Monday, November 29, 2010

Michigan State would be getting jobbed if Wisconsin goes to the Rose Bowl

Michigan State fans are upset, and they should be, by the prospect of Wisconsin getting the Rose
Bowl bid ahead of the Spartans. There is no way, in these situations, that a head-to-head meeting should not be the very first tiebreaker. It is just one of many maddening parts of the BCS. There remarkably little rational thinking involved with it.

Random Thoughts

- The Red Wings have so many good players that you see this constant shuffling with which one is carrying the hot hand. The last couple games, it has been Valtteri Filppula. For a couple weeks before he got banged up a bit, it was Daniel Cleary. The Red Wings success isn't just predicated by big guns like Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk. Their depth is remarkable.

- The key factor down the stretch in the NFC will be whether Atlanta is able to maintain home field advantage. The Falcons are beatable on the road. At home, it's a different story. I just don't see them losing. The schedule sets up well for the Falcons. Tampa Bay is the only quality team they must face on the road.
Wouldn't it be something if the Falcons hosted Michael Vick and the Eagles in a playoff game?

- Jiri Hudler is seeing regular time on the power play with Mike Modano injured. Maybe it will snap him out of it. He is a better player than he's displayed so far this season.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On the Victor Martinez signing and the Tigers

Obviously, the Tigers are a better club today than before agreeing to terms with DH/catcher Victor Martinez on a four-year, $50 million contract.
Martinez bring a lot to the table. You can expect him to hit about .300. He does make consistent contact. He isn't one of those whiff kings. He isn't a very good catcher defensively, but good enough to backup while serving as the primary DH.
What he isn't is a great power hitter. He'll hit 20 home runs. Although that would have put him second on the Tigers last season, it's still not "great" power.
I do like that he is a switch hitter. Last season, he was far more effective as a right-handed hitter, but it appears to be an aberration. His career numbers are about equal from both sides of the plate.
I do like the way the Tigers are setting up. Their starting rotation - with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Phil Coke - should be the best in the division and one of the best in American League. There are a lot of elements to their bullpen. The corner outfield spots are a concern, but there is plenty of time to get that in order. Second base could be a problem, but at least there are three options with young players - Buster Rhymes, Scott Sizemore and Danny Worth (I think Worth has the best upside).
I do think the Tigers would be wise to add catching depth. General manager Dave Dombrowski was impressed by Alex Avila late last season, and has said he thinks he can catch five days per week in the coming season. I don't have the same evaluation of Avila, who I thought struggled last season.
But I don't see options from the Tigers minor league system for catchers, either.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Adam Dunn - the classic power vs. defense debate

To me, the Tigers' best option among the free agent power hitters available is clearly Adam Dunn. Power has always been the most valuable offensive tool in baseball, but has even become more so in recent years after tests were increased for performance enhancing substances. Dunn is perhaps the best home run hitter in the game. And he is left-handed.
There is, however, the obvious downside to Dunn. How much can he do in the outfield? He is 290 pounds. He played first base last season, the domain of Miguel Cabrera with the Tigers. How much would he be willing to DH?
It's the classic balance of defense vs. offense debate. I still think the Tigers would be wise to sign Dunn. They would have to wait out the Scott Boras process with Jayson Werth, and might be left with nothing. Victor Martinez isn't a good defensive catcher. Multi-skilled Carl Crawford is ideal, but Detroit for some reason (and I may be wrong about this) doesn't seem like a place he will likely land.
But if the Tigers were to sign Dunn, they need to make sure right field isn't weak defensively (could mean the end of Magglio Ordonez in Detroit) .

Random Thoughts

- Loved the signing of Joaquin Benoit for the Tigers' bullpen. With Phil Coke moved into the starting rotation, it means the Tigers pitching staff is clearly shaping up as the best in the American League Central. Augment their lineup in a couple spots - and the Tigers could really have something.

- Sure. There is a going to be a lot of attention on Michigan State Saturday at Penn State. But I look at it like the Spartans don't have that much to lose in that game. At worst, they will have a 10-2 season. If they were to go 11-1 and share in their first conference championship since 1990, it would be a huge bonus.
I didn't expect that much from MSU this season. Three games have made the Spartans' season - a close victory over Notre Dame, and the come-from-behind victories over Purdue and Northwestern. It wasn't their fault they didn't play Ohio State.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why no posts

There were no posts Tuesday or Wednesday because I've been ill. Next post will be Thursday. As always, thanks for supporting this blog.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Loss at Buffalo more proof Lions not making progress

I thought the most amazing thing about the Lions' 14-12 loss to Buffalo Sunday was the way the Bills basically turtled once they got the lead, and just welcomed the Lions back into the football game.
There was no aggressiveness on the Bills' part - the sign of a truly bad team. Of all their losses this season, it was the game the Lions should have won the most because they were playing a team with even less collective confidence.
The dropped passes are more than annoying. The fact the Lions reputedly have this stellar defensive line, but can't stop the run is disappointing. Fred Jackson had 133 yards, and the Bills had 151 yards rushing overall. Meanwhile, against a team that was on pace to have the worst rushing defense since 1987, the Lions averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Oh, and there were the penalties. In double-digits again
But the Lions covered the spread. They are 8-1 against the spread this season. Unreal.
Some will look at that as progress, I suppose. But it isn't in my opinion.

Random Thoughts

- There was a point I thought Auburn would lose its season finale to Alabama, but I don't feel that way now. I think an Oregon-Auburn BCS title game would be a really good one. I have seen TCU play a few times this season. And no, I don't think TCU would get out of the Big Ten, SEC or Big 12 undefeated, although it's a very good team. Same with Boise State.

- Purdue's offense isn't very good, so the notion Michigan's defense is suddenly "cured" is ridiculous. But having said that, I do think the Wolverines will have a puncher's chance Saturday against Wisconsin.

- The more times drags on, the more it seems likely the Pistons won't be sold to Mike Ilitch. And if they aren't, it will make the landscape much difficult to get a new arena build in Detroit.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Come on. Be Honest. Would Michigan beat Northern Illinois?

Now that Michigan is bowl eligible, I've got the perfect match. Michigan vs. potential Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois in the Little Caesars Bowl at Ford Field.
Last week, Michigan racked up 67 points in its victory over Illinois. Northern Illinois had 65 in its win over Toledo.
Northern Illinois lost a close game to Illinois. Michigan won a close game against Illinois.
Ah, it's be a great matchup. Two even teams.
Northern Illinois, by the way, is capable of beating Michigan, which if it ends up with a 7-5 record overall, and 3-5 mark in the Big Ten as expected, doesn't deserve a better bowl bid than The George Perles Classic.
Would Michigan benefit more by playing in this game and risking an embarrassing defeat to a Mid-American Conference team, or skipping a bowl game at all?Those extra practices would help. That is, if a seven-win season is enough to save Rich Rodriguez's job. Hmmmmm.
My guess is that Michigan will look to play in any bowl game but this one - even if playing at Ford Field would benefit this area a great deal.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Come on, Inge and Jackson didn't get jobbed by not receiving Gold Glove Awards

I think Brandon Inge and Austin Jackson are above-average players defensively. At times, even spectacular.
But I don't think either one of them was jobbed by not winning a Gold Glove Award. I think Evan Longoria is a better defensive player than Inge, and that Franklin Gutierrez is a superior center fielder to Jackson, at least at this point. I like how there was a right fielder (Ichiro Suzuki) and a left fielder (Carl Crawford) in the AL Gold Glove outfield this season
You know who I think got jobbed? Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox. In my opinion, he is the best shortstop defensively in the American League - much better than Derek Jeter at this stage of Jeter's career.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Should the Lions sign Daunte Culpepper? Here's why it might make sense

OK, in what has become a flashback to 2008, who would you rather have start at quarterback for the Lions, Daunte Culpepper or Drew Stanton?
Interesting choice for the Lions, whose first- and second-team quarterbacks, Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill, are injured. In Stafford's case, from what I understand, it is likely for the season.
Stanton is the third-team QB, but his performance has been, to say the least, spotty. Culpepper was not re-signed by the Lions, but is playing in the United Football League (UFL) for Sacramento. He has completed more than 59 percent of his passes for eight TDs and eight interceptions in seven games for a 3-4 team.
In the "I need to get a life" category, I saw him play Saturday on Versus against Las Vegas. He looked in good shape. He is only 33. Scott Linehan, the Lions' offensive coordinator, was Culpepper's coordinator at Minnesota during his salad days, and last season with Detroit. So Culpepper knows the offense. Nate Burleson was one of his targets with the Vikings. Would Culpepper or Stanton give the Lions a better chance to win?
Former Vikings' coach Dennis Green is Culpepper's coach and had this to say to the Los Angeles Times last.
"C'mon," Green said. "I think most people know what an NFL quarterback looks like. I think he's good enough to start."
The Lions have plenty of choices of their former quarterbacks in the UFL. Josh McCown and Jeff Garcia are also starting QBs in the fledgling league.


Monday, November 08, 2010

Michigan fans can only take so much solace from Rich Rodriguez's "Fun Ball"

Can you lose for winning? I wouldn't go that far, but there is only a certain amount of solace Michigan fans can take out Saturday's 67-65 victory over Illinois.
Rich Rodriguez's "Fun Ball" is not going to win championships. It's more the stuff for Conference USA and flea bag bowl games.
Thought it was interesting how consistently Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit, during the prime time Stanford-Arizona ABC telecast Saturday, kept bringing up how they expect Jim Harbaugh to land at Michigan next season. At one point, Herbstreit flatout said it.
I don't see it as a lock. I see Rodriguez probably secure his position for next season with that goofball victory Saturday. Does that make it good news for Wolverines' fans?
The Wolverines should beat Purdue, which is devastated by injuries, this week. That makes the Wolverines at least 7-5 this season, heading into games vs. Wisconsin and Ohio State. I suppose the only wild card in this equation could be an utterly embarrassing loss at Ohio State.
Wonder what Jim Tressel would do in that spot. Would he pour it on? Rub it in? Or would he pull back under the guise of sportsmanship, knowing he'd keep what looks like a good thing for Ohio State going in Ann Arbor?

Random Thoughts

- Matthew Stafford is in his early 20s. None of his injuries have been remotely career-threatening. His career as an NFL QB is far from over. I believe some day Stafford will be among the best QBs, if not the very best QB in the NFL, and might even win a championship. But I believe it might be later in his career, after he gets over a rash of injuries, and perhaps with an organization other than the Lions. But I wouldn't sell this kid short. He is a rare talent. The Lions are so much better with him in there. And I think Shaun Hill is a good backup.

- The Pistons got two wins this weekend, in part, because embattled coach John Kuester stood up to his players. Rodney Stuckey has been a profound disappointment so far. He is clearly not becoming the team nor floor leader the Pistons envisioned. Good move by Kuester benching him for a game.

- The worst part about the Lions' loss Sunday was the way the crowd at Ford Field was letdown. It was Silverdome-loud....And a beautiful to see. Well, until the last six minutes and OT.

My latest column: "The beginning of the end of Jim Schwartz as Lions head coach?"


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Tell me one thing Rich Rodriguez has done to suggest it will ever turn around at Michigan?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thank you

This will be my last post until Monday morning, Nov. 8. I just wanted to take a chance to thank everybody for supporting this blog. The comments are insightful. And I enjoy the discourse on this blog very much. Have a great day.

Sparky: The utlimate character with character

If there was anybody who understood how fortunate he has been, it's Sparky Anderson.
Trust me, he'd be the last one complaining about his plight right now. Just isn't his style.
He grew up in a rough area of Los Angeles and fought his way, at times literally, to the major leagues for a season despite talent that suggested he belong permanently in the minor leagues.
As well as Sparky understood the game, he knew people even better. He was unique in his understanding how to pull certain levers to get the most out of his clubs.
I was the Tigers beat writer for this newspaper the last 10 years he managed the team, and spent countless hours in his office just talking. I found him in Lakeland the night before he refused to manage replacement players.
"There is no way I am going to do that," he said. "There is no way I will be a part of the mockery of this game."
He stood by his beliefs. That lone decision probably cost him millions of dollars. He likely would have gotten another job after he left the Tigers had he not made it.
Sure thing, the next day, he spoke to the media and was gone. And wasn't the Tigers' manager much longer after the players returned. And I think he only lasted that extra two years because of his contract was hefty.
Sparky had this thing about not putting a player in the major leagues who didn't belong. It just wasn't in his DNA. He'd be pulling veterans over from the minor league camp on the last day of spring training, trying to find a legitimate major league player for the 25th spot on the roster. There was no way he'd put a kid in the major leagues before he was ready.
Well, sort of.
At the same time, he had this quirky personality where he'd present a spring phenom every year. Man, I wrote a lot of stories about Mike Laga and Torey Lovullo. Remember when he said, "If you don't like Dave Rucker, you don't like ice cream." One of the great lines of all time.
I've always looked at Sparky as the ultimate character with character. He was incredibly fun to be around. There were times when he could mean and nasty, too, but only when necessary. He was a tough man. His players didn't dare cross him or the line.
He is hospice now with dementia, and has been in declining health for a number of years. He is in hospice because there is concern his brain will stop sending signals to the remainder of his organs, which is necessary for life. I can only, like everyone in this town, wish Sparky the best.
Because he sure gave us his best.

Random Thoughts

- ESPN's NBA draft guru Chad Ford has a list of five mid-major college players he sees going relatively this upcoming draft. Keith Benson from Oakland is not one of them, but Ray McCallum Jr from Detroit. Kenneth Faried from Moorehead State, Kawhi Leonard from San Diego State, Ellis Harris from Gonzaga, Aaric Murray from LaSalle and McCallum are on the list. He projects them going anywhere from No. 23 (Faried) to No. 46 (McCallum) in the draft.
Benson, the Golden Grizzlies' 6-11 center, isn't even mentioned in the article.
What does it mean? Depends on what you think of Chad Ford. I think he is certainly informative, but have cast wary his way since he was so far off on Darko Milicic. It was unbelievable, really, how much he hyped up that kid.

- The Pistons are in serious trouble. John Kuester's spot as coach is tenuous at best right now. The Pistons will likely fall to 0-5 at Atlanta tonight. Could "Q" be coaching for his job Friday at the Palace against the Bobcats, who are off to a slow start. If the Pistons can't win that game, what game will they win?


Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez? I'd take Stafford

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Look for the Tigers to land one, maybe two premier free agents

The best part about the World Series being complete is the Tigers can now look toward to the off season in earnest.
I do believe the Tigers will be bigger players in free agency than in the past, and will be taken more seriously by premier free agents such as Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn and Victor Martinez. I believe the Tigers will be looked upon as more than a destination of last resort, which, face it, they were for the likes of Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Johnny Damon.
The Tigers still drew well in attendance last year - despite a second half that was mediocre. And while the economy isn't exactly roaring in this area, there isn't quite the level of panic there was after last season. The Tigers clearly cut payroll at this time last season. It's why Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco were unloaded. But they amended that with the Damon signing late on a whim by owner Mike Ilitch.
This off season, a definite plan should already be in place. The Tigers needed to regroup after the late-season collapse in 2009, and were very low key for a long period of last winter. This will be different. More like before the 2008 season.
Another reason players will want to come to Detroit is because the Tigers do offer contention. They are going to at least be respectable with Justin Verlander leading the rotation and Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the lineup. Both are are still in their 20s and signed long term. Both have just entered their prime. It wouldn't surprise me if the Tigers wind up with two of the above-mentioned free agents. Crawford will likely sign with the Yankees, but it's wide open on the other three. Others clubs are not throwing around money like they used to. The market for big-money free agents has shrunk. I do believe the Tigers' focus will be on position players and bullpen, not starting pitching - at least at the high end. They might to take a crack a fourth- or fifth starter type.


Monday, November 01, 2010

Playoffs? Lions? Playoffs? Are you kidding me? No

Look, the Lions chances of making the playoffs remain remote. They are 2-5. But when you look at the NFC, it's not totally far-fetched. No team in the NFC has more than five wins. The Lions have five home games, and four on the road, remaining. Two of those road games look winnable - at Dallas and Buffalo. If you look at the Lions' division, the NFC North, both Chicago and Minnesota are floundering. The Lions are capable of beating those teams at home. The question is, can they surprise a team or two, in addition to winning games that will essentially be pick 'em?
That will make Sunday's game against the Jet pivotal. I would think the Jets would come in and just school the Lions after a humiliating loss to Green Bay Sunday, but it's not a total given. The Lions have won their last two home games, seemingly taking the steps of being difficult to beat at Ford Field. And Mark Sanchez remains a second-year quarterback vulnerable to a pass rush - the Lions' strength.
If nothing else, the Lions' goal should be playing meaningful football games in December. Where they at least have an outside shot at a postseason spot.

Live stream broadcast today (Monday) 12:30 until whenever

I will be doing a live stream broadcast today at It starts around 12:30. Best question gets a free Oakland Press coffee mug

Finally, Lions had will and found a way

SOS (Same Old Spartans), but for just one week and game, not whole season