Monthly Archives: October 2013

It Is, And Will Always Be, Rice.

Calvin Johnson had a historic day on Sunday. If you hadn’t heard, it’s more historic than you initially heard. Flipper Anderson’s 336 yard game in 1989 was an OT game. Calvin has the 60 minute honor. 

In light of Calvin’s phenomenal achievement it’s been a day of the over the top and gushing rhetoric. More specifically, it’s been a discussion that’s reached its highest volume yet that Calvin Johnson is the greatest receiver in NFL history. He’s certainly the best in the game right now.

My response to the debate, uh…no. Probably not even close. At all. 

If you stand behind Michael Jordan as the greatest to ever play in the NBA, and I do, then there’s ZERO way you can assert Calvin is the best ever.

Michael Jordan was a shade under the average sized player in the league for the duration of his career. 

Wilt Chamberlain is on the other side of the greatest-in-the-NBA debate. With the exception of Bill Russell and some others, Wilt towered over most of his competition. He was physically imposing force that wouldn’t been seen again regularly in the league for years and years. I loathe having to link to BR, but here’s a solid painting of the picture back in Wilt’s day. 

If Chamberlain was the average size of players of his era, would he have been as dominate as he was, and as Jordan manhandled the game? Eh, unlikely. Size counts. 

You probably see where I’m going with this.

I’m not going to stick a finger out at you and admonish you with with the IT’S A PASSING LEAGUE THESE DAYS cliche. Well, because it’s too cliche and you and your fantasy team know it. Calvin’s transcendental, but there’s no denying his numbers ARE somewhat inflated by the present era. 

I could argue that the Megatron nickname actually isn’t appropriate enough. Megatron is far too small to describe Calvin’s physical advantages over many of those who attempt to defend him. How about, Metroplex, or Omega Supreme. Wait, you want a Decepticon? Ok, then Unicron, an entity that strikes fear to all in the universe. He ate planets. Calvin eats corners and safeties. 

Johnson, to remind you, is 6’5″ 236 lbs. 

Jerry Rice was (he probably still is) was 6’2″ 200 lbs. 

Rice did what Calvin’s doing without the physical advantages. I don’t know how use see it, but size is an important component when I’m measuring in debates such as this. 

In an earlier blog, I’d wondered if the Lions would’ve even required another, typical Cowboys meltdown if Calvin hadn’t had two key misplays – a ball that bounced off his hands for an INT, and a fumble. Both were in Dallas territory. That’s potentially up to 14 points, maybe a guaranteed two scores if you’d seen the Dallas defense getting gored for what was to be 600 yards. Detroit would’ve enjoyed the comfortable lead, not Dallas. 

I’m sure Rice had his share of flubs, but it seems Calvin’s missed some catches this year I’d expect someone of his acclaim to make. He has 4 drops, and a miniscule 5.1 drop percentage. Not bad at all. 

Drops are a subjective stat and I can’t even uncover them for when Rice played. Let’s use fumbles.

303 career games. 11 lost fumbles, out of 18 overall. He lost a ball once every 27.5 games

In 99 games for Calvin, he’s fumbled 13 times and lost 9 of them. One every 9 games. 

HOLD UP. Transparency alert! There’s some glaring differences between ESPN and Pro Football Ref. for Rice. PFR has Rice down for 27 fumbles! If that’s accurate, then he’d fumble once every 11 games. Much closer to the Calvin number

When Calvin’s healthy, Calvin’s unstoppable. His size, speed, and strength, paired with the restrictions on defensive players and ADvantages that gives so many offenses, Calvin could continue his assault on Rice’s records. 

If the Darrell Greens, Deions, Leroy Butlers, and Steve Atwaters of the 90s, had to adhere to contemporary rules, Rice might have put up 2,500 yards a year, annually. 

Rice, for me, was and is still, the greatest receiver in NFL history. 

Now if you wanna have a much more intricate debate, then ask me if Calvin is, or will wind up as the SECOND greatest receiver in the game’s history. 

My ‘MLB Isn’t Dying’ Tirade.

It’s easier to find than porn or coupons on the Internet.

1. People screaming the hyberbole that baseball is dying.

2. People screaming the hyerbole that baseball ISN’T dying. 

Those in #1 one conveniently, and immediately, think of the Super Bowl ratings to make a comparison, and their position is affirmed. This year’s World Series has averaged around 13-ish million viewers (through the first three games), so you’d need TEN World Series games to equal ONE Super Bowl. There’s absolutely no arguing that the NFL is so far and away the most popular and most followed sports in the country. Nice work NFL, even though I think you’ve peaked. 

Those in #2 respond with  the record attendance numbers MLB is pulling. I think I saw it was something like 74 million fans (though, many repeats, right?) attended a Major League Baseball game this past year. Then the astronomical TV contracts get bandied around as further proof that baseball ISN’T dying. At this point though, anything that’s DVR-proof will fortune their way into that same financial windfall. It’s pretty simple, if you’re good, people WILL tune in as evidenced by the Tigers, Cardinals, and Royals who rounded out the top five in local MLB TV ratings. Additionally, MLB is also far ahead of the NFL when it comes to advanced media. The Red Zone is great, but only Verizon customers have access to much that the NFL offers digitally. Baseball is thriving on its MLB.tv and At Bat (I’ve bought every single year) properties. To rival the Sunday Ticket, which looks like a Dinosaur amid pay-TV wars, Twitter, and people’s society fueled ADHD these days, I get the Extra Innings package each year. It’s almost $300, but it’s 80 games a week, for 6 months. Well worth it. 

If you’ll concede that yes, MLB and almost ALL TV is instinctivally compared to the behemoth ratings the Super Bowl gets, then we can proceed. 

The fairest juxtaposition for World Series ratings, would be the NBA Finals. Fairest doesn’t mean perfectly paralleled though. 

This year’s riveting NBA Finals between the Heat and Spurs averaged more viewers than where the World Series is at right now – 17.7 million. Hit this NYT article for when the series peaked at 34 million during Game 7. That’s possible for this World Series! 

Game 7 in Miami was on June 9th at 9pm. Spring TV season was about over, the newness of the MLB season, after 60-some games had worn down, schools were finishing and bedtimes with them and it was one of the few lifeless spots on the NFL calendar. In other words, the Finals, and damn they were invigorating this year, don’t have much entertainment competition for viewers. 

People erect their early February lives around the Super Bowl because of its event like status. The game has certainly earned that after nearly 50 of them. It’s transcends just watching a game, and if half of corporate and business America used a floating holiday the Monday after the game, it would be a wise use an off day. 

I’m telling what you already know. 

Back to baseball, the World Series, its ratings, and the game’s ‘death.’ Ratings for the World Series will NEVER be what they once were. Now, football games regularly oppose it. That’s the 10,000 pound elephant, and it’s 5,000 pound gorilla little brother, college football. It’s also the middle of the vital and compelling fall TV season. New shows, favorites back on with new episodes. Sure there’s DVR, but some shows are SO good these days, avid and rabid fans want to watch their shows LIVE. Wanna see my Twitter timeline last night? It was filled with Walking Dead mentions, none of which I cared about. 

I’ll grant this, part of the reason for the NFL and NBA’s growth is because they’ve marketed their stars well. They’re either heroes or villains, and those storylines are good for interest and ratings. MLB has failed to effectively turn the game’s greatest into household names, which has pigeon holed it into the parochialism it’s ensared in. I can’t tell MLB how to market themselves, but Step 1, make your fantasy games a BIGGER deal…people then may become excited for and interested in players they’d never heard of. Hell yea, you – casual fan – wants to watch the World Series because YOU picked up Michael Wacha off your waiver wire and he pitched you into some fantasy bragging rights. 

Let’s say Boston and St. Louis have as dramatic as series we got from the NBA Finals (let’s remember there’s no Lebron type draw in MLB, that IS on them). It’s Thursday night, Game 7, in one of the game’s most storied settings. I think you’d see numbers comparable to what the NBA typically scores during the Finals, and while not a perfect comparison, it’s fairer than letting it be eaten alive by ranking it next to Super Bowl ratings. 

Will you humor me a moment longer? 

What IF the World Series WAS a one game winner-take-all contest? What if wasn’t opposed by fall TV, football, homework, Halloween parties and trick-or-treating? What if it created an EVENT like the NFL has, and had a clear night of programming as the NBA enjoys during the Finals?

Yea, put the game on at 7:30, not 8 oh-something-that-turns-into-close-to-8:30.

One game. Red Sox, Cardinals, Fenway…

I bet it gets 50 million viewers. At least. 

That Star Can Hurt.

The three biggest stars of the Detroit Lions offense turned the ball over four times.

Reggie Bush, trying to shift the ball away from a defender into his left, got caught holding it like bread and he lost a fumble. Not quite a rookie mistake, not a dumb play, not trying to be flashy, just unfortunate.

Calvin Johnson fumbled away a reception and bounced another one into the hands of a Cowboy. His fault, and his fault.

Matthew Stafford fired into a slant in the slot…to Sean Lee. Half blame there because Lee made a canny play for the pick.

Four turnovers with the stars at the scene. Good thing there was another ‘Star’ to save the Lions’ day.

The star on the side of the helmet of the opponent, which has been cursed with lofty expectations and breath taking crunch time misadventures for nearly twenty years, bailed the Lions out of their giving afternoon.

Aside from the costly turnovers, the Lions offense was as all had hoped since the day Bush became a Lion. On a day when the Lions offense constricted to only it’s stars, they shone bright. Stafford, in possibly the game of his life, kept connecting with Calvin. Over, and over, and over again. 16 targets (His first of the game to me, as the best WR alive, I’d like to see that as a catch), 14 catches and the second most receiving yards in the history of the league. Calvin’s 329 were just 7 short of Flipper Anderson’s 336 as a Ram, against the Saints, about 24 years ago. And because it’s what Calvin does, barricaded and brought down twice more inside the one yard line just for good measure; which is usually 36 inches.

Without Calvin, the Lions don’t win.

But wait…

If a target doesn’t bounce from his grasp, and he doesn’t fumble another reception away, do the Lions even need heroics aid from the Cowboys to pull into their bye with a winning record?

Bush was a vital cog in the Lions offense yet again, despite his mysterious upper leg injury that denied him practice on Friday. 122 total yards and countless elusive gains on a helpless Cowboys defense. With little contribution from Ryan Broyles – who continues be a failed second round draft pick (Nate, hurry back) – and the curious case of Joseph Fauria’s absence, Bush often lined up in what may be an even more lethal position than the backfield – out wide, or in the slot. His presence there creates perplexing confusion for defenses. It’s an indefensible tactic when the Lions execute the play in that formation properly.

The Lions didn’t even yield 270 yards of offense, but that’s misleading. All those Lions turnovers gave the Cowboys comfortable starting field position. Detroit frequently got pressure on Romo, even with a dinged Ziggy Ansah and Nick Fairley, but tallied just four hits on Romo and no sacks.

It was another ugly day for the Lions repeatedly abused secondary. Touchdown passes of 60 and 50 yards, with a lot of RAC/YAC by Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant on each of the receptions.

The Lions had a peculiar plan for defending the Cowboys passing attack. Chris Houston, who’d been benched against the Bengals, spent the majority of the day covering the rookie Williams. You know my saying by now, ‘he’s THEIR top corner; he’s not A top corner.’ Either the Lions offered enormous respect to Williams OR they didn’t want the oft-toasted resigned free agent anywhere near Dez Bryant, whom the Lions chose to double team with the also-crispy Darius Slay in man on Bryant, with safety help. Louis Delmas missed the tackle on Bryant’s dash to the endzone.

The Cowboys TO-in-training superstar lacks any form of sideline diplomacy, but for him to see just 6 targets WITH DARIUS SLAY & PRAY covering him, I think he had a right to read his offense the riot act, as he did, twice. Chris Houston is a big, big, BIG problem for the Lions. His reliability is that of a unicycle without a wheel.

The Lions, as teams of their talented, but meddling composition usually are, offered a Heckle and Jeckyl afternoon. They’re going to battle, mmmmmmm Carolina and Washington for the other Wild Card in the NFC. Seattle/SF loser is the top WC.

Dallas.

Did what Dallas does.

With zero timeouts, 80 yards to go and down 6 points, Tony Romo inexplicably played defense for the Cowboys.

Wait. Hold on.

Romo DIDN’T have anything(???????) to do with the Dallas defense being carved up in four completions (1 for no gain to start) by Stafford to take the Lions to the precipice of stabbing the Cowboys deep in the hearts!?

How. Can. This. Be! Romo always screws it up.

Unless he doesn’t. Which he didn’t.

Romo, as the quarterback of the team he plays for, has my sympathy. He’s had his share of blunders, but the ‘assists’ during his tenure – AND BEFORE – aren’t difficult to uncover either.

With the Cowboys being able to ice the game, after a LONG kickoff return to the Lions 34, they go backwards on 2 plays, forcing the Lions to use their final two timeouts, but then on 3rd and 14 Tyron Smith is called for a hold. The Lions decline giving Dallas a field goal and 6 point lead. *Lions could’ve accepted and given the Cowboys 3rd and 20-something, but would’ve lost more time on the clock. Even though the Cowboys would’ve then punted, and they way they were about to play defense, it’s POSSIBLE Detroit would’ve made it’s way into range for a game-tying field goal. That became moot, because Dallas did as Dallas does.*

Stafford’s throws to Kris Durham and Calvin on the final mad dash to the end zone were brilliant. Possibly the best throws of his NFL career. Another Dallas gaffe was just up the road. Stafford began motioning to kill the clock after Calvin’s stopped at the 1. The eyes of the Dallas linemen were DOWN. They didn’t see Stafford’s leaning body language. He was going in. And surprisingly, Romo wasn’t on the field for any of that Detroit drive.

I know, I can’t explain it either…

Except, I can.

Since their last Super Bowl win after the ’95 season, basically what was the final finger prints of Jimmy Johnson, Jerry Jones’ teams have two playoff wins.

They have seven playoff losses. 10 years of not making the postseason at all.

The Lions have three luminous offensive stars who helped and hurt their cause on Sunday.

Dallas, under Jones, still has the star on its helmet, but those five sharp points often wind up in the their own flesh, rather than gilded to anything resembling greatness.

As an ex-Eagle fan I can say this with such ease, DALLAS SUCKS.

 

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The Tigers Winter Season.

Part One.

I wish MLB fan bases could swap shoes with one another. One of two things would occur as a result.

There’d only be four or five teams left in MLB who’d still have managers. Or fans would return to their own shoes and shackle down their manager, because their eyes were opened to just how good they have with the guy they want gone.

If Winston Churchill were still alive today to have taken part in my little fan swapping exercise as a Tigers fan, I’d surmise he’d throw back on his white jersey with the Old English D and say, ‘Jim Leyland’s baseball’s worst manager…except for all the rest of them. Go Tigers!’

Joe Torre was a lousy game manager. He had to manage cab rides, not necessarily games.

Bobby Cox won a litany of NL East titles, but just a single World Series ring with the Braves.

Charlie Manuel was a buffoon, who couldn’t comprehend double switches, then Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins blossomed into annual MVP contenders and Charlie was brilliant and a Champion. Those players and the Phillies pitching began to erode, and Charlie was back to being called a buffoon, then semi-unceremoniously out of a job.

For all his esoteric moves, I’m certain if he were to ever manage again Tigers fans, or any fanbase, could easily glance past Tony La Russa’s championship successes and find nits to pick in fiery rages.

There’s no perfect manager in baseball. Even when the ‘right’ move is made, sometimes the result is not a positive one. The emotion that energizes fans, also blinds them from seeing that fact. It’s hard to recall fans harnessing their reason and complimenting a manager for a statistically based, or fairly obvious maneuver, that wound up in failure anyway.

If I were elected to manage the Tigers and led them to a 162-0 record and a World Series, I’d be hailed, even though my knowledge of the game is infitessimial compared to the game’s most inept skipper. I don’t want to manage. Consult the GM, hmmm, let’s talk.

The Tigers dishearteningly lost the ALCS to a better team, that invested more financial resources and was motivated by a horrific 93 lost season in 2012 whose flame began to burn around chicken, beer and a pile of lifeless losses in September of 2011.

The Tigers never seemed to offer any confidence in the ALCS did they? Even with no hit innings to start games seemingly as routine as on deck circle practice swings, the Tigers were unable to erase any doubt that they could topple the Red Sox. I’m not thinking overly pessmistically am I? No, I don’t think so. The Red Sox didn’t dominate the ALCS, but when the Tigers were able to wrest away any semblence of its control, it felt like they were trying to helplessly cup water in their hands. It was only a matter of time before it slipped away, and back to the Red Sox.

With a silenced cleanup hitter (Fielder), and a crippled BEST PLAYER HITTER ON THE PLANET, an unsteady bullpen and a precarious defense that could appear at the worst of times, the Tigers run differential in the American League Championship Series was (do you know?)…

A single run. The Tigers scored 18 runs in 6 games. The Red Sox tallied 19.

Here’s a lengthy list of preseason ESPN.com MLB predictions. Not one of them has the Cardinals or the Red Sox winning the World Series. Not one of them even has either of those teams even reaching the World Series! It’s onerous to try to predict the World Series, even when we arrive in October. Onerous may be too kind a word. Perhaps futile is the better word.

Cardinals and Red Sox in the World Series. The Red Sox perhaps simply because a player who hit .091 with a single homer and just 4 RBI’s hit a grand slam in Game 2 (David Ortiz) and another player (Shane Victorino) hit only .125 with 5 RBIs, 9 K’s and 0 BB’s in the LCS hit what was a game winning Game 6 grand slam. Totally predictable! Tonight’s Powerball numbers are forthcoming.

Did the Cardinals advance to the World Series because starter Joe Kelly put a ball into the ribs of Hanley Ramirez in Game 1 thus causing him great pain and anguish, but to the delight of Cardinal fans Ramirez was harangued into a .133 average in 19 at bats and even had to miss a game.

Now. Part Two.

I didn’t expect the Tigers to need a new manager in 2014.

In fact, I don’t think they needed much going into next year. Tweaks. Not overhauls.

Resign Benoit and Infante for short, practical deals.

Get what I’ve been asking for now for two years, a viable lefty killer out of the bullpen.

Modestly, because that’s all you can expect, upgrade the bench.

There. Done. See you in Lakeland.

Then the pitching machine went haywire and started firing balls at my head.

1. I’ve already brought up my feelings of Austin Jackson needing to be dropped in the lineup. For his own performance and the Tigers overall. In a tiny sample size of three postseason games, my theory was supported and confirmed!

2. Hmmmmm, maybe they CAN find a place for Peralta. MAYBE.

3. The 12 month powder keg that is now the Scherzer situation.

4. I actually have sympathy for Prince Fielder after his post series candor. And I’m not sorry fans are abhorred that he 1. clearly had domestic issues all season impairing his performance 2. he’s got kids he wants to go home to, which can hopefully act as his haven after a year of hell. I know fans think their money paying his salary allows them to demand more – and that’s fine – but don’t instruct another person how to think and feel. Not everybody lives and loves their job no matter how glamorous it may appeal to those not in it. HOWEVER, after about a 1/4 of a regular season of October games (39) and 164 plate appearances, it’s not unfair at all to say Fielder turns into a player who should be benched during the playoffs. Fielder owns a .194 career postseason average, a .620 OPS and has never had more than 3 RBI’s in an October series. That is bleak.

5. Jacoby Ellsbury’s being bandied around as a solution for the Tigers lead off conundrum I mentioned above.

6. The Leyland successor.

I have to start with #6 here.

Is the strategy going to be to hire as close as you can get to a get-me-over-the-top guy, like Manuel, who surely exemplified player relation qualities that Leyland did to take advantage of a window that’s not going to be opened any farther north?

With that comes the realization that Cabrera, now in his 30s, has a deal ending in two years, and we have to at least consider than he MAY be at the tip of a breakding point like Pujols began to enter into a few years ago.

Scherzer may be gone this winter, or may be gone after next winter.

We saw how Verlander had to meander through the regular season to have the resources to explode in October.

Martinez has one year on his deal left.

Avila’s prime may have passed, or may never even arrive because of the damage he’s suffered behind the plate.

Iglesias may never be an offensive answer.

There ain’t much in Toledo and on down.

And Castellanos may not live up to his hyped offensive status.

If there’s a justification that the Tigers needed to do it now, it’s because of what I just pointed out. I’m not certain they can mimic the Cardinals decade of playoff relevance because their organizational pipeline has always been bursting with playoff contributors, which has helped defer their free agent costs. The Tigers have repeatedly had to exhaust personnel and financial resources to help Mr. Ilitch tirelessly chase his World Series. I fear if that path continues, as in going with the Two Year Plan, a title may or may not be won, but then they end up falling flat as the Phillies have the last two years. A roster full of has-been, former megastars making $20 millions of the dollar for pathetic production, while the Twins led by Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton rule the AL Central.

There are two other, at least managerial routes to go.

Retread. A former MLB manager now consultant, sitting at home pining for another chance, or on a TV production set somewhere. Well, there’s a reason that guy is where he is.

New blood. In the middle of 2012 when there was a defeaning cacophony of #fireleyland, I suggested Omar Vizquel. With all those Gold Gloves, undoubtedly he’d emphasize defense. He’d been around the game for two decades and in a variety of atmosphere. Well traveled may not do his ventures justice. And, I kinda like that nothing came easy for Vizquel offensively. Minute details of efforts would not be missed. But, that was last year.

The new blood could be Joe Maddon’s bench coach, Davey Martinez, finally getting an opportunity to lead his own team. Or Sandy Alomar Jr. who’s coached since 2008, ending this past year as Terry Francona’s bench coach in Cleveland. And damn, do those former MLB catchers make for quality Big League managers.

Want my answer?

It’s, I don’t know. If you want a Maddon-type disciple or believer, the days of a mashing Tigers lineup may end. After 8 years of loyalty and a lot of conventional decisions, it might be a baffling sea change for players who’ve been Tigers a long, long time and they’re used to the Leyland way. Which won, a lot.

With the MLB season not over until another four wins occur, even though the Tigers are done, it’s too early to answer most of the questions and topics I’ve pondered above.

But, because I’m anxious to turn on the ECHS2014, (ERIC CHASE HOT STOVE 2014. Check your local Sears or Best Buy for your edition!) and start working on problems NOW, I’m happy to share some scratch note thoughts.

– For a manager, I’d lean new blood who is a mix of old school baseball, where the Tigers land now, but not ignorant and defiant towards the analytical advances of the game. New CAN work. Mike Matheny was never a manager until TLR retired. That’s worked out just dandily! 

– I’ve got enough postseason data on Prince Fielder. As daunting as dealing him and that monstrosity of contract is, I make calls. If finding a new home for Fielder offers flexibility for upgrades elsewhere or resignings, I don’t even mind what the return is. I’d call the Mets. Even though Brandon Belt was a 4+ WAR player in ’13, I call the always-desperate-for-power Giants.

It’s always better to move an impact player to the other league, but Fielder’s contract may make for easier deals in the AL so no one has to worry about his horrid defense, as he fades in DHdom. Reach out to Seattle (if they’re inclined to spend, maybe they are with Ellsbury rumors), Toronto, and Texas who needs to be addressed again shortly.

– Joaquin Benoit. One big money year and an option for two. Or two years of less value with an option. There also needs to be a prayer that Rondon’s elbow is sound. If he needs surgery, see you in 2015.

– Get a LOOGY. They’re usually old-ish, bounced from team to team and cheap. Dombrowski can’t keep skipping over this.

– Thank you for October Jhonny, but we’re moving on. Castellanos is going to play left field, and barring an automatic out average against right handers, he’s going to play everyday.

– We’ve still got second base to handle AND if we’re bumping Jackson down in order, a lead off hitter. Philosophy comes into play here. Are they going to green light a stolen base fiend, or cement him on base with Cabrera, Fielder, Martinez coming up. If he’s parked, just get a reasonably athletic player with OBP well north of Jackson’s .337 number in ’13. If you’re going to let that guy run, WELL, I still don’t want Jacoby Ellsbury for what he’ll cost.

He’s 30. As incredible as ’11 and ’13 were, ’10 and ’12 didn’t give him 100 games combined.

He’s 30. I don’t think I could write him the check for well over $100 million dollars guaranteed that Scott Boras will demand for a guy who could speedily wither away into Juan Pierre.

I haven’t solved that part yet, but I will!

Though rolling around in my mind are a few trades, and I told you I’d come back to Texas. It may be time to move Ian Kinsler to the outfield to make room for Jurickson Profar, who played everywhere in ’13, but if not, hey Jon Daniels, any interest in putting some thump back into first base for the Rangers? Oh, no? Then let’s discuss my soon-to-be Cy Young winner and maybe that’ll get your Profar or Andrus attention. If that doesn’t work, remember dealing Scherzer this winter likely requires a big bankroll team to extend him, I’m dialing up his nearly hometown Cardinals and asking if they have interest, and if so, just HOW enamored are you with Matt Carpenter.

I know. I’m getting all wooooozzy and dreamy now. Look at the pretty unicorns.

We better wrap this up.

A month ago, it looked like the Tigers needed to resign Benoit and Infante, and Sharpie Castellanos onto a lineup card.

The Tigers offseason got a whole lot more complicated, and I’m really excited to offer help any way I can!

Sighting: Capeless Superhero. Much Thanks Needed.

It’s been 7 games, but with the bye just a game away, for me the Lions have erased the stench of last year’s season that burned down the farm full of animals.

The Lions aren’t going to win the Super Bowl this year. Sorry.

If they make the playoffs, I don’t think it’s going to be a cinch to clinch with multiple weeks remaining in the season.

Outside of Denver, Seattle, New Orleans and San Francisco I think the Lions can play with any team in the NFL. Given that they play as the did against the Bengals and no worse.

It’s a good thing Calvin Johnson was as healthy as he’s been since the beginning of the season against Cincinnati or else there’s a good chance the Lions would’ve been totally outclassed and embarassed by the Bengals.

The quarterback, Matthew Stafford, continues his swervy up and down, left and right year. Twenty three misfires, and really had only two passes worth highlighting: A 43 yard pass to Kevin Ogletree to get the Lions out of their own end on the first drive of the second half, which culminated in Stafford’s other throw of note, a finely threaded laser to Calvin for his first of two scores. Had Stafford not missed fingertips on the occasions he did, the Lions could have made it a much more challenging afternoon for the Bengals.

Chris Houston had a day to forget. A good brain washing or a Vulcan mind meld will do the trick. Last Sunday it was Josh Gordon who racked up 126 yards on the Lions. This week, one of the NFL’s finest receivers, AJ Green, easily and repeatedly outmaneuvered Houston on his way to a score and a 155 yards. Houston was benched to begin the second half of the game.

According to ESPN.com the Lions had just three hits and a lone sack on the just-adequate-enough Andy Dalton on his 34 pass attempts. In neat fashion, Dalton rang up a 135 passer rating. The third time this year he’s gone over 100, but he topped the previous two by more than 30 points against the Lions. It was an undemanding day for the player who I said in the preseason could elevate his game and get this Bengals team to the Super Bowl.

Do you recall any runs that loosened up the Cincinnati defense? You shouldn’t, because the Lions really just nibbled away at yards all afternoon. 77 of them on 25 carries for about a 3 yard average. That’s not totally unexpected as the Bengals front four is exceptional, and if you include the front seven, still falls in the ‘very good’ classication.

It was a completely turnover free game, but the Lions did get a FG blocked. Their eye opening rookie tight end, playing a much larger role this week, Joseph Fauria made no impact, nor did the possessed DeAndre Levy. Who, for the first time in weeks didn’t look like he deserved a goofy looking jersey to play in Hawaii in January. After the Chicago game last month where Louis Delmas did either his old, healthy Delmas impression, or one of Ed Reed, he’s vanished from creating plays in Detroit’s secondary.

Finally, with under a minute to go, rookie Sam Martin’s lofted up a futile attempt to force the Bengals to begin a last minute drive deep in their territory. Instead, they started at their own 49. Even after probably mismanaging their final timeout, and two passes, the Bengals placed Mike Nugent in line for a comfortable straight-on 54 yard field goal attempt, which he hit to win the game.

Let’s run through that once more OK?

Your QB was maddening and mostly lousy.

Theirs could’ve played with a helmet.

Your #1 corner should have butter in one hand and jelly in the other to offer to receivers to place on the toast they’re making out of him.

Bush and Bell had no room to create anything.

You got a field goal run back in your face.

Your punter’s poorest effort of the year, came at the most ill of times.

Oh, oh, oh! The Lions also couldn’t take much advantage of the Bengals having lost their Calvin coverer Leon Hall AND they didn’t have much of Riley Reiff who found himself banged up.

Yet, because a revived Calvin Johnson was able to reassume the role of capeless superhero, the Lions didn’t get routed out of their own building by a team that in all reality, is quite their mirror image of themselves (right down to the bumbling, penalty prone tight end, as well a shining rookie one to partner with!).

I don’t know what you saw, but I watched two football teams that should be able to take with field with upwards of 25 other NFL teams and competently and competitively stand toe to toe with those opponents for a 60 minute football game.

That to me, bodes well for the Lions moving forward awaiting Dallas, their bye, the return of their needed #2 receiver, and the second half of what hopes to be a playoff bound season.

###Hashing Out The Tweets…

– Let me get this straight. When the Lions got the ball back with 41 seconds left in the half, two timeouts, starting at their 20…you wanted them to go 80 yards, when their QB had been missing high and wide most of the first half AND while their previous drives had been reasonably successful, they were averaging just under 4 yards per play. 80 yards was a tall task, and with Stafford sailing balls, one pick 6 could have been devastating going into the half.

– Though I’ll ask this about that final ‘drive.’ Why not see if Calvin can zoom past a secondary lacking Leon Hall (uhhhhh kinda like how he hauled in that 50 yard TD later on) to put you in position to give Akers a shot at 3? I don’t care about 41 seconds or two timeouts, the Bengals top corner was absent, and while a 155 yard day is refreshing from Calvin, I think he could have gone over 200 if the Lions had stopped uselessly running and just kept aiming for an unguardable receiver.

– I never expected Revis Island out of Chris Houston, but at this point, I’d like to leave him on a island somewhere far, far away from any competent receiver. Speed and athleticism can escape you in the middle of the night, but to see a starting corner of 7 years NFL experience look so lost, and seemingly always expecting help and not getting it (miscommunication he’s a part of), even against the exceptional AJ Green is disheartening. Don’t think other teams aren’t going to begin to an aerial assault on the Lions secondary, especially if their front four is as muted as they were today.

– The Bengals should let Nike do something fun with their helmets. Like make each set of bengal stripes from player to player be completely unique.

– There was only one replay, but I’m real sure that wasn’t OPI on AJ Green. I think Chris Houston, luckily, got bailed out by officials who were OPI happy (6!) on Sunday.

– Unless Suh gets fined for ‘scoring’ on a play the Lions were penalized for jumping offsides, looks like he’ll keep all his gamecheck this week.

– Rashean Mathis has himself quite an impressive streak of not being able to complete games. This time a groin knocked him out. Mathis is the Lions Rick Porcello. 2/3s of the game and I’m out bro!

 

Aaron Boone & Where I Was.

I’ve moved a lot since I was 20. 

79-09 Philly (though I spent A semester in fall 97 at Towson outside of Baltimore)

6/99 Detroit

9/02 Orlando

10/03 Saginaw

10/05 Monroe/Toledo

11/06 Philly/Allentown

1/12 Detroit

1/13 Toledo

Because of my travels and devoted passion for baseball I can almost teleport myself to where I was and what I was doing during each postseason and World Series since I began traversing the right side of the United States. The timeline of my life is erected around sporting events, usually baseball’s postseason.

Some are more memorable than others.

Watching the Eric Gregg game from my dorm room at Towson.

The Subway Series in 2000.

Luis Gonzalez doink off of Mariano when EVERYONE was quietly rooting for a symbolic NY victory. Craig Counsell’s gallop home.

’02. The Giants blew the Series, but Dusty Baker’s son and the ball Barry Bonds hit off K-Rod that created a new solar system somewhere because of its trajectory and velocity. 

’03 Marlins and their young pitchers led by Beckett (and Pudge, and Miggy!) win AGAIN. Then tear is down again.

’04. Red Sox erase the curse.

’05 Yuck. White Sox and Houston in an empty Monroe apartment

’06 In TGIFriday’s in Willow Grove, PA watching the Tigers fail at PFP.

’07 Boston. Again. But holy sh%t, the Phillies made the playoffs!

’08 Brad Lidge on his knees. Some dipsiht on a street light in the Frankford section of Northeast Philadelphia. WE WON. 

’09 Well, one was nice for the Phillies and damn, Chase Utley you ARE the man. 

’10 Giants pitching

’11 Cruz vs. the wall and goodbye Albert.

’12 …

2003.

Even though I’m no Yankee or Red sox fan, the Aaron F8cking Boone moment is one of the top five most indelible moments of my baseball fandom. It happened ten years ago today.

Why does this moment stand out? Good question. It’s probably the only time I’ll ever be able to ‘transport’ a la Star Trek in my life. The scene and atmosphere are that vivid in my memory. 

I was a few weeks away from starting a new job in Saginaw – find a more dramatic move of climate in the contiguous 48 from Orlando to Saginaw – and I was on the air for my station in Orlando (95.3 Party) hosting a show from Universal Studios during the world reknowned Halloween Horror Nights attraction. That’s probably the principle reason why the evening is so easy to recall. I like to say I live for Halloween as most people live for the holiday season at the end of the year. 

I don’t dress up. But I love the just-so-crisp air before the winter chill sets in, we’ve got our NFL and college football story lines for the year rising up, and I love the adrenaline of being startled. That’s right, I really don’t get scared. I’ve never cowered in fear at ‘haunted’ houses, but my innate senses can only feel so much before I miss someone jumping out before me. Orlando was the best place I ever lived. I always said, if I wasn’t doing a morning show, I would’ve partied myself into the ground. Ohhhhhh, DJ Jake. 

Halloween Horror Nights is the very best haunted attraction I’ve ever been to and I was lucky enough to experience it, and eschew the lines (radio perk alert!), two years in a row. Go, and buy what I think they call the RIP pass. The lines can be HOURS long, and in ’02 when I went, it rained. No, it torrentially poured. Such is life in Florida. The most fearsome thing I saw all night was the looks of people who were drenched and then livid that my coworkers and I just zoomed pass them to the front of the line on the media tour. 

Back to ’03! I’d peaked my head into the bar near our broadcast setup multiple times to keep an eye on the pivotal Game 7 during the evening. I don’t recall the specific time, but I finally wrapped up my show for the night and once again began to file past angry attraction goers. I wasn’t hosting a sports show back then, so needing to see every pitch wasn’t a necessity. 

Did my go-round of the attractions that night, and basically was ready to bid adieu to my time in Orlando. I returned to the area we’d been broadcasting from. It was a circular open promenade type setting with a movie theater sized screen on the side of a wall that would typically be running in-park ads or commercials, or at that point in the night, telling everyone to GO HOME.

It had the game on. 

Orlando, and much of Florida, is transient. Many of those people coming the NY area. Whoever was running the screen that night knew his crowd well! Or that person knew we were about to witness history. Another of the decade of daggers driven into the chest of the Red Sox and their fans. How fitting consider all the blood and gore that inhabited where we were. Though this was about to more painful than any brief scare by makeup and props.

Instead of making this sound like Hershey, PA the night of the Wilt 100 game and saying there were tens thousands of people tensely watching the game enter into extra innings…I’ll say there were A LOT of people, and it was late, humid and sweaty.

No one would leave the area. I’d heard some commotion about something with Pedro Martinez and Grady Little, but the tension had me too consumed to ask WTF happened. 

Aaron Boone stepped to the plate.

Next came the pandemonium like I’d never been caught up in before.

I’ve been at games in the past with terrific endings that didn’t match the excitement and hysteria that occured when that ball landed into the Yankee fans standing the left field seats. 

Somewhere along the way in retelling this tale, I should’ve said ENERGIZE, because for the last 30 minutes I’ve been typing away at this, I feel like I’ve been back in steamy Orlando. 

Happy Birthday Aaron Bleepin’ Boone.

Thanks for the unforgettable memory. 

Panic Or Insanity?

To overhaul, or even slightly modify the Tigers lineup at this point would be A. Panic defined as sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.

We will go apocryphal for option B. because it’s attributed to many, but the definition of insanity is (a cliche) doing the same thing over and over and getting the same results. 

I hate to be the guy that says the Tigers making linuep changes now is ‘a little bit of both,’ but it really is. I’d lean toward option B though because there isn’t an August and September left to work out the troubles in the offense. There’s potentially only two more games. 

Sometimes panic is a reasonable feeling. I’m on an elevator 84 stories up and the pulley snapped. I’d actually question your sanity if you DIDN’T panic in that situation. The wires holding the Tigers season together haven’t snapped, but they’re fraying quickly as just two allowable losses remain. At least put your hand OVER the red button. If the Tigers went absolutely wacky with lineup modifications, like say, I dunno benching Miguel Cabrera (that’d be the most extreme move, right? No, benching Peralta or Martinez now would be that actually.) you’d panic and go ape sh^t on Leyland, then I’d remind you the Tigers were lifeless, impotent and lethargic against John Lackey yesterday. Granted, it’s been a pitcher’ss strike zone all series and Lackey had a sensational curve ball, but the Tigers were totally lost outside of Martinez and Peralta. 

If you’re still steaming at benching the presumptive MVP, IF Cabrera sat, could it be ANY worse than yesterday? Yea, they could be no hit, but in all reality no runs is no runs. 

The Tigers are averaging 2.87 runs a game in the playoffs. They’re ‘hitting’ .231 with an OPS of .631. It’s bleak at this point. My only defense of Detroit’s anemic offense is that the entire postseason has been without a bevy of runs. The Cardinals, up 3-1 on banged up Dodgers team, are hitting .182 for October. But, they’ve done little things like having rookie Carlos Martinez come in and throw a 100, and someone name Seth Maness part of a piece meal bullpen (which they seem to do every October) to replace their closer, Edward Mujica, whose 15 minutes ran out late in the season. 

I like exceptional pitching, but this has all been boring. You CAN have too much pizza!

Yep, my ‘excuse’ for the Tigers offensive offense is that their battles have been endemic of the entire MLB postseason, and with a pained GREATEST HITTER ALIVE, their ‘little things’ aren’t good enough right now to beat Boston’s ‘little things.’ 

Verlander was historic in Game 3. Clayton Kershaw, who may not even start twice in the NLCS, was almost equally indomitable in Game 2 of that series. He, and his relievers allowed just 2 Cardinal hits, and 4 baserunners. Los Angeles lost 1-0. They’re without Matt Kemp and whether it was brilliance or accident, beaning the Dodgers hottest hitter, Hanley Ramirez, in Game 1 basically neutralized the LA offense. So Tiger fans, save me the ‘this only happens to us bullshit.’

Again, panic to change the lineup – to whatever degree – or is it insanity to leave it as is?

It took 18 postseason strikeouts, but Jim Leyland has at least considered benching Austin Jackson. From James Schmel at MLive.com.

“The only thing you could think about would possibly play Donnie in center field,” he said after the Tigers’ 1-0 loss to Boston in Game 3, which left the Tigers down two games to one in the best-of-seven series. “I would think that would be the only move you could think about. Thought about that one time in the series.

Before the LCS, being prophetic and envisioning more hitting struggles, I offered several suggestions to ignite SOME offense, even at the expense of putting some defenders in precarious positions. Those are here

Leyland’s right. He’s got few moves left on his chess board at this point in the series. Have you ever played, poorly? It’ll be like moving your King behind and around the handful of remaning pawn pieces, just holding out until the last one is picked off and it’s checkmate.

After three games, I think brazen ole me would hesitate to try to move Castellanos into the lineup due to an ‘injury.’ That’s why I thought it’d be wise to start with the series with him out there – less pressure on him. Now, you’d be tossing an inexperienced player into a vice.

So, since I’m leaning towards you’re f%^king crazy Bro (sorry, I’m acutely aware of mental health and that was wrong, but I was going for affect), what can Leyland do? 

Let’s try the pre-ALCS exercise once again knowing where things lay now.

1. uhhhhhhh

2. damn

3. sit Cabrera?

4. DOES ANYONE IN THE NL WANT A $214 MILLION DOLLAR 1B WHO IS A $14 DOLLAR ONE IN OCTOBER? ANY LAST PLACE TEAMS ASSURED OF NEVER MAKING OCTOBER WANT THIS GUY?!

5. Martinez

6. Peralta

7. Martinez

8. Oh, we can’t do that…

9. shit

Sorry. For realz now.

1. Infante 2B

2. Avila C (More BBs than any Tiger in the postseason. Maybe if on base…)

3. Cabrera 3B (Cabrera can get some better pitches to hit, and if not…)

4. Peralta SS (Perhaps Peralta’s hot bat can knock in someone at the top who hasn’t struck out)

5. Martinez DH

6. Fielder 1B

7. Hunter RF 

8. Dirks LF

9. Kelly CF

Just trying to get the strikeouts as far away from the top of the lineup as possible. 

With the Tigers nerves and sanity teetering on the edge, at this point, what you’d call panic, is what I’d call managing.

Well into a 6th game.

A mysterious knee ailment that’s shrunk Calvin Johnson into a pass interference creator, instead of his usual All Universe receiver self.

Pizza that ran Nate Burleson into a median causing his arm to be superglued shut.

The unofficial retirement of Tony Scheffler.

The relegation of Mikel Leshoure.

Ryan Broyles might as well be appearing in the opponent’s jersey Stafford’s looks his way so infrequently.

Brandon Pettigrew making catches(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), but only trudging along for single digit gains.

Having had TWO full weeks to design offense and prepare to play with a hobbled Johnson, or without him.

A half of complete offensive ineptitude, in Cleveland, capped by a litany of drops on precise passes by Matthew Stafford…

And…

Finally, at long last, like uncovering a winning lottery ticket in the cushions of your couch, the Lions have their eyes opened.

Reggie Bush would not contract a life threatening or crippling illness by lining up outside of the backfield, as a receiver.

Bush’s has had some drops (2 last week, 1 vs. the Browns), but even before Burleson went down, it was obvious – to me anyway, though not to the Lions – Bush was the Lion’s second best receiving threat. I suppose the Lions finally decided to read my tweets lamenting ignorance of further weaponizing Bush.

When the Lions got the ball back for the first time in the second half adjustments had been implemented. It helped that the offensive line created holes for Bush we hadn’t seen since the Chicago victory, I literally swooned over the play that turned into an 18 yard score by Bush. Calvin started to Stafford’s right in the shotgun, then he went in motion, leaving an empty backfield. ‘Uhhhhhh ohhhhh, if Calvin’s there, where’s Reggie!?’

Bush was in the slot to the left of Stafford. 18 yards later Bush in the end zone, and I’d received an email notifying me that I’d gotten a new follower @Scottie_313OC.

I’m kidding.

But the Lions offense finally began to hammer away at a sturdy Browns defense as Bush was often deployed as a receiver in the second half. Twenty four points ensued, as the Browns had to spend precious pre-snap time figuring out where Bush was, and he was going to be defended, and then where the hell was Calvin. I’m utterly shocked it took 5 1/2 games for the Lions to discover this should’ve been the strategy all along.

Hashing out the tweets…

– Joseph Fauria supposedly hasn’t been running precise enough routes, nor is he a very good blocker at this point. Fine, in the red zone, like Dad used to say on Foster Street, ‘run ten yards straight ahead and I’ll hit you.’ In this the ‘hit you’ part is in Fauria’s hands near rim level in the end zone.

– Fauria has more TDs catches than receptions. Don’t worry throwing any kind of advanced calculus in my face. Just trust me.

– Last week I sought more from Stafford. This week I got it. I counted one really WTF throw that was late in the second half. I don’t even know if I can what was going on in the first half drops, because with Broyles, Edwards and Durham as the receiving personnel, we can debate whether any of them even has 3rd receiver abilities. Instead of drops, maybe we can define them as ‘pristine throws by Stafford that better receivers would’ve caught.’

– I don’t know if he got blocked, misread the play or what, but damn did Deandre Levy had a motor on his ass to chase down Travis Benjamin on the misdirection play. And his athletic, leaping interception (another one!) had me wondering how the Lions brought Brian Urlacher back from 2007.

– Brandon Pettigrew. Thank you. I’ll take it.

– Chris Houston, if you expect safety help, act like they’re going to yank the chair out from underneath you.

– Notice Reggie Bush slid feet first on a late run to keep the clock ticking? Exceptional.

– Lions can’t convert a 3rd and 4, but David Akers bangs through a 51 yarder like it was an extra point to salvage some points.

– We’ll wait for the Pro Football Focus ratings, but I’d be surprised if Fairley and Suh didn’t rate extremely well, because it was August Willie Young on Sunday.

– Quietly, the Lions have cleaned up a lot of their focus, concentration and discipline issues. With 8 penalties it wasn’t clean, but none that make you slam your forehead into anything.

– 7 catches and 126 yards. The Browns were going to deal Josh Gordon. Right, not unless you, or whoever, was handing out a first round pick.

– It’s open season every week on Darius Slay (his passer rating allowed has to be sky high), but why even activate Rashean Mathis, if he every week he can’t finish a game?

– It could’ve been PI on Calvin too, but I don’t thin Stafford was roughed. It LOOKED like he was, and when it comes to QBs if it looks like a duck…

– Calvin gets a hockey assist for Fauria’s first TD. The PI on him two plays earlier got them to the 1.

By Bush, I Think They’ve Got It!

Scherzer WILL Go & Maddonizing The Lineup.

Yesterday Danny Knobler of CBS started a mini-sh%t storm by surmising that the Tigers would trade Max Scherzer over the winter. 

Let’s blow through this.

1. If the Tigers don’t win the World Series, Scherzer isn’t going anywhere. 

2. If they win the World Series, then YES, I consider dealing him. You’ve got what you wanted, and two is hard to achieve, so be satisfied, and ship Scherzer off to the NL. As opposed to losing him for a compensatory pick after the 2014 season.

3. Yep. I believe there’s an expiration on Scherzer’s days as Tiger. That timer began to tick when they resigned Sanchez – who thankfully has lived up to the deal, at least in year 1. 

If they gave Scherzer what Boras will demand ($25 million a year), then you’ll have him, Sanchez, and Verlander making roughly $75 million. 

While I’ll be the first to send Miggy off after another 2 years and $44 million dollars, Prince Fielder and his mammoth contract will likely begin to become a burden in the future. After watching Cabrera limp around in September, and the franchise crippling deals the Angels doled out to Pujols and Hamilton, you wanna give Cabrera what he’ll ask for in 2016 and beyond? I don’t.

That 2015 payroll, with the three pitchers and $46 million from the corner sluggers is $121 million, and those are all players moving well into their 30s. You still need 20 other players, which I’m not going to dissect right now. 

What I really wanted to get to here Knobler pointing something some of us thought of back in July. 

For Tigers fans, it would be a painful stab to have Jake Peavy star in the ALCS, while…

JOSE IGLESIAS SHOULDN’T BE STARTING. 

He’s at .083 and a .237 OPS. With the Tigers lineup expected to struggle – it’s not going to? – Iglesias’ defense isn’t worth the auto-out in the lineup, especially with the way Austin Jackkkkkkkkkson is swinging now.

Dirks/Kelly in left, Peralta at short. YOU DO NOT WANT PERALTA IN LEFT IN FRONT OF THE MONSTER.

If Leyland wasn’t so darn loyal, and had a litte a Maddon in him, I’d go…

1. Infante 2B

2. Hunter RF

3. Cabrera 3B

4. Fielder 1B

5. Martinez C

6. Peralta SS

7. Castellanos DH

8. Dirks LF

9. Kelly CF

I’m probably taking Jose Alvarez off the roster. What’s the sense of letting him get slammed around Fenway. You could toss our Putkonen too, but at least he could get strike outs. Or I take Dirks off and go…

1. Infante 2B

2. Hunter LF

3. Cabrera DH

4. Fielder 1B

5. Martinez C

6. Peralta SS

7. Castellanos RF (yep, a bit scary. I also think there has to be an ‘injury’ for him to be activated)

8. Kelly CF

9. Santiago 3B. 

Hernan Perez is also inconsequential to me. 

WHAT THE HELL, WHY IS AVILA NOT CATCHING!!??!?!?!

The Red Sox could run the Tigers right out of the series – 6 steals in the LDS (one by Quintin!) – so since the Tigers can’t throw anyone out anyway, give me the offense behind the plate. Avila caught 17% of the runners this year. League average is 26%. He’s also hitting .129 in his postseason appearances, albeit with 4(!) walks against Oakland.

In a series where one team needs 4 wins to move on, a mountain of variables could occur, but to slice it down, if Ellsbury plays like he did against Tampa (1.137 OPS and those steals, trying to that $25 mil AAV), and Jackson continues to struggle – because my lineup IS NOT HAPPENING – the Tigers could be done in quick fashion. 

JV Needs To Do It NOW.

The 33 year old Justin Verlander of 2016, and me, have some advice for the Justin Verlander pitching Game 5 against Oakland tonight. 

Win. Be dominant like last Saturday’s start. You’ve got all the physical and mental pieces to define how you’ll be revered…

Like Maximus said…

Then, do the same against Boston. Then again against the Cardinals or the Dodgers. 

If Verlander was indeed just tinkering with his mechanics to maintain a steady pace during the regular season, only to (refer to above again I suppose) unleash hell on his playoff opponents, it’s time to rise to challenge he set before himself, or possibly begin to feel the tide of Tigers allegiance ruefully turn against him.

With the way this Tigers team in constructed, there’ll likely be more swings at October greatness in the coming the seasons, but Verlander will be judged on a harsher, more expensive curve moving forward. He is now the man of the $180 million dollar extension. 

Then there’s the icy, bitter reality we all must endure. The older we get, the less we can do. For you and I, it’s of no great matter. We’re not professional athletes. We just going from running marathons to running 5K’s, or running 5K’s to a half hour on the elliptical. Some of us, you not me, just stay inert on the couch and scream at rich athletes not living up to their contracts, in your estimation.

I can tell you that Justin Verlander has probably peaked as a professional athlete. 2011 ain’t happening again. That doesn’t mean he’s all of the sudden going to be a meddling starting pitcher fighting to keep his ERA below 4.50. I mean, that could happen. But I’ll posit that Verlander, at least for the next few years will still likely showcase performances that would have him acing at least a third of the starting staffs in baseball. 

Before Verlander slides down too far from his peak, I don’t think there’s anyone that doesn’t want him to lead the Tigers to a World Series with the components that create his make up. Rich, Tiger-for-life-ace. Be the reason the Tigers win a championship now, rather than possibly being just a part of the whole later on. (See two time champ Zito, Barry. More to follow)

Things could get ugly for Verlander. Wait. Things WILL get ugly for Verlander, it’s just a matter of when.

CC Sabathia at 32, and a thousand innings pitched beyond Verlander, is coming off a season where he led the AL in earned runs allowed generating a career worst ERA of 4.78. His WHIP of 1.37 was also the poorest showing of his career. He has up to 4 years and $96 million left on his deal with the Yankees. CC doesn’t look to be battling Father Time as his teammate Hiroki Kuroda has the last two seasons. Kuroda’s also not making CC money. 

Roy Halladay at 36, coming off a second consecutive year devastated by shoulder trouble, may be finished. After surgery and rehab, Halladay was rushed back to the Phillies because of other injuries, and once a man who could make 90-something mile per hour pitches dance as if he were a puppeteer, lasted only three batters and didn’t top 83 mph in his final Phillies start. It’s akin to hitting that age where you realize your parents get sick, and aren’t immortal. Halladay went to Philly to win a title, and unless he finds a team who’ll offer him an incentive laden deal where he can ride coat tails to a title, he’ll complete a Hall Of Fame career without a ring. 

Before more somber endings of greatness, a slightly happier tale.

Cliff Lee has aged quite gracefully during the first three years of his colossal contract with the Phillies. With $77 million and three years left on his Phillies deal, it’s a conservative bet to say the Phillies will get the most possible out of their investment in Lee, who’s coming off a year, at 34, with 222 K’s and a WAR over 7. It’s unlikely Verlander will progress, errrr, regress is the more apt way of saying it, as Lee has. Lee is unique from Verlander, Halladay and Sabathia in that his arsenal has never been an overpowering one. Lee could eventually match Maddux, as my favorite pitcher to have ever watched. 88 mph and you couldn’t touch it! Sabathia and Verlander both have averaged over 94 mph on their fastballs during their careers. Halladay never reached even 93, but his repertoire was like a magician’s endless bag of tricks. Lee’s fastball, which has been up a bit since what you’d call his prime years of athletic life, has never averaged 92 mph. Cliff Lee has always relied on pinpoint control (get it over) AND command (put it where you want) of his array. At 32, 33, and 34 as Phillie, Lee has averaged 34 walks per year. Verlander, who’s averaged 64 free passes since his MVP campaign, would truly have to remake himself to match the precise accuracy Lee has almost always been able to employ. 

When his electric fastball begins to escape him, can Verlander paint corners with an average fastball to validate his immense annual salary as he eventually becomes the age of Lee, and then Halladay. 

Because of his efforts, ethic and habits – while no one worked harder than Halladay – I’d give Verlander a definite maybe to the conjecture above.

Other harbinger’s of pitching doom to be wary of…

Johan Santana was paid $129 million by the Mets (5 of which, he’ll be paid to go away in ’14). Factoring in two totally lost years in ’11 and ’13, Santana gave the Mets a WAR of 3.8 over the life of the deal. That’s the number Mat Latos gave the Reds in 2013. Not horrific, but not what you expect to get when you sign a player to a deal that should equal over $21 million per year. He got that evasive Mets no hitter though, possibly at a great cost. 

Even though they won two World Series during his time as a Giant, the Barry Zito contract was a complete calamity. That was just a dumb signing, period. 

The Giants also must be elated that Tim Lincecum refused to sign a long term deal considering what he was less than five years ago. He’s a free agent this winter and it’ll be fascinating to see who pays him, how much and to do what – yep, I believe he could have intriguing value as a rubber armed, do-it-all pitcher. 

PItchers like Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels, who within the last year or so, have reached lavish deals with the Dodgers and Phillies, respectively, are my money to age like Lee. Hamels arsenal has always been anchored by one of the game’s finest change ups, though he lacks the precision of Lee. Greinke, who will turn 30 before Halloween, has had to manage an eroding fastball annually. Greinke, who is one of the most introspective, yet mercurial, athletes in all of pro sports, went back to using a change up this year, and added an 86 mph cutter to his assortment of pitches. He earned his $19 million in the first year of his Dodger contract, and after making another $51 million more the next two years, Greinke can opt out. If not, in whatever condition he pitches through, he’s guaranteed another $128 million through 2018 from Los Angeles. I’ll marginally lean toward Hamels. I’m a sucker for a change up. If I were a dad, I’d make sure my kid mastered a change up before he could drive.

Verlander’s inevitable regression will be juxtaposed most against Felix Hernandez and his $175 million dollar new deal. Hernandez, a power pitcher like Verlander, is three years Verlander’s younger, but has just 20 less innings than the Tiger. What the Mariners and Hernandez may have in his favor, is that if there’s ever an injury or a physical challenge, I’ll trust the younger player to heal more efficiently. Hernandez could be just as doomed as anyone though. The body just ain’t supposed to pitch a baseball!

I hope Verlander’s Game 5, and beyond in the postseason, is as electric as his last two playoff starts in Oakland. I hope there’s a title, if not, I hope there’s at least greatness in Verlander’s 2013 postseason. He hasn’t had an unhittable October yet to date, and the years and pitches he has left to do that are waning. I would like both to be now. So that way in 2016, when Verlander’s 33 and making $28 million dollars, when Tiger fans are berating and assailing him for barely being able to make it through 6 meager innings, I can say…’Justin earned his money in 2013, for the World Champion Tigers. Now sit down and shut up.’

Then again, maybe Verlander will twirl like Lee, and go on to be one of the game’s all time greats, and he’ll go on his terms, not those of an ERA with the same amount of fingers on my hand. 

Go Tigers. Go JV.