Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Detroit Lions. Shut up and play

With all due respect to the die hard Honolulu blue and silver faithful fans -- and a few over-koolaided scribes (you know who you are) that continue to peddle the same snake oil every year to the suckers -- there comes a time when it just starts getting ridiculous. Given the fact the Detroit Lions have collectively and historically been the most inept, bumbling franchise in the entire NFL since Super Bowls started back in 1967, one would think the current team would at least keep their heads down and show a bit of modesty and humility. One would be wrong. From the general manager and head coach on down to certain players -- they're flapping their gums once again.

GM Martin Mayhew recently said he's trying to "keep his seat cool". In other words, he doesn't want to get fired. Marty need not be concerned. After all, the Ford ownership of the Lions only seems to emerge from their coma once every 7-8 years to take a look around, make a few other bone-headed decisions, and then go back to sleep. Like his predecessor Matt Millen, the latest clueless version of an MM in charge of the team is probably safe for a few more years until the Fords wake up again. Mayhew's now yapping to the press about how much he likes the current team. Memo to Marty -- shut up.

Head coach Jim Schwartz is definitely spouting off with his confidence in this year's Lions. Um, excuse me, but isn't this the same guy who's team crashed and burned last year to a 4-12 record after having been projected as "contenders" following the previous year? The same guy with a career 22-42 record in Detroit? Note to Jimbo -- zip it.

Linebacker Stephen Tulloch has been vocal of late. Now that he's fully healthy, Stevie thinks to seem he's some sort of Lawrence Taylor or Demarcus Ware. Everybody look-out. He's even gone so far as to say a couple of the "young boys" that will be playing linebacker for the Lions are coming along just fine. Well gee. There's nothing like those young boys looking up to a guy that's been a career loser.

Speaking of loud-mouthed losers -- how about Lions' center Dominic Raiola? He's always had lots to say ever since he joined the Lions back in 2001. This not only includes the press, but also trash-talking to some LIONS fans when they dare to scorn what they're seeing on the field. If he hasn't already, the irrepressible Dom has to at least be closing in on the all-time NFL record for games lost as a center. In his first 12 years, Raiola has been on the losing end of 139 games. That's an average of 11 and a half losses per year. And whoever heard of a center being a spokesman for an NFL team? But still, in typical Lions' fashion, Dominic yammers away like he'll be Hall of Fame worthy someday. Only in Detroit would he be taken seriously. The same two words for D-Rai. Shut up.

Tight end Brandon Pettigrew says he wants to cut down on his dropped balls and fumbles. Yes Brandy, that would be helpful. In the meantime, just go do it, and be glad you're playing for the Lions. Any other self-respecting NFL team would have given you a one-way bus ticket out of town a couple years ago.

Newly acquired running back Reggie Bush is already being hailed as a team leader. He likes what he sees. Well, he should. At least he's got a job. Let's ignore the debacle Bush was front and center in during his college days at USC. After his pro hey-day in New Orleans, he went to the Miami Dolphins. Delusional Lions' fans probably look down their noses at the Dolphins. Yet even Miami didn't seem overly concerned about keeping Bush around. Nor were other teams exactly clamoring for his services. Enter the Lions offering him millions. The man hasn't played a single down yet for his new team, but he's already speaking on their behalf? Please. There was once another Reggie whose baseball exploits earned him the nickname Mr. October. Mr. Jackson no doubt remains proud of that to this day. Come this October, after 5-6 games with the Lions, it might just be a battered and bruised Reggie Bush looks around and says, "What the hell have I gotten myself into here?"

At that, over the decades, there are a few NFL teams that just seem to exude class. I would suggest the Packers, Steelers and Patriots for starters. They might not win every year, but they don't stay down for long. More importantly, you never seem to hear anyone from such successful franchises offering up false bravado, to be eaten up the local scribes and passed along to the die-hard koolaiders that don't know any better. No, they're too busy studying playbooks, watching film, along with practice, practice, and more practice, until they get things as perfect as they can. With very few exceptions, the vast majority of truly great coaches, players, teams, and even GMs over the years are too busy working to sit around flapping their gums about how good they are, or in the Lions case, might be. That sort of talking is shown on the field when the games start.

The perennial losers talk the talk. The perennial winners walk the walk.

There's a big difference.

The Lions are doing a bunch of talking right now, coming off a 4-12 season, including losing the last 8 in a row.

Their local biased scribes have bought into it once again, and are busy peddling their 2013 version of Honolulu blue magical elixir to those that so desperately want to believe.

Well, guess what? Reality check. It ain't gonna happen this year for the Lions, or likely any year in the foreseeable future. All they've had in the last few years is Matthew Stafford throwing a lot of passes to Calvin Johnson. Even now, beyond that, they're a mish-mash of unproven draft choices, free-agent cast-offs, a cocky head coach that talks more than he thinks, and a bunch of guys that would be lucky to make the practice squad on elite NFL teams.

Bottom line? If they catch a few breaks, the Detroit puddytats might go 8-8 this year.

But they really need to shut up.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cabrera and Leyland ejected? Good

Recently, Detroit Tiger slugger Miguel Cabera got tossed from a game for arguing ball and strike calls with the home plate umpire. Shortly thereafter, Tiger manager Jim Leyland came onto the field to argue some more, and he got the heave-ho too. Good.

I'm too lazy to look it up, so I don't know what rule it is, but I'm positive there IS one in the handy-dandy Major League baseball rulebook that states players arguing ball and strike calls is a no-no. Regardless if it's a pitcher, catcher, or batter -- thou shalt not do that -- at the risk of being ejected from the game. Yet we see it all the time. Like little kids, players are always pushing the envelope to see just how much they can get away with.

There's another rule that says managers shalt not question ball and strike calls from the dugout either. I mean, c'mon, nobody has a better view of any pitched ball than the home plate umpire. Where does a loose cannon like Leyland get off by charging onto the field and ranting that a certain pitch was an inch or two high/low/inside/outside, whatever. When it happens, guys like Leyland were in a sunken dugout maybe 100 feet away. And they think their vantage point from the dugout should trump what the home plate umpire saw and called? Please.

There are those that would claim certain umpires "have it in" for certain teams, and they may have a point. Yet I would submit that most times the teams, be it certain players or the manager, have gone out of their way to aggravate that particular umpire in the past. Hey, umps try to do the best they can while remaining neutral, but they're human too. They have emotions just like everybody else. Keep pecking away at somebody long enough, and it should come as no surprise that eventually the peckee will develop a rather short fuse towards the pecker.

In the above-mentioned Cabrera/Leyland incident, the umpire was one Chad Fairchild. He and the rest of his crew had had a run-in with the Tigers not long before.

Interesting note: While Fairchild currently lives in Florida, he was born in Sandusky, Ohio -- a Buckeye. Could it be that he hates all things Michigan? Nah. Before an ump graduates to the Major Leagues, his body of work has been closely examined, and he's been pretty well screened and vetted over many years to rule out any such potential biases. So I highly doubt Mr. Fairchild could give a hoot who won a game between the Tigers and the Phillies.

Just a thought, but maybe MLB should consider putting the clamps down hard on those that would protest ball and strike calls. A zero tolerance policy. Mouth off at all -- and the player and/or manager is gone. Not one word, or even gesture, shall be uttered or shown in protest. In other words, respect the umpires. People don't seem to realize that while umpire crews get moved around from city to city to call different series', they're like Cal Ripken Jr. used to be. They don't get many games off either. Further consider that during the course of any given game, the umps, rain or shine, never get to leave the field once the game has begun. Players shuffle on and off the field every inning and get a breather. For the most part, managers like Leyland watch most of the game from the dugout, and have the luxury of sneaking down the "tunnel" for a smoke, beer, candy bar, whatever. Not so the umpires. Once the game starts -- they're stuck on the field until it's over. They can't even sit down. No wonder they're so ornery sometimes.

Idle thought: No stats available, but I'm guessing the majority of them eventually develop some Major League varicose veins as well over the years of performing their duties. Tough job, in more ways than one.

Nevertheless, there's a better way when a player or manager disagrees with ball or strike calls by the home plate ump. Again, I still think players should have the zero-tolerance gag order. No more mouthing off to the umps. One word, and they're ejected. Whether they like it or not, accept whatever call has been made. In the long run, it will even itself out. Just play the game and shut up. They're professionals -- so act like it -- rather than a 6-year-old, whose 7-year-old brother just swiped their lollipop.

As for the managers? Make it like the NFL. Give them a red challenge flag when they disagree with a call. It can only be used once a game. That would necessitate the umpire crew reviewing video of the play that just happened. Perhaps they will change their call, and perhaps not. Instead of guys like Leyland charging onto the field and going berserk with their various antics, let them throw the red flag from the dugout -- which is where managers should stay in the first place. They can run onto the field and scream, spout obscenities, spit, kick dust, throw their caps, and otherwise prance around putting on a show that would make a Jerry Springer guest that just swallowed a whole meth lab look like Shirley Temple -- but in the end, it very rarely results in the original call being changed. So what's the point in all the theatrics?

And on some level, the umpire(s) that just suffered the wrath of such abuse might very well file that into their memory banks for the next time. Again, they're human too.

In my opinion, umpires should be treated like a judge in his courtroom. Once it's "game on", they're supposedly neutral, and in charge as well.

Can you imagine what would happen to a guy like Leyland if he threw one of his on-field hissy fits in a court of law, in front of a real judge?

Methinks the Marlboro Man would get ejected alright -- but not down to a plush clubhouse where he can sit in his office, stew, and cower those pesky reporters a while later.

More like three hots and a cot for a couple days in a place with bars on the rooms, while he pondered the errors of his ways, while cowering himself as his cellmates made the pecking order quite clear to him indeed. Nothing gets a man rethinking his priorities like a major dose of humility.

Bottom line? The umpires should be off-limits. Totally. Period. Leave them alone. They get far more right than they get wrong.

Let them do their jobs and play on.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Performance enhancing drugs. Here to stay?

While I certainly agree with the vast majority that PEDs should have no place in sports, perhaps it's time to look at things from a different perspective.

Major League Baseball is currently front and center in such news with it's recent suspension of Ryan Braun, and others, notably Alex Rodriguez, likely to follow in the wake of the whole Biogenesis affair/scandal. But let's not kid ourselves. PEDs have not only been around for a long time, but have permeated many other sports as well over the years.

The Olympics and the Tour de France come to mind, but it went way beyond that. Back in the day, many NFL players popped their "greenies", and got their "turn you into a psychotic zombie wrecking machine" shots just before a game and returning to the field for the second half. Thing is, back then, even though it was largely unknown to the public, it's probably a pretty safe bet to say most people wouldn't have cared anyway. It's football. Go kill each other, boys. What great fun this is to watch. And hey, as the late Peter Gent, a former NFLer himself, pointed out in his book North Dallas Forty back in 1973 -- if you're getting down in a 3-point stance and the guy across the line from you has his eyes sunken back in his head, is twitching and drooling, and mumbling something about tearing your mother's head off when he's done with you -- you just might want to have a serious dose of whatever that guy is on-- so you can merely survive what's about to happen next. Did that make it right? Of course not. But that's the way it was. And nobody cared.

Times have changed. Who knows what sort of PEDs have been used in various other sports over the years? Certainly not yours truly, but I'd bet they've been around far more than we know.

Which brings me back to the other perspective mentioned above. Let's look at a few harsh realities.

1). There always have been, and always will be those those who attempt to gain an unfair advantage on their competitors. From Wall Street shysters to loaded dice in a back alley crap game, it's going to happen.

2). In the world of sports, sometimes just the slightest edge can make the difference whether an athlete is successful (see medals, fame, and millions of dollars) or winds up back in Podunk bagging groceries at their local Kroger store. Given those two life choices, the temptation to cheat is understandably high.

3). In the world of sports pharmaceuticals, it's a never-ending chess match. While athletes are "tested" far more often than in the past, and the laboratories that analyze these samples continue to get more sophisticated in their techniques to expose cheaters -- few would doubt the "other side" remains equally busy. In other words, as I write this, there are chemists out there working on the next generation of PEDs that are not currently detectable. The labs will figure that out as well in a couple years, but by then the mad scientists will have moved on to yet their next creation.

While it would be great for any and all PEDs to finally go away, all the rules, regulations, and suspensions aren't likely to stop them.

Let's get real. Regardless of how good/bad an actual product may be, as long as there's a market/demand for it, there will be those working tirelessly to provide it. Cha-ching.

Remember "prohibition"? How did that work out? Bathtub gin, speak-easies, and gangsters slaughtering each other on the streets. Without prohibition, people like Al Capone and Detroit's Purple Gang never would have come into prominence. No need for Elliot Ness and his Untouchables either. The people found a way to drink anyway -- because they wanted to.

Fast forward a few generations and cannabis has morphed from being the "demon weed" that would surely drive one insane into modern-day medical marijuana cards in many states. It's not only legal to use it, but also to grow and dispense (deal) it. Despite the current resistance and blustering of some, it doesn't take much imagination to foresee what the end-game there will be in 10-20 years or so. Oh my. Times are changing indeed.

Whether I, or you, like it or not, pharmaceuticals in the world of sports likely aren't going away either. The powers-that-be can fight it all they want. Like the big bad wolf, they can huff and puff and blow a few houses down, but the sad truth is, in the end, they're basically waging a very costly guerrilla war against a faceless enemy that constantly morphs into something different.

Bottom line? MLB can smack all the players on their current Biogenesis hit list with long suspensions -- even lifetime bans. But if they really think this will deter some future athletes from crossing into the "dark side" so they can make millions, as opposed to cooking french fries for the minimum wage, they're only fooling themselves. Of COURSE, there will be those willing to roll the dice. It's human nature.

Somewhere, in their own laboratories, rather highly paid chemists are quite busy right now developing the next generation of undetectable not-so-goodies for those who would partake. They'll never even be identified, let alone suspended and held up to public ridicule. For that matter, if their latest concoctions are successful in going undetected for a year or two, they might well get a big fat bonus in their paycheck.

No doubt, they are aware of MLB's current witch-hunt going on. They understand examples have to be made, and a few more cows are likely headed to the slaughterhouse.

And I suspect the chemists chuckle -- and get back to work.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Max Scherzer. 15-1. A 30 game winner?

I don't think so. In fact, it's impossible. Unless the game of Major League baseball radically changes it's pitching strategies, there will never be another 30 game winner.

Consider the last, and only living pitcher to have won 30 games in a single season . Of course that would be Denny McLain. He pulled it off for the Detroit Tigers back in 1968, going 31-6. Not so well known is the fact he had an eye-popping 1.96 ERA over that entire year. For a starting pitcher, that's an incredible stat. I dare say even most of the elite modern-day "closers" would be quite happy with that particular number.

Thing is, McLain started 41 games that year. Given his 31-6 record, and a 162 game season, simple math dictates he not only started every 4th game, but got the win, or loss in all but 4 of them. Back in those days, teams lived and died with their starters a lot more than they do today. For better or worse, they rode those horses hard. In recent years, most clubs feature a Baskin-Robbins bull-pen of relievers. Lefties, righties, long/middle/short relief, a set-up guy, and a closer. Anymore, most MLB managers will tell you they're happy if they can get 6-7 innings out of a starter. Then again, with 7 or 8 multi-million dollar different flavored ice creams sitting out in the bullpen, doing nothing more than playing euchre or texting their girlfriends, it only seems fitting they should get tasted once in a while. But I digress.

After beating the Phillies earlier tonight, Scherzer has now run his 2013 record to a dazzling 15-1. Having started only 21 games, math again says Mad Max has taken the decision in all but 5 of them. In other words, and to his credit, Scherzer has been quite the work horse himself.

But here's the rub. Scherzer has no, as in ZERO chance of winning 30 games. Why? Because even if he won every game he started for the rest of the year -- he'd still fall quite short of that mark.

Consider: The Detroit Tigers have now played 103 games this season. That means 59 more to go (any post-season stats don't count). Unlike pitchers of yore like Denny McLain who started every 4th game, the modern-day variety only starts every 5th game -- at best. Because he just pitched last night, Scherzer likely won't start again until there's only 55 games remaining. Sorry about harping on the math, but do it again. Fifty five games divided by starting every 5th one equates to 11 more starts. Even if he runs the table, he'd wind up at 26-1. Sure, that would mean a slam-dunk Cy Young Award, and quite likely make him the American League MVP as well.

But 30 wins? Fuhgettaboutit. Not even close.

Think of Denny McLain as you will. A chicken farmer, organ player, TV personality, convicted felon -- whatever.

But 31-6, with a 1.96 ERA for a starting pitcher?

You'll never see numbers like that again.

Ain't gonna happen.

It's a matter of simple -- well -- you know.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Erasing Aaron Hernandez

Back in 1996, Arnold Schwartzenegger starred in a film titled "Eraser".  As a US marshal (John Kruger), his job was to erase the pasts of those that had entered the witness-protection program and, along the way, he managed to "erase" a few bad guys that would do them harm as well.

Front and center in the news these days is one Aaron Hernandez, a former tight end for the New England Patriots. Unlike those that ran afoul of John Kruger, and his rumored brother Freddie from different movies, Hernandez, though jailed, remains very much alive. Nonetheless, it appears he is also being erased, because of his alleged involvement in the death of one Odin Lloyd.  A few things to ponder....

Upon Hernandez being arrested, but BEFORE he was even charged, the Patriots released (fired) him. For such a valued player on the field, that seemed to be a bit hasty.

In the interim, the case has exploded into national, and international news. Scribes, talking heads, football fans, and even casual observers are closely paying attention as it unfolds. How does such a case become so sensational? Let's look at how the "system" typically works in this country.

When an "alleged" crime (see George Zimmerman) has been committed, the police gather evidence and present it to the prosecutors. Prosecutors issue warrants, arrests are made, and charges are filed. However, if along the way the police and/or prosecutors decide to trumpet a case to the media through press conferences and the like, then it logically follows such a case will start to gather interest among the masses. The snowball of hype starts rolling. Though legally they're no different than anyone else under the law, high-profile defendants such as politicians, movie stars, and athletes always seem to put the media circus into overdrive. Throw in their usual embellishment and, presto, all of a sudden such things are front page news.

As mentioned above, the Patriots are trying to erase Aaron Hernandez from their storied history. They even went so far as to ask people in possession of a Hernandez jersey to trade it in for another jersey of their choice. It's almost like their end game is to pretend Hernandez was never a member of their team. Erased.

Now, the University of Florida, where Hernandez played his college ball, seems to be taking another page from John Kruger. They're busy pulling down any and all photos of their one time gridiron superstar, and have even sawed and dug up a chunk of concrete that bore his name on Gainesville's version of the Hollywood walk of fame. Even though Hernandez's alleged crime happened long after he departed the U of F, it certainly appears they want to erase any memory of him too.

Further consider -- Hernandez has been in jail for over a month. At a "probable cause" hearing, which both the prosecution and defense agreed to weeks ago, the prosecution stated it wasn't yet ready. They needed more time to gather evidence. Some nitwit judge agreed and postponed it until August 22. Hey, these are the same people that had Hernandez arrested in the first place. In my opinion, defense attorney James Sultan was absolutely right on the money when he said if the prosecution couldn't be ready to present their case -- then why has his client spent the last month in jail? It's not like he was going anywhere. They could have waited until they had their ducks more in a row before putting a man in a cage. Now Hernandez has to spend another month behind bars. And all this over a mere probable cause hearing? The prosecutors weren't even prepared for THAT? Are you kidding me? How incompetent ARE these people?

Sure, the initial reports from the Hernandez case painted a grim picture. Things didn't look good for Aaron. But it's always that way, because it's the prosecution putting the brush to the canvas. However, as in many other cases, once all the evidence has throughly been dissected in a court of law, sometimes things aren't what they originally appeared to be. That may or may not eventually apply to Hernandez.

But here's the cruel double-edged sword. Even if Hernandez is eventually exonerated (and one of his attorneys has already stated he fully expects that to happen once everything plays out) --  Hernandez still loses.

He will have spent months, possibly years in jail while the legal proceedings drag on. (Last time I looked, the "system" had yet to figure out a way to compensate an innocent person for taking away a chunk of their life, while treating him like an animal.) For that matter, if a not guilty verdict is eventually rendered -- Hernandez will have lost millions in wages he otherwise would have had.

Further yet, it's likely he would be considered radioactive to all other NFL franchises. Despite his talents, what team would take him on? In their eyes, it would be a PR disaster.

The New England Patriots have tried their best to erase him.

The Florida Gators are in the process of doing the same thing.

Maybe we should just take it another step further and delete his birth certificate, along with all other records of his life.  The man never even existed.


But, oh my. What if he turns out to be innocent of the crime he is charged with?

Then what?

Could happen.

It's scary when you think about it. Hernandez hasn't even gone to trial yet, let alone been convicted of anything, but those that were formerly associated with him in his football life are trying to erase him.

What's scarier yet is the vast majority of people watching the news blurbs seem to be perfectly OK with this. Of course, these are the same people that will believe anything they read, or see on TV. Remember -- if it's on the internet -- it must be true -- right?  Lemmings is a kind word. I'm thinking morons.

Hey, this a man's life we're talking about here. How about we wait until all the facts are in before we erase him?

Is that asking too much?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tigers, Chisox, and pitchers

Last time I looked, the Detroit Tigers were clobbering the Chicago White Sox -- again. Well, they should. Why? Because the Chisox are terrible. They seem to make as many errors in the field as they get hits while at bat. Not a good ratio. No wonder they're flailing around in the basement of even the woeful AL Central Division.

After the Chisox, the Tigers play series' with the Phillies and the Washington Nats. Too bad the Tigers have both series' at home. It would be much more fun to watch if they were on the road. No designated hitter. If you think most National League pitchers are poor batters, wait until you see their American League counterparts. They're flat-out pitiful. You or I, or our grandmothers, and mine have both been dead for a long time, could hit as well as those guys.

It leaves one to wonder --- why don't American League pitchers, particularly the starters, take batting practice and work at it a little bit? I mean, what else do they have to do in the 4-5 days off they get between starts? They run, you say? Well, I say that's a dumb answer.

Think about it. Why do AL pitchers need to practice running? It's not like they ever run the bases. The farthest those guys have to run during the course of a game is maybe from the pitcher's mound to first base to cover the bag on a ground ball hit to the first baseman. And how often does that even happen during the course of an average game? Once? Maybe twice? Sometimes not at all. Or perhaps 30 feet off the mound to field the occasional bunt. Good grief, for that matter, they don't even run on and off the field at the beginning or end of an inning. They walk. They play "long-toss" to keep their arms loose? Yeah, well so do all the other positional players.

Besides, the Tigers play in a boring division. The AL East is much more exciting. I can't wait until the Tigers face-off against a few of those clubs. You know, the teams that aren't afraid to spice things up a tad. Like having a pitcher throw a ball behind Miguel Cabrera and then give Prince Fielder a little chin music. That usually seems to get Tiger manager Jim Leyland's veins a-bulging. Maybe a couple innings later, drill Torii Hunter in the ribs with a heater. Then watch Leyland go off like a bottle rocket and do his best pissed-off Billy Martin on speed impersonation. Ah yes, what fun that always is.

Hey, beats watching them play KC, or Minnesota, or even the Cleveland Indians, who somewhat surprisingly remain within striking range of the Tigers to win the the above-mentioned sad-sack AL Central.

And it surely beats watching them play the Chisox. Not only is it boring, but how bad are they? Hmm....

Would you want the Pope as your middle linebacker?
Judge Judy as your therapist?
Lindsay Lohan running your kids' summer camp?
Jethro Bodine as your brain surgeon?
Me giving you advice -- on anything?

There's bad, there's real bad, and then there's that team from the south side. They've already gone so far south, it might be appropriate to move the franchise to Key West.

Either that, or put them in pads and helmets and let them have a crack at the Detroit Lions in a football game. It might not be pretty, but at least somebody has to win. Personally, I'd handicap it as a coin flip.

MLB's ongoing kangaroo court

Decades ago, Major League Baseball, in conjunction with the Players union, established an arbitration panel to have the final say on any contentious matter the owners and players could not come to an agreement on. This panel did, and does, consist of 3 people. One is appointed by the owners, and one by the union. The third is first determined by amassing a list of "qualifed" people, often former real judges and/or labor relations "experts". Then alternately, each side, management and union, will strike a name until only one is left. Presto, the last man standing gets the job (a woman has yet to survive the cut-down process).

Though technically a 3 judge panel, basically it's akin to having a hard-core Democrat, an equally hard core Republican, and an independent deciding any matters brought before them. In other words, despite whatever evidence there may be, you already know which way the first two are going to vote. One yea and one nay. These two people are no more than puppets serving their masters, and both their salaries are a waste of money. So basically, it all boils down to one guy making the calls.

To be fair, both management and the union have the prerogative of terminating the employment of this person, after written notice has been given. Yet, to my knowledge, the union has never exercised this right. Not so, when it comes to management.

A man named Peter Seitz held the position from 1974-75. It was his ruling that finally struck down baseball's "reserve clause", which ultimately opened the doors to free agency as we know it today. Sure, the notion that an employee (player) should be indentured to the same employer (team) for life was absurd. Then again, this eventually resulted in the outrageous players' salaries we have come to suffer. There's a reason the average family of four might have to skip a house payment to attend a game. I get that, and agree player paychecks went beyond ludicrous a long time ago and now reside in the magical world of insanity. Still, a ruling is a ruling, and both sides had agreed on Mr. Seitz to make such calls beforehand. For this decision, he was summarily fired shortly thereafter by the owners.

Fast forward a decade, and a man named Thomas Roberts held the same position. Remember the "collusion" thing over stifling the free agent market back in the 80's that walloped the owners in their pocketbooks? Roberts made that call. Management pink-slipped him too.

Just last year, one Shyam Das overturned the 50-game suspension MLB was attempting to impose on Ryan Braun. Within days of his ruling, Das was history. Guess who fired him?

It should be noted that, along the way, the players and their union lost their fair share of cases too. But they never fired the judge.

And now here we are with the same Ryan Braun. He just got suspended for the remainder of the season. No arbitrator was involved, mind you, just a mandate handed down from MLB.

So let's see if I understand this correctly. MLB has decided to kick the very same arbitration court they were instrumental in creating in the first place to the curb, in favor of unilaterally issuing "executive orders" -- and meting out whatever punishment they see as appropriate. This appears to be a kangaroo court on steroids themselves.

Worse, evidently there's a clause in the collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players' union that states neither side is allowed to discuss the details of such punishments. So basically, try as they might, the press, and the fans might never know the whys and wherefores of what is happening. No evidence, no testimony, no nothing for the public to ponder and debate. It just IS, because they say so. Do you see something seriously wrong with this picture?

Yes, though never actually admitting he was guilty of PED abuse (though so many others have read that into his statement -- see previous post), Ryan Braun accepted his suspension and is trying to quietly go away until next year when he can play again.

But such actions on the part of MLB raise an interesting scenario. Let's not forget, they have another 14-15 players on their hit-list, likely the most notable being Alex Rodriguez. MLB has allegedly tied all these guys into the now defunct Biogenesis, a company which purported to be an "anti-aging" outfit, but many suspect was providing all sorts of PEDs to many baseball players. So what would happen if......

Unlike Ryan Braun, one of those others players refused to accept any suspension handed down by MLB, and decided to fight it, specifically in the judicial system? After all, everyone is entitled to their "day in court" when they feel they have been wronged.

Could not such a plaintiff reasonably argue that MLB has bypassed the very arbitration process they themselves agreed to, and usurped final authority to do what they will? Would that constitute breach of contract? Maybe. Ironically, if the player wanted to really push it -- his lawyers could argue that the owners and the union were in "collusion" (sound familiar?) when they negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that provided for the suppression of evidence that would explain why the player was being punished in the first place.

Whoever heard of a court system where the prosecutors could charge crimes and hand out sentences without presenting any evidence? And BTW, either fire judges they deemed not closely enough allied with their camp, or put on the robes themselves and just bypass a neutral juror altogether? To boot, the defense (union) has agreed in writing to such things being allowed to happen? That's insane.

But that appears to be what's happening with MLB right now. The fat-cats have imposed martial law.

Methinks if just one of those other 14-15 guys has the guts and determination to stand up and fight this thing, no matter how long it takes, and whatever courts the case eventually winds through, up to and including the Supremes, MLB might be in for another big hit.

Because many things are really, REALLY wrong with what's going on right now.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tigers/Yankees, over/under, and a royal name

Most Detroit Tiger fans would likely begrudgingly admit their team has underachieved so far this year. After all, with their loaded batting line-up and supposedly stellar starting pitching rotation, they were supposed to win the American League Central division (considered by most to be the weakest in baseball) in a romp. With about 60 games remaining, they may do it yet. But last time I looked the Tigers were only a game and half ahead of the Cleveland Indians. This isn't supposed to be happening, quoth the pundits. On the other hand, maybe the Tigers were just flat-out overrated. Time will tell. Yet the Tigers have been very lucky in one way. For the most part, they've remained relatively healthy throughout the first four months of the season.

In that respect, the NY Yankees are quite the opposite. The Bronx Bombers have been riddled with injuries to many key players. But guess what? Even though they play in a much stronger division than the Tigers, the Yankees are only one game behind the Tigers in the overall AL standings. Looking at it that way, one could say the Yankees have over-achieved, given what they've had to work with.

Consider the casualty list in the Bronx:  A-Rod is still rehabbing in the minors. Derek Jeter is on the DL -- again. Starting third baseman Kevin Youkalis has been out for quite a while. First baseman and switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira is done for the year. The return date of Curtis Granderson, their speedy center fielder and pretty fair hitter himself, is unknown. The Yankees have had to plug leaks faster than the Obama administration. They've been forced to play guys that would surely still be in the minors if the team had remained anywhere near as healthy as the Tigers have.

Idle thought: Duchess Kate just gave birth to a boy. So far, no name has been forthcoming. I'm not sure what title will be bestowed upon the royal infant. A duke? If so, I have a suggestion. Name him Earl. Earl the Duke. Perhaps he would come to be known as the The Duke of Earl. Hmm. That reminds me of an old classic song. Gene Chandler would be so proud, but I digress.

At any rate, if the Tigers and Yankees switched places, the Yanks would be leading the AL Central as well. The Tigers would be 5 games back of the Bosox in the AL East and also looking up at the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles, while mired in 4th place.

Speaking of switching places, Tiger fans might want to consider where their team would be if the injury bug had hit them as hard as it has the Yankees. Delete Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez, and Jhonny Peralta from the lineup for the majority of the season, and plug in whatever other players (scrubs) they could find. What, pray tell, do you think their record might be right about now? I dare say they wouldn't be leading even the weak Central Division. For that matter, they might well be 10-15 games behind and hopelessly out of contention. So yes, Austin Jackson notwithstanding, Lady Luck has smiled on the Tigers so far this year.

Duke, Duke, Duke. Sorry, I can't get that out of my head for some reason.

Wait a second. A sudden inspiration. Forget whatever title the newborn royal brat might inherit. Kate and Willie still haven't decided on a name, right?

They're likely considering the same old -- like James, George, Phillip, Andrew -- you know -- the usual royal suspects. I'm pretty sure we can rule out Leroy, Igor, or Osama. But there's a better way if they put their heads together and really think it through.

The kid has an uncle named Harry. His own father William is already rapidly showing signs of his hair follicles giving up the ghost.

So why not keep it in the immediate royal family while combining the circumstances of both?

Name the kid Harrybald.


Ryan Braun. Scary.

Evidently, it has begun. That would be Major League Baseball handing down punishments for those on their "enemy combatant" list, or at least the players they suspect of having violated their drug policy -- in the past -- sometimes many years ago.

Ryan Braun, super-star slugger of the Milwaukee Brewers and the 2011 National League MVP, just got suspended for the rest of this season. The first domino has fallen. There will likely be more. After all, MLB has some 15 players on their hit list.

What fate will befall the other players that MLB has black-listed remains to be seen, but it will likely start happening soon. And those players are also likely somewhat nervous right about now.

But Braun was #1 on their hit-parade, so let's take a closer look at his case.

Last year, Braun failed a drug test. He was suspended, but oops, he appealed it, and the case eventually went before a panel of three "judges". Much was in dispute over the "chain of custody" of his blood/urine samples, and this supposedly neutral "court" finally threw out his "conviction". Braun played on.

Sure, many will say he got off on a technicality, and perhaps he did. Or maybe the testing procedure was indeed botched, or worse, sabotaged. A stretch? Probably. But I don't know for sure. Neither do others, though so many profess to do so. When you're talking about depriving somebody of their livelihood, reputation, and millions of dollars of lost wages -- it doesn't seem like too much to ask that the incriminating evidence should hold up under intense scrutiny. In a 2-1 vote, the baseball arbitration court ruled it did not. That should have been the end of it, but never underestimate the "powers that be". They weren't going to be satisfied until they had exacted some measure of revenge -- a vendetta, if you will.

Of late, it appears the majority of the press, and I dare say citizens/fans as well, have bought into the theory that if someone is charged with a "crime" -- they must be guilty. Remember OJ? A jury, who by the way heard all the evidence and testimony, decided he didn't murder Nicole and Ronald. Yet I further day say that, to this day, 99% of the arm-chair legal quarterbacks in the world think he was guilty. Everybody wants to be a prosecutor these days, and that should be a scary thought. It's an easy concept to get behind -- unless the defendant is you or a loved one. Then things look a whole lot different. For that matter, consider what OJ did in Vegas. He robbed some guys of paraphernalia that he thought belonged to him in the first place. He basically got a life sentence for that. Had it been anyone else, they might have got 2-3 years in jail, max. But like Braun, OJ was a marked man. Given any opportunity, the powers-that-be were going to slam dunk him. And they finally did. But it doesn't necessarily make it right. Was OJ a murderer well over a decade earlier? Beats me, but in my opinion, "make-up calls" have no business in a court of law.

And look what's happening now. The talking heads and internet folks are already abuzz throwing out loose-cannon innuendos presuming Braun's guilt. Surely a majority of scribes will soon follow.

"What about the people that bought Braun's jerseys and, in a show of good faith, paid hard earned money to come to the ballpark to see him play?", they bluster. "He's deceived them for almost 2 years. He lied to them. He cheated them, and now, like Lance Armstrong, he's finally admitted he was dirty all along", they add.


Here's Braun's official statement---

“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it is has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country. Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed – all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.”

Now, if it's not asking too much, will someone please explain to me exactly where in that statement Braun admits to being a liar, a cheat, and/or using PEDs?

He DID say the situation had taken a toll on him, his family, and has been a distraction for his teammates, and the Brewers organization. Well, of course it did. But he did NOT admit to ever having used PEDs willingly, or otherwise. It never ceases to amaze me how so many people will read their own opinions into a statement issued by another, when in fact the statement says no such thing.

Do I think Braun was dirty? Actually, based on what limited information I have had at my disposal, I would lean toward yes. But I would never -- ever -- presume that such a sketchy opinion should be taken as factual. There's a difference. A big one.

For all I know, Braun may have wearied of the never-ending persecution, and finally said "no mas". Perhaps he reached the conclusion that he would be better off to serve a suspension for the remainder of this season, and start out fresh next year. He'll take the hit. Just call off the damn dogs, already.

No doubt many will scoff at that notion, and continue to believe Braun was dirty all along. They are certainly entitled to their opinions, but that's all they are.

As mentioned before, it's easy to jump on that bandwagon. But such folks haven't walked all those miles in Braun's shoes either. They don't know the real truth any more than I do.

But the other dominoes better get ready, because Major League Baseball has employed the age-old strategy of "cut off the head, and the monster's body will die". Braun was the head, and the other guys are fingers and toes. If a monster willingly accepts his punishment at a guillotine, the fingers and toes should be scared -- very scared. Methinks their circulation is going to get very poor in the near future.

The British Open. Phabulous

Wow. What a spectacular round of golf Phabulous Phil Mickelson played at Muirfield. A phive under par 66 in the final round, including 4 birdies on the last 6 holes? On that course? Phantastic. Those lucky golf phans in attendance definitely got their money's worth if they were phollowing him around. OK, enough with the ph thing. Besides, if I remember my high school chemistry class right, the ph factor has to do with acids and alkalis. Nevertheless, this course was quite a litmus test for all the golfers. Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Mickelson was a full five shots behind the leader Lee Westwood entering the final round. Westwood is generally known as the best player to never win a major. And the always pesky and dangerous (not to mention hyped to the max) Tiger Woods was 3 shots clear of him as well.

But on Sunday, Mickelson did something amazing. He smoked Woods by 8 shots and Westwood by 9. That's a whole bunch of strokes in any single round of any tournament, let alone the final day of a "major". Mickelson would later say it was probably the best round of golf he's ever played. Considering his long and distinguished career -- that's saying a lot.

Let's not forget, the week before, Phil won the Scottish Open. A few missed 3-4 foot putts along the way notwithstanding, it would appear Mickelson and his family have had a jolly good time in merry old England for the last couple weeks. And a few more million bucks probably don't hurt much either. It's good to be one of Mickelson's kids right now. Talk about bragging rights. And somehow, I don't think they'll be taking a bus to school any time soon, while toting a lunch box with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, vanilla wafers, and an apple inside for the teacher. Just a hunch.

At any rate, hats off to Phil Mickelson for his magnificent performance in the final round of the 2013 British Open. A worthy champion indeed.

I wish I could fone him and tell him what a fenomenal job he did.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Tour de France. Was it real?

I think a Brit named Christopher Froome just won the Tour de France.

But I couldn't swear to it.

In fact, I'm not sure the Tour wasn't just a figment of my imagination. Maybe it was merely an illusion and didn't really happen at all. Like when Mick Jagger first set foot on the moon and uttered those immortal words, "One small step for a Stone, and one giant leap for stoners". Or something like that. Close enough.

Some might now think, "Hey Leach. Just because you've lost your grip on reality doesn't mean the rest of us have. Of COURSE the Tour happened, you moron". And they would have a point -- or would they?

Did you see it on TV or read about it? Not me. Even the talking heads on the 4-letter network in the wee hours of the morning didn't pay much heed. These are the same people that will breathlessly yammer on over a video of a soccer match in Nepal featuring one-eyed monks pitted against bipolar rickshaw cabbies. But the Tour gets ignored? Really?

Let's not forget that in Europe and beyond, the Tour de France is arguably the most famous and celebrated race in the world. And this was the 100th running of it. The centennial, for crying out loud. Shouldn't this have been a big deal?

Evidently not, at least in America. Save for one obscure cable channel, the American media by and large ignored it. And that's not right. It could be reasonably argued that while strategy certainly plays a part, no other sporting event in the world -- ever -- has required more training, will and endurance of it's participants than the Tour de France.

However, after a brainstorming session with my pal Mick, leave it to yours truly, he of the delusional mind, to offer a theory as to why this happened.

No American riders were expected to be serious contenders. Kind of like the men in major pro tennis tournaments these days. From what little I could gather, there wasn't much talk of scandal, aka cheating in this year's Tour. Lance Armstrong's much ballyhooed fall from grace has finally -- mercifully-- dropped off the radar. He's like fellow Texan George W Bush. Even if a guy was a conniving cheat or a putz, you can only blame him for so much for so long, and then the story starts to get old -- ya know?

Maybe this is why the American media all but ignored this year's historic Tour. No word of steroids, human growth hormones, mysterious blood transfusions, or a rider "coming out" to announce he was actually a woman and through some sort of divine miracle, became impregnated on a climb up one of the Alps. Now THAT would have set the scribes to furiously pecking away at their keyboards and got the 4-letter network's attention.

This is not to advocate the use of PEDs or other such shenanigans, but it sure seemed to be a lot more fun in the old days.

And we knew the race was real.

Because we could actually-- you know -- watch it. Or even read about it.

At any rate, congrats to Christopher Froome, the 2013 Tour de France champion.

I think.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The (British) Empire strikes back

Last year, in the wake, or perhaps midst of the Lance Armstrong scandal, Brit Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France. This year, his fellow countryman and teammate Christopher Froome is poised to do it yet again. And all this without even a whisper about PEDs, blood transfusions, or any other such shenanigans. Cheerio.

Recently Andy Murray became the first Brit to win the men's single's title at Wimbledon since 1936.

A couple months ago, Justin Rose won golf's US Open. Pip pip.

Currently, going into the final round of the British Open, Lee Westwood has a 2-shot lead.

I say, old chaps (and chapesses), by jove things appear to be bloody-well looking up in Great Britain these days.

On top of that, the whole kingdom is eagerly anticipating yet another blessed event. That would be Kate the Great (Prince Willie's main squeeze) breaking her royal water and giving birth to Queen Lizzie the Deuce's first great-grandchild.

They probably hope it's a boy. Blue-bloods are like that. Something about carrying on the royal name. Either that, or 17-18 years from now, it would be a lot easier to explain away a prince being a bit wayward as opposed to a princess getting knocked up. You never know about those things.

Idle thought. Don't they have ultrasounds and the like in Great Britain to determine the sex of the unborn child? Then again, maybe that would take away from the fascination of it all.

If indeed it's a boy, I hope they name it James. After all, he'll be in line for the throne and might well become King someday. Great Britain's had a lot of King James' over the course of their history.

America has one too, but he plays basketball for the Miami Heat. Still, I think Lebron would approve of such a possible namesake.

Following up on the above idle thought: If they want suspense, you know what would really be a shocker? If the kid pops out looking a lot like Dennis Rodman. SURPRISE!! What a jolly good show that would be. Yet somehow Prince Worm just wouldn't sound exactly regal -- ya know?

At any rate I don't think Lizzie, Willy, or even Lebron would find it the least bit humorous (we are not amused). Well, maybe Lebron.

And I dare say Kate would have some serious 'splainin to do.

Right now I have to get in touch with a certain DR. Yes, it's unusual for one to be making house calls at this time of the night, but who am I to question their ways when I'm obviously in need of being seriously medicated?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Over the top at the British Open

After two rounds of play at Muirfield, it's become obvious this is a very tough golf course. Yet some of the commentary is almost laughable.

Some suggested there was absolute carnage going on. Gee, I must have missed that part. I watched a great deal of it and didn't see Freddie Krueger, Jason, or homicidal maniacs with chain saws running around cutting golfers into little pieces, though such scenarios certainly would have spiced it up a tad, to say the least. Did Dick Cheney pop up from one his bunkers and -- SURPRISE -- unleash one of those mythical weapons of mass destruction? If so, I missed that part too.

Sometimes those guys get carried away with their descriptions. In my opinion, Paul Azinger summed it up best. Muirfield was hard, and difficult. Hard, as in the fairways and greens being very firm, and difficult, as in very tricky to play.

During the second round, very few of the best golfers in the world could even shoot par. Throw in knee-high rough, undulating greens as fast as your average putt-putt course, and a couple hundred seriously deep bunkers -- and yeah -- this course presents quite a test to even the elite players.

Yet somehow there seems to be an underlying theme that because the players aren't racking up birdies and eagles galore -- this is brutal.

No. It's not. It's still the same players with 14 clubs in their bag being toted around by a caddy, consulting their handy-dandy "black books" for the exact yardage on any particular shot from anywhere on the course. This sort of thing is possible because just prior to any PGA tournament, volunteers comb the entire course with lasers, and plot out every conceivable shot on every hole. This is duly recorded, fed into a computer, printed copies made, and presto -- the players and their caddies know within a yard exactly how far the ball lies from the hole in any given situation. And normally they only play 18 holes of golf a day. Maybe 4 hours of "work". This is not exactly an iron-man contest or a collective cage match. It's golf. And who cares whether the average score is 65, 75, or even 105?

Ah, but there's the ego thing. World-class golfers that have become accustomed to adulation for their remarkable shot-making ability don't want to suffer the indignity of being "humbled" by a golf course. Those 3 putts from inside 6 feet must drive them crazy.

All of this is nonsense, of course. A golf course doesn't humble anybody any more than a player shooting a superb round humbles the course itself.

Ben Hogan was famous for once saying, "I'm glad I brought this course, this monster, to it's knees", when referring to Oakland Hills Country Club during the 1951 US Open. Like the current Muirfield layout, Oakland Hills had been particularly difficult to play. Did Hogan shoot a 59? Hardly. He carded a 67 that day. A good score, given the course, but hardly Ripley's believe it or not stuff. Besides, Hogan permanently tapped out in 1997 and, last time I looked, Oakland Hills was still there taking on all comers.

And for that matter, how exactly does one presume to bring a golf course to it's knees? It's only a piece of fancy land. It's not like it can fight back, sprouting up a Terminator every couple hours or so.

The only person I ever saw truly abuse a golf course was Bill Murray in his portrayal of Carl Spackler in the movie Caddyshack. He blew up the whole course in his quest to conquer those pesky ground hogs. Now THAT'S bringing a course to it's knees. Eat your heart out Ben, wherever you are.

Perhaps the same thing could happen at Muirfield over the weekend. Give a lunatic familiar with the course enough C4, send him on a mission, and this British Open might get a whole lot more interesting. Just kidding.

Uh oh. Tiger Woods is lurking once again. He's only one shot back headed into the weekend. Will he play like the Tiger of old and storm his way to his 15th major title? Or will he fold on the weekend as he has so often in recent major championships? Hard to say.

Interesting stat. In the last 5 years at major championships, Woods is a collective 11 under par during the first two rounds. On the weekends, he's a collective 19 OVER par.

We'll see. But keep an eye out for a guy in a goofy hat running around with spools of wire. Can't be too careful these days.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Johnny Manziel and the media farce

Evidently the media, bless their prying little hearts, wanted Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel to clear the air regarding a few issues in Johnny Football's life of late. It appears they thought he had some 'splainin to do. So Manziel agreed to "meet the press" and hopefully get everything ironed out.

Little did he know that over 1200 vultures would show up and attempt to pick his bones clean. 1200? Really? For a mere soon-to-be sophomore college QB? Wow, he must have done something outrageous. Here's a point-by-point look at his so-called crimes against humanity and what yours truly thinks of each.

They wanted to know why Manziel had recently departed early from the Manning football camp. He'd missed meetings and, in the end, basically not lived up to his commitment.

(First of all, there was no commitment. It's not like Manziel deserted from the Marines during a tour of duty, or was otherwise contractually bound to remain there. He can come and go as he damn well pleases. BTW, it didn't seem to bother the Mannings that much. They said they'd invite him back again next year.)

The lead talking head asked Manziel if he might have been partying/drinking/ the night before. He might as well have asked if Johnny "got lucky". Wisely, Manziel didn't take that bait and merely replied that he had overslept.

(True or not, short of showing up on the police blotter, what Manziel did the night before is nobody's business. Not mine. Not yours. Not anybody's. For all we know, that same reporter asking the questions might have been stewed to the gills and stuffing dollar bills into G-strings the night before.)

Months ago, Manziel sent out a negative tweet about A&M.

(So what? He's got a right to do so. Though our rights seem to be falling like dominoes these days, it is hoped that "freedom of speech" hasn't been totally thrown under the bus just yet. And I don't want to hear about loyalty to the university that's providing him with a free education. A&M has garnered publicity beyond their wildest dreams and likely raked in countless millions they never would have had if Manziel hadn't chosen THEM. Besides, it was only a silly tweet. In my opinion, anybody that places too much faith in the whimsical, spur-of-the-moment, cyber thoughts of others -- is in serious need of a life.)

Johnny was seen in a courtside seat at an NBA Finals game. This looked bad.

(Well, good gawd a-mighty, a navy SEAL team should have swooped in, thrown him in the back of an unmarked chopper, and flown him to Gitmo to be water-boarded for such an atrocity. Nevermind his parents had the means to purchase their son such a great seat. Even the zealots of the NCAA "infraction committee" would be hard-pressed to find a violation in mom and dad giving their kid a ticket to a game.)

Ah, but Manziel pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge involving a bar fight back in 2012. The way it was presented by the media would lead many to believe Johnny must have "gooned it up" at a pub in a drunken rage. Do you smell "plea bargain" and preferential treatment?

(Turns out, Manziel's only apparent crime was not telling a cop what his name was when they arrived to break up the alleged altercation. They didn't suggest that Manziel was even involved in whatever may have occurred. He was just there, and refused to talk to a cop. So since when did this become illegal? Don't we still have the right to remain silent, or has that gone out the window too?)

In the end, the media (all 1200+ of them) huffed and puffed, asked leading questions, threw out innuendos, and any other trick they could think of while desperately -- DESPERATELY -- looking for something --ANYTHING--  they could get their meathooks in and run with.

But you know what? Johnny Football wouldn't give it to them, perhaps there was nothing much to give in the first place. Imagine that. True to form, the vultures were in spin mode trying to save face after their press debacle -- still looking for an edible crumb here or there. But they'll likely move on soon to the next target they see as vulnerable. Such is the nature of the beasts.

As for Johnny Manziel? He's the reigning Heisman trophy winner. He showed superb running and passing skills last season to garner that award.

But most impressive of all was the way he handled all those reporters. And he's only 20 years old.

Give him a few years in the NFL to rack up further name recognition and, if he keeps his nose semi-clean while limiting where his junk wanders -- this guy could have unlimited possibilities as a politician.

President Manziel. It sort of has a nice ring to it -- ya know? And hey, having ears that make him look like a VW beetle with the doors open certainly didn't hold back the guy that currently occupies the Oval Office. Just a different paint job.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The All-Star game

With one notable exception, the 2013 Major League All-Star game could be summed up in one word. Boring. And that exception had nothing to do with anything that happened on the field of play. I'll get back to that.

Yes, there are those that like "pitchers' duels", aka low scoring contests, but c'mon. This was the All-Star game. I dare say most baseball fans would prefer to see a little bit of everything -- especially the hitters showing off their prowess. We want to see balls rocketing all over the park, hit-and run plays, homers, etc. Besides, no pitcher will be in the game for more than two innings anyway. It's not like there's a possibility of a guy racking up a no-hitter. Yeah, sometimes it just is what it is. The pitchers on one or both sides will dominate the opposing batters -- but I still think it's boring when that happens. Give me a 12-11 All-Star game anyday.

Looking beyond the game action itself -- some things seemed strange. When longtime NY Yankees closer Mariano Rivera took the the mound in the eighth inning, both teams stayed off the field for a few moments in a tribute to his accomplishments. Rivera appeared not to know what was going on. True, Rivera has had a long and distinguished career, this season marks his "swan song", farewell tour, whatever, and he'll be a shoo-in to the Hall of Fame in 5 years when he becomes eligible. And good for him. But in an obviously choreographed ploy by the powers that be in MLB, clearing the field for his grand entrance seemed a bit over the top. After all, he's still only a baseball relief pitcher. This was not exactly the second coming of the Messiah.

[Idle thought. Rivera will be the last MLB player to ever wear #42. Due to the King's (see Bud Selig) mandate back in 1997, in honor of Jackie Robinson, who had broken the "color" barrier in MLB fifty years previously, all teams were forced to retire that number. But it wasn't retroactive to the players that were wearing it at the time -- like Rivera. Yes, this is the same bumbling billionaire king who's job has long been to represent 30-some other billionaire owners, but can't seem to figure out how to comb his own hair, let alone make prudent baseball decisions. For that matter, why should other teams that competed against Robinson and his then Brooklyn Dodgers, let alone American League teams whose parks Robinson never even set foot in be forced to retire his number?]

And note where this All-Star game was played. In the Big Apple, arguably the largest and most lucrative sports market in the world. In the NY Mets' relatively shiny new stadium, replete with all the fancy goodies that go along with such architectural wonders that might have made even the ancient Romans, Egyptians, and Greeks sit up and take notice.

Throw in all the media hype for the last few weeks leading up to this game, and yours truly has a question.

Why were there so many empty seats?

Which brings me back to the highlight of the game. During the course of an at-bat, Detroit Tigers' slugger Miguel Cabrera accomplished an astounding feat. No, it wasn't the double he hit into right-center field. That sort of thing is commonplace. What was extraordinary was, during a "mighty Casey at the bat" swing, Cabrera somehow found a way to not only lose his grip on the bat, but somehow managed to sling it 20-some rows deep into the stands.

Luckily, instead of causing great bodily harm to any of the "too many dollars and not enough sense" folks that had ponied up All-Star ticket prices in the first place, it landed amongst the above-mentioned empty seats, and some kid eventually retrieved it.

Now he's got a souvenir he can brag to his buddies about.

At least one person found the game exciting.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A very foul record

Somebody get hold of the Guinness people. Surely another world record has been set. The validity is beyond doubt, because the TV folks have footage of this historic event. How else would an idiot like me know about such a thing?

That would be a single fan in Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, catching/retrieving not one, but four, count em FOUR foul balls during the course of a game. That's one lucky guy, the fact he's a Cubs' fan notwithstanding. Ahem.

To likely no one's great surprise, the stat monsters crunched the numbers on the chances of this happening. According to them.....

The average major league baseball stadium has 30,000 people in attendance at any given game.

During the course of any such game, an average of 27 baseballs are hit into the stands. Yes, there are people that actually keep track of such things, another believe it or not. Are you listening, Ripley?

Therefore, the chances of any one fan nabbing a baseball that flies into the stands are roughly 1100 to one. Not good.

Going a step further (you knew they would), it was calculated that the odds of the same person in the seats nabbing four baseballs in one game were approximately 1,000,000,000,000 to one.

Or, put another way, about the same chances as the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl any year soon. Nyuk, nyuk.

Hi Deb. Was good to see you again. And if you're reading this where I think you might be reading it, tell Lynn I said to speed it up. She'll understand. I hope.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The US Senior Open (and more dumb commercials)

Wow. Turns out, some of those old coots on the geezer tour can still play some serious golf. Seeing as how yours truly is older than several of them, I think I can get away with such a crack.

And what a show they put on during the final round. The eventual champion, Kenny Perry, was 10 shots out of the lead a couple days ago, only to wind up winning the tournament by 5 strokes. A 15 shot swing? Now THAT'S called blistering the field over the weekend. Perry carded a 30 on the front nine. I've shot higher than that at putt-putt courses. And this wasn't your run-of-the-mill municipal or county course either. It was a US Open set-up -- difficult to say the least. Granted, it likely wasn't as tough as "regular" US Open courses, but still -- 500 yard par 4s? A par 5 that was over 600 yards? Golfers hitting their approach shots into greens that at times were 5-6 stories higher (or lower) than where they stood? Not exactly a piece of cake.

[And now a commercial break. An insurance company sang their tag line once again. "We are farmers". Well gee, that's great. I'll give them a call if I'm ever in the market for a few bushels of corn or a truckload of sugar beets. But what, pray tell, does being farmers have to do with insurance?]

At one point, Perry rattled off 4 birdies in a row. Not to be outdone, Corey Pavin reeled off 5 in a row to equal the all-time record of consecutive birdies at a US Open. But Perry wouldn't wilt. He was just too good and wound up posting a final round 65, to follow up his blistering 63 the day before. The dude's almost 53 years old and he's still averaging 300 yards off the tee, finessing his irons, and can putt as true as ever? That's impressive stuff.

[Another insurance commercial I've never understood. If I'm going to cough up a couple grand every year in insurance premiums, then they have to do better than just giving me "a piece of the rock". Merely a PIECE of an unknown rock? That's nowhere near good enough. For what I've shelled out over the years, I ought to have my likeness carved on Mt. Rushmore by now. And who cares about rocks anyway? If something bad happens, I want quick service and a check to cover it. What is it with these people?]

Nevertheless, hats off to Kenny Perry, a worthy 2013 US Senior Open champion, which also marks him capturing his second major of the year. Despite his rather unorthodox swing, somehow he just makes it work, and good for him.

[And now I'm outta here, before I see that duck, lizard, or goofy girl selling insurance policies out of shoeboxes at a sanitarium again.]

Idle parting thought: In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Dennis Rodman said that out of the Top 10 most recognizable people in the world -- he'd check in at #5. According to the Worm, only God, Jesus, Muhammed Ali and Barack Obama would be ahead of him. Yet kudos to the SI scribe (Franz Lidz) for noting that the Top 4 probably wouldn't show up in Times Square wearing a bra and sporting a blond mohawk either. Touche.

The scary part? Rodman just might be right. Is this a great planet or what?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A truly indecent proposal

Warning: The following article contains an offensive attitude. If you're politically correct or otherwise just plain wimpy, the author (me) suggests you stop right here. Read on at your own peril but don't say I didn't warn you.

You know what's wrong with sports these days? They've taken all the fun out of it. By that, I mean there's not enough death and destruction going on like in the old days.

Consider hydroplane racing. In times of yore, the mortality rate was high amongst the boat drivers. It was edge-of-your-seat stuff to watch them speeding around with the driver's head sticking out of the top. Yet it seemed like it was only a matter of time before even the best of them would suffer a high-speed ker-splat on the water and die of various injuries. These days, the cockpits of those boats more closely resemble those of fighter planes. All enclosed, reinforced, 5-point harnesses, emergency air supply, high-tech communications, the works. Nobody gets killed anymore. Well, that's no fun.

After Dale Earnhart Sr. kissed the wall at Daytona and went to meet the real Intimidator in the sky, NASCAR seems to have morphed from the good-ole-boys duking it out, to the limp wrist circuit. How else to explain the shock-absorbing walls at all the tracks, restrictor plates at the super speedways to slow the cars down, the head/neck devices every driver must wear, and various other so-called safety features? The problem? There's still plenty of destruction, but not enough guys are getting killed. When that used to happen, it spiced it up a tad. Ya never know when a guy might be on his last lap -- literally. Gee, that was fun to watch.

Throw Indy cars into the mix and things are just way to safe these days. Race vehicles still get splattered, but the pilots don't. Again, that takes all the fun out of it. And they wonder why attendance has nosedived at all these venues? Maybe it's because they've all became too wimpy. Seeing fiberglass, carbon-fiber, and sheet metal getting obliterated is one thing -- but nothing gets a fan's juices flowing like the possibility of a bodybag.

For that matter -- if the fans in attendance want to truly interact -- then raising and reinforcing the protective fences between the track and the crowd is the WORST thing they can do. Get rid of them entirely. If fans in attendance want to watch a high-speed race close-up and in person -- then why should they be immune from whatever carnage might occur? Hey, if tires or any other parts of wrecked race cars come zooming into the stands at 150-200 MPH and decapitate a few folks -- then so what? Chalk it up to collateral damage and race on.

Look at the NFL. They're trying to eliminate helmet-to-helmet contact. Sure, concussions are a bad thing, but why should we care? After all, the players not only know this going in, but are willing to sacrifice their heads, bodies, and everything else to make an NFL roster. It's not our fault if some of them are crippled up and have the mentality of a green bean by the time they're 50. Nobody makes them do what they do. They want to. High reward, but also high risk. It goes with the territory.

Personally, I fondly remember what former Chicago Bear linebacker and NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus once said. The only thing better than hitting a guy hard enough to watch his helmet go rolling down the field would be if his head was still in it. Now THAT would have been interesting.

Recently, Detroit Tiger manager Jim Leyland stormed the field with yet another of his tirades because an opposing pitcher gave one of his hitters a little "chin music". After all the antics and false bravado charades typical of baseball in such a situation died down -- the game went on as usual.

But it could have been so much more exciting. The opposing pitcher still had a baseball -- right? So when the manager of the other team comes out on the field to dispute a call -- why not wind up and give a guy like Leyland a 95 MPH heater in his ribs or backside? Can you imagine what might have happened next? Me neither, but it sure would have been fun to watch.

NHL hockey? Too many guys still have all their front teeth, and not enough stitches are involved these days. Yes, it's faster, but it's also wimpier. Anymore, those guys take dives like soccer players. Jeez, how I long for the good old days when men were men and blood was on the ice.

Of course all the above was written with tongue firmly in cheek.


Friday, July 12, 2013

The Detroit Pistons. What's next?

One thing's for sure. The Detroit Pistons will look a lot different next year. They'll have a new head coach in Maurice Cheeks, and three new "draftees", notably first round pick Kentavius Caldwell Pope.

Whether any of the draftees actually makes the team remains to be seen, but it's a pretty safe bet at least Pope will stick, at least for a year or two. After all, even if it turns out he doesn't have what it takes to play with the big boys, no NBA team (and in this case -- Pistons Prez Joe Dumars) wants the egg on their face that would come with admitting their first round pick was a bust. Then again, Pope could become the next Dwyane Wade. Stranger things have happened. Hey, once upon a time, over lunch, the sports editor of this paper asked an idiot like yours truly to write for him -- and he was buying!!! So anything's possible.

Further, the above mentioned Joe D went out and snatched former Atlanta Hawk and free agent Josh Smith. This will likely give the Pistons some much-needed scoring help from the "wing". Plus Smith can be a force in the paint at times. Combine him with Detroit's young big men Greg Munroe and Andre Drummond, and this is a significant team upgrade.

In a surprise of sorts, the well-travelled Chauncey Billups is returning to the Pistons as well. Billups will be 37 before the next season gets underway. How much gas he still has left in his tank also remains to be seen, but this could well be a win-win-win situation. In the twilight of his career, Billups likely wanted to return to the team where he experienced his glory years, including winning an NBA title almost a decade ago. The Pistons only gave him a 2-year contract, which sounds prudent and, at that, they've only committed about $5 million to Billups. Sure, that's a ton of money to us normal folks, but it's a bargain basement price in the insane world of professional athlete contracts these days. Besides, Billups will likely contribute a few quality minutes here and there, and having him on the team to "coach up" young point guard Brandon Knight certainly can't hurt.

How all this will come together under new coach Cheeks would seem to be the big question. It would appear the Pistons will be better than they've been in recent years past, but that's not saying a whole lot -- because they've been terrible. So bad, in fact, that a great deal of their former loyal fan base has deserted them. Despite all their gimmicks and promotions, the only time the Pistons can come close to filling their own house (the Palace) is when a premier team comes to town. And those fans are there to see the OTHER guys. Who's kidding who?

Nevertheless, here's wishing Mo, Josh, Mr. Big Shot, the newbies, and the rest of the crew with another year of experience under their belts the best of luck.

If it all comes together right, the Pistons could make the playoffs.

But let's get real. Even if Cheeks gets things to mesh perfectly, and the players perform at their best all year long -- does anybody really seriously think the Pistons will be capable of competing with the current elite teams in the NBA?

I think not, but right now they have nowhere to go but up.

What they have done is a start. It certainly appears "on paper" that they will be better.

We'll see.

Yet in the improbable case they post a record similar to or even worse than last year -- I hope Joe D is either ready to retire or has his job resume in order.

Because if THAT happens -- well -- even nice guys and home town legends have been known to be kicked to the curb on occasion. Such is the cutthroat world of pro sports. It's a business, and even a fine man like Dumars doesn't get a pass forever.

Let's not forget that while Dumars should be given all due credit for building the Pistons into a perennial powerhouse a decade ago, he was also the same man in the same position as that same team has descended into bottom feeders over the last several years. It works both ways.

Idle thought: Why has Joe Dumars become so fat over the last few years? What's up with that? I've heard of eating bad contracts, but this is ridiculous.

Jim Leyland goes berserk

In yesterday's game against the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers' manager Jim Leyland did something yours truly has never seen before. And I've watched major league baseball for a very long time.

A little background. Likely to no one's great surprise, Tigers' super-slugger Miguel Cabrera hit yet another home run. The very next pitch to the very next batter -- one Prince Fielder -- was high and tight. A little chin music, as they say. Maybe it was intentional -- maybe not -- but even if so, such "ploys", if you will, have been a part of major league baseball since forever. Leyland gestured in protest from the dugout.

Well OK, you just knew a little pay-back was going to come around, because it's always worked that way as well. Sure enough, in the very next inning, the Tiger pitcher threw a ball behind a White Sox batter. And then the trouble started. The batter took a few steps towards the mound, both dugouts emptied, and even the guys in the bullpen came trotting into the potential fray.

After the original perceived wrong had been "avenged", the whole thing probably would have died down in a couple minutes, but evidently a blood vessel had popped somewhere between Jim Leyland's ears. Not only did he charge onto the field, but he launched into a tirade with the umpire crew over what had happened. Granted, this is nothing new for major league baseball managers. Over the years, we've seen many of them throw childish fits and engage in antics we would normally expect of a rich, spoiled, 7-year-old bratty kid on steroids being told "no". Or maybe a member of Congress. A parting shot about that later.

At any rate, whatever Leyland said got him ejected from the game. "Yer outta here", said an ump. After a while, Leyland finally stormed off the field.

At that point in time, by rule, Leyland's not even allowed to stay in his own dugout, let alone return to the field of play. It is mandatory that, once given the heave-ho and, having left the field of play, a manager (or player) must retire to the clubhouse/locker room located beneath the stands in the bowels of the stadium.

Yet a scant few minutes later, Leyland charged onto the field again to rant some more. And at THAT point in time -- he crossed a line. A big red one. Leyland was exhibiting not only a lack of personal control and professionalism, but utter contempt for the umpires and the game of baseball itself. Eventually, he left the field again.

Incredibly, a short while later, he did it yet a THIRD time. This sort of behavior is WAY over the line and borders on lunacy.

It's hard to say what, if anything, major league baseball will do after they've talked to the umps and reviewed the tapes of what happened, but if they don't smack Leyland hard for his actions, then they have nobody to blame but themselves when the next manager or player feels "enabled" to spit in the face of the game.

In my opinion, Leyland should be suspended for at least 10 games, with that portion of his salary donated to charity. Further, he should not be allowed any contact whatsoever with the Tigers during this period. In other words, no hanging out in the clubhouse, or anywhere else in the stadium(s). This would send a message to those that might consider trying such a stunt in the future. Respect the game, or pay a heavy price. If Commissioner Bud Selig and his henchmen REALLY wanted to send a strong message, as part of his punishment, they could ban Leyland from managing the All-Star game which is coming up soon. Now THAT would be an attention getter. Can you imagine how the media would run with that? It would be a feeding frenzy with Leyland being the bloody piece of meat in piranha infested waters -- but I betcha nobody else would try what he did again.

For that matter, it's about time major league baseball started reeling in these managers that occasionally make a mockery of the game with their childish hissy-fits. If a manager wishes to dispute a call on the field with un umpire, then fine. Dispute it, but do it like an adult -- not a berserk 3rd grader. The final ruling will likely be the same, but which do you think an umpire might be more receptive to? A raving lunatic in his face, or a thoughtful argument pointing out a perceived wrong?

If an attorney pulled such outrageous stunts in a courtroom, they'd quickly find their butts in jail for contempt of court. No judge wouldn't tolerate it. Nor should they. Is it asking too much for baseball people to adhere to the same standards of professionalism? It's bad enough they spit tobacco and bubble gum juice all over "turf" fields (somebody has to clean that up), and such things as sunflower seeds all over the dugouts. When frustrated, they can break bats, smash coolers, and chuck Gatorade every which way. I'm even OK with their age-old tradition of scratching their nether regions for some mysterious reason. But dammit -- there's certain lines that aren't supposed to be crossed. And Leyland trampled all over them. It's ironic that he purports to be an old-schooler, then turns around and disrespects the game in such a way.

Oh yeah. The Congress thing. While manning the podium at the US Senate, majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada issued a startling revelation to his "illustrious" Senate brethen. It might fairly be assumed a US Senator spends a lot of time in Washington DC in the course of their job. When referring to the major league baseball team that plays it's home games just down the road -- Reid thought they (the Washington Nationals) were called the National Mets.

And you wonder why this country has so many problems? 

I think Reid should be suspended as well -- for felonious cluelessness. Lock him in a room with Leyland for a couple weeks. In the interest of fairness, throw speaker of the house John Boehner in there too. One TV. One remote. Close the door and let them all slug it out. Methinks when they emerged, maybe all three of them would have undergone an epiphany, and start acting right.

Couldn't hurt. Just a thought.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Major League Baseball's paranoia

And so the witch hunt continues. It's almost like the offices of Major League Baseball have sunk into their own version of the 1936 film Reefer Madness. That flick was originally intended to warn young people of the perils of cannabis (marijuana) use, but was so outrageously "over the line" with it's portrayals of how the "demon weed" would cause people to rape, loot, pillage, murder, and eventually go totally insane, that it eventually became a cult classic. Nowadays, people look back at it and laugh like they would watching a 3 Stooges routine.

Maybe someday our descendants will look back and laugh at what Major League Baseball is doing right now -- but for the time being, it is decidedly not funny. In fact, it appears to be nothing short of an all-out persecution, vendetta, inquisition, crusades, jihad, purge, ethnic cleansing, holy war -- take your pick.

In it's never-ending quest for blood, justice, payback (again take your pick) over the whole steroids and other PEDs fiasco a while back, MLB is trying suspend a whole slew of players for very long stretches of time. Their dirty laundry list consists of any players they can tie to the now defunct Biogenesis, a company that advertised itself as an "anti-aging clinic". And oh, by the way, allegedly did a little business on the side selling a few dubious goodies to professional athletes.

Evidently, while MLB has found a way to not only access the files of Biogenesis, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to assume Bud Selig's henchmen are also rooting around in emails, phone logs, texts, and have coerced such companies as FedEx and UPS to cough up their shipping records to various addresses they deem relevant.

And now -- surprise!! -- the players they want to implicate aren't willing to talk to MLB. Well, guess what? They'd be crazy if they did. MLB has assumed the role of prosecutors trying to revive "cold cases". Innocent or guilty -- what accused person in his/her right mind would sit down and have a chat with the people that are on a mission to destroy their lives over a "crime" they may or may not have committed several years ago?

What's even more outrageous is at the time some of these "offenses" allegedly occurred, there was no law on the books saying such things were illegal. Worse yet -- the league itself didn't even have rules against it. Yet now MLB wants to go back in time to punish those they have deemed "wrongdoers". Well gee. While they're at it -- why not dig up my dad and give him 40 lashes for the way he used to blister my behind when I got out of line? People frown at that sort of behavior too these days.

Methinks by continuing this steroid witchhunt, MLB is acting like the cops still trying to find Jimmy Hoffa. People need closure, they say. What they fail to realize in their one-track mindset is there will NEVER be closure as long as these zealots keep ripping the scabs off the wounds of the innocent people that are trying to put such things behind them and get on with lives, for no other reason than to say they "closed a case".

Like Hoffa, PEDs don't matter anymore. Despite all the huffing and puffing by some that apparently have nothing better to do -- we'll never know for sure the full extent of either. Why not just move on?

By most accounts, players are tested so often these days for "banned substances" that the chances of anyone being "dirty", at least for very long, is minimal, at best. They'll get busted.

So what's the point in going after ghosts of the past? 

Oh wait. Of course. I almost forgot. MLB threw all it's mighty resources at the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in two very high profile trials. These were their "poster children". The worst of the worst, they should be made examples of, and duly punished. Oops. Despite all the king's horses, and all the king's legal eagles, Selig's boys couldn't convict either one of them of any kind of substance abuse. Millions upon millions of baseball dollars were devoted to this mission, but in the end, they crashed and burned. The defendants walked.

But now yours truly suspects that, like a typical cop or prosecutor that has been frustrated with their initial efforts, MLB is pissed. No Viagra will be necessary for these guys. They've already got a raging, um, attitude going on. Somebody's going to get screwed somewhere.

To all of which I say -- settle down boys. Let it go. It's over. Or at least it will be if you'll quit with the Hoffa routine and let baseball fans return to the game they love.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Alex Rios, hats, and Justin Verlander

The platinum sombrero. Ever heard that baseball term before? Me neither, but then I didn't know Miguel Cabrera had donated his entire Detroit Tigers contract to bring Twinkies back to the shelves. Just kidding about Cabrera, but yes, the iconic Hostess products will be coming our way again soon. Forget the wheel, sliced bread, automobile, and cellphones -- cupcakes, Twinkies, and Susie Qs are necessary for the human species to survive. I suppose hohos have their place, and might very well be delicious, but I've never personally sampled such a product. Ahem. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Alex Rios. Back in 2009, when Rios was still a Toronto Blue Jay, he came up to bat 5 times in a game against the Los Angeles Angels -- and struck out all five times. Evidently, this is known as the platinum sombrero. Why a precious metal would be associated with such a miserable performance is beyond me -- but there's a lot of things I don't understand about baseball. Like why does every home-plate umpire seem to have a different "strike-zone"? Shouldn't it be the same for everybody? And what's up with the foul poles being in fair territory? I dunno.

At any rate, Rios, now a member of the Chicago White Sox, obviously changed hats in last night's game against the Detroit Tigers. Everything Cy Young winner Justin Verlander threw up to the plate was getting rocketed all over the park by Rios. Indeed, Rios went 6 for 6 in his at-bats as the ChiSox were routing the Tigers. Wear a sombrero one day, and a crown another day. Funny how that works out in baseball sometimes.

At that, one is left to ponder the current Justin Verlander. Certainly the Fastball Flakes man is still a terrific pitcher, but with a 9-6 record this year, he hardly seems his former dominating self. Yours truly has a theory why this is happening.

Yes, Verlander can still bring the "heater" at close to 100 MPH whenever he feels like it, and hitters still have a hard time catching up with it. But let's not forget -- these are major league hitters were talking about, and if the only thing a pitcher has going is a fastball -- those hitters will adjust their timing, speed it up a tad, and they'll be all over it the second and third time through the batting order. A great pitcher needs other pitches to compliment his arsenal. Verlander had -- and has them -- hence his success in recent years.

In this day and age, pitchers do a lot of homework studying opposing batters' tendencies and trying to identify their weak spots. Conversely, no doubt hitters spend an equal amount of time watching tape of an opposing pitcher they're about to face. It works both ways.

And from what I've seen lately, it appears opposing hitters are sitting on Verlander's off-speed pitches. Sure, those pitches still dive into, or even out of the strike zone -- but if a guy's watched enough tape -- and that's what he's waiting on -- chances are good he's going to hit the ball hard somewhere.

Yes, once in a while, you'll see one of Verlander's 98-100 MPH fastballs go 400+ feet the other way for a home run -- but not too often. He's been mostly getting banged around with his breaking stuff. The other guys are looking for it because they know JV won't throw a fastball every time. And even if he did, as mentioned above, that wouldn't work for very long.

So what's the solution for Verlander? Beats the hell out of me. I'm still trying to get my mind around how his teammate and a former journeyman pitcher like Max Scherzer suddenly turned into Roger Clemens.

No wonder I like the NFL so much better. Like women -- I understand completely what is going on at all times.

Well -- maybe.

Sort of?

Once every 10 guesses?

Hmmm. Nevermind.