Thursday, April 20, 2017

Lions will pay Stafford. Get over it

By Blake Froling

Matthew Stafford might be the most polarizing athlete in Detroit sports. Many people love the gunslinger, many say he can't win big games and want him gone. But one thing is clear: he will become an even richer man sometime soon, thanks to the Lions.

Stafford is entering the final season of his contract and is looking for an extension, which is currently in the preliminary stages of negotiation. The thought is that Stafford wants to become the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL at about $25 million per year. If the Lions are smart, and I think they're getting smarter, they'll give it to him.

Carlos Monarrez, who covers the Lions for the Detroit Free Press, recently wrote that signing Stafford to a big contract would cripple the team. I think just the opposite, that not re-signing Stafford would cripple the Lions.

Yes, $25 million is a ton of money. Is Stafford the best quarterback in the NFL? No. Maybe not even top-five in some people's minds. But because of how the market works, he can demand to be paid the highest salary in the league. Stafford has given the Lions unprecedented stability at the quarterback position, something they haven't really had since the days of Bobby Layne. Why would you want to throw that away over a few million dollars?

Should the Lions try to get him to sign for less? Of course, that's all part of the negotiating, and the best-case scenario would be if he took less than $25 million. But don't expect Stafford to take a hometown discount. He shouldn't have to, and it's not selfish of him. It's business. Deal with it.

Do you remember the last Lions quarterback to start three playoff games like Stafford has? Erik Kramer in the early 90's. How many quarterbacks have started for the Lions since? 17. Do you really want to go back to that? I didn't think so.

Look at all the bad teams in the league and they all have one thing in common: poor quarterback play. Look at the disaster that is the Cleveland Browns, and you'll be counting your lucky stars that you have Stafford as your quarterback. 

The Houston Texans were so desperate to find a quarterback that they grossly overpaid an unproven Brock Osweiler, only to beg the Browns to take him away a year later.

The Chicago Bears gave Mike Glennon, who had attempted 11 passes in the last two seasons, a three-year, $45 million contract because they were so desperate to get rid of Jay Cutler. 

In his article, Monarrez said "as the winning quarterbacks of four of the past five Super Bowls have proved, teams can be successful with the 18th overall pick, a third-rounder and even a sixth-rounder playing quarterback." 

Do you trust the Lions to find a diamond in the rough at quarterback? That worked really well with Jon Kitna, Jeff Garcia, Shaun Hill, Dan Orlovsky and Daunte Culpepper, didn't it? The Lions were literally the worst team in NFL history with three of those guys under center. Do you really want to go back to that just because Stafford can't beat Green Bay, or hasn't won a playoff game yet? I don't. 

Stafford isn't perfect. His decision-making can be questionable at times. Injuries were a concern at the beginning of his career. But he is still the best quarterback in franchise history, which doesn't say much.

Don't overthink this. Just re-sign Stafford and move on. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pistons, Palace disrespected on national television

Yersterday's NBA matchup between the Detroit Pistons and the Washington Wizards was meaningless for most of the country. The Pistons are out of playoff contention and have been unloading their bench in recent games. The Wizards already locked up their playoff spot and their best player, John Wall, didn't even dress for the contest. Yet the game was still on TNT, and was treated like any other regular season game.

But it wasn't any other regular season game for Pistons fans. Last night was the last game at The Palace of Auburn Hills, as the team will be moving downtown to Little Caesars Arena next season. The night was filled with memories, reunions and tributes, former fan favorites returning to the stadium they used to call home, but you wouldn't know it by watching on tv.

TNT did a horrible job of showing these ceremonies or even discussing the building much at all. It's a travesty that this was a national game, and the local fans got ripped off. Kevin Harlan is one of my favorite basketball broadcasters, but he could only do so much. At one point, he mentioned how the city of Detroit was on the banks of Lake Michigan.


Chris Webber, a Detroit native, was even more disappointing. If anyone on the broadcast could have told stories about the team or the building on its last night, it should have been Webber. But he stumbled along the broadcast with Harlan. It was awkward, disappointing and frustrating all at the same time.

I get it, most of the national audience doesn't really care about the Palace, so focusing heavily on it would have probably alienated many of the viewers. That's why Fox Sports Detroit, and more specifically legendary Pistons broadcaster George Blaha, should have been on the call.

Blaha and FSD have done a tremendous job covering the "Best of Seven" series that the Pistons have been running this season, with halftime ceremonies during games against teams that have a historical connection to the Pistons. Blaha has been the host of all these ceremonies and made them a treat to watch for Pistons fans at home. Not to mention his knowledge of the history of the organization and his passion for the team is second to none. He and Greg Kelser would have made the game so much more fun and so much more meaningful to Pistons fans.

What were fans treated to last night? A 20-second montage of former players walking onto the court and bland interviews of Isiah Thomas and Chauncey Billups. TNT mailed it in and disrespected the Palace, the Pistons and their fans. Just look at the tremendous job FSD did for Joe Louis Arena's last game. Extensive pregame coverage, interviews with former players and that incredible postgame ceremony that fans could watch in its entirety, not a 20-second montage.

Did the studio crew of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaq (who might remember a certain five-game sweep) trade stories of their trips to the Palace, or memorable games they had against the Pistons? Nope. They instead focused on this:

As a Pistons fan, this was supposed to be one of the most meaningful games of the season, regardless of the win-loss record of the team. I had been looking forward to watching this game ever since the Pistons announced they were headed to Detroit. But TNT took it away, trampled all over it and left Barkley to laugh at us.

Thanks a lot, TNT.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Detroit Tigers season preview: playoffs?

By Blake Froling

Today is the day.

Opening Day.


Is there reason for optimism for these Tigers? Of course there is. This is virtually the same roster that came within a hair of the wild card last year. But their core superstars of Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler are an average age of 35 and will be making a combined $85 million, or nearly half of the Tigers' payroll. What does that mean? This could be the last chance this group has to win a World Series before Al Avila breaks up the party. It could be too late already.

I talked about the pitching in the last blog, now I'll talk about everything else.

Budding superstars?

Nicholas (not Nick anymore!) Castellanos is poised to have the best season of his career. He was pegged early on as a potential superstar, destined to be the next great Tiger ever since he was drafted. Now is the time for him to take on that role.

Castellanos posted a .285/.331/.885 split last year (batting average, on base percentage, on base plus slugging percentage, or OPS) with 18 home runs, all of which were career-highs. Castellanos missed 52 games last year however, mostly due to a fluke injury when he was hit by a pitch right on his hand, breaking it. He missed just 20 games the previous two seasons combined, so I expect him to return to that.

Look for Castellanos to be an All-Star. He's got the power, now he's hitting for average and he'll play a full season this year. If his fielding can improve (he was -11 in defensive runs saved according to FanGraphs), then he can become a bonafide superstar within a year or two.

JD Martinez is also right on the cusp between good and great, but injuries will be the difference. He's already on the disabled list, an ominous start to the season considering his injuries last season. The Tigers desperately need him to stay healthy this year, considering the sad state of center field. If he can match or surpass his 2015 numbers (38 HR, 102 RBI) then the rest of the lineup will benefit. But his health will remain a concern until he proves that it's not.

Will the real Justin Upton please stand up?
Which Justin Upton will show up this year? The one who struck out at an astonishing rate and got benched, or the one who caught fire and belted 22 home runs in the final 68 games? I have no idea. Past performance would indicate the latter, but past performance really doesn't mean much, does it?

Final prognosis
Everyone on the team realizes that the playoff window is rapidly closing. I think that desperation will drive the Tigers to make the playoffs. No selling at the trade deadline, but they won't be loading up either. They'll be healthier than last season, which is pretty easy to do. I see a wild card appearance in their future, but not much else. After this season, we could be in for a few lean years as Avila rebuilds the roster and the farm system. Enjoy this last ride

Record: 87-75
Playoffs:Wild Card
All-Stars: Nicholas Castellanos, Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, Michael Fulmer

World Series: Cleveland Indians vs. Chicago Cubs - Indians win in 6 games