Thursday, December 30, 2004

OSU Admits Problem

I guess Andy Geiger is wrong. Ohio State University isn't beyond impropriety. The university now admits that starting quarterback Troy Smith got a "gift" from a Buckeye booster. The gift violated NCAA rules and the contribution got Smith suspended for the Alamo Bowl.

When Geiger, the OSU athletic director, was asked about the possibility of Maurice Clarett's accusations of gifts, money and other perks, Geiger went postal. His vehement, demeaning denial of Clarett's assertions were laughable even before the Smith incident arose. Geiger's response is the problem with big-time college athletics.

What Geiger and every single other AD, college president and head football coach in Division I-A needs to do is stop the charade. Everyone is breaking NCAA rules and not just the obviously stupid ones, either. Most schools are, at best, bending the rules on academics, contributions and anything else that deals with the old school notion of amateurism.

The funny part is that university administrators actually talk about the old world concepts of student/athlete like they ever existed. Using academically ineligible players, paying athletes under-the-table and renegade booster clubs are older than Knute Rockne. Yet, the schools, their alumni and fans all love to chirp about their institution's "clean program". Please.

The Marx Brothers did a movie where Groucho, playing the dean of a university, headed off to a local speakeasy to entice some local ringers to play for his football team. If the Marx Brothers could come up with a plot, (I use the term "plot" with the Marx Brothers loosely) based on using ineligible football players during Prohibition, how remote was the concept way back then? Does anyone really think that the situation has improved with all the money now being tossed around the nation's football stadiums?

Yet, school officials and fans continue to play pretend. They don't want their party ended. Instead of facing the truth and revising the rules of eligibility, they lower academic standards, create special degree programs and find new ways to keep their athletes students. Never mind the graduation rate or the fact that many of these specially designed credit hours won't transfer to a community college. Just keep the kids on the field come Saturday.

Frankly, I stopped caring about all the illegal activity years ago. Let 'em cheat. Just like the diehards, I don't want my season bogged down with all this academic and improper benefit nonsense. If the universities don't care about their own standards, that's fine by me.

Just spare me the "My school does things the right way" garbage. That's the tone Mr. Geiger set forth. We can see how well that has turned out.

Big Unit In Big Apple

Maybe, just maybe, the trade that would send Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees is complete. Maybe. After hearing about this on-again, off-again trade for seemingly a month, I'll wait for the news conference before assuming it's a done deal. Yet, it does appear likely that Johnson has gotten the trade he desired.

I have to admit, I am rarely bothered by the Yankees mindless acquisitions. Why? Mostly because they are mindless, but, in large part, because the best team on paper doesn't always win. Remember how the Los Angeles Lakers were going to crush the Detroit Pistons? How about those same bad, old Yankees who were up three games to none over Boston? Yeah, the Red Sox' payroll is huge, but who thought NY would cave in up 3-0?

If, however, the Yankees get Johnson AND sign Carlos Beltran I am going to be a bit annoyed. That's too much talent, even for the Bronx Bombers. I won't go screaming salary cap, but fans from other teams sure will. So will the media.

I also don't like this because Johnson forced this deal. He is tired of losing in Arizona, even though he signed a contract with them, and refused to go anywhere other than New York's American League entry. Basically, Johnson is trying to cherry pick a title. Much like Roger Clemens did. Much like Karl Malone tried to. I don't blame any of them for trying to grab a ring, but I don't have to like the way they do it.

I never wasted much time rooting against the Yankees. Not since the 70's, anyway. However, I'm already primed to join the anti-Yankee forces in 2005 should NY grab both Big Unit and Beltran. The Johnson trade may already be done, but here's hoping Carlos Beltran chooses anyone other than the Yankees.

As a aside, there is a potential Detroit Tigers angle on the Big Unit trade. reports that:

According to (Peter) Gammons' sources, Arizona will not immediately deal (Javier) Vazquez to another team, but will continue to talk to interested teams, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit and Texas.

I wonder if the Tigers get a discounted Vazquez, as the Yankees should be eating a large portion of his contract, if they could still afford to add another free agent starter? I wonder if Mike Maroth, who seems like the least appreciated Tiger starter, would be part of the deal to acquire Vazquez from Arizona?

I'm not Javier Vazquez crazy. He's a guy with a career .500 mark (78-78). His ERA is a decent 4.26. Hardly spectacular numbers. Conversely, Vazquez does average over 200 innings of work per year and strikes out an average of 186 batters per season. Again, not mind-numbing totals, but better than most starters.

Vazquez is two years younger than Kevin Millwood and three years younger than Derek Lowe, the two free agents pitchers the Tigers are currently rumored to be interested in. However, Millwood's got a myriad of medical concerns including his pitching arm, while Lowe's numbers are on a three year decline.

If the Tigers can obtain Vazquez, with the Yankees paying him the majority of his contract, I would find it hard to object to making the deal. He would seem like a better bargain, depending on the terms of his contract, than the remaining free agents hurlers on the market.

The best case scenario might be sending either Maroth or Jason Johnson to the Diamondbacks to get Vazquez, peddling the one the D-Backs don't want to someone else to get help at another position, then adding Lowe. A rotation of Vazquez, Lowe, Bonderman, Robertson and Ledezma doesn't sound half bad. It also sounds like a group more to Dave Dombrowski's liking.

What do I know? I'm just a blogger. I'm only doing what 90% of the baseball media does this time of the year-thinking out loud. However, maybe, just maybe, something good for the Tigers can come of New York's latest blockbuster deal.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Tigers Still After Beltran

This courtesy of the Houston Chronicle via's Hot Stove Truth and Rumors Report:

Mets GM Omar Minaya is about to make his move on Carlos Beltran. The Mets are in the process of setting up a meeting with Beltran and his agent, Scott Boras, for early next week. The Cubs and Tigers also remain in the hunt for Beltran, who is no longer listening to teams not willing to offer at least a seven-year deal. -- Houston Chronicle

That has to warm a few hearts in Tigertown. Landing Beltran would sell some tickets, create tons of positive buzz for the team and, most importantly, make them better on-the-field. I get uneasy about anything over a five year deal, though. If a seven year deal with Beltran were structured so that it didn't financially handcuff the organization for its duration, who could be opposed to adding a player of Beltran's ability?

Later on in's report, the obligatory mention of Derek Lowe and Odalis Perez being linked to the Tigers appears. I think Lowe will come, if he lowers his demands. I just don't see Dave Dombrowski handing him a multi-year contract above about eight million a year.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

This Isn't Helping

I don't think Lynn Henning, of The Detroit News, is helping me feel better about the 2005 Detroit Tigers with this piece. Not that making me feel better about our local nine is his job.

Saban Turns Pro

Any Michigan State fans surprised to hear this one? Finally, Nick Saban has moved onto the NFL. The former LSU boss took the Miami Dolphins job. I know that no one in East Lansing is even a wee bit shocked at this breaking news.

I can't say that I blame Saban for grabbing Miami's coaching job. The NFL has pursued him for years. The Dolphins gig is still a high profile NFL job in my mind. It sounds like he will be given most, if not all, the power to run the organization. However, I never quite understand when coaches of Saban's ilk make this kind of move.

Why would Saban leave Baton Rouge? Yeah, Saban's a pro football guy, but the downside just seems so big. There is a long laudry list of failed college coaches the NFL has kicked aside. He will have a honeymoon period, but once the honeymoon ends that shiny national championship trophy the Tigers captured on Saban's watch won't buy him an ounce of goodwill with Dolphins fans.

It's not just Saban, either. Coaches like Bob Stoops get the NFL call constantly. I can't see why a successful coach at one of the big time programs would jump to the pros when life can be so much better in the college game. At LSU, Saban was something between governor and king. I suspect the same thing is true for guys like Stoops, Pete Carroll (who knows all about the rigors of the NFL), Bobby Bowden, and many others. Why toss all that out the window for a longshot at glory?

I suppose it's ego, but how many times do you get a chance to be king of the hill?

Saban has flirted with the NFL since the day he left the pro game, so I'm not at all surprised he took the jump. I can't blame him for wanting to move on, but I can't quite understand leaving LSU, either.

Lions Diary

Even when the Detroit Lions have good luck, it's probably bad luck in the end.

The Lions held on to a 19-13 win over the Chicago Bears today. Pitching a shutout at the half, the Lions didn't bother to play the final two quarters and the Bears managed to cut the Lions lead to six points. With the final minutes ticking away, Bears quarterback Chad Hutchinson tossed a long strike that appeared to be a game tying touchdown.

However, the officials on the field ruled the pass incomplete. After further video review, amazingly and incorrectly, the officials stuck with their original call. The Bears were unable to score again and the Lions won.

Was there any Lions fan out there who didn't think the Lions lost when Bernard Berrian caught the pass? Even if you didn't think it was a TD, once you saw the replays, I'll bet nearly everyone who has ever rooted for the Honolulu Blue figured the Lions were going to face a game deciding PAT shortly.

Unbelievably, and this week's finish was unbelievable for Lions' faithful, the call stood and the Lions got a win. Now, here is the bigger question. Did the Lions really get screwed by win?

Seriously. The Lions have probably cost themselves a slot in the draft by winning today. If they manage to beat a fading Tennessee squad next week, they will move even further down in the first round. Now, maybe, just maybe the best O-lineman or safety will be available wherever the Lions end up, but the pessimistic Lions fan in me worries that today's win is a draft day loss.

Besides, today's win amounts to what? First, The Lions are not going to the post-season. Second, it was an ugly win. I mean an ugly win. Joey Harrington certainly didn't re-assure anyone today. His hot streak ended at one game. Although, in his defense, Roy Williams reverted to the player I remember at Texas who disappeared in big games. Williams bordered on brutal this afternoon. I think he dropped about three passes that hit him right on the hands. Nice.

Stephen Alexander and Az-Zahir Hakim dropped their weekly allotment of Harrington tosses, too. Even if between the three of them they held onto five more passes, Harrington's day looks 75% better. They didn't.

The defense was mediocre. They were blessed with Hutchinson's lack of playmakers and his own shortcomings. They did make some plays, but Thomas Jones ran circles around them.

In general, I like the Lions defensive front. They are an above-average unit. The linebackers have potential, especially if Boss Bailey returns in good shape, but they do concern me a bit. Teddy Lehman has speed, but seems to miss quite a few tackles. He also seems to be late on many plays. For a guy they are considering a middle linebacker, that scares me a bit. I like Lehman, but he just needs to make more plays.

The secondary needs work and everyone in town knows it. Safety is the primary concern, but I'd take a quality corner, too. Unfortunately, one will not be coming via free agency as the Lions already have too much money tied up in Dre Bly and Fernando Bryant. A mid to late round draft choice on a corner would seem mandatory.

I shouldn't complain. The Lions won a stinking game. The big call went the Lions way. I shouldn't worry about where the Leos are going to draft in April. I should take my win and be happy. However, that would put my membership in the Lions fan club on suspension. No need to worry, that isn't about to happen.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Brown Out

Is anyone else wondering if Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown is losing it? Seems the coach has gone mentally AWOL since the brawl. During his interview on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption, Brown sounded like a guy ready to walk away. Not that Brown walking away from a coaching gig is anything new. It's his trademark.

Right now, I really don't care if Brown quits tonight. Not that I don't care about Larry Brown, the person. I do. I am, however, growing increasingly weary of Coach Brown the lamenter. He's not happy with his team's play. He's not happy with the league. He's not happy with the officials. He's not happy about three point field goals. He's upset about the Olympic experience.

Brown seems to spend an inordinate amount of time lamenting his sport and his job in it. This all begs the question I am sure Coach Brown asks himself daily. "Why are you here, again?".

I realize Brown has had an exceptionally emotional year. He coached in Detroit while his family stayed in the Philadelphia area all of last year. He won a championship. He was the Olympic basketball coach, what used to be a great honor, only to see that get blown up in his face. He had hip surgery. He came back to see the brawl, has had to endure his child becoming afraid to attend the game he has taught forever and watch his championship team struggle to play .500 hoops.

That enough to make even the most calm people a little edgy. For an emotional person like Brown, it must be almost unbearable. However, for a guy who has dedicated his life to the game and who has moved around as much as Brown has, you would think some of this would be less stressful. However, Brown is clearly distraught.

I wonder if his disenchantment is wearing off on his team? What I don't wonder about is Larry Brown's future. He will leave the Pistons at season's end. That's, of course, assuming he makes it that long. At the current rate of his frustration, I have doubts he will make it past the All-Star break. For his own sake, maybe that's best.

Lions Diary

Breezing through the internet today, I've read all kinds of articles on the poor Philadelphia Eagles. Seems another East Coast city feels its team may be cursed. They've got to be kidding. The Eagles are cursed? Three straight conference title games. A Super Bowl appearance in 1980 (if my memory is correct). MVP candidates at quarterback and wide receiver. More Pro Bowlers this year than anyone else. If they are cursed, what the heck are the Lions?

One playoff win since 1957. Zero appearances in the Super Bowl. Two players paralyzed on the field. Another player killed on his front lawn. The most prominent player in the team's history quit right before the season began. More confounding losses, both regular and post-season, than just about anyone.

Eagles fans think they have problems? I'll admit that it must be horribly frustrating to get that close to a Super Bowl only to lose. In fact, I know it is. However, even without Terrell Owens, the Eagles have a chance to make the Super Bowl no matter how slim it may now appear. The Lions, conversely, don't have any chance at all. Again.

Reducing Suspensions

By now, you've all heard about the arbitrator's decision to end the suspension of Indiana Pacer Jermaine O'Neal. The arbitrator upheld David Stern's suspensions of Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson, but felt O'Neal's should be shortened. The NBA plans to take the matter to federal court as they don't want Stern's power usurped by an outside authority.

What has caught me by surprise is how many media folks are agreeing with the arbitrator's decision. Most of those applauding the decision suggest O'Neal's behavior was less abhorrent than that of Artest and Jackson, both of whom entered the stands. Apparently, and unbelievably, few of them watched the entire video.

Did I miss something? Wasn't the one Palace of Auburn Hills employee injured when O'Neal tossed him over the scorer's table? Wasn't that security guard attempting to keep O'Neal on the floor? That employee, last I heard, was still unable to return to work.

Apparently, had O'Neal gotten on the other side of the scorer's table and tossed the employee over it, that would have been bad. However, since O'Neal was still on the floor, tossing a security guard doesn't count.

Using the reasoning that O'Neal never entered the stands or didn't do anything other than punch the one fan on the floor is flawed. It neglects the fact O'Neal tried to participate off the court, but was stopped albeit temporarily. O'Neal clocked a fan on the floor (yeah, the guy was asking for it) and injured a security guard. In my book, he did more damage than Artest did.

I'm also troubled by those lamenting Commissioner Stern's attempt to negate the arbitrator's ruling. Some of the pundits are whining about Stern's ego. They claim he is power hungry, unable to admit to something wrong, granted too much authority, blah, blah, blah.... Of course, he is.

The question is: What do you want? A commissioner that has complete control over every aspect of the league or one that has to wait to make a decision pending approval? One that makes a decision, but has it rescinded? I'm all in favor of due process, but sports need to be able to police themselves. That's what we have commissioners for in the first place. (See Kenesaw Landis.)

If you want a tribunal or other outside force to govern sports, just be prepared for more cases like Steve Howe. Because that's exactly what you are going to get.

Update: A federal judge has upheld the arbitrator's decision regarding Jermaine O'Neal's reduced suspension. O'Neal can play Christmas Day against the Pistons.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Tigers Hot Stove Recap

There was some news on the Detroit Tigers amongst all the wailing over the Lions. Here is a Free Press piece about missing out on Adrian Beltre. Rumor has it the Tigs offered up quite a bit to land Seattle's new thirdbaseman. Maybe even more than what he signed with the M's for.

Freep baseball guy, John Lowe, also offers up this on Derek Lowe.

On the radio today, I heard Kevin Millwood's name arise as a potential Tigers target. Sure, it's purely speculation, but I'm not thrilled. Like 99% of the free agent crop, especially pitchers, for the right contract, adding Millwood would be acceptable. However, the right contract for the Tigers and the right contract for Millwood (or Lowe) might be very different.

Here is where I make my daily pitch for Magglio Ordonez. I thought the ex-Chicago outfielder was supposed to work out for teams during the Winter Meetings, but I never heard how he fared or if the workout ever took place. One national baseball writer did mention Ordonez as a potential late signing by the Tigers on a local radio show this morning.

That probably carries all the weight my regular pleas for Ordonez do, but I would at least like to know just how bad Ordonez' knees are. If he can play, he can be an extremely dangerous bat. I'd love to see the Tigers offer Ordonez a deal similar to what Ivan Rodriguez got. An incentive laden, two year, big money deal to Ordonez would be perfect. He will need to play and play well to make the big money, but give the guy a chance to earn it. If he can't play, then make sure he doesn't financially crush you.

Lots of baseball geeks are expecting a trade or two. I'm all in favor of the concept, but can't even begin to imagine the parties coming Detroit's way.

Eric Munson wasn't offered a contract today. Alex Sanchez and Brandon Inge (two guys who may be trade bait) were both offered deals at today's deadline.

Lions Diary

Twenty-four hours later and the Lions loss remains the talk of the town. I have to admit I am stunned by the locals who are stunned at the Lions most recent loss. Some are calling it the most heartbreaking loss in a quarter century.

That's a bit over-the-top for my taste. If it was a playoff contest, maybe. Even then, the missed PAT was only for tie game. There was no guarantee the Lions would win in overtime. No, as painful as the latest Lions defeat was/is for many, it wouldn't even make my top ten disappointments.

In spite of all of today's rampant depression, I should point out some positives from yesterday's near miss. Joey Harrington had his best game as a pro. He had some gaudy stats, not the least of which was a 300 yard passing performance, but it was his ability to lead the Lions on two long scoring drives in the fourth quarter that has everyone wondering.

Is the Minnesota game indicative of the Joey Harrington we can expect for the next ten years or was it an aberration? We will have a better idea after the Bears game this Sunday. Harrington needs to start putting together consecutive solid outings. Another fine game versus Chicago and the Harrington bandwagon will be loading up. A step back and the Harrington haters will be out in full force and with lots of evidence to support their case.

I sure hope I am wrong about Harrington. I said well over a month ago, I thought he was done in Detroit. I'll stick by that, as one game does not make a career, but I hope yesterday's game is the beginning of Harrington's emergence as a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback. I really, really hope I am wrong.

The rookies, Kevin Jones and Roy Williams, continue to impress. Williams caught passes for over 100 yards while scoring twice. Jones, who has a shot at a 1,000 yard campaign, also reached the end zone Sunday. If Harrington, Williams and Jones can play like that on a consistent basis, the Lions will make the playoffs on a regular basis.

However, it's this perception of the Lions being close to success that makes them so distressing. They appear to be a playoff team, but cannot budge above an 8-8 record. They win games versus quality teams that they should lose, but lose games against inferior competition that they should win. They assemble what appears to be a team a piece or two away from big time success, only to go without ever finding the missing pieces. They are a play or two away from advancing in the post-season, only to be unable to make the extra play necessary to gain a victory.

It's been like this for as long as I can remember. Still, in spite of the years of nearly unimaginable losses, the fans continue to watch, cheer and hope. That doesn't change anymore than the results.

Here is more Lions coverage than one person should be able to handle:

Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press

Curt Sylvester, Detroit Free Press

Bob Wojnowski, Detroit News

Rob Parker, Detroit News

Mike O'Hara, Detroit News

Keith Langlois, The Daily Oakland Press

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Pitchers Pass Tigers By

Any other Detroit Tigers fans upset that so many quality pitchers are changing teams and the Tigers can't land one of them? I can understand not getting a free agent, but number one starters, who are almost never traded, are changing partners more often than Brittany Spears.

When Carl Pavano opted for the New York Yankees, I understood. He's an east coast guy. The Yankees have Pavano over for lunch with Yogi Berra, he runs into Don Mattingly in the hall, Joe Torre shows him the Babe Ruth and Lou Gerhig plaques in the Yankee Stadium outfield and Pavano's day ends with dinner with Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter. Oh, and the guy who owns the Yankees finishes the meal with a big check and a pinstripe jersey. That's a hard sales pitch to beat.

However, in the last four days, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder (of Michigan State University) got shipped out of Oakland. I defer to Billy Beane's judgement on what Oakland got in return for two of the premier starters in the American League, but at first glance, I'm not overwhelmed. I'm disappointed as I would have thought the Tigers could have mustered something close to what the A's received from either Atlanta or St. Louis. Honestly, I'd like to think the Tigers would have offered more.

The only Tiger I would not have traded to get either Hudson or Mulder was Jeremy Bonderman. Well, Pudge, too, but I don't think Beane wanted Rodriguez or his contract anyway. I would have sent anyone and everyone else in the organization to the Atheltics in exchange for baseball's most elusive commodity-a true number one starter.

How many legitimate number one guys are there anyway? Twelve? Twenty? Twenty-five? If you choose anything less than thirty, that means there are fewer true top of the rotation starters than there are teams. What kind of premium does that place on getting just one? What would you not give up to land one?

There are some fans in Tigertown who think signing Derek Lowe at ten million a year is worth it simply because he is a good pitcher. I object. I'd rather give Hudson or Mulder, who are younger, more dependable and have more upside, fifteen million a season for the next five years than give Lowe or someone of his ilk ten million per year.

It's not because I dislike Lowe. I just think there is a difference between getting a true number one starter and landing a veteran who, by default or contract size, is your number one starter.

I still trust Dave Dombrowski to make some necessary changes to improve this team for 2005, but I can't help but be disappointed to see the Tigers miss out on such a unique opportunity to acquire a coveted top of the rotation pitcher.

Lions Diary

Unbelievable. That's the word most often used to describe the Detroit Lions one point loss to Minnesota today. Even many of the veteran media types around the Motor City were using that word. I'd expect that from the out-of-town guys, but not anyone who has paid any attention to Lions football over the last ten, twenty or thirty years.

Today's defeat was many things, but it was not unbelievable. In fact, it was completely believable to fans of a team that has been unable to get out of its own way for almost half a century.

The Lions fell behind in this contest, mostly courtesy of long Vikings' pass plays. However, just when you thought the Leos were dead, Joey Harrington (yes, that Joey Harrington) led the Honolulu Blue and Silver to two fourth quarter touchdown drives. The last one coming with only seconds left on the clock. That's when the totally believable happened.

Jason Hanson, one of the more dependable kickers in the league, lined up to kick a game tying PAT. Unfortunately, the snapper didn't quite peform his job perfectly. A lousy snap arrived at holder Nick Harris on the hop. Harris did snag the ball, but Hanson never got close to attempting a kick. Harris was tackled while trying to retreive the misfired snap. The clock runs out. Minnesota wins, 28-27.

Disappointing. Depressing. Disheartening. Even typical would be an accurate description. It was anything but unbelievable. Maybe in football towns like Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Dallas or Denver, where multiple Vince Lombardi Trophies reside, unbelievable would be an appropriate synopsis. However, here, in Detroit, this keystone cop routine is all too familar.

Anyone want to relive Marty Mornhinweg's choice to kick-off in overtime? How about Bobby Ross' infamous two-point decision versus Arizona? Anyone recall Sterling Sharpe running unguarded down the Silverdome sideline? The blow-out playoff losses at Philadelphia or in D.C.? Ed Murray's miss in 'Frisco?

A regular season, one point loss to Minnesota due to a bad PAT snap is hardly unbelievable. In light of Lions' history, it barely merits mentioning amongst heartbreaking or unexplainable defeats. This sort of loss has been happening to Detroit's NFL entry for almost fifty years now. When the Lions start winning games like this one, then people can start tossing around unbelievable again.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Pedro Pouts

Pedro Martinez is, perhaps, my favorite pitcher of all-time. He was as dominant as any hurler I have ever seen. However, Pedro seems intent on making himself look bad this off-season. The newest member of the New York Mets went off about a number of Boston subjects. Here is the link.

Pedro sounds more like a pouting child than anything else. He typifies what most fans hate about the modern athlete, baseball players in particular. He equates respect to cash. His skills fade, but he demands the same money (respect) as he got at the peak of his ability. He refuses to embrace a secondary role, in spite of the fact doing so just brought him and Boston a championship. Is it any wonder Red Sox management decide not to keep Pedro?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Hot Stove League Notes

The old Hot Stove League is really hot today. First, Adrian Beltre signs with Seattle. I know many in Tigertown wanted him here. Yes, I was penciled in on that list. I may be crazy, but his five year, $65 million deal doesn't seem all that bad. I was really expecting him to make much more. Sure, $13 million a year is still lottery money to most of us, but in light of the cash being tossed around, it's not too bad for a twenty-five year old coming off a 48 homer season.

Critics will say his career could crash and burn. True. But that's true for every player ever acquired. Given a choice between paying J.D. Drew $10 million a year or Beltre's $13 million, I'll take Beltre. I've always been a Drew fan, but his injuries, attitude issues and limited success in The Show make me uneasy.

Then there is the Tim Hudson deal. Atlanta always seems to find a way to compete, don't they? This has to be the deal of the off-season, so far. I've read where two of the prospects shipped to Oakland for Hudson are not predicted to be superstars and the third is a big-time talent. That's all fine and good, but the Braves got a Cy Young caliber pitcher right now. I'll take that end of the deal more often than not. (Note to Tiger fans: This indicates that the Tigers didn't have much on hand in the minors to offer Billy Beane. I can't imagine they wouldn't have chased Hudson, in light of their desire for Carl Pavano. Apparently, they didn't have three prospects interesting enough for Beane.)

There is breaking news that the Yankees may have finally gotten Randy Johnson in a three team deal. Here is a link.

As an update to my recent post about my concerns over Derek Lowe, Bill at posts this sharing my sentiments. Nearly every Tiger fan I talk to or hear on the radio screams about getting any and all pitchers available. A really good starter would be wonderful. Problem is, there just aren't any out there.

I'm just not jumping up and down about guys like Lowe, Matt Clement and Estaban Loaiza. All three are decent, but not worth $8 million or more a season. Making a long term financial commitment to any of them scares me. At the right price, however, if the Tigers signed all three, I would give it a thumbs up.

Free agency is lamented by many. It's increased salaries beyond comprehension and led to enormous amounts of player movement. On a positive note, this environment has also made the Hot Stove League hotter than ever.

Nationals No More?

Before Washington ever returned to baseball, they appear to be gone again. I can't say as though I blame the council member who demanded someone, in addition to the District of Columbia, pay for part of a new stadium. That seems more like common sense than a radical move. However, as much as I would like to see baseball back in the nation's capital, I think it's time for Bud Selig to cut his losses (both in PR and real dollars). It's time for contraction.

Sorry, but the MLB team formerly known as the Expos couldn't make it in Montreal or Puerto Rico and can't find a place to play or an owner in D.C. It's time for this three ring circus to end. Baseball has enough public relations problems with the steroid fiasco. It doesn't need to struggle to find a home for one of it's franchises. The time has come to dissolve the team hoping to be the Nationals.

Monday, December 13, 2004

When No News Is Good News

In my last post, I lamented the Detroit Tigers inactivity during the just concluded Winter Meetings. However, as much as I want to see the ballclub make some moves to improve, I do not want Dave Dombrowski shelling out long term, big money deals just to appease bozos like me.

I read today that Derek Lowe, a player many want the Tigers to sign, is looking for a deal around twelve million dollars a year. I'd like to have Lowe with Detroit, but let's get two things straight. First, Lowe is not, never has been and never will be a legitimate number one starter. Honestly, as good as the Dearborn native was in the post-season for Boston, I think Jeremy Bonderman has better stuff. Tim Hudson is a number one starter. As is Randy Johnson. Lowe, even on the Tigers, looks like a number two guy at best.

That said, and secondly, there is no way in the world the Tigers should even consider giving Lowe anything above ten million a year. Do you really want to give a guy ten, eleven or twelve million a year although he might not even be your Opening Day starter? Lowe's numbers have been in decline for years and he plays for a championship team. Can we really expect a twelve million dollar performance from Lowe just because he dons the Old English D?

Lowe would be a solid addition, but not at that price. I know the market has gone up again this off-season, but I just can't see the Tigers giving Lowe or Matt Clement that kind of coin. I don't mean to hammer Lowe, either. He's not alone. I thought Troy Glaus got too much, as did Steve Finley. I'm not sure about J.D. Drew, either. In light of his injury history, giving Drew anything over six million a season seems crazy to me.

I'd rather skip both Lowe and Drew and give fifteen million a year to Adrian Beltre. He is young, plays a position the Tigers are looking to fill and has far more upside than either Lowe or Drew. Sure, Beltre has questions, too, but he's got years ahead of him. Plus one monster season behind him.

At twenty-five and playing in the bigs for seven years, the same amount of time as Drew as been in The Show, Beltre has twenty more homers and 127 more RBI. Drew is also three years older. Drew may have some more solid seasons ahead, but I worry the Tigers are going to make a Bobby Higginson-type contract offer to Drew only to end up with similar results.

Yes, I'm all in favor of the headline grabbing free agent signing. (Insert my daily plea to talk to Scott Boras about Magglio Ordonez here.) I'm also in favor of not painting the franchise into the corner for another decade waiting for bad contracts to come off the books. It's fun contemplating the Tigers next move, but it's no fun when they can't make a move because they are all tapped out of money.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

No New Tigers Yet

Carl Pavano is a Yankee. Troy Glaus went to Arizona. Steve Finley opted for Anaheim. The Tigers are 0 for 3 in their pursuit of free agents at the Winter Meetings. Detroit's front office appears headed for Plan B or maybe C. Corey Koskie, J.D. Drew and Derek Lowe are now the names most often being mentioned around town.

The Tigers are, as Peter Gammons put it on WFAN radio, "in on everyone". However, "everyone" doesn't seem to include guys like Matt Clement and Magglio Ordonez, two guys I think they should consider. Even the Adrian Beltre rumors don't seem to be coming from Detroit.

It could be Scott Boras tossing names around or writers making logical connections (the Tigers wanted Glaus, are pursuing Koskie, why wouldn't they be looking at Beltre?), but I don't know if the Tigers are serious about signing Beltre to the kind of contract he is rumored to be seeking. Ten years was the length of a deal reported on Fox Sports Detroit tonight. (That's way too long for my taste.)

Koskie would be fine as part of a series of off-season acquisitions. As would Drew or Lowe. However, adding Koskie and Troy Percival alone is going to be met with a collective yawn after all thee hype heading into this winter. The Tigers still need to add a big-time bat to flame some hope of contending for the American Central title.

Personally, I would feel better if the Tigers appeared like strong suitors for Ordonez or Beltre. I'm not convinced they are. I''m confident that the Tigers will eventually make some moves, but I am less confident about the direction of their strategy at this moment.

For a team "in on everyone" they don't seem to be doing much. Of course, I am very far removed from being an informed source. The Tigers might actually be interested in just about all the free agents. They may be very close to making several moves. I'm probably just getting a bit overly anxious about the missed opportunities. I'm a fan, what do you expect? Rational thought?

Lions Diary

I'm guessing the playoff talk will finally stop now. The Lions, as expected, lost to Green Bay 16-13 today. It was just another typical Lions football performance. Up 13-0 at the half, the Lions allowed the Packers 16 unaswered points in the second half. That wasn't Packer magic or Lambeau Field mystique, it was a crappy half of football from the Lions.

I said this about a month ago, but Joey Harrington is done here. Oh, he will still be on the roster due to salary cap implications, but unless he pulls off a huge, totally unexpected turnaround, his future lies elsewhere. It pains me to repeat this sentiment, as I was pro-Harrington even into September of this season. However, the kid that I thought had to most potential of any Lions quarterback in my lifetime, hasn't progressed. In fact, he appears to have regressed since his rookie year.

Today's game is just the latest example. Harrington completed five of twenty-two passes for forty-seven yards. Five pass completions? Five?!?! That's acceptable if you've only tossed eight or ten balls, but twenty-two?

I'll spot him the fact that the weather was not condusive to the passing game, but how do you explain away the last month? Even with the emergence of Kevin Jones, who rushed for 156 yards this afternoon, Harrington couldn't connect with his receivers. So much for the "Joey needs a running game to set-up the pass" theory.

Look, I hope I am 100% wrong. I hope with a healthy Charles Rogers and Roy Williams, plus Jones, Harrington will become a Pro Bowl player, but he's going to have to improve quite a bit for that to happen. Regardless, not only do I hope the Lions acquire a veteran quarterback this off-season, but I hope they draft one as well.

As for Jones, he is the Lions' offense right now. Jones will see lots of carries for the remainder of the year and should end up as the leading rusher amongst the rookie class. His progress has helped make his offensive line look better, although that's another position Matt Millen needs to address this summer. One or two new faces are a must on that line.

The defense was good enough to win today, but the offense could not get the job done. I, like the defense, wasted an effort on this contest. I watched the vast majority of it, only to be disappointed yet again. I keep hoping this franchise is just about to turn the corner, but they always seem to get sidetracked before ever reaching the corner.

Willingham Lands In Washington

It didn't take ex-Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham long to land another gig. Tomorrow Willingham will be introduced as the new head coach at Washington. The Huskies are in desperate need of some stability and, regardless of what you think of his coaching ability, Willingham will restore UW's pride and keep the off-field problems to a minimum.

Will he be able to bring back the Huskies on-field success? I'm not sure, but he may get more than three years to find out.

Who Said It Wouldn't Last?

Today is the sixth month anniversary of this blog. (No need for cards, although cake would be nice.) It's been a fun and fast half year, but I must admit I am still not sure what direction this is going in. Which, in light of my varied sporting interests, isn't terribly surprising.

I've pondered making more non-sports statements, making the blog all about a single sport or team (most likely baseball and/or the Tigers), but, so far, I haven't thought about quitting. I'll assume that's a good sign. In fact, I wish I could spend more time on this. Nothing is worse than a blog without new posts. Well, technically, there are many things worse, but you get the point. If I had more time to spend, I'm sure I would produce a slightly better product.

However, from the beginning, I've considered this an experiment. That hasn't changed. I'm still trying to learn html (I think I'd like a site make-over eventually) and I'm trying to determine which direction to pursue with this blog's content. Hopefully, I'll find a comfortable, informative and, perhaps, entertaining path. Thanks for tagging along.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Breaking Rumor?

I can't quite call this breaking news, but Ken Rosenthal of The Sporting News makes it sound like the Tigers may be closer to landing Carl Pavano than some might think. Yeah, it's wild speculation, but who needs facts? This is a blog for crying out loud.

Let's assume that the Tigers actually pull this off. What then? Can they still afford to pursue Adrian Beltre? Does that make someone like Corey Koskie more viable? Would they still consider another outfielder? J.D. Drew has been mildly rumored as a package with Beltre (both Scott Boras' clients). Magglio Ordonez would be high on my Christmas list, not that Dave Dombrowski cares.

I'm worried how much money a potential five year deal might be worth. With guys like Russ Ortiz getting big money from supposedly poor ballclubs, I'm concerned about Pavano's price tag. I don't want Pavano's addition to cripple the team financially for this year or the next five.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Heisman Countdown

The Heisman Trophy get handed out Saturday night and I'm guessing Matt Leinart is going to win. Here is the latest poll indicating the USC quarterback is indeed leading the pack. That big game versus Notre Dame has propelled the Trojans' signal caller to the top of many lists.

I know that I've been promoting Jason White to an unhealthy point, but that's because I felt he was being unjustly punished by the voters. Which, of course, he was. White deserves credit for another excellent year and for garnering some post-season hardware already. However, since my sarcastic post after Oklahoma's win over Texas, I thought Adrian Peterson merited the Heisman Trophy. I stand by that today. Peterson is the best player in the nation, freshman or not.

I was getting a bit concerned that I was the only one that thought so, but it appears a few others have seen the light. Links here and here. Thankfully, some of them are actually Heisman voters.

I think this vote may be the closest ever. With teammates Peterson and White, Leinart and Reggie Bush (who has won me over, as well) splitting votes. All had fine seasons, but Peterson was the best player this year.

Food Police Alert

(Warning: The following post contains non-sports related thoughts. It may offend some. It may not. I apologize either way.)

It seems the food police are hard at work, again. This time the object of their ire is Hardees. The fast food chain has created something it calls the Monster Thickburger. The double-cheese burger is huge, as it's name implies, and weighs more than a Chevy Cavalier. To the disdain of the health food crowd, the new burger has four billion, three hundred thousand fat grams. (That's just an approximation on my part. I was never really good at math.)

Can we please get a couple of things straight before you zealots go right off the deep end? First, if I want three tons of burger, I am going to buy it. If that means ordering twenty White Castles, fine. Two Big Macs? No problem. If I want big portions, I can get them anywhere.

Second, the new burger is around $5.50. The poor are going to have a difficult time affording this little treat. Especially, when they can go to Wendy's and order five bacon cheeseburgers off their dollar menu and save fifty cents. I'm sure that's much, much healthier.

Even those with cash may hesitate to cough up $5.50 for one fast-food burger. Little Caesar's offers a large pepperoni pizza for $5.00. That may feed more than one. What about White Castle? How many of them can you buy for five bucks nowadays? There are simply more cost effective ways of eating poorly than grabbing Hardee's new burger.

Third, what percentage of the population can get their hands on these things? Hardees is pretty small compared to the Mickey D's or Burger King. There is only one in Metro Detroit, as an example. If the poor can't afford it, the health food nuts won't even drive near their buildings and the average citizen can't find a location, what kind of impact is this new menu option really going to have?

Fourth, and finally, I have bad news for the food cops. Vegetarians get sick. Some people who eat healthy and, yes, even some who exercise daily, don't live forever. I know. It's shocking, but it's true. Worry a little less, guys and gals. It's not good for you to have stress in your life.

You just need to stop complaining and fretting. No amount of zealous rhetoric is going to stop people with weight issues from eating large portions, anyway. What we need to do is convince the nation that they shouldn't eat drive-thru four or five days a week. That's a seperate issue, though.

For the rest of us, an occasional Monster Thickburger, Big Mac or Whopper isn't going to alter our weight significantly. Nor will it damage our health in any permanent way. So, please, stop being such party-poopers and let us enjoy our infrequent indulgence. Go annoy some poor smoker and leave Hardees alone. By the way, take that guy from the Subway commercials with you.

Bad News, Good News

Troy Glaus chose Arizona over Detroit. It's a bit disappointing, but the off-season is hardly over. Today's rumor has the Tigers linked to both Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran. I don't know if either would actually come to Detroit, but I like the thought of it anyway.

Just a side note, but I wonder why the Tigers aren't chasing Matt Clement with more effort? I know they want Carl Pavano, but Clement would seem like a good Plan B amongst starting pitchers.

Differing Sides Of Barry

First, Bill James offers this little tidbit courtesy of The Hardball Times. Thanks to The Baseball Desert for providing the link. However, James' work is so ridiculous that links to it have popped up in a number of places.

Offering the opposite opinion, provides this commentary. Thanks to Off Wing Opinion for providing the link.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Above The Fold

The older I get the more these type of stories make me pause. The Detroit Free Press runs this piece from John Lowe about the Detroit Tigers pursuit of Steve Finley and Troy Glaus. Why would such an obvious story make me pause? Well, because it's an obvious story.

Why on Earth would this be the lead in today's sports section when nearly everyone in Tigertown is already aware of this? About the only tidbit of new information provided is the fact the Tigers have apparently offered Finley a contract. (I admit that I didn't know Glaus had stopped in town for a visit, either, but maybe others did.) In fact, I would label this story "old news". It hardly seems like the type of stuff that appears above the fold in the sports section.

When I see such things, I begin to wonder if a signing is imminent. Somebody with the Tigers "leaks" the information to the local media just to give them a courtesy "heads up". In fact, I went on to check to see if The Detroit News followed suit and issued the same type of non-news story. However, The News skipped right over this compelling information. Alas, no news conference today.

I am left wondering if it was just a PR leak. Maybe the Tigers just wanted to let season ticket holders know they were still working at improving the team. Maybe it was just a slow day for sports news. Maybe Lowe was just providing the casual fans with background material. Maybe a press conference at Comerica Park is still forthcoming. Maybe I am just reading too much into this.

As for the potential signings themselves, rumor on the street is that Finley got offered a two year, eight million dollar a season deal. Eight million a year seems high for someone nearly forty, but he would be an upgrade in centerfield. I do know that the Tigers should not offer a penny more or a year more than what's is rumored to be on the table. I like Finley, but he isn't going to play like this forever. For two seasons, though, I'll embrace this move. (Like anyone cares that I embrace this move.)

The details of the Glaus deal still sound sketchy. I'm hearing four years, but I don't think anyone really knows. Dave Dombrowski sure isn't going to spill the beans, either. Again, for the right contract, adding Glaus would be a solid move.

I do know that, while I like Glaus, I think Beltre is a better option. Albeit a more expensive one. I know many others in Tigertown want Beltre, too. I just have trouble picturing him here. Again, nothing scientific. Nor do I have any inside information, as usual. I just cannot imagine Beltre picking Detroit. Although, I still have hope Beltre might be interested in Mike Ilitch's cash.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I May Be Crazy, But.... (Extended Version)

I've been away from the old PC too long and there is lots to comment on. As always, I'll provide you with some advanced warning: not all the items below pertain to sports. I may be crazy, but....

... Cal not getting the Rose Bowl berth is terrible. I'll admit that the Texas-Michigan match-up will pit two of college football's traditional powerhouses, and will be much anticipated around here, but I still think Cal should have gotten the nod. Cal doesn't have the 'Horns prestige, but what more could the Bears do to merit a trip to Pasadena? Their appearance would have kept a Big 10-Pac 10 confrontation in place, as well.

...Every time I see the Houston Bowl or the Capital One Bowl I long for the Blue Bonnet Bowl and Citrus Bowl to return. Even the Cherry Bowl sounds better.

...If Adrian Peterson doesn't win the Heisman Trophy, and he probably won't, there should be an investigation. Forget all this "freshman can't win" garbage, Peterson deserves the hardware.

...I remain amazed that Urban Meyer isn't going to Notre Dame. Shouldn't this be a warning sign to the school and its supporters? If Meyer is willing to pass up his dream job, what is going on in South Bend?

...I still think Carl Pavano will end up with Boston. He grew up in the area and was a Red Sox farmhand. I think the lure of playing for the champions will be too much to resist. It was nice to see him pay Detroit a visit, though.

...I still expect the Tigers to be very active this winter. A big name pitcher would be great, but the team is still short on hitters, too. Detroit will almost definitely land one more free agent and for some reason I expect Dave Dombrowski to make a trade.

...I don't think there is much Major League Baseball can do about Barry Bonds' records. The game never banned the substances Bonds, Jason Giambi and others used. If it wasn't against MLB rules, then how can they strike the marks or place an asterisk on them?

Even if they could, where do you begin? If the rumors about 50% of the league using some type of performance enhancer are true, how do you determine whose stats get an asterisk and those that don't? They didn't even start testing for anything prior to this season.

Who do I blame for this mess? The Players' Association. They, even more than MLB, should have demanded stringent testing for the health of the players. Aren't they the ones entrusted to look out for the players? However, the MLBPA opted for cash over health and honor.

Right now, the problem is limited to public relations. Fans, the media and even U.S. government aren't too happy about the way this looks. All will call for action. However, it's not going to stay that way. The real nightmare for the MLBPA is going to come when those using steroids start getting serious health problems or die young. That will leave much greater mark than any asterisk.

...My Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot: Ryne Sandberg (should have been in last year), Wade Boggs, Bruce Sutter and Rich Gossage. I could be convinced about a handful of others, but without giving it much thought, I'd vote for these four.

...I told you I expected a Detroit Lions victory today. I couldn't see any of today's game, but I hear Kevin Jones finally exploded. That's a great step forward. Of course, I didn't start Jones on my fantasy league team. Brilliant!

...I'm sure the Lions' playoff talk will abound tomorrow, but I'm not sold yet. (I was wrong, again. The playoff talk started today.)

...A number of Pittsburgh Steelers deserve Pro Bowl spots, but I hope MLB James Farrior gets one of them.

...Is anybody else wondering about Tommy Amaker's squad? The basketball Wolverines are not one of the top 64 teams in the country today. There is plenty of time for improvement, but conference play is going to be quite a challenge unless Michigan plays much better.

...Michigan State still looks like a pretty good team despite the G.W. and Duke defeats. Tom Izzo should have his team ready for a nice tournament run by March. They aren't a Final Four squad now, but might be by season's end.

...I don't understand the interest in Paris Hilton. Really. I don't.

...Those Old Navy holiday commercials are beyond annoying. The only purchase the pretentious cast is making me ponder is blunt objects. Not that I am encouraging violence, of course.

...Those running the city of Sterling Heights should be recalled immediately. The city just built an English-styled roundabout in front of its' city offices. Annoying, trendy, probably dangerous (especially with a senior citizens center nearby) and certainly not worth the cost of renovating a functioning intersection.

As if that's not enough, the city is building an even larger roundabout at 18 1/2 Mile Road and Van Dyke. What? One public safety hazard in the city isn't enough? I doubt the money for these unnecessary projects came from private funds or the city itself. That means it's state or federal tax dollars at work. In a metropolitan area overrun with terrible roads, couldn't that money have been better spent?

...If we are going to pick-up an English custom, how about a midday tea break? It makes more sense than driving around in circles.

On a serious note, goodbye to the Little Professor Bookstore in Dearborn. You will be missed.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

I May Be Crazy, But.....

I think UCLA, Colorado and Tennessee can all beat their highly ranked opponents today. Now, don't rush off to your bookie. None of them is a sure thing, but I think UCLA has about a 10% chance of beating USC (#1). The Buffs have about a 20% shot at dropping Oklahoma (#2). I'd give the Vols around a 25% chance at uspetting Auburn (#3 nationally, #4 here at B.B.).

Again, those aren't Earth-shattering chances, nor am I exactly going out on a limb here, but I hesitate to think each has zero chance of success. Stranger things have happened.

Lions Diary

I actually expect the Lions to win tomorrow. Not in an impressive fashion, just a typically ugly win over another lousy team. Sunday's opponent is the Arizona Cardinals. Could the Cards pull the upset? Of course, they can. If you even pondered that question, you are not a Lions fan. However, in spite of the Lions history of losing games they should win, I expect a win versus Arizona.

It may be the last win I expect this year. Minnesota, Green Bay, Tennessee and Chicago are the remaining games. Sure, Chicago would seem like a potential win, but so did Washington. And Dallas.