Greg Eno

Archive for December, 2006|Monthly archive page

Fitzpatrick Not An All-Star, But Neither Is The Voting System

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2006 at 4:20 pm

Rory Fitzpatrick is not an All-Star, except in his own household. He’ll be the first to agree on that. Not even the most Walter Mitty in him could elevate him to such status. In fact, he’s barely more of an All-Star than I am, and I haven’t laced up a pair of hockey skates since Fitzpatrick himself was a grade schooler.

Yet Vancouver Canucks defenseman Fitzpatrick, who hasn’t even registered a point in 23 games this season, is among the top five vote-getters at his position for the 2007 NHL All-Star game. The top two will get an automatic berth on the roster.

The reason Fitzpatrick is on the cusp of being an accidental All-Star is largely the result of a ballot box-stuffing campaign spearheaded by a Web site, www.voteforrory.com. On the site, the answer to the question, “Why Rory?” is this: Good question. Everyone has their reasons for voting, but the general consensus is that Rory is the perfect representative for all the players who work hard “behind the scenes” and never get any recognition.

As for the notion that the All-Star game should be a showcase for the game’s best players, the site has this reply: Depends on how you view it. Myself and many others view the All-Star game as an exhibition for the fans. That said, the fans want to see Rory Fitzpatrick…simple as that!

Well, some fans do, anyway. Those who have unashamedly voted multiple times for the journeyman, who is now with his fifth NHL team.

I have nothing against Fitzpatrick, who is probably a great guy, as most NHL players tend to be. And I have no problem with wanting to recognize the “players who work hard ‘behind the scenes’ and never get any recognition.”

I do, though, find myself uncomfortable with a voting system that can place so many ballots into relatively few hands.

I went to the NHL.com site and casted my ballot, and I must admit that I voted for some players based on reputation, not really certain whether they were having All-Star-type seasons or not. And I had my own write-in candidate: Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek. The ballot only allows one write-in per conference, or else I would have voted for Detroit forward Dan Cleary, too. But without sounding too altruistic, my write-ins, while Detroiters, are also based on actual game performances. Hasek leads the league in GAA, and Cleary — now with 17 goals after last night’s hat trick — has been the surprise scoring sensation of the Western Conference.

Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, clearly has no place on the team, hard-working guy or not. Nice guy or not. Underdog or not. And a system that would place him among the Nick Lidstroms and Chris Prongers of the world is broken, as far as I’m concerned.

I do, though, think that voteforrory.com’s answer to whether the game should feature the best, most talented players is a good one.

“Myself and many others view the All-Star game as an exhibition for the fans.”

Right philosophy, just wrong implementation of it. Yes, the game is an exhibition for the fans, but for all the fans who vote, not only for the fans who choose to while away time clicking Fitzpatrick’s name.

I’ll admit to vascillating on the subject of All-Star voting. At various times I’ve been sympathetic to the “it’s for the fans” argument, and at other times I’ve been more hardline — believing the game should be almost entirely populated with genuinely deserving players, based on current performance.

At least the reserves for the team aren’t fan-chosen. So if the campaign to elevate Fitzpatrick to #2 fails, he won’t make the team. And all will be right with my world. But just the fact that Fitzpatrick could even come this close to being voted in as a starter rankles me.

What’s the solution? Well, the league could start by limiting email addresses to one ballot each. Yes, that could be gotten around, but at least it would be a filter. Phone voting could be limited to one ballot per phone number. And so on.

Last night, on ESPN News, Barry Melrose tackled the Fitzpatrick Issue.

“I would hope that if Rory gets in, he would step aside and say thanks, but acknowledge that someone like Nicky Lidstrom should be in instead,” Melrose said of the campaign.

“But,” Melrose added, “the game is for the fans’ favorite players. Not necessarily the best.”

All-Star games, in every sport, have been populated by undeserving players — dudes who’ve been voted in based on past glory. But at least they’ve had some glory. Rory Fitzpatrick is a nice guy, and a lunch bucket fellow who may be the hardest working player in hockey for all I know.

But he’s not an All-Star. And a system that would make him one isn’t cute. It’s broken.

All-Decade Team: The 1990’s

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2006 at 3:06 pm

Catcher: Because he is still performing more than adequately as a catcher, I give the nod to Pudge Rodriguez, over Mike Piazza. Pudge almost led the league in hitting in 2004, his first year with the Tigers, and thus came a whisker away from being the first catcher to lead the AL in hitting (Joe Mauer did it in 2006). League MVP in 1999, Rodriguez has combined hitting prowess and defensive supremacy for the better part of 13 seasons now.

First base: Frank Thomas. They didn’t call him The Big Hurt for nothing. A ferocious hitter, Thomas was also very agile at the bag for a big man. Won the AL MVP award in 1993 and 1994. Belted 301 homers in the decade. From 1991 to 1998, Thomas scored at least 100 runs and had at least 100 RBI in each season. Phenomenal production.

Second base: Roberto Alomar. Smooth as silk at the plate, and with the glove. Outstanding production offensively. A career .300 hitter. Had 1,678 hits in the decade, and scored 138 runs in 1999. Two-time world champion with the Blue Jays.

Third base: Wade Boggs. You certainly can put him on the 1980’s team, for that’s where he had his best offensive years, but I place Boggs in this decade as a nod to his longevity. Another of those players who is thought of for his bat, but who was actually a very serviceable fielder as well. Yes, this seems like an all-AL team so far, but the AL did pretty much dominate the All-Star games and World Series in the decade, too.

Shortstop: Okay, here’s an NL’er for you: Barry Larkin. The U-M grad, who was the league MVP in 1995, Larkin was The Sporting News’ NL shortstop for eight of the decade’s ten years. Helped lead the Reds to their upset World Series win (a sweep) over the A’s in 1990. BA of just about .300 for the decade, including seven seasons eclipsing that mark in the ’90’s. Unheralded at times, but one of the game’s best ever at the position.

Outfield: (left/center/right). Barry Bonds/Kirby Puckett/Tony Gwynn. Who wouldn’t want this outfield on their team? While Bonds is under a cloud of accusations of steroid use, there’s no denying his impact on the game, whether you like him or not. Puckett turned himself from a spray hitter with little power into a dominant leadoff hitter with tons of it. Brilliant defensively; artisan of one highlight catch after another — usually denying someone a homerun. Gwynn was, perhaps, the greatest hitter in the NL post-WW II. A career mark of .338, Gwynn still managed over 1,700 hits in the decade, despite being slowed by injuries several seasons. Played 20 seasons, all in San Diego.

Starting Pitchers: Greg Maddux/Tom Glavine/Roger Clemens. If it wasn’t for Clemens, I would have included John Smoltz and given the Braves a sweep. But you can’t go wrong with this trio. Multiple Cy Young Awards. World Series appearances (and championships) and tons of divisional titles. Each pitcher, in his own way, set a standard. And each is still kicking it, which is even more amazing.

Relief Pitchers: John Franco, Trevor Hoffman. More National Leaguers. Franco was unusual, because he was a lefthanded closer, which is rare. Had 268 saves in the decade. Was still active in 2005, at age 45. Hoffman didn’t debut until 1993, but in the seven years that he played in the 90’s, he still managed 228 saves, including 53 in the Padres’ NL Pennant-winning season of 1998. Why no Mariano Rivera here? He didn’t break into the big leagues until 1995, and has had his best seasons in the 2000’s.

Manager: Tough one here. But I’m going with Bobby Cox, whose Braves teams dominated the NL East, and should still be considered one of the best dynasties of all time, despite only winning one World Series. Cox’s teams won the division in every year of the 1990’s except 1990. Five World Series appearances in the decade. Joe Torre loses out, but barely. Torre’s prowess, I believe, mainly occurred in the 2000’s. The fact that he’s lasted as long as he has in New York is incredible, considering his boss’s fetish for canning managers.

The Death Of A Ballplayer Not Always Surprising

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2006 at 3:57 pm

Chris Brown died in the manner that he spent the majority of his major league baseball career: enigmatically.

Brown, 45, died Tuesday from complications of burns he apparently sustained in a fire that engulfed his home, in the Houston area in late November.

But investigators, who are leaning toward arson as the cause of the fire, will forever wonder how Brown managed to get to Memorial Hermann Hospital, some nine miles from his home, burned as he was.

It’s a fitting end to his life, because those of us who followed and covered the Tigers — Brown played third base here for 17 games in 1989 — will forever wonder why his once-promising career came to such an abrupt end.

Brown made the All-Rookie team with the Giants in 1985, with a BA of .271 and 16 homers in 432 AB. The next season, his BA climbed to over .300. Then he had shoulder surgery and the numbers started to decline.

By the time the Tigers acquired him following the 1988 season, from the Padres, Brown was appearing to be wasting his potential. Yet Sparky Anderson took a flyer on him anyway, hoping the Chris Brown in Detroit could somehow channel the Chris Brown who played in San Francisco.

He couldn’t. Not even close.

But what made Brown’s brief Detroit career so maddening and puzzling was that it appeared that Brown chose not to be a better player. He managed but a .193 BA in 57 uninspired at bats. He was released in May, and never returned to the big leagues. Brown was one worm that Sparky couldn’t turn.

Upon his departure from the Motor City — and baseball, as it turned out — Brown was laughed at, derided, and scorned by a blue collar fan base who has little to no tolerance for lazy athletes. Brown was a complete bust of an experiment in Detroit. Yet he could have been so much better, had he put forth the effort.

Brown lived almost a month after the fire, but authorities were never able to really interview him about what happened, because his condition deteriorated too rapidly. So they wonder.

Some athletes and celebrities meet their demise in ways that only they could. Billy Martin’s death on Christmas night, 1989, in a car wreck comes to mind. Others perish in tragic, unpreventable circumstances. The “good die young” syndrome.

Chris Brown has died, and in the manner that shouldn’t be terribly shocking: under a shroud of mystery, and with no apparent answers. Just like the death of his playing career.

Weak East Might Save Zeke After All

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2006 at 3:50 pm

In 1976, the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA’s Midwest Division with a sparkling record of 38-44. The Pistons finished second, at 36-46. But in the playoffs, Detroit swiped a best-of-three series from Milwaukee, literally, when Chris Ford stole an inbounds pass in the closing seconds of the deciding Game 3.

It was the last time that a team won a division title with a losing record.

Thirty years and some change later, history might repeat itself, and one of the beneficiaries of such nonsense could be our old friend Isiah Thomas.

Today, as the Pistons prepare to invade New York to take on Zeke’s Knicks, the Atlantic Division is being led by the Toronto Raptors, who are setting the league on its ear with a scintillating 12-16 record. The Knicks — the team coached by Thomas who works under a “win or else” decree — are tied for second, with a 12-18 mark. Even the dreadful Philly 76’ers, at 7-19, are just four games out of first place.

But back to Thomas. Knicks chairman James Dolan, after the bitter (what else?) divorce with Larry Brown, made Thomas the coach, in addition to his GM duties. The marching orders were simple: win or be out of a job.

Well, Thomas isn’t winning (mainly because he has to coach a bunch of players assembled by Thomas the GM), but it might not mean he gets fired after all. The Eastern Conference, at this rate, could very well have a division winner with an under-.500 record, plus a team or two in the tournament with records that aren’t very impressive, either.


“Anybody want to coach this team?”

In other words, Zeke just might wiggle his way out from under Dolan’s decree.

If the Knicks make the playoffs — and at this point who’s to say that they can’t? — would Dolan still kick Isiah to the curb? Or would he change the decree, midstream, to “make the playoffs (even with a losing record) or else”?

As usual with Thomas, some of the deciding factors have nothing to do with actual on-court performance. The feeling here is that the powers to be inside Madison Square Garden will evaluate the entire picture, i.e. any distractions/embarrassments, before deciding whether to allow Thomas back into the building next season.

That’s where the betting money should be about even.

Already, Isiah has taken some heat for his role in the Nuggets-Knicks brawl — mainly for his unbridled warning prior to things turning nasty. Instead of taking the high road and leading his team by example, Thomas went into punk/thug mode, which his cherubic grin has for years thinly hidden. He’s also been in the news for allegedly ordering his players to undercut the Spurs’ Bruce Bowen, as a reaction to Bowen’s suspected tendency to slide his foot beneath the legs of opposing jump shooters. The typical Thomas/eye-for-an-eye mentality. That may have been an endearing quality as a player/assassin, but it becomes unseemly as a coach.

Yet here Thomas is, the coach of a real-life second-place team. Yes, it’s a crap division, but second place is second place. Just ask the ’76 Pistons, who eventually extended the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors to six games in the conference semifinals.

So Isiah might stick around a while longer. The 9 Lives cat has nothing on him.

Mike Williams’ Dropsies Should Drop Him From Next Year’s Roster

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2006 at 7:46 pm

The young, tall receiver grabbed football after football in practice, the pigskin sticking to his gloved fingers with the desired tackiness. It had been going that way for a few weeks, and the rookie declared his days of dropping balls would soon be over with.

“The difference is unbelievable,” Herman Moore, the rookie from Virginia, told the interloping reporters after one practice during that 1991 season. Moore, you see, had switched to different contact lenses, and the dropsies he had experienced earlier in the season were vanishing as a result. The news was snickered at by some of the veteran interlopers, who’d covered the team for years and had now, thanks to Moore, discovered a new excuse for Lions ineptitude.

Ahh, but it wasn’t merely an excuse to explain away the rookie’s pass-catching difficulties. For after Moore switched to the new eyewear, he slowly but surely developed, year after year, until one day he became the most prolific wide receiver in franchise history — catching over 120 balls in 1995. Some would say he is still the best grabber of footballs the team has ever employed.

Mike Williams has dropsies. He has other issues, too, apparently, but those are tucked away, out of sight, at least from the dutiful interlopers. All we can see is what occurs on the football field, and now that he is finally getting a chance to prove himself as a serviceable receiver, he goes and drops five footballs, including the potential game-winner, in Sunday’s 26-21 loss to the Chicago Bears.

“I better not say too much about it, or else next year they’ll have the Mike Williams March,” the second-year player from USC said afterward, with gallows humor, about a fan base who marched in protest against team president Matt Millen last season.

But the joke might be on Williams himself.

Herman Moore’s problems were corrected with eyewear. He proved, once he could see the ball properly, that he had marvelous hands. Rarely, it seemed, was a ball ever thrown his way that was right in his bread basket. Usually Moore had to stretch, twist, reach, and lunge with his six-foot-four frame to snare the passes thrown by the wayward Lions QB of the Day. But he caught them — more often than not.

Williams, as far as I know, has decent eyesight. It’s one of the few things, in fact, that hasn’t been bantied about as being wrong with him. It hasn’t joined his conditioning, his weight, his work ethic, and his lack of interest as suspects in the torpedoing of his short NFL career.

No, Williams has dropsies because he isn’t, frankly, all that good of a receiver. Maybe he will never be. Maybe.

It’s my opinion, as one of those occasional ink-stained interlopers, that the Lions should munch on yet another contract and part ways with Mike Williams, sometime before the next NFL Draft. You know — the old change of scenery trick. Charlie Rogers had his scenery changed, too — but the scenery, in his case, changed from practice fields and lockerrooms to the unemployment line. His phone still isn’t ringing, and he was released over four months ago.

Williams had a chance to finally prove all his coaches, critics, and naysayers wrong on Sunday afternoon against the Bears. No more excuses about how you can’t catch balls standing on the sidelines, helmet in hand. Lions QB Jon Kitna went to Williams frequently — more frequently than any other game this season — and all he got for his troubles was watching his receiver engage in dropsies.

The funny thing is, Williams could have washed away just about all of those dropsies if he had just been able to come down with Kitna’s prayerful heave as the gun went off Sunday. The pass, thrown toward the back of the end zone, was shockingly catchable, considering that most of those situations call for the Hail Mary — another prayerful throw that even has its own spiritual name.

Yet Williams found himself relatively open, and replays showed that he got every bit of both of his hands — his gloved hands — on the ball before it slammed onto the field turf, somehow extricated from his grasp. But it also looked like Williams did his own extricating, with little help from the Bears defender. Dropsies.

The Lions’ problems, of course, go way beyond the slippery fingers of yet another first-round draft bust. Rather, Mike Williams’ nightmarish game merely served as a metaphor for another lousy season in the history of a lousy football team. Still, he’s part of the problem, and since that problem should be imploded and begun anew from the resulting rubble, I see no good reason to keep him on next season’s Lions roster.

You can always find guys who come down with the dropsies in the later draft rounds, I hear.

Jason Maxiell: The Best Is Yet To Come

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2006 at 7:19 pm

Ben Who?

There’s no more Fro to fear. No more biceps to ogle. No more placards with the letter “B” to hold up, tallying the blocked shots.

Out with Big Ben. In with Super Max.

Jason Maxiell, the Pistons’ young brutus at power forward/center, is going to turn this town on, and you’re free to tell everyone you know that you were there from the ground floor up.

Maxiell is a precious metal, mined by Joe Dumars and his scouting staff, and when his coaches and teammates finish buffing and polishing him, he’s going to shine so much, Pistons fans will have to wear sunglasses inside The Palace.


Your next Pistons star

One of this season’s highlights occurred the other night, in Auburn Hills.

In the closing seconds of a tie game against Seattle, point guard Chauncey Billups penetrated the key and, his lane to the basket closed off, zipped a neat pass to Maxiell, standing alone along the baseline. The kid arched and drained a 15-foot jump shot. Easily. Game, Pistons.

It was a watershed moment, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Maxiell is a rebounding machine, and can score the basketball. He might not possess the same intimidating presence that Ben Wallace did in the paint, but then again, he doesn’t have to, really. At this stage, it’s enough for him to play about 20 minutes, score a few points, and clean the glass. Oh yeah — Maxiell can run the floor, too. Don’t let his wide body fool you.

Last night in Cleveland, Maxiell played 17 minutes and scored 11 points, with three rebounds. In the Seattle game, he scored 17 points in 32 minutes, and grabbed 12 boards.

The voices on TNT, last night, dared a comparison between Maxiell and Charles Barkley. Normally, such talk would cause me to roll my eyes — bantied about far too early in a young player’s career. But it makes sense, to me, for Maxiell is part of a dying breed — the undersized frontline player who can hold his own among the Redwoods around him. Someone who can rebound and score, despite his height disadvantage. Someone like … Charles Barkley, actually.

The beauty of it all is that Jason Maxiell can mature at his own rate, without the pressure of being a #3 overall pick, like a certain beanpole who now performs in Orlando. Investment in him is cheap, relatively speaking. But the return should be significant.

Super Max is a butterball from the University of Cincinnati who’ll make Pistons fans go crazy. Who needs a Fro to fear? Ben mostly wears braids nowadays, anyway.

All-Decades Team: The 1980’s

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2006 at 3:50 pm

Sorry for the delay — holiday shopping and all — but here’s #2 in my series of All-Decades teams: the 1980’s.

Catcher: This is a toughie. So many to choose from: Carlton Fisk, Lance Parrish, Gary Carter. But my choice might be a sort of dark horse: Bob Boone. Booney is my pick because of: a) his longevity; and b) his strong defensive skills. Sure, there were bigger bats behind the plate in the decade, but from handling pitchers to blocking wayward breaking balls in the dirt, few were as consistent and smooth as Boone.

First base: Eddie Murray. Few were as destructive in the clutch as the switch-hitting Murray. A Hall of Famer and perhaps misunderstood as a player at times. Absolute poison in the late innings to opposing pitchers.

Second base: Ryne Sandberg. Prototypical. Smooth as silk. Fluid swing. Some pop in his bat. The unquestioned leader of the Cubs’ division-winning teams of ’84 and ’89. Bet the Phillies rue the day they traded him in 1980.

Third base: Graig Nettles. A tough call here, considering other players like Ron Cey, Doug DeCinces, and Bill Madlock. But Nettles’ defense, I think, was superior, and he was a major contributor to the Yankees and Padres’ pennant-winning teams in the decade.

Shortstop: Wow. Cal Ripken, Jr. or Ozzie Smith? Or Alan Trammell? I guess I’ll give it to Ripken. That consecutive game/consecutive inning streak is hard to ignore. Smith was, indeed, the Wizard with the glove, but Ripken did so much more with the bat.

Outfield: (left/center/right). Rickey Henderson/Andy Van Slyke/Dale Murphy. Henderson? Best leadoff hitter ever. Career leader in steals. Van Slyke? Only one of the best gloves of his time, and a solid BA with some power. Murphy? Terribly underrated, but one of the best players of his time.

Starting pitchers: Jack Morris, Nolan Ryan (again), Fernando Valenzuela. Morris, winningest pitcher of the decade. Ryan, artisan of no-hitters and a freakish arm. Valenzuela, the best lefty of the decade.

Relief pitchers: Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith.

Pinch hitter: Jerry Hairston. Breaking up Milt Wilcox’s perfect game in 1983 is only but one reason.

Manager: Dare I say Sparky Anderson again? Well, who else skippered the same team throughout the entire decade? And, another World Series win and two more divisional titles added to his resume. So Sparky it is.

Next week: the 1990’s.

This Is No Longer A Watch: It’s A Brown WARNING

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2006 at 5:36 pm

If you ask me, the Philadelphia 76’ers sent the wrong person to Denver.

Instead of guard Allen Iverson, Philly should have convinced the Nuggets to take Larry Brown off their hands.

The heretofor Brown Watch has now officially been upgraded to a Warning. Instead of conditions merely being right for Brown’s return to the Sixers — made known when he was acting as a “consultant” in the Iverson sweepstakes — there’s been an actual funnel cloud spotted. Residents near the 76’ers should take cover immediately.

Brown’s return to the team in a more formal capacity is being seriously bantered about. LB’s agent, Joe Glass, has acknowledged it, but would rather an official announcement come from Sixers management. What role Brown would play is up to conjecture. But if I was coach Maurice Cheeks, I’d be preparing my severance proposal.

Iverson has called Brown the best coach he’s played for (and he has quite a choice to select from), and until Larry’s return to Philly appeared imminent, I was wondering if Brown might eventually end up in Denver as well, the site of his first NBA coaching gig, in 1976. This would happen, I theorized, after the expected removal of George Karl as Nuggets coach — either forcibly or thru aghast resignation. It would bring Brown’s NBA coaching career full circle — and in this case, we’re talking a circle the size of Rosie O’Donnell’s mouth.

As for Iverson himself, his coexistence with Carmelo Anthony — how about Carmallen for a new name? — is already being winked at. How can they possibly play together? What about the last shot — who will take it? Do they “respect” each other?

My goodness, you’d think that two superstars had never played on the same team before.

Here’s the scoop: the Nuggets will be fine. They’ll be more than fine, in fact. Iverson, I happen to know secondhand, is not the cancer that some folks would portray him as being. There’s a side of him that doesn’t get nearly enough press: that of a tireless worker who has literally given up his body for the Sixers. A doting father. But that’s not sexy enough for the stuffed suits on television, or the loudmouths on talk radio.

Once Carmallen blends, like a yummy salad dressing, the Nuggets will be a thorn in everyone’s side in the Western Conference. The storm of Larry Brown, however, appears to be circling over the Philadelphia area.
It’s only a matter of time until it touches down.

Zumaya A Closer? NO! NO! NO!

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2006 at 3:35 pm

I read it again, but this time it came from Dave Dombrowski himself — not heard from some blowhard on sports talk radio, nor was it splashed onto my CRT from one of those know-it-all bloggers, certainly the most bottom of feeders.

“We see (Joel Zumaya) as a closer,” Tigers president Dombrowski was quoted as saying the other day.

To which I just shook my head and said, over and over, “No! No! No!”

The argument for keeping Zumaya, the 22 year-old human howitzer, as a seventh and eighth inning setup man is, I fear, going to be lost in the shuffle as the overwhelming public sentiment wants to see him close games or, worse, be a (gasp!) starter.

Again I say, “No! No! No!”


The 7th and 8th innings is where Zumaya belongs

Where do I begin? Well, how about with the “nobody else has what we have” factor? If you can show me more than a handful of teams who have what the Tigers have — a pitcher who can come into the seventh and eighth innings and absolutely shut down an opposing rally, gaining the requisite strikeout(s) with a powerful arm that completely shifts momentum, then I’d like to know who those guys are. Zumaya, time and again, was the fire extinguisher, and in the only way that was helpful, considering the game situation — with the strikeout.

I would also submit to you that the outs Zumaya gets are far more crucial and important than the ones closer Todd Jones gets. Why? Because 90+ percent of the time Zumaya entered the game with runners on base, and with less than two outs. Mostly, those runners represented tying or go-ahead runs. And only could a strikeout, or a popup, get the Tigers out of danger. Jones, God bless him, frequently entered ninth innings with nobody on base, beginning the inning with a clean slate. Save situation? Yes, according to MLB rules. Turning point in the game? No. That happened six outs earlier, with Zumaya on the mound.

That, to me, is the crux of my case — the quality of Zumaya’s outs. They aren’t throwaway runs, folks. Very often times the prevention of those runners from scoring spelled Tigers victory two innings later.

As for turning Zumaya into a starter, which he was in the minor leagues, that would be even worse. It’s going to sound strange, but it would be a waste of his arm to pitch him every fifth day. Besides, the Tigers have plenty of young, powerful arms in their rotation. They don’t need another flamethrower in the rotation. They can, however, use him three or four times a week in the late innings. Very much so.

The Tigers, I believe, can find another closer when Jones retires. Perhaps that pitcher will come from outside the organization. I have faith in Dombrowski that he can find a capable replacement, somewhere, somehow. But DD is making me nervous, talking about grooming Zoom Zoom to be the next Tigers closer.

Dave, this is one time you should listen to an ink-stained, blogging wretch. I promise not to go on sports talk radio, unless you don’t heed my advice.

Like Barry Did (Sorta), Lions Offer Something New Every Sunday

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2006 at 3:16 pm

I have been known to say that with Barry Sanders, the superhuman running back, you could be assured of seeing something from him every week that you’d never seen another runner do with a pigskin tucked against his ribcage. Every single week.

The same thing can be said of Barry’s former team — sort of.

With the Lions, you can pretty much be assured of seeing something new every week — something that is a major contributor toward losing football games.

This time, it’s the old “quarterback sneak on 3rd and five” play. Not to mention the “let’s inexplicably fumble the ball without being touched on 4th and 1.”

The Lions tried that wonderful QB sneak play not once, but twice, each time with more than four yards to go for a first down. Neither time did it come close to being successful.

Jon Kitna, perpetrator of the two sneaks and the inexplicable fumble, plus a couple of interceptions for good measure, is to be judged an innocent in this 2-12/soon to be 2-14 season, according to his coaches. He is far from being the sole problem of the Lions’ ineptitude, certainly, but he is far from being beyond reproach, also.

To borrow from receiver Roy Williams’ refrain, the Lions may be the best 45-minute team in the NFL. Sometimes they are only the best 15 minute team. On Thanksgiving Day, for example, they were no more than the league’s best eight minute team. But never have they been close to being even an average 60-minute team.

Yesterday, in Green Bay, they may have cobbled together ten good minutes, but they were scattered throughout the game. Persona non grata receiver Mike Williams, for his part, put together a couple of good minutes on his own — but maybe only 30 seconds of actual game time — when he caught three passes in a row in the second half.

Someone once told me that when you die and go to (presumably) heaven, you are played a video of your 18 best golf holes, condensed into one, well, heavenly, round. The duffers reading this are probably smiling knowingly right now.

I wonder if that’s the fate of the guilty parties of this mess with the Lions. I wonder if they are played a video of their best 60 minutes from the 2006 season, to present one bad ass game.

Yes, I wonder.

Don’t blame Packers quarterback Brett Favre for the Lions’ 15th consecutive loss in Wisconsin. He was, frankly, very pedestrian. And that’s being very kind. He tried like the dickens to serve up as much help as possible to the Lions, what with his interceptions and fumbled snap. Not once did the Lions turn one of those miscues into anything more than the typically harmless Jason Hanson field goal.

It hardly matters, to me, whether the Lions snag the #1 overall pick, or #2, at this point. They are certain to get one of those two, and usually it isn’t that big of a deal to draft second, because that should still be a high quality player. What does matter, though, is what they choose to do with such a high selection. But I wouldn’t hold my breath that the decision will be the prudent or right one. It may seem so, on the surface, but how long before the new player is awash with the stench of losing and negative aura?

But that’s a worry for another day — late-April to be exact. Maybe heaven also plays a video of all your great draft picks, and squeezes them onto one glorious draft day.

Actually, now that I think about it, that video is still in production.