Sunday, May 30, 2010

Willis Put Up A Good Fight, But Couldn't Overcome "The Thing"

Dontrelle Willis put up a good fight against "The Thing" or "Steve Blass Disease" or whatever else you want to call it, but he just couldn't win.

Doesn't seem like anybody can, that it's become a fact of baseball life that is fatal to the pitching career of those it inflicts.

And it is sad. Pitcher overcome difficult injuries all the time. They bounced back from awful seasons to flourish again.

Not this. It's baseball's mysterious and haunting exception.

A pitcher who is one of the best of the world, which definitely fit Willis for the first years of his career, can suddenly and alarmingly lose command of the baseball - for no apparent reason.

It happened to Blass, a World Series hero for the Pirates - his career gone not long after because he couldn't throw the ball over the plate. It happened to Kevin Saucier, the former Tiger reliever - Hot Sauce. It happened to Rick Ankiel, a tremendous prospct. Now it has happened to Willis.

The Tigers didn't have any choice. Willis' starts this season, even when they were OK in their totality, were maddening to observe. They did him a favor by releasing him before he fell completely over the brink. But it doesn't make it any easier to observe - or understand.

Time for Max Scherzer to realize his enormous potential. He pitched exceptionally well in his two starts at Toledo.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Roy Oswalt: The Magglio Ordonez Of Pitchers

Roy Oswalt pitched very well Wednesday in Milwaukee, and has pitched pretty well this season overall despite a 3-6 record. He has allowed far less hits than innings pitched. He has started every game. Both good signs, because there have been some injury issues in the past (aren't there usually with starting pitchers).
And he is available. The Houston Astros are not doing well and figure to be cutting him from the payroll because he is a 30-something pitcher, making $15 million per year, who isn't what he used to be.
Would Oswalt help the Tigers? He wouldn't hurt, that's for sure. Unless they do something stupid, like many of their fans are clamoring for, and trade for Oswalt, "regardless the cost."
If you pick up more than $30 million in contracts, and that player doesn't pan out with exceptional performance, the costs down the road to a franchise are enormous. It's same type of poor thinking that led the Tigers to signing Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman long term. The value of their performance hasn't anywhere come close to equaling their contracts. At least it could be justified in the sense both pitchers were in their early 20s when they were signed long term. Oswalt has a lot of miles on him. He's also pitched in the National League, where the hitters aren't of quite the same caliber, and there is no designated hitter. And if he does well, he'd likely walk from Detroit when his contract is complete anyway. He has no attachment here. His contract was signed in 2006 - before the economics of the game changed dramatically. He is a $5 million pitcher making $15 million this season - and set to make $16 million next season. He is the Magglio Ordonez of pitchers, in a sense.
He has a great name, though. He is remembered from the 2005 postseason. But he isn't the same pitcher he was back then. Not even close. Hasn't been for awhile.
How many people who are clamoring for Oswalt so badly have actually seen him pitch lately? He is just a big name, not necessarily a big-time pitcher at this point.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NFL Playing Russian Roulette For No Reason With Super Bowl Outdoors In New Jersey

The NFL’s greed knows no bounds. They are going to play the Super Bowl outdoors in New Jersey in February in 2014 and were rolling the weather on that particular day the last five years as an example of why it won’t be so bad.
The first week of February is when the weather is generally about as bad as it gets in the Northern regions of this country. Often, at that time of the year, the storms are overwhelming. The NFL is playing a Russian Roulette here with the Super Bowl. And just might get what it deserves as result.
What is the point of messing with the Super Bowl like this? Not for just a few more television ratings points, can it? It’s already the highest-rated show in the free world. Don’t tell me it’s not going to compromise the integrity of game. It clearly will. If New York wanted the Super Bowl so badly, the solution was simple - put a roof on the stadium. They do have retractable roofs, remember?
It’s a gimmick from a league, that honestly, doesn’t need one, a headline grabber in 2010 that could come back haunt the NFL big-time in 2014.

My column in Wednesday's Oakland Press on Michigan football's self sanctions:


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Don't Curse Yzerman For Leaving, Wish Him Well

I wouldn't begrudge Steve Yzerman for leaving the Red Wings for the general manager's position in Tampa Bay.
Yzerman spent considerable time learning the position properly in the Red Wings' front office with Jimmy Devellano, Ken Holland and Jim Nill. He build his own masterpiece when Canada, under extraordinary pressure, won the Olympic gold medal. While it's true Yzerman had a huge talent pool to select from, putting the pieces together wasn't that easy of a puzzle to solve. Certainly Team Canada hasn't always done so in the past.
I talked to Yzerman a couple times the past winter, and he is totally into evaluating players at this point. You can tell, creating his own team, is where his mindset is at during this stage of his hockey career. It'd be different if there was some place for him to go in the organization, or it made sense for the Red Wings to shuffle their front office deck. In truth, it'd make no sense whatsoever. There is solid ownership in Tampa Bay now. Yzerman has good parts to build from - particularly budding superstar Steven Stamkos.
Don't curse him for leaving. Wish him well.


Transcript Of My Live Chat Today

Got into a lot about Michigan, Steve Yzerman's departure, the Lions and, of course, the Tigers:

Live Chat Today

I will be doing a live chat today from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. @

Monday, May 24, 2010

What Dave Dombrowski Does Best

Toledo has just a 24-19 record this season. How can that be when the Mud Hens have had the likes of Brennan Boesch, Danny Worth and Casper Wells in their lineup?
Is it the Mud Hens or the '27 Yankees.
Seriously, it does speak to how well the Tigers are doing at developing players. There was a time, not long ago, when they would call up similar players and they couldn't play a lick. I haven't always been enamored with Dave Dombrowski's trades or veteran contract signings, but he has done an excellent job of building the Tigers organizationally.
The way Tiger minor league prospects are prepared for the major leagues when they arrive is proof. It's also a testament to Glenn Ezell and his effectiveness running the Tigers player development system.

Random Thoughts

- Honestly, I didn't think the Blackhawks would coast the finals. I strongly believe if they had played the Red Wings in the Western Conference finals instead of the Sharks, it wouldn't have been nearly the same cake walk. I think the Red Wings probably would have won a series against Chicago.

- I'm glad the Lakers didn't just run the Suns off the floor again. I'd like to see both Grant Hill and Steve Nash experience the NBA Finals. Both deserve it based on the totality of their respective careers.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Ramon Santiago Is The Most Overrated Tiger

I like Ramon Santiago as a player. He is a fine backup middle infielder. Don't get me wrong.
But he is the most overrated player on the team by Tigers fans.
Santiago's average 162 game season in the major leagues is .244 with six home runs and 40 RBI in 504 plate appearances. He is, at best, an average middle infielder defensively.
More telling: In 1,378 at bats in Triple-A, Santiago has hit just .247 with 18 home runs and 125 RBI.

- We'll know a lot more about Dontrelle Willis' future in the Tigers' starting rotation - one way or another - after tonight's start against the Dodgers. Very pivotal outing for Willis.

- Brett Favre is out of control. If Southern Mississippi gets to the College World Series, he will return to the NFL? Why doesn't he just flip a coin? Or draw straws? The guy is goofy. Has to be driving the Vikings nuts.

- Zack Follett is getting a lot of hype lately, but he does have a good chance of becoming a quality NFL starter. He is a much better athlete than a lot of people are giving him credit. Key will be staying healthy. He would have been drafted higher out of Cal were it not for injury issues.

- I'm glad Montreal rallied to beat Philadelphia Thursday. I'd prefer an Original Six final, but most of all, I want to see great playoff hockey. That series could become very exciting now. It was pretty dull the first two games.

My Column in Friday's Oakland Press. Is expecting 6 to 8 wins this season from the Lions unreasonable?


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Some See A Step Back From Porcello But I See Progress. Let Me Explain

There are two ways of looking at how Rick Porcello has pitched this season. One is that he is suffering from the sophomore jinx - and has regressed instead of made progress from his rookie year.
The other is viewing this as growing pains, and perhaps an even bigger sign Porcello might be a special pitcher some day.
I know the Tigers lost Tuesday, and Porcello's pitching line wasn't good, but he got through the outing OK, giving the Tigers a fighting chance to beat the White Sox - even though he took little in regard to "stuff" out to the mound.
When Porcello is right, his two-seam fastball has tremendous sinking action. It is remindful of the pitch Brandon Webb threw so effectively for the Arizona Diamondbacks before he was injured. His two-seamer will be about 89 mph or 90 mph on the radar gun, his four-seam fastball - a straight pitch - at 94 mph. Tuesday, Porcello was inbetween with both fastballs. It was difficult to distinguish which fastball Porcello was throwing. He was between 91 mph and 93 mph pretty much all game. The movement was not there. He still survived that outing because he has excellent instincts as a pitcher. The two-seam pitch will come back, undoubtedly with some extra work on the side. And ultimately Porcello, who is just just 21 years old, will be a better pitcher because of his struggles, not despite them.
A lesser pitcher would not be handling this nearly as well.

My Column in Wednesday's Oakland Press on Jim Leyland: Is he a great manager or overrated? The facts suggest both.


LIVE CHAT, Tuesday's Column

Transcript of my live chat Tuesday:

My column in Tuesday's Oakland Press on how weird it is this spring:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some Food For Thought On The Tigers' Start

Like most in this town, I have been impressed with the Tigers’ start. I like the way they have rallied from behind to win several games. There is good energy on this team, both on the field and in the clubhouse. It’s fun to watch players, who enjoy playing what I think is the beautiful game (No, it’s not soccer). The bullpen and Miguel Cabrera have been terrific. The championship pedigree of Phil Coke and Johnny Damon is rubbing off. Rookies Brennan Boesch and Austin Jackson have been a big cause for the energy surge.
But are the Tigers really that good? I’m not sure. It’s still early in the season. The jury is still a long way from coming in. And there is some evidence to suggest, well, the Tigers’ start ultimately may not be much more than, well, a good start:
- Last year at the this time, the Tigers had the exact same 22-16 record. They were 24-16 at the 40-game mark everyone pays so much attention to since Sparky Anderson made such a big deal of it when he was the Tigers’ manager.
- How many people in this town talk about the remarkable Blue Jays or the amazing Padres? Those two clubs have better records than the Tigers, and the Reds have the same number of losses.
- The Tigers are 14-5 at home. They are 8-11 on the road. They head out West to play Oakland and the Dodgers, the latter in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, after a two-game series at Comerica Park with the White Sox.
- Now the Tigers did reasonably well on their last West Coast trip, 5-6. They will get a break in LA because Andre Ethier, the best player in the major leagues this season (.392, 11 HR, 38 RBI) will likely miss the series because of hand injury.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Column In Monday's Oakland Press: Leave Notre Dame Out Of Big Ten Expansion

I feel Nebraska and Missouri are only good fits. Here's why:

Reminder: I will be doing a live chat Tuesday between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.


My Column In Sunday's Oakland Press On Major League Umpire Rick Reed's Inspirational Story

Rick Reed lives in Rochester:

Video of Rick Reed discussing his career as an umpire and coming back from two strokes

Note: I will be doing a live chat per usual Monday 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. per usual


Friday, May 14, 2010

Why I Feel The Tigers Will Remain In Contention All Season

Count me among those who feel like the Tigers will be in contention the entire summer. And it won't necessarily be because of the rookies that have been playing so well. I think it will be because the Tigers have Justin Verlander leading their starting pitching rotation, Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the lineup and Jose Valverde anchoring the bullpen. Name another threesome like that in the A.L. in those key spots. The Yankees? Maybe, but the Tigers just won a four-game series in impressive fashion against the Yankees.
I still believe the Tigers must win the American League Central, though, to reach the postseason, that the A.L. wildcard team will be from the East.


Why Is This Version Of The Tigers So Much More Liked Than Last Year's?

My column in Friday's Oakland Press on that subject:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On Canadiens, Boesch And Brian Kelly's ND Arrogance

I must admit, I thought the Red Wings-Penguins would have made for an ideal Stanley Cup finals. But I do like the idea of the Canadiens possibly getting there. Montreal is a great hockey town. Ranks right up there with Detroit and Toronto - and the Canadiens' tradition is second to none in professional sports. Yes, even the Yankees.

- The most impressive thing Brennan Boesch has done so far was hit a home run, as a left-handed batter, off a left-handed pitcher the caliber of C.C. Sabathia.

- Saw Brian Kelly's statements about loving Notre Dame's status as an independent. Wonder if he'd feel so strongly about it if Big Ten schools refused to schedule Notre Dame games. Seems like the Big Ten does more for the Fighting Irish than they do for the Big Ten these days.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tiger Woods Not Such A Sure Bet To Top Nicklaus Anymore

My column in Wednesday's Oakland Press On Tiger Woods:


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'd Make Joel Zumaya A Starter

Last night, when the Tigers beat the Yankees, I was impressed with Joel Zumaya. Not just his 101 mph fastballs, but the couple off-speed pitches he threw. They were totally knee-buckling.
It's not like he just has the great fastball. He also has a real good feel for pitching, a good breaking ball and an excellent changeup.
Why not make him a starter? It would stretch him out and cultivate him as a total pitcher. And probably help keep him healthy because he would be on regular throwing and pitching schedules.

Transcript of my chat today


Live Chat Today From 11:30 a.m. To 12:30 p.m.

I will be doing a live chat today from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. @

Will get into Tigers after big victory over the Yankees last night, Red Wings potential changes, Lions, Tiger Woods, etc

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tigers Do Have Options For Starting Rotation Issues

Starting pitching is becoming a major concern for the Tigers. Dontrelle Willis will miss his start today because of illness. Eddie Bonine pitched yesterday, so they will go with Brad Thomas against the powerful Yankees.
I do think if Max Scherzer continues to struggle, he could find his way to the minor leagues. His issues are of command - and should probably be worked out at Triple-A for a period. Rick Porcello needs to get the sinking action back on his two-seam fastball. To me, it seems less logical to send him to the minor leagues to work on that. But a stint in the bullpen might be in order.
Question is, what are the options for the rotation. Bonine is one. He's pitched very well this season. A real step forward. Another could be Alfredo Figaro. He has been the best starter at Toledo this year - and is gradually improving as the season moves along. Armando Galarraga had been pitching well for the Mud Hens, but was lit up in his most recent start.

Random Thoughts

- I liked the Lions signing of C.C. Brown. He is not a ballhawking safety, but he is a solid tackler in the secondary and should be a good compliment for Louis Delmas. And he's a player who, at 27, is still in his prime with some so-called tread left - like their earler secondary additions, cornerbacks Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade. The Lions were sorely lacking options opposite of Delmas. The best options, Daniel Bullocks and Ko Simpson, are coming off major knee injuries. The key to the effectiveness of player like Brown is pass rush. He is not a good cover safety. Run support is his strength.
Now what are the Lions going to do address an obvious hole at linebacker?

- There was a time I was absolutely positive Tiger Woods would break Jack Nicklaus' all-time record for winning golf's major tournaments. Now I am not so sure. Almost seems unlikely.

My column in Monday's Oakland Press on where the Red Wings go from here:


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Don't Blame The Refs, Blame The Red Wings

It was a weird series, perhaps the strangest I can remember. How the Red Wings came into it after winning Game 7 in the opening round in Phoenix. How they allowed three quick goals in the first period of Game 1 against the Sharks. How the Red Wings, a team that has traditionally been so good at maintaining leads, kept blowing leads. How the referees kept calling one ridiculous ticky-tack penalty after another, but let the Sharks get away with a headshot to the Red Wings Johan Franzen in the third period of a tie match in Game 5.
But in truth, the Red Wings made their own bed here. They didn't, ultimately, live up to their championship pedigree. And the Sharks proved they no longer deserve their choker label.
Other than than a spectacular Game 4 victory Thursday night, the Red Wings' performance against the Sharks was underwhelming. They got what they deserved. Jimmy Howard was far from good enough in goal. The Red Wings inability to win faceoffs was shocking. Some of the penalties they took were unnecessary and could have been avoided. The Sharks adjusted to the landscape better. Bottom line.

My column in Monday's Oakland Press on where the Red Wings go from here:

Friday, May 07, 2010

Why Is Lawrence Taylor Such A Knucklehead?

Whenever I hear Lawrence Taylor is in hot water, I am curious. Why is he so troubled? He should have it made.
In my opinion, Taylor was the greatest football player I've ever seen - offense or defense.
I remember seeing him play against the Lions at the Silverdome. He returned an interception nearly 100 yards for a touchdown, pulling away from the Lions backs and receivers in the process. It was before the Giants were good really good. They only beat the Lions 13-6 that day. And it was simply because Taylor was so disruptive.


My Column in Friday's Oakland Press

If the Red Wings win Saturday, their series with the Sharks will get very interesting:

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Ernie Harwell Epitomized The Greatest Generation

My Column in Thursday's Oakland Press on Ernie And Why He Became the Man He Did:


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

My Thoughts On Ernie

You knew this was going to happen, probably sooner instead of later. The mortality of human life dictated it.
But somehow knowing Ernie Harwell has taken his last breath is still saddening.
I hadn't known how to respond to Ernie's illness. The last thing he wanted was sympathy. He lived a good life, and knew it. He was at peace.
Like everybody else, I grew up with Ernie as my voice of the summer. Sneaking the transistor radio to bed to listen to the Tigers' games isn't a myth. I did it. So did every other kid I knew.
The Tigers back then had a grip on this town no other team has since. Baseball was the clear-cut king. Ernie's deep voice echoed throughout the kingdom.
But his impact on me truly became profound the moment I first actually met him. It was my first Tigers' game as a reporter. I was covering high schools and answering phones for The Oakland Press, working 80 hours per week for pay that was ridiculously low. I wasn't even on staff. It was 1983. The Tigers were building toward 1984. Don Frost, the sports editor at the time, called me and said the Tigers' beat writer couldn't cover a Sunday afternoon game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He said covering the game was my reward for a job well done.
I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was when I hung up the phone - until I actually arrived at the ball park. I went into the clubhouse, and while standing in manager Sparky Anderson's office, I broke out in a cold sweat. I was scared to death. I walked out of the clubhouse totally humiliated without saying a word.
I was standing at the door of the elevator, looking down and feeling ill. All of a sudden, this hand jetted in front of my face and I heard that voice: "Hi, I'm Ernie Harwell. Good to meet you."
I can't tell you much at ease it made me feel. Or how often I have thought of that moment, or repeated it to friends down through the years. It was a defining moment of my life.
Only Ernie could have that type of impact with such a simple gesture. Beyond his ability as a broadcaster, it was his great gift.
Those of us who knew Ernie better than the general public, we'll all tell you the stories are true. Even in his more human moments, when what might be perceived as flaws would be exposed, Ernie never tried to cover them up. It was "this is what I am. I'm not perfect." But he did so with grace.
I respected his knowledge of the game - and incredible recall about the past - more than anybody I've met. I admired his graciousness. More than anything else, I loved Ernie's approach to life. He was spiritual, yes, but didn't knock you over the head with it. He definitely wasn't afraid to put people in their place. And he was unyieldingly loyal.
His wife, Lulu, is a truly wonderful person. Seeing them together was always, to me, the definition of what a marriage should be. My heart goes out to her and Ernie's family.
I know this: I'm still going to hear Ernie voice the rest of my life. I won't have to put his audio scrapbook in to hear it - although I undoubtedly will, and often.
That voice is there in my heart - just like you. And it will resonate as loudly in his death as it did in life.


Transcript Of My Live Chat Today, Videos on Red Wings And Tigers

Thanks to all those participating. Good stuff:

Caputo And His Boss Video. On Game 3 between the Red Wings And Sharks:

Caputo And His Boss Video. On the Tigers hot start and whether Austin Jackson is "for real."

Reminder: I will be Tweeting tonight from the Red Wings-Sharks game on Twitter @patcaputo98

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Red Wings At A Crossroad

Despite falling behind two games to none to the San Jose Sharks following a second straight 4-3 loss Sunday, I still think the Red Wings have a good chance to win the Western Conference semifinal series.
I don't see where the Sharks have outplayed the Red Wings the first two games. The Sharks had a huge break go their way Sunday - an odd man rush caused by a broken stick on Nicklas Lidstrom's shot attempt.
To their credit, the Sharks took advantage of the situation with a goal - the overrated Joe Thornton tapping in a rebound for just his 13th goal in 84 career playoff games.
Jimmy Howard didn't necessarily play poorly in net for the Red Wings, but four goals are too many to allow in the playoffs. It did seem strange for the Red Wings to allow 45 shots on net. They are normally the ones peppering the goal. The Red Wings had a 3-2 lead - and didn't play well with it.
There will be a lot of complaints about the officiating following this game - and it is justified. Weird calls - both ways. It wasn't like the referees let the players decide the issue. Brad Watson and Kevin Pollack were, truth be told, awful.
The Henrk Zetterberg-Todd Bertuzzi-Valtteri Filppula line was badly outplayed again. Joe Pavelski has suddenly become the second coming of Wayne Gretzky and must be stopped,if the Red Wings hope to rally and win this series.
Could be time for Mike Babcock to shake up his lines. With the matchup advantage on home ice, it'll be interesting what line he pits against Pavelski's line.
If the Red Wings win on Tuesday, the pressure will be shifted back to the Sharks, whose persistent playoff failure defines their history. If the Red Wings win on Tuesday and Thursday - and I have little doubt they will win this series. The Sharks don't repond well to be thrown back on their heels. The key for the Red Wings is to put them there.
The Red Wings didn't come out of the gate quickly in Game 1 - and paid the price for it. They played too loose with the puck after taking the lead Sunday - and paid the price for it.
Similar mistakes Tuesday - and they'll pay an even bigger price.
They won't win this series.

Random Thoughts

- Joe Mauer's misfortune - a badly bruised heel - is the Tigers' fortune this week heading into a 3-game series at Minnesota. The Twins survived well without Justin Morneau last September. Can't see them handling the absence of Mauer nearly as well.

- Justin Verlander is only 15 months older than Tim Lincecum, but has 23 more career wins. Funny how people overact to the first month of the season - one way or another. In baseball, water finds its proper level. Who would be shocked if Verlander throws another no hitter this season?

My Column in Monday's Oakland Press on the minor league baseball disaster known as the Oakland County Cruisers:


Saturday, May 01, 2010

My Sunday Column In The Oakland Press

On Jimmy Howard's predicament: