Monday, April 30, 2007

That Third Period Was A Real Stinker

Sometimes a team gets just what they deserve. Certainly that was the case Monday night when the Red Wings lost to San Jose in Game 3 of a Western Conference semifinal series. The Red Wings played very well for half the game. But it was disappointing the way they performed after San Jose tied it. That was especially true of the way San Jose dominated the third period. Goaltending is not a problem. The only reason the Red Wings were reasonably in the game was because of Dominik Hasek. The big concern in this series is the way Joe Thornton kind of just took over Monday. He is the best forward in the series and he does every thing well. Once he gets it cranked up, the Sharks feed off him. That was the case Monday. On the road, the Red Wings have trouble matching up with him because they don’t get the last line change. Kris Draper had been doing a good job of shadowing Thornton. Wednesday's game is obviously key. The Red Wings must get the home ice advantage back. But in order to do so, they must finish what they start. That obviously wasn’t the case Monday.

Random Thoughts

- There is a lot to like about Brandon Inge. He is an extraordinary athlete. He is a product of the Tigers minor league system. He has rare versatility. He is a genuinely good guy who does well when speaking to the media. He definitely gives back to the community. He has a lot of power for a little guy. There are times when he makes spectacular plays at third base. The downside to Inge is his inconsistency. It makes it very difficult, ultimately, to gauge just how effective he really is.
Sunday he was great. He went 3-for-3. He hit a game-winning home run against the Twins when the Tigers really needed it. Yet, he was one of the major reasons factors the Tigers were reeling in the first place. He entered Sunday with a .122 batting average. In the previous two games, both losses, Inge was 0-for-7 with four strikeouts. He has just 12 hits in 77 at bats this season, but has won the Tigers two games - the one Sunday and one earlier in Toronto - with his power. It’s the same defensively. Inge will make a brilliant play one moment - and then mess up a routine throw to second base to start a double play the next. Because he is signed long-term and is a homegrown product, Inge is a very important piece of the Tigers’ puzzle. They need him to be less of an up-and-down entity if they are going to get to where they want to go.

- I didn’t like the Lions draft after the first round. I would have liked it a lot more if they had taken Michigan middle linebacker David Harris with their second round pick. Not that I don’t like Drew Stanton, but he just didn’t seem to fit there. Time will tell. Who knows? Maybe Stanton to Calvin Johnson will be the next great pitch-and-catch tandem in the NFL. It just doesn’t seem like it at this point.

- Reason No. 2,345 the Red Wings front office knows what they are doing: Daniel Cleary. What a great acquistion that was, eh?

- I just have this picture in my mind of Ben Wallace shooting free throws against the Pistons in the playoffs. It must be a comforting thought to Piston fans, who based on the way they booed Big Ben at the line during the regular season, seem to relishing the thought of being on the other side of that fence.

Friday, April 27, 2007

If No Trade, Johnson Should Be The Lions Choice

This is a strange NFL Draft from the standpoint of the Lions. I must admit I am perplexed by it. The Lions, of course, have the second overall pick and there is a great player who will probably be available - easily the best in this draft - wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Wide receiver is a need for the Lions, but far less than their other "problems." More than anything else, I think they should build on the defensive side of the ball first. But there are no edge pass rushers or cornerbacks, in my opinion, worthy of the second overall pick. Defensive end Gaines Adams from Clemson included. I think middle linebacker Patrick Willis and safeties LaRon Landry and Reggie Nelson from LSU and Florida are terrific players, but there isn’t proper value for the second overall pick in those positions - although they are easily the biggest positions of need for the Lions (their defensive line is OK, but their linebackers - other than Ernie Sims - and their secondary stink). Obviously, they ahould trade the pick. If they don’t, the Lions would be wise to lean on the "best available player regardless of position" philosophy and select Johnson. Then they must look to defense. And they really need to get three starters for this coming season out of this draft. They can’t afford to take a Brian Calhoun in the third round.

Random Thoughts

- I don’t know if Chad Durbin can sustain it, but if he is able to do what Zach Miner did for the Tigers last season by producing a real good stretch of starts, it would sure help. Based on the way he pitched the other night in Chicago, that does seem possible. It didn’t to me before that. He seemed overmatched in his first couple starts, but did display a lot of late life on his fastball in Chicago I hadn’t seen from him before.

- These early numbers from Kyle Sleeth - 14 hits, 14 earned runs, six walks, five wild pitches in 6 1-3 innings over four outings - aren’t very encouraging for the Tigers. Andrew Miller hasn’t exactly been dominating (22 hits in 23 innings) at Class A Lakeland, either. It all only makes Durbin even more key to the Tigers success with Kenny Rogers out.

- I just got the feeling Thursday night watching it live that the San Jose Sharks are a little bigger, a little faster and just as skilled as the Red Wings, who need Dominik Hasek to be brilliant to win this series.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Reputation Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

The University of Detroit has a deep and great athletic tradition. It’s reputation academically is terrific.
That’s why what is happening at U-D lately is disturbing. What is happening? Not a lot. And that is the problem.
A horrible season by the men’s basketball team, the cancelling of a proud baseball program a few years back, the lack of premier athletes from the City of Detroit, administrators coaching varsity sports and virtually no exposure for the school coming from its athletic programs. The latest is an athletic director "search" that is comical in scope. Settling for mediocrity has become the norm.
The alums are up in arms about it at U-D - and with good reason. U-D needs to be careful because out in the suburbs, Oakland University is taking away a lot of its thunder. Oakland played on ESPN in its conference title game. Oakland is cleaning up in men’s basketball recruiting in its backyard. Oakland has a full-time coach and is building a baseball program. Its women’s basketball program is strong. Oakland has very good soccer and swimming programs with top-notch coaching. What is U-D doing? Where is its direction?
Heading the wrong way. The sooner the Titans change course, the better.

Random Thoughts

- The Tigers bitter loss Tuesday in Anaheim was not the end of the world, but it was disappointing. They had an opportunity to gain momentum and did not seize it. A closer is going to blow a game now and then, but how that happened was disturbing. Todd Jones has to be better than that. Tiger pitchers fielding their position poorly has become a sore spot. I didn’t like the way Fernando Rodney threw the ball so well when he was trailing 7-0. That’s a sign he isn’t exactly clutch. And what is with Jim Leyland and Neifi Perez? Why play him instead of Infante at second? He’s a thought, why not play Infante a game or two at third base. He can’t do any worse than Brandon Inge lately.

- Those two megabuck extra years the Tigers added onto Gary Sheffield’s contract aren’t looking real good about now.

- This is a strange NFL Draft, isn’t it. There are no players at the top every one is clamoring for, yet it is fairly deep. The Lions, more than ever, need to trade down. Their two biggest positions of need are middle linebacker and safety, neither of which gives you proper value and salary slotting at two overall. The Lions dream draft: Trading down and being able to land LSU safety LeRon Landry or Florida safety Reggie Nelson - and Mississippi middle linebacker Patrick Willis in the first round.

- I do think the Red Wings have a decent chance of beating the Sharks in the second round. San Jose has an excellent top line, but their goaltending isn’t as strong as what the Red Wings went through with Calgary’s Mikka Kiprusoff. Evgeni Nabokov wasn’t tested much by Nashville.
The Red Wings advantage is their depth up front. They have four solid lines. San Jose doesn’t.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Pistons Need To Make Quick Work Of Magic

When Muhammad Ali would box, sometimes he would stick his left arm out and place it directly on the forehead of his opponent. The other boxer would be helpless in that situation because he just couldn’t reach Ali, who was toying with him. You know, kind of the way a cat plays with a mouse before he goes for the kill. It’s the same feeling the Pistons present as they mess with the Orlando Magic during the opening round of the NBA playoffs. The Pistons get a lead, but never one so big the Magic feel like they are being blown out. Sometimes, Orlando cuts the lead down to single digits. It was even down to three points late in Game 1 on Saturday. Yet, there is never any feeling the Pistons are truly threatened. The Pistons are the ones in control. The Magic are only as good as the Pistons let them be. It could change on the road. If it does, and the Pistons lose a game or two to the Magic, it would not bode well for their future. The shorter work they make of the Magic, the better. Several of the Pistons’ key players - Rasheed Wallace, Lindsey Hunter, Antonio McDyess and Chris Webber - are older than 30. Even with an improved bench, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton play a lot of minutes. The more rest the Pistons get for the next round, the better because Miami and Chicago figure to beat on each other in a knockdown series. There is no reason the Pistons can’t win these next two games in Orlando and sweep the series. They would be wise to stop toying with the Magic and take care of business as soon as possible.

Ramdom Thoughts

- Thank you, Red Wings. Detroit needed that.
Now people can put the past behind them. This can become "Hockey
Town" again.
The Red Wings are still a long way from winning the Stanley Cup championship, but at least they won their creditably back Sunday by outlasting Calgary in six games. The early exits from the playoffs had become monotonous.
It was important, too, that the Red Wings won a close game on the road. There would not have been nearly the same degree of optimism about the next round if they advanced only because they could beat one of the worst road teams in the NHL at Joe Louis Arena. Calgary is a difficult place to play - and the Red Wings proved they were tough enough to win there.
What I still don’t understand about the series is why it was so difficult. The Red Wings outshot the Flames by 21 per game. The Flames Mikka Kiprusoff was beyond brilliant in goal. He was even better than in 2004. But it seems like every goalie that sees the Red Wings in the playoffs gets into an unbelievable trance. It got almost spooky Sunday. The good part is the Red Wings won despite this quirk. Also, I don’t think there is much question Dominik Hasek is an upgrade from Manny Legace and Curtis Joseph in Detroit’s goal. If Manny or CuJo were still playing goal for the Red Wings, I don’t believe they would be advancing. There is little question the Red Wings would be better off facing Dallas in the next round. San Jose is the big and physical type of team that is going to still give the Red Wings problems. Dallas is a conservative trapping team that is not particularly physical. San Jose has better scoring punch and is more playoff proven in goal.

- It probably wouldn’t mean that much ultimately if the Tigers were 8-10 instead of 10-8, but it is a good sign they are finding ways to win. It doesn’t get much more dramatic than Marcus Thames’ ninth-inning homer to tie it Sunday. They are doing it with Kenny Rogers out and Gary Sheffield slumping to an unimaginable degree. Fernando Rodney is a major concern, but his troubles have been off set by the work of Wilfredo Ledezma. Jim Leyland was right. He is a weapon out of the bullpen.

- Justin Verlander is an incredible talent. I just can’t see him getting lit up by any lineup this season.

- Johan Franzen for the Conn Smythe Trophy...Just kidding...But he has developed into quite a player.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Has The Other Shoe Dropped On The Red Wings?

Honestly, the Red Wings and the playoffs have become an unbearable combination. Like drinking and driving. Water and oil. Hate and marriage. Kids and matches. Losing two games in Calgary has taken away the luster from winning the first two games, and has led to a feeling of, "Here we go again." Having a 2-1 lead during the third period of Game Three and not holding it changed the complexion of the series. In the process, the Flames went from being the nail to the hammer. The Red Wings did not play that poorly Thursday. Todd Bertuzzi played very well after struggling on Tuesday. Dominik Hasek made several key saves. Pavel Datsyuk had pretty good jump. Even strength it isn’t even. The Red Wings have been far better than the Flames. But it is always something with the Red Wings in the playoffs. This year it is the special teams. Their penalty killing stinks. Their power play has been even worse. The Flames defense is depleted and not playing well. The Flames are barely surviving without Robyn Regehr. Yet, the Red Wings haven’t taken advantage of the situation. Flames goalie Mikka Kiprusoff has been typically outstanding, but the Red Wings just can’t maintain prosperity. They play on the road in the playoffs as if they are overwhelmed by the atmosphere. Another thing: Calgary’s fans care. I mean they really care. It is way more hectic for the opposing team there than it is at relatively docile Joe Louis Arena. Saturday’s game is obviously huge. If the Red Wings lose it, the series is in serious jeopardy. The truth is, the Red Wings had the series essentially won in the third period Tuesday. They let it get away. Can’t help but wonder if they let the season get away that night, too. Sure looked like it Thursday. Thing is, you want to give the Red Wings the benefit of the doubt. They have won three Stanley Cup titles the past decade. They are solid year after year. But since 2002, they have been Frustrated Incorporated in the playoffs. That loss Thursday was as frustrating as it gets. I am tired of making excuses for the Red Wings, and hearing them from others. There aren’t any.

Random Thoughts

- A-Rod has 15 extra base hits and 26 RBI in his first 57 at bats this season. That’s sick.

- Hate to say I told you so, but the Indians bullpen is beyond bad.

- Anybody else see Greg Oden as Sam Bowie and Kevin Durant as Michael Jordan?

- I don’t get the growing sentiment for Joel Zumaya to replace Todd Jones as Tigers closer. Seems like no matter how well Jones performs, if he has one bad outing, a large element of fans turn their back on him. It’s reality, but it isn’t fair.

- Michigan is better off without Alex Legion. The kid is an unabashed gunner who played for himself, not the team, when he was at Country Day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hasek Has To Be Better Than That

I know it’s old hat in this town to blame everything on the goalie. And I know Dominik Hasek wasn’t necessarily horrible Tuesday. But he wasn’t that good, either. On a night when the Red Wings really needed their goalie to steal victory for them on the road, Hasek wasn’t up to the task. Jarome Iginla has a great shot, but that was a bad angle goal that decided the Red Wings’ 3-2 loss to the Flames. The other two Calgary goals weren’t soft goals, but Hasek didn’t come up with the big save when the Red Wings needed it. If a team is up 2-1 in the third period in the playoffs, and squanders the lead, the goalie needs to protect it. The Red Wings didn’t suffer massive defensive breakdowns. Hasek needed to be better. If he isn’t, the Red Wings will struggle in this series. That could have been Curtis Joseph or Manny Legace in the net. Hasek was no better than they have been in recent playoffs. Not on Tuesday.

Random Thoughts

- I thought Daniel Cleary’s hit on Deon Phanuef was a classic. Nice to see Phanuef get a little of his own medicine. What goes around comes around. Both he and Kris Draper played exceptionally well.

- Kansas City stinks, but the Tigers cleaning up on the Royals should not be taken lightly. Their hot start last season was built upon dominating the bad teams.

- I like everything about the way the Pistons setup for the playoffs. You know who is still a good player? Lindsey Hunter. I just wonder which Flip Murray will show up for the playoffs. Also, I think the Pistons’ player most on the spot in the playoffs this year will be Richard Hamilton.

- The situation with Joey Crawford is a case of somebody getting so full of themselves and their authority they self-destruct. It’s like the bouncer at the bar who decides who passes or stays on the sidewalk. Or a control-freak boss. That type of syndrome. Sometimes officials or umpires get so out of control. And it’s not like he was trying to pick a fight with some bad guy. I mean Tim Duncan?

- I would put Jiri Hudler back in the lineup for Todd Bertuzzi Thursday. Big Bert clearly was not himself Tuesday. Hudler has been very good and deserves to play.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Red Wings: For Real Or An Illusion?

The Red Wings have been very impressive in their first two playoff games. Yet, I have to be honest, I don’t know if I yet trust whether what I am seeing is for real. Have they been that good or Calgary that bad? The Flames have tinkered with their team since going to the finals in 2004 and Sutter isn’t their coach anymore. Maybe they are just different. I know Kiprusoff is a great goalie, but to ring up that many shots on goal and score just three times Sunday is bizarre. When it was 2-1 - and I wrote my column about this in Monday’s Oakland Press - the Wings were tested. They passed that test, but can they on the road? What I really like about the Wings, though, is the way they develop players. Filppula, Franzen, Hudler - those are good finds. Lidstrom is still terrific and I have come around to the notion Hasek is the answer in goal. It’s just that it would be much more comforting if they win Tuesday night and quell any thought the Flames might have about getting back into the series.

Random Thoughts

- It can only ultimately help the Tigers that the Yankees pitching staff is so injury-prone and mediocre. Can you imagine the mistake it would have been if the Tigers had signed Carl Pavano.

- I spent about six hours Saturday pretty much doing nothing but watching baseball (I have the extra innings package). What amazed me as I flipped through the channels is just how hard the Tigers’ pitchers throw in comparison to other staffs. It was seldom anybody hit 93 mph. It seems like 70 percent of the Tigers’ staff does that routinely.

- Sidney Crosby gets most of the ink, but the best player in the National Hockey League right now is Vincent Lecavalier. He is just as skilled as Crosby, but has more size and experience.

- The most underrated player in the NBA right now is Jason Richardson. What he is doing for the Warriors right now is incredible.

- I wonder if the Lions will fly out the day of the game for their season opener against Oakland? Talk about two bad teams to start the season. Matt Millen often talked about doing things the Raiders’ way. Well, he is. Unfortunately.

- I don’t blame Josh McCown if he wants out of Detroit. Rod Marinelli and Mike Martz have this strange obsession with Jon Kitna when, more than anything else, the Lions need to develop a viable QB for the future. I would have liked to have seen McCown get a chance. I wonder what he can do. With Kitna, what you see is what you get - the consummate journeyman.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Early Impressions Of The Tigers

We have had a little bit of time to see the 2007 Tigers. I was with the team in Baltimore, so I saw them up close. These are my early impressions:

- They have won close games. To me that’s a good sign - a sign this team knows how to win. Even though the Tigers haven’t been hitting well, they make less mistakes than other clubs and are able to outlast and outpitch them.

- Their relief pitching, which I didn’t like the first week of the season, has been better. I thought Fernando Rodney threw the ball well in Baltimore. Wilfredo Ledezma continues to be impressive and Todd Jones isn’t getting enough credit. Joel Zumaya is terrific. Even thought Bobby Seay threw well in Kansas City, although I thought Jim Leyland was flirting with disaster by bring him in the 12th in Baltimore.

- Justin Verlander is incredible. Anybody who can triple up on his changeup and then reach back for a 98 mph fastball when necessary is special. 12 innings and zero earned runs says it all. Guess spring training doesn’t mean much, eh?

- I don’t know about Gary Sheffield. You have to figure he will snap out of it, but his age is a concern. Time will tell.

- Placido Polanco is one of the most underrated players in baseball. He is an outstanding situational hitter and a steady fielder.

- Brandon Inge and the 5-4-3 double play just don’t seem to get along. For some reason, he struggles with that throw to second. Must be faulty footwork.

- Hope I am wrong, because he seems like a good kid who has paid a lot of dues, but Chad Durbin looks like a Triple-A pitcher to me.

- Then again, there may be hope for Durbin. I didn’t think Nate Robertson was that good, remember? He obviously is.

- Is Omar Infante still on the team?

- Marcus Thames playing first base is a stretch. He doesn’t look comfortable there.

- I get the feeling Sean Casey will hit .300 this season and the fans of Detroit will come to like him. He is solid in every way.

- Craig Monroe is the Tigers most underrated player. I don’t get it from people who bag on his defense. He seems pretty good out there to me. And he is a very good clutch hitter.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Rutgers Players A Silver Lining In The Cloud

It’s the topic de jour. It’s the flavor of the day. It’s also a reminder that sometimes, the younger they are, the smarter and more pure they are. And how our youth can make the experienced and supposedly wise seem foolish and petty in comparison.
The only group that has handled themselves with distinction in the Don Imus incident has been the Rutgers women’s basketball players. They had a level head about it Tuesday. They seemed willing to judge the incident on its own merits, not because of an agenda.
The rest involved are clearly driven by their own ambition. For Imus, it is saving his hide. It’s one thing to have humor. Or to discuss issues in a frank and honest manner, ignoring our overly politically correct world in the process. It’s another to use bigoted slurs. The line isn’t that thin. It’s obvious, and so many so-called shock jocks cross it too often. Imus got busted for it - and it was deserved. It probably should have happened long ago.
Imus has apologized profusely, but it rings hollow. You can’t help but doubt whether he is sincere. I don’t trust his motives. Do you?
But I feel the same way about Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. It seems as if they use these incidents as their own personal formats to vault themselves into the limelight. It doesn’t seem to matter what Imus says or does, they are going to get him. They won’t let up. In the process, they are playing into Imus’ hands. People don’t like bigoted comments, but they don’t like witch hunts, either. And they don’t appreciate pompous and self-righteous people telling them what to think. We’ll make up our own minds, thank you. Sharpton and Jackson are coming across as if they are on a witch hunt, and if they are not careful, Imus is going to end up garnering sympathy votes.
The transgressions against the girls were bad. But Imus wasn’t Bull Connor turning the dogs loose on the streets in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s. It is understandable the coach would be upset, but Rutgers Vivian Stringer acted like Joan of Arc burning at the stake Tuesday. She was overly dramatic with her comments. Her players were not. They were to the point. They have been the only ones to the point.
There can be good that comes out of this. One is a better understanding about sensitivity. Another is pointing to the sometimes abusive nature of political correctness. Women’s basketball can grow in stature because of the way Rutgers players are handling the situation. They seem like such good kids, don’t they? But whatever is driving this issue, must be for the right reasons.
Can anybody say what is driving Imus, Jackson and Sharpton on this issue is the right reasons, or their own personal agendas? It’s troubling. That the Rutgers women’s basketball team has handled themselves so well is encouraging. We can be thankful for that.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Pudge Plus Contract Year Equals A Good Thing

I must admit the Tigers player that causes me to shake my head in both wonder and bewilderment the most is Ivan Rodriguez. He is such a great ball player, yet he has been disappointing on many levels the last 2 1-2 seasons. He strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk. How can a player that good hitting in the middle of the lineup drive in so few runs? And he did act up in 2005, which helped cost Tigers icon Alan Trammell his job as manager. Yet, there is still no better defensive catcher in baseball. Period. At times, the guy can do any thing with the bat, too. Last season he did defer to manager Jim Leyland when it came to dropping from third in the order and playing first base and even second base. So here it is, and Pudge hits a three-run homer to win a game Sunday. So he is hitting .381. At 35, it is expected he will slow down and the Tigers certainly haven’t been in a hurry to sign him to another long-term deal. But he seems motivated. The last time Pudge was in this position, he put the Florida Marlins on his back and carried them to the world title. Don’t be surprised if he has a similarly big season - despite his age. Special players do special things - especially when their survival mode kicks in. Pudge is playing for a new contract. That can only help the Tigers.
(Pudge has a $13 million club option for next season. The Tigers can buy out his contract for $3 million.)

Random Thoughts

- It’s funny how the Phil Mickelsons and the other top golfers seem to cower at the sight of Tiger Woods in a major on Sunday, while grunts like Zach Johnson are the ones that beat him sometimes. Weird.

-Honestly, the Flames haven’t been that good this season. Still, if there was an opponent the Red Wings didn’t want to see in the first round, it was Calgary. It will be interesting to see if Brad Stuart shows for the Flames during the playoffs. He is immensely talented, but hasn’t been that good when it matters in the past.

- ESPN The Magazine got it right. The Pistons, Tigers and Red Wings do belong among the best 18 franchises in all of professional sports. And, yes, the Lions belong at the very bottom. I think a lot of it has to do with ownership. Mike Ilitch and William Davidson are self-made business people who just won’t accept failure. It doesn’t matter if William Clay Ford fails. And it never has. He has been set for life from the minute he was born.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Where Does The Masters Lie?

The Masters is this weekend and I love the tournament. Golf courses by nature are beautiful to the eye. Augusta National is rivaled only by Pebble Beach in sheer beauty, at least from what I can tell from television. Grass never looks so green. But I have never been able to quite put my finger on where The Masters stands on the overall landscape of sporting events in this country. Is it bigger than the U.S. Open, which is essentially the national golf championship of this nation? To me, it seems as if Augusta National is almost too rigged to the best players, while the way U.S. Open courses are set up, it benefits too much straight hitters who count "par" as their strength. I love the Kentucky Derby, but its appeal is limited to a degree by the shortness of the race itself. If you miss the Kentucky Derby, you can always catch it in its entirety on SportsCenter - even if you forgot to TiVo it. The Indianapolis 500 was once a great event, but they have ruined it. The Super Bowl is massive, but there is some disappointment when you actually see the game live because it is then understood what a made-for-TV event it actually is. They do a lot of things just to play to the TV cameras or the NFL Films cameras. The World Series is much more pure. The NBA Finals are terrific, but I hate the way the nation seems so disappointed if the Pistons are in it. The Stanley Cup finals, for some reason, tend to be anti-climatic. The beauty of the Stanley Cup playoffs lies more in their totality. Certainly, I don’t think anything is quite as intense. Tiger Woods is the star of stars and, of course, that adds to the aura of The Masters, but he badly needs a genuine rival.

Random Thoughts

- To me, it is almost as if Kentucky basketball and Alabama football have become the same thing. Great tradition, but unrealistic expectations.

- Maybe it’s just me overreacting only two games into the season, but I can see Curtis Granderson having a great season. He is a smart player who will get the most out of his talent eventually. And I think his talent is considerable.

- Don’t you almost wish the Red Wings don’t win the President’s Trophy? Is there anything more useless? Go Sabres!!!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Beilein Can Coach, But Can He Recruit?

Can John Beilein recruit? That will be the bottom line to whether he is successful at Michigan. Bo Ryan is a tactical coach who runs a strict system, but Wisconsin was extremely deep and talented this season. Ryan can recruit. He had deep recruiting ties in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Beilein doesn’t in Michigan nor the Midwest. Ultimately, if Beilein is going to take the Wolverines where they want to go, he will have to get players from the Detroit Public School League. That is where Tom Izzo doesn’t - and probably never will - have a strong hold. Michigan used to, yet now many of the best PSL players are ending up out of state. PSL talent was dotted all over the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. This state - and particularly Detroit - has an abundance of basketball talent. It would be a terrible thing to waste. Getting that talent will make or break Beilein.

Random Thoughts

- Fernando Rodney did get a tough call on Frank Thomas by home plate umpire Rick Reed in the opener, but hitting Thomas and then allowing a single on an 0-2 pitch were inexcusable. Rodney has to be a lot better than that if the Tigers are going to reach the playoffs. After seeing that performance, though, I am not sure he will be. Lets face it, the guy is shaky. If I have a concern right now about the Tigers, it’s their bullpen. Joel Zumaya and Todd Jones can’t do it all. They need help.

- Changing the prep sports seasons in Michigan makes no sense whatsoever. It’s amazing how a few can mess up the lives of so many others for suspect reasons. Girls basketball, which actually got a lot of attention in the fall, will suffer the most because of this.

- Niklas Kronwall is really impressive player, but he does seem destined to always be injured. It’s the price a relatively small defenseman pays playing such a rugged style. Replacing his 20-plus minutes per game along the blue line could prove to be difficult for the Red Wings.