Thursday, March 31, 2011

A very defining game today for Justin Verlander. This is why

One game doesn't make a season, but the memories of opening day do tend to linger.
And that will be especially true today when Justin Verlander pitches for the Tigers.
I have been an ardent defender of Verlander. I feel he is definitely in the same class with the top starting pitchers in baseball, especially in comparison to Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum.
But April has been his Achilles Heel, and has quelled his overall statistics to the point Verlander hasn't been given his just due.
A couple stats:
1. Verlander has an 81-52 record the last five seasons. The Tigers are 424-387 over that same span. Verlander is 29 games above .500 in that period, the Tigers overall just 37.
They have been a much better than .500 team when Verlander pitches and is involved in the decision, and barely a .500 club under other circumstances.
2. Over that same period, Verlander is 7-11 with a 5.06 ERA during the opening month of the season.
If Verlander goes into that little ball park in the Bronx today and sticks it to the Yankees on national TV, it won't only help the Tigers get off to a good start, but will improve his status immensely, both locally and nationally.
And the perception will be just the opposite if it goes the other way - even if Verlander typically recovers and has another solid season.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My AL Central predictions

1. Detroit - I see the Tigers winning 90 games, and it being enough to win the division. Back end of the bullpen is key. Best in the division. Victor Martinez will play a key role.

2. Chicago - The White Sox have solid team and strong rotation, but I'm not sure about Matt Thornton as a closer. Command issues there; and not good closing games. And bullpen has played a prominent role when the White Sox have had success.

3. Minnesota - The Twins have an underrated starting rotation - and overrated bullpen. This is the year the wheels come off. Need a bounce back season from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

4. Cleveland - A bad team waiting for prospects to develop. There is a difference between spring training and regular season. Many of the Indians' prospects overrated. This will be proven in 2011.

5. Kansas City - I have never heard of a farm system getting this much hype. It's dangerous for Royals' fans because they are constantly banking on the future. It won't come this year, that's for sure.


Heads may roll is Tigers' season goes South

My latest column in The Oakland Press:


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The confliction of hockey and Todd Bertuzzi

It was surreal Monday night at Joe Louis Arena when Todd Bertuzzi's elbow came up and connected with the head of Chicago's Ryan Johnson. There was a loud roar. Who doesn't like a big hit? But it was followed by silence when it became apparent what actually transpired.
And much of it was concern for Bertuzzi, not Johnson.
Johnson didn't appear to be hurt that seriously (he didn't suffer a concussion and eventually skated to the bench). but Bertuzzi could have been in trouble under the circumstances.
It drew a 5-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. The call was a proper one. Bertuzzi's elbow was way too high. It was not a smart play in any sense on his part.
But because the NHL has been cracking down on head hits, there might have been a suspension here (there wasn't). It could have been a long one, too, given Bertuzzi's status as a repeat offender because of the hit he levied on Colorado's Steve Moore in 2005 that ended his career.
Harsh discipline is getting more consideration than it would have in the past because the game's marquee player Sidney Crosby has been out with concussion symptoms, the Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty and Matt Cooke's elbow that cost him the rest of the season and the first-round of the playoffs.
Bertuzzi is a very good player. He has helped the Red Wings immensely with his skill, but his hands are tied in a sense when it comes to using something the Red Wings desperately need - his size.
The Moore incident is still hanging over his head. There is a much-publicized (at least in Canada) civil trial set to begin in the next month or two in Vancouver. You can imagine Moore's lawyers might use a clip of Monday's incident in trial, even if afterward most people didn't see the hit done with intent to injure.
The NHL has long had an issue with balancing the aggressiveness of play that is so undeniably part of its success with player safety and maintaining the skill-level of the sport.
I don't think it's ever been as conflicted as it is right now in regard to Todd Bertuzzi, however.


This much is clear: The Red Wings will be tested in the opening round of the playoffs

My column in Tuesday's Oakland Press:

Hopefully an unknown judge displays more common sense than NFL owners and players

My column in Monday's Oakland Press:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Perry, Schlereth most underrated keys for the Tigers this season

Once the regular season begins, nothing gets exposed more than bullpen depth.
And while I see the Tigers' bullpen being very strong at the back end with Joaquin Benoit setting up Jose Valverde, the earlier innings are more of a concern.
That is a lot of pressure on Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth.
Raw talent isn't a problem with either pitcher. Both are former first-round draft picks who throw exceptionally hard. Their off-speed pitches are good enough for their role. Perry's release point is from a high angle, and the downward plane of his pitches makes him even more difficult to hit.
The issue is command of the baseball. His last 14 appearances in 2010, long after the pennant pressure had gone, Perry walked just two hitters in 16 innings. He needs to do that when the games count during the spring and summer months.
Schlereth has enormous potential as well. How many left-handers throw that hard? But he just walks too many hitters, not only in the major leagues, but did so in the minor leagues, too, which he was able to get away with because the hitters are aren't nearly as gifted.
There's been a tendency by both Perry and Schlereth to come unglued, usually just about the time they have pitched well enough to be depended upon.
It would help the Tigers enormously if they have matured in that regard.
Both were big-time college pitchers. Each has an exceptional arm. Both are entering their mid-20s (Perry is 24, Schlereth will pitch most of this season at 25).
They are the most underrated "X" factor for the Tigers this coming season.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pressure tightening on Red Wings and Howard

The Red Wings play four of their next five games at home, but for some reason they have played better on the road this season. It's inexplicable, really.
San Jose is just a point behind the Red Wings for the No.2 seed in the Western Conference, both teams having played 74 games. It's impossible to project who the Red Wings will play in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. As a second seed, it would be Nashville right now. As a third seed, it would be Los Angeles. It's kind of pick-your-poison type of thing - both those teams are big and physical, and could give the Red Wings a tough time in the opening round. Each is arguably stronger in goal than the Red Wings (Pekka Rinne, Nashville; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles).
Could come down to Jimmy Howard. He played well Wednesday against Vancouver. Then again, did he match the Canucks' Roberto Luongo? Not really.
The Western Conference is stronger than usual top-to-bottom. It will be tough for the Red Wings from the very beginning of the playoffs this spring.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tigers farm system not producing necessary position players

Manager Jim Leyland has been very generous with his praise of the Tigers' developmental system lately, but in regard to position players, I don't agree.
Not, anyway, when it comes to the homegrown players who are going to fill out the Tigers' opening day roster.
The Tigers had three choices to fill the second base spot with Carlos Guillen still on the mend.
Of those three - Will Rhymes, Scott Sizemore and Danny Worth - who projects as a long-term major league regular? I don't think of any of them do. Although I do see some upside with Worth, I wouldn't exactly say he is a high-ceiling prospect.
As for the outfield, Andy Dirks, Brennan Boesch and Casper Wells are likely 4-A players. They are all in their mid-20s. Any impact they have will likely be short-term. Other organizations are not clamoring for prospects like this.
Now, I do think the Tigers have a couple high-ceiling position player prospects. Outfielder Daniel Fields has a chance to be a great player. It has been vastly underrated what he did last year as a 19-year-old in the Florida State League. It was as impressive what third baseman Francisco Martinez accomplished at the same age at Lakeland.
And it was encouraging the Tigers took a high-ceiling position player with their first pick in the draft last year, third baseman Nick Castellanos.
But for too many years, the Tigers have been drafting college position players with limited tools. So while the Tigers have done a good job of instructing them in the minor leagues, and they have had some impact upon arrival to the major leagues, they haven't been able to sustain it because of limited tools.
The Tigers have done well taking power pitchers early in the draft, but have otherwise relied too much on college relievers and low-ceiling college position players. Now, I have nothing against college players being drafted, but it's still about tools and what that player ultimately can do in the major leagues.
Is there enough there that he can be a long-range major league regular? Not a backup. Not a stop-gap. Not a spring phenom. Not a 4-A player.
But a legitimate every day regular? When was the last time the Tigers developed a position player that fit that description?


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bonds trial could either make or break his Hall of Fame case

The Barry Bonds' perjury trial is beginning, and while it may seem like old news because Bonds hasn't played for several years, it is one of the most significant events in baseball history when it comes to how we view the greatest player of all time.
Statistically, Bonds has no equal. It's not even close. And in the minds of many, his stats haven't been tainted because "nothing has been proven," at least in a court of a law. That could change. Or it could change on the other end, because if Bonds is found not guilty, it would certainly make it more difficult to not think his statistics are legitimate.
As for the Hall of Fame, and Bonds inclusion, I would think this trial would have a significant impact on most voters.
Myself included.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Love him or hate, Sidney Crosby is missed

My column in Tuesday's Oakland Press"

Why not Danny Worth at second base for the Tigers?

I've said all along that of the Tigers' young infielders, the best one is Danny Worth. There is no question that is true with the glove. He is an outstanding fielder. When he was in the major leagues briefly last season, I did see some life in his bat. He hasn't hit much in the minor leagues, but wasn't overwhelmed by major league pitching. I think he is a better player than Will Rhymes and Scott Sizemore, yet those two have been getting most of the work at second base this spring.
Even though Tigers' manager Jim Leyland wildly praised Worth Sunday, he still seems to be the odd man out at second base.
Worth was a second-round draft choice. He is 25 years old. Why isn't he getting a real shot?
I can't help but wonder why.


Tough lost to Duke a building block for Michigan's basketball future

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It would be a shame if Fab 5 takes away from current Wolverines one shining moment

Friday, March 18, 2011

MSU finally showed championship pedigree, but it was too little, way too late

Michigan State's loss to UCLA in the opening round of the NCAA tournament was this odd blend of the Spartans' championship pedigree and Tom Izzo's tournament coaching brilliance, with an utterly disappointing season when MSU just simply didn't come through.
The late-game comeback was nearly epic and a reminder of how good the Spartans can be, and why Izzo has done so well in The Big Dance.
But, oh, by the way, the Spartans lost.
Like the remainder of a disastrous season by MSU's standards, it was "what-could-have-been" rather than "magic-took-place."
Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers will be gone, having left behind a legacy of far more success than disappointment overall. The last season will be difficult to forget, though.
Izzo has talent to work with next season - Draymond Green, Keith Appling and a very strong recruiting class that includes forward Branden Dawson, a 5-star recruit.
Yet, his greatest challenge will be imposing his will and toughness onto the Spartans. It didn't happen this season. However, the way the Spartans rallied against UCLA may provide a spark to light a fire under the program again.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why are the Walmart Wolverines so defensive about The Fab Five?

I thought the Fab 5 documentary on ESPN was an embellishment in many ways and obviously self-serving for Jalen Rose.
But it did draw a great television rating and created much buzz. Rose put himself out there with this, and has taken criticism and benefited from it, too. He seems like a bright guy, who knew what he was getting into - both the good and bad.
What I find odd is how many Michigan fans - not the ones that attended the school, but the Walmart Wolverines (not all Michigan fans who didn't go to UM fall into this category, obviously. Many are level-headed) - are so taken aback by criticism of the Fab 5 .
It's different for the alums and facility there. Michigan has a tremendous academic reputation that is justified, but the Fab 5 made the university look like UNLV East.
It is exceptionally difficult to get into Michigan, and it takes, both in regard to academic work and payment financially, enormous sacrifice to get a degree from there.
The Fab 5 was ultimately a scarlet letter on the university, which doesn't, from I can tell, project itself as the fifth professional sports franchise in the Detroit area, and does have considerable academic integrity.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Some thoughts on the Tigers

Most projections have top prospect Jacob Turner pitching in the minor leagues all season, but given the Tigers' track record with young pitchers, I would expect him to pitch in the major leagues at some point in 2011 - if he displays progress.
Turner has dominant pitches, and there is only so much he is going to learn in the minor leagues. It's not a bad idea to take a talent like that and give him some time in the major leagues - even extensive. Against major league competition, it can be learned what he really needs to work on. It's a theory that worked well last season with Max Scherzer. We'll see if it works quite as well in the future with Rick Porcello and Andrew Oliver (the Tigers weren't hesitant to pitch either in the major leagues, or send them down when they struggled). And perhaps with Turner.

- There should be no surprise Carlos Guillen will open the season on the disabled list. Scott Sizemore has had the best spring of the candidates to play second. At least he has displayed some power. I still think Will Rhymes is the safest pick of three candidates and that ultimately Danny Worth will be the best player.

- Best Tigers prospect nobody talks about: Third baseman Francisco Martinez.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Osgood to the rescue? Seems unlikely, don't you think?

I view Chris Osgood as goaltending's version of a cat. That's because his career seems to have nine lives.
Just when you think his career is done, Ozzie shows you that it isn't.
We're about to see if that is still true. Osgood is set to return from injury. He's played just 11 games this season. Last season, he played in only 23 games and had a below .500 record - the only of his career. He is 38 years old and in the final year of his contract.
The Red Wings' No.1 goalie is Jimmy Howard. He has more than 30 victories the last two years, but has come under fire lately with the ever-fickle Red Wing fans because his goals against average and save percentage are far down the NHL's statistical list. Of course, many of these fans are the same ones who don't think Osgood - despite credentials which strongly suggest otherwise - isn't a Hall of Famer.
It's like the Red Wings' goalie never wins, but is only a product of his team's superior talent and tradition. Doesn't matter if, like lately, many of the Red Wings stars are struggling to score goals (Henrik Zetterberg, for example, has just two goals in his last 26 games).
All of a sudden, they want to see Ozzie in the postseason. They claim Osgood has done it before, while Howard is an unproven commodity.
While I have vigorously defended Osgood in the past, I wouldn't hold my breath right now expecting him to ride in on a white charger and be a better option than Howard for the postseason.
Ozzie has been off too long. He hasn't been that effective when he has played. I still look at it like it will Jimmy Howard - or bust - for the Red Wings in the postseason.


Monday, March 14, 2011

There can be no complaints from this state's schools about NCAA tournament bids

My column in Monday's Oakland Press:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cabrera has used up all this slack. From this point forward he should be dealt with harshly

Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera has more than just a drinking problem.
There is little doubt drinking has contributed to it, but there is a menacing side to him, which has come out in multiple public incidents.
- Getting into a confrontation with a 15-year-old in the restaurant at Birmingham hotel after mocking the kid for being overweight.
- His wife calling 911 in fear of her safety.
- Walking into a bar and grill in Florida after hours and threatening to kill patrons and employees because they wouldn't serve him.
- Getting into a physical confrontation with police when they pulled up to him at the side of the road when his vehicle was broken down and he smelled of liquor.
Twice he has allegedly threatened to go out to his car and get a gun, a pattern that not only may put others in danger, but Cabrera himself, if there are those who feel threatened and compelled to defend themselves.
It's more than just another case of a coddled athlete. Cabrera has taken it to an extreme.
"Do you know who I am" is one of his favorite lines. During three different incidents, it has been reported by people when they've seen Cabrera exhibit aggressive behavior.
I'm among those who view alcoholism as a disease, and do have sympathy for his struggle in that regard.
But these type of incidents are of the lack-of-character variety. Threatening people in such a sinister fashion is reprehensible and simply not accepted behavior in our society.
I've been warning people, the best I could, for a long time that there are some issues with Cabrera. But this is beyond even what I have been hearing for several years from people within baseball.
I don't think the Tigers should bench him or suspend him. The DUI is his first. He's threatened people, but no evidence he has acted on such threats.
But the slack should be gone. Next time there is an incident like this involving Cabrera, enough warnings - he should be dealt with harshly. By baseball. By the Tigers. And by fans, who tend to forgive and forget very quickly when the player involved is a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter and helping their favorite team to win ball games.

Random Thoughts

- The most important job in the Tigers organization know belongs to Raul Gonzalez, the baby sitter that has been assigned to make sure Cabrera behaves.

- I defended Jim Harbaugh vigorously in his verbal snit with former Michigan players Mike Hart and Jamie Morris, and ex-Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, over comments Harbaugh made over Michigan having an academic agenda designed to help athletes academically. Most big-time athletic programs do - Michigan, too. I thought Harbaugh was stating merely that Stanford was different, which a lot of people thought. Turns out it has been no different, and Harbaugh was wrong to make his comments. Stanford was called out by study from the California Watch, an investigating reporting group, making Harbaugh look like a phony.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tressel suspension just the tip of the iceberg for Ohio State

The self-imposed sanctions by Ohio State against football coach Jim Tressel will likely be just the tip of the iceberg.

What it provides is probable cause for the NCAA to investigate the Ohio State football program. Its version of a search warrant. Who knows what the NCAA will find once they start investigating in earnest the Buckeyes, who have long been suspected, but not proven lately, of violating the rules.

A two-game suspension for Tressel, against Toledo and Akron, is certainly tolerable. A $250,000 fine is hefty, but represents less than 10 percent of Tressll's annual income from Ohio State.

He essentially covered up for several of his players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, top running back Dan Herron and gifted receiver DeVier Posey. They received money and free tattoos in exchange for memorabilia. Pryor, for example, exchanged his gold pants from a Michigan victory, and, of all things, a sportsmanship award from the Fiesta Bowl.

The above-mentioned players have been suspended for the Buckeyes' first five games this season, which include more difficult challenges against Miami (Fla) and Colorado - and the Big Ten opener vs. Michigan State.

NCAA investigations take time. We saw that at Michigan when work rules became an issue. We saw that at USC. Reggie Bush was long gone from USC when the NCAA finally cracked down on the Trojans - and hard.

It wouldn't surprise me in this circumstance, once they dig in, if eventually the NCAA punishment goes far beyond OSU's self sanctions.

Random Thoughts

- Please. Can we spare any idea the Lions would be interested in signing former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber, who is making a comeback. Although once a superior player, he is 36 years old and hasn't played since 2006.

He had a good broadcasting job with NBC, but he lost it after he had a much-publicized affair with an intern while his wife was pregnant. His wife subsequently divorced him. So why is Barber coming back? He desperately needs money, and undoubtedly wants a lot of it. Yet, it's highly unlikely he'd be able to deliver on the pay out.

- Despite absolutely dominating the Summit League, I still don't expect Oakland to get better than a 13th seed in the NCAA tournament. The Golden Grizzlies have one marquee victory, over Tennessee, which was ranked seventh nationally at the time, but has fallen off the map since. But they will present a tough first-round matchup. Oakland has gotten beyond the point where they are intimidated by Top 25 competition. Those games have gotten closer every year. And Oakland only lost to MSU by a point this season in a game that could have gone either way.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Is it The Palace or The Big Top?

The circus that is the Detroit Pistons just keeps spiraling out of control under the big top known as The Palace.
Tracy McGrady, who was billed as the consummate pro not long ago when he was running the point out of necessity for the Pistons, is the latest to be sent to his room without dinner as punishment.
It was like a few weeks ago when Tayshaun Prince was being praised - and then all of a sudden made comments about the Pistons' chances of reaching the playoffs being none. Ooops.
Or when Richard Hamilton was supposedly causing havoc on the team and Joe Dumars reminded everyone he is the captain and that all is good. Hamilton subsequently scored 35 points in a game against Toronto. Not long after, the dunce hat was put on Rip, and he played in one game from Jan12 to March 1.
One moment we're being told coach John Kuester sent the team's head of security to talk to Hamilton, then there is nothing for eons. All of a sudden, Kuester is feeding Hamilon the ball during a post-practice shooting drill for photo opportunities that included a clicking of the cameras for a fist bump - and all is fine.
Rip just had a groin injury, silly.
One month Mike Ilitch is buying the team. The next, Tom Gores is buying the team. The next Mike Ilitch is buying the team. Hey, what ever happened to those guys from Abu Dhabi? Maybe they want in on the hijinks.
It's difficult not to wonder what late Pistons' owner William Davidson would be thinking about all this. Think, maybe, the term is spinning in his grave.


Monday, March 07, 2011

OK, Michigan's gotten better, but why are the Spartans so lackluster?

I understand why Michigan improved so much since late January and surged to a point where the Wolverines are likely to get an NCAA tournament bid.
A solid nucleus of players has emerged in Jordan Morgan, Tim Hardaway Jr and Darius Morris. They have role players who play hard and have experience. John Beilein is proving he can coach. What a terrific job he has done against the odds this season
What I don't comprehend is why Michigan State has taken such a fall. They have several players who have proven themselves to be competitively tough and resilient in the past, not just in conference games, but the biggest stage of all - the NCAA tournament.
Then this?
I never thought lack of effort would be an issue for a Tom Izzo-coached team. But even with so much on the line in the Michigan game Saturday, the Spartans were often strangely lackadaisical. The most stunning example was the way Michigan, at key points of the game, was able to get backdoor baskets. I don't remember seeing that happen to an Izzo team before, do you?
By the way, at the end of the game, Morris had every right to drive through MSU's half-hearted defensive effort and score. If the Spartans wanted to stop him, they should have played defense. I don't, however, think it was right the way Morris taunted Kalin Lucas after the basket. The rivalry is fierce - and always will be. But doesn't need that.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tigers have more questions than answers

My most recent column for The Oakland Press:

Friday, March 04, 2011

Brad Pitt as Billy Beane. Now that's funny

Seldom has one man done so little in the game and gotten so much recognition. Honestly, those are my feelings about Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane.
You see, I remember Beane as a beat writer when he rode the pine with the Tigers in 1988. It wasn't a brief stint. It was months. But he only got six at bats because he was so bad Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, who bemoaned his presence on the team on a daily basis, refused to put him in the games.
Still, when you read "Money Ball," author Michael Lewis' portrayal makes Beane seem like this premier athlete, which he wasn't.
Yet, they are making a movie about Beane - with Brad Pitt playing his role. Of course, the movie is about Beane, the general manager. But tell me, what has Oakland exactly won under his guidance. Oh, and by the way, how have all those draft picks that were discussed in "Money Ball" panned out? Hey, scouts do know something after all.
Guess who is playing then-Oakland manager Art Howe in the movie? Philip Seymour Hoffman. I can sense another Oscar for him, don't you?
One of the funny casting credits given in the movie is to Royce Clayton playing Miguel Tejeda. Sure to be the best thing to hit a sports movie since Wayne Fontes played himself in "Jerry MaGuire."


Michigan should beat MSU Saturday. This is why

My latest column in The Oakland Press:

Thursday, March 03, 2011

On the Pistons "D," the Tigers bullpen and Izzo

The Pistons have allowed 108 or more points in five of their last seven games - including 116 in two of the past three. Defense is about effort. Often, effort is about the coach's message getting through to the players. Is that happening with John Kuester? Minnesota's won 15 games all season. Wednesday's loss 116-105 defeat to the Timberwolves before a sparse crowd at The Palace was brutal. The Washington Generals play better defense.

- It was a conscious decision by Tigers' general manager Dave Dombrowski to ride what is already in the organization rather than add veteran bullpen depth beyond free agent signing Joaquin Benoit. It's a decision that looks dicey already very early this spring because of ailments suffered by Joel Zumaya and Daniel Schlereth. These are power arms expected to work the sixth and seventh innings, and in the case of Schlereth, perhaps be the primary situational left-hander. So far it's not looking so good. Tigers really need Ryan Perry to step forward, obviously.

- If I were Tom Izzo these days, I wouldn't be guaranteeing or promising anything about the MSU basketball team. The proper tactic for the Spartans is to keep their collective mouths shut and let their play do the talking Saturday in Ann Arbor against a suddenly formidable Michigan squad.


I'm convinced it's impossible for a goalie to win over Red Wing fans

My latest column in The Oakland Press:

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

NFL combine can lead to analysis paralysis. Here's an example

I freely admit to being fascinated by the NFL Scouting Combine, especially now that you can see the workouts on the NFL Network. But it is strange how the status of players can change so dramatically based on workouts in shorts.
The classic example this year has been Miami cornerbacks Brandon Harris and DeMarcus Van Dyke.
Harris was the better college player by a long margin. He ran a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash, which is very good, but not off the charts. He measured under 5-10 in height. In contrast, Van Dyke ran the fastest 40 time at the combine - 4.28. He is much taller than Harris (6-1), but not nearly as stout.
But don't be surprised if Van Dyke's stock sky rockets, and I do wonder if that of Harris will fall.
Football is not played with just straight-line speed, especially at cornerback, where is based so much on the ability to turn quickly and adjust to breaks by receivers, and the flight of the ball.
In the drills where this was demonstrated, it was Harris was the better corner. He is fast enough and big enough. I think he is the third best cornerback in this draft behind only LSU's Patrick Peterson (he was great at the combine), and Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, who worked out exceptionally well. Harris could be worthy of the Lions' selecting him 13th overall in the first round.
I also like Harris more as a potential NFL player than Colorado's Jimmy Smith for the same reasons. Smith is bigger and faster, but does not have nearly the same agility.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Jarrod Washburn trade could come back and really haunt the Tigers

At the time, not long before the trade deadline in 2009, it seemed like the perfect move. The Tigers were in first place in the American League Central. They were in need of another quality starting pitcher. Jarrod Washburn, a veteran left-hander with pennant race and postseason experience, was having one of his best seasons and was available.
So Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski pulled the trigger on a trade that brought Washburn to the Tigers from the Seattle Mariners. In return, the Tigers sent soft-tossing left-hander Luke French and hard-throwing, but low-level minor league left-hander Mauricio Robles to the Mariners.
French is a classic 4-A left-hander (9-12, 4.99 ERA in the major leagues). It's Robles who may come back and haunt the Tigers.
He will turn 22 this weekend and had a big advancement year in 2010 in the Mariners' organization. He evnetually made five starts for Triple-A Tacoma last season, going 3-1. He throws in the mid-90s, and while there are still command issues, he is a top fight prospect who has struck out 481 hitters in 442 minor league innings. Baseball America recently rated him Seattle's 6th best prospect.
Washburn? He went 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA for the Tigers. He hasn't pitched since and has, at various times, said he is retired as a player.