Friday, July 31, 2009

Washburn Deal Solid, But Not Without Risk

Jarrod Washburn fits what the Tigers need to complete their rotation. I think it was an excellent trade general manager Dave Dombrowski had to make.
Washburn will be the Tigers’ third starter, but I look at the deal from this standpoint: It was like trading Luke French’s left-handed spot for Washburn. That’s a huge upgrade for the stretch run.
French, who has limited "stuff," did surprisingly well in his stint with the Tigers, but the wheels were about to come off. The addition of Washburn does help the Tigers take away pressure from rookie Rick Porcello, both in the number of innings he needs to pitch, and also on him to perform as the No. 3 starter. Now he’s either No. 4 or No. 5 - depending on how you look at it. It should help Porcello develop more ideally. People who are writing off Porcello the rest of the season are, in my opinion, wrong. He will pitch well for the Tigers. Washburn will take pressure off the Tigers bullpen. French was not lasting deep into starts. Washburn should be able to eat up more innings per start.
French is not the prospect that could come back and haunt the Tigers on this deal, which figures to be a two-month rental - unless they go deep into the playoffs and Washburn and organization decide they want each other. This was a breakout year for Manricio Robles. He filled out and has been throwing harder. He wasn’t among the Tigers top 30 prospects according to Baseball America entering the season, but likely would have been in the Top 15 - maybe even Top 10 - following the season.
While I like the deal, it should be noted Washburn’s recent past before this season, and postseason history, are not good.
He was 23-43 in the three seasons before this one - with an ERA in the mid 4's. His postseason record: 1-3 with a 4.91 ERA.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Simply The Biggest Victory Of Year For Tigers

I thought the Tigers win Wednesday night at Texas was probably their most important of the year on a number of different levels.
1. They needed to win on the road in the worst possible way. They have not played well away from home the last two months, but were surviving because they would take least one game in a road series. After being swept in New York and the first two games in Texas, it looked like they were getting to the point even that was stopping to occur.
2. Minnesota would have pulled to within a game of the A.L. Central lead hadn’t the Tigers won. The Twin’s foot steps would have been a lot louder if the Tigers had lost.
3. While I think the Tigers could benefit a great deal by adding a hitter, they will fall out of the race quickly if their current veteran hitters don’t start doing more. That is why it is so important Curtis Granderson and Miguel Cabrera had big games.
Granderson jumpstarts the Tigers offense many times with power. First-inning leadoff home runs on the road like that set a tone. It certainly did Wednesday.
Cabrera’s home run was key. The Tigers had a relatively big lead at the time, but Texas was starting to peck away at it. He ended all doubt and took pressure off the bullpen.
Maybe it will give Cabera the confidence to start hitting better in the clutch. He is capable of carrying the Tigers. Time for him to start doing it. Like I’ve written and said many times, he is THE KEY. The Tigers will only go as far as he takes them.

Random Thoughts

- Not sure if the Tigers need bullpen help. Ryan Perry and Casey Fien have come up from Toledo look like they are capable of providing the necessary element.

- Question I have never been able to figure out about Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola: Have they been victims of the Lions’ sour environment down through the years? Or have they been part of the problem? I do wonder how good Backus and Raiola would be if they had been drafted by other organizations. I know this isn’t the consensus in this town, but I think both are pretty good players put in near impossible situations at times in the past.

- Can’t the Red Wings do better than Jason Williams for offensive firepower? What about Alex Tanguay?


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Little This And A Little That - Leading Off With Freddy Sanchez

Freddy Sanchez is an excellent hitter, who can play third base and help the Tigers immensely. He has an $8 million contract option for next season that kicks in if he has 635 plate appearances this year, which he will easily reach. It is not unreasonable for the first season he is eligible for free agency. He would replace Placido Polanco at second base next season. The guy did win a batting title.
The Pirates have not been asking too much for their players. Consider this: They essentially traded Nate McLouth to Atlanta for former Tigers prospect Gorkys Hernandez, who was the key prospect in the deal. Reliever John Grabow would really help the Tigers, too.

- One of the reasons Sanchez is on the block is because he publicly criticized the Pirates for the McLouth trade.

- David Weathers would fit the Tigers. Doesn’t seem like the Reds will pick up a $4 million-plus option on his contract for next season. The buyout is just $400,000. He would be an ideal addition to the Tigers bullpen. At 39, he still has pretty good "stuff." Has 13 holds this season and lots of closing experience.

- I get the feeling if Michigan is .500 or worse this coming season, there will be an groundswell to oust Rich Rodriguez he may not survive. And I’m not sure if that would be fair to Rodriguez.

- How good is Bryant Johnson? This will be a golden opportunity for him because every team is going to roll its coverages toward Calvin Johnson. If Bryant Johnson is any good, it should be like stealing candy from a baby for him.

- The Lions worked out Cleo Lemon? Just what "The Motor City" needs - a QB named Lemon. Then again, Chester worked out pretty well back in the day, didn’t he?


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Millen At Michigan-Notre Dame Game A Slap In This State's Face

There is a lot of gray area in life. We all know that.
But with some things, there is no middle ground. It is either right or it is wrong.
And it is decidedly wrong for ABC/ESPN to subject this state to former Lions' team president Matt Millen as an analyst for the Michigan-Notre Dame game in Ann Arbor.
It's not just because of Millen's woeful track record as the Lions' chief executive, but also because of the flip comments he made earlier this year, sarcastically claiming he was blamed for the Kwame Kilpatrick scandal and the auto industry's woes.
ESPN/ABC has many, many analysts to choose from for this game. Why must they subject the people of this state to Millen? It's like cramming a worst nightmare down the state's throat. Can't he do the Wyoming game or something? It will be an unwelcome distraction to most of the people watching the game. Millen has no creditability in this state. None. Never will. And the memory of Millen is still fresh in the collective mind of Michigan's people.
ABC and ESPN normally get these type of things right. How could they be so wrong about this? Why would they want to distract from the game itself, which is one of college football's great rivalries? Why would they openly want to insult the people of Michigan in this manner? It is insensitive and absolutely unnecessary. And for what? To get some extra attention? To make Millen bigger than the game itself?

Random Thoughts

- I don't care if the Tigers get another bat for their lineup or not, they aren't going anywhere if Miguel Cabrera doesn't start hitting the clutch. He killed them again last night. He hasn't driven in a run on the road with a runner in scoring position since May 25 - a span of 29 at bats. If he had just run into a ball at a key time now and then, the Tigers would be running away with the A.L. Central. Sixty-two major league players have more RBI than Cabrera. SIXTY-TWO!!!!!!
Cabrera has been the Tigers' biggest problem and concern offensively. It is only masked by his overly-inflated and hollow batting average.
Carlos Guillen has more clutch hits in less than a week than Miggy has had the last three months. And, oh by the way, he is hitting behind Cabrera, who is capable of doing so much more when it matters.

- Michigan State being picked to finish third in the Big Ten might be a stretch. Everything that could go right did for the Spartans last season, did. Not sure it will work out that way in 2009. I expect MSU to reach a bowl game, but also some bumps in the road. Looking at it right now, I'd say they are a seven- or eight-win team, and probably around .500 or slightly above in the conference. Big edge is not playing Ohio State. Downside: Don't expect either Central Michigan or Western Michigan to lie down in non-conference games.

My column in Tuesday's Oakland Press about the overlooked '84 Tigers.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Why Rick Porcello's Outing Sunday Is A Good Sign

There are two ways of looking at Rick Porcello’s performance for the Tigers Sunday night.
One is he fell behind in the first inning, to a large degree because of his own doing. He didn’t have good command of the ball in the opening inning, and didn’t get over to cover first base in time on a potential first-to-short-to-pitcher covering first double play ball.
It wasn’t good, but he has pitched better in his last two outings than his pitching lines indicate. The Mariners didn’t hit the ball hard off him initially in his previous start vs. Seattle, but had three bloopers just fall in. His outing Sunday started with an infield single that was essentially just a tapper. Then the home runs came in both outings.
A lot of veteran pitchers would have been done after that first inning Sunday, especially in a pennant race on national television. Porcello, although he is just 20, didn’t come unglued, pitching into the sixth inning.
His two-seam fastball is a really effective pitch. You can see a little bit of Brandon Webb in Porcello. If he keeps that two-seamer, with its sinking action, in the low 90s like that, he is going to be very effective.
People are probably panning Porcello and thinking he isn’t all that good, nor is going to be all that good in the future. I think Sunday’s outing is why he not only has a bright future, but will perform reasonably well the remainder of the season - despite his youth.

Random Thoughts

- My best educated guess is that if the Tigers are sending out signals they need a backup catcher, they feel Carlos Guillen’s return is enough to cure their offensive woes. If that is, indeed, their line of thinking, I think it’s wrong. They need another left-handed bat and bullpen help to give themselves the optimum chance of securing the American League Central title.

- I wasn’t surprised by the news this is the last Buick Open, but disappointed nonetheless. Michigan is one of the great states for golf in this nation. It’s stunning, really, how many truly outstanding courses there are in this state. It’s one of our treasures. From that standpoint, and the sheer size of this state, it makes no sense whatsoever we will no longer have a regular stop on the PGA Tour. Hopefully it is just a temporary thing.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Perfect Game, Perfect Moment

It was thrilling watching the end of Mark Buehrle’s perfect game Thursday. It was one day I was glad I have the extra baseball TV package, that’s for sure.
Dewayne Wise’s catch on Gabe Kapler’s drive was very special. It was truly a great moment.
The low number of perfect games, compared to how many games have been played in major league history, tells you just how rare the feat.
A couple things stood out to me. One is how calm the fans seemed to be late in the game. They were a little louder than usual, but not to the degree I expected. Another is just how quickly Buehrle worked. He’s always been a fast worker, but during the last couple innings, it was as if he were a machine gun. Get the ball. Throw it.
There was nothing fancy about the way he pitched. Off speed pitches low and away. Fastballs high and tight. He made a difficult feat appear remarkably simple.

Random Thoughts

- A stat that defines Miguel Cabrera’s season: He is hitting .474 since the All Star break - with just two RBI.

- Why would the Lions want to sign Kevin Carter? He is going to turn 36 during the season. Signing Grady Jackson, also 36, was a stretch. Enough already. Lions need good young players.

- I like the Buick Open - regardless - but the tournament lacked luster without Tiger Woods last summer. It’s a huge boost he plans on playing in it this year. And a surprise considering GM dropped his Buick endorsement deal.

- Call me crazy, but I like the Tigers’ pitching matchups this weekend. I say they take three of four from the White Sox.

My Column in Friday's Oakland Press about the Tigers-White Sox series:


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vick's Biggest Value Is As A Wildcat Specialist

The spread option offense is going to take on more and more of a role in the NFL.
It only makes sense. Go to a high school game. More than half the high schools in Oakland County and Southeastern Michigan run it. Nationwide, it's the same thing.
Big, tall pocket passers aren't being developed to the degree they used to be - spread option QBs are instead.
Quarterbacks are going to camps to learn the spread option from the time they are in 6th and 7th grade.
Oddly, considering he comes from an era before the spread option became the rage, is where I think Michael Vick will fit into the NFL.
Not necessarily as a full-time starter, at least when he initially returns, but as a "wildcat" or spread option specialist.
NFL teams have gone to the spread option in spots. Lots of times last season, but with running backs. Miami drafted Pat White - so there is the threat to throw out of it more effectively.
Right now, it's another look - a wrinkle. It will become more than that in the future if a QB is taking the snaps. When it does, you will see quarterbacks with the skill set of Vick, White and Tim Tebow becomes specialists in a manner almost like that of third-down running backs in passing situations.
And if defenses don't adjust effectively and QBs don't get injured at an alarming rate - which some predict - it will become a primary offense.

Random Thoughts

- It's unlikely Brandon Inge will play every day for the Tigers the second half of the season because of his balky knees. The biggest loss won't be his bat, but rather what he does defensively. Ryan Raburn isn't strong defensively at third base.

- I still think the Tigers starting pitching will keep them in the race until the end, and that they still have a real possibility of winning the American League Central. They need bullpen help. It'll be interesting to see how Ryan Perry responds to the pressure now that he has been called up from Toledo. He is a big time talent, but can he throw strikes?


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just Some Baseball Thoughts

- What I really liked about the Tigers bullpen in Tuesday’s victory over Seattle is the way they threw strikes. No walks in four innings, and 49 strikes in 67 pitches.

- That is the type of game Miguel Cabrera is capable of playing. Taking walks when they are given to him (he had only 32 before Tuesday), and not missing when they come into the strike zone against him. He crushed that home run. Did it even go 10 feet off the ground? And it was a key home run. The timing was perfect.

- The Phillies have by far the most prospects to offer Toronto in a trade for Roy Halladay. Supposedly they won’t part with pitching prospect Kyle Drabek - son of former major leaguer Doug Drabek. But in reality, the Phillies’ real prize is five-tool outfielder Dominic Brown. If the Phillies offer him in the trade, along with pitcher Carlos Carrasco and catcher Lou Marson, deal done. It’ll even trump the White Sox if they throw third baseman Gordon Beckman in the deal.

- The Tigers home attendance is down more than 20 percent, and they are paying more than more than $70 million to a group of players who have done little for them this season. Logic dictates they won’t go after Halladay. The only factor that could change that is owner Mike Ilitch’s fascination with big names.

- Rick Porcello wasn’t hit as hard as his pitching line suggests Tuesday, and he displayed exceptional poise per usual, but he rarely hit 90 mph on the trumped up TV radar gun. How come he wasn’t throwing harder? Couldn’t be a tired arm after 16 days off.

- The fact the White Sox and Twins both blew games they should have won the last two nights bodes well for the Tigers.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

White Sox Emerging As Tigers Biggest Threat

To be honest, I thought the Twins, not the White Sox would be the primary threat to the Tigers the second half of the year.
But the White Sox won Monday, pulling to within just a game of the Tigers in the American League Central, while the Twins blew a 10-run lead at Oakland.
Clubs normally don't easily recover from losses like the one the Twins suffered Monday. It was a devastating. And I do think sometimes we give too much credit to the Twins and not enough to the White Sox. If you look at the A.L. Central since 2005, the White Sox have been the best team overall. They have won the division twice and are the only team from the division to capture a World Series championship. Paul Kornerko is really hitting for the White Sox, who also got a boost from Carlos Quentin returning Monday. The White Sox have a better bullpen than the Tigers, although I still believe Detroit has the edge in starting pitching.

Random Thoughts

- How good a player is Gerald Laird? I haven't been as impressed with his play lately as I was early in the season. Seems like some of his pitch calling is questionable and he is prone to hitting slumps. He'd benefit from not having to catch so much, but catching is obviously not a position of strength for the Tigers.

Two players the Tigers might have interest in at the trade deadline: Pittsburgh reliever John Grabow and Arizona first baseman Chad Tracy.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Damning Evidence About Miguel Cabrera's Ineffectiveness

There are two ways of looking at Miguel Cabrera. One is he ranks third in the American League with a sparkling .324 batting average. The other is his lack of run production is embarrassing.
There are 51 players in the major leagues with more RBI than Cabrera. Among them, former Tigers farm hand Cody Ross. He also has fewer RBI than such non-notables as Kendry Morales, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar, Casey Blake, Pablo Sandoval and Shin-Soo Choo.
Cabrera's lack of clutch hitting on the road, where the Tigers have struggled mightily, has been especially alarming.
Cabrera is hitless in his last 16 at bats on the road with runners in scoring position. He is just 1-for-27 since May 25 on the road with runners in scoring position. That one hit did not produce a run.
The last time Cabrera produced an RBI with runners in scoring position on the road was a two-run double in the ninth inning at Kansas City on May 25. The Tigers led 11-1 at the time.

Random Thoughts

- Although the signing of Chris Wilcox makes the Pistons a better team, they are still lacking a real strong presence inside. The big question remains: Can Joe Dumars move Richard Hamilton to improve the Pistons inside game? A deal may be coming, but it might not transpire until after the season starts. That might not be all bad. It would give Dumars and coach John Kuester a chance to see if the unexpected stellar play from the Pistons' draft picks this summer was for real.

- Tom Watson has always been an excellent ball striker, even with advanced age. His problems came with putting. He lost his touch sooner than most. That's what made it so surprising he nearly pulled off a near-miracle in the British Open. Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer - they all hit the ball very well into their 50s - Snead into his 60s. All the got the "yipes" around the green, though.

My column in Monday's Oakland Press about Michigan football transfers and Rich Rodriguez's program:


Friday, July 17, 2009

Off Today. No Blog. But My Column In Friday's Oakland Press

My Column in Friday's Oakland Press on Tigers' second half.

"Caputo and His Boss" videos will be posted here over weekend.

Blog will return per usual Monday


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Time For Cabrera To Be All He Can Be

I think the key player for the Tigers the second half of the season is going to be Miguel Cabrera.
This much we know about Cabrera: If he stays healthy, he is going to put up good statistics. The question is whether he can match or surpass the production of other great players in the game when it counts.
He is tied for 24th in the American League RBI with 50. It’s 20 less than Justin Morneau, and the same amount as Alex Rodriguez - and A-Rod has 120 fewer at bats. It seems unlikely the Tigers will win the division if Paul Kornerko has more RBI than Cabrera. Right now he does - considerably.
The Tigers have their share of really good players. Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco are terrific and they need to perform better in the second half than the first, too. Certainly, they are capable. Brandon Inge should still provide good production. I don’t think anybody is waiting with bated breath for Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen to come around, but if they do, it will be gravy. The Tigers’ big gun, though, is Cabrera.
Can he do for the Tigers what Morneau does for the Twins? Or what Albert Pujols does for the Cardinals? Or you know what A-Rod is eventually going to provide for the Yankees?
Can Cabrera be an MVP-caliber player? Isn’t that what he is supposed to be?
Already, you hear excuses being made for Cabrera about how there is nobody hitting behind him.
It’s not like other gifted hitters often don’t have that same problem, particularly Pujols.
And the truly premier hitters make the others around them that much better. Is Cabrera doing that for the Tigers’ hitters?
I don’t see where they are exactly pitching around Cabrera like he is Barry Bonds. He only has 31 walks. While he has hit a lot of home runs - although fewer than Granderson and Inge for perspective - Cabrera is on target for only about 30 other extra base hits this season. He just has too live a bat not to hit with more thunder.
That bat must come alive in the second of the season or the Tigers odds of reaching the postseason will drop considerably.

Random Thoughts

- Have there been more phony tears cried than those by Brett Favre the day he announced he was retiring from the Packers?

- Good for Tom Watson shooting a 65 at the British Open Thursday. Not sure history always gives him his proper due. Maybe this will help to rectify the situation.

- A blast from the past: Yorman Bazardo taking the loss in the Triple-A All Star Game Wednesday. Does he fall in the same category as Beiker Graterol? How about Shane Loux?
Wait a second. Loux is back in the big leagues.
Who’s next? Matt Drews? Oh, he never did pitch in the big leagues. Then again, he was traded for Cecil Fielder. How many players can make that claim?


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Poetic Justice For Granderson

Lost in the Brandon Inge-Mania that went into the All Star Game was it being Curtis Granderson’s first appearance, too.
Given how important Granderson has been to the Tigers the last few years, and what a standup person he is in every way, he deserved more recognition in this town for the achievement. And it probably should have happened sooner.
So I guess that it made poetic justice his triple provided the impetus for the American League’s victory Tuesday. I thought it should have made him the game’s MVP.
Maybe it will jumpstart Granderson’s second half. He had his moments before the All Star break. His brilliant game-saving catch in Cleveland was a classic - and may have been the key play of the Tigers’ season thus far. His home run numbers are up. But he hasn’t legged out as many other type of extra base hits, nor been quite the same threat on the bases. Granderson has been hitting under .200 against left-handers - and that must improve.
Still, he is a terrific player - which the nation saw Tuesday.

Random Thoughts

- What is it with the Pistons? First Doug Collins and now Ben Wallace? I don’t care if he comes cheap and is at a position of need. He can’t play anymore, has no reason to be motivated and didn’t leave town in the first place on good terms. Don’t see the point.

- The Tigers should be very good deep into the future because Rick Porcello, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Jackson and Granderson are all 28 or younger. That’s 20 percent of their current active roster. Now if Joel Zumaya can just get his act together - then it would be three starting pitchers, an infielder, an outfielder and a reliever. Quite a nucleus.

- The Phillies signing of Pedro Martinez might take them out of the Roy Halladay sweepstakes. I expect him to wind up with the Dodgers.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Inge Performance Embarrassing, But Not A Disgrace

See the headline on my blog post for Monday? I was right on with that prediction, eh?
Suffice to say it didn't go well for Brandon Inge in the Home Run Derby Monday. It's one thing to not hit a home run. It's another to have trouble hitting the ball to the mid-range of the outfield. Inge might not have gone deep in Williamsport.
I was on the radio at the time of the home run contest. The first calls Dennis Fithian and I took after Inge's oh-for said it was "embarrassing" and a "disgrace."
Embarrassing? Yes. Disgrace? No. There is a difference. I give Inge credit for trying. A lot of players - too many - try to avoid such a glaring stage out of fear failure.
However, if Inge slumps the second half, please don't claim his performance in the Home Run Derby had anything to do with it. More likely, it will be a non-factor.

Random Thoughts

- Stan Bowman, Scotty's son, is going to be the new general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks. Wow, that'll be interesting. Will Stan or Scotty really be running the team? Wonder if Scotty would return to the bench to help his kid? I know Dale Tallon had an incident not getting contracts to the league on time recently, but his firing was nonethless surprising. He had taken the Blackhawks a long way in a relatively short period of time.

- Yeah, I could live without the celebrity softball game. Love the future's game, though.

- Allen Iverson and the Clippers = a perfect match.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Inge's Chances Tonight As Good As Anyone In HR Field

After the way Josh Hamilton pounded the ball last year, I think the Home Run Derby has had a resurgence.
It had become like the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest. It was becoming an old bit. But it only takes a star caliber player doing something special once to re-gain the aura surrounding an event like this.
Actually, it did happen that way, too, in the NBA a couple years ago - when Dwight Howard donned his Superman cape in the dunk event.
The National League does seem to be taking the event tonight more seriously. Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols are the cream of the crop of National League power hitters. No Justin Moreau, Hamilton, Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira for the American League.
Nelson Cruz and Brandon Inge don't exactly have a lot of wow appeal nationally. Neither does Carlos Pena, although he has won a home run title. Joe Mauer is known more for hitting for average.
But I wouldn't count any of them out. It wouldn't surprise me if Inge does very well. He is not big, but it strong and compact.
I remember covering an All Star Game in Cleveland when Jim Thome was in his prime. The crowd was going nuts when he got up there - and I think he only hit one ball out. There was a lot of pressure on him - like there will be for Pujols tonight.
And remember Ivan Rodriguez in 2005 at Comerica Park? He had lost all that weight, and people were cracking jokes that he was involved in the event. He got to the finals.
It'll be fun. The one thing I wish they would do it is find a way to shorten the competition a bit. It
tends to drag out for too long.

My column in Monday's Oakland Press about the travesty of having Matt Millen on the NFL Network.

Friday, July 10, 2009

What I Really Think About Brandon Inge

Don't get me wrong. I think it's really good Tiger fans united and essentially put Brandon Inge into Tuesday's All Star Game.
That's what the process of voting for the final spot is all about - the fans. And I think that's a good thing. Inge had a good enough first half that it is not a stretch in the least he is on the American League squad.
And I like and admire the guy in many ways, too.
I also believe that if Inge didn't get into the All Star Game, it would not have been an injustice. Carlos Pena leads the league in home runs and Ian Kinsler is having a good season, too. They were just as worthy - or more so.
Inge is hitting .264. He is a lifetime .239 hitter. My best guess is his batting average will drop the second half of the season. I also believe he will have trouble matching his power numbers from the first half during the second half.
While he is a very good fielder with solid power, Inge is generally vastly overrated by Detroit fans, who tend to cloud their judgement about Inge's performance based on liking his persona.
Magglio Ordonez has done a lot more for the Tigers down through the years than Inge - and has been shunned by their fans this season. Tigers fans have been indifferent to Curtis Granderson's first all star berth, although he has consistently been a much better player than Inge in his career.
Although Granderson - who like Inge is clearly a "character" guy - is having a comparable season, Inge is considered to be having a "great" year, while Granderson's season has often been labeled "disappointing."
The same Tiger fans who are overly critical of many of their players are quick to rush to Inge's defense the first sign any of his flaws as a player are pointed out.
I can't think of an athlete in this town so many fans have been less objective about than Brandon Inge.
At times, honestly, I think it's absurd.

My column in Saturday's Oakland Press:

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Porcello For Halladay Makes For Better Talk Than It Does Sense

It seems odd Toronto general manager J.P. Riccardi would come out and say Roy Halladay is on the trading block. But Riccardi is one of those "Moneyball" guys who tends to undervalue the meaning of top players in terms of salary.
If there is any player the Blue Jays should pay, it is Halladay. He is the best pitcher - along with Boston’s Josh Beckett - in the strongest division in baseball. The Blue Jays won’t have trouble drawing if they start winning. They sold out every game when they were. Seems like they have become the A’s of the North. It’s sends the wrong message to the fans. And a small market claim by Toronto is ridiculous. Toronto would be the fifth-largest media market if it were located in the United States.
As for all the sports talk radio chatter about the Tigers possibly offering Rick Porcello for Halladay, it is just that: Interesting discussion. It is highly, highly doubtful the Tigers would even consider it.
At this point, a 20-year-old rookie starting pitcher with eight wins by the All Star break and an even brighter future, at much less of a price than Halladay, is baseball’s MVC - Most Valuable Commodity. Strangely, what Porcello has accomplished this season, has surprising been underappreciated by many Tiger fans.
The Phillies and the Dodgers will be the front runners for Halladay because they have the prospects to offer in return.

Random Thoughts

- If Jiri Hudler does, indeed, play in Russia, the Red Wings will be replacing 30 percent of their goal-scoring and 40 percent of their goaltending from last season only with players moving up from the minor leagues. It will be the ultimate test of their vaunted depth. At this stage, though, general manager Ken Holland would be wise to save the team’s remaining cap space for a rainy day. An injury or two - and it will definitely be needed.

- A Lions player few people talk about now, but will a lot in the future is Cliff Avril. He could emerge this season with double digits in sacks. He is a fast, intense player who had an overlooked rookie season (five sacks) because of the Lions’ overall foibles.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Honestly, Why Not Bill Laimbeer?

You don’t know, really, when a coach like John Kuester is hired whether it is the right decision or the wrong one.
He has been around a long time as an assistant for some of the best coaches. Long ago, he was a pretty good player at North Carolina. He did play in the NBA.
Maybe all Kuester has needed is the opportunity to prove he can be a successful NBA head coach. OK. From that standpoint, maybe the Pistons found something. Lets be fair. Lets give him a chance.
But why not Bill Laimbeer? That is the question a lot of people are asking about this. You get the sense, if given the choice, Joe Dumars would walk down the street and ask the first person he meets if they know anything about basketball. Even if they said, "No," he’d still hire that person as Pistons coach over Laimbeer.

Random Thoughts

- Good move by the Tigers bringing up Clete Thomas. He had slumped, but found his hitting stroke at Toledo. Get him back up and ship Donald Kelly, who lost his hitting stroke lately, back down. Keep riding the hot hand. The Tigers have done a good job of that with their fringe players. Thomas has more upside than Kelly, too.

- Trying to figure out who Fernando Rodney - 18-of-18 in save situations and jobbed when it comes down getting an All-Star berth - reminds more of: Goose Gossage or Rollie Fingers.

- And to think I can’t stand sarcastic people.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Reasons Why That Might Have Been The Worst Loss Of The Season

You get the feeling sometimes the Tigers are being held together by paste and glue. Particularly their bullpen.
It sure appeared that way as they blew a lead during the late innings in a loss to the Royals Monday.
Bad pitch selection in the eighth by Joel Zumaya, and the ninth by Fernando Rodney, led to the defeat. Don’t know why Zumaya and catcher Gerald Laird felt compelled to select a breaking ball as a first pitch to Willie Bloomquist. - after Zumaya walked the previous hitter. It setup an 1-0 count - and everyone knowing a fastball was coming over the heart of the plate. No shock Bloomquist drilled it into the gap for a two-run triple. Jacobs clearly is struggling. Rodney does throw in the mid-to-high 90s. Why the hanging changeup on a 1-1 pitch? The Tigers had their chances to break the game open in the early innings. Gil Meche was not at his best for the Royals. The Tigers didn’t do it. A second inning double play Adam Everett hit into was especially painful.
If the Tigers are going to win the American League Central, they must clean up against Cleveland and Kansas City - especially at home. You know the Twins and the White Sox are going to do just that. Monday was an opportunity wasted. It was probably the Tigers’ worst loss of the season in terms of impact. The Twins are just 1.5 games behind the Tigers, and the White Sox two games. Huge start for Justin Verlander tonight, especially with the Zack Greinke-Luke French matchup looming Wednesday.

Random Thoughts

- The Maple Leafs did particularly well in free agency, getting defensemen Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin. They also added tough guy Colton Orr. Obviously Brian Burke is trying to shed the Leafs "soft" image.

- Three of the first six calls I took on my radio show last night following the Tigers' loss blamed the defeat on Magglio Ordonez. Tell he hasn’t become a scapegoat in this town.

- Food for thought for those who think Brandon Inge deserves an all star bid over Curtis Granderson. Who is the better player? Granderson by far. Considering they are having comparable seasons, why shouldn’t Granderson get the all star nod ahead of Inge? Look at the numbers. They aren't that much different. Inge is having his best year and Granderson an off year - and they are about equal. Career-wise, it's not even close. And Granderson is at least as good a fielder as Inge.


Monday, July 06, 2009

NFL's Not-So-Secret Dirty Little Secret

Steve McNair was a retired player, and albieit the timing was coincidental, but his murder is a reminder that this is the time of the year NFL teams fear most.
It is between the end of the off season programs and the start of training camp. It usually about a six-week break when players tend to cut loose with what amounts to be about their only true free time of the off season.
Thought McNair was a great player, but obviously there were some other issues there. I strongly feel this: Too many players associated with the NFL are dying young. Sean Taylor and Durrent Williams were murdered. Others were victims of extreme violence. Javon Walker was beaten and apparently left for dead on the Las Vegas strip. Richard Collier was paralyzed for life after a shooting.
I thought it was laughable last year when the NFL started making budget cuts. How much profit is enough? So they only make billions instead of zillions. Greed knows no level like that of NFL owners.
How about investing in the players in two important ways?
One is to protect them from random violence. Find better ways - and spend the money. The other is to pay much more attention - and funds - to players as they get older and face debilitating injuries suffered from playing the most rugged of professional team sports.
There is too much of a "discarded cattle" feel to the NFL. I’d call it the league’s dirty little secret.
Except it is no secret.

Random Thoughts

- Absolutely Brandon Inge belongs in the All Star game. Absolutely, Tiger fans should stuff the ballot box to get him in. Isn’t that part of the fun of the All Star game?

- If they have the opportunity, the Pistons should trade Richard Hamilton to Utah in a heartbeat for Carlos Boozier. They couldn’t get a better deal. And make no mistake, they must trade Hamilton. His fate with the Pistons was sealed the moment they signed Ben Gordon.

- In today’s market, is Jiri Hudler worth more than $3 million per season? If I were Ken Holland, I’d pass on Hudler and save that money for a rainy day.

My column in Monday's Oakland Press about how improbable it is the Tigers are in first place at the halfway point of the season:


Friday, July 03, 2009

Three Huge Games For The Tigers In Minnesota

The Tigers are 2.5 games up on the White Sox and three games ahead of the Minnesota Twins.
This is an absolutely huge series from the standpoint the Tigers must not leave Minnesota after three games no longer in first place in the American League Central.
If they do lose the lead, there will be a momentum shift that will be difficult to reverse. The best chance is obviously Saturday with Edwin Jackson going against Francisco Liriano.
The White Sox have won six in a row and are making a strong move. They are the one team in the division that is winning on the road.
Lefty Luke French is starting tonight for the Tigers and is not overpowering. A lot has been made about the Twins’ left-handed hitters Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, but French isn’t going to overpower them. He is a sinker-ball type, who hasn’t had that much more success against left-handers than right-handed hitters during his minor league career. Mauer is "only" hitting .351 with an OPS approaching 1,000 against left-handers, Morneau is hitting .359 with an OPS above 1,000 against lefties.
French was called up because he was the only starter at Triple-A or Double-A who was pitching reasonably well in the Tigers’ system. And Alfredo Figaro clearly wasn’t good enough. Period.

Random Thoughts

- To me it’s a no-brainer Avery Johnson for as the Pistons’ next coach. Not sure if Joe Dumars and Company feel the same way, however.

- Too bad Scott Sizemore isn’t an outfielder or catcher. He’d be in the major leagues by now. The Tigers don’t need a middle infielder, though.

- I think Rasheed Wallace would be a great fit for the Celtics. He can still play. That’s not been the issue. The bigger issue has been whether he wants to play. He needs a change of scenery. Boston would be perfect for him.

- The Dodgers sure have missed Manny Ramirez. Hah.

"Caputo and His Boss" video from Friday about Tigers

My column in Friday's Oakland Press about Pistons:


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Pistons Better With Signings, But What About Rip?

Anyway you look at it, the Pistons are a much better team now than before they agreed to terms with free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.
Gordon is a hot and cold player. He is either exceptional or exceptionally mediocre. Little in-between. But you know those nights when he is really hot, Gordon is literally going to carry you to victory. The Pistons haven’t had a great streak scorer like that in awhile. It’s a good thing.
Villanueva isn’t very scrappy and doesn’t address the Pistons’ inside needs - unless he develops more of a toughness in the paint and on the boards.
The key with him isn’t skill - he can do it inside. The question is whether he wants to. He has a good outside touch, but the Pistons don’t need him firing up 3s too often like Rasheed Wallace.
The good part about Villanueva is there is an upside. There is a chance he could develop into a much better player.
I don’t know what they’ll do with Richard Hamilton. Three guards isn’t going to work. We saw that last year. Gordon shouldn’t be an $11 million per season "super sub" as some have suggested. Can Hamilton be traded for more size? Seems doubtful. Will be interesting how it plays out.

Random Thoughts

- No truth to the rumors the Lions are bringing back Bobby Ross, the Tigers Buddy Bell and the Red Wings Bryan Murray. Where is the love for George Irvine? Sorry, hate cynical people. And here I am being one.

- The Tigers better not look behind them, the Twins and White Sox are gaining on them. If Justin Verlander is going to be all that he can be, he has to do it on the road. How is that for a couple cliches.

- Red Wings’ worst value for a contract next season: Tomas Holmstrom at $2.25 million.

- Marian Hossa will be a fine fit for the Blackhawks, but they lost more than they gained in free agency Wednesday when Martin Havlat signed with Minnesota and Nikolai Khabibulin with Edmonton.

- Sign of the times: Just how much salaries were down for NHL free agents.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Why And Why Nots Of Doug Collins

People wonder why Doug Collins is potentially the Pistons’ next coach. His first stint here didn’t exactly end well.
Here’s why he is being considered:
- He emphasizes defense and his teams have performed very well defensively.
- There has been an immediate improvement in record where he’s been before.
- It’s sometimes forgotten he was the late Will Robinson’s best player at Illinois State, and just how respected Robinson was in the Pistons’ organization.
Here’s why he shouldn’t be:
- Collins has been terrible at developing younger players, often ignoring them. Aren’t the Pistons trying to develop young players?
- His offense is slow-paced and boring. The Pistons won some games when Collins was here before, but they were decidedly dull and fans stayed away in droves.
- He just kind of loses it in sometimes in these bizarre ways that don’t make much sense, and subsequently he wears out his welcome quickly.

Random Thoughts

- Armando Galarraga flirted with disaster last night in Oakland. On the surface, it appeared to be a good outing. Not sure if it was a good sign. His lack of command is alarming. Not much separation in the velocity between his fastball and breaking ball, either. Does he ever throw a straight change? He needs one.

- The more I watch Adam Everett, the more I realize why he is considered a top-flight shortstop defensively. He is very good - especially at starting the double play. He is one of those players you have to see every day to appreciate.

- Yes. I do believe Joe Dumars comments about "never getting the benefit of the doubt" were odd. Granted he’s earned it with a pretty good track record and for the most part being a standup guy, but no front office executive in this town has ever been treated better by fans, or with more kid gloves by the media, than Dumars. You have people, a lot of them, who to this day still defend the Darko pick.

My Column in Wednesday's Oakland Press about how Dumars shortcomings lately: