Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Knee Jerks: WTF with Eno and Al - Episode 1, Lions, Tigers and zombies, oh my!

Welcome to the first meeting of the Detroit sports blogging minds known as "The Knee Jerks." It's a weekly chat I have with Greg Eno, the man behind the blogging empire that includes Out of Bounds, Where Have You Gone, Johnny Grubb?, and Spoiled Sports.

During today's episode of TKJWTFWEAA, we discuss the ugly aftermath of the Tigers' season, the ongoing desperation with the Lions, a little Red Wings and Pistons, and zombies who fire head coaches with rambling, insane, rheummy-eyed soliloquies.

Let's jerk away...Uh, that didn't come out right. Just read it, OK?!

Eno: So, Big Al....lots to talk about in our first edition of The Knee Jerks, eh?

Big Al: For a couple of Detroit teams flailing about, the Tigers and Lions, they are making more than their fair share of news.

Eno: Let's start with Tigers manager Jim Leyland and his very public discontent with his contract status.....
I wrote on Johnny Grubb that I don't know where it says that a team has to keep a manager or a coach signed beyond the year that's current. What do you think of this "lame duck" stuff that everyone always wants to talk about?

Big Al: For a manager who has been around the block several times, and still appears to have the team's attention, claiming to be a "lame duck" is a bit much. The only thing this may affect is finding a pitching coach.

Eno: True that. But here's your "vote of confidence", which Mitch Albom says is lacking here: YOU STILL HAVE A JOB!! And a contract, through 2009. There's your confidence. I don't know why you need more than that.


Big Al: I'm sorry, I was having a moment of silence for Chuck Hernandez... To continue, it's also worth noting the Marlboro Man turned down a longer-term deal a year ago. I thought he wanted to go year by year? Maybe the price of smokes has cut into his budget for 2010.

Eno: Well, I KNOW that you're old enough to remember Walter Alston....and Walt signed 23 straight one-year contracts to manage the Dodgers. Didn't seem to bother him, or the team.

Big Al: Not one bit. It's not as if the Tigers are an overly young team either. Most of the current roster has seen all this posturing before. If Leyland's contract status bothers the team that much, then they weren't all that mentally stable to begin with.

Eno: So what do you make of Leyland going public like this? Do you think it'll fracture his relationship with (GM) Dave Dombrowski, and/or (owner) Mike Ilitch?

Big Al: For it to have blown up into the mini-controversy it's become, there had to have been tension brewing for quite some time. I'd bet most of the pressure is coming from the Pizza Man, as Dombrowski and Leyland have been tight for years. If I dropped $138 million, I'd be wanting a little accountability too.

Eno: Yeah, that's a lot of dough to finish in last place. If they ever gave out an award called The SO NOT Executive of the Year, DD would win, hands down. What do you think Frick and Frack's future are with the Tigers under Mr. I ?

Big Al: I honestly think they are BOTH in hot water. I'll say this: Leyland didn't do a thing to EARN that extension, and the only move Dombrowski made that paid off was Miggy Cabrera. Ilitch is giving them a mulligan, and making '09 their do or die season. Another year like this, and Frick and Frack are applying for unemployment.

Eno: Agreed. Granted, there were things out of their control, but that works the other way, too. Lots of execs and managers who win awards get lucky, too. So it evens out -- if you last long enough. Before we leave this, were you surprised that Mr. Hernandez got the ziggy?

Big Al: Not at all. The struggles of Justin Verlander pretty much guaranteed Hernandez was toast. Someone was going to have to pay...uh, rather, be the scapegoat. The pitching coach is always first in that line. Ilitch wanted blood, and got it in Hernandez. It may have been time for some of the (pitching) staff to hear a new voice, anyway.

Eno: Isn't it funny how smart you can be when people do their jobs, and how dumb you become when they don't? I wasn't surprised, either, but nobody gave Chuck any props for the emergence of Armando Galarraga. Someone like Verlander -- he just needs to mature. Wasn't Leo Mazzone a genius when he had Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux, et al? And he wasn’t so smart in Baltimore, was he?

Big Al: Good point. Verlander said as much when asked about Hernandez getting the ziggy.

Eno: If you could describe the Tigers' season in ONE word, and you couldn't use "disappointing", what would it be? And Al, make it a word that I can use in front of my daughter.

Big Al: &*%>*#$@&;;

Eno: Funny.

Big Al: Seriously? Overhyped. We all bought into the media hype, so to speak. Hell, I thought the playoffs, to mix metaphors, were a slam dunk. Shows what I, you, and the rest of the world knows.

Eno: Hey, I bought into it, too. But if you remember, there were the naysayers out there who were worried about the pitching. I gotta take those folks to the casino with me next time!

Big Al: No kidding. And you didn't give your one word description. I'm waiting...

Eno: Ahhh....OK....Disjointed.

Eno: I never dreamed they'd be this out of whack. I mean, finish behind the freaking Royals??? Christ almighty!

Big Al: There's no defending finishing behind the Royals. Which leads me to this: to fix what has become literally a mess of a team, can the Tigers correct themselves in only one off-season?

Eno: Wow....
Well, they are leaking -- gushing, really, in two areas: pitching (bullpen, especially) and defense. Baseball defense is kind of like football defense; the Tigers don't have very many "playmakers" -- guys who rob other guys of's not just how many errors you make, but how many scores you deny by making plays. And I don't know if you can just go out and get guys like that. As for the bullpen, it'll make you gag how many games they blew. You gotta go outside the organization there

Big Al: With the Pizza Man likely to at least cap salary, it's going to be hard to find that bullpen fix. It'd be nice to just throw money at K-Rod (Francisco Rodriguez), but I don't think it's in the cards. The Tigers are going to have to find a cheaper set-up guy who can step up to closing. As for defense, I hear that Brandon Inge is the GREATEST DEFENDER EVER! I'm still not sure I want a .200 hitting 3rd sacker, even if he's the next coming of Brooks Robinson in the field. And who in the Hell is going to play short? I don't know, and I don't think the Tigers do either.

Eno: Or, hey, how about catcher? And when will the Tigers find a position that Carlos Guillen CAN play?

Big Al: If only Gary Sheffield would retire, it would open the Tigers to all kinds of shuffling, and give Guillen a permanent home. Catcher? I thought Inge was the catcher of the future only a couple of months ago? So much for that plan, and most anything else Leyland "proclaimed" as set in stone this past season.

Eno: Leyland had no clue most of the year. The shuffling was embarrassing. But watch what you say about my guy Sheff. Plus, why would you shut it down sitting on 499 HR, Al?

Big Al: I know, it's just wishful thinking. I was totally a Sheff guy, but this past season really soured me on him. I'm not sure how much he has left. With 500 HRs and $14 million on the line, the Tigers have no choice but to find out.

Eno: OK, enough about that. What else is on your mind?

Big Al: What grinds my gears? Ticks me off? Well, there's the three-ring circus going on in Allen Park. We finally got our pound of flesh, Matt Millen, or as I like to call him, the porn 'stached goon. Millen is no longer running the team. But now what? The Lions are still the Lions.

Eno: Well, you know what the Eno Plan says. And so far, the Lions are following it. But they have a golden opportunity here. From what I know and have heard, there are a LOT of GOOD football people out there chomping at the bit for this job.

Big Al: Only the Lions would can a GM after three games, with no real plan as to what to do next. Your plan would be a good one to follow; even Drew Sharp thought so. But who wouldn't want to work for William Clay Ford? He pays well, has the patience of Job and will give you enough rope to hang yourself three times over. It's just a matter if Ford finds the RIGHT man for the job. His track record screams "NO!"

Eno: Floyd Reese has all but begged for an interview thru the papers and the radio. What do you think of someone like that, the former Tennessee Titan GM?

Big Al: I like his track record as a personnel guy with the Titans, but anyone who openly panders for the gig through the media would raise a red flag in my book. I'm sure it has with WCF too. If Reese wants the job, he would have been much better served to go through channels, so to speak.

Eno: You're shrewder than I thought -- good point! Hey, before we go, what did you think of the OTHER worst owner in the NFL -- Al Davis, and his ham-handed firing of Lane Kiffin?

Big Al: That was entertainment of the HIGHEST order. I was surprised Davis didn't break out the TPS Reports, phone logs and videotape. He wanted Kiffin not only fired, but blackballed. Think the Lions are dysfunctional? They have nothing on the Silver and Black.

Eno: Davis has been losing it for years now. He just does it more publicly than Bill Ford Sr. does. I thought they were going to fit him for a straitjacket when he dusted off Art Shell!

Big Al: Just wait for when he hires Matt Millen! Hey, it could happen! It's sad to see a once great owner who was instrumental in making pro football the juggernaut it is today zombie-like.

Eno: Just Pee, Baby!

Big Al: Millen's new job will be piss boy for Al Davis! I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.

Eno: Nice.
OK, your uber-quick take on the Red Wings and Pistons, and make it snappy -- we're running out of room and our readers' attention spans!

Big Al: Red Wings and Pistons? Wake me when the playoffs start! Honestly, the Red Wings are the best team in hockey. The Pistons are in the top 2-3 in the East., and they'll fall short again. I doubt adding Michael Curry as coach and Kwame Brown up front will get them over the conference finals hump.

Eno: I think it's amazing that the Wings not only kept everyone in tact, but ADDED a Marian Hossa. How DO they do it? The Pistons, I think, will make it back to the ECF again. Talk about a mulligan -- the Pistons are on their fourth one by now.

Eno: Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you: if The Knee Jerks are a success, it was my idea. If it doesn't work out, you talked me into it.

Big Al: I'm just hopping on theEno bandwagon., and going wherever it takes me.

Eno: See ya next week, oh Al of Bigdom....

Big Al: I'll be here, Mr. Eno. Later.

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