Greg Eno

Archive for February, 2007|Monthly archive page

Coaching On The Cheap: The Lions Are Still Doing It

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2007 at 4:05 pm

All of our recent World Champions — and by recent I mean starting with the 1984 Tigers — tried the same tack, and all failed miserably doing it.

It was called coaching on the cheap.

The prevailing wisdom, with the Tigers, Red Wings, and Pistons, was that an assistant, or a prime time wannabe, would be a suitable choice to be the coach, or the manager. Mostly, they had one and only one thing going for them: convenience.

The Pistons, when they were still slapstick in the 1960s, constantly promoted assistants to take their turn with the silver whistle and clipboard. They had names like Donnis Butcher and Paul Seymour and Red Rocha. And each would do their thing for a year or so, and then vanished into the NBA night, never to be heard from again. The trend continued thru the 1970s, though it got a little better, with Coach of the Year Ray Scott interrupting the madness for a few years.

The Red Wings were experts at getting coaching on the cheap. When the team was constantly stumbling through the NHL schedule in the ’70s and early-1980s, they turned to assistants or minor leaguers, always with disastrous results. Teddy Garvin, Doug Barkley, and Wayne Maxner were among those who blew in and out of town, with already unimpressive resumes weakened by their time here.

The Tigers, after the departure of Sparky Anderson in 1995, got cheap, mostly. Buddy Bell, Larry Parrish, and Luis Pujols were either convenient or unwanted elsewhere. Phil Garner was duped into thinking the team was going to spend some money. Alan Trammell was convenient, and a reminder of better times.

But times didn’t get better for the Pistons until they hired Chuck Daly, and paid him enough money to get him to stay. World titles and annual appearance in the NBA’s Final Four became commonplace before long. Then after some down years in the late 1990s, the Pistons eventually hired Larry Brown to nudge them back to the top again. The Red Wings scuffled along, hoping to overachieve every year, until snagging Scotty Bowman and his Hall of Fame background. Stanley Cups soon followed. The Tigers made a splash in 1979 when they hired Anderson, and were champions within five years. Then after their cheapness stage, they landed Jim Leyland last year.

None of these teams found any success until they quit hiring the unknown soldiers and started going after higher profile guys with rich pedigrees.

But there is one team conspicuous from its absence from this group.

The Lions haven’t, truthfully, ever gotten away from hiring coaching on the cheap. And I don’t mean cheap in terms of strictly dollars and cents. I mean cheap in terms of poverty of pedigree.

Oh, there were the just plain cheap ones, money-wise (Tommy Hudspeth and Rick Forzano come to mind). And there were convenient ones (assistants Wayne Fontes and Gary Moeller). And there were those who were neither, but also not qualified (Darryl Rogers).

The Pistons have their Chuck Daly and Larry Brown. The Red Wings have their Scotty Bowman. The Tigers have their Sparky Anderson and Jim Leyland.

The Lions have none of that, harkening back to the late 1950s, early 1960s.

Don’t talk to me about Steve Mariucci, whose background and style were both ill-fits with the team. And don’t talk to me about Bobby Ross and his Super Bowl appearance with the Chargers. The list of coaches who’ve taken their teams to Super Bowls — and lost — isn’t all that impressive.

Rod Marinelli wouldn’t, on first glance, appear to be the Lions’ Daly or Bowman or Leyland. His team went 3-13 in his first season. He was a career assistant, and never a coordinator — supposedly a requirement to be a capable head coach. He might be another example of coaching on the cheap — again, not in terms of dollars.

Whether Marinelli succeeds or not, the fact remains: the Lions have never made the splash at the coaching position that other NFL teams have made. Never have they brought in a bona fide, high profile, rich-with-winning guy who is capable of turning a franchise around.

They’ve let a few of those go, though, to other teams.

Don Shula was a bright young assistant, working with the Lions’ defensive backs, in the early part of the 1960s. But by the time their head coaching job was open, Shula was starting to make a Hall of Fame name for himself with the Baltimore Colts. Charles “Chuck” Knox cut his football coaching teeth as a Lions assistant in the 1970s, but was shunned by the team after Joe Schmidt resigned in 1973. Knox then went on to great success as leader of first the Rams, then the Seahawks.

Did you know Bill Belichick started as a Lions assistant? Or Jerry Glanville? Or Marty Schottenheimer?

It’s true. As Casey Stengel once said, “You can look it up.”

Marinelli could be our Knox, or Shula. Maybe he’s the assistant that his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will rue letting leave.

Maybe.

Miller Belongs In Toledo — Despite The Temptation

In Uncategorized on February 27, 2007 at 5:17 pm

Andrew Miller is tall. He’s got more pitching raw skill in his pinky than many major league pitchers have in their entire cortisone-injected shoulders. His potential is endless, and scary — for the rest of the American League. Oh yeah, and he’s lefthanded.

There will be considerable focus on Miller as this spring training unfolds. Number one, there aren’t too many spots on the Tigers’ 25-man roster up for grabs, so the scribes and bloggers have to have something to wring their hands about. The reason for the focus is this: should Andrew Miller be on the plane with the Tigers when the team breaks camp and heads to chilly Michigan? Or should he be returned to Toledo, where he can start and be assured of innings?

It’s the classic baseball question that is asked in February and March. Should big league team keep “the kid”, or leave him behind for more seasoning?

Miller, the highly-touted first-round draft pick out of the University of North Carolina, debuted with the Tigers down the stretch last year, but was left off the postseason roster. But still, he got into a few games in September, which probably didn’t do him any harm at all.

I tend to err on the side of “let the kid play, and play a lot” in these situations. And I see no reason to divert from that in Miller’s case. In Detroit, he’s most likely to be nothing more than a lefty situational guy who pitches twice or three times a week, at best. Or he may be regulated to the baseball equivalent of “garbage time”, a.k.a. long relief.

Send Mr. Miller to Toledo, I say, and put him in the starting rotation. He’s destined to be a starter anyway; may as well get him used to pitching every fifth day.

Ahh, but when to bring him to the big club, ultimately? There don’t appear to be any spots in the rotation readily available. The Tigers are cursed with the good fortune of having five dependable starters — assuming Mike Maroth is healthy. And aside from Kenny Rogers, the starters are still young and, we hope, not going anywhere soon.

Answer: no rush, for the reasons indicated in the previous paragraph. There’s nothing that says Miller has to be a Tiger by “x” date. In fact, that’s where the team has gone wrong in the past, mainly because there wasn’t much talent at the big league level, so prospects were rushed to the majors.

Just let him develop, and if he’s in Detroit for a September call-up, fine. If he’s in the rotation sometime in 2008, that’s fine, too. You can’t, after all, keep him as a minor leaguer forever. He’s too good.

But here’s hoping Jim Leyland exercises his usually good judgement and leaves Andrew Miller behind when it’s time to pack up the balls and bats and gloves and fly north.

It’s Tuesday, So It Must Be "The Straightaway"

In NASCAR, Straightaway on February 27, 2007 at 2:08 pm

(every Tuesday, “Out of Bounds” will feature “The Straightaway” — NASCAR commentary from Siddy Hall, who’s been following the sport for nearly 15 years)

QUALIFYING LAPS CAN MEAN A TON

by Siddy Hall

It’s a good thing for the Detroit Lions that the NFL doesn’t play by NASCAR’s rules. They certainly wouldn’t be securing the second best player in the upcoming April draft. Their best talent, on and off the field, would have fled long ago to better situations. If the NFL were NASCAR, the Detroit Lions would probably be out of business.

Unlike other team sports, NASCAR does not award franchises. So if you can’t motor quickly enough, your team crashes and burns. Lacking some success, the value of a team can be reduced to the resale value of its auto parts and shop equipment.

To survive in NASCAR and be assured of living for at least another year, a team’s car needs to be in the top-35 of the points standings. Teams in the top-35 are guaranteed a slot in the next race. Currently, with two races in the books for the 2007 season, NASCAR is reverting to the 2006 final standings to determine the top-35 guaranteed spots. This is done for the first five races of the year. Then at race six, Martinsville, the 2007 standings are used to determine the guaranteed spots. One slot in the starting grid is also reserved for a former champ, the so-called “Champion’s Provisional.”

The remaining seven car slots for each race are determined by pre-race qualifying. At California this past weekend, fifty-two cars showed up trying to make the show. Sixteen cars were trying to fill the final seven spots. At Daytona, twenty-five cars attempted to fill those same seven starting grid spots. This sort of pressure will lead people to do desperate things.

This is why Michael Waltrip’s race team added jet fuel to its race car at Daytona. Waltrip’s NAPA Auto Parts car did not exist last year. It’s a new race team. They have no points from last year and no top-35 safety net to fall back on for the first five races this year. They have to get in based on speed. Those two lonely qualifying laps, where a simple change in cloud coverage or an air temperature change can help send a team home before the race even begins, is its key to survival.


Waltrip: No safety net led to jet fueling

Former racer and current TV guy, Rusty Wallace, said of Waltrip’s cheating, “What I don’t understand is that this is only qualifying. It’s not that important.” Hey Rusty, that’s easy to say when you always own a Champion’s Provisional.

After the embarrassment of Daytona and a 100-point penalty, Waltrip failed to make the California race. His current point total is sub-zero. This means that when 5 races are completed, he will likely be out of the top-35 cars. His team will continue to sweat and pray while trying to pull a quick two laps at qualifying.

Looking ahead, Michael Waltrip’s goal should be to finish in the top-35 at year’s end – just so they can plan on entering races in early-2008 without sweating. That’s something that his team can build on. If he fails, Waltrip’s team could go out of business.

NASCAR INTEGRITY: NASCAR tooted its own horn quite a bit at Daytona by issuing numerous fines and penalties to protect the “integrity” of the game. During Race # 2 at California, a questionable caution, which arrived with only 23 laps remaining, raises a question about NASCAR’s own integrity to officiate a race.

Prior to the caution, the green flag had been waving for 106 laps, or nearly one-half of the 500-mile event. Defending series champ, Jimmie Johnson, appeared to have a comfortable lead and a trip to Victory Lane looked probable.

NASCAR preferred a more exciting finish. Thus, a caution flag appeared for “debris” on the track. The yellow flag forced pits stops which re-shuffled the cars and helped produce a different outcome as Matt Kenseth won. A perturbed Johnson, who finished third, said afterwards, “NASCAR had one of those debris cautions. Five trucks drove around and they didn’t find a thing.”

ESPN INTEGRITY: The phantom caution for debris also set the stage for a horrific hit suffered by rookie driver, David Reutimann. Greg Biffle nudged Reutimann’s Domino’s Pizza machine, sending his car head-first up the track and into the wall. After the wreckage, his in-car camera showed Reutimann slumped towards his steering wheel.
ESPN included this footage during its recap of the race on SportsCenter. The anchors said amid much laughter, “How do you like your pizza? Extra charred?”, and “Pizza’s not going to get there on time is it?”


Reutimann’s crash was comic fodder for classless ESPN blowhards

Why was this wreck funny to these people? Were they broadcasting from a pub while having a drink? Head first wrecks are what kill drivers. At most, a driver is allowed two hits like this before hanging up the steering wheel and calling it a career. NASCAR now records the G-forces on collisions and they called this wreck one of the worst ever.

Meanwhile the ESPN anchors are yucking it up. Next time, a hockey player is lying on the ice in a pool of blood I want to hear these same loser announcers laugh about how the injured player is painting a new face-off circle. That would be really classy.

Is There A Draft In Here? (NOT YET, And That’s The Problem!)

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2007 at 6:19 pm

There are almost two full months left until the NFL Draft, which means about 60 more days of mocks and conjecture and theories and smokescreens and … I don’t think I can take it. Seriously.

It seems worse this year than any other, the pre-Draft hype. For the amount of coverage it’s being afforded, you’d think it was happening tomorrow. Or right now.

Back in the early 1980s, when ESPN decided to provide blow-by-blow coverage of the Draft, the network was scoffed at.

“They said it would be as exciting as opening a telephone book and reading it,” longtime anchor Chris Berman once said in a documentary about the history of sports on television.

Now, in a fit of irony, the network has fueled a rage that makes me long for some telephone book reading.

I just can’t stomach anymore Draft talk, here in late February. Almost makes me want to switch over to some more Anna Nicole Smith coverage.

The posturing and “press conferences” at the combines in Indianapolis would best be done, I believe, about a week or so before the actual Draft. A little of gamesmanship thru the media is OK by me, but not when the actual event is two months out. Then again, I’m all for one week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, so you know where I’m coming from here.

What’s the use of so much coverage? Granted, this is a sort of dead time in sports, with March Madness not here yet, and the NBA and NHL playoffs still weeks away. But the daily updates on which quarterback leapfrogged the other, or whether there’s in-fighting amongst the Lions braintrust (THERE’s an oxymoron for you) about who to select, or if Joe Thomas suffered a hangnail today — it’s starting to get on my nerves.

OK, then, Eno, don’t listen to it. Don’t read it. And what are you doing right now?? You’re WRITING about it!

I’d love to not listen to it, and not read about it, and not write about it anymore, until it’s actually upon us, but … how do you suggest I do that? I mean, other than stay in bed with the sheets pulled over me?

NFL Draft coverage is everywhere right now. I think I saw Bill O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs talking about it the other day. Maybe not. But you get the drift.

Enough. I’m all Drafted out.

So how do I get through these next sixty days without stabbing knitting needles into my eyeballs? Without running a cheese grater over my tongue? Without … turning to more Anna Nicole Smith coverage?

Help me!

The Sounds Of Science

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2007 at 2:49 pm

They wore mustaches – some of the handlebar variety. Their uniforms were even outlandish: garish combinations of Kelly Green, white, and Fort Knox Gold. I’m not making those hues up; that’s their official description, according to the team’s owner, who was just as colorful as the threads.

Oh, and they battled. Fought. Hard. Some real knockdown, drag outs. And that was with each other.

The Oakland Athletics of the 1970s, one could say, didn’t appear to have any business doing what they did, which was win three straight world championships of baseball. How could they have done it, when they didn’t have that supposed necessary ingredient?

Chemistry.

It’s perhaps the most overused word in sports, and that’s saying something, when you’re talking about an entity never known for its suppression of the largesse.

I challenge you to go an entire week without hearing the word in reference to our athletic heroes and the teams on which they play.

It came up the other day, when Chicago Bulls GM John Paxson was talking about why he didn’t pull off a trade, after the NBA dealing deadline came and went Thursday.

“I was concerned about chemistry,” Paxson said.

At the time of his words, the Bulls were entrenched in third place in their division, the Pistons’ division. They were scuffling along, a few games over .500. Only the delusional consider them title contenders. Yet Paxson was worried about ruining team harmony.

Phooey.

One spring, the mantra around Tigers’ training camp in Lakeland, Fl. was how chummy everyone was with one another.

“Everybody here gets along so well,” utility man Shane Halter gushed to the scribes somewhere around the grapefruit trees. “And that’s so important. The chemistry is really good here.”

The pH-balanced Tigers then went out and lost about a hundred games that season. An “A” in chemistry, an “F” in execution, mainly due to another failing grade in the most important ingredient of them all: talent.

Charlie O. Finley’s Oakland A’s won those three World Series in 1972, 1973, and 1974 not because of their top marks in chemistry. They won because they overwhelmed their opponents in the talent department. End of discussion.

Reggie Jackson. Joe Rudi. Sal Bando. Catfish Hunter. Rollie Fingers. And that’s just for starters. Those A’s teams were loaded, so no wonder they hoisted three straight trophies. And no wonder that when they fled Finley’s eccentric ways via the new thing called free agency, the A’s went promptly into the porcelain Standard.

It was once said of the great Yankees teams of the 1950s and ‘60s: “When the Yankees go out to dinner together, they sit at 25 different tables.”

Light on chemistry, heavy on winning. Talent, again, trumped all.

The 1970s A’s were the last back-to-back-to-back World Series winners until the Yankees of 1998, ’99, and 2000. And those recent Yankees teams weren’t particularly noted for joining hands and humming folk tunes. But guess what? They had the best baseball players on the planet.

The funny thing is, I’m not even sure what chemistry is – when it comes to sports. And I’m almost certain that most of the people in sports who use the word aren’t really sure what it means, either. But they just gotta have it.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland, early in spring training this year, talked about the ubiquitous term. And, being an old school guy, he pooh-poohed it.

“I’m not a chemistry guy,” he said. Then he went on to discuss why good ballplayers are what turns him on.

So what IS chemistry?

If it was the players being chummy and all, then Leo Durocher would have been wrong.

“Nice guys finish last,” Leo the Lip said. Well, almost.

Leo was actually talking about a team in the 1950s that hadn’t been faring too well in the yearly standings. “They’re nice guys. But they finish last. Nice guys. Finish last.”

Maybe it’s more likely that “chemistry” is actually code for a bunch of talented guys who happen to play well together. But there are those who would have you believe that what goes on off the field, and in the locker rooms, somehow has terrific effect on what happens during the playing of the games.

Again, phooey.

Another Oakland team, the Raiders football club, was, for years, a band of renegades and ne’er do wells. Many were outcasts from other NFL teams. They were judged to be miscreants and locker room “cancers.” Well, the former was probably true, anyway.

Yet all “da Raiders” did was win, win some more, and win just a little more. They captured Super Bowl titles in 1977, 1981, and 1984. Their owner was like the A’s’ Finley. Al Davis, with his “Just win, baby” approach and “Commitment to Excellence” on team stationery, didn’t care, frankly, what kind of a person a man was. Could he play football?

Today, the Raiders aren’t winners. Far from it. And the only possible miscreant they employ is the receiver Randy Moss. So the argument could be that they need more snot noses on their team.

Chemistry. The word is so often used, and its powers are thought of so highly, that some general managers and accumulators of personnel, like the Bulls’ Paxson, become practically paralyzed with fear of disturbing it.

That’s OK. Perhaps the immobility of John Paxson was a help to the Pistons’ mission. No moves for the Bulls. Thus, it would seem, no improvement, either.

But at least the Bulls have harmony. A bunch of nice guys, apparently.

Cue Leo the Lip.

Tigers’ Magic Formula May Not Return In 2007

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2007 at 8:25 pm

The formula worked wonderfully for 112 games last season, but somebody misplaced the recipe, and the Tigers stumbled through the American League in the last 50.

76-36. Better than a 2:1 ratio of wins to losses. And largely due to the team’s knack for pulling ballgames out of the fire, ridiculously so, many times vis a vis the “walk off” hit — and usually the homerun variety.

But the magic wore off, at least temporarily, and the Tigers ended the year with that mind-boggling 19-31 finish.

It’s simple, really. The teams that win the dangerous games, the contests that hang in the balance until the final moments, the teams that come out on top in the majority of these tilts, are the ones who end up doing what the Tigers will be on April 4: accepting their AL championship rings.

But who’s to say if those games will go the Tigers’ way in 2007? You need talent, for sure, to take care of business in the later innings, and the experience of winning. The Tigers have both of those ingredients, but the recipe disappeared so quickly, so abruptly, after August 7 last summer that it was amazing that the team got their act together in time for the playoffs.

The recipe disappeared because their little second baseman, Placido Polanco, got hurt in Boston, and his absence had an unexpected concussion on the rest of the team. It’s Polanco, it says here, who makes the offense go, go, go. In the World Series, Polanco was hitless. Shutout. Collared. And the Tigers’ offense sloshed around in the mud in St. Louis as a result.

The 1968 Tigers were baseball’s version of “The Perils of Pauline.” Over 40 times did they win in the seventh inning or later. A good portion of those were in their final at-bat. They had the magic formula. But not as much in 1969, and they finished a distant second.

The 2005 White Sox prided themselves on winning the close, one-run ballgames. All the time, it seemed, did they win such contests. They rode that formula all the way to a world’s championship. But last season, their penchant for that waned, and they finished third in the division.

It’s easier said than done, to go out and simply win the close ones. But it’s what the teams who hoist pennants and wear rings are able to do, time and again.

But the Tigers have Gary Sheffield, so there’s another bat for the cause.

Formula returned?

Johnson Will Live Forever In Pistons Fans’ Memory Banks

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2007 at 6:07 pm

It was like my Kennedy assassination.

I remember where I was, who I was with, and what was happening around me when Dennis Johnson laid a basketball into the hoop at Boston Garden, after Larry Bird’s steal, sealing Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals for the Celtics over the Pistons.

My friend Dan Silva and I were at a bar on Wayne Road, south of Warren, in Westland. It was one of those Irish joints. The game was on the big screen. We were in a room, away from the main floor, of maybe 50 people.

The final moments of that game are well-documented. Pistons clinging to a one-point lead. Series tied at two games each. Larry Bird thumping the basketball, biding his time, waiting for the moment to attack the basket. And everyone in the place, and all of us watching on TV, knowing that that’s the way it’s going to be.

Bird made 0ne last look up at the clock, then did his thing. And for a millisecond his path to the basket was open. But then Dennis Rodman, the Worm that he was, came from nowhere and swatted away Bird’s floating shot with a vengeance. There was a scramble. The ball went out of bounds. From our vantage point, it looked like it was off a Celtic player.

The refs agreed. Deeeetroit basketballllll!

The ball had been knocked off the body of Boston’s Jerry Sichting. Only a few seconds remained. The crowd in the bar started high-fiving, hugging, dancing, hooting and hollering. They figured the Pistons were now leaders in this series, 3 games to 2. And with Game 6 in the unusual yet friendly confines of one of the corners of the Pontiac Silverdome.

But I wasn’t a high-fiver. I hugged no one. I certainly didn’t dance, and I didn’t hoot. But I did holler. Because these were the Celtics, and this was Boston Garden, and I’d seen some pretty strange things happen there to teams in road jerseys.

The thing that I hollered was this: “IT’S NOT OVER! IT’S NOT OVER!,” literally trying to quell the madding crowd with my arms akimbo, like a quarterback trying to quiet the 12th man at the line of scrimmage. I stood in the middle, trying to be heard. Trying to encourage cooler heads, until the final few ticks ran off the clock.

Then it was the bar crowd’s turn to holler. As I pleaded for sanity, there was an awful sound, kind of like 50 people being slugged in the gut at the same time.

I looked at the big screen. And there was Johnson, laying the ball in. I hadn’t even seen Bird’s steal, until the television replay showed it to me, in all its big screen horror.

One second remained, and a desperation heave by the Pistons finished the game. And, essentially, the series, even though the Pistons showed remarkable resolve to win Game 6 and darn near win Game 7.

I was inconsolable after the play. For the rest of the evening, and for the ride home, I spoke not one word. It was so bad that even my friend Silva, who was like a pallbearer himself after such things, was trying to cheer me up. But I would have none of it. I literally said nothing.

GM Jack McCloskey once said, before the Pistons would win two championships themselves, “On my death bed I’ll probably say, ‘We shouldn’t have made that pass.'”

Dennis Johnson is gone now, dead suddenly of an apparent heart attack at age 52. He’s the first of the protagonists in that ’87 conference final to leave us. And doubtless none of the remaining ones will ever forget their role, however insignificant, in that play.

I’m telling you, it was bad enough having to watch it.

New "Out of Bounds" Feature: "The Straightaway"

In NASCAR, Straightaway on February 22, 2007 at 5:24 pm

NASCAR is something that, frankly, I haven’t been able to get my arms around. But I also recognize that it’s followed by a bajillion people, which must make me in the minority in some given group.

To recognize the sport’s popularity, I will begin running weekly NASCAR commentary from my good friend and colleague, Siddy Hall, who’s been following the sport for nearly 15 years.

Siddy’s commentaries will run every Tuesday here, but I debut him today.

Enjoy!

Feedback is always welcome.

**********************************************
The Straightaway
Weekly NASCAR commentary

by Siddy Hall

EXPECT CALIFORNIA LETDOWN AFTER DAYTONA

Like the NFL Pro Bowl following the Super Bowl, NASCAR now presents the Auto Club 500 from the California Speedway one week after an epic battle at Daytona. No doubt some first-time NASCAR viewers who saw the Daytona 500 will return to view this race with hopes of discovering more stock car racing excitement. They’ll probably be disappointed.

California is a track that reinforces an image held by many who haven’t warmed to auto racing. Cars go round and round with nothing really appearing to happen. And in this case they’re probably correct. Drivers like it there. They can mash the gas and the turns are really wide. While the speeds are fast, the danger is relatively low. So to keep things from getting too boring, cautions need to be brought out to bunch the cars back together.

During last year’s two California races, a total of 14 yellow flags were waved. Nine of these were for either debris or oil on the track. I can imagine a crew of people turning hot dog wrappers into greasy paper airplanes waiting for their instructions to hurl them onto the track to bring out a caution. Heck, last year’s February race had a 210-mile green flag stretch until, surprise, ”debris” was found on the track. Hey, you want some debris? How about rolling out a huge boulder onto the track for the cars to swerve around and avoid.

What hurts is that until recently NASCAR had a great race with which to follow up the high jinx of the Daytona 500. Rockingham, or “the Rock,” is arguably the best track on the circuit. It was slightly over one mile long with high banking in the corners. When the rubber began to wear, the cars were all over the place. No two races at the Rock were ever alike.

But, in the quest for bigger markets, like southern California, Rockingham was victimized. The races traded places. A great track was replaced by a clean, generic one. And like the old Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, LA just ain’t buying it. Maybe it’s the track. Can somebody please build another Rockingham? Why is this so hard?

Silly Boys: The wreck at Lap 153 between Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch during the Daytona 500 could lead off a DVD titled, “Daytona’s Biggest Blunders.” Earlier, near Lap 70, these two piloted machines that broke away from the vacuum of the Daytona draft. It was an impressive sight, one that you rarely see at that track. So why were they racing each other so hard at Lap 153? They could’ve continued to team up and then settled it at the end. Busch accepted the blame for the wreck but I blame the wreck more on Stewart than Busch. Tony came up through the field and should’ve settled in comfortably behind Busch like they had earlier. By passing Busch, Stewart brought out his hyper-competitive instincts and then the race – and the wreck – were on. These two drivers led 130 of the 202 laps but combined for about the same number of points as the 25th place car, Greg Biffle.


Stewart (left) and Busch: Ill-advised moves led to Daytona wreck

Thanks for the Help: Daytona 500 winner, Kevin Harvick, ought to give some of his points to 27th place finisher Matt Kenseth. It was Kenseth’s DeWalt Ford that helped Harvick slingshot around the outside of the lead line of cars that was led by Mark Martin. It’s amazing that Kenseth could have pushed Harvick so close to the finish line and then finish 26 spots back.

Common Sense for Rules: NASCAR was right by delaying their caution until after Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin crossed the finish line. If you’re being technical then Mark Martin had reason to complain. He was definitely leading when the sheet metal started crumpling behind him. But by waiting a few seconds, NASCAR let the cars and not the literal interpretation of the rules decide the outcome of a great race.

Leyland Again Leaves No Doubt That He’s In Charge

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2007 at 10:14 pm

Jim Leyland is displaying an authority and level of control that hasn’t been seen by a man piloting the Tigers since a white haired, petite man named Sparky roamed the dugout from 1979 to 1995.

The latest example is Leyland’s rapid and blunt response to former Tiger Dmitri Young’s assertion that the team didn’t “support” him enough last season as he went through one personal crisis after another. The Tigers released Young in September, robbing him of his opportunity to play in the postseason.

Ahh, but there’s the rub. I just fell into a trap that Young, in a much more personal way, has also fallen into. For it’s not that the Tigers robbed Dmitri Young. He did that just swell by himself, to himself.

“For Dmitri to say the Tigers didn’t support him is totally out of line,” Leyland told reporters in Lakeland, reading aloud to them Young’s quoted concerns before launching into his diatribe.

The rest of Leyland’s words, I’ll leave out, because by now you’ve probably read them a dozen times. But the swiftness with which he responded, combined with his conviction, are part of why Jim Leyland cuts a path through the Tigers that is the widest since Sparky Anderson’s during the ’80s and half of the ’90s.

Player A and player B get into an argument over the type of music to be played in the clubhouse after a game — a win. It gets loud and distracting (the argument, not the music). Out steps Sparky, and says, according to the story, but one word.

“Enough!”

Then he retreated back into his office.

The story is probably not apocryphal. I heard it over 20 years ago, with Sparky at his zenith in the Motor City. The source was credible — one of the beat writers at the time.

To me, that story has captured, in a most succinct fashion, the authority and tightness of ship that Anderson displayed while Tigers manager. And looking at his successors, no one else comes close to that command.

Buddy Bell didn’t have it, and neither did his replacement, Larry Parrish. Phil Garner might have been that guy, but he didn’t last long enough. Luis Pujols? HA! And good guy Alan Trammell, bless his heart, didn’t cut that path either.

But Jimmy Leyland does, and I’m convinced that he’ll remain manager here for as long as he chooses. Then again, I once had trouble with the idea of Tram being fired, early in his managerial career. But the Packers fired Bart Starr as coach, so there you have it.

Leyland’s tit after Young’s tat, along with making sure everyone knew that it was his decision to release Young and nobody else’s (whether true or not), is yet another example of why there shouldn’t be any worries when it comes to wondering whether the Tigers will suffer from sort of post-2006 hangover.

The skipper has a firm hand on the wheel, and not for a long time have we been able to say that about any Tigers manager.

Over ten years, in fact.

Leyland Again Leaves No Doubt That He’s In Charge

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Jim Leyland is displaying an authority and level of control that hasn’t been seen by a man piloting the Tigers since a white haired, petite man named Sparky roamed the dugout from 1979 to 1995.

The latest example is Leyland’s rapid and blunt response to former Tiger Dmitri Young’s assertion that the team didn’t “support” him enough last season as he went through one personal crisis after another. The Tigers released Young in September, robbing him of his opportunity to play in the postseason.

Ahh, but there’s the rub. I just fell into a trap that Young, in a much more personal way, has also fallen into. For it’s not that the Tigers robbed Dmitri Young. He did that just swell by himself, to himself.

“For Dmitri to say the Tigers didn’t support him is totally out of line,” Leyland told reporters in Lakeland, reading aloud to them Young’s quoted concerns before launching into his diatribe.

The rest of Leyland’s words, I’ll leave out, because by now you’ve probably read them a dozen times. But the swiftness with which he responded, combined with his conviction, are part of why Jim Leyland cuts a path through the Tigers that is the widest since Sparky Anderson’s during the ’80s and half of the ’90s.

Player A and player B get into an argument over the type of music to be played in the clubhouse after a game — a win. It gets loud and distracting (the argument, not the music). Out steps Sparky, and says, according to the story, but one word.

“Enough!”

Then he retreated back into his office.

The story is probably not apocryphal. I heard it over 20 years ago, with Sparky at his zenith in the Motor City. The source was credible — one of the beat writers at the time.

To me, that story has captured, in a most succinct fashion, the authority and tightness of ship that Anderson displayed while Tigers manager. And looking at his successors, no one else comes close to that command.

Buddy Bell didn’t have it, and neither did his replacement, Larry Parrish. Phil Garner might have been that guy, but he didn’t last long enough. Luis Pujols? HA! And good guy Alan Trammell, bless his heart, didn’t cut that path either.

But Jimmy Leyland does, and I’m convinced that he’ll remain manager here for as long as he chooses. Then again, I once had trouble with the idea of Tram being fired, early in his managerial career. But the Packers fired Bart Starr as coach, so there you have it.

Leyland’s tit after Young’s tat, along with making sure everyone knew that it was his decision to release Young and nobody else’s (whether true or not), is yet another example of why there shouldn’t be any worries when it comes to wondering whether the Tigers will suffer from sort of post-2006 hangover.

The skipper has a firm hand on the wheel, and not for a long time have we been able to say that about any Tigers manager.

Over ten years, in fact.