Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's Thursday ALREADY? Yes, And Time For "The Knee Jerks"!!

So what do Rip Hamilton, Allen Iverson, Dave Dombrowski, the Baseball Writers Association of America, the Detroit Lions, and Tim Tebow all have in common? They're all skewered, in various forms, in this week's webisode of "The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al", my weekly gabfest with the MVP of the MVN, Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience.

Enough of this silly intro.....


Eno: Ruh-roh, Rastro! It's Thursday and that means you're about to be subjected to another webisode of "The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al." I'm Eno, aka The Journalist, and he's Big Al, aka Mr. Big Shot. Al, I know 2009 is but a couple weeks old, but how are you enjoying your year so far?

Big Al: Not so much. I have a new girlfriend who's crazy about me, a roof over my head and enough income to keep it, I'm relatively healthy, family is OK, but (there's always a but).I have major issues with Detroit sports! So the New Year BLOWS! The Tigers have no closer, the Lions are running a dog and pony show with coaches, the Pistons head coach hasn't the balls to bring either Rip [Hamilton] or [Allen Iverson] off the bench. The New Year has blown goats, my friend!

Eno: Well, the good news is that there are fifty weeks left in it. Or is that the BAD news? Regardless, let's start with that dog and pony show to which you refer. What's your take on parading the [Lions coaching] candidates in front of the media? I'm guessing this is part of the interview process, to see how they handle the media?

Big Al: It seems pretty silly to me. No other team in the NFL has felt the need to trot out coaching candidates to the media. It gives the impression that the Moron Twins, Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand, are trying to prove they are doing more than spinning their wheels in the coaching search. Sure, it's good to see these guys work the media, but really....WHO CARES? I'm more concerned about their coaching ability, not if they are photogenic and media friendly.

Eno: Yeah, I find it odd, unless it was just one guy and you could pretty much figure that he's the one. So does that mean if we don't see anyone else holding a presser, then these two – Jim Schwartz and Todd Bowles – are the frontrunners? It's a little strange, but I guess the bottom line will be in the wins and losses. What does your gut tell you? Is it Schwartz? Bowles? Someone else?

Big Al: Like you, I thought once the Lions ran Schwartz out to the media, that meant he was all but assured the gig. Then they did the same thing with Bowles, throwing a monkey wrench into the scenario. Then we hear Mayhew is planning on interviewing San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera (who, admittedly, wouldn't be a bad choice either), and supposedly have second interviews scheduled with the Vikes' Leslie Frazier and the Giants' Steve Spagnuolo, so I have absolutely no idea who could be considered the front runner. But if I go with my gut, I think the odds lean towards Schwartz being the next sacrificial lam...uh, I mean, head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Eno: Yeah, I tend to agree; maybe because he was the first one who got to sit down with Mr. Ford. BTW, I liked your version of how that interview may have gone! It pleases me that they seem to be going with someone defensive-minded. But I'm still scared the Lions will pick a "franchise quarterback" with the no. 1 overall pick. But back to the coach. Are the Lions going to be getting a legitimate rising star, or just someone who's thankful to finally be a head coach somewhere? Bowles told the Detroit media, "This is the only job I really want." A strange thing to say when you have an interview lined up in St. Louis later this week. Why should the Rams even interview him after something like that?

Big Al: That was a very odd thing for Bowles to say. Though I really like how he called the Lions "mentally damaged." That is spot damn on. But so was Schwartz saying it was time to "replace Bobby Layne." That was on the money too. I'm with you on taking a "franchise QB" first overall. The best case scenario would be that one of the top QBs (Bradford or Stafford) slide down in the draft, where the Lions could take them with the 20th pick. As for the coaches, I think they realize a couple of things. One, even if it's the Lions, being an NFL head coach is the pinnacle of the coaching profession. Two, the Lions' gig does have its plusses. First class facilities; an owner so hands off, you can't be even sure he knows he actually owns a team; a fan base so desperate for a winner, any coach who could turn around this franchise would be considered like a God. So there's that going for them, so to speak.

Eno: Oh, for sure. I've been saying that for a long time. This job could be very attractive, if only the Lions would allow it to be. But it's still a roster short on talent with a new coach who figures to have limited say in personnel. Not ideal, but you're right – it IS an NFL head coaching job, barely. Switching gears, I wrote basically what you alluded to earlier – albeit in decidedly PG-13 fashion – regarding Pistons coach Michael Curry. Looks like he's taking the easy way out for now, and sticking with small ball. I guess it's easier to bench Amir Johnson than Rip Hamilton or Allen Iverson, huh?

Big Al: Sure, it's easier. But taking the easy way out is no way to do anything, from a blog to a twelve-man NBA roster. Less than a week ago, Curry claimed there would be changes, specifically bringing one of the guards off the bench. He wanted to have his best five-man defensive team on the floor. And you don't have your best defense when you have three guards on the floor with three Pistons playing out of position. So what did we see Tuesday night against Charlotte? The same small ball we saw before Rip Hamilton got hurt, and a bad loss against a likely lottery team. It's time for Curry to grow a pair, and tell either Rip or Allen Iverson they are the sixth man. End of story. Don't like it? Lump it. Period.

Eno: Yeah, sooner or later it's got to come down to that. Unless he's just trying to bide time till the trading deadline; maybe [Pistons President] Joe Dumars has a trade in mind involving someone key. But still, you'd think that this small ball deal is only temporary. Like I wrote at OOB, how Curry handles this will go a long way toward determining whether he's got the "right stuff" to be an NBA head coach.

Big Al: Curry was badly out coached by Larry Brown Tuesday night. (That would be true for most of the NBA, actually). Curry needs to step up, and take more control over his team, starting with no longer letting the players dictate rotations. Not that Curry is getting much help. By bitching about coming off the bench, Rip and AI are trying to dictate the rotation. For a pair of players who claimed they are "team first," and would do whatever it takes to win a title, their actions say otherwise. Their statements are just lip service.

Eno: Right. This puts those comments A.I. made upon arriving here (just want to win a ring, etc) to the ultimate test. Like Chuck Daly used to say, you're coaching corporations, not players. And he said that 20 years ago! I'd be interested to find out what Dumars thinks of all this. Surely he knew this might happen when you hire a rookie coach, and even more so when you trade for someone like Iverson. I wonder how hard it might be for Joe D. to just watch this play out without getting involved somehow.

Big Al: Dumars can't be very happy. His Pistons are still a playoff team, but not a serious title contender. If things don't improve, we may see Joe D stepping in at the trade deadline in order to solve the guard dilemma. But much of this is his fault. He hired a head coach who had little experience as a coach of any kind. He traded for Iverson, sending away his locker room glue in Chauncey Billups in the process. Not that I'm saying the trade wasn't for the best in the long run, but it is hurting the team this season. This is going to go one of two ways. Either Dumars rides this out in order to keep the 2 massive contract slots in Rasheed Wallace and Iverson available. Or two, he decides the Pistons still have a title chance with the right roster addition, and trades Iverson, or someone else, giving up future cap flexibility for a playoff run this season.

Eno: Well, let's move on. You got anything today, Alness?

Big Al: I'm going to open up a can of worms. I have Tim Tebow exhaustion! Personally, the LAST thing I wanted to hear about God's gift was his returning for another season at Florida. After the constant genuflecting by FOX in regard to Saint Tim during the BCS title game broadcast, I'm not sure if I'm ready for another season of "TEBOW MANIA!" Please, I'm up to HERE when it comes to deifying athletes! HERE, I tell you! Thoughts?

Eno: I swear to God that Kentucky basketball player Kyle Macy (remember him?) went to school for six years. I get that same feeling with Tebow. I guess you can't make me happy. I don't like it when players leave too early, and I don't like it when some players stay until the end. My suggestion? Either avoid Florida games on TV, or watch with the sound muted.

Big Al: Well, you know my thoughts when it comes to religion. I've gone off on Jon Kitna before, which is why the Tebow praise got to me. At least the FOX situation won't be an issue, with ESPN taking over the BCS broadcasts. So I won't have to hear the God awful Thom Brennaman and Charles White ever do a college game again.

Eno: Oh, don't pick on Marty's kid like that! OK, Al, what else ya got?

Big Al: What else I got? I gots lots! The Tigers seem to be done with their off season maneuvering. Tuesday, Dave Dombrowski again said Fernando Rodney is the Tigers' closer. So as things stand, the American League’s third worst bullpen has not improved one bit. All I can guess is the Tigers are going to hope for bounce back seasons from Rodney and Joel Zumaya, that a few minor leaguers step up in the spring, and/or pick over what's left of the free agent crop when pitchers and catchers report. For a team with a $120 million+ payroll, to do NOTHING with the pen seems suicidal.

Eno: I'm shocked. Just last week I told you that DD and Jim Leyland weren't going to place the ninth inning – and their fates – in Rodney's hands. I still won't believe it till the team heads north and Rodney is still the closer. Hey, where were the Tigers when John Smoltz said he wanted to play here? Next thing I know, he signs with Boston!

Big Al: I have no idea where the Tigers were. I'm guessing they were returning bottles and cans in order to have enough money to make payroll. It's become obvious the Tigers' payroll is maxed out, and the organization will not spend one penny more. Any improvement will have to come from within the organization. Unfortunately for the Tigers' ticket office, asking the fans to accept the status quo is not the way to sell tickets in a bottoming out economy.

Eno: Well, Wednesday's Freep said that the Tigers have $5 million to spend on a closer. I'm confused. But you're right about ticket sales. The same story said that ticket buyers are being put off by the bullpen situation. Mike Ilitch didn't spend a gajillion dollars last year to finish behind the freaking Kansas City Royals. Tell me they're gonna find a closer, somewhere!

Big Al: About all that's left on the market are injury reclamations like Chad Cordero. When healthy, the likes of Cordero aren't exactly confidence inspiring. I have a bad feeling it's Rodney to start the season as closer, and he blows up, the Tigers will hope someone in the minors will be ready to go, like Casey Fein. But when you have no money to spend, I guess you are stuck taking risky chances.

Eno: The Tigers' bullpen better rise to the occasion, because the starting rotation just might right itself. It'd be a shame to see the starters' work wasted by those bums in the pen.

Big Al: Indeed...if the starters can bounce back themselves. I'm looking at you, Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson, Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander! Good God damn Lord, with the Tigers it's not just the pen. They need several starting pitchers to show last season was an aberration. Maybe I'll feel better once spring training starts, but as of now, what I see is a team finishing third in the Central.

Eno: Well, let's look at a half-full glass here. Bondy is certain to be healthier. Verlander had two good years before 2008. Robertson can still be a fourth or fifth starter. Willis, who knows? Point being, just as so many things went wrong last year, maybe the Tigers are due for some GOOD luck in 2009.

Big Al: That's how we are, Eno. You're a glass is half full kind of guy, while I'm an OMG THE GLASS IS NOT ONLY EMPTY, IT'S DESTROYED kind of dude. Do you think it's about that time?

Eno: For WordAss?

Big Al: You are AMAZING! You read me like a comic book! A pamphlet, even!

Eno: Hey, it's what I do. Do you wanna go first, or me?


Big Al: His Al-ness will start, Mr. Journalist. Let's begin with the Lions' first head coaching candidate, who's been called the Billy Beane of football, Jim Schwartz.

Eno: Solid, if unspectacular. I could live with it. I like the eight years as a coordinator for a team known for defense.

Big Al: Well, he's considered one of the smartest minds in the game. Something the Lions have lacked seemingly forever. How about the Red Wing who may be the odd man out if the Wings sign both Marion Hossa and Hank Z next season, Johan Franzen.

Eno: Wow. The Mule. Well, he would certainly be the most expendable, but only when you put him up against those two guys. Might be sayonara for Johan.

Big Al: Unfortunately, I agree. But if it means keeping Hossa, Franzen moving on is something I can live with. Next is an odd one. The latest Tigers signing, a Taiwanese pitcher who brings up thoughts of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Fu-Te Ni.

Eno: Yeah, I was gonna ask you about him. Umm, how soon can he get here?

Big Al: Not soon enough. But from looking at his stats, I wouldn't expect too much. He's a southpaw who let lefties hit him at a .317 clip last season...wherever the Hell he was playing. Anyone on your mind for WordAss, good sir?

Eno: Absolutely. Let's start with...the Arizona Cardinals.

Big Al: Flabbergasted! The Cards hosting the NFC Championship game? Never saw it coming. Maybe there's hope yet for the Lions! On second thought, nah...

Eno: Tony Dungy retiring.

Big Al: Smart. I think he knows NFL head coaches have a limited shelf-life, and he's about reached it. Plus, he's another with a religious agenda, and I think he wants to preach the gospel, so to speak. He's done with football.

Eno: So you don't see him coming back?

Big Al: Not really. He has other interests. I honestly think he may be burned out. Dungy has nothing left to prove. Plus, he's a devout Christian, and he's going to make his voice heard in other areas. I won't go on any more about his preaching as I'll just go off half cocked, pissing people off. I LOVE our readers!

Eno: I can tell you do!! OK, couple more....Richard "Rip" Hamilton

Big Al: ZIP IT! Some team player, huh? Seriously, the Pistons are beginning to piss me off! Play the damn game, and leave the bitching about playing time behind closed doors!

Eno: Indeed! OK, last one: Boston Celtics

Big Al: One and done. It's now LeBron James' world, and even the Celtics are just living in it.

Eno: Wow. OK then. Before JOTW, anything else going on, cranially-speaking?

Big Al: With the best Sunday of the year coming up, with the AFC and NFC title games nearly upon us, who's making the Super Bowl? Tell me, so I can place a couple of bets...

Eno: OK, well this is unofficial, but go with the Eagles and the Ravens. With three teams named after birds still remaining, I figure two of 'em ought to make it to the Big Game. You?

Big Al: I agree with the Ravens, their defense is dominant. Hell, beyond dominant. They knock off the Steelers. As for the NFC, I'm going to go with...the Arizona Cardinals, just to make the Lions look that much worse. We'll see a Cards/Ravens Super Bowl, something no one could have predicted four months ago. Ready for "Jerk of the Week?"


Eno: I am. How about Dave Dombrowski, for trying to sell the denizens on Rodney as his closer? We're not buying!

Big Al: I don't even think Dombrowski himself buys what he's selling! For my jerks, I have to go with a split ballot. It's Allen Iverson and Rip Hamilton, for all the reasons stated above. You want to win? Then quit saying so, and do something about it! Sacrifice a few minutes of playing time to come off the DAMN bench!

Eno: Hear, hear!! Oh, and don't forget the baseball Hall of Fame voters for again dissing Alan Trammell so badly!

Big Al: I'm glad you remembered! The BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) is full of MORONS! We'll make them Jerks emeritus! Jackasses, the lot of 'em! I think that wraps up another Knee Jerks! Any parting shots, Mr. Blogger Extraordinaire?

Eno: When's YOUR Lions interview?

Big Al: It'll be a cold day in Hell, MI when that happens! Same jerk time, same jerk channel next week, Caped Internet Crusader?

Eno: You got it!

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