Tag:Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central
Posted on: November 24, 2010 5:03 pm

Happy Thanksgiving, and Go Falcons!

Loved ones are gathering, turkeys are basting and, today, we're counting our blessings. So, if I may, allow me to offer the prayer:

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Just because you walk up to the drinking fountain ... doesn't mean you'll get a drink of water. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

I was thinking of this Saturday as, through texts from friends over the miles, I was tracking my old high school football team's semi-final win, which puts them in Friday's state finals. Seriously, this prayer often was uttered at the start of Biology class by Brother Marius, a balding, compact man with a big hairlip and a booming voice that rattled the windows. Looking back, he was straight from central casting.

We were just freshmen then, and I wondered at the time what the heck kind of prayer this was. You wonder about a lot of things through life. Some of them, you figure out. Many, you don't.

Last Thanksgiving, after a beautiful day with my family at home in California, I took a redeye flight back to Michigan to watch the Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central High School Falcons battle in their second state title game under Coach Jack Giarmo, my old classmate and buddy, on the day after Thanksgiving.

I'd give anything to be there in Detroit's Ford Field again this year. Except, two weeks ago, my wife -- same one who keeps things running so smoothly at home when I'm spending half the baseball season on the road -- underwent a hip replacement surgery. So now nursing duties are keeping me close to home, no matter how great the temptation is to board another jet.

She's awfully young for this kind of procedure. Then again, one of those things you figure out through life is to protect your investments. And it cost me $50 to marry her.

That was the bill that came due from one of those classic high school summer evenings so many years ago involving close friends who over the years have become blood brothers. We all had summer jobs back then and, with senior year closing in, we'd gather at Eebs' house after work four or five nights a week for pickup basketball games on his backyard court under the stars. We played, and talked, for hours.

Eebs, Sam, Ollie, Wildman (long story), Bob, Jerry ... when the games finished, the jawing began. "Your girlfriend has you so whipped you can't even go out with us one night this weekend, can you?" "You're going to be the first one of us married because you can't even get a date now. First girl you can get to go out with you after high school, you'll marry." High school stuff, from those simple times when anything seems possible, when the world appears no more complicated than a pop math quiz.

Out of one of those nights, over delivery pizza and still-under-construction dreams, came the bet: First six guys to marry had to present a check for $50 to the rest of us at the reception (hey, $50 was big bucks back then). Jerry's mother worked in a bank. We opened an account. Last man standing got the $300 at his wedding.

It took 15 years to settle that bet as each of us followed his own path and made his own way (I was the fifth guy married, finishing two places out of the money. Damn!).

There's a line in the Rob Reiner film Stand By Me, last line of the movie, in which the narrator says: "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. ... Jesus, does anyone?"

Plug in 16 instead of 12, and, bingo.

I never felt more alive than I did on some of those high school nights when, with full heart and clear mind, surrounded by pals who were becoming friends for life, I felt what it must be like when the concrete in a housing foundation is curing.

Now, some guys play fantasy football. When I'm finished covering baseball for the season, and especially when I come home after the World Series, my fantasy football team remains the same as always: Jack's Falcons.

From then, when he was an All-State player himself, to now, he's built a strong, tough program predicated on the tradition of the past and the school values that made so many of us what we are today -- hard work, respect, sportsmanship, no short cuts. (Same stuff that helped the school's girls' volleyball team win a state title on Saturday).

Mike Pannone, Jack Cusumano, Edmund Shinevarre, Anthony Gaynier, Robby Cardella, Zack Moore ... I do not personally know the boys on today's team. But I know them, because I know the small-town, tight-knit community that produced them.

Nick Wilson, I sort of know him because his mother, Kaye-Lani, also was a classmate. And it turns out, sometimes Miss America (1988) is even more beautiful on the inside than on the outside. Who knew? I close my eyes and I can still see the cheerleaders all riding in her orange jeep the fall of our senior year, Kaye-Lani at the wheel, as we dragged ourselves through another cross country practice.

It was an all-boys' school of only 400 students when I was there, and the all-girls' school with which it's since merged was a block away (but Lord, surrounded by 25 other boys in Brother Marius' class, sometimes those girls seemed like they were 1,000 miles away).

I count those priceless days, and that school, among my many, many blessings today. Because we all need to get our footing early in life to stand a chance later.

Those friends I made back then remain a source of strength today. Eebs, now an orthopedic surgeon, has been a gift, an incredibly valuable sounding board over the past year throughout my wife's hip ordeal. Wildman, who has battled epilepsy throughout his life, underwent brain surgery in September and, before he went under, told me he really thought that my mother's famous chocolate chip cookies -- the ones we devoured by the dozens when we were kids -- would aid in his healing process. She delivered, and Wilds is doing great.

This weekend, she's promised to deliver me some pumpkin pie. With my wife and me still housebound, my parents are coming in for Thanksgiving, as are my brother, his wife and their baby. It's going to be a great weekend, filled with love, laughs and, thankfully, improving health. Blessings are abundant, up to and including the fact that we're so fortunate to be living in a time when modern medicine has conquered hip problems.

But there will come a time on Friday afternoon when a part of me will be back in Michigan, missing a whole bunch of friends -- extended family, really -- who will be in a Ford Field "whiteout" (the team will wear white jerseys and white pants, and the school is selling white T-shirts for $5,), willing the Falcons to a state title.

The game will be telecast on FoxSports Detroit, and I may be able to do even better than watching it online. Among my hundreds of cable channels, it looks like one of the channels in the sports package is picking up the telecast.

We're all products of where we come from, and this week, as it did last year, SMCC has asked alumni to send messages to the team. To that extent, I've got three things:

1. Reach for the stars as you move through life and never, ever settle for anything less.

2. If you do lose $50 in some crazy high school bet involving girls, trust me, it could turn into the best $50 you've ever spent. Good hip, or bad.

3. Just because you walk up to the drinking fountain, it doesn't mean you're going to get a drink of water. But as you move through life, quite often, you do. And those happy times can quench some of the greatest thirst you'll ever have, and you'll figure out what this means as you go.

To all, a blessed and rich Thanksgiving filled with love, laughter and good health.

And, to the Falcons: Go get 'em!


Posted on: October 16, 2010 5:31 pm

Hangin' in weight room with Halladay -- or not

Roy Halladay's work ethic is legendary, to the point where even the Phillies couldn't believe their first impression.

Halladay's regular spring training routine was to arrive in the weight room in Clearwater, Fla., by 5:30 or 5:45 a.m. By the time most of the rest of the Phillies arrived at 7:30 or 8, Halladay was finished with that part of his day and on to something else.

When I visited the Phillies' camp, a couple of players talked about how this was a perfect example of his competitiveness. A coach told me it isn't that, it's just that Halladay is so focused on what he's doing that he did not want to share the weight room equipment. As he moves through his circuit, he wants what he wants when he wants it.

Whatever, his near-maniacal zeal was legendary in Toronto, and it's already the stuff of legend in Philadelphia.

"We had some guys try to latch on and stay with him this spring," pitching coach Rich Dubee said Friday before the Phillies worked out in preparation for Game 1. "That lasted a short period.

"If you're going to try and stay with him, you'd better start in the off-season."

No kidding.

One of those who experimented with the early-bird special in the weight room with Halladay this spring was fellow starter Cole Hamels.

"I did that one time, I think," Hamels said, chuckling. "I realized it was insanity.

"I had a newborn. I needed every ounce of sleep I could get. He would get there at 5:30, I was waking up at 5:30. That means he was waking up at 4:30."

Likes: Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum to start the NLCS playoffs. What fun. ... I don't think we've heard enough of this Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira as former Rangers story. I think we'll hear much more of it before this ALCS is finished. ... Tweet of the Day, and I had to pass this one alone, from ESPN baseball writer Jorge Arangure late Friday night when the Rangers blew the 5-0 lead to the Yankees in the eighth inning with a certain former President and Rangers owner in attendance: "I bet George W Bush authorized a sign that read "Mission Accomplished" after the 7th inning." ... The Conan O'Brien ads they're papering the house with during the playoffs are pretty funny. Which is no small thing, given how most ads they consistently blast at us start bad and quickly turn grating. ... Congratulations to the Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons and Coach Jack Giarmo, who clinched another Huron League high school football title with Friday's 63-21 whipping of Milan. Excellent work to all as the tradition continues. Great job. ... Great run Saturday morning down Ben Franklin Parkway, past the Philadelphia Art Museum and along the Schuylkill River. Beautiful, especially the trees along the river. ... Geography lesson for the day: How do you pronounce "Schuylkill"? I admit, not being from the Philadelphia area, I didn't know. Until I checked with a bellman at the hotel when I returned: "Skoo-cull." ... John Lennon, still relevant on what would have been his 70th birthday the other day.

Dislikes: Bedbugs. I keep hearing about them. I've yet to see them.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"People asking questions lost in confusion
"Well I tell them there's no problem, only solutions
"Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind
"I tell them there's no hurry
"I'm just sitting here doing time"

-- John Lennon, Watching the Wheels


Posted on: October 3, 2010 10:26 pm

Gutsy Padres put on heck of a show

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the end, a $40 million payroll was good for 29th in the majors, 90 victories and one big heartbreak on the final Sunday of the season.

The Padres pushed the Giants to the brink of a one-game playoff back in San Diego on Monday, but couldn't push them over the edge. San Francisco's 3-0 win here Sunday earned the Giants the NL West title, and Atlanta's win over Philadelphia gave the Braves the NL wild-card berth.

The Padres head home for the winter after a summer of vastly exceeding expectations.

Even in losing, this was one special team.

"It shows that if you have a bunch of guys committed to the team concept, you can compete in this league," second baseman David Eckstein said, "We had a good mix of guys. That's the tough thing about it.

"Because no one is going to care because we didn't make it."

Sad truth is, Eckstein probably is right -- but he should be wrong.

What the Padres did should have been headline news. They were the game's best story throughout the season.

They were the perfect team for these roiling economic times. They stretched their budget. They made more with less. They were responsible and paid attention to small details.

"A lot of clubs out there, small-market clubs, I'd love for them to take a page out of what we did," Eckstein said. "It proves anything is possible."

The Padres held first place from June 18 through September 16.

They and the Yankees were the only clubs to not lose more than three consecutive games until the Padres were ambushed by a 10-game losing streak beginning on Aug. 26 that ultimately became a mortal wound.

"It's a team game made up of individual battles," manager Bud Black said. "This truly was a team in the sense that guys cared about each other. The unselfishness. Guys understood what I was doing and what the coaches were doing.

"It was fabulous how strong, as a group, the team concept was. It was awesome."

The whole was far greater than the sum of the parts. And as these Padres quietly prepared for their final charter flight home of 2010, though it was a somber clubhouse, there was pride in what they had accomplished.

"I'm never one to be disappointed at the end of the year," said slugger Adrian Gonzalez, who now, along with closer Heath Bell, probably will re-enter the trade rumors market this winter. "You give it your all. When you play your heart out every day, you have nothing to hang your head about.

"Whether we came up one game short or 10 games short, I gave it all I had.

Likes: The Giants are deserving champions. Totally revamped lineup, and together with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Pat Burrell and Co. will be tough in the playoffs. ... Every time I come to San Francisco, the beauty of AT & T Park hits me all over again. ... On to the playoffs. ... Michaelangelo's Café in North Beach. ... Congratulations to Coach Jack Giarmo, my old classmate, for notching his 100th win as Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central rolled over Grosse Ile 49-13 on the high school football fields Friday night. Coach Jack has the Falcons rolling again, I love it.

Dislikes: It's always a severe and harsh split when a baseball season ends. People you see practically every day of the summer, suddenly, you're done seeing some of them until next February, March or April. Reaching the end of a season is kind of like reaching the end of the school year. It's been a long grind and you're happy to be done, but you'll miss seeing a lot of friends. Looking forward to seeing some of those friends over these next several weeks in the playoffs.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Educated in a small town
"Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town
"Used to daydream in that small town
"Another born romantic that's me
"But I've seen it all in a small town
"Had myself a ball in a small town
"Married an L.A. doll and brought her to this small town
"Now she's small town just like me"

-- John Mellencamp, Small Town

Posted on: November 25, 2009 1:56 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2009 2:29 pm


This long weekend, we give thanks. For all sorts of things. ...

 For turkey and dressing. Because after a 162-game season, man needs something other than hot dogs and beer.

 For loving (and understanding) family and friends. Because, really, you can only cuddle up to the Rally Monkey or your authentic Derek Jeter jersey for so long.

 For the Yankees' 27th World Series title. Because their long-suffering fans have been so patient and understanding during such a drastic drought.

 For wall-to-wall football on the big-screen TV during Thanksgiving weekend. Because as much fun as it is to watch football, it also reminds us of how much we're missing when the baseball season goes dark.

 For childhood memories at the holidays that continue to keep you warm all those decades later. Playing football with your brother in a soft snowfall in the vacant yard next door that seemed so big then and looks so small now. Watching the Lions lose again (yes, even back then) while mom -- every bit the artist in the Thanksgiving kitchen that Picasso was with a brush -- put the finishing touches on dinner. Nighttime dominoes and pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream. No school, wide-open days and Christmas around the corner.

 For CC Sabathia. Because even the Yankees are likeable behind his smile.

 For Cy Young races as close as the NL this year with the Tim Lincecum-Chris Carpenter-Adam Wainwright finish. Because it is things like this that give us something to argue about all winter, which sure beats discussing your wife's plans for the kitchen remodel or your daughter's unlimited texting plan!

 For the game No. 163 that the Twins and Tigers gave us in October. We knew then that there was no way any other postseason game was going to match that one in terms of drama and emotion, and we were right. For anybody with a pulse, it was one of the great moments of the season. Or, as Orlando Cabrera called it, the "most unbelievable game I've ever played or seen."

 For the Angels' Torii Hunter, the Twins' Joe Mauer, free agent Jason Bay, Baltimore manager Dave Trembley, the Tigers' Curtis Granderson, the Brewers' Trevor Hoffman and the many other good people in the game who have given back to their community over and over again, reminding us why a big league club can be so valuable to a community.

 For the Web site The Sports Pickle, which keeps us howling at times throughout the year with "stories" like this one: MLB to Complete Long-Awaited 1994 Season.

 For crazy folks like the guy who voted Detroit's Miguel Cabrera first on his AL MVP ballot, the only one of 28 voters who didn't have Mauer first. Because it is mistakes like this that make us realize that when we do bone-headed things on our own, we're not alone. The only explanation I can think of is that Keizo Konishi of Kyodo News in Japan -- he's based in Seattle and covers the Mariners -- turned in his ballot before the final weekend of the season, when Cabrera pulled an all-nighter and police were summoned to his home to quell a domestic disturbance with the Tigers battling to hang onto their AL Central lead. Because given that stunt, Cabrera not only didn't deserve a first-place vote, he didn't deserve to be on the 10-deep ballot.

 For two years' worth of touring from Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, whose odyssey just closed on Sunday night in Buffalo, N.Y., leaving many of us to ponder when we'll ever attend another concert that matches that level.

 For Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Because we all need living museums.

 For the two wacky managers in Chicago, Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen. Because they're so passionate, and so entertaining.

 For Christmas being just around the corner. Because you know several cool surprises are just around the corner. And look, here's one now. You've got to check out this crazy Bob Dylan video from his new Christmas album. It'll put a smile on your face for the rest of the day, I promise.

 For good health, good cheer and good friends.

 To all who come around here regularly, whether to cheer or to boo, thanks. And a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Likes: A hearty shout-out to the Falcons of Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, who clipped Constantine 23-17 in a Michigan state football semifinal on Saturday and will play for the state title on Friday against No. 1-ranked Montague at Detroit's Ford Field. Congratulations to the Falcons and old classmate and friend Coach Jack Giarmo, whose work with a proud program continues to be top-shelf. Go get 'em on Friday, fellas. Go green! Scouting report is here (from the good guys' perspective, of course).

Dislikes: Still looking for a reasonable last-minute airfare to get to Friday's title game. Still looking. ... Still looking. ...

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Catholic Central hats off to thee
"To your colors true we will ever be
"Firm and strong, united are we
"Rah, rah, rah, rah
"Rah, rah, rah, rah
"Rah for the Falcon team"

-- Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High School fight song

Hey, the state title game is this week. We gotta go with this one.


Posted on: October 30, 2009 5:58 pm

Steinbrenner's health worsening

PHILADELPHIA -- The failing health of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, 79, is no secret.

But the depth of how rapidly Steinbrenner is deteriorating was dramatically on display following Game 2 of the World Series in Yankee Stadium. You just couldn't physically see it.

That's because the Blue Curtain dropped quickly and sharply following Game 2, with the Yankees -- or, to be more precise, a coterie of New York policemen and security guards working at their behest -- essentially placed on lockdown a main tunnel running outside of the clubhouses as the club moved Steinbrenner out of Yankee Stadium.

Not only do the Yankees not want anybody to speak with Steinbrenner, they're protecting his privacy so fiercely that they won't allow most people to even get a glimpse of him anymore.

Mechanized gates dropped suddenly from the ceiling to confine some officials to certain areas of the corridor -- including some surprised major league baseball officials who were not told beforehand and were suddenly trapped -- and keep them away from the vehicles transporting Steinbrenner. Temporary curtains were quickly set up as well to block views.

Security guards not only shut down the press elevator carrying media members downstairs to the interview areas until after Steinbrenner had departed, they also locked the doors downstairs, trapping several dozen media members in the stairwell.

One security guard shooing people out of the area, according to one official who was there at the time, said that they were "cleansing the hallway."

The Yankees also have gone so far as to tell major league baseball officials that they do not want Steinbrenner shown on television, according to one industry source.

As of now, Steinbrenner is not expected to return to Yankee Stadium if the World Series moves back there for Games 6 and, possibly, 7. Before attending Games 1 and 2, he had not been to the new Yankee Stadium since the home opener.

Likes: Derek Jeter saying before Friday's workout at Citizens Bank Park that he once dressed up as the singer Prince for Halloween back in Kalamazoo, Mich. ... White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, working for the World Series for Fox television, promising to keep his potty mouth clean during his appearances on the tube: "I only curse when the Chicago media is around me," Guillen quipped. ... The Woody Allen sandwich at Carnegie Deli. Corned beef and pastrami, and thoroughly delicious. The giant pickles are delicious, too. ... Long walk in Central Park on Thursday. Gorgeous day, beautiful red, yellow and orange leaves and as an added bonus, they were setting up the finish line for Sunday's New York Marathon. ... The fall foliage along the Amtrak line Friday morning while going old-school and riding the train from New York to Philadelphia. ... The No. 4 train to Yankee Stadium. You really feel like you're in New York when you're on the subway. ... Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night sure looked terrific, and I can't wait to watch it on HBO Thanksgiving weekend. But it will be edited, not shown in its entirety, and I can only hope the network doesn't chop it up too much. ... Just because the World Series had an off day Friday doesn't mean there wasn't a big game: Best of luck to the Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High football team, which hosts its opening playoff game Friday night against Harper Woods High.

Dislikes: Baseball on Halloween. Baseball should be finished by Halloween. Especially for those of us who really would like to take our children trick or treating.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It was so easy living day by day
"Out of touch with the rhythm and blues
"But now I need a little give and take
"The New York Times, The Daily News"

-- Billy Joel, New York State of Mind

Posted on: October 16, 2009 11:09 pm

Utley suddenly air-mailing more than Fed Ex

LOS ANGELES -- As the Phillies headed back to Philadelphia following a tough 2-1 loss here in Game 2, they dragged a very troubling question with them:

What in the world is going on with second baseman Chase Utley?

He air-mailed a relay throw past Ryan Howard in Game 2 Friday on what would have been an important eighth-inning double play.

And a night earlier, he heaved another relay throw over Howard's head and into the Phillies' dugout that helped keep alive the Dodgers' three-run fifth inning.

"Utley is probably one of the most fundamentally sound players I've ever seen," Dodgers' pinch-hitter Jim Thome, a former teammate of Utley's, said following Game 2. "Him and Omar Vizquel, and you can't forget about Roberto Alomar. He's in there too. Utley is a very sound player."

Which is what make his two spectacularly off-target throws so inexplicable.

"He's a great player, obviously," Phillies reliever Ryan Madson said. "That's the human nature part of it."

Utley now has two errors in two NLCS games after committing only 12 over 156 regular season games this year.

In Game 1, Utley threw away a relay after taking a quick flip from shortstop Jimmy Rollins. He appeared to lose the handle on the ball as he threw. Rollins, after watching the replay following the game, said he didn't think Rafael Furcal was close enough to the bag to where his slide would have bothered Utley.

In Game 2, third baseman Pedro Feliz started what looked like it was going to be a quick 5-4-3 twin killing, with Utley receiving the throw from Feliz but heaving it to the Phils' dugout instead. That time, it appeared as if Ronnie Belliard's slide might have had something to do with Utley's too-quick release.

"Chase is better than that," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Those mistakes that you make like that, that happens sometimes. ... I know it plays a part in a game, and so does he.

"But at the same time, I've got a lot of faith in him. If there's one guy in the world that will work on it and correct it, it's Chase Utley."

Dodgers manager Joe Torre, too, thought Belliard's slide may have had something to do with Utley's Game 2 error.

"Errors are part of the game, and strikeouts and all that stuff," Torre said. "I mean, I'd certainly like to have his problems. He's pretty damned special."

Likes: Pedro Martinez and Vicente Padilla were such a pleasure to watch Friday afternoon. Martinez, especially, simply because he's such a different pitcher now. Where he once threw pure gas in the mid-to-upper 90s, he was lucky if his fastball touched 90 all afternoon. He mixed in mid-to-upper 80s fastballs, 87 m.p.h. changeups and some slow curves. "I'm tricking 'em," was how Martinez described his success. ... Can't blame Phillies coach Davey Lopes for declining to participate in the ceremonial first pitch ceremony before Game 1 when the Dodgers dragged out their famous infield from the 1970s -- Steve Garvey, Bill Russell and Ron Cey. Lopes was invited but, ever competitive, wasn't having any of it. Good call, Davey. ... Excellent work by the Falcons of Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High in shutting out Jefferson 21-0 on Friday night to clinch another Huron League football championship. Catholic Central, hats off to thee, to your colors. ... ah, who am I fooling. I can't sing.

Dislikes: Poor Chase Utley.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Is there nothing that I can say
"To make you change your mind
"I watch the world go round and round
"And see mine turning upside down"

-- Genesis, Throwing It All Away

Posted on: September 23, 2009 6:21 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2009 6:22 pm

Scioscia: 'The schedule's a joke'

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Over the past 10 days, the Angels have played the Yankees and Red Sox seven times, with a very good chance that they'll be seeing at least one of those clubs -- and possibly both -- when the playoffs start in less than two weeks.

Advantage or disadvantage for a club to be playing high-powered potential playoff opponents so close to the start of the postseason?

"The schedule's a joke," manager Mike Scioscia says. "You should be playing within your division at the beginning of the season, at the end of the season and in the middle of the season.

"The fact that we were back east [playing Boston] last week and that [the Yankees are] coming out West doesn't make sense."

Perhaps the root of Scioscia's anger is sleep deprivation. The Angels started last week's trip east with one game in New York on Monday, a makeup of an earlier rainout.

Traveling from Southern California following a Sunday game, the Angels arrived in New York around 1:30 a.m. Monday.

Then, after that night's game, they arrived in Boston around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday for the start of a three-game series.

Following the finale in Boston on Thursday, another night game, the Angels arrived at their next stop on the three-city trip, Texas, around 3 a.m.

Wednesday's home finale against the Yankees marked the end of a stretch in which the Angels played 20 games in 20 days and 41 games during a 43-game stretch.

"I don't know if there's ever been an off day more needed for this team than our day [Thursday]," Scioscia says. "The East Coast trip was tough."

Their reward, though, is just around the corner. Entering Wednesday, their magic number was five to clinch a third division title and a fifth in six seasons. While Scioscia says the schedule has been "a grind" lately, he's also learned something about his club.

"I think the depth of our team has surfaced," he says. "It's gotten us through what, looking back, has been a grind."

Likes: Still love the Rally Monkey in Anaheim. He's timeless. ... Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. The four Yankees who date back to 1996 remain class (and winners) today. ... Texas pitching Kevin Millwood to pitch the other night even though he was so close to it guaranteeing his $12 million option for 2010 was the right thing to do. ... Hey, with Minnesota chasing Detroit, we've got one race. Of course, the Twins have six games left with the red-hot Royals -- and are projected to face Zack Greinke twice. Hey, they wouldn't want to back into the playoffs, would they? ... President Barack Obama on The Late Show with David Letterman this week. Letterman remains the master of the late night. ... James Maddock's disc Sunrise on Avenue C has been a wonderful find. ... Big finish last week as the Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons held off New Boston Huron 20-19. Next victory for the Falcons: Friday night against Grosse Ile.

Dislikes: Rangers reliever Eddie Guardado, 39, considering retirement? Say it ain't so, Everyday Eddie. One of the game's true good guys.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Now the years are rolling by me
"They are rockin even me
"I am older than I once was
"And younger than I'll be
"That's not unusual
"No it isnt strange
"After changes upon changes
"We are more or less the same"

-- Simon and Garfunkel, The Boxer

Posted on: September 13, 2009 9:51 pm

Chad bad for Dodgers ... again

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers have the best record in the National League, they've nearly clinched a playoff spot and they have probable home field advantage until the World Series.

So why does it feel like they might be vulnerable?

Chad Billingsley's second-half, that's why.

Billingsley, the supposed ace, lasted only 70 pitches in Sunday's 7-2 whipping by San Francisco. The Giants scored three runs and collected eight hits against him in four innings. He left a fat pitch for Juan Uribe to whack for a two-run homer in the second.

Were it a one-time slip, it would be one thing. But Billingsley, an NL All-Star, seems to have left his stuff in St. Louis. He's 3-6 with a 5.49 ERA since, and he doesn't seem to know how to fix it.

"It just looked to me like he was feeling for it," manager Joe Torre said. "It didn't look like he was able to locate."

"The cutter," Billingsley said of his cut fastball. "That's mostly what was getting hit today. It was spinning out of my hand. It wasn't moving too much."

Is that a recurring problem?

"Usually, it doesn't do that," Billingsley said.

He's got three weeks -- and probably three more starts -- to iron things out and give Dodgers fans confidence when he's matched up against Philadelphia's Cliff Lee or St. Louis' Chris Carpenter in Game 1 of a playoff series.

Worrisome thing is, nobody seems close to any answers.

"It's sort of a domino effect, I think," Torre said. "The psychological effect of not winning, trying to find that niche for yourself, that comfort zone."

Likes: Colorado at San Francisco beginning on Monday with at least some juice to it. Must-win for San Francisco. Heck, must-sweep for San Francisco. ... Tony Bennett singing I Left My Heart in San Francisco on the sound system at the Giants' ballpark after Sunday's game, accompanied by loving, gorgeous video of The City on the scoreboard. ... Tommaso's Italian Restaurant on Kearny in North Beach. ... What a great Michigan-Notre Dame game on Saturday. ... What a great USC-Ohio State game. ... Very entertaining start to the college football season. ... Good news on the Michigan high school football front Friday with Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central pummeling Flat Rock 40-0. Next victim for the Falcons: New Boston Huron, Friday night.

Dislikes: Early morning school days.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Come on children
"You´re acting like children
"Every generation thinks
"It's the end of the world
"And all you fat followers
"Get fit fast
"Every generation thinks it´s the last
"Thinks it's the end of the world"

-- Wilco, You Never Know


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