Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Knee Jerks: Bullpen woes; Thanks, Sparty; Who's No. 1 In Lions Land?

Ah, THERE you are! We've been waiting for you here at The Knee Jerks.

Every Thursday I get my sports chat on with the MVP of the MVN, Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience.

This week we crab about Jim Leyland and the Tigers' bullpen, reflect on MSU's glorious basketball run, handicap the Lions' choice for No. 1 overall draft pick, and the usual suspects show up: Word Association and Jerk of the Week.

As you will.....


Eno: Welcome to another Thursday and another week of being subjected to "The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno & Al." I'm Eno, aka The Journalist, and he's Big Al, aka Mr. Big Shot. Al, as we do this, it's almost the witching hour thanks to some real life stuff for yours truly. You gonna stay awake long enough to finish, or will I need to go to the bullpen?

Big Al: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ....Wha? Huh? Who? Oh, it's Eno. Awake? Depends if the Sudafed I've been mainlining for my sinus infection does its job. I've held off on the NyQuil in order to do this early Thursday morning version of The Knee Jerks! So what's on your mind, Mr. Night Owl?

Eno: Ahh, I love NyQuil. Almost good enough to make me want to be sick just so I can swallow that lovely green liquid! Anyhow, speaking of bullpens, it didn't take the Tigers long to show why theirs might be their downfall. Just the second game of the season, in fact. What's up with Brandon Lyon? And worse, what about manager Jim Leyland, who lifted starter Edwin Jackson on Tuesday night in favor of the gas can 'pen?

Big Al: I was so freaked out by the turn of events on Tuesday that I broke out the legendary TWFE panic button! It was a train wreck appearance by Lyon, who wasn't helped at all by the strange managerial decision by the Marlboro Man to run the very hittable Lyon out for another inning. It was BAFFLING! Leyland was managing like he wanted to be fired. It was only one appearance, but it doesn't bode well for Lyon, who hasn't gotten anyone out since last season's All Star break. If I were Lyon, I'd stay away from Jackson (who was brilliant) for a few days, and wear a uni without a name for Friday's home opener. He won't be greeted warmly.

Eno: Where was Fernando Rodney? And I thought I'd NEVER ask THAT question!!

Big Al: No kidding, as Rodney looked like the 2006 version of himself in pitching a 1-2-3 ninth Wednesday night. Same for uber-prospect Ryan Perry, who had a fairly uneventful eighth inning as well. You can't tell me Lyon is higher in Leyland's bullpen pecking order than Rodney and Perry after Tuesday's fiasco. Wednesday's win was much needed, if only to calm the fan base. We've gone from DEFCON 1, back to DEFCON 5. The bullpen was excellent (Bobby Seay was released from LOOGY-land to record four outs), and Zach Miner gave the Tigers a second consecutive excellent start. Everyone take a deep breath; the Tigers won't start the season 0-7 again!

Eno: No, and today is the much-anticipated debut of rookie phenom Rick Porcello. How do you think it'll go?

Big Al: Uh...deep breaths, Al, deep breaths...This is no time to panic! Porcello obviously has the talent, but can he bring it to the big leagues at age 20? As I said on The Detroit Tigers Podcast, when I was 20, I was looking for my next beer! Porcello, on the other hand, is making his way to the mound in the Skydome (or whatever they are calling that abortion of a stadium these days). I'm not expecting much in his first start. If he can get though five innings, and keep the Tigers in the game, I'll call his first start a smashing success. But I wouldn't bet on it...

Eno: Rogers Centre actually. I can't keep track of all these stadium and arena names, either. Well, as far as Porcello goes, he'll either get smacked around and be lifted before the end of the third inning, or go those five (or more innings). Seems like it's feast or famine with these kids making their MLB debuts on the mound. I'm pulling for him, though. What a huge lift he could be to the Tigers' rotation, and for the team's image. A kid like that, if he's all he's supposed to be, could own Detroit.

Big Al: Indeed he could. The Tigers best handle Porcello carefully, though. I don't want to see Leyland, who's is managing for his next contract, pull a Dusty Baker and continually have the kid throw more than 100 pitches. In many ways, the Tigers really lucked out during Justin Verlander's rookie season, in that his heavy workload didn't ruin his arm. Speaking of such, Verlander, who looked like his ‘06-‘07 self in spring training, was shelled on opening day. The Tigers claimed he had excellent stuff against the Jays, but the stats don't lie. (3.2 IP, 80 P, 8 ER) Think opening day was an aberration for Verlander?

Eno: Yeah, I'm not worried. Happens to the best of them on OD. How about Brandon Inge? Three homers in three games!! And Miggy Cabrera is already looking like the MVP I predicted for him over at Grubber.

Big Al: Cabrera is going to be worth every penny of his huge contract. When he connects, as he did twice Wednesday night, the ball coming off the bat sounds different than it would from mere mortals. I'm with you on winning an MVP. I ranted at the end of (another plug for) The Detroit Tigers Podcast that we spent over an hour talking Tigers, and barely even mentioned the reigning AL home run champ! He's their X-factor, the sort of player who can carry a team for weeks at a time. You can book it; Cabrera will have a legitimate shot at the Triple Crown. As for Inge, his new batting stance has worked wonders, but I'm afraid this power jag (3 HR in 3 G) will end up hurting him overall. Much as it did with Chris Shelton back in '06. Big Red’s fast start that season ruined his career, in his thinking he had become a power hitter. Let's hope to Jebus Inge doesn't fall into that trap.

Eno: I doubt it. Shelton (where IS he, anyway?) worked with hitting coach Don Slaught, who'd never had that job, and Inge is under the tutelage of the more experienced Lloyd McClendon. OK, enough Tigers. Wanna talk Sparty?

Big Al: I believe Shelton is in the Mariners' system. I know he didn't make the team out of spring training. But he'll always have April 2006.... Sparty? I'd rather not remember Monday's trouncing/beat down/back street mugging inflicted by the Tarheels. The Spartans were embarrassed by UNC, unfortunately. But it was still one Hell of a run, and the Final Four win over UConn Satruday night was electrifying! I've never seen Ford Field look so good, and the fans so into a game! That's what I'll want to remember.

Eno: Yeah. It's almost as if it's no big deal that MSU lost the title game (easy for me to say). Just making it there, in Detroit, is something the school will always treasure. Coach Tom Izzo deserves mega-kudos for taking a team that suffered a beat-down in the Big Ten tourney all the way to second place in the country. Or is it, "first runner up"?

Big Al: Well, no one remembers who finishes second, right? So does it make a difference what we call it? But this latest Final Four run for Tom Izzo only cemented his status as the best coach in college basketball. He does get good players, but mostly out of Flint and Detroit, compared to, let's say, Roy Williams, who has coached at two schools who basically recruit themselves: Kansas and UNC. Izzo's five Final Fours and one NCAA title at a school like MSU, which doesn't have the cachet or hoops history of a Dook, UNC, UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky, UConn, trumps anything the so-called coaching elite (Such as Williams, Pitino, Kzituefhjgs6*#ski, Calhoun) have ever done. Izzo is in a class by himself. He's that damn good, and we should realize he's done something remarkable in East Lansing!

Eno: Oh, Izzo is so underrated it's pathetic. Though I think this run might put the brakes on that a little bit. OK, Al, what's on that Night Owl brain of yours?

Big Al: Hmm, other than the ringing in my plugged era or the congestion in my head? Let's touch on the Lions, and something that is, to be blunt, pissing me off. The idea has been floating around that the Lions should pull a Mike Tice circa Vikings 2003, and pass on the first overall pick. Some bozos are claiming the Lions would be better off, as they could still get an impact player, but not have to shell out so much cash. What complete and utter BULLSH*T. Could you see the unmitigated mess such a MORONIC action would turn into? It's laughable to even consider it. The Lions need to decide on their pick, and have him under contract by draft day. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. Fans can be such dunces at times. Passing on the pick can't be considered a legitimate strategy, could it?

Eno: No. I don't see how passing on taking the No. 1 overall pick in the draft makes you better. I know there are $$ concerns, but tough. That's what you get for finishing dead last. Besides, if you play it right, that No. 1 pick will make you all that money back, and then some!

Big Al: No kidding. This is just another reason why the NFL Draft needs to be held earlier. Because it leads to tripe like articles promoting the passing on the first pick, endless mock drafts, the leaking of the Wonderlic scores, rumors of failed drug and steroids tests; the sort of crap that keeps bottom feeding rumor mongers like Pro Football Talk in business. I'm a huge NFL fan, but I despise all the crap being slung before the draft.

Eno: AMEN!! I wrote it at OOB: have the draft in mid-March, just before the college madness. That still gives teams plenty of time to decide, and more time to negotiate with and sign their higher profile picks. No league has such a gap between its championship and its draft as the NFL has. It's ridiculous.

Big Al: Ridonkulous, even! Staying with the Lions, after having the personal workout with Georgia QB Matthew Stafford, and raves from scouts that were reported, it seems Stafford has become the Lions main target with the first overall selection. Stafford going Number One I think is going to happen. We can only cross our fingers it's the right selection. Concur?

Eno: Yeah, it's Stafford. No question. And after some soul-searching, I think I'm OK with the pick now. I guess this is where the time between the Super Bowl and the draft is long enough for me to make peace with the decision to snatch Stafford off the board. The Lions shouldn't, after all, be held hostage to their past. Damn the torpedoes and if Stafford's the franchise QB the Lions haven't had for eons, great. If he isn't, then they wouldn't have been alone in being fooled. I'll tell you this: the Lions are doing their homework on this kid. They know him up, down, and around. So you certainly can't say they didn't do their due diligence—something something unheard of by Matt Millen!

Big Al: I think another reason it's Stafford is the Lions already are paying an insane amount of money to a pair of offensive tackles, Jeff Backus and last season's Number One, Gosder Cherilus. I can't see the Lions drafting another left tackle, at least not at Number One. You also want the player you are giving that sort of money to, to be on the field on every snap. LB Aaron Curry would be drafted as a middle linebacker. MLBs are two-down players. They are also not paid $35 million. So when you do the math: Talent + Contract + Impact on the field + Need = Stafford.

Eno: Agreed. How about some WordArse?

Big Al: Let 'er rip, Eno my man. Fire away.


Eno: OK. Our favorite goalie, Mr. Chris Osgood.

Big Al: The favorite of puck bunnies everywhere, and he locks up going into the Hockey Hall of Fame if he can win one more Cup. The stats, as always, don't lie.

Eno: Wow. Cool. Next up, Tigers manager Jimmy Leyland.

Big Al: The nicotine is screwing with his mind! Two packs a day has to affect one's decision making, doesn't it? It's the only explanation for Tuesday's fiasco.

Eno: Too funny. OK, I say “The next NBA champ will be....”, and you say??

Big Al: Lebron James gets his first title. The Cavaliers finally put to rest the days of Ted Stepien and the Cadaverliers. But between you and me, I really don't care who wins the title. I really think I'm more of a Pistons fan, than an NBA fan. I really don't like the direction the league is going. How does Lebron James only get called for little more than one foul a game? The man creates more contact in the lane than Shaquille O’Neal in his prime. Ever since Dwyane Wade won the NBA Title for the Heat by falling down and getting to the line, it's been all downhill for the NBA, in my eyes, anyway. Didn't mean to go off on a rant....

Eno: Hey, no problem! We'll just rename this WORDS Association. One more: same question, but about the NHL....

Big Al: What the Hell, it'll be the Red Wings! OK, let's throw a few your way. Let’s go with the man that rocked the nation, along with UConn's Stanley Robinson, on Saturday night, Durrell Summers.

Eno: Imagine: he and Kalin Lucas were both sophomores! Izzo has himself a basketball factory!

Big Al: Let alone his monster dunk posterized Robinson for future generations. I literally leap out of my seat when Summers threw down the dunk of the tournament. Next, I say "One Shining Moment", you say...

Eno: Makes me think of Jerry Lewis and him singing that sappy "You'll never walk alone" song at the end of every Labor Day telethon!

Big Al: Nice comparison! "YOUUUU"LLLLL NEEEEVVVVER WAAAALK ALOOOONE..." Cheese at its finest, though I think "One Shining Moment" is of the limburger type... Next, I say “Detroit Pistons ‘08-09 MVP”, you say....

Eno: HA!! Oh, sorry. Umm, gosh, I think I might go with Antonio McDyess. If it wasn't for Dice's rebounding and scoring, the Pistons would be lottery-bound.

Big Al: Works for me, though you could make a case for Walter Herrmann! Wait, that would be Most Valuable bad. One more, while we're talking MVPs, who is the MVP of the men who wear the winged wheel?

Eno: Wow. I'm tempted to say Marian Hossa. He has "puck luck" as they say, and his goals always seem to be big ones. They're always tying games or breaking ties. Know what I mean, Vern?

Big Al: Sure do, Ernest P Worrell! Anything else on your mind before we wrap up another very late night version of TKJ?


Eno: No, I think we'd better go right to Jerk of the Week, as it's 2:00 a.m. as we do this!! I'll start: mine is Allen Iverson. He undid everything he said when he came to town with his talk about doing anything to win a championship. And in the process, I think he blackballed himself around the NBA.

Big Al: The only way The Answer can get himself back in the good graces of the NBA is if he'll agree to come off the bench. As they say, pride comes before the fall. It's a quite fitting quote in Iverson's case. My Jerk of the Week goes to all of the national media members who acted so condescending to the state of Michigan, the city of Detroit and us citizens, with the belief that Michigan State winning the NCAA title would SAVE THE CITY/STATE! It was a nice story, one that would allow us to forget our problems for an evening, nothing more. If you really want to "save" us, then buy a G**damn car from Ford, GM, or Chrysler! That would go one Hell of a lot farther than any momentary glory a title would have brought. Just reason number 27,086 why I detest the mainstream media.

Eno: Ah, so true, Al! It's amazing how often we're patronized by the national media. Now, there are those who say that the 1968 Tigers helped heal Detroit in the wake of the '67 riots, but that rings true to me. This MSU saving Detroit/Michigan is a bunch of hooey. You like that word, hooey?

Big Al: Not as much as "Sleep!" Meaning it's time to end the latest meeting of the minds, the minds of The Knee Jerks!

Eno: Remember "The minds of Minolta"?? OK, pal—till next week. I hope it's not in the wee hours. Thanks for indulging me!

Big Al: My pleasure, Eno-sabi! See you at the same jerk channel, but not the same jerk time!

Eno: Amen, brother!

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