Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Trip Through the Detroit Sports Scene...and Other Important Thoughts


Many Tigers fans, including yours truly, had concerns coming into this season about the starting pitching. Last year produced some of the most horrific results seen in years. There was Nate Robertson and his bone-chilling ERA that seemed to increase after every appearance, no matter how high it already was coming into the game. You had Dontrelle Willis and his complete loss of control, causing me to wonder why it's taking so long for the Rick Ankiel comparisons to start coming out of the woodwork. Oh well, I might as well be the first. Not to mention Jeremy Bonderman, who is slowly but surely continuing the fine legacy put in place by Nate Cornejo. Lots of promise, lots of disappointments...very little body hair. But all those concerns were washed away in the past couple weeks.

See, countless stories have been written where Jim Leyland expresses how good all these guys have looked throwing off a practice mound to some minor league catcher with no hitter in sight. Obviously, that's your true indicator right there of what they're really made of. Forget the fact that the Detroit Fire Department had to literally be on call whenever Robertson took the mound last season. What's really important is how he looks in the first week of February. I know something has to be written to fill the sports pages in these early days of spring training, but how about an actual look at why Robertson struggled so mightily last year and how he intends to change? So far, it seems like every day you pick up the paper, Leyland is singing someone's praises on how great they looked throwing in the bullpen...Robertson, Willis, Fernando Rodney, newly acquired Brandon Lyon. Even Lou Brown had enough sense in "Major League" not to get too excited when he saw Rick Vaughn hurling blistering 100 mph pitches with nobody in the batter's box.

Other Tigers Thoughts...

-You tellin' me old Tiger knuckleballer Steve Sparks couldn't find 20-25 starts with this squad, even at the age of 43? It was funny/sad one year going down to games at Comerica Park. Attended maybe 9-10 ballgames...I think Steve Sparks started all but one. The first couple times, it's like, "Hey cool, gonna get to see a knuckler in person"!! That was very quickly replaced by, "HOW IS STEVE SPARKS PITCHING AGAIN????? IS THERE NOBODY ELSE ON THE F$%^ING PLANET THAT CAN THROW A BASEBALL?!?!??!?" Ahh yes, Tigers baseball in the early 2000's...lots of good memories.

-There has never been a player in baseball history with a last name as hard to figure out as former Tiger pitcher Shane Loux. Some people tried getting the 'X' involved...some left it silent. Others went with "Looch," which just confused me further. He appeared in 14 games for them during the early part of the decade...and had 14 pronunciations to match. I still don't know the correct way to say it, and I hope I never do.

Pistons (Must be kept short for fear of a 20,000 word rant)

-8 losses in a row makes me think of guys like Eric Leckner and Pete Chillcut...and I get sad.

-No over the back call on the Hornets last possession will keep me up tonight.

-You don't need to watch the game or look at the box score to know how Rodney Stuckey played in a particular game. Just assume he went 2-9 and scored somewhere between 6-8 points. You'll have 95-99% accuracy every time.

-Will Bynum should have been getting minutes at point guard all year long. Might be a small thing, but when Chauncey was dealt, this team was effectively left without any point guards, save for Bynum. The guy can get in the lane, he can dish, he can finish himself. Not gonna set the world on fire, but Curry should have been giving him time all year...and he knows it.

-The McDyess-Maxiell combo needs to be used more. Teams cannot keep them off the glass when they play together.

-Pistons now just two games up on the 9th place teams in the East. Looks weird just seeing it in black and white. I'm an optimist, though. Get a few more wins, bump Philly from that 6th spot, and it's Orlando in Round 1. Still not convinced they have the chops to finally beat the Stones 4 of 7. Their bench just doesn't do much for me. J.J. Redick, Tony Battie, Anthony Johnson...I wouldn't even say it's equivalent to a side of rice pilaf. It's more like a side of croutons, but the ones that aren't even crunchy anymore because they've already been in bed with the salad dressing.

Red Wings

What a performance at Joe Louis Arena tonight. The High Socked One was in attendance as the Red Wings took it to the NHL's best, the San Jose Sharks. A dominating 4-1 win highlighted by two goals from Henrik Zetterberg and stellar goaltending by Ty Conklin. But that's not the performance I'm talking about. What I'm referring to did not take place on the ice, but instead in the stands. Midway through the first period, the crew at the Joe started bouncing up the various sections throwing little personal Little Caesar's boxes up into the masses. Whoever grabbed one got a free slice. Not exactly a reason to lose your mind. Tell that to my brother Sam.

We were in row 11, so there wasn't much time to prepare. The guy threw a couple boxes in the rows before us, but now he was coming to our general vicinity. The box came fluttering towards us, but it soon became clear that it was gonna be too far to the right and thus, no free Za tonight. Again, tell that to my brother Sam. Risking life and limb of himself and everyone around him, he smashed through a couple kids, maybe a dad or two, and reached out with his 6'2 frame. It was too far for him to get a clean catch, but he did manage to deftly get a hand on it and tip the box skyward. I felt like I was watching Dennis Rodman go after an offensive board. Sure enough, when the prize finally returned to Earth, Sam was in perfect box out position to secure it. If this were the NBA, he probably would have been called for one of those fouls where the guy gets the rebound, but then swings his elbows too wildly and catches someone in the chin. Maybe even a flagrant.

Sam was definitely not the most popular person in our section. He couldn't make eye contact with the guy next to him the rest of the night. But he returned to his seat with a smile, clutching the little box tightly against his chest. Like how a mother might hold a newborn baby, but with much more affection. Now don't get me wrong, Sam has had his fair share of athletic achievements in his life. Won the softball toss in field day at Forest Elementary in 5th grade. Best Athlete award in high school four straight years. Pitched at the University of Michigan for two years without ever allowing a run (true story, look it up!). But this improbable catch, albeit for a single slice of pizza, meant so much more. And the best part of the whole thing...he let me have the Za.


-Sometimes a movie looks really good to you in previews, but then you can never seem to find the rhythm once you get the chance to watch it. That's the story with me and the Don Cheadle movie, "Talk to Me." He plays this dude Petey Green who just got out of jail and is now trying to get a gig as a DJ on the radio. Have tried getting into it a few different times on TV...just can't stick around for more than five minutes. Is it supposed to be funny? I wasn't laughing. After a while, they just started ripping off entire scenes from Howard Stern's movie, "Private Parts." I guess the moral of this story is that it is hard to stay with a film longer than a few minutes if your heart really isn't in it...especially when the film in question is complete garbage.

-Just wanted to squash some of the rumors I've heard floating around lately...Gheorghe Muresan is not dead!! I know it seems like a weird issue to have to straighten out, but the truth must be told. There is already enough sad news in the NBA world from tonight (see end of article). There are those that try to claim the star of "My Giant" has left this world permanently, but he is indeed alive and well, most likely mulling over what to do for his next Oscar worthy performance. For some reason, when guys are 7'7 and look like monsters even with the lights out, people just assume they are dead when they leave the public spotlight. For instance, there is one girl that happens to be one of the sweetest people in the whole world, but insists, I mean absolutely insists, that Big Gheorghe passed away some years back. It's almost as if she is wishing death on the gentle giant! It got so bad that I started receiving messages and e-mails from her like this on a daily basis.

"R.I.P. Gheorghe Muresan 1971-2004. You will be missed."

Thankfully, all of these rumors are wildly untrue, we are still on track for "My Giant 2" in July of 2011, and I hope all of you sleep better tonight knowing that.

All Good Things Must Come To An End...

It began as nothing more than a little early season NBA curiosity. Many had expected the LA Clippers to improve with the additions of Baron Davis and Marcus Camby, and they were struggling mightily out of the gate. I casually checked up on Baron after a couple weeks and noticed he wasn't exactly setting the world on fire. I remember casually pointing out to my friend Harold late one night that Baron had not exceeded the 50% mark in any of his first 10 games of the year. I didn't think too much of it, but my interest had been piqued.

The real turning point in this whole saga came maybe 20 games in to the season. After rapping to Sam about Baron's struggles and his baby streak he had going, he wondered if the streak might extend from the end of last season. Worth a look, I thought. Bam! He was right. Just like that, 19 games were tacked on to the streak, and we were off and running. Baron Davis, a man once considered to be a future NBA superstar, was soon passing the 40 game mark without missing a beat and his story was officially brought to the attention of High Socks Nation.

As 40 became 50, my initial curiosity had now turned into an all out obsession. I was following Clippers games so closely on the Internet that people must have thought I had a close relative on the team. I wasn't afraid to approach a complete stranger in the shoe department at Dunham's Sports to see if she wanted an update on the streak. Yeah, you read that right. It had taken over my life. I just could not wrap my head around any NBA player, let alone one with the credentials and bank-breaking contract of Baron Davis, allowing a streak like this go on for this long.

You can tell where this is going. Tonight, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, while hosting the Boston Celtics, Baron Davis finished the game 6 of 10 from the field. It was over. After 62 games of failing to eclipse 50% shooting, it had come to an end. It almost took the perfect storm of factors for it to happen. While it looked for a moment like there might be some late game drama with the streak, Baron fouled out in the last minute, cementing his plus-50 percent game and eliminating the run officially. Zach Randolph played a major part in allowing Baron to have this kind of night by hoisting up 30 shots of his own. Usually, Baron will grab 8-10 of those shot attempts and bang 'em off the rim, but not tonight.

But hey, give credit where credit is due, and for the first time in nearly a year, Baron deserves some. The man made more shots than he missed. For the first time in 63 games. Many followers of this site have been it in from the beginning and might feel like I do right now. Like you lost something that was important to you, when you really weren't prepared to say goodbye. Others came along somewhere in the middle and were just starting to really enjoy this miracle. And then there are some that are ecstatic that BD pulled the 6 for 10, as they had grown tired of the streak and were not enjoying my quest to draw as many parallels as possible to the number "50" from Hollywood and the like. Regardless of which camp you fall in, the fact remains. Baron Davis shot 60% from the field tonight, and the lights have officially been shut off on this party.

It was most definitely fun while it lasted, and during this tough time, we will try to remember all the good memories. The JaVale McGee block in D.C., now known as the "Miracle at the Verizon Center." The 1 for 10 effort against Chicago after nearly a month of rest. The back-to-back 11 for 29 efforts when it really seemed like Baron had his heart set on never again approaching the 50 percent mark. I will sleep with a heavy heart tonight knowing I lost a good friend in The Streak. There will never be another one like it.

Feel free to drop a comment below or shoot me an e-mail at


Aubrey said...

It wouldn't be a true High Socks article with out a Rice Pilaf sighting... "Their bench just doesn't do much for me. J.J. Redick, Tony Battie, Anthony Johnson...I wouldn't even say it's equivalent to a side of rice pilaf." Glad you finally got the Wings in there, even though much of the recap was about Sam grabbin a box of 'Za...I guess I'll take what I can get!

Jeff Granat said...

I like your blog. Good stuff. Im so glad Gheorghe isnt dead. I had this argument probably a week ago for like 5 hours, which is pathetic, but Gheorghe was one of my favorite basketball players. Not for the talent, but because he was such an entertaining guy.

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