Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Curious Case Of Joel Zumaya

In the past, when Joel Zumaya would suffer an arm injury, people would put the blame squarely on him.
Guitar Hero. Moving boxes. Yeah. Right.
This time it's different. Zumaya had clearly matured and was doing the right things when Monday night his right elbow gave out on a key 3-2 pitch during the Tigers' big series at Minnesota.
It doesn't mean his career is over. Medical technology, particularly regarding elbow injuries, has advanced remarkably. The so-called Tommy John surgery, which replaces ligaments in the elbow with those from other parts of the body, has pitchers coming back, literally, as good as new. The process is a long one, though. If Zumaya faces such a surgery, he will be out for a long period of time. Probably until 2012 - at the earliest. There is no such surgery for shoulder injuries, which are far more precarious.
But Zumaya very well could return to throwing 100 mph fastballs regularly again. Youth is on his side.
I wonder sometimes, because he has been so injury prone, whether Tiger fans have afforded themselves the luxury to enjoy just what a unique talent is possessed by Zumaya. It impossible to know for sure who the hardest-throwing pitcher of all time is, but he is definitely among them.
It's a great story, because when the Tigers selected him out of high school in the draft, he barely touched 90 mph on the radar gun.
Velocity is one of the great mysteries of baseball. It comes and goes on whim. I remember talking to Mark Mulder, the year he was draft eligible at Michigan State. Oakland took him second overall in the draft that year, in large degree because he was 6-foot-6 lefty throwing in the high 90s with good command.
The Tigers had selected Mulder in the 57th round when he was coming out of his Suburban Chicago high school - as a first baseman. In high school, Mulder only threw in the low 80s. He no growth spurt or anything - he just started throwing harder. When I asked him why, he has no explanation.
Also, I wonder how Zumaya's career would be different had he been used as a starter. Not only does he throw extraordinarily hard, but has an excellent feel for pitching, and good off-speed pitches that were going to waste. It's easier to keep a pitcher on a set schedule and protect his health when he is starting.
By the way, I'm not surprised the Tigers called up Casey Fien instead of Daniel Schlereth. The Tigers have three left-handers in their bullpen already, and needed a right-hander. Schlereth is walking nearly a hitter per inning at Toledo, although he hasn't walked a hitter in his last few outings.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Tigers, Actually, Set Up For Success This Week In Minnesota

A half-game separates the first-place Twins and the second-place Tigers in the American League Central standings. It's late June, the time of the year when the contenders tend to separate themselves from the pretenders. It's three games in Minnesota, where the Tigers have traditionally struggled mightily, including at the Twins' new ball park. The Tigers were swept in a three-game series there earlier in the season. The Tigers, in fact, have generally played poor baseball on the road the last two years. It's been awhile since they have won a road series, although they did manage to win series finales in New York against the Mets and at Atlanta. But the pressure is on the Twins this week. They are the club on the verge of collapsing. The Tigers have made up four full games on the Twins since June 11. The White Sox have been roaring back from a slow start, and are only 1 1-2 games out of first. I wrote a column recently (Here's a link to it: http://tinyurl.com/29jodc5) about how much dislike the Tigers and their fans should have toward the Twins, who have constantly ripped out their collective heart out since 1987. They tend to love those pesky small-market Twins anyway. There is an opportunity for the Tigers in the next three days to show this year is different. The pitching matchup tonight is brutal for the Tigers. Francisco Liriano shutout the Tigers for eight innings and struck out 10 his first outing against Detroit this season. The Twins should hit Jeremy Bonderman. If the Tigers win tonight, it will be surprising, but something to built upon in the series. That's because in Game 2, they face Nick Blackburn, who hasn't made it out of the fourth inning in four of his last five starts, and his ERA overall has jumped over six. Armando Galarraga has pitched reasonably well for the Tigers. Wednesday, the Tigers will give rookie lefty Andrew Oliver another start. He earned it with an impressive performance Friday at Atlanta. Kevin Slowey, the Twins' starter Wednesday, has an ERA over six in June. Even without Justin Verlander starting in this series, it does seem like the Tigers have been set up for success in Minnesota. Certainly better than most times they visit. Whether they take advantage of it is another story. First time in, the Twins swept the Tigers, despite missing Joe Mauer, who was out with injury. Bad things tend to snowball against the Tigers in Minnesota. Same, frankly, in Chicago. That has to change if the Tigers are really going to be contenders, not just one of the many fringe teams, or one of those teams that is annually prone to an inevitable collapse - the Tigers' modus operandi in the past.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

NFL Needs To Hold Tom Lewand Accountable For DUI Charge

Although the details about Lion team president Tom Lewand's arrest on suspicion of drunk driving Friday in Roscommon County remain sketchy, this much is clear: He must, at a minimum, be held to the same standard of NFL players.

That means disciplinary action by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. There cannot be a double-standard for those in the front office - especially at such a high level.

Lewand is the team president. At the very top of the organizational chart. Topped only by the owner. He is supposed to set an example with sound leadership.

The timing is particularly disturbing. I have heard over and over this is the time of the year when NFL officials are the most concerned about players off the field.

It is between the off season workout program and the start of training camp. It's common for the players to be reminded to stay out of trouble at this time of the year by coaches and team officials. Well, here's the highest team official getting in trouble at this time of year.

Another disconcerting factor from the Lions' standpoint is that, for the most part, since becoming team president, Lewand has been a steady hand on the wheel.

The Lions have received many kudos for their two draft classes under his watch. Jim Schwartz appears to have been a good selection for head coach. The Lions have yet to start winning, but are at least headed back upward after the 0-16 disaster of 2008.

The Lions' past struggles aside, I have usually found Lewand to be one of things that was right about the organization. He is a good contract negotiator. He does a good job with the business end of their operation. He doesn't have a football background, but does have a good understanding of the game. He is a local guy with a good feel for this area and its people. He was integral in getting Ford Field constructed.

It was a good sign he accepted responsibility for this immediately in a written statement. Now it's the NFL's turn to hold him accountable. If the league doesn't, the message will be telling and hurtful to its reputation.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Huge Win For Tigers Thursday

That was a big, big win by the Tigers Thursday night against the Mets in New York.
Not only did it stop the bleeding from lethargic losses the previous two nights, but it allowed the Tigers to move to within a half-game of the American League Central lead and the Twins. It held off the White Sox, who have won nine straight games and are only two behind the Tigers. It took some pressure off Andrew Oliver in his major league debut tonight in Atlanta.
It was also the way the Tigers won, by holding the off the Mets in the late innings. Great effort by the bullpen when it wasn't necessarily going well.
Also, some role players are starting to come through for the Tigers. Ryan Raburn sure did Thursday. Oh, and Brandon Inge is playing well.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Monroe Was The Obvious Pick For The Pistons, Not White

Georgetown center Greg Monroe was the obvious selection for the Pistons with the seventh overall pick in Thursday's NBA Draft. Whether he is the right choice, remains to be seen.
I like a lot about Monroe. Most of them on the offensive end of the floor. He is refined with his footwork and ball skils. He does have a size. He is a legitimate 6-11 and massive - with room to grow. He is a bonafide center.
What I don't know about Monroe is what he will bring to the defensive end of the floor. I expect he will be a decent post defender, but don't see him as filling what I think is the Pistons' biggest need. That is someone to guard the rim. Someone to be a respected as an off-the-ball defender. From that standpoint, Baylor's Ekpe Udoh - who began his college career at Michigan - would have been the better option. But he wasn't available, Golden State snagging him sixth overall.
Joe Dumars made it clear after selecting Monroe he wasn't going to draft for need in the second round. That meant the Pistons passed on several big players to select Mississippi's Terrico White, an athletic 6-5 swingman, who fits the same role as so many - too many - of the Pistons' current players.
To some degree, that pick could define this draft for the Pistons. Will White become a productive NBA player? Will any of the big players the Pistons passed on to select White pan out?


On Tigers Place In Standings, World Cup And Johnny Damon

It does seem like the Tigers' homestand, during which they won eight of nine games against bad teams from the National League, was an oasis in what has otherwise been a rough period.
They didn't play well before that homestand. They sure didn't play well the first games in New York against the Mets. In the meantime, while all the focus is on the Twins, who have also lost the last two nights, the White Sox have won eight straight and are only two games behind the Tigers.
Hmmm. The American League Central is getting rather interesting, isn't it?

Random Thoughts

- It could get rough for the Tigers in Atlanta this weekend. The Braves are 24-7 at home.

- Italy and France both being eliminated already does tend to make the World Cup less interesting overall. But it does put more focus on the advancement by United States. That's the good part.

- A key player for the Tigers is Johnny Damon. He is on pace to hit .273 with seven home runs and 43 RBI and 12 steals. That isn't the type of production - or lack of it - the Tigers signed up for.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

USA Soccer Victory Doesn't Compare To What USA Hockey Did In The Olympics

I did make the declaration earlier that I, after years as a loud and often obnoxious detractor, have found the beauty in soccer. Well, sort of.
I have started to appreciate the sport at the World Cup level. This is the second World Cup I have watched extensively. And it is interesting, although sometimes a tad bit overdramatic.
But I must admit, I didn't find the United States victory over Algeria Wednesday to be in anywhere near the same class as, say, the USA's hockey victory over Canada in the recent Olympic games.
And I wonder why.
On the world stage, it was probably bigger, right? I guess the reason is I don't identify the USA soccer players. Obviously, many of them are world-class players, but none are the class of the world.
The USA hockey team had Ryan Miller. He is the best goalie in the world. It was known before the tournament began. The USA has had many truly great hockey players in the past. Chris Chelios. Mike Modano. Waterford's Pat LaFrontaine. The list is long. How many true great soccer players has this country produced? Who is the greatest soccer player in the history of this nation? Is it Alexi Lalas?
With all due respect to Oakland County's very own, but that's like saying the best hockey player your country has ever produced is Mike Komisarek.
Maybe it's Landon Donovan, who scored the game-winner vs. Algeria, but it doesn't seem like he'd rank very high among the world's best players.

Random Thoughts

- Normally, I'm all for pushing top pitching prospects to the major leagues, but I'm not sure if the Tigers aren't rushing Andrew Oliver, their second-round pick in the 2009 draft. He will start Friday at Atlanta. By all accounts, Oliver has a great fastball, with good velocity and movement. But his breaking ball is suspect, and he hasn't dominated at Double-A Erie. The one good thing is that he has pitched better on the road than at home. Erie has a small ballpark. It could be a pressure-packed game for the Tigers - if they don't turn it around against the Mets. It could be putting a lot on a kid in a road game like that against a quality opponent.

- Good for Dino Ciccarelli. His selection the Hockey Hall of Fame was long overdue. Ditto for Jimmy Devellano.

My column in Wednesday's Oakland Press. Joe Dumars' legacy is at a crossroad entering Thursday's NBA Draft. http://tinyurl.com/2ca2phg


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tigers Don't Need To Thrive, Just Survive This Road Trip

The idea for the Tigers on this 9-game road trip to New York, Atlanta and Minnesota is to survive, not necessarily thrive.
Surviving would be 3-6 - or averaging a win per series. Going 4-5 would be good. If the Tigers were to have a winning record on the trip, it would be gravy.
The Tigers are just 13-19 on the road. They struggled on the road last season, too.
The Mets have been playing very well, having won eight in a row before losing the last two games of their series with the Yankees. The Braves are 12 games above .500, and the Twins are, well, the Twins. They beat the Tigers in three straight the first time the two teams met in Minnesota - and without Joe Mauer.

A couple keys:

- The Tigers need to win Justin Verlander's two starts on the trip. This is when it really counts for an ace, a trip like this against tough competition in late June. I do think Verlander will be up to the task

- When the Tigers survived an 11-game road trip to the West Coast earlier this season with a 5-6 mark, Miguel Cabrera came through with several clutch hits. That must happen again for the Tigers to procure a similar result.

- The starters must pitch deep into games, setting up the bullpen, which has been the Tigers' strength. A couple 3- or 4-inning starts would be a disaster. Max Scherzer will be particularly under the gun. He is 1-4 on the road with an ERA over six. At home, he is 3-2 and his ERA is more than a run less than it is away from Comerica Park.

- Most importantly, the Tigers can't roll over against the Twins. Time to stand up to them. That series could dictate how the pennant race will play out.

- Also, watch out from behind. The White Sox are moving into contention.


Transcript of My Live Chat Today

It was on variety of topics from the Tigers to Tiger and Pistons to Lions http://tinyurl.com/29jycre

My Column In Tuesday's Oakland Press

You'd think Tigers fans would hate the Minnesota Twins: http://tinyurl.com/29jodc5


Monday, June 21, 2010

Timing Was Perfect To Send Porcello To Toledo

It'd be different if the Tigers were slumping overall, and Rick Porcello's struggles were only part of it.
However, if you look back on their most recent homestand, in which they dominated bad clubs from the National League during interleague play, Porcello's struggles were just about the Tigers' only problem.
Two weeks ago, it might not have made sense for them to send Porcello to Toledo. Now it makes perfect sense.
My point is the Tigers are playing well. There is no need to force-feed Porcello through the tough times. It's easy enough for them to send him to Toledo to work out his issues without being under what was becoming an increasingly intense mircoscope. Because of the schedule, the Tigers won't need a fifth starter for awhile. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Jeremy Bonderman and Armando Galarraga are all doing reasonably well. They don't need Porcello right now. But they, undoubtedly, will in the not-too-distant future.
His entire issue is his sinking, two-seam fastball. It was nearly impossible to center last season. Now it is a fat 90 mph fastball without life hitters are just teeing off on.

Random Thoughts

- There is little doubt in my mind, that if Tiger Woods had not gone through what he did from Thanksgiving weekend onward in his personal life, he would have not only won the U.S. Open this past weekend, he would have done so running away.

- My relatively new-found enjoyment of World Cup soccer has been quelled to a degree by all the diving players do, and horribly inconsistent officiating. It's brutal on both fronts.

- Reason for this state to seriously not like Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel: Woody Hayes' record at Ohio State against Michigan State was 7-8. He was 16-11-1 against Michigan. Tressel is a combined 14-1 against Michigan and MSU - 8-1 vs. the Wolverines, 6-0 vs. the Spartans.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Column In Sunday's Oakland Press

Lions' Draft Class of 2009 Will Make Or Break Lions In the Long Term: http://tinyurl.com/2aobptf


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On Livan, Izzo, Lou Anna K. Simon And Scherzer

- Livan Hernandez is a fascinating pitcher. He brings very little to mound, but just keeps rolling on in a terrific career. He'll carry a 5-3 record with a 2.28 ERA into tonight's game against the Tigers for the Washington Nationals. It will be a contrast to hard-throwing Tigers starter Justin Verlander, who has been pitching well lately.

- In retrospect, it does seem ridiculous to believe Tom Izzo was actually going to Cleveland. The scenario would have been so much different, though, if LeBron James was signed, sealed and delivered.

- Lou Anna K. Simon, Michigan State's president, really came across poorly Tuesday night. You'd think somebody in such a high academic position would understand the dynamics of the Izzo situation better.
The media was not out of line in this case. The University did what it had to do, as well. Both sides had to live with the tension during the nine day period - and move on. Izzo, who understands the media as well as any coach I know of, took the brunt of it in an awkward exchange with the Detroit News' Lynn Henning. It was weird, but wouldn't have happened if Simon, followed by her obvious boot-licking AD Mark Hollis, hadn't set the tone for it. It was a shame, too, from Hollis' standpoint, because he otherwise gave a really good speech about pulling together.

- Max Scherzer has pitched better lately, but needs to be more consistent. He is more than capable of being a solid No. 2 starter, even this early in his major league career. But the consistency, pitch-by-pitch, just isn't there yet.


My Column In The Oakland Press On Izzo Staying At MSU

The Right Choice For Izzo: http://tinyurl.com/2up9855


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Should Izzo Leave, Stevens Will Top The List

After bantering this about with several sources in college basketball, I’ve come to the conclusion that if Tom Izzo leaves Michigan State, Brad Stevens from Butler will be first on MSU’s list.
Second will be Utah coach Jim Boylan. Third will be Dayton coach Brian Gregory.
Most of the inner circle buzz is on Stevens. Boylan is relatively close to State athletic director Mark Hollis. Gregory has been openly endorsed by former MSU coach Jud Heathcote.
The hangup on Stevens could be that Butler gave him a huge contract after last season’s championship game run, but MSU is going to want to make a splash if the farce that is its current situation with Izzo plays out with him leaving.
Stevens does have a buyout in his contract. It is reportedly more than the $500,000 Izzo has in his MSU deal, but it would hardly be prohibitive under the circumstances.

Random Thoughts

- Seems to me, college closers are a risky draft pick. It hasn’t worked out too well for the Tigers in the past. We’ll see how it develops with University of Texas closer Chance Ruffin, who was taken 48th overall as the Tigers’ second pick in the most recent baseball draft.
Rick Greene from LSU and Matt Anderson from Rice, both first-round picks, were high profile college closers, who didn’t pan out for the Tigers. The jury is still out on Ryan Perry from Arizona, who was also a first-round pick.

- Count me among those who strongly feels Oakland and Detroit should somehow, some way get together to play next season. There is no excuse for it. Oakland has to put aside its need for a "home game" with Detroit. Oakland feels it is owed one from the past. Play on a neutral court. The Palace would be perfect. Detroit has to stop acting like Oakland’s Division I presence doesn’t exist. Basketball fans want to see OU’s Keith Benson face Detroit’s Eli Holman. They want to see if Ray McCallum Jr will be able to school the Golden Grizzlies’ super quick defensive stopper Ladrick Eackles. The rest is just needless posturing from coaches and administrators.
Oakland and Detroit should benefit, not ignore, each other.


My Latest Column In The Oakland Press On The Tigers; LIVE CHAT

Five Reasons The Tigers Will Win The American League Central. And Five Reasons They Won't: http://tinyurl.com/2bksbwc

Note: I will be doing a LIVE CHAT today from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at http://theoaklandpress.com/

Monday, June 14, 2010

Michigan State Has Become The Booby Prize For Tom Izzo

Best question of the day came from a camper at MSU's basketball camp. A youngster asked Tom Izzo if he was going to leave the Spartans.

Worst answer of the day came in response from Izzo: "Bad question."

How can Izzo remain at MSU after all this? With each passing day, it becomes more difficult. That's especially true if it is only because LeBron James signs with a team other than the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Michigan State then becomes the booby prize.

This has become a farce. At some point, Michigan State's administration is going to have to get some spine and make it known to Izzo he's either with them or not.

If the answer is he is not, then hire Brian Gregory and move on. He a dynamic coach with the perfect background for the job.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Latest Column In The Oakland Press On Tom Izzo

Posted Sunday Night: Tom Izzo Isn't Bigger Than Michigan State Nor The State Of Michigan. He Shouldn't Be Treated Like It - http://tinyurl.com/24opusj


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Izzo As An NBA Coach Would Be A Disaster

Tom Izzo's potential as an NBA coach is being vastly overrated. His style in the NBA would be a disaster. And do you really think, given a choice, LeBron James - who never played college basketball - would choose Izzo over, say, Byron Scott? Just another part of the whole charade that is the Izzo-Cavaliers dance.

Random Thoughts

- A sign the Tigers may not be much better than a .500 team has been their failure to win road series against subpar competition. Seattle, Kansas City - and it sure didn't look good last night for the Tigers against the White Sox.

- Count me among those who felt it was just a matter of time before Rick Porcello turns it around. Count me among those who were wrong.

- Nebraska is a great fit for the Big Ten. So would Missouri. The bigger issue, however, is how to increase the television population base. Seems inevitable Texas is going to leave the Big 12. Why would it have to go to the Pac 10? The Big Ten should be making a full-court press to get Texas right now. If the Big Ten gets Texas, it wins the realignment game. Texas would draw in the Dallas and Houston markets, both among the top 10 nationally.
I don't like the idea of these so-called super conferences, but it's unavoidable at this point. The Big Ten must make the most of it - or be left holding the bag.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

What I Really Think About Tom Izzo Potentially Leaving MSU For The Cavaliers

I find it strange, in this state, we are so accepting of departures.
Tom Izzo, for example. He was raised here and educated in our public schools. He attended college here, at a public university. He was given his entry level jobs as a basketball coach at a public high school and state-supported universities.
He got his first big break here as an assistant coach at Michigan State. He was named the head coach in waiting for Jud Heathcote, even though there were many more qualified candidates for the position at the time. When his initial seasons did not go well, the school and this state stood by him. Tom Izzo, after he’s had unprecedented success, has never had to ask for anything. It’s just been given to him. Money. Adulation. Status. Respect.
He has come symbolize this state as perhaps our most successful native son, at what might be the most trying time in this state’s history.
But as of right now, he’s holding MSU and this state hostage emotionally, evidently because he wants to find out whether LeBron James is going to remain with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This, in my opinion, stinks. A lot of people in this state feel like Izzo owes MSU and this state nothing. I differ on that.
He owes MSU and this state everything. If anybody should understand this, it’s Izzo. He is a unique case. This wouldn’t be a typical person leaving one job for a better job - which is true 99.99999999999999999999999999 percent of the time. That would be completely understandable.
This would be somebody forgetting where he’s come from. That, in my opinion, is deplorable.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Live Chat Today From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Tuesday's Column On Verlander

I will be doing a live chat this morning from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at theoaklandpress.com

This is my column in Tuesday's Oakland Press on why Justin Verlander is the best starting pitcher in the major leagues: http://tinyurl.com/295wyor

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Crying And Being Contrite For Missed Call Doesn't Make Jim Joyce A Hero

From one extreme to another. There hasn't been much in-between when it comes to umpire Jim Joyce and The Missed Call.
On Wednesday night, after costing pitcher Armando Galarraga, the Tigers and the State of Michigan a perfect game by calling the Cleveland Indians' Jason Donald safe when he was so obviously out, Joyce was a villian in this town.
Now he is a hero.
He was booed the following day. Today, he would likely be cheered. What's next? Is he going to be presented with a new car, too?
I'm all for Joyce being a standup guy. I don't think for a moment any of it was fake when he cried a river of tears following The Missed Call. I do have empathy for him - a lot of it. And I did defend him vehemently for more than three hours on the radio immediately following the broadcast of the game, from the standpoint of his feeling bad and being contrite - and reasoning with fans they shouldn't take their disappointment to an extreme.
But lets be honest here. Joyce had little choice but to admit he was wrong. And in truth, the degree of sympathy he is getting is taking away from the real standup people in this instance - Galarraga and the Tigers. They could have been bitter, but weren't.
The best umpires are the ones that aren't noticed. Joyce got noticed for the wrong reason. He made what was arguably the worst call in baseball history.
That he confessed about it is hardly heroic nor novel. The replay says it all.
Guess it's a classic study in human nature. Sometimes balance gets lost in a sea of emotion.


Friday, June 04, 2010

Sentiment Is Understood And Why, But I Still Wouldn't Overturm The Call

Bud Selig isn't going to overturn Jim Joyce's decision. Armando Galarraga isn't going to get his perfect game. The official scorer isn't going to come to the rescue like a knight on a white charger (hey, that just isn't Chuck Klonke's style) and call it an error to give Galarraga a no hitter.
And my first inclination is that nothing should change - the game should stand as is.
I just don't see how you can retrace those moments and change them arbitrarily.
There is no way the play can be called an error. Ump missed the call, but there is no replay or protest written in the rules for judgment calls like that.
But I must admit, these circumstances are unique to any other play in baseball history. Nothing has been like it. Ever. What is the saying, the commissioner can rule for the best interest of the game?
I'd be a lot more open to it for this particular incident than virtually any other I can think of.
I do, however, still feel it would open Pandora's Box for similar rulings, on far less compelling plays, in the future.
That's always the danger of such arbitrary decisions. But I confess, it would be more tolerable in this case.


Thursday, June 03, 2010

My Friday Column In The Oakland Press: There Are Solutions To What Happened In The Near Perfect Game

What I think baseball needs to do moving forward: http://tinyurl.com/2buxtjt


A Football Column....

My Column on Michigan and Michigan State football and how they are being grouped the same way by preseason forecasters: http://tinyurl.com/2frj29e

Galarraga Performance Could Be Turning Point For Tigers

I know the Indians are not a good team. I understand their bullpen has just fallen apart of late - and the Tigers should be beating on them like a drum.
But other than a couple poorly played fielding attempts, the Tigers looked like an energized ball club Thursday.
What happened Wednesday night, with the pitching performance of the ages by Armando Galarraga, must be the reason why.
The Tigers had lost eight of their previous 10 games, including four of five at home to Cleveland and Oakland - both bad teams. They were in danger of falling back to .500 and dropping a considerable distance behind the Twins.
Now they look like contenders again. They were at a fork in the road in their season. It appears the Tigers have taken the correct path.


Mixed Emotions At Comerica Park Thursday

Jim Joyce was booed Thursday by the crowd at Comerica Park, even though 28-out perfect game hero Armando Galarraga handed him the Tigers' lineup card.
It was a mixed emotion.
On one hand, there were no hard feelings. Whatever bitterness Galarraga, or the Tigers, displayed directly after his near-perfect game Wednesday night, were like a home run call with Ernie Harwell on the microphone - long gone. Joyce was more than contrite. He was devastated. I talked to people here at Comerica Park Thursday who said he broke down emotionally after the media departed the umpire's room Wednesday.
Galarraga, presented with a sparkling cherry red Corvette Thursday, has made the best of the circumstance. He has become a humble hero, who will long be remembered for sportsmanship. Joyce has become a sympathic figure. How can anyone be that angry at him by this point? He certainly has conceded he missed the call and feels terrible about it.
It's difficult, though, not to imagine what a feel good story this would have been for this area had the perfect game not arbitrarily been denied Galarraga.
This is a good story. In some ways a more compelling tale. It's no longer a bitter story. Sure.
But it's certainly not better than what should have been.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Injustice To Galarraga Could Have Been Avoided

It was one of the best games I can remember being pitched, not only by a Tiger - but by any pitcher.
It was also one of the worst calls I can ever remember - by any umpire.
And it was a total ripoff for the fans and compromised Major League Baseball. It was also unnecessary.
Look, I'm not one to jump all over the umpires. I appreciate what they do. It didn't cost the Tigers the game. But it as also brutal the way it ended. Armando Galarraga deserved so much better. Jim Joyce flatout blew the call Thursday night. Jason Donald was out. Period.

They need to add replay to baseball for close plays on the bases. They need to have one call per game a manager can call so this doesn't happen again. It wouldn't have taken long to overturn the call. It would made sure the call would have been right. There have been plays in the World Series recently that have been similarly wrong. Why not get it right? Just one appeal per game per team. Give up a base runner for the pitching team, and an out for the hitting team if they wrong.

- Joyce has been considered a good umpire for a long time, but he is right. It was the biggest call of his career and he got it wrong.

- Major League Baseball can't just let this go. They have to do something in the form of a suspension for Joyce. There is certainly no way he should be umpiring behind the plate today. Where is Bud Selig on this? What does MLB have to say?

- Galarraga is getting a lot of praise today - and he deserves every bit of it. Not just because of the way he pitched, which was terrific, but also for the way he handled himself afterward. In some ways, it is going to make him more popular in this town than if the perfect game hadn't been ruined. His empathy to Joyce was sincere. If there is anything this town appreciates above anything else, it's those who are persistent. Galarraga, who began this season in the minor leagues, was robbed of his big moment, but didn't bellyache about it. Just the opposite. If there was any comfort for Joyce - it came from Galarraga.

- Austin Jackson would have made it a lot easier if he only hadn't made that great running catch in the ninth inning. What a brilliant play.


Three Big Money Players Mainly Responsible For Tigers Slump

A lot is made about the bottom of the Tigers’ lineup being at fault for their often alarming lack of production, but the Tigers really don’t get a lot out of other parts of their lineup.
Magglio Ordonez isn’t driving the ball like he was early in the season. Carlos Guillen has not provided the extra spark offensively that had been anticipated since he returned to the lineup. Johnny Damon has slumped. These three players are making $39 million combined for this season. The reasonable expectation would be more production. Lots more.
The Tigers are ninth in the American League in runs scored and 10th in home runs. Their standing in both areas is dropping quickly. There have been the anticipated struggles from youngsters Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch, but this is the time of the year when you’re big-money players are supposed to be your big-money producers. Sure, it’s disconcerting how little the Tigers are getting offensively at catcher and shortstop, but that’s not where their offensive issues will be decided. It will be from Ordonez, Damon and Guillen. Those three are not producing lately.
It’s no coincidence that neither is the team collectively.


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Lidstrom Will Get Whatever He Wants - And The Red Wings Have No Choice

Transcript of my live chat today at theoaklandpress.com http://tinyurl.com/26oj4s5

There will not be a prolonged contract negotiation with Nicklas Lidstrom. The Red Wings will try to cut his salary a bit for cap reasons, but if he still wants what he made last season - nearly $7.5 million - he will get it.
For Lidstrom isn't only part of the Red Wings' past, he is their future, too - as in next season.
I don't know where the idea came from that Lidstrom has "slowed a step."
It could only come from people looking at his age, not his actual performance. He had lesser years when he was in his early 30s. He played in every game, the Olympics and the playoffs. He had a scoring slump early in the season, but played well defensively with a rookie goaltender and reduced firepower. And he scored at roughly a point-per-game clip when it mattered most late in the season.
With Lidstrom, the Red Wings' chances of getting back to the Stanley Cup finals will be pretty good. I think they would have beaten the Blackhawks had they met face-to-face this year. Without him, they have little chance. He is still the best defenseman in the world.
It's a joke he wasn't nominated for the Norris Trophy.

Random Thoughts

- Brandon Inge is on pace to hit 19 home runs with 75 RBI. He is hitting the .230s. In other words, he is having a typical Brandon Inge season. So what is everybody complaining about? It's not his fault the Tigers are getting virtually no production from the catcher and shortstop positions.

- Speaking of Inge, he does have power - and it's not just home runs. He has 15 doubles this season. Magglio Ordonez has just 16 extra base hits (seven home runs, nine doubles).

- Pitching is the least of the Tigers' problems. They don't need to acquire more pitching. They need a bat or two. Problem is, shortstops and catchers who can hit are not readily available.

- I very much like what I have seen from Carlos Guillen at second base. If he can keep it up - and stay injury free - it'd be a huge plus for the Tigers.

My column in Monday's Oakland Press. Are Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson going to be the next great passing combination in the NFL. Seems possible. http://tinyurl.com/2ebjvml