Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tigers performance in Cleveland profoundly disappointing

I know the games didn't mean much in Cleveland on the grand scale of things, but I thought the Tigers' effort was poor. Nobody has touted Justin Verlander more than I have, but he just didn't keep his bearings Wednesday. Emotion can be a good thing on the mound. In this case it was detrimental.
Perhaps it will go better for the Tigers in Baltimore. But their chances of finishing with a reasonably respectable record went out the window in Cleveland, which was their house of horrors in 2010.
The Indians truly stunk this year, and the Tigers were head-to-head, at least in Cleveland, worst than the Tribe.
Doesn't say much for the Tigers, does it?

Random Thoughts

- Is it Calvin Johnson or the Lions offensive scheme/losing environment that is holding him back? Obviously it is a combination of both. But I think people are sometimes too quick to defend Johnson in this town. He drops too many passes. That needs to change before he reaches his full potential.
Oh, there is that word again - potential. Aren't you tired of hearing about Calvin Johnson's potential?

- I have a feeling Chris Osgood will play prominent role for the Red Wings this season. Ozzie's hockey career is kind of like a cat. It has nine lives. Not sure he's used them all just yet.

- Anybody else think Tiger Woods will go a long way toward redeeming himself at the Ryder Cup? It's the perfect stage, involving the team element and patriotism, for it.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why everyone in this state should be rooting for MSU and Michigan to win Saturday

My MVP vote would go to Miguel Cabrera. Here's why

The numbers strongly suggest Miguel Cabrera should win the American League Most Valuable Player Award. A .331 batting average. Thirty-eight home runs. One-hundred-twenty-six RBI. An OPS of 1.042. No other A.L. player has had close to the consistency of Cabrera throughout the major categories. Only Josh Hamilton is close - and his batting average of .361 is considerably better. Also, Hamilton's OPS is slightly better (1.049). But he has been hurt for an extended period of time, his team kept winning anyway and he doesn't have 100 RBI (although he may get there upon return for a tuneup for the postseason).
Working against Cabrera is that the Tigers aren't coming close to a sniff of the postseason, but it's hardly his fault. He did perform well when the Tigers slumped in July and August. Unlike his first two years with the Tigers, when his numbers were hallow because of a lack of clutch RBI, this season was the complete opposite. Cabrera delivered time after time in the clutch.
Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford might get some support because he has the added element of speed, and it is combined with solid overall numbers, but his his OPS is below that of Cabrera, who had a great season - and should be rewarded with his first MVP Award for it.


Great drafts? Better coaching? Improved front office? None proving true for the Lions

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ownership issue ominous cloud hanging over Pistons

The Pistons held their media day Monday and it was basically as if it didn't happen. There is very little buzz about the team after last year's awful season, and partly it's because the Pistons did precious little during the off season to enhance their team on the court.
The Pistons are still very unbalanced on the floor, and the addition of injury-plagued former superstar Tracy McGrady only compounds the issue.
There is also the matter of ownership. Who is going to own this team? The leading candidates appear to be Platinum Equity CEO Tom Gores and the Ilitch family. Both fall under the "billionaire" category and would seem to be solid owners, but when? The sooner, the better.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Lets face it: Denard Robinson is Michigan football

I think the notion Michigan has three quarterbacks of about equal ability is laughable.
Denard Robinson is the Wolverines. Period. They will only go as far as he takes them.
He is the most valuable quarterback they have ever had at Michigan. Even more so than Rick Leach back in the day. Robinson is an absolute perfect fit for Rich Rodriguez's spread option offense. I don't think Terrelle Pryor could run this particular offense any better.
And that's not coming from somebody who doesn't think Devin Gardner or Tate Forcier are good players. I do. I just think Robinson is so much better, and his supporting cast is decidedly mediocre - especially on defense.
Although I will state this: Michigan's offensive line is pretty good. Underrated.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Time to stop letting Lions off the hook with Matt Millen excuse

Millen is long gone. 0-3 start not his issue anymore. My latest column in The Oakland Press:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tigers can win the American League Central next season.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Margin of victory does mean a lot for Michigan this week

Usually, I'm not much of a margin of victory person. I figure you just win comfortably. The size of the score doesn't matter, and can be disrespectful.
But I think Saturday's Michigan's game against Bowling Green is an exception.
The Wolverines, who are attempting to re-gain their status on the national stage, need to crush the Falcons. The more lopsided, the better from their standpoint.
Because of the loss to Appalachian State, which began the downfall of Lloyd Carr.
Because of the loss to Toledo, which raised plenty of eyebrows about Rich Rodriguez.
And because last week's much closer-than-expected victory over Massachusetts left many wondering if Michigan's defense is good enough for a legitimate Top 25 team.

Random Thoughts

- The matchup I have been waiting for since the NFL Draft will take place Sunday: The Lions Ndamukong Suh vs. Steve Hutchinson. Wonder if Hutchinson can handle Suh one-on-one? We're about to find out. Finally.

- Anybody else sick of the Jets? I love the show "Hard Knocks" on HBO. Watch it every year. And I did find it more compelling with Rex Ryan and the Jets this season. But there is so much drama with that team lately - the women reporter issue, Braylon Edwards' DUI, etc. - it's too much. The Jets did look good against the Patriots, though.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Just some baseball thoughts...

The Tigers will be contenders next season, if for no other reason than they will have Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer leading their starting pitching rotation. The key will be Rick Porcello. He must return to the form he displayed the second half of his rookie season.

- Curtis Granderson has bounced back well in New York. He has 21 home runs, 14 in 208 at bats since the All Star break. His OPS the second half of the season is .862. Wouldn't surprise me if he has a huge postseason.

- It's amazing how the best clubs find a way to get it done come September. Look at how the Phillies are rolling into the postseason.

- Love the National League West race. Makes for some great late night viewing. Colorado-Arizona, San Diego-Dodgers tonight. Oh, no question I will watch the Vin Scully broadcast...

- Count me among those who thinks the worse Adam Dunn does down the stretch of the season, the better the chances the Tigers will land him. They need his left-handed power. Desperately.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do people in this town finally hate the Twins?

Do people in this town finally hate the Twins?
What they have done the second half of this season has been incredible. They were behind the Tigers at the All Star break.
The knock on Twins' manager Ron Gardenhire has been postseason failure. We'll see if it is any different this season. I can't believe the Twins have done this with that starting pitching rotation. Carl Pavano has been the difference.
He's an example of why you don't make trades within your own division. The Indians handed the Twins two American League Central titles by trading Pavano to Minnesota for minor league pitcher Yohan Pino.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Calvin Johnson just needs to play better. Period

One of the raging issues about the Lions this week is the lack of production from Calvin Johnson. Are they really not getting him the ball enough? Don’t see that as the issue. Johnson just not making plays is the bigger problem, in my opinion.
The Lions have thrown the ball 21 times to Johnson in the first two games, resulting in just eight receptions. There have been drops in the mix. He also fell down on a fade pattern in the opener at Chicago, which led to a costly interception.
While it would be wise for the Lions to design shorter routes or reverses to get the ball in Johnson’s hands, there is a bottom line about all this: He just needs to play better.

Random Thoughts

- I think Don Treadwell will do well in the absence of Mark Danontio as MSU’s head coach. He has done a good job of bringing the Spartans' offense together. I think this will be MSU’s best offense of the Dantonio era. The balance is good. There are, however, still concerns defensively. The secondary is not a strength. And it seems like the Spartans must blitz to get a decent pass rush.

- At first glance, I thought it was ridiculous Michigan and Michigan State are ranked in the Top 25. For what? Beating decidedly mediocre Notre Dame? Then I checked the "others receiving votes" category in both polls. Not a lot there.

- Nothing is more misleading than September baseball with a team out of the race. Good for Will Rhymes, Alex Avila and Daniel Schlereth, but their performances lately will mean little in the long run.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Mark Dantonio heart attack an example of how fleeting life can be

It's difficult to see how the Lions are any different this season

Friday, September 17, 2010

Three reasons the Lions will beat the Eagles Sunday - and three reasons they won't

Three reasons the Lions will beat the Eagles Sunday:
1. The game is at home. The Lions have been a bad team everywhere in recent years, but when they have had success, it has been at Ford Field. Both their wins last year were at home.
2. The Lions' defensive line is athletic enough to maintain contain to the outside, and keep Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in the pocket.
3. Shaun Hill is a better quarterback than many in this town are giving him credit for being. He has essentially started a full season in the NFL, compiling a 10-6 record as a starter. He will get the ball into the hands of the Lions' playmakers, particularly Jahvid Best and Calvin Johnson.
Three reasons the Lions won't:
1. Vick is a superior athlete, back in form and with plenty to prove. The Lions would have been much better off if Kevin Kolb, who will likely miss this game because of a concussion, were the Eagles' starting quarterback.
2. DeSean Jackson is a big play receiver with extraordinary speed. He is due for a big game. The Lions' secondary played well in the opener at Chicago, but remains a question mark.
3. The Lions' offensive line turned in an awful performance vs. the Bears and the Eagles have a good defensive line, led by former Michigan star Brandon Graham, a rookie, and veteran Trent Cole.

Random Thoughts

- I think the most interesting aspect of the Michigan State-Notre Dame game Saturday are the coaches and their styles. Mark Dantonio was replaced as Cincinnati's head coach by Brian Kelly. Dantonio took the Bearcats to a certain level. Then, Kelly took them a step higher.
Dantonio prefers old-fashioned power football with a fullback leading into the line. Kelly spreads the field and lets his quarterbacks sling it.

- Michigan is going to clock the University of Massachusetts Saturday. But it should be noted the greatest football player in UMass history is none other than Greg Landry. Yes. The same Greg Landry who was the last Lions' quarterback selected for the Pro Bowl


Oxford's Zach Line has been one of the better running backs the country so far this season at SMU

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Just some thoughts on the Tigers...

I do think Carlos Guillen will be the Tigers' second baseman next season. He is a much better player than Scott Sizemore or Will Rhymes. Those guys are there for insurance. Neither is, in my opinion, a long-term major leaguer. Sizemore has much more upside than Rhymes, though.
Big decisions are coming on Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta. The Tigers probably should keep both. That's not a bad left side of the infield. I wouldn't give Inge more than a one-year deal.
I'd try to re-sign Magglio Ordonez, but only for much less of a cost. And only for one year. I would not attempt to re-sign Johnny Damon. He is clearly on the downside of his career. Numbers this season reflect that. Inge is having a decent season - despite his critics. Peralta is a good player. Ordonez was a comeback player of the year candidate until he was hurt.
I still maintain the free agent the Tigers should be most interested in is Adam Dunn. They need power and run production - above all else.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The most underrated bad move in recent years by Tigers

Most underrated bad move by the Tigers in recent years: Giving up on Omar Infante at the age of 25.
At the age of 28, he is hitting .340 and spearheading a postseason drive by the Atlanta Braves. Anybody remember who the Tigers got for Infante? Jacque Jones from the Cubs. Infante was traded by the Cubs for a couple minor leaguers just a week or two later to the Braves. The Tigers released Jones, who was clearly past his prime, early in the 2008 season. He was soon out of baseball.It was a curious move. Infante has much better physical tools than, say, Ramon Santiago, is much more versatile (he is a good outfielder and can play all infield spots) and younger. The Tigers would not have this glaring need for a shortstop had they kept Infante. He is a better shortstop defensively than anybody they have right now.

Random Thoughts

The handwriting is on the wall. Michigan will be 5-0 going into the Michigan State game. By then, the Wolverines could very well be among the Top 15 - maybe even Top 10 - teams in the country.
Michigan State has two difficult games before then - Notre Dame and Wisconsin. But both those games are at Spartan Stadium. Could be more than a little interesting Oct. 9 in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines have Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin at home. They win those games, it will represent significant progress - regardless of what happens at Penn State or Ohio State.
Michigan State’s season will defined by road games - at Michigan, Northwestern and Iowa.

- Don’t know what ESPN is thinking, and nothing against Ryan Mallet or Denard Robinson, but Terrelle Pryor is far and away the leading candidate to win the Heisman Trophy at this point.

My latest column in The Oakland Press: What to make of Michael Vick facing the Lions Sunday at Ford Field


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Durability becoming THE ISSUE with Matthew Stafford

The subject of injuries in the National Football League is a touchy issue. Injuries often happen as if on a whim.
A player will get absolutely crushed on one play and raise without a problem. Then, on another play that looks relatively innocent, a player will get hurt - sometimes severely.
This much is true about the NFL. Durability, despite its fickle nature, is considered as much - or more - of an asset than any physical skill.
And so it would naive not to have concerns about the durability of Lions' quarterback Matthew Stafford. He has suffered three significant injuries in just 11 NFL starts. One was when his knee was rolled upon, another was a shoulder injury when he made an heroic play, and the third, in Sunday's loss to the Bears, was a shoulder injury on a sack.
Already having injuries to each shoulder and a knee equals a question mark about durability.
Stafford has great skill and confidence. I feel like he is capable of becoming the Lions' first Pro Bowl quarterback since Greg Landry in 1972, and in the not-too-distant future - if stays on the field.
It has become THE ISSUE surrounding him.


Monday, September 13, 2010

The bigger picture view of the Lions loss to the Bears

Much of the discussion in the aftermath of the Lions’ loss to the Bears Sunday has been focused on the call on Calvin Johnson’s apparent touchdown pass that was ruled incomplete. And justifiably so.
But what about the bigger picture? Just how well did the Lions play?
Some parts, obviously, weren’t good.
The Lions were outgained by a large margin by the Bears. They hardly moved the ball in the second half until the final, fateful drive.
Calvin Johnson was terrible. He didn’t pick up the team at all. Falling down. Dropped passes. Brandon Pettigrew also dropped a key pass. Offensive tackle Jeff Backus got his doors blown off by Julius Peppers on the pass rush. The offensive line was allegedly solidified, but played a poor game.
Jahvid Best didn’t have much impact. He had 20 yards on 14 carries. Can we please stop comparing him to Barry Sanders,l he at least until Best does something in the league?
Shaun Hill is an experienced backup with a 10-6 record as an NFL starter and career QB rating over 87. The Lions shouldn’t drop off that much with him under center. But Hill didn’t have much of a chance because of the dropped passes Sunday.
I thought the Lions defense played well, but was it because they were so effective or the Bears just that inept? And there is no excuse of Matt Forte scoring on a 89-yard screen pass. None.
What I liked best is that the Lions hung in there rather than hanging their collective head. Body language has long been an issue with the Lions. At the first sign of adversity, you can just see how they’ve already been beaten. Guess that was the best part about Sunday’s game. They fought through it better.

Random Thoughts

- There was a time when there would little question whether Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb would play Sunday against the Lions, but it’s very up-in-the-air because the NFL has become much precautionary when it comes to concussions. That will probably mean the Lions will see a lot of Michael Vick Sunday in their home opener at Ford Field.
Vick had 103 yards rushing and QB rating over 100 after replacing Kolb in Sunday’s loss to Green Bay. I would think the Lions would prefer Kolb.

- What’s wrong with Greg Kampe, the Oakland University basketball coach? Why can’t he schedule Duke?
Otherwise, his Golden Grizzlies are playing pretty much of a who’s who of big-time college basketball this season - Michigan State at The Palace, and at Ohio State, Tennessee, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan.and Ohio, the latter the defending Mid-American champs and winners of an NCAA tournament game over Georgetown in March.


The Lions were jobbed by a bad NFL rule

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hope for Michigan begins and ends with Denard Robinson

Put or shut up time for the Lions

Friday, September 10, 2010

All things considered, Jhonny Peralta should be the Tigers shortstop next season

Jhonny Peralta is not a great player. Nobody is saying he is. In my opinion, he is not a $7.5 million per year player on today's lowered pay scale for players.
He is a good hitter. Solid. Probably good for .280-20-80 type of numbers and a decent OPS. He is OK defensively, obviously lacking range as a shortstop, and certainly reminding no one of Michael Jack Schmidt - or even Brandon Inge - as a third baseman.
But I nonetheless believe Peralta should be the Tigers' opening day shortstop in 2011. This is a club whose lack of offensive production the last two seasons has been issue No.1. The Tigers' can't get enough "solid" hitters. And the Tigers don't have any alternatives. They are either going to get a weak stick or a stone glove if they deal for a shortstop. Peralta at least can make the routine play and hit. Another factor: Motivation.
Peralta will be playing for another contract. So the Tigers would be wise to bite the bullet and pick up the $7.5 million option on his contract.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

MSU-Florida Atlantic indictment on college football scheduling

If attendance isn't great for Michigan State's game at Ford Field Saturday against Florida Atlantic, I don't feel like it will be an indictment on the lack of support for the Spartans in the Metro Detroit area.
Rather, I feel more like it will be an indictment on college football scheduling. Florida Atlantic has a good program - for its level. Howard Schnellenberger is a well-known coach, but the Sun Belt is widely-regarded as the lowest-rated conference in so-called Division I college football. There is no drawing power there.
The Notre Dame-MSU game would sellout at Ford Field. Or any Big Ten game involving MSU. Or maybe even against an opponent from a BCS conference.
It's just these type of games have little appeal - regardless of where they are played. And they are still relatively costly. When they added a 12th game, every big-time team just made it a cupcake game. It's not good for the fans.

Lions not Super Bowl contenders, but respectability is in the cards

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Tigers would have been better off keeping Polanco and not signing Damon

Did you see what Placido Polanco did last night? Two outs. Bottom of the eighth. Tie game. Big game-winning hit.
Dumbest move of all was letting Polanco go. He is a much better player than Johnny Damon at this point- both offensively and defensively - and plays more premium positions.
And the Phillies are paying Polanco less money than the Tigers are paying Damon in 2010.

Random Thoughts

- If Will Rhymes is so fast, how come he doesn't have a stolen base?

- Justin Verlander has a 15-8 record. He will probably get four more starts this season, and could end up with 17 or 18 victories. What's the complaint?

- It's nice Damon is talking about how "close" the Tigers are to becoming a good team. But they'd be a lot better if he weren't having such a subpar season. His performance has fallen way off from last season. And the man has made boot-licking an art form.


Why are Michigan football fans such whiny, sniffling, wimpy wimps?

Will Bears prove to be ideal season opening opponent for the Lions?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Lions were able to get a good player from the Packers in Havner. Perhaps this why...

It seems odd the Lions would be able pick up a player the caliber of Spencer Havner after the final preseason cuts.
Havner is just 27 years old and a really good athlete. There are no long-term injury concerns. He can play tight end or linebacker and is a special teams ace. He played well for the Packers.
But there is something. Last spring, he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in California (charges were later dropped). There was a motorcycle accident involving Havner, and he reportedly was not wearing a helmet. He suffered a shoulder injury in the accident, and wasn’t able to participate in much of the Packers’ off-season program as a result.
So in that sense, the Lions are taking a chance with Havner, who was used some at linebacker in this preseason. He was a popular player in Green Bay - and his being cut was not accepted well.
But if there are no more issues, Havner could very well help the Lions. He played mostly tight end for the Packers, catching numerous touchdown passes (four last season). But he was a very productive linebacker at UCLA in college. It will be interesting to see how the Lions’ deploy Havner, considering their lack of depth at linebacker.

Random thoughts

- State College, Pennsylvania has become Oakland County East.
Not only did true freshman quarterback Robert Bolden from Orchard Lake St. Mary's start and play well in Penn State's season-opening victory over Youngstown State, but former Birmingham Brother Rice and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep standout Chris Colasanti started at middle linebacker from the Nittany Lions, while Birmingham Groves DeOr'tae Pannell started at guard.

- Michigan has not played well overall under Rich Rodriguez, but particularly so on the road. Notre Dame is going to be a tough game for the Wolverines. Notre Dame has two premier pass catchers in Michael Floyd and tight end Kyle Rudolph, and running back Armando Allen is underrated. Dane Crist is a good passer. Notre Dame is much more capable of stretching the field vertically than UConn on Saturday.


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Judgment time coming soon for Matthew Stafford

My latest column in The Oakland Press:


Big Ten did fine with its division alignment , but did justifably slight MSU

I understand that in a college football world, in which the Big Ten will actually have 12 teams, and the Big 12 will have 10, there are going to be, well, some quirky things going on.
So nothing, honestly, surprised or outraged me about the Big Ten’s division alignment.
Michigan will play Ohio State every November, like always, even if it is forced because the teams won’t be in the same division.
The conference did a good job of protecting its rivalry games - although it does seem insulting the old Old Brass Spittoon trophy for the Indiana game means more than the Land Grant trophy for the Penn State game, as far as Michigan State is concerned in the Big Ten’s eye.
To be truthful, MSU didn’t earn having its rivalry game with Penn State protected, and the Spartans will remain with their age-old issue of not having a true rival to close the season.
Of course, the Spartans can change that merely by becoming a true contender and pushing for a spot in the Big Ten championship game, which is going to be thrilling.
The divisions lineup like this: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue in one division....Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Northwestern and Minnesota in the other.

Random Thoughts

- There are similarities between Brennan Boesch's rookie season and Bobby Higginson's in 1995, although to more of an extreme.
In 1995, Higginson hit .246 with 10 home runs and 28 RBI with an .824 OPS in the first half; .204 with four home runs and 15 RBI with a .624 OPS in the second half.
This season, Boesch hit .342 and with 12 home runs and 49 RBI with an OPS of .990 in the first half; so far .157 with two home runs, 12 RBI with a .460 OPS in the second half.
Higginson had exceptionally fast hands when he arrived in the major leagues - and tried to pull everything. Pitchers literally started throwing him nothing but outside fastballs, which he continued to try to pull. It resulted in an endless stream of ground balls to second base. The next season, Higginson started taking that pitch to left field. The result was that he hit .320 with 26 home runs and 81 RBI with a .982 OPS.
Boesch doesn't have the same issue. Seems more like he just sat on the first pitch and would crush it early in the season, and pitchers have wised up by not giving him much to hit on the first pitch.
But I do see a relatively short stroke, and some athleticism there. And while it seems unlikely he will hit .320 next season, there is a possibility Boesch will learn a lot from this season and become a solid every day player.

- Not sure the Lions will find out much about running back Kevin Smith in the final preseason game tonight they don't already know. If he lights it up against the Buffalo Bills second and third team defense, what will that mean?


Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Rich Rodriguez inherited good QBs from Lloyd Carr, but didn't know what to do with them

It's interesting former Michigan quarterback Steven Threet is starting at Arizona State. He was an obvious mismatch for the Wolverines' spread option offense.
We'll see how he does this season. Arizona State does not figure to be a Pac 10 contender, but Threet didn't have to search long to land at a BCS school, and you'd think Dennis Erickson, Arizona State's coach, has a pretty grasp on the quarterback position, given his success as a college coach in the past, along with his extensive experience in the NFL.
And it's hardly forgotten that Arkansas' QB Ryan Mallet, who left not long after Rich Rodriguez arrived as head coach at Michigan, enters this season considered a potential Top 5 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
It does make you wonder, if Rodriguez is such as a great coach, why he couldn't adjust to the obvious talent around him - and win some games - the last two years.
It appears like he inherited a couple good quarterbacks from Lloyd Carr, but just didn't know what to do with them.