Thursday, July 31, 2008
Morris also boasts offers from USC, Oregon State, Washington State, and Kentucky. As a junior at Los Angeles (CA) Windward, the 6'3", 175 pounder averaged 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. Checking out quotes on him, as well as his highlight tapes, he appears to be a tremendous slasher and finisher with great court vision.
Looks good to me (giant understatement, I really really want this kid). Morris going blue tomorrow would be a huge boost to the Michigan basketball program.
California guard Morris set to announce decision on Friday (MLive)
Darius Morris - Basketball Recruiting (Rivals) ($)
Well, this adds some intrigue to the Winter Classic. Scotty Bowman is leaving the Red Wings and joining the Chicago Blackhawks as their "Senior Advisor, Hockey Operations".
Although Scotty has said he was content staying in the Detroit organization, his son Stan is an assistant GM in Chicago, and it is quite possible that he will have a greater role with the Blackhawks than he has had in Detroit.
We'll miss you, Scotty. Good luck in Chicago. Just don't beat us.
(Image from Detroit News)
Today's question: Which returning player will have a breakout season this year?
Joe: I’m employing the Dubya strategy here and going with my gut instead of my brain to make an important decision. My breakout player is Kevin Grady. I know he’s coming off a knee injury and I know he is the consensus third choice for the starting tailback spot behind Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown, but I still think he can do it.
Here is where I try to rationalize my irrational decision: This guy was still a five-star recruit, and he’s only three years removed from that. Everybody is sleeping on him after his injury, but he appears to be fine and any lingering effects can only be mental. Also, I think his DUI earlier this summer was a big wake-up call for him and he might be looking to prove that he’s no screw-up. I’ve got no numbers, no facts, just a feeling. I think there is a place in this offense for a back like him, people just haven’t realized how big it is yet. Call it a hunch.
By the way, Kevin’s brother Kelvin Grady, who as we all know is a PG on the basketball team, was hitting on my girlfriend over Facebook. Just wanted to put that out there. (ed. Sorry Joe, good luck in the hunt for a new girlfriend.)
Webstarr: Brandon Graham.
Last year, he was virtually absent the first two games of the season. That's all I will say about the first two games of last season. The next week, he comes back to the tune of 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in our 38-0 shellacking of an admittedly atrocious Notre Dame team. Graham finished the season with 8.5 sacks. That was last year.
Mike Barwis stated in an interview with ESPN's Adam Rittenberg that Brandon Graham came into the season weighing 287 and benching 315. Barwis continues, "We cut him all the way down to [a weight of] 250 and then brought him back up to 269. At 269 today, he did 475 for two (repetitions) on the bench. That's pretty good."
I don't know what's more exciting about that statement; that B.G. can bench 475 pounds, or that such on achievement is only "pretty good" to Mike Barwis. If he's that much stronger, and that much lighter, there is no way he won?t also be quicker and more explosive.
In high school, B.G. was a 5 star inside linebacker whose Scout profile showed literally no weaknesses. As the player evaluation on said profile reads, Graham "always arrives to the football in a nasty mood." While that is certainly a great sign for his potential as an elite collegiate defensive end, it should be noted that in person he is extremely friendly (ed. Webstarr is a bartender at a popular student bar, and is in contact with a lot of players, so he's not just pulling this out of his ass). Some say he's cocky, but as Jadakiss once said, "I'm not cocky, I'm confident. So when you tell me I'm the best it's a compliment." That couldn't be more true about B.G.. He is confident, but the type of guy who doesn't take it for granted. Positivity off the field + Intensity on the field (in the presence of Mike Barwis) = one hell of a football player.
As far as making the biggest impact, if Brandon Graham can reach his true potential, he will command a lot of attention. That will resonate throughout the rest of our D-line, and thus through the rest of our defense. If our 2006 defense taught me anything, it's that a good defense starts with a disruptive pass rush. The fact that B.G. has such a positive attitude, as is evident in this video, and clearly the work ethic to match (as evidenced by his ability to control his weight and increase his strength) means that as long as he stays healthy, he will be a major factor. I look for him to have an absolutely monstrous year, and to be the guy people are talking about as our difference maker.
Sam (aka Sweegor the Magnificent): Which returning player will have a breakout season next year?
As when discussing potentially influential freshmen, opportunity matters as much as ability. Several young players worth watching who are currently not receiving much attention (Ryan Van Bergen, Avery Horn, Troy Woolfolk) are unlikely candidates to start regardless of the strength of their summer camps, simply because they are behind more experienced players. Moreover, it's hard for me to be optimistic about any one offensive player's individual season given the complete lack of experience everywhere. I have some confidence in the combination of the scheme and the overall talent level, but very little in any individual except for the usual suspects (Greg Mathews, Brandon Minor).
The defense is where Michigan should be scary, at least a little bit. With two outstanding cornerbacks and four talented veterans returning on the defensive line, new defensive coordinator Scott Shafer should be able to let the safeties be aggressive. Examining Shafer's track record, this seems very likely. In 2006, under Shafer, Western Michigan led the nation in both sacks and interceptions. In 2007, under his tutelage, Stanford ranked 7th nationally in sacks, playing against teams far above their talent level (and even occasionally beating them, as they did to USC in the biggest upset of the 2007 season, intra-Division I or otherwise...OK, I'm still not over it.) These are only the latest indications that the defense under Shafer will be in permanent attack mode.
Quotes from Shafer upon his hiring:
"The philosophy of our defense is attack-oriented, attack and react. We want to be a defense that is multiple, that is always putting pressure and forcing the hand of the offense. We want to be a penetrating defense."If Michigan is going to be making plays, the free safety should be making his fair share. Steve Brown was born to play the role. A stud recruit and phenomenal athlete, Brown was arguably Michigan's best defensive player in Spring 2007. After disastrous performances against Appalachian State and Oregon, Brown was permanently benched in favor of less talented but more reliable veterans Brandent Englemon and Jamar Adams. Safety, like quarterback, its offensive equivalent, is the rare position which relies more on a vague sense of instinct than simple decision making between a small number of options. You can only learn by being on the field and young safeties tend to take their lumps, and take them hard. Well, Brown has already taken his lumps, is reportedly very pissed of about it, and once again has excelled in practice, causing one defensive coach to call him the best defensive back he has ever coached. This year, Steve Brown will be giving the lumps.
"We don't want to be a defense that sits back. We want to be a defense that creates turnovers and scores touchdowns. Lead the conference in sacks, interceptions and defensive scores. That's how it's always been everywhere I've coached and how it will be at Michigan."
Ace: Carson Butler can be counted among the faction of players (also including Stevie Brown, Sam McGuffie, our entire defensive line, and all wide receivers under 64 pounds) that should be pleased with the regime change the Michigan program underwent this offseason. Butler, one of the perpetrators of the St. Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre, was in and out of Lloyd's doghouse during his first three seasons (including a post-massacre stint off the team). Now, he will be given a clean sheet with a new coaching staff, and will play in a new offensive system that should fit him perfectly.
"Hold your horses," you must be thinking. "West Virginia didn't throw a single pass to a tight end last year! How can Carson Butler possibly break out this season?"
First, you are a very educated reader. That is quite a good question, which just so happens to perfectly set up the rest of my post. Thank you. The answer comes from Rich Rodriguez, via MGoBlog's Brian Cook, who got this quote from RichRod at the Big Ten Media Day:
"You want to look for mismatches part of what we're experimenting with that with the tight ends. If they can prove to be a mismatch on the field we'll use them; if they can't, they won't."Carson Butler is a 6'4", 247 pound mismatch waiting to happen. He will most likely end up spending most of his time in the slot, which frees him up from his greatest weakness: blocking (and we can all praise our own particular deity for that; Carson Butler cannot block a soul). The question for opposing defenses now is how to guard Butler. Put a linebacker on him, and Butler will have a field day running right by the poor sap on repeated 15-25 yard post routes. Safeties and corners, on the other hand, will have a rough time trying to match up with Butler's combination of size and speed.
Another thing going in Butler's favor (although not Michigan's) is the inexperience of the Wolverine quarterbacks. Young QB's tend to look for a big, consistent target and go to him a lot. Is Steven Threet going to be comfortable enough in the new offense to sit in the pocket, make three reads, and then hit Toney Clemons on a long-developing out route? Or will he just take a quick look to see if his first option is wide open and then look for the 6'4" guy wearing 85 in the winged helmet? My guess is the latter. If Justin Feagin is getting snaps, this effect should be even greater, as he'll have even less of an understanding of the offense and less confidence in his ability to make quality throws downfield.
Look for Butler to be massacring defensive backfields next season, instead of innocent Michigan students wandering through West Quad.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
At the beginning of the season, the Tigers seemed like toast and fans were blasting Miguel Cabrera, as if a superstar hitter isn’t allowed to be in a slump during the season. It did not help that Curtis Granderson was injured and the normally reliable Placido Polanco was swinging the bat like a ninny.
Soon, Cabrera started to play like he knows how and now he is hitting a solid .293 and has 18 homers.
The point is, great players like him don’t forget how to hit. They may go through slumps. Hell, a slump could last a season, but they don’t just forget.
Dombrowski clearly has realized this and has decided that the only thing that can help the Tigers now is some good, consistent pitching. And he’s right.
Detroit already has plenty of hitters. They spent the whole off-season collecting them, and paying them a lot of money. Not everyone they acquired is necessarily doing their part (yeah, I’m talking to you, Edgar Renteria), but they definitely have the pieces in place as far as hitting goes.
Pitching is where they need work. Dombrowski knows this, and that’s why he made this trade.
Any Tigers fan should be very enthusiastic about this deal.
First, we need to be honest with ourselves: barring a pretty remarkable run by the Tigers and a pretty remarkable collapse by the White Sox and Twins, this year is not going to bring us the playoffs we all crave. It sucks, but we need to get over it.
This trade tells me we are ready to complete the second half of the puzzle: pitching. Also, like Ace mentioned, this was a smooth move by Dombrowski; he saw a team was in need, and got something very good for a 36-year-old catcher who doesn’t take steroids anymore and who was going to be released next season anyway. The only question to me is, given how much the Yanks needed a solid catcher, could he have gotten more? But that’s another post.
Overall, a solid and exciting move.
I for one am in support of the Pudge-for-Farns deal. Pudge was going to walk after this season, wasn't exactly pleased with splitting time with Brandon Inge at catcher, and was not putting up better offensive numbers than Inge anyway (the truth is in the OPS, people). Farnsworth will get a chance to close, and will at the very least add depth to the bullpen. He's been pitching quite well this year, despite a penchant for giving up the long ball. Plus, adding Farns means we probably won't see Todd Jones in any high-leverage innings ever again. That in itself is certainly cause for celebration.
While the Tigers lose some catching depth (hello Dane Sardinha!), Inge doesn't have the wear and tear of 18 seasons crouching behind the plate, so he should be able to handle a bigger workload than Pudge did. Plus, Pudge and Inge were batting in the 8 and 9 spots anyway, so we're not talking about replacing Magglio-level run production here.
If the Tigers were going to make the postseason, something had to be done about the bullpen. I would have loved to see Dombrowski to bring in a starter (and he still might), but I think he made the right decision when he jumped at this offer from the Yankees, who needed to find someone to replace Jorge Posada. Like the Farns, I'm giving this trade a thumbs up.
As for the other Tigers bloggers, here is how they fall:
Yay: The Wayne Fontes Experience, The Fanhouse
Nay: Roar of the Tigers, The Detroit Tiger Weblog, The Spot Starters, Mack Avenue Tigers
Via ESPN.com, the Tigers have just traded catcher Pudge Rodriguez for reliever (and ex-Tiger) Kyle Farnsworth. Pudge is due to be a free agent at the end of this year, and Detroit did not appear to have him in their plans for the future. For now, Brandon Inge will presumably take over full-time catching duties.
Farnsworth, who pitched in Detroit in 2005 before joining the Yankees, has a 3.65 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and a 43/17 strikeout to walk ratio in 44.1 innings pitched this season. Although he was much maligned as a Tiger, if he keeps those numbers up he would be a very solid addition to a Tiger bullpen in need of consistent (read: good) pitching.
I know that there will be many who think that this trade signifies that Detroit has given up on the season, but I actually like the deal. Detroit gets a good bullpen arm, and Pudge is not the same player he was when the Tigers signed him in 2004. Although Rodriguez is certainly a better defensive catcher than Inge, they have almost identical production at the plate. Although Pudge hits for a much higher average (.295 to .227), Inge has much more power, and their OPS (on-base plus slugging) is almost identical (Pudge with .755, Inge with .758).
Considering Detroit could just as easily kept Pudge for the stretch run and then gotten nothing in return for him next offseason, I like Dave Dombrowski's decision here. I'm sad to see Pudge go, especially since he was the first player to believe that Dombrowski could build a winner in Detroit. However, it was his time to get shipped out, and he's going to a playoff contender. Let's hope Farnsworth keeps up his numbers from this season and shores up a Tiger bullpen that has taken its lumps this year.
MLive has the full story: 5 years, $15 million, which could be a huge bargain if Filppula blossoms into a solid second-line scoring threat. He netted 19 goals in 78 games last year, is a solid defensive forward, and showed flashes of brilliance in the playoffs last season.
Filppula's signing leaves the Red Wings with only Kyle Quincey and two of the Chris Chelios/Darren McCarty/Aaron Downey trio to re-sign. You can never say it too many times: Ken Holland is one of the best GM's in sports, period.
Via the Michigan Daily's report on Big Ten Media Day, Brian Hoyer is still a bit pissy:
I understand the Mike Hart comments were a bit over-the-top (although awesome), but honestly Hoyer, get over yourself. After State's giant choke job last season (in which Hart ran for 112 yards on 15 carries), shouldn't Hoyer be focused on how the team can actually beat Michigan instead of what was said after the game? Hoyer is no superstar, and was sub-par in the Michigan game last year (19-35, 161 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). I don't think Mike Hart or any of the returning Wolverines would be shaking in their shoes if Hoyer was "gunning for" them. As for the rest of the Spartans, well, it's been 18 years since they've won in Michigan Stadium. Fire away, Sparty.
“I think you kind of do have to take it personally because, obviously, he’s not back,” Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer said. “I mean, it’s good for him. He can make those comments because he was leaving. There was no need for him to say something like that, so you have to take it personally.
“I wouldn’t say something like that if I was going to have to play those guys next year because you don’t want people gunning for you.”
Advice to Little Brother: Stop talking until you prove it on the field. Mike Hart said the "little brother" stuff in the euphoria after a huge come-from-behind victory. He earned the right to talk shit. The last time State earned that right was in 2001, and they got a lot of help from Spartan Bob the Clock Operator that season. Mike Hart is not a coward for saying those comments knowing he would not be back the next season, he truly believes that Michigan doesn't need him to back those comments up. Until Little Brother proves otherwise, so do I.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Yes, Kwame Brown is a big body, and at one point in his life he was a talented player. Unfortunately, that point happened to be when he was 17 years old. Here's a rundown of what Kwame has accomplished since being the #1 overall pick in 2001:
- Became undoubtedly Michael Jordan's worst personnel move as an executive. Michael Jordan is a terrible executive.
- Has averaged all of 58 games played per season since entering the league.
- Has career averages of 7.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
- From his Wikipedia page:
"During the first round of the 2005 playoffs, in which they played against the Chicago Bulls, the Wizards played a video before their first game of the series, in which Arenas instructed the fans not to boo Brown when he entered the game. The fans complied, even though Brown played only four minutes in the game. In the next several days after the game, Brown skipped a practice and a shootaround, as well as the next game, claiming that he thought he would punch Arenas if he entered the game. He skipped another practice with a supposed stomach ailment, only to be seen later that night at a Chinese eatery. The Wizards responded by suspending Brown for the rest of the playoffs."
- Was involved in one of more lopsided trades in recent memory when the Lakers gave up Caron Butler (an All-Star last season) and Chucky Atkins for Brown and Laron Profit.
- Involved in a cake caper.
- Pissed off Lakers fans to the point where they screamed in horror every time he shot the ball:
- Inspired a website.
- Involved in the most lopsided trade in anyone's memory, getting dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies along with Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, Marc Gasol, and a couple draft picks for All-Star forward Pau Gasol. The Lakers go from borderline playoff team to 2008 Western Conference Champions.
- The Grizzlies choose to allow Brown to walk as a free agent after playing all of 15 games in a Memphis uniform.
“We’re celebrating what’s special about the school,” said Mark Clinard, Adidas’ business unit director for football, baseball and motor sports. “The details are what speak to that. As we learned more at very beginning stages of partnership, we were looking at what’s special about Michigan. We put Bo Schembechler’s famous quote ‘Those Who Stay Will Be Champions’ in the hem of the authentic jersey. It’s not just about us just putting a logo on the program. We also have (silicone prints of) the 42 Big Ten championships on the inside of shoulder pad area. We can do everything with the outside of the jersey to uphold the honor and tradition. We’re putting more on the inside.”There is now visual evidence of those additions to the jersey, thanks to MVictors:
Ok, Ace treated you all to a couple of posts about Michigan and NCAA Football 09, so I thought I could chime in with a little info about the Lions and the new Madden. Besides, it makes sense that the superior player between the two of us would talk about the superior game. Seriously though, neither of us will concede the title of better player, but Madden actually is the better game since it comes out later and EA actually tries. For those of you who might be discouraged by the buggy NCAA Football 09, I genuinely believe Madden is going to be off the hook this year. Believe that.
Anyways, the fellas over at IGN Sports have treated us to the player ratings for all 32 teams. About the Lions:
Our projected starters according to EA:
QB: John Kitna, 84 overall
HB: Kevin Smith, 79 / Tatum Bell, 78
FB: Jerome Felton, 78
WR: Roy Williams, 92 / Calvin Johnson, 91 / Shaun McDonald, 87 / Mike Furrey, 84
TE: Michael Gaines, 79 / Dan Campbell, 78
LT: Jeff Backus, 84 (generous?)
LG: Edwin Mulitalo, 79
C: Dominic Raiola, 87
RG: Stephen Peterman, 80
RT: Gosder Cherilus, 79
FS: Daniel Bullocks, 82
SS: Dwight Smith, 86
CB: Leigh Bodden, 90 / Brian Kelly, 82
MLB: Jordon Dizon, 78
ROLB: Ernie Sims, 94
LOLB:Paris Lenon, 84
LE: Jared DeVries, 82
RE: Dewayne White, 86
DT: Cory Redding, 91 / Chuck Darby, 83
Special Teams -
K: Jason Hanson, 91
P: Nick Harris, 81
KR/PR: Kenneth Moore (85 RETURN rating)
It could've been much worse. Our receiving core is nasty, and our young players have potential. For a franchise project, the Lions are the perfect candidate. Get a good HB and QB, shore up the O-line and a few spots on defense, and the Lions are ready for action. If only Matt Millen knew how to do any of those things.
Before I sign off, a couple ratings that made me really happy. Calvin Johnson, in addition to being 91 overall, has 97 speed and 97 spectacular catch. Glad to see EA pays attention. Also, Ernie Sims, who Ace could tell you I like a little too much, was granted 95 hit power to go with his 95 overall. If anything that's a little low but I like where their heads are at.
Madden NFL 09 comes out August 13th (or August 12th at midnight if you're like me and Ace). Check back to The Ace of Sports for more info on the Detroit Lions, virtual and otherwise.
Monday, July 28, 2008
However, not every three-star-athlete-turned-quarterback becomes a bona-fide Heisman candidate. In fact, Pat White is the only one I can think of in recent memory, and there are a lot of three-stars out there. For those who hope Feagin can contribute immediately, there is not a whole lot of hope out there. White had a redshirt season under his belt before leading West Virginia to an 11-1 record in 2005, and his numbers that season (65-114 for 828 yards, 8 TD, 5 INT; 952 yards and 7 TD rushing) didn't exactly set the world on fire, at least when it came to putting the ball in the air. Yes, everyone remembers White and Steve Slaton running all over Georgia in their Sugar Bowl upset victory that season, but West Virginia barely escaped at home against East Carolina earlier in the season, and cruised through a weak Big East Conference.
Taking a look at their respective highlight reels, there a couple noticeable differences in their games. Let's take a look.
First of all, White seems to be a lot faster, although that may be a product of having three-plus years of Barwis-izing under his belt (his tape is from the 2007 season, his redshirt junior year). White also appears to be a lot better at changing direction on a dime, making defenders look like they're still playing high school ball while he's playing at a much higher level. Feagin tends to just push defenders off of him while switching direction, something he probably won't be able to do in the Big Ten. When Feagin realizes that he is not faster and stronger than anyone else on the field, he will have to switch up his running style so he doesn't get carted off the field after cutting right into whatever Penn State linebacker gets wildly overhyped this year.
As for throwing the ball (you know, what quarterbacks are supposed to do) neither are exactly Tom Brady in arm strength or accuracy. As stated earlier, White was a pretty terrible passer when he was a freshman, and he really had to rely on his feet to generate any offense. Feagin, from the looks of the tape, has the ability to throw on the run and is fairly accurate. However, it is hard to take much away from a high school highlight tape, especially when that tape makes a 6'0", 190 lbs. quarterback look like the next coming of Bo Jackson. Feagin is clearly a run-first, pass-second quarterback, which is fine for Rich Rodriguez's system until the defense completely ignores the pass and beheads the quarterback on a zone read. That's when you hope Feagin has the shiftiness of White, is able to sidestep the linebacker/guillotine, and proceed to dash past the opponent's stunned secondary.
Feagin comes into Michigan with every chance to start, being the only quarterback on the roster who anyone with the ability to feel pity wants to see run the spread option. However, he has a steep hill to climb if he wants to start for Michigan in his freshman year: learning a new and complicated playbook while starting way behind Steven Threet, who already has a full spring to build on. Can he be Pat White II? I wouldn't bet on it, but stranger things have happened.
Pat White Statistics (ESPN)
Justin Feagin - Football Recruiting (Rivals) ($)
2005 West Virginia Mountaineers Football Team (Wikipedia)
Sunday, July 27, 2008
I know this may seem a little late, as well as a sore subject for everybody involved, but I need to talk about the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
Now, I have to let you know right away that I am writing this for very selfish reasons. This is going to be very therapeutic for me, a big step in getting over what has turned into the Pistons Tragedy.
There were a lot of reasons why the Pistons lost in the Eastern Conference Finals for the third year in a row: they were arrogant, inconsistent, and didn’t play any help defense in the post. However, I think I must point out the elephant in the room, the person nobody wants to hold accountable because we all love him so much: Sheed.
Like I said before, he was not the only reason the Pistons lost, but if you had to point the finger, he is the guy.
I know some people may say Tayshaun Prince was the real reason, after he only averaged 9.8 ppg in the Conference Finals. Honestly? He was guarding the best player on the other team the whole game. All his energy was used up on guarding Paul Pierce and he had nothing left on offense. We could blame Flip Saunders for that; after all, it’s not like anyone was going to stop Paul Pierce and his Magic Knee that series anyway, why not throw different looks at him?
(Quick tangent on Paul Pierce: I used to have a lot of respect for him and the way he played. He played tough, was great at drawing contact, and despite being athletically challenged, scored a lot of points and played hard every night for crappy teams. After the finals? After his flop job on his knee? After the wheelchair? 90 percent of that respect is lost. Wasn’t he openly weeping? I almost wept. I was witnessing the death of a man’s dignity for the sake of dramatizing an already over-dramatized series. God.)
Anyway, I think the loss was at least partially due to Sheed’s fatal flaw: his supposed “passion” for the game.
This “passion” I speak of was much talked about on ESPN during the series, and I even remember watching a long story by Rachel Nichols (god I hate her) on how Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace are similar players because they both share a borderline insane emotional involvement in the game.
Here’s why that is false:
Kevin Garnett is crazy. He should be in a mental hospital. I truly believe that if I looked at him dead in the eye when he’s doing one of his buggin’ out faces, one where you can see the sanity leave his body like a ghost, I would turn to stone. I mean, the man reportedly blacks out briefly during games. Need I say more?
Before games, he is like a sleeping volcano. In fact, you can almost see steam rising from his head. Once the game starts, there goes the sanity ghost and Garnett plays like there is no tomorrow. Yeah, he whoops and he screams, but he does more than that. He has gotten so good at channeling this inner rage that he can use it to do things regular humans can’t; push himself harder when his body screams uncle.
He is better for it and so is his team. In fact, he and they would be completely lost without it.
Sheed is also crazy. I don’t think it goes to the same level as Garnett, but it’s definitely there. However, there is one major difference between Sheed’s rage and Garnett’s rage:
Garnett’s rage is used. He channels it to make it work for him.
Sheed’s appears. Most of the time when a ref makes a bad call.
This is a small but crucial difference. The only time I saw Sheed truly go nuts was pre game (and who wouldn’t be hype as hell after that?) and when he thought the ref made a bad call. These are not the times the Pistons need him going nuts. They need to see his passion when he is facing up a player significantly worse than him, i.e., Kendrick Perkins, i.e., the Devil’s Spawn (I mean, look at him. Especially with the pubic beard growing from his chin). Where was it when everyone was looking for it, in game six? Four points? Really?
The truth is, this has been a problem throughout his career. Look at him and tell me why he has never averaged over 20 points per game his entire career. It cannot be explained logically. He is almost seven feet tall, athletic, can shoot 3’s, and has great post moves (he is deceptively quick with his drop step). Why has he never grabbed more than nine rebounds per? Who knows?
It is a well-known fact that Sheed is a classic underachiever. The weird thing about that is, usually underachievers are talented players who care to little, or not at all, about the game. But if, like everyone I talk to says, Sheed cares deeply about the game, how is it possible for him to underachieve? He has the physical skills, the athletic ability and, apparently, the will or “passion.” How can he go wrong?
The only logical explanation is this: he really doesn’t care that much. How can you care if you have the ability to take over in an elimination game, and then don’t? How can you care when you’d rather shoot 3’s than go to work inside, when you and everybody else knows that is where you need to be? Answer these questions, and you solve Sheed.
The smart thing for the Pistons to do is have him come off the bench next year and then let him leave when his contract runs out. They could try to trade him, but odds are nobody will pony up for him.
What Sheed needs to know is that you can have all the “passion” you want. It’s how you channel it that decides if you’re home or at a parade in June.
Words cannot express the relief Tigers fans feel after Jim Leyland announced that Rodney would be taking over closing duties "for the time being" this afternoon. After two ugly outings upon his return from the disabled list in June, Rodney has an impressive 1.98 ERA with 12 strikeouts and 5 walks in 12 appearances. Opponents are only batting .146 against him over that stretch, with a woeful .491 OPS (woeful for the batters, that is). He possesses a mid-90s fastball and one of the best changeups in the game, which should make him a great fit in the closer role. Hopefully he keeps up his hot streak, and Tigers fans aren't subjected to The Todd Jones Experience any more.
Amateur photoshop comparison between Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney:
I rest my case.
Rodney takes over closing duties (MLB.com)
Fernando Rodney 2008 Pitching Gamelogs (baseball-reference.com)
Saturday, July 26, 2008
First question: Which true freshman will have the biggest impact on the field this season?
Joe: Gotta be Darryl Stonum. The receivers are very suspect right now (along with quarterback and o-line, but oh well), and the guy has the ability to make an impact right away. And we'll need him.
Webstarr: Damn you, Joe. I'm going with Stonum too. Although I think McGuffie will experience the greatest impact when he tries to jump over a college safety's head, Stonum ("Stones"?) is going to be the biggest freshman difference maker. Don't forget that he came early so he's got a leg up on the other guys as far as getting up to speed. Plus, I like how Mallett might have had something to do with his coming here (he claims this, I promise), but nothing to do with his staying. As a general rule, not following Mallett is a positive. Also, there's more room for wideouts in the new system, obviously, so a freshman receiver is more likely to make an impact than a freshman running back, especially with our currently cluttered backfield.
Sam (aka Sweegor the Magnificent): Which true freshman will have the biggest impact on the season?
First, who won't: Despite astronomical hype, even Michigan homer and recruiting guru Josh Helmholdt argues that the Sam McGuffie he saw frontflipping over defenders at the Army All-American Game was not ready for an immediate impact. He is a remarkable athlete, like his teammate Michael Shaw, and a perfect fit for the spread, but neither is physically mature enough to beat out Carlos Brown, Brandon Minor, or even Kevin Grady, the former 5-Star who still possesses every tool except vision (though after seeing his mug shot, this begins to make a little more sense). The same complaint registers even stronger for rabbit chasers Roy Roundtree, Martavious Odoms and Terrence Robinson. Because such players (5'3", 125, 4.2, Hobbies include playing tag against squirrels) are new to Michigan fans, the fan base is being incredibly unrealistic about their potential for immediate impact. Little quick guys are like any other type of recruit: Only about half ever make an impact at all and those that do tend to make it in the third, fourth or fifth year in the program. We all have reason to be excited about our spanking new phalanx of punt returners (and they keep coming--welcome Jeremy Gallon), and the ways Rod will find to get them the ball, but it's unlikely that any of them individually will have a statistically impressive year.
If Dann O'Neill or Ricky Barnum get significant playing time, the most valuable freshman will be the student manager who has to keep carting Steven Threet and assorted back-ups off the field. They're offensive linemen; pray that they redshirt. BooBoo Cissoko is an enormously talented athlete but played against poor competition in high school and demonstrated his lack of technique while getting destroyed in the Army All-American Game. He'll be a stud eventually, but don't look for him to beat out Troy Woolfork this year. Darryl Stonum is a prototype outside wide out, but the position figures to play a smaller role than in past years and we already have Junior Hemingway and Greg Mathews at the position. Mike Martin is a future star but is playing behind two solid returning starters. Kevin Koger and Brandon Moore play a position that, as far as we know, no longer exists.
Justin Feagin is a logical choice, simply for the enormous need at the position. While he seems like a hard worker and a good kid, seeing anything more than a few plays a game with a dumbed-down playbook would be terrifying. True freshman quarterbacks rarely succeed and when they do, they're normally 5-Star Quarterbaclss like Chad Henne and not 3-Star Safeties like Feagin. I'll keep my expectations just above the floor until he proves me wrong.
There is one position with both a lack of experience and a wealth of incoming talent: Linebacker. Only Obi Ezeh returns as a starter--everyone else is a question mark. Marell Evans and Jonas Mouton are both talented and fast (players on the team raves about Evans and his speed anytime they're given the chance), and both should fit into the new attacking, blitzing defense. Given their lack of experience, however, we have to assume the competition will be open, and several players will get snaps at the SAM and the WILL. J.B. Fitzgerald is the best bet among the freshmen to push for playing time and eventually receive it. He has a college body already and is by all accounts a remarkable athlete. He may not end up starting but he should get plenty of snaps. While the 2008 class will eventually be remembered for beginning the transition to the spread, the most valuable true freshman of the 2008 season may very well be a nuts and bolts attacking outside linebacker, the kind of which we've seen at Michigan for the last decade.
(ed. I was going to edit down Sweegor's rant for the sake of symmetry, but that was too beautifully done. This guy really should have his own blog.)
Ace: 2008 may be the Year of the Rat in the Chinese Zodiac, but in Ann Arbor, it is the Year of the Rabbit-Chaser. While there will be a place in Michigan's offense for the traditional outside possession wideout, much more attention will be placed in the slot than years past. Rich Rodriguez likes to have a couple fast little buggers in the slot (think freshman Steve Breaston) who can turn a five-yard hitch into a 80-yard back-breaking touchdown. At West Virginia, Darius Reynaud was that fast little bugger. He was only 5'9" and looked like he should play running back, but finished his 3-year career at WVU ranked 5th in school history in receptions and 3rd in receiving touchdowns. A little Reynaud sampler:
Who is going to step in at Michigan and play that role? The Wolverines don't have any upperclassmen who have the speed or moves to play in the slot. Three freshmen have been brought in who will have the chance to play there: Martavious Odoms, Michael Shaw, and Terrence Robinson. Shaw, who played running back in high school, is caught in the unfortunate position of being caught in a logjam at RB, while not being the prototypical slot guy Odoms and Robinson are. Out of Odoms and Robinson, I expect Robinson to be the player who emerges as Michigan's starting slot receiver, and will soon be the recipient of countless WR screens, reverses, and two-yards crossing routes designed to get him in space. I also expect to see him in the mix at kick returner, a role that has been filled by a bunch of players who couldn't break their way out of a glass house since Breaston graduated.
Why do we want Terrence Robinson in space? This is why (Robinson is #7 in white):
The kid is incredibly fast, can catch the ball, and has the ability to juke while running nearly full speed. Yes, he is quite small (5'9", 170 lbs.) but if Rich Rodriguez has proven anything in his coaching career, it is that you can't hit what you can't catch. For those who don't remember, Steve Breaston also played quarterback in high school, and was so paper-thin fans worried he would snap in half when hit squarely, and he was able to transition pretty well into playing the slot and being a dynamite kick returner. I fully expect Robinson to have the same kind of impact next season. He is Darius Reynaud minus the power, but with more speed and moves. If Rodriguez could turn Reynaud, who went undrafted in 2008, into a receiving weapon at West Virginia, he should certainly be able to turn Robinson into an absolute terror in the slot this year.
[Note: If Odoms beats out Robinson as the designated slot guy/returner, just switch my vote to him. You can basically just swap "Odoms" for "Robinson" for that entire post and it would still ring true. I'm totally cheating, but you get the idea. Slot guy = big deal.]
Stay tuned for our next edition, when we figure out how much everyone should write (I'm guessing somewhere between Joe [haiku] and Sam [War and Peace]). Also, we'll be taking our stabs at which returning player will have a breakout season this year.
Of all the positions in baseball, closer is probably the easiest to replace in-house. Although many will say that being a successful closer takes a certain mindset that few have (and maybe it does, I'm certainly not an expert on the psyche of the major league baseball player), the job description of a closer is quite simple.
- Get three outs without giving up a run (or two...or three...)
- Collect save, millions of dollars, undying affection of countless attractive women
Todd Jones has none of these attributes. He has a laser-straight high-80's fastball (which is what Jermaine Dye crushed into the right field stands for the game-winning homer tonight, setting off this rant) and a couple of mediocre breaking balls that he can throw for strikes. He "pitches to contact" which is a kind way of saying he is unable to strike anyone out. He has a 1.526 WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched), which is a fancy way of saying he lets way too many runners on base. Check out this page. Highlighted are the games in which Todd Jones did NOT allow a baserunner in a full inning of work. These games do not come too often, and are greeted by sarcastic cheers and sighs of relief by Tigers faithful.
I realize Joel Zumaya has not exactly pitched like Mariano Rivera since coming back from a shoulder injury this season. However, he perfectly fits the mold of what a closer should be. He touches triple digits with his fastball, which sets up his changeup to be something besides just a slow pitch destined to be cranked for another line drive hit. He has a nasty curveball that makes hitters' knees buckle when they expect the fastball. He appears to have the "closer mentality" after a couple years of acting as if every seventh-inning hold was the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series.
The Tigers are probably not making the playoffs this year, but they are certainly not out of the picture. However, they are definitely not making the playoffs with a 40-year old beach ball slinging camouflage enthusiast taking the ball in the last frame of close games. Jim Leyland has already said he is going to try out Joel Zumaya and Freddy Dolsi at closer. It's time to give one of them the role full-time.
I'm not alone.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I've already posted the spreadsheet for Michigan's (and every team's rosters) for the NCAA 09 video game. I decided to round up some more useful stuff for the Michigan fan who has a fair amount of free time and a social-life-crippling passion for video games (don't worry, you're not alone).
First, the in-game stadium sounds. Check out this post over at the Operation Sports boards. All you have to do is burn these songs to an audio CD (NOT an .mp3 CD, it took me a while to figure that out) and then rip them into your Xbox on the dashboard. For die-hard Michigan fans, your home game experience will be that much more authentic (there's nothing better than getting a big third- or fourth-down stop and hearing Tempation blare over your television speakers).
Michigan's official roster, complete with freshmen numbers, has been released. Check out Michigan Sports Center for the full rundown of what frosh is wearing what jersey. There's a lot of corrections to be made to the game, so if you want Boubacar Cissoko wearing #33 (instead of #12) as he shoots for the Thorpe Award in your dynasty, check out the link. For the full roster, check out Michigan's official site. Note the absence of Marques Slocum.
If you want a custom cover, check out the IGN Message Boards linked under the Jake Long pic. You can request specific covers if you link to a picture.
Well, the Shock sure seem determined to keep the WNBA in the news. After Detroit had five players (and assistant coach Rick Mahorn) suspended following Tuesday's brawl with the LA Sparks, they decided to sign on additional help. That help, as it turns out, comes in the form of 50-year old Hall of Fame player Nancy Lieberman, who last played in the WNBA in 1999. Liberman got a seven-day contract, and will get a shot at playing while the Shock are depleted by suspension.
"Can she still compete at this level? I don't know," [Coach Bill] Laimbeer said. "But I'm going to throw her in the fire."Please, Coach, don't throw her. She might break a hip.
Shock sign 50-year-old Lieberman to seven-day contract
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
As we all know by now, the Chicago Blackhawks will play the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field on January 1st, in the most recent iteration of the NHL's "Winter Classic" series. I love the concept, with two Original Six teams battling it out in a chilly outdoor setting in a game that showcases the defending Stanley Cup champs in what will be the most-watched regular season game of the year.
However, can we not pretend that there is any sort of current rivalry between the 'Hawks and the Wings? Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley seems to have other ideas:
When Quigley put together an official resolution Tuesday celebrating the Hawks' outdoor showdown against the Red Wings on New Year's Day at Wrigley Field, he included a secret message to the reigning Stanley Cup champions and their fans.
He used red capital letters in the last line of his resolution to spell out a favorite chant he learned while growing up a Hawks fan ''in the second balcony in Chicago Stadium.'' The letters spelled out, "DETROIT SUCKS."
Besides declaring Jan. 1 will be "Chicago Blackhawks Day" in Cook County, Quigley's resolution designates Wrigley Field and the surrounding area an "Octopus Free Zone" -- a dig at Red Wings fans' tradition of throwing octopi on the ice after their team scores.I can't blame the man for trying to fuel the hype for the Winter Classic, and I have no problem with him celebrating the Blackhawks on New Year's Day. But, Commissioner Quigley, taking childish potshots at Detroit is not recommended. We all know how tremendous Detroit hockey has been in the last decade-plus. Shall we, for a second, go over Chicago's recent hockey history?
- The Blackhawks have not made the playoffs since the 2001-2002 season.
- The last time Chicago made it past the first round was 1996. I was eight at the time.
- Chicago's last Stanley Cup? 1961. Guess the Cubs aren't the only team in Chicago in a bit of a championship drought.
- In 2004, ESPN named the Blackhawks the worst franchise in all of sports.
- In April of this year, the Blackhawks announced that for the first time in team history, all of their games would be televised. Welcome to the late-20th century, Chicago.
- Late owned Bill "Dollar Bill" Wirtz instituted many fan-unfriendly policies before his death in 2007. He raised ticket prices to over $50 on average, and blacked out Blackhawks home games in the Chicago area.
Chicago Blackhawks seasons (Wikipedia)
Blackhawks Announce All Games to Be Televised (Chicago Blackhawks)
It's hard to tell whether Mahorn was trying to play peacekeeper or knocked Leslie down in anger, but I have to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially considering his substantial size advantage over Leslie.
I must say, though, that nothing the Shock can do will ever match this (and that's a good thing):
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
In college football, where 18 year-old kids are told they are destined for NFL millions before ever setting foot in a college classroom, there are bound to be some major "what-ifs". Every college football team has at least one. What if Randy Moss had not been kicked out of both Notre Dame and Florida State before ending up at Marshall? What if Jason Gwaltney could ever get his act together at West Virginia? What if Willie Williams could stay out of jail long enough to stick at Miami or Louisville? The list goes on.
For Michigan fans, Kelly Baraka is the [insert here] portion of that what if question. The Portage Northern standout was Tom Lemming's 16th ranked overall player for the recruiting class of 2001, a versatile speedster who could make an immediate impact at running back, wide receiver, defensive back, and returner. Baraka was a recruit who had reached mythical status, the sort of can't miss prospect that gets an offer from every major program in the country. In his first game of his junior season at Portage, he ran for 149 yards on 18 carries, caught 3 passes for 65 yards, made 9 tackles on defense, and returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown...in the first half. He also ran a 10.3 100 yard dash, beating future Spartan superstar (and Lions bust) Charles Rogers for the state title.
Baraka headlined a Michigan recruiting class that featured six top-100 players, including Marlin Jackson, Ernest Shazor, and Pierre Woods (as well as Pat Massey and David Underwood...oh well). However, he was arrested twice for marijuana possession before the start of his freshman campaign, and was suspended for the season by Lloyd Carr. Still, before the 2002 season, Baraka was supposed to bring lightning speed to a Michigan backfield that hadn't seen a speedster of his caliber since Tyrone Wheatley. Instead, Baraka was dismissed from the team for "undisclosed reasons" in April of 2002.
Without a Division 1-A team calling, and with the stigma of two drug arrests on his record, Baraka spent a season and a half at Joliet Junior College, a member of the NJCAA, before injuries and lost passion for the game dropped him completely off the football map.
Baraka resurfaced in 2006, showing up at a tryout for the Grand Rapids Rampage of the Arena Football League. He recorded the fastest 40-yard dash time at the tryout (4.57 seconds), but failed to latch on with the team.
One would think that failing to stick in the Arena League would signal the end of Kelly Baraka's tumultuous football career. However, Baraka was determined to continue playing the game he had a renewed passion for. For the past two seasons, Baraka has played for the Kalamazoo Xplosion, a member of the Continental Indoor Football League. The CIFL is a professional 7-on-7 indoor league, based in the Great Lakes area, that boasts high scoring games and an opportunity to move on to higher leagues.
Baraka has not put up mind-blowing numbers at Kalamazoo, but he sounds like he has landed on his feet. In a March 2008 interview with ESPN Radio's Kalamazoo affiliate, he expressed gratitude for the opportunity to play professional football, as well as remorse for his past mistakes. He still holds out hope of making the NFL, but most importantly, he sounds like he has his life together, and has learned from his checkered past. I'd highly recommend listening to the entirety of the interview, which can be found here.
Whether you think Kelly Baraka is a moron who wasted his talent, or a young kid who made one too many mistakes, I hope you don't hold any ill will against him. When high school kids are handed so much, some are bound to make poor choices, and ultimately what Baraka did hurt himself more than it ever hurt the Michigan program (Chris Perry and Mike Hart did a pretty good job of covering the years Baraka would have starred for the Wolverines). It is great to see that he still loves the game of football and is making the most of the opportunities that are still available to him.
Baraka could star at RB, WR or DB (ESPN)
Tom Lemming's revised top 100 for 2001 (ESPN)
Baraka dismissed by Carr, won't return (Michigan Daily)
Kelly Baraka Junior College Statistics (NJCAA)
Former U-M Blue-Chipper at Rampage Tryout (rampagefootball.com)
High school phenom gets another chance at professional football (Kalamazoo Xplosion)
Player Profile: Kelly Baraka (CIFL)
About the CIFL (CIFL)
Podcast: ESPN 1660 Sports Report (Podango)
As you may be able to tell from the "Your Humble Bloggers" section on the left sidebar, The Ace of Sports is expanding. Please join me in welcoming Joe, a fellow Ann Arborite, Michigan student, and Michigan Daily contributor. He'll be bringing you longer opinion pieces, and we also plan on having some PTI-style throwdowns for your reading pleasure.
As for your Detroit sports updates, bring on the bullets...
- The Sacramento Bee is reporting that the Pistons are intersted in acquiring Ron Artest. If character, team chemistry, and past life-altering brawls were not a factor, Artest would be a great addition to Detroit. However, I doubt Piston fans, players, and ownership will ever forget the "Malice in the Palace". I really don't see this trade happening, barring a complete loss of sanity by Joe Dumars and Bill Davidson.
- In other Pistons news, Detroit signed rookie Walter Sharpe, as well as Summer League standout Will Bynum.
- The Red Wings are very close to adding a new assistant coach, ex-Wings defenseman Brad McCrimmon.
- Ken Holland was named the Hockey News Executive of the Year. Duh.
- The Tigers, riding a red-hot offense, is now only 5.5 games back of the White Sox in the AL Central after absolutely obliterating the Royals last night, 19-4. Matt Joyce and Miguel Cabera combined for 11 RBIs, and Zach Miner pitched six scoreless innings for the win.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Not feeling well today. May post later but I'm going back to bed right now.
Giant link dump in place of real content...enjoy.
- The late Dave Brown, Wolverine defensive back during the early 70's, was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
- Mario Manningham signed a 4-year, $2.3 million contract with the Giants, with the potential for that contract to be worth $4.4 million with escalator clauses.
- Carson Palmer hates Ohio State fans. Hooray Carson Palmer.
- Video for Ann Arbor's TitleTown Sportscenter segment.
- Michigan Sports Center released a full list of numbers for incoming freshmen.
- Daunte Culpepper contacts the Lions about playing next year. No word yet on whether or not the Lions are showing any interest in him.
- The Red Wings locked up their remaining free agents, bringing to a foreseeable close another tremendous Ken Holland offseason.
- Tigers first round pick Rick Porcello combined on a no-hitter for the Lakeland Flying Tigers (Class A).
- In lieu of a new Tractor Traylor update: Started at center; 1-5 for 2 points, 7 boards in 13 minutes. Things aren't looking great.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
In case you missed it, Robert "Tractor" Traylor has returned to the NBA, playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers summer league team. This feature will last as long as he sticks around. My guess is this feature will be short-lived.
Traylor only played 11 minutes in the Cavaliers third Summer League game, a 72-69 loss to the Wizards. However, he made the most of his minutes, crashing the boards for 8 rebounds, including 6 on the offensive end. Tractor also finished with 5 points, shooting only 1-4 from the floor and 3-6 from the line. If Traylor could convert a few more of those offensive boards into points, he'd have a shot to stick in the league somewhere.
The Cavs fourth summer league game is tonight at 10:30 against the New Orleans Hornets. If you are so inclined, you can watch the game streaming online at NBA.com.
Today's nuggets of interest: Arrington signed, one less Pistons free agent target, and more.
- Former Michigan WR Adrian Arrington, the star of Michigan's Capital One Bowl victory over Florida last season, was signed by the New Orleans Saints yesterday. Arrington, the Saints' seventh round pick this year, earned a three year contract after impressing the Saints' staff during offseason workouts.
- Utah Jazz guard CJ Miles, who was rumored to be one of Joe Dumars' free agent targets, signed a 4-year, $15 million contract with Oklahoma City. Cross another potential Piston off the list.
- The Pistons finished off their Summer League schedule by beating the Bobcats, 78-67. Rodney Stuckey did not play again, and Will Bynum led Detroit with 16 points, 3 assists and 2 steals. MLive's Full Court Press has a recap, as well as a complete breakdown of the Pistons' summer league performance.
- Via the Pride of Detroit, the Lions may be interested in signing LB Takeo Spikes, who was released by the Eagles this offseason.
- If true, this is just fucked up. What Rhodes Scholar decided it was a brilliant idea to give China the Olympics again?
Friday, July 18, 2008
According to Rivals' Chris Balas ($), German basketball recruit Robin Benzing, who had committed to Michigan earlier this year, will not enroll at Michigan. The 6'10" forward did not qualify to play for a Division 1 team by NCAA initial eligibility requirements.
This is pretty disappointing, considering Benzing would have added depth to this years' incoming class. As a 6'10" forward with deep shooting range, Benzing fit the mold of a big man in John Beilein's offensive system. On the bright side, this does give UM an additional scholarship to use in a future class.
The Chicago Bulls would ideally love to keep Luol Deng, but with negotiations going the way they're going it's likely the Pistons get serious in talks with Chicago. Tayshaun Prince would come back in trade and he's a veteran who could make life easier for new head coach Vinny Del Negro. Prince isn't exactly a vocal leader, but he knows how to win and he's all business.This one could work out for both teams, although I see the Pistons coming out on top if the trade actually happens. Prince is a tremendous role player and leader (he has essentially become Rasheed's on-court anger management counselor in recent years), but he has not shown that he can be a first or second option on offense for a team. Deng is only 23, five years younger than Prince, and can be a go-to guy on offense (although he wouldn't have to be on the Pistons). Deng is also a strong defender with tremendous length, so any drop off defensively from Prince would be small, if even noticeable.
The Bulls are a very young team who need leadership, as well as something in return for Deng and Gordon if they cannot keep them from hitting the open market next year. Detroit needs to shake up their lineup, get younger, and add a scoring threat. This deal seems to fulfill those needs for all parties involved. Hopefully, the Bulls and the Pistons can look past their division rivalry and try to work out a trade that could benefit both teams.