Friday, March 28, 2008

Boren Situation Might Be A Blessing In Disguise

It is difficult to read that Justin Boren is leaving the University of Michigan football team so suddenly and unexplained - and not wonder why?
It’s not like he is just another player. He is an excellent offensive lineman - perhaps the Wolverines best. But there is also truth to the saying that in order to make an omelet, you must crack a few eggs first. I’m not so quick to rush to judgment on Rich Rodriguez on this. He wasn’t brought in to keep the status quo. He was brought in to bring Michigan up-to-date, and to take the Wolverines further than the frustrating finishes they have suffered in recent years. That means leaving his mark from the very beginning, and weeding out those who can’t stand tall during the process.
Boren’s explanation seemed vague. Too vague.
Nobody is talking about wanting "The Junction Boys" here, but if Rodriguez has ramped up the intensity within Michigan’s football program, that can only be a good thing.

Note: I will be at the Overtyme Grill & Tap Room in Waterford from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. tonight (Friday, March 28th). Stop on by to talk sports.

Random Thoughts

- Pavel Datsyuk has emerged the second half of the season as one of the top handful of players in the NHL. He ranks among the top five in scoring and will finish either first or second in plus-minus ratio. Now the question is whether he can translate his brilliance into the postseason. Last spring, Datsyuk took a step in that direction for the first time. But the Red Wings need even more from him this time around. My guess he will be up to the task. Datysuk is much stronger and more difficult to knock off the puck than he used to be.

- Yeah, I do like Michigan State’s chances tonight against Memphis. Give Tom Izzo a week to prepare and he will come up with something. And Memphis just can’t shoot free throws.

- I know he is only 21 and that it is far too early to write him off, but it is not a good sign that Cameron Maybin floundered this spring and didn’t make the Marlins opening day roster. The truly great players move fast. It was understandable Maybin was overmatched last summer after being thrust into the middle of a pennant race, but this is much less so. Maybe, just maybe, he isn’t going to be the great player so many of us - myself included - anointed him to be.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sorry, Tiger Injuries Will Have An Impact

I have never been fond of teams using injuries as a crutch. Maybe that’s because I grew tired of hearing it from the Lions for so many years.
But I do believe a rash of injuries present an ominous sign that things are not going as expected for a team. It’s why I don’t dismiss the run of injuries the Tigers have had.
Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney and Curtis Granderson were as key as any other parts for the Tigers during 2006 when they reached the World Series. All will open the 2008 season on the disabled list.
Last season, when Kenny Rogers came up hurt at the end of spring training, and Zumaya got hurt early in the season, it had a devastating bearing on the Tigers. While they played well for an extended period, they weren’t able to sustain it.
Does that mean this season is over before it even starts? Hardly. But there is no sense getting around it. These injuries aren’t good. And they will hurt the Tigers. The question is, to what degree?

Note: I will be making an appearance at The Overtyme Grill and Tap Room in Waterford Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Check it out. I'll be talking to people about the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers or whatever is on their mind.

Random Thoughts

- North Carolina is the best team in the country right now. I know some people don’t think much of NC’s interior defense, but ultimately that is going to be moot point. North Carolina will beat UCLA if they meet.

- I don’t see how the New York Mets will get over last season’s collapse. Things like that tend to linger for years. But honestly, I don’t see a better team than the Mets in the National League, either. I just can’t see the Rockies repeating. Hope I’m wrong, though. I kind of like that team.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Time For Tigers To Put Up Or Shut Up On Inge

I still don’t believe the Los Angeles Dodgers don’t have interest in Brandon Inge. I believe their comments lately are a smoke screen. They fancy themselves as contenders, have money and Inge has value not just as a third baseman, but in the utility role he is born to fill, especially in the National League. Inge would still have value after Normar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche return.
But the Dodgers might have more interest in Joe Crede, who the White Sox have been trying to unload and insert Josh Fields as their third baseman.
I also disagree with manager Jim Leyland’s contention the Tigers can’t improve their bullpen at this late date. They must. Getting off to a good start is very important. And the Tigers bullpen is not good - although it was a good sign how Todd Jones threw against Atlanta Thursday. The game was on Atlanta’s FSN network and I watched it. Jones had excellent command. Denny Bautista gave up some runs in that game, but you can see what he has going for him is pretty good. But the depth is a problem - more mop-up and situational types than setup men.
The bigger issue is whether the Tigers want to trade Inge. I mean, who is going to be the backup catcher? To me, that remains as big a concern as the bullpen.

Random Thoughts

- Tom Izzo prepares his team for the NCAA Tournament better than any coach in the nation. It would not shock me if the Spartans beat Pitt.

- The Red Wings most underappreciated player is Johan Franzen. To say he is closing the season strongly would be an understatement. He is an example of why the Red Wings are tough enough to win the Stanley Cup.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Michigan Football Will Be Just Fine Without Pryor

It did seem odd, in the aftermath of another disappointing Michigan football season, that the Wolverines’ faithful was putting all their hopes for the future in one recruit, quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
He is a great athlete. He was certainly the best football player I saw - by far - watching the U.S. Army all star game. But Michigan is above living and dying over one recruit. So he went to Ohio State. Good. That will only serve to give Michigan more motivation come each November - as if the Wolverines need any more.
Pryor’s act got tiring. Seemed to me he delayed his announcement to seek attention more than anything else. A lot of people disagree with me about this, saying he just wanted his high school basketball season to end before focusing on his final decision. Although it is impossible to know for sure, I’m not buying it. Nor am I buying that Michigan’s recruiting class is down because they didn’t land the big prize at the end. Seems to me that new Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez closed surprisingly strong at signing day - and Michigan will be just fine.

Random Thoughts

- Calgary, Colorado or Vancouver are the most likely first-round matchups for the Red Wings. None will be a pushover, either. All are strong in goal. All play with a certain confidence against the Red Wings. Dominik Hasek better be ready.

- Of the all the second seeds, I think Texas has the best chance to advance to the Final
Four. That is very good basketball team. In retrospect, I’m surprised Michigan State was able to beat the Longhorns way back when at The Palace.

- Baseball America came out with a list of the best players 25 years or younger. Miguel Cabrera was No. 1, and Justin Verlander was No. 3. Considering Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman are 26, and Curtis Granderson 27, the Tigers’ long-term future could be bright - if they rebuild their farm system quickly the next two years. Oh, and they need to get Cabrera signed to a long-term deal.

Monday, March 17, 2008

On The Pistons, Hasek and Denny Bautista...

I don’t get it. There seems to be an awful lot of concern about the Pistons. I just don’t understand why. Seems to me, they are in excellent position to take a run at the NBA title. Seems to me, that it is more likely than unlikely they will make the Eastern Conference finals for the sixth year in a row. Seems to me like the Pistons just might be the best franchise in professional sports. Honestly. The Pistons are run that well at every level.
People seem confused by their bench. They wonder if Flip Saunders should stay with the high energy younger players. Or play the veterans they have added recently. At least Saunders has options. Jarvis Hayes, for example, is capable of winning a playoff game or two with his scoring. The Pistons were missing that type of streak shooter off the bench in the past.
Rodney Stuckey is a high-energy player, who is fearless attacking the basket. What he does, is give the Pistons a much different look than Chauncey Billups off the bench. They were missing that element last season. Theo Ratliff will help inside. And that’s before you get to Aaron Afflalo, Juan Dixon and Amir Johnson.
I like the Pistons bench. I see it as much improved. Not as a source for constant consternation.

Random Thoughts

- There is still time, but the No. 1 priority for the Red Wings right now has to be getting Dominik Hasek prepared for the playoffs. He didn’t get much defensive support Sunday before he was pulled against Columbus, but was hardly sharp, either. If Hasek doesn’t play well during the playoffs, the Red Wings are doomed. And he seems to be getting more "iffy" by the day.

- The biggest bright spot for the Tigers this spring has been reliever Denny Bautista. He has done a good job of commanding the baseball, but how will he react under the glaring lights of the regular season? Certainly velocity is not a problem. This kid has a great arm. It's just that he is unproven.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Like Always, No Plan B From The Lions

I’ve always liked Kevin Jones as a player. I think he is a solid running back.
When healthy, he has some speed, runs hard, has decent size and is powerful. He has also gotten better as a receiver. But he also wore down, both physically and mentally, under the strain of being in the middle of the malaise that is the Detroit Lions. I think more than any of the low-round draft picks by the team during the Matt Millen era, his career was ruined by the team that drafted him. Elsewhere, he would be a big star already.
Can you imagine being the primary running back on the Lions during that era? What a beating.
Releasing Jones, in itself, isn’t that troubling, though. He has had injury problems. A bad foot. A busted up knee. But he wasn’t that expensive and the Lions, typically, have no Plan B. There remain holes everywhere on their roster. Running back was that way before Jones was released. It is even more so today. I can’t see where this helps the Lions.

Random Thoughts

- Is it just me, but has some of the luster over the Tigers off season moves been dulled by what is happening to their bullpen during spring training? The Fernando Rodney situation is particularly disconcerting. Seems to me like Dave Dombrowski should do something before camp breaks.

- Funny how it works isn’t it? The Pistons lost to Philly the other night. It was a bad loss, but not fatal. But there is some sense they are losing it. Then the Red Wings rallied to win their fifth straight over Dallas. All is well in their camp. Yet, just two weeks ago - when the Pistons were rolling and the Red Wings were slumping - the roles were reversed. Know what I think? Both teams will be fine come playoff time.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Has Todd Jones Become A Gas Can?

There are two ways of looking at Todd Jones getting shelled during spring training.
One is that he is a veteran pitcher just working himself into shape for the coming season, and therefore it is meaningless. Another is that he is a major concern for the Tigers. Period.
I do think his performance this spring is disconcerting. Jones has a track record that is more good than bad the last couple years, but he does seem to be constantly on the brink of disaster. I can’t help but think that at some point, probably sooner instead of later, his performance is going to fall off the cliff and leave the Tigers hanging.
It gives this uneasy feeling about the closer spot, especially when it is considered there are no other viable options for the Tigers to turn.
Age is my concern here. Todd has kept himself in pretty good shape, but there does come a time when age catches up to an athlete. That is why I don’t automatically dismiss a suspect performance of a 40-plus player during spring training (Jones will turn 40 in April). I have similar concerns about Kenny Rogers - for the same reason.

Random Thoughts

- At first, I didn’t think much of it. Now, it is getting a little absurd how the Lions have become the Buccaneers North. Yeah, it does remind me of how former Tigers general manager Randy Smith used to trade for all those old Padres and Astros back in the day.

- Honestly, I don’t know how anybody could put a positive spin on Michigan’s basketball season. A 21-loss season is not progress. It is embarrassing, especially given Michigan’s basketball tradition, which has too quickly been forgotten the university’s supporters.

- Does anybody care anymore where Terrelle Pryor ends up going to college? The more time moves on, the more his star fades. Seems almost like Michigan would be better off without him.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Willis Is Tigers Biggest Key In 2008

I know Miguel Cabrera was the big fish in the blockbuster trade the Tigers made this off season with the Florida Marlins.
But the most important player is Dontrelle Willis. In my opinion, how well he performs this coming season likely is going to make or break the Tigers.
They badly need an 18-to-20 game winner at the top of their starting rotation. They need somebody who can match what Justin Verlander is going to bring to the table.
They need it not only because of the victories, but for the way such a starter eats up innings and takes pressure off the bullpen, which in the Tigers’ case, is getting more suspect by the day.
Willis is capable. We all remember what he did when the Marlins won the world title. We all know he won 22 games as recently as 2005. We also know he wasn’t very good last season.
It makes him a gauge. And it is a good sign he has pitched well this spring.

Random Thoughts

- I honestly can’t believe the Cleveland Browns gave Shaun Rogers $20 million guaranteed money. If there has ever been a player who needs a contract held over his head to motivate him, it’s Shaun Rogers. That decision could come back and haunt the Browns - big-time.

- I have no issue with the Lions not signing big-name free agents. The idea is to augment your roster with reasonably priced players you deem can play, not wasting money on overpriced players who often don’t pan out. The question is, did the Lions make the right talent evaluations?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

On The Bullpen, Inge, Duckett And Favre...

Look, I have been around long enough to understand what spring training generally means on the larger landscape - not much.
Spring training stories are terrific because they mean baseball - the real deal - is coming soon. That is especially true when we keep getting hit with these monster snow storms.
But there has to be concerns on a couple fronts in the Tigers’ camp. Fernando Rodney’s ailing shoulder is not good news. Neither is Todd Jones getting shelled the other day. The bullpen is an obvious concern.
Also, the Brandon Inge issue is perplexing. If the club is better with him - which Jim Leyland openly says - why are they still trying to trade him? And why baby him by saying he won’t have to catch? I know there has to be some method to Leyland’s madness on the subject of Inge. Honestly, though, I can figure it out. He has put one player ahead of the team. That doesn’t seem right.

Random Thoughts

- I can understand a team being interested in T.J. Duckett, but it does seem like the Seahawks overpaid for him by a large degree.

- Brett Favre’s greatness can’t be questioned. The love for him in Detroit should be, though. How can Favre be such a beloved hero in this state after all the devastation he has done to the Lions down through the years? Can’t understand it.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Rogers Trade, Smith Signing Good Start For Lions

Free agency isn’t a panacea for an NFL team. It can only really help an organization that has a solid base of players. Currently, the Lions don’t qualify because they have drafted so poorly under the stewardship of Matt Millen since 2001 (has it really been that long). And trades, more times than not, don’t make a big splash in the NFL.
But having said that, the off season had gotten off to a decent start for the Lions. I think the trade with Cleveland for Shaun Rogers was a good one. A third-round pick is still at a point of the NFL Draft where teams (expect for perhaps the Lions with Millen) aren’t shooting blindly in the dark. There are usually quality athletes still available. Also, Leigh Bodden is a bonafide NFL player with a good chance of starting and being effective for the Lions at an obvious position of need - cornerback. I also liked their free agent signing of Dwight Smith. Like Bodden, he isn’t a great player by any means, but an upgrade from both their starting safeties last season.

Note: Check out my audio podcast, "Three Point Stance" at Blog Central at I update it every Monday and Thursday. Also, I have a video podcast "The Book and His Boss" with Oakland Press Sports Editor Jeff Kuehn we do every week (it is usually out by Friday). You can get to it by clicking on "more" at the multi-media link at Just scroll down to the bottom. The past video podcasts are under "specialty" on the left-hand side under "The Book and His Boss."

Random Thoughts

- Anybody surprised Michigan State blew out Indiana? I wasn’t. The Spartans are great at home, but soft on the road. Lets face it - the Spartans just aren’t that good. It would be a decent tournament run for Tom Izzo if he gets his team into the Sweet 16.

- People have tired of Niklas Kronwall in this town because he has been injury prone. While durability is obviously an issue, it should be noted just how good he is. The Red Wings beat Buffalo Sunday because of Kronwall more than any other factor. He was Lidstrom-like in distributing the puck and breaking out of the his own zone. Could it be he is maturing into a special player?

- As somebody who generally thinks Kobe Bryant is a selfish, overrated ball hog, I must admit he was brilliant Sunday during a victory over Dallas. Not just because of the 52 points he scored, but because he played so hard and effectively defensively. It was truly impressive.