Thursday, July 30, 2015

The David Price trade

No doubt there are many Detroit Tiger fans screaming in outrage. Tigers' GM Dave Dombrowki just offed their star pitcher for three "prospects" in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. The double D man has gone off his cups. (Jolly good pun fun -- as the Brits would say). They have a point -- albeit a short-sighted one.

But part of Dombrowski's job is to look at the bigger picture and plan for the future. He, and owner Mike Ilitch can hardly be regarded as cheapskates over the years. They have spent a lot, and often, trying to bring enough talent to the Tigers in their quest for a World Series championship. But it hasn't happened and their window of opportunity is rapidly closing given their roster and how other teams have improved dramatically.

After over 100 games, the Tigers aren't even a .500 ball club. There will be ebbs and flows in the long season, winning and losing streaks, etc., but a team's record after 100 games paints a pretty good picture of reality. It is hard to dispute the Tigers are an average major league baseball team.

Even with Price, their chances of reaching the post-season this year appeared slim. Yes, the optimists will say they're only a few games out of a wild card spot, but let's get real. So are most other teams in both leagues. Such is parity. Yet the Tigers find themselves only the same few games out of the cellar in their own division. Bottom line is the Tigers are on a slow side downward. For every rising asset, and they are few, the Tigers have more growing liabilities as time goes on.

Here's what most Tiger fans don't get. At the end of this season, David Price was going to be an unrestricted free agent. Given his resume, age, and the fact Price is now one of the most dominant starting pitchers in baseball (besides being a southpaw -- that matters), the bidding war for him next year will be off the charts. Chances are the Tigers wouldn't have been able to retain him anyway. Price was born, raised, and went to college in Tennessee, and did his major league internship for the Tampa Bay organization. In other words, while Price may have said all the right things to teammates, fans, and the media -- he had no roots in Detroit. He'd only been there for one year.

And who knows? Maybe those pitching prospects the Tigers got from Toronto could turn out in the long run. Stranger things have happened. Wasn't Tom Brady once almost an afterthought as a sixth round draft pick? We know how that worked out. Then again, when he recruited me, my editor thought I showed promise as a writer. We know how that worked out too. Great boss to work for, but evidently a lousy judge of potential talent. Ahem.

So the Tigers parted ways with Price. Will they be even a lesser club without him? Of course. It likely spells the end of any playoff possibilities this year. But to his credit, Dombrowski is looking towards the future. Given his contract expires at the end of this season as well, whether or not he'll get re-upped with the Tigers remains to be seen. Pizza barons can move in mysterious ways.

As for the Blue Jays? Getting Price for a last ditch run at a playoff spot seems to be their plan. They better hope it pays off because at the end of the season, Price is still going to be a free agent commanding Trumpish bucks, and taxes are higher in Canada than in the USA. Chances are, they won't be able to keep him either.

So before Tiger fans start burning effigies of Dave Dombrowski while clamoring for him to be run out of town, they might want to consider the man was just trying to do his job when faced with a tough situation. True, he's made a few brilliant moves over the years, but a couple boneheads as well.

Either way, Price was likely gone. Let's see how it works out. It's been over 30 years since the Tigers won a World Series. A few more isn't the end of the world. Ask Chicago Cub fans........

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

More idle thoughts

That was quite the commercial. Some Big Pharma company is advertising a pill that will cause "less major bleeding" than the product their competitor offers. Evidently, they're telling you you're going to hemorrhage if you start popping either pills, but not as much if you take their brand. Um.... I think I'll pass.

Sound the trumpets. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers finally chalked up a win. Nevermind it took over a hundred games into the season for it to happen. And also nevermind that, considering Verlander's $28 million salary this year, the Tigers have paid $20 million or so for a single victory from the Fastball Flakes man. And let's ignore the fact the Tigers lost Verlander's first seven starts before squeaking by on a 2-1 win in his latest.  He's even got his ERA under 5.00 -- barely. It's at least something. Here's a question: You're a GM from another team and the trade deadline is a day away. Would you be interested in Verlander? Gonna cost you a million dollars every time he takes the mound.

Interesting that British Open champion Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods are both 39 years old. One is on top of the world having just won another major championship. The other has been relegated to little more than a ceremonial golfer, ala Tom Watson in recent years.

Ron "Jaws" Jaworski has Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford ranked #12 amongst all 32 NFL starting quarterbacks. Last year he was #16. Smack dab in the middle of the pack. Perhaps getting to the playoffs bumped him up a few spots. But is he really any better? Opinions vary.

Stafford certainly has a strong throwing arm. Having Calvin "Megatron" Johnson as a go-to guy hasn't hurt his stats either (though it's led to Johnson taking a beating over the years). Indeed, Stafford has thrown for over 5000 yards in a single season, a rare accomplishment.

Though he's gotten past his former "China Doll" personna, Stafford has his down sides as well. He's hardly mobile and sometimes makes poor decisions when under pressure. Instead of throwing the ball away on a play that isn't there -- he'll often try to force it. This leads to turnovers, be it Stafford fumbling while being sacked or throwing interceptions. Stafford being able to throw the football 70 yards downfield means little unless one of his receivers can haul it in. That's like a major league pitcher being able to throw 102 MPH fastballs to opposing hitters. If he can't find the strike zone it doesn't matter.

What's that? They found a piece of a wing that might have come from that Malaysian airliner that's been missing for a year and a half? Thousands of miles away from its last known location? You know what this means. Another month of Anderson Cooper and his ilk with their merry bands of "experts" hashing and rehashing ad nauseum every plausible theory -- again -- though they know nothing. And like Jimmy Hoffa, what difference does it make if they ever find the damn plane or bodies anyway? They still won't know what happened, but they'll spend countless millions moving skeletons from one place to another. How dumb is that?

Yeah, I know. Almost as dumb as this post. But hey, yours truly had a rough day. The blower motor in the furnace went kaput -- hence no AC during a heat wave -- and one of my beloved toy yorkies finally caught up to Mr. Squirrel. Turns out, Mr. Squirrel fought back. Off to the vet to have my son patched up. Cha-ching and cha-ching. It's difficult to write innovative stuff when one is preoccupied with the thought of a ramen noodle only diet in the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Tom Brady debacle

Roger Goodell and the NFL are likely going to eventually lose their battle with Tom Brady, you know. It's only a matter of time. Why? Because they've based their whole prosecutorial case on smoke, mirrors, and unfounded allegations, with little to no hard evidence to back it up. And for all intents and purposes, the appeals process of the NFL has always been a kangaroo court. The Commissioner handing out original punishments he deems appropriate is fine, but the same guy hearing the appeals is a travesty of justice. It's not supposed to work like that in America.

True, in recent times, particulary since 9/11, prosecutors (and Big Brother) have won the biggest victory of them all. They have persuaded the "court of public opinion" to always think anyone accused of a "crime" must be guilty. More often than not the media is happy to jump on board the hang-em high bandwagon. But that doesn't make it right. Far from it. Oftentimes they are eventually proven to be quite wrong, but they never, ever, apologize or try to atone for the damage they have inflicted on innocents during their witch hunts. Much the same principle could well apply in the Tom Brady case.

The Wells report, which Goodell and his minions commissioned (paid for) in the first place, is a primary example. Within it, Wells concluded that Brady "was more likely than not at least generally aware" of some sort of wrongdoing. Stop right there and think about that.

By his own words, Wells had already admitted he couldn't prove anything, so he hazarded a guess to please his masters. And excuse me, but "more likely than not at least generally aware" doesn't cut it, not even close, much less warrant a guilty verdict and punishment. Further, by those same words, Wells is tacitly saying Brady wasn't actively complicit in the "crime" to begin with -- if it even happened at all. Experts on both sides have offered up conflicting scientific "evidence". And, after all, we're talking about one measly pound (or less) of air pressure in a football during a game played in a heavy rainstorm.

Earlier today, Roger Goodell upheld the original 4-game suspension he'd handed down to Brady. Though he still doesn't have any hard evidence Brady was complicit in any wrongdoing, the Commish was desperate to find a way to justify his ruling. He'd been mulling it over for over a month. Then Brady himself gave him something Goodell could sink his teeth into. Brady had destroyed the cell phone which the NFL thought contained incriminating evidence. That in itself is a ludicrous proposition.

First of all, Brady has long been known to switch cell phones every few months, like millions of other people as new and better ones hit the market. To get rid of one for another is hardly earthshaking news and peculiar to Tom Brady. Arm-chair prosecutors say this is a very serious matter and casts Brady as destroying incriminating evidence but, looked at objectively, it proves nothing.

Ah, but some say that texts and phone calls, once out there, are forever -- right? They can be traced to servers, hard drives, and the likes. Unless you're a former IRS honcho or your name is Hillary, that's true enough. But the NFL had a small problem there. Despite being the gorilla in the world of Americans sports, they don't have the subpoena power necessary to obtain such records. And let's get real. Whatever deflategate scenario may or may not have happened, including Brady's involvement or not, did not run afoul of the law. No real "crime" has been committed, no arrests, no criminal charges, etc. The authorities that DO have subpoena power have no basis upon which to act.

That's not even to mention Brady's privacy rights. He was under no obligation to turn over his phone records to his corporate bosses. But by not doing so, Goodell used it against him as a sign of guilt. It's as if Brady was presumed guilty and had to prove himself innocent, which is bass-ackwards from the way the system is supposed to work.

Hypothetically, let's imagine Brady decided to give up his cell phone and call/text records to Goodell and his Court. What would they have? A bunch of numbers but no idea of what conversations took place. This proves nothing again. Incriminating texts showing Tom Brady explicitly directed an equipment manager or ball boy to deflate footballs below the NFL minimum allowed? THAT would be hard evidence, but given how many idiots have gotten into trouble in recent years over texts, and further given Tom Brady is a pretty savvy guy, it's highly doubtful #12 would have done something so stupid. So in the end, it could fairly be argued the whole phone thing was merely Brady standing on his rights, and good for him. For Goodell to make the leap that no phone evidence is a sign of guilt smacks of a kangaroo court indeed.

Some wonder why New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft was willing to "fall on the sword" and accept the $1 million dollar fine and loss of a couple draft picks over Deflategate. Let's get real again. A million bucks to an NFL owner is chump change, and since when have the Patriots had high draft choices? They're the best there ever was at finding diamonds in the rough, plugging them into their system to become terrific team players, and the beat goes on. And the cheese baron has never been exactly known as a rabble rouser. The defending Super Bowl champions will be just fine, and Kraft knows it.

But this sordid case is far from over. Tom Brady, his agent, and the player's union look at things far differently than Mr. Kraft. They have deemed Goodell's ruling and reasoning behind it to be totally unacceptable. This is going to land in a federal court somewhere, and likely quite soon.

In this respect the Brady camp has an advantage. When it comes to federal courts, given the NFL is a national entity, they can pick one in a state they deem more favorable to their chances. Someplace that generally leans more towards worker's rights than that of management. Liberal, if you will.

The obvious choice would be Massachusetts, home of the Patriots. Or perhaps Minnesota, where a certain federal judge has been sympathetic to union/labor causes in the past.

With time quickly winding down before the start of the NFL season, the Brady camp would be looking for an injunction (postponement) of Goodell's 4 game suspension. And they well might get it. Brady would be allowed to start the season while the court deliberates further. But this comes with risks for both sides.

Federal judges typically take their sweet time before handing down a final decision. It could be weeks, even a couple months.

If Goodell and the NFL crash and burn at the judge's hand, it would be just more egg on the face of a Commissioner that's recently seen many such court findings go against him. He can't make up rules as he goes along and apply them retroactively. No real court is going to uphold such a heavy-handed and unreasonable approach. And in a federal court, an objective judge is going to want to see more than suspicions, allegations, and "non-evidence" before he/she would consider a guilty verdict. His/her Honor could easily toss the case unless the NFL comes up with more than what they appear to have to date against Brady. He could be fully reinstated as if this never happened. If that happens, Robert Kraft will have some egg on HIS face. He already paid a million bucks and gave up a couple draft choices, and those aren't coming back.

But if it goes the other way, it could be big trouble for the Patriots as well. The status quo is Brady will miss the first four games. If he gets a "stay" he'll be able to play. Yet if the judge comes back, after due deliberation (a few months) and rules against Brady, instead of missing September, he might miss December, when the games REALLY count. And good luck throwing a new quarterback into the mix at that point. As mentioned above, Bill Belichick and the Patriots are masters of interchangeable parts, but there's only one Tom Brady. Deleting him as the playoffs loom would likely spell disaster for the Foxborough faithful.

The high-stakes and even higher-profile chess match goes on. You'll hear all about it. Brady v Goodell is a dream come true for the talking heads. They can go on for hours, days, weeks, even months with their speculation, though they know nothing factual. Sort of like Anderson Cooper and his merry band of pseudo-experts chasing and analyzing the latest disaster. Long on talk, but short on substance.

Personally, one way or the other, I hope whoever makes the final call on this whole Brady/Deflategate debacle does so before Labor Day. Either he's in or he's out. Get it before the court quickly, listen to the evidence and/or lack thereof, and dammit, come to a decision. It shouldn't take more than a couple days. This whole charade has gone on WAY too long already.......

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Bonehead Files. Detroit Tigers

Even the most loyal Detroit Tiger fans are likely exasperated by now. They thought their team was supposed to be a lot better than what they've shown this year. After 100 games they're under .500 and much closer to the basement of their division than the top. Despite earlier high expecations, this is not a good baseball team.

The many flaws of the Tigers have become apparent as the season has gone on and been well documented. No need to go into the gory details here.

But against the Boston Red Sox in their latest loss, the Tigers stepped into another dubious world. Welcome to the Bonehead Files, boys. Bad play is one thing, but consider....


Starting pitcher Shane Greene has been getting pin-balled in recent outings. Manager Brad Ausmus said Greene might have success if he keeps the ball down, but will get hit if he grooves pitches to opposing hitters. Well, no kidding, Brad. Did you stay up all night analyzing Greene's sabermetrics to come to that pearl of wisdom? Bob Gibson or Nolan Ryan Greene is not. Just the best you have right now for a fifth starter. And he wasn't that good to start with.


The Tigers, like most teams, put the "shift" on when left-handed hitting Boston slugger David Ortiz comes to bat. Basically, there's no third baseman. Ortiz is expected to "pull" the ball, so the Tigers deployed regular third sacker Nick Castellanos in shallow right field. So why, tell me WHY, did the Tiger catcher call and set up for pitches to be thrown low and outside to Ortiz? The only place a left-handed hitter can hit such a pitch is towards the left side of the infield -- which they've already vacated. Indeed, Ortiz fouled a couple off down the third base line. That was before -- surprise -- Greene finally grooved one into Big Papi's wheelhouse and Ortiz hit a colossal three-run homer. Either way, they were exercises in stupidity. If it's going to be all that much trouble, why not just walk the guy and take your chances with the next batter?


Per usual, after Greene had been flogged by the Bosox hitters, the Tigers went to their batting-practice pitchers -- sometimes loosely referred to as a bullpen. To nobody's great surprise, the balls started rocketing all over the park. This was great fun for the Bosox hitters and their fans. Not so much so for the Tiger hopefuls, whatever is left of them. By the seventh inning the game had gotten out of hand. Boston was clobbering Detroit 11-1. And then the dumbest thing yours truly has seen in sports in a long time happened.

A Tiger coach came out to the mound to have a chat with the reliever then serving as the latest boxing speed bag for an opponent. So what could he possibly tell him at that point in the game?

Throw strikes? Duh. Don't serve up 450 foot taters? Double duh. Try to keep it close. We're only 10 runs down with six outs to go. Triple duh. The absolute absurdity of a coach going out to the mound for a chat in a game that was already a hopeless blowout just underscores what has already been a very bad season for the Detroit Tigers.

They're not only stinking it up on the field with their play, but now they've spiralled down into a new level of ineptitude. Stupidity on national television.

Here's the clincher. Tiger GM Dave Dombrowski was seen sitting in a luxury box at Fenway Park high above the field. DD had his cell phone out and had made a call. No doubt, he is thinking about the trade deadline that rapidly approaches. Thing is -- nobody seemed to answer his call. Until the cameras mercifully cut to another shot, Dombrowski sat there with a dumb look on his face -- probably listening to the voice mail message of another GM. Now nobody's even taking his calls? Yikes.

For all the above, from the GM, down to the manager, coaches, and players, the Detroit Tigers have certainly earned a place in the Bonehead Files.

Welcome aboard fellas. I have friends in low places too, but at least they answer the phone when I call.....

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Detroit Tigers' dilemma

After such a quick start to the season, including 6-0 and 11-2 records, the wheels appear to have fallen off the Motown baseballers. The high expectations have been all but completely dashed.

The Tigers are over 10 games behind AL Central Division leading Kansas City, and it should probably be even more. Theoretically, Detroit remains in the wild-card hunt for post-season play, but only because the American League has precious few "quality" teams. The rest are all lumped together in the world of "parity". Also theoretically, the Tigers could wind up not only out of the playoffs but finish in the cellar of their own division. Besides being 5 games behind Minnesota for second, they're only a game and a half ahead of Cleveland for fourth, and a mere two games ahead of the White Sox -- the current cellar dwellers. With over 60 games to go, things could swing either way for the Tigers. Of late, they've been finding a way to lose games rather than win them -- and that against sub -.500 teams. Not a good omen.

With the trade deadline rapidly approaching (July 31), much has been made in Detroit (mostly by their sports media) about what the Tigers should do. Basically, it comes down to three choices. Buy, sell, or stand pat. But actually it's not quite that simple.

If the Tigers decide to buy -- who can they purchase and, more importantly, how? If you want a difference making player in a trade, you have to give up something in return. What do the Tigers have to offer? Prospects? They don't have any. They've gutted their farm system for years in "win now" mode, but it hasn't happened. Who do they have that would be attractive to another team? Victor Martinez? He's getting old and is good for one thing and one thing only. A DH. He can't field, throw, or run. Ian Kinsler has a hefty contract and is on the back side of his bell curve. J. D. Martinez has been quite the surprise with his bat -- so the Tigers likely wouldn't want to let him go. Miguel Cabrera is likely untouchable. Third baseman Nick Castellanos is hitting .240, on pace for maybe 10 home runs and 60 RBIs, and average at best fielding his position. Most clubs would expect much more out of a starting third baseman. So who else do the Tigers have with value? Andrew Romine, Rajai Davis, or Anthony Gose? Please. Anybody in the bullpen? Pretty please. Former ace Justin Verlander has yet to win a single game this year and has a whopper long-term contract to boot. No other team would touch him.

They could stand pat with their current roster, but that's likely to change anyway after this season. Star pitcher David Price will be a free agent, as will left fielder Yoenis Cespides. This isn't exactly Price's first rodeo. Though he continues to say all the right things, Price has been around long enough to fully comprehend the current and likely future plight of the Tigers. One way or the other, Price is going to get a mega-contract with somebody, because he's definitely proven he's an ace pitcher and is in the prime of his career agewise. The question then becomes -- why would he stick around with the Tigers rather than go to a legitimate contender that has a decent chance of winning a championship for the next few years? Besides the money, isn't that what all ballplayers want? As a free agent, it's totally his call.

That leaves the "sell" option, and the Tigers might as well. True, if they got rid of a few star players their fans would likely not be happy. They've become used to at least seeing their team being contenders. But there comes a time when hard business decisions have to be made, regardless of how unpopular they are. Overall, there is little question the Tigers are trending down with no help in sight.

To owner Mike Ilitch's credit, the pizza man hasn't shied away from spending big bucks trying to bring a World Series championship to Detroit. They've had some great runs over the years, but the title has always remained just out of reach. Some things just aren't meant to be. The Ford family that has long owned the Detroit Lions are well aware of that concept -- or at least they should be. Between the Lions and the Tigers it's been a whopping 88 years and counting since a championship was brought to Detroit. And it doesn't look to happen any year soon -- for either team.

Bottom line? The Tigers might as well blow it up and start over. A local columnist recently made an astute observation regarding that possibility. He said at least the fans could quit hoping for a while. Nothing is worse than people getting their hopes up every year, only to be disappointed in the end. (It should be noted said columnist was leading the hype parade for years, but has recently flip-flopped like the former never happened). Would the Tigers' attendance at the ballpark suffer? Probably. But that matters little. Given the enormous amount of TV money and other revenue sources major league clubs continue to have pourng in, it's not like one of them is going to go broke if they start building again from scratch. Not being a contender for a few years isn't the end of the world. Ask the Chicago Cubs. The Boston Celtics are in total rebuild mode. They'll be back in due time, because such a proud franchise never stays down for long. And the fans of both these teams remain loyal. Sell-outs every game, even though the fans know their team has little or no chance to be contenders.

In their current state, the Tigers have little chance at success and will likely continue to spiral downward. Their window of opportunity has all but closed while other teams are on the rise. Such is the nature of the game. Some come out of nowhere to become champions (see the San Francisco Giants, L. A. Kings, Seattle Seahawks and Golden State Warriors of late) while others seem to be perennial bridesmaids.

And all the hype in the world will never change it. Hype is for suckers, and the media uses it well to prey on gullible fans.

But they don't play the games -- do they?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tour de France madness

Barring something unforeseen, such as a major crash or being beamed up by aliens, Briton Chris Froome appears to be on the cusp of winning another Tour de France. More than three quarters through the grueling three week bicycle race, he has a comfortable lead of almost 4 minutes. That's a lot. Four minutes on a bike for a world class cyclist likely equates to a couple miles. And most of his serious rivals have fallen far back or dropped out for various reasons. Froome is pretty much on cruise control for the last few stages.

But a few days ago something very interesting happened. Froome had opened up his lead on a mountain stage through the Pyrenees. Ever suspicious, some in the French press smelled a rat. One way or the other they suspected Froome was "doping". Though they had no evidence of such, the recent Lance Armstrong debacle likely remains fresh in their minds.

Froome has never failed a drug test, but neither had Armstrong. For that matter, the public at large likely wouldn't know to this day that Armstrong had cheated had he not gone public with it in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Suspicions abounded, but no smoking gun. For whatever reason, Lance decided to "come clean". On second thought, it was rumored Oprah paid Lance Armstrong $6 million for their tete-a-tete. That could be considered a good reason. He may be disgraced, but he's also rich. A trade off.

Nevertheless, the good French people who are big fans of the Tour de France -- and how many aren't? -- were quick to believe the unfounded allegation against Froome. Riding along, Froome was booed and even had urine thrown at him in their way of protesting what they perceived to be another "doper".

Let's get real. The French have long considered the Tour de France to be "their" race, and are much happier when one of their countrymen wears the yellow jersey as its victor. They have indeed had worthy champions in the past, such as Bernard Hinault. They are not as content when a "foreigner" wins it, but will begrudgingly acknowledge him -- as long as they can't find a reason to suspect foul play. Fair enough, but given this is an international event open to any worthy cyclists from around the globe, it should come as no surprise if and when "outlanders" wind up standing on the podium at the end. France is a great country, but the world is a big place when it comes to athletes competing at the highest levels.

For Froome to be subjected to such treatment by spectators as he pedalled his way along the courses was out of bounds. It was classless, distasteful, and only brought on by a French media outlet floating a rumor likely of their own creation, knowing full well the masses would gobble it up and believe it. It smacks of sour grapes and envy, and they should collectively be ashamed of themselves.

But in today's sports world, especially the Tour de France, Froome and his team felt the pressure of such innuendo and the need to respond. They wanted to dispel any notions the Briton was cheating.

They released medical data concerning Froome, as in his heart rate and respiration on the fateful mountain stage in question. Yours truly knoweth not how such things are monitored. Do they have sensors under the jerseys of the cyclists that constantly beep their vital signs back to command central?

As an ignorant layman, my guess would be the pulses and breathing rates of cylists are going to go up when they pedal hard, especially on brutal mountain climbs. If one guy's pulse is 120 and another's is only 115, it doesn't necessarily mean the latter is a dopehead. Maybe he's in superior condition, or has a somewhat different body metabolism. If the heart rate per minute is -- say -- 30  -- after going up and down a few mountains -- this would be good cause for suspicion. Either he's chock full of roids or some sort of cyborg. Break out the urine cup immediately and rush it off to the lab for analysis. Something is definitely wrong.

Yet for now, I would exhort the good French people to appreciate Chris Froome. Yes, he's one of those dastardly Brits, but the young man appears to be the best on the bike. Stop listening to your press which will always try to sensationalize matters that had little or no substance to begin with. As an American, I understand it completely. Our media does the same thing, and millions of fools believe whatever they see on TV or read in the tabloids.

But they often get it wrong. Worse yet, deep down they know they're wrong, but they do it anyway. Anything for ratings and publicity.

Chris Froome will be a worthy champion. Scorning him only tarnishes your own image abroad. Embrace him. He will have earned it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Detroit Lions and some bad career moves

Bad career move #1. Remember Susan Stafford? She thought the TV game show she was on had no future so she quit it to look for greener pastures. Ms. Staffford was promptly replaced by somebody named Vanna White on the Wheel of Fortune over 30 years ago. Bad move Susie. REALLY bad move.

[Idle trivia: Though they make her up to look much younger, Vanna is now 58 years old. Host Pat Sajak is closing in on 69. Surprised? The show that follows them features Alex Trebek on Jeopardy! He looks to be fiftyish, right? Guess again. The Canadian that likes to show off his fluent French is actually 75. Who would have thunk it?]

The Detroit Lions training camp will start shortly and the hype is already in full swing. The club itself, the beat writers that cover them, local talking sports heads, and certainly the latest generation of long-suffering fans have jumped on the bandwagon. Again. BTW, though the Lions haven't even so much as won a playoff game in over 20 years, the ticket prices just went up. Again. And the ever-hopeful, if horribly misguided, Honolulu blue and silver faithful will gladly reach a little deeper into their wallets to see the "show". Phineas Taylor Barnum had it exactly right. There's one born every minute.

The usual koolaiders think the Lions will build on their 11-5 record of last year and be even better. Somewhere P. T. smiles, and for good reasons. Here's a few:

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been hailed in Detroit as some kind of super-hero. Yet most experts have Stafford in the middle of the pack regarding all NFL starting QBs. Yes, he has thrown for a lot of yardage, mostly to Calvin Johnson -- due to the lack of a viable running game -- but he's also prone to making many poor decisions in the pocket. Hanging on to the ball too long has resulted in a lot of sacks. True, he seems to have outgrown his former personna as a "china doll" -- where every time he got hit something broke -- but it's likely not a good idea for the Georgia peach to keep tempting fate. The ferocious on-rushing behemoths on other defenses couldn't care less about Stafford's status in Detroit. They'd just as soon break him into a million pieces. And they might, because....

Of the Lions offensive line. Glass half-fullers will say it's a "new-look" unit. Realists could counter with the fact the Lions don't even know who's playing what position yet, let alone have any cohesiveness that can only come after playing many games together. And that's assuming they possess enough talent in the first place -- hardly a given.

Bad career move #2. Golden Tate. After winning a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks, Tate decided to leave the gorgeous city of Seattle and come to the crime-ridden wasteland that is Detroit. The Seahawks came within a whisker of winning another Super Bowl 6 months ago and will likely be formidable contenders in the near future. They just added All-World tight end/receiver Jimmy Graham (formerly of the New Orleans Saints) to their arsenal. Nobody would be a bit surprised if the S-Hawks get right back to the Super Bowl again. To go to Detroit? The only non-expansion team -- and one of only four total -- to have never even reached the Super Bowl, let alone win it? To boot, the Lions are a long shot to win their own division, let alone contend for the Lombardi trophy any year soon. Granted, Tate came out of Notre Dame and delusions of grandeur have long been ingrained as a way of life at the college of leprechauns, but what could he possibly have been thinking of once in the NFL? Bad move Golden. Definitely. You won't find any pot-o-gold at the end of the rainbow in Motown. If there ever was one, it was stolen and fenced decades ago.

Some say the Lions won't miss the presence of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley from their defensive line. They should ease off on the crack pipe. While both players had behavioral issues, there is little doubt they were highly effective on the field. You can't just take a couple cast-offs from other teams and plug them into these spots and expect the same productivity. Ain't gonna happen.

The Detroit brood is already trumpeting the arrival of Ameer Abdullah as their next great running back. Hey, the dude was a second round pick out of Nebraska. Maybe he makes a successful jump to the NFL -- and maybe not. The Cornhuskers have long been known for their rushing game behind gigantic offensive lines. The Lions are known for being pass-happy, and their O-line is yet to be determined. BTW again, didn't the same hypsters tout the arrival of Reggie Bush a few years back the same way? He was supposed to be the GUY. How did that work out?

Despite the usual hype, time for a reality check. In 2013 the Lions were terrible. That led to the firing of head coach Jim Schwartz. But because they were so bad, they were handed a patsy schedule in 2014. As we know, they would go 11-5 and lose their opening round playoff game. Again.

But here's the thing. In their own division, the only good team the Lions faced was the Green Bay Packers. Of the ten remaining games, only two were against high caliber opponents. The Lions predictably got blitzed by New England, and lost at Arizona, even though their starting QB Carson Palmer had gone down with a season-ending injury the week before and the Cards had to throw a second-string QB into the fire for his first time all year.

Besides other improbable comebacks where they caught every break imaginable, the Lions won in London against the Atlanta Falcons on a last second penalty against THEMSELVES. Has that ever even happened before?

But they made the playoffs so the league has upgraded their 2015 schedule accordingly. The Lions will be playing in Monday and Thursday night nationally televised games. Just one problem. The gauntlet they will face. Look at it...

@ Chargers
@ Vikings
@ Seahawks
@ Bears
@ Packers
@ Rams
@ Saints
@ Bears

How many patsies do you see in that schedule? Maybe the Raiders. The Lions typically don't fare well out west and the Chargers remain pretty good. Forget about the Seahawk game.

Adrian Petersen will be back with the Vikes and QB Teddy Bridgewater has a year of experience under his belt. Not automatics by any means.

The Lions get the Cardinals at Ford Field, but this time Carson Palmer will likely be playing. And the Cards aren't too shabby throughout the rest of their roster either.

The Bears have a new coach in John Fox. He wasn't good enough in Denver, but they have much higher standards than Detroit. Yet he's won wherever he's been.

The Rams and Saints could probably be considered "average", but both those games are on the road.

Hard telling what Chip Kelly is up to in Philly. Is he a mad genius or an idiot for his salary dumps while retooling the roster? Time will tell.

The 49ers have been gutted, so they appear to be the weakest link.

Bottom line? Lions fan have it right. Things will be different than the 11-5 record they posted last year. And being featured on national television will give the whole country several chances to watch them.

But given their unsettled offensive line, loss of a couple brute D-linemen, a secondary that seemingly remains forever in flux, an average linebacker corps, and a brand new untested feature running back, the thought here is the Lions may do well to go 8-8 in 2015. Playoffs? Maybe, if everything goes right. Super Bowl? Not a chance. A good thing is they have a lot of tight ends. Pity none of them is a complete player. One can't catch. Another can't block. It's always something.

Besides, the koolaiders keep saying head coach Jim Caldwell has "changed the attitude" of the team. Perhaps. But look at his history. He's done well as a coordinator under other successful head coaches on other teams, but crashed and burned when finally put in charge. Typically in his second season at the helm.

This will be his sophomore year in Detroit.

We shall see.

Bad career move #3. A multiple tie. There's Lance Armstrong's tell-all interview with Oprah. The whole Bruce/Caitlyn thing -- from Wheaties to Fruit Loops. And, of course, my boss (editor) ever thinking I would become a decent writer when he signed me up in the first place to write this nonsense.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Detroit Tigers and a promotion

It sure looked good, but promos always do at first glance. Like that recent car commercial offering $3000 off a new vehicle. Act now, because it's a limited time offer. Pressure, pressure. Always pressure. But then one might consider -- if they can give you three grand off and still make a decent profit -- and you know they will -- then how outrageous was the mark-up in the first place? Same with a windows company offering buy one and get one free. Simple logic dictates the one you're paying for has likely been marked up 300% over what it costs to make and install it. And remember, no interest for the first four years. Hey, if it's going to take you 5-6-7-8 years to pay off a few windows -- either they cost way too much and/or you couldn't afford it anyway.

Back to the Tigers' promotion for a future game. If I have this right, the offer was as follows:
4 tickets
4 hot dogs
4 bags of chips
4 drinks
All for only $19.99 per person.

This package is obviously aimed at the typical "family of four" demographic. Technically, a few partying dudes could pile into a van, replete with a cooler full of serious stuff and head to Comerica to avail themselves of such an offer, but that's probably not what the PR folks of the Tigers had in mind. This sounds great until one translates it into reality. Here's what mom, dad, Bart and Lisa will actually get:

One nasty hog dog apiece. Nothing like a ball park frank, you say? You've been brainwashed. Ask yourself one question. Would you eat such a leathery thing on a soggy bun at home -- or offer them to guests? And good luck at the condiment stand. Mustard and ketchup are one thing, but may the onions and relish at least not be moving on their own when you're trying to dress your dog. Let's just say from standing in line at the concession stand to finally getting back to your seat can be quite the adventure.

One of those little bar bags of low grade potato chips worth perhaps a quarter.

One small soft drink in a paper cup. Wholesale cost? Maybe a dime.

Ah, but the tickets. Granted, in today's insane world of ticket prices, anything under 20 bucks is almost unheard of. What they don't tell you is that you'll be sitting up in nosebleed section somewhere. True, one can't expect the princely seats for pauper prices, but the team could be a little more forthcoming with their promo and what actually awaits patrons if they choose to pursue it.

[Idle thought. In the old days, there were "box" seats. Everybody knew those were the first few rows, be it in the upper or lower deck. Behind them were "reserve" seats. This is where you would always wind up sitting next to the nuclear powered loudmouth smoking a big cheap cigar. "Grandstands" meant outfield seats and weren't that grand at all. Lowest on the totem pole were the "bleachers". The only thing you could see from there was the number on the center fielder's back -- maybe. There are no more grandstands and bleachers. Nowadays it's all done by "sections". So who's to know whether Section 108 features better seats than 145 or 232? Unless one is careful, they might purchase seats thinking they'll be sitting behind home plate, only to arrive and discover they're closer to the clouds than the infield.]

But let's get real. It's likely going to cost you 20 bucks to park your vehicle. And Bart and Lisa surely won't sit through the typical 3 hour game and be satisfied with a single hot dog, small bag of stale chips, and a Coke. They're going to want an ice cream, or peanuts, or another dog, all at full prices. Throw in a couple "programs" for mom and dad and some team paraphernalia for the brats, and that original 80 bucks likely just went up to at least 200, if not more. Along the way, dad will have to escort the young-uns on a few potty breaks, and that's typically when something great happens on the field. Crack, and a roar from the crowd. Dad missed it. Many moms didn't want to be there in the first place. The kids will squabble in the back seat on the way home, while Ma and Pa give each other the silent treatment up front. Especially if the Tigers lost, which they've been doing a lot lately.

Again, 80 bucks isn't a bad deal on the surface for a family of four to see a game live and in person, but there are hidden costs, in more ways than one.

A much better idea is to stay home. Dad can watch it on the big flat screen in hi-def and get all the replays and slo-mos. The kids can go back to their usual mode and be happy little droids mesmerized with the latest app on their mobile devices. Far be it from them to go outside and actually -- gasp -- play anymore. Horrors!! And if Mom isn't busy running a company somewhere, she might consider whipping up something decent to eat for the family. Good cook or not, it can't be any worse than the ball park slop.

Better yet, if Mom is a busy woman, another option is available. Pick up the phone and order a large pizza, with whatever toppings the brood prefers. That's maybe 25 dollars and feeds the whole family. Much better than blowing a couple hundred and it certainly beats enduring a trying day to, at, and from a ballpark. Everybody will be happy.

To make it right by the Tigers as a loyal fan, order it from Little Caesars. Not that he needs it, but at least that way multi-billionaire owner Mike Ilitch still makes a couple bucks.

On an unrelated note, hats off and congrats to Zach Johnson winning the British Open. Most, but not all, professional golfers are gentlemen and class acts. ZJ is the epitome of such. Humble, soft-spoken, happily married with kids, and even moved to tears over winning the Claret Jug. He thanked his caddy, his wife, the Lord, the staff at St. Andrews (including the groundskeepers), whatever fans he has back home, and even the good people of Scotland for being such gracious hosts. A class act of the highest order and worthy champion indeed. Well done and bravo.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Moving day at the British Open

The third round of the Open saw some major moves on the leaderboard. Some surprising and some not.

Jordan Spieth carded a 6 under 66 to move within one stroke of the lead. The Masters and US Open champ is knocking on the door for his third straight major win. It would surprise few if the soon to be 22 year old Texan actually pulled it off. The dude's got some serious game and pressure doesn't seem to faze him one bit.

Aussie Jason Day is tied for the lead with South African Louis Oosthuizen. No big surprise there. Both all well seasoned international players in their primes and ranked in the top ten in the world. The last time the Open was played at St. Andrews -- guess who won? Oosthuizen. Can't count either one of these guys out.

Somewhat surprisingly, or maybe not, Dustin Johnson had a poor back nine in the third round and ballooned to a score of 3 over 75 for the day. The leader after the first two rounds now finds himself 5 shots back. That's a bunch with only one round to go. Then again, maybe his collar got tight -- again. It was only a month ago he 3-putted from 12 feet on the 18th green at the US Open to choke it away. With a 75, DJ gave away a lot of strokes to a lot of players that were busy shooting in the mid 60s on moving day. One bad round plummeted him from 1st to 17th. He's likely out of it.

Many notables remain within striking range, some former major championship winners. Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Retief Goosen, and Adam Scott are all lurking within a few shots of the lead.

Yet the biggest surprise of all was that young lad from Ireland working his magic. No, not Rory McIlroy. He's still out rehabbing his soccer injury. This is another 21 year old golfing phenom from the land of shamrocks and leprechauns. Paul Dunne sits atop the leaderboard at 12 under par with Day and Oosthuizen. Three rounds of 69, 69, and 66 is pretty convincing stuff at a major championship playing against the best in the world on a tough course where weather conditions seem to often change, sometimes dramatically.

In a post-round interview, Dunne said he wasn't a bit surprised at how he played. It's like he expected it of himself. No shortage of confidence in this young man on a huge stage, and that's a good thing.

But a much more surprising thing is -- Dunne is an amateur. No amateur has won the British Open since Bobby Jones pulled it off way back in 1930, a very long time ago. True, though Jones is considered amongst the all-time greats -- he was a life-long amateur. He played for the love of the game rather than prize money, which there wasn't a whole lot of back in those days. The title and trophy were much more important. Sure, some players these days will say the same thing, but you won't see any of them donating their mega-buck winnings to charity either. A championship is nice, but a couple million bucks has a way of paying the bills for a while -- ya know?

Can Dunne maintain his composure during the final round of the Open and actually -- gasp -- win this thing? It will be tough staring down the likes of Spieth, Oosthuizen, Day, and the other top pros close behind as the pressure mounts during the final round. He wouldn't get the millions, but the trophy and title would be priceless. Dunne would make history. Imagine. An amateur winning the British Open. How big of a story would that be? The talking heads might get so worked up they'd spontaneously combust on the air. That would be pretty cool to watch as well.

The other guys (pros) in contention are all fine gentlemen and terrific players. Yours truly wishes them all well, and one of them will likely win it. Most are unlikely to fold, especially Spieth, as the tournament reaches its climax. Yet you never know.

But here's hoping Dunne goes out and shoots another 66. How interesting would THAT be?

Detroit Tigers and the clock

After their most recent loss at the hands of Baltimore, the Tigers have now played 90 games, and find themselves with a 45-45 record. Exactly .500. Tick.

With 72 games remaining in the regular season, a lot can happen and probably will. Yet there is little doubt Kansas City remains the class of the AL Central Division. After the All-Star break, the Royals have picked up right where they left off. They just chalked up another win. Tick.

The Tigers are now a full 10 games, and that's a lot, behind KC. Tick. For that matter, Detroit is only a game and a half ahead of the Cleveland Indians -- barely hanging on to third place in their division. Tick.

They still remain very much in the wild card race for post-season play due in most part to the amazing parity that exists in major league baseball today. In the AL East, the Yanks have opened up a slim lead, but no other team is above .500. In the West, the Angels and the Astros are the only teams with more wins than losses. But as the season slowly marches on, every loss for the Tigers becomes another tick. And things really don't look that promising for them.

Slugger Miguel Cabrera remains out with a leg injury, duration unknown. Their best pitcher, David Price, just pitched a very good game. Though giving up several hits, he only allowed one run, a dinger by Oriole Manny Muchado. Problem was, Oriole pitcher Chris Tillman was even better. He pitched 8 innings of 1 hit, shutout ball. Price had surpassed his pitch count and the Tigers brought in reliever Bruce Rondon for the ninth inning. Much has been made about how hard Rondon can throw -- in the upper 90s -- but almost predictably Rondon was quickly lit up for a couple runs. The Oriole hitters seemed to have no problem solving Rondon. They knew he was going to bring heat, were waiting on it, and hit it hard. In the end, after a very good outing, the Tigers' best pitcher -- David Price -- got taggd with another loss. Yes, it happens to the best of them, but it's another game and another tick for the team. At any rate, the Tigers' bullpen remains cannon fodder for other teams. Unless Tiger hitters have spotted their starting pitcher a big lead, they're in trouble when the batting practice relievers enter the game. Lots of ticks over the season.

Ninety games into the season, former ace pitcher Justin Verlander has yet to chalk up a single win. Is the Fastball Flakes man heading down the same road as Tiger Woods? Maybe. But when a guy's making a whopping $28 million it hardly seems unreasonable to expect him to put a few Ws on the board. Every game JV starts and doesn't win is another very expensive tick. Put another way, Verlander makes roughly a MILLION DOLLARS every time he takes the mound. There's a reason for the outrageous ticket and concession prices fans have to pony up.

Though the Tigers can, and have, boast(ed) of winning several recent division titles, post season series' and even making it to the World Series -- they haven't actually won anything that truly matters since 1984. Thirty years worth of ticks and counting.

Worse yet, it would appear their window of opportunity to win a championship is rapidly closing. David Price is up for free agency after this season. Justin Verlander will likely never return to his former dominant self. Second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the back side of his career bell curve. Designated hitter Victor Martinez is, well, getting old. He can't field a position and is slower than molasses on the basepathes. J.D. Martinez has been sensational this year, but does anybody really expect him to continue at the same torrid pace? Third baseman Nick Castelannos was once a promising star, but has underachieved both with the bat and the glove. Rajai Davis rarely sees any action any more. Center fielder Anthony Gose was a career minor-leaguer before the Tigers brought him up. Recently, he's begun to show us why. Yoenis Cespedes was once a hot commodity, but has since reached his level of mediocrity. Slick fielding shortstop Jose Iglesias is known for his fast starts in a season with the bat, and had one this year. But he's also known for fading badly down the stretch. His once .330 batting average was a mirage. It will come down -- a lot. It already has.

The Tigers will boast of the players they drafted, because every team does that. But the reality is their farm system has been gutted through trades. This was part of the "win now" plan of owner Mike Ilitch and President Dave Dombrowski. Sell the future in the hopes of bringing a title home to Detroit soon. It hasn't worked.

As stated above, the Tigers have a few assets, but their liabilities continue to grow as time marches on. Tick, tick, tick.

If a World Series championship doesn't happen soon -- as in this year or next -- they might have to blow it up and start all over. In this day and age of professional sports only one thing really matters. Winning a championship. Ask Lebron James. After he and his Cavaliers were defeated by Golden State in the NBA Finals, James said he would rather have missed the playoffs entirely than eventually go down in the championship series. That was an honest man talking. He's been there, done that, both ways.

And let's get real. The teams and their media hypesters will trumpet minor accomplishments to the heavens, but in the end, nobody cares or will remember who came in second. Only losers find a way to brag about close but no cigar scenarios.

Or maybe just getting close enough to sniff a championship is good enough for some teams and their fans. Tom Brady would disagree, as would Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. So would the Yankees, Jerry Jones of the Cowboys, Jimmy Johnson of NASCAR, and the USA baskeball dream team in the olympics every four years. Anything less than a win is a failure. Tiger Woods used to think like that in his heyday and Jordan Spieth likely does now. Certainly the same could be said of Serena Williams. Making it deep into a sporting event only to come up short in the end is not acceptable. Granted, nobody wins everything all the time -- even the Harlem Globetrotters were beaten a few times.

Yet some teams, their media and fans have a different standard of excellence than others. For the Detroit Pistons, it's become merely making the playoffs. For the Detroit Lions, it's winning a game once they get there. The Lions have won exactly one playoff game in the entire Super Bowl era -- 50 years worth -- way back in 1992. But they'll crow every year about being "contenders". Amazingly enough, their fans continue to believe it. See ridiculous ticket prices and concessions mentioned above. There's no shortage of suckers in the Detroit area.

But back to the Tigers. One never knows how the rest of the season will unfold, and it's entirely possible the Tigers could get on a roll, qualify for the post-season, and -- gasp -- actually win the World Series. Stranger things have happened.

Problem is, they're trending downwards. Meanwhile, Kansas City continues to get even better. They've got starting pitching, are terrific defensively, have speed galore, added some pop in the batting line-up, and a lights-out bullpen. KC is definitely trending upwards, and let's not forget which American League team wound up going to the World Series last year and came within an eyelash of winning it.

It wasn't the Tigers. Despite the local hype, they were unceremoniously broomed by the Baltimore Orioles in the first round of the playoffs.

They have since regressed to become an average team. Nothing spells mediocre more than a .500 record after 90 games.

72 to go.

Tick, tick, tick.......

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Updates and the absurd

A-Rod just clubbed his 20th homer of the year. There remain many that don't want to acknowledge Rodriguez was and still is a fearsome batter -- due to the steroid allegations of the past -- but it's hard to dispute that whatever he's doing now -- he's doing it clean. He's probably getting drug tested every 5 minutes. The haters can give it up. The man can flat out hit -- always could. And don't look now, but he's got another year left on his Yankee contract and his teammates love him. If he continues at his current pace, he'll be approaching Ruthian home run territory. This, after being forced to miss an entire season, in large part due to a media inspired witch-hunt which former Commissioner Bud Selig knuckled under to. People say Bud-man grew the game. Perhaps. Pity he never grew any cajones of his own.

The (British) Open caught some bad weather on day two. Yes, I understand the folks from the old country take their golf quite seriously and it is expected those who speak of it do so in hushed, reverent tones. But let's not get ridiculous.

Basically, the Royal and Ancient course in Scotland experienced a rainstorm with the usual accompanying winds. This would hardly be big news anywhere else. Water evaporates from the oceans and elsewhere on the planet surface, gets blown around in the atmosphere, and eventually has to fall somewhere. It's been happening for millions of years. Mother Nature 101.

Yet one commentator said the rains were of biblical proportions. Really? There is hushed, reverent, and even mega-hype, but there is also the absurd. Biblical proportions? It was hardly forty days and forty nights of a torrential downpour that would eventually immerse the entire planet. Just a couple hours of rain and a little wind. It happens. As I'm writing this, the golfers are back on the course finishing up their second rounds. No biggie, so spare us the absurd commentary. Uh-oh. The wind has kicked up again and the players are struggling to deal with it. So big deal. Instead of blistering the course, maybe they have to give a few shots back. It's not like there's a massive tornado sweeping across St. Andrews and will deposit the linksters into Munchkinland to follow a yellow brick road. But the commentators will no doubt hype it as such. Maybe they need a brain, a little more heart, and certainly a lot more courage to be objective about what's actually happening. It doesn't take a Wizard to figure that out.

An interesting article in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated. Veteran writer Tom Verducci took a four hour road trip with Pete Rose from Vegas to Rose's home in California. This happened with Charlie Hustle doing the driving in his $200,000 Bentley. The same Rose that at 74 remains immensely popular amongst most baseball fans and is carrying on with a Playboy model. His Hall of Fame possibilities aside, all in all it appears Rose is doing quite well. TV and PR discussed a lot of interesting things on that road trip. Read the article if so interested.

But there's irony in them thar hills. While Verducci is a respected scribe, he also has a rep of being a bit Michener-esque with his SI articles. Four hours with Rose in the lap of luxury? For the average reader, it usually takes four or so lengthy stays in the land of Charmin to finally slog through one of Verducci's creations. If a future edition of SI seems a lot thicker, chances are Verducci has an article or two featured in it.

Major League Baseball is back after the All-Star break. That means no more whiny excuses about worn-out bullpens -- for at least a week or so. Everybody should be good to go after a four day break. And what is it with those guys anyway? Some of them are only good for 20 pitches or so before they're totally gassed? And they get paid millions of dollars for this?

Now THAT'S absurd.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tiger Woods and the Blues Brothers

So after one round Dustin Johnson is leading the Open at 7 under with Jordan Spieth two shots behind. Sound familiar?  A wry smile over Spieth's comment about DJ, his opening round playing partner. JS said DJ could occasionally bomb drives 380 yards, but Spieth " didn't have that option in his bag". He would have to make up for it in other ways. Hey, nobody has that option in their bag, unless he moonlights as a reporter and works with Lois Lane.

Almost predictably, Tiger Woods once again bumbled his way around the course and is 11 shots back after a single round. Even more predictably he let loose with yet another F-bomb. Some people are born with class and others acquire it, but there are those that are forever destined to never fully grasp the essence of being a class act. This flaw usually shows up in stressful or frustrating moments. One can groom a dog to perfection, teach it a lot of tricks, and it might win several awards at shows. But it's usually only a matter of time before it reverts back to its true nature and pees on something in the house when it thinks you're not looking. It's not their fault. They're dogs. This is what they do. For Eldrick to blaspheme on the hallowed course of St. Andrews is akin to the same behavior. A true gentleman would never, EVER do such a thing. To steal a line from the classic Blue Brothers movie -- this boy needs some serious churching up. Better yet, a few minutes in the woodshed with Granny Clampett or Adrian Petersen and a switch.

And right on cue, of course, was the obligatory post-round press conference with Tiger. So why is the media still interested in a player not even ranked in the top 200 in the world that finds himself tied for 139th place -- out of a total field of 156 -- after a single round? Forget winning, Woods won't even make the cut. Not even close. It's just a matter of how many more strokes he'll fall behind in Round two. Hopefully he can pull it off without more F-bombs, throwing or beating clubs into the ground, and other boorish behavior that seems to be in his DNA. Reverting to his mild mannered Doctor Jekyll mode in front of the cameras, Tiger said he made a few mistakes on the course. No kidding. That's like saying the Polish army on horseback were a bit off when they charged German Panzer divisions of tanks in World War II. That didn't work out so well either.

The question now becomes -- how bad does this guy have to get, and for how long, before the hero worship finally goes away? He's not coming back, in this tournament or in the future at others. Stick a fork in him. It's over. Like Woods once blew past the established stars, the current young guns have left him in their wake as well. It's only going to get worse.

Yet that poses another interesting possible scenario. Tiger Woods will turn 40 in December. Not exactly a geezer, but no spring chicken on the tour either. So what happens if his game continues to deteriorate and it becomes obvious he can't be competitive going up against the big boys? What then?
He'd have to wait 10 years until he turned 50 to qualify for the AARP, sometimes loosely called the Champions Tour.

Ten years is a long time to be in limbo. The prisoners in Gitmo can no doubt fully comprehend that because they don't have a choice. But yours truly isn't so sure what the likes of Eldrick Tont Woods will do in his 40s. Will he keep plugging away on the PGA and selling not only himself but the hordes of suckers that a magical comeback to glory is just around the corner? Is anybody dumb enough to believe that?  And how embarrassing does his play have to get before the spell wears off?

Here's at least hoping by the time he turns 50 -- whatever he's done during the previous decade -- the curtain has mercifully fallen on the Tiger Show. No more inane press conferences. No more incessant high and lowlight replays. And please God, no more sensationalizing every detail of his personal life. Who cares? He's a golfer, not the Pope. Just a dude being a dude. He's going to mess up once in a while. Seen his chips shots lately?

And though Jake has passed on, maybe Elwood can arrange for Tiger to have a long talk with a certain nun (The Penguin). She set the Blue Brothers on the path to salvation once upon a time. Perhaps she could work her sister magic with Woods as well.

Couldn't hurt to try.....

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The (British) Open. And the winner is.....

Have you noticed the word "British" has been dropped from this major golf tournament in recent times? Sure, those across the pond have always referred to it as "The Open", but for decades Americans have called it the British Open. Not any more, and maybe that's a good thing. After all, the game of golf was supposedly invented in Scotland way back in the 16th century -- or approximately the time Larry King did his first interview. They have a right to call it whatever they want and the Yanks should respect it.

But deferring to the wishes of the "senior circuit" (can you hear me Regis?) is one thing. Total revererance and awe are quite another. The Open is a great event but let's not get carried away. It's not Moses coming down from the mountain with a new politically correct pair of tablets (scary thought), the Second Coming, or a Kardashian being elected US President in 2016 (REALLY scary thought). It's a golf tournament. There's one every week. They come and they go.

One would think Jordan Spieth would be a favorite to win, given his triumphs at the Masters, US Open, and even the Green Tractor Classic last week -- but not according to Andy North, the former PGA player turned "expert" talking head. Andy has ruled him out, along with several other players for his own reasons.

[It should be noted that Andy North played on the PGA tour for 30 years and chalked up a grand total of 3 -- count-em -- THREE victories during his career. That averages out to one a decade, so what the hell does he know anyway?]

Nevertheless, North has laid out Andy's laws of who shalt and shalt not win the Open.

First, the player has to be over 30 years old. That wipes out a whole bunch of guys like Spieth, Jason Day, Ricky Fowler, and a couple of notable Johnsons to name a few. Geez, I thought they had a chance. Guess not. North's logic is a player must have years of experience playing the Old Course to appreciate it and be competitive. Hey, it's still only a golf course. An inanimate tract of land. It's not like it has a mind of its own and will destroy young linksters Terminator style. Drive it in the fairways, stay out of those ridiculous pot bunkers, and make a few putts. This is hardly rocket science much less trying to sort out all the problems in the Middle East so everybody is happy. It's 72 holes of golf, just like every other tournament. Whoever shoots the lowest score wins. Pretty simple.

Oddly enough, North eliminated Phil Mickelson from contention, even though Lefty won the Open just a couple years ago and is 45. He certainly has the experience, so go figure.

Andy said only a golfer ranked in the top 8 in the world has a shot. That rules out a few more prospects.

So who is left? Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Brandt Snedeker, and Louis Oosthuizen? All worthy players indeed that meet his criteria.

But after his presentation of old school flash-card sabermetrics while drawing on his infinite expertise about an event he was never remotely competitive at for 30 years, Andy North has boldly predicted a winner.

One Henrik Stenson. The Swede is 39, ranked 7th in the world, and has racked up 17 professional tournament victories -- though only 4 in PGA events. For the most part, Stenson has made his dough and fame on the European circuit.

Wouldn't it be something if Andy North was right and Stenson actually won The Open? Could happen.

But yours truly still thinks the young guns will be there on the back nine on Sunday slugging it out for the Claret Jug. Times, they are a-changing, and quickly.

We'll see.....

As a footnote, here's to Tom Watson -- a 5 time winner of the Open and an all around class act over the decades. He's playing in his last Open. The chances of him winning it are not good, but it would be great to see him not only make the cut, but be in the hunt on Sunday for his last go-round where the game began. If there's any justice in the golf world, Tom Watson will be able to doff his cap, smile and wave at the throng of fans surrounding the 18th green that know how to show their appreciation for greatness.

One can only hope.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

All Star game thoughts

In pre-game festivities, it was pretty cool they trotted out four guys that were voted the greatest living legends in the game of baseball. Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Johnny Bench. All Hall of Famers, of course, and definitely worthy of the honor. What went unnoticed was all four were National League players. Curious.

Per usual, the latest and greatest sensation of the stage, screen, videos and vocals (allegedly) was presented to sing the National Anthem. Just one question -- if she's so noteworthy -- how come I never heard of her? Didn't know her name then and can't remember it now.

Nevertheless Bimbo and her back-up Bimbettes went on to butcher the National Anthem. What is it with these people? Don't they understand they are privileged to be on such a stage in the first place? They are there to sing a song honoring our country. They are NOT there to show off their "dubious" talents by jerking it around. Is it just too difficult a concept for them to comprehend that singing it the exact way Francis Scott Key wrote it during the War of 1812 is appropriate? And jazzing it up is disrespectful? You never see this happen at NHL rinks when a world-class singer belts out O Canada. Then again, they have a way of getting operatic tenors to do the honors -- people that can give one goose bumps with their voices -- rather than trotting out the latest here today, gone tomorrow twit like the Americans have become so fond of showcasing.

Idle thought: What do you think would happen to other such singers if they took it upon themselves -- with the world watching -- to mangle their country's National Anthem? The guess here is most European nations would not be amused. Others around the world might react a bit harsher. As in, that singer would never be heard of again for showing such disrepect to their country. If not summarily executed, perhaps a long prison sentence doing hard labor in a Gulag somewhere would be imposed. Either way, it would definitely serve as a deterrent to the next singer of their National Anthem. Trust me -- they'd get it right -- as it should be. Only America tolerates this nonsense.

During the game itself, home plate umpire Tim Welke had a very strange strike zone. Evidently, ankle-high pitched balls are now called strikes in his myopic world. It happened over and over again. In a regular season game the batters would likely have screamed bloody murder, but they let such things slide in the All-Star game. Nevertheless, there's only one thing a batter can do with a pitch at his ankles. Hit a ground ball. Welke may be a veteran ump, but if he bothers to watch the tape of the game later, he should be embarrassed by some of the strikes he called. They weren't even close.

True to form, the hypesters were in full stats from hell mode going into and throughout the game. They have more superlatives than the Guiness book of records these days when it comes to players. Everybody's the greatest at something. Objective criticism is no longer allowed. The politically correct thing.

Sure enough, they gushed over National League starting pitcher Zach Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Zackster hadn't allowed a run in his last 36 innings of pitching. True, that's impressive.

But once the game started, Greinke didn't make it through the first hitter he faced without giving up a run. Mike Trout lined his fourth pitch into the right field seats for a homer. Oops. No doubt ZG is a great pitcher, but it turns out the All-Stars from the other team can hit a bit too, even as they had to deal with Welke's crazy strike zone.

That brings up another idea. During All-Star games, playoffs, and the World Series, supposedly the "best" umpires are selected to officiate the contests. And unlike regular season games, there are 6 of them rather than 4.

So why not rotate them every inning? After one inning behind the plate, that umpire goes to first base. The one on first to the right field line. The right field line ump to second base. And on around the diamond. The third base ump would put on the chest protector and face mask and assume duties behind the plate, etc. Look at the upsides. The pitchers rarely last more than one inning, so a different strike zone to the new pitcher wouldn't be a problem any more than a regular game. The umps themselves would probably like it. They get to walk around a little bit instead of standing like statues in their original positions for hours. At the end of innings, by the time one team came off the field and the other went on, plus the pitcher's 8 warm-up tosses, the umps could easily shift with time to spare. They're supposed to know all the umpire positions and be the best at them -- right? So move them around. I fail to see a downside to this change in the games.

In the end, the American League triumphed and their league champion will have home field advantage in the World Series. Good luck trying to figure out which team that might be. And home field advantage doesn't mean squat in major league baseball games. Anybody can beat anybody else in any given game at home or on the road. It's been proven over and over again.

But for now the ALers have bragging rights over the "senior circuit". Too bad they didn't have a player considered "top 4" all-time worthy for the pre-game festivities. That was an NL sweep. But Sandy, Say Hey, Hammerin' and Johnny B were a very impressive group.

Maybe they should have sung the National Anthem in four-part harmony barbershop quartet style instead of the B-girls. Bet they'd have got it right....

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Home Run Derby farce

Somehow it seemed fitting that the 4-letter network would bring Chris (The Boomer) Berman out of semi-retirement for this year's major league home run derby. After all, who better with his back back back back back back back signature routine to scream into a microphone for such an event? Yet the Boomer soon gave way to the current generation of ranting hypsters that he has evidently spawned. Maybe Berman can't hit the high (glass breaking) note any more. It happens. Here's wishing him well if he fades back back back back back back back out of the ranting audios again.

It's great they set a 5 minute time limit on how long any participant had to take his mighty cuts. Enough with the theatrics and hamming it up for the crowd. Get in the box and hit, dammit. The clock is ticking. But facets of this year's Derby were shameful, even laughable.

Though simple enough, it couldn't just be an ironclad 5 minutes. Oh hell no. These guys actually got a time-out. What did we learn from this? Evidently, after taking batting practice for a whole 3 minutes, they were "gassed" and in need of a breather. Three minutes swinging a bat every ten seconds or so is the limit of their endurance? Really??  That's pitiful.

During his time-out, former Tiger Prince Fielder even took a large bite out of a kid's cotton candy. Great idea, Prince. Every chance you get -- eat something -- especially if it's free. No wonder you've always looked like a bearded beachball.

So as such things go these days, it couldn't just be a one-shot thing. Whoever hits the most home runs in their five minutes wins. Oh hell no. There had to be brackets. You know, quarter finals, semis, and -- sound the trumpets -- THE FINALS. This was good for fans in attendance at the ball park because dragging this event on for so long resulted in a lot of souvenir baseballs going into the stands. Also good for sponsors (commercials). Lots of those.

Idle thought: What gives with the latest erectile dysfunction commercial? Here we have a beautiful young woman at a seaside mansion replete with swimming pool and every other luxury known to mankind. Millions of men would love to enjoy her company in such an exotic setting. So why is she wearing a wedding band and where is her husband? Bet he won't be too happy if he sees those ads.

Finally, mercifully, as the brackets were pared down in their marathonish 5 minutes of "brutal labor", time-outs, cotton candy, and all -- we would know the winners. Five minutes is five minutes, right? Oh hell no. Then -- like a soccer game -- they got "extra" time. Another 30 seconds or so to take a few more cuts. So what's the point in setting a 5 minute time limit in the first place?

What has become laughable is how the talking heads ooh and aah over every home run hit. They will scream of monster blasts, moonshots, and there goes another one into orbit. Lots of the home runs hit were over 400 feet, but that's not at all unusual during any pre-game batting practice session.

Thing is, the longest of them all in this year's Derby was a little over 480 feet. The talking heads went ballistic as if it was going to send back pictures from Neptune any second. Nobody came close to 500 feet. This, despite custom made bats, hotter balls (no reference to the idle thought above) and supposedly stronger athletes. In the old days lots of guys hit baseballs over 500 feet. Nowadays, nobody can approach it, and that seems odd.

I don't know who eventually won this year's Derby because I could only stand so much of the hype and wimpiness before finally tuning out. But if they want to make it much more interesting in years to come -- here's an idea.

Forget about the major leaguers. If you want to see "moon shots" bring in some of the heavyweights from slow-pitch softball. Yours truly played several years in a highly competitive league. The fences were anywhere from 300 to 325 feet at different parks. I could barely get one out every once in a while but the brutes routinely hit some colossal shots, likely 400 feet or better. With a softball.

Let guys like that bat in the Home Run Derby. How far could they hit a baseball lobbed up to them? 600? Over the scoreboard and out of the park? Beats me, but it would be quite a long distance show.

Besides, my former compadres wouldn't sweat like pigs and gasp for air after a measly 3 minutes on the field, and they surely wouldn't cop some kid's cotton candy. They had much more endurance and style.

At least until after the game. But like Vegas, what happened at the bars -- or shortly thereafter -- stayed at the bars. Sort of. Let's just say you didn't want to get stuck with the tab and good luck in the morning......

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Grading the Detroit Tigers

With over half the season now played and heading into the All-Star break, the Detroit Tigers find themselves with a record of 44-44. Exactly .500. They're a whopping 9 games behind AL Central division leading Kansas City, 4 and a half games behind second place Minnesota and only two games out of the basement in the division, currently shared by Cleveland and the Chisox.

The Motown glass half-fullers maintain all is not lost. The Tigers could still recover, get on a bit of a roll, and make it into the post-season as a wildcard. Indeed they could. However, things could also go the other way and they could tumble into the cellar. Let's look at them.

Starting pitching.
Only an idiot would say the Tigers don't miss the presence of Max Scherzer. Former ace Justin Verlander's last two seasons have been no more than average. So far this year, the Fastball Flakes man has made over $15 million and has yet to win a single game. David Price remains the real deal, but he's likely got his eye on free agency after this season. Anabal Sanchez has his good days and bad days on the mound. At times he's almost unhittable. Other times it looks like he's pitching batting practice. The rest of the starters the Tigers keep trying to plug in have been castaways from other teams or brought up from the farm system. They started out okay, but as the year has gone on and opposing hitters have seen them a few times, they appear to be less and less effective. Overall, the starting pitching grades out at maybe a C.

Relief pitching.
It's pretty much a joke. If the starters don't go deep into a game with the hitters providing them a big lead, the Tigers are in trouble. Pinball machine time. Grade FF -- as in Freaking Farce.

Position players.
Good news and bad news.
J.D. Martinez has been hitting out of his mind so far this season. That's good news. Can he be expected to keep up the same pace for the second half of the season? Likely not. Not so good news.
The same with shortstop Jose Iglesias. At least he's stayed healthy and is slick with the glove. Good. Like Martinez, he enjoyed a stellar first half with the bat. But JI's history suggests he'll fade down the stretch. Just in the last couple weeks his batting average has fallen 20 points. Bad.
The absence of slugger supreme Miguel Cabrera certainly hasn't helped. Yet the Tigers have scored over 6 runs per game without him. Normally, that would be good news. Problem is the above-mentioned pitching staff keeps getting rocked. Six doesn't seem to be enough in many games.
Second baseman Ian Kinsler was once All-Star caliber, but seems to be on the back side of his bell curve.
Third baseman Nick Castellanos has improved his fielding, but remains spotty at best with the bat. A big hit here and a slump there.
Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes is tough to figure. He seems to have gobs of talent, truly a 5-tool player, but there's probably a reason he couldn't stick with the last couple teams he played on. So far he's been about average, but at least he filled the whozit hole in left field the Tigers had last year.
Unlike Cespedes, Victor Martinez is strictly a one dimensional player. He can hit. Period. If V-Mart was in the National League where they don't have a designated hitter -- he couldn't play. VM can't field any defensive position. Sure, a team could plug him in at first base and hope for the best, but there are beer-leaguers and grandmas out there that could likely play it just as well. Plus, he's slower than molasses on the basepaths.
Anthony Goss was a career minor-leaguer until the Tigers gave him a shot. He started off okay, but appears to be finding his equilibrium as a so-so player. There's a reason he was in the minors for so long. It's not like all the other teams overlooked him.
Catcher James McCann has certainly been a pleasant surprise. So far, he's held his own with the bat and has a terrific throwing arm from behind the plate. Longtime backstop Alex Avila was known as a defensive catcher but he never could hit much, and for whatever reasons AA struggled to stay healthy behind the plate. Those pesky high-speed projectiles seemed to have a way of hitting him repeatedly. Too many standing 8 counts. Then again, if he wasn't the son of the assistant General Manager, he might never have got this shot in the first place. When's the last time you heard of other teams clamoring for the services of a .210 hitting catcher that can't stay healthy?
Outfielder Rajai Davis plays some but sits more.
The Tigers have a handful of other guys to fill out their active 25 man roster. Among them are Andrew Romine, Hernan Perez, Josh Wilson, and Jefry Marte. These are known as "utility players". Translation? None of them are really good at any one thing, but the team will plug them in at various positions when the regular player needs a day off and hope for the best -- because that's all they have. "Utility players" is a nice phrase. It has replaced B-team, scrubs, and benchwarmers.
Considering the whole bunch -- Grade C-.

Front office.
Owner Mike Ilitch pretty much gets a free pass in Detroit because he has devoted so much to it. The Red Wings have been quite successful under his ownership and he's certainly poured a bunch of money into the Fox district to spruce it up. The theater itself is magnificent inside and there's that little bauble called Comerica Park across the street where the Tigers play. No style points for the pizza man whoring off the naming rights to a stadium to some bank conglomerate for a few bucks he didn't need, but as stadiums go, Comerica isn't too shabby. Not the best in the majors, by far, but okay. Just don't venture too far out of the bright-light neighborhood. It's not pretty.
President and head-operating honcho Dave Dombrowki is in the last year of his contract. There have been times when D-ski was hailed as a hero for some of the moves he made on behalf of the Tigers. Getting Miguel Cabrera and David Price was brilliant. Trading starter Doug Fister for a ham sandwich and the Prince Fielder debacle weren't exactly his finest moments.
Ilitch is in his 80s now and his kids are pretty much running the show. Such is the way it goes amongst the billionaire folks. Whether the young-uns will want to re-up D-ski for another hitch remains to be seen.
Ilitch grades out as a C. He wasn't afraid to spend money for talent on his teams -- even though he would get far more in return --  but his dealings surrounding the building of what would become Comerica Park and current insistence on another brand new sparkling palace for the Red Wings to play in seem a bit like the product that made him rich in the first place. A little on the greasy side. There's nothing wrong with Joe Louis Arena. And if and when the new venue is built, count on it that many people will be ousted from their homes through the dreaded "eminent domain", and the taxpayers will be on the hook to finance a good part of it. Make that a C-.
Given his good moves offset by his boneheads, overall Dombrowski rates about a C as well. He's been wheeling and dealing for many years in Detroit, handing out whopper salaries to various players, but the best he has accomplished is a perennial playoff team that can never make it over the hump when it counts the most.
So how to grade the Detroit Tigers overall? As a .500 team it's obvious they get a C.
How to grade their media that has overhyped them all year long?
Let's give them a D. That stands for Delusional in the expectations they foisted onto the fans.
The fans get a D for Dumb as well -- for believing it.
These guys are OK -- sometimes -- but they ain't all that.
After 88 games, they're merely a .500 club. It is what it is. Maybe it gets better -- and maybe it gets worse. It could go either way.....

Friday, July 10, 2015

Jordan Spieth and preparation (not H)

As we know, Jordan Spieth has already won the first two golfing majors this year. He slam dunked the Masters but was fortunate in the US Open when Dustin Johnson 3-putted from 12 feet on the final hole. Nevertheless, few would doubt the 21 year old is as good as it gets in today's golfing world. Young Spieth is certainly looking forward to the British Open next week in his quest for yet another major.

That's what makes his recent play (and commentary) so curious.

After the US Open at Chambers Bay, basically a links course, Spieth took some time off. But he's back this week at the John Deere Classic in Illinois. Spieth shot a ho-hum opening round of even par, but blistered the course with a 7-under 64 in his second round. He went from hovering around the cut line to back in the hunt. How he will fare over the weekend is anybody's guess. With a somewhat watered-down field in a tourney the week before The Open, it wouldn't be at all surprising if Spieth chalks up another win.

But Jordan has said this was a tune up for the Open next week at the Old Course of St. Andrews. That doesn't make any sense.

If he took time off after playing and winning the closest thing to a links course in America, why would he go back to playing another typical American course on the eve of the Open? At the John Deere, the course has the usual PGA fairways, rough, trees, traps, water hazards, and soft greens.

So why play such a course that demands a totally different game than St. Andrews will pose next week? Wouldn't it have been wiser to stay in Chambers Bay mode and already be over in jolly old England practicing on another links course in his quest for the Claret Jug? You never saw Jack or Eldrick playing in a second tier tournament the week before a major. They were honing their game for the bigger challenge and much tougher field that lied ahead. Unlike the John Deere, all the big boys -- minus Rory McIlroy -- will be there.

Here's wishing Jordan Spieth all the best. Though he's currently several shots behind at the Tractor Open, if he goes out and shoots a couple more stellar rounds, entirely possible, he just might win this thing. You don't win the Masters and US Open back to back on a fluke. This dude is the real deal with a complete game.

But he's not doing himself any favors by warming up on an American course to get ready for the Open. That's like NASCAR drivers running test laps at a short track the week before Daytona or Talladega. Sure, they still go as fast as they can and turn left, but it's nowhere near the same set-up that awaits them the following week.

It will be interesting to see how Spieth's "preparation" plays out at the Royal and Ancient course. If he pulls off another victory for the third leg of a same-year Grand Slam --  which has never been done --  can you imagine the hype that will build leading up to the final major (PGA) in a few weeks?

Here's hoping he does. Spieth is the best thing to come out of Texas since, um, um, um, well let's just say the boy has some serious potential.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Stuff happens

The last sentence of my previous post (see "Calvin Johnson and the wrong place") was "stuff happens".

Indeed it does, sometimes out of the blue. While many have come to play the "blame game", as in everything bad has to be somebody's fault, that argument doesn't always hold water. They miss the bigger picture. Sometimes things ---- just ---- happen. And they can be unfortunate or even tragic. Call it God's will -- if you will.

There's no good reason innocent babies should die from various causes while some evil people live to be a ripe old age. But it happens. You can be the safest driver in the world, but still get killed if someone else crashes into you. It wasn't your fault, but you're still dead. People get struck and killed by lightning bolts. What's the chances of that? But it happens. The list is long of weird and tragic occurrences happening to people.

True, there are those that increase their risk of bad tidings for various reasons. If one chooses to live close to an active volcano, or in a trailer park in tornado alley, or on a seismic fault line, or in a place where hurricanes are prevalent, chances are they'll be OK. But if the worst case scenario comes along some day, they knew this going in, but chose to stay there anyway. Stuff might happen.

Then again, where on Earth CAN one live in total safety? One way or the other, there's always going to be a danger, however unforeseen. A plane could crash into your house. Your neighbor's could go up in flames due to his/her carelessness and take yours with it. The odds against it are incredible -- but it happens.

So what does this have to do with sports? A couple things.

We all know #1 golfer in the world Rory McIlroy recented suffered a severe foot injury while playing a little recreational soccer. He's out for the upcoming British Open -- the first such defending champion unable to defend his title since Ben Hogan way back in 1954. The dashing Irish lad may well be on the DL for quite some time. Surely he'll heal up eventually, but whether or not this will have a long term detrimental effect on his golf game is something nobody knows. Let's hope not.

But the blamers came out in full force. Shame on Rory, they chided. He shouldn't take such chances with so much at stake.

To which yours truly replies -- shut up. The dude was running around kicking a ball on grass and suffered a one in a million freak injury. Stuff happens.

When people are world-class at what they do in sports, should we expect them to live in a biosphere when they're away from what they do best? Of course not. It's called having a life. There are also those that say at least Rory wasn't doing something really dangerous like riding a motorcycle or surfing. The same two words. Shut up. If he wants to ride a bike or catch a few waves in his free time, who the hell are they to say he's supposed to be some sort of golfing droid only? For that matter, if he wants to bungee jump, mountain climb, skydive, or get into the Octagon with Serena Williams to see who taps out first, more power to him -- though the latter is not recommended. Ahem.

Yet many sports fans have come to expect superstars to live and breathe whatever they're really good at to the exclusion of all else. This is largely caused by the media in their insatiable quest to rate and rank every jock. They have stats from hell that few understand, or could even care about, and will likely come up with more of them. In their world, it isn't good enough for an athlete to just be world class -- everybody has to have a number. The golf rankings go all the way down into the 200s. Who cares? Show me the leaderboard on the back nine on Sunday in any given tournament. Should it matter if they were partying in Vegas or dancing with the stars instead of playing practice rounds before they teed it up for the tournament?

On the other hand there's the curious case of Jason Pierre-Paul, a defensive end for the NY Giants. JPP recently experienced a "stuff happens" episode. It seems he was playing with fireworks on or about the 4th of July, something went boom, and Jason is now missing a finger. Ouch.

This happened somewhere in southeastern Florida and the authorites are still trying to figure out exactly where. Nonetheless, JPP supposedly had a whole van full of such goodies, all of which are illegal ANYWHERE in Florida.

So let's see. He managed to mangle a hand while dealing with illegal goods. Criminal charges are a definite possibility in the future. If so, Jason will eventually face the wrath of Roger Goodell under the player misconduct clause. The Giants have yanked their $60 million contract offer off the table, because they rightfully don't know if JPP can be the same player he once was after this injury. The Giants had put the franchise player tag on him, but JPP had never signed it. Basically, he's a free agent missing a finger and likely in trouble on a couple different fronts.

Stuff happens indeed when athletes try to have a little innocent fun away from their games. Some unforeseen. But in this case, it was a 26 year old grown man playing with illegal fireworks. Even your average 5 year old knows not to hold them in their hands once the fuse is lit.

There was nothing innocent about it. It was just flat-out stupid.