go, is significant.

Had the Tigers not blown Sunday’s game, Monday’s tilt would have given them a chance to regain a tie for first place. Now, the best the Tigers can do is stay within one game.

Oops—what did MMM say a few paragraphs above about spilled milk?

MMM is not only concerned about Monday, but about the end of the week, when the Twins come calling. The Tigers’ inability to beat the stuffing out of the teams below them in the division might prove to be their undoing, and with 13 of their last 17 games against the Twins and Royals, the time is now to hold dominion over those bottom feeders.

In between the make-up game with Chicago and the weekend series with the Twins, the resurgent Oakland A’s visit. In a scheduling oddity, the A’s make their only appearance in Detroit in mid-September.

This isn’t the same A’s team the Tigers played in May, when the teams split four games in Oakland.

The A’s win by out-pitching you; their .236 team BA is atrocious, but with their pitching, they don’t need a lot of offense. Oakland has THREE rookies in its rotation (AJ Griffin, Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone), which is absurd. But it’s working for them.

Old friend Brandon Inge is on the disabled list after shoulder surgery and is out for the rest of the season.

It’s been a magical season so far for Oakland, and the skull fracture suffered by pitcher Brandon McCarthy was yet another emotional moment for the A’s.

Last year around this time, the Tigers clinched the Central with a win in Oakland. One year later, the A’s can get a toehold on the Wild Card with a good series in Detroit.

What a difference a year makes, right?

That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!

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It has been the nature of labor relations in professional sports that the team owners are basically filthy rich fans with the emotional stability of Sybil and the fiscal restraint of a teenager.

The cycle runs something like this, from the owners’ perspective: 1) buy team; 2) spend like mad; 3) help get the league into a financial mess; 4) ask the players to bail us out.

The above corollary applies to any team sport. In baseball, from the days of handlebar mustaches in the late 19th century to the mid-1970s, owners held servitude over the players via the Reserve Clause. The ballparks may as well have been plantations.

The tyrannical rule baseball owners had over the hired help ended in 1974, when an arbiter’s ruling ushered in free agency. That’s when the owners turned from autocrats to unruly kids in a candy store, grabbing players off the shelves and gleefully spending.

Pretty much every labor dispute in pro sports can be traced to the owners’ inability to control themselves.

Yet it’s a hard sell to portray the players as sympathetic figures whenever words like “strike” and “lockout” start to get bandied about. They are, after all, the beneficiaries of the owners’ lack of self-control—and huge salaries.

The National Hockey League says its owners are spending too much. That’s nothing new in pro sports. The owners always spend too much. The league is asking the players for revenue concessions. That’s nothing new, either.

This is becoming a familiar refrain.

2004 was eight years ago but it feels like yesterday. That was when the NHL said its owners were spending too much—and that it needed revenue concessions from the players.

The league lost the entire 2004-05 season to the lockout, and when the snow settled, the players had agreed to a salary cap for the first time ever, and they absorbed what was tantamount to a 24 percent, across-the-board salary cut. It was a face wash of the extreme kind.

The NHL re-opened in October 2005 with the words THANK YOU, FANS spray-painted on the ice in every rink in the league.

I wonder what they’ll paint on the ice next time. How about, THERE’S A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE?

At 11:59 p.m. Saturday night, barring a last-second goal, there will be a slight variation to the hockey fan’s cry.

“Lockout on!”

September 15 is the deadline for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). If one isn’t reached, Commissioner Gary Bettman says he has given the green light for the owners to lock the players out. Again.

Without the players, who are the talent, pro sports owners wouldn’t have a product. The owners would have to go back to their board rooms and corporate life, which is no less competitive, but who will pay $40 a head to watch a shareholders meeting?

The players make lots of money, yes, but only a fraction of what they’ve made for the owners and the league itself. All those ZETTERBERG and HOWARD and (still) YZERMAN jerseys you see being worn by fans at Joe Louis Arena? Those are “cha-chings” for the league. Every jersey sold with a player’s name sewn on the back equals more money into the NHL’s coffers.

The NHL scored a big win over the players during the 2004-05 lockout. Union solidarity cracked and crumbled like a cookie.

So when the CBA entered its expiring year in 2012, the league was like a skewed version of a Dickens story.

“Please, sirs, may we have another?”

Concession, that is.

Bettman and his 30 owner/lieutenants wanted to reduce the players’ cut of hockey-related revenue from 57 percent to 43 percent. That’s a slash of nearly 25 percent—a real BC two-hander.

There hasn’t been this much greed since Gordon Gecko.

Annual industry revenue, since the lockout of ’04-05, has increased from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion. That’s nearly 60 percent. Yet it’s not enough for the suits. In addition to its revenue increase, the league also wanted the proletariat to decrease their take by a quarter.

But there are signs that this time, the NHL might be picking on the wrong union.

The speaker is Red Wings superstar Henrik Zetterberg, talking to the Detroit Free Press in Friday’s edition.

“I think we did enough last time, in ’04. Basically, we gave (the league) everything they wanted, and one of the reasons we did that was that we didn’t want to be in this situation again, and here we are again,” Zetterberg said. But then he finished his check.

“It’s the third lockout in I don’t know how many years now. Ever since Bettman came into the league offices, that’s been his way to handle the stuff. That’s not a fun thing, but that’s how he approached this. We’ve been ready. We’re ready to have a fight here.”

Zetterberg also said that the players union, under the leadership of veteran sports collective bargaining negotiator Donald Fehr, has been kept fully in the loop, daily, of any developments. That, Zetterberg said, has led to more solidarity—way more than what was present in 2004.

The NHL has come down from its initial demand of a 25 percent revenue cut for the players, but not by a whole lot. The current offer stands at a decrease from 57 to 46 percent—which is still about 20 percent in reduction.

For those holding out hope that somehow the paradigm will change and the owners will back off from their hard line and get the players back onto the ice in time for the scheduled beginning of the regular season, the news isn’t good.

Here’s Bettman:

“The thought was somehow (the players) got slammed in the negotiations last time. They didn’t. We made at the time what we thought was a fair deal. It actually turned out to be more fair than it should have been.”

Unless you were an NHL player.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, when baseball owners ruled the serfs, women have been given the right to vote and a Civil Rights Bill was passed.

Bettman’s odd comments, made during a period of increasing revenue for the NHL, suggest that pro sports still need to catch up, while simultaneously being determined to go back in time.

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Sep
14

The Shrinking Candidate

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Familiarity breeds contempt. That’s the saying, right?

It would seem to fit Mitt Romney like a glove.

For the second political race in a row, voters are drifting away from the Republican presidential candidate the more they get to know him, or at least see him in action.

It happened in the GOP primary, where Romney had difficulty putting away Rick Santorum, who was as far right of a candidate as has run in recent memory.

Polls indicated that the more primary voters got to know Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, the less enamored they were with him.

The same thing is happening now, in Romney’s race against President Obama.

Romney suffered a double whammy in the past two weeks: the Democratic convention with its stirring speeches, and his big mouth in the wake of the Libyan crisis.

The former provided Obama with an expected (though maybe larger than expected) bounce, and the latter gave the country a sneak peek into what kind of man might occupy the Oval Office, should Romney win.

“Governor Romney tends to shoot first and aim later,” the president told 60 Minutes in an interview to air this Sunday. I don’t know whether the line was Obama’s or was written for him. Regardless, it captured, in nine words, how not to be president while simultaneously painting Romney as someone you wouldn’t want as president.

The latest Gallup Poll has Obama leading, 50-44, and even Fox News concurs, giving the president a 48-43 lead in its latest poll. This is a departure from before the conventions, when Romney was nipping at Obama’s heels, staying within two points in most polls.

But the contrast in conventions, plus Romney’s ham-handed criticism of the administration to the violence in Libya before he had all the facts, have wobbled him.

And this before the three debates, which are likely to even further define the fitness of the incumbent over the challenger in terms of who is more presidential and who is the best leader.

Obama is even leading Romney in who can handle the economy better, and has a sizable lead with women and in the question of who is a more decisive leader.

These trends are proportional, almost directly, to the growing familiarity voters are getting with Romney—particularly those who weren’t paying much attention to the GOP primaries.

The governor’s steadfast refusal to reveal details of his budget and tax plan isn’t helping him, either. Neither is running mate Paul Ryan, who was theoretically chosen to give the ticket a boost but who has mostly played Charlie McCarthy to Romney’s Edgar Bergen.

The Romney campaign has had a rough couple of weeks, but all presidential campaigns have tough stretches. Even Obama, in his race against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008, had his less-than-stellar moments and hurdles to clear.

Romney’s ability to rebound from his hoof-in-mouth disease and apparent disconnect with the electorate is being tested now like never before. His political track record doesn’t really give any examples of when he’s been able to do it.

Shoot first, aim later.

That is a tag that will follow Romney to the voting booths on November 6, like a piece of toilet paper stuck to his shoe.

Categories : Enotes, Politics, presidency
Comments (4)
Sep
11

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

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“The only thing worse than being talked about, is NOT being talked about.”

Maybe not in NBC’s case today.

I’m sure the Peacock Network would be delighted if no one was talking about them, in light of this morning’s monumentally stupid decision to blow off a national moment of silence so an interview with Kris Jenner could go on, uninterrupted.

The moment of silence was recognized at 8:46 a.m. today to commemorate the moment the first plane hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

But NBC, during the “Today Show,” didn’t bother to keep quiet at 8:46. For that’s when Jenner was talking about breast implants, or some such fluff.

NBC blew it. Whether it was an oversight or not, the network has enough egg on its face to make the world’s biggest omelet.

How could “Today,” a TV institution since the early-1950s, make such an egregious error?

And don’t you let NBC off the hook here. No excuses. No explanations that start with, “Well, you know…”

Uh-uh.

This was one of the most insensitive, ignorant, outlandish blunders in television history. Period.

What’s worse, the network has been standing behind its cockamamie decision.

“The Today show dedicated a considerable amount of time to September 11th coverage this morning throughout the entire show,” a spokesperson told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column.



So there, I guess.



Kris Jenner, not observing the moment of silence





While the interview subject was the very irrelevant Kris Jenner, the gaffe wouldn’t have been any more excusable, really, if NBC was talking to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. You cut away to the moment of silence. A snot-nosed producer just out of college could have made that call correctly.

Yet somehow NBC was asleep at the switch.

What a way for relatively new co-host Savannah Guthrie, who was interviewing Jenner at the time, to be associated with her new gig.

And it’s not like the moment of silence is new. It has been going on ever since 2002, the one-year anniversary of the terror attacks. No one slipped one past NBC this morning.

One viewer Tweeted, “The Today Show chose to continue their interview with Kris Jenner rather than participate in a 9.11 moment of silence. DISGUSTING.” 



Couldn’t agree more.

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