Saturday, August 30, 2014

My thoughts on Michigan's 52-14 victory over Appalachian State Saturday

Thoughts halftime Appalachian State, Michigan Saturday

- Devin Funchess has never lacked athleticism, but he does seem faster and more elusive as a full-time wide receiver than when he was used as a hybrid tight end.. He is easily Michigan's best weapon offensively.
Devin Funchess
- Devin Gardner began this game throwing on time and on target from the pocket. It's not like he hasn't done so before, but he's lacked consistency. We'll see if he is able to maintain it against stronger competition.
- De'Veon Smith is continuing to look like he is a better running back than Derrick Green. While ripping off a 59-yard run, Green looked fast for his size in the open field. But Smith did him one better with a 61-yard run followed by a TD. Michigan's run blocking came on during the second quarter. Kyle Kalis, disappointing last season, is having what appears to be his best game.
- The most impressive unit today has been Michigan's defensive line. Taco Charlton became quickly overhyped his first spring practice, but appears much improved. Mario Ojemudia is having a very good game.

Friday, August 29, 2014

My thoughts on MSU's 45-7 victory over Jacksonville State Friday night

Thoughts halftime Jacksonville State, Michigan State Friday night

- Everybody is aware of Michigan State's defensive prowess, but offensively they have come amazingly far in a short period of time. If there was a knock on QB Connor Cook last season, it was he wasn't overly accurate (he completed 58.7 percent of his passes last seasons, less than 53 percent the year before). He is right on target tonight. Actually, his accuracy has been uncanny.
- People can dismiss Jacksonville State, but I have seen the Spartans struggle against Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) competition early in the season before. The opener vs. Youngstown State in 2011 comes to mind.
- For years, the wide receiver position group had been a weakness for MSU. Now it is a strength. Pretty soon, they will be calling him Big Play Tony Lippett. What an incredible first quarter.
- OK, so it is just the season opener against less-than-threatening competition, safety Kurtis Drummond sure looks like a first-team All-American tonight.
- I know Jeremy Langford is a terrific running back, but it looks like Nick Hill is going to nonetheless push him for playing time. Hill was very impressive during the first half.
A.J. Troup, MSU wide receivers now a strength

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers 3-2 victory over the Yankees Thursday

Thoughts after 4 innings Yankees, Tigers Thursday

- Kyle Lobstein is what scouts call "short," and it has nothing to do with his height (he is 6-3). He doesn't throw hard or have any sort of unique pitch to get MLB hitters out. But having pointed that out, he's done OK for the Tigers since being called up. Lobstein has given up some hits and runs today, but at least he is making the Yankees earn it. He's is getting the most out of what he has, unlike Robbie Ray and Buck Farmer, who seemed as much overmatched by the moment as MLB competition.
- The Tigers are making it too easy for Hiroki Kuroda. That was especially true during the fourth inning.
- I know he was hurt and missed virtually all of last season. So I did see the Yankees play here at Comerica Park last year without Derek Jeter. But it is sure going to be weird nonetheless when the Yankees come in next season without him.
- It's not a misprint. Farmer does have a 189.00 ERA for the Toledo Mud Hens. Ray is at 4.22 after another rough outing Wednesday night.

My column. Heartbeat of high school is as strong as ever:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers loss to the Yankees Wednesday

On David Price's particularly bad outing for the Tigers Wednesday vs. the Yankees

David Price vs. Yankees
Given the lack of off days, not having Anibal Sanchez and a bullpen which is, at best, shaky, the last thing the Tigers needed was this type of start from David Price. His command was off, and there wasn't much life on his pitches, especially his breaking ball. Given Price's effectiveness normally, this is really stunning. It was like he was just slinging it up to the plate. There is only one thing that can nullify the disaster that was the Doug Fister trade. It is if David Price is the dominant pitcher he is capable of being. But this was terrible, and it couldn't happen at a worse time. Now some of the balls were seeing-eye grounders, but come on, nine straight hits, amazing. It wasn't like Price was missing bats. It was the second shortest start of Price's career. Price's ERA went up tonight from 3.00 to 3.22 with his outing.

My column. Heartbeat of high school is as strong as ever:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers' 5-2 victory over the Yankees Tuesday

Thoughts after 7 innings Yankees, Tigers Tuesday

- The hit by Torii Hunter in the seventh inning was huge. The last thing the Tigers need at this point is a real tight save situation for Joe Nathan. But the downside to what is going on here is the understanding how difficult it will be for Nathan to get a save holding a one-run lead, given how many base runners he allows. And one-run games are inevitable for the Tigers.
- Ian Kinsler is starting pick up his play lately. That was a terrific play he made in the seventh inning.
- It's pretty obvious Rick Porcello is the real deal. He is one bad pitch away from possibly throwing his fourth shutout in his last 10 starts.
- Can we stop saying what J.D. Martinez is doing this season is an aberration? It looks like in an off season of bad decisions, the Tigers made a very good one in signing Martinez to a minor league deal in March.

Thoughts after 5 innings Yankees, Tigers Tuesday

Rick Porcello
- It was key Rick Porcello got the double play ball in the first inning. It got him rolling. But he threw an absolutely terrible changeup to Jacoby Ellsbury in the fifth inning. So, Ellsbury is 10-for-15 lifetime against Porcello. It had nothing to do with that home run. A lot of MLB hitters would have hit it just as hard. Porcello should stick to his two- and four-seam fastball, and breaking ball. He is not Max Scherzer. The changeup is his worst pitch.
- The Yankees aren't the Bronx Bombers any more. Offensively, they are pathetic The production doesn't nearly match the big names. The Yankees' pitching has been surprisingly good, and the American League East has been surprisingly bad. It's why the Yankees are still in the race.

My column. Despite blatant mistakes and disappointment Tigers are far from done:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Devin Gardner's is Michigan's undisputed leader, but is Shane Morris the better QB?

Devin Gardner, Shane Morris
Devin Gardner is the undisputed leader of the Michigan football team. He is a fifth-year senior. He is the returning starter at quarterback. He is a tough player with top-end competitive character.
But is he really, Michigan's best quarterback?
While there are times when Gardner has been electrifying, especially with open field runs, his consistency throwing out of the pocket has been spotty, both in terms of accuracy and turnovers.
Sophomore Shane Morris appears to be the better pure passer. While he doesn't have the same degree of ability as a runner, Morris seems to have a better feel in the pocket than Gardner and isn't lacking mobility.
One of the biggest issues for Michigan coach Brady Hoke, if Gardner flashes more inconsistencies, is if and when to turn to Morris. Last year, such a QB change literally elevated Michigan State's program last year.

My column. MSU Spartans national football championship shot better than rankings suggest

FOX 2 SportsWorks last night. Our discussion on the Tigers:" title="Fox 2 News Headlines">Fox 2 News Headlines

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mediocrity sure to ensue if the Lions continue Friday's comedy of blunder

My column.

Our FOX SportsWorks round table discussion on Lions:" title="Fox 2 News Headlines">Fox 2 News Headlines

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thoughts halftime Jaguars, Lions Friday

Ndamukong Suh: Bad penalty
- Unbelievably bad penalty taken by Ndamukong Suh in the second quarter. Right there is the type of thing that holds him back from the genuine greatness he is capable of achieving as an NFL player. So he lit up Jags' QB Chad Henne? What was the point?
- For an undrafted player, who has bounced around the league a little bit, Lions' defensive end candidate George Johnson does show considable promise. His sack tonight wasn't that unexpected. He does show a lot of explosion off the edge, especially for a player who didn't even come close to double digits sacks during any of his seasons at Rutgers.
- Way too many penalties tonight for the Lions. Not a good sign.
- Beautiful catch and run by Eric Ebron on the first play of the second quarter. His potential is unlimited, and he should show brilliance sooner instead of later.
- Boy, you can really see live just how much mustard Jacksonville rookie QB Blake Bortles has on his fastball. A rocket. He does seem to have some accuracy issues, though.
- Darius Slay is playing very well tonight. Heads up play at the end of the quarter when Bortles faked clocking the ball.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Jaguars, Lions Friday

- Reggie Bush is a 29-year-old running back, but still has outstanding speed. It was very impressive how he pulled away from the Jacksonville secondary on his 86-yard TD run. Equally as impressive was the hole the Lions' offensive line created on the play. There was a time, not long ago, when the Lions' offensive line's run blocking was decidedly mediocre. Not any more. It is actually very good.
- It didn't take long for the Lions to get Nick Fairley on the field. Considering he has taken his demotion the right way, working hard rather than pouting, it would be surprising if he isn't starting Week 1 vs. the Giants on Monday Night Football. Talent-wise, he obviously belongs on the field as much as possible.
- Matthew Stafford started slowly tonight, and it does mean something. His interception came off a disguised coverage (on a zone blitz). That's where his turnover issues have come in the past. He just has to be more consistent with his reads if the Lions are going to get the most out of their considerable talent offensively.
- I've never been much for the zone blitz (where defensive lineman drop in coverage, essentially switching places with linebackers and defensive backs), but you must give the Jags' Andre Branch credit. Those were very impressive ball skills for a player technically a defensive lineman.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My thoughts on Rick Porcello and the Tigers' 6-0 victory over Tampa Bay Wednesday

Thoughts after 7 1-2 innings Tigers, Rays Wednesday

- The Tigers lack of power has been alarming. That home run by Victor Martinez is the type of thing that can turn around offensive slumps. It was beyond clutch for a club that has been struggling so much to slug the baseball.
- This is Rick Porcello at his very best. The Rays can't help but hit on the top of the baseball. He's been brilliant so far.
- Ian Kinsler isn't pounding the ball, but he is putting it in play. Huge hit tonight after a couple key bloopers last night. The Tiger  can't say they aren't falling for them, because they are. The times when they really sting the ball are few and far between, however.

My column. Tigers should understand fan noise, avoid blame game:

My thoughts on the Tigers 8-6 victory over Tampa Bay Tuesday

My column. Why Brad Ausmus has been more a victim than the cause for the Tigers' struggles:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thoughts after 7 1-2 innings Tigers, Rays Tuesday

- There is obvious dissatisfaction with closer Tigers' closer Joe Nathan, but Joba Chamberlain has been at least as big an issue lately. We'll see what he has tonight. Big inning upcoming.
- For all the angst about the Tigers' off-season moves, it's difficult to argue J.D, Martinez wasn't a find. On a team lacking power, he has provided it. He's been OK defensively. So he wasn't able to keep up his incredible pace from the start of the year. So what? The Tigers would be in a lot worse shape with him, that's for sure. Huge home run tonight.
- I thought that was gutsy outing by Max Scherzer tonight.
- When was the last time Ian Kinsler had a big hit for the Tigers? It's difficult to remember. They have been few and far between lately.

Thoughts after 5 innings Tigers, Rays Tuesday

A very important part of this game is Max Scherzer holding it together after a rough first couple innings. He's gotten much better at that aspect than earlier in his career when he was incredibly up and down. Scherzer has always had great "stuff," but the difference the last couple years has been poise. It's like his talent, experience and being in his prime have blended together perfectly.
- I haven't been happy with replay lately. It's been taken too long to decide calls. But the top of the fifth inning tonight was a classic example of how it is supposed to work.
- A big hit by Miguel Cabrera. It was a promising sign he scolded a 96 mph fastball. It's something he hasn't been doing lately.
- The reaction of the replay being overturned to the Tigers' advantage drew a loud ovation at Tampa Bay. Can hear it now how they are getting better support on the road than at home. Personally, I think it is time the Tigers' get over that part of it. Nothing worse than an overly sensitive baseball team.

My column. Why Brad Ausmus is more victim than the cause of the Tigers' struggles:

Monday, August 18, 2014

The 6 degrees of the Doug Fister trade - and how it keeps hurting the Detroit Tigers

Dec. 2, 2013, a day that is hanging over the Tigers and general manager Dave Dombrowski like the cloud that burst above Warren last week. It was the day they traded starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals. The aftermath of the trade has already started to rain heavily, and there is growing fear in this town a deluge is about to ensue.
The Tigers are 39-44 since beginning this season 27-12. If the postseason started right now, they wouldn't be a part of it. These are 6 reasons the Doug Fister trade has hurt the Tigers so badly:

1. Considering the Tigers gave up a big portion of their offensive firepower in an earlier trade, particularly from the left side, when they traded Prince Fielder, the Tigers needed to get an offensive player of note if trading Fister. Instead they inexplicably picked up utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi. He was trade in spring training, was picked up by Baltimore and has a minus 0.5 WAR in just 20 MLB games this season. It's almost impossible to be that bad with such a small sample size. Oh, he was minus player with Washington over a larger sample size. Instead of a better, cheaper version of Ramon Santiago, Lombardozzi makes Santiago look like Tony Phillips in comparison.

2. The Tigers' long standing issues in the bullpen have been obvious. They did get left-handed reliever Ian Krol in return in the deal. Krol has only added to the problem. His WHIP in MLB this year is nearly 1.6, and he has essentially been half-as-effective as 4-A lefty Blaine Hardy.

Especially in the big picture, the Tigers miss Fister
3. The Tigers raved about left-handed starting pitching prospect Robbie Ray at the time of the trade, and he is a good prospect with emphasis on "good." He has a chance to be a solid MLB starter someday (with emphasis on "someday"), but he is not a Top 100 prospect and the chances of Ray not being a top-end MLB pitcher are at least as likely as it happening. And so far, he's been badly overmatched at the MLB level (a WHIP of nearly 1.7). And it wasn't like Ray has dominated in Triple-A (his ERA was 3.72). Granted, Ray has been much younger than the average age at the level of his competition along the line in the minor leagues, but he has never dominated at any level. His career minor league ERA is 4.17.
4. If Fister had remained with the Tigers, there wouldn't have been the need to make a trade for David Price. That would mean the Tigers would still have Austin Jackson in center field and Drew Smyly in the bullpen. Instead, the Tigers outfield defense has completely deteriorated to three-statue status (The Golden Globe in left, The Emmy in center and The Oscar in right) without Jackson in center.
5. Anybody who suggests Fister equals David Price because his statistics are so good this season is naïve.Price ranks among the top handful of pitchers in MLB. Fister is an ideal No.3 or 4 starter. But isn't that just what the Tigers needed? And it's not like Fister has not pitched well in the postseason. He has, actually better than Price in that regard, and will be a lot easier to resign after 2015 when both are free agents.
6. There is this element that if something isn't broke, don't fix it. And if you do rob from a strength, like the Tigers did with starting pitching when they traded Fister, there better be a weaknesses that was greaten enhanced. That simply didn't happen when the Tigers traded Doug Fister and didn't get more in return. It's unfair to suggest it has been the Tigers only problem this season, but not to suggest it has been, by far, the biggest reason the Tigers
 find themselves in their current predicament.

My column: Why Brad Ausmus is more victim than cause of Tigers' current struggles:

My column. Ken Holland and the Red Wings need to start living up to their sterling reputation:

My column. It looks like the Lions have finally gotten it right offensively:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Looks like the Detroit Lions have finally gotten it right offensively

Friday, August 15, 2014

Thoughts halftime Lions, Raiders Friday

Lions coach Jim Caldwell
- I didn't think Nate Freese had a 55-yard field goal in him. Evidently, I was wrong.
- Wow. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley was out there with the Lions' second-team defense late in the second quarter of the second preseason game. There is, obviously, a big message being sent to him by Lions' head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff. It's something they don't even have to talk about. The action is speaking much louder than any words could. They stuck with what they did during practice this week. Wasn't sure they would.
- Running back George Winn might make the Lions based on special teams. Nice plays tonight.
- I don't know how long the NFL is going to keep emphasizing ticky tack holding calls defensively down the field, but if it continues like this in the regular season, two things will happen. One, is the Lions' passing attack, a strength, should be nearly unstoppable, and their secondary, their weakness, will suffer mightily, as well. And two, NFL games are going to take forever and frustrate fans. I've watched a number of preseason games this year, and it's been like this all over the league. Honestly, it's ridiculous and is making a mockery of the game. You have to let 'em play. Hopefully, this won't be quite the same issue during the regular season.
- Rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy looks good tonight. He's made his presence felt both rushing the passer and dropping into coverage. He seems as versatile as advertised.
- It would be good to see wide receiver Ryan Broyles get snaps with the first-team offense next week vs. Jacksonville. He's earned it with his performance in the first two preseason games.  

My thoughts after first quarter Lions, Raiders Friday

- Nate Freese missing the extra point isn't going to cost him the job, unless it is a pattern that continues. Lets put it this way, his margin for error has gone down. Thing is, would another optin at kicker be in the Lions' camp. I'm not sure how much confidence the Lions have in Giorgio Tavecchio, the competition for Freese.
- Matthew Stafford looks sharp tonight. The offense has a good, fast tempo. The big reason: Stafford has been accurate with his throws.
Golden Tate
- How about Charles Woodson still playing? Amazing. What a sure-thing Hall of Fame player he is going to be. He is going to be 38 in October.
- Kevin Ogletree is the Lions' most underrated receiver. He is a smooth route runner. I would expect him to be the Lions' third wide receiver after Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
- Eric Ebron has to stay on his feet when catching the ball in space. That was one of the big ideas in drafting him, yards after the catch. He looked a little too uncomfortable on his first quarter reception. The Lions need him to settle down and just play. The talent is there.
- It's hard to find any fault with the Lions defense so far  tonight. Not sure if it is because they are so good or the Raiders' defense so bad.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers' 8-4 victory over the Pirates Wednesday

Thoughts after 7-plus innings Pirates, Tigers Wednesday

- It's about time the Tigers' hitters did something. Big hit by Victor Martinez. Everybody dwells on Miguel Cabrera, but the Tigers need a lot more than they have been getting from VMart lately.
Alex Avila
- I thought Buck Farmer did well, but so did Blaine Hardy. For a so-called "4-A" pitcher he has been much better than that for the Tigers so far. Nice hold tonight.
- Alex Avila continues to wake up at the plate. It is one of the few bright spots for the Tigers offensively in recent game. His home run tonight seemed to turn the course of the game.
- If there is concern about Farmer it is his breaking ball. He hung quite a few tonight and got away with it. That's not going to happen most of the time at the MLB level.

Thoughts after 2 innings Pirates, Tigers Wednesday

Why is Don Kelly on this team? I did ask Dave Dombrowski that at the trade deadline. He said Brad Ausmus, like Jim Leyland, appreciates his versatility and wants him on the team. But versatility isn't worth that much without offensive production. I think the Tigers need much better offensively at the end of the bench. That double play ball hit by Kelly in the second was a rally killer.
Buck Farmer
- Buck Farmer's numbers were misleading at Class A West Michigan from the standpoint he was year older than the average player in the league, and more experienced because of his college background. He was also limited to five innings per start. But he also did well in two starts at Double-A Erie, where he was younger than the average player at that level. What I like about the move is so-called "stuff" is what it is, regardless of level. Farmer has pretty good "staff." The issue is command, and not just walks, but location within the zone. It hasn't been that good. We'll see how he does second time around the Pirates' order.
- Pirates center fielder Starling Marte with another example of why diving for a baseball isn't, usually, the right thing to do. Nick Castellanos has no complaints about. The result was a triple.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers' 4-2 loss to the Pirates Tuesday

Thoughts after 6 innings Tigers, Pirates Tuesday

- Robbie Ray was fine tonight. Three runs in the first five innings. He missed some bats (five k's). He just walked one. Not a great start - too many extra base hits - but not a bad one, either. He is better using a slider than the awful curveball he displayed during his first stint in the major leagues. It wasn't his fault manager Brad Ausmus made the mistake of keeping Ray in to start the fifth. It wasn't like the Pirates had a slew of left-handed hitters slated to come up.
- The good news for the Tigers is often-slumping catcher Alex Avila has been hitting much better lately. He has had a few key hits on this road trip. The bad news, those have been about half the key hits the Tigers have had on this road trip. They are not going to win often if that is the case.
- The Tigers' bullpen is awful collectively at holding base runners, but Al Alburquerque takes it to an entirely higher. Stealing second base in the sixth was like stealing candy from a baby for the Pirates' speedy Starling Marte.
- The Tigers lack of lack of range was painfully evident on the double by Ike Davis in the sixth inning. That should have been single.

Monday, August 11, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers 11-6 loss to Pittsburgh Monday

My column. Justin Verlander's injury aside, why there is still hope for the Detroit Tigers:

A couple things about the Justin Verlander injury situation

If Verlander has a shoulder injury, why was he able to talk his trainer and his manager into finishing the first inning? The competitive desire is understandable, but that decision should have been made for him immediately.
Justin Verlander
- Shoulders are more difficult injuries to predict than elbows. There is usually an out with an elbow situation because of Tommy John surgery. There is no such procedure for shoulder issues, whether it is a rotator cuff or otherwise. Considering Verlander's $180 million contract extension has yet to kick in, it is an obvious concern. I've never had concerns about Verlander because he hasn't had a physical ailment involving his arm. This is obviously different, and the timing couldn't be worse considering the Tigers current plight.
- It does make you wonder if Verlander came back too soon at full throttle from off season surgery on his core. He was way ahead of the original time table. Perhaps, it forced him to compensate in other ways.

Thoughts after the first inning Tigers, Pirates Monday

Justin Verlander is just awful so far tonight. Maybe there is an injury there. It did look like it with the trainer coming out to mound with Brad Ausmus for a visit. He has walked two hitters. His curveball is flat and lifeless and his velocity is down. It's disappointing, to say the least, especially with the Tigers' current situation in the bullpen. But having written that, it's understood the Tigers are hurting themselves mightily in the field. This team is far below defensively. Actually, it's been brutal so far tonight and since the All Star break.
- I'm not a small ball guy, but I didn't like the way the Tigers approached this game offensively. Ian Kinsler nearly turned that into a big inning with a bunt, but a very good defensive play thwarted him. The Tigers still got a run out of it, but it obviously doesn't mean much tonight.
- You don't see it often where a starting pitcher throws 40 pitches in the first inning like Verlander just did.

How the Tigers can turn their season around. My column:

Why the Tigers should genuinely be concerned about the Royals this time

Most of what ails the Tigers these days is self-imposed. Even given injuries to Joakim Soria and Anibal Sanchez, they can, and should, play better.
Salvador Perez (L) & Greg Holland (R)
But the Kansas City Royals, who usually blink when it counts the most, are more formidable this time.
The reason why is because what the Tigers don't do well, the Royals do very well.
Two factors stand out:
The bullpens: Kansas City has the fourth-best bullpen in the AL with a 3.21 ERA. The Tigers are 12th at 4.38. This is not a fluke. The Royals, whose starting rotation is better this year, had the best bullpen in the AL last year. The gap is even greater when closer is considered. The Royals' Greg Holland has a 1.77 ERA, is striking out 13.6 hitters per nine innings and has a WHIP below one. It is a million miles away from what the Tigers have at closer with Joe Nathan struggling and Soria ailing.
Defense: The Royals have three Gold Glove winners in catcher Salvador Perez, left fielder Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer, and they are just better defensively all around. Fielding is baseball's most constant factor.

My column. The good and the bad from the Lions' preseason opener:

My column. Connor Cook vs. Devin Gardner equals edge for MSU over Michigan:

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Thoughts halftime Browns, Lions Saturday night

- The crowd at Ford Field gave Johnny Manziel mixed reaction when he entered Saturday's game. He immediately got a lesson in how much better the closing speed is in the NFL than even the SEC in college. He didn't get far when he tried to scramble, did he?
Johnny Manziel
- A couple forgotten players for the Lions have looked pretty good so far in this game. Mikel Leshoure is running with much more speed and authority than last year at this time. Ryan Broyles looked good catching the ball and making a nifty move for some yards after the catch. It difficult to believe not long ago each was a second-round draft and one is running third team (Broyles) and the other fourth team (Leshoure).
- Running back George Winn, who has carried the ball for the Lions a couple times tonight, and caught a pass, is from Southfield. He went to high school at University of Detroit Jesuit. Like Eagles' linebacker Connor Barwin, the most recent player from that high school to play in the NFL (he is starting for Philadelphia), Winn went to the University of Cincinnati. Barwin's hometown is listed as Hazel Park.

My column. Connor Cook vs. Devin Gardiner equals big edge for MSU over Michigan:

Thoughts after 1st quarter Browns, Lions Saturday night

Even though he missed a couple days of practice this week, it didn't take the Lions long to get Eric Ebron into the game. Liked how they had him lined up in the backfield on his first play, and in the slot on the second. Oh, he does play on the line like a traditional tight end. In training camp, he has been there. But like Jimmy Graham only played roughly a third of his plays actually as a traditional tight end in '13, you can expect about the same from the Lions with Ebron. Lions' offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, of course, came to Detroit from the Saints. Later, they had him split wide, but Ebron ran a drag pattern right into coverage.
Nate Freese: Drilled first FG
- I haven't been impressed with I've seen from seventh-round draft pick kicker Nate Freese during the Lions' off season and training camps, but he drilled that 37-yard field goal with no problems tonight. He also did well in the pre-game warmups as well. Maybe he's one of those "gamers." Certainly, there have been a number of NFL kickers, who couldn't get it done in game situations after looking really good in practice.
- Jeremy Ross, again, showed just what a threat he is in the return game by taking the opening kickoff back to midfield. You can't tell me the Lions can't use that skill from scrimmage, too.
- Yeah. I hear you. We have seen enough of Dan Orlovsky in this town already. The Lions desperately need to keep Matthew Stafford on the field. That much is obvious. It'll be interesting to see what Kellen Moore presents this season.
- A couple unnecessary penalties already for the Lions. Not a good sign.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Why there should not be any surprise the Tigers are struggling offensively

Cabrera: Hasn't been the same
The Tigers' offensive production during the first half of the season was misleading. Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Rajai Davis and J.D. Martinez were among the veteran Tigers' players, who greatly outhit their track records. Anybody surprised shortstop Eugenio Suarez has tailed off? Or third baseman Nick Castellanos has struggled? They are rookies in their early 20s. Tigers' manager Brad Aumus, like his predecessor Jim Leyland, likes Don Kelly's versatility. General manager Dave Dombrowski, after the trade deadline passed, said he likes Andrew Romine's defense. Yet, neither player adds anything offensively.
There is also the matter of Miguel Cabrera. He is not the same hitter after his injuries last year. His numbers are terrific compared to most players, but this is his worst season since or '08, or his second year in '04, depending on how you view the stats. Being healthy enough to play after major surgery is different than being fully recovered.
Torii Hunter still does have power. The Tigers missed it the last couple games. Austin Jackson was wildly inconsistent, but he was an offensive catalyst when right. It wasn't like David Price didn't come for an immediate offensive cost. Jackson was hitting well at the time of the trade.
Major League Baseball overall is offensively challenged. It's a different era. Certainly, the Royals, hot on the Tigers' tail in the AL Central, are no better offensively. But it is fair to suggest Dombrowski miscalculated by not addressing the Tigers' issues offensively based on a first half that was deceptive.

My column. This is anything but a meaningless preseason opener for the Detroit Lions:

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers 5-1 loss to the Yankees Wednesday

My column in Thursday's Oakland Press. This preseason opener anything meaningless for Detroit Lions:

Thoughts after 6 1-2 innings Tigers, Yankees Wednesday

- Miguel Cabrera is having a decent season statistically by any standard, except his own. He hasn't been nearly the same hitter for nearly a full calendar year since getting injured. It's naïve to believe it hasn't played a role or isn't a huge factor. It clearly is.
- The misnomer about Justin Verlander is that his struggles are velocity related. To the contrary. It's location. That was an awful changeup he threw to Chase Headley in the fifth. He couldn't have put it on a silver platter any better for a quality left-handed hitter to hit out of a small ball park like the new Yankee Stadium.
- Ian Kinsler is a terrific defensive player. That was a brilliant play he made in the fifth inning. The American League is loaded with quality second basemen, and it wouldn't be like Kinsler would be jobbed if he isn't s given a Gold Glove this season, but it sure wouldn't be a stretch, either. He's been outstanding this season, in both understated and spectacular manners.
- Verlander's pitch count is high through five innings (85), and it seems unlikely he will pitch nearly as deep into this game as David Price did last night, or get through eight innings like he did last time out vs. Colorado. But he is definitely showing signs of rounding into form after a very rough stretch.
- Jim Johnson is the new Joel Hanrahan.

My column. This preseason opener is anything but meaningless for the Lions:

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

My thoughts on Alex Avila, David Price and the Tigers 4-3 victory over the Yankees Tuesday

Thoughts after 7 innings Tigers, Yankees Tuesday

- Alex Avila answered his zillion critics in this town with a clutch RBI single in the seventh inning to tie the game. But it was only possible because the Yankees weren't able to play the overshift quite as drastically on him because there were runners on base. The second baseman likely would have been in position to make a play on that ball otherwise. More than any other Tigers' hitter, Avila has been hindered by the shifts.
David Price: Not easy night vs. Yankees
- I know these two games at New York have been low-scoring and tight, but they are an aberration at the new Yankee Stadium. There is virtually no room in the outfield. Andrew Romine's home run in the sixth inning was an embarrassing indictment on the ball park. That would have been a routine line out virtually anywhere else. It's why you can't be that upset with David Price's performance tonight. Has it been great? No, but it hasn't been a disaster, either.
- What an awful play by Nick Castellanos on the ground ball in the seventh inning. It was a mental error. It's likely if he lets that ball go through, Romine turns that into a relatively easy out.
- For the record, Price was 6-2 with a 3.57 ERA at the new Yankee Stadium coming into tonight. This has been a typical outing for him in this particular environment against this ball club.

Thoughts after 3 innings Tigers, Yankees Tuesday

- So David Price hasn't proven to be unhittable. It's not the Tigers' biggest issue. It's their offense. It is very spotty. So they beat up on the Rockies pitching staff. Everybody has lately. They need to score more runs.
- For a pitcher of his caliber, Price does give up his share of home runs ,especially this year. Brian McCann's homer was the 21st allowed by Price this season, just one shy of his career high.
- Price has really good control. You see how the Yankees, who have seen him a lot, have taken advantage of it. They are first-pitch swinging.
- That's why you don't bunt with early in a 1-1 game, especially with one of your better hitters. It almost played right into the hands of the Tigers and Price. The Yankees got away with it when Jacoby Ellsbury clubbed a double. But the run would have scored anyway, regardless of the bunt.

My column. Why, like the Tigers collectively, David Price has a lot to prove:

Monday, August 04, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers' 2-1 loss to the Yankees Monday

Thoughts after 7 innings Tigers, Yankees Monday

- The Tigers don't need Eugenio Suarez out for any extended period. Hernan Perez is having a pretty good season at Toledo, but he isn't nearly as good defensively as Suarez. Also, Perez has struggled as of late at the plate. The concept of Andrew Romine speaks for itself.
- That was a nice piece of hitting by Ezequiel Carrera in the seventh inning. He popped that pitched pretty hard to right field. There are elements about Carrera that are remindful of Quintin Berry, but he is a better hitter. He does have a career OPS of .726 at Triple-A and .744 overall. That isn't great, but it's not awful either for a speedy player.
- Disappointing at bat for Miguel Cabrera after Carrera's double. He is still having an excellent season, but not in comparison to what he did in his MVP seasons. That was another example.
- This turned out to be a pretty solid outing for Max Scherzer. Show you what happens when there is good defense behind a pitcher like this, and what he can do with it. Ian Kinsler is an excellent defensive second baseman, and, really, the Tigers only above average position player defensively at this point. Scherzer getting through seven innings means a lot to the Tigers' bullpen, which still remains a question mark. Amazing how he hit 97 mph in the seventh inning.

My column: Like the Tigers collectively, David Price still has much to prove:

Thoughts after 3 innings Tigers, Yankees Monday

- People aren't going to like this, I know, but a really good MLB center fielder catches that ball without any diving and by just running though to the ball. If you look at the route he took to the ball, it wasn't that good. But people love it because he dove. And they are going to love anything Ezequiel Carrera does. One, because he is not Austin Jackson. Two, because they root for the underdog.
- The Yankees are on everything that Max Scherzer is throwing. His off-speed pitches aren't as sharp as usual. His command is off and he is struggling to get the ball over. This is one of those rare nights when he little on the ball, and in everywhere. We'll see how he fights through it from this point. Scherzer and the Tigers are fortunate to be down just 2-0.
- This game is taking forever, and points to a problem baseball has with length. It's past 8:30 and they've only played three innings? Ridiculous.

My column: Like the Tigers collectively, David Price still has much to prove:


There is a crisis in golf

When Tiger Woods limped off the course Sunday, making his appearance in the upcoming PGA Championship seem very unlikely, I winced.
It was the last thing golf needed.
Tiger Woods: Bad moment for golf
I'm a baseball, football, basketball, hockey person. Golf would be next in interest.
My father loved golf. He taught me how to grip the club and play when I was a kid. The best moments I had with him before he passed were on the golf course - on those nine-hole public courses in Birmingham.
I haven't played golf in a long time, sadly even in the later years of my father's life. I just don't have time. It was hard enough when I was a beat writer and single, but now that I'm married and also working in radio, I just can't.
I'm not alone. Many of you reading this have the same issue. According to an HBO Real Sports report, a golf course closes every 48 hours in this country.
It's also not the easiest game to learn and they are coming up with novel ideals to help it - 15-inch cups, foot golf with a soccer ball, a microchip in a golf ball that presents a score at the driving range, etc.
But more than anything, golf needs charismatic figures that draw people toward the game. Tiger, before his injuries and martial infidelity, was that figure. Problem then, he was alone. Nobody challenged him. A genuine rivalry would have been even better.
But the "problem" is now a crisis.
What is golf without Tiger Woods at the top of his game?
On the back burner and evaporating quickly.
I find that sad.

My column. There is no logical reason for the Pistons to move to Detroit: