Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tigers Return to Series 22 Years Later

On the anniversary of their 1984 World Series-clinching victory Maggs Ordonez leads the Tigers back to the promised land.

Tigers 6, A's 3
HRs:OAK: Payton; DET: Ordonez (2)
Tigers win series, 4-games to-none

Magglio Ordonez happened, that's what. He happened to hit a leadoff home run in the 6th of Danny Haren that tied the score at 3, and then he happened to become a postseason hero when he nailed a 3-run bomb off of Oakland closer Huston Street with 2 outs in the 9th inning to propel Detroit to their first World Series since 1984; that magical year the Tigers broke out to a 35-5 start en route to a Series victory over the Padres.

This year's edition of the Tigers has had that same kind of magical aura around them all season, save for the final month when the long grind, and the hot Twins, caught up to a team that was 40 games over .500 at one point (76-36 on Aug. 7th.) Despite tanking in the final weekend,getting swept by the Royals which forced them into the Wild Card against the Stankees, the Tigers never gave up or or caved in- a direct extension of their take-no-prisoners manager, Jim Leyland. To a man these Tiger players have credited Leyland with changing the culture of losing in Motown and being accountable for the actions between the white lines. It's freakin' amazing when you remember that THIS TEAM LOST 119 GAMES JUST 3 YEARS AGO.

The game stared off ominously for Detroit as Oakland starter Haren had his way with the Tiger hitters for the first 4 innings, allowing only 2 hits while striking out 7. Plus the A's offense decided to make an early appearance, courtesy of RBI doubles by Milton Bradley (7-14 in the series while gutting it out with a wounded hammy) and Eric Chavez. When Jay Payton hit a one-out solo shot off of shaky Tiger starter Jeremy Bonderman (6.2, 6H, 3R) to push it to 3-0 in the 4th, there weren't worries on the faces of the Tiger faithful, but the small seed of "uh-oh, we might have to go back to Oakland" could be found stirring in their minds.

But that doubt was quickly put to rest when the Tigers pounced on Haren for 2 runs in the 5th. Sparkplug Brandon Inge led off by forcing an error by the Gold Glove king Chavez. Granderson $ Monroe (how clutch are those 2) then hit back to back doubles to make it 3-2, and if it weren't for Monroe getting doubled off second on a lineout by ALCS MVP Placido Polanco ( 9-17, .529) the Tigers might have tied it in that inning.

As it was they only had to wait until the first batter of the next inning, when Maggs popped on into the rightfield bleachers for a game-tying, momentum-swinging homer that must have left Oakland & their fans thinking "what do we have to do to kill these beasts?!"

The answer, obviously, is nothing, because these cats don't just have 9 lives, they may have 99 lives. They just keep comin at ya until there's nothing left but a carcass, and that's all that was left of the A's after the devastating 9th inning.

Things started out innocently enough when Marcus Thames & Grandy both flew out off of A's closer Huston Street. But then something happened: Craig Monroe reached on a single. "Rally time" I said to my wife, who was ignoring me as usual when it comes to these things. But then another thing happened: a single by MVPolanco. Two on and tow out. "Rally time" I said a little louder. And next came the moment every kid, player, and fan dreams of. Ordonez stepped to the plate with a chance to put his team in the World Series with one swing of the bat. And with one swing of the bat, he crushed the offering from Street deep into the rightfield seats and even deeper into Tiger & baseball lore: it was only the 8th time an LCS has been decided by a walk-off home run. We won't mention when the last time was (ahemAaron Boone.)
"You're right, I am the man!"
So the Tigers will celebrate like it's 1984 for a few days while the NLCS plays out. That Tiger team had heroes like Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson and manager Sparky Anderson. But this squad has heroes like Ordonez, Monroe, Polanco, Grandy, Bonderman, Verlander, Zumaya, and manager of the Year shoo-in Jim Leyland, who with another series win will become only the 3nd manager to win a Series in both leagues. The first: Sparky.

Karma, baby, karma. And the Tigers got it in spades.


Cards slug their way back to even series

A see-saw slugfest ends with St. Louis scoring 3 in the 9th off Billy Wagner to win Game 2, 9-6

Say it ain't So! Taguchi's 9th inning HR provided winning margin for Cards

WP: Kinney
LP: Wagner
HRs: STL: Taguchi, Edmonds; NYM: Delgado (2)

I'm still not sure as this one was what everyone expected of most games in this series due to lack of pitching depth, but not with St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter on the mound. New York jumped all over Cy Carpenter early and often, starting with a Carlos Delgado 3-run bomb in the 1st inning and ending with another Delgado shot in the 5th. With his line(5IP, 6H, 5R, 4BB), you would think the high scoring Mets would have had a "W" for sure. Ah, but not on this wacky night, because that lack of pitching depth caught up to New York as well; rookie starter John Maine had an awful outing (4IP, 4R, 5BB, 88 pitches) including a 2run double to Yadier Molina in the 2nd and a 2-run HR to Jim Edmonds in the 3rd that knotted the game at 4. It would remain that way until the 5th, when the Mets got the lead run on Delgado's 2nd HR, then added another in the 6th when Paulie LoDuca doubled in Jose Reyes(3-4, 2R, 1RBI, 1BB) to take the 6-4 lead.

But the Cardinals would strike back against Guillermo Mota in the 7th. Scott Soulpatch Spieizio, a hero from the Angels World Series winning club 3 years ago, hit a deep flyball to rightfield with Pujols and Edmonds aboard. As the ball appeared to go over the fence, rightfielder Shawn Green knocked it back off the top of the wall and back onto the field. Meanwhile Pujols and Edmonds had motored around for a 2-run triple and the contest, or circus, was tied again, 6-6.

Remeber back in my NLCS preview to what I said about the Mets bullpen: "The Mets enjoy a decided advantage in the bullpen. Hard throwing closer Billy Wagner has lost some gas but can still be unhittable- when he isn't allowing game-winning bombs."
Okay, call me Nostradamus if you must, because as soon as you can say Armageddon, Wagner allowed a leadoff solo shot to light-hitting, seldom-used utility outfielder So Taguchi, who now has 2 hits, both HRs in this postseason after not hitting one since June 21st. Only in the playoffs, man. Just to make sure the Mets weren't coming back again, Wagner gave up another big hit to Spiezio (RBI 2B) and a run-scoring single to Juan Encarnacion for the final losing margin of 9-6.
I know Wagner has given up some big, game-blowing meltdown bombs before, but in this situation, when the Mets would have had a commanding 2-0 series lead, this one has got Brad Lidge Breakdown written all over it.

The only other multihomer game for the Mets in the NLCS was by Rusty Staub in Game 3 in 1973 against Cincinnati.
The Mets were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, dropping to 2-for-15 in the series.
Delgado is making the most of his first postseason appearance:10-22 (.455),3HRs,6RBI.
Albert Pujols finally had a decent game (2-4, 3R)perhaps feeling the pressure to perform after his embarrassing comments regarding Glavine after Game 1-very out of character for the normally likable Phat Albert-hopefully it was a motivational ploy, as some analysts have suggested.

"I can't explain. It's unbelievable," he said. "Who expected that I would hit a home run? Maybe nobody. Even me."
Taguchi on being the unlikely homer hero

Game 3 switches to St. Louis tonight at 8Pm on FOX. The matchup will be Steve Traschel (15-8, 4.97) for the Mets vs. Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.12) for the Cards. Thanks to the rainout, even though Carpenter didn't get the win, the Cards now have the rotation in their favor, being tied going home with their 2nd best pitcher on the mound. Look for the Cards to ride some of that momentum, plus the noise of all those mad Redbird fans, to another thrilling win.


Friday, October 13, 2006

College Football Week 7 Preview

Auburn's Jordan-Hare stadium will be full & raucous for the #2 Gators tonight

I didn't bother to do a review of Week 6 because I was so god-awful with my predictions that I couldn't bear to revisit them. But with Week 7 now upon us, and a week of reflection behind me, I can now see the error of my ways. Plus I need to recap what happened last week before I can get to this week. So bear with me.

As I recall I was a not-too-terrible 2-3 in my picks for the week, but my losses were doozies: LSU over Florida 17-14 (Gators won 23-10), Georgia over the Vols 24-21 (the Dawgs got neutered, 51-33) and Oklahoma over Texas 28-24 (the 'Horns walloped the Sooners 28-10.) My 2 correct picks, in hindsight, were pretty easy ones: I had Michigan beating reeling Michigan State 35-13 (Wolverines won 31-13) and Cal taking out Oregon in a shootout, 45-37 (I was close but Oregon couldn't score & lost 45-24.)

So that was my week, and what a week in college ball. The Gators win coupled with Auburn's surprising 27-10 home loss to the upstart Razorbacks (4-1, 3-0 SEC) catapulted Florida into the Tigers' No. 2 slot in the polls, while Auburn dropped all the way to 11th. Ouch. Yet Georgia's embarrassing drubbing at the hands of Eric Ainge and the offensively potent Vols between the hedges only dropped the Dawgs from 10th to 14th; figure that?
Speaking of embarrassing, FSU's loss on Thursday Night Football to Chuck Amato's NC ST. Wolfpack kicked the Noles out of the polls, joining fellow underachieving Sunshine Staters the Hurricanes in the legion of the unranked. Now that's rank!

Now all the talk is focused on what teams are the top 5 in the country. The AP has it like this:
1.)Ohio State (6-0)
2.)Florida (6-0)
3.)USC (5-0)
4.)Michigan (6-0)
5.)West Virginia (6-0)

But every analyst, writer, pollster and peon has their list. So here's this peon blogger's:

1.) Ohio State- until they lose they are the clear No.1; could be undefeated heading into the Michigan game in a month.
2.)Michigan- with a punishing defense and well-balanced offense, this team could become one of Cmmdr. Carr's best squads yet.
3.)Florida- it pains me to rank these guys here, but they haven't done anything to disprove their position; that could change after tonight's tilt at Auburn.
4.)USC- I find it hard to believe that many 'experts' are calling this the best or 2nd best team in the land; we'll find out in a month if they are even the 2nd best team in the PAC-10 when they take on 5-1 Cal.
5.)Louisville(5-0)- everyone was ready to drop the Birds when star RB Michael Bush went down for the season in the 1st game and then stud QB Brian Brohm went out in their 3rd contest against Miami. All the Cards have done is average 500+/ YPG and 44/PPG with a balanced ground (236yds) & aerial (286) attack in their absence; #5 W.Va awaits in 3 weeks.

There you have it. But no matter what the rankings are now, they will all change in the next month when these undefeated teams start squaring off against each other. As usual it's going to be a fun final month of the season. But now let's look at this weeks' Top 5 Games to Watch, along with another batch of my terrific picks:

24 Rutgers (5-0) @ Navy (5-1) 1:30PM
The Scarlet Knights won their 1st game in 36 years as a ranked team 2 weeks ago vs. USF , but this contest will be a lot tougher test for Rutgers. The Middies are back in full force with a running game that is averging 350/YPG, thanks to the 2-pronged backfield of QB Brian Hampton (645yds) & RB Adam Ballard (574yds.) Hampton is an absolute beast: this 5'11" senior has compiled 945 total yards & 12 TDs already this season as a mobile QB, and the solid Scarlet defense is going to have their hands full with him. But Rutgers is no offensive slouch either; the Knights are averaging 31 PPG and 200+ on the ground thanks to the nation's 3rd leading rusher, Ray Rice (806 yds, 11 TDs.) Who'd have thunk it: Rutgers/Navy a must-see game? Crazy.
MY PICK: Navy, 35-31 (sorry Ira & Butchie!)

10 Cal @ Washington State( 4-2) 5PM EST
This could be a trap game for the suddenly resurgent Bears. After their season-opening ass-kicking (35-18) at the hands of the Vols, Cal has ripped off 5 wins in a row while averaging nearly 44/PPG. Their much-maligned defense also came through last week, holding high-scoring Oregon to just 24 points (maybe their hideous Unis distracted the similarly-clad Ducks). But I say this is a trap because Wazzou is much better than their record indicates: their 2 losses were a 4-14 beating by then #4 Auburn and a close (28-22) loss to USC 2 weeks ago. The Cougs have a few weapons, including junior QB Alex Brink (9TDs) and electric receivers Michael Bumpus and Jason Hil. But Cal counters with their high-flying trio of QB Nate Longshore (17TDs), WR DeSean Jackson(8TDs, 18/YPC) and RB Marshawn Lynch, who has been gimpy with an ankle injury all year but has been adequately replaced by junior Justin Forsett (163yds vs. ORE.) All that firepower should be too much for WSU to overcome, but they might keep it interesting-for a half. I just hope they don't bust out those god-awful unis again.
MY PICK: Cal 37- 21

1 Ohio State @ Michigan State(3-3) 3:30PM ABC
Heading into the season this looked like a challenging road test for the Buckeyes. Now it just looks like an East Lansing speed bump as the stumbling Spartans have seen the bottom drop out of their season. Successive losses to Notre Dame, Illinois & Michigan have left the program searching for answers and students & alumni calling for coach John L. Smith's head on a stick. The Buckeyes have superior players on both sides of the ball and should handle the Spartans fairly easily, but they better not forget the old saying: never underestimate a wounded animal; they'll come back to bite ya. And boy are the Spartans wounded. But they still possess quality skill players, including QB Drew Stanton, and are putting up 31/PPG. But when the smoke (or rain) clears in Spartan Stadium the #1 team should be 7-o and awaiting a visit from that other team from Michigan, the Wolverines.
MY PICK: Buckeyes 28-17

4 Michigan @ Penn State (4-2) 8PM ABC

Although the Lions' 2 losses have been to highly-ranked ranked opponents (41-17 to #4 ND; 28-6 to #1 Ohio St.), their wins have been against the likes of Akron, Youngstown and Northwestern. In other words Papa Paterno's resurgent squad from last year (11-1 w/ an Orange Bowl win over FSU) is a distant memory for this rebuilding unit. But the Wolverines come into this one a little bit banged up & distracted. Star WR Mario Manningham(527yds, 9TDs) will not play due to arthroscopic surgery on his knee, and a 23-year-old man was arrested yesterday and charged with stalking & harrassment of Commander Carr. Wow, I know he rubs people the wrong way, but who would want to stalk the guy? The loser sent threatening emails and was actually caught on campus waiting outside the facilities with a bat. Yikes. So Michigan may be slightly off thei game coming in to this one. But they still have QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart, plus capable receiver Steve Breaston, and that should be enough to hold off the sure-to-be-fired up Nitny Lions and the 100,000+ fans in Beaver Stadium.
MY PICK: Wolverines 27-10

2 Florida @ 11 Auburn(5-1) 7:45 ESPN
The only matchup this week between 2 ranked teams should be a good old fashioned SEC hate-fest as the Gators come to town flashing their #2 ranking that they swiped form Auburn last week. While the Tigers may have been overlooking Arkansas in favor of this game, that's no reason for a #2 to get destroyed at home by an unranked team, 27-10. Either way you slice it it wasn't a good day for Auburn, but they have the perfect tonic for what ails them skipping into Jordan-Hare Stadium tonight at 7:45 on ESPN.
The Gators reliance on the 2-headed QB animal of Chris Leak (1395yds, 13 TDs) and freshman Tim Tebow(380 tot yds, 5 TDs) has paid off for Urban Meyer so far: last week they confused LSU by allowing Tebow, who was being used to run in goal line situations, to throw for 2 touchdowns, including a miraculous basketball-like jump shot score. I'm not a fan of this type of system but if it's working (it is) and 4-yr starter Leak is fine with it (he is) then more power to them. But I look for Auburn to come out with the same fire & intensity they had when they deconstructed LSU 7-3 a few weeks ago. Auburn just sucked the soul right out of them with suffocating defense and, well that was about it. the Tigers will need to control the ball with power back Kenny Irons and keep the high-scoring Gators off the field for as long as possible. It should be ugly, nasty, and intense. In other words a perfect game to cap our day off with.
In the words of Mills Lane: "Let's get it on!"
MY PICK: Tigers 14-13


Tigers put choke hold on A's

Detroit earns near-insurmountable 3-0 series lead with 3-0 victory in Game 3 The Gambler was dealin' again as Rogers threw 7.1 scoreless innings

LP: Harden
SV: Jones(3)
HRs: DET: Monroe

Call it karma. Call it fate. Call it getting the monkey off a city's back after 19 years of frustration.
But whatever you wanna call it, it's now apparent that Detroit has got it, and it's riding that special something right into the World Series.
Neither cold nor (threat of) snow nor Oakland's pitchers could stop the runaway train, sorry, GM automobile, that is this Tiger team. They set the tempo right off the bat when, despite the opening pitch temp of 44 degrees, Game 1 hero Brandon Inge made a headlong dive into the stands to snag Mark Kotsay's foul ball. Total disregard for his body, the weather, the circumstances, just pure determination to make the play. That's how the Tigers have been playing ever since the Game 1 blowout loss to New York in the ALDS. And that's why they are on the verge of their first Series birth since that magical 1984 season.
Kenny the Cameraman Clubber made another brilliant playoff start, continuing to erase memories of his early career postseason failures (FOX showed the classic footage of him giving up the bases loaded walk to Andruw Jones in the 1999 NLCS.) The Gambler tossed 7.1 innings of 2-hit shutout ball, and you just knew that after rusty Oakland starter Rich Harden (5.2, 5H, 3R, 5BBs) gave up 2 in the first that might be all Rogers would need today. And it was.

Detroit put the deuce on the board in the opening frame when Harden couldn't get acclimated to either the weather or big league players after getting battered in a Fall Ball tuneup start in Arizona Monday. Harden missed 3 1/2 months with elbow problems this year, and the call to give him the start instead of rested & healthy Danny Haren will be second, third & quadruple-guessed in the Bay area for months. He was behind on every batter and started the game by walking Grandy (3BBs, 1 SB, 1R) and gave up singles to Monroe & Polanco (6-6 career off Harden) for the 1-0 lead. A fielders choice scored another run, but Harden escaped further damage with an inning ending DP.

"Man that is a pretty shot I just hit right there."

But it turns out that there would only be 1 more run scored in the game- Monroe's majestic shot to left field off of Harden leading off the 5th- and Kenny made sure that he wasn't going to blow this one. Fernando Rodney, who is replacing Zumaya while the blowtorch rests his sore wrist, relieved Rogers in the 8th and escaped a mini-jam, then gave way to Todd Jones in the 9th, who recorded his 3rd save of the series. Talk about a complete team victory.

Why did the A's lose, let us count the ways: questionable starter Rich Harden wasn't sharp, they couldn't retire the leadoff man Granderson (3BBs after striking out 174 times this year), they couldn't get any hits (2 total), they made mental mistakes (no one covering 2nd on a steal, couldn't turn a routine DP- again) and they were just completely outplayed in all facets of the game for the third straight game by the suddenly supreme Tigers. When the 2 big guns, Frank Thomas & Nick Swisher, are throwing up a combined 0-17 you are gonna be in trouble. Like 'down 0-3 with a Game 4 tomorrow at 4 in frigid Motown against Yankee-killer Bonderman' trouble.

King Leyland's hunches paid off again. He switched Carlos Guillen to 1st in place of injured Mayor Casey and Guillen made a great play to stay on the bag and escape that 8th inning jam. He also gave 1st career playoff starts to Omar Enfane at DH (1 hit, 1 BB) and Ramon Santiago at SS, who made a beautiful play on a ball hit to the hole for an out that Guillen would never have reached. Trust the Midas touch.
Oakland 2B Mark Kiger became the 1st Major League player to make his MLB debut in a playoff game. Kiger replaced D'Angelo Jimenez in the 8th; Jimenez has not been effective in replacing regular second sacker Mark Ellis, who was lost to a broken finger in the ALDS vs. Minnesota.

"It's like finding a wallet on Friday night and then looking for another one on Saturday and Sunday." Analyst Lou Pinella on why surprise ALDS hero, light-hitting Marco Scutaro, has not produced in the ALCS.


Bust out the "Grillies" cause Detroit's going to the Series!


Mets down Cards behind Beltran & Glavine

Tommy G's pitching and Carlos Beltran's hitting provide all New York would need to take 1-0 series lead.
Carlos Beltran's 6th inning blast was all the Mets would need

WP: Glavine

LP: Weaver
HR: NY:Beltran

Cardinals starter Jeff Weaver and Mets lefty Tom Glavine combined for 5+ innings of exciting, pitching dominant playoff baseball. The two hurlers combined to allow only 5 hits thru 5 1/2, and had the hitters off balance the whole time. Then came the bottom of the 6th, and Weaver made the kind of mistake that you CANNOT afford to make in a tight playoff game like this one. After 2 quick outs Paulie LoDuca lined a single to left. No problem, right? Wrong, because the Mets power-hitting center fielder Carlos Beltran was up next, and he hit the 4th pitch he saw from Weaver so hard and far it almost put a hole in the giant scoreboard beyond the center field wall. The shot went an estimated 430 ft, but would've gone about 500 if the board didn't interrupt its flight.Beltran is making a living off of postseason HRs, especially against the Cards: it was his 11th career playoff homer and astonishing 5th vs. St' Louis in just 3 series against them. Ouch. Might want to walk that guy next time.

Weaver & Glavine. Although he pitched brilliantly for 5 2/3 innings,Weaver absolutely cannot make a mistake like that to a hitter like Beltran in that spot. Walk him if you must, but don't allow him to beat you like that. But that's why Weaver is a 15-loss pitcher and Beltran is one of the best hitters in the game. Also Tommy G. has quietly (as hew usually does)put the depleted Mets pitching staff on his shoulders since the loss of Pedro & El Duque and given them 2 consecutive brilliant performances, not allowing a run so far in the postseason (13 IP);it's the first time in his 34 career playoff starts that he has gone back-to-back games without allowing a run. A lot of people forget about this guy for the Mets- Tommy is making sure no one will forget about him again. Another factor in the loss was poor Cardinal base running. Twice the Redbirds had base runners caught napping and picked off base, including an embarrassing play by Pujols when he was almost at second base on a liner to center in the 4th; Beltran fired back to first to easily nail Pujols for a rally-killing DP.

Mets LF Cliff Floyd got the start despite his badly injured achilles tendon. After making an out in the 2nd Floyd was removed from the game, saying he "felt 2 pops" in there. He is listed as day-to-day. My question to Willie Randolph- with games on 5 consecutive days following the rain out, why start the already hobbled Floyd in Game 1 and now potentially lose him for the other 3 or 4?
Due to the postponement of Game 1 LaRussa announced that ace Chris Carpenter will start Game 2 tonight in New York on his normal rest instead of his original schedule to be the Game 3 starter when the series resumed in St. Louie. Makes sense, 'cause if the Cards lose tonight Game 3 won't matter too much. Rookie John Maine will go for the Mets. The game is tonight at 8PM on FOX.

"He wasn't good. He wasn't good at all," Pujols said of Glavine, who threw seven innings of four-hit ball for the victory. "I think we hit the ball hard, we didn't get some breaks.
"I say he wasn't good at all. We just didn't get some opportunities and that's it.. .. (Glavine did the) same thing that he always does. Throw a changeup, fastball and that was it. I just think we should've done a better job than we did." Sour Grapes Albert following his terrible 0-3, 1 baserunning blunder performance. Way to give credit where credit is due, Al.

Game 3 switches the series to Detroit, but cold & possible snowy conditions make the completion of the game dicey. It was moved to 4PM to accommodate various interests, one of them possibly being the weather. But since it was already flurrying last night I don't see what moving it to today will accomplish. If the game goes off it will be Kenny Rogers for the Tigers facing Rich Harden for the A's, who desperately need this game or face the prospects of yet another disappointing playoff series loss. Harden missed 3 1/2 months with arm troubles this year, but he is a native Canadian, so if anyone should thrive on the conditions it would be him.


Thursday, October 12, 2006


I know I've used that tired expression about 5 or 6 times on this space- whoever invented it is a gazillionaire genius living on his own island right now- but it perfectly sums up what I want to say... ...that these are the shows I recommend, no IMPLORE you to check out, for their varied ways of entertaining the masses (or at leat my wife & I):

The fact that this show is not even in the Top 20 every week is a travesty & a farce. Even staunch supporters of the BBC original are conceding that this wry, witty and bust-gusting hilarious American version is a separate & completely different entity; amazing what winning a few Emmys will do that to those stuck-up critics. My wife and I have enjoyed this show since Day 1, perhaps because we never saw the BBC original (like most normal Americans, we don't sit around watching BBC TV.) No, we enjoy The Office for the terrific cast, excellent writing, and subliminal yet hysterical way of making the viewer enjoy mundane events in the lives of seemingly uninteresting paper company employees. Steve Carell is like a comic pied-piper, leading the rest of his capable & willing followers down a road of ground-breaking comedy that eventually will overshadow its pretentious British counterpart. If this show doesn't crack the Top 20 soon I am going to hold a seminar and make every participant catch a colored wire ball and tell us why they don't watch.
Sure it's corny, cheesy and unbelievable. But it's also addictive, exciting and most importantly FUN. Wentworth Miller plays lead character Michael Schofield with a smoldering intensity that drives the women (at least my wife) wild and makes the guys want to see him succeed. The rest of the cast makes you care for them as well: Michael's brooding, wrongly convicted brother Linc (Dominic Purcell); evil-yet-riveting Agent Kellerman; psychotic Special Agent Mahone (William Fichtner); conflicted-but-caring Dr. Tancredi; even despicable-but-hilarious T-Bag makes me want to see him survive the Fox River 8's Great Escape. The show may be incredible, but it keeps me coming back every week, so something must be working. Enjoy it while it lasts- these boys can't be on the run forever.

3.)Dancing with the Stars
Cute guys, hot chicks, sexy dances, off-screen romances and snappy Tom Bergeron one liners- how can that formula go wrong? Evidently it can't as DWTS regularly rakes in almost 20 million viewers for each of its 2 weekly eps, and let me tell you those aren't all middle-aged ladies & gay men. This show has something for everyone, both men & women: joy & pain, hard work & rewarding results, skintight costumes & plunging necklines (even if it was Jerry Springer's), cliffhangers (on Tuesdays) & bad scores, oh, and did I mention dancing? Probably not, because that seems to be a mere subplot to the above mentioned themes. Whatever this stupid little show has, it's got it in spades- it's like American Karaoke, watered down & classed up, but with more skin. Nice.

I have to admit that tis seaon is not as funny as the first. But how could it be? The premise- a former loser who wins the lottery, finds the errors of his ways, and tries to swing karma in his fate by righting past wrongs- was an out-of-the-blue hit last season, mainly due to Jason Lee's spot on portrayal of lovable trailer-trash loser Earl and the support of his whacked out ex-wife Joy (Jamie Pressley), dim-witted brother Randy (Ethan Suplee) and numerous guest stars. But due to its unexpected success the show is falling a little flat this season, from the 2-part season premier to the too-obvious-to-be-funny carnie episode. Something about the show still resonates, though, perhaps because it's the perfect compliment to the subtle Office it leads into, which makes its bawdy and raunchy humor stand out even more. Whatever the reason, as long as Earl is checking items off of his list, and Joy & Mexican maid Catalina are competing as strippers, I'm all in.

5.) 30 ROCK
Although it has aired only 1 episode so far, the season premiere Wednesday (which wasn't great) I want to like this show so much that I am including it here. I mean it has all the makings of either a comedic smash hit or enourmous bomb. From the slanted minds of former Saturday Night Live head writer Tina Fey and SNL producer Lorne Michaels came this ingenious idea to do a show about a live sketch comedy show that airs on NBC. Deja-view? But with Fey, Tracy Morgan, Alec Baldwin, Jane Krakowski and Racheal Dratch-okay, scratch that last one- on board it looks like this quirky schtick could find an audience. Or it might just get lost among the multitude of new shows vying for a piece of the pie, such as the unfortunately similar-themed NBC dramedy Studio 60. Nothing like competeing with your own network. Good luck Tina & Alec; I'm rooting for you guys, especially Alec's Schweddy Balls.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Comeback Cats claw out 2 game advantage

Tigers take Game 2, 8-5, to go up 2-0 heading back to Detroit.
Seldom- used Alexis Gomez rapped 2 hits(1 HR) & 4 RBI

Game 2: Tigers 8-5
WP: Verlander
LP: Loaiza
SV: Jones
HR: DET: Gomez, Granderson; OAK: Bradley (2), Chavez

The longer this season goes on the more Jim Leyland looks like a managerial genius. I'm talkin' LaRussa-type genius. How else do you explain Leyland's latest 'questionable? no,brilliant' move of inserting twice-released outfielder Alexis Gomez in the DH spot in place of Marcus Thames?
The hunch paid off as the lefty DH smacked a 2-run single in the 4th to give Detroit the lead, then added a 2-run bomb off of Esteban Loiaza in the 6th that gave the Tigers a little cushion at 7-3. The A's would scrape back thanks to 2 homers from Milton Bradley and had a chance to win it after loading the bases off Todd Jones in the 9th. But Jones got Frank Thomas to fly out to deep right to end it, and now Detroit is the team putting a 'big hurt' on the A's with a 2-0 series lead heading back to Motown. And it seems like every move Leyland makes turns into managerial gold. Talk about a Midas touch.

Esteban Loiaza. Oakland had an early lead in this one thanks to a single run in the 1st and 2 more in the 3rd on Bradley's first HR off Tiger starter Justin Verlander. But almost immediately the Tigers struck back, touching up Loiaza for 4 in the 4th and chasing him with 2 more in the 6th; his line score was a horrendous 6IP, 9H, 7ER and 1 monumental playoff "L."

Milton the Madman's 2 jacks weren't enough for Oakland

This is what happens to teams in the playoffs when they are forced to rely on piss-poor starting pitching (see Yankees, New York) and it a 7 game series that flaw often proves to be fatal, which it will be for Oakland.
The series shifts to Motown and gorgeous Comerica Park. My good friend Adam who works at the luxurious Tiger Club restaurant behind home plate tells me that the starting time has been changed from 8:00PM to 4:14 PM so the Cards/Mets game can be seen in prime time- IN JAPAN. Evidently the Japanese invest quite a few bucks in MLB. The "official" cause was said to be possible inclement weather in the Detroit area Friday night, but if so why have the other 2 games been moved as well? Either way the Tigers will roll out ALDS hero Kenny Cameraman Clubber Rogers and Oakland will counter with Rich Harden, a kid who has terrific stuff, but missed a huge chunk of the season with elbow problems. Uh-oh. Can you say 3-0? Adam, tell the chefs to start preparing the World Series menu.

"He does have big-time power," Leyland said. "Unfortunately, he showed most of it in batting practice." Leyland on Alexis Gomez

Tiger first baseman and all-around nice guy Sean Casey suffered a calf injury in Gm 1 and was unavailable for Game 2; his status for the rest of the series is in question. Also for Detroit, flamethrowing reliever Joel Zumaya injured his wrist and is listed as day-to-day; he injured the same wrist a month ago and missed a week. That's what happens when you throw 103 freakin miles per hour!

Rain forced the postponement of Game 1 of the NLCS between the Cardinals and the Mets last night. It was rescheduled for Friday day, then switched to the night to "accomodate the weather in Detroit". Just as well with the sudden death of Yankee pitcher reverberating throughout the greater New York area as well as the rest of the country. Mets coach Manny Acta and a team doctor actually lived in the building that Lidle's plane crashed into. Talk about a goosebump-inducing coincidence. Game 1 is Thursday night at 8 on FOX (with an "O") , Jeff Weaver for St.L vs. Tom Glavine for the Mets.


Yankee pitcher Lidle killed in small plane crash

New York Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle was killed this morning when his small personal aircraft crashed into an Upper East Side apartment building, instantly killing the pitcher and his passenger.

Just 2 days before, Lidle had given interviews at Yankee Stadium regarding their loss to the Tigers in the ALDS, the possible firing of coach Joe Torre and the end of the season in general. He said he was looking forward to making this cross-country flight to his California home and was known to be an aviation buff who just received his pilot's license this year.

Lidle played with 7 teams during his 9 year playing career, including the D-Rays and 2 current playoff teams, Oakland & the Mets. He was acquired by New York in the deal that brought Bobby Abreu to the Yanks before the trading deadline. Although Abreu was the big name in the deal, many experts said the pickup of Lidle was a valuable move as well. Players, fans and personnel all over baseball were stunned and saddened by the news, as I was when I finally found out what happened. At first I heard while I was at work that a plane had crashed into a building in New York- GULP. Then I heard that it was a small plane accident, not a terrorist attack-WHEW. But later at my son's Little League game when I learned what really happened I almost fell on the ground.

Events like this occur rarely in professional sports, but when they do they pack an emotional wallop that hits everyone hard, not just sports fans. The sports fans think "oh my god, I can't believe that happened to so & so, I just watched him play..." and the non-sports fans say "if this can happen to a celebrity/athlete, it can happen to me or someone I love"- it resonates with everyone. Other tragic events similar to this include the deaths of Yankee catcher Thurman Munson, Pirates star Roberto Clemente, golfer Payne Stewart and John Kennedy Jr.
But nothing can prepare anyone for this kind of tragedy. This excellent piece by's Jayson Stark, about the eerie coincidences regarding Lidle's death, and also this incredibly sad piece relating how his father & family learned of the tragedy capture the emotions and shock waves of this event.

is survived by his wife and 6-year old son.

And suddenly the playoffs, and sports in general, seem so very unimportant.


Tigers take Gm 1 of ALCS, 5-1

Robertson, Inge & Co. rip Oakland in the ALCS opener

There may be a higher power guiding Pudge & the Tigers
GAME 1: Tigers 5-1
WP- Nate Robertson
LP- Barry Zito
HR- DET: Inge, Rodriguez

It looked like Barry Zito was going to reprise his ALDS Game 1 performance when he out pitched Johan Santan for the win. Zito retired the first 8 batters he faced on a variety of pitches, including his nasty yakker. But then Brandon Inge came up with 2 outs in the 3rd. Boom, with tone crack of the bat and one missile-shot HR, the Tigers got back on that roll that helped them off the Stankees. They would add 1 more that inning and then hang a 3-spot on the former Cy winner, started by a Pudge-less solo shot and chased Zito from the game. It was smooth sailing from there for Detroit, well except for a few 2 men on situations.
How about these numbers: 3-22 with men on base, 0-13 with RISP, 9 men left on and a whopping ALCS record 4 double plays grounded into. The A's had a chance to get back in it in the 4th. Down 5-0 they put the first 2 men on against Detroit starter Nate Robertson. But Nasty Nate went on to fan the next 3 hitters, pumping his fist after a filthy heater caught Marc Scutaro looking as if to say "This game is ours, boys." Although Oakland actually put pressure on the Tigers terrific pen, actually scoring a run off of Joel 103mph Zumaya,they were never seriously challenged.

The last 4 teams to lose Game 1 of the ALCS went on to win the Series (Chisox, Bosox, Stanks, Angels.)

Tonight the Tigers send equally nasty rookie Justin Verlander against Esteban Loiaza. Not good for Oakland when one of your most important games of the season is trusted to that 1-Year Wonder. Look for Detroit to ride the wave of a 2-o lead back to Motown.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Tonight the National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals & New York Mets gets underway, although many people will not realize it unless they are from one of the competing cities or watch on their computer. That's because the geniuses at FOX decided to relegate the game to puny corporate offspring FX, a cable channel usually located in the remote outreaches of the 100-channel spectrum, like the high 70's.
But the series should be exciting and action-packed enough for an FX-style broadcast due to the fact that both the Cardinals and Mets have only 1 quality starting pitcher. And the problem for St. Louis is that theirs may not be able to start until Game 3 in St. Louis.
Let's break this potential slugfest down.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Mets
Game 1, Wednesday 8PM FOX/FX (no 'O')

Jeff Weaver (8-14, 5.76; 1-0, 0.00 NLDS)
Tom Glavine (15-7, 3.82; 1-0, 0.00 NLDS)

The Cardinals start out at an immediate disadvantage when it comes to starting pitching. Although both clubs have lost potential playoff trump cards (Mets: Petey & El Duque; St.L: Mark Muldah) to season-ending injuries, the Cardinals cannot even use their one remaining ace, 2005 (and probable 2006) Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter until Game 3. That's due to the fact that the Padres forced a Game 4 in the NLDS and St. Louis was forced to start Carpenter in that game; he won it, by the way, as he did Game 1.
So that means Angel outcast Jeff Dream Weaver will take the hill for the Redbirds in Game 1 in Queens. Yikes. Don't be fooled by Weaver's terrific outing in Game 2 against San Diego (5 innings of 2-hit ball for the win)- this guy sucks. He was hailed for having the proverbial "electric stuff" when he first came into the league with Detroit in 1999; that stuff has amounted to an 86-101 career record and a 4.58 ERA. This season he was booted from the Angels in favor of his younger (and better) brother Jered after Jeff posted a 3-10 record with a 6.29 ERA. Nice.
On the other hand the Mets counter with their one healthy ace, veteran lefty Tom Glavine, who has 13 career postseason victories, the latest a 6 inning, 4-hit gem in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. But after Tommy G. the Mets staff is shaky, with steady but unspectacular vet Steve Traschel, (15-8), unproven rookie John Maine(6-5), and potential horror show Oliver Perez (3-11, 6.65.)
The Cards have a decent second banana like Traschel, Jeff Suppan(12-7), but with St. Louis turning to the dreaded "To Be Announced" for Game 4's starter, things aren't good, especially if Weaver bombs in Game 1- which he should.
The Mets enjoy a decided advantage in the bullpen. Hard throwing closer Billy Wagner has lost some gas but can still be unhittable-when he isn't allowing game-winning bombs. New York also has a plethora of set-up men (Bradford, Hernandez, Heilman, Feliciano) to plow through Cardinal hitters en route to Wagner. St. Louis has lost closer Jason Isringhausen for the season, so young Adam Wainwright has filled the role; although he has performed admirably the postseason is no place for rookie closers. I'll take Wagner & his spaghetti arm any day.

The result of that pitching quagmire should be plenty of runs. The question is, which teams' boppers are going to shine the brightest?
The Cards lineup is pretty much down to Phat Albert and the Junkyard Gang. That's because 3rd baseman Scott Rolen confessed to Tony LaRussa that his shoulder is basically falling off- I think T-Bag from Prison Break is going to find a vet to re-attach it- and flashy & potent OF Jim Edmonds has a variety of ailments including post-concussion syndrome, back & leg issues. I give New York hurlers the same advice I gave to San Diego's- pitch around Albert. How can you go wrong? You've got 1 guy in the lineup that can beat you, why pitch to him in any situation? None on no outs, 2 on 1 out, 1 on 2 outs-doesn't matter-PUT HIM ON.
The Mets meanwhile have a deadly lineup that can kill you in a variety of ways: speed (Reyes, 64 steals, 17 triples), power (Delgado-38 HRs,100 RBIs), pure talent (Wright), determination (LoDuca) or a freakish combination of all of the above(Beltran.) Needless to say it's a pitcher's nightmare to face a lineup like that. The Mets were 3rd in the NL in runs, 4th in home runs & 3rd in slugging percentage, and 1st in steals, by 18, thanks to Reyes (did I mention he is fast?)

As for the intangibles & managers, LaRussa is a postseason fixture having led the Bash Brothers A's to 3 consecutive World Series, winning it all in 1989. His Cards are no strangers to the playoffs, either, having made it 7 times in his 11 seasons in St. Louis. On the other side Willie Randolph is in just his 2nd season as Mets skipper. He carries a lot of postseason experience with him as a Stankee player & then coach for 11 years, but this is his first dance as a head coach, so the edge clearly goes to the grizzled, analytical LaRussa.
The Cards were cruising to another Central Division crown when suddenly they couldn't buy a win down the stretch, Houston was hotter that Texas asphalt, and they literally backed in to the title when the Astros lost on the final Saturday of the season. Although they looked good vs. San Diego, the Mets are a much more potent team than the Fathers.

The Mets were also on cruise control, never seriously challenged for the East title en route to winning a NL high 97 games, then swept through the Dodgers like Taco Bell through the gastro-intestinal system. They will also enjoy a thorough home field advantage; with the Stanks eliminated in the first round (I just love repeating that) the entire New York population will be able to pretend they are Mets fans through & through, like Billy Crystal does every year.
But the pressure is all on the Mets. Even though the Cards are growing tired of falling short of their goal, there is no pressure on them because they are huge underdogs, and no one in St. Louis is going to rip them if they lose. Not those true Redbird-blooded Americans from the Heartland. Meanwhile, falter in New York now and Torre & the Stanks will be off the back pages ASAP, no matter the injury situation. It's too late to turn back now, Mets- win it all or incur the wrath of an already rankled NY populace.

There it is, scientific evidence of what will go down in this years NLCS. In a nutshell, the Mets should annihilate Jeff I crumble in the Big Apple Weaver in Game 1 tonight, they could win or lose Game 2, depending on which crafty vet prevails, lose Game 3 to Carpenter, then rip off 2 or 3 straight to defeat Phat Albert & the Gang. Maybe next season they will get this guy some healthy supporting players. ManRam is available.



What's a costly error worth? $12 million

Evidently the Minnesota Twins front office and management team do not hold Torii Hunter personally responsible for their quick postseason exit.

The Twins chose to pick up the $12 million option the club had on the Gold Glove center fielder for 2007, meaning Hunter will be in Minnesota at least for one more year. It is the largest one year salary in Twins history; he and his agent are currently working on a long-term extension.

But after Hunter's monumental gaffe in Game 2 of the ALDS vs. Oakland, when he dove for a slicing liner and missed the ball, resulting in a game & series-turning inside-the-park home run by the A's Mark Kotsay, his return could not be a foregone conclusion.
The move by the Twins shows that there are no hard feelings with Hunter after the blunder, which he took full responsibility for and manager Ron Gardenhire proclaimed " when he goes after a ball I never second guess him."

Nothing like the support of your owner, GM and coach plus $12 million bucks to ease the hurt of committing a historic postseason faux pas. Enjoy, Torii.


This just in: Torre not leaving the Stanks

To paraphrase an old saying, "the reports of Joe Torre's demise have been greatly exaggerated."

Word has come from the Big Apple that the embattled skipper of the $200 Million Men will keep his job after days of speculation that New York's loss to Detroit in the ALDS would lead to his ouster.

After 2 straight days of intense coverage following the Game 4 loss that Torre was going to axed by Steinbrenner and replaced with Lou Pinella, cooler heads have evidently prevailed and Georgie has said that Torre will be helming the team for at least the 2007 season.
But the issue has divided the notoriously fickle NY fans & media, with many outlets agreeing that it is time for Joe to go. But, more importantly, almost to a man the Stankees players pledged loyalty to their long-time skipper. No word if 8th-Rod stood up for the man who has made him a scapegoat for the team's struggles, first by dropping him to 6th in the order for Game 1 vs. the Tigers, and then further humiliating the reigning MVP by inserting him in the 8th slot for the Game 4 finale.

It's true that Torre did one of his best managerial jobs this season, overcoming numerous injuries to star players to capture New York's 9th straight AL East crown. But the flaws of too much time in one place (11 years as the Stankee leader) may be creeping in on him and the team. Torre was obviously out-managed by Jim Leyland in the ALDS; that fact was made painfully clear with the way both men handled their pitching staffs. Leyland strategically used his relievers and starters to maximum advantage, knowing when to pull a guy (like in the middle of a count) and when to leave him in (like letting Bonderman come out for the 9th in Game 4.) Meanwhile it was learned that because he allowed his best starter, Chien Ming Wang, to remain in New York for a possible Game 5 assignment Torre was forced to go with playoff horror-show Jaret Wright. To say that move backfired would be a massive understatement: Wright lasted just 2.2 innings, yielding 5 hits (2HRs) & 4 runs in what could be his final appearance in pinstripes. And Wang, who won 18 in the regular season & Game 1 of the ALDS, was sitting in New York waiting for a final start that would never come.
So Torre is safe, but on a short leash for 2007. It's his final year on his contract and Steinbrenner has already issued the ultimatum that it's win or else...
Or else what, he'll threaten to fire him again? Won't matter. This is a classic One & Done thing for Torre. He either goes out on top as a champion (which you know he would love to do to George- leave him hanging) or they lose in the 1st round again and he's gone for good, no questions asked. Or better yet, the Stanks don't make the playoffs at all!
Either way it's sure going to be fum watching the chaotic drama unfold. Plus it take the heat off the miserable Sox situation knowing that the Evil Empire is having trouble in the upper ranks- the Sox already had their offseason like that last year.

Good luck, Joe- you'll need it.
Oh by the way, rumors have already started that ERod is heading to San Diego. Talk about a perfect place for a gutless wonder who can't handle pressure or scrutiny- head to sunny San Diego, man, and just hang loose, try your hardest, and if you don't do well, who the hell will notice?!


NFL Players Better Protect Their Organs

Every year in all sports there seems to be an injury du jour. It started a few years ago with rotator cuff injuries in baseball- every pitcher had to have one. Then an achilles epidemic swept football. Recently the fashionable ailment in a number of sports has been the dreaded "high ankle sprain", which had to replace the low, or regular ankle sprain.

But no one, not even the trained medical professionals on NFL sidelines could predict the current new wave of injuries sweeping the league- internal organ damage.

Pittsburgh Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger started the whole fad off when he needed and emergency appendectomy in training camp, which was unrelated to his motorcycle face plant months earlier.

Then Buccaneers QB Chris Simms' spleen suffered a similar fate when, after absorbing a brutal pounding from the Carolina Panthers 2 weeks ago, he needed an emergency splenectomy immediately following the loss.

And now we have the crazy story of Baltimore (and former Tampa Bay) CB Corey Ivey. He was aboard a flight back to B'more with the rest of his teammates after their 13-3 loss to the Broncos in Denver last night. After experiencing quite a bit of pain & discomfort in his side following the game, the doctors on board called for the plane to make an emergency landing in Pittsburgh.
Upon arriving at an area hospital doctors diagnosed Ivy with a kidney tear, not considered life-threatening, but seemingly pretty painful nonetheless.

When will the madness end? If the trendy injury theory holds true, not for a while. These things always seem to last at least a full season and sometimes spread into the next year as well; remember the ghastly patellar tendon tear pandemic of 1997-99?

So memo to all NFL players for 2006: Please protect your organs. A gallbladder is a terrible thing to waste.


Monday, October 09, 2006

League Championship Series Preview

Haven't you guys won a Division Series before?
Act like you been there, boys.

The two League Championship Series are set as the Cards became the last team into the final four with their Game 4 defeat of San Diego Sunday night; so much for hot teams winning in the postseason, huh? The Dodgers, Stanks, Padres and Twins were hotter than Dancing with the Stars in the final month, whereas the Cards, Mets and Tigers were as cold as a Nancy Grace glare. The lone exception to this bizarro rule is the A's, who have been and continue to be hot since their patented post-All Star surge.

So the LCS get started tomorrow night. The American League kicks things off on Tuesday, followed by both series on Wednesday. you know what that means- doubled-up game coverage on FOX's red-headed stepsister, FX. Nice of FOX to limit the audience of one series to about 1 million homes. What's so hard about doing the 'every other night' thing? Jeez.

Anyway, here my breakdown of each series. As usual you can take these predictions with a grain silo of salt (obviously by my stellar 0-4 LDS calls).


Oakland A's vs. Detroit Tigers

Game 1 @ Detroit
Barry Zito (16-10, 3.83; 1-0, 1.13 ALDS)
Nate Robertson (13-13, 3.84; 0-1, 11.12 ALDS)

This series has all the makings of a hard-fought, pitching-dominant affair between 2 evenly matched teams both on the mound and at the plate.
While Detroit led the ML in ERA ( 3.84) the A's weren't too far behind at 7th (4.21.) Both were Top 10 in runs scored in the AL (DET-5th, OAK-9th), and while the Tigers hit more home runs (203-175), the A's made 22 fewer errors (84-106.)

So where is the edge in the series? Well for starters, Oakland's Zito has a decided advantage
over his playoff newbie counterpart Robertson. While Zito has a Cy Young, 4 ALDS', 2 All Star Games and 102 career wins under his belt, Robertson has made 1 postseason start (the Tigers 8-4 Gm1 spanking by the Stanks) and has a 33-42 career record in 3+ seasons. Zito out dueled Minnesota's ace Johan Cy-tana in Game 1 of that series with 8 innings of 4-hit, 1-run ball, providing the springboard for Oakland's series win, while Robertson got battered like a pinata in his Bronx start: 5.2 IP, 12 hits & 7 ERs.

The rest of the pitching matchups are decidedly in favor of the Tigers, though:
GM2: Loaiza (11-9, 4.89; 0-0, 3.60) vs. Verlander (17-9, 3.63; 0-0, 5.06)
GM3: Haren (14-13, 4.12;1-0, 3.00) vs. Cameraman Kenny (17-8, 3.84; 1-0, 0.00)
GM4: Harden (4-0, 4.24) vs. Bonderman (14-8, 4.04; 1-0, 2.16)
Detroit also has one of the best bullys in the league, led by hard-throwing (102 mph) rookie Joel Zumaya and clutch veteran closer Todd Jones (37 saves.) Hence the superior pitching statistics. EDGE: Detroit

As for the batters Detroit hit a lot more home runs than most observers expected playing in
spacious Comerica Park. Four players smacked over 20 (Monroe, Inge, Thames, Mags) while 2 others had 19 (Grandy & Carlos Guillen.) True their OBP was terrible and their leader in walks had only 71 (Guillen), but that's the way these new Tigers play- no more Trammell Small Ball for Leyland's Boys of Thunder.
Oakland meanwhile had 2 guys jack over 30 bombs (Big Hurt 2.0, 39 & Nick Swisher, 35), but the production dropped off from there. Always injured but ever-reliable 3B Eric Chavez fell to 22 HRs & 72 ribbies. Ironically their 2 best hitters for average are Jay Payton, who only hit 10 HRs, and Jason Kendall, a catcher who once nearly ripped his foot off of his leg. In other words it's a "wait for Big Frank and Swisher to get up" offensive philosophy.
EDGE: Detroit

As for the intangibles & managers, Detroit's Leyland is a top candidate for Manager of the Year and did nothing to detract from that status when he out-coached Joe Torre in the ALDS, likely leading to Torre's ouster from New York. He also won a title with the Marlins in '97 , led the early 90's Pirates to 2 straight NLCS, and has managed over 15 years & 2,300 games. Oakland's Ken Macha has only managed for 4 seasons after taking over from mentor Art Howe and has a 5-3 postseason record. But the A's have been to this dance many times before and hold a decided advantage in experience factor and not getting caught up in the hype like some of the Tiger cubs will. It will be up to vets like Rogers, Pudge-less Rodriguez and Mags to keep the kiddies like Granderson, all the starters & half the pen in check.

So it comes down to a pretty even series when you break it down. Two solid staffs that play smart, pop some homers and rely on superior pitching to win the game. I look for it to be a 6 0r 7 game series, and I like Detroit, with their great motivator manager and city full of karma to edge out perennial bridesmaid Oakland.
MY PICK: Detroit in 6



Monday Morning Kick Returns

In honor of Mr. Reggie Bush I've decided to name this post after his specialty instead of the tired old 'Monday Morning Quarterback.' I mean who would you rather be reminded of: a guy like Reggie Bush or Drew INT Bledsoe?
Let's rundown the action. (Bucs game not included-scroll down)

Pats 20, Fins 10
MY PICK:Pats 34-14
It took a while for the Pats offense to get cranked up, but thanks to a questionable PI call on Miami in the 4th quarter New England held on to defeat their division rival. It came after Assante Samuel's 2nd INT of the day gave the Pats the ball on the MIA 26. A couple of plays later Will Allen was called for the penalty on an under thrown ball to Doug Gabriel and Brady immediately capitalized with a 1-yd toss to Heath Evans for the 10-pt final margin. Not exactly the impressive performance everyone was hoping for the Pats against the hapless Fins; QB Joey Harrington got his first Fins start and fared okay, save for the 2 picks, but after a story floating around that Duante Culpepper & Harrington got into an argument Friday should only make the miserable situation in South Florida more chaotic. But for the Pats a win is a win, and at 4-1 they now sit squarely in the drivers seat for another division crown.

Giants 19, Skins 3
MY PICK: Giants 30-24
How do two teams that score alot of points and have mediocre defenses manage to combine for only 22 points? When the Giants, behind defensive leader Michael Strahan (3 TKS, 1 sack) hold the high-scoring Skins to a measly 164 total yards of offense, QB Eli Manning is an efficient 23-33, 256yds, 1 TD, and Tki Barber rushes for 123 yards, that's when. Heck the Giants D played so well even LaVar Arrington made a big play against his former mates.

Vikings 26, Lions 17
MY PICK: Lions 19-17
The Lions had this game. I mean HAD it. They led 17-3 just a minute into the quarter when Minny got a TD to make it 17-10. Then the wheels fell off for the Lions-appropriately enough considering the play at Ford Field: Detroit QB Jon Kitna's fumble (he had 3 picks,too) was recovered in the end zone for another score, the Vikes added another FG with 3 minutes left to take a 19-17 lead (hey, I had that score right) and then smashed the Lions face in the dirt with a 45-yd INT return for a TD with 1:30 left. Plus Detroit lost star WR Roy Williams to a back injury early in the game. Ouch babe. Better get that resume ready, Rod.

Panthers 20, Browns 12
MY PICK: Panthers 28-12
Pretty close prediction here, and if the Panthers offense could have capitalized on a banged up Brown secondary the score would have been closer to mine. But the Panthers are known for their fierce defense, and boy were they fierce here: uncaged animal DE Julius Peppers terrorized poor little CLE QB Charlie Frye to the tune of 1 sack, 1FF, and 5 hits on the QB; he was the leader of the pack that registered 2 sacks, 2 INTs and unrelenting pressure of the inexperienced quarterback. Although Me-sahwn (1TD) & Steve Smith were held in check, DeShaun Foster ran for 106 yds and the defense took care of the rest. So Carolina (3-2) climbed over .500 and now sit lurking just behind New Orleans & Atlanta in the NFC South.

Bears 40, Bills 7
MY PICK: Bears 26-14
I guess I need to forget the notion that the Bears are a defense-oriented team; after putting up 77 points in the past 2 games and outscoring their opponents by a whopping 156-36, Chicago is becoming known as an offensive force as well. QB Rex Grossman continues to leads a well-oiled attack that has been anchored by Bernard Big Play Berrian; he is leading the league in TD receptions (4) and 40-yd+ plays (5), netting one of each in this one. His long was a 62-yder from Grossman that led to a TD that made it 27-0 before the half. So the Bears are now 5-0 and have combined a tenacious D with a stout O. Sounds like a Super Bowl recipe to me.

Rams 23, Packers 20
MY PICK: Rams 27-16
My-oh-my the Pack are a hurtin bunch of cheeseheads after yet another loss on their precious home tundra. Thanks to an effective and again error-free performance from Rams QB Marc Bulger (18-28, 228 yds, 2TDs), who hasn't thrown an INT this season in 214 attempts, the Rams sent Green Bay to their 3rd home loss this year and 15th in their last 27. Yikes. So much for the Home Tundra Advantage. The good news for Green bay: Favre didn't throw a pick. Hey, you gotta take every little thing you can get when you're 1-4, right?

Colts 14, Titans 13
MY PICK: Colts 38-9
Well you can't blame me for my score, the Colts were 18.5-pt favorites after all. But it almost
came out of this match with the Titans rookie QB Vince Young with a loss as Indy had to rely on a late TD for the 3rd straight week to eke out a win. This week it was a Manning to Harrison 2-yd score with 5:00 minutes left that saved the Colts the embarrassment of losing to a win less team. Young was a non-factor in his 2nd start (10-21, 63 yds) but his 19-yd TD run in the 1st gave Tennessee a 7-0 lead. But the Colts continue to struggle without Edge James anchoring the running game; although the Colts ran for 154 yds, the Titans gained 214 on the ground.

Jags 31, J-E-T-S 0
MY PICK: Jags 21-17
Wow, has anyone's stock fallen faster than Chad Pennington's? After starting the season like a house on fire (2-300yd games, 6 TDs) the Jags defense reduced him to ashes in their whitewashing of the Jets. Pannington was a meager 10-17 for 71 yds, 0TDs & 3 INTs as the JAX defense allowed only 177 total yards in the shutout. Looks like they shook off the effects of giving up 36 to Washington last week. But it might be a long time before Pennington and the Jets shake off the effects of this stink bomb. Oh wait, they play Miami next.

49ers 34, Raiders 20
MY PICK: Niners 24-3
Things keep going from bad to worse for the awful Raiders as they blew a 13-7 halftime lead
and then let their cross-Bay rivals pummel them into submission by allowing 27 second half points. The only highlight for Oakland was randy Moss' 100th career TD catch; but with Frank Gore rushing for 134 yards, Alex Smith tossing 3 TD passes and the defense shoring up in the 2nd half, the rebuilding Niners picked up a nice win. The Raiders, meanwhile, continue to sink further into the Black Hole that their stadium is nicknamed, except this hole is called the NFL cellar.

Chiefs 23, Cards 20
MY PICK: Cards 26-23
One of these years the Cards are going to live up to their preseason press clippings and come out and win some games and bring excitement to the Arizona desert. Trouble is, by then no one will care because everyone is tired of waiting for that year to come. But the Cards may have taken a step in the right direction as newly installed starting QB, rookie Matt Leinart, showed promise in leading the offense for the first time. The Heisman winner hit star receivers Anquan Boldin & Larry Fitzgerald for 1st quarter TDs, but the defense couldn't hold the lead, giving up 13 4th quarter points. Welcome to the NFL, pretty boy.

Eagles 38, Cowboys 24
MY PICK: Eagles 31-28
Boy Donovan McNabb looked a lot lighter in this game. Oh yeah, that's because he was lifting a 300-lb gorilla off his shoulders. McNabb was very effective in removing the weight of last season's TO-induced disaster off the whole city with his 354 yds & 3 TDs (1 rush), while his Cowboy counterpart was just beginning to feel the wrath of the idiotic receiver. Bledsoe was a horrid 18-38 with 3 INTs, the last one returned 102 yards for the game-icing score by Lito Sheppard as the Boys were driving for the tie. After the game, Owens threw Bledsoe under the bus when asked why he didn't see more balls thrown his way early in the game: you know who's pulling the trigger was his response, referring to his QB. If he keeps his tired act up, someone is going to pull the trigger for real on this guy, and this time it won't be ruled "an accident."

Chargers 23, Steelers 13
MY PICK: Chargers 24-21
How could the Chargers lose? I mean they were wearing the best uniforms in the NFL, throwback or otherwise. But even though the Chargers rarely win in their powder blues, last night facing the artsit fomerly known as Ben Roethlisberger & the Steelers was smooth sailing for them. Despite being shut down in the first half (they trailed 13-7 and had 98 total yards, 80 coming on one drive) but then their D, and QB Phillip Rivers, took over the game in the 2nd half. Rivers, in his 4th career start, came into his own this night, steadily guiding the Chargers on 4 consecutive scoring drives and the nasty San Diego D held A-Ben-dicitis & Pittsburgh to a mere 49 yards in the 2nd half. Ben had 2 costly 4th Q picks as well, and that brings his total for the past 4 games, including the Super Bowl, to no TDs & 9 INTs. Wow. Looks like the caretaker has lost the keys to the house.

My record ended up being 11-2 (not vs. the spread) so that means it must have been a pretty easy week. Tonight we have undefeated Baltimore (4-0) going to the Mile High City to take on the equally as impressive (defensively) Broncos (2-1.) Scoring should be hard to come by in the cold air of Invesco as these 2 stingy teams boast the 2 best defenses in the league. Whoever can put together a couple or 3 scoring drives will win this one.
The Broncos don't lose at home very often, especially on chilly nights on National TV (just ask the Pats), so I'm going to go with (gulp!) Jake the Fake and the Broncos to pull out the snorer, er squeaker.
MY PICK: Broncos 13-10