Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Probable MLB suspension of Jhonny Peralta more a blip than a disaster for Detroit Tigers

My column:
Jhonny Peralta: Tigers can overcome his projected absence

My thoughts on the Detroit Tigers' trade...

The three-way deal, from the Tigers' standpoint, is essentially Avisail Garcia for Jose Iglesias. In regard to prospects, it's essentially a wash at this point. Garcia is an impressive athlete with good speed, throwing arm and ability to put the bat on the ball. At this stage, however, he has yet to develop the ability to pull a good major league fastball with any sort of consistently. It limits his power, and therefore his value. Sometimes stronger players in their early 20s do eventually start turning on the ball, but it's not necessarily a skill that can developed. It's something players, generally, either have or don't have. It does seem to limit Garcia's ceiling.
People seeing Iglesias' .330 batting average with the Red Sox should realize it is misleading. He had a fairly extensive track record in the minor leagues in which his offensive production was been disappointing in Triple A. I have seen him play, but not a lot.  I didn't get a real good gauge from those few at bats and routine plays.
Jose Iglesias: Good field, no hit?
The Red Sox commentators, however, raved about his defense, and you have all been hearing about his defensive skill since the trade, so there is no reason to doubt it. That would make him a big upgrade from Peralta defensively, but it would be naïve to be believe it doesn't hamstring the Tigers offensively.
The good part is that fielding is a constant and shortstop is far more difficult to fill than corner outfield.
Above-average fielders make errors, but they don't go into slumps. Hitting is an up-and-down aspect of the game, for even the very best hitters. The Tigers have the best starting staff in the major leagues and just augmented their bullpen with Jose Veras. Iglesias will help the Tigers' pitching staff, especially Rick Porcello and Doug Fister, who rely on ground ball outs.
The Tigers eventually needed to address the shortstop position after the season anyway, but there is no way general manager Dave Dombrowski would have made this trade were it not for the handwriting on the wall about Peralta's upcoming suspension. It Peralta, 31, were not in trouble with Major League Baseball, it's possible he would have been re-signed as the Tigers' shortstop. He did, after all, just play in the All Star Game, represents one of Dombrowski's better trades (where have you gone Giovanni Soto) and is still in his prime.
There is a lot of focus on Garcia, and the possibility he will come back to haunt the Tigers with the White Sox , a division rival. But the immediate hurt could come in the form of Jake Peavy with the Red Sox. He has tremendous competitive character and it is now very possible the Tigers will have to face him during the postseason.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Brady Hoke rapidly building Michigan into a national championship contender with recruiting

My column:
Brady Hoke: Getting it done on the recruiting trail

Monday, July 29, 2013

MLB trade deadline deal for Jose Veras fits Detroit Tigers perfectly - despite steep price

If you are expecting Mariano Rivera when Jose Veras joins the Tigers, you are going to be disappointed. There is nothing about him that suggests he is a "light's out" closer.
In fact, the way to go may be to keep Joaquin Benoit in the closer's role for awhile.
But Veras does make the Tigers' bullpen considerably better, giving manager Jim Leyland another viable option with either role in late innings.

Jose Veras: Good fastball, lots of experience
Veras has been consistently throwing in the mid-90s this season and displayed better command than he has in the past of a solid major league career. He has also had better touch with his off-speed pitches.Veras has also been around, and he has displayed at his best, like this season, he can close at the major league level. He has shown, that at his worst, he can still eat some innings out of the bullpen. He did pitch for the Yankees during their salad days, but hardly ever under pressure. He has been a workhorse reliever for bad teams since, until this season when he has done a respectable job as the Astros' closer, a spot he was placed out of necessity.
The deal for Veras was necessary. The Tigers have been living on borrowed time with their bullpen.
They paid a steep price for him. I'm not sure if Danry Vasquez isn't a better long-range prospect than either Avisail Garcia or Nick Castellanos. He isn't the hitting prospect Castellanos is, but a much better athlete. He is 19 and skinny, but does have power potential and has stung the ball a lot better this season at Class A West Michigan as one of the younger players in the Midwest League. It's the type of deal that could come back to haunt the Tigers down the road. But the idea is to win it now.
Jose Veras should help the Tigers immensely - now.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Why Detroit Tigers must be active at MLB trade deadline

My column:
Jim Leyland: Could use help at trade deadline

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Detroit LIons, Reggie Bush, NFL training camp starts and those under a spotlight

Friday, July 19, 2013

5 questions as MLB returns from All Star Game

My column:
Jason Grilli: Dealin'

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Keys for the Detroit Tigers moving forward after All Star Game

- The schedule definitely favors the Tigers. They have no West Coast trips remaining, for example. But there are a couple traps. One comes right out of the break, when they travel to Kansas City and Chicago in back-to-back trips. The Tigers have not played particularly well in either place in recent years, and they are a combined 3-5 record against the White Sox Royals this season - although both teams are below .500. The Tigers also have road trips remaining to New York (Yankees) and Boston,
Victor Martinez: Production looking up
- Max Scherzer has been terrific. The one thing hasn't done, though, during his career is put back-to-back solid halves within the same season. He has been inconsistent from half-to-half. Will that change in 2013?
- Is the real Justin Verlander the one who dominated MLB in 2011 and 2012 or the one who kind of scuffled before the All Star break? My best guess is Verlander and Scherzer will have similar statistics by the end of the season.
- If Victor Martinez continues to hit like he did in the last four weeks before the All Star break (.348, three homers, 17 RBI, .944 OPS), the Indians have no chance. He still has a low OPS overall (.693), but now is on pace to drive in 86 runs. Could be the slump is over and Martinez is back in stride for the long run.
- It would be naïve to believe the Tigers bullpen is good enough to win the World Series. You'd think Dave Dombrowski will do something before the trade deadline, which is rapidly approaching. The Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez would be ideal, but at what cost?
The Tigers have a great trading chip in Nick Castellanos, but the Tigers might be better served saving it for the off season because this franchise could need a starting shortstop in the not-to-distant future.

Part 3 of My series "The Mystery of Putting" Perhaps the biggest factor of all

My column:
At British Open, biggest question: Which way will it break?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

If MLB suspends Jhonny Peralta of Detroit Tigers, it shouldn't be until next season

Let us start this out with an "if."
If Tigers' shortstop Jhonny Peralta is deemed by Major League Baseball to have violated its drug policy and is suspended, which has been widely reported as a possibility, it should not be until next season.
You won't find anybody less sympathetic with baseball's PED cheaters than I am, but the appeal process in this case must be comprehensive. Why? Because there apparently is no positive drug test involving of those implicated in the Biogenesis scandal.
There would mean a lot more time determining what happened and why. It's far less definitive than a positive drug test.
The off season presents time to sort out what happened, It would duly punish the players involved without unnecessarily throwing off the competitive balance of the championship season.
Jhonny Peralta and the big "if"

Part 2 of my series "The Mystery of Putting" The oddity of anchor putting

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Part 1 of my series "The Mystery of Putting" Why putting is an art more than a science

My column:
Ben Hogan: Classic example of how putting comes and goes

Monday, July 15, 2013

The mystery of putting

I have a three-part series "The mystery of Putting" that will be appearing in the print editions of The Oakland Press Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The series will be posted online as well at
Part 1 of the series will discuss the unpredictability of putting, Part 2 will be about the controversy and impending ban on anchor putting and Part 3 will be on greens,
This is the video story I did with Paul Fichter, the head PGA golf professional at The Heathers Club in Bloomfield Hills, on "The Mystery of Putting." Portions of the footage also features the indoor putting area at Carl's Golfland

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Self-made distractions could hurt Detroit Tigers

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions, contract extension - a win-win, win-win situation all around

When last season fell apart on the Lions, many fingers of blame were pointed at quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Matthew Stafford: Part of the solution, not the problem
It's a natural reaction. Stafford is the QB. It is the most pressure-packed position in team sports. But the Lions' issues became so deep, even an immensely talented QB such as Stafford couldn't correct them. It would have been even worse without the three comeback victories during the first half of the season (vs. St. Louis, Philadelphia and Seattle) Stafford engineered..
Now it's about moving forward. Stafford is part of the solution, not the problem. It's why the three-year contract extension he agreed to fits. It runs out when he is 29. It's not like he is married to the Lions for the rest of his career. For the Lions, it's a long-term extension, but not forever. It's ideal from both sides.
Stafford is a very good NFL QB, and on the cusp of becoming a great one. Certainly, he is the best QB the Lions have had since Bobby Layne in the 1950s. There are no elements that are missing. It's just a matter of fine tuning his skills, bringing the pieces together around Stafford and that he remains reasonably injury free.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Detroit Pistons are better with Josh Smith, but how much better, really?

Monday, July 08, 2013

If the Detroit Tigers have an edge, it could be a traditional rival

Until Sunday's loss to the Indians, anyway, a week went well for the Tigers. Their left-handed hitters, who had been struggling mightily, woke up. Alex Avila, Victor Martinez and Andy Dirks all contributed significantly to the Tigers winning five of six games at Toronto and Cleveland. The much-maligned bullpen was pretty good. Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello both turned in strong starts. Even the end of the bench, Don Kelly and Ramon Santiago, had good games.
Was it a mirage? When it comes to Avila. Martinez and Dirks probably not. They were all performing under their established track records. Maybe this is an evening out process and they will perform much better the second half of the season and postseason, should the Tigers get there as expected.
Lots of games vs. White Sox means its looking up for Tigers
The bullpen is still flawed. Joaquin Benoit is doing well as a closer, but it might be that the Tigers' living on borrowed time. The Tigers still need to augment their bullpen with veteran help. Francisco Rodriguez remains the most viable option. Fans are enamored with Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies are still in the wild card race. It's difficult to discern if and when they will pull the chute on the season.
Also, the Tigers fate will largely be based on their performance vs. the White Sox, their big rivals from last year.
The two teams have yet to meet this season. The Tigers begin a three-game series with the White Sox Tuesday at Comerica Park. The White Sox are awful this season with a 34-51 record. It's good news for the Tigers that 19 of their final 88 games this year (22 percent) are against the White Sox. One of the reason the Indians have emerged as the top threat to the Tigers in the AL Central has been their dominance of the White Sox. Cleveland is 7-2 vs. Chicago in 2013.

This is our weekly live chat. Got into the Red Wings and Pistons' free agent signings. Also, Tigers and NFL player rankings. We answer lots of questions. We do this every Monday at 1 p.m.

Trout, Harper, Machado, Puig, Segura, Sabermetrics - why MLB is better than ever

Sunday, July 07, 2013

NHL free agency cements still lofty status for Detroit Red Wings

Thursday, July 04, 2013

How the Detroit Red Wings can use NHL free agency to make a Stanley Cup run

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Jim Leyland caused Rick Porcello suspension and Detroit Tigers could pay severe price

As much as I appreciate Tigers manager Jim Leyland giving a straight answer to a straight question, sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.
When he essentially announced to writers Saturday there was going to be payback for a high-and-tight pitch from Tampa Bay's Fernando Rodney to Detroit star slugger Miguel Cabrera, it setup a scenario where Major League Baseball had no choice but to suspend Rick Porcello for hitting the Rays' Ben Zobrist Sunday.
The Tigers, given their bullpen woes and a largely struggling starting rotation, were fortunate Porcello wasn't thrown out of the game immediately. The standard umpire warning was given to both dugouts at that point, and Porcello pitched six innings. As is, the suspension will have Porcello needing to push back a start. That probably means Jose Alvarez on Friday night in a key game at Cleveland, which is neck-and-neck with the Tigers at the top of the AL Central. Porcello is no Matt Harvey, but Alvarez has been lit up like a pinball machine in his last couple starts.
Jim Leyland, Rick Porcello: Sometimes better to be smart than tough
If the Tigers wanted to protect Cabrera, hit a Tampa Bay hitter and act like the ball just got away. Don't announce it. Be smart picking your spot, you know, kind of like a hockey player taking somebody's number and having a long memory. The way it was done announced intent. If MLB let the Tigers slide on this, Leyland's pronouncement would soon become standard practice and chaos would ensue. This nips it in the bud.
In other words, be tough, but be smart, too. As is, the Rays are getting the last laugh on this. The suspension could set off a chain of events that costs the Tigers a game or two. If that does happen, and the Tigers and Tampa Bay are in a fight for a wildcard spot, it will benefit the Rays greatly.
Oh, and that was an expensive pitch for Porcello. He is being paid $5.1 million for this season. The suspension, if it stands at six games, will cost Porcello nearly $189,000. And for what? A bunch of false bravado that, honestly, doesn't protect Cabrera as much as hurt the team.

Where Calvin Johnson of the Detroit LIons should rank among Top 10 NFL players

Monday, July 01, 2013

Reality sets in Detroit Tigers aren't as good as advertised

My column:
Jim Leyland, Tigers: Trying to figure it out