Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Today Justin Verlander's most meaningful start so far this season - this is why

Justin Verlander has essentially passed every test this season.
His April wasn't great, but not the complete disaster of past years. Despite a stellar record, he wasn't getting respect as one of baseball's top pitchers because his ERA was relatively high.
This season, his ERA is down.
Verlander has been a threat to throw a no-hitter in multiple starts - and did accomplish the feat for the second time in his career at Toronto.
There were screams from Detroit fans that he wasn't a true ace. But how can that be when seven of his 10 wins have come following Tigers' losses this season - and an eighth broke a tie for first place in the American League Central with Cleveland - and was against the Indians?
Today, however, facing the New York Mets at Comerica Park, will be Verlander's most meaningful start of the season.
The Tigers' pitching has been hammered for 30 runs in the first two games of the series by the Mets. It got so bad Wednesday night, utility man Donald Kelly had to take the mound to get the final out.
Compounding the issue: Verlander was pounded by the Mets in two innings of work in a 14-6 Tigers' loss at New York last season. It';s the only time he has faced the Mets in his career.
Oh, and American League Central rivals Cleveland, Chicago and Minnesota all won Wednesday.
The Tigers need Verlander more than ever today. We'll see if he delivers.
It's the type of outing that could determine - one way or another - how much support for the Cy Young Award he ultimately receives.


The Red Wings would be better off if Jonathan Ericsson signs elsewhere if...

If the Red Wings don't sign Jonathan Ericsson before he becomes an unrestricted free agent Friday, I think they'll be fine, but only if they add two veteran defensemen via free agency.
The Islanders thought enough of Christian Ehrhoff that they traded a fourth-round pick in next year's draft just for his rights. But the Red Wings have a lot more to offer him. He'd be the ideal replacement for Brian Rafalski. He is a very skilled player, in addition to being strong in his own end - and he is only 28. Why would he prefer the Islanders over the Red Wings?
Tomas Kaberle would also work. And depending on what type of money Ericsson is demanding in comparison, I think the Red Wings would be better off with James Wisniewski. Let's put it this way: He doesn't cough up the puck in his own end like Ericsson. And he's a physical player with a right-handed shot for the power play.
The key is signing two. The Red Wings can't afford to not re-sign Ericsson, and get only one veteran defenseman otherwise. If they lose Ericsson, they must get two.
Jakub Kindl is ready, but it would be a stretch to expect Brendan Smith to be, too, at this stage - given the Red Wings' propensity for veteran defensemen.


Monday, June 27, 2011

What would Jose Reyes be worth to the Tigers (if they could get him)

The New York Mets' Jose Reyes is a terrific player, one of the best shortstops in the major leagues. The question lately is just how good?
Is he the type of player a club would mortgage the future to trade for as essentially a rent-a-player for the pennant race? He is a free agent following the season, and the Mets are having financial problems (long-time owner Fred Wilpon was involved in the Benard Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal). Also, the Mets are sputtering on the very outside edges of the postseason race as a .500 team. Reyes, who is having a bounce-back season after a couple underwhelming years, is the apple of the eye of Tiger fans collectively. Fans everywhere with contending teams see him the same way.
The Mets, who visit Comerica Park for a three-game interleague series this week, will trade him. There is little doubt about it.
A couple things:
- I don't think the Tigers have the depth of prospects to trade for Reyes. I wouldn't suggest the Tigers trade their top prospect, pitcher Jacob Turner, for him. But even if the Tigers were willing to do so, I'm not sure it would land Reyes.
- Reyes still has his tools and is in his prime. He's lost a little speed from when he was a flash in his early 20s, but can still run. And he hits the ball harder. He will be a good player for a long time.
- He seems motivated by a contract drive. That is great news for the team that gets him for the pennant race. It might not be so good for a club that signs him to what figures to be an extraordinarily big free agent contact. He might get as much as a $140 million deal.
- If the deal cost the Tigers Turner, and they put Reyes at shortstop and Jhonny Peralta at third base, they'd have to win the division and at least reach the World Series, or the deal wouldn't be worth it, right?
My column in Tuesday's Oakland Press
Tigers best friends might be their supposed foes in American League Central:


On '84, The Cat and a big myth about Tigers

One of the factors that stood out to me Sunday at the Tigers' game, as there was a celebration of Sparky Anderson's career and life, is just how much the '84 Tigers are unappreciated in baseball lore.
I think that will change if Jack Morris gets into the Hall of Fame. At least one Tigers' player from that era should get in the Hall. It shouldn't just be Sparky. The Tigers had an 11-season stretch in which they had winning seasons. They were second to the Yankees during the 1980s in wins, just one back. The Tigers' '87 pennant race with Toronto was epic.

- With all the fuss about Jim Riggleman's resignation as the manager in Washington, it should be noted what a terrific job pitching coach Steve McCatty, who was raised in Troy and currently resides in Oxford, has done with the Nationals pitching staff. The Nationals are above .500 this season primarily because of their pitching, which ranks fifth in the National League.

- If anybody still thinks the Tigers are offensively challenged, they should consider the following: They are second in the American League in team batting average., and have four of the top 14 among the OPS, including Alex Avila, who, stunningly, ranks seventh. The others are Miguel Cabrera (third), Jhonny Peralta (13th) and Victor Martinez (14th).

Dude Talk: Is Casey Anthony hot? She did it, right. Come on


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sparky managed baseball the way it should be managed

My column in Monday's Oakland Press:


Saturday, June 25, 2011

His father's legacy lives through Walled Lake Central standout Zach Leimbach

My column in Sunday's Oakland Press:


Friday, June 24, 2011

On Verlander's Cy Young chances, Kyle Singler and Chris Osgood

I've voted for the American League Cy Young Award at times. And if I had a vote this year, and the season ended today, I'd vote for the Angels' Jered Weaver, not the Tigers' Justin Verlander. Weaver has just as many wins ((9) - and a lower ERA. Believe it or not, he is having a better season than Verlander.

- Kyle Singler was a great college player at Duke. Truly decorated. I remember watching him play against Kevin Love in the high school state title games in Oregon. Excellent games. But in reality, Singler just seems too slow and unathletic to have much of an impact in the NBA. I can't envision him doing that much for the Pistons.

- With Joey MacDonald electing to go elsewhere, and Thomas McCollum not anywhere near ready to play in the NHL, will it open the door for the return of Chris Osgood to the Red Wings? I doubt it. It's one thing to play ineffectively, but another to not be able to even get on the ice. Ozzie's injury issues the last two seasons would make it difficult for the Red Wings to justify his return. The Red Wings will likely have acquire a goalie via free agency or a trade.


It was a no-brainer for the Pistons to take Brandon Knight eighth overall

My column in Friday's Oakland Press:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On the Pistons' draft, NHL Awards and perhaps surprise help for the Tigers

If the Pistons stay at eighth overall in tonight's NBA Draft, I figure their best option will be Tristan Thompson from Texas. He has tremendous upside and is a true inside force, although it's unlikely it would be displayed immediately at the NBA level. As for a coach, Mike Woodson is by far the best candidate for the Pistons.

- Excuse me. Corey Perry isn't even close to being the best or most valuable player in the NHL. It's a travesty he won the Hart Trophy. Not only, for example, is Pavel Datsyuk a better player, he kicked his #$% when the two fought opening night.
Without question, Steve Yzerman should have won the General Manager of the Year award. Perhaps the most-deserved award went to Dan Bylsma, the Jack Adams Trophy winner for coach of the year.

- Francisco Martinez, the Tigers' 20-year-old third base prospect, is tearing up the Double-A Eastern League. He is hitting .341 with two home runs and 18 RBI in 82 at bats in June. Could he provide help at the major league level sooner than anyone possibly expected - like this season?


Tigers have six players who could be selected for All Star Game

My latest column for The Oakland Press:


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bottom line: The Tigers need Brandon Inge

The Tigers, despite an interleague road trip that is on the brink of being from hell, are still very much in the postseason chase.
As such, they figure to be buyers at the trade deadline.
Question is, what do they look to buy? They need help at second base. That much is plain. What about third base? Another hole - unless Brandon Inge returns to form.
Inge will re-join the Tigers this weekend when they return home to play Arizona. He had a poor start to this season before being put on the disabled list because of mononucleosis. He didn't exactly sting the ball on rehabilitation assignment at Toledo, until Tuesday when he cracked two solo home runs against Columbus. He had been hitting .190 with no power entering that game.
There is still more than a month before it is necessary for the Tigers to make a decision about whether third base figures in needs to address at the trade deadline. Plenty of time to evaluate whether Inge will snap out of it.
One of the issues will be roster spots. Inge is going to be on the team - they are not going to release him because he signed through next season. The other is about availability. There are second basemen out there who could help the Tigers (see previous blog posts), but not third basemen. The Tigers could get a shortstop and move Jhonny Peralta to third base, but why break a position where Peralta has played well this season?
Bottom line is, the Tigers need Brandon Inge.
Which is not a comforting thought to many Tigers fans, who have turned on him, and made him a scapegoat for most of what they perceive is wrong with the ball club.
Caputo And His Boss: Talking Tigers

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why Nicklas Lidstrom is the greatest defenseman of all time

We've been programed a long time to have a first reaction to the question, "Who is the greatest defenseman of all time?"
Answer: Bobby Orr.
But that should be changed, in my opinion, to Nicklas Lidstrom.
That's not meant as any disrespect to Orr. He was a breathtaking skater with stunning offensive skill. His defense was very good, despite all the risk taking, and he was rugged. It wasn't like the big, bad Bruins were doing the fighting for him. And he did change the game with his style of play.
He also had a knee ailment that shortened his career. His career was roughly half as long as that of Lidstrom. Longevity should count for a lot. And so should the understated play of Lidstrom, whose style is more an art form than a screaming headline about his brilliance. He has also been a study in persistence. Orr was 26 the last season he won the Norris Trophy; Lidstrom 30 when he first received the honor.
Lidstrom has played, and thrived, through three very distinctly different eras of hockey - the run-and-gun early-to-mid 1990s, the grab-and-hold period from the late 1990s-to-the strike year, and in the so-called "new" NHL. He's starred internationally, scoring the game-winning goal in the gold medal game at the Olympics for Sweden. The Red Wings have won four Stanley Cup championships with Lidstrom along the blue line, once with Lidstrom receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Tonight, at NHL Awards, he is up for his seventh Norris Trophy. It was laughable last season he wasn't even nominated. Nor that he has never been seriously considered for the Hart Trophy given his value to the Red Wings.
He has accomplished so much it's odd that Lidstrom is somehow still unrecognized for what he is in hockey lore.
The best defenseman ever.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Enough is enough - time for NFL to get lockout resolved

My column in Tuesday's Oakland Press:

Why it'll be different for the Tigers this season (and why it might not be)

These facts stick out about the Tigers since 2006:
- Last season, they were in first place as late as July 10.
- In 2009, they led the American League Central as late as the final day of the regular season, and had a seven-game lead with 26 remaining.
- In 2007, the Tigers were in first place as late as August 15.
- In 2006, they were in first place entering the final game of the season.
The Tigers didn't win the division any of those seasons, and the only year they still qualified for the postseason was 2006.
Is this year different? Here are reasons why it might be (and why it might not be).
Closer Jose Valverde: In the past, the Twins and the White Sox, with Joe Nathan and Bobby Jenks, clearly had better closers than the Tigers. Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney, despite save percentages that suggested otherwise, didn't invoke a sense of confidence. Valverde, when healthy, has been more solid. The key will be not overworking him. He was never the same after that 60-pitch outing in Boston last year, and predictably coming up lame.
The emergence of Justin Verlander: It's one thing to have one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, another to feature the very best. Verlander has put himself at the top. Six of his nine victories have been after the Tigers lost the previous game. Another, against Cleveland, broke a tie against the Indians and put the Tigers in sole possession of first place at the time.
Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta: These are two very good, professional hitters in the middle and bottom of the lineup. And both have power and are run producers.
Alex Avila and Brennan Boesch: As we get deeper into the season, it seems more unlikely the other shoe will drop on these two. Both have made obvious adjustments to their swings, and their approach at the plate is much better.
The Tigers need something from Magglio Ordonez, Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge: You know, to get them through the inevitable slumps of July and August. Anybody holding their breath for these three to break loose? Me neither.
The bullpen is thin and balanced too much toward left-handers: If the Tigers' starters falter for any extended period, the bottom end of the bullpen could get badly exposed.
Brad Penny and Phil Coke: Penny has already thrown 84 innings and has an ERA pushing five in an era when scoring is down. He has pitched more than 200 innings just once in his career. Coke is a fine pitcher, but seems like duck out of water as a starter.
Jim Leyland: Just a fact he hasn't had the answer for second-half tailspins by the Tigers in the past. Why would this season be different?

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bruins winning Stanley Cup brings thoughts of what could have been for the Red Wings

My column in Monday's Oakland Press:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dumars, Pistons need to be aggressive on draft night

My column in Sunday's Oakland Press:


Friday, June 17, 2011

Alex Avila at third base - smart move or recipe for disaster for Tigers?

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after Thursday's victory over Cleveland that he will likely start Alex Avila at third base tonight in the opener of the Tigers' interleague series at Colorado.
"I know, people are going to be saying, "He is taking an All Star catcher and moving him to third base.' If it works, I'll be a genius. If it doesn't, I'll be a $%^# idiot. But that's the way it is. I have to make those decisions sometimes."
Leyland has hit Avila a lot of ground balls at third base.
"Look, I can field ground balls in that case, it's different (in the game)," Leyland said. "But Alex has soft hands and a strong arm. He is a good third baseman."
I see this is as a nothing-ventured-nothing-gained proposition. If it doesn't work, it's June. It's not like they are trying something different down the stretch of a pennant race. If it does work, it'll give the Tigers much more versatility with their lineup - even when they are back to using the DH.
It would allow for Magglio Ordonez to DH at times, or get more left-handed hitters in the lineup.
That's the upside. The downside is that you're weakening two spots defensively - third base and catcher. Victor Martinez is not as strong defensively as Avila behind the plate, and it would be a stretch to expect Avila to be as good defensively as Donald Kelly or Brandon Inge (when the latter comes back from rehab assignment) at third base.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Forget "Wow" Factor - Tigers must be smart moving forward

My column in Friday's Oakland Press:

If anyone ever deserved the boos, it's Gary Bettman

It was a compelling Stanley Cup finals. I like the way it ended - with the road team winning Game 7. I hate those series where only the home team wins, which had been the case the first six games.
It was terrific that Boston goalie Tim Thomas, the former Detroit Viper castoff and ex-Davison High School player, won the Conn Smythe Award. He is a truly unique player. Great character.
But what I enjoyed most of all was NHL commissioner Gary Bettman getting booed so loudly by the fans in Vancouver that you couldn't even hear what he had to say. Finally, the public dissatisfaction with this clueless leader of the league just let loose.
The one thing I do regret: It was in Vancouver, not Detroit.
Anybody holding their breath and waiting for Bettman to make the right decision about moving the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference where they belong?
Me neither.


Proposed changes to baseball only make sense if there is no more interleague play

My column in Thursday's Oakland Press:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On Justin Verlander...

You can dissect statistics in a number of ways, and come to basically any conclusion you want in regard to many starting pitchers.
My point about Justin Verlander has long been to look beyond just the numbers, particularly his ERA, which has often been inflated before this year because he has usually started out poorly in the opening month.
Look more at his so-called "stuff."
Is there is a starting pitcher who throws harder? No. Does he have more than one better-than-average off-speed pitch? Yes.
Is he a scatter arm lacking command of the baseball? No. Is he tall and throw on a downward plane? Yes.
Is he athletic like many great pitchers? Yes. Does he have a competitive fire which determines he wins more than he loses. Yes. Verlander has a far better winning percentage than the Tigers have had otherwise as a team since he arrived in the major leagues to stay in 2006.
The fact, at 28 when he is just entering his prime, Verlander is dominating major league hitters shouldn't be a surprise.
He is that good. Or dare we say great?


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More replay in baseball would have prevented last night's fiasco in Tigers, Rays game

Until recent years, I had not been one to clamor for extensive replay in baseball. Yet, it does seem like blatantly blown calls are becoming an epidemic that would be solved by it.
The latest was Monday night when umpire John Tumpane obviously missed a call on a play at the plate during the Tigers-Rays game at Comerica Park. The Rays Justin Ruggiano did score, but was nonetheless called out. The replays were very definitive. It was 1-0 at the time in the seventh inning of a game between two competitive and contending teams with the pennant race heating up in June.
The replays were also conclusive on the Tigers' last home stand when they were greatly aided in a victory over the Twins by a ball that went into the stands, bounced off a fan and back onto the field. Yet, it wasn't called a ground rule double, allowing Jhonny Peralta to score the winning run from third base.
Then again, the calls aren't getting much notice in this town because they went for the home team. That does not make it right. Not anymore right than when Armando Galarraga was robbed of his perfect game last season by Jim Joyce's missed call.
Baseball games last long enough. I get that part. But one challenge flag per game might work without making games drag on.
The cost would be worth it in maintaining the integrity of the game, which is getting compromised by wrong calls deciding games - and perhaps, ultimately, pennant races - during an era when replays do show every mistake.

Not sure the point of Michigan's retro football uniform

My column in Tuesday's Oakland Press:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Current myths (compared to reality) about the Tigers

Where are the Tigers going to find a spot for Magglio Ordonez: Easy. Right field. Hitting third. Ordonez is a lifetime .310 hitter with 162-game averages of 26 home runs and 110 RBI. Casper Wells has a lifetime minor league batting average of .250 without exceptional power. He is hitting .239. There are those who feel like Andy Dirks is this big find for the Tigers. He is hitting .226. Combined they are hitting .233 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 133 at bats this season.
Any reasonable facsimile of Ordonez should be a marked improvement. He should be completely healthy by now. Only question remaining is whether he has hit the wall at age 37.

The Minnesota Twins are done: No, they are not. I have no idea how under the circumstances, although Michael Cuddyer has been extremely hot lately, but the Twins have won nine of their last 11 games. They are nine games out of first place. I know it sounds like a lot, but this is a team that rallied to beat the Tigers while seven games down with just 26 games remaining in 2009. And Joe Mauer is due back in the lineup later this week.

The White Sox aren't much of a threat because they need a closer: The White Sox are very ominous from the standpoint they have basically played awful baseball, but are just 3 1-2 games out of first place and only two games below .500. Yes, it's true, they are a save opportunity about to be blown right now. But they will trade for a closer. The White Sox are always very aggressive near the trade deadline. This season will be no exception.
Replay of my livestream chat today. We addressed the Tigers in the first segment:

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Of all the major golf tournaments, U.S. Open the best

My column in Monday's Oakland Press:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Would an 8-8 season be acceptable for Detroit Lions fans?

My column in Sunday's Oakland Press:

On Pistons coaching search, Matthew Stafford and perception of Tigers

Obviously, Kelvin Sampson ran into trouble with the NCAA at Indiana, but otherwise was a very good college coach for a number of years. The Pistons could do worse than hiring him as their next head coach. They could also do better.
Mike Woodson would be a better fit. He was a good player in the league for a long time and has the cache of turning around a losing team in Atlanta. Sampson is missing those two elements on his resume. And the connection Woodson has to the Pistons' 2004 NBA championship team as an assistant.

Random Thoughts

- I have absolutely no doubt about Matthew Stafford's passing ability nor his leadership qualities. I think he is going to one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL this year. If he can stay healthy. It is the biggest issue, and will be until he plays an entire season without missing games.

- The perception: The Tigers have an excellent pitching staff, but are offensively challenged. The reality: The Tigers rank 11th in the American League in ERA, but are fifth in runs scored and 4th in team batting average.


Thursday, June 09, 2011

On the passing of Jim Northrup...

Jim Northrup's triple off menacing St. Louis Cardinals' pitcher Bob Gibson in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series was the biggest hit in Tigers' history.
Nothing else comes close.
It capped a comeback from a three games to one deficit, and sealed a world championship that greatly helped heal a torn and divided Southeastern Michigan the year following the Detroit riots.
But Northrup was more than just one hit, or a terrific ball player on excellent Tiger teams during the 1960s and early 1970s that are so fondly recalled.
I admired him because he was his own man. He was never afraid to say what he believed. It got him into hot water in the clubhouse at times when he was the Tigers' color commentator on their telecasts. I remember Jack Morris being upset with Northrup and saying, "He forgot what it's like to play this game."
I thought, when Morris said that, it was the opposite. Northrup remembered exactly - and wasn't going to sugar coat mental mistakes or lack of effort.
He lived in Waterford when I visited him during the 1990s to do a story on him and his wife adopting a young child from a Polish orphanage, who had health issues. You could tell just how much this tough, brutally honest man loved that little boy. He had a very good heart.
The '68 Tigers were the ultimate heroes for the Baby Boom generation in this town. Joe Sparma, who won the pennant-clinching game that season, has passed away. So have Norm Cash, Ray Oyler, Pat Dobson and Earl Wilson.
In addition to the triple that sailed over Curt Flood's head in the World Series, Northrup was known for hitting grand slams. He had three in a six-day period in '68 - and another in the World Series. He was just solid all-around player, who was a good outfielder, as well.
He was also a great football player - as a quarterback - at Alma College, and was about as native a Michigander as possible.
He'll be missed. You can see Northup in the following video after Tigers clinched the 1968 pennant.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Why it might be wise to wait before buying into the Tigers

My column in Thursday's Oakland Press:

Some ramblings about the Tigers and the baseball draft

I've always looked at the baseball draft this way. There is more upside on a high school kid with early-round talent than a college kid, who wasn't drafted - or was drafted in the higher rounds - out of high school.
That while the developmental period of college baseball is helpful in getting a better evaluation, it still means, generally, college players have a limited upside.
The advantages of taking a majority of college players, which has become the Tigers' habit in recent years - particularly this one - is that they move quickly through the system. They can play in the major leagues effectively, if for brief periods. They cost less to sign because their bargaining leverage is only returning to college for another season, which isn't a good one because the clock is already ticking on a prospect at 21.
Sometimes you hit with this type of player. The Tigers certainly did with Curtis Granderson. But he's been the only one. Drafting college pitchers, outside of Justin Verlander, who was a fresh-armed second overall pick, has generally been a disaster.
But the Tigers can, currently, as we speak this week, say their recent draft philosophy is paying off. Alex Avila - a fifth-round pick out of college in 2008 (Alabama) - might be an All Star. Brennan Bosech's bat has picked up. Andy Dirks and Danny Worth have made significant contributions. Charles Furbush has pitched well out of the bullpen.
Also, the Tigers might have been ahead of the curve with oncoming changes in player development. They will likely wipe out the rookie level after this season, and extended spring training. It'll leave less opportunity for high school players to develop out of the gate. As is, the Tigers rookie level team has contained few high school American players in recent years, and has been comprised mostly of players signed internationally, particularly from Latin America.
I always hated the "Moneyball" philosophy when it comes to player development, and how it is numbers based, rather than focused on physical tools. A stronger case can be made with how players are viewed in the minor leagues, and especially in the major leagues, crunching numbers. But a scout's eye is still by far the best way to evaluate amateur players, in my opinion.
The other thing about this draft that was telling was the lack of players from Michigan selected. This used to be a baseball hot bed, but has fallen mightily. I'd hate to see baseball become a game "for just the South and West Coast." But unfortunately, it has been that way.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Hey, wait, suddenly Magglio Ordonez needs more time

Amazing how a few games and a few home runs hit by certain players can change everything.
When the Tigers were struggling to score runs against the Red Sox during a losing streak, and many of their so-called "4-A" type players were not producing, notion was Magglio Ordonez couldn't get back into the lineup soon enough.
Thinking was, well. at least Ordonez has a track record. If healthy, he must be better than this - even if his start this season at age 37 wasn't exactly promising.
Then, like a lightning bolt out of the blue, Casper Wells, Ryan Raburn, Andy Dirks and Brennan Boesch have all flashed home run power. And it played key roles in victories over the White Sox, and particularly last night at Texas.
Now, it's "Magglio needs more time" while on injury rehabilitation assignment at Toledo. He's likely to get it, too - while these players are hitting so well. Wells still appears to be the most likely candidate for bench time when Ordonez comes back.


Monday, June 06, 2011

Tigers track record proof MLB draft extremely important

My column in Tuesday's Oakland Press:


Replay of My live chat today on Tigers, Pistons, Jim Tressel

Five reasons the Tigers have survived to stay in the pennant race

1. Justin Verlander has been a true ace: Verlander has often been spectacular this season (a no hitter, two brilliant performances in a row vs. the Red Sox and White Sox), but has maintained his consistency. He's had only one truly stinker start this season (vs. Tampa Bay at home) - and the Tigers won that game.

2. Alex Avila: I didn't think Avila could be a plus hitter in the major leagues and play respectable defense on an every day basis. I was wrong. He has played very well this season, and it's given the Tigers a major lift.

3. The 2007 Indians: That team won 96 games and beat the Yankees in a divisional series with Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta playing key roles. Both remain in their prime and have had a similar bearing on the success of the Tigers. Two of the better moves Dave Dombrowski has made during his tenure as Tigers' general manager.

4. Alberto Alburquerque: His career record in five minor league seasons was a paltry 8-15 with a 4.49 ERA. Both the Cubs and Rockies let him go. Now he is striking out hitters in the major leagues at a rate that would make Nolan Ryan proud while filling a desperately-needed role in the Tigers' bullpen. Amazing.

5. Miguel Cabrera: Remains an ominous cloud for opposing pitchers each time he steps into the batter's box. Starting to make clutch home runs his trademark.


Sunday, June 05, 2011

Mike Ilitch needs to stand up to Gary Bettman and INSIST the Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference

My column in Monday's Oakland Press:


Saturday, June 04, 2011

Pistons, NBA need to get their act together

My column in Sunday's Oakland Press:

Friday, June 03, 2011

Where do Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander really rank among baseball's elite?

The Sporting News has a list rating the Top 50 players in baseball. Two Tigers are rated relatively high on that list, Miguel Cabrera is No. 8, and Justin Verlander No.21.
The only position players ahead of Cabrera are Albert Pujols (1), Troy Tulowitzki (2), Joey Votto (4) and Evan Longoria (7). As a hitter, I wouldn't put Cabrera behind any of those players. Pujols obviously has the better body of work overall. Votto is a terrific player, but he there is still a relatively small sample size to his career. Tulowitzki is a gutty and tough player, and plays a premium position, shortstop, but isn't in the same class with Cabrera as a hitter. Lets put it this way, seems doubtful he is going to the Hall of Fame. With Cabrera, it is likely. Longoria is right about seven. But in this list, I would have Cabrera as No.2 behind Pujols among position players.
Verlander at 21 is interesting. The pitchers ahead of him are all excellent (Felix Hernandez 3, Tim Lincecum 5, Roy Halladay 6, Josh Johnson 11, CC Sabathia 15, Cliff Lee 19).
I see Verlander at the same level as all these pitchers. It's splitting hairs. The only exception is Johnson. I know his "stuff is electric," yet not to the same degree as Verlander. And he has pitched more than 200 innings in his career just once, has never won more than 15 games in a season and is not much younger than Verlander. Also, Lee's regular season record - other than the 22-3 season with Cleveland - hasn't been that good. His reputation is based much on pitching so well in the postseason, but that is a fair criteria.
For the full list,


Thursday, June 02, 2011

Phil Steele is predicting Hell will freeze over

I love Phil Steele's College Football Yearbook. Can't wait to get it in my hands every year. He does his research and a truly great job. I buy everything he sells.
But this year, his book is wrong about one thing - Hell will freeze over before Michigan plays Toledo in the Little Caesars Bowl, which he is predicting.
Just as a whole, however you want to describe the Michigan football faithful, they are far too arrogant and snobbish to even consider playing at Ford Field in December against a Mid-American Conference opponent. It would be perceived as punishment rather than a reward for the season.
It's the same way with Michigan State, even though George Perles is closely attached to the Little Caesars Bowl. It's one thing to play a road game against Florida Atlantic at Ford Field, another a bowl game.
To me, it's the wrong idea. Michigan and Michigan State should embrace the Little Caesars Bowl. They should want to play there. It would be the right thing to do in so many ways.
But I just don't believe it will ever happen.


Don't think Jim Tressel got away with it? He did - this is why

My column in Thursday's Oakland Press:


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The bewildering case of Ryan Raburn

How long should the Tigers stick with Ryan Raburn? Their 8-7 victory over Minnesota Tuesday was secured despite more shaky play in left field by Raburn.
Most nights, when a team just hands the opposition runs like that, it costs them the game. The Tigers were fortunate.
Raburn does have one plus, that's his bat. Or at least it's supposed to be. In a fairly large sample size in the major leagues, his average 162-game season is .264 with 16 home runs and 65 RBI and a .767 OPS. Problem is, he is hitting below .200 this season, and has been a constant rally killer. This is not a young player; he is 30 years old. The Tigers signed him to a two-year, $3.4 million deal after Raburn finished strongly in 2010, saying with their actions they thought it would save them money in the long run because Raburn is arbitration eligible. It doesn't look like such a bargain right now. He did hit well in pennant race pressure in 2009, but not until after the issue was decided in 2010.
I've always been perplexed by Raburn, who was a very good hitter in the minor leagues. He seems athletic enough, and will at times make plays. It's just there are so many moments like Tuesday night. His fielding percentage as a left fielder in the major leagues is .965 - and that doesn't take in account the misplays that are turned in hits. His best position is second base, but he is below average there in terms of range.
Playing Raburn is only worth it if he hits - really hits. He is not doing that currently. At least for now, the Tigers would be wise to stick with Danny Worth at second base - a superior fielder, who had a couple hits Tuesday - and their other corner outfielders until Magglio Ordonez comes back.