Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why No Detroit Tigers Trade is No Problem

The Major League Baseball trade deadline came and went today at 4:00 Eastern Daylight Time, and despite all the rumors, speculation, and innuendo, and all of the names, from Eric Gagne, to Jack Wilson, to Octavio Dotel, engulfing the Detroit Tigers, all was quiet on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull (or, make that the corner of Montcalm and Witherell). And with all due respect to the numerous knowledgeable posters at MLive.com's Detroit Tigers Forum and my buddy Kurt from Mack Avenue Tigers, I don't think the Tigers holding steady was the wrong move. In fact, I think it was the right move given the circumstances surrounding the 2007 trade market.

Do the Detroit Tigers need help in the bullpen? Absolutely. And that help is just as likely to come from the return of Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya as it is from Octavio Dotel or Al Reyes or anybody else the Tigers may have traded for. And the Tigers didn't have to mortgage their future (or, give up anybody in fact) to get one of the most fear-inducing relievers in the league (Zumaya) and a set-up man who, when healthy, is well, halfway decent at least (Rodney).

Dotel, like Zumaya and Rodney, has missed most of the season due to injury and has a career ERA near 4.00. And some of the trades I saw speculated about this morning, and the prospects Tigers fans willing to trade away, really stunned me. I saw Jordan Tata, Omar Infante,, and Jair Jurrjens all speculated as being part of various packages. After the Humberto Sanchez trade last season, giving away Tata and Jurrjens would decimate the deep starting pitching depth General Manager Dave Dombrowski has painstakingly built. I don't blame him for not wanting to give it all away for a reliever who is simply a rent-a-player and may not be any more effective than players we already have.

I know people are uncomfortable with Fernando Rodney. Yes, he's erratic. And not tremendously dependable. But he's effective (at times) and we only don't like him because we see him on a daily basis. Trust me, most relievers are like Rodney. We only think they are better because we don't see them walk batters on a daily basis. And yes, we don't know how successful Joel Zumaya will be when he returns in August. But given how dominating Zumaya can be, why make a panic move which may turn out to be unnecessary? And give up significant pieces of your future, or significant pieces of even bigger future trades, in order to do it?

Yes, the Boston Red Sox got better today with the addition of Eric Gagne. Their bullpen now, innings 7-9, may be one of the best in the last century (and that's not much of an exaggeration) but the Tigers and Tigers fans should not be worrying about Boston. Let's focus on winning the AL Central (and let's remember, Cleveland did not make a move today either) and when or if we face Boston, we worry about it then. For now, I have faith in the Detroit Tigers, just as they are. A trade would have been helpful, but it had to be the right trade, for the right player, and for the right price.

Sometimes the best move you make, is the move you don't make.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Bob Costas Fires Back at Barry Bonds

I have always had a mixed opinion of NBC sportscaster Bob Costas. While there is no doubt he is a tremendous broadcaster, and I grew up both listening to his weekly national radio show, and watching him on television, as I got older, his grandiose style seemed too preachy, and his soliloquies delivered from someone who seemed to like himself talk just a bit too much. But, then again, I write a blog where it's obvious I like to hear myself talk (so to speak) so who am I to judge? In any case, I've gained a new level of respect for Costas this week after he fought with one of sports biggest villains these days, Barry Bonds.

Apparently, Costas had the audacity to challenge Bonds on the eve of Bonds breaking of Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, reciting the familiar steroid accusations against Bonds. Bonds, ever the classy individual, responded by calling the 5'6" Costas a "midget" who knows nothing about baseball.. As a sports journalist who would likely have to look up to Costas if we ever met, I wasn't happy with the height crack. Not that I liked Barry Bonds anyway. But, Bonds comments did get a reaction out of Costas, which gave me a good chuckle.

"As anyone can plainly see, I'm 5-6 1/2 and a strapping 150, and unlike some people, I came by all of it naturally,'' Costas said Thursday.

Costas as also on MSNBC's Morning Joe this morning (with the funny Willie Giest sitting in for host Joe Scarborough) and he went after Bonds, laying out the statistical anomalies since Bonds alleged steroid use began in a clear, and convincing fashion. Very prosecutorial.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Kenny Rogers Hits the Disabled List (again)

While the Detroit Tigers continue to look for bullpen help ahead of Tuesday afternoon's non-waiver trade deadline, they may have bigger problems. Kenny Rogers, who pitched so well when he first came off the Disabled List in June, is back on the DL, this time with "right elbow inflammation."

While Rogers has struggled recently (0-2 in his last three starts, a stretch which saw him give up 17 earned runs) this is not good news for a Tigers pitching staff, which has seen its share of ups and downs this year. Rogers was the emotional leader of the Tigers run to the World Series last year, and with Mike Maroth traded, he filled a need as our soft-tossing left-hander. When you start hard throwing power arms like Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, and rookie Andrew Miller on a nightly basis, having a guy like Rogers to mix things up really keeps a team off-balance. At least for the next two weeks, the Tigers will not have that luxury.

And you have to be worried that Rogers will miss more than just the 15 days he must spend on the DL. While Danny Knobler reports the Tigers hope Rogers will only miss two starts, at 42-years-old, Rogers isn't likely to bounce back from elbow trouble as quickly as a pitcher half his age would. And even those pitchers often find elbow trouble lingering. The good news for the Tigers is that Rogers is much more valuable to them in September and October than he is July and August. Having Rogers ready and healthy for the playoffs will go a long way to determining whether or not the Tigers will be able to make it back to the World Series. No need to him back right now.

As for the man replacing Rogers in the rotation, it's an intriguing opportunity for Jodan Tata. Tata made the Detroit Tigers 25-man roster out of Spring Training last season, and since then has been considered one of the team's top starting pitching prospects (especially once the Tigers traded Humberto Sanchez in the Gary Sheffield deal). So far this season for AAA Toledo, Tata is 3-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 11 starts. He has struck out 30 in 63 innings of work but has walked 19. It will be a good opportunity for Tata to show his stuff (he'll start his first Major League game Monday night against Oakland) and like Rogers, Tata isn't a carbon copy of Bonderman, Verlander, or Miller.

As Tuesday's trade deadline approaches, the Rogers injury should not change the Tigers focus at all. There aren't many quality starting pitchers on the market to begin with (the best may be Cincinnati's Kyle Lohse who has an underwhelming 6-12 record) and as long they believe the injury not to be serious, even if Rogers does not return until September (and as of now, the Tigers expect him back much sooner than that), it should give him plenty of time to get in shape for the post-season (assuming, of course, the Tigers make the post-season). I would still look for bullpen help, but wouldn't sell the farm to get it (and with Rogers' injury, it probably makes it less likely the Tigers would trade away one of their better starting prospects, like Tata, to get a deal done). If something big does happen though, that likely is not good for the future, and quick return, of Kenny Rogers.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Erin Burnett versus Maria Bartiromo, Take Two

Looks like I was a few months early writing about the friendly (or maybe not so friendly) rivalry between CNBC anchors Erin Burnett and Maria Bartiromo. Noticing back in March, when I was on a massive CNBC kick, how great Burnett was hosting her afternoon show Street Signs, I wrote about how underrated Burnett was compared to her colleague Maria Bartiromo. But, now, just four months later, after being profiled on Portfolio.com (a story in which this blog was quoted), Broadcasting and Cable and in the New York Post (which dubbed her the 'Street Sweetie'), Burnett certainly is "rated" these days.

Burnett has exploded on the scene to such an extent, apparently Bartiromo is none too pleased. Watching Morning Joe tonight (as I wrote last week, I tend to watch Morning Joe, at least the third hour which I miss while driving into work, at night) host Joe Scarborough, who has Burnett on each morning around 8:20, talked about another New York Post story which details Bartiromo's displeasure with Burnett's rise.

An inside source tells Page Six the Money Honey has been fuming that curvy Burnett, in addition to her duties as anchor of "Street Signs" and co-anchor of "Squawk on the Street," is getting substantial airtime on the "Today" show, which gives her a much bigger audience. "Maria is like, hey, why isn't it me on the 'Today' show? She's very jealous of all the attention Erin is getting," our source said.

Burnett's star is certainly skyrocketing. Broadcast & Cable magazine called the petite, blue-eyed brunette CNBC's "secret weapon" in its upcoming battle with the soon-to-launch Fox Business Channel, which is owned by News Corp., The Post's parent. Adding insult to injury, the trade journal quoted CNBC senior VP Jonathan Wald as gushing about Burnett, "She's a natural. She's both energetic and solicitous, but she never appears fawning."

While there may be some feathers ruffled over at CNBC, as I'm sure there are at most networks when a new anchor is quickly rising up the charts, I think Burnett's success has as much to do with her on-air demeanor as it does her looks as the Post implies. While newspapers may like to refer to her as "Sweet Sweetie" and "curvy,", and there's no doubt Burnett is very beautiful, it is Burnett's ability to interact with her guests and co-hosts, and a certain genuineness which is at the root of her success. Though, TV Newser has a source which says Burnett may be the source of the New York Post story, and may herself be fueling the rivalry, so who knows.

Actually, now that I think about it, has anybody considered that the feud may be a ruse? With the Fox Business Channel set to enter CNBC's territory sooner than later, knowing that papers like the New York Post love stories like this, what if Burnett, Bartiromo, and some CNBC people are leaking these stories to increase their publicity and hopefully ratings going into the Fox Business Channel launch? By increasing Burnett's visibility, both on Morning Joe (where she's great and has a great chemistry with host Joe Scarborough), and the Today Show, and getting these stories about her rise to the top of the business journalism world, and putting her on the same level as the already highly respected and well-known Bartiromo, CNBC suddenly has two top anchors that are household names. Hmmm...

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Democrat's CNN/YouTube Debate

I meant to blog on this last night, but in all honesty, I turned on the Detroit Tigers game around 9:30 and promptly fell asleep on my couch. Oops. So, a day late, but certainly not a dollar short, here are some thoughts on last night's CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate, which for those that missed it or haven't read about it, involved the candidates being asked questions from everyday Americans, submitted as videos on YouTube.

The format I thought was really interesting. Sure, a lot of the questions were the same ones we've seen before, some were silly (like the virtual snowman worrying about global warming) and the candidates vignettes weren't really necessary, but overall, it was fresh, and unique, and with it being so early before the primaries start, we needed a debate like this. And I do think the format was useful because it allowed questions to be asked that a normal moderator may have been uncomfortable asking (such as the question directed to Barack Obama about whether he was "black" enough). As for Anderson Cooper, who was moderator, he was hit and miss. As Chuck Todd wrote on MSNBC's live-blog of the debate, he really didn't let the candidates "debate" among themselves at all. But, on the other hand, he kept the trains on the track, not letting candidates get too far from the questions (a few times re-asking the original question after a candidate went into a stump speech having little to do with the question at issue) and even told Mike Gravel "No" when Gravel asked for more time.

And, before discussing the individual candidates (though, I guess this technically is about a specific person) but Mike Gravel has to go. He's not doing the Democrats any good at these debates, he continues to make Joe Biden look tranquil (and that takes some talent), and he's really just a punchline at this point. At least Dennis Kucinich has an issue (the War) that he really cares about and is trying to get people talking about. I have no idea why or what Gravel is doing. Other than making the rest of the Democrats look bad.

The mainstream media continues to praise Hillary Clinton performances in the debates, and in many ways, she is very polished and knows exactly what to say and how to say it. But I thought Brack Obama did very very well and continues to improve each debate he's in. His answers on Iraq (posted below) were right on the mark, both in terms of attacking Hillary for approving the war to begin with, and blasting Tony Snow for defending the Iraqi government's vacation by explaining it is "hot" in Iraq. And this whole controversy where Clinton is calling him 'naive' for saying he would meet with certain foreign leaders is just ridiculous. The obvious aim of the question was whether an Obama administration or a Clinton administration would meet with the Fidel Castro's of the world, not whether Barack and Fidel would head to a Washington Nationals game together. Was Clinton smart for answering it the way she did (by saying she would wait before holding any meetings herself to make sure she wasn't being used simply as a propaganda piece) which made Obama look too eager and inexperienced? Sure. But, the whole issue is a non-issue as far as I am concerned. Now, to Obama's great answers on the war.

Obama's answer on whether or not he would work for the minimum wage was also spot on. When the question was asked, I immedietely yelled out at my TV, "of course they would, they can afford to. That's the whole point." And that's how Obama answered the question, wisely.

As for who else really impressed me, Joe Biden continues to show that he may be the smartest candidate of the bunch. A bit angry at times, but while everyone else talks about getting out of Iraq, Biden sounds like he actually knows how to get out of Iraq. On foreign policy, there is nobody better right now than Biden, and he sounds intelligent on the domestic issues too. He has no chance to be President, but should a Democrat win in 2008, I couldn't think of a better candidate for Secretary of State. His campaign put together some highlights of last night's debate, worth checking out.

Anyways, interesting concept. Good television.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Jan Crawford Greenburg's Supreme Conflict

After not getting much reading done the first half of the summer, I'm really in a groove now. I've already written about how great Phil Rosenthal's You're Lucky You're Funny is and how much I enjoyed John Meacham's American Gospel and this weekend I finished another fascinating book: Jan Greenburg Crawford's Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court

Supreme Conflict is an inside look into the current Supreme Court, spending numerous chapters on each of the confirmation battles over the past quarter century, from Ronald Reagan's appointment of Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy to the most recent selections of John Roberts, the disaster that was the Harriet Miers nomination, and finally Samuel Alito. For anyone interested in the Supreme Court, or wants an inside look at the confirmation process or how the Supreme Court has functioned during the past 25-years-plus, the book is a must read.

And there are some very interesting revelations in the book. Like many, I never thought to question the media hype machine's story that Clarance Thomas was nothing more than Antonin Scalia's understudy. After reading Crawford's book, though, I have an entirely new appreciation and respect for Justice Thomas. As Greenburg points out, many times during Thomas' first year on the bench, it was his strong will and unwillingness to bend to the views of his colleagues which often got Justice Scalia to change his mind about a case, not the other way around.

I have a hard time deciding which parts of the book I enjoyed more, the stories about the confirmation process (from how George H.W. Bush's Chief of Staff's strong support for David Souter allowed one of the most liberal justices on the Court to get appointed by one of our more conservative Presidents to the lessons George W. Bush learned so he did not make the same mistake with his nominees) or the stories about the individual cases and how the Supreme Court made the decisions they have.

And Crawford brings up some good points as well. As she writes, no matter what else can be said about George W. Bush's failure as a President, whether by accident or design (and with the Harriet Miers debacle, it's probably a bit of both), you can't say he did not put his stamp on the Supreme Court for decades to come.
Historians may judge Bush as less than competent on many levels, but none will be able to write that he was unable to follow through on his campaign promises when it came to the Supreme Court. In pushing through John Roberts and Samuel Alito, the Bush White House did indeed give Americans justices closely aligned with Scalia and Thomas.

[. . . ]

Although their outlook on the law and the proper role of the Court may be similar to that of Scalia and Thomas, their impact on its direction over the next three to four decades will be more substantial. The Court is now poised to recede from some of the divisive cultural debates. George W. Bush and his team of lawyers will be shaping the direction of American law and culture long after many of them are dead.

And looking back on the Court's most recent term, with decisions on free speech and affirmative action, and the obvious imprint both Alito and Roberts have had, Crawford's words could not have been more accurate.

And this is not to say the book was perfect. Although not an epic (the book weighs in at just over 300 pages, not short, but not the 700 page Theodore Roosevelt biography I am tackling next) it does get repetitive at points, as the same cases are discussed multiple times in different portions of the book. And while it is obvious Crawford spent countless hours reviewing notes, interviews, previous stories, and doing many of her own interviews and explorations, the book reads in spots as too much like a book report. Crawford weaves together so many different sources in such a fluid way, it makes it seem as if anyone who did the research could have written the same book. Which, isn't true of course, and, as I said previously, Crawford's voice comes through in places, but overall, not enough. And perhaps I wouldn't have noticed so much, but after just reading Phil Rosenthal's memoir, which had such a conversational style which was so easy to read, the academic nature of Supreme Conflict was especially evident.

Overall though, a great read, and followers of the Court should blow right through this book in no time. It certainly gives you a new perspective on the current Justices and a new view of just how politics has changed the confirmation process for the foreseeable future.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Padraig Harrington Wins the British Open

I've always liked watching the British Open. Maybe because of the tradition. More likely because it's so different than the kind of golf you see on a weekly basis in the United States. No trees, a completely different kind of golf requiring a unique strategy. It's practically a different game, and it always amazes me how the pros are able to adjust. I remember interning in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2002 and waking up early in the morning to watch then unknown Ben Curtis (who despite his win is probably still largely unknown) parlay his 396th world ranking into a win at the what is arguably the world's most prestigious golf tournament.

In a repeat of the 1999 collapse of Frenchman Jean Van De Velde, leading going into the 18th and final hole, Padraig Harrington found the burn (or what we would call the water), twice, making double bogey and giving Sergio Garcia, who had been leading most of the tournament, a chance to win his first career Major by simply paring the 18th. But as Van De Velde, and now Harrington had shown, making par on the 18th hole at the British Open with a chance to win is much much harder done than said, and Garcia missed a short, but tough, par putt, giving Harrington second life, and giving us four more holes of playoff golf.

If the final round was great (with its back-and-forth leaderboard and almost impossible-to-believe 18th Hole) the playoff was just as good, though, over almost as soon as it began. Harrington, who could have collapsed after his disastrous 18th, showed great poise, with a birdie on the first hole of the playoff. Garcia, who never seemed to get over that missed putt, made bogey on the first hole, falling two shots behind.

The playoff though, was not over until it was over. Even with a lead heading into the 18th Hole, the final hole of the playoff, there was still the ghost of Van De Velde, and the much more recent gag by Harrington himself, that had to be vanquished. And they were. Though, Garcia did make it very interesting on the 18th, with a birdie putt which looked right online but ran just past the hole instead.

And it all goes to show that no matter how great Tiger Woods is (and he is) and how entertaining his rivalry with Phil Mickelson is, even when Tigers is not in contention, the sport of Golf can still be incredibly entertaining and captivating. Sunday certainly was.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Stoney and Wojo Radiothon to fight Leukemia & Lymphoma

Every year, for the past 10 years, Mike Stone and Bob Wojnowski, Stoney and Wojo from WDFN Sports Radio 1130 in Detroit, have hosted a 24+ radiothon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Stoney and Wojo have raised over a million dollars over the past 10 years, and this year their 28-hour extravaganza is live from Great Lakes Crossing at Gameworks. They have great guests on throughout, have amazing hourly and run-of-show auction items (all the autographed memorabilia, golf trips, and one-of-a-kind items you could ask for) and have a great time while working to help those with Leukemia & Lymphoma It's also where I met Elizabeth Berkley back in 2000, when the radiothon was broadcast from the Star Southfield.

If you want to listen, you can do so from anywhere, online, at their online radio stream and if you want to donate to the cause, and help raise money for Leukemia & Lymphoma research and help those who have the illness, you can click here to donate online.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Enjoying Joe Scarborough and Company's Morning Joe

I never really watched or listened to Don Imus. I'm not entirely sure why. I'm usually up in the mornings, either for class during the school year or work during the summer, and considering how much I love keeping up on news and politics, and how much I watched MSNBC anyway, you'd have thought I would have tuned in. And the loss of the well-known and well-listened-to Imus could have been bad news for MSNBC's mornings. But, as it turns out, the loss of Imus may have been the best thing for MSNBC. At least if they were trying to get me as a daily viewer (and, let's face it, what television network isn't courting me as a viewer?)

I write this because Imus' replacement thus far (and I would assume permanently, though, for some odd reason MSNBC seems to be dragging their feet in that regard) former Republican Congressman and MSNBC prime time host, Joe Scarborough, has been terrific. While Joe has not taken over Imus' gig on the radio (which, I for one, am very disappointed about because that 8:00-9:00 drive to work would be a lot better if it were) he hosts Imus' former show, from 6:00-9:00 am weekdays on MSNBC. Joined by acclaimed writer John Ridley, news anchor Mika Brzezinski (of the now famous, thanks to YouTube, clip from Morning Joe where she refuses to report on Paris Hilton) and some other fun people (like Willie Giest) the show is smart, topical, has great guests, great commentary, and is must-see viewing for those looking to catch up on the day's headlines and stories as they brew their own cup of 'Morning Joe.'

I've started to tape 'Morning Joe' on my computer each morning, catching up on the first (on while I'm still sleeping) and third (on while I'm driving to work) when I get back home. It also doesn't hurt that a regular contributor to the third hour of the program is CNBC's Erin Burnett, talking about the day ahead in the stock market. Burnett, of Portfolio.com's recent profile (quote me and get a lot of plugs -- I think this is the lesson to be learned here) and of my praising back in March, really seems to enjoy her interactions with Joe, and their segments have been very entertaining as well as informative (a description which describes the entire morning program).

So, you need to get up early, before work, check out Morning Joe on MSNBC. Vastly superior to the other morning cable news fare, and the best thing to happen to MSNBC since Keith Olbermann came back to the network. Both liberal and conservative, Republican and Democratic viewpoints and guests, and Erin Burnett. What morning show can top that?

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Late Night Tigers Games and You're Lucky You're Funny

When you are young, and in school, late night Detroit Tigers games are great. 10:00 start, fun reason to stay up late, sleep in late the next day. Very enjoyable. When you have work the next day though? Suddenly 10:05 first pitch means the last pitch comes a little closer to 1:00 a.m. which is a little too close to 6:45 when I start my day by updating my MLive.com Detroit Tigers blog and try not to misspell anyone's name while I'm still half asleep (sorry about that newest Detroit Tiger Ryan 'don't call my Rayburn Cutoff Man' Raburn).

But, there are some advantages to such late starts. I get the entire night. Usually, I get home from work around 6:15 or 6:30, have dinner with my family, and then, the Tigers start, first pitch @ 7:05. If I'm still awake at the end of the game (a dicey proposition these days unfortunately) I try to stay awake until Leno starts at 11:30. During the school year, I usually fall asleep after watching Jimmy Kimmel's monologue. Haven't been awake too much for that this summer.

So, this week, with the Tigers in Seattle, I got a few nights. And it was great. I read and read and read. As I wrote on Monday, I recently started reading Phil Rosenthal's autobiographical You're Lucky You're Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom. 242 pages, and about 200 of those were read the past two nights before and during the Tigers game (before last night, and before and during tonight). It took me months to find the time and to read John Meacham's American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nationand I really enjoyed it. But Phil's book, I just engulfed. Great, smart, sophisticated, witty text (what do you expect from the guy who created and ran Everybody Loves Raymond for nine years), enough stories from behind-the-scenes of Raymond to make fans happy but enough too about Phil's life and history in television to make it a worthwhile read even if you never watched anything staring Ray Romano (never saw Welcome to Mooseport? Really?). If you are a fan of television, you have to read this book. If you like great storytelling, read the book too. Phil comes across as very relatable in the book (which is maybe why I keep calling him "Phil" in this paragraph and not "Rosenthal" like I would with most references to people). Plus, Amazon.com has it at a "bargain book" price of just $5.19. Just buy the book. And if you don't like it, I'll send you the $5.00 (except, not really).

One of the great stories Rosenthal tells in the book is about writing for and directing President Clinton in a video shot for the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. He wrote about what a joy it was to work with President Clinton and how gracious the President was, even when Rosenthal was getting flustered trying to get the President to pronounce the "t" in Yatzee. I looked up the finished product on YouTube, because everything good is on YouTube, and it's pretty funny stuff.

That's two books down now. I'm thinking perhaps a sports book next, but John Meacham's book has me in a historical mood. Walter Isaacon's Einstein biography is waiting for me, and so is Manhunt, about the search for John Wilkes Booth in the days after he shot and killed President Lincoln (but I think I want to read my Lincoln biographies first, just makes sense chronigically). So, we'll probably go with a biography or Supreme Conflict, Jan Crawford Greenburg's look at the current United States Supreme Court. We'll see.

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Monday, July 9, 2007

The Lightning Round: Erin Burnett, Curtis Granderson's Catch, and a Few Other Notes

I really need to start updating the blog more often during the summer. I liked it better when I was updating once a day, not twice a week. So let's see what's been going on....

* For those of you visiting the site for the first time after reading Portfolio.com's great profile of CNBC's Erin Burnett, welcome. The author of the piece, Claire Atkinson, was kind enough to link to my blog here and plug a post I did way back in March (okay, it's not "way back", but it seems that way) on how much CNBC I was watching and how impressed I was with the talented and personable Burnett. You can check out that story and my original thoughts on the Erin Burnett v. Maria Bartiromo debate right here.

My opinion hasn't changed much since I wrote the original post in March. I still think Burnett is destined for big things at CNBC (or elsewhere) and obviously others agree. Sadly, though, I haven't been home to watch Street Signs lately (oh the joys of being in law school and being home with nothing to do at 2:00 every afternoon) but I'll be back watching soon enough.

* Hot day at Comerica Park yesterday. And I should know, as I was there, watching the Tigers close out a sweep of the Boston Red Sox. A great series for the Tigers, and a great way to close out the first half, winning 5 of 6 against Cleveland and Boston, two of the top teams in the American League (aside from the Tigers of course). And while the Tigers had five errors yesterday (no, that's not a typo) they also had one of the greatest catches I've ever seen live, when Curtis Granderson ran what seemed like an entire football field, climbed the left-centerfield wall and absolutely robbed Willy Mo Pena of a home run. Absolutely incredible. And because of Major League Baseball apparently has nothing better to do and has no interest in growing their game by making sure as many people see the catch as possible, most of the highlights of the catch have been yanked from YouTube (longtime readers know my experience with MLB Advance Media and my law school buddy Kurt's thoughtful response) but a few are still out there, and you need to see this catch if you haven't already.

* I recently finished reading John Meacham's American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nationand I would recommend the book to anyone and everyone. It takes a look at religion from the founding of North America through the founding of the United States and through the Cold War and shows just how smart the Founding Fathers really were when they decided to promote freedom of religion for everyone. Espeically today, when religion is so often used as a weapon and those who do not believe in what others think everyone should believe are vilified, and when people misconstrue history and tradition for political and ideological gain, it's just tranquil to be able to read the founders own words and see how truly important they thought it was that people would be able to practice any religion (or none at all). And how important that ideal has been throughout the last 250 years.

Moving on to a lighter subject, I'm now reading Phil Rosenthal's You're Lucky You're Funny: How Life Becomes a Sitcom. For those unfamiliar, Phil was the co-creator, writer, producer, ect. ect. of Everybody Loves Raymond. The show is largely based on his life and his parents, and the book not only goes through some of Phil's life-story but also the story about how Everybody Loves Raymond came into being and took on a life of its own, becoming one of the most successful sitcoms of this generation. Plus, you already know Phil's a great writer, so you can't really good wrong, and the first few chapters have been really good. Plus, it's only $5.00 at Amazon for the hardcover edition. How can you beat that?

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Major League Baseball Needs a New Television Policy

So, right now, I want to watch the Detroit Tigers-Boston Red Sox game. It's a natural reaction to, you know, being a sports fan in the metropolitan Detroit area. When the Tigers are on television, and they are playing the best team in the American League, it may be good to be able to watch the game. So, I rush through dinner, get home at 7:00, just in time for the game, and I turn on FOX 2 and what do I see? Extra innings in the New York Yankees game. Terrific. Nevermind that nobody in Detroit cares about the New York Yankees or the Anaheim Angels (or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or whatever they are called), but according to the rules of Major League Baseball's patently absurd national television contract, until that game ends, Tigers fans in Detroit are shut out.

Now, I don't blame the people at FOX 2. This decision is made well over the pay scale of the people working at FOX 2 tonight and yelling at them may make you feel better but won't solve the problem. But, this is a problem, and one that needs to be solved. How is it in Major League Baseball's best interest to shut out home town fans while forcing them to watch a game they don't care about while their hometown team plays without a television outlet? Already, the Tigers have played an inning and a half against the Red Sox (trailing 2-0 by the way, at least the radio isn't broadcasting the Yankees game) and Jeremy Bonderman, aside from giving up a first inning homerun (typical) has struck out five Red Sox batters. Sadly, I still haven't been able to see any of it because the Yankees are trying to tie their game in the bottom of the 11th inning.

Major League Baseball, FOX, and FOX 2 have to take a look at their television policy. Switch the game to Fox Sports Net for three innings, or FOX 2 HD, or whatever. Forcing Tigers fans, especially with a series against the Boston Red Sox, to watch the New York Yankees game, does not make any sense. Not for Major League Baseball. Not for FOX 2, which no doubt is losing rating points and local television advertising, and having to field tons of phone calls from angry Tigers fans who are in no mood to hear "It's a network decision."

Hopefully I'll be able to watch the Tigers soon, but I'm not holding my breath.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Lessons Learned at Comerica Park

We start this post with a promotional announcement: Make sure to VOTE for Jeremy Bonderman to go to the All Star Game. There is only one day left to vote, or less than that actually (voting ends 6:00 PM EST Thursday) and Bonderman currently sits in second place. C'mon people. Let's get this done. Okay, now back to your regularly scheduled post.

Having just returned from a great 4th of July at Comerica Park, watching the Detroit Tigers hang on, barely, to defeat the Cleveland Indians 6-4, and move within two games of the Tribe in the American League Central, I think I learned a few things. First, the Indians are a very good ballclub, never out of the game, always a threat. There's a reason they have had such a great first half of the season. Secondly, the Tigers are pretty damn good themselves, both offensively, on the mound, and defensively (the bullpen and Brandon Inge's two errors notwithstanding). And third, man, I just don't know what to do with the Tigers bullpen right now. Thank God for Todd Jones, and who that we'd ever be saying that?

The Tigers played well again tonight, thanks in large part to Kenny Rogers, who moved to 3-0 since his return off the Disabled List. He has not missed a beat, and despite some rough spots here and there, and allowing a few too many batters to reach base, Rogers was able to get the key strikeout or groundball when he needed it.

And Rogers was backed up (again, aside from Inge's two miscues) with some great defensive plays, including a spectacular diving catch by Marcus Thames, who continues to show his value to the Tigers team. Here's a guy who had never played first base before Spring Training, but learned the position to make the Tigers club, and has become more than just a serviceable backup at the position, and still can play the outfield. And he can hit. With the way Craig Monroe has really been struggling, Thames should continue to see more playing time. He certainly deserves it.

The Tigers bullpen though, ugh. Did their best to give the game away, with Jason Grilli and Macay McBride each responsible for giving up a run (the two scored on Travis Hafner's home run off of McBride), and Zach Miner allowing things to get a bit dicey in the eighth inning. At this point, they've tried making trades, moving a starer (Chad Durbin) to the 'pen, moving players back and forth from Toledo, I'm not sure what else they can really do, aside from giving up the moon for a pitcher like Eric Gagne, and I'm not willing to sacrifice top prospects, at this point, to make that move. Hope Fernando Rodney comes back healthy, and Zumaya after that, and go from there. Todd Jones, though, looked sharp again, so maybe he's turned a corner. We'll see.

Tomorrow should be fun with Justin Verlander battling C.C. Sabathia. Too bad it's a 1:05 start. At least Fox Sports Net is replaying the game at 7:00, so if I can try to ensure that people don't tell me the score at work tomorrow (which is probably more easily said than done) I'll watch the game tomorrow night. Hopefully the Tigers can take 2 of 3 before Boston comes in Friday.

And, don't forget, only about 18 hours to go to VOTE for Jeremy Bonderman to make the All Star team. He's currently in 2nd place behind Hideki Okajima, so get voting!

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Monday, July 2, 2007

President Bush Lets Scooter Off The Hook

Apparently perjury and obstruction of justice is worthy of impeachment but not 30 months in prison. That's the stance of President Bush, who decided that he's more important than the legal system, overruling a jury and a judge, eliminating the punishment given to former aide Scooter Libby, commuting Scooter's 30 month prison sentence. The conviction and fine stand (big deal) but Scooter no longer has any fear of going to jail.

What a joke. President Bush, defending his actions, wrote today that:

Furthermore, the critics point out that neither Mr. Libby nor anyone else has been charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act, which were the original subjects of the investigation.

As David Shuster pointed out on MSNBC tonight, the reason nobody was charged with violating the law was BECAUSE people like Scooter Libby were lying to prosecutors and preventing them from learning the truth.

And now, commuting Scooter's jail sentence, President Bush took away the only bargaining chip which was available to prosecutors to get to the bottom of whether or not any laws were broken. Facing a 30 month jail sentence, having exhausted his pre-detention appeals, if Scooter Libby would have ever been looking to cut a deal, now was going to be the time. He tells special prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald everything he knows, and he would have been spared jail. Now, we'll never know the truth, because there's no reason for Libby to roll over on anybody in the White House administration. He's already free.

As much as this is protecting a former aide, this is protecting President Bush and Vice President Cheney (and Karl Rove and others) from future liability. Must be nice to have that kind of power. I don't want to hear Republicans, ever again, talk about President Clinton and how perjury and obstruction of justice were impeachable offenses, because, as we all learned today, it's only worth $250,000.

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Polanco Campaign Works; Tigers get Five, Maybe Six All Stars

And the Go to the Polls for Placido voting campaign worked. The Major League Baseball All Star teams were announced today and the Detroit Tigers, after years of struggling to get just one representative, now are the most represented team in the American League (well, tied with Boston) with five:

Starting (voted in by the fans): Pudge Rodriguez, Placido Polanco, Magglio Ordonez
Reserve (voted in by the players): Carlos Guillen
Pitcher (voted in by the players): Justin Verlander

And all well deserved too (well, maybe not Pudge, but I'm not going to complain). I'm glad the Placido Polanco campaign worked, as Placido was rewarded with not only his first All Star start, but his first All Star appearance. And Magglio Ordonez, making up ground to get himself into the starting lineup, in an MVP season, was also great to see. And it's neat that all five representatives were voted in by either the fans or the players. Despite Tigers' manager Jim Leyland managing the team, he did not select a single Tiger.

Now, it is disappointing that both Gary Sheffield and Curtis Granderson were left off the team. Sheffield really deserved it based on how well he has played since his slow start, and his numbers are certainly All Star worthy (.290, 18 home runs, 52 RBI, and 11 steals) and Granderson was pretty close too. But, after picking players who play for teams who had no selections otherwise, Leyland was left with two selections, and he chose Victor Martinez and Johan Santana, both of whom deserve the honor.

So, what could Leyland have done to free up a roster space? Dropped Santana, changing the Tampa Bay Devil Rays sole representative from Carl Crawford to Jamie Shields (6-3, 3.81 ERA, 100 strikeouts to Santana's 9-6, 2.76 ERA, 120 strikeouts, so obviously, Santana does have the edge), opening up outfield spot. But, Santana deserves the nod over Shields, and his a lefthander, giving Leyland a second starting lefty, where Shields is a righthander, so even from a baseball perspective, picking Santana makes sense. Just one of those things. Knowing Manny Ramirez' history, though, he may skip out on the All Star Game, opening up a roster spot after all.

Jeremy Bonderman also would have been a worthy selection, but there is still a chance he can make it. That's because manager Jim Leyland placed Bonderman on his list for the "Last Man" voting competition, so if Tigers fans get to the polls in the next week, Bonderman will be joining his five teammates in San Fransico. So, just as we did with Placido, you know what you have to do. Go to MLB.com and VOTE for Bonderman. Let's get another Tiger to the All Star Game.

Other notable AL omissions? Boston's Kevin Youkilis (9 HR, 43 RBI, .326 average), Los Angeles/Anaheim's Orlando Cabrera (hitting .342 with 48 RBI and 9 SB) and B.J. Upton (9 HR, 31 RBI, 13 SB, .320 average) but it was tough finding room.

Okay, with all of that said, let's get Bondo to San Francisco. Remember to go and Vote. And with Placido Polanco making it to the All Star Game, I want to thank again all of the websites which plugged and helped get the word out on the "Go to the Polls for Placido!" campaign. Let's hope we can do the same with Bonderman.
KatieG's Psuedo Journalist/InnisFree
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 GreggHenson.com
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

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Detroit Red Wings Lose Mathieu Schneider; Sign All Star Brian Rafalski

Update: Literally, no sooner than I posted my note on the loss of Mathieu Schneider below, TSN is reporting the Red Wings have signed Brian Rafalski to a 5-year, $30 million contract to replace Schneider. Rafalski, a Michigan native, is one of the top defensmen available, so even though the Wings may have lost Schneider, they have replaced him with a younger, very productive player. Rafalski, a three-time All Star, had a career high 55 points last season, and is only 33 years old. As I said in my original post (below), Rafalski was a top option to replace Schneider.

Even though he's young and productive, though, I still believe the Wings, in the end, will miss Schneider. And the fact that Rafalski got more money ($6 million a season) than Schneider (who will average just over $5.5 million in his two seasons in Anaheim) may show that money was not an issue between the Wings and Schneider, or that the Wings did not want to tie up $6 million in a 38-year-old defenseman (but if that's the case, that's silly, because Schneider is no ordinary 38-year-old and would be worth every penny of the $6 million the Wings would pay him).

Personally, I'd rather had have the Wings hang on to Schneider, but I'm very happy with the addition of Rafalski. In any case, it shows that Wings GM Ken Holland is not sitting on his hands, and that he is acting fast to make sure the Wings remain competitive in the Western Conference. And with that, back to your regularly scheduled post on the signing of Mathieu Schneider by the Anaheim Ducks...

After losing to the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals last season, the Detroit Red Wings suffered perhaps an ever bigger loss to the Ducks on the first day of NHL free agency: Top defenseman Mathieu Schneider has left the Wings for an $11.25 million deal from the defending Stanley Cup Champion Ducks.

Losing Schneider is a huge blow to the Wings, and even if they are able to sign a serviceable replacement, like New Jersey Devil and Michigan native Brian Rafalski, the loss of Schneider is going to be felt for a long time to come. All Wings fans need to do is look back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the Wings were just not the same team after Schneider broke his wrist against San Jose in the Western Conference semi-finals. One of the biggest reasons the Wings were not able to defeat the Ducks in 2007 was because Schneider was on the sidelines. Now that the Ducks will have him on their team, it makes them even more formidable in the Western Conference, and it puts the Wings in a very precarious position on the blue line.

While Chris Chelios continues to be a marvel of a player at age 45, he can't keep going forever, and a drop-off in his play would not be stunning. Then there's Nikalis Kronwall, who despite being the Wings next best hope on defense, has not yet lived up to the high expectations placed upon him because of one freak injury after another in his career. With Schneider gone, the pressure on Kronwall, not just to stay healthy, but to up his play to the next level, will be even greater.

It just goes to show you how different the NHL is today in the era of the salary cap. The Red Wings would have never let Schneider slip away under the old system, but today, with General Manager Ken Holland having to think not just about his current cap situation, but what the future may hold (such as making sure there is enough cap space available to re-sign Henrik Zetterberg next season), they just lost one of their most dependable defensemen.

Ken Holland certainly has acted creatively in the past to make up for player defections, and I'm sure this time will be no different. But no matter what Holland is able to do, whether it be signing a player like Rafalski, re-signing Danny Markov and using those precious salary cap dollars on other players, or something not yet thought of, the Red Wings are not easily going to get over the loss of Mathieu Schneider. This is one that is going to sting for a while.

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