Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's All Over

Hockey season unofficially began in Detroit today.

The baseball season has, for all intents and purposes, ended with the Cleveland Indians three game sweep of the Tigers. Yes, there is still a possibility the Tigers could make it to the playoffs. There is also a possibility I could win the lottery. Alas, those odds are roughly the same.

The Tigers will now play out the string and we can begin the hot stove league in earnest. Dave Dombrowski will have no shortage of concerns that will need to be addressed this winter. Here are some that immediately come to mind.

Do the Tigers give Pudge Rodriguez $3 million and say "Goodbye" or do they pay him $13 million to play another season in Detroit?

If Pudge is let go, then who is the everyday catcher?

Do they re-sign Kenny Rogers? Injured and over forty, can the Tigers really count on Rogers playing a full season next year?

We know that Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson appear to be in the 2008 rotation. Who gets the other two spots?

Should Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller begin next year wearing the Olde English D or in Toledo?

Does Carlos Guillen move to firstbase? If so, who becomes the shortstop?

Do they re-sign Todd Jones?

If not, is Joel Zumaya ready to be the closer?

Yes, there's plenty of fodder for the old hot stove this winter. It's probably a good thing, though. Winter has arrived a bit earlier than anticipated this year.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Week Two Lions Prediction

Detroit Lions 24 Minnesota Vikings 21

The key to tomorrow's game for Detroit? Stopping Adrian Peterson. I expect the Vikings offensive game plan to consist of A.P. running right, center and left. And, on occasion, they will throw to their prized rookie coming out of the backfield. That's it. Well, I suppose if Peterson can throw, we may see a halfback option pass, too.

I have to believe that Peterson, behind a pretty good O-line, will get his yards. However, containing him will be the key. Keep the Oklahoma product out of the endzone and I like Detroit's chances.

Jon Kitna will throw a pick or two, but if the Lions can keep the Vikings from taking the INT to the house, perhaps, they can weather the storm. Even with the turnovers, I think the Lions offense is good enough to score a few times.

Minnesota has always been a thorn in the Lions' side. If Rod Marinelli expects me or anybody else to start believing in this team, his charges had best dispatch of the Vikings on home soil.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Bonderman Out?

In his post-game press conference, Jim Leyland said that he may put Jeremy Bonderman on the shelf for the remainder of the season. The doctors say Bonderman's elbow is fine, but Leyland thought today's horrific outing suggested the contrary.

I know Bonderman has pitched lousy for weeks, but if he sits the rest of September, the Tigers chances to make the post-season wouldn't appear to be better.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Franchitti Jumps To NASCAR?

Et tu, Dario? is reporting that Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti will leave Indy Car for NASCAR in 2008. Franchitti, who is leading the Indy Car season series point chase heading into tomorrow's final race, is said to be joining Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team in the number 40 car.

At first glance, this annoys me. Why? Because I like open wheel racing. I grew up in Indy's heyday. Andretti. Mears. Unsers -- Bobby and Al. Foyt. While many of those guys could drive anything -- Big Wheels to pick-up trucks to F1 cars -- and did, the pinnacle of racing was the Indianapolis 500. That perception will never change for me, so when I hear of another blow to open wheel racing, I get ticked off.

(Truth be told, I've softened some on NASCAR in recent years. I find it tolerable. I guess I'm just not as impressed with Chevys, Fords and Toyotas going 100 mph when I see that on my drive five days a week.)

If Franchitti makes the jump he will be following in the footsteps of Juan Pablo Montoya, another open wheel racing star who was lured by the big money and enormous popularity of stock car racing. Montoya has spent 2007 in NASCAR getting tons of media attention, winning a race and angering the sport's traditional fans and fellow drivers alike. (Seems Juan is just a bit too aggressive for some.)

In addition to Franchitti and Montoya, Sam Hornish, Jr. is already running in some Busch Series races and may make the move to NASCAR full-time next year. Hornish was the Indy 500 and IRL series champion a year ago. If Franchitti and Hornish both jump at season's end, it will cap one of the biggest falls in the long decline of open wheel racing in North America.

Champ Car is not only losing it's biggest name, Sebastian Bourdais, to F1, but the series continues to cancel races. The IRL shut down the long-running race at Michigan International Speedway this year and could lose the last two Indy 500 winners to NASCAR. Yet, in spite of cancelled events, mediocre attendance and driver departures, neither side of open wheel racing's split can set aside their egos long enough to put the health of the sport first. It's not difficult to understand why drivers would opt for the financial security and stability NASCAR has to offer.

Good luck, Dario. I hate to see you go, but who knows? I may even watch a few more minutes of NASCAR next year.

First Lions Prediction

Oakland Raiders 17 Detroit Lions 14

Oh, how I hope I'm wrong. I also hope that this isn't the Lions first game in the Brian Brohm Bowl Championship Series. Although, come to think of it, Brohm has looked pretty good. Seriously, the difference between the Raiders and Middle Tennessee State isn't all that....ok, forget that.

As for the game itself, I tend to believe the Lions can pass the ball effectively, but can't run the rock. On the opposite side, Oakland's D is their strength. That match-up is a wash.

The game then comes down to the Lions defense versus the Raiders O. I believe the Lions can stuff the run (to an extent) and the Black and Silver can run the ball (to an extent). That sounds like another push to me. That only leaves the Lions secondary against the Raiders passing game. I've got little hope for the Detroiters pass defense. Of course, I'm not sure any of the Raiders passers can live up to that moniker.

That means the game is close, probably comes down to special teams, mistakes or intangibles. The latter is the reason for my three point spread favoring Oakland.

The Raiders starting quarterback will either be ex-Lions signal caller Josh McCown or the free agent QB some in town wanted the Lions to sign as insurance for Jon Kitna, Dante Culepepper. Wouldn't it be just typical if the Honolulu Blue and Silver fell to last season's worst team with either a free agent QB they let go, or a free agent QB they never even considered, leading the way?

Tigers' closer Todd Jones is going to hate me, but I'm taking the Raiders and hoping I'm very wrong.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Belated Detroit Grand Prix Pics

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves in Turn # 6. Castroneves captured the pole at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, but crashed during the race. Both of Grand Prix promoter Roger Penske's cars are having tough seasons. I think it's safe to say that both Castroneves and Hornish are having disappointing seasons. (I fully expect Hornish to make the NASCAR jump in 2008. Who that leaves to drive Penske's #6 Indy Car becomes the question.)

An aside, I wish there was some seating along the back stretch. One of the appeals of Indy Car racing is the speed these cars can obtain. When I went to Michigan International Speedway a couple of years ago, the average speed was over 200 mph. While the road course does bring the speeds down, I'd still love to be able to watch the straight away portion.

Belated Detroit Grand Prix Pics

Here's Indy Car's biggest star, Danica Patrick, in Turn # 6. Remember, I'm a blogger, not a photographer. Also, keep in mind, that while this was a practice session, it's not like these cars stopped to give me a good photo op.

I admit that I've grown to like Danica. I'm nowhere near her biggest fan, however, I've grown to respect her performance. She's not the best driver in the circuit, but she can certainly hold her own in this series. I think she will win more than enough to placate the doubters.

As for Danica-mania? Well, it does bring people to the race and does give Indy Car some extra media attention. Although, I can't help but feel bad for the other drivers. Guys like Sam Hornish and Dan Wheldon have won the season series in Indy Car and the Indianapolis 500, but can't get 1/100th the amount of media attention. It just seems Danica gets a disproportionate amount of attention considering where Indy Car ranks in the American sports fan's priority list.

Basically, I wonder how can Danica be a big deal if Indy Car, isn't? And if Indy Car is a big deal, why can't guys who have won the season series or, more importantly, the sport's biggest race, get some love?

Belated Detroit Grand Prix Pics

A look at the flags in Grandstand # 2. While I consider myself an open wheel race fan, I came away from the Grand Prix with a great appreciation for the American Le Mans Series. While there were different classes of racing going on all at once, a factor I think hurts the series with non-race fans, I found the varying styles of cars to be a plus.

You had Corvettes and Audis on the track at the same time as Porsches and Acuras. I still couldn't tell you which car is in what class, but I thought the Belle Isle course might be even better suited for the ALMS field than the Indy Cars. (A more knowledgeable racing fan can correct me, if that's way off base.)

Belated Detroit Grand Prix Pics

Even though these are a week late, I did want to share some of the pictures I took from the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. Keep in mind that I am not a photographer. This one is of pit lane.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Voting For Bonderman

When the "Who's Your Tiger?" is posed, I give Curtis Granderson serious consideration. I've always been a Sean Casey fan, too. How can you not love Justin Verlander? However, the answer to that thought provoking query for me is Jeremy Bonderman.

As such, when I learned that Bonderman was overlooked for the American League All-Star Team, I was disappointed. Not shocked, as a number of A.L. starters are having big seasons, but still disappointed for the guy.

When I found out that Bonderman could still land in San Francisco, via MLB's wonderfully contrived The Final Vote, I headed straight to the ballot box. Now, I will follow the Tigers lead and encourage you to send Jeremy Bonderman to S.F. Get out and vote for My Tiger.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Draft Day Just Got More Interesting

Dre' Bly got his wish. He's out of the Honolulu Blue and Silver. Detroit's Pro Bowl cornerback will now apply his craft for the Denver Broncos. In return for shipping the disgruntled Bly to the Rocky Mountains, the Lions received RB Tatum Bell, OL George Foster and a fifth round draft pick. Which, in all honesty, is about two players greater than what I thought Bly would command in the trade market.

Now, I have concerns about Bell. He might be a product of that Denver running scheme which might make me a 1,000 yard rusher. And, if I recall correctly, Bell has a fumbling issue. Not exactly what you want from a guy you hand the rock to. As for Foster, I know only two things. 1) The standard information about his background that all of you have read today. 2) He's got to be better than the offensive linemen the Lions employed a season ago. Then again, had the Lions acquired a 300 lb. block of swiss cheese, I might be tempted to say the same thing. The fifth rounder, that's just a bonus.

While this trade appears to fill two voids on the Lions roster, the truly interesting part of this deal is how it may alter the Lions draft strategy. (Insert joke about using the terms Lions and draft strategy here.) Before the deal, it seemed like Detroit was destined to take OT Joe Thomas. Now, having obtained a tackle via Denver, drafting Thomas seems less likely. Bell's arrival diminishes the chances of the Lions contemplating the selection of Adrian Peterson. Who does that leave?

Well, boys and girls, that's the fun part. The Lions would appear to be more likely to select a quarterback, LSU's JeMarcus Russell, or wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Yes, another wideout. This deal just made the improbable become possible. Only the Lions.

There are rumors about that the Lions may ship out the freshly acquired Bell and Foster to purchase more draft choices. That would seem kind of odd as both players fill pressing voids that the Lions would need to address in the draft anyway. However, we are talking about the Lions here so everything is in play.

The scenario that makes the most sense is keeping both ex-Broncos and drafting the fill other spots. That's where drafting a quarterback, a year after signing both Josh McCown and Jon Kitna to big deals and only a few weeks after claiming they didn't need a quarterback, comes into light. I'm not sure the Lions have the courage to use their top pick in the draft to select a QB only to have him hold the clipboard for a season. When you need lots of immediate help, it's going to be difficult to select a player for the future with your top draft choice. Which brings us to Mr. Johnson.

The Georgia Tech standout not only had a fine college career, but just dazzled scouts at the cattle call that is the NFL Combine. If he wasn't before, Johnson is now at the top of many team's draft boards. His size, speed and overall skills have nearly all the football geeks in an uproar. He's simply the best player in the draft. Only one problem, though. Matt Millen hasn't had much success in taking wide receivers high in the draft. And, oh, has he had experience with that.

This is where Millen's shoddy draft record really comes back to bite him and the organization. If he had chosen anyone other than Charles Rogers, Roy Williams or Mike Williams in any of those drafts, we wouldn't have an ounce of controversy surrounding the possibility of landing Johnson in the draft. But, instead, three first round wideouts later -- one unemployed, another soon to be -- the Lions might be faced with having to take yet another pass catcher with their top pick. You have to love this team. They can't even take the best player in the draft because they've screwed up so many past drafts.

There is even one more plot I haven't discussed. Regardless of whomever the Raiders select with the top choice, the Lions opt against Thomas (we have OT's), Johnson (not going the WR route, again), Russell (can't afford to draft a player to sit) and Peterson (we have our RB's, thank you). They go completely off the top four playmakers and pick someone I'm not discussing. Oh, what fun talk radio will be the Monday after that.

I have no idea if today's trade makes the Lions a better football team in 2007, but I do know that it has opened some doors I thought were closed -- drafting either a QB or WR -- and, thus, makes their draft even a bit more compelling than it already was.

You Should Be Reading

If you aren't already, you should be reading the Detroit Free Press' Carlos Monarrez' weekly golf column. Not only is his regular golf piece funny, insightful and often thought provoking, it's anything but your standard golf fare. His Quick 9 segment is one of the best list features in all of sports. Even if you don't follow the PGA Tour, I think you'd enjoy the quality of work Monarrez provides each week.

I know as a blogger there is an unwritten rule against praising traditional media guys, especially sports writers. Yet, I have to go against the grain on this one. While reading his column today, I was reminded just what a quality writer Monarrez is and that we should enjoy his work while it's right here in our own backyard.