Archive for October, 2012

Oct
31

Extortion for Fun

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I was never a Halloween guy, as a kid. I could take it or leave it as a youngster. Too much effort, I suppose.

I never knew what I was going to dress up like, or even if I was going to go door-to-door at all, until sometimes hours before sundown on October 31.

One year, I recall, I was particularly tardy with my decision. I was planning on staying in, passing out candy, when I got a phone call from a friend. It was dusk, at the very least, when the phone rang in our Livonia home.

“You going baggin’?” was the question. It was my friend, Bob Bernard, who lived a couple blocks away and who I never had gone Trick or Treating with prior to that year. I still don’t know what prompted the call. It wasn’t that Bob and I weren’t friends; we just weren’t very close. Certainly not “baggin’” close. Or so I thought.

I initially rebuffed his request, but he pressed me.

“I don’t have a costume,” I pleaded. It fell on deaf ears.

I hung up, scrambling. What to be? WHO to be?

I don’t where it came from, but I asked my mom if she had a nylon stocking that she didn’t care much for.

Voila! I went as a bank robber, the stocking pulled over my face. I think I had a toy gun. Not sure. Regardless, I had a “costume.” I was ready to go baggin’. Bob’s term.

A pillow case served as my “bag.” Out we went into the Halloween night, soliciting for candy door-to-door.

Halloween—the only holiday based on extortion.

Trick or treat!

Give us candy, or something bad will happen to you or your home. Or maybe even your loved ones. Who knows.

It’s a holiday built around candy used as protection money. Just cough up the goodies and we’ll make sure nothing untoward occurs.

But as an adult—more specifically, as a father—I came to enjoy Halloween more. The decorations got more sophisticated and fun to look at, number one. One of our family traditions has been to drive around neighborhoods, admiring Christmas displays. Now, you can pretty much do the same with Halloween.

Then there are the cute little kids, made even cuter when stuffed into bumble bee or pumpkin outfits. I can’t wait to see who comes to our door next.

Our daughter has always been a big Halloween person, starting from when she was two years old and won a  costume contest at a campground in Canada. She was dressed as a pumpkin, of course. Every year she has dressed in something different and never without creativity. In recent years she’s been Captain Jack Sparrow, The Joker, and Harley Quinn.

As usual, even at age 19, she plans on dressing up. She doesn’t go “baggin’” anymore, but she’s taken over the candy passing out duties at home. Tonight it will be friends coming over for pizza and to watch scary movies.

My wife and I will be safely ensconced in our bedroom, dressed as ourselves and eating pizza while the kids take over the front room, passing out the candy.

Yes sir, I’m liking this Halloween thing more, the older I get.

 

Categories : culture, Enotes, holidays
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Oct
29

Burning Questions: World Series Game 4

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Note: During the playoffs, Monday Morning Manager will be answering Burning Questions. The morning after every Tigers playoff game, come back here for MMM’s answers to the questions that many  of you have about the previous night’s game. Today’s BQ addresses Game 4 of the World Series.

Where did you go? We all missed you after Game 3.

MMM thanks you for your concern. A busy Sunday, which included watching the Lions nip the Seahawks, took MMM off the grid. Apologies.

 

So it’s over, just like that/ Did you ever in your wildest dreams (or nightmares) expect a Giants sweep?

Absolutely not. Funny, but MMM was rooting for the Giants; he didn’t want to see the Cardinals again, because (how’s this for irony) the Cards seemed to be the team sprinkled with postseason pixie dust lo these past several years. MMM clearly had no idea what he was asking for.

 

Getting swept in the championship round of any sport is humiliating. Will this have deep reverberations around the franchise?

It shouldn’t. As bad as this World Series was, MMM still believes the Tigers should dominate the Central Division for years to come. Their best players are all in their prime. Yes, there are holes but doesn’t every team have them? Plus, the Tigers get Victor Martinez back next year. There should be the usual tweaking and massaging of the roster, but this isn’t a time to panic and make crazy trades.

 

We’ll discuss potential offseason moves in a second. But back to the Series. The Giants won the old Dodgers way—with pitching and defense. Is that the new blueprint, making a comeback?

You mean like how the Pistons 2004 championship was supposed to change the way NBA teams won titles? Look, the Giants were the superior team, no question. They caught the ball (EVERY ball, it seemed), threw the ball and turned double plays like Trammell and Whitaker. They had timely hits, though not that many of them—just enough to win. MMM thinks you hit your way to the postseason and then pitch your way to the World Series. It’s been that way for a long time, and will continue to be that way. It might seem like the Giants are a pitch/defense/no hit team, but they really aren’t. They just played their best baseball after falling behind 3-1 in the NLCS, while the Tigers bats went into a deep freeze.

 

Was Jim Leyland outmanaged by Bruce Bochy?

MMM thinks if you lose a World Series, you’re out-everythinged. That’s why you lost. But Bochy didn’t really have to do too much in-game managing, frankly; that’s how good the Giants pitching and glove work were. If Leyland had a guy hit three homers in one game on his way to nearly setting a postseason record for base hits, then maybe this Series would have been different. MMM wasn’t displeased, really, with Leyland in the Series, with the exception of hitting Quintin Berry second instead of, say, Andy Dirks. But then again, nobody hit, so maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. But MMM knows one thing: Gene Lamont was out-third base-coached by Tim Flannery!

 

Let’s play word association. Prince Fielder. Go!

A lost soul at the plate. MMM was shocked at how stunningly bad Prince looked. Totally clue-free, and overpowered by average fastballs. It got worse as the Series went on. But this happens sometimes, even to great players. Still, this postseason will follow Fielder, as it should. If the Tigers make it back to October (and they should, given their talent) in future years, Fielder needs to atone for what happened in 2012. Mike Ilitch didn’t invest $214 million for that performance.

 

Speaking of Ilitch, many people were shocked at how frail he looked while receiving the American League championship trophy. Now another year goes by without a WS trophy for Mr. I. Thoughts?

MMM was taken aback, as well, at Mr. I’s physical appearance. The last time MMM saw Ilitch was at the Prince Fielder press conference back in January. The owner didn’t look great, but not as bad as he looked a couple weeks ago. MMM has heard through the grapevine that there might be an illness involved, but no speculating here about whether that’s true or not.

As for Ilitch getting his WS trophy, it doesn’t look good the older he gets. But 83 years old isn’t a death sentence nowadays, especially when you can afford the best health care available. Keep the faith!

 

Pablo Sandoval was the WS MVP. A no-brainer?

Definitely. In a sweep, that award should always go to a position player, or a closer. Sandoval was lights out, offensively and defensively. Just a great World Series. MMM has no choice but to give the guy his props.

 

As promised, let’s quickly discuss the offseason. Who is gone, in your eyes?

Delmon “I hold the Tigers postseason record for home runs” Young is gone, for sure. There’s nowhere for him to play, with V-Mart’s return next year and reclamation of the DH slot. You don’t dare play Young as an everyday left fielder. That said, Delmon probably earned himself a nice contract elsewhere, based on his postseason.

Anibal Sanchez ought to be re-signed, if the Tigers can fit him into their budget. But he’s another who picked the best time to pitch his best. We’ll see if he wants too much money for the Tigers liking. Jhonny Peralta might be gone; the Tigers may want to upgrade at SS. Jose Valverde is definitely gone. And based on what happens with Sanchez, i.e. if he stays, don’t be surprised if the Tigers package Ricky Porcello in a trade, maybe for a left-handed, second tier starter. Brennan Boesch’s future is uncertain (or it should be), as is Quintin Berry’s.


Wow. I thought you said don’t do anything rash.

I also said the usual tweaking and massaging will occur. Every team has attrition. But the core will stay in place, as it should. MMM thinks the Tigers should win three more division titles over the next five years.

 

OK, here’s a toughie. Describe the entire 2012 season, regular and postseason, in one word.

That’s easy: that one word is “constipated.”

That is, strangely…accurate!

That’s why MMM is MMM and you’re…not.
Thanks for spending time with MMM this year! See you in 2013!

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Before the events of 9/11 sullied the term, Twin Towers conjured up a different meaning entirely in the world of sports. Basketball, specifically.

Basketball is a tall man’s game. Everyone knows that. Players who are bean stalks with arms. When it rains outside, the guy who plays center knows it before everyone else.

It all started with George Mikan, old No. 99 for the Minneapolis Lakers. Mikan, from DePaul University, stood 6-foot-10, weighed 245 pounds, and when he entered the league in 1948 (it was called the Basketball Association of America, BAA, back then), pro basketball was more of a medium sized man’s game.

When Mikan stepped onto the court for the first time as a 24-year-old rookie, the next tallest Lakers teammate was four inches shorter than he. The rosters of the day were filled with guys 6-foot-5 and shorter.

It wasn’t long, however, before the NBA grew—literally. Taller players entered the league. Mikan was joined by other bean stalks. Then the tallest bean stalk of them all, seven-foot Wilt Chamberlain from the University of Kansas, burst onto the scene in 1959.

The year before Chamberlain loped onto the hardwood for the Philadelphia Warriors, the team posted a 30-42 record. With Chamberlain clogging the middle, the Warriors improved to 49-26. They were strong championship contenders from that point on.

It was official: if you wanted to win in the NBA, you had to have a capable big man. Just ask the Boston Celtics, who won title after title with Bill Russell dominating in the pivot.

Or ask Jack McCloskey.

Trader Jack, long before he made a name for himself as one of the league’s shrewdest executives with the Pistons, was a haggard coach—first in the Ivy League, then with the NBA’s expansion Portland Trailblazers.

Jack loved big men. He was infatuated with what they could do, how they could be game changers. In 1981, McCloskey rued the decision by Virginia’s 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson to not come out in the NBA draft. The Pistons, with the second overall pick, “settled” for a pipsqueak point guard from Indiana University named Isiah Thomas.

So it was with cruel irony that McCloskey, as coach of the third-year Trailblazers, was saddled with maybe the biggest NBA draft bust of all time.

LaRue Martin was 6-foot-11, and he wasn’t even a bean stalk; he was a bean pole. Martin barely managed 200 pounds on that nearly-seven-foot frame. The Blazers grabbed him first overall in 1972.

McCloskey liked Martin as a person, he once told me, but Jack preferred another big man instead.

There was a leaping scorer from the University of North Carolina that McCloskey fancied. The scorer stood 6-foot-9, which qualified as a big man. McCloskey liked the athletic big man so much, he recommended to his bosses that they use their No. 1 overall pick on the kid from UNC instead of the bean pole LaRue Martin.

Jack’s bosses didn’t listen. They grabbed Martin. And the player McCloskey coveted, Bob McAdoo, went to the Buffalo Braves.

McAdoo is in the Hall of Fame. Martin lasted four dreadful seasons, a total bust.

McCloskey suffered two seasons with Martin, then was fired as Portland’s coach. And that’s when the cruelty of the irony reached its zenith, for not long after dismissing McCloskey as their coach, the Trailblazers drafted a big man from UCLA. His name was Bill Walton. Three years later, the Blazers won an NBA title with Walton and his headband banging the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dave Cowens and Bob Lanier in the middle.

McCloskey’s fetish for big men was still there when he joined the Pistons as GM in December 1979. He liked towering centers, sometimes to a fault. Hence the Pistons overpaid for guys like Kurt Nimphius and William Bedford.

But never did McCloskey have the wherewithal to have on his roster, two big men with supreme offensive prowess. Hell, it was hard enough to find one such player, let alone two.

The Houston Rockets were the first team to try it.

Ironically, it was Sampson, the man who stayed in school in 1981, who was half of Houston’s Twin Towers experiment, teaming with seven-footer Hakeem Olajuwon when the latter was a rookie with the Rockets in 1984.

It didn’t produce the desired results.

The Rockets made a surprise trip to the NBA Finals in 1986, but within two years Sampson was shipped off to Golden State, his own career in a downward spiral.

The Twin Towers experiment had been a failure.

It hasn’t really been tried again since. The champions of the past couple of decades have been inside/outside teams—comprised of a creative little guy, a ridiculously athletic medium guy, and a dominating big man—the San Antonio Spurs of David Robinson and Tim Duncan a notable exception.

The Pistons, certainly, haven’t had Twin Tower capability. Ever.

Even when they were winners—in the Bad Boys years and in the mid-2000s—the Pistons never had even one dominating big man, let alone two. Bill Laimbeer was an OK scorer, but not a traditional low post, intimidating figure with the basketball. When Ben Wallace was on the court, the Pistons played every offensive possession with one arm tied behind their back.

But now it’s 2012, and the Pistons find themselves in an intriguing position.

Two years ago, GM Joe Dumars selected Greg Monroe, a scoring big man, from Georgetown University, which has been known to produce a good NBA big or two.

Monroe has developed to the point where, heading into his third season, he is considered a team leader and on the verge of stardom. He’s the first scoring big man on the Pistons since Rasheed Wallace, only Monroe doesn’t treat the key as if there was a force field around it.

Neither does Andre Drummond, the Pistons’ rookie center from Connecticut, a seven-foot, shot blocking kangaroo who, at 19 years, is tender in age but loaded with skills, some of which still need to be harnessed, and refined.

Pistons fans are daft. They are beside themselves in wonderment of what they could be seeing on the floor, with Monroe and Drummond running side-by-side. Never before have the Pistons possessed two athletic men of this size, at the same time.

It’s enough to make one dare murmur those two words.

Twin Towers.

About time the Pistons tried it.

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Oct
26

Bye, George

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Was George McGovern the worst presidential candidate to come from the two major parties, in history?

 

You could make a case for it.
Not that any Democrat would have defeated Dick Nixon in 1972, all of the president’s dirty tricks notwithstanding.
Yet somehow McGovern, the senator from South Dakota who passed away last week, became the Democrat nominee in ’72, when there were better and more appealing men available.
It wasn’t just that McGovern was more left than a freeway’s fast lane shoulder. The times were kinda, sorta, right for a left-winger such as McGovern to run for president. There was the Vietnam War, for one; McGovern was a famous opposer of the war.
But the Democrats didn’t need to go so left of center to have a shot against Nixon, even with the war raging on.
Part of the blame could be laid at the feet of Lyndon Johnson.
It was LBJ who shocked the nation by not seeking re-election in 1968, after pretty much trouncing the hawk Barry Goldwater in 1964. Initially, Johnson’s decision opened the door for the likes of Bobby Kennedy and vice president Hubert Humphrey. Kennedy was the early favorite for the nomination, but you know how that turned out in early-June in Los Angeles.
So it was Humphrey against Nixon in ’68, and the race was close. Yet it’s hard not to wonder what would have happened had Johnson gone against Nixon armed with more than a full term under his belt.
That sequence of events—Johnson running and winning in ’68—likely would not have led to an extreme left-winger like McGovern gaining traction in 1972.
If you believe the whispers, the torpedoing of other Dems like Ed Muskie (the infamous “Canadian letter” may have been planted by Nixon operatives) might have been part of a concerted effort to isolate McGovern as the last man standing. Ted Kennedy nixed an offer to run, and George Wallace was partially paralyzed in an assassination attempt. Eugene McCarthy, another pacifist, couldn’t get rolling.
So that left McGovern, and his campaign was hamstrung almost immediately after the party’s convention when it was learned that running mate Thomas Eagleton had some mental issues in his past. McGovern soon dumped Eagleton and tabbed Sargent Shriver, a Kennedy by proxy (and marriage) only.
As expected, McGovern was destroyed by the Nixon machine, both before and on Election Day. The South Dakota senator never had a prayer.
George McGovern (right) and doomed running mate Thomas Eagleton at the 1972 Democratic National Convention


Yet they say McGovern’s failed candidacy galvanized the Democrats. More likely, Watergate did that.
Regardless, they said goodbye to McGovern today in South Dakota.
Vice president Joe Biden damned McGovern with praise at a prayer service Thursday night, calling the late senator ”the father of the modern Democratic Party.” Without his resolve, Biden said, the country would have remained mired in the Vietnam War for longer and “so much more blood and so much more treasure would have been wasted.”
“The war would never have ended when it did. It would never have ended when it did,” Biden said, his voice rising as he turned his body toward McGovern’s daughters. “Your father gave courage to people who didn’t have the courage to speak up to finally stand up. Your father stood there and took all of that beating.”
McGovern certainly took a beating on Election Night in 1972. But he picked himself up and continued to be an effective senator for nearly a decade longer. He might have been a lousy presidential candidate, but like so many of them, his candidacy was the culmination of a perfect storm.
Or imperfect, in this case.
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Oct
26

Burning Questions: World Series Game 2

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Note: During the playoffs, Monday Morning Manager will be answering Burning Questions. The morning after every Tigers playoff game, come back here for MMM’s answers to the questions that many  of you have about the previous night’s game. Today’s BQ addresses Game 2 of the World Series.

As David Bowie once sang, “Panic in Detroit.” Correct?

Pretty much. Going down 0-2 takes your margin for error, which in the World Series is already narrow, and squeezes it. You can say whatever you want about the Giants merely holding serve at home, but the fact of the matter is the Tigers have to figure out a way to win a ballgame Saturday night. Period.

 

The Tigers haven’t caught a break yet. Are the Giants the team of destiny?

MMM still believes in the power of change of venue, especially with the Tigers, who play much better at home. Maybe an off day, some travel, and chilly Detroit will cool off the Giants and turn the tide. But the bottom line is you are not going to win too many baseball games by managing two hits.

Well, you called it. You said Madison Bumgarner was going to eat the Tigers’ lunch. Was his stuff that good?

No. MMM was appalled at the swings and misses that Mad-Bum got. Once again, a guy on a bad streak gets healthy against the Tigers. Has happened a lot this season. MMM almost would rather have seen Bumgarner’s ERA being 1.12 in the postseason rather than 11.25. Bumgarner got an amazing number of swings and misses with his high fastball, which is hardly explosive. Brutal offensive performance by the Tigers.

 

Twitter almost blew up when third base coach Gene Lamont sent Prince Fielder home in the second inning, trying to score Prince from first base on Delmon Young’s double. Prince made a bad slide, but how bad was the decision to send him?

MMM doesn’t have enough breath to tell you how bad that was. MMM played Little League ball, and even at age 8 he was told, “Never make the first out of an inning at third base or home plate.” That decision was rotten to the core. It wasn’t like the Giants had to make extraordinary effort; just a simple relay. Had Lamont done the right thing, the Tigers would have had runners on second and third with nobody out. Jhonny Peralta didn’t help matters by popping out on the first pitch after that play. So suddenly there were two outs and a man on second, just like that. Changed the inning dramatically. The Tigers could have gotten to Bumgarner very early in what was termed to be a bounce back start for him.

 

Playing Devil’s Advocate here, was Lamont merely trying to get the Tigers on the board early?

If that was Austin Jackson or Quintin Berry, maybe you send the runner. But again, there was nobody out. Chances are you’d get that run home sometime during the course of the inning; no need to push the envelope there. All that play did was rob the Tigers of some early momentum and get the crowd back into it. So, so wrong. What a time to be betrayed by your coaches.

 

Why can’t the Tigers score runs for Doug Fister?

That’s rhetorical, right? MMM has no clue. Fister just has had bad luck lately in that department. Unfortunately for him, the Tigers were facing a junkball lefty—the kind of pitcher who eats them alive.

 

Another key play and example of the breaks going the Giants way was the sacrifice bunt laid down by Gregor Blanco in the seventh inning with two men on and no outs. Catcher Gerald Laird elected to let the ball roll, and it stayed fair. Thoughts?

MMM was yelling for Laird to pounce on it and throw. It wasn’t THAT close to rolling foul. Never leave your fate to chance like that, especially in a series where you are starving for breaks. Laird should have fielded the ball, gunned Blanco out, and move on. It was very fortuitous that the Giants only scored one run in that inning, not that it mattered. But while that was a break for the Giants, it was the result of poor decision-making by the Tigers.

 

Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval, reared his head again, this time with the glove—robbing Miguel Cabrera of a double by spearing Miggy’s laser in the fourth inning. Why won’t he leave the Tigers alone?

How he made that catch is anyone’s guess. You can’t hit a ball any harder than Cabrera hit that line drive. Yet Sandoval, all 300 pounds of him, was able to flash some dexterity and make the catch. It was another head shaker, and MMM can only hope that those kinds of breaks stay with the home team in Detroit.


So here are at must win time; you said so yourself.

Thanks for the reminder. But it’s true. No other way to put it.

 

Is this Series reminding you of 2006?

Not until Lamont’s blunder. MMM wrote off Game 1 as just one of those bad nights that happen sometimes, even in the World Series. But after watching Lamont make love to the pooch on the send of Fielder, memories of all that bad baseball the Tigers played against the Cardinals in 2006 definitely came roaring back (no pun intended). In that Series, the Tigers were done in largely because their pitchers couldn’t field their position. Lamont’s blunder has put a new wrinkle on self-destruction.

 

Any final thoughts?

Last night’s game was everything we crabbed about during the season, in a microcosm. Lamont (who is no favorite in Detroit); paralyzed hitting against a hittable pitcher; no run support for Fister; an offense that goes into hibernation on the road. It was all there last night, shining its light directly into the Tigers eyes.

 

Anibal Sanchez to the rescue in Game 3? He has to go up against Ryan Vogelsong, who’s been very good in the postseason.

Wait—did you say the other team’s pitcher has been very good? Great!! MMM likes those odds. If you had told him that Vogelsong was 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA, like Bumgarner, then MMM would have squirmed. Bring on the guys with the good numbers!!

 

I have one word for you: cynical.

I have two words for you. Wanna hear them?

 

Come back here Sunday for BQ after World Series Game 3!!

Categories : Baseball, Detroit Tigers
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Oct
25

Burning Questions: World Series Game 1

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Note: During the playoffs, Monday Morning Manager will be answering Burning Questions. The morning after every Tigers playoff game, come back here for MMM’s answers to the questions that many  of you have about the previous night’s game. Today’s BQ addresses Game 1 of the World Series.

“Legends are Born in October” is how the tag line goes. Looks like we have our first one of this World Series in Pablo Sandoval, huh?
Anytime your company includes ONLY Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols, you’re in rarified air. Sandoval’s three-homer game in a World Series has now occurred in consecutive years, but prior to that it happened in 1926 and 1928 (Ruth) and 1977 (Jackson).  That’s it. No one saw this one coming, from a dude who hit just 12 home runs all year. But Kung Fu Panda now has six homers in the postseason. Craziness.

How does Sandoval get on top of an 0-2 fastball from Justin Verlander and smack it 411 feet over the center field fence?
MMM hates to quote Fox’s Tim McCarver, but he will. “I don’t know,” which is what McCarver said when Joe Buck asked the same question. The answer, MMM guesses, is “That’s baseball.” Until Sandoval’s homer, Verlander had not given up a four-bagger on an 0-2 pitch all season. Again, craziness.

After just one game, who from the Giants has your shorts bunched in a knot?
Wow, such imagery. MMM already thinks Angel Pagan is annoying, and Marco Scutaro is giving MMM ghoulish nightmares of past pedestrian players like Brian Doyle (1978) and Gene Tenace (1972), who turned into World Series legends. Tim Lincecum looked like his old, Cy Young self. And what is that silly salute that Pagan and other Giants players do? That’s got to go, too.

Game 1 was all Giants, obviously. Care to guess why?
Verlander was due for a postseason stinker, and he had it last night. An ominous sign was the Tigers leaving men on first and second in the first inning, when they got those runners there with only one out. But when Prince Fielder, perhaps too anxious, popped up on the first pitch, MMM squirmed.

Aside from that, the Giants had it all going: the breaks, their bats, the crowd, Sandoval’s historic night. MMM doesn’t buy into the “too much rest” theory. The Tigers just got beat like a drum, period. That happens sometimes, you know.

Speaking of Verlander, what happened? And his career World Series ERA is now 7.20 and his record 0-3.
He labored like he hasn’t labored in weeks. Again, not a time factor; he pitched on just one more day’s rest than normal. He just couldn’t finish hitters, especially the “relentless” (another McCarver word) Scutaro. Verlander got two strikes on a lot of hitters, but to the Giants’ credit, they fought off a lot of good pitches and elevated his pitch count. That’s why Jim Leyland pinch hit for JV after just four innings (and 98 pitches) of work.

As for his WS numbers, they’re only based on 15 innings. And two of those starts came when he was a 23-year-old rookie.

So the Tigers didn’t look rusty to you?
Not really. They have typically struggled with lefty junkballers like Barry Zito, and last night was no exception. All everyone talked about was what Verlander was going to do to the poor Giants hitters. But nobody cared to mention that Zito is the kind of pitcher that typically gives the Tigers fits. We’re talking about a team (Tigers) that routinely makes Bruce Chen look like Steve Carlton.

Anything positive you can give us?
MMM is hoping that the Giants blew their wad of superlative performances and lucky breaks (read: Pagan’s double that caromed off the third base bag, which started a two-out, three-run rally in the third inning) in one game. MMM doesn’t see Game 2 as being anything like Game 1. The Tigers have a game under their belts and should have a better showing tonight.

Must win tonight?
No. But Game 3 will be, obviously, if the Tigers go home down 0-2. Certainly a win in Game 2 will calm everyone’s nerves and make Game 1 that much easier to forget, because last night’s game was, indeed, forgettable if you’re a Tigers fan. Sooner or later the Tigers will have to win a game on the Bay if they’re to be world champs. MMM would like to see it come sooner than later, but let’s not get into “must win” mode already. There’s enough pressure here.

One last question: Game 2′s Giants starter, Madison Bumgarner, has earned the first half of his surname in the postseason: 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA. What does this mean?
That Bumgarner will eat the Tigers’ lunch. MMM is only partly kidding. Seems these kinds of dudes give the Tigers all sorts of problems. So many times bad numbers for the opposing pitcher have equaled masterful pitching performances against Detroit. And Bumgarner is another Chen-like guy. This won’t be a picnic, but MMM foresees a Game 2 win by the Tigers and a 1-1 Series heading to Detroit.

A predicted win? This is going on the Internets, you know.
So doesn’t that make it automatically true?

Come back here tomorrow for BQ after World Series Game 2!!

Categories : Baseball, Detroit Tigers
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Oct
24

On the Record

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There’s an episode in one of my favorite TV comedy series of all time, Everybody Loves Raymond, where Ray Barone’s dad, Frank, chastises his son for ruining (accidentally) dad’s jazz album collection when Raymond was a youngster. Seems Ray moved the albums to make room for his new Hot Wheels car track, received for Christmas. Unfortunately, Raymond moved the albums next to the furnace. You can imagine what happened to them.

So Ray tries to make up for the lost music by replacing as many of the albums as he can, with CD versions. He professes to have visited a bunch of independent music stores in his effort to replace the albums.

Frank is skeptical of the discs and won’t even listen to them, which frustrates Raymond. Finally, Raymond basically forces his dad to listen to the discs by having them in a portable CD player, ready to go, when his parents return from a shopping trip. They enter the home, Raymond hits the remote button, and the jazz fills the house, loudly.

But still Frank isn’t happy. Raymond tries to convince his father of the discs’ grandeur by declaring that it’s like the band was right there, in the living room, thanks to the crystal clarity of the sound.

Still no sale. Frank gets belligerent (nothing out of character for him) and orders the music turned off. Raymond is incredulous; how can his dad NOT enjoy these discs?

The answer arrives a few minutes later, when Raymond’s brother Robert and his fiancee Amy arrive with some of the actual albums, purchased at a used music store. They are not CDs but vinyl, 33-1/3 RPM platters of jazz.

The album is played on the phonograph, with all of its crackling and hissing, and Frank is in heaven.

“Now THAT’S music!” he declares as the songs pop.

I know where he’s coming from.

CD technology is wonderful; digital is always best, in terms of cleanliness in sound. But I get what Frank Barone is enjoying—the music in its original form; static and crackle and hiss and all.

I started to collect 45s when I was as young as a pre-schooler. Actually, my mom would buy me the records, based on my likes. The Monkees were high on my list back then. The 45 collection grew as I became old enough to pick them out on my own at K-Mart, which sold them for 96 cents, in their plain white sleeves on hooks behind the cashier in the music department.

My first record player was plastic and the “stylus” was a clunky needle that was bigger than a pencil lead.

This record player is very similar to my first one, circa the late-1960s





In 1977 my parents bought me a brand new stereo system, and the phonograph was much more sophisticated and the stylus was diamond. Plus, you could stack the records/albums, and play hours of uninterrupted music.

The cracking and hissing was part of the deal. So was the occasional skip or crack that would cause the same four notes to play over and over until you moved the stylus.

I don’t know; there was something magical about turning on the record player and lowering the needle/stylus onto the vinyl platter and hearing that first crackle and hiss, moments before the song began.

You don’t get that with CDs. I’m not so sure that’s progress.

I know Frank Barone would agree with me.

 

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Oct
21

Tigers Strong Arm Their Way Past Yanks

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Thwack!

It started with Doug Fister last Saturday night, and it ended with Max Scherzer on Thursday in the twilight. In between there was Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander. And Phil Coke, of all people.

Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

Relentlessly the Tigers, behind their Four Aces and their Wild Card Joker, hacked away at the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, which is mercifully abbreviated for us writers as the ALCS.

With every inning of shutout baseball they tossed in the series, the Tigers starters chopped off a little more of the Yankee mystique. Fister, Sanchez, Verlander and Scherzer—the new Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as far as the Yankees are concerned.

One goose egg after another was posted next to NEW YORK on the scoreboard. And as they were being racked up, the Redwood that has been the Yankees, with their 27 World Series titles and 17 playoff appearances in the past 18 years, was being whittled down until Prince Fielder caught the final out—a harmless popup, naturally—and the Tigers could finally yell, “TIMMMMBERRR!”

You’ve heard of the hockey people talk about “rolling four lines”? The Tigers rolled four starters at the Yankees, each one better than the previous. Fister was good. Sanchez was very good. Verlander was great. Then it was Scherzer’s turn in Game 4 and he was unhittable—literally, after five innings. The Yankees managed a couple of hits and a run in the sixth inning, but by that time the Tigers had scored six times, had hit two home runs, and the plastic drop cloth was being tacked over the stalls in the Detroit clubhouse.

I’m not sure we are fully aware of what just took place in the past six days. Maybe we’re like Jack Buck that way, when Buck called Kirk Gibson’s game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, a scene that would have been rejected out of hand by any Hollywood producer worth his salt.

“I don’t believe what I just saw!” Buck screamed into the radio mike that night, and he was speaking for an entire baseball nation when he did.

The Tigers swept the Yankees in the ALCS. But that doesn’t begin to tell the story. It’s like being asked to describe “The Wizard of Oz” and saying, “There was a tornado and a girl got knocked out and had a weird dream. Then she woke up.”

First, this wasn’t a sweep, it was an exorcism. Yankees haters everywhere—and that encompasses about 90 percent of the United States population by my count—saw all the demons that had previously possessed their team at the hands of the Yankees and watched them being sucked out of the souls of the guys in pinstripes.

Tigers pitching, with the exception of the One Who Shall Not Be Named, limited the Yankees to two runs in the four games. One came on a solo homer in the ninth inning of Game 3. The other came on a couple of hits in the sixth inning of Game 4.

That was it for the Yankees offense.

Just call them the Bronx Bummers.

What we saw materialize, starting with last Saturday and ending on Thursday—which would have been Wednesday, had Mother Nature not injected herself into the series—was the demolition of a franchise that has terrorized the American League since 1995, when the Yankees started making the playoffs again after a 14-year absence and only failed to do so once in the ensuing years up to 2012.

The Yankees, it turned out, didn’t even belong on the same diamond as the Tigers. If this was spring training, the Yankees would have been asked to take their game to the minor league complex.

The Yankees not only didn’t win a game in the series, they never had the lead. Not once, in 39 innings. When the series began last Saturday, the Yankees’ objective was to get the four wins needed to return yet again to the World Series. By the time the series ended, the Yankees were just hoping not to get no-hit.

A rally for them was a ball three count.

One by one, Yankees hitters made that long walk back to the dugout, head hanging, bat drooping, another strikeout in the books for Detroit pitching.

The series was stunning in its one-sidedness, which is what I mean about this not fully sinking in yet. The series came and went so rapidly, we need some time to look back at this thing and truly marvel at it.

Someday we’ll be sitting on our porches, sipping lemonade, rocking in our chairs, and gazing off into the distance. One of us will say, “Remember the 2012 ALCS?”

“Yep,” the other will say, nodding.

“That was something.”

“Yep.”

And more lemonade will be sipped.

Somebody page Frank Lary, for the Tigers are suddenly the Yankee Killers, redux.

Three times in the past seven seasons, the Tigers have drummed the Yankees out of the playoffs. Last year, it took a gutsy win in raucous Yankee Stadium, in the deciding Game 5, to pull off the feat. This year, the Tigers survived one scary inning by the One Who Shall Not Be Named in Game 1, and after that they weren’t to be caught. The hare beat the tortoise this time, in the requisite runaway.

Ding, dong, the Yankees are dead. Their supposed Murderers’ Row lineup all sported batting averages resembling the weights of bikini models. Right, A-Rod?

But are they truly dead? Have we seen the last of the New York Yankees in October?

Considering that a majority of their stars aren’t far from ordering off the seniors menu, maybe. But these are the Yankees. They never met a challenge they feel they can’t buy their way around. Some teams rebuild; the Yankees break off a check.

That’s OK. The Tigers are moving on, to the World Series. The team that was three games behind the Chicago Freaking White Sox about a month ago is in the championship round—armed and dangerous.

Categories : Baseball, Detroit Tigers
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Oct
19

Burning Questions: ALCS Game 4

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Note: During the playoffs, Monday Morning Manager will be answering Burning Questions. The morning after every Tigers playoff game, come back here for MMM’s answers to the questions that many  of you have about the previous night’s game. Today’s BQ addresses Game 4 of the ALCS.

The Tigers have advanced to the World Series three times since the LCS were introduced in 1969, and in all three occasions they have swept their ALCS opponent. But did they win this too quickly, given what happened in 2006?
Not at all. There’s something to be said for rest and recharging. You might call MMM nuts, because of how the Tigers played poorly in the 2006 World Series after having a week off. But manager Jim Leyland told TBS after last night’s game that the Tigers have a plan this year for the break. He wouldn’t divulge it, but he did say that the team won’t be “sitting around doing nothing for a week” as it did in 2006.

Besides, it’s not always a good thing to bounce right into another series. The Tigers have been playing “big games” for nearly two months now, as the division race took everything they had to pass Chicago in the final week. That wears on you. Taking a few days off to relax and gather yourself is not a bad thing right now.

The Tigers starting pitchers have been off the charts in the postseason. Were you surprised at how they dominated the Yankees?
If you’re asking if MMM was expecting an ERA from them of about 0.67 (27.1 IP, 2 ER), then yes, surprised. But not shocked, because the Yankees also expended a lot of energy to overtake the Orioles in both the division race and the ALDS, and the Yanks aren’t exactly spring chickens. The Tigers exposed the Yankees as old, slow hitters who ran out of gas.

Any particular key moment in Game 4?
Might sound odd, but MMM thought the way Max Scherzer came out and struck out two of the first three hitters sent a message: New York, your pain on offense won’t subside so easily, if at all. The worst thing for the Tigers would have been if the Yankees, who showed some tough at-bats in the ninth inning of Game 3,  tagged Max for a run or two in the first inning. But Scherzer came out dealing, and in fact didn’t even give up a hit until the sixth inning.

And, of course, the Tigers’ four-run fourth inning, which broke the game open and allowed Scherzer to relax a little. That kind of gave the game a feeling of fait accompli.

What has gotten into Jhonny Peralta, who hit two of the Tigers’ four homers last night?
If Leyland and Peralta can’t explain it (they have both gone on record as not being able to), then you expect MMM to explain it? But Peralta’s sudden emergence with the bat and the glove in the postseason is what makes baseball, and especially playoff baseball, so great. And it’s not just Peralta. Delmon Young was named series MVP. These are two of the most maligned Tigers, from an offensive standpoint, this season. Yet here they are, producing in the clutch at the most important time of the year. Simply amazing.

Speaking of maligned guys, how about Phil Coke?
MMM wouldn’t have been heartbroken if Coke was left off the playoff roster—that’s how much he’d fallen into disfavor with yours truly. But he’s another whose game has been shifted into overdrive for the postseason. He’s pitching with supreme confidence now, and it’s all because Jose Valverde imploded in Game 1. If that doesn’t happen, Coke doesn’t get these high-profile chances.

What happens now to the Yankees?
The easy thing would be to say, “Who cares?” But clearly we all care, like it or not. The Yankees have made the postseason every year but one since 1995—MMM finds that terribly impressive. But theirs is a team that is old and petering out. The roster is filled with guys past the age of 36, and some with ball-and-chain contracts. They might be able to get by with a reload instead of a rebuild, because there’s always free agency. MMM, however, is reminded of the adage, “You can’t outrace the calendar.” MMM thinks this may be the first time in almost 20 years that the Yankees are staring at a crossroads before them. One slight move either way could determine the direction of their franchise for years to come.

Did you know that this is the first time a team has eliminated the Yankees in the postseason two years in a row since the New York Giants in 1921 and 1922?
MMM heard that mentioned and it’s quite amazing. That’s 90 years coming. Another amazing stat: The Tigers are 10-3 against the Yankees in the postseason. How many teams (if any) can say that?

Gut question: Does Jose Valverde close in the World Series?
That IS the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Papa Grande says he has it all figured out now—a mechanics issue that has been solved. And he was warming up in the ninth inning of Game 4, albeit with a seven-run lead. If Valverde’s troubles were physical (i.e. an injury), then he wouldn’t be on the postseason roster. If the Tigers add him to the World Series roster (which they presumably will do), it doesn’t make sense to not use him. As good as Coke was in the closer’s role in the ALCS, given the time off and the supposed fix in mechanics, MMM sees Papa Grande returned to his closer role. But his leash will be very short.

Are the Tigers the team to beat in the World Series, regardless of who emerges from the National League?
If the starting pitching continues to be lights out, the Tigers will run roughshod over their NL counterparts. But if the games require 5+ runs to win every night, then beware; the Tigers’ offense can go dormant in a hurry.

You ready to take a few days off before the World Series?
MMM could use a break. The beer is running low, after all.

Come back here next Thursday for BQ after World Series Game 1!!

Categories : Baseball, Detroit Tigers
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Oct
18

Boss Romney

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Leave it to an old Wayne State guy to cut to the chase.

James Lipton, who’s so much more than just the host of Bravo’s “Inside the Actors Studio,” was on Chris Matthews’ MSNBC show last night. And the former Wayne State attendee (he received an honorary doctorate from WSU in 2002) boiled the presidential election down to this.

“The choice is clear,” Lipton said. “Do you want a president, or a boss?”

Lipton was asked to give his impressions of the performances of Mitt Romney and President Obama at Tuesday’s debate, from the perspective of someone who is very used to critiquing on-screen, on-stage bits.

Lipton felt that Romney was every bit the CEO and Obama every bit the statesman.

“Romney is that boss who tells bad jokes to his employees and waits for everyone to laugh,” Lipton said. And, “He’s very used to getting his way.”

Lipton thought that Romney was less-than-deferential to the president, particularly when Romney told Obama, “You’ll get your turn,” as he motioned for the president to sit down in the middle of a diatribe.

“This is the President of the United States, being told this by a…civilian,” Lipton said, incredulously.

Lipton’s bottom line is spot on. Romney does indeed come off as the CEO, talking down to his subjects in a board room. Obama looked like, well, the president—and how a president should look.

Matthews chimed in at one point and said Romney is “like that guy on the plane who won’t turn his cell phone off after the stewardess tells him to.”

Again, spot on.

Lipton said it again. “Do you want to be governed by a statesman, or supervised by a boss?”

Wayne State University’s own James Lipton

 

Romney’s lack of statesmanship was supremely evident in the exchange during Tuesday’s debate about the tragic loss of diplomats in Libya on September 11. The former Massachusetts governor drew Obama’s ire, as the president both scolded Romney and took offense to the suggestion that the administration’s response to the attacks in Libya was political in nature.

“That’s not what we do,” Obama said, glaring at Romney in the eyes. “It’s not what I do as commander-in-chief.”

It was Obama’s “I’m the president and you’re not” moment.

It got worse, as Romney pressed the issue, claiming that Obama didn’t call the attacks a terrorist act until two weeks later. That blew up in his face when moderator Candy Crowley noted that the president did, indeed, call the attacks an act of terror the day after they occurred.

Romney tried to bully the president and Crowley, and just as he’s done in previous debates, the governor barked out his own interpretation of the rules.

“He got the last word on that one so I get the last word on this one,” Romney said early on as he apparently was not only debate participant but also the rules sheriff.

“It doesn’t quite work that way,” Crowley said.

Not that it matters.

Debate score: 1-1, with one more remaining next Monday.

But Lipton was dead on accurate in his assessment.

President, or Boss?

Good call!

Categories : Enotes, Politics, presidency
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