Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip Eulogy

I've been on a West Wing kick the past few days. I grabbed my DVDs of the fourth season, been watching it in the background of my computer while I've otherwise mindlessly surfed the internet, no doubt reading about the Detroit Tigers latest blown save or following Daniel Negreanu in the World Series of Poker. As I began writing this entry, I was watching "Evidence of Things Not Seen", one of my all-time favorite West Wing episodes. While President Bartlet tries to convince the Russian President to allow the US to recover a crashed spy-plane, and the rest of the staff plays some poker, Josh Lyman interviews potential Deputy White House Counsel Joe Quincy. It was the first television interaction between Brad Whitford and Matthew Perry, who four years later would reunite with man who wrote "Evidence of Things Not Seen" and the rest of the first four seasons of West Wing, Aaron Sorkin, on NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

Tonight, Thursday, at 10:00, the final episode of the first and only season of Studio 60 will air. After loving Sports Night, and watching every episode of West Wing multiple times, another Aaron Sorkin show, with the one of the best actors from West Wing and the best actor from Friends, and Amanda Peet and Steven Weber and DL Hughley, I can't remember looking more forward to a show than Studio 60. And then even the people I hadn't heard of (like Sarah Paulson and Nate Corddry) turned out to be great And then, it turned out like it did. It was a ratings failure. It was a failure with critics. And it even failed with me, for the most part. So as the time ticks down to its last episode (though, an October DVD release will allow people to enjoy the show forever) what the heck happened?

I think the show failed for a lot of reasons. The early word, and what a lot of critics are still clinging to, is that the show was too much "inside baseball", too much behind-the-scenes goings-on that nobody cared about. And maybe to some extent that's true. Some of the storylines with the fictional network, NBS, were pointless (such as the building of the casino in Macao and the fights with the FCC) but there are many, more apparent reasons for the show's failure.

First off, Studio 60 wasn't funny. Not the NBC show, which, at times, was funny, but the fictional Studio 60 broadcast on NBS. Saturday Night Live may have its ups and downs, but it isn't easy to do what they do, and Aaron Sorkin, one of the premier television writers of his generation, proved that. The skits on Studio 60 just weren't funny. In the entire run of the show, I think there was one funny skit, where a take off on Dateline NBC's Chris Hansen accosted Santa Claus for visiting young children in the middle of the night in a "To Catch a Predator" spoof. Other than that, it was pretty brutal. And it was hard to take Matthew Perry's character seriously as a brilliant writer when his writing wasn't any good.

Another problem was that the first season of Studio 60 felt more like the eighth season of West Wing than its own show. It wasn't just that Brad Whitford was on both shows, but the subject matter was all West Wing. Studio 60 was supposed to be about a behind-the-scenes look at a sketch comedy show. And we got storylines on international trade, gay marriage, the power of religion, the Iraq war, and more. And some of those storylines were compelling but they felt as if they didn't belong in the mouths of the characters on studio 60. They belonged being discussed by Toby and CJ and Leo and Josh on West Wing.

All of that said, and even though I am both disappointed that the show failed and that I did not enjoy the show as much as I was hoping, I'm not happy the show is ending either. Watching tonight's episode after the NBA Draft will be bittersweet, and I'll buy the DVDs and watch the series again at some point. And when I do, I'll probably feel the same regret I do now about the show not working out.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Lightning Round: Tigers trades, President Bloomberg, and More

You take a few days off from posting and the Detroit Tigers make a few trades, the mayor of New York City changes his political affiliation, and who knows what else went on. This is only my 14th post of the month, after 48 in May and 50 in April so let's get back into it and see what's been going on.

* The Detroit Tigers trade Wil Ledezma and Mike Maroth: In what was the long expected shakeup of the Detroit Tigers pitching staff, with both Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson returning from the Disabled List, the Tigers made two trades last week, acquiring left-handed reliever Macay McBride from Atlanta for Wil Ledezma and trading fan-favorite Mike Maroth to the St. Louis Cardinals for the oft-traded "player to be named later."

Neither move bothers me too much, though anytime you trade away a young left-hander like Ledezma that can touch the mid-90s you are a bit hesitant, but really, the Tigers had very little choice. Roster spots are at a premium, and with the Tigers set with their position players, the return of Rogers, Robertson, and perhaps even Zach Miner meant people had to go. McBride, who was acquired from Atlanta, is holding lefthanded batters to a .160 average this year, but with the way Bobby Seay and Tim Brydak have pitched, he likely won't stick with the big league club, at least for the moment. Which just gives the team greater depth at AAA, and if McBride can continue to improve (he's only 24) he could be the left handed specialist for years to come that the Tigers lost when Jamie Walker went to Baltimore. And Ledemza, though he showed flashes of promise, was never going to crack the Tigers starting rotation, and never really seemed comfortable in the bullpen. A change of scenery may be the best for his career.

As for trading Mike Maroth, it was inevitable the moment the Tigers drafted Andrew Miller, but it's still sad from the perspective that, Maroth was here when the Tigers hit the lowest of lows in the early years of this century, but when they made it to the World Series last year, he was hurt and left off the post-season roster, and this year, when they seemed primed to make another run at the pennant, he gets traded to St. Louis.

But, on the other hand, baseball is baseball, and a move needed to be made and Maroth was the most logical candidate. He was the weakest of the 7 potential starting pitchers the Tigers have (including Chad Durbin and Andrew Miller in that calculation) and somebody needed to go to make room for Nate Robertson if the plan was to keep Andrew Miller in the starting rotation, which it is, at least for now.

And while there are thoughts on both sides of the debate over whether Miller is best served in the big leagues (as Kurt contends at Mack Avenue Tigers) or developing a change-up back in AA Erie (as Billfer writes at the Detroit Tigers Weblog) I'm happy to see him stick with the Tigers for now. Yes, he may be a more polished pitcher if he was in AA, but you can't measure the value of big-league experience. I completely understand the argument that while Jeremy Bonderman is a great pitcher today, he may be even better if he had time to develop a change-up in the minor leagues. But, at the same time, maybe he wouldn't be as strong mentally, or as prepared to face big league batters, had he spent time in the minor leagues instead of with the Tigers. You can't teach experience and when you already have the kind of stuff Miller does, keeping him in the majors, where he can get that experience, I think will be crucial to his development.

And even the Tigers bullpen may be turning the corner (though, I don't want to speak too soon). Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones closed out a 2-1 win yesterday, and this young kid from the minors, Eulogio De La Cruz, looks like he could be a pretty special player, although he's only pitched three big league innings, so I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. With Zach Miner potentially returning next week, and Chad Durbin sliding into the bullpen, it suddenly has a new look, and is much stronger than it was a few weeks ago. Hopefully, they'll pitch that way.

* Michael Bloomberg drops the Republican Party, may run for President: Now here's something really interesting. A week after landing on the cover of Time Magazine with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he was leaving the Republican Party, becoming an independent, which opened the door to an as-yet-unannounced third-party run for the White House in 2008.

Bloomberg, who has often said that a short, Jewish, divorced billionaire would have a difficult time winning the presidency looks like he may be willing to give it a shot. And as a short, Jewish, hope-to-one-day-be a billionare, his candidacy is really intreguing (although, at the moment, I'm still in the Barack Obama camp. There's a lot to like about Bloomberg, from his stance on the environment, to his willingness to stand up to the National Rifle Association when most politicians are too timid, to his ban on smoking throughout New York City.
Look at global warming. Washington rejected the Kyoto Protocol, but more than 500 U.S. mayors have pledged to meet its emissions-reduction standards, none more aggressively than Bloomberg. His PlaNYC calls for a 30% cut in greenhouse gases by 2030. It will quadruple the city's bike lanes, convert the city's taxis to hybrids and impose a controversial congestion fee for driving into Manhattan.

[. . .]

But they're tackling not just the climate. Bloomberg is leading a national crackdown on illegal guns, along with America's biggest affordable-housing program. He also enacted America's most draconian smoking ban and the first big-city trans-fat ban. And he's so concerned about Washington's neglect of the working poor that he's raised $50 million in private money, including some of his own millions, to fund a pilot workfare program.

[. . . ]

Bloomberg hasn't etched his personality into the city's soul, but major crime has dropped 30% in New York in the Bloomberg era, without the racial antagonisms of the Giuliani era. Test scores and graduation rates are up, unemployment is at a record low, welfare rolls are at a 40-year low, construction is booming, the deficit has become a surplus, and the city's bond rating just hit an all-time high of double-A.
The entire Time Magazine story about he and Govoner Schwarzenegger taking matters into their own hands is really fascinating and worth a read.

And the real advantage of a Bloomberg candidacy? It's two-fold. First, one of the things I love about Obama is his ability, I believe, to bring people together. But, Bloomberg may be able to bring both political parties together, which is pretty remarkable. And secondly, while even Obama, who has said he will not take money from PACs and is against 527 groups, will be beholden to special interests and other groups lining his campaign warchest. He'll have to be, it's part of the business of running for president and nobody is immune. Except for Bloomberg. A self-made billionare, he could spend $500 million to $1 billion of his own money on the campaign and not break a sweat. He would be beholden to nobody, no special interests, no lobbying groups. No political parties. He could come out, say he was financing his own campaign 100% and that while the other candidates could talk all they wanted about being "above" old-school politics, he was the only candidate who could honestly say he didn't take a dime from anybody. He would come into the White House with a completely clean slate, with the ability to govern as he saw fit without worrying about pleasing the groups that put him in office or the political party which nominated him in the first place. And he'd have the resources himself to fight back against any attack from the NRA or the tobacco companies or anybody else. It's really exciting to think about actually.

* Reading and Watching DVDs: So what else has been going on? I blew through the entire first season of the Practice on DVD in about a week, so that was fun. I forgot how real and gritty the first season was. And watching the bonus feature on the DVD, that was David E. Kelley's original vision for the show. Not the big trial every week but the raw, behind-the-glory Practice of law. But, when the show was placed at 9:00 Saturday nights, in order to save the show from extinction, Kelley thought they needed a dead body by 9:05 to hook people in, and thus began the long history of big murder trials for Bobby Donnell and company. When the show finally settled into its 10:00 Sunday timeslot, people had come to expect the big trial, so while the show still maintained an edge, it was a different show than the first few episodes, which were great.

I've also been reading more of Jon Meacham's American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation and I continue to be amazed with the wisdom and logic of the Founding Fathers. I'm now moving into religion in American politics during the Civil War era and I'm loving this book. If you are interested at all in the constant debate over the scope of religion in the United States and the role religion has played in our public history, this book is a must-read. Some great quotes about tolerance of others religious beliefs ("I write with freedom because, while I claim a right to believe in one God, I yield as freely to others that of believing in three. Both religions, I find, make honest men, and that is the only point society ha any right to look to. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg" from Thomas Jefferson and "Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe the religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us" from James Madison). A great read.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Go to the Polls for Placido! Campaign Working; 8 Days Left to Vote for Maggs too

Whether it was the Go to the Polls for Placido! voting campaign or a rush of Detroit Tigers fans stuffing the ballot boxes, or both, Placido Polanco now has a very comfortable lead as the top vote getter for second basemen in the American League.

And in two of the tightest All-Star races, Yankees are trying to run down Tigers. Second baseman Robinson Cano, the early leader, trails Placido Polanco by 138,258. And behind the plate, Ivan Rodriguez remains 155,652 ahead of Jorge Posada.

Considering he was 8,000 votes behind when we started, an almost 150,000 vote swing is pretty good. And well deserved. So, now, with just over a week left in the balloting, the job of Detroit Tigers fans is not over.

Magglio Ordonez is having an unbelievable, MVP first half of the season. He is hitting .377 (!), has 13 home runs and has driven in 66. He's hit .520 in the past week (driving in 10) and in the past month, only .430 with four home runs, 28 RBI, and 24 runs scored. Yet, somehow, he ranks 4th in the All-Star balloting, some 78,000 votes behind 3rd place Ichiro.

So, in the last 8 days of balloting, Tigers fans need to go online and VOTE! You can vote online up to 25 times and as we saw with Polanco, every vote counts. Magglio is only 78,000 votes behind, and with balloting at Comerica Park over, the internet is the only way for Tigers fans to make their voice heard. Let's get a third Tiger starting in the All Star game, and I think even non-Tigers fans can agree, the MVP of the first half should be starting in San Francisco.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Survivor All Stars -- Without the All Stars?

The latest rumor making the rounds is that following this fall's Survivor: China, a second edition of Survivor All Stars is on tap, featuring players from Seasons 9-15, or, castaways who have appeared since the last All Star edition.

On its face, I have no problem with the idea. Sure, many Survivor "purists" weren't thrilled with the first All Star edition, but I loved it. Sure, I could have done without seeing some of the Survivors again, but seeing the strategy of the game change, and the dynamic of players playing together who know each other, and have played the game with each other or watched others play (and thus were able to "study" up) was really fascinating. And it was the season that gave us Boston Rob and Amber, who I find immensely entertaining. Listening to the DVD commentaries from the Survivor: All Star season, including Rob and Amber discussing their game play, was great.

Yet, despite enjoying the first All Star edition, I think the second All Star version may be a disaster. Why? Because it's not really an "All Star" version.

So according to the reports, the "All Star" edition won't include any of the past winners. So, Tom Westman, one of the most physically dominating players ever and winner of Survivor Palau? Not there. Yul Kwon, one of the most strategic players ever and winner of Survivor Cook Islands? Absent. But Stephanie LaGrossa may return for a third try. I like Stephanie, I really do. And she probably deserves to be in an "All Star" edition, but how do you exclude Tom, Yul, and even Danni Boatwright (winner of Survivor Guatemala)?

Maybe people don't want to see Tom or Yul win another million dollars. And I'm all for giving other people a shot. But, this is supposed to be an "All Star" edition, so to not include the best players, well, then it's just the Major League Baseball All Star Game, and we all know how successful that game is at including the most deserving.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

USA Network's The 4400 Returns Sunday

Television normally slows down in the summer, most shows in repeats or off the air entirely, but there are some quality summer shows, including USA Network's The 4400 which returns for its 13-episode fourth season on Sunday at 9:00.

As I wrote when I reviewed the Third Season DVD set of the The 4400 (which, coincidentally, you can win a copy of by visiting Joe's great I Am A TV Junkie Blog) The 4400 is a smart, compelling show, with great characters, and a great story. Yes, it's science fiction, but I am not a real big science fiction guy and I have loved the show since I started watching during the show's first season. While the sci-fi elements make up the backbone of the show (and I have loved the episodes about the shows mythology more than the others) the show is really a character drama, and a drama about the government's response to the powers of "The 4400".

Basically, in a nutshell (and please, don't the description of the show's backstory may scare you off if you dislike science fiction)) 4400 people were abducted and vanished without a trace over a 60 year period from 1940-2000 (or thereabouts). Then, one day, they all returned, all in one place, without having aged a day from when they were taken, and some had special abilities (like being able to heal people, see the future, ect.) Over the last three seasons we have learned that these people were taken by people from the future, given special abilities, and seeded back into the timeline in hopes their abilities and return would save the world from its coming future, which isn't pretty. At the end of last season, the enzyme which gives the 4400 their powers, Promicin, was being freely handed out (in injection form) to all who wanted, and the first part of this new season will deal with the consequences of that distribution.

The man handing out the "Promicin" injections and the leader of the 4400? Billy Campbell's resurrected Jordan Collier (who was presumably shot to death in season two, but returned in season three after wondering around in what he now describes as a very bleak future) who is one of the most interesting and intriguing characters on television. You never really know, from one scene to the next, whether he's good, evil, both. He keeps everyone guessing, from the characters on the show to viewers watching at home, and now that he's a series regular, this could very well turn out to be Collier's season.

If you have never seen the show, I really encourage you to give it a shot even if you are not a traditional science fiction fan. Which would be easy to do if you win a free copy of the DVDs. If you are already a fan, then you'll be watching, as I will be, Sunday night, when the fourth season of the best television show you've probably never heard of kicks off.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Boston Legal Shakes Up Cast

One of my favorite television shows, and one of the few legal courtroom dramas on television at the moment, Boston Legal is undergoing a bit of a restructuring before next season.

Julie Bowen, Mark Valley, Rene Auberjonois and Constance Zimmer have all been let go from the show, sources tell me. ABC and David E. Kelley Productions declined comment, but a Legal insider confirms that "their contract options were not picked up."

To fill the void, Night Court's John Larroquette is joining the show as a series regular next season, but he won't be reprising his Emmy-winning role from Kelley's The Practice. Instead, he will be playing an attorney from the New York offices of CP&S. Also Dirt's Tara Summers will be coming on board as a young associate. Finally, current cast member Christian Clemenson (Jerry) has been upped to series regular.

To the easy things first. Christian Clemson's Jerry Espenson is a pretty good character and having him as a season regular is good move. I've never heard of Tara Summers, so can't comment much on her. As for the subtractions (I'll talk about the addition of John Larroquette in a moment), losing Rene Auberjonois's Paul Lewiston is not that big of a loss. He really didn't do much this past season aside from yell at Denny Crane every now and again, and that was getting a bit old. And Mark Valley, while a good foil for James Spader's Alan Shore, and pretty funny this year feuding with the quickly disappearing Craig Bierko, is not a huge loss either. He was pretty much an afterthought most of the time, especially this season.

Losing Constance Zimmer, now that I don't like. Sure, she wasn't used much on the show since her introduction, but the writers missed a lot of potential there. I've been a fan of Zimmer since her time on the oft-forgotten NBC sitcom Good Morning Miami (you know, one of those nameless Thursday night shows NBC would try out every year that never really panned out -- Though, I liked Good Morning Miami in a lot of ways. The Mark Feuerstein - Ashley Williams - Constance Zimmer - Matt Letscher quadrangle was pretty entertaining, and had a unique resolution. The rest of the show, though, including the characters played by Jere Burns and Sunzanne Pleshette, and the weather forecasting nun were just awful. Half brilliant, half horrendous shows just don't make it) so losing her is tough.

Julie Bowen's character leaving the show though, now that's a whole different story.

I will always be a big fan of Bowen simply because she was Carol Vessey on NBC's vastly underrated ED (I still want to buy Langens and open a law office inside there ala Stuckeybowl). She's been great in guest-spots on Lost as Matthew Fox' ex-wife, and her I always enjoyed her segments on Boston Legal. Not seeing her on TV every week, that's going to be different. It's too bad TBS isn't showing repeats of ED anymore.

As for Larroquette's addition, I think he's going to be great. I don't remember much of Night Court and a vaguely remember watching The John Larroquette Show which aired in 1993, but I do recall Larroquette's guest spots on both The West Wing and The Practice. On West Wing, Larroquette was White House Counsel, and while he was only in one episode, he was great (as the clip below shows), and I was very disappointed he was never heard from again, and was later replaced by Oliver Platt (who was fine, but was not Larroquette).

On The Practice Larroquette played a client of the firm who had a habit of killing men he was in relationships with. His character was smart, incredibly arrogant, and did a great job playing off of the other characters. I'm hoping his Boston Legal character has a lot of those same qualities.

And speaking of The Practice, I'm going to have to stop by Best Buy sometime this week, as finally, The Practice - Volume Oneis out on DVD. About time.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Polanco Overtaking Cano: Great; Verlander No Hitter: Priceless

Great news all around for the Detroit Tigers tonight. Not only is the Go to the Polls for Placido! working its magic as Placido Polanco has overtaken Robinson Cano to lead all AL Second Baseman in All Star Voting but, Justin Verlander tossed a no hitter tonight. A no-hitter. And I was there, at Comerica Park. A pretty special night indeed.

A once in a lifetime experience, a once in a generation experience. The Detroit Tigers had not had a no hitter since Jack Morris tossed one in 1984, and the Tigers had not thrown a no hitter at home since 1952. Simply incredible. Everything just came together. Justin Verlander with twelve strikeouts, a career high. And he had everything working tonight. Unhittable breaking ball. A 102 MPH fastball in the 9th inning after throwing 110 pitches. That shouldn't be legal. It's so hard to articulate what it was like to watch it, I can't imagine what it was like to be part of it. And Neifi Perez, who takes a lot of heat, deserves a lot of credit for a no-hitting saving double play he started, and Magglio Ordonez had a great sliding catch as well to save a hit. It was a great performance all around for the Tigers.

And the atmosphere at Comerica Park was electric. I was at Game Four of the Oakland A's playoff series last year, and when Magglio hit the home run to send the Tigers to the World Series, it was bedlam, but tonight's crowd was just as loud and it was just as special of a night. I still can't believe it.

And the Polanco news is even better. I don't think I can take credit for the entire 60,000 vote swing (from an 8,000 vote defect to a 52,000 vote lead) but every vote helps. And the response online has been overwhelming. Here's a full list of the blogs (that I know of) who have encouraged their visitors to Go to the Polls for Placido! Newest links up front (Updated: June 15):

Empty The Bench
Absolute Michigan
Dave of Gorilla Crouch
Billfer of The Detroit Tigers Weblog
Detroit Sports Unleashed
Leelanau Sports Guy's World
Christy of Behind The Jersey
Lee of Tiger Tales
Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience
Pete of Yzerman Is God
From The CoPa
Gregg Henson of
Greg Eno of Out of Bounds and Where Have You Gone, Johnny Grubb?
Kurt of Mack Avenue Tigers
Samara of Roar of the Tigers
Ian of Bless You Boys and Sweaty Men Endeavors
GreenPotatoes Live Journal
Rick of Rick's Writing Again

Wow. That's pretty incredible. And if I missed your blog/website, just let me know and we'll help spread the word. The next step is getting Magglio Ordonez the 125,000 votes or so he needs to start in the game.

Samara of Roar of the Tigers has some great Polanco "campaign photos" so we're going strong now, especially on the backs of Verlander's no hitter.

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The Lightning Round

Lots of little stuff to get today, so let's get started with a check on the Go to the Polls for Placido! voting campaign.

** You never know how much of an impact a small little internet campaign can have on a large scale voting contest, but I would like to think the "Go to the Polls for Placido!" campaign is making an impact. From looking at my traffic reports I can see a lot of "outclicks" to the All Star Ballot and I can only hope and assume those are votes for Placido and the rest of the Detroit Tigers team. MLB should be releasing updated voting numbers in the next few days, hopefully by then Polanco will be leading the pack. I've also been thrilled with the amount of blogs and websites that I have helped to promote the campaign, it's been much appreciated. Here's a list of the blogs (that I know of) who have encouraged their visitors to Go to the Polls for Placido!

Gregg Henson of
Greg Eno of Out of Bounds and Where Have You Gone, Johnny Grubb?
Kurt of Mack Avenue Tigers
Samara of Roar of the Tigers
Ian of Bless You Boys
GreenPotatoes Live Journal
Rick of Rick's Writing Again

If I missed your blog/website, just let me know and we'll help spread the word. The more eyeballs on the campaign and voting for Tigers, the better chance Placido has of overtaking Cano, and who knows, maybe even Magglio Ordonez will climb into the starting outfield, as he certainly deserves that after his MVP-worthy first half so far. The campaign has also popped up on, BallHype, and BallBug so it's getting around the internet. Thanks again to everyone for helping out.

** So what else is going on? I'm trying to read more. I wrote just over a month ago about a book shopping trip I had gone on, picking up five top titles I was looking forward to reading. Sadly, I haven't accomplished much on that front. And I blame the Detroit Tigers. Not really, but by the time I get home from work and have dinner, the Tigers have usually started playing, and they have taken priority over my books. But, with a night off tonight, I got back to Jon Meacham's American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation and it's been great so far. So far, the book has talked a lot about religion before the Founding, in the 1600 and 1700s in North America, and it's a fascinating read. I'm going to make more of an effort to spend more time reading going forward.

** Another reason why I haven't been reading is because this weekend, instead of picking up one of my many unread books, I was watching Seinfeld instead. Seinfeld - Season 8 was released on DVD last week and I watched probably 10 episodes on Sunday. Just hilarious. While likely not the "best" season of Seinfeld, it's still very very funny, and I've very much been enjoying the "Inside Looks" and "Yada Yada Yada" cast and crew commentaries (though, Jerry Seinfeld's commentaries are a bit disappointing as he spends most of the episodes laughing at the jokes). Great stuff.

And with that it's Monday night, which means it's time for Headlines on Leno. So, I'll leave you with a reminder to Go to the Polls for Placido!

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Go to the Polls for Placido! All Star Campaign

The "evil empire" of the New York Yankees must be stopped. Despite being one of Major League Baseball's biggest disappointments so far this season, the New York Yankees continue to do well in fan voting for the 2007 Major League Baseball Star Game, with three players (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano) leading the voting at their positions. Detroit Tigers fans and fans of baseball need to do something about that, because while Jeter and A-Rod may deserve a trip to San Fransisco to start for the American League, certainly, Robinson Cano does not. And Placido Polanco of the Detroit Tigers certainly does. Polanco, as of last count was some 8,000 votes behind Cano (381,051 to Cano's 389,265 votes) which is why we need to start the "Go to the Polls for Placido!" All Star Voting Campaign (full credit goes to my buddy David for the name).

Let's take a look at the numbers, just to further prove our point.

Robinson Cano: Batting Average: .275
Placido Polanco: Batting Average: .345

Robinson Cano: RBI: 29
Placido Polanco: RBI: 32

Robinson Cano: On Base Percentage: .314
Placido Polanco: On Base Percentage: .389

And now, what I think is one of the most important stats:

Robinson Cano: Batting Average with runners in scoring position: .194
Placido Polanco: Batting Average with runners in scoring position: .429

As you can see, in practically every category, Polanco has the edge, and in some of the most important, including batting average, on base percentage, and especially batting average with runners in scoring position, Polanco clearly outshines Cano. And what Polanco adds to the Tigers team, in terms of leadership and his defensive ability (0 errors compared to 6 for Cano) further shows he deserves his first career start in an All Star Game. Yet, because of the fan support from New York Yankees fans, as of right now, Cano would be starting in the All Star Game. Tigers fans throughout the blogosphere need to come together and encourage their visitors and their fans to vote for Placido Polanco (and the other Tigers as well) to start in the All Star Game. Here's how you can help.

1) Fill out as many paper ballots as you can while attending Detroit Tigers games at Comerica Park.

2) Head on over to Major League Baseball's on-line voting system and VOTE!. You can vote up to 25 times on-line.

3) Encourage your friends, colleagues, and visitors (if you run a Detroit sports blog) to "Go to the Polls For Placido!" and vote. Use the button below to "Digg!" this story and help get the word out to the general blogosphere and Tigers fans across the internet.

We can help Placido get to the All Star Game and it's time to get the ball rolling on this campaign on-line. So let's spread the word and start Going to the Polls for Placido!.

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

MLB Draft Makes Clear Tigers Are Part of Baseball's Elite

The Detroit Tigers selected the top high school pitching prospect in the Major League Baseball draft on Thursday, and did so despite selecting 27th overall. Yes, welcome to a world without a salary cap, where talent does not dictate where you are drafted, and when you are represented by Scott Boras, scouts can be wowed all they want by your arm or your bat, and you will slide because of concerns over how much it will cost to sign you (if a team can sign the player at all before he either re-enters the draft the following season or chooses to attend college instead). The Tigers selected Rick Porcello, and reading a write-up of him at Baseball America, it's obvious he is cut from the same cloth as previous Tigers draft picks Justin Verlander (last seasons' Rookie of the Year) and Andrew Miller (who will make his second start of the season on Sunday).

The top pitcher in the long awaited, much anticipated high school Class of 2007, Porcello was tabbed as a can't-miss prospect by the time he was a 15-year-old on the showcase circuit. His maternal grandfather, Sam Dente, played shortstop in the majors, appearing in the 1954 World Series with the Indians. Porcello has shown steady improvement during his prep career, and was pitching at his best heading down the stretch, tossing a seven-inning perfect game for the nation's No. 1 high school team in May. He's long, lean, athletic and projectable with a clean delivery. His fastball sits at 93-95, touching 98. He holds his velocity deep into outings. He throws a tight curveball at 74-76 and a harder, sharp-breaking slider at 80-82. He shows feel for his changeup. He can spot his fastball to both sides of the plate, and mixes his pitches effectively. He tends to finish his delivery across his body, and if he improved his extension, his stuff could have better life, which would make him profile as a true top-of-the-rotation pitcher. He still is likely to be the first high school pitcher selected.

My Cutoff Man Blog, Ian at Bless You Boys, and Kurt at Mack Avenue Tigers all have more about Porcello and more on the uniformally positive reaction by the national press of the Tigers selection.

And Mike Ilitch deserves a lot of credit for continuing to allow the Tigers to stock their team with quality and expensive prospects through the draft. Porcello is going to demand at least $5 million (and likely more) and he won't be easy to sign. But the same was said about Justin Verlander before him. And Cameron Maybin. And Andrew Miller. But Ilitch opened up his checkbook and got each signed, and each either have (in Verlander's case), are (Verlander and now Andrew Miller), or will (Maybin) play crucial roles in the nascent Tigers dynasty. Team after team after team passed on Porcello on Thursday, even though he has exceptional talent and projects as a top of the rotation starter. They were unwilling to take the risk that they couldn't sign Porcello because they knew they would never come close to matching his demands. The Tigers, though, aren't afraid of spending money to stock their farm system. The Tigers would have never made it to the World Series without Justin Verlander last season, and with the potential pitching staff the Tigers will have in the future, they'd never have the success they should if they didn't draft Miller or Porcello.

The Detroit Tigers are the envy of most all Major League Baseball teams tonight. Not just because they drafted who many consider to be the top high school talent in the draft, but because they could draft who many consider to be the top high school talent in the draft. And for that, Tigers fans are lucky to have an owner dedicated to winning like Mike Ilitch.

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Saving Jericho

A few weeks back, when the major broadcast networks announced their fall 2007 television schedules, Jericho was nowhere to be found on CBS' schedule. The drama about a rural Kansas town trying to survive in the wake of a nuclear attack, without electricity and without contact with the outside world, was a show worthy of a spot on the schedule. It was one of my "Top 5 Shows to Save for 2007" and while it had its dark moments, overall, it was a quality drama. The ratings though, especially after a mid-season hiatus, slipped throughout the year, and at the upfronts in May, CBS chose to cancel Jericho and give some new dramas a spot in its stead.

That's when Jericho fans reacted. Every year popular television shows are canceled, to much dismay to online fans, and every years fans of certain shows promise to write the networks, to protest, to bring the show back from the dead. It rarely, if ever works. But the Jericho fans were smart. They were clever and they got momentum behind them. They started a "Nuts" campaign (based off a comment made by main character Skeet Ulrich in the season finale) and Sent 25 tons of peanuts to CBS.

So, CBS, in a remarkable about face, has turned around on Jericho. Rescued from the scrap heap, Jericho will return for at least seven episodes this winter, with the promise of more should Jericho's devoted fan-base spread-the-word and increase the show's ratings.

At this time, I cannot tell you the specific date or time period that Jericho will return to our schedule. However, in the interim we are working on several initiatives to help introduce the show to new audiences. This includes rebroadcasting Jericho on CBS this summer, streaming episodes and clips from these episodes across the CBS Audience Network (online), releasing the first season DVD on Sept. 25, and continuing the story of Jericho in the digital world until the new episodes return. We will let you know specifics when we have them so you can pass them on.

On behalf of everyone at CBS, thank you for expressing your support of Jericho in such an extraordinary manner. Your protest was creative, sustained and very thoughtful and respectful in tone. You made a difference.

CBS deserves a lot of credit for bringing Jericho back. Despite the sustained online protest, and the tons of peanuts now being delivered to charities across the country, ratings are ratings, which is why Jericho was canceled in the first place. But as the protest showed, maybe ratings aren't ratings anymore, and with CBS' online video-player showing Jericho episodes, and other methods of watching the show, obviously, these fans came from somewhere. And CBS listening is a great sign, not just for Jericho fans, but for fans of all television shows. Networks are listening. You just need to make sure they hear you.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Lightning Round: Detroit Sports, the World Series of Poker, and More

Some more thoughts with no real connection between them, so as is the Quo Vadimus tradition, we'll go through another Lightning Round.

** Christy of Behind The Jersey has put together a great feature over at her blog (and it's not just great because it features me, though that helps obviously), where she spoke with numerous Detroit sports bloggers, asking them why Detroit is such a great sports city. She's posting the answers in a five part series (one part for each of the five questions) and the answers are pretty thoughtful and give you a great diversity of viewpoints from the various bloggers around the state of Michigan. Aside from my answers, Kurt of Mack Avenue Tigers, Sean of Michigan Sports Center, Matt of Let's Go Wings, Paul of Kuklas Korner, Al from The Wayne Fontes Experience, and RipIsMoney from Detroit Sports Unleashed all chime in as well. You can check out the first part of the roundtable discussion right here.

** Speaking of blogs, thanks to Yzerman Is God and Other Thoughts on Hockeytown for the plug this week on my Trade Rasheed Wallace post.

** I'm watching the Tigers as I type this, and even though Nate Robertson was awful tonight, giving up six runs without recording an out in the first inning, the bullpen responded in resounding fashion tonight, shutting down Texas after that (and until this point, which is the top of the 8th). The Tigers still trial 6-4, but they've had their chances and have kept Texas at bay. From a bullpen which has been horrid lately, even if the Tigers lose this game, there are a lot of positives to take out of tonight's game.

** The World Series of Poker has started, which is pretty cool to follow for poker fans. While the "Main Event" which gets most of the national publicity does not begin for another month or so, all of the "smaller" tournaments (which in some ways are more exciting and show a much broader depth to the game of poker other than just no limit hold 'em) are going on right now. I love following the WSOP. Gives me a chance to live vicariously through Daniel Negreanu. For those unfamiliar, Negreanu is one of poker's top stars, and he's just an all around cool guy. He hangs out with Boston Rob of Survivor/Amazing Race fame, is a huge hockey fan (he's Canadian), and is married to a woman from the state of Michigan. Can't go wrong there. During the entire World Series, he posts video blog updates at his website, Full Contact Poker, and I love following along. Just like in sports, poker is more entertaining when you have a "rooting" interest.

Last year I had a true "rooting interest" in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. While Daniel Negreanu is featured in the center of the photo posted above, the player on the far left, with all the chips, is my buddy Brian who I went to undergrad with. He won an online qualifier into the Main Event, and ended up not only outlasting Negreanu, but outlasting over 8,000 others, finishing 126th out of 8773 entrants. Not bad at all. That was fun too. Every day, Brian kept hanging around, increasing his chip stack. He was featured on Pretty cool.

Okay, time to see if the Tigers can launch a ninth inning comeback.

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Lightning Round: The Lost Season Finale, Legal Happenings, and Johnnie Morton Gets KO'd

Wow. The Detroit Pistons get themselves into a tough series with Cleveland, the Detroit Tigers bullpen implodes in on itself, and suddenly, that's all I'm really blogging about. So let's get caught up, with lots of good stuff to cover, from the Lost season finale to former Detroit Lions wide receiver Johnnie Morton having a debut in Mixed Martial Arts that he'd like to forget (and, actually, probably has forgotten, and not of his own volition).

** So, the Lost season finale was almost two weeks ago now, so everything that needs to be said has been said already. The Televisionary had a great review, showrunner Carlton Cuse was interviewed by TV Guide and showrunner Damon Lindelof was interviewed by Kristen @ E-Online.

I thought the finale was brilliant. Some of the best television I watched all season, and right up there with some of Lost's finest hours. After a very, very slow start to the season (the season premier was great, but then the rest of the "fall mini season" dragged) the show was on fire in the weeks leading up to the finale, and they really delivered. I loved the ending reveal of Jack's flashbacks being flashforwards was great, and I didn't see it coming. I was watching it with my buddies Ethan and Dave, and while Dave astutely pointed out that Jack's cell phone seemed too modern to be used in a flashback, we chalked it up to an error on the producers part. Ye of too little faith.

So this leads to all sorts of questions for next season, which starts in February of 2008 (man -- so far away). Who was in the coffin? What was Jack "lying" about and why is it so important for him to get back to the island (were people left behind?) and why does he need maps to find it if they were rescued? Is the island still shielded from view and impossible to return to once you leave? And if so, then who really rescued the castaways? And what about the "sickness" people are supposed to get on the island? Has that storyline been dropped completely or will we be getting back to it (it wasn't brought up in the finale, but I'm still waiting). Overall, a great, great finale.

** A few interesting television legal things which broke over the past week or so. Joe over at the great "I Am A TV Junkie" Blog sent me a link to a lawsuit filed by a former producer of Dateline NBC who was fired, she alleges, after she blew the whistle about unethical practices by the team behind "To Catch a Predator." NBC says she was let go in a cost cutting move. It's an interesting claim, but her allegations really don't surprise me. Even though Dateline is a news-magazine, the "To Catch a Predator" segments were turned into their own series, and seemed as much like entertainment programs as anything. As she alleges, some of the people featured in the broadcasts were "led into additional acts of humiliation (such as being encouraged to remove their clothes) in order to enhance the comedic effect of the public exposure of these persons", but I think that the claim has a few pretty obvious defenses. A) From what I saw (which wasn't much, but I would watch some segments while channel surfing) the suspects being asked to remove their clothes was not done so much for comedic effect as it was to show how serious they were about performing illegal acts and B)It's probably not great strategy to try to draw sympathy for alleged child predators. I understand her point that it may violate ethical standards or standards of news reporting, but people are not going to feel bad about it happening.

It will be interesting to see what happens though. If she was "sole producer" of "To Catch A Predator" as she claims, she likely knows quite a bit about what was really happening behind the scenes. On the other hand, Dateline NBC is undergoing a lot of cost cutting (NBC as a network is tightening things, and Dateline in particular let loose Stone Phillips, their standard bearer) and unless the former producer has some real "smoking gun" evidence, it may be hard to prove it wasn't a cost cutting move. "To Catch a Predator" was a series of specials anyway, so if they aren't producing anymore episodes, they probably don't need a producer. We'll see where it goes.

Then, this weekend, in news which probably frightened quite a few people who download television shows off the internet, The FBI filed charges against a man who posted episodes of 24 on YouTube and other filing sharing services.

The FBI filed a criminal complaint Friday against a Chicago man for allegedly uploading four episodes of the hit series "24" to, a video hosting site, before their primetime broadcast. If convicted on a felony count, Jorge Romero, 24, could face up to three years in prison.

The action represents a renewed aggressiveness to crack down on Internet bootleggers, particularly in the television industry, which has not been as vocal about anti-piracy activities as the music and movie businesses.

While the Internet is awash in pirated video content, it is rare for programs to find their way online before airdate. But eight days before the "24" TV premiere, Romero found the original file on a file-sharing service through, a bit torrent tracking site, according to the FBI affidavit.

Romero allegedly downloaded them from an illegal file-sharing service and subsequently uploaded them to LiveDigital, and also posted Web links to the pirated episodes on

It's a pretty aggressive act by the FBI, I am also surprised about how long it took for criminal action to be taken in a case like this. And especially with these 24 episodes, which were leaked before their airdate, which also interfered with a DVD release of the episodes days after the aired for the first time.

The networks, to their credit, have all done a great job in the past year establishing quality online video players for their episodes, which in many ways makes downloading them illegally unnecessary. But, at the same time, if you miss an episode of a show, which is not archived by the network's website, or sold on a system like ITunes, you have very few options other than downloading from BitTorrent if you want to watch the episode. These episodes, obviously though, were leaked before their aired. And I remember that too, because I had to restrain myself from downloading them because I was really looking forward to the 24 premiere.

In many ways, this probably is what the music industry should have been doing years ago. If you want to scare college kids away from downloading music, don't sue them, have them arrested.

** And lastly, former Detroit Lion wide receiver Johnnie Morton made his debut in Mixed Martial Arts fighting, and not as a gimmick, but as a serious new career path. He probably should have stayed with football. He was knocked out in 38 seconds and left on a backboard. Oops.

Ouch. Sort of makes being hit by John Lynch look docile by comparison.

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Is the Detroit Pistons "Dynasty" Over? Why Detroit Should Trade Rasheed Wallace

The Cleveland Cavaliers convincingly defeated the Detroit Pistons Saturday night in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals, 98-82, eliminating the Pistons and earning a birth in the NBA Finals. And while we can debate the officiating and the Pistons play all off-season, the bottom line is, and amazing as this is to say, the Cavs were the better team throughout the series. The Pistons may pride themselves on being the consummate "team", no superstars allowed, and Cleveland may have been considered poster-child for the "one superstar and 11 other guys" way of building a basketball team, but LeBron James was not the sole reason the Detroit Pistons are playing golf right now. Yes, he dominated and single-handily won Game Five in Detroit, but in Game Six, it was Daniel Gibson, a previously anonymous second-round draft pick who stung the once impenetrable Pistons defense for over 30 points. At other points in the series it was Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Drew Gooden hitting shots, and even Anderson Varejao was getting rebounds and getting into the heads of the Piston players, taking them out of the game mentally and with fouls they picked up playing against him. It was the Cavs, not the Pistons, who were playing an unselfish, defensive, all-hustle style of basketball, and it's why they not only won the series, but were the better team throughout.

So the question that is now facing Detroit Pistons President Joe Dumars is what to do now? The Pistons are at a crossroads. The core group of players that has led them to five straight conference titles, 2 NBA finals births, and 1 NBA title (maybe not your classic Bulls, Celtics, or Lakers "dynasty", but pretty damn good in today's NBA) may be nearing the end of their lifespan as a team. There are questions about whether coach Flip Saunders should or will return next season. Chancey Billups can (and will) opt-out of his contract. Antinio McDyess and Flip Murray have the same opportunity to opt-out of their deals. Dale Davis, Lindsey Hunter, and Chris Webber may all retire, and only Hunter has a contract for next season anyway. And the Pistons will undoubtedly try to trade Nazr Mohammed, though, I don't know why any team would want him or his salary. Joe has a very interesting decision to make. He can try to re-sign Billups and McDyess, and make another run at a title with this current team. But with the Bulls and Cavs a year more experienced, and only getting better, and the Pistons sliding backwards, it may be time to admit that while the Pistons have had a great run, it's time to rebuild. And I would start that process by trading Rasheed Wallace.

The easy thing to do would be to hold on to this core as long as possible. And undoubtedly the Pistons would win more games that way next season. But in the best interest of the future of the franchise, it is best to trade Wallace, no matter what the decision is regarding Billups' future. Rasheed Wallace gave up on his team when he picked up two technical fouls early in the 4th quarter Saturday night. The Pistons were down double digits and Rasheed, figuring the Pistons could not come back, surrendered, and decided he was going to fight somebody, even if that meant sabotaging any chance the Pistons had at winning the series against the Cavs. Not only did 'Sheed pick up two technical fouls, giving the Cavs an easy chance to extend their lead, but he eliminated himself from the most important game of the year, a potential Game Seven against Cleveland. Had the Pistons come back in Game Six, which was unlikely but not impossible (though, once Rasheed was thrown it, it became close to impossible), Rasheed Wallace would have been suspended from Game Seven because of the amount of technical fouls he had accumulated throughout the playoffs. To lose your cool on that stage and to such a degree that you would take yourself out of a Game Seven, is simply inexcusable. And it can't and shouldn't be tolerated by Joe Dumars or the Pistons.

There's a reason why Rasheed Wallace wears out his welcome everywhere. Because eventually he gets bored or upset with the world and he costs his team games. The Pistons may have lost Game Six anyway, but Rasheed took any chance of a fourth quarter comeback, and any chance of a Game Seven victory, away when he decided to get thrown out of Saturday's game. He should be done as a Piston.

Joe Dumars should try to trade Rasheed Wallace and use Wallace and the team's two first round draft picks (in a very deep draft) to try to rebuild on the fly. Jason Maxiell is ready to contribute on a regular basis, and he should get significant playing time next season. If the Pistons want to re-sign Chauncey Billups, I don't have a problem with that, if only because there are no point guards readily available to replace him. And I would hold onto Flip Saunders, at least for another season. But, this Pistons team needs an overhaul to keep up with Cleveland and Chicago (not to mention Miami, who likely won't be as down and out as they were this season) and after the way Rasheed Wallace ended his Pistons season, it should also be the end of his Pistons career.

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Friday, June 1, 2007

What to do with the Tigers Struggling Bullpen

"Fire Jim Leyland!" "Send Todd Jones to AAA!" Those were some of the comments made on the MLive Detroit Tigers Forum following Friday night's devastating 12-11 loss to the Cleveland Indians, where the Indians scored 5 9th inning runs off of Tigers closer Todd Jones (after scoring two in the eighth) to send the Tigers to their seventh loss in eight contests, and their fifth to the Indians in the past week, giving Cleveland a 4.5 game lead in the AL Central. Needless to say, things are a mess right now for the defending American League champions. Carlos Guillen is out. Brandon Inge is out. So are Fernando Rodney, Joel Zumaya, Kenny Rogers, and Vance Wilson. But none of that mattered going into the ninth inning Friday night. Or so it seems to Tigers fans. But the blown save, Jones' second consecutive blown save, has everything to do with the problems (injury and otherwise) the Tigers are facing right now.

The reason why the Detroit Tigers lost Friday night (aside, of course, from Jones giving up a home run to Victor Martinez then two more runs after that) was because Jones pitched in the eighth inning. With Zumaya and Rodney out, and Jose Mesa unable to get anybody out, manager Jim Leyland has been forced to mix-and-match in his bullpen, and the results have not been pretty. Wil Ledezma pitched a perfect seventh inning, and got two outs in the eighth, but then he gave up a double, and single, putting runners on the corners for the Indians. With no Joel Zumaya and no Fernando Rodney, Leyland went to his closer, Todd Jones. Big mistake.

Jones pitched in the eighth inning only three times last season, blowing two saves in the process. While Jones is a dependable closer (despite of the ugly and often heart-wrenching way he closes games) he has his limitations. One of them is that he can't pitch more than one inning. He's proven that. But with the Tigers bullpen in shambles, he was asked to come in early tonight. He allowed two runners to score in the eighth, then, unfortunately for him (but in what otherwise was a productive top of the ninth for the Tigers) had to wait over twenty minutes to pitch in the bottom of the ninth, as the Tigers scored 2 runs in the top of the frame, giving them a 4 run lead going into the last third of an inning.

Then Jones collapsed after getting one out in the ninth. Single. Walk. 3-run home run. A double. An intentional walk. A single. Then the game winning single. There's a reason why Todd Jones doesn't pitch for more than one inning.

Yet, I don't blame Jim Leyland or Todd Jones for tonight's loss. Yes, Jones has limitations. But they are well known. And yes, Jim Leyland knows about Jones' limitations and pushed anyway. But he had no other choice. The truth of the matter is, with the bullpen the way it is, Jim Leyland has to take some chances. And while you can yell that Bobby Seay should have come into the game in the ninth, Seay has not been very good lately. Nobody in the Tigers bullpen has. So you go with who, right now, is your most dependable pitcher. And you ask him to do something he doesn't normally do because you have to. And you learn, he can't do it. And you move on.

I wrote last week that starter Chad Durbin should be moved to the bullpen because he's pitched so well, he could really strengthen the pen. I think now, more than ever, such a bold move is necessary, before the team implodes in on itself under the weight of their injuries. The signing of Troy Percival is likely also a necessity, even if that means overpaying (again) for the former closer who couldn't stay healthy his first time in Detroit, and who has no guarantees that he won't find his way to the DL again. The Tigers have to take some chances right now, because, they can't get it done right now with the group they have. And with Maroth, and Nate Robertson, struggling in the rotation, and their bullpen in shambles, they won't win. They scored 11 runs Friday and lost. That tells you all you need to know right there.

Had Joel Zumaya or Fernando Rodney been healthy tonight, the Detroit Tigers win, without question. Todd Jones doesn't have to pitch the eighth, doesn't have to sit and wait for the ninth, and isn't out of gas when he needs it most. But, the Tigers didn't have those players tonight. And the players they did have in their pen weren't good enough to get the job done themselves. That's not Jim Leyland's fault. And it's not Todd Jones' fault. It's just one of those things that happens over a 162 game baseball season.

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