Saturday, September 30, 2006

Deadspin: Where My Team Stands Detroit Tigers

Tigers Playoff Preview: Deadspin

Detroit, September 2005:

Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski surveys another disappointing season in Tigertown from his luxury suite high above Comerica Park. A season that started with so much promise has fallen into disarray. High priced free agent additions Troy Percival and Magglio Ordonez and fellow All-Star Carlos Guillen represent the walking wounded, the clubhouse has split into warring factions after former Tiger's great and current manager Alan Trammell's authority was undermined publicly by malcontent catcher Ivan Rodriguez, the pristine Comerica Park, which shines as a beacon of hope and revitalization, within the post-apocalyptic surroundings of downtown Detroit sits half empty on this cold and drizzly early autumn night, and fans are so disenchanted after over a decade of losing that they openly lament losing Ugueth Urbina, who set his ranch hands on fire and threatened them with a machete, in a trade deadline deal. Things are bleak. After watching Nook Logan unsuccessfully attempt to bunt for a basehit for a third consecutive time Dombrowski retires inside his suite, checks the waiver wire and pours himself a snifter of brandy before settling in for the evening. While mulling over whether he should place a claim on Vic Darensbourg, Dombrowski realizes its getting increasingly chilly inside his luxury box and walks over to turn the heat up and finds, much to his horror, that the thermostat is turned to 80 degrees. Oh no. Behind him the doorknob turns slowly and in walks pizza mogul/owner/vampire Mike Ilitch followed by his pack of snarling wolves. Dombrowski doesn't have the courage to turn around but he can feel the icy breath of Count Ilitch on his neck. "I brought you here to change this." Mr. Ilitch whispers in a raspy snarl as one of his wolves walks menacingly through Dombrowski's legs. "You've got one year to fix this" and with those chilling words Mr. Ilitch disappears to his lair in the deep recesses of Comerica Park. Shaken, Dombrowski puts down his snifter and walks towards the field only to witness Carlos Pena strike out for the fourth time. He knows there's only one man who can help him.

Just outside Pittsburgh a man whose looks belie his age gets up to greet a beautiful crisp, early October morning with his first flavorful Marlboro of the day. He's 61, married to a young nubile wife, two beautiful children, had a successful career, and is wealthy beyond his wildest imagination. Life is good. Bang! Bang! Startled the dashing gray haired man answers the door to find a disheveled teen with an ashen face. "There's an urgent telegram for Mr. Leyland s-s-s-sir," the kid stammers. "Thank you." Leyland says as he turns the blank envelope over and opens it to find this message.

Detroit need you.

He takes a long drag from his cigarette, puts it out and wakes up his wife Katie. "I'm going to manage, Dave needs me," he tells her. "But we've settled down, the kids are young and......," she doesn't finish, knowing its futile to protest to a man of such strong convictions. Leyland, knowing the game and players have changed dramatically in the few years he's been away, wants to communicate with his new charges in a way that won't seem archaic and out of touch, so he sits down in front of the most modern machine in his house, and after much frustration and manual consultation, bangs out a letter on his brand new Remington Model 17 typewriter, makes thirty copies with the mimeograph machine and mails them on the first zeppelin out of Altoona.

Sorry for the lengthy introduction but in my years as a Tigers fan I've always found it easier to dramatize the events surrounding the organization, in this case turning Jim Leyland into a Rex Banner-esque savior, then to face the actual truth that the Tigers were rotting from the inside out and were years away from contention, (another example is just across the street at Ford Field where I imagine a world of front office intrigue and politics, rivaled only by Tsarist Russia, when the painful reality is Matt Millen is functionally retarded, but I digress.) But this season, for the first time in my conscious memory, there will be no need to make up fictitious tales because the Tigers have qualified for the playoffs. A.L. Central Division Champions no less. Woo-hoo!!! Bring on Oakland. Avenge the loss of the '72 ALCS. Joe Rudi can go to hell. Comerica will be rocking for it's first ever playoff game just like those Mark Fidrych games on ESPN Classic where Tiger Stadiums foundation was shaking, and Barry Zito doesn't have a chance in Game 1. He'll leave the field having made Rick Ankiel look like Greg Maddux. And to celebrate this return to glory we'll dance on Charles O. Finley's grave. Ha ha ha! Wait, someone trying to tell me something, this had better be important........uh huh.......My friend T.J. went 3 hours without making a racist joke?........oh no......well that changes everything. I've just been informed that the Tigers didn't win the A.L. Central because they failed to beat the Omaha Royals ONE TIME this weekend, so that lenghty A's-Tigers preview I spent all of Friday writing becomes moot, can I still post it, it was really good. No. O.K. (Thinking of gimmicky/formulaic article........what would Mitch Albom write.............or worse Rob Parker...........I got it best/worse case scenarios for key members of the playoffs.) So without further ado, the preview.


Jeremy Bonderman:
Best Case: Goes 4-0 with an ERA of 2.00, establishes himself as one of the premier young pitchers in the A.L. and signs a long term extension to anchor the Tigers rotation heading into the next decade.
Worst Case: One error behind him leads to an unearned run and his implosion. Screams into his glove so much his ears start bleeding, throws 30 straight sliders in the dirt. Arm detaches from his body at the elbow, enrolls in Steve Blass recovery center.

Fernando Rodney
Best: Finds a reliable fastball to go with his devastating change-up and, combined with Zumaya, shuts down the late innings and bridges the gap to Todd Jones.
Worst Case: Comes into a two run game lead at Yankee Stadium, hits six straight batters, paces around infield, squats down, soils himself, walks off mound, through the clubhouse and into the ether only to resurface 15 years from now in the Mexican League as Rodney Fernando.

Joel Zumaya
Best Case: Becomes a young, dominant late innings, post-season sensation in the line of Mariano Rivera and K-Rod. Sets record for most shattered bats in a post-season.
Worst Case: Lets fame from local Comcast High Speed Internet commercial go to his head, shows up to Yankee Stadium in a fur coat surrounded by floozies and tells Tigers he's leaving team to pursue acting career in Ron Popeil infomercials.

Craig Monroe
Best: Hits two walk-off homeruns in the playoffs establishes himself as the most clutch fourth outfielder in all of baseball.
Worst: Ventures into a Macy's while in New York puts on 10 really nice belts, walks out the door without paying, tackled by security, scuffle, scuffle, attemps to grab gun, spends night in the pokey.

Carlos Guillen:
Best: Has a breakout post-season and establishes himself as one of the top shortstops in the A.L. along side Derek Jeter, Michael Young, and Miguel Tejada. Re-ups with Tigers this off-season for reasonable price.
Worst: Really inconvenienced that he has to play for two more weeks in October and since he can't help but hit .300 starts throwing potential double play balls into rightfield.


Chien Ming Wang
Best Case: Gets the free swinging Tigers to pound EVERY SINGLE sinking fastball he throws into the ground, never reaches a 1 ball count, and throws a complete game, shutout, 3 hitter in 61 pitches.

Worst Case: N/A. The best case scenario I laid out above is happening, there's no stopping it nor denying it. He could be carried off the mound by a decrepit Yogi Berra, he has that much Don Larsen potential against this Tigers team.

Best Case: Gets Yankee fans off his back with a big playoff series that includes a clutch hit in Game 5 that ends in a long meaningful embrace with Jason Giambi at home plate.

Worst Case: Goes 3-4 in Game 1 rout at Yankee Stadium but strikes out once with two outs and a guy on first, which leads to a chorus of boos and a shower of D batteries. Suffers psychotic break and plays the rest of the series with purple lipstick smeared all over his face, holding his bat upside down and crying.

Derek Jeter:
Best: Leads Yankees to World Series victory and further cements his status as one of the greatest Yankees to ever put on the pinstripes.
Worst: Goes 0-22 as Yankees are eliminated in first round. Still universally loved by Yankee fans. Sleeps on a pile of money with many beautiful ladies. God I hate this man.

Kyle Farnsworth:
Best: Plays great and gets rid of past playoff ghosts. Proves a set-up man is really worth 18 million dollars.
Worst: Called on to pitch a day game while still hung over from partying the night before. Let's up 3 run homer after throwing cute breaking ball that ends up in the black seats. Leaves mound breaks both hands punching the air conditioner, throws chairs onto the field, tries to goad Nate Robertson into a fight before setting himself on fire.

Finally, I think it's great for baseball that the Tigers and Yankees are meeting in the playoffs. Two of the traditional baseball teams, both steeped in history, in amazing sports towns squaring off against each other for the first time in history. The Yankees an organization known for it's winning and epitomized by legendary alcoholics like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Billy Martin against a Tigers franchise with a history of upstanding charachter guys like Ty Cobb, Ron LeFlore and Denny McLain will finally play meaningful games against each other in October. All the celebrities will be out to witness this historical clash from Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee in New York to......ummm.....does Jeff Daniels count? yes Jeff Daniels in Detroit. My prediction, Tigers in 5.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Tigers Clinch Post-Season Berth !!!!!!

The last two Sundays I've wrote at length about the ineptitude of the Lions, how depressing it was to watch them lose week after week in person and on the television, and how everything was exasperated by the Tigers struggles over the season's second half and a quickly diminishing lead to their A.L. Central rival in Minnesota and Chicago. Well this Sunday was much different. Sure the Lions still suck and I wasted another afternoon at Ford Field to witness the NFC North pillow fight against the Packers for the title of shittiest team in the NFL, but it was still a glorious, magnificent, triumphant Sunday, ranking up there among the Resurrection and that one Sunday I found a Snickers bar in my glove compartment when there was no food at my apartment, as the Tigers clinched a playoff spot for the first time that I can consciously remember.

It was amazing to see the team pour onto the field, exchange high fives and embrace each other as the coaches shook each others hands and smiled over a job well done before disappearing into the locker room and pouring each other with champagne. I had seen this type scene unfold with each other team I've followed closely over the course of my lifetime, especially with the Pistons over the past few years and, amazingly, even with Lions going back to the Wayne Fontes days when they used to occasionally win division titles, but I had never witnessed it with the Tigers. Baseball was my initial love in sports and the Tigers were the first team I followed passionately, going as far as mimicking Mickey Tettleton's swing, to the chagrin of my Little League coach, and naming my website and devoting time that I really don't have right now into writing about them and watching all their games on T.V. As I've chronicled over the course of this website the time that I've been a Tigers fan has been during the darkest most depressing days in the franchise's 100+ year history. I've already listed, numerous times on this site, the long line of has-beens and hanger-ons who have passed through Detroit (Steve Avery, Ben Petrick, etc.), free agent disasters (Craig Paquette, Al Levine, etc.), the overpaid, malcontent "stars" who always underperformed (Juan Gonzalez, Bobby Higginson, Dean Palmer) who have tried to crush my, and fellow Detroiters spirit and will to follow and believe in this team and the game of baseball. But they couldn't, and with today's victory those names all become ghosts of a past that already seems to ages old. I really do believe that this is the beginning of a new and glorious era for the Tigers, reminiscent to their success in the 80's with a group of solid, if not spectacular young players, (Verlander, Bonderman, Zumaya, Granderson, etc.), good veteran players (Maggs, Guillen, Pudge, and the Gambler), and solid role (I don't mean to demean these guys by calling them "role" players, they are very important roles) players entering their prime to fill out the lineup and bench (Monroe, Inge, Thames) overseen by an executive who knows what the hell he's doing, the incomparable Matt Millen.......errr I mean Dave Dombrowski. To have gone through everything this team has put us through over the past 12 years, the players I've listed above, the 119 loss season, the numerous other 100 loss seasons, Mike Ilitch firing Ernie Harwell, has only made this season's success that much sweeter, and made the celebratory scene on the field in Kansas City that much more gratifying. A few more points.

1: I'm so glad Bobby Higginson isn't here to enjoy this. The more I think about it I think he is personally responsible for everything thats gone wrong over the past decade. I know that's crazy and he wasn't the entire problem, hell he wasn't even 1 % of the problem, but he'll always be the face of the franchise for me during the Dark Ages. I'm also glad for the young players who went through that 119 loss season and are still with the team, especially the pitchers who got their brains beaten out playing for a team that never had a chance to win, so congratulations to Maroth, Bonderman, Inge, Monroe, Infante, and Nate Cornejo wherever the hell you are.

2: It's hard to pick a team MVP on a squad that is so deep and had so many players having very good seasons, without one standing out with a career year/outstanding performance, but I have to pick Carlos Guillen. Sure his fielding was a little sloppy at times, but he was our best and most consistent hitter over this grueling season, picked up the team during its second half struggles with good at bats and timely hitting and a quiet confidence that seemed to be infectious. I hope the Tigers do the right thing and extend him to stay in Detroit for a few more years after his contract runs out next season. We wouldn't be the same team without him.

3: Is there any question that Jim Leyland is the manager of the year. Any doubt at all. Maybe manager of the century. Seriously they should hand him the award for the next three years because of the amazing job he did this year, eradicating years of stink from losing in the clubhouse with the rich, flavorful, fulfilling scent of tobacco. Better yet they should just rename the manager of the year award the Jim Leyland Memorial Trophy, I dont care if he's not dead yet.

Finally, I just wanted to finish this post by stating how much I've enjoyed watching, supporting, and writing about this season's Tigers team and would like to thank anyone and everyone who visited this site and read my words about this team and this season and care just as passionately about this team as I do, and I'm so happy that I'll be able to continue to write about this team going forward into October for the first time in my life. Now about those damn Lions.........

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Where's Truby?.......Update........Update.

Thanks to a very generous offer from a fellow Tigers fan who visited this blog today via the always outstanding Deadspin and was empathetic to my plea, I may be able to attend Game 5 of the ALDS in person, and if I'm really lucky I may be able to score a second ticket so that my girlfriend can also come, it'll be great (kidding, kidding, the closest thing I have to a girlfriend is this homeless lady I see nearly every day who says "You're to handsome not to smile," but I wouldn't take her to a game our relationship is strictly sexual). So here's hoping that the Tigers hold off the Twins and have a Game 5 at home.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Where's Truby?.......Update

Four months ago, in the midst of what was turning out to be a magical season for the Tigers, and when Comerica was still drawing only about 22,000 people a game to watch the best team in baseball, I wrote a post entitled Where's Truby? where I envisioned a fantasy world.......wait fantasy isn't the right term, more like hell without bounds.....yeah I like that better, where Comerica would be overrun by bandwagon fans and the people most likely to be trampled to death by this influx would be the longtime diehard fans who suffered through the 12 years of losing and were faithful and stupid enough to show up to late season Tigers/D-Rays games during a 119 loss season to cheer on the likes of Kevin Witt and George Lombard, or in other Well that hellish fantasy became a reality today as I was shutout in my search to find tickets for the upcoming ALDS series that went on sale about 45 minutes ago, (although hope isn't completely lost I'm now waiting in a virtual Ticketmaster queue wearing a Steve Sparks T-shirt jersey, desperate as the search engine struggles to find a single (1) ticket for me to go to any of the three possible games).

Now I'm not going to complain because it has been great to watch the Tigers play meaningful games in September for the first time in my conscious memory, (I was three the last time they went to the playoffs), and I would rather have to compete to buy tickets to watch a Tigers game in a packed and rowdy Comerica then procure my tickets for free from a church group that's dumping it's extras because no one from their congregation decided to show up to a late season game between two teams that were a combined 70 games out of first place. Also I don't have a problem with 90% of the fans who have remembered that Detroit has a baseball team and decided to make a few trips to the ballpark this year. Detroit always has been a great sports town, (as evidenced by the fact that Ford Field still sells out every game despite the fact that the Lions haven't been relevant since at best the Barry Sanders years and at worst 1957), and most of the fans who have come out to Comerica this season have been pretty knowledgeable, which leads me to believe that these people were always Tigers fans and followed the team from afar and kept interest in them up until college football season, but didnt think the team was good enough to justify an expensive night at the ballpark and a long trip to Detroit, which is more then justifiable and actually damn more reasonable then actually going to the games over the past decade, but I digress.

Also, there have been people who you can tell havent been fans of the Tigers for awhile but who like the game of baseball and have gotten to know this team well and have taken a genuine, vested, interest in this years squad. Again I applaud this. I love baseball and am glad people around the state are rekindling their interests in the sport and have no problem losing out on seats to these types of fans. However, there are two categories of people that I know will make up a sizeable portion of the crowd at the ALDS while I'm sitting on the pavement watching highlights on the scoreboard from Adams street, and they are.

1: Small children: I'm glad I didn't go to any Tigers playoff games when I was three because A) I was to young to fucking remember it anyways, and B) I would have either fallen asleep by the sixth inning or been tired and bitching to go while also ruining the game for my Dad and people in the immediate surrounding area. Also I would have been ridden with STD's, (whoops thats a whole other topic, where were we..........oh yeah), guilt years later in knowing that I probably stole a ticket from a deserving fan so that I could be entertained by Paws the Down Syndrome Tigers Mascot. And what do I get for being gracious enough not to go as a child? That's right, nothing. And when they show the first 2 year old girl sleeping on her mothers lap at 9:30 P.M. in the 4th inning as her seat goes unoccupied and the announcers go "Awwwwww, how precious" I'm going to be putting my fist through the TV screen in a rage and potentially electrocuting myself Frank Grimes style. Awesome.

2: Girlfriends and the guys who bring them: I can see it now. 1 guy has three tickets to a game and two deserving friends who want to go and would kill for those tickets, "please god let us kill for those tickets", they would say. However the ticket holding guy also has a girlfriend whose demanding to go to the game AND take one of her girlfriends so she can have fun. Being a total bitch the guy agrees to take the girlfriend and her friend, while his real friends question his manhood/integrity/worth as a human being. The Girlfriend and her friend show up to game in matching small Tigers jerseys, baseball hats pulled low over their eyes and carrying fistfuls of $8 beers paid for from said boyfriends wallet. Girls become increasingly drunk and obnoxious, yell out things like "Brandon Inge is HOT!!!!!" openly flirt with guys walking up the aisle, and generally piss off everybody within a 10 row radius, all of whom glare at the boyfriend who has an "Aw shucks, I know she's annoying but she's so cute with her little Tigers jersey" face. By the fifth inning they are slowly passing out and one of them makes a trip to throw up all over the concourse. The Girlfriend convinces the reluctant boyfriend to leave in the sixth inning with the promise of sex before passing out in the car as the Boyfriend calls his angry friends watching at home to see how the games going because the Girlfriends friend wants to listen to Danity Kane on the radio and as already established the boyfriends a total bitch and allows this to happen. I hate these kind of guys and the fact that one of them is going to be able to attend the game instead of me is infuriating..........Fuckers.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday Sucks

Last Sunday I wrote about how depressing it was to be a sports fan in Detroit, with the Twins closing to within a game of the Tigers and the Lions losing in heartwrenching fashion to the heavily favored Seattle Seahawks. I think I spoke to soon because this Sunday was worse. The Tigers lost a winnable game against the lowly Orioles thanks to a combination of bad fielding in the extra innings by Brandon Inge and Maggs and bad pitching beginning with my personal favorite Wil Ledezma, (every time I compare him to Pedro or Santana he starts to suck, I think I'm angering somebody very powerful with my ridiculous comments, I must have missed the portion of the Bible were they reveal Jesus is a Twins fan), and ending with my arch-nemesis Jason Grilli. Meanwhile 4 hours away in Chicago the Lions were getting their asses handed to them by the Chicago Bears losing 34-7 on the strength of Rex Grossman's four touchdown game, yes Rex Grossman. Then after both the Tigers and Lions lost word comes out of Comerica that Polanco says he's done for the remainder of this season and possibly the beginning of next year, on the eve of what was supposed to be his return to the lineup. Yuck.

Let's start with the Lions.

Earlier this week Roy Williams guaranteed a victory against the Bears and said the Lions could've scored 40 points against the Seahawks if everything broke right, namely if the Seahawks defense got lost on the way to Ford Field. Normally guarantees create a small amount of controversy/hype/trash talking and ESPN will jump on it and run it into the ground, but not this time. Why? Because nobody, NOBODY takes the Lions serious. The ESPN guys felt obligated to talk about the guarantee but you could see they really didn't care. When the Bears were told about it they either declined to comment, mocked the guarantee, laughed incredulously or a combination of the two. To Williams credit he played well and did what he could to back up his guarantee but the rest of the team sucked and Williams looked absolutely ridiculous doing the first down gesture after making a meaningless catch in the second half already down by 27 points.

For the second straight week Mike Williams didn't dress for the game. Apparently the number 10 pick in last years draft isn't better than Az-Hakim who signed earlier this week after Mike Martz found him picking through his trash can. I know this is redundant but how does Matt Millen have a job. The one thing he could hang his hat on was his draft record, but with 3 of his 5 top 10 picks blowing up in his face he might now be the worst talent evaluator in the history of sports. Does anybody else have that atrocious of a draft record in any sport, ever? Just play Mike Williams, the team sucks anyways, just throw him out there and see what you have.

Jeff Backus sucks. He may be the worst left tackle in the NFL. He's been a nightmare for over five years on the left size. Moves with the quickness, grace and fluidity of of a stone statue. Is only reliable for the combination of at least 3 drive killing holding/false start penalties, and if you can believe this Backus may be a worse run blocker than pass protector. So how do we award this abortion of a left tackle. How about a 6 year 40 million dollar contract extension. Do you think the ink dried on that contract before Backus signed it. I want his agent to negotiate my first job offer out of law school, he could probably get an average Wayne State grad like myself $500,000 a year are a firm sight unseen.

Speaking of penalties it was good to see the Lions in mid-season form wracking up 14 flags for the game with 7 in the first quarter alone. The season really doesn't begin until a 1st and 10 beginning in the opponents territory ends in a 4th and 35 punt that Nick Harris sails through the end zone, and I know I just.....well you know what forget it I'm not writing about the Lions again until they win a game, which they might do next week because the only team thats proven to suck more then them so far this season is the Packers.

Meanwhile the Tigers dropped a game against the Orioles in which they came back to tie the game twice including an improbable bases clearing double from Neifi Perez and a dramatic two run homerun from Sean Casey in the 8th inning. Now I'm not going to be reactionary and talk about how the Tigers are going to miss the playoffs because all in all this weekend was a good series with the team winning 2 out of 3 and the offense showing some semblance of life, scoring 27 runs in the three games. However the most disappointing news came afterwards when Polanco said he was going to miss the rest of the season because of his separated shoulder. I never realized how important he was to the lineup until he's been hurt, but there is no denying that the team needs his contact hitting as a way to slightly balance out the rest of the free swinging lineup. Omar Infante is a good hitter, but only an average defensive player and definitely fits the free swinging mold which means the teams good for an extra 2 k's a game and another bat that struggles to move runners and play small ball, and Neifi......Jesus Christ batting him is the equivalent of hitting a soul suck black vortex of an out machine at the bottom of the order. Thank god the A's swept the White Sox this weekend to keep the Pale Hose a safe five games out of first place heading into a three game series at U.S. Cellular. All the Tigers need to do is win one of those games and take care of business against the Blue Jays and Royals over the final ten games to hang on for a playoff spot. Oh well the only thing that really mattered in sports this weekend was this, 47-21. Manningham's sweet.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Top Five Sports Video Game Countdown # 2

I was s'posed ta have a ticket to see tonight's Detroit-Baltimore game at Comerica but the guy that we bought the tickets from ripped us off and never showed with the tickets. Naturally the Tigers went on to score 17 runs in one of the most lopsided defeats in Comerica's history. It's for the best, however, as with the way my luck has been going and with my uncanny ability to jinx every sporting event I attend, the game probably would have been a 1-0 Baltimore win and over in about an 1 hour and fifteen minutes. We ended up missing the entire game as, after getting shut out from the game, we headed back to my friend Matt's place and watched "The Inside Man" (which sucked, but maybe I was predisposed to not liking it based on the events of the evening up to that point) because he didn't have cable to tune in the game. So now it's a little after 3 A.M. and I'm writing this as I'm watching the replay on FSN at my apartment. To help kill time between the scoring outbursts I decided to pick up with my video game countdown that I started nearly a month ago. Also I haven't had an original idea since I started back at law school around the same time and am using this countdown as an excuse to continue not to think. So without further adieu..........# 2 (oh crap I only get to write one more of these posts.......time to start thinking again.)

# 2 R.B.I. Baseball (NES, that's Nintendo Entertainment System for all of you dorks.......yeah, (whimper))

Last summer, a time when this blog was still in its pink, slimy, infancy and I wasn't sure what the hell I was writing about with topics ranging from a diatribe about why Patricia Heaton was responsible for everything that was wrong with America (seriously, if you want to lose all respect for me go read it.........What's that? You don't respect me now? Why....let me at him), to a 4 A.M. live-blogging of
B.E.T. Un-Cut, to following another disappointing Tigers season, I attempted to break down each team and every player in R.B.I. Baseball and anyone who is a longtime reader of this site (I think that list begins and ends with myself) knows I have a hard time sticking to a task that demanding. I was putting in a couple of hours writing these breakdowns and getting only four page hits a day unlike now where after over a year of hard work I have increased my readership to a whopping 20 a day (Why do I do this again? That's right for you the fans.........Hello). Also I found out that there is a website called Dee-Nee which had already broken down the teams and is much more professional and in-depth than anything I could put together so I quit. Anyways I'm not going to do any in-depth analysis tonight, just a short post mostly bragging about my exploits against my friends while playing this game, namely Bill and Josh, so if they are reading I'm sorry...........that you guys suck so bad in R.B.I.

I never really played the original R.B.I. until about 7 or 8 years ago and it was my friend Josh who introduced me to it. Up to that point my friend Kevin and I played R.B.I. 3 roughly 3,680,147 times over the years pitching straight down the middle game after game after game after game...... which may have been the most mindless, IQ dropping activity imaginable and also actively contributed to neither of us having a girlfriend almost all the way through high school, (however if you mention not having a girlfriend to Kevin he would bristle and say something like "Maybe Andy didn't have a girlfriend but I had X amount, including so and so, who grew up to be way hot years after we dated." He's lying, I was there. The closest thing he had to a girlfriend was the few seconds in which my sister would dare to walk into the Nintendo room and make sure we were alive and that the smell coming from the room was only farts and not rotting corpses. So there. The game devolved into me playing small ball with the Cardinals against Kevin hitting tape measure shots, with the roided out Bash Brothers including a 490 foot Mark MGwire blast off
Tom Niedenfuer that I'm still not ready to talk about.

Then Josh reluctantly introduced me to the original, which I had never really liked because of
the fat players and it only 10 teams to chose from, but I agreed to play and selected the Cardinals, my team from R.B.I. 3, and was introduced to two names that would change my life forever (I know this is sad and I'm using a lot of parentheses) John Tudor and Danny Cox. No longer being neutered by having to pitch strictly down the middle Tudor and Cox unleashed the filthiest duo since the days of Koufax and Drysdale. After getting my brains beat in over the first few games I started to make some adjustments and mastered John Tudor's sweeping curveball and changing speeds enough to keep Josh and Boston's mashing lineup off balance. The offense came along slower but in a short while I was back to swiping bags with Vince Coleman and Ozzie Smith, legging out infield hits with Willie Magee, and getting the occasional bomb from Jack Clark. I was hooked. I also started to branch out and discovered that if Tudor/Cox was Koufax/Drysdale then Krukow/Reuschel were Johnson/Schilling and the Mets lineup was probably more potent than the '27 Yankees.

It wasn't until I played my friend Bill that I reached my peak as an R.B.I. player. The first time I played him I was genuinely disappointed that I didn't pitch a no-hitter. Bill took that as cocky boasting but it wasn't, it was the truth, I had reached the "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment while playing with a pixelated Keith Hernandez, and it nearly melted my brain. I would later put together a scoreless innings streak with
Tudor and Cox which had me breathing down Orel Hershiser's neck before it finally ended in the 46th inning. I was genuinely upset over a scoring decision that charged Doc Gooden with a hit instead of a Danny Heep error ruining a perfect game, going so far as to blame it on a sympathetic hometown official scorer. Basically I was accusing a game that couldnt program African-American players of going out of its way to change a scoring decision in the home teams favor. I was insane and arrogant and I don't know why Bill continued to play against me, especially with the way I was handing him his ass every 15 minutes, but he did and eventually I cooled off and the games became competitive again. However I would go so far as to say that my 6 week stretch of nonstop R.B.I. playing was one of the best stretches by anyone playing any video game ever, and thats why R.B.I. Baseball for the NES holds such a lofty standing in the rankings.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Depressing Sunday

When I was working on my history degree at State I was required to read "My Bondage and My Freedom" by Frederick Douglass for about 98% of my history classes. If I remember correctly I believe I even had to read it for my college algebra and biology lab. Anyways there is a lengthy passage where Douglass writes about the happiest time of his life being when he was a child and lived with his grandmother, a freed woman, in a house just off the plantation. This allowed him to enjoy a carefree young childhood and remain ignorant of the evils of slavery occurring just a few miles away. Professors would always base a discussion around Douglass' "ignorance is bliss" statement because they knew some kids in class, namely the ones who toted crusty Beaners coffee mugs, reeked of patchouli, and described everything as "pragmatic", would drone on for 90 minutes waxing philosophically about Douglass/slavery/ignorance. Me, I sat in the back of the room slyly working on The State News crossword puzzle with Mr. Douglass a million miles away from my thoughts.

After the events of this afternoon I finally thought about and understood what Mr. Douglass was talking about. (Disclaimer: I didn't think about it until I sat down just now and tried to come up with an introductory paragraph, I never think that deeply, I also don't want you to think that I'm serious in comparing watching football to the horrible institution of slavery, because I don't think Mr. Douglass ever had to sit through a Lions game.) As I've mentioned before my dad has Detroit Lions season tickets, presumably as a passive aggressive way to punish me for the 20+ years of sucking him dry through allowances, college tuition, etc., etc. Today we arrived at the stadium shortly before kickoff and had to fight our way through dozens of people looking to dump extra tickets for as low as $5 dollars. My dad and I even saw a guy trying to help out a homeless man by offering him an extra ticket for free (!) so that the guy could re-sell it for a few dollars and the homeless guy turned him down.......I couldn't make this stuff up. After making it through the desperate ticket dumping crowd my dad and I found are seats, situated between a whole gaggle of early thirties alcoholic douchebags and their bimbo wives, and settled in for what was the most boring offensive game I've ever witnessed, and this is coming from someone who witnessed firsthand the Joey Harrington Era. In typical Lions fan fashion, a group which may the the bitchiest, fickle...i..est (?) group this side of Ann Arbor they turned on the team before the second quarter of the first game. By the second quarter I overheard people near us talking about how they wished Charlie Batch was still in Detroit after watching him play in the Thursday night game for Pittsburgh. This coming from people who wore #10 "Bitch" jerseys during his last season as starter. This was followed by more grousing at halftime where people were talking about hoping the team would switch to McCown for the second half, before things ultimately came to a head midway through the third when after two consecutive bad throws by Kitna, a man in the row in front of us, who had been relatively quiet leading up to that point, stood up and yelled "Joey Fucking Harrington could have made that throw" and after looking around for a couple of seconds completely beside himself, stormed off. I've never seen fans this irate, this early into the season.

Some more quick observations from the game:

1: The offensive line sucks.....still. Jeff "Sackus" (my friend takes credit for that) was back to racking up holding penalties and false starts like every other "Franchise" left tackle. Dominic Raiola is tenacious, if you count tenacity as trying to pick a fight with the guy who sacked the quarterback 5 seconds after the whistle blows because your stubby T-Rex arms are useless at blocking.

2: The defense was good enough to win but got zero help from the offense, by week 9 they should be so disenchanted by the ineptitude of the offense that they'll stop trying, like they did after last seasons Carolina loss.

3: Fernando Bryant is still constructed of papier mache, seems like the Lions would have investigated this before handing him a five year deal, it only took one hit from the equally fragile Darrell Jackson to sideline Bryant in this game. I don't know how Bryant makes it through the week without getting hurt, they must wrap him in bubble wrap and store him in a Styrofoam case, much like a bobblehead, between gamedays.

The one saving grace for my dad and I was that the Tigers were playing the Twins in the pivotal final game of a four game set. It was the great unknown, we were imagining a pitching duel between Bonderman and Santana with Craig Monroe breaking a scoreless tie in the 8th inning with a dramatic 3 run homer and pushing the division lead back to four games, and countless other dramatic scenarios. After Josh Brown's last second field goal beat the Lions my dad and I rushed out of the stadium and to the car to catch the Tigers score. We turned on the radio and.........commercial. Damn. After a few more moments the game comes back on with Dan Dickerson announcing a Twins pitching change in the 7th, which I immediately think is a good sign that Santana can't get through the seventh and I'm back to thinking about a tight game and late inning heroics before I finally hear the score. 8-0. Bonderman who probably hasn't won since July.......what.....he really hasn't won since July, I was being sarcastic. Jesus Christ. My dad reached over an immediately turned off the radio and we sat in silence for a few moments wondering why we even bother following sports, between the hundreds of dollars in season tickets following a hapless franchise, to watching the slow and excrutiating death of a team that you've invested your heart, soul and summer following, as they slip in the standings and dangerously close to out of the playoffs completely. When it dawns on me. The reason sports is worth following is for those moments of blissful ignorance (wait I already discredited myself by saying that I made up the introductory paragraph.......hmm....just play along) when you're filled with hope and your mind fills with thoughts of thrilling outcomes and heroic efforts. Sure, today sucked, but it's worth it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Top Five Sports Video Game Countdown # 3

I apologize for the lack of posting, (not that anyone was complaining) but I've been swamped with reading since my return to school. I think I read Plessy v. Ferguson for the 1,758th time in my life last night and it still took me forever to get through it all. So tonight I'm going to return to my top five sports video game countdown eschewing all of the big mostly depressing news (Tigers tailspin, Dmitri Young release, pantsless Lions coaches) in favor of something lighter, so on with the countdown.

#3 Madden 2005 (PS2)

Madden is now in its 17th year as a sports video game franchise and is easily the most popular and successful series in the history of video games so picking the best one wasn't easy. I loved the Genesis version most notably for the late hits that would result in
devastating injuries. I remember this one game I was playing against a friend, which also happened to be the computer (I was a very lonely child), and my friend had inserted Deion Sanders into the Falcons offense at a time when he was the fastest player in the game and completely unstoppable. Anyways I'm winning the game late by less then a touchdown, when my friend receives the ball and starts his drive. First play sweep to Deion gain of ten, Deion picks himself of the turf, when out of nowhere Antonio London comes and blindsides him 5 seconds after the whistle. POP!, "oh no there's a man down" Summerall solemnly says as "Neon" Deion lays prostrate by the first down marker, and my friend has to resort to the Erric Pegram, Jeff George, Bert Emanuel triumvirate. Game Over. Anyways the game became increasingly better with each new generation of systems, ranging from Genesis to Nintendo 64 to ultimately the ps2, with which it ultimately peaked with the release of Madden 2005.

The only thing I play on Madden, other then the occasional exhibition matchup against my friend (a real one now), is the Franchise mode, which I stupidly play with the Lions every season. That year the Lions didn't have the best overall rating, because they never do, but they arguably had the most potential at a time when Joey Harrington was still fooling people into thinking he was capable of becoming a competent quarterback, Charles Rogers coming off injury but still highly regarded, Boss Bailey being as fast as most wide receivers, and the addition of first round picks Roy Williams and Kevin Jones. By the third year of my Franchise I had all of the aforementioned guys up to a 99 overall, had shipped Harrington, whom I hated in real life to the point that it pained me to see a digital version of him succeed, to the Falcons for Michael Vick. This was easily the funnest team I had ever assembled and allowed me to shatter every record imaginable. Most sacks in a season, Boss Bailey obliterated Mark Gastineau's record by...... oh about 68 sacks. Single season rushing record broken by week 9. Most receptions in a season, shattered by each of my top three receivers. I plowed through season after season on my Franchise, much to the chagrin of my roommate Mike who didn't even like Madden raising suspicions about whether or not he was actually human. That fall was easily my least productive semester of college, which is coming from a person who played all 256 games of a Tecmo Super Bowl season TWICE my freshman year. Thinking back on it now I 'm not sure I actually went to class once during my four years at State, but I digress. Anyways here's my typical exchange with Mike that year.

Me: (walking in the door) Hey Mike let me play Madden.

Mike: O.k. but let me finish this episode of Becker/King of Queens/Suddenly Susan.

Me: (staring blankly)

Me: (blinking)

Mike: What? Wait......what are you doing....set me down.

Me: (lifting couch off ground and shaking Mike out the window)

Mike: (walking in the door from outside) Fine I'll go to bed because I'm a submissive little girl.

12 hours later.......

Me: Why is that star so bright, whats going on here?

Mike: (emerging from room with blindfold on (he actually wore those) What are you talking about that's the sun you jackass, you were up all night playing Madden again.

Actually there was usually a lot more shrieking over things like whose TV it was, which devolved into a 20 minute wrestling match with the loser being too tired to fight and just going to bed. Anyways I managed to play 17, yes 17, (17!!!!!!) seasons on my franchise that year playing through a whole career of each of the aforementioned guys and making poor Madden announce games into early 90's, which means they were probably keeping him alive with some sort of hyperbolic sleeping chamber. The last two Maddens have been equally good because they've pretty much released the 2005 version with updated rosters and limited new features, which I have no problem with and I'm sure I'll still be playing it 17 years from now.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Saturday Afternoon Re-Cap

Just a couple of quick Saturday observations:

I have just returned from the Michigan-Vanderbilt game and my first impression of this years Michigan squad

Quarterback: Henne looked a little bit flat and wasn't very accurate in his throws. I think he played slightly better then his final stats indicated as the receiving corps was plagued by a case of the dropsies. Henne also looked a little tentative at times, electing to pull the ball down and scramble more then any other time I can remember over the past 2 + seasons. I think Henne will be as good as his receivers such as the spectacular Braylon Edwards during his freshman season and the always solid Jason Avant last year. We'll see what kind of rapport he develops with Manningham/Breaston.

Running back: I think the difference between a 7-5 and 10-2 season last year was the helath of Mike Hart. When he's 100% he's arguably the best running bak in the nation and today was another example of that with 148 yards. I love his elusiveness and ability to shuck would be tacklers. On the other hand there is Kevin Grady. I've never been a big Grady fan, he did have a good touchdown run early, but after that was unproductive including a bad fumble in the Vandy redzone. He has to much David Underwood in him for me to like. He seems indecisive and slow to the hit the hole. I think his final season line will be 121 carries 264 yards 6 lost fumbles,(I'm exagerating but I just don't like him).

Receivers: To many drops today, especially from Breaston who may end up being a glorified kick returner. Manningham had a nice touchdown catch late in the game and hopefully becomes a consistent go-to-guy.

Defense: The defense was spectacular today getting 6 quarterback sacks and being in the Commodores backfield all game. Lamar Woodley had 3 sacks and seems to finally be fulfilling his vast potential after four years. The defensive line also did an excellent job of containing the quarterback when he tried to pull it down and run, a problem that has plagued Michigan since, seemingly, the days of Red Grange.

Special Teams: I'm thrilled that the punters name is Zoltan. All punters should have unique names like that to make them a little more relevant/memorable. Rivas, entering his 7th season as the Wolverines kicker had 1 kicked blocked but also nailed a 48 yard field goal so he's already in maddeningly inconsistent mid-season form.

Michigan fans: I was impressed with them this year as it only took until the 9:00 minute mark before openly bitching about the coaching, an unusual amount of restraint from the biggest Chicken Little fans in sports.

Finally on a sad note two of my favorite athletes in the Detroit are left me today. Everyone knows about Charles Rogers who was officially released by the Lions this afternoon. But equally painful and less newsworthy was the Tigers decision to trade Nook Logan to the Washington Nationals. Anyone who has read this site since the beginning knows of my affection for Nook. I was hoping he would beat out Granderson for the starting centerfield spot this spring, even though Granderson was the better player. I always thought he could be a poor mans Otis Nixon minus the crack addiction. A #9 hitter who would bat .255 with 95 steals and some spectacular defense. My favorite moment of a rather forgettable 2005 Tigers season was when Nook Logan robbed two homeruns in the same game against the Baltimore Orioles and sprinted off the field laughing. He was the one guy that seemed to always have fun on a morose petulant team last season. Here's hoping he has success in Washington.