October 7, 2016
For Detroit sports fans, hope is a muscle
as their teams grapple with serious issues
By KEITH GAVE
While the cynic in me wants to scream that Tigers owner Mike Ilitch must be getting soft in his twilight years, another voice inside my head is whispering, “Chillax, Dude. This team is going to be OK.”
Doesn’t matter that I think they should still be playing baseball in this first week of the Major League Baseball post-season. (And I’ll bet Ilitch thinks so, too.) They’re not. Our sometimes joyful and often maddening season ended with a thud on Sunday, concluding a two-week meltdown that cost them a playoff spot.
We’ve seen Ilitch fire coaches for lesser disappointments, but this week he approved the option to bring back manager Brad Ausmus for a fourth season.
Truth be told, it’s hard to dispute that decision. After all, we were talking about Ausmus being among Manager of the Year candidates if his team had made the playoffs. That they were still in the chase heading into the final week of the regular season after finishing last in the Central Division last year is evidence enough that Ausmus deserved to keep his job.
But there is also plenty of damning evidence – easily a handful of games in which questionable managerial decisions led directly to losses of games his team was winning at the time – to suggest Ausmus still has a lot to learn. It just seems incongruous to me that someone who is still learning his craft, as Ausmus admits he is, would be entrusted with a veteran team with a payroll above $200 million a year, a team whose window of opportunity is narrowing rapidly.
“I’ve gained experience over the three years I’ve been here,” Ausmus, 47, told reporters in a conference call the other day when General Manager Al Avila announced he was sticking with his skipper. “Just as players improve over time, I think managers improve.”
We can only hope that’s the case in Detroit.
And Hope Some More
Lions coach Jim Caldwell has moved into the wrong kind of red zone. He’s among the top eight coaches in the NFL whose hold on his job is precarious, at best, according to coacheshotseat.com
Caldwell, 60, is in his third season in Detroit, with an overall record here of 18-15. But a 1-3 start that follows a 1-7 start last season doesn’t bode well for a franchise that had greater expectations following the 6-2 finish to last season.
FOX Sports has Caldwell among the top six leading candidates on the NFL firing line. Turning things around enough to prove to first-year GM Bob Quinn that he should keep his job won’t be easy for Caldwell. Looming on the schedule: games against two stingy defenses: Philadelphia (led by coordinator Jim Schwartz, the last failed Lions coach); and Los Angeles.
To make matters worse, Detroit plays Minnesota, the surprise team in the league so far, twice in three games this month. A second straight 1-7 start is not out of reach.
Sunday: Lions (1-3) host Philadelphia (3-0, coming off a bye week)
Line: Eagles minus-3
Prediction: Philadelphia 23, Lions 17
One Last Hope?
The Red Wings are on the brink of a major trade – at least according to gossip around the NHL.
It makes sense, too. If the Wings have a prayer to make the post-season for a 26th straight season and keep the momentum going as they prepare to take up residence in Little Caesars Arena next fall, they need to upgrade their defense immediately.
And Ken Holland has been trying for months.
Two names to watch, both with local connections: Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba, 22, a right-shot defender from Rochester Hills who has refused to report to training camp without a contract; and Anaheim’s Cam Fowler, 24, a left-shot defender from Farmington Hills.
Either would significantly upgrade the Detroit defense – but only if the deal doesn’t include someone like Danny DeKeyser. (Winnipeg wants a young defenseman in return.) Nevertheless, acquiring either one would involve a deal of the blockbuster variety – involving multiple Wings going the other way.
One week remains until the start of the NHL season Thursday, at Tampa Bay.