Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pavel Datsyuk goal spectacular but it was Jimmy Howard Night in Boston

My column on Red Wings beating Bruins in Game 1:
Jimmy Howard: Big saves in big Game 1 win

Friday, April 18, 2014

My thoughts on the Red Wings 1-0 victory over Boston Friday

Thoughts after 2 periods Red Wings, Bruins Game 1

- The Red Wings are playing a very good road playoff game so far. They have avoided odd man rushes, stayed out of the penalty box and their quickness has been very to annoying to the Bruins. Detroit has had more and better scoring chances.
- Having two power play opportunities and not scoring on either is not a good thing for the Red Wings. You know there is a strong probability the next call is going to go the Bruins' way.
- Brendan Smith is right the middle of everything for the Red Wings. I don't know if that is good or bad, though. He has done some very good things tonight, yet been on the brink of a couple disastrous mistakes. Kind of unnerving isn't it?
- Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk both had golden chances to score goals tonight and didn't finish. They must if the Red Wings are going to win.
- The more I see of Tomas Jurco, the more I like him. He has done well tonight on the forecheck.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Despite obvious flaws, Tigers have had just what they need

Thoughts after 7 innings Indians, Tigers Thursday

- At least the Tigers have a lead to protect today. Ian Kinsler has been the difference in the game, but it shouldn't mask that the Tigers haven't played that well. There have too many errors and a lot of little mistakes. But the Tigers have gotten away with it, at least so far.
- The Tigers bullpen remains very iffy. There is no way to gauge who they can or can't trust from down there. Phil Coke's ERA is nearly 12. Al Alburquerque has been wildly inconsistent. Ian Krol seemed to be a find, but today's outing was awful. Could be we'll see what Joe Nathan has today. Now that will be interesting...
- Alex Gonzalez hasn't not hit well and sometimes just doesn't make the routine play. Andrew Romine is better defensively and a left-handed hitter. It's not like Gonzalez is raking. He's not even hitting .200. I do wonder why Romine isn't playing more.

Thoughts after 4 1-2 innings Indians, Tigers Thursday

It's kind of the same old lament, I know, but the Tigers are making it a lot easier for Indians' starter Danny Salazar, who struggled with injuries this spring and early this year, by having seven right-handed bats in the lineup. It's hardly a coincidence, when the Tigers scored their only run, Victor Martinez's hit, left-handed, was the key blow. Conversely, the Indians are making it much more difficult, hitter-by-hitter, for Justin Verlander because they have so lefty hitters in there (8). Again, it's not a coincidence Verlander went over 100 pitches in just five innings. What would I do to correct the situation. How about Tyler Collins sent to Toledo and replaced by Ezequiel Carrera, who is off to a decent start for the Mud Hens. The "other" Cabrera is a left-handed bat. What is the point of having Collins on the club at this point?
- That was very nice at bat by Austin Jackson in the fourth. With a runner on third and less than two outs, the Tigers merely needed Jackson to lift a fly ball and he did it.
- I don't think Tigers' rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos, is a disaster defensively, but he needs to make that play. Period. It changed the entire course of the game.
But Verlander can't complain about it. He didn't help himself with an error in the fourth.

My column. Why I think the Bruins will defeat the Red Wings in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thoughts after two innings Indians, Tigers Wednesday

- This is a reality, which may not make Tigers' fans that comfortable, but Anibal Sanchez did display a lot of inconsistency before he pitched with the Tigers. This type of outing in which he lacked command of the baseball wasn't that uncommon when he was with the Marlins. His career WHIP coming into tonight is 1.333 with a large sample size. Both Sanchez and Max Scherzer outperformed their track records by a wide margin last season.
- It seems like Austin Jackson is not nearly the base stealing threat he was when he originally joined the Tigers. I thought it was a good call by manager Brad Ausmus to send him. I'm surprised he didn't make it.
- I'm sure Terry Francona doesn't fine his pitcher's for walking hitters, but he probably should after Zach McAllister walked Alex Avila in that situation.

My column on Joe Dumars ultimate legacy with the Pistons:

Monday, April 14, 2014

The case against the Detroit Lions trading up to take Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins in first round

Look, I believe Sammy Watkins is going to be an NFL star. If the Lions traded up from the 10th overall pick in the first round to select the wide receiver from Clemson, I'd understand why. I don't see any scenario where Watkins, who is exceptionally fast and productive, would be there at No. 10 overall.

Sammy Watkins
But I don't think it would necessarily be the right decision. This is why:
- The Lions already have a premier wide receiver in Calvin Johnson and signed free agent Golden Tate, the leading receiver for the Super Bowl champion Seahawks, as a free agent. I see tight end Eric Ebron from North Carolina, who has a very similar skill-set as 49ers' tight end Vernon Davis, as being as special at his position as Watkins is at WR. More than another wide receiver, the Lions need a TE who can split the seam deep. Ebron can do that, and runs exceptionally well after the catch, although there is a possibility he won't be there (Buffalo reportedly is considering him seriously at No.9 overall).
- This is an exceptionally deep draft at wide receiver, perhaps the deepest ever for the position. The Lions should be able to draft a receiver in the second or third that would have gone in the first round most years.
.- The Lions need to improve defensively first and foremost, especially in the backfield. Because of the depth at receiver and the relative lack of it in the secondary positions, the pickings will be a lot slimmer after the first couple rounds of this draft.
- Because the Lions are heavily-invested in the salary cap with three players (Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh), it didn't allowed them to augment their depth as much as needed during free agency. It would be taking away from their depth even more if they had one less early-round draft choice if they moved up to select Watkins.

My column on why I see the Red Wings capable of making a deep Stanley Cup run:

My column. Brad Ausmus has been anything but the next Jim Leyland so far:

Friday, April 11, 2014

No excuse for Detroit Lions Ndamukong Suh, again, putting himself above the team

Reality TV star, submarine sandwich salesperson and mythic defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh made headlines again this week by being absent from the first day of the Lions' off season program.
It was the start of new head coach Jim Caldwell's regime and his defensive star, a captain last season, wasn't there.
It brought a major distraction.
Suh: Unnecessary distractions
Caldwell was asked about it.
QB Matthew Stafford was asked about it.
RB Reggie Bush was asked about it.
So was safety, James Ihedigbo, a free agent from the Ravens who hasn't even played with Suh yet.
It wasn't about the team, and bouncing back from a terribly disappointing 7-9 season.
Nope. It was about Suh. Again.
There is a large segment of the Lions' fan base who buy into the Suh myth about how he makes everybody around him so much better despite statistics which are solid, but anything but great, since his rookie season. They will point out how these workouts are voluntary, and how Barry Sanders didn't show most of the time in the off season.
I find such defending of Suh  misguided.
First of all, it wasn't good thing about Barry Sanders that he didn't involve himself more in the team's offseason program.
Secondly, Suh doesn't have remotely the same impact on games Sanders did.
The Lions aren't being unfair here. They want to sign him to a long-term deal, and could have improved their off-season position in free agency if Suh had been signed to a contract extension.
But that ship has sailed...
As is, Suh is a $22.4 million salary cap hit, which has become an Albatross hanging around the franchise.
All this for 5.5 sacks and 49 tackles last season, continued headlines for the wrong reasons, which have become a collective head for the team and its fans, the latter who, frankly, deserve better.

My column. Unsolicited advice for Pistons owner Tom Gores:

My column. Michigan football seems a little too confused for comfort:

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Detroit Tigers, Brad Ausmus and the curious concept of Rajai Davis hitting leadoff Tuesday

When I saw the lineup Tigers' manager Brad Ausmus posted for Tuesday's game at Los Angeles, I couldn't help but laugh and think to myself, "What if Jim Leyland did that?"
Now, I understand Ausmus is in a bit of a tough spot without the DH on the road in interleague play, and still trying to get his two best hitters, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera, in the batting order. There was a right-handed pitcher working for the Dodgers, Dan Haren. OK, Alex Avila had to go in at catcher to get another left-handed hitter in the lineup. The Tigers simply don't have enough left-handed punch against right-handed pitchers to pull Avila. They have to put Martinez at first and move Cabrera to third base. That means not playing rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos, another right-handed batter, but one of the Tigers top hitters. Martinez could go to catcher vs. a lefty.

Tigers need Daniel Fields to develop quickly
But then Ausmus negated the moves by having right-handed hitting Rajai Davis not only playing left field, but leading off.

Haren is not the hard-throwing No.1 or No.2 starter he used to be. He is kind of a soft-tossing fourth of fifth starter these days. The Tigers made him seem like Orel Hershiser because they didn't have lefty threats in there. Ditto against the Dodgers' bullpen. The only reason they were able to rally late and tie it is because Martinez came up at just the right time.
Notice how often-injured right-hander Josh Beckett, fresh off a multitude of ailments, is starting tonight for the Dodgers instead of left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu, who was originally expected to get the call?. Because LA manager Don Mattingly wasn't born yesterday. He knows exactly what type of predicament this puts Ausmus in.
For one thing, it keeps Castellanos off the field and Martinez from going behind the plate. It puts Ausmus in a situation where he must depend on the left-handed hitting production of Tyler Collins or Don Kelly or Andrew Romine. Or stretch to the point he does bizarre things like leadoff Raji Davis instead of Ian Kinsler.
In fairness to Davis, he did leadoff the game with a bloop hit. But his career numbers present a large sample size and don't lie. He has .652 OPS vs. right-handed pitching and .779 OPS vs. left-handed pitching. That makes him the very definition of a platoon player. He has also not been much of a leadoff, either, despite his speed and stellar base-stealing ability. His career numbers across the board are lower at leadoff than other spots in the order.
Davis can be a very effective player or the Tigers, but only if put in spots where he can excel. Ausmus didn't put him in that position Tuesday.
He played against the percentages - and lost. It shouldn't be a surprise.
But this isn't just on Ausmus. He has been presented with a less-than-complete deck. Part of it is bad luck. If Andy Dirks weren't hurt, he'd have played, and there wouldn't have been such a nonsensical lineup. General manager Dave Dombrowski has presented Ausmus a 4-A cast in Dirks' place.
It's why it is imperative for the Tigers that left-handed hitting outfielder Daniel Fields emerge at Triple-A Toledo. He is off to a pretty good start for the Mud Hens. If that continues, it probably won't be long before he is brought to Detroit.
But if that does happen, it could be after this interleague trip. Wouldn't that be a bit late?

My column. Michigan football a little too confused for comfort: