Monday, July 31, 2006

On the Casey trade...

Of all the players the Tigers could have acquired as a left-handed contact hitter, at a reasonable price, Sean Casey was probably the best. He is a player of declining skill and he did have a serious back injury early this season - two broken bones that placed him on the disabled list for six weeks. But he is still a solid hitter, who does not strike out a lot. He remains a good hitter to have up with runners on base and less than two outs. The pitching prospect the Tigers gave up for him, right-hander Brian Rogers, was an 11th round draft pick out of college a few years ago. He is a sinker-slider pitcher, with a sidearm type motion, who has only been used in middle or long relief in the minor leagues. He throws about 90 mph and scouts I talked to about him Monday said he has a limited ceiling. He is being projected, at best, as a long reliever in the major leagues and it is a long shot that he will stay for long in the major leagues - if he makes it at all. What the Pirates got out of the deal was financial relief. Casey is making $8.5 million this season on the final year of his contract. The Tigers will pay him between $2.8 million and $2.9 million for the remainder of the season. He is eligible for free agency after this season. The risk here comes in sending Chris Shelton to the minors. Will it be good for him because he has obviously struggled at the plate? Or will it hurt his psyche? He seems like a strong kid emotionally, but there is no ready-made answer for that one. Also, Dmirti Young has been swinging a lot better from the left side than the right side. This puts some pressure on him to produce from the right side when the Tigers face left-handed pitching. The Twins have good left-handed starters and the Tigers will also see lefty starters when they play in New York and Boston next month.

The good part is that Casey is an outstanding person, who is well-liked by everyone in baseball. That will help take some of the sting out of Shelton being so coldly farmed out to make room for him. He also has a track record that his teammates have to respect. Do I think this was a good move? Yes, I do. Does it guarantee the Tigers anything? No, it does not. It was a tweaking of their roster, but nothing overboard. Given their lofty spot in the standings, that is about all they needed.

Is just making the playoffs good enough?

The Tigers blew a big lead Sunday at Minnesota. They did so with arguably their best pitcher, Jeremy Bonderman, on the mound. They did so after beating the Twins, who had been on fire, the previous two nights. Taking two out of three in the series was very good. Yet, it was disappointing to lose the third game the way the Tigers did. Why? Because expectations had been raised. It is turning out that way overall as the Tigers� season winds on. If you asked me a few weeks ago if the Tigers making the playoffs and getting knocked out in the first round would mean a successful season, I would have definitely said, "Yes." Now I am not so sure. It is not like the Tigers are playing at a pace that merely has them in the pennant race. They are 8.5 games up on the second place White Sox in the AL Central. They are 7.5 games ahead of the Red Sox and eight games up on the Yankees. The Mets are seven games behind the Tigers for the best record in baseball. And it is almost August. The Tigers only have 58 games remaining and are going to Tampa Bay for four very winnable games this week. They have only lost 34 games the entire season. They are on pace to win 109 times, which is one more victory than the best Big Red Machine team in Cincinnati during the 1970s, and equaling the 1961 Yankees. The Tigers, if they keep it up, will be one of the top teams in major league history in terms of win total. It is unlikely the Tigers will win 116 games like the 2001 Seattle Mariners. But it is notable how that Mariners� club dominated during the regular season, but has widely been forgotten because of their early exit from the playoffs. Conversely, everybody remembers the 1987 Minnesota Twins that won only 85 regular season games. Why? Because the Twins won the World Series.

Random thoughts

- Brent Clevlen was not having a very good year for Double-A Erie, but was nonetheless called up to the Tigers Sunday. Why? Because he is more talented than the Tigers� other options in the outfield at the higher levels of the minor league. And if Jim Leyland has said it once this season, he has said it 1,000 times. He will take talent over experience every time. It is why Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya were pushed to the major leagues so quickly.

- A fearless prediction: Bobby Abreu will have little impact during the final two months of the season and the Yankees will not make the playoffs.

- Vance Wilson has been beyond good for the Tigers this season. Ivan Rodriguez, who is going to the Hall of Fame, missed several games recently because of a thumb injury. Yet, the Tigers have not missed a beat with Wilson behind the plate. And those sacrifice bunts Wilson dropped down in Minnesota were the epitome of team play.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Yeah, but Matt Millen is still there

If you have read some of my earlier entries in this blog, you understand that I do not necessarily think the Lions are going to be awful this season. I think Roy Williams and Kevin Jones have a chance to be star-caliber players in the NFL. I like how they fit into the offense of coordinator Mike Martz. I do not think the Lions' defense is going to dominate anyone, but it should be respectable. I disagree with most people and think their offensive line will be alright. The one thing I, and it seems like many Lions fans are having troubling getting over, is that Matt Millen still runs the franchise. His title is team president, but he essentially acts as general manager. He has a 21-59 record in that capacity. And beyond the record, his propensity to throw people under the bus for his own benefit is disgusting. I am particularly disturbed by the way Steve Mariucci is being perceived by the Millen minions in the media.. Mariucci was a soft coach, they parrot Millen's private commen ts. He didn't work the players. The players are really good. Mariucci did not get anything out of them. That garbage is brutal. Mariucci was not a very good coach for the Lions. And nobody in the media really got to know him. Those close to him, though, say he was simply overwhelmed by what he encountered and was shocked it went south so fast. But he did a decent job under a couple different circumstances in San Francisco. To make him sound so gutless and spineless is unjust. He was not the only problem, just part of it. So when it comes down to it, because Millen is the one constant, it is ultimately difficult to get too optimistic about the Lions. He is an ominous cloud hanging over the franchise. One that just will not go away.

Random thoughts

- Anybody notice how well Todd Jones is pitching lately? What he does better than anything else is throw first-pitch strikes. Wonder if he will be able to keep it up.

- Every wonder why Mike Martz is not the Lions head coach instead of Rod Marinelli? Me too.

- Wonder where they will play the NIT game between Michigan and U-of-D this season. Will it be at the Breslin Center or at Calihan Hall? Will Michigan be the only state school make the NCAA Tournament field.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Maybe they need a starter

When he managed the Tigers, Sparky Anderson had a sign in his office. It read: The world turns over every day on the person on top of it. The point hits home often in sports. Take the Tigers. A week ago, if you asked me, I would have said starting pitching is the least of their problems. Now it should be a priority. Other than his gutty start against the White Sox last week, Kenny Rogers hasn't pitched well lately. Zach Miner has struggled, too. Jeremy Bonderman is finally getting run support. But it is the only reason he has won his last couple decisions. We'll see how Justin Verlander does today. He's been a real bright light lately. In the meantime, Dmitri Young is swinging the bat well. The need for a left-handed hitter seems to have subsided. Craig Monroe is getting a little healthier and swinging the bat well. Left field/DH is fine with Monroe and Marcus Thames. Mike Maroth has made progress, but it'll still be awhile before he returns. Forget Dontrelle Willis. That's not happening. Same with John Smoltz. But Livan Hernandez could be a huge help.

Random thoughts

- It was a good thing for the Red Wings that Ed Belfour signed with the Florida Panthers. Now hopefully the Wings don't bite on the Dominik Hasek temptation. I say go have some guts and go with Jimmy Howard. He has exceptional talent. You can always trade for a veteran goalie during the season if it doesn't work out. But I think Howard would work out.

- Brandon Inge has been brilliant with the glove lately. He is making one great play after another and his batting average is starting to rise. It's time his many critics cry uncle and admit the guy can play. Oh, and he's not another Tom Brookens, which is something I have said in the past. He's much better than that.

- It'll be interesting to see if Michael Hart can stay healthy this year. And if he doesn't, it'll be interesting who replaces him. Kevin Grady wasn't as good as advertised last season and freshman Carlos Brown could be a future star.

Monday, July 24, 2006

And so where do the Lions stand?

As the Lions open training camp this week, it is difficult to discern exactly what their goal is for the coming season. This is the sixth year of team president Matt Millen's five-year program. That should mean a reasonable expectation of not only making the playoffs, but of having a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl appearance. But a dreadful 21-59 record the last five seasons, along with the hiring of Rod Marinelli as head coach, indicates the Lions are in a rebuilding mode. Any goals mentioned so far are about a change of mindset, not about a tangible improvement in the team. So the players are going to work until they drop under Marinelli. It will not matter if the Lions do not win. It will not help the Lions that the NFC should be improved this season. Every team in the NFC East should be better. The NFC North, outside of the Bears who have retained every starter, is not formidable. But it is difficult to envision the Lions beating out the Bears for the division title, or finishing ahead of any number of NFC teams for a wild card spot. And if the season plays out that way, you will hear about how Marinelli needs time to implement his program and the need to be patient. It is an endless cycle, for sure. Seems like people ran out of patience with the Lions long ago.

Random thoughts

- I think the Tigers should call up Jordan Tata from Toledo to take Zach Miner's spot in the starting rotation. In my opinion, Tata would give the Tigers a better chance of winning than the struggling Miner at this point.

- Chris Shelton is not the only Tigers' hitter scuffling. Marcus Thames' batting average for July is more than 100 points less than what it was for June. His batting average has fallen from .310 on July 1 to .279. If it were not for a two-homer, five-RBI game against Kansas City recently, Thames' numbers would be even more alarming. Were the first couple months of this season just his 15 minutes of fame? Is this Thames coming back to reality? Those are questions worth pondering, especially as the Tigers consider a move at the trade deadline.

- I know the golf courses in Great Britain are not supposed to be lush, green tracks, but come on, the links at Royal Liverpool were embarrassing. Those were not fairways, they were dirt roads.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Trade mania is maddening

It is not that I do not think the Tigers should make a trade at the deadline. It is not that I think they are a perfect team that does not need any improvements. It is not that I do not subscribe to the theory that if something falls into their lap, the Tigers should take full advantage of it. It is just that when a club is 5.5 games better than any other team in the major leagues, it does not have to act out of desperation. The last thing I want to see from the Tigers is making a trade just for the sake of making a trade. They need a left-handed hitting first baseman to platoon with Chris Shelton sometimes and DH others. Somebody who makes consistent contact. They could also use bullpen depth. Sure, they could use Soriano. Any team could. But at what cost? It is alarming how much rhetoric is bantered about the Tigers' prospects when so few people know much about them. They get fixated on a name - such as Humberto Sanchez - and act as if he is the only prospect that would appeal to other teams. There is also this notion the Tigers have unlimited pitching depth. They do not. Their depth is good, but they are in no position to just give it away. The Tigers are playing from ahead. Everybody wants to be them. They should realize that and not do something stupid at the trade deadline. I do not believe they will.

Random thoughts

- Todd Jones' velocity is up to 93 mph consistently again. He is pitching very well lately. The best thing he has been doing is getting ahead of hitters early in the count.

- Jim Leyland can downplay it all he wants, but the Tigers wins Wednesday and Thursday were huge. That was especially true Thursday when the Tigers made clutch-play after clutch-play (Thames' slide, Ordonez's running catch, Pudge's good situational hitting, Rogers' bulldog effort). That is the type of game, dare we say, championship-caliber teams win.

- The one play I know I will never see in a major league baseball game: Marcus Thames doubling down the right field line.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Monroe's slam states case for standing

There are certain Tiger players fans seems to think have not been key factors in the club's stunning success this season - and are therefore expendable. Brandon Inge has been one of those players. He is either loved or not highly-regarded - there is no in-between. Early in the season when he was putting up Ruth-like numbers, Chris Shelton was extremely popular. Now that he has struggled for an extended period, fans have soured on him. Craig Monroe, too, is one of those players.

Even though he had 89 RBI on a bad ball club last season. Even though he has hit a couple key home runs (one in Seattle early in the season especially comes to mind). Even though he fought hard through the bad times to be part of the Tigers now that the good times are here. Truth is, if the Tigers get an outfielder in a trade, Monroe might be part of the package. Even if he is not, he will placed on the bench regularly. Yet, his grand slam Wednesday in Detroit's 5-2 victory over the White Sox was by far the biggest hit of the season for the Tigers. That is why dealing at this time of the year presents a slippery slope for a contender. Monroe is part of the Tigers' mix. He is a reason they have been this good. He is part of the perfect blend. The Tigers need to look to get better, sure, but why is everybody so quick all the time to want manager Jim Leyland to bench Monroe? I'm not so sure that is fair to Craig Monroe. Nor am I sure replacing him in the lineup is in the best interests of the Tigers. I think, overall, he is a pretty good player.

Random thoughts

- With Shelton slumping, the Tigers need to call Dmitri Young up to the major leagues for a good week of at bats to see where he stands so they can make calculated decisions at the trade deadline. He needs to be here by the opener of the Oakland series Friday. Young reached base four times on a two singles and two walks for Toledo Wednesday.

- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen made kind of an off-the-cuff comment about Kenny Rogers at the end of his session with the media following Wednesday’s game. It was a little insulting to Rogers. Something about the way he has pitched lately - which has not been good. If Rogers is so bad, then why did Guillen start him in the All Star Game?

- The best moment of Wednesday's game was when Jeremy Bonderman left the field to a standing ovation. It has been a long time since a Tigers pitcher has received an ovation like that. Maybe it has never happened at Comerica Park. He deserved it, too.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bonderman's turn to prove he is the ace

There comes a point in a pitching career when you find out if he is good or exceptional. That point has arrived for the Tigers’ Jeremy Bonderman. He is still young. Just 23. Yet, he has 3 1-2 seasons in the major leagues under his belt. Bonderman throws consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball, sometimes hitting the upper 90s. His slider is a devastating pitch, in the high-80s with a late and sharp break. I have talked to a couple scouts who said they consider it the best slider in the major leagues. I do not believe that to be an overstatement. If the Tigers are going anywhere, Bonderman has to be their ace. Justin Verlander is too wet behind the ears, and Kenny Rogers just does not have enough stuff. Hitters tend to figure out him out the second or third time they see them in a given season. That is why he has a track record of struggling so much in the second half. The sign of an true ace is winning the night after his team has lost. Or stopping losing streaks. And doing so against the better teams, not just the chumps. That scenario presents itself for Bonderman tonight at Comerica Park against the White Sox. How he responds will say a lot about him. It will also say a lot about the Tigers chances in the long run.

Random thoughts

- Do the Tigers ever get Joe Crede out? Against the Tigers, the guy is a combination of Mike Schmidt, Brooks Robinson and Pie Traynor.

- Hmmm. It was interesting that Jim Leyland used Omar Infante at DH Tuesday instead of Craig Monroe.

- The Tigers are not the only team to benefit from an influx of young talent. Rookies Jonathan Papelbon and Jon Lester have saved the Red Sox bacon this season.

- The Yankees are incredible. They have won four straight games since the All Star break with an underwhelming pitching staff, Alex Rodriguez playing perhaps the worst baseball of his career and with lightly-regard prospects such as Melky Cabrera and Andy Phillips leading the way.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Big Series

It is difficult to discern whether the Tigers should be happy or not about what transpired in New York over the weekend. On one hand, it was great. The White Sox were swept in three games by the Yankees while the Tigers took three-of-four from the Royals. Detroit�s two-game lead in the American League Central at the All-Star break became a 4 1-2 game spread with the snap of fingers. But in the process, the Tigers lost a game on the Yankees, who seem to be their likely competition for a wild card spot if the Tigers do not win the A.L. Central. Before this happened, the last time I posted on this blog, I wrote that, player-by-player, I thought the White Sox are a better team than the Tigers. I still believe it for position players, but not pitching. Mark Buehrle has been awful lately, and Freddie Garcia is not even hitting 90 mph on the radar gun. The White Sox lack bullpen depth, so if their starters do not chew up innings, they are in trouble. After the way the White Sox played against Boston before the All Star break, and in New York following the break, the epic three-game series between the White Sox and the Tigers starting Tuesday at Comerica Park figures to be a bigger test for Chicago than for Detroit. For the Tigers, it is a great opportunity. If they sweep the White Sox, they are looking at a 7.5-game lead. The Tigers can blow the division race open if they do that. If they merely win two-of-three, they will be 5.5 up. And even if Chicago sweeps, the Tigers will still be 1.5 games ahead. The White Sox are vulnerable right now. It is up to the Tigers to take advantage of it.

Note: I will be updating this blog following all three of the games in the Tigers-White Sox series.


Random thoughts

- You want to know why Jim Leyland is a great manager. It is because he has the guts to do the right things, such as resting Ivan Rodriguez, Placido Polanco and Magglio Ordonez on Sunday. People forget that Pudge and Polanco have had back problems this year, and that Ordonez has been playing with a bad leg. It was a day game after a night game on a beastly hot afternoon. Pudge and Ordonez are not rested from the All-Star game because both played in it after taking cross-country flights from Seattle. The way Leyaland is handling these guys means they should be relatively fresh for the stretch run.

- It is difficult to believe the Angels are only a game and a half off the lead in the A.L. West, and that the Braves are just 5.5 games out in the N.L. wild card race. Both those clubs were left for dead at the side of the road a few weeks ago.

- His shooting lacks consistency, but Flip Murray is a scrappy player who should fit in well with the Pistons. He did a lot of things to help Seattle win a lot of games before he was traded to Cleveland.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Truth Hurts Department

There is a simple truth about the Tigers as they relate to the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox are just better - period. And it is not only because the White Sox are the defending world champions, either. It�s also because, if you match up the teams position-by-position, the White Sox are clearly better.
The White Sox hold the edge at first base and third. At the corner outfield spots, DH, starting pitching and in the bullpen. The two teams have about equal double-play combinations. Ivan Rodriguez gets the edge at catcher. So does Curtis Granderson in center field. That�s it. Not trying to rain on anybody�s parade here, but trying to be truthful and point out the obvious. I know some people claim the Tigers� pitching is better because of the numbers, but that is because Comerica Park is so spacious and U.S. Cellular Field such a band box. Speaking of Comerica Park, if the Tigers are going to beat the White Sox, the three-game series Tuesday-through-Thursday is the time to do it. Comerica Park, because it is so spacious, gives the Tigers a tremendous home-field advantage defensively. There is so much room between outfielders it often confuses opposing teams. The Tigers get an extraordinary number of bloop hits because of it.

Random thoughts

- The most amazing fact about the upcoming NFL training camp is: The Chicago Bears return all 22 starters. That is unheard of in today�s NFL.

- December 9, 2006, a date that will live in infamy. Not really, but the Toronto Maple Leafs will play the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena that night. Gosh, it�s been so long. Too long. And to think, the Wings will play Montreal Jan. 15, 2007 at JLA.
The Original Six teams mean something to this area. Wish the NHL would recognize as much.

- Love Negro League weekend at Comerica Park. In the history of sports, probably the most underreported aspect has been the accomplishments of the Negro League stars. It was not a coincidence Negro League standouts such as Roy Campanella, Larry Doby, Willie Mays and Henry Aaron stepped from the Negro Leagues into the major leagues and starred. One of sports all-time great injustices is that catcher Josh Gibson, perhaps the greatest Negro League player of them all, just missed a shot at playing in the major leagues.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What happened to the National League?

It is not supposed to be this way in baseball anymore. There is not supposed to be any discernible difference (other than the designated hitter in the American League) between the two leagues. The National and the American leagues are essentially the same. There are no more league offices, just the commissioner�s office. Both leagues use the same umpires, so the "low ball" NL and the "high ball" AL no longer exist. Yet, the American League is so much better it is incredible. The All Star game victory was not a fluke. The American League is 9-0-1 against the National League since 1996. The AL has won three of the last four World Series. In interleague play, the AL held a whopping 154-98 edge this season. The American League won Tuesday because it has better depth. It rolled out Paul Kornerko, Troy Glaus and Michael Young off the bench in the late innings. Mariano Rivera has always been a much better closer than Trevor Hoffman. Of course, that only makes it more difficult for the Tigers. They are playing in the varsity conference. It would be wonderful for them if they were in a cake division like the NL West, but they are not. Their margin for error is slim. The good part: You know if the Tigers make the playoffs in the American League they will have earned it. There is going to be a National League club or two that does not belong that will nonetheless be in the postseason. And an American League club or two left out that probably should be in.

Random Thoughts

- What was American League manager Ozzie Guillen thinking protecting a one-run lead in the ninth inning with a third baseman (Troy Glaus) at first, a second baseman (Jose Lopez) at third and a shortstop (Michael Young) at second? I know the White Sox record is a matter of record and so is Guillen�s. But face it, the guy is off the charts goofy.

- The dramatic ending was the best part of the All Star Game. The second-best was the tribute to Roberto Clemente.

- I do think the intensity has picked up in the All Star Game since it has become the determining factor for home field advantage during the World Series. Yet, it is still unfair. It would be different if all the pitchers were rested, but they are not. So the managers really cannot manage the game by using all their best parts.

- The player who gained the most during the All Star break was the New York Mets� David Wright. He has it all going for him and the nation saw it full-scale. He is becoming to the Mets what Derek Jeter is the Yankees. Only time will tell, however, whether he will be the same clutch force during the playoffs.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The changing face of the Red Wings

The premise Brendan Shanahan's free agent departure from the Red Wings to the New York Rangers is somehow addition by subtraction is ridiculous. At 37, he remains a world-class player. Although he wasn't chosen for the Canadian Olympic team last winter, he should have been. He led the Red Wings in goals with 40 and is headed to the Hall of Fame. While Shanahan has not produced to the expected level in the playoffs, he has, especially this season, been the victim of a Red Wings? roster that has been shockingly unbalanced. Too many centers, not enough wingers. That was especially true following Darren McCarty's departure. Shanahan was about the only player on the roster who could fight, let alone create traffic with his size and strength. His leaving means there is a huge void upfront. The goaltending situation is amazingly unsettled. The Red Wings didn't land any of their real targets after telling Manny Legace he would not be retained. Ed Belfour at this stage is not the answer. It�s difficult now to make the playoffs in the NHL. Teams must be considerably above .500. The race for the final playoff spots are dogfights. Each of the Western Conference's lower seeds upset the higher seeds in the opening round of the playoffs. As they stand, the Red Wings will have trouble making the playoffs next season. Yeah. I think the loss of Shanahan hurt them that badly. It is not so much his effectiveness as a player they'll miss, but his style. He was essentially it when it came to a true power forward. There are no such players available in free agency. The only way the Red Wings can replace Shanahan is for Ken Holland to make a trade. And it would cost the Red Wings a really good player or two to make that deal. Holland just doesn't make those kind of trades. If he continues on that path, though, it will not only be his downfall, but that of the franchise as we've known it.

Random Thoughts

- The home run contest at baseball's All Star Game has lost its luster in much the same manner the NBA's slam dunk contest faded in popularity. It was a refreshing gimmick for awhile, but it has become stale. Having so many big-name sluggers pass on the event has badly hurt it.

- A prediction: By the end of the season, Jeremy Bonderman will be the Tigers team leader in both wins and ERA and will merit Cy Young Award consideration.

- I did enjoy the World Cup soccer far more than in the past. But I strongly believe ending the championship game in a shootout is idiotic. Why not let them play forever in overtime with so much at stake? Sudden death would have only added to the drama and resulted in a more genuine champion.

- Are soccer players the most unsportsman-like of all athletes?. It was incredible how many dirty plays and cheap shots were taken during the World Cup. And not by goons, either, but by some of the truly elite players.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The subject of Brandon Inge

No Tigers player brings more diverse opinions than third baseman Brandon Inge. His supporters point to his home runs and RBI (he is on pace to hit 32 home runs with 87 RBI this season) and say he is just fine. His detractors point out he is a .225 hitter who strikes out three times more than he walks. I tend to fall in the category of believing in Inge. I think run production is a far better gauge of value than batting average. I like Inge's glove, arm strength and his propensity for hitting home runs at key moments. He is an athletic player, exceptionally strong for his size and a good team player with leadership qualities. I have to admit, though, when compared to the third basemen on other contending teams, Inge does fall short. Scott Rolen of the St. Louis Cardinals and David Wright of the New York Mets are much better. So is Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees. Mike Lowell of the Boston Red Sox, Troy Glaus of the Toronto Blue Jays and probably, when you get right down to it, Joe Crede of the White Sox are also better players.

Yet, in fairness to Inge, he has more home runs, RBI and runs scored than Lowell, who is hovering around .300. He has more home runs and RBI than Oakland's highly-regarded Eric Chavez - and is hitting just 20 points lower. Glaus has excellent power numbers, but is hitting just .240 and he strikes out a lot, too. Tigers manager Jim Leyland loves Inge. I talked to him about Inge recently when I was with the team in Oakland. He says Inge is his third baseman - period. He doesn't see him as being a super utility player like many others do. He does wish Inge would cut down on his swing at times and strike out less. History does say you can win a championship without a great third baseman. The Tigers used three in 1984 - Tom Brookens, Manny Castillo and Howard Johnson - who were mostly mediocre. Don Wert did not have a good season for the Tigers in 1968. Inge has played better than those third basemen in those particular Tiger championship years. He is a somewhat flawed player, but the Tigers can go far with him at third. Lets put it this way. I think he is more of an asset than a liability.

Random thoughts

- Red Wings' general manager Ken Holland was kidding when he brought in Ed Belfour for a physical, right? Just what the Red Wings don't need is a 41-year goalie with back problems. Chris Osgood and Belfour would be perfect for the Red Wings - if this was 1996. The Red Wings off-season to this point has been, to say the least, disappointing.

- A prediction: If running back Kevin Jones and wide receiver Roy Williams both play all 16 games for the Lions this season, they will make the playoffs. If one or the other gets hurt and misses any playing time, the Lions won't. I have a feeling offensive coordinator Mike Martz will figure out a way to get the most from those two players, who are far and away the Lions' best weapons offensively. Of course, staying healthy is a big "if." Neither Jones nor Williams has been very durable.

- The Tigers most underused pitcher is Wilfredo Ledezma. He is pitching exceptionally well, but there isn't much of a role there for him either starting or relieving.



Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It's not the end of the world

It's not the end of the world. Just the end of the world as we�ve known it pertaining to the Detroit Pistons.
Ben Wallace was an icon in this town. And his six years as a Piston were too short.
If there was no Ben Wallace, there would have been no NBA championship in 2004. If there had been no Ben Wallace, it's doubtful the Pistons would have been able to turn around their fortunes so quickly at a time when there was remarkably little interest in the team.
It's true. Pistons general manager Joe Dumars was put in a no-win situation. Re-signing Wallace, even for the reported $48 million he was offered, would have mortgaged the future with no guarantee of current success. But at least there was a chance. That seems to be gone with Wallace.
It does seem as if Joe Dumars has lost his touch. In the ultimate what-have-you-done-lately business, he hasn't done much lately. His last impact acquisition was Antonio McDyess following the 2004 season. Since then, the Pistons grip on the Eastern Conference has been slipping and Dumars hasn't done anything to change it.
It'll be interesting to see what type of impact Big Ben has on the Bulls. It could either way. They have a solid squad, but if they don't win early, he could become the subject of scorn because his numbers don't measure his value. Ben Wallace, making $15 million and average five points per game on a losing team, will get booed.

Random thoughts

- It's not that I think Flip Saunders is a bad coach, it just that I don�t think he is capable of leading the Pistons to an NBA championship.

- I'm in Oakland covering the Tigers and it dawned on me Tuesday how some major league ball parks are much better than others. The one in Oakland is one of the worst. It has about as much charm as an avocado green table top from the 1970s.

- Nicklas Lidstrom is one of the greatest defensemen of all time. With Steve Yzerman's departure, he should be named as the Red Wings' captain. They should give Henrik Zetterberg an 'A' for now. There is plenty of time left for Zetterberg to be the Wings� captain. Besides, has he earned it? It's true that Yzerman didn't back in the day, but that was during an entirely different era of Red Wings' hockey.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Ozzie Guillen is a bum

The Tigers may have the best record in the major leagues, but only two of their players were named to the American League squad for the All-Star game - catcher Ivan Rodriguez and pitcher Kenny Rogers. Rodriguez rallied at the end to be named starting catcher in the fan voting, or otherwise he might not have been selected.

In the meantime, the White Sox, who trail the Tigers in the American League Central standings, have six all stars. Three were named by volatile White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who also snubbed Tigers manager Jim Leyland by not naming him to the coaching staff for a return to Pittsburgh, where he is an icon from his days managing the Pirates. How can Justin Verlander lead the American League in wins and rank third in ERA and not being going to the All-Star Game. Few relievers have been as a successful as Tigers rookie Joel Zumaya, who leads the American League in holds. Curtis Granderson is a better player than Grady Sizemore. So os Magglio Ordonez. Nate Robertson also merited consideration.

This is typical of Detroit athletes getting snubbed on a national level. It�s like what the Pistons went through at all-star time until last year when four Pistons finally played in the All-Star game. Guillen could have shown the Tigers proper respect. That he didn�t only shows he is more than a little taken aback by the Tigers� success this season.

Random thoughts

- If Ben Wallace leaves the Pistons as a free agent, it might open up a scenario where the Pistons could swing a deal to land Kevin Garnett.. He is one of the best players in the world and in his prime, but with Garnett on the floor and Flip Saunders on the bench, the Pistons would become the Timberwolves East. Does any one want to that? Thought so.

- Shortstop Carlos Guillen has had a very solid season and his contribution to the Tigers� success has been vastly underrated.

- How about Magglio Ordonez for Comeback Player of the Year?