Monday, November 27, 2006

Note to Our Readers...

There will be no new posts on this blog until Monday, Dec. 4. My father, Vincent Caputo Sr., died Saturday night and I will not be working this week. Thank you for your understanding, for supporting this blog and for reading The Oakland Press. It is very much appreciated.


Pat Caputo

Friday, November 24, 2006

What About Not-So-Hot Rod?

The weird part about the Lions falling - again - to an incredibly bad level is we have no idea how to gauge Rod Marinelli, the head coach. Is he a good head coach? It is impossible to discern under the circumstances. The organization is an utter mess. They are neither rebuilding nor trying to win now. The Lions are in this no man’s land that inevitably leads to season after season like this one. They are not only disgusting, but provide little hope for the future. Obviously, Matt Millen needs to cleaned out. And that should just be the start for a front office that is incompetent at every level. But where does that leave Marinelli? A new GM would want his own coach. And it is not like Marinelli has not made mistakes. There have been several obvious things he has done wrong. This is not Joe Giradi and the Florida Marlins here. The Lions have not played sound fundamental football under Marinelli. Nor have they been intense.

Random thoughts

- The more I think about it, the more I want to see rematch between Michigan and Ohio State in the BCS title game.

- I love this weekend. Not only is there great college football on TV, but the high school state finals are terrific. I am looking forward to going to the Madison and Farmington Harrison games Saturday at Ford Field. Should be terrific. I will have columns on it in the print edition of The Oakland Press in the editions Sunday and Monday.

- Correct me if I am wrong, but Mike Williams did not look any worse than the Lions receivers other than Roy Williams on Thursday.

- I am against goofy protest marches and wearing the colors of the other team at Ford Field, but am convinced the “Fire Millen” chants are a necessary evil.

- This thought actually entered my mind during the Lions game Thursday: How many days until spring training?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

About Joey Harrington

The thing I always wondered about Joey Harrington when he played quarterback for the Lions is whether it was the player or the environment that caused him to fail. He came to the Lions as the ultimate clutch performer in college at Oregon and started out well. He clearly outplayed Mike McMahon during training camp as a rookie and played well during his first couple games, nearly leading the Lions an upset of Green Bay, which was very good at the time, and beating New Orleans when it was unbeaten. It just seemed like he got beaten down by the losing culture in Allen Park. They handled him poorly, coddling him his first year and allowing him to become an arrogant kid that was resented by his teammates and disliked by the media. Then, when Steve Mariucci came in, he was just left Joey twisting in the wind. Some of it was the fault of Harrington. He never asserted himself when his teammates and coaches continually pointed fingers of blame at him. The question is whether he is that g ood. Miami is starting to win football games with Harrington under center. Yet, he still appears inaccurate at times and continues to have a propensity to make big mistakes. The one thing about Harrington is he is fairly tough. He takes a hit and gets up, and he seemed to learn a lot from the mental gymnastics he went through with the Lions.

Random thoughts

- Talk about an interesting American League Most Valuable Player situation this season. If I had a vote, it would have been a tough one, but I probably would have selected Derek Jeter over Justin Morneau. He plays shortstop, contributes more on the bases, is the Yankees undisputed leader and the Yankees won more games than the Twins.

- The Pistons have won three straight games entering Wednesday. Why? Rasheed Wallace. He averaged 18.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in those games. When he produces, the Pistons win. When he does not, they lose. This Pistons are that simple to figure out.

- If there is a rematch between Michigan and Ohio State in the BCS title game, the biggest factor might be the layoff. It will be more than seven weeks. That is hardly ideal. And you cannot tell me that it will have no bearing on the game. I would think it would benefit Michigan. Ohio State seems to have peaked.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Good Question. Wrong Answer

Are you going to step down as president of the Detroit Lions? Matt Millen was asked that question following the Lions embarrassing loss to the Arizona Cardinals Sunday. His answer: "Don't even ask that." I do not know what world Matt Millen thinks we all live in. But it, evidently, is not the world in which he resides. How can we not ask that question? After all these years. After all those losses. Everything about the Lions centers on that question. It would be different if they had a young nucleus like, say, the Cardinals with their first-round draft pick rookie quarterback, star running back and corps of talented and young receivers. But there is nothing like that. The Lions have Kevin Jones and Roy Williams - and little else. Every year, the Lions are picking low in the NFL Draft, and it does not matter. Every other year, Millen changes the head coach. It does not matter. The franchise was underperforming before he got here, but Millen has taken the Lions to extraordinary depths. And there are no signs of progress. Zero. Sorry Matt, but the question begs to be asked. These people who buy tickets, and stick with your sorry sack team and dysfunctional organization through only thin, deserve better than one of your typically pompous answers to such an obvious question.

Random thoughts

- If Michigan played Ohio State 10 times, the Buckeyes would, in my opinion, win eight. The only reason that game Saturday was somewhat close was because of errors Ohio State made. Troy Smith has had his way with the Wolverines three straight times. What would make anybody think it would be different a fourth time? Having said that, I would like to see the rematch, but only if USC, Florida and Arkansas all have more than one loss. The television folks want to see Notre Dame face Ohio State. If that happens, it would be a travesty.

- Alfonsio Soriano will play at least 99 games next season in bandbox ball parks such Wrigley Field and those in Houston and Cincinnati. As such, it would not surprise me if he hits 55 home runs next season.

- Rod Marinelli is delusional if he really believes the Lions problem is closing games. Come on, they were down 17-3 for most of the second half Sunday. The week before, the 49ers held the lead from start-to-finish. His team is just not very good. And, evidently, he is not much of a coach, either.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Signing Casey Fits Perfectly

A lot of people were clamoring for the Tigers to shuffle the deck at first base, but I think they made the right move by re-signing Sean Casey to a one-year contract. The cost (reportedly $4 million) was not outrageous, and Casey provided the Tigers with a lot last season and during the playoffs. He only hit .245, but drove in runs at a 90-plus RBI pace over 162-game schedule. During the postseason, particularly the World Series, Casey was clutch. If you added his playoff numbers to his regular season numbers, it was a more accurate gauge of Casey. He does not strike out a lot and will hit a home run now and then. With Brandon Inge and Carlos Guillen providing good power from the left side of the infield, and the addition of Gary Sheffield, the Tigers should have plenty of power. They ranked third in the American League in home runs last season playing in one of the more spacious ball parks - without Sheffield.

I like the Tigers infield. The World Series aside, Inge has proven to be a solid major league third baseman. Unless he falls off this year, and I do not see that happening, he is not the utility player so many people seem determined to label him. Guillen does make some goofy errors now and then, but he is a better shortstop defensively than he is often given credit for being. Placido Polanco is very good at second base. I like the way the Tigers lineup sets up with Casey in it a lot better than without him.

Random thoughts

- It has become comical the way the Lions keep playing musical chairs at wide receiver. Re-signing Corey Bradford says it all.

- How about Tom Izzo's Spartans beating Texas. The one factor that was very noticeable about that game is how hard Michigan State played on defense. Seems like Izzo's message is getting through to this bunch. If it does, the Spartans may do well in a Big Ten that has changed a lot since last season.

- One player, more than any other, will decide the fate of the Pistons this season: Rasheed Wallace. And he is not playing well. It is no coincidence the Pistons are not, collectively, playing well, either.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Greatest Rivalry in Sports?

They talk a lot about the Michigan-Ohio State game as if it has been like this forever. It has not been. It just seems like that. And in a way, 1969 was forever ago. It was, after all, 37 years back. They did have the snow bowl game in 1950. They did have a game during which Tom Harmon accomplished incredible feats. But really, the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry did not begin in earnest until 1969 when Bo Schembechler's first Wolverines squad upset perhaps Woody Hayes' greatest team. Since then, every year, like clockwork, the game has meant a lot. There are no lulls in its intensity. That is what separates it from other rivalries in sports. There have been many years - more often than not actually - when the Red Sox were not that good and the Yankees-Red Sox meant little. Does anybody really care about the Redskins-Cowboys or Packers-Bears rivalries right now? Love the Canadiens and Leafs. But neither one of those teams is that good anymore. Celtics-Lakers? What does that mean about now. Same with college football and the end-of-season games. The one that endures is Michigan-Ohio State. And this season, it only gets more intense with the teams being 1 and 2 in the rankings. I do think it is the greatest rivalry in team sports. At least right now it is. And I also think Saturday's game will live up to its hype.

Random thoughts

- The National League was awful this season. A 16-game winner, Brandon Webb, as the Cy Young winner? No wonder an 83-win team like the Cardinals got through the playoffs. Makes you wonder about missed opportunities for the Tigers, who played particularly poorly during the World Series.

- Guess they messed up a video presentation for Pat Tillman in Arizona last Sunday. It is so unjust and Tillman's intentions were so noble. And everything about his ultimate sacrifice has been so blundered - from the military killing him with "friendly fire" to a coverup to a botched tribute - that it's an utter shame.

- A lot of people are saying Ohio State's defense is better than it was last year despite losing half of the NFL Draft. I do not believe that. I think it is more a case of the Big Ten overall not being as strong. Also, Ohio State played Texas early in the season before Longhorn QB Colt McCoy got his feet underneath him.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ah, The Sheffield Trade

I have written my piece with my column and said my piece on the radio. In the process, I have stated the Tigers overpaid for Gary Sheffield. That does not mean I think he will not help the Tigers. If he is still the same player. And he very well may be. My point is the Tigers got to where they are by being smart. The trades for Carlos Guillen and Placido Polanco were not blockbusters. They were just smart. The Tigers did not just hand them outrageous money. They signed them to prudent contracts. With the Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez contracts, they thought outside the box by including clauses that eased all concerns. Dave Dombrowski has used all means available to piece together the roster. I feel he should stay that course instead of suddenly throwing money around that loosely and parting with some pretty good prospects. It reminds me a bit of the mindset Kenny Holland developed after awhile with the Red Wings. That team was built brilliantly through draft picks and trades. Yet, at a certain point, Holland seemed to lose interest in building it piece-by-piece and started signing overpriced veterans. Ultimately, that line of thinking hurt the Red Wings more than it helped them. It would be a shame if the same thing happened to the Tigers.

Random Thoughts

- There were a lot of empty seats at the Lions game Sunday and the press box was only about half full. The Lions have played so poorly they are losing their grip on their incredibly loyal fan base, and the media is starting to care much less about them. Personally, I do not like seeing that happen. They are the local NFL team. Regardless of their ineptitude, that means something.

- Sorry, but of all the candidates mentioned for the Michigan State football coaching job, the best one - by far - in my mind is Ron English. He is going to get a great Division I job. Those other guys probably are not - unless it is MSU. What does that tell you?

- Whether Ohio State's Troy Smith wins the Heisman Trophy or not will be determined by how well he plays Saturday against Michigan. If he plays well and the Buckeyes win, it will be his - period. If he falters, somebody else will emerge. But who?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Until Monday November 13...

My next blog entry will be on Monday, November 13. After that, it will be back to entries every Monday, Wednesday and Friday per usual. Thanks for being a part of this blog. I appreciate it very much.
Pat Caputo

Monday, November 06, 2006

No Excuse for Michigan

So Ball State scored against backup players. So maybe Michigan will be better off in the long run for playing a close game. So it was difficult to give up what would normally be a bye week when rest was needed. The Wolverines still should not have played that close of a game Saturday against a poor Mid-American Conference team. Any other team in the Top 10 would have beaten Ball State by a wide margin. It never should have come down to a fourth-and-goal late in the game. Michigan is fortunate it did not cost them in the polls or with the BCS.

Random Thoughts

- Now I do not feel so bad thinking, on this blog, before the start of training camp that Kevin Jones and Roy Williams are really good players. They sure were Sunday against Atlanta. I have to admit, though, that I am surprised at how well the Lions defense played. It is just not that good on paper, especially with all those defensive linemen out of the lineup.

- If the Colts do not get to the Super Bowl this season it will be utterly pathetic. After downing Denver and New England on the road back-to-back, they are clearly the team to beat. Yet, there is something about that team that dictates it will fall apart during the postseason. It would not surprise me if it happens again.

- The most underrated player on the Lions is defensive lineman Cory Redding. He is solid and seems to be better playing inside than he did at end.

Friday, November 03, 2006

It Would Be Better If The Lions Win

I know the above is a ridiculous headline. Is not winning always better than losing? But not necessarily with the Lions, right? They are 1-6 entering Sunday vs. Atlanta at Ford Field. They are winless in both the conference and their division. They have virtually no chance of making the playoffs. OK, then a case can be made the Lions would be better off losing most of their remaining games, posting an utterly awful record such as 2-14 or 3-13 than closing strongly and being 5-11 or 6-10.

If the Lions suffer through such a terrible season, it might force owner William Clay Ford to finally get rid of Matt Millen. Or perhaps Millen will leave on his own accord. Also, the Lions would get a better draft pick during the first round. A lot of people feel this way. I do not. While I understand that side of the coin, I do feel the Lions would be better off closing the season strongly. First of all, I get the sense Millen is not going anywhere - regardless. The Lions have gotten little benefit out of drafting early. Joey Harrington was the third overall pick in the draft, and Charles Rogers second. Like I wrote in my column early this week - breeding only breeds more losing. This is an organization that needs to win. Period.

Random Thoughts

- My favorite baseball statistic of 2006 comes from Baseball Weekly. According to Baseball Info Solutions, a scouting service, Joel Zumaya threw 233 pitches this season of 100 mph or faster. The rest of Major League Baseball threw just 102. It's not like Zumaya threw that many innings, either. He pitched just 83 1-3. If that is not definitive proof he is one of the hardest throwing pitchers of all-time, than what is?

- Anybody, after watching them play each other Thursday night, get the idea that both Louisville and West Virginia would get their clocks cleaned if they played the big boys of college football? I sure did. Both defenses were awful. There were so few big hits it was like watching a flag football game.

- A fearless prediction: Following this season there will be little doubt Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player in the world.