Saturday, June 29, 2013

Detroit Pistons, NBA Draft, Joe Dumars and defending the seemingly indefensible

My column:
Joe Dumars and Pistons' draft class: Controversy rules

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Red Wings need Damien Brunner, but at what cost?

Hockey is a multi-dimensional game. It's not a one-way street. Yet, as defensive systems have become an applied science and goaltending improved to the point astounding skill, goal scorers have become a premium.
Damien Brunner: Goal scorer
Damien Brunner reminded nobody of Brett Hull in his prime as a 27-year-old rookie for the Red Wings last season, but he has the knack for scoring goals. He can, in hockey terms, snipe.
12 goals in 44 games, even if they were front-loaded to the start of the season, can't be dismissed. Neither can five goals during an intense playoff run vs. top-of-the-line competition.
The Red Wings need him more than their other unrestricted free agents, Danny Cleary (who played surprising well in the playoffs) and Valterri Filppula, an excellent two-way player who had a surprisingly subpar season.
Why? Because Brunner can score goals. But is he worth $4 million or $5 million? I know that sounds ridiculous, but look at the contract Calgary bit on for Jiri Hudler last summer (four years at $4 million per season).
The Red Wings must prioritize their signings. They are in a transition phase and can't afford to have roster spots taken up for younger players who might otherwise be exposed to waivers at some point.
Brunner is the priority - as long as the cost doesn't get out of hand.

Detroit Pistons must be on target in this weak NBA Draft

My column:
Joe Dumars: Key off season begins with NBA Draft Thursday

Perception of Michigan and Michigan State football is slipping

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Incompetent umpires best friends to Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers Sunday

My column:
Good for the Tigers, bad for the Red Sox and baseball

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My thoughts on the proposed new arena for the Red Wings in Detroit

- While the arena is badly needed, and long overdue, it'd be naïve to believe Joe Louis Arena will not be missed. The memories there, which include four Stanley Cup championships, will long be treasured and Joe Louis Arena part of their lore. The building lacks restrooms, the corridors are far too narrow, the suites inadequate, the design about as up-to-date a 1970s Chevy Vega and it is downright ugly to view from the outside, but Joe Louis Arena does have its charm. There isn't a bad seat in the house. That, by the way, includes the press box. Sure, it was an afterthought and put at the last row of the arena, but it's still an excellent seat to view a hockey game.

Joe Louis Arena: Outdated, ugly and charming
- Look. I am all for using some public funds, within reason, to help build stadiums and arenas for sports team. The idea this arena would only help make the Ilitch family even richer and serves no public good is ridiculous. First of all, Mike Ilitch risked a lot of personal finances to build Comerica Park, and it has paid off handsomely for the region. Same with Ford Field, which was originally supposed to cost $300 million, but the cost overruns (to $500 million), and most of the bill overall, was picked up by the Fords. But I can't help but wonder about the dynamics of this as it relates to the financial crisis in Detroit.
The city owes a reported $15 billion in debt, yet there are all these sacred cows being raised. They can't touch the art at the DIA. They can't do anything with the Detroit Zoo. They somehow, somewhere have millions upon millions to help fund a new arena. Well, if everything is sacred, how does the bill get paid? That aspect doesn't fit into the realm of common sense and logic at the present time.
- No, I don't think the Pistons should move Downtown. The Palace remains state of the art. It was privately build and carries no debt. It has been and remains a jewel for Oakland County.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Issues for Detroit Tigers are deeper than Jose Valverde

My column:
Jose Valverde: How much longer will he be a Tiger?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On Pavel Datsyuk contract extension with Red Wings

Pavel Datsyuk: Consummate two-way player
There is nothing Pavel Datsyuk can’t do on a sheet of ice. He is strong his skates, possesses a great shot and is a terrific passer. I’ve heard his speed knocked at times. I find the criticism to be without merit. It’s not like he is slow. He is not a fighter per say, but he does body check consistently with force. And the one time he did fight, he won a spirited decision over Anaheim’s Corey Perry.
But there are two aspects of the game that standout about Datsyuk more than others. One, he is the best stickhandler I have ever seen. It's artistic the way he can drag the puck. Another, he is amazingly proficient at taking the puck off opposing players on the forecheck. He literally does those two things as well as anybody who has ever played the game.
Datsyuk has agreed to remain in Detroit the next three seasons. The fear he would play out his contract next season and then return to Russia proved to be unfounded. With captain Henrik Zetterberg, goalie Jimmy Howard and Datsyuk in the fold, and a developing young group surrounding them, the Red Wings should be legitimate contenders to capture the Stanley Cup championship for years to come.
There is not sign he slow down in his mid-30s.

Our live video chat today on Datsyuk signing, Tigers' closer situation, Lions after their mini camp, and much more. We do this every Monday at 1. Your participation in the discussion is easy and encouraged:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Detroit Lions capable of making the playoffs - if this happens

Friday, June 14, 2013

Why the numbers just don't add up for Joaquin Benoit as Detroit Tigers' long-term closer

With Jose Valverde back in meltdown mode, the Tigers very well could turn to Joaquin Benoit as closer. But that would likely only provide a short-term solution and cause long-tern problems.
Joaquin Benoit: Premier setup man, but no closer
Benoit is one of the best setup relievers in baseball, ranking in the top eight in Major League Baseball in holds each of the last three seasons.
It's not like he hasn't been tried as a closer before. He has - actually quite often. The results have been disastrous. In his career, Benoit has converted just 16-of-40 save opportunities. He's 3-for-3 this year, but his track record suggests it is just a matter of time until that changes. He's 35 years old. It's unlikely his career course is going to turn at this point, nor should it.
The problem is two-fold here, if Benoit were to become a full-time closer.
One, it is very much an "if" whether he can get it done in the closer role. Two, it would be blowing one tire, the setup spot, to fill the closer role. The setup role is nearly as important as the closer's role. Even though the Tigers' starting staff has been the best in the American League this season, Detroit starters are averaging just 6 1-3 innings per start.
It would be unfair to expect Benoit to be the Tigers' closer, and perhaps costly to the team overall considering how it could throw the balance of the pitching staff out of whack.
It's why the only apparent solution, ultimately, is a trade.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why not Bruce Rondon as current Detroit Tigers' closer? These are the reasons

While he struggled during spring training and during a brief stint with the Tigers earlier this season, Bruce Rondon has put up impressive numbers for Triple-A Toledo. His ERA is 0.77. Opposing hitters are batting just .118 against him. He has struck out 29 in 23 innings. He has 10 saves.
But Rondon still has command problems. June 5, he walked four in two thirds of an inning at Columbus. The issue is accelerated at the major league level because hitters don't swing at nearly as many bad pitches. Also, Toledo isn't exactly the best place to groom a closer right now. The Mud Hens are awful, winning the fewest games in the International League (26) so far this season.
If the Tigers were to call up Rondon, it would be much smarter to break him in a lesser role than closer. Right now, it's highly doubtful his command of the baseball would hold up in such pressure-packed situations.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Maurice Cheeks, Detroit Pistons and the community college of professional coaching

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Are the Detroit Lions better? You be the judge based on these mini camp observations

And to the head of the list as potential Detroit Tigers' closer goes...K-Rod

Even as the Tigers open up a lead in the sorry American League Central, the elephant in the room continues to be their bullpen, especially closer.
The wheels, not unexpectedly, have started to come off Jose Valverde at closer. Although he experienced some early success upon his return to the major leagues, it's proving to be fleeting. His last few outings haven't been as effective (except for a 1-2-3 save vs. Tampa Bay on Thursday).
There is little doubt the Tigers' will attempt to address the closer issue as the trade deadline approaches. Don't be surprised if they look toward Milwaukee and Francisco Rodriguez.
Given the opportunity to close after Jim Henderson went on the disabled list the last week of May, K-Rod has converted 4-of-4 save opportunities and picked up a win,. He has allowed a run in 7 1-3 innings, striking out 6, walking three and allowing four hits in the closer role
I watched his most recent save vs. Philadelphia on June 8. He was at 91 and 92 mph with his fastball - about the same as Valverde. The difference is command. He is throwing it exactly where he wants it and does appear to have two different type of fastballs. A couple looked like two seamers to left-handed hitters. His biggest edge is his slider. It has a lot of bite to it. Valverde relies on a split-finger pitch that is tumbling, not fooling anybody and is subsequently getting hammered.
Francisco Rodriguez: K-Rod is dealing effectively again
Ironically, K-Rod has the same agent as Valverde (Scott Boras) and signed a similar deal with the Brewers this season Valverde did with the Tigers. K-Rod was mostly ineffective last season and had to pitch his way back to the major leagues on a minor league contract this season. Like Valverde, he had 30 days to prove himself.
K-Rod could make $2 million with incentives this year. It's a one-year deal. At 31, he is younger and than Valverde and may have a little more left in the tank. He also has a better career track record.
Henderson was doing an outstanding job as the Brewers' closer before he pulled a hamstring. He has returned from the D.L.
John Axford, the now clean-shaven closer from the Brewers' recent past, has bounced back somewhat from a slow start this season, but is unlikely to interest the Tiger
s at this point (he, reportedly, was nearly sent to the minors earlier this season).
Of course, there is the Boras' connection. Don't the Tigers always bite on that one? And it has paid off in the past.
The Brewers are 15 games off the lead in the National League Central. They are 11 games behind in the wild card race. There is little question, already, they will be sellers at the trade deadline. The primary piece they could be looking to move is K-Rod. At minimum, he would help the Tigers' bullpen overall. At best, he could be the closer they are seeking.
The question, as always, is the price.
Overall, the Tigers' bullpen, which has compiled a 4-11 record, is eighth in the American League in ERA (3.82) and tied for seventh in WHIP 1.29. The Tigers have converted 13 of 21 save opportunities.
Conversely, the Tigers' starting rotation leads the American League with a 31-16 record, a 3.48 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Detroit Lions, Matthew Stafford and whether great statistics will lead to a Super Bowl victory some day

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Far more right than wrong with the Detroit Tigers

My column:
Big home run for Victor Martinez (right) Thursday

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

What has been missing from the Detroit Lions? My answer

The first of the preseason football magazines are out. Even in the digital age, I still have an odd fascination with them. I buy most every one I see. and especially look forward to the release of the Phil Steele college football edition.
An item in the Lindy's Pro Football magazine did catch my eye. It was a comment from Howard Balzer, who has covered the NFL for a long time. The magazine is predicting the Lions will finish last in the NFC North and not make the playoffs. Balzer has a one-line comment about each team. About the Lions he wrote: "There's Stafford and Johnson and Bush and Suh, but there's just something that seems missing with this team."
Jim Schwartz: Can he bounce back?
To me, that comment reflects poorly on coaching. Now, I think Jim Schwartz is a good coach. I believe he can take the Lions to the playoffs and on a run to the Super Bowl some day. He has the background, and is smart and savvy. He also had a dreadful 2012 season that is indefensible. An educated guess, after talking to  literally hundreds of people on 97.1 The Ticket on the subject, and through Twitter (@patcaputo98), I'm in the minority in this town with the notion Schwartz is "a good coach."
I believe he will learn from his mistakes and this season will be more like 2011 than 2012.
Perhaps it is partly because of the Red Wings' unexpected playoff run, and the interest in the Tigers being very high, but the Lions have been a little under the radar this off season. I liked their draft. Time will tell how it will ultimately pan out, but each pick had a purpose for once. It was at least better planned. There appears to be a regrouping in Allen Park in preparation for the 2013 season.
Last off season, the Lions, after a 10-6 season, making the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and the subsequent building hype about their success, got distracted on a number of different levels.
I view that as the "something" that was missing, but I believe there is a strong possibility the Lions w
ill find it during the coming season.

Monday, June 03, 2013

On Tigers' bullpen woes, Red Wings' season and Lions' schedule...

Replay of our weekly chat. We do this every week at Monday at 1 p.m. You are welcome to join in live.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

No way the Tigers can win the World Series with this bullpen

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Red Wings thrived during transition season