Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More On Mike

When you make one of the most surprising picks in the NFL Draft you definitely draw the media attention. The Lions' selection of Mike Williams has certainly solicited a number of comments from far and wide. Here is a sampling of commentary on the Lions first round pick and other Lions Draft Day analysis plus the mandatory link to a Joey Harrington piece.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King doesn't think Mike Williams' addition was a good move and says so here, here and here. ESPN.com's Skip Bayless loves the move. Jay Glazer, Fox Sports, wonders why so many are bashing the Lions for taking Williams. John Clayton, another ESPN employee, thinks the Williams pick is part of an overall trend.

Paul Zimmerman, Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z., gives the Lions draft a B-/C+, which is probably an accurate reflection of my feelings. John Czarnecki, Fox Sports.com, lists the Lions amongst his Draft Day losers. The Sporting News' Dan Pompei gives the Lions' draft a B+, but also offers a caution. A caution that worries me, I should point out.

Jeffri Chadiha, another SI.com writer, points out what all of us in town already knew-Joey Harrington must step up.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Lions Diary: Draft Review

Um. Well. Um. I'm just not sure what to say about the Detroit Lions draft. Obviously, my first thought is "Typical Lions". What other franchise picks a receiver in the first round after taking one first in each of the previous two drafts and after signing a free agent wideout about twenty-four hours before? Only the Lions. Well, maybe Arizona, but the Cardinals would have opted for some kid projected to be a sixth rounder, not a first rounder.

Regardless, of what any one of us thinks, the Lions now have Mike Williams in the fold. Would I have taken LB Derrick Johnson even with the specter of a potential star wideout unexpectedly staring me in the face? Yeah, probably, but I can't completely blame the Lions for grabbing the ex-USC star, either.

Let's face it, Charles Rogers ain't exactly the picture of health. Sure, the injuries were more freaky than indicative of Rogers' overall health, but he has basically missed two seasons. That's one more than Williams has missed. On the other side, Roy Williams came up hurt for a prolonged stretch in 2004, too. Is that a good enough reason to take a wide receiver with the tenth overall selection? Not to me, but if Williams is the star about half the scouts believe he will be, than Williams is going to make the Lions offense dynamic and force one of the other WRs out of town.

Of course, if the other half of the scouts are right, Williams will be Keyshawn Johnson's twin. That's just too dang scary for me. When Williams slid down the board, I was worried. I feared this might happen. The Lions never really seemed sold to me on Johnson or the rush ends that were available. As the Williams pick showed, that apparently was the case.

Not only was the Williams selection questionable, I don't like what the Lions did in the other two rounds Saturday. Trading away your fourth round choice to move up a lousy four spots to grab Shaun Cody, a DT from most accounts, was not something I loved. Couldn't they have waited four picks and picked a DE instead?

Cody could end up a Hall of Fame tackle. Let's hope so, but in pure draft theory, tossing out a fourth rounder to move up to take Cody wasn't worth giving up the extra choice. Their final pick, third round DB Stanley Wilson was an odd pick, too. He only started one season and didn't seem like the best player on the board.

In addition, the Lions still had not addressed their need at DE or LB. The Honolulu Blue and Silver and Black still only have two quarterbacks, as well. I guess they are hoping for more free agent arrivals this summer.

It is just a weird draft. I don't like the Lions draft in general, as they failed to address more pressing needs. I just don't think they need another WR or DT. Nor do I think they were the best players available when their were picked, although I know Mel Kiper would vehemently disagree with me about Williams vs. Johnson. Nor do I think the Lions should have given up a fourth round pick to move up four spots to take Cody. The Lions acted like they were picking as Super Bowl champs and didn't have any concerns at any positions.

In spite of all of this, I like Mike Williams and Shaun Cody. (I don't know enough about Stanley Wilson to make even a half way intelligent analysis.) They both may end up being very good players. Maybe Pro Bowlers. Obviously, we all hope so. However, I just don't like the way this draft feels or how the Lions' management handled it. Maybe my expectations were too high after last year's smashing success? Regardless, the Lions draft, sans a sixth rounder, is over. It's was interesting. It was typical Lions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Everton 1 Manchester United 0

It's been quite a while since I've bored you with my updates on Everton football. That's English Premier League soccer for those newbies here. The team I adopted for no apparent reason last summer has had a miraculous campaign. Last night's 1-0 triumph over everyone's favorite club, Manchester United, has Evertonians thrilled.

A fourth place league finish would secure the Toffees a spot in the Champions League. Which, I realize means nothing to 99% of you, but means quite a bit to Everton fans. (Think Lions making the playoffs, but bigger.)

A tip of the cap, baseball as it may be, to the boys of Everton. Another fine effort amid this wonderful season.

Lions Diary: Three More Days

Just a few of quick thoughts on the upcoming NFL Draft. First, I still hope the Lions select Texas LB Derrick Johnson. There is some growing concern over him, like an inability to shed blockers, his avoiding contact, etc...., but I think that's more a product of over-analysis. Let's face it, the nine guys projected to be selected before the Lions choice, regardless of who they are, have question marks.

Johnson, if available when the Lions pick at number ten, would be the best player available. Also, with Boss Bailey's twice-injured knee, I wouldn't mind adding a linebacker of Johnson's quality as insurance. Worse case scenario you have both healthy. That's a ton of outside speed at LB.

Of course, there is a good chance Johnson may be gone by the time the Lions are on the clock. Who do I want if Johnson is playing for someone else? Well, that's not as clear. I guess I'd lean towards Georgia DE/OLB David Pollack. He does scare me more than a bit, but so do all the other names the Lions would be contemplating if Johnson is gone.

I view Pollack as more of a rush LB, not a true defensive end, which is what the Lions are really in need of. I get worried about tweeners and Pollack is a tweener. He will, however, rush the passer and I haven't heard anyone question his desire.

Two players I definitely would prefer the Lions not select: Erasmus James and Alex Barron. Both give me Aaron Gibson nightmares. James, like Gibson, is a Wisconsin product. James has a less than encouraging injury history, which will probably endear him to the Lions' brass, but leaves me wanting no part of the big guy.

Mention Barron's name and words like "soft" get whispered. A soft offensive lineman? No, thanks. Give me one of the handful of OLB/DEs first.

If the Lions end up with James or Barron at ten, that would be my draft nightmare come true. Well, to be more accurate, my draft nightmare would be for Johnson to be available at ten, then they take either James or Barron instead. I didn't even like typing that sentence. That scenario would just be unbelievably bad.

The best case scenario for me would be to see the Lions get Johnson at ten and grab the pass rusher they need with their second round choice. I'd like to see another wide receiver taken by the fourth round, as well. Another defensive back would seem necessary, too. Of course, what do I know?

Tigers TV

Last night I settled in for an evening of Detroit Tigers baseball only to find that the game is one of the fifty-two not being televised. No problem, right? It's only one game. That's when I found out that tonight's opening game with the division leading Chicago White Sox is not on tv, either. Nor is tomorrow afternoon's contest or Friday night's tilt versus Minnesota. The Tigers don't return to FSN-Detroit until Saturday. This lack of televised baseball led me to two thoughts.

First, what a pile of crap. We don't see the final of the Tigers/Orioles series. We won't see any of the two game set against the White Sox, including tomorrow afternoon's duel between Jeremy Bonderman and Mark Buerhle. The Twins will walk into town and we are left with only radio coverage yet again. Why on Earth can't FSN-Detroit just pick up the remaining games?

Yeah, I know not everyone has cable, but it's not like those without cable will get to see a single game this year anyway. It's nonsense, especially for the Tigers' older fans who don't have cable, but I'd rather have all 162 games on cable than have fifty-two not on tv at all. The Red Wings are only available on cable. Why not let the Tigers follow suit?

Oh, before I forget, a note to Fox Sports Detroit. I know you have some aversion to showing those Thursday afternoon getaway games, but what outstanding daytime programming is going to get bumped if the Tigers are on?

"Is this really a baseball town?" was my second thought. What other supposed baseball town has fifty-two games not on any form of local tv? St. Louis? Boston? New York? Please. I doubt Tampa Bay has fifty-two games not televised. There are so many Tiger games not being televised in Detroit that I suspect a fan outside of Michigan can see more Tigers games on MLB.tv or via MLB Extra Innings than a fan inside Metro Detroit can.

I realize this may be the longest streak without television coverage this season, but that doesn't change the fact that the whole situation is ridiculous. I feel bad for the Tigers' older fans who don't have and can't afford cable, but the Tigers should have been prepared to put all 162 games on FSN-Detroit when a local broadcast deal fell through. Instead, we have nearly 1/3 of the schedule not broadcast to anyone.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Two Local Columns

Jim Hawkins of the Oakland Press poses a question that I have been considering here. (For the record, my answer is no.)

Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press looks at the NFL Draft from a slightly different perspective.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Early Baseball Observations

I have the MLB Extra Innings package, so I see a fair amount of our national pastime. So far, these are some of the things I've taken note of.

I like the fact the Dodgers and Cubs have removed names from the back of their jerseys. It's just a more traditional, classic look. I wouldn't want every team to head in that direction, but both N.L. teams pull it off nicely.

Jamie Moyer is 2-0. Moyer is about fifty years old and his fastball is clocked with a sundial. He may be the exception to the rule, but it's nice to see someone display the art of pitching without being able to throw one hundred miles an hour.

I love listening to Vin Scully do the Dodgers games. I like the fact he refers to the teams he covers as "They" or "The Dodgers" as opposed to "Us" and "We".

Did you see Craig Biggio get hit by a Braden Looper pitch Wednesday night? I didn't see it live, but picked up coverage as he was sitting on the ground. When Biggio arose, he had about a golf ball sized lump on his arm. By the time he got to firstbase, it appeared to have doubled in size.

The next shot of him showed the bulge changing color. The end of the knot was now red. Within another minute or two, the area was turning purple. All the while, Biggio was forcing throws from Looper to keep him close. Biggio was diving back to the base each time. Each time hitting the spot again. The Astros lost, but Biggio displayed the toughness not often associated with modern baseball players. He gained even more of my respect.

Don't Biggio and Jeff Bagwell merit Hall of Fame induction?

I saw Adrian Gonzalez of Texas hit his second homerun of the year last night. The rookie appears to have a classic lefthanded swing. It's a thing of beauty. (Of course, someone already picked him up in my AL-only fantasy league. Darn baseball geeks.)

I like the fact Washington, D.C. has a baseball team. I'm not sure what I find appealing about it, but it just seems right. I also like their uniforms and love the old style caps. I may have to get the road version.

I'm not going to see Fever Pitch.

The renovation at Comerica Park looks good on tv. I'll make a final judgment once I get down there in person, but the new bullpens and new rightfield seats fit in perfectly.

I doubt youngsters today can appreciate this, but having television access to as many games as MLB Extra Innings provides would have been a dream come true for me about thirty years ago. It would also have been close to unimaginable. I'm still a bit amazed by the whole thing.

Worried Yet?

Carlos Guillen's knee is acting up just a bit. Magglio Ordonez has some type of intestinal disorder and abdominal pain that won't go away. Troy Percival and Ugeuth Urbina have been, well, lousy. Omar Infante does not look like a leadoff hitter. Jason Johnson and Jeremy Bonderman have each been drilled in one of their two starts. The Twins are on the verge of sweeping the Tigers right out of Minnesota. Anyone find this discomforting?

I'm not going to panic, it's only the second week of the season. However, the array of problems the Tigers are having is taking my pre-season optimism away. Ordonez' health leads my list of concerns. Intestinal disorders can flair up at anytime. Trust me on this one. Also, the medication can take a while to adjust to and a diet change might be necessary. None of which is going to help Mags get back to his usual health quickly.

I think the other issues may resolve themselves more easily. Guillen's knee will have to be watched closely, but keeping him off of artificial turf will help. The bullpen arms should rebound. Infante will never be a classic top-of-the-order hitter, but he can hit. And, I think he will. Johnson is simply not real good and we should just get used to that.

There are positives on the ballclub, too. Bonderman had a great first outing and battled back in his second start. Carlos Pena has been a selective, productive hitter. Kyle Farnsworth has been terrific. The offense overall looks solid even on days when a Pudge Rodriguez, Guillen or Ordonez sits out. Of course, the Tigers are still in the American League Central and that helps, too.

At times, it seems like the season has been much longer than two weeks. Thankfully, the Tigers have plenty of time to get healthy both physically and in the standings.

Lions Diary: 2005 Schedule

The Detroit Lions 2005 schedule has been released. It's neither a cake-walk or overwhelming. Of course, this is the National Parity League, so I guess that's not an unexpected assessment. Like everyone else, allow me to predict the Lions record based on their shiny new schedule.

Week 1: Green Bay at Detroit
Green Bay is perceived as taking a step back. Detroit is perceived as moving slightly forward. The Lions are at home. It's got Bret Favre miracle written all over it, doesn't it? However, I will go against all common sense, a normal reaction from a Lions fan, and pick Detroit. Lions, 1-0.

Week 2: Detroit @ Chicago
The Lions ended their record road losing streak at Chicago a year ago. I suspect the Bears to be a bit annoyed by that. I also expect the Bears to a bit better team than in 2004. Bears win. Lions, 1-1.

Week 3: Bye
Already? Two weeks and they need a break? This seems ridiculous. I'm sure the majority of the week will be spent debating on whether Joey Harrington or Jeff Garcia should start next week.

Week 4: Detroit @ Tampa Bay
It seems to me that the Lions always lose in warm weather sites. I'll admit to knowing little about the Bucs, but if the Lions are truly improved this is the type of game they need to win. It's a toss-up contest, but I'll take the Honolulu Blue and Silver. Lions, 2-1.

Week 5: Baltimore @ Detroit
Geez, just what Joey was hoping for: the best D in the league visits Ford Field. If Harrington makes it through the entire game without getting benched for Garcia, it may be a sign Joey is improving. Still, I'll take the Ravens in a close, low scoring game. Lions, 2-2.

Week 6: Carolina @ Detroit
If they both wore their black uniforms would we be able to tell the teams apart? The Lions are at home and I'm not crazy about the Panthers offense. Lions win, 3-2.

Week 7: Detroit @ Cleveland
The Jeff Garcia Revenge game. However, for the Lions sake, we have to hope Harrington is still playing well enough to keep Mooch's favorite QB on the bench. I'll take the Lions, but I'm not sure why. Lions, 4-2.

Week 8: Chicago @ Detroit
I took the Bears at home. I'll take the Lions at home. Lions, 5-2.

Week 9: Detroit @ Minnesota
Yeah, Randy Moss is in California. It won't matter, Vikes prevail in a big way. Lions, 5-3.

Week 10: Arizona @ Detroit
You just know Cardinals fans are looking at this game thinking the same thing Lions fans are "The closest thing we have to an easy win". Of course, only one group of fans is going to be right. It better be us. Lions, 6-3.

Week 11: Detroit @ Dallas
I have no idea. I cannot figure out which Cowboys team to expect: the '03 or '04 model? The Tuna may have the 'Boys playing darn well by this point in the year. It's a home game for them, too. I want to take Detroit, but I'm going to say Dallas. Lions, 6-4.

Week 12: Atlanta @ Detroit (Thanksgiving Day)
The Leos walked into the South and beat the Falcons last year. I fear the reverse will happen this year. I, however, am not a big fan of this Atlanta team. That may change, but right now I'm sticking with Mariucci's squad. Lions, 7-4.

Week 13: Minnesota @ Detroit
The Lions absolutely, positively must win this game. As their history would indicate, they probably won't. I hate to think of the Vikings sweeping the Lions, but...... Lions, 7-5.

Week 14: Detroit @ Green Bay
Hard to figure where the Pack will be by this point in the season. It doesn't matter, though. I cannot expect the Lions to win in Green Bay. Lions, 7-6.

Week 15: Cincinnati @ Detroit
These are not your daddy's Bengals. Cincy could be a strong playoff team by this time. I hate to say it, but the Bengals win this toss-up game. Lions, 7-7.

Week 16: Detroit @ New Orleans
I'm not enamored with the Saints, either. I suspect the Lions can pull out this road toss-up game. Lions, 8-7.

Week 17: Detroit @ Pittsburgh
I can't imagine the Steelers playing much better than a year ago. They may also have playoff spot secured, so that helps the Lions. However, playing yet another cold weather opponent on the road this late doesn't help. Steelers win. Lions, 8-8.

Hopefully, the Lions can pull out an extra game or two beyond what I project here. I think ten wins gets them into the playoffs, nine puts them right on the edge. I'm tired of waiting for Mariucci's team to show a big improvement. This had better be the year.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Lack Of Posts, Lame Excuses and Opening Day

I noticed that I had not posted anything here since late March. That's pretty pathetic. Now, like so many others, I could provide the usual list of lame excuses. I was busy. I had technical problems (actually, that was my other site). I was bored. I lacked creativity. The ever-popular "It's my blog and I'll type when I want to". As always, those excuses are all valid and none sufficient.

So, allow me to pull a Mark McGwire and not talk about the past. Let me start my April blogging with Opening Day. I loved it. For a change, we here in the midwest and most in the Northeast had outstanding weather. Sunny and darn near 70? In April? Perfect.

I prepared some Italian sausage with peppers and onion plus hot dogs for my guests and we settle in for a day of MLB Extra Innings. The Tigers were the main event and the hometown boys lived up to all our expectations. Jeremy Bonderman showed signs of becoming an elite pitcher. Dmitri Young went yard not once. Not twice. But three times. The Tigers rolled over Kansas City.

The Tigers will go as far as their starters take them. The Tigs have a good bullpen and a solid lineup. If their young arms can take the next step, the Tigers could be playing meaningful games in September. I'll guess about 83 wins.

As for the Royals, and the Pirates and Brewers (who were game two of our tv slate), we all felt badly for where these teams now find themselves. They appear without direction. They have fallen and cannot seem to get up. As an example, Tike Redman hit third for the Bucs. Tike Redman!?!?!

The Royals have probably fallen the farthest, now that the Tigers have rebounded some. KC was once amongst the most consistent teams in the Majors. They still are, but only they are now consistently at the bottom and not the top.

At least the Brew Crew appear to have some young players about to emerge (Carlos Lee, Lyle Overbay, Ben Sheets, J.J. Hardy) or about to make the jump to The Show (Rickie Weeks and Price Fielder, son of Cecil).

The Mets blown save on Opening Day must have some begging for Ugeuth Urbina. For now, I hope the Tigers keep him.

A Sunday night sidelight, I don't think either the Yankees or Red Sox will win the American League. I just don't trust their starting pitching. Maybe by August I will. Right now, I have faith in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. That's it.

We did end up watching part of the A's/O's game, too. Oakland just doesn't impress me offensively. Baltimore could surprise if they get some pitching. Like Detroit, they should be able to hit.

It's was a fine Opening Day all-in-all. Great weather. Good food. The return of baseball. What more could I want?