Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Curry's Fate Was Sealed By Iverson Trade

I wasn’t impressed with Michael Curry as head coach of the Pistons. He didn’t do much schematically to make his team better. He didn’t have the ear of the players nor a charismatic personality, which is often necessary when coaching, particularly in the NBA. He had a losing record and his team was utterly embarrassed during the opening round of the playoffs by Cleveland.
But it always comes back to the same thing, did Curry have a chance? Joe Dumars didn’t really give him one, did he? Remember this, he was 4-0 at the time of the Allen Iverson trade. How much different would Curry’s fate had been if that trade wasn’t made? That part of it will always be a defense for Curry - and an indictment of Dumars.


Monday, June 29, 2009

On Red Wings Goalies, Tigers Pitching And Dennis Northcutt

The Red Wings’ goaltending situation is intriguing to say the least.
Obviously, the salary cap, and their continuation of butting against its ceiling, has forced the Red Wings to move into a different direction when it comes to goalies. The idea now is to develop their own to eventually replace Chris Osgood, not sign veteran free agents.
It wasn’t a surprise they didn’t re-sign Ty Conklin. He is going to get a lot more on the open market than the $700,000 he made last season. I know the Red Wings are selling the Jimmy Howard-Chris Osgood tandem, but I’m not so sure how sold they really are on Howard, although he did play relatively well during the second half of last season, eventually beating out Daniel Larrson as the starter in Grand Rapids.
The Red Wings are out of options to the minor leagues for Howard, who was brilliant collegiately at Maine, but it’s clear they are looking for a backup plan. Howard’s inconsistency at times has been alarming.
The reputation of Thomas McCollum, the Red Wings’ first round pick in 2008, suffered because of a poor performance in the World Junior Championships last season. It was misleading and overblown and shouldn’t diminish McCollum’s upside. He is an extraordinary prospect, who might play in the league sooner than is being anticipated by many. He played very well in the OHL last season. It wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes Grand Rapids No. 1 goalie and performs exceptionally well.
Make no mistake about it, McCollum, not Howard, is the Red Wings’ big hope in goal. He is the one with the star-quality upside. Osgood, 36, has two years left on his contract.
The Red Wings signed Jordan Pearce from Notre Dame as a free agent a couple months ago. He was probably the best goalie in the CCHA last season. He was never drafted, and it does make you wonder why based on his performance and background (he was on the U.S. developmental team in Ann Arbor for a couple years).
Pearce did play in one game for the Griffins and was lit up for five goals - not that it should mean that much.
Larrson was the Swedish elite league’s goalie of the year before signing with the Red Wings. He is a late bloomer, in his mid-20s. Doesn’t seem like he is being considered a long-term solution for the Red Wings. An educated guess: Larrson will end up back in Sweden, maybe as soon as this coming season.

Random Thoughts

- The Tigers did stretch out Fu-Te Ni in a couple of his outings before calling him up from Toledo, but he will likely be used as a situational lefty. He throws sidearm (how many side-arming lefties do you see) and his numbers in Triple-A were discernibly better against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters. The tale of tape will be how hard he throws. Does he have enough heat to get the ball by major league hitters in the strike zone? Deception will only help him so much in the big leagues.

- OK, so Alfred Figaro wasn’t the answer at fifth starter. Surprised? I’m not. So now we get Luke French, who paid his dues and earned the shot. French is not overpowering. At his best, he will get groundouts. Late sinking action on his fastball is his strength. If he is allowing fly balls, he will eventually get in deep trouble. His strikeouts are up this season. Don’t know exactly why. His control has been a lot better. Big guy with some deception in his delivery.
Who is next in line for the fifth starter spot should French falter? That’s not a question the Tigers really want to answer right now. Nobody, really, in the minor leagues. Luis Marte and Jon Kibler at Double-A Erie are OK prospects, probably have more upside than French and are fairly advanced, but neither has pitched all that well this season. Brooks Brown? He’s been underwhelming in Triple-A.

- Gerald Alexander is not a bad player and is healthy, but the Lions have some depth at safety and they need help at slot receiver and the return game, so acquiring Dennis Northcut seems like a good decision. Northcutt has averaged more than 10 yards per punt return in his career, but returned just five punts last season for an anemic average. He is 31 and will turn 32 before the end of the season. How much tread is left on his tires? And could it be the Lions are concerned about Derrick Williams, who missed minicamp because of a hamstring injury?


Friday, June 26, 2009

Draft Night Kind Of A Yawner For Pistons

I don’t necessarily think the Pistons had a bad night at the NBA Draft. I’m just not sure there was a lot they could have done the way it was going to unfold. It’s just one of those drafts that is hit and mostly miss.
What I do like about Austin Daye, the Pistons’ first-round pick, is that there is a good skill set to work with. He isn’t a project from the sense he is going to fumble the ball around or anything. He is exceptionally long and has athleticism. I also like the fact his father was an NBA player and a high profile college player (Darren Daye from UCLA), which means the kid will know exactly what is expected of him.
The downside is Daye is skinnier than a rail. From that standpoint, he should have stayed in college another year or two. He is not going to step in and start right away, or contribute that much.
DaJuan Summers - I wasn’t that impressed with an NBA prospect. Saw him play quite a bit at Georgetown, too. Maybe the Pistons know something I don’t. Jonas Jerebko is a European on which the only comments I can make are based on what I’ve read or they’ve told me. Don’t see him having a major impact, either.
The pick I like the most was Chase Budinger at 44th overall. Good value there. Tough, athletic kid, who can shoot. See him playing in the league for awhile. But Joe Dumars traded him for a second-round pick and cash considerations to Houston. Can‘t say I was impressed with that move.
Obviously, the Pistons can’t use the draft as a cure-all. That has to come through free agency and trades. Have to think Dumars has something up his sleeve. July should be a lot more interesting than June.

Random Thoughts

- The more Fernando Rodney closes games, the more he looks like the answer at the spot. That, however, only makes the notion somehow even scarier, doesn’t it?

- Honestly, I think the Islanders would be crazy not to take John Tavares, one of those kids who is already a Canadian icon, ahead of Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman in the NHL Draft. Tavares is a special player. Scouts have overanalyzed him Can skate? Give me a break. Hedman is going to be very solid player, but not necessarily a great one. The best player in this draft might be Matt Duchene, who will likely go third overall to Colorado. His impact could be immediate. A lot of will there - in addition to skill.

http://tinyurl.com/kp8cmv My column in Sunday's Oakland Press about how it usually ends bad for Tiger standouts in Detroit http://tinyurl.com/kp8cmv

My Column in Friday's Oakland Press on Tigers and Magglio: http://tinyurl.com/ksfbsw


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ford Says Way Too Little, Way Too Late

Lets see, three games into the 2008 season, the Detroit Lions fire team president Matt Milen after seven-plus disaster years on the job.
Owner William Clay Ford says nothing.
The Lions compile an 0-16 record, the worst single season in National Football League history.
Owner William Clay Ford says nothing.
The Lions fire head coach Rod Marinelli.
Owner William Clay Ford says nothing.
Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is named Lions’ head coach.
Owner William Clay Ford says nothing.
After the Lions’ second minicamp practice of the day Wednesday, William Clay Ford meets with beat writers, who ask him a variety of questions about his flagging NFL franchise. On the afternoon of June 24, 2009 William Clay Ford finally speaks.
And basically says nothing.
Me neither.

Random Thoughts

- The Pistons have too much cap space available not to do much this off season. It isn’t going to be all about 2010. I can see them getting Ben Gordon and being involved in a sign-and-trade with the Knicks for David Lee. If the Pistons get Gordon, it would mean Richard Hamilton is on his way out of town. Would that necessarily be an upgrade?

- Still don’t like the way Magglio Ordonez never pulls the ball. I’d give him another month to start show progress, then I’d consider releasing him.

- I wouldn't even consider dealing for Matt Holliday if I were the Tigers. The numbers don’t lie. He was a creation of Coors Field. He’d really struggle at Comerica Park. And the last thing the Tigers need is another Scott Boras client.

New "Caputo and His Boss" video: http://tinyurl.com/ln66jr

Check out Magglio's hair http://tinyurl.com/n5yfqw


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Special Moment, But Is This A Special Team?

Sometimes it isn’t necessarily winning games, but how you win them that breeds confidence.
You can sense it is growing with the Tigers. Among the players. With their fans.
A turning point was when Curtis Granderson made that great catch in Cleveland early in the season. The Tigers were at a crossroad at the time - and took the right path.
Tuesday’s victory over the Cubs was particularly meaningful because the Tigers rallied a couple times and won it with a walk-off home run by Ryan Raburn.
Contending teams not only have contributions from role players such as Raburn, but also these certain magical moments. The two elements combined Tuesday
Come on. Raburn was a right-handed baitter, pinch-hitting for a left-handed hitter, Josh Anderson, against a right-handed pitcher, Kevin Gregg. Logically, the move made no sense at all. Raburn was hitting .225 at the time. It’s not like he has displayed a lot of power. It was a pure "feel" move by manager Jim Leyland. Raburn made him look like a genius by crushing the ball. It was an awful pitch from Gregg. And he paid for it.
The Tigers are a flawed team. They lack punch. Their bullpen is being held together on the whims of Fernando Rodney’s effectiveness, They don’t really have a fifth starter. Armando Galarraga hasn’t been much of a fourth one lately, either.
But the Tigers aren’t beating themselves with fielding blunders and a lack of range like last season. The top three in their starting rotation has pitched as well as any trio in baseball. And the Tigers are getting far more than expected from role players.
This is a team that is essentially in first place with virtually no contribution from Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen or Jeremy Bonderman.
How can that be? Somehow they have developed an intangible quality that keeps building. It’s almost July, you know. This team seems in it for the long haul.

Random Thoughts

- Best move of the season so far by the Tigers: Calling up Donald Kelly and sending Clete Thomas to Toledo. Thought it was a curious move at the time, but it turned out to be the right decision, didn’t it?

- Not going to miss Donald Fehr as head of baseball’s Players Association? Me neither. He was as big a part of the steroids scandal as Bud Selig, as far as I’m concerned.

My column in Wednesday Oakland Press on Lions minicamp: http://tinyurl.com/kmlntj


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On Chelly, Mags, The Cubbies and Tiger Stadium

Chris Chelios played in more winning games than any player in NHL history. When you really think about it, he is the greatest American hockey player of all time. But did he hold on for too long? I mean, there are going to be a lot of people who will only remember Chelios for what he was like late in his career. Still a good player, but not the terror he was when he was in his 20s and early 30s.

Random Thoughts

- Although I am among those who believe the Tigers would benefit a great deal from a return to form by Magglio Ordonez - and he should get the chance - I don’t believe Jim Leyland should play him until the Tigers lose.
Donald Kelly has been hot at the plate. OK. He is a 4-A player. Ride him until he slumps - then put in Magglio.

- Like most, I have fond memories of watching the Cubs on WGN on many a summer afternoon. But aren’t White Sox fans a more down and dirty? Same with the teams? I do miss Harry Carey. I thought he was terrific. People forget, however, that he crafted his persona in Chicago with the White Sox first. It’s funny seeing old clips of Carey wearing a suit when he was the Cardinals’ announcer in the 1950s and 1960s.

- Sad isn’t it, that Tiger Stadium basically collapsed on its own about 2:30 p.m. yesterday. Tell me that isn’t the baseball gods sending a message? Something - anything - should have been done to Tiger Stadium sooner. Michigan and Trumbull. God I miss it. Have in the worst way for a long time, despite my growing affection for Comerica Park.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Scott Boras Shouldn't Be Filling Out Lineup Cards

Scott Boras crossed a line the other day.
Agents are supposed to have their clients best interests at heart and speak out on their behalf, but it stops when it comes to trying to fill out the lineup card.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland was upset his integrity was questioned. How about the integrity of the game? Slumping players must be put into the game because Scott Boras wants his percentage from Magglio Ordonez’s contract? Please.
If anything, Leyland wasn’t strong enough with his comments about Boras. And it shouldn’t necessarily just be the Tigers speaking out about this, but also Major League Baseball. Where is Bud Selig in all this? Head where it usually is - buried in the sand.
First of all, Ordonez’s contract is outright stupid. Baseball should take a long look at it, and not allow such contracts in the future, so such embarrassing situations can be avoided. Maybe limit the amount of games and at bats put in the clause. At 135 games and 550 plate appearances, performance is going to become the No. 1 issue - not health of the player.
The Tigers would be insane to pay Ordonez $30 million over the next two seasons based on his performance this year. Even if he gets hot when Leyland returns him to the lineup.
It should be the Tigers’ right to play him in fewer games and not have the contract kick in. Or is it, as Boras suggests, just a one-way street? Boras Ave.
It’s called being out of control. Boras is very good at what he does, but it’s gotten to the point now where he is bullying baseball. There has to be a juncture when Bud Selig stops being a wimp and stands up to him. Ordonez might provide the ideal test case.

Random Thoughts

- Ryan Perry has enormous potential, but his lack of command has been disturbing. The Tigers had no choice but to send him to Toledo. His lack of progress wasn’t a good thing for the Tigers. They need that kid, but he just isn’t getting it done. Now they may have extend the role of somebody like Bobby Seay, who is clearly at his best as a situational left-hander.

- The Tigers should move Double-A Erie first baseman Ryan Strieby to Triple-A soon to see how he handles more experienced pitching. Then they’d have a better idea whether Strieby can help them late in the season or in September more than, say, Jeff Larish. Strieby isn’t that young. He’ll be 24 in August.

- Biggest disappointment in the Tigers minor league system this season: Cale Iorg.

My column in Monday's Oakland Press on Matthew Stafford: http://tinyurl.com/l3fk9m


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday's Column and Latest "Caputo And His Boss" Video

Latest "Caputo and His Boss video" with sports editor Jeff Kuehn http://tinyurl.com/lklzvb

My Column in Sunday's Oakand Press about Michigan State beating Michigan in in-state recruiting, but that it may not mean that much http://tinyurl.com/loarua


Friday, June 19, 2009

Timing Perfect For Leyland Contract Extension

I don't disagree with the Tigers extending manager Jim Leyland's contract, particularly at this critical time. I think two years, through the 2011 season, is the perfect length, too.
The Tigers are in the middle of a pennant race. Leyland is trying to sort out some major issues, not the least of which is the Magglio Ordonez situation.
It's one of those issues players tend to take sides. Leyland has been thrust into a position where he can't have players ignoring him because they don't believe he will be there next season, nor stop playing as hard for him, because they want him out. Knowing he will be there gives Leyland the necessary hammer.
Also, I believe Leyland is a strength for the Tigers, not a weakness. I know last season didn't go well, but a lot of that had to do with an unbalanced roster. Lets face it, often last season Leyland was, in a baseball sense, picking between two poisons.
Leyland has taken three different organizations, and three clubs with much different styles, to the postseason. He has won the World Series. And I don't see all these great candidates out there to replace him.
I know this: There was a major dropoff in the managing skills of the Tigers' managers after Sparky Anderson departed. Buddy Bell and Alan Trammell had never managed before - and it showed in everything from not getting pitchers warmed up in the bullpen on time to ridiculously managing by the book. Luis Pujols was a disaster. His clubhouse was collapsing, and he never seemed to leave his office, prefering instead to perpetually watch The Weather Channel. I'm not exaggerating, either. Phil Garner was a disappointment. He and his staff did some things to seriously hinder the career of prospects such as Brandon Inge and Nate Cornejo. Leyland is, by far, the best manager the Tigers have had since Sparky. He knows how to run a clubhouse and manage a game. He does it by feel and relying on his considerable experience. He will stand up to players if needed.
If he has a team good enough to win it, Leyland will. That's all you can ask, isn't it?


Tiger Fans Surprisingly Quick To Jump Off Magglio's Bandwagon

I was surprised by the "get the bum out of town" reaction we got to Magglio Ordonez’s benching while doing my radio show with Dennis Fithian before the Tigers’ game against St. Louis on Thursday.
Ordonez hasn’t been playing well. There is an obvious decline in his power. His fielding has been below par. He is 35 years old, there is a $30 million option that kicks in on his contract if he starts 135 games or has 540 plate appearances. A decision will have to be made on his future, but it is later.
It would be different if Tigers manager Jim Leyland just gave him a night off, but he called the benching "indefinite." It seemed like it made Ordonez the scapegoat for the Tigers’ offensive woes lately. He hasn’t hit well, that’s for sure, but is far from the only one.
The fans seem to be buying it. They want Ordonez out. I don’t agree at this point. I also think he should be put back in the lineup soon.
At least with Ordonez, there is a chance water will find a high level. That isn’t going to happen with Ryan Raburn or Clete Thomas or Josh Anderson or Marcus Thames. All will be exposed if played often. We’ve seen that in the past with Thames. Anderson is a good player, but must be used right. Not sure it is every day. Didn’t take Thomas long to slump and he has struggled at Triple-A. Raburn is, at best, a utility player. Only Thomas is that good defensively.
And don’t forget, Ordonez has been down and out before. Remember his ordeal at the end in Chicago? Remember his first year in Detroit? Remember how people wanted him replaced for Brett Clevlen in 2006?
Truth is, the Tigers would benefit a great deal if Ordonez returns to form. Or even comes close. Given his track record in Detroit and his comebacks in the past, he deserves the chance.
I would be surprised if Jim Leyland doesn’t give him one or two or three before the contract option has to be decided. I am shocked so many Tiger fans don’t want to give Ordonez even another one.
Maybe this is "bandwagon town" after all. Seems to be in the case of Magglio Ordonez.

Random Thoughts

- Contrary to the perception, Thursday’s win over St. Louis meant it wasn’t a bad road trip for the Tigers. They were 5-6. Only three American League teams are above .500 on the road - the Red Sox, Rangers and Angels - and each of those teams is just a game above .500.

- Dontrelle Willis has obviously pitched his last game for the Tigers. The "anxiety disorder" reasoning for putting him on the disabled list was likely done for insurance purposes to try to payoff his contract. Guess it’s the best way to describe what he has. Not sure if "The Thing" or "Steve Blass Disease" would fit legally.

- No major surprises at the NHL Awards. Just seemed weird seeing it in Las Vegas. Always thought it was Canada’s version of the Academy Awards. Still think Nicklas Lidstrom deserved the Norris Trophy, though.

My column in Friday's Oakland Press on Tigers:


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Matt Milhous Millen: Pompous You-Know-What

Matt Millen’s comments to Don Banks at SI.Com http://tinyurl.com/l3orxv crossed the line as far as I’m concerned.
When he was the Lions’ team president, I screamed long and loud for him to be fired by owner William Clay Ford or to resign. I smelled a rat, from a football sense, from the very beginning. I didn’t necessarily think Millen was a bad guy, though. Always made a point of saying "hi" and shaking his hand, even after it became pointless to listen to his perpetual rationalizing rhetoric. And he knew I wouldn’t listen anyway.
I don’t feel that way anymore. Maybe Millen is a bad guy. Nothing funny about the economic woes around here. Or Kwame’s shenanigans.
People around here weren’t looking for a bad guy. They have been looking for someone to lead them out of the football wilderness. Millen was the worst general manager in the history of professional sports. I don’t know the greater travesty - Millen staying more than eight years without resigning, or aristocratic owner William Clay Ford Sr - he of the country club rather than the people - letting him.
The Lions had some issues before Millen arrived, but he literally ran the organization into the ground with drafts that were beyond bad. He never moved here full time for what is hardly a part-time job. His record is a matter of record. The guy has about as much football depth as an empty wading pool.
All talk. No substance.
It’s amazing how reporters like Banks keep buying his line of you-know-what
The Richard Nixon references are pathetic. The comments about Detroit - as if Millen was a victim - reprehensible. All those awful draft picks and poor free agent signings. This is somebody who consistently missed with top 10 overall picks in the draft - and never remotely came close to finding players in the late rounds. Incredible Lions' stat: They haven’t had a long-term starter from the fourth-round on in the draft since 1995 when both linebacker Stephen Boyd and fullback Cory Schlesinger were taken in the fifth round.
Millen made the bed. Lions' fans were forced to sleep in it. When Ford gave Millen a contract extension, it was the ultimate "fans don’t matter" moment. The eventual result was an 0-16 season that did, in a way, come to symbolize Detroit’s overall struggles.
ESPN and the NFL Network are dupes. Check the tape, for example, of Millen’s classic prediction, during his initial appearance on NBC after finally being canned by the Lions. He said that Arizona wouldn’t beat Atlanta in the playoffs because of the Cardinals’ porous run defense - the same run defense that held Millen’s Lions to minus yardage the year before. Of course, Arizona won - and to a large degree because its run defense was stout.
What is most troubling about Millen is how to this day he accepts no culpability for what transpired. Once in awhile, he will say, "Put the blame on me," but the words always ring hollow because of statements like the ones he made in the SI.Com piece.
We’d love to put Millen into the rear view mirror and forget those eight years even existed. But he is like a fly humming around your burger at a picnic. Or a toothache. Or a bad cold. He just won’t go away.
He is without question the most self-centered and egotistical person I have ever been around. I don’t mean that in a vain way, but more in a "I can’t possibly be wrong" sense. The first thing he did when he came to town was run down his players. He sure didn’t do a good job of finding better ones
He is one of those people who can make himself seem bright when, in actuality, he doesn’t have a clue. At Millen’s initial news conference, William Clay Ford Jr called him a "first-rate intellect." He is more like a first-rate manipulator.
And the media keeps sucking it up, too.
"I’m not a crook," Millen told Banks in a Nixon impersonation.
Can’t say that is the view from the city Millen pilfered eight years of football. It should be interesting if there is any interaction between Millen and Steve Mariucci, who also works for the NFL Network. Millen tore out Marucci’s spine when he fired him as Lions coach. He made the guy sound like the softest head coach in NFL history. Millen made it appear as if Mariucci ran practices complete with lemonade pitchers at midfield served with tiny umbrellas in the glasses. Mariucci’s practices, we were told in hushed tones by Millen, were disorganized in sort of a Romper Room way. Those practices were open to the media. Watched a lot of them. They appeared fine to me. But certainly the reputation Millen has placed on Mariucci has destroyed his coaching career.
Then Millen hired the disaster that is Rod Marinelli as head coach. Don’t know what his practices were like because Marinelli, who missed the old song by The Kinks about how, "paranoia will destroy ‘ya." didn’t open them. He was afraid the boogie man might come in and steal the imaginary rock his team wasn’t pounding.
A perfect storm. Pompous general manager. Paranoid head coach. It was awful. Depressing, actually.
While Millen was in Detroit, the Red Wings won two Stanley Cup champions, the Pistons an NBA title and the Tigers an American League pennant.
It wasn’t the town. It was Matt Milhous Millen. Don’t know if the nation will accept that once Millen starts his "Checkers"speech on ESPN or the NFL Network.
I do understand this: Around here we know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about Millen.
Gus The Kicking Mule could have done a better job.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On Tigers Rotation, Lions Training Camp, Sosa And MSU-UM Recruiting

Who will take Dontrelle Willis’ spot in the rotation Saturday remains a mystery. There is no obvious answer. Brooks Brown pitched poorly in his start for Toledo Tuesday. Lucas French didn’t pitch well the previous night, either. The Tigers could start Zach Miner and call up a reliever if they release Willis, or if he accepts assignment in the minor leagues. But none of their high minor league relievers has pitched consistently well. It wouldn’t be an earned promotion, lets put it that way.
At Double-A, Alfredo Figaro has pitched well in his last two starts. He is, by the way, Fernando Rodney’s cousin and has a pretty good fastball. He does tend to run hot and cold. He seems to be hot now. Had 10 K’s and eight K’s in his last two starts.

Random Thoughts

- The idea of the Lions holding training camp at Grand Valley State University in 2010 isn’t necessarily a bad one. An issue is why not Saginaw Valley State instead? It’s a two-hour drive for most fans as opposed to four hours for Allendale. It’d be nice if the Lions considered their fans in this decision. That’s one thing that is truly missed by fans - the opportunity to watch training camp. It’d be a lot easier to do so at Saginaw Valley than Grand Valley.

- Sammy Sosa on steroids? There isn’t a person alive surprised by that. All this most recent disclosure does is make you think back to the summer of ‘98 and what a sham and a shame it was.

- Detroit Southeastern defensive end/linebacker William Gholston and Detroit Renaissance cornerback Mylan Hicks committing to Michigan State were huge coups for Spartan coach Mark Dantonio. While Michigan is still doing well overall in recruiting under Rich Rodriguez, the Wolverines are losing their foothold in the state. These are PSL players that basically could have committed anywhere - especially Gholston. Can’t help but think not doing well in-state, whether it’s losing players to MSU or elsewhere, isn’t going to comeback and haunt Rodriguez. It might be wise for him to step up his recruiting in the state.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Are The Pistons Letting The Better Coach Get Away?

I don’t know if Bill Laimbeer is going to be a great NBA coach. I only know, based on his track record., that he would have a chance.
He was a world champion as a player with the Pistons. He was a world champion as the head coach of the Shock.
He might be a bit crusty for the task, but he is also a bright guy, who understands himself and adjusts.
Michael Curry doesn’t have nearly the same qualifications. Can’t help but wonder if the Pistons let the better coach get away.

Random Thoughts

- Brooks Brown was the 34th overall pick - a supplemental selection between the first and second rounds - in the 2006 baseball draft. The Tigers got him in a deal from the Diamondbacks in April, so they didn’t have to return a Rule 5 pick. He actually pitched well last season - despite his 16 losses at Double-A. He was on a bad team and his record was good until the last month. He is 0-5 at Toledo, but has pitched well in all his starts. He was 5-0 at Erie before that. He has a pretty good sinking fastball. He could be option No.1 for the Tigers from the minors for a start. He is a right-hander.

- Matt Millen has joined the NFL Network. Steve Mariucci has been a fixture for the NFL Network. Millen basically trashed Mariucci when he fired him as Lions head coach, talking about how he didn’t instill discipline in his players nor organize practices well. Mariucci did finally criticize Millen - after Millen was fired early last season. Should be an interesting conversation between the two if it happens on camera. Wonder if Mariucci would stand up to Millen? He never did when he was the Lions coach.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Fourth and Fifth Starter Spots A Concern, Not A Crisis

The Dontrelle Willis-Jeremy Bonderman situation is less than ideal, but not necessarily fatal for the Tigers’ chances of reaching the postseason.
The key remains the health and prosperity of The Big Three in the starting rotation - Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and Rick Porcello. Mixing and matching the fourth and fifth spots often works.
Like in 2006 when the Tigers had Verlander, Kenny Rogers and Bonderman at the top of the rotation. Nate Robertson was a .500 pitcher, and they just kind filled out the fifth spot, often with Zach Miner.
In 1984, the Tigers had Jack Morris, Dan Petry and Milt Wilcox leading the rotation. The fourth starter was the inconsistent Juan Berenguer. The fifth starter was a weekly quiz. Dave Rozema, Randy O’Neal, Roger Mason, Carl Willis, Glenn Abbott and Doug Bair all started games for the ‘84 Tigers.
The ‘68 Tigers, it was Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich leading the way. Earl Wilson and Joe Sparma, the other starters in the four-man rotation of the era, didn’t have stellar seasons. They combined to go 23-22.
The Tigers like Brooks Brown, who is at Triple-A. My best guess he would take the fifth spot if they go to the minor leagues for it. I just wonder why the Tigers don’t give Nate Robertson a shot at it. He would be motivated. Miner is still there.
But to me, filling the fifth spot in the rotation isn’t as big a deal as getting stronger offensively - as long as the Tigers’ bullpen remains solid. It would be nice, too, from the Tigers’ standpoint if Armando Galarraga figures it out in the fourth spot
The disappointing part: The Tigers are paying Bonderman, Willis and Robertson more than $28 million combined this season. You’d figure they could at least get a fifth starter for that kind of money.

Random Thoughts

- Granted, there are a some things not to like about Sidney Crosby, but he is getting an unfair rap when it comes to the post-Stanley Cup handshake. With all due respect to Kris Draper, his comments about Crosby came off sounding like sour grapes.

- Simple math: The Red Wings pulled in more than $25 million in gate revenue alone from home games in the Stanley Cup Final - and enough overall in the playoffs to more than pay their entire player payroll for the 2008-09 season


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Update on Red Wings: Sunday and Saturday Columns

"Caputo and His Boss" video on Justin Verlander: http://tinyurl.com/mf22bu

My column in Sunday's Oakland Press about how the Red Wings should forget about signing Hossa and go after either Jay Bouwmeester or Mike Kominsarek

My column in Saturday's Oakland Press about the Red Wings' Game 7 loss:

I do think the Red Wings were banged up even more than most teams at that point of the playoffs, but I also believe they must re-examine a couple things for next season, which I am writing about for Sunday's paper and will post here on the blog.

Have a great weekend.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Five Reasons To One Red Wings Will Win Tonight

Five reasons I think the Red Wings will beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight at Joe Louis Arena:
1. Home ice advantage.
The Red Wings have won the previous three games in Detroit by a combined score of 11-2. Pittsburgh is 1-5 at JLA in the last two years in the Final. The last line change is huge.
2. The Red Wings have the better team. If you match the two teams up player-by-player, position-by-position, the Red Wings are superior all-around.
3. Goaltending.
Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleruy is either great or awful. There is no in-between. Chris Osgood is more consistent.
4. Coaching.
A veteran in Mike Babcock with tons of experience vs. a rookie in Dan Bylsma.
5. History
The home team is 12-2 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, including seven straight victories dating back to 1971. The home team has won Game 7 18 straight times in the Stanley Cup Final, the World Series and the NBA Finals.
The one reason I think the Penguins could beat the Red Wings in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight at Joe Louis Arena:
1. It’s hockey. Lets face it, anything can happen.

Random Thoughts

- Don’t expect Clete Thomas to be in Toledo long. The main reason the Tigers moved him down is they need another first basemen while Miguel Cabrera is ailing. Dan Kelly can play first base.

- If the Tigers, as expected, put Jeremy Bonderman on the disabled list, it will be the correct move. He clearly isn’t himself. More time off might bring some of the snap back to his arm. I still expect Ryan Perry, who will likely be called up, to be the Tigers’ closer by the end of the season. For some reason, Joel Zumaya is a great setup man, but doesn’t pitch nearly as well with a lead or in tie games in the ninth inning. Saw that again Thursday.

My column in Friday's Oakland Press about Red Wings-Penguins Game 7: http://tinyurl.com/mptfmy

Caputo and His Boss Video: http://tinyurl.com/ndkbr4


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Justin Verlander: Special Talent Turned Special Pitcher

Justin Verlander has always been a special talent. The fastball in the high 90s and touching triple digits. The rare combination of size and athleticism (despite his height, very few pitchers have as quick feet on their pickoff move to first base). The instinctive feel for pitching. The sharp breaking ball and solid changeup.
And he did win 35 games his first two full seasons in the major leagues. But lately, Verlander has become a special pitcher. As good as any in the game special.
He has had trouble in Chicago in the past, but he could get big league hitters out in Williamsport right now. He is that good. Verlander was brilliant Wednesday night. The White Sox didn’t have a chance.
He has been - by far - the Tigers’ MVP so far this season.

Random Thoughts

- One game - Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals - can turn all the disappointment into adulation for two players above all others: Marian Hossa and Sidney Crosby. Their considerable reputations will be literally on the line Friday.

- Orlando played nearly a perfect Game 3 - and still barely beat the Lakers at home. Doubt the Magic will win another game in the series. Then again, I have been underestimating that team the entire playoffs.

My column in Thursday's Oakland Press about the Red Wings: http://tinyurl.com/nc2cgy


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On Hossa, Willis And Tigers Draft

Given his reputation as a world-class player, the expectation is that Marian Hossa would be an impact performer. Somebody who would notch at least a point per game in the playoffs. And score important goals.
Count me among those who believe Hossa has fallen short in that regard for the Red Wings. I believe he is more a luxury than a necessity in their situation, that the Red Wings would be exactly where they are right now - tied game three games apiece in the Stanley Cup Final with the Pittsburgh Penguins - whether they had Hossa or not.
Having stated that, however, I do believe that Hossa gets too much blame when the Red Wings come up flat, such as they did in Tuesday’s 2-1 Game 6 loss to the Penguins. No, Hossa didn’t win the game for them, but he didn’t lose it, either. Yet, he is taking more than his share of blame for it.
That was a team effort. Hate to use a cliche, but it fits, the Penguins wanted it more. If anything, it’s as if Hossa, after leaving the Penguins as a free agent for Detroit, wants it too much and is pressing.

Random Thoughts

- You have to give Dontrelle Willis credit for this: He has displayed pluck. He isn’t throwing that well and has had command issues, but has hung in there exceptionally well. That was a great play he made with the bases loaded Tuesday.

- Tigers’ first-round draft choice Jacob Turner, like Rick Porcello before him, is an advanced high school pitching prospect who figures to advance quickly in the minor leagues. But like Porcello, he is going to cost a small fortune to sign. The good part: Drafting Turner is a sign the Tigers don’t plan on going cheap anytime soon despite the flagging economy.

My column in Wednesday's paper about the Red Wings Game 6 loss: http://tinyurl.com/lzslrf


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Forget The Velocity, Where Was Bonderman's Slider?

Note: I will updating this blog Monday through Friday by 10 a.m. every day starting this week.

After watching him pitch Monday night, I must admit to being amazed Jeremy Bonderman was that effective during his rehabilitation starts in the minor leagues. I heard nothing but how poorly Bonderman was actually throwing, yet didn’t realize the degree until Monday. Thought maybe it was an exaggeration because he did post respectable lines.
It’s not just that he is throwing his fastball only 88 mph to 90 mph that is alarming. It’s that he isn’t throwing his slider - period. The only breaking balls he threw Monday were in the high 70s - and just spun up there like bad high school curveballs.
Bonderman threw in the mid to high 90s before. His slider, which was as good as any in baseball, was in the high 80s. There has been a tremendous dropoff in his "stuff."
The Tigers were concerned about a fall in Bonderman’s velocity last season before he had surgery. It had dropped from in the 96 mph and 97 mph range in 2006 to 92 mph and 93 mph last year.
They had expected the surgery, which was to correct a circulation problem that had developed in his shoulder, would return his velocity to normal. Instead, it has had the opposite bearing.
To put it in perspective, Nate Robertson’s "stuff" was just as good Monday.
Combined, Bonderman, Robertson and Dontrelle Willis are being paid more than $23 million this season. And from the three, the Tigers don’t even seem to have a fifth starter.

Random Thoughts

- I have a feeling the Tigers are going to miss Ryan Perry sooner instead of later. Too much was made of his walks. He had more solid outings than bad ones. Tonight’s start could be a last chance for Willis. Not exactly a comforting thought against the White Sox in that ball park.

- Gutting out the Game 1 victory Monday afternoon was huge for the Tigers. Now, they only need one more victory to at least make a respectable showing in the series. Had they lost that game, this series could be on the verge of becoming a disaster.

- You’d think the Penguins would be embarrassed about getting routed Saturday. You’d think playing at home tonight would give them a big lift. You’d think that probably there will be a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals Friday night at Joe Louis Arena. Me, I’m going against conventional wisdom. I think the Red Wings took the life out of the Penguins in Game 5 - and the series ends tonight.

Column in Tuesday's Oakland Press about the Red Wings: http://tinyurl.com/kmfqjs


Monday, June 08, 2009

Did You Know This About Willis And Bondo?

Note: This blog will now be updated Monday through Friday, and by 10 AM each day, beginning this week.

When Randy Johnson won his 300th game over the weekend, it was something we might not see again for decades.
Next on the list is Jamie Moyer with 250 victories. He is 46 years old. C.C. Sabathia is 28 and has 122 victories. He has an outside shot at it, but he isn’t even halfway there. The next best chances among active pitchers probably belong to Roy Halladay with 141 wins at 32, Roy Oswalt with 131 at 31 and Barry Zito with 125 at 31. Again, seems like the odds those three will reach 300 victories is nil.
Among pitchers 27 or younger, Dontrelle Willis - believe it or not - is the leader with 69 victories. Among active pitchers 26 or younger - again, believe it or not - it’s Jeremy Bonderman with 59 victories. It’s obvious they have no chance of winning 300 games based on their current circumstances alone.
In order to win 300 games, you must average 15 wins for 20 seasons. Don’t see that happening again in this era of five-man rotations, strict pitch counts and speciality pitching out of the bullpen. But if it does occur again, it will have to be by someone like the Tigers’ Rick Porcello who has started accumulating victories at a very young age - 20.

Random Thoughts

- I do like the idea of the Pistons being involved in a sign and trade for the Knicks’ David Lee. He is very good player with a lot the type of energy that has been missing from the Pistons frontcourt. The question is the cost. Lets put it this way, Lee is not the type of player you sign to a max-out contract, especially with 2010 looming and all those free agents being kicked loose.

- A lot of people were impressed by Edwin Jackson’s velocity the other night against the Angels, and they should have been, but he’s got an excellent breaking ball. He throws it hard with late break and a tight rotation. When gets ahead in the count like he has been this season, he is as tough as any pitcher in baseball because of that hammer.

- The Red Wings have had so many players step forward during this Stanley Cup run, sometimes they get overlooked. Who has played better than Valtteri Filppula? He has 16 points in 21 playoff games and is tied for the team-lead with 13 assists. And he is an excellent defensive forward, who is exceptionally strong on his skates.


Friday, June 05, 2009

Time For Tigers To Release Willis Could Come Soon

To be honest, Dontrelle Willis has actually done better than I anticipated this season. Obviously, that means my expectations for Willis weren’t too high. He is 1-3 with an ERA of 6.84. And the statistics are telling of the way he has performed.
I thought he’d walk more hitters, although15 walks in 25 innings isn’t exactly good control. He has fallen behind a lot of hitters and poured pitches over the heart of the plate - and gotten hit hard as a result.
No pitcher has ever really come back from what Willis had - and still, apparently, has - whether you call it, "Steve Blass Disease" or "The Thing." It’s one of baseball’s great unsolved mysteries.
He seemed to making progress toward doing so, but it was fleeting. The Tigers now have to make a decision. Circumstance, as much as their good play, has dictated they will be a contender this season. The American League Central is decidedly mediocre. Asking Willis to return the minors is a bit much, considering there would be no reason for the Tigers to expect him to return. It’s difficult to see how he’d help in the bullpen. Nobody is going to trade for him. Jeremy Bonderman is going to start Monday for the Tigers.
Could it be Willis will be released? The Tigers may have no other choice. Yeah, even with all that money left on his contract.

Random Thoughts

- The Lakers have considerably more athleticism - Pau Gasol, Larmar Odom, Andrew Bynum - inside than the Cavaliers. It is why the going is going to be a lot tougher for Dwight Howard and the Magic in the NBA Finals You could tell already in Game 1 this is going to be a short series - and why. The matchups were great for Orlando against Cleveland. It’s not like that at all vs. the Lakers.

- The Red Wings best chances for winning would include Justin Abdelkader. He should play in Game 5 Saturday night. It was mistake by Red Wings Mike Babcock he didn’t play in Game 4.

My column in Friday's Oakland Press: http://tinyurl.com/krk8po

The latest "Caputo And His Boss" video: http://tinyurl.com/o6qavr


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Lets Be Honest, Tiger Stadium Must Come Down

Tiger Stadium is a deeply personal issue for me. Not only because of the time I spent there as a kid watching games, but also because my professional life was so consumed by it. It literally became my home away from home when I was a beat writer.
I truly loved covering baseball at Tiger Stadium - literally every moment.
But I have come to grips with the fact it is going away. I almost look forward to the day I don’t have to drive by it and get that sick feeling from seeing it half there, like a beloved one in a coma and kept alive for years on life support.
I was all for preserving a portion of it at first, but honestly don’t see the feasibility of it.
I understand it isn’t going to become a museum or a ball park for youth to play in. I understand funding for such ventures in Detroit, especially during these economic times, is far down the list of priorities, as it should be.
What I chose long ago is to put Tiger Stadium in my memory. To see that marvelous field in my mind. To recall the green seats they had when I was a kid. To envision all the great games I saw there both as a kid and when I was a beat writer.
And move on.

Random Thoughts

- The considerable Oakland County connection in Michigan State’s football program is getting a lot of preseason recognition. Oakland County has a player on each of Phil Steele’s four All-Big Ten teams.
Joel Foreman, considered a sleeper when Mark Dantonio signed him out of Milford High School, is listed as a first-team guard. He is just a sophomore. Junior Charlie Gantt from Birmingham Brother Rice is the second-team tight, while junior Mark Dell from Farmington Harrison is a third-team wide receiver. One of Steele’s fourth-team running backs is true freshman Edwin Baker from Oak Park.
Steele has Michigan State ranked 29th nationally.

- Brad Stuart didn’t have his best performance in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Makes you wonder if he is getting worn down from the extra ice time he’s been forced to play and the ridiculous schedule the NHL has forced upon the Red Wings.

Wednesday's column on Red Wings in Oakland Press:


Monday, June 01, 2009

Zetterberg Making Another Push For Conn Smythe

The Red Wings’ depth is well-documented. They bring in a fifth round draft choice like Darren Helm - and he stars in the playoffs. They put a last overall pick in the NHL Draft, Jonathan Ericsson, on defense - and he is solid as a rock and starts scoring key goals. Justin Abdelkaker? What more can be said about that?
But you know who has really stood in the finals? It’s been Henrik Zetterberg. Head-to-head against Sydney Crosby, he has handed him his lunch. He has not only been a force pressuring the Penguins, but has played brilliantly defensively in terms of zone coverage.
If all stays the same in the finals, you’d have to give the Conn Smythe Trophy to Red Wings’ goalie Chris Osgood, but Zetterberg, who won it last year, is second on my list.

Random Thoughts

- If Jeremy Bonderman is pitching eight shutout innings of ball at Triple-A, he belongs in the major leagues. Don’t care what the radar gun readings say. Logic dictates he would take Dontrelle Willis’ spot in the rotation, except there is no real place for Willis in the bullpen. Willis, Nate Robertson and Brandon Lyon are making too much money release. Bobby Seay has a defined role as a situational lefty. I wouldn’t go there. Ryan Perry has options left, but he is too good not to be in the major leagues. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

- Nothing against Dwight Howard. He is a fabulous player. But mark me among those disappointed there isn’t a Kobe-LeBron matchup in the NBA Finals. The run by the Magic has been beyond surprising to me. I thought the Pistons might have had a chance against them in the opening round. Guess it’s all about matchups. The Cavs simply didn’t have an answer for Howard in the post.

- Hey, at least Chauncey got to the Western Conference finals. Did anybody expect that from the Nuggets?

My column in Monday's Oakland Press about the Red Wings: http://tinyurl.com/mvntbo