Friday, November 30, 2007

It Is Les Miles Or Bust

I agree that Les Miles is the ideal candidate to replace Lloyd Carr as Michigan’s head football coach.
He has the big three going for him. He played at Michigan. He coached at Michigan. He has been a highly successful head coach at a couple stops since leaving Michigan.
But what if he doesn’t take the job? Where does Michigan go then? It doesn’t seem very obvious. I like Brian Kelly, but he has not won with players he has recruited at the Division I level. I like Jeff Tedford, but what does he know about recruiting the Midwest? Nobody seems to mention Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, who has strong Midwest ties. Is it because he is so close to Nick Saban?
It appears to be Les Miles or bust. That puts Michigan and its athletic director Bill Martin in a precarious position. That is especially true since Ohio State and Michigan State seem so set with Jim Tressel and Mark Dantonio.

Random Thoughts

- I know Tampa Bay needs pitching and Matt Garza has a terrific arm, but I did find Delmon Young being traded this early in his career puzzling. There has to be concern about his attitude. Strictly based on talent, he should be as untouchable a young player as there is in the game.

- I don’t ever remember being as undecided about my Heisman vote this late in the process. Tim Tebow and Darren McFadden are great players, but has anybody done more for his team than Chase Daniel?

- Gosh, I can’t wait for next week when the Red Wings actually play the Canadiens. I know it is in Montreal. I know the Forum has long since closed. But anytime the Wings play Montreal or Toronto is almost makes me want to cry tears of joy. Or is it tears of sadness for the joke the NHL schedule is.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dombrowski Must Enhance Tigers Pitching Staff

Baseball’s winter meetings are next week, and they haven’t been quite what they used to be in terms of wheeling and dealing in recent years, but that should change this year.
There are some big-name pitchers teams will be dangling. Most apparent is Johan Santana by the Twins, but don’t be surprised if the Athletics are looking to move Dan Haren now that he is moving closer to the more expensive price bracket, and that his trade value has never been higher.
The question around these parts is what do the Tigers do? They can’t possibly be done with their off season. GM Dave Dombrowski has done a good job of solidifying their lineup, but as it stands, the Tigers’ pitching staff is a weakness.
Everybody talks about their need for bullpen help, but the Tigers starting staff doesn’t appear all that strong, either.
Justin Verlander has emerged as a strong No. 1 starter, but Jeremy Bonderman’s prolonged swoons the last two seasons are cause for concern. He has great "stuff" and should be entering his prime, but Bonderman’s track record, frankly, isn’t all that good. His mediocre career record (56-62, 4.78 ERA) is starting to speak volumes. It seems like he been overrated by many - including myself. Nate Robertson also tends to blow hot and cold. Andrew Miller is still raw and the thought of re-signing Kenny Rogers isn’t exactly comforting. He was hurt most of last season and didn’t throw all that well when he wasn’t. And when a pitcher is starting to push his mid-40s, chances are great he is going to dropoff in effectiveness.
I’d like to see the Tigers take a run at Haren. But how is that going to be possible now that they have traded virtually all their best prospects, save for Miller and Cameron Maybin, who should remain untouchable.
Dombrowski has considerable work remaining this off season. There are no easy answers to augment the Tigers pitching staff. Just a lot of questions.

Random Thoughts

- Michigan State should play in the Motor City Bowl. It would sell out Ford Field. It would keep our money in this state during a difficult time economically. It would help MSU in the Detroit-area, where it has a remarkably weak foothold. It would show the proper respect for George Perles, a great Spartan who heads the Motor City Bowl. The game is on prime time on ESPN.
Anybody who would laugh at the Spartans - or Michigan in the future, for that matter, if it were in a spot to play in the game - is being pompous and disrespectful to the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan. In other words, biting the hand that feeds them.

- There have been so many great players throughout the history of the NHL, so this statement might seem outrageous. But I don’t believe I have ever seen a better stickhandler than Pavel Datsyuk. He was incredible Tuesday night against Calgary.

- Green Bay never plays well in Dallas, so I think the Cowboys will win Thursday night’s big showdown with the Packers. But I also think it will be close. And I do think the Packers have the better team overall.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Lions Might Be The Best Of The Worst

I admit to having little faith in the Lions. I do, openly and often, wonder if they will ever be successful as long as William Clay Ford owns the team - especially as long as Matt Millen remains team president and essentially functions as the general manager.
I, like most people who have followed the Lions through thick and mostly thin since they were little kids, was anything but surprised they followed up an impressive 6-2 start by dropping three stink bombs in a row.
But perception and reality aren’t necessarily mixing here. The Lions - despite their own ineptitude - are anything but done.
At 6-5, their playoff hopes are very much alive. And while they aren’t very good and seem to be unraveling, the Lions are just like the teams they are competing with for the NFC wild card berths.
Myth One: The Lions remaining schedule is very difficult. Not really. Minnesota and Kansas City are below .500 teams who blow hot and cold to the extreme. The Lions have Dallas at home and Green Bay might not be playing for anything in the season finale. Even San Diego has been up and down like a yo-yo.
Myth Two: An 8-8 record won’t get the Lions into the playoffs. It just might. The problem comes with tie breakers. The Lions don’t have it against Washington, Philadelphia, the NY Giants and Arizona. It is important, however, they gain it against Minnesota. They already have it over the Bears.

Random Thoughts

- I find it odd and disappointing the Tigers' answer for their pitching woes is to simply bring back the same staff - without Joel Zumaya, who is injured. Dave Dombrowski has to have something else up under his sleeve, doesn’t he? As is, the Tigers staff is a recipe for disaster.

- I know it is early, but it is nonetheless disconcerting that Dominik Hasek has struggled so in the net for the Red Wings. Chris Osgood has played well, but I still think Hasek is the key.

- I thought the Celtics were over-hyped at the start of this season. But they keep winning close games at the end - a definite sign something special is brewing there.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Note from Caputo

Note to readers:

My posting schedule has been derailed by a number of factors the last week or so and I apologize for that. I know many of you look for it like clockwork every Monday, Wednesday and Friday - and I can't tell you how much I appreciate that and the feedback you give me in the comments section. It's why I answer every one of them. I won't be posting the rest of this week, but will start up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday beginning again on Monday. Again, thanks for your patience and support. You're the best.

Pat Caputo

Friday, November 16, 2007

Finally, A Little Justice For Barry Bonds

It seems to me like the indictment of Barry Bonds by a Federal grand jury is little more than justice finally being served.
Perhaps the lawyers and judges, and the rest of those in our judicial system, look at the changes to Bonds’ appearance, and his dramatically improved performance on the field, as merely circumstantial evidence. I see it, though, as the obvious. And it does seem fitting that Bonds is being busted for lying. He has been even better at that than hitting a baseball.
What will transpire next will drag baseball though the mud. I have a feeling the surface is just being scratched., that bit-by-bit, as the years pass, the real story of baseball’s steroid era - and its depth - will be fully exposed.
The game itself deserves much better. Those who run it don’t. They turned a blind eye for too long, especially the biggest hypocrite of them all - Bud Selig. The last thing he should do is revel in Bonds’ demise. He was as responsible for covering up the issue of performance enhancing drugs in the sport as anybody.

Random Thoughts

- What if Les Miles decides to stay at LSU, which is a real possibility? Where does Michigan turn to then for its next head football coach? There is no obvious answer. Only Miles.

- The Giants won’t exactly come to Ford Field Sunday relaxed and confident. Last season, they started out 6-2 and collapsed. They ended the season 8-8 and were ousted immediately in the playoffs. This season, the Giants also started 6-2 and were drilled by the Cowboys at home last week to start the second half of the season.

- I love the vintage hockey games they are showing on the NHL Network. Just watched a Bruins-Leafs game from 1971 featuring Bobby Orr and the Big Bad Bruins. My favorite, though, was seeing the late Brian "Spinner" Spencer for the Leafs. He actually played pretty well.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lions Difficult To Figure Out, But Infante Deal Isn't

To be truthful, I don’t know what to make of the Lions about now. They have won six games, but when they are bad, they are so bad it is impossible to dismiss.
They dropped a stink bomb Sunday in Arizona that wasn’t unlike their performances earlier in the season at Philadelphia and Washington. And both times, they came back nicely with victories. So what do you believe more, the Lions’ past history or their track record this season? I tend to believe their track record this season is more relevant.
It’s going to be more difficult now from a schedule standpoint. The Giants and Packers and their combined 14-4 record are coming up within a span of 10 days. But those games are at home - and the Lions have been a much different team at home compared to the road.
There has been an unexpected flip-flop with the Lions. The offense, considered the strength, is now the concern. The defense, which had been the concern, is now the strength. The Giants have a great pass rush. I don’t see the Lions manhandling them at the line of scrimmage and running the ball all that effectively, either. Brett Favre has been getting most of the ink in Green Bay, but the Packers’ defense is actually the reason they have emerged as dominant force.
The Giants’ Eli Manning and Favre are a cut above the caliber of the quarterbacks the Lions have seen to this point, but both can get a little careless with the ball if pressured. Getting that pressure will be the key. That means getting defensive end Dewayne White back from injury is very important.
One thing is for certain: The mistakes must end. When the Lions have won, they have limited their turnovers and penalties. When they have lost, they haven’t. It’s been very simple.

Random Thoughts

- If the Tigers do, indeed, trade Omar Infante to the Cubs for Jacque Jones, it would be fitting. I’ve always thought he is a talented player with a good upside. But Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski, obviously, don’t feel the same way. Time will tell if the deal comes back to burn the Tigers. At this stage, Jones appears to be little more than a platoon player, a rather expensive upgrade from Timo Perez. Wonder how much input Alan Trammell, on the Cubs’ coaching staff, had on the deal? He was less than enamored with Infante when he was the Tigers manager.

- It’s a great sign for Michigan’s basketball program that freshman Manny Harris is off to a fast start. The Wolverines need a star-caliber player to build around. Early indications are he is that player.

- Look, I know the Blackhawks are better. But come on, how can they continually beat the Red Wings? They seem to be the only team that can. It’s weird.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Lions, Ozzie, Hart And A Recipe For Disaster

If the Arizona Cardinals were smart - and based on their dubious past nobody is going to accuse them of that - they would open the retractable roof of their sparkling nearly-new stadium Sunday and let all the heat and sunshine in.
For hot weather road games this season have been like Kryptonite for the Lions. Remember Philly and D.C. and oversized - but extraordinarily-talented - nose tackle Shaun Rogers running around with his tongue hanging out? It is supposed to be in the lows 80s and sunny on Sunday in the Valley of the Sun.
This is a trap game for the Lions. They are all full of themselves after routing the Broncos last week - and they should be. The Lions have been terrific thus far. The Cardinals have some excellent players, particularly at the skill positions offensively, but are still floundering. They have been tougher at home, though. If the Lions are for real, they should win this game. The Lions need to accumulate as many wins as possible now because the schedule gets much more difficult later. That’s if they want to shock the world and make the playoffs.

Random Thoughts

- With Dominik Hasek missing several games because of nagging injuries, Chris Osgood has been playing excellent hockey for the Red Wings. There is, obviously, still some tread left on his tires, so to speak. Given Hasek’s propensity for coming up with injuries at strange times, Osgood’s solid form is a great development for the Red Wings.

- I like Mike Hart’s spunk. Good for him calling out the Spartans after Michigan’s victory. The guy was 4-0 against MSU. He earned the right. Sparty must understand such abuse is part of the rivalry when you never win.

- Here’s a recipe for disaster for the Tigers: Todd Jones as the Tigers closer without Joel Zumaya setting him up.
Jones is a good closer, but not for the elite team the Tigers crave to be - not without a great setup man.
Fernando Rodney doesn’t fit that fill. Zumaya did during 2006.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Pistons Better Because Their Bench Is Better

Seems to me what the Pistons have missed most since they won the NBA title in 2004 is depth off the bench.
Obviously, when he was in that role, Antonio McDyess was an excellent sixth man. But when you think about it, the catalyst for many of the Pistons’ biggest playoff wins during the 2004 playoff run came from players such as Mike James, Mehmet Okur and Corliss Williamson.
Because of salary cap reasons, the Pistons had to break up that group. And while Williamson, who was older, is out of the league, Okur and James have been successful in expanded roles since leaving the Pistons.
Conversely, the Pistons haven’t had the same degree of success from the players they have attempted to use to augment their bench since.
This season appears to be different. Sunday night, the Pistons won their home opener, edging the vastly improved Atlanta Hawks by a point.
The last couple years, the Pistons probably would have lost the game. They didn’t because Jason Maxiell gave them a massive lift off the bench. It wasn’t just because of the 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocks he posted, either.
The Hawks are a young, athletic team comprised of a who’s who of the NBA’s lottery picks in recent years. When the game got into an athletic mode, Maxiell matched it. He is extremely aggressive and not afraid to attack in every way. The Pistons were lacking that from their bench before.
Jarvis Hayes then hit some key shots down the stretch. He is another upgrade. When the Pistons get Rodney Stuckey back - and he displayed the ability to get into the lane during the preseason - it will solidify the Pistons’ depth.
This is a much better team the way Joe Dumars has formulated the bench. And it should pay off at playoff time.

Random Thoughts

- The number one question being asked out there is, "What really happened to Joel Zumaya’s shoulder?" With no facts to base it on, it does seem unfair to Zumaya. But why are the rumors so persistent.? It does make you wonder.

- After long trips to the West Coast and the Canadian west, the schedule takes a turn directly in the Red Wings favor. This appears to be one of those years when the Red Wings separate themselves quickly from the rest of the pack. They have been, in a word, terrific.

- Given their checkered past, skepticism about the Lions’ 6-2 start is understandable. And the second half schedule is difficult. But it has been impressive the way the Lions have cut down on turnovers and penalties, performed at home (a 4-0 record) and won close games. It is a formula that usually produces a playoff team.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Joel Zumaya: Pitcher Or Myth?

My initial thought the first time I saw Joel Zumaya light up the radar gun at 102 mph was that it was too good to be true.
I mean, this kid came out of nowhere and started throwing as hard as any pitcher in the history of baseball.
As hard as Ryan. As hard as Feller. As hard as Koufax.
It was unbelievable.
To top it off, there is a charismatic element to Zumaya that livens up all that surrounds him.
Well, now it does seem like "Zoom" was too good to be true. Since he suffered that freakish finger injury early last season, he’s almost been more a myth than a pitcher. The shoulder injury he suffered when a box fell on him during the San Diego fires is very hurtful to the Tigers. Even on a staff with Justin Verlander, he just might be the most talented pitcher.
It will cost the Tigers a lot of money to bring in relief help, but their bullpen is thin. It might be smart for them to throw the bank at Mariano Rivera. This does seem to call for drastic measures. There is no upside to it, but at least it didn’t happen during spring training or after the start of the season like last year. The club at least understands the cards they have been dealt.

Random Thoughts

- Emotion is the only thing Michigan State will have on its side Saturday against Michigan. The Wolverines are just a superior football team - and in every way. I thought earlier this season that the gap might be closing in the rivalry. I couldn’t have been more wrong. State has sometimes beaten Michigan under these circumstances, but it seems highly unlikely.

- I thought Dre Bly was a knucklehead when he played for the Lions. He got burned too often on big plays and it seemed a stretch that he went to the Pro Bowl twice wearing the Honolulu Blue and Silver. And he threw Joey Harrington under the bus as if he was the only problem. As far as I’m concerned, Bly was part of the problem, too. A big part. The Lions miss him so much, they are 5-2.

- The Colts are a great team. They are at home. They are the defending Super Bowl champions. How can New England be a 5-point favorite in this game? I know the Patriots have been impressive this season, but come on. I am taking the Colts.