Thursday, July 27, 2006

Trade Deadline

Earlier today I went to the butcher to get my teeth cleaned. Technically it was a dentist but with how brutal the dental assistant was with my mouth and by the amount of blood my bib was soaked in afterwards the difference between the two is nominal. Most people I know actually enjoy going to the dentist which by their accounts is rather pain-free, pleasant and modern. However my dentist has a collection of saws and drills hanging on his walls that is more reminiscent of one of those torture rooms in "Hostel" than of a 21st century dentist office. Also I wonder where my dentist finds his assistants who tend to be normal looking women who also happen to have an icy detached persona with a dash of bloodlust. I bet if you dug through these assistants applications under influences you would find Josef Mengele and Dr. Giggles. Anyways in an effort to distract myself from the pain incurred from the dental assistant need to floss all the way to my jawbone and to sustain consciousness I started thinking of all the potential Tiger trades. For the first time I can ever remember the Tigers will be buyers at the trading deadline with the potential to acquire a bat that would fortify their lineup coming down the stretch and heading into the playoffs. Anyways here's a list of players that are rumored to be available before or at the trade deadline and my take on their potential to help/join the Tigers before the trade deadline this coming Monday.

1: Alfonso Soriano: I don't know why the Tigers are so adamant about adding Carlton Banks to their outfield mix.......what? OH......I'm thinking of Alfonso Ribeiro, moving on. Everyone knows the Tigers need a lefthanded bat who will help out against tough righthanders. Soriano doesn't satisfy this requirement but WHO CARES! He would add power and speed, (which this team is sorely lacking, it's so bad Carlos Guillen is leading the team in steals and you know Leyland would love to turn someone like Soriano loose on the basepaths) and he would make an already dangerous Tigers lineup damn near unstoppable, and if (when) the Tigers made the playoffs Soriano has the most potential for a Carlos Beltran-esque post-season run where he ups his free agent value $20-$30 million dollars as a team like the Mets or Yankees go crazy over him. So what's the problem here? Apparently Nats GM Jim Bowden emboldened by actually being praised for making a trade (see: Kearns/Lopez for 2 middle relievers) is asking for the sun and the moon from the Tigers wanted Toledo ace Humberto Sanchez (who Im not opposed to dealing), some Double A guy whose name I'm not even going to pretend to know how to pronounce (Jair Jurrgens?) and Cameron Maybin (No F-ing way!) No way the Tigers give up Maybin who has the potential to be a Soriano type outfielder for the Tigers for the next 10 years, at least no way they give him up for a two month rental. So unless the price comes down big time (NO MAYBIN!), I don't see the Tigers making this deal. With Maybin 0%, without Maybin 30%

2: Carlos Lee: Apparently the Tigers had an interest in acquiring Lee when he became available on the market after the Brewers decided they didn't believe they had a chance to contend this season. He seemed like a logical choice to join the Tigers considering he would provide as much power as Soriano and probably come at a cheaper price. However this is a moot point now because during the time that I fell asleep last night and woke up this morning the Brewers made their decision and enacted upon it trading him almost immediately to the Texas Rangers. Whatever. Chances 0%

3. Bobby Abreu: Finally a left handed bat on this list. However Abreu comes with a bit of a caveat because he
doesnt hit righties particularly well. He's also on the hook for about $150 million dollars over the next year and a half as well as potentially controlling his destination/holding out for an extension because of his no trade clause. Although he showed during last years Homerun Derby that the confines of Comerica Park wouldnt be a problem, as long as hes hitting BP fastballs, hes probably entering the downside of his career with a lot of cash still owed to him if he got his extension. Chances 5%.

4. Raul Ibanez: Ibanez reminds me of Lou Diamond Phillips and thats a bad thing. I've never liked Lou Diamond Phillips because I hated the Young Guns movies and my friend Nick and I sat through over 90 minutes worth of his awful 1994 movie Dangerous Touch because HBO warned us of Strong Sexual Content and Nudity that never came, but I digress. I do like Ibanez though, he crushes right handed pitching and plays a solid leftfield, plus he's locked into a reasonable 2 year $10 million dollar deal which allows some flexibility not to mention he put together a solid RBI run for my fantasy team. Problem with Ibanez is he probably won't be available because the A.L. West is pathetic and even though the Mariners have a losing record they are only 4 games out of the playoffs. Chances 1.8 %.

5. Shawn Green/Luis Gonzalez. Neither of these guys provide much pop anymore and they are a combined 147 years old. However they both hit righthanders at a .300 plus clip. Shawn Green would easily be the greatest Jewish player to wear a Tigers uniform since Hank Greenberg supplanting Al Levine and.........uh......Charlie Maxwell (?). Also Luis Gonzalez could probably be had for next to nothing, given his advanced age and the numerous young prospects the D-Backs have namely Carlos Quentin. The Tigers might be able to get Gonzalez for the ghost of Karim Garcia and 2 years worth of HGH........oh right they got rid of Grimsley.
Chances 15%

6. Jeromy Burnitz. No. Next.

7. Dave Delucci/Tom Gordon. Personally I think Delucci would be the perfect fit. He absolutely destroys right handed pitching, hitting over .330 with an OPS of over 1.000 and he's not a big enough star to bitch about playing in a limited/platoon role at DH or the outfield. He reminds me of a more consistent better hitting John Vander Wal, which is a good thing.......I think. The other Phillie that might be available if they decide to start dumping salary and going young is Tom Gordon. I know the Tigers bullpen has been one of their many strengths this season but adding another power arm like Gordons would make them nearly unhittable. I can't imagine being able to pick from Gordon, Zumaya, Rodney, Walker, and Jones. The starters would theoretically only have to be good for 2 innings a night and we would be almost guaranteed a victory. You can never have to much bullpen help as exemplified by the 2003 Marlins who made a deadline deal to acquire closer/arsonist/maniac Ugie Urbina. Gordon would also give us a more reliable option in case Jones decides to have another 2 week meltdown in late September/October. Chances Delucci 25% Gordon 3.7%

8: The Tigers do nothing. This is the most likely scenario. Most people will argue that you don't want to mess with a team thats winning at a .670 clip. That Dmitri Young will be the left handed bat we need and he'll go back to being the old Meat Hook now that he's joined the Women's Christian Temperance Union (although I don't fully trust him yet I think he's a couple of weeks away from hooking an IV of Natural Light to his veins). That our starting pitching won't falter and will only improve with a fresh Mike Maroth rejoining the rotation in August. That our bullpen will continue to shut down opposing offenses and protect close/late leads, and that its not worth mortgaging the long term future of the franchise for one shot at glory. To these people I say............your probably right. Chances Tigers stand pat: 85%

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tigers-White Sox Series Re-cap

After spending an inordinate amount of time making minor changes to my Myspace profile, (by the way feel free to add me as a friend, especially if your under the age of 16 and need a ride/alcohol and don't mind the fact that I drive a mid-80's Chevy Suburban with a futon mattress in the back.........hold on Stone Phillips and Dateline just came crashing through my front window), I decided that I was calmed down and rational enough to describe THE THRASHING THE DETROIT TIGERS HANDED THOSE NO TALENT ASS CLOWN SOUTH-SIDERS, WHAT'S THAT CHICAGO? I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THIS INSURMOUNTABLE 5.5 GAME LEAD.

O.k., maybe I havent calmed down but if I don't write this post right now at 3:00 A.M. I'll have forgotten 90 % of what my friend Bill said and won't be able to use his words as my own. Oh no I've said to much, on to the post.

Regardless of how much Jim Leyland, (who is so amazing I'm beginning to believe that he is a direct descendant of Jesus Christ) tried to downplay this series, anybody who has followed the Tigers through the dark years knew this was the biggest three game set for this team in at least fifteen years. So with all the excitement surrounding this team and in front of a sold out crowd that was ready to explode in orgasmic fits of jubilation should the home team win the triumphant Tigers took the field..........and completely crapped the bed. The Tigers put together a bunch of weak swings off the entirely hittable Jon Garland, Nate Robertson looked completely overmatched against the heart of the Sox order (Thome, Konerko, and Dye), and the devil incarnate himself Joe Crede hit his 461st career homerun against the Tigers. By the 7th inning I was scouring Yahoo! sports looking for left handed bats the Tigers could trade for and trying to make theoretical deals for Raul Ibanez. Driving around later that night I listened to three consecutive callers on Fox Sports Radio talk about how the Tigers were going to fade including one guy from Boston with the most obnoxious accent I've ever heard say he hoped Detroit made the wild card so that the BoSox would be guaranteed a spot in the ALCS.

Wednesday night started out promising for Detroit with the Tigers sending their ace Jeremy Bonderman out to the mound, where he struck out the first three guys he faced. However the Tigers offense still couldn't get anything going against another righty this time Javier Vasquez. Bonderman let up two solo shots to Crede (#462) and Juan Uribe, the Tigers had two hits and I'm becoming delusional trying to talk myself into believing that Dmitri Young is the left handed bat we need while writing a letter in my own blood to Mr. Dombrowski, that cryptically only says "TRADE FOR BOBBY!" That's when the rally started with a series of four straight singles to score a run and load the bases. After Thames grounded into a fielders choice, The Mighty Craig Monroe came up. After getting a steady diet of breaking balls Vasquez threw one more and this one hangs a little to much. Crack, GRAND SLAM! As soon as it left the bat I knew it was gone and jumped off the couch ran out of the living room (my house also has a dying room but there is no cable in there only trapped souls), awaking my dad from a stupor and by running outside to howl at the moon. Just like that the momentum in the series shifted and the Tigers held on to win 5-2.

With the game televised on ESPN Thursday I came down "sick" and had to stay home to watch it. As punishment I had to listen to the inane ramblings of Steve Phillips a man who makes Rod Allen sound like an Ivy League professor. This was a big game for not only the Tigers but for Kenny Rogers who hasn't been sharp in his last half dozen starts or so. Rogers came out and pitched great, save for a fourth inning jam where he loaded up the bases, considering he was going up against the best offense in baseball. The game was tied at one heading into the seventh when Marcus Thames made what was arguably the biggest play of the series, even more so than Monroes grand slam. With Thames on first Monroe hit a ground ball to Crede that looked like a potential double play. Crede threw to Iguchi at second when Thames comes barreling in knocking Iguchi ass-over-teakettle ( I dont know what that means ) therefore preventing the double play. The next batter, Chris Shelton, comes up and smoked one to deep left center which fell perfectly between Podsednik and Anderson allowing Monroe to come around from first to score what would be the deciding run. Joel Zumaya continued to pitch amazing after correcting his problem of pitching somewhere between the mound and first base, and made Steve Phillips pull an about face regarding his insane Smoltz-Zumaya deal he had been touting on Basebal Tonight. Really? Should we listen to a guy who traded for a 600 pound Mo Vaughn? Zumaya ended his appearance with a strikeout of Bezelbulb Crede, which he punctuated with yelling and a fist pump much to the delight of lifelong Tiger fans Tom Hanks and Ron Howard (Wait, WTF were these assholes doing there? Their lucky I love The Money Pit so much or I'd really be hysterical.) Jones worked a 1-2-3 ninth and the Tigers won the game and the series 2-1.

I realize it's still July, and the Tigers were probably a little brash and arrogant for winning a series with 65 games left, with the Zumaya histrionics and the Monroe/Pierzynski bump, but they are young, having fun, playing in front of a town thats crazy about them and coming out in droves to support them and most of these guys know the pain and embarrassment of being one of the worst teams in baseball HISTORY, especially Monroe, Robertson and Inge and personally as a fan who comes from a generation that doesnt really remember the last time they were winning much less relevant to the playoff picture I'm loving every second of it.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Authoritative Detroit Tigers Mid-Season Report Vol. 2 Pitcher's Edition

Wrapping up the mid season report that I started over a week ago, (I grade my effort a solid D) I'm going to hand out the grades for the pitching staff.

Kenny Rogers: Rogers first half was nothing short of spectacular culminating in being selected to start the All-Star game since "Wabash" George Mullin in nineteen aught-nine. Now I know it hasn't been that long since a Tiger started the All-Star game (Jack Morris 1985) but it seems like it. So far I've enjoyed Rogers pitching, for some reason I have a greater appreciation for older, crafty pitchers who rely on changing speeds and tossing junk than I do watching guys who thrive on how naturally filthy their stuff is. The one downside to the Rogers era is Jim Price's need to refer to Rogers as "The Professor" approximately 5,729 times a game. I'm also concerned about Rogers ability to pitch as well as he has going forward as he has perennially been a better first half pitcher especially in recent seasons. Regardless I'm grading only the first half. Grade: B.

Jeremy Bonderman: At the beginning of the year I wrote that I was a little down on Jeremy Bonderman and thought that he had probably leveled off as a pitcher. Statements like this just go to prove that I am a complete idiot who has no business writing about sports but as long as its free and as long as I have time on my hands no one will be able to stop me, and even then I'm still way more qualified to do this than Rob Parker. Anyways Bonderman has arguably been the best pitcher on the staff this year and is coming off an amazing June where he posted a 1.77 ERA over five starts and unleashed a slider that was practically unhittable. Grade: A-

Justin Verlander: Wow. I had tempered my expectation before the season started and thought Verlander would struggle a little in his first full season in the big leagues. Well after another masterful performance against the Royals tonight Verlander is sitting third in the A.L in ERA behind Liriano, and Lackey and leads is second in wins with 11. When was the last time a minor leaguer with hype panned out for the Tigers? Torey Lovullo? Greg Gohr? Cade Gaspar? Eric Munson? Randy Smith has forever ruined any faith I have in the word prospect but Verlander/Zumaya are slowly changing that. Grade: A+

Nate Robertson: After a rocky first couple of starts that had me calling for his spot in the rotation, Robertson has pitched amazingly well. He still seems to start in an inordinate amount of games that I attend as he's started three of the seven Ive been to so far. Also he's lining Jim Bouton's pockets by chewing 100 pouches of Big League Chew thus providing the inane Mario Impemba another reason to get a raging semi other than looking at Rod Allen's curvaceous body. Where were we? Grade: B

Mike Maroth: I feel bad for Maroth. He went out and got his brains beat in for four straight years especially as the overmatched "ace" of the 2003 season where he got the stigma of being the first 20 game loser in the five man rotation era. And then when the Tigers finally get good wit Maroth pitching well he goes and gets injured. Grade: B

Zach Miner: Miner has been a saving grace for the Tigers. At the time of the Maroth injury it appeared the Tigers had a major hole to fill at the back of the rotation. I thought we would be subjected to Roman Colon beatdowns every fifth day or get real desperate and sign Jose Lima to fill out the rotation and just outright concede every fifth game. Then out of nowhere Miner who spawned out of the same primordial ooze that gave us Chris Shelton and Toxie starts his career at a 6-1 clip with a 2.57 ERA as well as some insurance should Maroth not be ready to pitch effectively in a pennant race. Grade: A

Joel Zumaya: Zumaya has been spectacular in his first season in the majors as arguably the most dominant middle relief pitcher in the game, averaging well over a K an inning. He's also the most exciting pitcher the Tigers have had coming out of the pen since the immortal and MTMO favorite Matt Anderson. It will be interesting to see if Zumaya will become a closer in the future or move into the rotation. Grade: A.

Fernando Rodney: Rodney has been wildly inconsistent. He is nearly unhittable as evidenced by his .187 BAA but when his mechanics are off he's more wild than (insert metaphor) and let me tell you that's wild. It's getting late. Grade: B

Todd Jones: Just typing his name gives me chills. The problem with Jones, other than the fact that he sucks, is that I can't escape him. The other night I had a dream that I was living in a huge apartment with nice furniture AND I was dating Mandy Moore and it was all ruined by Todd Jones blowing a save. Honest to God this happened. Todd Jones is turning into my version of Freddy Krueger. If I'm found in my sleep screaming "He walked in the winning run!!!!" before gasping for air and dying you know who's responsible. Grade: D-

Chris Spurling: He pitched o.k. but hopefully his big #48 pendant goes on sale on eBay in a couple of months Grade: D+

Fredo Ledezma: Before last season I wrote he was the second coming of Pedro Martinez. I was obviously wrong, but I'm happy to see him back with the Tigers and he's pitched well in limited duty so far. Grade: I.

Jamie Walker: My friend Bill said that when a team is destined to have a magical season it seems as though they get career years from average players. So when you look back on that team twenty years from now on you can say things like "Holy Hell Jamie Walker had a 1.70 ERA in 60 appearances that year, how'd that happen at 35 no less."
Grade: A.

Jason Grilli: Grilli's numbers are solid but for some reason I hate him. Maybe its from the three straight bases loaded walks against Boston and for the fact that he made himself out to be a hero for getting Albert Pujols out in a win over the Cardinals, or in other words for doing his job. Grade: C.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Authoritative Tigers Mid-Season Report

I am in the midst of my 18th summer "vacation", the glorious three months where there are no classes to worry about, exams to take, or papers to write, and until the past two summers when I've worked off and on at my Dad's law office, summer consisted of sleeping in until 4 P.M. followed by 16 consecutive hours of consecutive video game playing.........needless to say three very lonely months. There always seemed to be one predominant summer theme for each summer, one thing that would define those three months and allow me to immediately recall the events of that year. For example I've had the Summer of BMX, the Summer of Mailbox Smashing (My hometown is small and boring when your 16), the Summer of Goldeneye 64, the Summer of 119 losses, and who can forget the Summer of Hate Crimes (It's also boring here when you're 8), ah good times indeed. But this summer has been entirely different. What I was hoping would be Andy's Summer of Sexy Parties, has turned into the Summer of Ill Health and Disappointment. First it was a battle with German Measles (seriously), followed by a disastrous Pistons playoff run, followed by a heart problem that went from benign, to potentially serious, back to relatively benign with medication, to finally Ben Wallace spurning the Pistons and signing with the Bulls. The one thing thats kept me happy for every day this summer is the continued stellar play of the Detroit Tigers who coming up on the All-Star Break have the best record in baseball (!!!!!) and are poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 1987. Had the Tigers been in the midst of another 100 loss season I would probably be locked in my room writing a play starring Viceroy Fizzlebottom and wearing dark eye liner. But enough of the melodramatic nonsense, its time to grade your 2006 Detroit Tigers. For a look at my ridiculous season preview click here and here. Enjoy.

Owner: Mike Ilitch. After another disappointing playoff exit by the Red Wings, Mr. Ilitch has been more public in his ownership with the Tigers and reveling in the teams early success, a great improvement over the brooding, reclusive, snippy owner he was when the team was a national embarrassment losing 119 games a season. Mr. Ilitch even did an interview in natural light without turning into dust during a Tigers pre-game show destroying my theory that he was a vampire, although he immediately feasted on John Keating after the interview was finished, so I have my doubts. My friend and I were also recently debating on who was the uglier owner/slash pizza entrepreneur Ilitch or Tom Monaghan, My friend said Monaghan but I'm going with Mr. Caesar myself. I was going to put their photos in here but Blogger won't let me upload right now anyways, here's their pictures. (Warning not for the feint of heart, wait, that's me now glehghkghckkhkch.........I'm O.k.) Discuss. What? Right the Grade: B-, is it possible to be a bandwagon owner.........we'll find out this October.

Manager: Jim Leyland: Wow, Leyland has been absolutely amazing. As good as advertised. He makes all the right moves, and he always puts his team in the best possible position to win the game, which is really all you can ask of a manager. What's not to love about Leyland, from his managing skills, to his metal spikes and stirrups, to his chain smoking. If it made Leyland happy to stay in Detroit I'd let him put his cigarettes out on my arm, all sixty a day. Thats how much I love this man. Grade A+++++.

Catchers: Pudge Rodriguez: Pudge has returned to form this year already drawing as many walks this season as he did last year, which is only 11 still not a great total. He has cut out the petulant crybaby crap that helped poison the clubhouse last season, and he's starting in his 10th All-Star Game Tuesday night, as well as keeping up the spectacular defense. Will he ever post his pre-steroi......his power numbers from past years, probably not but if he hits .310 with 15 homers , 85 R.B.I and another Gold Glove I won't complain. Grade: B+

Vance Wilson: Holy crap the Tigers have a backup catcher hitting over .300, start storing bottled water and canned foods. Seriously has this ever happened. Even in the immediate Pre-Pudge dark days we couldn't field a starting catcher who hit over the Mendoza Line. All Hail the mysterious powers of the BluBlockers. Grade: A-

Infielders: Chris Shelton: Nothing has run hot and cold or abruptly lost water pressure faster than the shower at my apartment other than Chris Shelton this season. There are games where it looks like he's getting locked in for another insane streak, followed by an 0-4 with 3 K performance. However I'm still pleased with Shelton, I expected him to bat about .300 with 25 homers before the season and it appears as though he'll still fall in line with those numbers. Grade: B

Placido Polanco; His average is down quite a bit from last year and from what I expected heading into this season. He also hasn't provided the energy/spark that he provided after coming over for Uegeth last June. However he isn't sitting in a Venezuelan prison for setting his ranch hands on fire either, so I think its safe to say that trade worked in the Tigers favor. I would be lying though if I wrote that I wasnt slightly disappointed in Plinko's play right now. Grade: C+

Shortstop: Carlos Guillen: I'm glad to see what is arguably my favorite Tiger, (and yes I do argue about this with myself all the time) return to form after not being completely healthy at any point last season. His defense has been a little sloppy at times this season but he is on pace to bat .300 with 20 homers and nearly 100 RBIS making him one of the three most productive shortstops in all baseball, not to mention providing a little Latin swagger, i picture Guillen, Maggs, and Pudge dressing like Miami Vice cocaine dealers, with the pastels, shirt lapels over the suit, layers of gold chains, and having Ledezma, Santiago and Infante run the streets for them. Regardless Grade: A-

Brandon Inge: Inge is doing his best to emulate Rob Deer circa 1986 this season. He has all the Deer tools, low average, high strikeouts, good power, atrocious facial hair, supple skin, etc. He has also turned in some spectacular defensive plays, such as throwing out Gary Bennett, (who was running about as fast as Tony Pena with a refrigerator strapped to his back) from foul territory after a diving stop. Grade: B-

Outfield: Marcus Thames: Everyone who knew anything about baseball knew that Thames deserved to be on the team coming out of spring training last year, instead of that dirtbag Bobby Higginson. Everyone except Alan Trammell that is, which was a problem seeing as how he was the one with the final say in things. This season Thames finally got his chance and he's making the most of it with an exceptional season, slugging over 1.000 and tying for the team lead in homeruns. Grade: A +

Curtis Granderson: I'll admit that heading into the season I had reservations about Granderson. I had a a right to be nervous seeing as how centerfield had been a talent vortex in my time following the Tigers. I remember only the tail end of Chet Lemon's career, and remember mostly the Milt Cuyler, Brian Hunter, Gabe Kapler trifecta. I even compared Granderson to Kimera Bartee and openly pushed for Nook Logan to make the team as he was my favorite and most exiting player from the aught five Tigers. However I am a fool sometimes.........most of the time......o.k. always as Granderson has been fabulous so far, playing error free defense, providing pop at the top of the lineup and drawing a ton of walks not to mention scoring ass loads of runs for my fantasy team over a 3 week stretch. Grade A+

Magglio Ordonez: So far Maggs has put his injury questions to rest bouncing back with an All-Star season and giving the Tiger a potential 30 homer 120 RBI season they had hoped for and that seemed like pure fantasy following his first catastrophic season in Detroit. It's nice to see Ozzie Guillen recognize Maggs with an All-Star selection. My friend and I thought Magglio had no chance in hell of making the All-Star game after the tiff between the two last season. We thought Dan Pasqua had a better chance given Ozzie's inclination to pick White Sox. (Seriously Buehrle over Verlander?!?) Grade: B

Reserves: Craig Monroe: My friend T.J. still gets a raging semi- everytime Monroe comes to bat, and since I hate my friend T.J. Im inclined to hate Monroe, luckily he's making it easy for me, with his low average, lazy defense, and abysmal OBP. Monroe lost his job to Thames and has become the topic of trade rumors namely to the D-Rays for the equally crappy Aubrey Huff. Grade: C.

Omar Infante/Ramon Santiago: I wish there was a way to get Infante more playing time because it seems like he's fully recovered from the nagging injuries that kept him down last year, but this years Tigers team is to stacked for him to get anything consistent which is kind of a shame. Santiago on the other hand has given up all pretense of the fact that he may get a hit in any way other than bunting, as he's sporting a healthy .194 average. I feel bad for Santiago because if he had been born 20 years earlier he probably could've turned his slick fielding/no stick into a 15 year career in the mold of Rafael Belliard or Jose Lind. Grade: B

Dmitri Young: Question: What's higher Dmitri's Blood Alcohol Level, or his batting average? It's closer than you think as Dmitri is batting a pathetic .169, which is probably lower than he blows on your typical Wednesday afternoon. He also has almost as many missed court dates/stints in re-hab than RBI. If he comes back and gives any indication of the old Dmitri I'll be happy but I don't trust him, if anything I see him getting a short time to prove himself followed by being stashed on the bench, before signing a minor league deal with the Padres before next season. Grade F-

Alexis Gomez: Thames personal pinch runner/defensive replacement has been decent doing the things he does, whatever those are. I was in attendance at the game where he hit his first and quite possibly only career homerun. However I was in the bathroom at the time so I missed it, which is like the equivalent of taking a crap as Halley's comet goes by. Grade C+.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ben Wallace

It's not everyday that a city loses two of its iconic sports figures within 12 hours but unfortunately for Detroit fans it happened today. First came Steve Yzerman's announcement that he was retiring after 23 years in Detroit, the last twenty as the captain. He helped lead the Wings to three Stanley Cups and was one of the top three players on NHLPA '93 for Genesis, only ranking behind Jeremy Roenick and Theo Fleury. I'm not going to pretend Yzerman's retirement effected me that much because personally I've never been a big hockey fan, but Yzerman has been playing at a high level for as long as I've been alive and I have to respect that.

However the news that broke later in the day and resonated with me on a lager level was the news that Ben Wallace had signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Bulls. I had been bracing for the news for some time now and even mentioned his potentially leaving for the Bulls in a previous post. Nevertheless it was still shocking to actually see scrolling across the Bottomline, "Ben Wallace agrees in principle to a deal with the Bulls." initially reported that Wallace had signed a 4 year $52 million which sent me into a near frenzy. The mere thought that Ben would leave for only $1 million more per season, (look at me write like $1 million dollars is nothing, if I had a million dollars to throw around I would be posting from a submarine right now.) I couldn't believe that he would turn his back on the Pistons, this starting five that was supposed to be like family, a team that was coming off back to back Finals appearances and another deep run into the playoffs for an extra million dollars a year to win 45 games with the Bulls and finish 3rd in the Central division. What a sell-out, what another money hungry selfish pro athlete. That's what I was going to write and then I heard that the deal was for 4 years $60 million and that........well that changed everything. First I could understand why Ben would take the money, it's a 3 million dollar a year difference and 12 million over the course of the contract, it was definitely his last big payday as he'll be 36 at the end of the deal and he probably has been underpaid during the course of his career, especially in his defensive prime. Second I could understand why the Pistons wouldn't match (if they were even given the chance) because Ben is going to be 36 at the end of the deal, he is already beginning to slip, was coming off a nightmare postseason, is a complete liability on the offensive end, and seemed to be increasingly petulant and unhappy in Detroit, a problem that began under Larry Brown and was exacerbated under Flip Saunders and highlighted by his refusal to re-enter a game against the Magic.

The man who came to Detroit in in the Grant Hill trade because the Magic didnt want to depart with the distinguished John Amaechi and became the face of the franchise and the most popular player for the Pistons since the original Zeke, Dumars, and Laimbeer will now ply his trade for a hated Central Division rival. What do I expect from Big Ben? Next year I think a motivated Ben will have a classic Ben season 8 points per game, 13 boards, 2.5 blocks, solid interior defense, and a potential 5th Defensive Player of the Year award 48 wins and a second round playoff exit, followed by a solid second season where his numbers begin to slip, followed by a precipitous decline in year three where he scores 3 points per game, to finally a trade to the Warriors to clear cap space playing 15 minutes a night backing up Ike Diogu and Andris Bierdins. Was this worth another couple of title runs with the best starting five in the league, having your jersey hang from the Palace rafters, and being loved and adored by an entire basketball crazed community/fanbase? I guess only Big Ben has the answer to that.

Finally what do the Pistons do? I think this is a blessing in disguise for the Pistons. Is it going to be gut-wrenching that first time Ben returns to the Palace in a Bulls uniform (as photoshopped on the always fabulous Need4sheed.)? Is it going to feel like something's missing during the intros, with no bell-ringing and no Ben jumping into the players? Am I going to miss him going 1-9 from the line in the 4th quarter and being intentionally fouled? Yes, Absolutely, and Hell No!!!!!!!! I think the Pistons move McDyess into the starting lineup where they'll lose.......well nothing, and they'll gain someone who is competent on offense. Rasheed will move to the five, and hopefully they'll be able to sign Bonzi Wells to the mid-level and still have room for Nucky Ratkins, with Carlos Delfino continually improving getting 20-25 minutes a game, and who can forget about the immediate contributions of Cheick Samb. Is that a team that wins 65 games? Am I asking to many questions? No and Yes. But still it could be enough to contend in the East and with the right pieces picked up through trades and such could surprise people. Would it still be nice to have Darko, who was traded away for the cap-space necessary to re-sign Ben, which means we passed on Carmelo, Bosh and DYWANE FUCKING WADE!! for 2 and a half season of Darko and Kelvin Cato's wasted cap space? Sure, but at the time Ben's re-signing was going to be a slam dunk. (No I'm not bitter what are you implying?)

Feeling the need to have some closing words for Ben, without running the risk of sounding overly sappy/emotional, reminiscing about the past but knowing that things will be better in the future without them, I will say the same words I chose when my roommate and I moved out after living together for four years. "It's been real, Ben."