Sunday, December 30, 2012

Black Monday is Looming...

The final day of the 2012 NFL regular season is today.  All of the teams not going to the playoffs will be cleaning out their lockers and headed home.  These players are most likely looking forward to a nice long vacation with their families where they can rest their bodies after the long, grueling NFL season. 

The coaches of these teams view today a little differently.  Today could be the last day they have jobs with their current organizations.  You see, the Monday after the last day of the regular season is known as "Black Monday".  Every year there are an abundance of NFL teams that are going to make a change with their head coach will do it on this day. 

As I write this at 9 pm on Sunday, there are already rumors flying around the internet about which coach's are going to be fired (right now I've heard Andy Reid in Philadelphia, Pat Shurmur of the Cleveland Browns, and Romeo Crennel of the Kansas City Chiefs will both be fired tomorrow). 

One name that has also come up in reports is current Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz.  Now, as a former Lions fan, I am used to a new coach every two to four years.  To be honest though, I figured that Schwartz would get at least one more year at the helm of the Lions (after all, he did just sign an extension recently).  He did guide the Lions to a 10 - 6 record and a birth in the playoffs last season.  The Lions have gotten considerably better than what they were when he inherited them (keep in mind though he inherited a team that had gone 0 - 16 the year before). 

I imagined the Lions would make a change with at least one of their coordinators this off season, and Schwartz would enter the 2013 season on "the hot seat" and have to answer questions about the stability of his job all season long.  Then, after another disappointing season he would be fired and a new coach would be brought in.  The Lions organization and all of their fans would then get way too excited about the team's chances before the team turns in another lackluster season in 2014.  That is typically how this roller coaster of an organization operates.

So, whether it's this Black Monday or next year's Black Monday when the Lions fire Jim Schwartz, I'd like to give them some advice for their coaching search.  Don't go with an "up and comer" coach.  Every year there is a new offensive or defensive coordinator that everyone believes is ready to step and and become a great NFL head coach.  The Lions have tried that in the past and it hasn't worked (remember Marty Mornhinweg and Rod Marinelli?).  Remember, Jim Schwartz was a successful defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans when he got the head job with the Lions.  The thing to keep in mind is that some people are just going to be coordinators, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Mornhinweg has done a great job with Philadelphia and Marinelli is doing well guiding the Chicago Bears defense.  And I'm sure that Schwartz will get a job next year as a defensive coordinator and be fantastic. 

The point is, the Lions have been such a horrible organization with a terrible reputation that there is no way a rookie head coach could come in there and be successful.  They need a guy that has won in the NFL as a head coach.  They'll probably have to overpay him to come to Detroit, but never the less, they need him to come in and bring a breath of fresh air...because right now, that air stinks. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Verlander needs to go the distance

The Detroit Tigers take on the Oakland Athletics tonight in Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series.  The winner of this game will go on to most likely face the New York Stankees...the loser goes home.  Most people who live outside of the Oakland area are very surprised that this series is even still going on.  The Tigers were a heavy favorite to beat the A's handily and go on to win the World Series.  Now they are one loss away from ending their 2012 season. 

I picked the Tigers to win this series before and despite their struggles in the past two games, I am sticking with them to win tonight.  They have their ace (and probably Cy Young aware winner) Justin Verlander going for them tonight. 

Verlander is arguably the best pitcher in baseball.  But for the Tigers to win tonight, he's going to have to pitch the entire game.  Their bullpen has proven to be too suspect this past season, and especially in the past two games against Oakland.  If history repeats itself, and it usually does, Tigers manager Jim Leyland will want to take Justin Verlander out of the game if they are leading late in the game and turn the ball over to their pathetic bullpen. 

I would hope that Verlander is able to tell Leyland "no".  I'm reminded of the 1991 World Series between the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins.  Former Tiger Jack Morris threw 126 pitches (10 innings) in Game 7 of that World Series and was the winning pitcher in a 1 - 0 game.  Twins manager Tom Kelly stated that he repeatedly tried to take Morris out of the game but Morris refused.  He wanted to finish what he started.  I remember Morris had a stubborn, nasty, competitive streak in him and it was apparent on that night. 

I'd like to see Verlander have more of a Jack Morris edge to him...especially tonight.  He will have to put the Tigers on his back and pitch them to the ALCS by himself.  The bullpen has proven that they cannot hold a lead.  He will have to go the full 9 innings.  There is no reason not to let him either...there is no guaranteed tomorrow for either of these teams...all hands on deck. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Alex Karras July 15, 1935 – October 10, 2012

Alex "Mad Duck" Karras passed away today.  Many of you may not know who he was or what he did until you saw the news.  I knew that he played football for the Detroit Lions and that he played George Papadapolis on the television show "Webster"...that was it. 

When I heard the news that he only had a few days to live (kidney failure), I decided to sit down and do some research on the man and was amazed at what I learned. 

He starred for four years at the University of Iowa and was later drafted by the Lions with the 10th overall pick in 1958, and he was a three-time All-Pro defensive tackle over 12 seasons with the franchise.
 
Before his NFL career began though, Karras was a professional wrestler.  He wrestled during the off season before his first year with the Lions.  He would return to wrestling in 1963 when he was suspended by NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle for failing to sell his interest in a Detroit bar because of reports of gambling and organized crime (he was reinstated in 1964).  During the 1964 season, he refused an official asking him to call the pre game coin toss before a Lions game.  He told the official, "I'm sorry sir...I'm not permitted to gamble". 

His playing career ended in 1971 due to a knee injury.  Karras, who had already dabbled in acting a few years before, was able to now do it full time.  Apparently, he was up for consideration for the part of Carlo Rizzi in "The Godfather".  He had a few smaller roles (including playing Mongo in the cult classic "Blazing Saddles" where he punched a horse...no really, he punched a horse.  You can see it by clicking on this link.  That same year he began working on "Monday Night Football" alongside Howard Cosell and Don Meredith. 

Probably Karras's most famous role was that of George Papadapolis on the television series "Webster".  That show ran from 1983 - 1989.  He hosted Saturday Night Live and even wrote a couple of books (Even Big Guys Cry & Tuesday Night Football). 

Karras was elected to the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame in 1977 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1991.  He was named to the NFL all decade team for the 1960's.

He was a fascinating individual.  Both the sports world and the acting world have lost one of the greats...


Monday, October 8, 2012

Stop your whining Mr. Winston

Normally, I write things that affect Michigan sports teams.  Tonight though, I wanted to touch on something that has gotten national attention since yesterday. 

Leave Matt Cassel Alone!!
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel (who has been having an extremely disappointing season) was injured during the 4th quarter of Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens.  As he was laying on the field, some fans were cheering.  After the game, Chiefs right tackle Eric Winston stated his displeasure with the cheering fans by saying “We are athletes. We are not gladiators,” Winston said. “This isn’t the Roman Coliseum. People pay their hard-earned money to come in here. I believe they can boo, they can cheer, they can do whatever they want … we’re lucky to play this game. It’s hard economic times, and they still pay the money to do this.
“But when somebody gets hurt … there are long-lasting ramifications to the game we play … I’ve already come to the understanding I probably won’t live as long because I play this game. And that’s OK. That’s the choice I’ve made. That’s the choice all of us made. But when you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don’t care who it is, and it just so happened to be Matt Cassel, it’s sickening. It’s 100 percent sickening. I’ve been in some rough times on some rough teams. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life to play football than at that moment right there.”

“I get emotional about it, because these guys work their butts off,” said Winston, who spent the previous six years with the Houston Texans before signing a free-agent contract with the Chiefs this past off season. “Matt Cassel hasn’t done anything to you people … hasn’t done anything to the media writers who kill him, hasn’t done anything wrong to the people that come out here and cheer him. If he’s not the best quarterback, he’s not the best quarterback, and that’s OK.”
“But he’s a person. And he got knocked out in a game, and we got 70,000 people cheering ... Boo him all you want. Boo me all you want. Throw me under the bus. Tell me I’m doing a bad job, say I’ve got to protect him more … but if you’re one of those people who were out there cheering, or even smiled, when he got knocked out, I just want everyone to know it’s sickening and disgusting.”

I agree with Eric Winston in the fact that they are people, and I understand that he was upset because his quarterback (who hasn't been playing well all season and people are calling for him to be benched) just sustained a concussion and he heard people cheering.  That would make me upset too if I thought that people were glad that a friend of mine was hurt. 

BUT, would he have felt the same way if one of his teammates had sacked Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco so hard that it knocked him out of the game and the Chiefs fans cheered?  I doubt it...he would have felt that they were just being die hard Chiefs fans and were cheering a good effort from them.   He can't take his frustration on a lackluster season out on the fans.  The fans are still out there supporting your under performing team.  If Eric Winston and the rest of the Chiefs would just worry about themselves instead of complaining about the fans, then perhaps they would have a better record than 1 - 4.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Is this Leyland's walk off shot?

Tony LaRussa did it...so did Phil Jackson.  We thought that Urban Meyer was going to do it (but then he decided to join the dark side in Columbus).

If the Detroit Tigers win the World Series...will Jim Leyland do it?

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland is 67 years old.  He has been involved with professional baseball in some way for the past 49 years (he's been the manager of the Tigers since 2006) and the Tigers are widely considered to be the favorite to win the 2012 World Series.  Everything is wonderful...right?

Not exactly.  Once the 2012 playoffs end for the Tigers (hopefully with them  hoisting the World Series trophy), Leyland's contract will be up.  The question for me isn't if Leyland wants to manage anymore, because I'm sure that part of him does.  It's will the Tigers want him to manage.  Sure he took them to a World Series in 2006 and a post season birth in 2011 and now 2012, but his teams overall have underachieved in my opinion. 

Even if the Tigers do win the World Series, why would they give a man who is turning 68 years old on December 15th another contract extension?  He can't be in the best health (see picture above) first of all.  Why not let him bow out gracefully?  If for some reason the Tigers don't win the World Series, they will still be a top contender for it next season and there will be a lot of quality managerial candidates on the market this winter (except for Terry Francona...nice pickup Cleveland) who would love to guide the Tigers next year. 

With or without a 2012 World Series championship...I think that we are seeing the end of the Jim Leyland era in Detroit. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

One down...Ten to go!

The Detroit Tigers began their journey towards the 2012 World Series tonight before a sold out crowd at Comerica Park.  This team was built specifically for this post season...and they delivered by defeating the A's 3-1 in Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series. 

Personally, I was worried that this team might underachieve.  Cabrera was just coming off of winning the Triple Crown and the team had caught up to and then passed the Chicago White Sox in the last week of the season.  I wondered if they would look past the Oakland A's.

As I watched the game tonight, it became clear to me that they weren't looking past anybody.  Aside from a lead off home run from Oakland's Coco Crisp, the Tigers were in control all night long.  Verlander gave up only 3 hits over 7 innings and struck out 11 A's while Benoit and Valverde each pitched scoreless innings.

The thing that surprised me the most tonight was that the Tigers won this game without any production from Cabrera of Fielder.  When these two guys start hitting (and they will hit), the rest of the American League had better watch out.  The Tigers have the look and feel of a World Series team. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Should there even be a debate about this?

Detroit Tigers 3rd baseman Miguel Cabrera joined an exclusive club recently when he became only the 14th person to ever win the Triple Crown in major league baseball.  For those of you who don't know what the winning the Triple Crown means, it's when a player finishes first in batting average, home runs, and r.b.i.'s. 
It hasn't been done since Carl Yastrzemski did it back in 1967.

This is an amazing accomplishment that happens only once in a lifetime.  In my opinion, winning the Triple Crown is more than enough to earn Cabrera the MVP award in the American League as well. 

Unfortunately, there are many writers and the "experts" at ESPN that don't agree.  They feel that Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout is more deserving of the award.  From what I've read, they feel that Trout's W.A.R. value is higher than Cabrera's.  Quite honestly, I feel that this argument is total B.S.

W.A.R. stands for "Wins Against Replacement" and it basically means that Mike Trout means more to the success of the Angels than Cabrera means to the Tigers.  W.A.R. ratings are part of Sabermetrics, which is  the specialized analysis of baseball through objective evidence, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity.  It is what the movie "Moneyball" is all about. 

I don't want to take anything away from Mike Trout...he's a phenomenal player who had a great year.  He is a very young player who has a terrific future ahead of him.  He is not the most valuable player in the American League this year though.  If he continues to play like he did this past season he will be...but not this year.  2012 belongs to Miguel Cabrera.