Roll of the dice

The Detroit Lions are reportedly going to name New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia head coach. After the Patriots finish their season either in the AFC title game or Super Bowl.

Given his success with next to no Pro Bowl players Patricia may look attractive to the Lions who have had a handful of Pro Bowl players not to mention his defense is consistently in the top 5 in the NFL.

He’s been with the Patriots for 12 seasons 6 of them as the leader of the defense. Lions GM Bob Quinn who was with the Patriots organization for 12 years is familiar with Patricia so I’m sure he feels like this is a safe solid hire.

Yet, no matter a coaches background and success it’s a crap shoot if that actually translates when sliding into the role of head coach.
While being regarded as a good/great defensive coordinator and being in the much looked up to Patriots organization are definitely pluses. There is the unknown element.
So with that the Lions will roll the dice and hope they strike it big.

A role model or an athlete?

“I’m not paid to be a role model” that was the phrase Charles Barkley famously spoke in 1993.
With that said is that accurate? Someone who makes their living on t.v. and in the public eye are they not role models?
For centuries athletes of all sports have been put on pedestals and admired. There are even “who would be on the Mount Rushmore of this or that team” blogs and polls.
Athletes are by and large entertainers. Making millions while generating billions for franchise owners and cities.
But in truth they are self serving beings who are out for their next big payday.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some genuinely good people. But selfishness and self seeking is not admirable in any fashion.
There have been athletes I have admired about how they approach their sport. Or how they lead their team. That’s where it ends.
Athletes are not role models. At the end of the day they could care less if you like them or not or collect their trading cards or own their jersey.
With that said focus instead on the team as a whole. Enjoy what a player brings to the field, rink, or court.
You may find you enjoy the game a little more. I know I have. At the end of the day players come and go. Lions GM Bob Quinn said just last week each season has a 30% roster changeover. That’s a high rate. Don’t get attached to an athlete. Get attached to the team that represents your city, state, or some other reason.

To trade or to keep?

That is the question facing the Detroit Tigers and young star pitch Michael Fulmer. Coming off ulnar nerve transposition surgery

Ulnar Nerve Transposition at the Elbow

it has not deterred teams from calling to check on trade possibilities. Because he is entering his prime years with a team that is going nowhere during his best years.
As a young pitcher with his talent he would  bring in a tremendous haul of prospects. For the rebuilding Tigers this would speed things up considerably.
The Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees have shown the most interest . This is fantastic news as both teams have outstanding minor league talent.
It could benefit the Tigers to let Fulmer throw a few spring training games and showcase that he’s healthy. Then they could cash in their biggest trade asset.
For a team looking at least 100 losses the next two seasons. This could get them right back to competitive baseball in 3 years when they will unleash the pitching they are currently developing in the minors. I have to think the Tigers front office is evaluating just how quickly they can contend again. If it’s 1-2 years they may keep him. If it’s 3-5 years they would be wise to cash him in and speed up the process.
It’s one of the storylines to follow as spring training nears and gets started.

Let’s go Wings!

Proud Red Wings fan here. Man what a run and show they put on in the good old days just two years ago. I don’t want to sound like a broken record or beat a dead horse but this team is in shambles.
Well documented bad contracts and an aging roster have put the team behind the proverbial eight ball.
Let’s take a look and see if anything can bring improment in the imitated future.
Dylan Larkin has taken a huge step in his second full season at center as is widely seen as the next Red Wings captain.
Anthony Mantha also having a very good sophomore season he should be on the top line with Larkin for some time.
Tyler Bertuzzi I like this guys game. Tough player solid with his passes. Adds a lot of grit to the team.
The best defensive player the Wings have drafted lately is a guy who I’m pretty excited about. Dennis Cholowski. Drafted two years ago his game has improved greatly. He was seen as a second line defenseman but his play now has him on target for the top line.
That’s not many but it is enough of a building block with some shrewd moves at the trade deadline and yes a new GM next season for the Red Wings to feel comfortable moving forward.
Until then I’m going to enjoying watching these four guys improve their game. Until the Wings are ready for take off again.
One of the biggest issues I have with Ken Holland is that he insists all young players spend 3 years in the AHL (minor league.) No matter if that player is ready and many have been (see Cholowski.)

Larkin is a very rare exception he spent very little time in Grand Rapids with the Griffons.

A new GM and direction is badly needed. I believe it’s coming as there has been no movement on Hollands expiring contract.

That is a good reason to keep an eye on the team. Well Little Caesars arena isn’t bad either.

What makes a good baseball prospect?

The question was asked to me after I posted my personal Detroit Tigers top prospects list. Let me be clear I am not a scout but I play one behind the comfort of my device. To be honest I have no ideal what a person who’s been trained as a scout likes in a player.

As for me my list is short. For hitters and position players I look for:

  1. Plate discipline- can the hitter recognize pitches?
  2. Bat control- is the hitter following through on swings?
  3. Contact- is the hitter making consistent contact with the ball?
  4. Speed- to the bag or in the gap when playing in the field.
  5. Glove work- self explanatory
  6. Footwork- how does the fielder set up to make his throw?

 

As for pitchers:

  1. Arm strength- self explanatory
  2. Mechanics- can the pitcher consistently repeat them?
  3. Location- is he consistently around the strike zone?
  4. What does his change up look like? Anyone can throw a fastball. Without a change up a pitcher simply won’t last long.

To illustrate my point I’m going to highlight two of my favorite Tiger prospects. Pitcher Beau Burrows and SS/3B Isaac Paredes.

Burrows- 6′ 2″ right hander who has been and is flying through the Tigers system. Great arm strength his fastball touches on 99 mph and he follows it with a mid 70’s change up and a above average slider. His mechanics are spot on as demonstarated last August when he struck out 8 batters and then 10 in two consecutive starts.

He is consistently around the strike zone. But he uses his slider to get hitters to chase out of the strike zone. When your around the plate consistently batters will chase a pitch off the plate.

He projects as a top end of the rotation starter. Because of two other pitchers (Matt Manning and Franklin Perez) in the organization he’ll most likely end up being a #3 starter. That’s a great glimpse into the future of the Tigers starting rotation.

Paredes- 5′ 11″ right handed hitter and throws right handed. His first season in American baseball saw a kid (18 yrs old) give and eye raising glimpse of what he can do with a bat.

His pitch recognition is very good coupled with his discipline at the dish should have Tigers fans excited. He gave a good look into his future last September in Grand Rapids with a 3 home performance.

Well above average bat control should see him in double A (Erie Seawolves) at some point this coming season.Tigers scouts were wise to insist he be included in the trade that send Alex Avila and Justin Wilson to the Chicago Cubs for Paredes and Jeimer Candelario. Candelario was widely seen as the centerpiece of the trade. I respectfully disagree. I’ll go with Paredes. Candelario is a 3B/1B. As the Tigers advance in their rebuild I can make a strong argument Paredes will troll 3B and Candelario will move permanently to 1B giving the Tigers infielders a much needed athletic boost.

The phrase I can’t stand

“Go for it.” “It’s all good.” How about “time will tell?”
There are plenty of phrases out there. Some better than other. Some impactful and some lip service.
Starting in late 2017 a phrase entered the picture (or at least gained momentum) and sent a shiver of distain throughout my entire body. That phrase……. “trust the process.” What?! Exactly what does it mean to “trust the process?”
Everyone from players, GM’s, owners, members of the media say it. It seems to amp up when a team is in a slump or if just a bad team or entering a rebuild.
It use to be “it’s going to take some time.” But in our microwave society no one wants to hear anything about something taking time.
Both Ken Holland and Al Avila GM’s of the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers respectfully have used “trust the process” every time a microphone is in front of them as both franchises are beginning rebuilds.
“Trust the process” because no one wants to hear “we are going to be bad for a number of years so it’s going to take time.”
Call me olf fashion but I prefer blunt honesty.

It’s dark now, but it will lift

The Detroit Tigers are facing a rebuild. A big top to bottom rebuild. 100 loss seasons will be the norm for 2-3 years. That’s the the bleak depending your point of view.
The minor leagues depleted from years of trades to keep the parent team competitive. It worked. Now the aftermath comes.
Thanks to trades of players like Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler they have brought fresh new prospects into a system desperate for them. They can in time lead the Tigers back to competitive baseball again.

1. Franklin Perez- he came in the Verlander deal. Nasty stuff 92-94 mph fastball and three above average pitches not to mention he’s electric on the mound.

2. Matt Manning- he’s big 6′ 6″ with a big time arm. Needs to develop his curve when he does he has ace stuff.

3. Beau Burrows- very good fastball 95 mph excellent command of the strike zone. With Perez and Manning it will push him to #3 starter. That is excellent pitching depth!!

4. Daz Cameron- above average hitter he’ll be around 15-20 home runs. He has great speed and glove CF problems for the Tigers will end when he’s called up.

5. Isaac Paredes- SS but given his thick fram and lack of speed seems better suited for 3B. But the kid can hit and not bad with a glove.

6. Alex Faedo- another big (6′ 5″) pitcher. Excellent command of the strike zone and throws a part curve part slider pitch that baffles hitters. A starter at the univerity of Florida he could be used in the bullpen or at closer.

7. Christian Stewart- power hitter not much for average though. Limited by below average speed and glove may push him to DH.

8. Kyle Funkhouser- solid backend of the rotation pitcher with three solid pitches. Needs to brush up on his control.

9. Jake Rogers- outstanding defensive catcher. Above average throwing arm. But can he hit? That’s not his strong suite.

The Tigers have some of the best young arms they’ve ever had at one time in the system. But they must be patient and develop them. It is critical to the future of the team. But I believe the Tigers will be back to competitive baseball in 3-5 years.

The grave yard

Monte Clark (1978-1984) 43 wins 61 losses
Darryl Rogers (1985-1988) 18 wins 40 losses
Wayne Fontes (1988-1996) 66 wins 67 losses
Bobby Ross (1997-2000) 27 wins 30 losses
Gary Moeller (2000) 4 wins 3 losses
Marty Morninweg (2001-2002) 5 wins 27 losses
Steve Mariucci (2003-2005) 15 wins 28 losses
Dick Jauron (2005) 1 win 4 losses
Rod Marinelli (2006-2008) 10 wins 38 losses
Jim Schwartz (2009-2013) 29 wins 51 losses
Jim Caldwell (2014-2017) 36 wins 28 losses

11 of them. Sure a couple filled in for fired coaches. Yet the Detroit Lions have gone through 11 head coaches since I began watching them.
Several things go into this factor. GM’s of these teams did not put enough talent on the field. Injuries are part of the game that is not an excuse but depth is very important. Not to mention some of the coaching choices were flat out head scratchers.
Flash forward to the now. Bob Quinn is now the GM architect. Brought in from the New England Patriot. The benchmark for successful football teams. He was handed a very good (in my lifetime the best) Lions quarterback in Matthew Stafford. He fixed the offensive line and drafted and signed extremely talented receivers. The time to win is now he said January one as he announced Jim Caldwell had be relieved of his coaching duties.
Now to avoid adding a twelfth coach to the grave yard list after a few seasons Quinn in perhaps his most telling moment of his young GM career must pick a slam dunk head coach. He has put championships as the only accpetable goal moving forward. This is new and refreshing talk from a Detroit Lions GM to date.
It will be interesting if he can deliver on his large aspirations.

What to do when you have sports deaf parent or spouse

I like to talk sports. A lot. I could do it 24/7 365. I like to hang around like minded people. But, sometimes life can throw you a curve. Not a twelve o’clock to six o’clock nasty Sandy Koufax breaking curve mind you.

But rather a curve like your parents don’t share necessarily share you passion for sports. If your lucky and God has a sense of humor your spouse doesn’t share that passion either.

Yup that was my upbringing and well headed into 23 years of marriage. It’s like a double whammy.

So what to do? Speak it anyway. That’s right. Get it out. Bore them the way they bore you by walking around a fabric store. To both people they would rather hear finger nails drag and scratch across a chalkboard. Perhaps that’s what they hear when I start in about a stat or a game I just read about or watched. It’s not meant to be mean or cause strife. They will listen out of love and probably look like one of the students in “Ferris Bueller’s day off.”

Which in a twisted way is fun to watch. Or you could let them off the hook and start a blog.

He ran……….

He ran. He ran fast. He ran powerfully. He ran with grace. He ran like he knew he wouldn’t be around long.

Billy Sims lightning in a bottle. The first round pick of the Detroit Lions won the 1980 rookie of the year. He ran the power sweep better than anyone I have ever seen.

He was a showman. The high stepping, airplane (arms exteneded out to his sides) side shuffling touchdown celebrations electrified Lions fans.

sadly, he would play roughly four and a half years. A horrific knee injury in Minnesota would see the Lions legend into retirement three screws holding his knee together was the deal breaker.

Yet, it was almost tragically indicative of the way he played. Throwing his body over piles of defenders. Lowering his head and shoulders to take on would be tacklers. Not to mention the famous “karate kick”  against the then Houston Oilers.

He came. He left an impression still felt in Detroit.

He ran. Oh my did he run.