You’ve landed on Thursday at OOB — which means yet another delightful webisode of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al”, my weekly tete-a-tete with that rabble rouser at The Wayne Fontes Experience, Big Al himself.
This week, we dive into: the big (?) MSU win over U-M last Saturday; why in the world the Lions should consider signing Daunte Culpepper; the World Serious; the possibility of a Tigers blockbuster trade; and a preview of the Pistons season.
So, without further ado……
Eno: Uh-oh – it’s Thursday. That means you’ve come across another webisode of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al.” I’m Eno, aka The Journalist, and he’s Al, aka A Pissed Off Wolverine Fan. Is that an accurate assessment, Big Al?
Big Al: Pissed? I’ve passed that stage of grief in regard to the Wolverines. I think I’m at acceptance at this point. I just keep chanting, “Serenity now!” whenever I see winged helmets.
Eno: OK, seriously. I know we addressed this a few weeks back, but did you think it was going to be this bad? And how in the HELL did U-M manage to be ranked in the pre-season Top 25?
Big Al: Not in my wildest dreams did I think Michigan would be cellar dwellers. I figured .500 was a worst-case scenario, but this? No one saw this coming, not even The Amazing Kreskin! “SERENITY NOW!” Then again I don’t know if The Amazing Kreskin is still alive, so it might have been hard for him to predict anything, let alone the collapse of the Wolverines, of all things.
Eno: Wow – a Kreskin reference! Wonder what percentage of our readers will get THAT one! And yes, I believe he’s still alive, somewhere. I must say, though, that you can tell who’s the “little brother” in this state, because MSU’s t-shirts featuring the scoreboard and their other displays of rubbing it in smacks of losers who don’t know how to handle winning. I like State, but don’t they know what the series has been like in the past, oh, 40 YEARS?
Big Al: I understand their glee, but Sparty’s memories are awfully short-term. But in their minds, Spartan Bob ran the clock perfectly and Desmond Howard wasn’t interfered with. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the Sparty faithful.
Eno: Besides, it wasn’t like they beat the best Michigan team ever assembled. They’re joyful over knocking off someone that Toledo beat, after all. OK, so what does your gut tell you? Is RichRod going to get this thing going as soon as next year? Or are we looking at a two-to-three year fix?
Big Al: It’ll be 2010 at the earliest before RichRod turns the Wolverines around. Mostly because he’ll still have QB issues next season. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts there’s a true freshman under center in 2009. That alone will guarantee another long season in Ann Arbor. Michigan fans best get used to seeing some ugly football for quite some time to come.
Eno: Well, thanks for the warning, I suppose. But wasn’t it nice to see the Ohio State University get whipped by Penn State? Didn’t that ease the pain a bit?
Big Al: It’s always nice to see CheatyPants McSweaterVest get his comeuppance, especially being taken down by the 150-year-old Joe Paterno.
Eno: Al, why don’t you REALLY tell us what you think of Jim Tressel? Gosh, you’re so wishy-washy!
Big Al: Hey, I’m not called a “knee jerk” for nothing! I’ll be honest though: the Sweater Vest has Michigan’s number, and I don’t see his dominance changing anytime soon.
Eno: Probably not. A U-M win this year, at Columbus, might eclipse Bo’s job over Woody in 1969. OK, so that’s Michigan. How did you handle the Lions’ blackout?
Big Al: Unlike most Lions fans, who took the week off from the team, I watched a cruddy, YouTube quality stream over the web. I just had to get my hate on, and I wasn’t going to let a silly, archaic, NFL mandated blackout stop me!
Eno: Talk about resourceful! I’m impressed – or petrified, I’m not sure which. Instead of re-hashing another loss, I was interested in your post at TWFE about Daunte Culpepper. I think I want the Lions to sign him. Am I a whack job? Careful, now!
Big Al: No, I won’t go there, even if you did serve up a beach ball right down the middle. As for Culpepper, you’re correct. This was more than your typical Tuesday free agent workout. I would not be surprised to see the former Viking/Fish/Raider in a Lions’ uniform next week. This Sunday is likely Dan Orlovsky’s last hurrah. The Lions lose to the Bears, which is almost a given, Stanton is under center the next week, and Culpepper could be the backup.
Eno: Well, like I commented on your blog, everyone thought Jim Plunkett was done when the Raiders signed him. Two Super Bowl wins later…. Now, I’m not saying Daunte is leading the Lions to the Big One, but at 32 he might have some football left in him. I’m just wondering what it is about the Lions that intrigues him. The winning culture?
Big Al: More like the Lions’ QB situation is awful, and Culpepper sees a possible starting opportunity. There may be some football left in Culpepper, but the question I have to ask is: Is there any football left in his destroyed knee?
Eno: Well, that’s the thing. It just shows that a football player’s desire to play sometimes supersedes winning. Plus, there’s always that green stuff called money.
Big Al: Which may be what’s stopping the Lions from signing him, post haste. Before his short-lived retirement, there was talk Culpepper had wanted a multi-year deal in the $5 million-a-season range. That’s an awful amount of jack for a QB who hasn’t been the same player since he stopped throwing to Randy Moss. If Culpepper wants to play, it’s going to have to be at a much reduced rate. At least I hope that’s what the Lions are telling him.
Eno: Probably will be one of those incentive-laced things. Culpepper told the Chiefs to take a hike, so apparently that means he feels he’s close to signing with the Lions. Daunte wore #11 in Minny; we haven’t had a running QB wear that number since Greg Landry! That is, if Daunte can still run!
Big Al: The last Lion to wear #11 was a diva wide receiver. Maybe the Lions want Culpepper to play wideout? Josh McCown did!
Eno: You’re right! Too funny! OK, I mustered up the first two topics today. What’s on your agenda?
Big Al: OK, what’s your take on how MLB handled the World Series weather issues in Philadelphia? Starting Saturday’s game at 10 p.m. was bad enough. But Monday night was a bad joke! Bud Selig has to be thanking the baseball Gods BJ Upton and Carlos Pena bailed out baseball by tying the game while playing in a monsoon.
Eno: Well, Bud said he never would have let the Series end on a rain-shortened Phillies win, which is commendable. I don’t know about this. Seems whatever you do, you’re wrong. I’m no Selig fan, but I don’t find much fault with him here. It’s a tough deal. But it also illustrates why the season should be shorter and the WS shouldn’t be knocking on November’s door!
Big Al: Exactly. Let’s not forget the playoffs have been expanded as well. Today, Reggie Jackson would be known as Mr. November! Unfortunately, baseball is allowing TV to dictate scheduling. Monday’s game never should have been played, period.
Eno: I opined a week or so ago that baseball playoffs were more fun when you had to sneak out to watch them, i.e. DAY GAMES! Wouldn’t it be nice, Al, for MLB to toss us old-timers a bone and play, say Game 1 on a Wednesday afternoon or something?
Big Al: There’s a certain cache’ to daytime playoff baseball that is sorely missed. I vaguely remember being allowed to follow the 1968 Series between the Tigers and Cardinals in class. (I would have been six at the time. Yes, I’m old) The Tigers, as a matter of fact, played in the last daytime World Series game back in 1984. Ah, the good old days. Speaking of the Tigers, they are known for making moves immediately after the Series ends. Two years ago, it was trading for Gary Sheffield. Last year, Edgar Renteria. Do you get the feeling we’ll see the Tigers make an aggressive move once the Phillies win?
Eno: You know, I do. I don’t know why I say that, but something tells me that, since [Tigers GM] Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland are on the hot seats, aggressiveness might be warranted here. It backfired last year, but standing pat seems riskier. I’d like to see them go after [pitcher] Derek Lowe. But yes, I think we’re in for another blockbuster; just maybe not this soon.
Big Al: From what I’m reading, Lowe might be out of the Tigers’ price range. But they do need to move quickly, as they need to fill holes in the rotation, the bullpen and at shortstop. It all depends on what Mike Ilitch decides to do with his payroll. If the Pizza Man decrees a lower salary burden, Dombrowski really has his work cut out for him. The pressure is truly on his shoulders to fix his mistakes, but it may take more than a year to do so.
Eno: This is going to be interesting. Leyland had magic in Year One, half a good year in Year Two, and a crappy year in Year Three – when the expectations were the highest, ironically. This thing could go either way. What are your odds that Jim’s in Detroit in 2010?
Big Al: No better than 50/50, possibly worse. Ilitch went all in before the ’08 season. He’s an old man, and desperately wants to win a World Series. If the Tigers don’t measurably improve early on in ’09, Leyland may not finish the season on the Detroit bench. Considering the money spent, I’d imagine the Pizza Man’s patience has to be running thin. Lelyand will be on a very short leash.
Eno: Wow…OK. There haven’t been too many managerial changes in Detroit in mid-season. We’ll see how it goes. Your thoughts on how the Milwaukee Brewers handled the Ned Yost/Dale Sveum situation?
Big Al: I thought it was Mickey Mouse. The manager can only do so much, and play the hand he was dealt by the front office. A playoff contender making a coaching change a few weeks before the end of the season is something that happens in the NHL, not MLB.
Eno: Right. Then they extend the GM’s contract and don’t even mention Sveum’s effort in getting them into the playoffs. Bush league! What else is on your mind?
Big Al: The Pistons begin their season tonight, but it really feels like they are flying under the radar. I’m interested to see how [new coach] Michael Curry handles such a headstrong bunch. Curry is saying all the right things, but it’s a long season. Sooner or later he’s going to have to butt heads with players like Rasheed Wallace. It’s going to be interesting to see Curry’s development as the head man
Eno: Well, he’s a recent player, so that should help. These Pistons haven’t really been coached by someone like Curry before. His task is simple for a rookie coach: win 50-55 games, navigate through the Eastern Conference mine field, and then make it to the Finals. Piece of cake!
Big Al: Indeed. And doing so while following Joe Dumars’s mandate of making sure young players like Rodney Stuckey, Amir Johnson, Kwame Brown and Jason Maxiell get plenty of time in the rotation. Curry has his work cut out for him.
Eno: I often wonder how much micro-managing Dumars does. But then again, I’ve never really read any of his former coaches (and that list is beginning to rival that of Liz Taylor’s ex-husbands) critique him about that, or anything. So he must be a fair guy. Still, Flip Saunders used to defer lots of seemingly coaching questions to Dumars, so that makes me wonder. You? Or am I making something out of nothing?
Big Al: I think there’s something to what you say. Without question, the Pistons are Joe Dumars’s team, and in many ways, I think the players are more loyal to Joe D than their coaches. Let alone the fact Dumars is also a favorite son of the owner, Bill Davidson. It has to be an intimidating atmosphere for a coach. Even more so for an inexperienced one.
Eno: Right, but Curry was hand-picked by Dumars (of course, so were the others) and has his boss’s highest regard right now. Plus, Joe D is kinda ticked at the players right now, which makes it easier for Curry, too. But it’s a player’s league, and always will be. That’s why you see so many recent players as coaches. Gone are the days of guys like Jack Ramsay and Frank Layden!
Big Al: That’s DOCTOR Jack Ramsay! You’re correct in saying Dumars has issues with the “core.” The trade deadline might be quite interesting, with ‘Sheed in the last season of his contract. I get the feeling Dumars won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a trade if the Pistons struggle…or even if they don’t.
Eno: Oh no, not at all. He’s a Jack McCloskey disciple, don’t forget, and Trader Jack made the boldest trade in Detroit history when he swapped Adrian Dantley for Mark Aguirre at the deadline in 1989. Of course, to hear Jack tell it, it wasn’t bold, just necessary. So yes, Joe D is in a trading mood. If he can do something McCloskey-like, he’ll do it. For sure.
Big Al: Joe D definitely learned a few things from Trader Jack. But Dumars finds himself in a very tough situation. The Pistons are in a sort of limbo. They are too good to break up, and should win 50+ games. But they aren’t good enough to win the NBA title. What do you do? Blow it up, or continue tweaking? It’s getting to the point of diminishing returns in regard to the core. I’m thinking this is their last ride as group.
Eno: Ha! Haven’t people been saying this is “the last ride” since 2006? But you’re right about being a tweener. This is a unique situation, in any sport. The Pistons are, indeed, good enough to be a contender, but maybe not more than that. It is strange in a way. So, as we finish our little ride for this week, my vote for strangest item of the week was the Isiah Thomas, “did he or didn’t he?” overdose story. Yours?
Big Al: It’s sad all the way around. Thomas claims it was his kid who OD’d, while the authorities say it was Isiah himself? The police have no reason to lie. What kind of father throws his own child under the bus? Isiah Thomas is a sad, sad man.
Eno: Yeah, his life has careened out of control. Thank God the Pistons didn’t make him their Joe Dumars, after all. Everything Isiah touches turns to dust. BTW, I was wrong about Warren Mott losing to Sterling Heights Stevenson by 10 – they lost by 28. And on a cold, damp night. What we parents won’t do to support our band-playing daughters, huh? But Mott’s going to the playoffs. Wish them luck at Cass Tech this weekend!
Big Al: Same for my high school alma mater, Carleton-Airport (I hate that they are always referred to by that name; it’s just “Airport!”), who host Trenton in the playoffs. Go Jets! And go Mott! I’ll see you next week, Mr. Journalist!
Eno: In the words of Sarah Palin, “You betcha!”