Friday, May 30, 2008

Tigers Benefit From Red Wings And Pistons

The greatest benefactor of the deep playoff runs by the Red Wings and Pistons may be the Tigers.
Their season, which began with such high hopes, is turning into a bitter disappointment.
But it has been moved off center stage. There are some calls to sports talk radio trickling in about the Tigers, and I still get e-mails about them on a consistent basis, most wondering how this could happen.
I think it’s combination of these factors:
- The Tigers have too many of the same type of players - right-handed batters who are hitters first, but lacking on other areas.
- I don’t think they have a bad clubhouse in the sense the players don’t get along, or don’t respect manager Jim Leyland, but it does seem like the Tigers lack urgency, a sign too many of their players are too comfortable with their cushy contract status.
- The starting pitching has been horrible. The Tigers starters needed to live up to the track records they established during their best seasons, not in 2007. It’s been just the opposite, though, and has been compounded by Justin Verlander’s woes.
- The defensive struggles of Carlos Guillen (surprising) and Miguel Cabrera (not surprising) have been costly.
- Gary Sheffield and Kenny Rogers apparently have hit a wall with their careers. Their stats say it all.
I still can’t believe the Tigers are this bad. I have to think they will pull out of this tailspin at some point relatively soon. For their sake, they better hope it’s before all the attention focuses squarely on them again.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Just Don't Understand Resentment Toward Wings

Don Cherry was at it again on ESPN Monday night.
Oh, he thinks the Red Wings are going to win the Stanley Cup title, but showed his true feelings when asked about Pavel Datsyuk throwing a couple punches during Game 2.
"He was saying ‘Stop it,’ Cherry said, while impersonating a lisp and flicking his hand forward.
What is wrong with these people? They just don’t get it. The Red Wings are dominating the playoffs. They deserve credit for it, not being mocked .
The Red Wings are a study in brilliant player moves down the line by their front office. It hasn’t just been the European players they have drafted, but also their free agent signings that have panned out.
You’d think the entire team was from European, but it’s not - only about half.
The Red Wings’ best players are from Europe, sure. What’s wrong with that? And the Red Wings aren’t stupid enough to let the Penguins - or any team - goad them into penalties.
Isn’t that the smart, disciplined hockey?
It’s not just Don Cherry, either. A lot of the media covering the Stanley Cup Finals - particularly those from Canada - feel that way. They’re just not as open about it, but talk about it all the time behind the scenes.
Seems like envy to me.

Random Thoughts

- What kind of team scores 19 runs one night, one the next and zero 12 innings the night after that?
A losing one. Enough said.

- I was wondering when Jason Maxiell would emerge in the Boston series. He is too good of a player to be as quiet as he had been on the floor. So what transpired Monday was a great sign for the Pistons.

- If Chris Osgood pitches four shutouts in a row during the Stanley Cup finals, does that make him a certain hall of famer? I do believe it would.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sorry For No Posts, But Here's The Reason...

...I was in the hospital for a few days because of an infection in my leg. That is why there have been no posts on this blog recently, nor an audio podcast, nor did I record "The Book and His Boss" video feature with sports editor Jeff Kuehn last week. I am out of the hospital now and appear on my way to recovering fully. While my ailment will prevent me from traveling to Pittsburgh for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, I will be posting on my blog per usual starting Tuesday and I have resumed writing my column. I will write a column every day until the end of the Red Wings and Pistons playoffs, per usual at this time of the year. You can read my columns at by clicking "sports columns."That is the plan, anyway. Health willing, of course.

Thank you for supporting this blog and The Oakland Press. It is sincerely appreciated.

Pat Caputo

Monday, May 19, 2008

Time To Consider Releasing Sheffield And Rogers

Normally, I’m not a big believer in addition by subtraction. But I do believe it might be time for the Tigers to shake up their house.
First of all, I don’t believe they can go much longer with Gary Sheffield and Kenny Rogers not performing well at all. The Tigers might be wise to bite the bullet - and swallow an enormous amount of money - by releasing both of them.
Sheffield is hitting .189 with two home runs and eight RBI in 106 at bats and contributes little defensively. Rogers has had nine starts with an ERA of nearly seven.
It’s not an easy decision to make. These are great players. Or should we say, "were" great players. It’s obvious father time has caught up to them.
The only time the Tigers seem to have an energy is when they turn to younger players such as Matt Joyce. Or Clete Thomas earlier in the year.
The idea is to win games. To this point of the season, Sheffield and Rogers have only help lose games for the Tigers.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Datsyuk And Zetterberg Or Crosby And Malkin?

I admit, I wanted to see a Red Wings-Montreal Stanley Cup final above all else.
But now that it appears as if it will be the Red Wings and Pittsburgh, it does seem like the next best thing.
I had somebody ask me the other day if I would trade Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk for Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The answer is yes, if for no other reason than Crosby and Malkin are not only incredibly talented, but considerably younger than Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
But entering a seven-game series with so much at stake, Datsyuk and Zetterberg would rate an edge over Crosby and Malkin. They are just about their equal offensively - and are much more proficient at backchecking and penalty killing.

Random thoughts

- I find the trend in the NBA playoffs where the home team always wins to be annoying. I understand the benefits of the home court advantage, but it has gotten to the point of being ridiculous during the conference semifinals.

- Yeah, I can see Chris Osgood going into the Hockey Hall of Fame if the Red Wings win this Stanley Cup title. But only if Mike Vernon goes in first. Wasn’t Vernon a better goalie than Ozzie?

- I know they haven’t been hitting, but the Tigers woes are still related to pitching. It is what gets teams over the hump when they are not hitting. Pitching is baseball’s one constant. Hitting is not. That is why the Cleveland Indians will likely be taking off in the next month or so - because their pitching, especially the starters, is so good.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tigers Should Be Thinking About Mazzone

And so Jim Leyland is standing by his man, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez.
Leyland said all the right things before the Tigers lost - again - Tuesday night in Kansas City.
About how Hernandez was a great pitching coach in 2006 - when the Tigers had the best pitching staff in baseball.
And how he is being perceived as a horrible pitching coach by many fans and pundits these days - because the Tigers have the worst pitching staff in baseball.
It’s about the pitchers, Leyland said. When you have good pitchers, the pitching coach is a genius. When you have struggling pitchers, he is a bum.
I agree that right now the primary objective of many Tiger fans is to find a scapegoat for the club’s horrible play - and Hernandez is a convenient one. And I’m not a believer in scapegoats.
That, however, doesn’t preclude making a change. Leo Mazzone, who coached Atlanta’s brilliant staff for so many years, is available. Erik Bedard also thrived under him in Baltimore. It’s also true the Tigers’ young guns, Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander, have regressed under Hernandez - not made progress.
Mazzone was fired by the Orioles with a year left on his contract and is making $1.5 million - a staggering amount for a pitching coach - for essentially doing nothing. But, honestly, could he help the Tigers? At the very least, that’s a question Leyland and Dave Dombrowski should be asking themselves. And it’s not an unfair one in regard to Chuck Hernandez.

Random Thoughts

- In truth, there weren’t many empty seats at The Palace Tuesday night for Game 5 of the Pistons series with the Magic. It was about equal to the number of the empty seats at Joe Louis Arena for the first two games of the Red Wings’ series with the Stars, which weren’t many. Seldom has so much been made about nothing regarding the Red Wings attendance for the playoffs. The crowds have been terrific. This area has nothing to apologize for - it drew more than 400,000 for Red Wings, Tigers and Magic over an eight-day period ending Sunday. All venues were essentially sold out for each game. People nationally, and in Canada, just love to pound us about everything, especially the economy. Seems like the way the Red Wings and Pistons are playing is poetic justice in that regard. Could it be jealousy?

- This is the best basketball I have seen Richard Hamilton play since 2004. The Pistons needed him to amp it up with Chauncey Billups out of the lineup. The question now is whether he will be able to sustain it when Billups returns.

- Seems like only a matter of time until Cleveland breaks open the American League Central race because the emergence of Cliff Lee has made the Indians’ starting pitching easily the best in the division.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Marlins Record Rubbing Salt in Tigers Wound

It was a trade for the ages, right? It was the biggest in Tigers history, that’s for sure.
And I will begin this by stating, like virtually all baseball fans in Detroit, I was all for it.
But so far, the Tigers blockbuster trade that was supposed to bring this town a world championship, has only brought a headache for the organization and heartache for its fans.
Not only do the Tigers have a sputtering 16-22 record, which they fully deserve based on the shoddy baseball they have played, but the Marlins have baseball’s best record at 23-14 - 7.5 games better than the Tigers. And the Marlins have compiled this record with a player payroll of roughly less than $115 million than the Tigers.
While Dontrelle Willis is still floundering to find his control on rehab assignment in Triple-A, Andrew Miller is 2-0 with a 1.30 ERA in his past two starts. Miguel Cabrera has slumped as much as he has hit.
Throw in the Edgar Renteria trade with Atlanta and Jair Jurrgens ‘ 4-2, 2.84 record for the Braves, and consider the woes of the Tigers’ starting staff in its totality, you have a recipe for a baseball disaster.
It’s still early is one battle cry for the Tigers. Another is they are still very much alive in the American League Central race. Both true.
But it is also true, at least to this point, the Tigers’ season has been more than a mere disappointment.
It’s been an utter embarrassment.

Random Thoughts

- Mike Ribeiro should have been suspended for his two-handed slash on Chris Osgood near the end of Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. The Stars were trying to "goon it up," but the Red Wings couldn’t afford to put their fighters on the ice because they were protecting a one-goal lead. It put the Wings in a precarious situation and the worst-run league in professional team sports acted predictably with just a slap on the wrist.

- Count me among those who didn’t think Lindsey Hunter had anything left at all in the tank. Count me among those who wrong.

- A factor that could play in the Stars’ favor as the Western Conference finals shift to Dallas are the ice conditions. They weren’t good for the Stars series vs. San Jose. They figure to be at least as bad for this series. It could be factor in slowing down the Red Wings.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Call Me Crazy, But Tigers Will Still Win 90 Games

There are a number of factors about the Tigers’ struggles that can be explained.
Gary Sheffield, Ivan Rodriguez and Kenny Rogers are older players, and it is entirely possible - perhaps even probable - they have nothing left in the tank.
Dontrelle Willis struggled mightily for the Florida Marlins last season. This is probably a continuation of it, making it the wrong decision to put so much faith in him.
But what is Justin Verlander’s deal? He is healthy, enormously talented and has proven to be competitive in tough situations. Who could have anticipated a 1-6 record with an ERA over six?
Carlos Guillen played first base well for the Tigers in the past. He played third base on a club in Seattle that won 116 games - and played it well. Who could have anticipated his defense would have such a negative bearing on the Tigers?
They need their starting pitchers to come through. They haven’t. The Tigers have a great lineup on paper, but they keep getting shutout.
I’d lambast Dave Dombrowski for his off season moves, and it’s his job to get it right, and apparently he hasn’t. But that would hypocritical because I agreed with them at the time - and strongly.
So did virtually all of the Tigers’ fan base, who couldn’t purchase tickets fast enough despite a flagging economy.
Call me a knucklehead. I probably deserve it for this...but I still think the Tigers are going to win 90 games. There is too much talent there for them not to turn it around at some point.
The question is, though, will it be too late?

Random Thoughts

- To all national media: Niklas Kronwall’s big hit Thursday night was Vladimir Konstantinov-like, not Scott Stevens-like. Get it right. This is the Red Wings you are talking about. Show the proper respect to one of the franchise’s all-time greats.

- Barry Melrose called the Red Wings "a finesse team" again Thursday night. What surprise.

- People who are writing off the Cavaliers are wrong. The Celtics have yet to win a road playoff game. Despite his struggles in the first two games of the series, LeBron James knows what it is like to steal a Game 5 on the road. Remember last year? If the Cavs win Game 3, this series will take on a completely different tone.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Can Ozzie Match Turco?

I have a theory about Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood. It’s that he’s like the football quarterback, who isn’t expected to make the big play, but complete the routine throws, not fumble the snap and make sure the handoffs are clean. In other words, do not lose the game. But he isn’t necessarily expected to win it.
Just don’t let in soft goals. That’s Ozzie’s job. The Red Wings otherwise - because they are so solid - will take care of business.
But having watched - mesmerized - all of Dallas’ four-overtime victory over San Jose Sunday night deep into Monday morning, I’m not so sure my theory will apply during the Western Conference finals against the Stars.
I have never seen better goaltending - ever. Marty Turco was beyond brilliant. He WON that game, and the series for the Stars. He literally refused to be beaten.
San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov was nearly as great (how about that glove save on Brad Richards?).
Sixty-one saves. Fifty-three saves. Are you kidding me? And so many of them were testy it was mind boggling.
Ozzie is going to have to be better than good in this series. This is a much different scenario than Colorado’s Jose Theodore, the sieve, presented the previous series.
Throw Turco’s spotty performance against the Red Wings in the past out the window. He seems like a goalie possessed right now.

Random Thoughts

- Look, nobody is willing to defend Carlos Guillen more than I am, but he has been awful defensively at first base and third this season. He is killing the Tigers with his glove. And it’s puzzling because he has played well both at first and third in the past. The Tigers need all the thunder they can get in their lineup. They don’t need Brandon Inge force-fed back to third base. But that may be necessary if Guillen doesn’t pick it up in the field. He has been that bad.

- I’m starting to feel about Zach Miner the same way I did about Jason Grilli. He has an ERA over eight. Haven’t the Tigers seen enough?

- Everybody, it seems, has been clamoring for a Celtics-Pistons Eastern Conference final, but I think the Cavaliers and Pistons would be more interesting. The last couple series between the two teams have been closely contested. The Ben Wallace factor is there. And LeBron James always make things interesting. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the Cavs knock off the Celtics.

Friday, May 02, 2008

About The Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers...

The Red Wings

The story of Johan Franzen is unlike any I can remember. In this town. Or anywhere else.
He not only has 11 goals in 10 playoffs games - and scored nine in the Red Wings’ Western Conference semifinal playoff sweep of Colorado - but Franzen has scored 26 goals in this last 26 games dating back to the regular season.
That’s the stuff of Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Rocket Richard, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull - the NHL’s 50 goals in 50 games club.
In his first 149 NHL games entering this season, Franzen had just 22 goals. And he had just 22 goals - in 125 games - from the start of last season through the first 56 games of this season. Then he, suddenly, turned into the second coming of Phil Esposito in front of the net.
He emergence has been stunning. And he just keeps going - with a hat trick during the Red Wings series clincher Thursday.
The Red Wings needed something different in these playoffs. A unexpected star emerging is about as good as anything that could’ve happened. It’s not a young star, though. Franzen is 28, the age when most NHLers have already established what type of player they are going to be.
With Franzen, it was to be a tough, scrappy player, one who was going to win more than his share of battles for the puck because of his size and strength. Finesse players don’t carry nicknames like "The Mule."
But it is turning out Franzen has special hands. Few players, in close, can do what he does with his backhand, for example.
If the playoffs ended right now, how could Franzen not win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP?

Random Red Wings Thoughts

- As good as the Red Wings were in Colorado series, I thought the Avalanche rolled over like dogs and died. They were awful. Lets put it this way, the rivalry wasn’t really renewed. It was strictly a one-way street.

- Finally, a Mikael Samuelsson sighting on Thursday.

- Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were brilliant as ever Thursday. People outside Detroit don’t know, but they are the best forward tandem in the NHL. Yes, better than Malkin and Crosby.

- The Red Wings shouldn’t want too much rest. Ideally, Dallas would win their series with San Jose in six games. That way the Red Wings will be rested, but not rusty for the Western Conference finals. It could work in reverse for the Wings if Dallas or San Jose were to win in seven games, and still have that edge going into the Western Conference finals while the Red Wings might lose there edge. It’d be different if the Red Wings needed to recover from several injuries, but they don’t.

The Pistons

This turning the switch on and off may be getting annoying, but, to use a basketball term, no harm, no foul for the Pistons during the opening round.
Ultimately, they weren’t threatened that much by the 76ers. When the Pistons decided to turn it on at halftime of Game 4, the series essentially ended.
The emotion the Pistons were lacking at the start of this series has returned. They don’t have an answer for Dwight Howard in the next series against Orlando, but nobody, honestly, does.
And the Pistons can’t feel too bad winning the series vs. the 76ers in six games because the Celtics have also lost a couple to the Hawks.
Still seems like a Celtics-Pistons match in the Eastern Conference finals is inevitable, doesn’t it.

Random Pistons Thoughts

- It’s important that Richard Hamilton got untracked Thursday. The Pistons need more consistent scoring from Hamilton than he has delivered the last two years during the playoffs.

- I still see San Antonio out of the Western Conference as the team to beat.

- Good thing the Pistons didn’t trade Tayshaun Prince, that’s for sure. Joe Dumars is too smart to do anything that rash, isn’t he? Or even consider it. Prince has been the Pistons playoff MVP by wide margin so far.

- Moving Jason Maxiel into the starting lineup was the perfect move at the perfect time by Flip Saunders.

- It took Chauncey Billups awhile, but he finally did get the best of Philly point guard Andre Miller. Count me among those who wasn’t sure that would happen.

The Tigers

I’m still not sold on the Tigers’ starting pitching, or even their bullpen, which seems almost too good to be true.
But the best sign is that they are starting to come back in games. They were down 2-0 and 3-0 Wednesday and Thursday and rallied to beat the Yankees.
To me, that’s the sign of a confident team that always believes it is in the game. It’s amazing how quickly the Tigers have recovered from their 2-10 start. They are just a game below .500 and only 1 1-2 games out of first place in the American League Central.

Random Tiger Thoughts

- It should be noted that Miguel Cabrera ranks third in the American League in RBI with 22 and fourth in home runs with six. He is on pace to hit 34 home runs drive in 123 runs this season. He is hitting .279. He is starting to show what a great hitter he truly is.

- After looking good at third base on Wednesday, Carlos Guillen took a step back on Thursday.

- I find it odd that so many Tiger fans seen to clamoring for Gary Sheffield’s demise so Guillen can go to DH and Brandon Inge can become the everyday third baseman. I say be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.

- The most recent starts by Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson have been encouraging.