Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Detroit Tigers Season in Review: Vol. 2

Part one of the season review is below. If you desire to read it then you have 30 seconds to scroll down or risk the previous posts self-destructing on your computer screen and not in that humorous cartoony way where soot blows in your face and spins your duck bill around to the back of your head. No, I'm talking about Die Hard level explosions with flames billowing through the heating vents and blowing the roof off the top of your house. So seriously, if you havent read the first installment do so now and if you have read it and are just coming back for seconds then I guess this would be a good time to inform you that this season review is a $10,000 a post fundraiser for my last ditch attempt to run for political office this November. Not for any U.S. state or federal office mind you, but rather I'm throwing my hat into the Romanian national legislative race on the National Peasants Party ticket. We'll no longer let those fat cats in Bucharest walk around in their fancy brightly colored sweaters and acid washed jeans as they ignore the plight of the average agrarian worker. Jesus, I don't even know what I'm writing about anymore but I do know I just spent an hour of my life researching Romania, (well five minutes on the countries Wikipedia page and 55 minutes Google image searching for photos of their Olympic gymnasts, but I'm counting that as research anyways.) to make some unfunny jokes about.....something. Anyways on to the pitchers.

Justin Verlander: Before the season began my stoner friend TJ (I feel it necessary to refer to TJ exclusively as my stoner friend, even though I probably have two others that would comfortably fit under that same title. I think everyone has a friend or two like this in their current circle or in their not to distant past, and frankly it's terrifying. I've made a point of remaining on the straight and narrow for most of my young adult life. Sure I've done some pretty stupid stuff over the years but I was careful to make show nothing ever stuck because of an official record or a video camera. I even deleted my MySpace account because I was worried that something I wrote or posted on there would come back to bite me in the future. Sure this may be more a sign of some kind of narcissistic/paranoid/delusional personality disorder than anything else but a part of me is idealistic no matter how hopeless that may seem and I'd like to run for office one day. The fact that this hope could be submarined by a couple of friends who work at the outlet mall, smoke weed multiple times a day and spend all their free time watching/playing Pokemon or building Star Wars models out of Legos keeps me awake at night. My biggest fear is one day being elected to office, let's just hypothetically say I'm a state rep working in Lansing, and as I open the door to my office I see everything clouded with smoke and the acrid smell of marijuana as T.J. sits on a couch eating macaroni and cheese straight out of the pot while my friend Mike is fast forwarding to all the parts showing nudity in the most recent Starship Troopers direct to video DVD. I wasn't expecting this parenthses to be this long. My apologies) and I made a list of pre-season predictions. Looking back on it now it's laughable how overly enthusiastic we were in late March. Back then we predicted that Verlander would build on his stellar sophomore season and become the Tigers first 20 game winner since Bill Gullickson in 1991 as well as lowering his ERA, bumping up his K rate and possibly taking home a Cy Young award. Wrong, wrong and wrong. Instead Verlander put up by far the worst statistical season of his young career. On top of that his stuff seemed to regress, so much at one point that some were wondering if he was injured. In 2008 the Tigers didn't see the same Verlander who was throwing 102 MPH in the ninth inning of his no-hitter the previous year. His curveball didnt seem to have the same bite as it had in past seasons either. Another unsettling aspect to Verlander's season was his apparent immaturity and unwillingness to say he pitched like crap on nights that he obviously did. This was a little grating as a fan, when you would tune into the postgame report and Verlander would be standing there by his locker after giving up 8 runs saying things like "Well I felt pretty good out there but I made a few mistakes and the other team capitalized on them." This would be like me explaining away a C grade by saying "Well I think I understood Tax Law pretty well except the professor asked too many tough questions." (However, unlike with Verlander it was a 100% true in my case.) Leyland called Verlander out on this lack of accountability a couple of times. I'm wrapping this up with Verlander. Before the season I thought Verlander was going to be an ace the Tigers could rely on for the next decade. Now there's a chance, granted a small one, that maybe we've already seen the best of Verlander. There's a long line of pitchers who peaked early in their career and then had long mediocre stretch. So if Justin Verlander became the next Matt Morris instead of the next Jim Palmer I wouldnt be surprised. Grade: C-

Armando Galarraga: Now this was a surprise. Kind of. I have this crazy theory of a Jewish and Masonic plot to achieve world domination. Wait, no that was Henry Ford's theory from the 20's. My theory relates to David Dombrowski. Throughout his career Dombrowski has been in charge of some teams with pretty low budgets. This has required him and the front offices he's worked with to evaluate young players to pursue via the draft or trades instead of big free agent signings. The late 80's and early 90's Expos remained competitive for years due to a great minor league system that produced a number of young stars that were traded for other young talent shortly before they hit free agency. The obvious exception of course is the 1997 Marlins, which won the World Series with what was practically an All-Star team but afterwards he had to infamously dismantle the team in a wildly unpopular fire sale. Of course the Marlins were terrible for a few years after all the trading but Dombrowski's post World Series dealing led to the foundation of a young team that went on to win another World Series in 2003. When Dombrowski took over the Tigers he inherited one of the worst teams and lowest payrolls in baseball. However through shrewd trades and drafting along with a couple of big free agent signings (after years of drafting incompetence by Randy Smith, which has been mostly forgotten about thanks to the historically inept reign of terror presided over by Matt Millen) he quickly turned the Tigers into a contender. O.k. I probably should have put more thought into this theory and I don't feel like analyzing every move Dombrowski has made over the years, but long story short I think Dombrowski is more comfortable and better suited to run a team thats more geared towards youth and development, then a team that signs a bunch of expensive free agents and has a payroll north of $140 million. Grade: A-

Nate Robertson: People who have read this site for awhile know that Jason Grilli was a favorite whipping boy of mine over the past few seasons. After Grilli was jettisoned I was searching for a new person on the Tigers to aim my vitriol at. Todd Jones was the natural choice but it was a rather lazy and uninspired one. Edgar Renteria hadn't yet plummeted to the depths of suckitude he would reach by the All-Star break. So my attention reluctantly turned to the bespectacled train wreck who took the mound every fifth day. I say reluctantly because as I've mentioned in the past I have a soft spot for any Tiger who was a member of that historically bad 2003 squad no matter how briefly they were on it. But Robertson was so consistently atrocious this entire season that he quickly found his way to the center of my cold, shriveled, blackened heart. Grade: F

Kenny Rogers: Gamblor is probably finished as a Tiger, which is sad in a way. His short tenure with the Tigers will go down as one of my favorites. I'll miss his comically overgrown jaw. The strange stroke faces he would make when he was delivering each pitch. At the beginning of the season I thought it was foolish of the Tigers to expect Rogers to make 30 starts and make it through the season healthy enough to pitch effectively in the post-season. Unfortunately we don't have to worry about that problem because the Tigers couldn't even finish ahead of the freaking Kansas City Royals. The Royals haven't been out of the A.L. Central basement in so long you'd think they were lonely sports bloggers. (Zing! Somewhere Chris McCoskey is laughing to himself while wondering how to type with a bucket a chicken stuck to both hands.) Of course Rogers poor pitching this season was part of the reason why the Tigers finished in last place. I know he hasn't officially retired but Rogers did look D-U-N done this past season. Crafty 40-something lefties like Jamie Moyer and Rogers are some of my favorite players in baseball, next to back-up catchers, but they do walk a fine line of effectiveness and if they aren't perfect the results will usually be ugly. I don't want to remember the Rogers of this past season though. When I think back on Rogers time in Detroit I'll definitely remember his spectacular postseason scoreless innings streak during that magical 2006 run. His pouring champagne on the police officer during the on-field celebration after beating the Yankees in the Divisional round, screaming hysterically and pumping his fist during late inning strikeouts and of course smearing enough pine tar on his hand that he looked like a juvenile delinquent that just got revenge on his group home mentors by rubbing feces all over the wall. Ah memories. Grade: D

Zach Miner: Less of a success story than Armando, Miner was impressive nonetheless. I've always been a pretty big fan of Miner's. Look I don't think he's the second coming of Greg Maddux or anything but I think Miner could definitely hold his own as a league average pitcher and solid back of the rotation starter, which as hard as it is to believe with a payroll exceeding 130 million dollars, is exactly what the Tigers are looking for. I feel like Miner has gotten the same treatment from the Tigers as Thames has. Sure he has some holes in his game but stop jerking him around between the bullpen and rotation and just let him be himself and come into the spring as one of the front runners if the not the favorite to hold down the number 5 spot in the rotation. Grade: B-

Dontrelle Willis: In the list of idiots who believed a change of scenery was all that was needed to turn Dontrelle back into an effective big-league pitcher, my name should be towards to top. Granted a few spots after the guy that traded for and then signed Dontrelle to a 3 year 30 million dollar contract. Of course hindsight is 20/20 but even though I thought Dontrelle would rebound some and become an effective middle of the rotation starter I still believed it was short sighted to reward him with a contract extension before he proved his effectiveness. Had Instead Dontrelle turned into the second coming of Steve Blass and completely lost control of the strike zone. His 35 walks in 24 innings was disastrous. The interesting and promising thing (and I admit that I'm grasping at straws here) about Dontrelle was the fact that he only gave up 18 hits in those same 24 innings. Granted I'm sure there were times that D-Train was so wild that most batters went to the plate with the specific instruction not to swing unless it was in defense of their life. On the flip side though, it still seemed like Dontrelle had some decent stuff. Granted he didn't know where the hell the ball was going half the time, but the velocity and movement on his pitches seemed solid. Grade: F

Jeremy Bonderman: For years I along with several other Tigers fans have been waiting for Bonderman to take the next step and establish himself as a premier young power pitcher. He's always been armed with a devastating slider and heavy fastball, but his utter lack to develop any kind of 3rd off-speed pitch hindered his development. For me this seemed like a make or break season for Bonderman. Either he was finally going to take that next step or he was always going to be what he always has been. Not that there was anything wrong with being a 15 game winner with a sub-4 ERA and a decent K rate, but he probably wasn't going to become Curt Schilling without all the annoying outspokeness and backwards political ideas. When the season began Bonderman appeared to have taken a step back. His slider wasn't biting as viciously as it used to, he was having problems locating his fastball and his K rate dropped precipitously. His regression wasn't something I was anticipating, so I was relieved to find out his ineffectiveness was due to injury and not some dip in his overall skill set. Not that I would ever want to see someone be injured especially with something as serious and potentially life threatening like Bonderman was going through with his blood clots but at least it was a legitimate excuse to his performance. Here's hoping that Bonderman comes back healthy and rested for next season and taking another shot at establishing himself as a great young pitcher. Grade: I

Freddy Garcia: When Garcia was getting ready to make his season debut in September I was expecting a complete disaster. The scouting reports when he signed claimed that his fastball was sitting in the mid-80's with a slider in the low to mid-70's, which is essentially batting practice for major league hitters and would be even more of a disaster since that first start was coming at Arlington against one of the most prolific offenses in baseball. Surprisingly Garcia pitched effectively, even without his best stuff, not allowing an earned run and striking out five in five innings pitched. He wasn't very good in his second start, allowing three homeruns in a loss to the Royals, but he finished strong on the final day of the season against his former White Sox team. Garcia showed that he's a smart pitcher who is savvy enough to pitch capably after major shoulder surgery. He's intriguing enough that I hope the Tigers re-sign him this off-season and see if he can give them 20-25 starts at the back of the rotation. Grade: I

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Detroit Tigers Season in Review: Vol. 1

I've been meaning to write a season review for the past couple of weeks but I wasn't eager to get over the euphoria I've been feeling since Matt Millen was fired by revisiting the terribly disappointing failure of a season the Tigers had just finished. But it's just not in my nature to feel good about something for a long time and after watching the debacle at Ford Field on Sunday it finally set in that I was in the midst of watching another lost season for a Detroit franchise. So I might as well wrap up the Tigers season by handing out some end of the year grades. Usually I joke about my subjectivity when assigning these grades but this time I set up an objective scoring system that tested the Tigers skills in a variety of subjects such as Spelling, Math, Geography (dominated Ryan Raburn, even I didn't know the capital of Vermont was Montpelier) and an essay about who was the most influential person in their life (Highlighted by Marcus Thames thoroughly detailed biography on the life of Oliver Cromwell....who knew). Coincidentally their grades in this objective system matched up identically with my subjective, irrational and spiteful grades. Ah, I'm just kidding of course. Raburn was terrible at geography and I was just trying to sleep with his single mom. Enough nonsense though. Hark! (Trumpets sound). The grades, Sire!!!!!

Brandon Inge: I hate Brandon Inge. There I said it and I feel much better for having done so. I usually have a soft spot for the Tigers on the team that were members of the wretched 2003 squad and Brandon is the longest tenured Tiger on the team. With that being said tho, his play on the field and his attitude off of it have been so poor the past couple of seasons that I find myself disliking him. I don't understand why he mostly gets a free pass from the fan base either. I was at a game late this season where Inge got the start behind the plate and Sheffield started at DH. Both had equally miserable nights at the plate, striking out, leaving guys on base, hitting feeble infield pop-ups and for good measure Inge even accounted for a wild pitch that from my vantage point in the seats looked like it could have easily been scored a passed ball. Anyways, by the end of what was shaping up to be another Tigers loss Sheffield came to the plate for a final time and was booed roundly and enthusiastically by the crowd. He popped out and as he was trotting back to the dugout the boos came down with even more force. However when Inge was introduced before his final AB he was greeted to a nice sarcasm-free round of applause and cheers. The guy next to me went so far as to complain with a straight face that the Tigers biggest reason for their disappointing season was the teams decision to remove Inge as the everyday third baseman after the Cabrera trade. Inge made an out, of course and left the field to an indifferent silence. I just don't understand the love affair, or more accurately lack of hatred, for Inge. As if putting up slash stats of .205/.303/.369 wasn't enough to draw the ire of fans his constant complaining during spring training about losing his position to one of the top-5 hitters in the game and his insubordinate refusal to play back-up catcher for the good of the team should have been enough to turn the tide against his favor. Instead the team rewarded him by handing him the starting third base job next year without question or competition. I'm not ripping his skills playing third and he's arguably one of the top five defensively at his position but if he hits as putrid in '09 as he did this season he'll have to play Brooks Robinson level defense if not better. Personally I'd like to see the Tigers roll the dice and sign somebody like Joe Crede to push Inge for the job. Sure Crede's back is so wrecked he makes Quasimodo look like the picture of perfect posture, but if he's healthy he would provide equally good if not better defensive value and he wouldn't look like a blind 12 year old girl flailing wildly when he was at the plate. Just saying. Grade: D-

Dusty Ryan: When I first saw Dusty Ryan's name in the lineup I immediately confused him for the wrestler from the mid-80's Dusty Rhodes. I haven't been a wrestling fan in a good fifteen years or so but when I was in elementary school it was a pretty big part of my life. I remember high fiving my friend Don for successfully spitting a giant loogie on the back of Earthquake as he walked by during some crappy Tuesday night wrestling event at the Flint IMA. I was distraught when my Mom wouldn't buy me a Jake "The Snake" Roberts folder for school and equally pissed when I saw the slow kid who had to go to speech class carrying the same folder on the first day of class, (actually now that I think about it this may have happened just last year). Even my first run-in with a celebrity was when my friend Nick, his Dad Bob and I ran into Ted Dibiase ordering food at a McDonald's in Fenton. Of course I'm using the term "celebrity" loosely here but to a 3rd grader who was used to seeing "The Million Dollar Man" on television every Saturday morning it was the equivalent of the President parachuting into the parking lot wearing a full astronaut suit and playing an electric guitar that shot fireworks. So the nostalgic side of me was excited about the possibility of a fat catcher in a leotard that was accompanied by an obese female sidekick wearing a bumble bee outfit who sat in the dugout and threw salt in the opposing batters faces. Unfortunately my memory failed me as these two Dusty's spell and pronounce their last names differently. As for the Dusty Ryan who actually played for the Tigers, he was pretty impressive in his cup of coffee and hopefully features prominently into next years plans behind the plate. Grade: A-

Miguel Cabrera: This is going to be my first real cop-out. It's so much easier for me to be negative and cynical about everything and anything than it is for me to heap praise on somebody. But Cabrera was amazing this season. Just about every superlative you can come up with applies to Cabrera production at the plate. He even looked like a competent 1st baseman after being nothing short of a disaster at third base. So me saying nothing about Cabrera is actually the biggest compliment I could pay him. I'm definitely excited about the next 8 years. Grade: A

Placido Polanco: Placido did what he does every season. That's not just lazy analysis on my part either. Well not entirely. Here are Placido's career 162 game averages. 92 runs, 31 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 63 RBI, 8 SB, 34 BB, 43 SO, .306/.350/.416. Here's are Placido's stats from this season. 90 runs, 34 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 58 RBI, 7 SB, 35 BB, 43 SO, .307/.350/.417. That's amazingly consistent. In fact my source close to the team, who I made up just now, told me that the real Placido Polanco tragically passed away during this past off-season after the alien that had been living in his head burst open. The Tigers invested in a team of crack scientists specializing in robotics and created a eerily lifelike model and programmed him to hit and field according to Polanco's career averages. Under the model name Placi-Tron 9000 the prototype was a rousing success (and much more productive than Macias-borg CX-100) and manufacturing began on several back-up models to be used over the remaining seasons left on Placido's contract, which are stored in an abandoned storage room underneath the Whitcomb Observatory on Belle Isle. Spooky. Grade: B

Carlos Guillen: Guillen used to fit in the category with Polanco and Maggs for being crazy consistent. Where you could pretty much pencil in .300/20/100 at the start of the season and plan accordingly. Guillen started strong too, being about the only Tiger pulling his weight on offense during the miserable first month of the season that saw the Tigers stumble out of the gate. However from then on he regressed terribly at the plate, almost got run over at first base a dozen times do to some of the worst footwork ever seen at the position, battled nagging injuries and 'roids (not the illegal kind but the kind that make it hell to sit down without a padded seat) got jerked around between a few positions and ended the season on the DL with a balky back. Not the kind of season you would hope for from a guy in the first year of a 4 year 48 million dollar contract. Now to appease crybaby Inge, (have I mentioned that I don't like Inge anymore?) Guillen is once again switching positions and taking over as the everyday left-fielder at the expense of at-bats for the powerful Marcus Thames and young players Matt Joyce and Clete Thomas. Awesome. I think the seemingly off-the-cuff and reactionary decision making regarding Guillen this season served as a perfect microcosm of everything that went wrong with the Tigers this season. Grade: C+

Edgar Renteria: The most impressive aspect of Edgar Renteria's only season in Detroit was how much damage to the franchise in both the long and short term future he caused in just a single season. I can't think of an addition the Tigers have made in their recent history that was such a calamitous failure. Sure Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz is a ridiculously lopsided trade in hindsight, but without Alexander's addition to the '87 team there is no way the Tigers would have held off the Blue Jays for the Division crown. Juan Gonzalez was a disaster but aside from costing the Tigers the services of Francisco Cordero, Detroit didn't really lose much in that trade personnel wise and there were almost no expectations of success going into that 2000 season. However the swath of destruction Renteria caused during his tenure with the Tigers was genuinely remarkable. If someone held a gun to my head and asked my opinion on who was most responsible for this disappointing season, I would probably hand them my wallet and sob that I thought it was Edgar. I'm not tooting my own horn here but I was vehemently opposed to the Renteria deal as soon as it went down. I thought Jurrjens was very impressive during his short stint with the Tigers last season and I was intrigued by the speed and defense that Gorkys Hernandez flashed in the minors. I thought surrendering both in the same deal for an aging shortstop coming off a career year, who really wasn't as good as his reputation would lead one to believe in the first place, was a horrendous and short-sighted idea. I'd like to take this time to point out that Bill, who contributed a couple of posts for this site back in April before disappearing, wasn't as high on Jurrjens and compared him favorably to Kevin Ritz. This led to me justifiably beating him to death with a shoe and disposing his body in Buell Lake. Of course it took about a month to see that Renteria had aged a decade overnight as his range, arm and bat had slowed tremendously. My favorite Renteria moment was around the All-Star break when he had been in more DP's, than my friend TJ's mom.....wait I mean than he had extra base hits. Fantastic. Naturally Jurrjens had the best season by a rookie pitcher in the N.L. and drew raves from Bobby Cox, whereas the Tigers took about .00000273 seconds to decline Renteria's option after the season ended. So I'm issuing this warning to anyone who dares wear a Renteria jersey/T-shirt next year. I'm punching you in the back of the head. Unless your big, then I'll hit your wife instead. Grade: F

Marcus Thames: Ah yes another pre-season prediction of mine that came true. Before the season I prophesied that Thames would rise from the Pumpkin Patch Graveyard and smite the teenage boys who killed my son when they ran him over with their dirtbikes, only I would be cursed to take over Thames role as a vengeful spirit summoned by the weak of heart. Oh shit nevermind, that's the plot to the movie Pumpkinhead not what I predicted for Thames. Hang on let me check the archives here. Oh yes, I prophesied that Thames would hit 40 homeruns if he was given the chance to play everyday instead of getting jerked around by Leyland and losing at-bats to nobodies like Jacque Jones and Clete Thomas. For a bit it looked as though I might be right as Thames mashed homeruns in seemingly every at bat. Then the holes in his swing were exploited and his average and power totals plummeted. Now he appears to be on the outside looking in for at-bats in left next season. Grade: C

Matt Joyce: Pass. I was hoping that would sound intriguing and keep fans begging for my opinion on Matt Joyce's play this season, a la Bill James' comment regarding Jeff Bagwell in his Historical Abstract, but I've really got nothing. Good left handed power bat, good arm, glove, etc. Grade: B

Curtis Granderson: Granderson just keeps getting better and better and hopefully the Tigers can pick up a decent leadoff hitter that will allow Granderson to drop down in the order. Joe Posnanski wrote a pretty convincing argument on his blog that Grady Sizemore had outgrown his role as a leadoff hitter and it was actually detrimental for the Indians to play him in that spot, especially if it meant giving at bats to scrubs like Ben Francisco and Ryan Garko in the 3/4 holes. Now of course Tigers don't have a black hole like Francisco/Garko in the middle of their order but I think they would be much more potent if they had Granderson batting third. Of course this would raise the issue of who would become the Tigers new leadoff hitter. Personally I think Rafael Furcal, who I've always been a big fan of, would be perfect in that role and on this team in general as the everyday starting shortstop. Of course this seemed like a better idea before Furcal came back towards the end of the season and re-established himself as the catalyst for a World Series contending team. Apparently I have a thing for guys coming back from crippling back injuries as my endorsement for Crede and Furcal prove but the point I was trying to get at is the possiblity of signing Furcal on the cheap has probably vanished as his play of late will likely lead some team to dump millions of dollars and a long term deal in Furcal's lap and price him out of the Tigers off-season plans. Alas. Grade: A-

Magglio Ordonez: Ordonez is very similar to Polanco in the fact that you can just about pencil in his numbers every year and if he's healthy he'll be right around those totals when everything is said and done. Of course the intriguing story regarding Magglio is if the Tigers might unload him this off-season. If this question would have been raised after last season when Maggs put up arguably the best statistical season in a Tigers uniform since Hank Greenberg left, I would've reacted swiftly and violently with an assortment of roundhouse kicks and throat punches. Now I'm kind of open to the idea. Look, I love Magglio, he's been on my fantasy team for the past two seasons and I will be forever grateful for his efforts in turning my last place team into a sixth place one but with that said Magglio is probably the only tradeable player on this team. If the Tigers could get a decent return of young players back for Magglio or pair him with a terrible contract like Robertson's or Dontrelle's that would give them some payroll flexibility, I wouldn't be opposed to it. Especially given the abundance of corner outfield prospects in the organization, probably the only area in the organization where there is decent depth, and the fact that the DH spot will likely be occupied by a series of players over the next few seasons it only makes sense that the team would entertain offers for Ordonez if not actively shop him. Grade: A-

Gary Sheffield: I always try to write about abstract silliness on this website so I'm going to try my hand at a little topical humor with Sheffield. This year Sheffields stock took a bigger hit than a stock that lost a lot of money in this recent financial crisis. Huh....huh...anything? Hmm, maybe it didn't work because you can't see my bowtie spinning. Sheff was always one of my favorite players in baseball even before he came to Detroit and during the first half of last season he played superbly and I was enjoying it thoroughly. Then he got hurt and was ineffective before shutting it down entirely. After off-season surgery and a proclamation by Sheff that he was healthy and looking forward to crushing A.L. pitching as well as scaring the shit out of Gene Lamont in the 3rd base coaching box. Sheff started slowly and it looked like all the pop was zapped from his bat. Then he played in left after complaining about the DH role but apparently forgot to tell anyone that he couldn't throw a baseball which, and I don't know because I'm not a professional, seems like a pretty important part of the position. Next came a stint on the DL and it looked like Sheff was about finished. Except he was still a badass. Look I don't care if Sheff was hitting .220 he was still menacing as hell when he stood in batter's box with his bat waggling and his eyes burning holes into the pitcher. However once Fausto Carmona kicked his ass in the brawl against Cleveland towards the end of the season it was almost embarrasing for Sheff. It became readily apparent that he's just a shell of what he once was because five years ago he would have torn Carmona's left arm off and used it to hit a game winning homerun in the ninth inning. Instead he got thrown into a head lock and worked over by Carmona and a couple other Indians. Afterwards Sheff made some badass threatening comments but they seemed like empty threats. It was almost like watching an old heavyweight get beat down by a young up and comer like Ali-Holmes or something. I'm lying though because the thought just crossed my mind that there is a .0000001 chance Sheffield might read this and it made me shudder. He's still terrifying. Grade: C-

Jacque Jones: Let the record show, and yes their is a record because I've spent the last few years tirelessly training a group of monkeys chained to typewriters to transcribe everything I say while I'm alone in my apartment, (the ones that were less than proficient than necessary were transferred to the knife fighting and aviation departments with middling success) sure it's meant that I've had to wade around my apartment shin deep in feces and mango rinds not to mention the numerous eviction notices I've had to fight from narrow-minded landlords but its times like this that make it worth it, but I said shortly after the Tigers traded for Jones during the offseason that it was irresponsible of the team to hand over the starting left fielder job to a Frenchman. I'm not trying to be stereotypical but if Jacque would have spent half as much time in the batting cage as he did chain smoking, eating frog legs stuffed with cheese and trading beaver pelts with Native Americans outside Fort Pontchartrain he probably would've hit higher than the anemic .165/.244/.253 he put up in 24 games before being released. Grade: F

Ramon Santiago: Well it looks like Santiago may be the starting shortstop heading into next season, which is fine by me and honestly I think it came a season to late. Look I'm as much a fan of sabermetrics as the next blogger and the fact that Ozzie Smith was a first ballot HOF'er while Trammell can't even get 30% of the vote gives me night terrors that result in me waking up screaming "But Ozzie's career OPS was only .665", a habit which usually scares the hell out of the prostitute I hired as she's going through my wallet. But a part of me has always liked the idea of having a good field no-hit shortstop. It just seems so old school, like harking back to the days of when starting Ray Oyler more than 100 times in a season not only didn't get you fired, it didnt get you institutionalized either. Even with that being said Santiago proved in his limited playing time this season that he's not the overmatched easy-out he was back at the beginning of his career. As much as I would like the Tigers to roll the dice and sign someone like Rafael Furcal or trade for a J.J. Hardy it wouldn't kill me to see them roll the dice on a season of Ramon, while the organization waited for Cale Iorg to get ready. Grade: B+

Ryan Raburn: I've got nothing on Raburn, not that my analysis on any of the previous players was insightful to begin with but I've honestly got no opinion on Raburn's play this season. I don't think he's as good as he played in '07 or as bad as he played in '08 so I guess that means he falls somewhere in between with his ability. It would be nice to see him get some more consistent playing time as he is pretty versatile in the field and seems to have decent pop in his bat. Like I said though I've really got nothing and I'm speaking in generalties here which is kind of boring. I'm going to use this opportunity to write about something I've been thinking a lot about lately. The election. Wait, no that's stupid I mean Steven Seagal/Van Damme movies. Awhile back I was at a sushi restaurant with a friend. We filled out the little order form and gave it to the waitress but when our food arrived it was nothing that we had ordered. I complained in vain to the waitress that she had messed up the order but she denied responsibilty. The manager came over listened to our story and inexplicably absolved the waitress without any evidence that she was correct (Our order had conveniently disappeared from her pad) and said we could complain to the chef if we wanted. This seemed illogical because the chef wasn't the problem but I considered complaining just for the sake of getting what I had ordered. Then I remembered Under Siege, as well as countless other Seagal/Van Damme movies, where the seemingly most harmless and or mundane jobs could probably and in fact ARE likely to be filled by ex-CIA operatives/Navy SEALS/underground martial arts tournament champions or all three. So I said it wouldn't be necessary to involve the chef, made it be known I wouldn't eat their again and sucked it up and ate some disgusting spicy roll because I didnt want to get my arm broken at the elbow and thrown through a glass window over a simple misunderstanding. I think this is an important lesson to take from these movies, either that or I'm a non-confrontational vagina. Either one. Grade: C-

Jeff Larish: I think if I were a kid today Jeff Larish would be my favorite player on this team. I always have had a soft spot in my heart for guys with unusual batting stances, hence the obsession with Mickey Tettleton and to a lesser extent Tony Phillips. If you have little to no athletic ability, as I did growing up, it's almost necessary to adopt a gimmicky batting stance fashioned after your favorite player. That way even if you dont hit like a major leaguer at least you look like one. Larish's batting stance is distinct because it's so silent, absolutely no movement after he settles into the box before unleashing a vicious two handed swing at the ball. Seeing as how I'm remarkably lazy, I endorse anything that involves limited movement so Larish's batting stance appeals to me immediately. Honestly if I had my choice I would've preferred to bat in Little League while laying on my futon with a team of mules to pull me around the bases if I ever made contact. Maybe my son can fufill this dream for me. Grade: C+

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Millen Fired"

I woke up this morning...wait who am I kidding, I mean this afternoon and instinctively groped around for my cellphone. I found it twisted around in my bed sheet in some impossible fashion where I could feel it and make out its shape but I couldn't find a way to actually touch it. Frustrated I aired out the sheet and watched as my phone shot out as if it had been fired from a cannon and smack against the wall with enough force to knock the backing off of it. A year ago beginning a day like this would have led to me flying into a fit of rage and spewing so many curse words that I would have made Richard Pryor sound like Bill Cosby hosting "Kids Say the Darndest Things."

But today I just didn't care. Not because I was in some euphoric state or because I had just rolled out of a bed full of naked and satisfied Victoria's Secret models. Quite the opposite in fact. Not literally of course, I'm not saying I was depressed and rolled out of a bed full of Jockey Men's underwear models, (although I'm not NOT saying that either). No, it's just that for the past couple of weeks (months, years, decades really who's counting) I've been depressed after being hit with the harsh reality that faces thousands of people my age every year. Being diagnosed with gonorrhea. But I'm not talking about that, I really meant to say entering the real world after being babied through seven years of college (There, I think I covered that up nicely, now I just have to burn all these bills from the clinic and vow to never sleep with hookers or anyone from Baltimore ever again).

I was under the impression that graduating from law school included receiving a diploma, a monocle, leather driving gloves, a trophy wife, a 100k job offer and enough henchmen to help get my fledgling law/super-villain practice off of the ground. Instead I've got a diploma, student loan debt, no job, no girlfriend and worst of all I think the two henchmen I hired out of pocket are using me more for crashing on my futon and playing my Wii instead of arching my nemesis. In short the lack of job offers in Detroit is leading me back to my hometown to work with my Dad, a fate I thought the last seven years of school would help me avoid. The only intriguing advantage of moving back home is the chance to purchase a wardrobe of nothing but white suits and try to bring the wild Besaw Boys running shine from their uncle's farm out on Dodge road to justice through a series of arm wrestling matches over poisonous cacti. Only problem is that instead of trying to get with their hot cousin Daisy I'll have to settle for some 300 pound lady with curly, greasy hair who drives a Pontiac Sunbird with a decal that says "I Like Big Bucks and Big Trucks" on the back window. Gross.

So by the time I put the casing back on my phone and turned the power on I was thoroughly depressed and was surprised to see that I had missed a number of phone calls, text messages and voicemails from friends of mine. With my present state of mind my thoughts naturally turned to the idea that something terrible had happened. Something along the lines of Mickey Tettleton releasing a statement to the press saying how disappointed he was to find out a website in named in His honor was run by such an insufferable douchebag. When I finally dared to open my text message inbox I read in the subject heading of my friend T.J.'s message the most glorious and uplifting words I had laid my eyes upon since reading that Scott Mitchell was injured for the remainder of the 1994 season.

It simply and succinctly read, "Millen Fired"

I would be overstating things if I said this was some life altering moment and from that point on my fortunes turned around for the remainder of the day until everything culminated with a nude Kate Beckinsale crashing through my apartment window while riding a unicorn and offering to take me away to her English castle where she would allow me to be the fatherly leader of a gang of quickwitted cockney pickpocket children. However the Lions as a franchise had personified and paralleled the hopelessness I had been feeling through my life recently.

Having the privilege (disfavor?) of going to nearly every Lions home game since I was about ten years old I've seen first hand the damage Millen instilled on an already tortured and frustrated fan base. It's unfathomable to think now but in the first days of Matt Millen's reign things started out promisingly. The first season was a disaster record wise but everyone knew the Lions were in full-on rebuilding mode and there was excitement over first round draft choice Joey Harrington fresh of a dominating season at Oregon where he led them to the Rose Bowl. I saw the excitement on peoples faces when Harrington showed some pluck in battling Brett Favre and the Packers in his first start. During that offseason the Lions jettisoned overwhelmed position coach masquerading as a a head coach (hmm...that sounds awfully familiar) Marty Mornhinweg in favor of a proven and successful coach and Michigan native Steve Mariucci. Marriucci's hiring along with the drafting of Saginaw native and Michigan State star Charlie Rogers led to a great deal of excitement heading into the season. I watched as the line outside the Team Store in Ford Field ran the entire length of the concourse as people eagerly waited for a chance to purchase local hero Charlie Rogers jersey after his impressive two touchdown debut. Even I, already a cynical Lions fan at the age of 20, talked excitedly with my Dad as we left the season opener against the Cardinal about the beginning of a dynamic young quarterback-receiver combo that might one day rival Montana-Rice and Manning-Harrison as one of the greatest of all time. Sure that was short-sighted and little did I know at the time that Charlie Rogers was probably smoking himself retarded at the same time I was praising him, but the excitement I felt for the first time since Barry Sanders retired was genuine. This season also coincided with heady days from a personal standpoint. I was acing all of my classes at MSU, I had a great girlfriend who really cared about me, and I had just killed the LSAT. I felt that my future was as bright as the Lions. Unfortunately that statement still turned out to be true.

Shortly after that game Rogers broke his clavicle in a bye week practice collision with cornerback Dre Bly. The team floundered and finished a disappointing 5-11 and the development of Harrington seemed to have stalled. Millen made what was arguably his only good draft decision swapping spots with the Browns to pick up two 1st round picks which he used on Roy Williams and Kevin Jones in an effort to create what many believed to be the makings of the most exciting young offense in the league. However, the season started off ominously when Rogers once again was lost for the year after breaking his clavicle for a second time on the seasons opening drive. Even though the team started 4-2 it quickly fell apart as the Lions lost 8 of their last ten games to finish a disappointing 6-10. I sat and watched as the fan base grew increasingly and justifiably frustrated as they watched a seemingly talented and expensive young team flounder under the leadership of an expensive veteran coach. (That's right when I go to games I sit and watch everything but the game, namely the expressions on peoples faces and the line to the team store. I'm just not a very good writer).

2005 was a crossroads year for many people in Detroit. Marriucci was feeling the pressure to win and live up to the money he was being paid and the excitement that surrounded his hiring. Jeff Garcia was brought in to challenge a stagnant Joey Harrington for the starters job. Chuck Rogers was trying to prove he wasn't injury prone and resurrect his dying career, Matt Millen was supposedly fighting for his own job and I was moving to the city to start law school. By December everything had fallen apart for all parties involved. Mooch was made the scapegoat and fired after an embarrassing Thanksgiving Day loss to the Falcons. Harrington was hated so venomously and vociferously that I took five seconds out of booing and cursing him from my seat to actually feel sorry for him. Rogers was suspended for drug abuse and watched as his NFL career flamed out. Millen made national news by ordering a fan with a Fire Millen sign to be physically kicked out of a game and watched as fans organized a march advocating his dismissal and I found out that I was unprepared and in over my head with my classes, essentially becoming the Marty Mornhinweg of law students. The fans were angry and frustrated with the franchise and voicing their opinion to any outlet available and I was overwhelmed and angry with my decision threatening to quit school at the next available opportunity.

After the season and my first semester I expected Millen to be fired and for me to have the courage to quit something I felt I hated deep down inside. Instead to the shock and dismay of the entire fanbase Millen received a five year extension and I begrudgingly decided to give class one more semester (nobody was shocked and dismayed by my decision...maybe my cat). During the next season Harrington and Rogers were unceremoniously dumped and the last remnants of all that excitement that I had felt just a view years earlier had faded away entirely. I watched as apathy set in among the fanbase and in my own personal life. The distinguishing moment for me as a fan came late in that season during another Lions home loss. During the game a fan in our section tried to start a "Fire Millen" chant and nobody joined in. He was persistent though, standing up and yelling it at the top of his lungs trying to encourage others to join him but was rewarded with silence. After another minute or so a second person yelled, "Stop chanting. The Ford's never listen to us anyways!" and the man who had been trying so valiantly to start this Fire Millen chant just stopped trying and sat down defeated. No truer words had ever been spoken at Ford Field. During this same time I had begun withdrawing from school, missing classes at an alarming rate receiving bad grades and feeling despondent.

As both the losses and poor grades mounted and the future that had once been so bright and promising became darker and more disenchanted a sense of abject hopelessness began to settle in the fanbase and in myself. Matt Millen would always be in charge of the hapless Lions and my destiny would be to remain in my hometown, take over the family business and watch dreams die. But maybe that changed today. Maybe things that seem to be written in stone can be changed. Sure the Lions may still suck for this year but maybe they'll finally hire the right person, draft the right players, sign the right free agents and a few years from now my Dad and I will be able to go to Ford Field and watch them win a home playoff game. Sure, I might have to go back home and work but maybe after a couple of years I'll make a name for myself, meet the right people, find the ambition and drive that propelled me through my first few years of college and get the hell out of there. Maybe I'll finally have the courage to abandon this whole lawyer thing and do something I really love. Or maybe nothing will ever change. Who knows but now there seems to be hope, for the first time in the last five years there seems to be a little bit of light peeking through the darkness. (Editor's note: I'm not some emotional douchebag who talks like this all the time. It's only like this 6 times a week or so.)

Also, I know some people have compared this to the French Revolution and credited Millen's firing to the fan's revolt of not buying tickets and vociferously denouncing the team. The parallel to the French Revolution would have been if the Millen Man March in 2005 would have been rolling around a portable guillotine and successfully captured and beheaded Millen and the Ford family as they tried to escape in a carriage in the shape of the Lombardi trophy. Then the fans went on to run the team as a democracy before being overun by a tiny man with an unquenchable thirst for power.....like Dan Snyder or Mark Cuban or someone. I think this feels more like a liberation. I feel like someone who has been beaten by and toiled for an oppressive, cruel and tyrannical despot only to be saved by a spoiled great-grandson of a billionaire bigot riding in on his white Mercury Mariner and begging his dad to listen to him for once. It's not really iconic imagery but it's still liberating nonetheless.

Finally, I may be in the minority here but I don't hate Matt Millen. As an executive yes but as a person he seemed likable. He kind of reminded me of a guy my Dad would be friends with, and I honestly believe he was trying as hard as he could to build a winner. A lot of people would have swallowed their pride and quit 3 or 4 years ago but Millen was willing to see this thing through until they drug him out of his office kicking and screaming and a part of me admires that. Ah what am I saying. Fuck Millen. Amen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Detroit Tigers History Vol. 2: Li'l Rastus

A little over two months ago Detroit City Councilwoman Barbara Rose-Collins created a mini-controversy when she stated that she wasn't sympathetic towards the efforts to save Tiger Stadium because of her childhood memories of the racist history of baseball at large and more specifically the steadfast refusal of former team owner and horseless carriage magnate Walter Briggs to sign African-American baseball players. Briggs refusal resulted in the Tigers being the second to last team to integrate when they finally traded for Ozzie Virgil in 1958 over eleven years after Jackie Robinson had broke the color barrier after signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Of course Rose-Collins statements weren't nearly as big a controversy for her as when she fired a homosexual aide because she was afraid he might have AIDS. However her opinion on Tiger Stadium's fate did elicit a wide range of sentiments in defense of and opposed to her assertion. Of course everything devolved, as it usually does when the topic of race and Detroit is brought up, into an argument between people from the city blaming white suburbanites for being afraid and or reluctant to visit or work in the city and people from the suburbs blaming Coleman Young and the City's most recent administration for making them feel unwanted and unwelcome in the city. It seemed like the only thing the commenters could agree on was wanting to punch in the face all of the skinny-jeans and scarf-wearing Black Kids-listening Ann Arbor undergrad dildoes (dildos? dildi?) who felt compelled to interject with comments like "I visited Detroit once this summer and found the mixture of magnificent Art Deco buildings with abandonment and urban decay hauntingly beautiful." Pricks.

After reading through the array of comments, blog posts and op-ed pieces regarding Rose-Collins opinion it appeared that most people took an extreme position on the subject. They either dismissed racism as an unfortunate but ultimately irrelevant portion of the stadiums history which shouldn't impede the efforts to save the stadium while others supported the Councilwoman's views and wanted to put the racist past of former owner Briggs to the forefront of their advocacy to tear down the eyesore in Corktown. Since I'm constantly racked with indecision (you should see how I act when someone asks for my suggestion on where to get something to eat, it usually involves me suggesting everything from Barbecue to Mexican to Thai food then hemming and hawing until tears well up in my eyes and the person I'm with becomes so frustrated and annoyed with my antics that they end up not talking to me during dinner) and have a hard time choosing a side and making a strong argument for my position, which may end up being a problem after I become a lawyer. Naturally my opinion falls somewhere in between. As a student of history (and I hope that sounds as pretentious as I intended) I hate when people pick and choose what parts of history to remember. So under that flimsy line of reasoning I'm going to drag the story of L'il Rastus out from the annals of Tiger Stadium history. This isn't an indictment on the Stadium or the team or a show of my support for either side of the argument proposed by Rose-Collins, but rather an unbiased and agenda free look at a piece of history for both the Stadium and the team. It happened and right or wrong (definitely wrong unless the ghost of Nathan Bedford Forrest is reading this blog) we can't and shouldn't just forget about it because, well, that would make up no better than the Germans.

The story of L'il Rastus goes like this. In early July of the 1908 season the Tigers were battling through a horrible midseason slump. Allegedly Ty Cobb showed up to the Bennett Park and found a homeless black orphan who looked to be about ten years old hanging outside of ballyard. Throughout the history of the game baseball players, even the greatest ones, have been a superstitious lot. Ballplayers are either trying to maintain their good luck (i.e. lucky undershirt), change their bad luck (i.e. switch up the height of their socks), not upset the Baseball Gods (i.e. not stepping on the foul lines while going on or off the field), or in the case of Wade Boggs they are completely insane (i.e. eating chicken before every game, taking batting practice at 5:17 every day, claiming to hit better during games his mistress Margo Adams attended without underwear on, etc.). Ty Cobb was no different than any other player when it came to being hung up on irrational superstitions and with his team mired in a downswing Cobb decided to change his behavior in order to change his teams performance. So instead of running the young African-American orphan over in his brand new 1908 Chalmers Runabout as he was typically wont to do Cobb rather generously invited the young child into the Stadium to work as a clubhouse attendant.

The young attendant endeared himself to the team by running errands for the players and he quickly became the Tigers de facto batboy and mascot. Since the young man was in the clubhouse so often, even sleeping at the Stadium after games and while the team was out on road trips, the Tigers players brought him within the camaraderie found inside most pro sports teams locker rooms and christened him with a nickname. Since this was the early part of the 20th century and political correctness consisted of NOT getting blind drunk and burning down the haberdashery shop owned by a Polish immigrant, baseball nicknames weren't very sensitive (Yes, I only wrote the previous sentence so I would have an excuse to use the word haberdashery it doesn't make my point any less salient). For example nearly every player with Native American ancestry was given the nickname "Chief" and just about every uneducated player from the country was called "Rube". Worst of all in the first half of the twentieth century, before baseball became integrated, it was common for baseball players with dark complexions to be given the moniker "Nig". So it should come as no surprise that the Tigers gave their youthful orphan attendant the designation of L'il Rastus. Shortly thereafter the Tigers players took to rubbing their bats on L'il Rastus head for good luck a habit that was elegantly described by the Detroit News in July 1908 as such

"The Tigers had a pickaninny batboy with hair full of corkscrew kinks. When (Germany) Schaefer went to bat in the fourth he rubbed his bat in the darky's hair and then singled. Some of the rooters advised Cobb to try the same method but the pickaninny, knowing Ty's nativity, kept well out of his way."

Wait, instead of elegant I meant to write blatantly and overtly racist. Apparently the sports editor at the Detroit News doubled as the Grand Wizard of the Detroit Klan Chapter either that or he was my grandfather. Either way the News writer/editor was not only unabashedly racist they were also wrong regarding the relationship between Cobb and L'il Rastus as by most contemporary accounts Cobb and the young man were friendly with each other and L'il Rastus worked for Cobb at his home in Georgia during the offseason. (Although it should be noted that L'il Rastus did disappear from public view after working at Cobb's Georgia home following the '09 season, his true name and identity lost to history, so there is anywhere between a 1-100% chance that Cobb ate the child but I digress). But that's beside the point

For those readers who haven't travelled to the early 20th century or through parts of the present day Deep South there are at least a couple of things from the previous paragraphs that should jump out as patently offensive. First is the nickname itself. Rastus has been a highly offensive pejorative name for African-Americans dating back to the appearance of character of Brer Rastus in the first Uncle Remus book released in 1880. Uncle Remus books were a collection of stories and fables from the Deep South that were collected by Joel Chandler Harris and infamously put to film in the infamous Disney movie Song of the South (Hopefully Blogger isn't associated with Disney in anyway or else that last sentence I wrote will likely be replaced with the Mouse Ear logo or an advertisement for The Lion King 8: Rafiki's All Anal Adventure). However in the early 20th century Rastus became synonymous with the portrayal of any happy and naive African-American and commonly appeared in many different minstrel shows, books and popular songs. There were also a series of short comedy films produced with titular character Rastus that included such names as "How Rastus Got His Chicken," and "Rastus Among the Zulu's". Finally and most famously Rastus is the name of the character who appears in the Cream of Wheat logo that began in 1890 and continues to be used to this day.

The second racist gesture may be harder to pick up on as it has faded into relative obscurity but it was the act of rubbing L'il Rastus head for good luck. This used to be a relatively common practice and a way for whites to be disrespectful and/or condescending towards African-American's in a subtle and passive way. This practice fell to the wayside entirely by the late 70's early 80's as it became a much more common way for people to get their asses kicked then it was to subtly pass off as racism. Now that that's out of the way let's get back to the conclusion of the L'il Rastus story.

As the Tigers continued to win the team attributed their success to the presence of their batboy/mascot and rubbing their bats in L'il Rastus' hair, so naturally he started to accompany the team on the road. Beginning in September, however, the Tigers luck once again began to turn for the worse as they started to lose ground in the race for the A.L. pennant. Just as something can be deemed to be a good luck charm when things are going well it can just as easily be regarded as a jinx when things start to go poorly and in this regard L'il Rastus was discarded from the team and treated no differently than if he had been an old pair of lucky socks. The team believed there was such a negative hoodoo surrounding the child that during the 1908 World Series against the Cubs the Tigers banished their former batboy to sitting in the visitors dugout. In displaying their collective ignorance the Tigers may have in fact established the existence of the Baseball Gods as they watched the Cubs run roughshod over them en route to winning their second consecutive World Series over Detroit 4-1. In fact L'il Rastus proved so lucky that the Cubs have not won a World Series since he last graced their presence while sitting in their dugout. Great now some jerk from Chicago is probably going to dig up his bones and place them under Lou Pinella's seat on the bench. Forget I said anything.

I would quote sources but I'm so far removed from writing history papers in undergrad that I've forgotten how to make proper citations. So I'm just going to say that I got most of my information from the book Crazy '08 by Cait Murphy. This book is amazing so instead of giving you page numbers I recommend you just go out and buy it and read it cover to cover. You'll be a better baseball fan and person for it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Detroit Tigers History Vol. 1: Charlie Bennett

As I'm sure I've written before and I suspect no one cares or remembers, about three years ago I received my undergraduate degree in history from Michigan State. It took all of two seconds after I received my diploma for me to realize I couldn't do dick with a bachelor's degree in history and the prospect of spending an additional six years pursuing my doctorate and researching in the libraries and archives on campus so I could write a 200 page dissertation on The Social Affects of Thomas Nast's Political Cartoons: Harper's Weekly Era 1865-1885 was slightly less appealing than being slowly disemboweled by a polar bear, or a shark, or some kind of indestructible polar bear/shark hybrid.

Of course I'm probably overstating things. I'm sure the usual channels of employment for liberal arts majors from state universities were available to me if I had bothered to look. For example I probably could have worked at Greenfield Village as a man hideously disfigured by smallpox who deceived and sold unsuspecting country girls from Ontario into brothels located near the rapidly expanding auto factories. Or rather I could have worked at the Ford Rouge Factory Tour as a Polish immigrant who was beaten and worked to death by Henry Ford's secret police after an unfounded rumor that I had led a meeting talking about unionizing with some fellow workers at the local Dom Polski in Hamtramck. Unfortunately these positions don't exist at Greenfield Village, because according to them all anybody did at the turn of the century was ride penny-farthing's and court girls carrying parasols before dying at the ripe age of 80 from diseases like happiness and contentness.

Finally there was always the option of stripping. But I don't think there is a market for historical strippers, although there may be as people have all sorts of strange fetishes such as my obsession with Omorashi. Regardless, I didn't want to show up for some bachelorette party and announce, "Hello ladies, did someone dial back back to 1857 and order James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States?" before taking off eight layers of frock coats and linen shirts while lecturing about Bleeding Kansas only to reveal a body so scrawny and translucent that I would look more like some street urchin dying of tuberculosis rather than some stately president. Long story short I ended up doing what the vast majority of people in my position do. I panicked and enrolled in law school. Now here I am three years later, tens of thousands of dollars in debt, countless more grey hairs on my head and after finishing near the bottom of my class still looking for a job as a stripper but this time with an all new angle. "Order, order, Judge Brandeis holds that this party isn't sexy enough!!!!"

Well at least during my summer long layoff from blogging (studying for bar exam), I didn't forget how to write long rambling introductions. In case you fell asleep while reading this post my main point is that ever since I read about the demolition of Tiger Stadium in the Detroit Free Press a couple of months ago my interest in history has once again been piqued. I'm not going to get into the political debate of whether to save or destroy the stadium but rather I'm going to look at some of the interesting and I think overlooked aspects of Detroit Tigers history. This stuff is probably already familiar to hardcore Tigers fans to which I say, "Get a life", but may not be known to the casual fan. The first, and if my history for updating this site holds likely the last, entry is about Charlie Bennett.

Bennett joined the Detroit Wolverines of the National League in 1881 after playing sparingly over the course of a few seasons with the Milwaukee Grays and Worcester Rubylegs, which, if I may digress, sounds like the name of a company softball team at an all gay steel mill rather than a professional baseball team but apparently that's just how things were in the late 19th century. Extremely gay. However, following the 1880 season Bennett lwft Worcester and followed his manager, Frank Bancroft, to the more ferociously named Detroit Wolverines where he would begin his tenure as one of the most popular athletes in 19th century Detroit.

Bennett became the starting catcher for the Wolverines during his first season west and quickly established himself as one of the best hitting catchers in baseball batting .301 and slugging seven home runs which was good for second place in the National League. Of course the low home run total was normal during this early era of baseball, when the ball used was much softer, which made it more difficult to hit long distances and the mere fact that a baseball player wasn't dying from cholera, dysentery or Black Lung by the age of 18 was the modern day equivalent of an athlete injecting a barrel full of horse steroids into their bodies.

By all accounts, namely Bill James who, in full disclosure, is the only account I bothered to look up Bennett was also an amazing defensive catcher. This was doubly important during the deadball era because the style of play, i.e. more bunting and base stealing, meant several more defensive chances a game than the modern catcher. What makes Bennett's play behind the plate even more astounding is the fact that Bennett fielded his position using less protection than I use when I'm sleeping with the prostitutes I pick up on Cass Ave. Essentially nothing! Hobbes may have been talking about the career of a deadball era catcher when he said life is "poor, nasty, brutish and short", either that or he was talking about Hugo Grotius' momma. Whatever. (If I make a time capsule of the saddest moments of my life it would have to include right now when I'm writing a blog at 4:30 A.M. wearing only a bed sheet and making jokes about 17th century philosophers who probably didn't even know each other along with everything that happened in my life ages 13-24). Catching equipment in the late 19th century was rudimentary at best. The catcher's mask wasn't invented until 1878 when somebody finally became annoyed enough with having their teeth smashed in by foul tips that they finally sat down and designed one. (This seems like common sense to me. If someone would have asked me to catch a game back in the early 1870's my first question would have been "O.k. but what am I going to use to cover my face with?" but that may be because I'm so vain and handsome. You know I have an insurance policy for my face in case of some horribly disfiguring accident. A modern Douglas Fairbanks the ladies call me). Also catchers mitts appeared to be of the same quality as those cheap work gloves you can buy at ACO for $1.99 that inevitably get crusted to the bottom of your wheelbarrow during the winter, and Bennett (or rather his wife) is credited with creating the first chest protector, even though he was razzed by opponents and teammates alike for wearing one, which is the equivalent of a junkie giving another addict shit for insisting on using a clean needle. Or not like that at all. I don't know.

This post is bogging down slightly so I'll get back to Bennett. Bennett remained a potent hitter and popular player in Detroit over the next several seasons and in 1887 Detroiters were able to witness their Wolverines tear through the National League and win the pennant by 3.5 games. After the season the Wolverines challenged the St. Louis Browns of the rival American Association to a best of fifteen series of exhibition games throughout the U.S. The Wolverines won this precursor to the World Series 10-5 and brought home the first professional title ever to the city of Detroit, and from the looks of that team photo it appears the Wolverines would have more then held their own in a World Series of Moustaches contest, although I'm sure the French and German squads would have something to say about that. However by the 1887 season the years behind the plate had begun to wear considerably on Bennett and his hitting skills began to decline rapidly as he split most of the playing time behind the plate with a young catcher named Charlie Ganzel. Despite their success the Wolverines would fold after the 1888 season mainly because the city was still populated mostly by farmers, lumberjacks, actual wolverines and a young Henry Ford still trying to figure out what to do with his burgeoning genius and anti-semitism.

After the Detroit franchise folded Bennett moved on to play five more seasons with the Boston Beaneaters until tragedy struck (Duh-duh-duh). In early 1894 Bennett was returning from a hunting trip when he got off the train to talk to a friend and presumably brag about all the quail he had shot or all the boars he had strangled to death with his bear hands (I know its supposed to be bare but I misspelled it and bear hands sounds way more badass so its staying). As Bennett was telling his story his train started to pull away and Bennett raced to catch up with it. He leaped while trying to reboard and slipped falling underneath the tracks. Unfortunately Bennett wasn't wearing the leg protectors his wife had sewn for him for just such an occasion as he had succumbed to the peer pressure and razzing of his fellow hunters. There is a lesson in there for you kids.

As it turns out nothing ends a baseball career faster than having two wooden legs, even for a catcher who seemingly could catch every inning of every game without having to worry about getting tired. Alas, artificial limb technology in the late 19th century wasn't what it was before or since that time so Bennett spent most of the remainder of his life confined to a big scary wheelchair that looked like the kind found in the basement of a mental asylum in some Nightmare on Elm Street sequel. (Seriously, in the 1500 and 1600's armorers made artificial limbs for knights and soldiers out of iron and as you can see from the photo on the right they looked ultra badass, like something a villain would wear in a Beastmaster or Conan movie. Apparently practicality is more important then looking cool when one has an artificial limb so wooden limbs became common for obvious reasons). After his accident Bennett returned to Detroit where he had remained quite popular, and opened up a candy/tobacco/newspaper/elixir/snake oil store across the street from the minor league ballpark located at Michigan and Trumbull. Shortly after his arrival in Detroit the minor league team, that would eventually become the Tigers, held a Charlie Bennett Day where they presented the former catcher with a wheelbarrow full of silver dollars, which if you adjusted for today's inflation would be the equivalent of giving him 4.7 billion dollars. In 1896 a new ballpark was built at the location that was to become famously known locally as "The Corner" and the fans voted to name the teams new digs Bennett Park a name that barely, and fortunately, beat out the push for corporate sponsorship from Bayer Brand Heroin and Lloyd's Cocaine Toothache Drops. Bennett himself caught the first pitch ever thrown at the park named in his honor an event that became an opening day tradition that would last for 30 years until Bennett's death in 1927 at the age of 72.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rothbury Music Festival

This weekend over 50,000 hippies will invade the small town of Rothbury MI, for the beginning of a week-long music festival headlined by big name acts like Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer as well as several other musicians whom feature the "crunchy groove" sound that so greatly appeals to the unwashed masses. Free loving spirits from across the country have hit up their lawyer dads for gas money, charged $250 a ticket to their mom's credit card and loaded up their Jetta's to make the trek to the sleepy western Michigan town for a once in a lifetime chance to spend a weekend camping, dancing in place with their arms swaying wildly, trying to score with girls wearing long skirts, (all of whom feel the need to argue, with no one really, that Jose Ortega y Gasset is the most underrated American philosopher when you really just want to scream "To bad he's from Spain you dumb, pretentious harpy" but you want to see her boobs so bad that you just nod your head in agreement. Yes, I may be talking from personal experience here) and praying their AT&T wi-fi connect cards get service out in the woods because they need to update their blog so all their co-op farmer friends in Boise can read about how "organic" the festival is even though its located on the same land as a resort golf course and a family friendly indoor water park. Local officials estimate the scent of patchouli and pretense will more than likely suffocate the local population and may be smelled at distances as far away as Lansing, Ludington and Grand Rapids. Lucky for those of you, like myself, who are to busy selling your soul to faceless corporations or going to law school to get a degree in fascist pig-ism and don't feel like spending your Fourth of July weekend spending a couple of hundred bucks to lay in a hammock and eat rice the Detroit News has sent their music writer Adam Graham to cover the festivities for you.

O.k. maybe I'm being pretty harsh on these festival goers....maybe. To each their own, right? Sure, it might be fun to get a group of friends together, travel around the country and hit up various festivals, especially if you are really into music, which I'm not (I'm pretty sure buying Grave Dancer's Union by Soul Asylum in fifth grade pretty much disqualified me from ever reaching music aficionado status, but I digress). For example my idea of a dream road trip would be to head out with some friends and hit up as many major league baseball stadiums as we could, which if you don't like sports probably sounds like a colossal waste of money and time. So before I judge these festival goers to harshly and paint all of those in attendence to broadly with the same brush let me read what the first report from Rothbury has to say. Oh no.

"The first-year factor was also part of the allure for Nathan Straight, who came to Rothbury with four friends from Winchester, Va. "
We're breaking it in for everyone," says Straight, 19, while his friend Chelsea Witte cooked a pot of rice over a portable grill. "We're pioneers, really. Like Thomas Jefferson or something.'"

Fuck. You.

Seriously. Hold on, I have to go walk around the room to calm down about this




O.k. I'm back but I'm still angry. Maybe I shouldn't be though. Maybe this kid is just joking or he's mentally handicapped or he's just been misquoted or something. However there is probably something like a fifty percent chance he is being dead serious and I, relatively anonymous blogger and defender of Thomas Jefferson's honor, just can't let him get away with that. Why? Because I dealt with too many assholes in my history classes at MSU, namely guys who wore ponchos with sandals, drank coffee from the same moldy ass Beaner's mug everyday, treated completing the State News crossword puzzle as if they had just done the Sunday New York Times Puzzle, described everything as "pragmatic" and took contrarian bullshit stances against the professor just for the sake of being non-conformist to not call this kid on it. Since this is post is getting much longer than I anticipated I'm going to give an abbreviated list of everything Thomas Jefferson accomplished in his 83 years.

-Delegate to Continental Congress
-Drafted Declaration of Independence, which could have led to him being executed for treason.
-State Legislator
-Governor of Virginia
-Founder of the University of Virginia
-Minister to France
-Secretary of State
-Vice President
-2-Term President
-Father to dozens of slave children...o.k. maybe this last item isn't so great but impressive nonetheless.

Noticeably absent from this list. Attending music festivals. I don't know though because Jefferson did take a year off from politics in 1794, which he very well could've spent backpacking across Europe with Ben Franklin and John Jay hitting up music festivals, experimenting with his sexuality and just fucking finding himself....man.

I don't think our friend Nicholas used the word pioneer correctly either. Jefferson was a political pioneer and I don't think the Rothbury Festival is breaking any kind of new political ground. I don't think Widespread Panic are going to introduce a new form of government in between 20 minute long jam sessions and Jefferson was way to cosmopolitan to be one of those soil of the earth American pioneers like Daniel Boone or som.........you know what this is stupid. If I wrote a blog post about every stupid uninformed hippie opinion that gets published in a paper I would be here all fucking day. So if you'll excuse me I'm going to get back to selling out.

Seriously though, this bar exam review shit is killing me. I'll post whenever I have time again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Opening The Vault Part I: Matt Millen

A couple of months ago I wrote that Sports Illustrated had put their entire archives online for free at SI.com. This was fantastic news for all the shut-in sports history buffs who would rather spend their Friday nights reading twenty-three year old articles about Dwight Gooden and Todd Marinovich instead of doing something frightening like talk to girls or leave my cat Scrambles at home by herself for more then an hour. Actually this isn't true. I don't want to play into the tired yet popular notion that all bloggers are basement dwelling losers who are afraid of human contact (In all honesty I don't see what's so great about human contact. Like the other day I was riding the bus and had no less than ten guys "accidentally" poked me with their boners. I know I'm a handsome man and people always tell me I look like James Spader in Stargate but I don't deserve that kind of treatment? It's not like I'm a woman).

Anyways in an effort to give full disclosure I thought I would get rid of the cloak of anonymity on this website and reveal my true identity. The name beefshower is an alias. I am really the spirit of Swami Vivekananda and whenever I get bored of travelling through India spreading the enlightening philosophies of the Hindu religion to the pure of heart I take some time out to blog about what's happening with sports in Detroit and breathlessly jack it to Paramore videos. Now that that's out of the way I thought I would put all those hours I've wasted going through SI's archives to good use by wasting even more time writing about those articles so that you the reader could waste your time reading my opinions of events that happened months, years even decades ago. It's a beautiful cycle really. Kind of like the circle of life only with a slower and more painful death.

I'm not going to be critical of the actual writing because my own writing sucks shit but rather I'm going to focus on the things that are funny or painful now that we look back on them with some historical perspective. I was thinking about writing something on the Tigers but they are so terrible and depressing right now that I couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't end up with me in tears or cursing a lot...or both. Instead I'm going to focus on this dandy that Peter King wrote during the summer of 2001 shortly after the Lions hired a man who would become famous for being worse at his job then anybody else is at their job anywhere in the country. Even worse then the guy at McDonalds on Woodward that gave me the Fish Filet value meal when I clearly ordered the ten piece McNugget meal. Seriously who requests barbecue sauce with a fish sandwich. Assholes. Anyways this isn't about the dumbass at McDonalds but for those of you who haven't figured it out yet and need me to spell out everything for them I'm talking about Matt Millen.

Matt Millen stood, soaking wet, outside the 226-year-old stone house he owns in eastern Pennsylvania. It was late May. A steady rain was falling on the 150-acre estate, and that made Millen happy. The rain was feeding his wife's endless flower beds and filling the property's cistern....

I know I said I wouldn't be critical of the writing because for the most part the writing in Sports Illustrated is top-notch but I'm going to nit-pick here. King goes on for nearly four paragraphs about some old cistern on Millen's property. Way to know your audience Mr. King. Although if any Quakers passing by from the 19th century happened by a news stand and picked up this issue hoping to find the latest in cistern news and advances in irrigation they would be in luck. Maybe later in the article he'll wite about James Polk's dealings with the British during the Oregon Territory dispute or maybe he'll provide the most humane method to kill an elderly relative suffering from typhoid fever. I consider myself a football fan as well as a pretty intelligent guy, as my rejection letter from the Everest Institute would indicate, and I had no idea what a cistern was until I looked it up on Wikipedia. Anyways if you want to read the rest of this cistern talk feel free to go to the article and read it. I'll just be sitting here waiting impatiently for you to return.

Millen recently began another rocky renovation project. This one, the reconstruction of the Detroit Lions, promises to be tougher than relining a 200-year-old cistern. The Lions last won an NFL title in 1957 and have won only one playoff game in the 44 years since. The previous regime tried to narrow the talent gap between Detroit and the league's elite by throwing huge money at players with slightly-above-average talent at best—running back James Stewart, quarterback Charlie Batch, defensive tackle James Jones, for example—thus creating major salary-cap problems for the new administration.

Mercifully thats the last of the cistern talk. At least Millen stopped the embarrassing habit of throwing large amounts of money at slightly above average talent. Instead he seems to have taken the radical approach of throwing big cash at old, washed up and way below average free agents such as Todd Lyght, Fernando Bryant, Damien Woody, Kenoy Kennedy, Marcus Pollard, Bill Schroeder, etc. I would continue to list the free agent busts but this post is already going to be about a million words long so I don't want to add another few thousand words by just naming names.

When Lions owner William Clay Ford handed the CEO and president job to Millen last Jan. 9, the hiring marked the first time since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 that the day-to-day operations of a team had been turned over to someone with no coaching, scouting or front-office experience. Millen played linebacker in the NFL for 12 seasons—with the Raiders (in Oakland and L.A.), the San Francisco 49ers and the Washington Redskins—and won four Super Bowl rings, but for the past nine years his association with the game has been limited to working as a broadcaster for CBS and Fox.

Transcript of Millen interview:

Ford: "Matt, you will be in charge of a team that is moving into a wonderful state of the art stadium in downtown Detroit. You will be in charge of ridding the franchise of a culture of losing that has permeated the team following a half century of sucking shit through a straw. You will be in charge of evaluating current players and handing out tens of millions of dollars in contracts a year to free agents. You will also have to spend countless hours scouting college talent in an attempt to land high impact first round picks as well as starters and positional depth in the later rounds. You will be in charge of assembling a roster with a payroll in excess of $100 million with players from diverse backgrounds. You will also have to hire a coaching staff that will develop these players and try to get the absolute most out of their ability, while also holding players accountable for their behavior on and off the field. You will also need to surround yourself with front office employees who will help you run an efficient workplace environment and assist you in handling the day to day business operations and decisions that are associated with running a multi-million dollar entity. What kind of experience do you have in this field?"

MM: "None"

Ford: "None. Why the hell should I hire you then?"

MM: "Because I was a slightly above average linebacker on three Super Bowl teams, all of which were supremely talented and brilliantly coached and could have won world titles without my contribution. I was pretty good at tackling people. That's about it."

Ford: "Wow. You're hired. Hell I'll even let you work out of your home. I heard you have a lovely cistern there."

"Matt came to see me at my home in Florida, and after 10 minutes with him I was charged up," Ford recalls about a late December meeting. "He convinced me there's little difference between our team and the great teams."

Ford went on to add, "He also revealed that he had evidence that my grandfather Henry Ford stole his idea for the automobile from a Jewish co-worker named Lowenstein while the two were employed at the Edison Illuminating Company. Grandpappy lured him over for lunch and Grandma Clara poisoned him with an arsenic laced bagel. Before disposing of the body Grandpa used the sack of gold tied around Lowensteins neck to start the Ford Motor Company and the Lowenstein Quadricycle became what is known today as the Model T. Matt also had pictures of my boy Billy fellating the Princeton lacrosse team during his time there."

This quote doesn't actually appear in the article but it should have because it would finally shed light on how Millen has been able to keep his job despite a 31-81 record as a G.M. Also legally I should point out this is all parody and that in all honesty Henry Ford is one of my favorite historical icons. Anybody who had their own secret police is a certifiable badass.

Hardly the executive type, Millen showed up for his introductory news conference wearing a wrinkled, seven-year-old blue blazer, sneakers that had belonged to Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington and a tie borrowed from broadcast partner Dick Stockton.

I might be wrong on this but I'm pretty sure the NFL is the most profitable business entity in all of professional sports. According to Forbes the Detroit Lions alone are worth 870 million dollars, which is more than the entire GDP of Zimbabwe. An NFL team could presumably hire some of the most intelligent and accomplished businessmen in the country to run their franchise but instead the Lions hired a man that doesnt even own a fucking tie. Although I probably shouldn't criticize somebody for their wardrobe or lack there of since I just pulled off the rare trifecta of wearing the same suit to my high school, college and law school graduation. But at least I was switching up my ties.

His office decor is best characterized by a pair of framed Three Stooges pictures that hang on the wall. He rides a Harley to work. In Millen's world every day is casual Friday, his typical attire being polo shirt, jeans, sneakers and a ball cap that reads DO IT ONCE—DO IT RIGHT. When Mike Holmgren, the Seattle Seahawks' executive vice president and coach, saw Millen scouting on the Michigan campus in March, he quipped, "Team president, CEO, general manager—and he looks like a schmo." Even the 43-year-old Millen admits, "I am an experiment."

So the first thing Millen does when he gets hired is throw some Three Stooges posters up on the wall? If I went to Midas to get my brakes fixed and I looked into the managers office and saw some Three Stooges posters on the wall I would just leave. Maybe that says more about me then it does Millen. Maybe this exposes me as some pretentious comedy snob who only finds stuff funny if they are shrouded in several levels of irony and who reads Steve Martin's autobiography while hi-lighting passages that discuss different comedic philosophies, but I just don't think the Three Stooges are funny. No, I'm really not that snobby because if I were I wouldn't rate Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure as one of the funniest movies I've ever seen but there is something about the Three Stooges that drives me nuts and now is not the time or place to explain why because I don't even know the reasons myself. I'm sorry.

Secondly I wouldn't hire a guy to run an NFL team that wore a hat with a cheesy slogan like "Do It Once - Do It Right" on it. Maybe if I were hiring a coach for a high school girls softball team I would allow it. Then he could print up sweatshirts that said things like "Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Doesn't Work Hard." with cutesy girl nicknames like Short Stuf and half numbers on the back. On the other hand I don't think I would hire Millen to even run a high school girl's team. Not because he's so inept but because with his kind of moustache he looks like the kind of guy who would be the lead story on the 11 o'clock news after getting fired because he bought some chubby girls on the team wine coolers in exchange for them massaging his thighs in the dugout.

Finally if Mike Holmgren who looks more like an obese walrus than most obese walruses do says that some guy is a slob it might be time to re-evaluate things.

Millen's initial personnel moves were uninspiring. After firing coach Gary Moeller, Millen replaced him with Marty Mornhinweg, who had previously labored as an assistant deep in the shadows of Holmgren in Green Bay and Steve Mariucci in San Francisco. Millen loves Mornhinweg's football mind, his variation of the West Coast offense and his ability to deal with change in this era of extensive player movement. Millen impressed no one with his veteran free-agent pickups—(Brendan) Stai, cornerback Todd Lyght, tight end Pete Mitchell, utility back Amp Lee and backup quarterback Jim Harbaugh. On the other hand, the combined 2001 cap value of those five players ($3.95 million) is about the same as what the Lions would have had to pay next season to retain free-agent guard Jeff Hartings, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. "We'll plug Stai in for Hartings," says Millen, "and not lose much."

Wrong. Hartings went on to be a two time All-Pro with the Steelers and helped them win a Super
Bowl during his final season. His ability to play both center and guard at a high level helped the Steelers have one of the most consistently good rushing offenses this decade. Brendan Stai sucked ass-barf for one season in Detroit before he was traded to the Redskins for a draft pick that was probably wasted on a lineman who sucked equally as bad, such as Kelly Butler or someone. I like this line of thinking by Millen though and I wonder if he applies in it other real life situations. For example if he went to a car dealer with the intention of buying a new Mercedes and the dealer said something like, "Sure that Mercedes is nice but for the same price I can sell you seven 1985 Mercury Topazes and you really wouldnt be losing that much in performance." would he take that deal? I'm leaning towards yes.

As for Hasselbeck, a source close to the Seahawks' front office says Millen tried to acquire him before the April 21 draft in a three-way deal that would have sent a high draft choice from Detroit to Jacksonville, with Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell going to Seattle and Hasselbeck, whom the Seahawks had gotten from the Packers in March, moving to the Lions. "How can I make this work?" Millen asked the Seahawks, according to the source. "I want Matt Hasselbeck." Holmgren, though, would not part with his former Green Bay protégé, and Detroit will stick with the cap-heavy and injury-prone Batch.

There is no way this paragraph is true because that deal actually makes sense. I wonder if Millen and the Lions fortunes would have been different had they traded for Hasselbeck or if the Lions aura of suckitude and overwhelming history of shitty quarterbacking would have ruined Hasselbeck's career. It's a pretty amazing What-if? scenario. Well, not really. I'm so pessimistic about the Lions that I honestly believe that if Hasselbeck had ended up playing in Detroit his career would have been ruined. I bet Hasselbeck wakes up screaming at night after having a recurring nightmare where he has to repeatedly check down to Aveion Cason as Dominic Raiola helplessly flails his short little T-Rex arms at a blitzing Lance Briggs.

Millen consulted confidant and former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, who'd recruited Millen as a Pennsylvania all-state linebacker. (Millen signed with Penn State.)

Bo Schembechler was a great football coach but I wouldn't take advice from him on how to be a good executive. I loved the guy and he was a legend in Ann Arbor but his season as Tigers President was an unmitigated disaster. Dude fired Ernie Harwell for Chrissakes.

Millen will have to hope he hits the lottery with the draft and free agent signings. He saved the Lions another $2.5 million on this year's cap by persuading Jones and linebacker Allen Aldridge to take substantial pay cuts.

This paragraph isnt really that important other than the fact that I don't think Allen Aldridge ever actually existed. I've been a Lions fan my whole life and have been going to games for the past 15 years or so and I have no fucking clue who Allen Aldridge is. Though somehow he was making enough money to take a million dollar plus paycut. God I hate the Lions.

The Lions have a long-term question at quarterback: Can Batch stay healthy and become a consistent and accurate passer?

No. Also the Lions still have a long term question at quarterback for going on the fiftieth season. Is Erik Kramer available b/c he's still the best quarterback the Lions have had in my lifetime.

Strolling his property, Millen acknowledged the obstacles he faces, but he was undaunted. "Look at that house," he said. "In its day it was a great house, probably the finest in the area. But it fell out of repair and had to be rebuilt. Same with the Lions. Champs of the league long ago, but the franchise fell down. We need to bring it back to greatness. That's the only reason I'm in this."

Well if the Lions were an old house and Millen's been in charge of the renovations for the past seven years the house is a disaster. What he's done to the Lions would be the equivalent of driving a bulldozer through the side of the house, setting the ruins on fire, using the fire to light a big fat cigar and then pissing all over the flames to put them out while all the while Mr. Ford claps his hand gleefully and pays Millen with giant sacks of money with dollar signs on them.