Monday, August 13, 2007

Tigers Back On Top Of The World

Sparky Anderson used to have a sign in his office about the world turning over every 24 hours on the people sitting atop of it. It was certainly apropos about baseball.
There are a zillion and one things to love about the game, but near the top of the list has to be the beauty of a pennant race. Every day is about ups and downs that leave you on the edge of your seat. Look at the Tigers. Count me among those who were about to leave them for dead at the side of road as recently as Friday night when they lost that weird game to Oakland. They did look bad. And for an extended period. There didn’t appear much Jim Leyland could do to pull them out of it. A couple days later, the Tigers were back in first place, and all is well again.
Of course, there could be a turn for the worse on the horizon. The Yankees are lurking for eight games in 12 days against the Tigers starting later this week. Then again, it could be a good thing is the Tigers beat them. It’s just the nature of a pennant race.
There are reasons the Tigers played better the last couple days. Magglio Ordonez stepped forward and re-established himself as an MVP candidate. Justin Verlander gave the Tigers the solid start they needed. Yorman Bazardo and Aquilino Lopez came up from Triple-A and threw very well. Fernando Rodney appears to be back on track, hitting 97 mph on the radar gun. Oh, and don’t forget Marcus Thames. We always seem to overlook him, but Thames has became a very important player for the Tigers. He homered off Dan Haren Saturday night. That says a lot about Thames right there.
Mostly, though, I think the Tigers have the Cleveland Indians to thank for surviving their lull. Last season such a swoon cost the Red Sox the playoffs because the Yankees weren’t nearly as forgiving in the American League East. The Tigers are on pace to win about 90 games. And given the struggles of The Tribe, particularly their bullpen of late, 90 wins just might be enough for the Tigers to win the A.L. Central.

Random Thoughts

- Tiger Woods was typically methodical while winning the PGA Championship over the weekend. He is incredible. I just wish there was a golfer or two that would step into the fray and really test Woods. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of competitive character among those chasing him - particularly from Phil Mickelson.

- I honestly don’t know how excited fans should be about Cameron Maybin hitting three home runs during his first three games after being called up to Double-A Erie. The ball park in Erie is small. Those games were played in Erie. Maybin’s power numbers figure to rise dramatically because of that. The ball parks in West Michigan and Lakeland are very spacious. However, I wouldn’t dismiss this kid in any way, shape or form. He is a special talent with a Curtis Granderson-like attitude and work ethic. He just might fly through Double-A and give the Tigers a lift if he were called up in September. The question is, would it be worth getting his service time clock started already? Helping Maybin’s cause is the way Justin Upton has sparked the Diamondbacks since he was called up to the majors. And Upton is even younger than the 20-year-old Maybin.

- Placido Polanco’s major league-record consecutive game errorless streak for second basemen is even more impressive considering his range. He seems to get to everything, particularly balls hit to his glove side.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Leyland Is A Strength, Not A Weakness

I was in the Tigers clubhouse the other day after a loss and manager Jim Leyland said it was his responsibility, that he was to blame for the Tigers’ disconcerting slide.
I applaud Leyland for being a standup guy, but I don’t think the Tigers’ recent collapse has been his fault. That bullpen has been a disaster since Joel Zumaya got hurt. Is it Leyland’s fault? No. I feel like he has handled the bullpen well under adverse circumstances. But he can only do so much. Nobody can make chicken salad out of rubber chickens.
Jeremy Bonderman has gone south at the worst possible time. Is that Leyland’s fault? No.
Gary Sheffield and Marcus Thames have been hurt. Craig Monroe has slumped. Leyland’s fault? No, no and no.
Leyland has made a couple questionable decisions regarding when to remove pitchers. He, for example, took Nate Robertson out too soon, and Bonderman not soon enough, in their recent starts. But mostly the Tigers have tanked because of injuries and a sour bullpen. Also, Bonderman and Justin Verlander have shown they still have a ways to go before becoming genuine "aces."
Panic? Yeah, there is panic in Detroit. The Devils Rays series was disturbing. How could the Tigers split with such a reeling club that has been so awful on the road? I don’t have a certain answer for that, but I don’t feel it lies with Leyland’s managing.

Random Thoughts

- There was a relatively small crowd at Ford Field for the Lions’ preseason opener Thursday. It would have been nice of the Lions to throw a couple passes toward Calvin Johnson early in the game instead of making fans wait until nearly halftime. And when the ball was thrown Johnson’s way, it was easily the highlight of the night. He seems special. The team overall, however, still appears to be mediocre.

- Oddest thing I have ever heard a manager say that eventually proved to be true: When Gary Pettis played for the Angels, Sparky Anderson said he was the greatest center fielder he’d ever seen - even better than Willie Mays. This was before Pettis came to the Tigers. I’m not old enough to remember Mays distinctly. I can only go by the highlights I have seen of him, although I have seen many. He was truly great. But it is true, at least in my opinion, the best defensive center fielder I have seen was Gary Pettis. Seems like he is a forgotten player.

- A prediction: The most-celebrated player on Michigan’s defense following this season will be tackle Terrance Taylor. He is strong and athletic and plays the leverage game very well. By the time he leaves Michigan, it just might be as a first-team All-American.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Reason To Celebrate Or To Cry?

Cynicism is not something I find flattering. And it is big news that Barry Bonds broke Henry Aaron’s all-time home run record. But I must say, with all sincerity, I am just glad it is over. It is not something I am going to reflect much on in the future. Well, at least until somebody else - probably Alex Rodriguez - starts closing in on the record. And, hopefully, this is a record that was made to be broken.
I did watch some of Bonds’ chase, but it was forced. I made myself do it because of what I do for a living, and because I feel compelled to comment about it, not for the joy of experiencing such a monumental moment. It was the same when I was in San Francisco for the All Star Game. It was obviously the big national story. I wrote two columns about Bonds. I did get into the media pile around Bonds as he spoke. Yet, I found the entire scene oddly morose.
It’s like when you’re watching the game and they flash into the stands and show his wife and his family. There are trying to show a human side to Bonds, and I salute ESPN for that. And Bonds was nice enough about breaking record, but you just don’t see the human side of him - regardless. Maybe it’s because of his normally sour attitude. Or perhaps it’s because of the steroid issue, but it’s almost like watching a robot instead of a ball player. It’s so cold.
I resent how Bonds, instead of unifying people in this quest, broke them apart. It became a racial issue. If it had been a different personality with no alleged cheating involved, race would have been a moot point - like it is when Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan - or any number of athletes of all different backgrounds - standout. It brought out the worst in Bud Selig. And that’s pretty bad. It put Aaron in an awkward position. It tarnished what was once, and sadly is no more, baseball’s - and perhaps all of sports - most-sacred record.
Yeah. Cynical. That’s how I feel about it. And believe me, I don’t like my baseball that way.

Random Thoughts

- I am very much looking forward to the Lions preseason opener. My whole view on the Lions is simple. I understand the natural optimism that comes from the start of training camp, but I feel it has been over the top this year. There is nothing tangible there. Nothing has been shown on the field. On Thursday, we’ll have a better idea if the Lions are any better because they will be on the field. They will actually be playing. It is only preseason. So it doesn’t mean that much. But it does mean more than what has been essentially meaningless rhetoric coming out of Allen Park.

- I have to admit, my first impressions of new Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio are good. John L. Smith was off-the-chart goofy. It just wasn’t working. But I am not sure if Dantonio has the type of player personnel to quickly improve the Spartans. Playing the way he wants to play - power football - against Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame can be difficult. You need strength in the lines. Doesn’t seem like the Spartans have it. Nor much depth.

- Nate Robertson has shown flashes of really pitching well. He threw the ball exceedingly well against the Devil Rays Tuesday. Jason Grilli has not shown flashes of pitching well. That was ugly - again - Tuesday. But was it Grilli’s fault of Jim Leyland’s for putting him in that spot?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Tigers Season On The Brink

To put his foot down, or not to put his foot down, that is the question. Is it nobler in the mind of Tiger fans that manager Jim Leyland takes the high road with his floundering club? Or should he lash out at them like he did last season after a lackluster performance against Cleveland?
I think it is a tough call. Hitting is such a fickle aspect of the game. It comes and goes on a whim. And the Tigers not having Gary Sheffield in the middle of the lineup does hurt. Oh, and they could use Marcus Thames about now, too. But starting pitching, the kind the Tigers are reputed to have, is supposed to be the one constant. Kenny Rogers and Andrew Miller are hurt, but Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman are not. Bonderman, in particular, has been puzzling. There is no reason he should be having the problems he does during the first inning. It is the one factor keeping him from becoming a truly great pitcher. That needs to change.
Leyland can’t will that happen. Or his hitters to start hitting. Just keep plugging away is the proper answer. But it doesn’t guarantee a solution. The Tigers season is on the line during the next three weeks. Period. They must make hay against the woeful Devil Rays. And they have to hold their own against the Indians and those damn Yankees, who have made up eight games in just 17 days on the Tigers. They sure could have used a boost at the trade deadline on any number of fronts. Too bad that didn’t get done.

Random Thoughts

- Winning 300 games is an amazing feat. Thing is, I have never viewed Tom Glavine as an amazing pitcher. His average season is 15-10 with a 3.49 ERA. I do believe he is a Hall of Famer. But I do wonder how successful he would have been had he spent his entire career in the American League instead of all of it in the National League.

- What is Bud Selig doing? He only made a weird situation even stranger when he reacted the way he did when Barry Bonds tied Henry Aaron’s all-time home run record.

- I really enjoyed Charlie Sanders’ Hall of Fame speech. There was a lot of genuine emotion. He is a bright guy with a proper perspective on life. There are a lot of people in the Lions front office, which is by far the worst I have been around, that could learn by observing how Charlie goes about his business.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

On The Oakland County Top 10 List...

I very much liked writing the series about the Top 10 Greatest Athletes in Oakland County History.
In case you missed it, or parts of it, the final list went:
1. Kirk Gibson; 2. Pat LaFontaine; 3. Hayes Jones; 4. Meg Mallon; 5. Pete Dawkins; 6. Campy Russell; 7. Micki King; 8. Alexi Lalas; 9. Ted Simmons; 10. Peter Vanderkaay. We’re working on getting the profiles posted on theoaklandpress.com website.
The list came from readership voting on both theoaklandpress.com website and through a mail-in ballot from our print edition. It was shared with a list sports editor Jeff Kuehn compiled, and that I did. The final tally was based on a 50-25-25 percentage basis. My list was the same as the final list, with a couple changes in position. And I had Steve Howe on my list instead of Vanderkaay. I knew Steve, played against him in high school and American Legion ball and liked him.I fully understand how talented he was - and troubled. For my thoughts on Howe, who was 11th on our list, go to theoaklandpress.com and type "Caputo" and "Howe" in the search box to read the column I wrote following Steve’s unfortunate death last year.
All voting segments had Gibson No.1. Chris Webber, wrestler Steve Fraser, Bob Welch, Bill Muncey and Bill Freehan also received strong support.
Vanderkaay did very well in readership voting and I understand why he was included on the final list. He did win a gold medal and there may be more in his future.

Random thoughts

- I must admit I was surprised by the way the trade deadline went down. Surprised because the Tigers didn’t make a move because they have serious problems in their bullpen. Surprised because other American League teams with needs didn’t make moves, either. The only significant move that might affect the Tigers later was Boston acquiring Eric Gagne. And it was more a case of the Red Sox augmenting what was already a strength. I see the Tigers wanting to acquire infield help as concern about the health of Carlos Guillen. That was evident Tuesday when he made a bad error that opened the flood gates for Oakland, and then left the game with a sore knee. Jack Wilson is a good player whose growth has been hindered by the malaise in Pittsburgh. If he comes to the Tigers - which is still possible later this season or during the off season - it would give the Tigers the option of moving Guillen to first base next season. Guillen seems to struggle to stay healthy while playing shortstop.

- Kevin Garnett is a great player. I have always thought a lot of Ray Allen. I just wonder how well Paul Pierce is going to handle being the third-wheel in that equation for the Celtics. Seems to me like he has always been a selfish player.

- I don’t want to belabor the point, honest, but I do find the fact Shaun Rogers is not practicing telling. He should be recovered from surgery and in shape by now. Also, the knee injury to Drew Stanton is dangerous because the Lions can’t put him on injured reserve this season and still have him practice with the team. That would greatly slow down his growth. And if they have him as their No. 3 QB with little practice time, it would be very risky. Seems like a no-win situation there.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Tigers Can't Stand Pat At Trade Deadline

There are a couple ways of looking at the Tigers’ recent malaise. One is that it is an inevitable part of any season, that even the best clubs go into slumps, and that the Tigers will soon pull out of it.
Another is that things are starting to pull apart a bit on the Tigers. They have been playing with fire with a shaky bullpen - and now they are starting to get burned.
I feel the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
The Tigers have been on the road seemingly forever. Their only break was a three-game set at home against Kansas City, which made their return trip almost just like another road trip. They have played very well on the road this season, but baseball is a game of levels. Eventually, their home record, which has been underwhelming, will rise and their road mark will drop. It’s just the way it works.
Losing Kenny Rogers is significant. His return had provided a much-needed boost. Now their rotation does seem as settled. A couple weeks ago, I didn’t think the Tigers needed to make a move at the trade deadline. Now I definitely feel like they do.
It shouldn’t be a big-name player in a move designed for "wow" appeal, but rather a serviceable relief pitcher. You know, somebody better than Jason Grilli. Somebody who can pitch in the sixth or seventh inning without it being a disaster. There are a number of them available that shouldn’t cost an arm and leg. Salomon Torres from Pittsburgh is an example. That’s who the Tigers are scouting in Pittsburgh. Kyle Farnsworth doesn’t throw that hard anymore. If he were that good, why would the Yankees, just 4.5 games behind the Tigers, deal him to Detroit?
And make no bones about it, the Tigers need bullpen help above all else. Getting Fernando Rodney back will only help so much. And it would be unwise to depend on the return of Joel Zumaya. That has to be viewed as gravy. If the Tigers don’t make a deal, it will be a huge disappointment because, as they sit right now, they aren’t good enough to win a world championship. Their bullpen is too much of a weak link.

Random Thoughts

- Don’t get me wrong. Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn were great players. I put both on my Hall of Fame ballot. But it seems like the baseball world going so giddy over their Hall of Fame induction this weekend had more to do with the solid nature of their personalities than their actual greatness as players. I mean, both are everything Barry Bonds is not. And seeing them honored as Bonds catches up to Henry Aaron’s home run record was oh-so-nice.

- Did you know that last season, 10 percent of the Lions’ offensive plays resulted in either a fumble, a sack or an interception? That’s why depending so heavily on Jon Kitna is risky.

- My early pick to reach the Super Bowl is Baltimore. To me, the Ravens got the steal of the off season when they acquired Willis McGahee from Buffalo.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Lions Have To Be Better, Don't They?

I find the opening of Lions’ training camp, at least since Matt Millen has been in charge - and that seems like forever - bewildering.
I want to look at the Lions, see the changes they have made during the off season and analyze them from purely a football standpoint.
For example, I do like some of the moves the Lions made during to bolster their offense. Acquiring running backs Tatum Bell and T.J. Duckett should help. Guard Edwin Mulitalo is a very good player and will improve their inside run blocking. George Foster is an upgrade at right tackle. And rookie wide Calvin Johnson has a chance to be special.
Defensively, the Lions still have tons of holes, journeyman Jon Kitna remains the quarterback and there is no veteran backup. So if Kitna goes down, so will the Lions’ season. But the Lions have to be better than last season. Three wins? The Lions must be headed up if for no other reason than they can’t go down any further. And I don’t want to cast judgement on a team and a coaching staff until they actually play.
I am hardly convinced Rod Marinelli is the answer, but this is just his second season. Maybe he learned something from the first one when he was so shaky.
Then again, I feel compelled to quell these notions because the false sense of hope presented by the organization, and some covering it in the media on a regular basis (I am not knocking them - they have a right to their opinion), that always suggests the corner is right there and will be turned in the upcoming season - when it never is
Honestly, even in a league where every dog seems to have his day, I doubt the Lions will ever win with their current front office structure with Millen at the top. I hope I am wrong for the sake of Lion fans, but the evidence is overwhelming. It seems to trump every other factor.

Random Thoughts

- Just like that, boom, the Yankees are six games behind the Tigers and only 4.5 games behind in the American League wild card race. Amazing.

- There was a fascinating show on ESPN 2 Thursday night about Hank Aaron. It was a repeat of a special Tom Brokaw did for NBC the winter between the 1973 and 1974 seasons on Aaron as he approached Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. What I found ridiculous is how the commissioner at the time, Bowie Kuhn, snubbed Aaron. Not only didn’t he attend the night Aaron broke the record, he didn’t even congratulate him when Aaron hit his 700th home run. Aaron didn’t like it, met with Kuhn about it, and Kuhn still snubbed him the following year. Strange.

- The biggest two weeks of the Tigers’ season figures to the 13 straight games they play - home and road - against the Indians and the Yankees. Their fate may very well be decided right then and there.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Different Baseball Numbers Rule

Growing up, there were several magic numbers I recall pertaining to baseball. Probably the biggest was 714.
Of course, it was the number of career home runs Babe Ruth hit. It was a record that stood for decades. Then it became 755 - after Hank Aaron broke Ruth’s record. Aaron’s record, too, stood for decades.
There were others, most relating to home runs. 61 - for Rogers Maris’ single-season homer record. 500 - for the milepost that separated truly elite power hitters from others.
But, to me, the prestige of home run records is falling by the wayside. I just don’t see magic numbers when it comes to home runs anymore. When somebody hits 50 in a season now, for example, I just kind of shrug my shoulders. It’s like if Brady Anderson can hit 50 home runs in a season, does it really matter any more? When Frank Thomas hit his 500th home run this season, it was celebrated. Same with Sammy Sosa at 600. But it was a false hurrah.
To me, the biggest numbers in baseball are different. I think the top one is 56 - for Joe DiMaggio’s consecutive-game hitting streak. It is followed by 7 - for the number of no-hitters Nolan Ryan threw during his career. Then it’s .400 - will another hitter ever get there again? Same for 30 - as in a pitcher winning that many games in a season.
I like all those numbers for this reason: It is possible they can be reached - unlike something ridiculous like Cy Young’s 511 victories set during a skewed era. It is, however, highly improbable any player can get to those levels. That would make it very special if a player reaches those heights. I am not so sure the same can be said for when Barry Bonds breaks Aaron’s record. Whatever Bonds’ final total, it will kind of be like 73 - his single-season mark. It will be a record, but not THE RECORD. Not anymore.

Random Thoughts

- I do think an on-court official involved in gambling is a crisis for the NBA. I do not, however, feel it will have a long-term bearing on the public’s perception of the league. That is, of course, unless it proves not to be an isolated incident. Only if multiple officials are involved will all you-know-what break loose.

- Craig Monroe has a history of heating up this time of the year. Seems like he is doing so again.

- The Yankees are taking advantage of a weak schedule. They are only 7.5 games behind the Tigers and Red Sox for the best record in the American League. Watch out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thugs And All, I Will Be Watching

I’m like you. I can’t wait for the start of training camp. I am looking forward to the preseason to see what the Lions do or do not have. I am always anxious for the beginning of the NFL season. To me, it is a ritual. And, obviously, I am not alone in that thought. I think it is safe to say it is the most popular of the major professional sports leagues in this country. Yeah, even ahead of my beloved baseball.
I just wonder when the issues involving deviant behavior by NFL players will begin to have an impact.
Michael Vick’s Federal indictment for dogfighting is just the latest incident. Name the crime, some NFL player has done the time - or might be doing it soon. This goes from murder (Rae Carruth) to pimping (Richard Seigler) to just-about-everything (Pac Man Jones, Chris Henry and Tank Johnson combined) to Vick.
But Vick’s involvement is the worst. He is a quarterback - supposedly one of the smart guys. And one of the top dozen players in the league in regard to visibility.
The innocent until proven guilty argument is usually a pretty solid one. Problem is that it takes so long for everything to sort out. Once an indictment is dropped like this, the cloud doesn’t go away until the trial or a plea bargain is complete - even if the accused is proven innocent. The damage has already been done.
But how much damage is it? It’s definitely the National Thug League, but does it matter? Will it have any bearing on the popularity of the league?
I can’t say that it will. I don’t know whether this is bad and I should feel guilty about it, or it is just being typical for an average American sports junkie, but I’ll be watching.

Random Thoughts

- Of all the series the Tigers have played this season, the one in Minnesota was the most impressive. Winning close road games against a team with that type of bullpen was tremendous. I have a feeling the second half of this season is going to be special for the Tigers.

- Don’t get me wrong. I think Marcus Thames has a lot of value to the Tigers. And I do understand why fans like him. I do, too. But if Jim Leyland played him every day, say, for 150 games in a season instead of smartly spotting him in the lineup when he is hot, I doubt he’d hit .230. Just being honest
.
- I find myself rooting for Barry Bonds lately to hit home runs. Not because I am rooting for him, but to just get this mess over. Maybe it’s because I was at the All Star Game and all that, or maybe it is just because I am tired of all the controversy surrounding him. But I have had enough of Barry Bonds. Period. Will this ever end?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

If It Ain't Broke, Why Fix It?

It is getting closer to the trade deadline, and there hasn’t been quite the same wild speculation as last year about the Tigers. Maybe it’s because the Tigers are a better team. They have already proven they can win the pennant. And they have added a hall of fame-caliber player since in Gary Sheffield.
Secondly, trading for relief help isn’t nearly as juicy as speculating about getting, say, Alfonso Soriano.
Plus, Dave Dombrowkski has done a decent job of rebuilding his bullpen already. Macay McBride has done very well and might be more than a situational left-hander. I like the depth with Zach Miner and Chad Durbin there. Jose Capellan has a chance to be very good. There is the possibility that Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya will return and give the bullpen a boost. If one or both of them come back at or near full-strength, it would be like the Tigers made a deal.
Also, Nate Robertson is starting to throw the ball much better. His cut fastball was a very effective pitch Tuesday night in the 1-0 win at Minnesota. That is just another starter going deep into the game.
I wouldn’t have said this a few weeks ago, but the Tigers are not in a position where they have to make a move for a reliever. At this stage, they seem to be in better shape than any team in baseball. So if ain’t broke, why fix it?

Random Thoughts

- I did catch Rodney Stuckey in an NBA summer league game and was impressed. I understand the caliber of competition is far from what he will face during the season, but I doubt he will be overwhelmed. Lets put it this way, I like the draft pick a lot more after seeing him play.

- Cory Redding is a solid player, but his contract is ridiculous. A sign of progress for the Lions will be when they have to let a player like Redding or Jeff Backus go because they have too much talent to keep them because of the salary cap, rather than willingly overpaying them because their talent base is so thin.

- The indictment of Michael Vick is just another scarlet letter on the NFL. It’s strange how it is both the most successful and the most troubled of the major professional sports leagues. And proof success can breed apathy. Paul Tagliabue was obviously asleep at the switch and conveniently got out at just the right time.

Monday, July 16, 2007

It Is Turning Out To Be A Brilliant Move

Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you’re wrong. Sometimes you’re, well, in-between.
I have to admit I was wrong in my initial assessment in the Tigers trade for Gary Sheffield.
At the time, it seemed to me be a knee-jerk reaction to what transpired in the World Series, and played into the hands of the Yankees, who are copying the Tigers’ pattern by trying to horde young pitching.
And I didn’t like what I saw from Sheffield during the American League Division Series. He was awful at the plate, and even worse in the field during an ill-fated attempt to play first base.
Seemed to me, at 38, he was on the downside. I couldn’t been more off base.
He is a truly great player. I didn’t realize how great until the Tigers got him. It’s not just his bat speed, which is extraordinary, but also his all-around game. He is an excellent base runner with very good instincts. When I was with the team in Atlanta, he started in left field every day and made several good plays. He is solid outfielder with a good arm.
There is also this aspect of him playing mad. There is an extra surge he seems to get emotionally that puts him over the top as a player. I don’t agree with most of what he has said recently, but it hasn’t hurt the Tigers at all. If anything, the extra spotlight has only made Sheffield play better.
If you look at the Tigers this year compared to last year, they are dramatically better offensively. Some of that comes from improvement from within. Curtis Granderson, for example, has just gotten better through hard work and experience.
But the greatest impact has come with the addition of Sheffield. He has been brilliant. Considering Humberto Sanchez is out for the season with an elbow problem, the trade couldn’t have worked out better. It’s turning out to be another gem by general manager Dave Dombrowski.

Random Thoughts

- Watching the Tigers cuff around Jeff Weaver Sunday makes you wonder why they had so much trouble with him during the World Series. In two starts against the Tigers this season, Weaver has allowed 13 earned runs and 20 hits in 10 innings. The Tigers are hitting .426 against him. He had a 2.77 ERA in two starts vs. the Tigers in the World Series.

- This is the honest-to-God truth. I had a dream last night that the Tigers faced the Cubs in the World Series. Wouldn’t that be something? Wonder how Tram would feel about that?

- I talked to Cameron Maybin for a long time at the Futures Game in San Francisco. He is a poised kid for his age with a pretty good idea about where he is going. If you’re worried about what will happen when he arrives in the major leagues, don’t. He would move to a corner outfield spot without a peep. Granderson is a mentor to him. Talks to him all the time. Ultimately leadership will be one of Granderson’s best qualities. You can tell how his attitude and work ethic have rubbed off on Maybin.