Thursday, August 17, 2017

The national anthem sit-down war

Pretty much all football fans are aware of the argument that continues to rage over whether players are right or wrong if they choose to not stand during the playing of the national anthem. Colin Kaepernick, formerly of the San Fran 49ers, and currently unemployed at last look, was the first. Others have since joined in.

Because there's no law against it, refusing to honor the anthem is a matter of opinion. Sort of. But here's a point that hasn't been raised.

If I'm the head coach of an NFL team -- or college for that matter -- I gather my players in the locker room and tell them the following......

Alright guys, listen up. I understand we live in America and the Constitution gives us many rights. We are much more fortunate in that respect than many other countries around the world.

I also understand our society is far from perfect. A lot of people, probably several in this room, have beefs about one thing or another. I'm not here to take sides on that because I don't live in your skin.

I am here to bring this team together to be the best it can be. Though a lot of you make more money than I do, I'm still your boss. A wacky system, I know, but you guys report to me -- not the other way around.

For the purposes of this argument, let's consider this football team a company, like so many others in this country. They come in all different shapes and sizes and peddle various wares, but their main goal is to be successful.

Personally, I couldn't care less what you do before or after work. That's your time and none of my business. Unless you run afoul of the law, or do something deemed unethical under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, you can have at whatever floats your boat. Not a problem.

However, besides the law, many companies have their own in-house "shop rules". Whether it's a factory, department store, fast food joint, construction outfit -- you name it -- when you hire in you agree to abide by those shop rules while on the job. Break one of those and chances are you'll be disciplined in one way or another. Maybe a pay cut, demotion, time off, or even fired.

Most, but not all, of those companies don't try to pry into your personal lives either, or tell you what you can and cannot believe in. They could run into big legal trouble by doing so.

So here's the deal. What you do during the off-season, or even during the season when you're not at one team function or another is, again, none of my business.

However, as you know, the national anthem is typically only played before games we participate in. Not at practice, film study, in the weight room, etc., etc.

And it doesn't get more ON THE JOB for you guys than being in a stadium full of fans, at home or on the road, just before the most important thing we do happens -- playing a game. All our livelihoods depend on succeeding more than failing.

So consider this a shop rule. You're going to put your personal gripes aside for a couple minutes and stand for the anthem.

When the game is over go out there and protest all you want. But not AT the game/on the job. Most other companies would not tolerate this of their employees while they're on the clock, and neither will I.

What I personally believe in is irrelevant. But I do know we all work under the umbrella of the NFL or NCAA, and those parent companies are patriotic in a large way.

That's why you see those giant flags on the field, color guards, and the fly-overs by fighter jets all the time.

Whether it's right or wrong to do such things at athletic events is not my call to make. I just work here, like you guys.

But I won't tolerate anything that distracts from team unity or causes a media circus, which sitting out the anthem clearly brings about.

Again, this is America, and you're free to do a whole lot of stuff. Including chumping the anthem.

But as the head coach, I'm also free to cut you. Which I will do immediately if you do that.

You would then be free to seek employment with all the others teams in the league.

Maybe somebody would pick you up, and I'd wish you well in all your future endeavors.

But it ain't happening HERE.

And last time I looked, this hasn't worked out so well for Colin Kaepernick either.

Any questions?




Monday, August 14, 2017

The incredible Detroit Lions Kool-aid factor

You'd think they'd learn eventually. I mean, how many times do you have to be ripped off and slapped around before you stop doing whatever it is that keeps resulting in such punishment?

But no. Detroit Lions' fans, and their homer media, bless their collective pollyannish, if horribly misguided (dare I say "please shaft me again") hearts, appear to be back for another round of abuse at the hands of their beloved puddy-tats.

Since Super Bowls began, over 50 years ago, the Lions remain one of only four teams to have never even MADE it there -- let alone win it. The other three are all "expansion" teams. To wit, the "new" Cleveland Browns, the Houston Texans, and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

And they haven't won a single playoff game in over a quarter century. In fact, they've only won ONE in the Super Bowl era -- PERIOD.

It is a shameful record of failure indeed.

But never fear, as Lions' fans typically go, with their ever-gullible media force-feeding them massive doses of the Honolulu blue and silver Kool-aid, by thunder, this just might be the year.

How do they know that? Because the Lions defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the first preseason game this year.

Never mind that the Colts are riddled with injuries, including on both offensive and defensive lines, had many starters out for various reasons -- including QB Andrew Luck -- and are just trying to get healthy enough to start the regular season. Also never mind the Colts aren't projected be a very good team anyway.

Nevertheless, the bandwagon has started again in Motown -- or is that Notown? --  Blowtown? -- when it comes to pro sports. All the rest of their teams appear to be bottom feeders as well. But that's a story for another day.

Let's face it. During all the years William Clay Ford owned the team (and he closed the original deal on the very same day JFK got shot in Dallas way back in 1963 -- not a good sign), they were never more than mediocre in their best years. A good player here and there -- see Billy Sims, Barry Sanders, and Calvin Johnson -- but also a parade of clown head coaches and a hopelessly incompetent front office.

Now that not-so-slick Willy has passed on, the team is owned by his 90 year old widow Martha and their kids. Mustang Billy remains busy trying to keep the Ford Motor company afloat, so he's pretty much a non-factor. That leaves the ivory tower "girls". Does anybody think for one second these silver-spooners know the difference between a draw play and a Broadway play? Good luck with that.

Adding to the stupidity was dear Martha bringing on one Rod Wood, an estate manager, (what's a few more wasted millions?) who by his own admission knew nothing about pro football, to be president of the team.

But Lion fans have taken great heart that Bob Quinn, formerly of the New England Patriots, has been hired as general manager. His task is to oversee the draft and negotiate contracts. Basically, he's in charge of what players get signed for a chance to make the team.

Could he indeed be the "miracle worker" the Lion faithful have waited so long for?

Maybe. But he was only a scout for the Patriots. The Detroit media made a huge deal out of the fact that Quinn was "allowed" in the "draft room" for the Patriots. Well gee, give that man a gold star for evidently being able to keep his mouth shut (see no leaks to the press) when the important decisions were being made by his superiors in Foxborough.

Only the Lions would elevate such a person to the level of general manager. But Quinn would have been a fool not to jump at the opportunity.

After all, he got a long term contract (so did Matt Millen not that long ago -- and how did that turn out?), worth millions upon more millions of guaranteed Ford dollars. No matter what happens, he's financially set for life.

The bottom line is thus:

Though the Kool-aid addicts are once again shooting up in Detroit, over one meaningless pre-season win, this team isn't going anywhere this year. The still have WAY too many holes and liabilities compared to their precious few assets.

And let's not forget that these same Lions' fans, and the same media, were trumpeting them to the heavens when they went 4-0 during the 2008 pre-season. They would go on to post an 0-16 regular season, the worst in league history.

Yep, that was the year, like all the others over the decades, until the wheels completely fell off.

BTW, wasn't Ford the car company that brought consumers those laugh a minute exploding Bridgestone exploding tires a while back? And the Pinto that would sometimes erupt into a flaming inferno when struck from the rear?  Let's not forget the classic Edsel, from back in the 50s. How did that work out? Strangely enough (or maybe not), it debuted at just about the last time the Lions were half-way decent and Willie Clay was beginning to show an interest in investing in them.

Hey, the Lions have exploded here and there over the years, and certainly gone up in flames.

The above-mentioned Barry Sanders left millions on the table -- even huger bucks back in the 90s -- when he walked away from the team, because he knew they had no chance, ZERO, of being Super Bowl contenders any year soon. He was right. Had he stuck around, he likely would have put the all-time NFL rushing record so far out of sight, it would never be approached again. But he got out with enough money, his body intact, and most importantly, his sanity.

The same could be said for Calvin Johnson, the best receiver the Lions ever had. He wearied of their incompetent ways as well and took a hike with likely several more outstanding years in front of him rather than continue to get his brain and body beat up -- and for what? This clown organization?

Matthew Stafford, the Lions version of the Georgia Peach, is WAY over-hyped in Motown. Sure he throws for a lot of yards. That's because the Lions have never had a running game, so he HAS to throw a lot.

But while the Kool-aiders think Stafford is some kind of elite quarterback, most objective football people rank him somewhere in the middle of the NFL pack of starting QBs.

If he's got any brains, he'll play out the last year (this one) of his contract and hit the free agent market. True, there are many teams he couldn't start for. But there are also those contenders that would pay him big bucks to come, and maybe be the difference of getting them over the top.

Either way, he'll be financially set for life, if he isn't already. So why stay in the dregs of Detroit, which is pretty much an armpit big city anyway? Stafford has NO chance of winning a Super Bowl there.

Yep, the Kool-aiders are back out again in force, but they're as dumb and gullible as they've always been.

Get real. The Lions project to be an "average" team this year. Somewhere between 9-7 and 7-9. Maybe, just maybe, if everything goes right, they make it into a wild-card playoff game. Only to be blasted like they have every other year they've made the playoffs, which aren't many over the decades.

Besides the bumbling Fords, the inheritance guy Wood, and the probably not-so-mighty and vastly  overrated Quinn, as long as they stick with clueless Caldwell as head coach, they have sealed their fate.

And it will be the same as it always been.

But hey, like Phineas Taylor (PT) Barnum once famously said -- there's a sucker born every minute.

In the magical kingdom of the Detroit Lions, it's gone on for generations.

Keep zapping the sappies in their wallets and hearts....

If they're not smart enough to eventually wise up, then who's fault is that indeed?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

What I want to hear just ONCE from a pro golfer

Call me Jason. Or Jordan. Or Dustin, Ricky, Bubba, Rory, or any other name you want. I'm a pro golfer out on the PGA tour.

But unlike all the other guys, I'm not consumed by the desire to win majors. Tiger was obviously the worst, He was obsessed by it. For that matter, even winning lesser tournaments doesn't particularly concern me.

Sure, I give it my best when I play in one, and would love to win it. But if I don't, something else takes a much higher priority.

Making the cut.

It's not cheap doing what I do. Flying all over the country (and sometimes abroad) to various tournaments (while paying for my caddy too) comes with a cha-ching. So do motel rooms or rental houses for a week. And we have to eat. Sponsors are a god-send, but not everybody has them. To those without, we have to cough up dough for golf clothes, shoes, thousands of balls, gloves, and all the rest. It can get expensive.

Everybody seems to be caught up in the hype of statistics, wins, particularly majors, and the ever-fanatical press keeps feeding the flames of the gullible masses.

Hey, I get it. Though Jack was the best, and Eldrick had his decade of dominance, I don't kid myself that I'll ever approach that level.

And you know what? That's fine. We can't all be superstars.

I'm just out here trying to make a living and I'm very cool with knocking down a few million a year while playing golf on some of the finest courses in the world. The food and accommodations at such places are absolutely fabulous.

And c'mon, it surely beats supersizing people at a drive-through window somewhere or being a prison guard, much less an inmate.

Life is good, and my caddy is pretty happy too. Every time I make a cut and get a check, he gets his cut and check as well. I'm pretty sure he'd rather be doing this than his old job of carrying bags for old rich people that can't break 100 at their local ritzy country clubs.

So let the media rant and rave about titles all they want. And let the golf fans continue to eat it up. Further, I wish the best for my compatriots out here on tour that are also obsessed with winning, winning, WINNING, dammit, and their legacies eventually.

I couldn't care less. So I feel no pressure standing over a 3 foot putt that might get me a win. If it goes in -- great.

But if it doesn't, that's OK too. Second place at any tour event comes with a pretty hefty paycheck, as in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And who cares about trophies? I had a bunch of those from when I used to play little league baseball as a kid, and a few when I was a halfway decent bowler as a teenager. I'm not even sure where they are any more. Maybe my mom threw them out or sold them in a garage sale for a couple bucks. No big deal. The same will be true of any hardware I might win as a professional golfer someday.

Such things come and go and nobody else cares, so why should I?

This whole mania about winning is vastly overrated, and for those that I suspect have some sort of inferiority complex, thereby making them feel like they always have to prove the elusive "something".

Personally, I'm comfortable with myself. I'm a nice guy, have a wife and a couple kids which I love more than anything, and just so happen to be a pretty decent golfer or else I wouldn't have qualified to be out on the PGA tour.

Sure, wins would be great, but if I can make more cuts than I miss, or even rack up a handful of top-10 finishes in any given year -- everything is just peachy, especially when it comes to the financial thing. I'm happy, my wife is happy, my caddy's happy, and the kids are well taken care of.

No worries.

So what's the problem?








Thursday, August 10, 2017

The (wink, wink) Tiger Woods affair

Everything about this developing story seems to be horribly wrong.

We know that dear Eldrick was found asleep and subsequently incoherent in his vehicle a few months ago. It was damaged, had two flat tires, but glory be, nobody seems to know, or wants to, how that could have come about.

Well OK, he had no alcohol in his system. But by his own admission was maxed out on pain killers and anti-depressants. In other words, a menace on the highway. Driving under the influence. Big time.

As the story goes, only a not guilty plea can be entered without the defendant, Tiger, being present in the court room. So said his attorney to the judge.

But wait a second. In the same paragraph, the prosecutor said Tiger had already agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of reckless driving. So which is it?

At that, presto, Tiger went off into rehab somewhere. Again. No doubt, this was another celebrity justice condition of his plea. Go into a country club facility, behave yourself for a month or two, and everything will be just fine.

Worse, he'll only be fined a couple hundred bucks, chump change, be on joke probation for a short time, and have his "record" completely cleared if he can act like an upright citizen for a few months.

This is wrong, though the prosecutor, as if she's fooling anybody, stated that Woods isn't being treated any different than a common citizen would be.

Hogwash. The average John or Jane Doe, under the exact same conditions, would not, repeat NOT be afforded the same VIP treatment Eldrick is about to receive. Even if a first time offender, their record would be forever and the system would come down a lot harder on them.

A few hours of community service? That's a joke as well. Tiger can probably spend them giving bimbos putting lessons at one of Trump's fancy golf resorts. Anybody else would likely have to pick up trash on the side of interstates somewhere. Or mow lawns at churches. Can you picture Eldrick pushing a mower around? Not me. Ain't gonna happen.

And there's the thing. The penalty should be commensurate with the financial status of the perpetrator.

Sure, a couple hundred dollar fine would hurt your average minimum wage earner, or someone unemployed trying to barely scrape by.

But it's a joke to a guy worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Want to get his attention? Hit the almost billionaire with a $100,000,000 fine, make him "drop" every other day or so like anybody else would have to, and no, his record NEVER goes away. Good enough for the common man/woman -- good enough for Eldrick.

Anybody that thinks the double standard doesn't still exist in a large way -- is crazy. A rich person committing the exact same crime as a poor person might get sent off to a Club Fed somewhere. You know, tennis courts, pools, saunas, hot tubs, masseuses, gourmet food, and definitely no bars.

The poor guy will get thrown in a slammer. Brutal guards, a community shower every three days or so, good luck with that, and trying to merely survive among the animals that would just as soon stab or rape him as an every day occurrence. This, while having to eat food most dogs would turn their noses up at, and bars everywhere.

Would I wish harm to come to poor Eldrick? Of course not. He made a mistake and should pay for it.

Yet the punishment should not only fit the crime, but also be tailored to the ability to pay.

 I mean, c'mon. If the Prez, a multi-billionaire, is eventually found guilty of colluding with the Russians to fix the election last fall, do you really think fining him a few hundred bucks, clearing his record if he miraculously behaves himself for a few months, and doesn't otherwise wreak havoc during any probationary period would get his attention?

Please....

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Justin Verlander debacle

Sound the trumpets, send in the dancing girls, and by all means declare another national holiday. Something truly momentous has occurred in the world of sports.

What could it be? Has Tiger come roaring back on the golf tour and reclaimed his rightful, ahem, cough, gag, place as the #1 player in the world?

Not exactly. He just went into rehab. More about that later.

But Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, glory hallelujah and bring on the rose petals, has finally got his record over .500 this year.

Yessirree, the Virginian is now the proud owner of an 8-7 record. It only took 113 games in the 2017 season to get there.

And hey, you can have him for the low, low price of only 28 MILLION dollars a year. Such a deal.

But why would any other (sane) baseball club want to touch this guy with a ten foot pole? His ridiculous contract runs for another two years and at age 34 is clearly on the back side of his career.

Let's not forget dear Justin only plays in every fifth or sixth game. He can't hit or field a position. Nobody knows if he can run, because he's never had to. Yet for his valiant efforts as a starting pitcher, JV rakes in roughly a cool million every time he takes the mound. Guaranteed, win or lose. Then gets 4-5 days off. This has to be one of the greatest jobs in the world.

Add in the fact Detroit Tiger fans continue to idolize this vastly overpaid and underworked "athlete", who is nothing more than an average pitcher, and JV is defecating in tall cotton indeed.

This is also why the typical family of four likely has to skip a house payment to attend a game. There's a reason why ticket prices are so high, watered down beers cost 10 bucks, nasty hot dogs another 8, and whatever that glop they call nacho cheese they put on stale chips will set you back another Abe or so.

That reason is Justin Verlander and his ilk. You, as fans, have to pay for this guy making such a ridiculous salary. And he's struggled all year to finally get his record -- barely -- above .500?

The absurdity of it all is mind-boggling. It ranks right up there with those ever-lovable folks at the Pentagon being exposed a while back for charging the taxpayers $800 for a manually operated fastener impeller (hammer), and $600 for a pivoting hygienic insulator (toilet seat). Remember that? And the people wonder why their country continues to wallow in debt? HELLO??

As for dear Eldrick Tont Woods, no, he won't be returning to the PGA golf tour any time soon, if ever, let alone recapturing any glory. His day has come and gone and he'd get his brains beat out on the tour by the bevy of young studs out their today, much like what he once did to a former generation during his ten years of dominance.

But wait a second. Tiger got busted for DUI (driving under the influence of drugs) while obviously dazed and confused at the time? Way back in May?

And it took him 3 months to finally decide to enter rehab when by his own admission he's had a problem with an addiction to pain killers for years?

Probably a good thing he got popped by the cops, or else he might still be out there as a menace on the highway somewhere.

Yet dang, even after that messy (and costly) divorce from Elin, Eldrick still had plenty of dough. Hundred of millions of it.

So why, tell me WHY, he didn't have enough sense to hire a driver to cart him around town or wherever he wanted to go in one of his luxury cars?

Good grief, lots of guys or gals would jump at the chance to be his chauffeur, and he could certainly afford to pay one $100,000 a year or so. What a great job that would be and only chump change in the world of Eldrick.

But no, he had to get stupid about it.

Just like the fans that keep going to games when somebody like Verlander happens to be pitching. A million bucks for every start for a clearly average pitcher these days?

Get outta here......

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The floundering puddy tats

That would be the Detroit Tigers, of course. It's laughable how gullible their fans and the local scribes that keep feeding them the Kool-Aid remain.

Since before the season started, yours truly has been preaching these guys aren't any good. Playoffs? Forget about it. They might -- MIGHT -- be a .500 club if everything goes their way.

But the Motown sappies just keep on coming. Amazing.

After getting broomed at home by the visiting KC Royals a little more than a week ago, things seemed to die down a bit. Even the hard-cores started to recognize the possibility their beloved Tigers might not be a very good team.

Then bam. The puddy-tats improbably won 2 games at the Yanks and the first two games at Baltimore. Presto, a four game winning streak. Enter the dreaded hope again.

After all, as one scribe put it, the Tigers were ONLY five games out of a wild-card berth. And I laughed again. Fool.

Just as quickly, the O-Birds took the next two games and the Tigers went to Pittsburgh where they've lost the first two games in that series as well.

BAM. Right back to 10 games under .500 and taking on water fast.

The pollyannas still see the Tigers having a shot at a post-season berth.

I see them as slugging it out with the Oakland A's for 14th place out of 15 teams in the American League, with only the woeful Chisox being any worse.

In fact, out of 30 total Major League teams, the Tigers check in at #23. Ten will make it to the playoffs.

With only 50 games remaining, does any sane person REALLY think the Tigers are capable of rattling off a big-time winning streak to get back into semi-contention?

Not I.

Look at their roster. What few decent players they still have are aging and obviously on the back sides of their career bell curves. Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Ian Kinsler for starters. Plus, these players have whopper contracts the Tigers are evidently stuck with. They've gone from "stars" to "journeymen", and why would any other team be interested in their services when they'll surely continue to digress as they get even older?

In the meantime, the Tigers have been plugging in a few no-names, basically whatever they can drag up from their looted farm system, and hoping they can contribute.

To be fair, some of these guys have had shining moments. But just as often, if not more so, they appear overwhelmed by the Big League atmosphere and will likely fade back into oblivion before long.

The Tigers seem to be one of those teams, rarely successful, that refuses to acknowledge it's time to blow it up and start over. Other highly successful professional sports franchises have done just that over the years. See the Dallas Cowboys, and mostly recently the Boston Celtics. They both took trips into the nether regions, only to emerge stronger than ever.

Yet the Tigers and Detroit faithful are never willing to wave the white flag of today, so tomorrow can be more promising. Pride rules the day, if horribly misguided.

In sum, these guys are going nowhere this year, or in any year soon given the current make-up of the team. It will only get worse.

True, they went for the proverbial gusto not long ago, spending big bucks on temporary free agents passing through town, but also shot their future in the foot by depleting their farm system to obtain them. They never quite made it over the hump and now they have to pay the price for such short-sightedness.

Was it worth the shot? Maybe. But given it didn't work, now they have to face a large dose of cruel reality.

And that is -- just like I've been saying all along -- these guys just flat out aren't any good.

Only in Detroit could the ever-elusive "hope" remain. Kind of like the Lions. Every year just might be the one they make it to the Super Bowl -- but it never is, of course. Nor will it be this year.

Tease, tease, tease. Chug, chug, chug the Kool-Aid.

But it is what it is, and it ain't pretty.

P.T. Barnum was absolutely right. There's one born every minute.

But they seem to be breeding even faster in Detroit.

Pity, but laughable.




Monday, August 7, 2017

Really dumb baseball stats

As any baseball fan knows, the geeks (and not a few scribes) have been hard at work lately coming up with stats from hell. Here are a couple and why they don't matter.

OPS. This supposedly stands for "on base percentage plus slugging". Gone are the days when we judged hitters on such things as batting average, homers, and RBIs.

OPS was created to make even marginal players look good in the stats department. The last guy on the bench typically has one of at least .700. That sounds a whole lot better than saying he's batting a woeful .200.

But if a guy hits a solo homer in a game, then comes up the next three times with the bases loaded and strikes out every time to see his team lose by a single run -- presto -- his OPS is a whopping 1.000. Four times up and four bases, even though he pretty well stunk it up.

Another scenario. Same guy gets hit by a pitched ball. Next time up, whiffs at strike three but the ball gets by the catcher and he makes it to first base. Then reaches base on an error by an infielder. Then grounds into a fielder's choice with less than two outs, so he's on first again.

Four times up, and four times getting on base. A perfect 1.000. Looks great on the stat sheet, but what has he actually done? Nothing.

Even more offensive is the dreaded WAR. This supposedly stands for "wins above replacement". The logical question would seem to be -- who is the replacement such player is being compared to?

Take Nick Castellanos, third baseman for the Detroit Tigers, as an example. His WAR is somewhere around one, which is supposedly not so good. But we never hear of a negative WAR, as in this guy is costing his team games. NC is batting around .240, and has been a butcher as a third sacker. He may as well have a meat cleaver on his left hand as a fielder's glove. Plus he's slow of foot on the basepathes and prone to bonehead decisions.

It is telling that the Tigers recently offed a decent hitter, though pitiful outfielder in J.D. Martinez, and a so-so reliever in Justin Wilson -- to get back a couple "prospects", both of which are third basemen. Dear Nick's days in Detroit would seem to be numbered.

Comparing Castellanos to a really good third baseman via WAR would seem to dictate he show up far on the negative side. Conversely, comparing him to a cardboard cut-out playing third would likely have the opposite effect. Maybe.

Good grief, put a cardboard cut-out in the batter's box, and it will probably get hit or draw a walk once in a while too. Did I mention "on base percentage"?

Yet another is how pitchers get blamed for "mistakes". This typically happens when a batter smokes a pitch into the bleachers somewhere. But are they really mistakes?

Hey, somewhere along the line every pitcher has to throw pitches in the strike zone, or else every opposing batter would gladly take a walk.

I don't want to hear about 95 MPH fastballs. Every major league hitter can catch up with those.

But there's the thing. A pitcher can make the "perfect pitch", say on the outside corner at the knees, and a batter might hit it for a homer anyway. It happens. Or they can leave a hanging breaking ball up in the strike zone, typically a batting practice pitch, but the batter might swing and miss at it. So which was a mistake indeed?

Forget all this stat nonsense. Good pitchers find a way to get batters out. Good hitters find a way to hammer the ball. Good fielders make sparkling defensive plays. Good runners find a way of taking an extra base here and there.

None of that has changed.

It's like the political polls these days. Stats can be shaped to make somebody look good when they're actually terrible at their job.

Give me a starting pitcher that wins twice as many games as he loses and I'll call him a star. Give me a hitter that's batting somewhere around .300, can occasionally go deep, fields his position well, has a decent arm, a bit of speed, or lacking that, brains on the basepathes.

It's not the proverbial brain surgery, though the "metrics" zealots would have us believe so.

Baseball and its players are what it's always been.

Some guys are just better than others, and all the geek-stats in the world trying to make the below average ones into heros is nothing more than Pollyannish propaganda.

Such is the politically correct world these days, which yours truly thoroughly detests and will always rail against in the name of calling em like I see em, and let the chips fall where they may.

Thou shalt not call a bum a bum any more. So they say.

Ah, how I yearn for the good old days. because the da bums are still out there making WAY too much money.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Colin Kaepernick. Conspiracy?

Everybody knows that Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback of the San Fran 49ers, has been the subject of much discussion recently. On and on go the talking heads with their different theories as to why he hasn't been signed by any other NFL team.

Some suggest he has been "black-balled" by the league owners -- which would constitute the dreaded "collusion" for his refusal to stand for the national anthem in games last year. Good luck ever proving that one.

To be sure, the NFL and its fans are quite the patriotic, red, white, and blue bunch. How else to explain the giant American flags displayed on the field before many games, the presence of the military "color guard",  and the fly-overs by fighter planes?

Actually, the latter is no more than a colossal waste of jet fuel at taxpayers expense. There's no good reason -- none -- for this to happen.

Taking history into account, it appears America has come full circle in it's appreciation for the folks that serve in the armed forces. Everybody's a hero now days. This stands in stark contrast to the attitude the returning soldiers of the horribly misguided Viet Nam war faced upon returning home. They were spat upon and demonized as "baby killers".

Though other political wars continue and many innocents continue to die -- see "collateral damage" --  there is little doubt the American public has come to see things quite differently.

Politics and the revival of hawkish nationalism aside, the Kaepernick question remains. Why is he still in a form of purgatory?

Sure, he had every right to do what he did regarding his "stance", or lack thereof, regarding the anthem. But that doesn't mean everybody else had to like it either. And most certainly, millions definitely did not.

Another question so many continue to dance around, but you just know they want to imply, is -- has the ugly head of racism popped up again, and this is only happening to Kaepernick because he's black?

That would appear to be the proverbial double edged sword. It could be there is some merit to that line of thought.

After all, if Kaepernick were a white man in the same situation, do you really think such a fuss would continue to be made over his plight? Likely not.

One Jay Cutler, former QB of the Chicago Bears, with similar not-so-good stats over the last couple years remains in purgatory and unsigned by any other team as well. But you don't hear the outrage over Cutler.

The point is well taken that teams such as the NY Jets have a handful of QBs on their roster, none of which can be mistaken for stellar, or even average. So why, indeed WHY haven't they reached out to Kaepernick and offered him a roster spot? Or Cutler for that matter? Remember the double-edged sword.

Well OK, let's look at some stats.

In 2014, arguably the high point of Kaepernick's stint with the 49ers, he threw for 19 touchdowns, gave up 10 interceptions, 3 fumbles, and had an overall quarterback rating of 67.7. The team went 8-8. A mediocre year for both CK and the 49ers.

2015. Six TDs, 5 picks. 1 fumble, and a QBR of a woeful 46.5, while the team slid to 5-11.

2016. 16 TDs and only 4 "picks", a dramatic improvement, but he coughed up 7 fumbles. QBR of 55.5. Meh. And the 49ers were a horrific 2-14 with CK at the helm.

So at his best, Kaepernick was actually only average as NFL quarterbacks go. And lately he's been terrible.

Whether or not he would be a "locker room cancer" for any team that signed him is an open question, but there can be little doubt him exercising his freedom of expression rights would create quite the backlash among fans in most any NFL town.

The LAST thing owners want to do is alienate their fans. This is not to say CK was wrong in what he did, but there are two possible valid reasons why he remains unemployed.

First, it would be a public relations nightmare for any team.

And second, it might just be that he flat out isn't good enough. His recent performances and stats speak for themselves. But nobody wants to talk about that.

Hey, when it comes to race, remember Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens was allowed to keep playing after he escaped a murder conviction by the skin of his teeth -- because he was still a terrific linebacker.

Ray Rice, of the very same team, after that pesky elevator incident with his wife -- was not. Because his production as a running back had taken a nose dive.

Looked at another way, does anybody seriously think Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Matt Ryan would be on the outside looking in if they had done the same thing as Kaepernick? Of course not. These are premier QBs. CK was decidedly not. A difference. Big one.

So for those that continue to protest Kaepernick not being offered a job by another NFL team -- I would offer the following ----

Yep, a lot of factors may be in play, some perhaps dubious.

But it might just be other teams have taken a hard look and determined, gasp, he's....just.... not... good... enough.

Or worth the hassle -- take your pick.




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why the NY Yankees won't win

Basically, it's because they're too dumb.

Yeah, I get it. They've been flirting with the AL East lead all year and recently acquired starting pitcher Sonny Gray -- definitely a keeper -- from the Oakland Athletics to hopefully put them over the top.

But it's not going to work. Stupidity rarely prevails, though that pesky Dubya did get elected Prez and, incredibly, re-elected back in the 2000s. Go figure. Ahem.

However, the Yanks went into full-blown duh mode in a game against the hapless Detroit Tigers. Here was the scenario ----

At home, the Bronx Bombers, after a long rain delay, found themselves trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning. They had put runners on first and second and up came rookie slugging sensation Aaron Judge.

On the mound for the puddy tats was one Bruce Rondon. Detroit can't seem to figure out whether Rondon belongs in the majors or minors, but keeps giving him chances to prove his worth with the big boys.

To date, BR is sporting an ERA of a whopping 12.00. Not good as pitching goes. To be fair, that number is likely higher than some IQs in the White House and Congress these days, but not so good when it comes to a major league pitcher.

Per usual, Rondon was all over the place in his first three pitches to Judge and the count ran to 3-0.

This is when the obtuse factor kicked in, but first a little history from a legend.

Former Bosox slugger Ted Williams once famously said a batter is probably only to get one good pitch to hit in any at bat. Don't take it. Don't foul it off, and don't miss it. Hit it and hit it hard somewhere. Sounds reasonable enough.

So you just knew what was going to happen on Judge's 3-0 count. And yep, there it was. A thigh high fastball right down the middle. He took it for strike one.

The next pitch was a slider down and away, out of the strike zone -- that Judge swung at and missed. 3-2. Ditto on the following pitch. Another slider in the same place with the same whiff. Yer out. He had missed his one good chance at 3-0..

Next up was one Gary Sanchez. He's capable of "leaving the yard" as well. Same scenario. 3-0 count and again you just knew what was coming next. Same thing. Fastball down the middle that he took for strike one. Then more junk sliders out of the strike zone he swung and missed at.

So two Yankee sluggers, with their team down 2-0 in the 8th inning, and two men on base in front of them inexplicably stood in the batter's box and watched the "one good pitch" they were going to see sail past them for strikes.

One would think Yankees manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff would have enough firing neurons and synapses to recognize the obvious was coming and turn his hitters loose on 3-0 counts knowing full well they'll get a prime pitch to hit -- likely the only one.

But no. As the late, great, famed Detroit Tiger announcer Ernie Harwell was fond of saying -- they stood there like the house by the side of the road and watched them go by.

And this is just dumb baseball.

Somewhere in his cryogenic state, Ted Williams likely twitched as well.

"Whatzamattuh with you guys? The one good pitch was right there for both of you and you didn't have common sense enough to pound it? Then you wound up striking out on junk pitches, which should have been ball fours and a walk?"

Arrgh.













Saturday, July 29, 2017

State of the Tigers

Here's how I see it. The Tigers have dug themselves a hole that will take them years to crawl out of. 
To wit --
Verlander, once an ace, is no more than a journeyman these days with a ridiculous salary. For whatever reason, he no longer even attempts to throw his once-devastating split-finger pitch.

Fulmer has been hailed as great by Detroit pundits, but he's actually little better than average.

Cabrera's triple crown season seems like a long time ago. Of late, his production has nose-dived drastically. Throw in another mega-contract for a player clearly on the back side of his career, and who else would touch him?

Kinsler remains a good, but not great all-around player, but he'll start eroding soon as well.

Waiting for Castellanos to blossom into a force is fool's gold. Ain't gonna happen. He's a .240 hitter and far less than average defensive third baseman.

JD Martinez could hit, but was a defensive liability in rightfield. Now he's gone for prospects that -- well, who knows?

Victor Martinez likely couldn't play for any team but the Tigers. Who needs a 38 year old DH, hitting maybe .250, who is slower than molasses in winter on the basepathes, and can't play a defensive position?

Guys like Romine, Matouk, and Presley are little more than band-aids. The best they can come up with.

Catcher-wise, Avila surprisingly hit well this year, but he's terrible defensively and can't stay healthy. His daddy being the GM certainly works in his favor. A little nepotism anyone? McCann has a great throwing arm but can't hit a lick.

The bullpen remains little more than cannon fodder.

Iglesias is an injury waiting to happen. Always has been.

If there was any doubt about Ausmus lasting beyond this season, it's gone now. He's the lamest of lame ducks, given the Tigers' record, but it's not his fault if he's stuck with a roster of bad news bears players.

The Tigers are now 11 games under .500 and fading fast. Yet I don't see how Avila has many cards to deal.
The farm system was once basically looted in a "go for it now" mentality acquiring short-term free agents. They never got over the hump and the mercenaries have since gone elsewhere.

Yeah, I get it that local scribes are "homers", but it's laughable when they suggest Verlander should have been the Cy Young winner last year with a 16-9 record, while Rick Porcello was chalking up a 22-4 mark for the Bosox. And BTW, what were the Tigers thinking letting that guy, especially considering his young age, get away?

Yep, they've painted themselves into the proverbial corner, and they'll have to pay the price for it in the foreseeable future. The proverbial piper has finally come to collect and he won't be denied.

They're already bad, but this has all the makings of getting uglier than Congress and the White House in years to come.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Kyrie Irving is-----

Actually, a lot of things. A great basketball player to be sure.

But also start checking several boxes when it comes to being injury-prone. A finger problem. A bad toe. A broken hand after a moment of stupidity. How about a cheek bone? Let's add a bum knee.

Yep, Kyrie's gone through more than his fair share of medical specialists along the way.

He's also been very fortunate.

Irving wound up at Duke for his freshman college year. Few would doubt Coach K and the university itself are among the elite in the world of college sports. Academic standards have always been high. With the exception of the boys' lacrosse team being wrongfully accused of sexual misconduct a while back -- which was proven to be nothing more than a cruel hoax perpetrated by an incompetent prosecutor and a lying "victim" looking for her 15 minutes and a cha-ching, the Dukies are pretty much squeaky clean when it comes to the world of ethics. You just don't hear about one of Coach K's boys getting in trouble.

But being a typical "one and doner", Irving declared for the NBA draft after one year in Durham. OK, that was his option.

Then he was lucky enough to get picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers. It could just as easily have been a sad sack team, like Charlotte, Detroit, Sacramento, and a few other back-water places few NBAers really want to go to.

In an incredible stroke of fortune, guess who was on the way to Cleveland as well in the near future? That Lebron guy, and Kevin Love, along with a really good cast of supporting players.

Two years ago, Kyrie Irving was part of an NBA championship team, when the Cavs upset the highly favored Warriors of Golden State. Irving doesn't get that ring without the mega-help that the Cavs had enlisted to play on the same team with him.

Meanwhile, Kyrie's been cruising along making 16, 17, 18, and it will keep going up to 19 and 20 million bucks a year for playing hoops. Throw in endorsements, and it's likely twice that amount. First class airfare, staying in 5 star hotels on the road, limos -- it's all part of the package.

In short, Kyrie has led a blessed life indeed to date. He's also been a "star" player wherever he's gone from high school, college, playing in the Olympics for team USA, etc.

Yep, most would consider this living in the lap of luxury. It surely beats the heck out of pumping septic tanks, super-sizing customers at a fast food drive through window, or being on the road-kill clean-up crew for a local government entity somewhere -- which is about all his "formal" education would otherwise get him.

But now Kyrie has a problem. Playing on a pro team making huge bucks that made the NBA Finals the last three years in a row isn't good enough.

He wants to be more of a "focal point". So he went to Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert and asked to be traded. Incredibly, though he has no say-so whatsoever in such a thing, dear Kyrie even listed the teams he would "settle" for. The Cavs, of course, are under no obligation to do anything. Irving's still under contract to them. And even if they trade him, it could be to ANY team -- see some of the not-so-good possible destinations listed above.

To sum up, most of the media, per their usual politically correct ways, have somehow decreed that the fault lies anywhere but with Kyrie. They'll go on and on trying to blame somebody else for the friction and/or dissatisfaction that has settled in with Irving and the Cavs.

They are wrong. It is entirely of Kyrie Irving's own selfish doings and sense of entitlement.

All his life he's been treated like a king, and paid accordingly, because he can dribble and shoot a basketball.

And now he wants even more.

Indeed, opinions are in no short supply as to how this could have happened to poor dear misunderstood Kyrie.

Your truly has one of his own.

Can you spell.....

I-N-G-R-A-T-E?




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Ilitch mystery

As owners went, Mike Ilitch of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings was a bit reclusive. Such are the ways of billionaires at times.

He certainly wasn't "out there" like Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins, Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavs, or Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavs, among others. Even the cheese baron, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots was spotted here and there.

[Idle thought. Given his artery clogging empire, Kraft should have owned the Green Bay Packers. How perfect would that have been?]

Yet once in a while, Mike Ilitch would emerge from his ivory tower to make an appearance.

[Idle thought II. Supposedly, the fans own the Packers. They can buy in, but never sell. Kind of like a Hotel California scenario. Check in but never leave. Scary. Yet that begs the question -- who and how decides who the front office personnel is in Cheeserland?]

But since Ilitch's death earlier this year, his son Chris, ostensibly the controlling partner of both the Wings and Tigers, seems to have become almost CIA spookish. As in, we kind of know he's out there somewhere, but it's all top-secret hush-hush classified information.

Dad wasn't afraid to spend lavishly in pursuit of championships. Indeed, the Wings would transform from also-rans in the NHL to winning 4 Stanley Cups under his ownership. He shelled out whatever it took to procure great players.

Likewise with the Tigers. Their payroll has consistently been in the upper echelons of Major League Baseball for several years. Alas, they would win two American League pennants, but could never get over the hump in the World Series. It wasn't for lack of ownership dough.

But now that Ilitch the elder has passed on to the great (if a bit greasy) pizza pie in the sky, it appears the days of free spending are over.

This seems strange, given the massive amounts of money television contributes to professional sports franchises for the broadcast rights. Some have claimed teams don't need to sell a single seat at a single game, and will STILL turn a hefty profit from ad and paraphernalia sales. Call yours truly skeptical regarding that claim, especially given the preposterous player salaries the free agent market and labor/management negotiations have created in the last couple decades. But I dunno. Let's just say serious bucks are changing hands somewhere, and the average fan is footing the bill one way or the other. Those $10 watered-down draft beers and $8 soggy hot dogs aren't by accident.

Nevertheless, it would be nice if Chris Ilitch showed his face once in a while and actually uttered a few words to the public.

Hey, his daddy left him a billionaire heir. The least he can do is mingle with the hoi-polloi on occasion.

Though it might go against his blue-blood heritage, it's really not that daunting a task.

Distasteful? Maybe.

But hey. It's Detroit. Most everybody's only sense of taste is in their mouths anyway, the afore-mentioned greasy pizza notwithstanding.









Monday, July 24, 2017

The Justin Verlander thing

OK, the KC Royals knocked off the Detroit Tigers again. No big surprise there. Though the front office of the Tigers (and their fans) are no doubt loath to the idea of totally rebuilding, it appears they won't have much choice but to blow it up and start over before long. The current team in its current state is not sustainable and will only get worse over time.

Former "ace" Justin Verlander escaped without another loss on his record, but obviously didn't get a win either.

In fact, he hasn't won a game in a month. Only two in the last two months. His record stands at 5-7, with a mediocre 4.50 ERA over 100 games into this season.

For that matter, Verlander has only had one decent year since 2012, that being 2016. Other than that, he's been the definition of a "journeyman" pitcher.

Yep, he's a horse and capable of throwing 120-130 pitches in any given start, but what good is it if he can't rack up wins?

Throw in the fact the Tigers still owe him almost $80 million for the remainder of his ridiculous contract (three more years plus pro-rating the rest of this one), and the Fastball Flakes man starts looking a lot more like an albatross around their necks than a serious asset to the team.

Hey, if you're going to shell out way north of 20 million every year to a guy that only plays every 5 or 6 days, it's certainly not unreasonable to expect he'll win more games than he loses. But that has not been the case.

As the trade deadline quickly approaches, it is rumored teams such as the Chicago Cubs and LA Dodgers might have an interest in Verlander.

The Dodgers have certainly been cruising along this year, holding the best record in all of baseball. But their ace Clayton Kershaw might have an injury that sidelines him for a while.

Since their historic World Series championship run last year, the Cubs just can't seem to get any traction this year, despite their talent elsewhere, and their starting pitching has been a main reason why.

Money isn't a problem to either of these franchises, but why would they consider bringing Verlander on board, even if the Tigers could work out a deal with either of them?

The LAST thing the north-siders and la-la landers need to do is trade off promising young prospects or established position players for a pitcher that is clearly on the back side of his career. And a hugely overpriced one at that.

The Cubs were champs last year. The Dodgers are coming strong. The Tigers appear to be going down the tubes.

Verlander's from Virginia, has spent his entire major-league career with the Tigers, and likely wants to finish it there.

It's difficult to imagine how and why he could, or would prefer to go somewhere else at this point.

It is the opinion of yours truly that if Tigers GM Al Avila has a lick of sense -- which is debatable -- he'll try to unload #35. It would shed a huge salary and he just might, repeat MIGHT, get something halfway decent in return to build on in the future.

The only question is --

Is anybody else dumb enough to bite?






Sunday, July 23, 2017

The NASCAR Indy problem

Well OK, Kasey Kahne won the 2017 Brickyard 400. The two fastest cars on the track, teammates, somehow figured out a way to wreck each other.

Good. Both Kyle Busch and Martin Truex drive for Joe Gibbs racing. You remember Joe. A deeply religious man. Red, white, and blue to the core. Mom, apple pie, and ---- Toyota?

Yep, he became quite the hypocrite when he sold out to a Japanese auto company for cars and engines. So screw him, his cars, drivers, and teams. The very definition of NASCAR -- has "National" as its first word, not international. This is an American race and series, dammit. Buy and drive American or get the hell out.

But enough on that rant. NASCAR has a much bigger problem to worry about. Falling attendance at tracks and rapidly dwindling TV ratings.

It's certainly true that, once upon a time, the Indy 500 was the "greatest race on earth". Yours truly used to make his annual pilgrimage to the famed track every year back in the days of yore. So many legendary names of Indy car racing were involved that I won't list them here.

And it was a tough ticket to get. The track would be packed, both in the stands and infield every year.

Then came the infamous "feud". One faction of Indy car brass wanted to drastically change the rules, and the other refused to go along with it. As both sides continued to stand fast, it all but ruined the sport. Attendance and fan interest plummeted.

At the same time, NASCAR was enjoying a rising tide of popularity. They had a bunch of big-time name recognition going on as well, the marketing department was in overdrive, and there wasn't an empty seat in the house at their over 30 races each year. At one point, it was the second largest revenue sport in America, though always far behind the mighty NFL.

But look what has happened in recent years. The Indy 500 has rebounded to almost, but not quite its former place of eminence in the world of racing. They're selling out again.

On the other hand, NASCAR has taken a ratings nosedive.

At this year's Brickyard 400, once a huge draw for motorheads, the number of empty seats was astonishing. Entire sections of bleachers with nary a soul sitting in them. Even on the "front stretch", prime viewing, attendance was sparse.

Of the roughly 400,000 fan capacity at Indy, including the infield crazies -- which I was once a proud member of -- it appeared they could only sell a fraction of them -- maybe 20% -- if that.

Also true is NASCAR has lost a few "name" drivers to retirement in recent years. Gordon, Stewart, and Earnhart Jr. is next. But the one-time magic of the "good ole boys" packing the tracks everyplace they go appears to be over.

And it's not just at the Indy venue. At most races during the year, one can see a noticeable absence of butts in the seats, and the TV ratings continue to fall.

Maybe this is what happens when a once proud mega-franchise markets a sorry competitor such as Danica Patrick to the heavens. She was never any good -- never will be. A total waste of sheet metal, tires, first class equipment, competent pit crew, racing fuel, and a wreck waiting to happen.

Or it could be that America has finally wearied of the "roundy-round" series and turned its attention -- and sports bucks -- in other directions.

Then again, I, for one, have never quite got my head around NASCAR holding its equivalent of the Super Bowl -- the Daytona 500 being the biggest "game" -- on the first week of their season.

Add in the fact they won't let a race end when it's supposed to, but rather make it go into overtime, or double overtime, with crazy restarts and sure to be resulting wrecks, along with the nutty scoring system even the Almighty probably scratches his head trying to decipher, and maybe they've finally reaped their just desserts.

But it ain't looking good right now.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Rocky mountain high mystique

Recently, Albert Chen of Sports Illustrated penned a lengthy article on how and why pitchers for the Colorado Rockies face such a nightmare.

It's the altitude, of course.

The poor hurlers struggle to catch their breath in such rarifed air, and balls go zooming out of the park far more than at any other venue. Needless to say, their collective ERAs suffer accordingly.

As most scribes and talking heads are wont to do these days, Chen had a bazillion geekish statistics to bolster his argument.

Because the altitude at the Rockies home field offers 20% less "air", then breaking pitches will spin 20% less, hence "breaking" that much less as well. Fodder for opposing batters.

All of which is balderdash when one takes into consideration the other unmentioned side of the equation.

If the air is that much thinner, then it logically stands to reason fastballs should meet that much less wind resistance and travel 20% faster. A guy that normally throws 95 MPH should now have a heater somewhere around 115 MPH on the radar gun. Try getting around on that.

Chen cites an above average amount of runs scored at Rockies home games. Well dang, shouldn't that work both ways? So what's the problem?

And if the "thinner" air is that much of a factor, as in the above-mentioned 20%, then why is it we've never heard of record-setting home run blasts? Nowadays, anything over 420-440 feet is deemed a "monster shot" by the hyperventilating announcers in their never-ending quest for superlatives.

So if those can happen at all other Major League ball parks -- and they do on a regular basis -- then shouldn't we hear about balls travelling 20% further at Coors Field? Like of the 500+ variety? When's the last time you heard of one of those being hit into "orbit"? You haven't, because it hasn't occurred.

This seems particularly odd in the age of (allegedly) "juiced" baseballs, bats custom made to fit every hitter, and the same hitters being in much better shape (stronger) than they ever were in days of old.

Evidently, we're supposed to believe a pudgy first baseman named Norm Cash that played for the Detroit Tigers decades ago hit several homers over the roof of the former Tiger Stadium, estimated to have traveled well over 500 feet, with deader balls, but no current sluggers can come anywhere near matching it. Does that sound logical?

And hey, let's face it. Both the Rockies and their opposing team on any given day play under the same conditions. If the venue is so conducive to run production, shouldn't that work both ways as well?

Far be it from yours truly to doubt the intent and veracity of Albert Chen, and SI in general, but excuse me if I call myself skeptical.

As the Bard once famously penned himself --

This could well be another classic case of Much Ado About Nothing.






Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chump of the day

Here was the setting. The Detroit Tigers were visiting the KC Royals and getting pummeled. This is what can happen when a major league team throws the ball around on the field defensively like a bunch of little-leaguers that have been over Ritalined and their pitchers are basically serving up batting practice.

In the ninth inning, with the Tigers a whopping 12 runs behind and already one out while at bat, they had a runner on first base. Typical baseball etiquette, if there is such a thing, would have seemed to dictate they just get the darn thing over with. No way were they coming back from such a deficit. Take the beating and move on.

But no. The runner decided to steal second base. Of course there was no throw from the catcher. The Royals likely didn't anticipate such a bush league chump move and would quickly go on to close out the lop-sided victory.

So technically, the Tiger runner, who isn't worth naming, gets a stolen base added to his stats. Good for him.

But if I'm Kansas City, I'd file that away in the memory banks for a later date.

Next time this clown comes up to bat when the two teams are playing each other, perhaps one of their pitchers will drill him with a 95 MPH heater in the ribs.

Want to act like a chump?

We'll treat you like one.

By all means, take your base. And one more thing.....

How does that feel?

OJ Simpson to be free

First off, it's about damn time.

Yeah, I get it. Lots of people still, and always will think OJ brutally murdered Nicole and Ron. They are entitled to their opinion, but it has never been anything more than arm-chair prosecutorial speculation.

They weren't there. Nor was I. Nor were you. During the criminal trial, the jury saw all the evidence, lack thereof, and heard all the testimony from relevant witnesses. We didn't. And they came back with a not-guilty verdict. Twelve people and it was unanimous.

That should have been the end of that.

But no, a civil wrongful death suit followed, pushed hard by Ron's parents. And Simpson was found culpable. Here's a question -- How can one be found guilty of wrongful death when a previous jury said he didn't do it in the first place? But that's the way it went down. Ron's family would get a judgment of over 30 million dollars against OJ, attempting to loot him of all assets forevermore.

Yet a couple things were also in play. By that time, OJ was happily living in Florida, where state laws made him basically untouchable. And his NFL pension, a handsome sum indeed, was off-limits. Florida's a great state with tons of things to do year-round, and Simpson could live the life of ease playing golf every day, swimming, hanging out with babes, and whatever else he chose.

But then he did something incredibly stupid. Going to Las Vegas with a couple friends and attempting to retrieve memorabilia he thought rightfully belong to him was a colossal mistake. So was one of his pals having a gun in tow.

So he got jacked up on a whole range of charges. Armed robbery, kidnapping, anything the prosecutor could think of. They threw the proverbial book at him.

And the verdict quickly came back guilty, on all charges. Did he commit a crime in Vegas? Sure. But upon sentencing, it quickly became obvious the "system" was out for "payback" on a verdict they strongly disagreed with in the first place.

So they hammered him. Nine to thirty three years in a penitentiary, for crimes that any ordinary individual would have received far less punishment for. It was a blatant miscarriage of justice done by those with wrongfully vengeful attitudes. And sadly, the public cheered.

There was never any kidnapping, nor was anyone physically harmed in that Vegas hotel room. But yes, it was a stupid thing to do in the first place.

Fast forward nine years and the perception of many has done a complete about face regarding OJ Simpson.

He's not only been a model prisoner, helping many other inmates in various positive ways, but even the guards at the pen regarded him with high esteem. To have done nine years behind bars with nary a complaint for acts that rose nowhere near that level of punishment finally resonated with many in the public as well -- as if they ever counted in the first place. Everybody cheered when his final parole was finally granted. After all, he'd already been paroled on all the charges but simple robbery, and nine years was WAY over the top for such an infraction.

So OJ, now 70, but mistakenly thought to be 90 for a brief humorous moment by a clueless parole official, wants to go back to Florida to live out the rest of his days.

It's probably a pretty safe bet that Orenthal James Simpson will be a model citizen from here on out. He's seen the not-so-fair wheels of justice up close and in person grind away, and it hasn't worked out exactly well in his case. Nine to thirty three years for what more probably should have been a 3-5 sentence.

But still, the powers that be have to get in one last dig. Even though OJ has been given the green light to his freedom, it won't happen for at least a couple more months -- October 1 at the earliest. This is absurd.

They've had nine years to sort out the paperwork when this day finally came, so what, pray tell, is the hold-up, no pun intended, now that it has?

He should be released tomorrow, if not sooner, and while first class airfare probably shouldn't come as part of the deal, at least given a bus or train ticket to take him wherever he wants in Florida. A couple more days on the road likely wouldn't bother him much as he ponders the past -- and future.

Nevertheless, at long last, after all the arm-chair quarterbacking, speculation, media sniping, and the outrageousness of his time being incarcerated, he will finally be free.

And did I mention it's about damn time?







Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Detroit Tigers trade prospects

OK, the very good hitting, but poor fielding JD Martinez is already gone to Arizona for handful of the proverbial "prospects".

Once again, former ace Justin Verlander took the mound, and pitched fairly well, but couldn't close the deal against the KC Royals. Well over the halfway point of the season, the Fastball Flakes man has a pedestrian 5-7 record. Besides, with three mega-cha-ching years left on his contract, he's not likely to gather much interest from other teams.

Southpaw reliever Justin Wilson's stock was riding high, and he might have been worth a player/prospect or three. But he entered the same game against the Royals with a 3-2 lead, and not only blew the save, but lost the game in the bottom of the ninth (4-3). His market value just took a major hit in the eyes of general managers elsewhere around the league, who were no doubt watching.

Third baseman Nick Castellanos? Forget about it. Who wants a .250 hitter that is terrible fielding his position?

Designated hitter Victor Martinez is now 38 years old. Can anybody even remember if and when he was capable of playing a position -- any position? Besides being slower than a tortoise on the base pathes, his hitting has dropped off as well. The Tigers are stuck with him.

Former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is showing the effects Father Time takes. Never much defensively, he appears to be on the back side of his career bell curve as well. Throw in a Verlander-esque contract to boot, and he's not going anywhere.

Lately Cabrera has mouthed off about the political situation in his native Venezuela. He needs to shut up about that. Good grief, he's become a multi-multi-multi millionaire playing a game in America, and shouldn't that be enough? If he wants to make a difference in his native country, here's an idea -- quit playing baseball and move back. Otherwise, zip it. Nobody cares.

Manager Brad Ausmus, on the last year of his contract, his become the lamest of lame ducks. Is it his fault the Tigers have so far stunk it up this year? Probably not. That rests with GM Al Avila, who is and has been the player procurer. Ausmus can only put them out there and hope they perform to the best of their abilities -- which hasn't been much. But he'll take the fall. No way will he be back for another season.

It must be nice to be Alex Avila. Once a Tiger, then shipped out, and now a Tiger again. Life can be good when your dad is the GM. A little nepotism anyone?

Thing is, as underwhelming as the Tigers have been this year, things are shaping up to be much worse in the near future. This team has too many oldsters, is WAY too heavy with contract obligations, and looted their farm system trying to get over the hump in recent years -- which they never quite made.

The piper has finally come-a-calling. This could get seriously ugly for the next few years......




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

JD Martinez. The first domino?

The Detroit Tigers traded right fielder JD Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for three "prospects". A good move? Maybe. One never knows about prospects. If even one of them turns out to be a star for many years, the Tigers would have done OK.

Martinez himself was far from a complete player. Sure, he could hit, but was also a defensive liability in the outfield.

But JD is probably good with the trade. After all, he's of Cuban descent, went to a school in southern Florida, and spent his early Major League years with the Houston Astros. In other words, hot places. Playing in Detroit in April or October had to be quite the cold culture shock to his system. Arizona ought to suit him just fine.

He's also coming up on free agency, and will likely demand and command a huge raise. This is a problem Detroit no longer has to worry about.

Yet the Tigers find themselves in quite the unenviable position of being far closer to the basement of the American League than in contention. At this posting, only the Chicago White Sox sported a worse record.

However, something called the elusive "hope" seems to be in endless supply when it comes to Detroit. See the long hapless Lions as Exhibit A. Six decades of futility and counting, but dammit, this just might be the year. Right.

What's misleading is how the Tigers still have a theoretical shot at the post season this year. This is only because they play in the AL Central division. Mysteriously, the Cleveland Indians, far and away the superior team, have yet to gain traction this year. Is the hangover from having the World Series snatched away from them at the last second in 2016 still lingering? Maybe. But the Tigers are a mere 6-7 games out with roughly 70 left to play. Doable? Hmmm.

Looking around the rest of the Major Leagues presents a much more sobering picture. If the Tigers were in the.....

Al East -- they'd be 10 games behind.
Al West -- 21 games out.
NL East -- 15.
NL Central -- 11.
NL West -- a whopping 23.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, JD's destination, are very much in the thick of the wild-card race and are 12 games ahead of the Tigers at this point. A definite upgrade.

Thing is, could Martinez be only the first domino to fall if the Tigers decide to clean house and go into the rebuild mode they've been long overdue for?

At least he had some value. As mentioned above, he can hit, if nothing else.

Looking at the rest of their roster, it's difficult to see which players other teams might be interested in.

Justin Verlander, one time ace, has regressed into merely a journeyman pitcher. Plus he has three more years of a guaranteed whopper contract as baggage.

Miguel Cabrera, just a few scant years removed from the glory of a Triple Crown season, has also taken a huge step backwards in productivity of late.

Both these guys are clearly on the back sides of their careers, with major long term contract issues. So who would want them?

Michael Fulmer is a promising young starting pitcher, but not great by any means. The Tigers seem to think he's worth his weight in gold, and he might well be some day, but that day is not here yet. Fulmer could as easily flame out ala Mark Fidrych from yesteryear. One never knows. If the Tigers want quality players in return for what has become an obvious rebuild situation, Fulmer's trade stock will never be higher than what it is now.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler remains a quality player in every way. But his biological clock is ticking as well. To hang onto him trying to salvage respectability for an otherwise inferior team wouldn't seem to make a whole lot of sense either. In a year or two, his value will no doubt diminish greatly.

Though it goes against their always proud grain, the Detroit Tigers might be wise to take a lesson from the Boston Celtics. There has never been a prouder franchise in all of sports than the Celtics. Championship banners galore hang from the rafters in their building.

But GM Danny Ainge wisely blew it all up and started over. Sure, the Celts were terrible for a few years. Growing pains that come with the territory. But look at them now. They've acquired several really good young players, still have high draft choices coming out of their ears, and are poised to become a force in the Eastern Conference of the NBA, and stay there, in future years.

In short, the Tigers can't have it both ways. They tried the short-term free-agent route, but could never quite get over the hump for another championship -- and their drought now stretches way back to 1984.

The make-up of the current team certainly isn't going to get it done either. Way, WAY too many liabilities and not nearly enough assets. It is what it is, and it ain't pretty. Did I mention cellar dwellers? It's coming one way or the other. To prolong the agony of the inevitable defies logic and business sense.

This team is going nowhere in the near future as it is.

Much better to sell/trade off what few assets they have and hope to rebuild for a more promising future in years to come.

As the trade deadline approaches -- we'll see.....










Sunday, July 16, 2017

Roger Federer

All hail Roger Federer, king of Wimbledon -- again. His eighth title at the historic venue.

What's truly amazing is that throughout the entire seven rounds of play, Federer never dropped a single set. Twenty one up, and twenty one down.

All in all, perhaps his performance can be summed up in this manner.....

Not too shabby for an old dude with four rug rats in tow.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Garbine Muguruza and Venus Williams

With her now not so little sis Serena (presumably) happily gestating away -- sometimes known as being seriously preggers -- knocked up if you will -- it was up to Venus to carry the day at Wimbledon for the Williams family.

Into the ladies' final she went against a relative unknown -- one Garbine Muguruza, a Spaniard.

Thing is, Venus is now the ripe old age of 37. Garbine a mere 23. Is the former old enough to be the latter's mother? Perhaps, in some parts of the world and certain mountainous regions of the United States. Ahem.

Many thought the ageless wonder would cruise to another major title over the young upstart. But it didn't turn out that way.

Venus had a great chance in the opening set to take control of the match. Yet at the most critical time -- she choked. Garbine would quickly recover and take the set 7-5.

And then the wheels fell off. In the second set, Williams was torched 6-0. Humbled, blown away, terminated by a vastly superior opponent.

Add up one unforced error after another, throw in several double faults, get caught loafing on a very playable lob shot over her head, mix in the dogged play of Garbine, and what do you get?

The only lady in the world to have defeated both Williams sisters in the final of a Grand Slam event.

And now a word from our sponsors.

If you're a sports fan, you've seen the commercials. Some insurance company seems to have a way of bronzing anything that causes mayhem, and hence having to pay out on a policy. A dog, a moose, you name it. That would seem to beg the question -- if one of your kids does something stupid and you have to file a claim, will little Billy or Kimmy have to wind up on the wall of your den before you can collect? Sounds like a scary proposition. That's some kind of deductible indeed. Brr.

Nevertheless, here's to Garbine Muguruza, ladies Wimbledon singles champion of 2017, and a worthy one indeed.

Even more amazing is Venus handled the defeat with grace. This is not normally a trait attributed to the Williams family. With Serena, it was always something when she lost. Her knee hurt, or ankle. Or she had cramps, a headache, an ingrown nail, diarrhea, nausea, or maybe it was one of those pesky right wing conspiracy theories that kept her from victory. Something. Anything but take defeat like a well, lady, and admit she just got whupped. It happens.

It remains to be seen whether yon Serena will return to the tennis tour after she becomes a mother. And if so, how effective she might be. At age 36, her biological clock is definitely ticking away too.

But maybe she can pull it off. After all, Roger Federer is the father of four and he's still going great guns -- poised to win yet another major event.

Yeah, I know. But equal rights are equal rights -- right? Mom, dad, what's the difference? Any more it's getting harder and harder to tell who's who anyway.



Friday, July 14, 2017

The Michael Fulmer hype

Sadly, fans in Detroit will believe just about anything when it comes to putting a positive spin on their sports "heroes".

Every year is going to be the one for the Lions, but never is of course. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is the best thing since Joe Louis Arena -- since rendered obsolete -- but knowledgeable football people grade him out to be slightly above average on the NFL scale of starting QBs. Matthew will soon be obsolete too, likely never having won a single playoff game.

The Pistons had a world-class arena in the Palace, totally bought and paid for. New ownership pumped somewhere between 10 and 15 million bucks into it to spruce it up even further. Then they turned right around and abandoned it to move back into the dregs of downtown Detroit where they'll have to pay rent. Does that make sense? But, by god, they just might make the playoffs this year.

The Red Wings have been long overdue for a total rebuild. Barely eking their way into the playoffs in recent years, only to be quickly blown away by vastly superior teams was somehow thought of as success in the Motor City. The proverbial piper has finally come-a-calling. They look to be a mess for the next several years.

As the trade deadline approaches, the Tigers don't know what to do. They've tried "buying" in a big way before for short-term talent, but could never make it to the finish line. Thirty three years and counting since their last World Series championship -- and it ain't happening this year either. Do they "sell"? Maybe, but what other teams would be interested in what they may have to offer? Guys on the backside of their careers with whopper contracts in tow? The Tigers have already looted their farm system for the above-mentioned short-term talent in the past.

And then there's Michael Fulmer. He is seen in Detroit as an ace pitcher. But is he really?

True, he garnered American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2016. Yet he sported an 11-7 record. Not bad, but certainly not eye-popping. The AL must have had an otherwise weak crop of rookies for him to walk off with the honors.

This year the Tigers and their ever-faithful media would have people believe he's become much much better. Yet after 21 starts, he owns a 9-6 record, Again, not bad, but hardly the stuff of your typical "ace".

The Tigers' hype machine would have people believing Fulmer, should he be dealt, is worth several good players, prospects, etc, in return. But is he?

Also true is he's only 24 years old. He could get better, a lot better. Or he could go the other way and flame out quickly. Nobody knows for sure.

[As an aside, former Tiger "ace" Justin Verlander just got clocked again by the Toronto Blue Jays. JV is now 5-7 with an ERA approaching 5.00. How many teams do you think are standing in line to pick up the remaining 80 million bucks of his guaranteed contract? But the Tigers still think he's "special". God bless em, but it doesn't make much sense.]

One thing that appears to be an absolute certainty is the Tigers, in their current state, don't remotely resemble a team capable of making a deep post-season run, if they even get there, which is also highly doubtful. They're only a game or two removed from the cellar of the entire American League. They'd have to play above .600 ball for the rest of the year to qualify. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

But currently they're hyping Michael Fulmer like he's the next coming of Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Clayton Kershaw, take your pick.

And let's not forget who the Tigers -- in their infinite wisdom -- let get away in recent years. Max Scherzer, currently of the Washington Nationals, started the All-Star game this year. Rick Porcello, still a youngster himself, posted a 22-4 record last year for the Bosox and won the Cy Young. The seemingly ageless David Price is still cruising along.

Yet, by thunder, they still have Michael Fulmer, who's a combined 20-13 over his career with the Tigers so far. Pretty good, definitely better than average, and so far has come at a reasonable price. But that will change when talks of his next contract rolls around.

Because the Tigers have hyped him so much, they'll have no choice but to cough up the big bucks to keep him. This is what is known as strategy in Detroit. Talk up what talent you have, hope other teams buy it -- they won't -- and wind up getting cha-chinged in the end.

And the beat rolls on.

Hey, it's Detroit.

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The amazing Aaron Judge

Old timers such as myself, and baseball historians certainly remember Frank Howard. During his playing days, first with the LA Dodgers and then on to his glory years with the then Washington Senators in the late 1960s, Howard was considered a mountain of a man.

Indeed he was. At six foot seven and weighing in somewhere between 235 and 250, he dwarfed all the other players on the field.

When Howard would come up to the plate to hit, the stick in his hands more resembled a little league bat than that of a major leaguer. And oh my, when he "got hold" of one he could hit it the proverbial mile.

Alas, he was woefully slow of foot, and pretty much a defensive liability when playing the field. Little range, a below average throwing arm, almost oafish. Still, he had a long and distinguished career in the big leagues.

Enter one Aaron Judge, currently a rookie for the NY Yankees. Though he doesn't seem to possess the physical intimidating presence Howard once did, he's actually a bigger man. Also six foot seven, but about 280 pounds. A strange phenomenon, but very real.

And that same Aaron Judge is absolutely tearing it up for the Yankees this year. At the All-Star break, barely half way through the season, AJ was batting over .300, had 30 home runs, and 66 RBIs. And BTW, he can hit it a mile too. That's not even counting the fact he won the Home Run Derby at the All-Star festivities.

Thing is, he's a definite plus in the other aspects of the game. Great range in the outfield, a superior throwing arm, and speed galore for a man his size.

What he has accomplished (so far) in this, his rookie season, is better than any other Yankee EVER did. That includes names like Mantle, Maris, Berra, DiMaggio, a regular murderer's row during their hey-days.

It should be noted that one George Herman (Babe) Ruth was never a Yankee rookie. He broke in with the Red Sox -- as a pitcher no less. Then somebody finally figured out he could hit a little -- make that a lot -- so it would probably be a good idea to have his bat in the line-up every day. What happened after that, as we know, became baseball legend.

Nevertheless, Aaron Judge has taken the baseball world by storm. True, while you don't get to the Major Leagues unless you're pretty good, nobody saw this coming. Did I mention tearing it up?

Unless a serious injury befalls him (you never know), or Judge swoons into a colossal slump for the rest of the year (highly unlikely), he's not only an absolute lock for Rookie of the Year, but likely the MVP of the American League. At his current pace, he's on his way to hitting 50-some home runs, 110-120 RBIs, batting over .300, and is a defensive asset as the Yankee right fielder. Throw in enough speed to steal a base here and there and this is a talent that doesn't come along just every day or year.

On top of it all, he appears to be a genuinely nice guy. Not full of himself like so many others. Humble instead of arrogant. More "aw shucks" than "look at me".

While there will always be those that despise the Yankees for various reasons, it's almost impossible not to like this young man. He's the "real deal" in more ways than one. A poster child for baseball and the heroics it sometimes offers.

Here come Da Judge? Well, not exactly. He's already arrived, in a very big way.

And here's hoping he continues to tear it up.

As they say, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy......










Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Justin Verlander dilemma

Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers was once a great pitcher. Sometimes he still is -- the key word being "sometimes".

Over halfway into the 2017 season, Verlander has had about 20 starts and has compiled a rather ho-hum 5-6 record.

It seems one game he'll throw a masterpiece. Then the next, get lit up like the proverbial pin ball machine.

Just last night against the Cleveland Indians JV had an excellent outing. Alas, he would get tagged with the loss nevertheless. Baseball can be cruel that way.

With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, it's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility the Tigers could ship him elsewhere to acquire a player or players, or perhaps some "prospects". Though Verlander has so far spent his entire major league career with Detroit, it's no longer a "lock" he's one of those rare "untouchable" players.

Thing is, what other team would want to take him on?

Sure, he's a horse and gobbles up a lot of innings. And the list of his past accomplishments is a long one. A former Cy Young winner, the American League MVP, and a couple no-hitters along the way are nothing to sneeze at. Plus he's racked up 178 wins along the way.

It's easy to think any number of teams would be happy to plug him into their starting rotation. But on further review, as they say, this might not necessarily be the case.

First, Verlander is now 34 years old. Not a geezer by any means, but likely on the back side of his bell curve. And does anybody really think he'll get better as he wades deeper into his 30s? It could happen, but the odds are highly against it.

Second, while he still has a decent fastball, for some reason he no longer even attempts to throw his once devastating split-finger pitch. True, he still has masterful control, striking out far more batters than giving up walks. But depending on what day it is, he can either mow down line-ups or get bombed as opposing batters rocket balls all over the park. As his manager Brad Ausmus wisely said recently -- major league hitters can hit velocity -- you've got to have the other stuff working or it likely spells trouble.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, is the matter of his (guaranteed) contract. Several years ago, while in his "prime", Verlander signed a long-term deal with the Tigers which would pay him roughly $27 million a year (on average) over its duration. This year he's making $28M.

Next year another $28M. Same for 2019. Then it slacks off to $22M in 2020, before it expires. No matter who he plays for -- or even if he doesn't play for whatever reason -- he'll get the dough.

Taking all that into consideration, which other general managers will surely do, perhaps Verlander isn't quite as attractive as some think.

Put another way, would you want to be the guy that committed around $90 million dollars of your owner's money (the rest of his contract, plus pro-rating the remainder of this season) for a 34 year old pitcher currently having a sub-.500 season whose performances go up and down like a sine wave?

It would be a risky gamble. If it worked out, you'd be looking good. If it went south, you might be looking for a job. Owners can have a way of getting a mite touchy over things like that.

If I was a betting man (actually I've been known to place a small wager here or there -- but not in this case), I'd put my money on JV sticking with the Tigers. It's probably where he wants to stay, the fans would be hugely disappointed to see him leave, and given the above reasons, yours truly can't see how the Tigers could get much back for him anyway. That's if there's any takers at all (see whopper contract again), which isn't a given.

Remember JV's much ballyhooed Fastball Flakes a few years back? I bought a box of those just to check them out. How good were they? Let's just say I didn't take a second spoonful. You've heard of a famous sugar-frosted brand that's been long advertised by a "tiger" as being "Grrrr-eat!!".  I found Tiger  Verlander's version to be "Grrrr-oss!!". But that's just me.

Fastball flakes indeed. Given his yo-yo performances of late, #35 for the Detroit Tigers just might be turning into one.