Friday, October 30, 2009

On The Spartans, Umpires And Red Wings

I believe Michigan State will win at Minnesota Saturday night. I wouldn't have felt that way if Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker were healthy, but he is out for the season because of a foot injury.
Decker is a great player - the best receiver in the Big Ten. State's secondary is an obvious weakness. The Spartans caught a break.

- Me? I think the Pistons will win 40 games this season and squeak into the playoffs.

- First base umpire Brian Gorman blew two important calls in Game 2 of the World Series. Ryan Howard didn't catch that line drive. It was one hop. Chase Utley was safe at first on a double play ball. It did alter the course of the game.
Home plate umpire Jeff Nelson's strike zone was horribly inconsistent. He'd sometimes call hitters out with the Dennis Eckersley strike - way outside. Other times, he'd call it a ball. It was almost as if on a whim. Umpires are supposed to be arbitrators - not arbitrary.
They have been brutal. And, honestly, I have no reason to give why there has been such an obvious decline in umpiring.
It is something Major League Baseball must examine closely.

- The Red Wings displayed the heart of champions by rallying the last two games at Vancouver and Edmonton. However, bit by bit, that heart is being cut out by injuries. Valtteri Filppula joining Johan Franzen out of the lineup for an extended period does hurt badly. The good news: Darren Helm, Todd Bertuzzi and Patrick Eaves are playing much better. And Jimmy Howard has shown signs he might finally being living up to that promise we've been hearing about for so long.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

On Big Ben, Lefty-On-Lefty Crime And More

I didn't think the Pistons should sign Ben Wallace this off season, regardless the minimal salary. But so far, he has done an excellent job. He played well in the Pistons season-opening victory. Was a key, really. It was only Memphis - a truly dreadful squad. Oklahoma City is much improved. Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook meshed well together in a season-opening win. Even though it is at home rather than the road, it might provide a better test for the Pistons Friday.

Random Thoughts

- The Boubacar Cissoko situation at Michigan is beyond disappointing, especially given the Wolverines troubles in the secondary.

- Chase Utley is a truly great hitter. Lefty on lefty crime like that is rare. And C.C Sabathia is a big-time pitcher with a big-time fastball. Yankees looked tight. If they can't beat Pedro Martinez at home tonight...

- Two things I took out of Wednesday's NBA games above all else: Atlanta is explosive offensively. They trailed 101-100 late - and then just blew the Pacers out of the gym. And the Celtics defense is incredible.

- I see Calgary as threatening as any team in the Western Conference. The Flames have a little bit of every thing. Having Olli Jokinen for the full season and adding Jay Bouwmeester makes the Flames formidible. They need to tighten it up defensively, however.

My Column in Thursday's Oakland Press: Why Is Bud Selig welcoming back Mark McGwire with open arm?


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Three Things To Hope For As The World Series Begins Tonight

1. The weather is good. Can't help it, but it does take away from the game for me when I see players wearing masks that appear to be transported from the "Frozen Tundra" in Green Bay. First of all, I hope it isn't that cold. Secondly, if it is that cold, I would prefer the players toughen it out without those masks. Thirdly, we can only hope there is no rain - or snow. Can you imagine a World Series game "snowed out?" Unfortinately, I can. This is, frankly, too late in the year to expect decent weather for baseball - especially at night.

2. The umpires get it right. Gosh, have they been bad this season - and even worse in the playoffs. Normally I wouldn't say that, but it is true It's like all of a sudden every one of them has gone to the Angel Hernandez School of Umpiring.

3. It's a competitive series. This is the best matchup for the World Series in recent memory. There isn't much question these are the two best teams in each league and baseball overall. There are no holes in either batting. Both teams have superior starting pitching. The Yankees have an edge in the bullpen, but the Phillies bullpen has been surprising solid.

I say the the series goes seven games. I think the Yankees will win it.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

About Michigan, The NCAA, Jimmy Howard and Where Polanco Ranks

I know everybody supporting Michigan is nervous about the NCAA's inquiry into the Wolverines football program, but I doubt the actions will be harsh if it only involves what was written in the Free Press story.
It seemed more like slap-on-the-wrist type of violations - at worse. I think the concern would come if other problems are uncovered. My best guess: Not much will be.

Random Thoughts

- The Red Wings have to start Jimmy Howard a lot more than they have been if for no other reason than they must find out if he has what it takes to be Chris Osgood's backup. Problem is, their margin for error when it comes to winning games is thin right now.

- Scott Sizemore's ankle injury isn't serious enough that the Tigers will re-consider their decision to not re-sign Placido Polanco. Where does Polanco rank all-time among Tigers second basemen? I'd say third - behind Charlie Geheringer and Lou Whitaker. I'd put him ahead of Dick McAuliffe, but by a slim margin.

My column in Wednesday's Oakland Press about the Red Wings:


Monday, October 26, 2009

Actually, This Is Just MSU Finding Its Level

There are two ways of looking at Michigan State's season thus far.
One is that the Spartans are just the width of a hair away from being atop the Big Ten, and ranked among the Top 25 teams in the country.
Another is the Spartans are still quite a bit away from becoming a bonafide, year-after-year force in college football.
Like most such questions involving conflicting results, the answer lies somewhere in-between.
It is encouraging to MSU's faithful that the Spartans are in most games, that they play tough, fundamental football and have beaten Michigan two straight years.
It's also, true, however the sign of a top program is the ability to close. There were no excuses for what happened in the Central Michigan game. The Spartans let it get away. Very simple.
They made a nice comeback at Notre Dame, but didn't make the clinching play. The overthrow in the end zone did happen. So did the untimely interception. Iowa did go the length of the field when MSU had the game in hand at home Saturday night. Bottom line.
And even State's biggest triumph this season - the victory over the Wolverines - only came after the Spartans could hold a significant lead and were forced to overtime.
State is a 4-4 team. It is a team that is destined for the middle of the pack in the conference standings this season and probably a secondary bowl game. It's not an overly talented team. It's still a young team. The Spartans play hard and are generally well-coached - although what tends to happen late in games does send up some red flags. State also had trouble closing during Mark Dantonio's first season in 2007, as well.
The Spartans are making progress to a brighter future. The close-but-no-cigar losses are likely part of the growing pains. It would be naive, however, to believe the Spartans just missed hitting their mark this soon because of several close losses this season.
It's been more like water finding its level.

Random Thoughts

- All the pressure is on the Yankees in the World Series. If they lose, all the euphoria of Sunday night will quickly be gone. A-Rod will be a A-Roid again and sales of Kate Hudson's DVDs will nose dive. The Phillies won it last year. The Yankees haven't won the World Series in nearly a decade. They will deemed as chokers if they don't come through.

- The Rams won't be the pushover for the Lions a lot of people think. Steven Jackson is still capable of controling the running game. His talents are wasted on that team.

- Hey, did you know Brett Favre is playing at Lambeau Field Sunday? Are we going to get hammered over the head with that story this week or what? If the Packers win that game, though, the NFC North is going to get very interesting. All of a sudden, the Packers and Vikings would be even in the loss column

My column in Monday's Oakland Press about where the Lions stand at the bye week:


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Are You Sure A-Rod Still Isn't Cheating?

It’s amazing how performance trumps scandal every time.
During spring training, the baseball world was rocked because Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroid use in the past.
Tonight, as the Yankees attempt to clinch the American League pennant, A-Rod is being hailed as a hero because he has been hotter than a firecracker during the postseason. (Nice cliche, huh?)
There is one important element missing from Rodriguez’s resume. It is a world championship. He just might get it. And if he does, it will likely seal his place as the best player ever statistically. That’s because Barry Bonds never got that world title, and because Rodriguez played much of his career at shortstop - and was terrific at the position.
But while the "S" word will follow Bonds and others such as Mark McGwire forever, is it fading in regard to Rodriguez?
Seems that way. Because he plays in New York. Because he is dating a Hollywood starlet we perceive as wholesome, Kate Hudson. Because he’s a great comeback story. We’re always suckers for that one, aren’t we?
Just doesn’t seem right when you really think about it. This is a question I kept asking myself the other day about A-Rod. Are we sure he isn’t somehow, some way not cheating?
My answer was, "No." And it couldn’t help but bother me as I watched a sport I deeply love


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Some Thoughts On Carlos Guillen

There are two ways of looking at Carlos Guillen and his recent comments indicating he is less than thrilled with manager Jim Leyland.
One is that he is a disgruntled player, upset with his role with the club, yet signed to a long-term contract at a cost that essentially prohibits interest from other teams.
The other is he actually cares deeply about his role with the club despite getting paid so much.
A couple things about Guillen:
- He is a much better athlete than the general perception. He still runs well. His arm isn’t weak. He has power - 11 home runs in 187 at bats upon his return from the D.L. He is a very good hitter capable of batting .300 again.
- In person, he looks a lot younger and in much better shape than on television. On TV, he looks like he is early 44 rather than 34.
The problem is staying injury-free. If he is healthy, he can play left field reasonably effectively. He won’t play the position with any effectiveness whatsoever if he is constantly in and out of the lineup.
And there is no way to hide a player from injury - infield or outfield. That premise is ridiculous. Also, not every player can be a full-time DH. You need to mix and match at that spot.
The delicate part is Guillen is the Tigers’ best team leader. A calm hand at the wheel, so to speak. A bridge to every element in the Tigers’ clubhouse. A potential manager when he is done playing.
But that reputation is not what he carries with the fan base in Detroit at the present time. Most fans I talk to perceive Guillen as an overrated, aging veteran well past his prime.
The only one who can dispel that notion is Guillen himself. He did for awhile when he came off the disabled list. Problem is, he really didn’t sustain it.
Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a bounce back season in 2010. He is a prideful player with more left in the tank than generally perceived.
But can he stay healthy?
That is a legitimate question, concern criticism.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On The Shock, Phillies, Michigan's QB's And Scott Sizemore

I don’t see anything good about the Detroit Shock leaving The Palace and heading to Tulsa.
Women’s basketball is a niche sport when it comes to fan popularity in this country, and it hasn’t caught on here like in other places like Tennessee and Connecticut, where women’s college basketball is enormously popular.
It is, however, a sport that is participated in by many girls in this state while in high school, and at the lower levels of our educational system. It’s an important part of education for many girls. Having a women’s basketball team at a professional level - connected to the NBA - only enhanced the sport.
The Shock were also another source of pride in this area. They won championships. It was a relatively inexpensive, wholesome way for a family to be entertained. The Palace knows how to put on a show. It was fun.
Also, I liked the way the NBA has been using its WNBA franchises to promote women’s basketball. Evidently, that aspect of the league is gone. The NBA wouldn’t even remotely consider putting a men’s team in Tulsa.
But it’s also understood The Palace isn’t in business to lose money. And it did seem like the Shock had run their course. Interest in the team last summer was nil. So the Shock have gone the way of arena football, pro soccer and minor league hockey in this town.
Maybe it was inevitable, but that doesn’t necessarily make it good.

Random Thoughts

- There is a presumption the Yankees are the best team in baseball. I am not sure it isn’t the Phillies.

- Ask yourself this question: Is Michigan’s quarterback situation any less confusing this week than it was last week?

- Evidently, Scott Sizemore is very serious about taking over second base for the Tigers next season. In his first four games in the Arizona Fall League - covering 16 at bats - he has three home runs, nine RBI and OPS of 1.463.


Monday, October 19, 2009

We'll Know About The Lions After The Bye Week

We'll know more about how the Lions are progressing after the bye week. It's a great period to make adjustments, not something their past coaching staffs did well.
I don't know how they are going to handle the QB position if Matthew Stafford and Daunte Culpepper are still ailing. Drew Stanton starting? Ouch. Anybody have Drew Henson's phone number? Double ouch. Where have you gone Ryan Van Dyke?
Also, Martin Mayhew's "gossip" comments Sunday aside, there is major concern about Stafford's knee.
It's important the Lions come out of this season with a future. That future will get here a lot quicker if Stafford is able to get signficant playing time again this season. He was just starting to make progress.

Random Thoughts

- No, I don't think Michigan State is that good. But, yes, I do think the Spartans are capable of making a run at the Big Ten title. Name a Big Ten team that is really good? The Spartans' chances are as good as any if they beat Iowa Saturday. And it is a home game.

- We've seen it for eons, but it still never ceases to amaze me how Mariano Rivera throws the same 90 mph cut fastball time after time - and nobody can hit it.

- How about Brian Hoyer hitting 9-of-11 passes for 52 yards in his NFL debut Sunday for New England against Tennessee. Then again, the Titans' collapse has been unreal. 59-0? Are you kidding? There was point last season that team looked unbeatable. Shows you what injuries in the secondary can do in the NFL.

- Anybody complaining that A-Rod can't seem to pull the ball?

- I want to see an East Coast-West Coast World Series for two reasons:
1. At least there would be some games played in decent weather in LA.
2. If either LA/LA or Philly/New York are meeting, those regions would get insufferable in their own unique ways.

- I thought the Red Wings played their two best periods of hockey Saturday night against the Avalanche - and then just gave them back in the third period. Todd Bertuzzi played well for the first time this season. Chris Osgood wasn't very good in the third period, though. If he played better, that was a sure two points for the Red Wings.

- The Avs are an interesting team. Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly from last June's draft are getting more than 14 minutes per game and playing well. Kyle "Hey, Where's My Ring" Quincey has kind of been the Avs' version of Nicklas Lidstrom on the blue line (25 minutes per game). Don't know if the Avs will be able to keep it up for the long run, though. Just don't see Craig Anderson maintaining a .935 save percentage. He's been outstanding.

- My column in Mionday's Oakland Press about the Lions


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Column And Caputo And His Boss video

Both On Lions

My Column in Sunday's Oakland Press

Caputo and His Boss video


Friday, October 16, 2009

Leach Comments About Carr Have Been Consistent

Rick Leach's recent comments about former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr might have seemed sudden and harsh, but they actually were not out of the ordinary for what Leach has been saying for a long time.
He has been, and evidently still is, very upset that Carr did not come out in support of Rodriguez - especially during last year's 3-9 season.
It's not like Leach to do that publicly. His love of Michigan is unquestioned. And he hasn't been happy that the entire Michigan family hasn't rallied around Rodriguez to the degree he'd like. There is no wait and see with Leach about whether he is in with Rodriguez - he's been in from Day 1 - and would be with anybody who is the head coach.
I don't get the impression Leach is talking about a major speech here from Carr, but maybe a couple kind words of public encouragement.
Maybe it would have quelled some of the "family atmosphere" comments Rodriguez has had to endure from disgruntled players.
There is a point here about Carr, who will always be remembered fondly in this state for the most part.
He did have a recruiting tiff with Les Miles, that seemed to prevent Miles, a former player for Bo Schembechler, from becoming Michigan's head coach. He did have a tiff with Jim Harbaugh, a former player for Bo, who is showing great promise as a head coach at Stanford, that may prevent him from becoming Michigan's head coach. He hasn't said anything at all when it might have helped Rodriguez.
I kind of get the idea those are the type of things Leach is calling Carr out about.

Random Thoughts

- I think Sunday's game at Green Bay is a key one for the Lions from this standpoint: They need to not fall apart defensively on the road. It happened at New Orleans. It happened at Chicago. It hasn't happened at home. Even if they lose - and they very likely will - the Lions need to make the point they aren't utter pushovers on the road defensively.

- Michigan State's defense against Northwestern's offense is not a good match for the Spartans. this is a very testy game for MSU.

- We'll know a lot more about the Red Wings after they play five games in nine days out West at the end of this month.

My column in Friday's Oakland Press about Farmington Harrison QB Vince Salatino and the death of his mother


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Three Reasons Matthew Stafford Should Start Sunday

Three reasons I would play Matthew Stafford at Green Bay Sunday - if his knee is, indeed, healthy:
1. I believe he gives the Lions a better chance to win. The ball comes out a lot faster and defenses don't crowd the line of scrimmage as much with Stafford at QB as Daunte Culpepper.
2. He needs to play at Green Bay, where the Lions haven't won since 1991, to gain the ultimate road experience.
3. It would give him opportunity to establish himself as the Lions' offensive leader. It might lead to confusion if Culpepper were to start this game entering the bye week.

Random Thoughts

- Maybe it's not such an advantage Michigan State isn't playing Ohio State this season. It won't be if the Buckeyes run the table in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes still have to win at Penn State and Michigan. For the Spartans, the game at Minnesota could be difficult. A night game at Minnesota outdoors on Halloween? That just sounds scary. Then again, the Gophers might not be in the best way after back-to-back road games at Penn State and Ohio State. And Minnesota has already lost a couple games in its new stadium.

- I like everything about the Phillies over the Dodgers in the NLCS except one key element - the Dodgers have much, much better bullpen.

- Everything Alex Rodriguez did in the ALDS won't mean a thing if he doesn't come through now.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Red Wings Better Be Careful

Panic and the early season don't exactly fit the Red Wings. And while it certainly hasn't gotten to that point, there are red flags flying - and they aren't atop car hoods - about the Red Wings start this season.
Their loss Tuesday at Buffalo was one of their worst performances I can remember. It was the second time in five games this season they have been outscored 4-0 in the second period. In hockey terms, that's akin to caving.
The Red Wings are last in their division, the Central. In the past, that wouldn't have mattered much because all the teams in front of them - except Nashville once in awhile - were not remotely good. That is no longer the case. The Central might be the strongest division in the NHL these days. All five teams have a shot at the playoffs. Four made it last year, and every one of them, except the Red Wings, appears to be improved.
The Red Wings Modus Operandi is get way out in front of the division, leaving little doubt about their status in the playoffs. It's not going to be so easy to do that, with the salary cap era catching up to the Red Wings in the off season with lots of scoring lost, and Johan Franzen out for such an extended period.
The Red Wings need to tighten up defensively and take care of the puck. They didn't Tuesday. The Red Wings need increased production from Pavel Datysuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Neither has a goal so far.
Think it will be easier Thursday when the Kings visit Joe Louis Arena? Think again. The Kings are much better with Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams. Anze Kopitar has gotten fitter and is having a breakout season, averaging two points per game. In the Red Wings' favor: The Kings must play the Rangers tonight in New York and it will be their third road game in five nights Thursday.

My column in Wednesday's Oakland Press. What would the Tigers have done with a rare shot at the Yankees?


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Success Of U-M Players In NFL Justifying Carr Ouster

While the jury is still out on whether Rich Rodriguez is the answer as Michigan’s football coach, the success of the Wolverines’ players from Lloyd Carr’s last few teams in the NFL does justify the coaching change.
This is just Chad Henne’s second year in the league, but it looks like he is going to be a front line NFL quarterback. I don’t think Chad Pennington is going to get his job back in Miami anytime soon. Not only was Henne really good Monday night against the Jets, but Jake Long was just this menacing, mauling, brawling presence for the Dolphins. What a terrific player. And Braylon Edwards performed remarkably well for the Jets under the circumstances.
Throw in Mario Manningham averaging 18 yards per catch, and being the 12th leading receiver in the NFL for the Giants - and any number of U-M players performing well around the league - and it’s understood the Wolverines underachieved Carr’s last few seasons.

Random Thoughts

- I do feel like the best four teams are in baseball’s league championship series. I think the Phillies will beat the Dodgers and the Yankees will down the Angels. I say the ALCS goes six games and the NLCS five.

- The Red Wings have scored three goals in every one of their four games so far this season. Neither Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg has scored a goal. Especially with Johan Franzen out, they need to get going.

- Is the Yankees’ bullpen an impenetrable wall or what?

My column in Tuesday's Oakland Press:


Monday, October 12, 2009

Long-term, Robinson Might Be A Better Player Than Forcier

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez's decision not to play Tate Forcier on the Wolverines' final drive Saturday at Iowa became a moot point Monday when it was revealed he had a concussion and shouldn't have been on the field anyway.
Rodriguez said he was unaware of the concussion, though, and would have kept Denard Robinson in the game regardless. Robinson threw an interception. Game ended.
My main point is I don't think Robinson is getting credit. Forcier has played well, particularly at key points in the Notre Dame, Indiana and Michigan State games. But in the long run, is he going to be a better player than Robinson? Late in the Iowa game, it was evident how special a player Robinson might be. He is raw because he played in a relatively unsophisticated offense in high school and didn't enroll until the fall. Forcier played in a more complex offense in high school and was able to enroll in time for spring practice. Forcier has been getting the first-team reps. He is much further along than Robinson, but Robinson is more gifted. He is the fastest QB in the nation. And he is a better thrower than acknowledged. It's just there hasn't been time to refine his passing skills yet.
Running simple single-wing plays with slant or Y blocking, he was getting chunks of yardage on a late scoring drive at Iowa. In that offense, if they are able to get Robinson to the edge in space, it's over. He will break off a long run and score. And he does pass well enough to keep defenses honest.

Random Thoughts

- Baseball does have a problem with the length of its postseason games. They don't enforce what they do during the regular season to speed up the game - and it has to be costing them TV viewers as the games drag on...and on...and on The Phillies-Rockies game took more than four hours. The average time of the three postseason games Sunday was 3:40. None went extra innings. That's ridiculous.

- When Calvin Johnson went out early in Sunday's game against the Steelers, the Lions were forced to play without their three most recent No. 1 draft picks - Matthew Stafford, Johnson and Gosder Cherilus. It'll be very difficult for them to win under those circumstance.

- Who would have thought a couple weeks ago, the Iowa-Michigan State game Oct. 24 might be bigger than the Penn State-Michigan game the same day.

My Column in Monday's Oakland Press about the Lions-Steelers game


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Are The Lions Really Better Coached?

One of the issues, I admit I am grappling with in the aftermath of the Lions' 28-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, is whether they are better coached than in the past.
I wrote in my column for Monday's Oakland Press that last season the Lions would have lost this game by three or four touchdowns.
It's how I feel about it. Not only would they have rolled over on Rod Marinelli after falling behind early, but Jim Schwartz and his coaching staff did make the necessary adjustments in the second half - particularly defensively. At times, the Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger actually was confused.
I admit, I have been impressed by Schwartz thus far. Yet, it may be giving him too much credit.
I mean, is he really that good of a coach? Or would any coach following Marinelli look good in comparison?


My Column In Sunday's Oakland Press

About recent close, but no cigar runs by local teams

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Tigers Can't Just Act Like Miggy's Drinking Didn't Happen

It’s naive of the Tigers to think Miguel Cabrera’s drinking issue is simply "a personal matter." At some point, both Cabrera and the Tigers need to address it publicly, or their creditably will suffer greatly as a result. It is just not going to go away because the snow falls.
I mean, a .26 blood alcohol content sandwiched inbetween the two most important games of the season?

- I don’t think Iowa is that good, and do feel Michigan is more than capable of winning Saturday night, but the Wolverines obviously must do a better job of performing outside their comfort zone at Michigan Stadium. To do that, Michigan’s offensive line - which played very well in the first four games at home and was awful on the road last week at Michigan State - must impose its will.

- You’d think Matthew Stafford has shown enough that the Lions’ starting QB is his when he returns to health. But what if Daunte Culpepper plays well and leads the Lions to an improbable upset of the Steelers Sunday? Don’t kid yourself. A QB controversy would undoubtedly ensue.

- Kate Hudson is an attractive women, but it would be OK if TBS doesn’t flash to her every single time A-Rod adjusts his batting gloves.

- Player on the spot Sunday for the Lions: Rookie wide receiver/kick returner Derrick Williams. He was the No. 1 prep player in the country and didn’t quite measure up to it at Penn State during what was just a solid college career. To this stage, he has far from justified the Lions’ selection of him in the third round. Now is his chance.

- Maybe it’s because the Red Wings have been so good for so long, but there is a tendency in this area for people to turn their nose up at regular season hockey.
Not me. I love it.
Nor do I think it is too early in the season to consider the Red Wings’ home opener against the Blackhawks a key game.
One of the factors the Red Wings have avoided is a late-season rush, either for positioning in the postseason, or to make the playoffs.
They traditionally get off to fast starts, and it allows them to set up properly for the postseason. As just a fact of the salary cap era, the Red Wings are breaking in a new backup goalie, Jimmy Howard, and they did lose a ton of scoring from last season’s team. Other teams may have gotten in the Western Conference, most notably the Blackhawks, the Flames, Sharks and obviously the Blues, who closed remarkably strong last season, and beat Detroit in two games to open this season in Sweden.
Obviously, if the Red Wings were to lose tonight, it won’t be time to panic. But it would wise for the Red Wings to get on a winning track sooner instead of later.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

This Is What I Honestly Think About The Tigers

- I spent much of the summer proclaiming that if I had a vote for American League Manager of the Year, I would vote for Jim Leyland. I take that back. He made more than a few curious calls down the stretch that, unfortunately, negated the tremendous job he did the first five months of the season. Also, it's obvious he didn't have any control of his best player, Miguel Cabrera.
I don't know the reason why, honestly, but it is a fact - Leyland has trouble stopping the bleeding. When it starts going South for his teams, he never seems to contain it.

- I was lukewarm to the thought of the one-game playoff in Minnesota and, frankly, figured the Tigers would get crushed. Yet, it was one of the best games I have ever seen. Great strategy. Plenty of drama. Many great moments and plays.

- Anybody still want to trade Rick Porcello to Toronto for Roy Halladay? He should be named Rookie of the Year, maybe sealing it Tuesday.

- Gerald Laird is a good player who had a bad game at the worst possible time Tuesday night.

- I wouldn't be surprised if Magglio Ordonez has a pretty good season in 2010.

- The Tigers should never move Brandon Inge nor Curtis Granderson. They are both destined to be career Tigers.

- I will vote for Justin Verlander for Tiger of the Year.

My column about the Tigers in Wednesday's Oakland Press:


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Tigers Wrong For Letting Cabrera Play Saturday

I think the Tigers biggest mistake in the matter of Miguel Cabrera was letting him play Saturday night against the White Sox.
Given he had a .26 blood alcohol level that late in the morning, there is no way he was in even remotely proper condition to play that night. Obviously, it was a factor in his performance - or lack of it.
He is 240 pounds. According to the many scales available on the subject, he had consummed the equivilent of 15 12-ounce beers.
It put Cabrera's own safety at risk. Major League pitchers throw 90 mph and harder. How was his reaction time at the plate? As for winning the game, the Tigers could have received better production for someone else.
There is also the message it sent by playing him. Everything about it was wrong.
Not commenting Saturday, playing Cabrera and waiting until Monday when police reports were released, only delayed the inevitable.
The Tigers are getting skewed for the way they have handled this incident.
It is deserved.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

On Miggy, Stafford, Porcello At Metrodome And The Wolverines

- Matthew Stafford is the least of the Lions' problems right now in terms of performance. His injured knee might be another factor.
The Lions need Stafford on the field, not only because he gives them the best chance to win now, but because each game he plays is like putting his education into the bank.
The less he plays, the longer it will be for his eventual development into a top flight QB. And it's clear already that Stafford does have a good chance of being the franchise quarterback the Lions have been lacking the last five decades.

- In two road starts against the Twins this season, Rick Porcello is 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA. He did pitch seven innings of shutout, 4-hit ball against the Twins early in the year at Comerica Park.
Not that the Twins' starter Tuesday has had much success against the Tigers at the Metrodome in 2009. Against the Tigers at home this season, Scott Baker is 0-1 with a 7.60 ERA.

- The Twins bullpen, other than Joe Nathan is awful. If the Tigers fall behind Tuesday, it doesn't necessarily mean they are done. They will be, however, if Nathan comes out of the bullpen in the ninth inning with a lead.

- Miguel Cabrera is one of the most-gifted hitters I have ever seen. However, there is something obviously lacking, which has prevented him from becoming one of baseball's genuine stars. I think people are starting understand that, and why, more lately. His OPS will always be good. He will always hit for average. Those aren't his issues. It doesn't mean it will be like that forever. Cabrera is young. Time is still on his side. Thing is, time isn't exactly on the Tigers' side right now...

- The Lions can't allow a kickoff return for a touchdown, and a long run from scrimmage for a touchdown, in the same game - and expect to win anywhere. But particularly on the road.

- Michigan State's fork in the road this season was the Michigan game. For the Wolverines, it is at Iowa Saturday. A victory, and the Wolverines will be just fine. A loss, however, would put Michigan in a nose-dive that will be difficult to recover from - especially with Penn State looming Oct. 24.


My columns on MSU-Michigan And Tigers In Sunday's Oakland Press

On MSU-Michigan

On Tigers

Will update blog Sunday night after Tigers and Lions...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

My Column in Saturday's Oakland Press About Tigers

Friday, October 02, 2009

Bottom Line: Leyland Should Have Played Polanco

It was obvious Thursday the Tigers would have been better served with Placido Polanco in the lineup rather than Ramon Santiago.
I heard Tigers manager Jim Leyland explain why he made the move. Santiago was 6-for-12 lifetime against Twins starter Scott Baker. Polanco sometimes has back issues. He wanted him to rest, but Polanco definitely could have played.
Polanco has come through in the clutch as much as any Tigers hitter this season, including twice in late or extra innnings against the Twins. Resting him would have been the least of Leyland's problems had the Tigers won Thursday.
This was a clinching game. Not just another afternoon game during the grind of July.
Most of the time, I understand Leyland's logic behind such decisions. I do believe if the Tigers win the division, he should be named American League Manager of the Year. But not for this decision. It was clearly the wrong one.
I can't help but think the outcome of Thursday's game might have been different had Polanco come to the plate with the bases loaded in the fourth inning rather than Santiago - or another time when Santiago didn't come through with a runner in scoring position.
Also, I can't help but think the Tigers would have been better served with Aubrey Huff or Clete Thomas in the lineup Thursday rather than Marcus Thames.

Random Thoughts

- To me, the start of the National Hockey League season is every bit as big a deal as opening day in baseball or the start of the NFL and college football seasons. I do, however, wish the Red Wings weren't opening in Sweden. Just don't see where playing regular season games in Europe is necessary. Why just not do it during the exhibition season?

- Yeah, I still think the Tigers will win the division. My best guess - Saturday. That's important because the last thing the Tigers need if they do, indeed, reach the playoffs is not being able to start Justin Verlander in the ALDS opener against the Yankees.

- This weather could become a major issue the next couple days. Oh boy, October baseball.

- I believe the Lions have a fighting chance against the Bears on Sunday. Chicago's defense is kind of banged up. I'm big on Jay Cutler's ability, but not necessarily sold on him as a leader. Matthew Stafford, however, must continue to take care of the ball. If the Lions turn the ball over, especially in the first half, they will be done. Also, the Bears' return game is the very best.

- Rain on Saturday should favor Michigan State's style of play rather than Michigan. The Spartans need one of their tailbacks to go over 100 yards, though. Not sure if I picture that happening.