Detroit Tigers 2012 Season Preview – Part 1 (Projected Lineup Card and Bench)

The following is the first article in a three-part series that will offer a 2012 season preview for the Detroit Tigers.

March 31st – Projected Lineup and Bench
April 2nd – Projected Starting Rotation and Bullpen
April 3rd – General Season Outlook
April 5th –  Detroit Tigers’ Season Opener vs. Boston Red Sox

Projected Lineup Card

1. Austin Jackson, CF When Dave Dombrowski traded Curtis Granderson to the Yankees for Action Jackson, he knew he was making a commitment to keep him in the leadoff spot, barring a cataclysmic collapse. It is vital that he get on base and offer functional base-stealing services this year, so it’d be nice to see a reduced strikeout count this season. Having Jackson in centerfield is a no-brainer.

2. Brennan Boesch, LF
I think this is the start of the most dangerous two-hole through five-hole in all of major league baseball (although Curtis, Robinson, Mark, and Alex might have something to say about that). Boesch was having a great 2011 season, until a nagging thumb injury and ensuing surgery sidelined him for the Tigers playoff push. If his performance in Spring Training is any indication, the thumb is fully healed. He’s tied for the team lead at 6 HRs, with 15 RBIs to boot. Putting Boesch in left isn’t a matter of choice; rather, it is by default. I think he looks comfortable out there, and I think Dirks has a stronger arm and comparable footspeed.

3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
Do I really have to explain to anybody why Fat Cabby is batting third in this lineup? I didn’t think so. As far as positioning, we’ve already heard inadvertent Marlboro spokesman Jim Leyland commit to Miggy being his man at the hot corner.

4. Prince Fielder, 1B
This was generally accepted as the second-best offseason acquisition in all of baseball. I would argue that Fielder’s impact on the Tigers may will be more significant than the impact Pujols has with the Angels. Without going into too much detail, I think Pujols puts up better numbers, but Fielder’s presence augments the Tigers lineup down the board in a greater way. Fielder was acquired as our first baseman, so we have to embrace that positioning and Miggy being pushed over to third.

5. Delmon Young, DH
Before the Tigers acquired Young to become part of their playoff push, he was stuck in Minnesota having the worst season of his career; the change in scenery seemed to ignite his game. In 84 games with the Twins, he was batting .266, with 4 HRs and 32 RBIs. In his 40 games with the Tigers, he logged a .274 BA, with 8 HRs and 32 RBIs. He becomes a pitching nightmare if he can find a way to even come close to recreating his 2010 performance. The designated hitter spot makes sense for Young, especially if you’ve seen him play in the outfield.

6. Alex Avila, C
The breakout young gun from the 2011, Avila is coming off a season where he was voted into the starting lineup for the American League team at the MLB All-Star game. Although he has struggled at the dish a bit this spring, he seems to have improved at thwarting base-stealers from behind the plate. With this pitching staff, Avila’s ability to keep runners at first might should allow the Tigers to challenge other teams for the league lead in team ERA. Oh, and for the record – Alex Avila IS Jack Parkman.

7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
Jhonny doesn’t have the best range at short…okay, that’s an understatement; he makes Derek Jeter look like Troy Tulowitzki. However, fans saw last year that he is more than capable of making up for it with his ability at the plate. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t big me that Peralta is about the only shortstop in baseball that lacks the footspeed to steal bases on a regular basis; he and J.J. Hardy of Baltimore were the only qualifying starting shortstops that failed to log a single stolen base in the 2011 season. However, he was second in RBIs among AL shortstops, so I’m willing to take the good with the bad.

8. Ryan Raburn, 2B
Ask anybody I know and they’ll tell you that I’ve never been a huge fan of Raburn, and the first half of the 2011 season did nothing to change my mind. However, I really want to lead anybody that is willing to follow me onto this guy’s bandwagon now. Raburn hit .213 prior to the All-Star break in 2011, but he hit .341 after the break and has been one of the top hitters in all of baseball in Grapefruit League play this spring. I worry that he had 10 errors in only 55 starts at second base last season, but if he can get comfortable at the position instead of having to constantly adapt as a utility man, perhaps he can bring the error count down.

9. Andy Dirks, RF
Dirks has spent the last two seasons in the Dominican Winter League and has come out a winner both times. He won a title with the Toros del Este in 2010-11 and had the game-winning hit in the championship with the Leones del Escogido in 2011-2012. His passion and love for the game of baseball is unparalleled on this iteration of the Tigers roster (Considering I expect Brandon Inge to finally ride off into the sunset – good riddance). If his spring performance is any indication it looks like his time in the Dominican Republic has paid off. He’s batting average is at .422, and his on-base percentage is a whopping .481. I think it makes sense to put Dirks out in right with his arm strength.

Projected Bench

Gerald Laird, C I laugh every time I’m at Comerica and Laird comes to the plate, because the scoreboard animation reads, “Be Scared of Laird!” As an opposing pitcher, am I really supposed to be afraid of a lifetime .241 hitter, whose career homerun total was surpassed by Curtis Granderson’s single-season output in 2011? Who are we kidding, though? Laird’s on the squad to give Avila days off and lay one down to advance runners. I guess we can say he has a serviceable arm as well.

Don Kelly, Utility
 – A true utility guy, Kelly has played in at least 1 game at all nine positions in his career. Hell, the Tigers even threw him out to toe the rubber in 2011; he closed the season as the Tigers ERA leader, logging a 0.00 ERA with one-third of an inning pitched. I laugh reminiscing about that one out, as it came on a hanging breaking ball that Met’s temporary DH Scott Hairston got under and lifted out to Austin Jackson at the warning track in left center. That’s neither here nor there, though, as Kelly is really a coach’s ballplayer; he’s good for some clutch hits and you can put him where you need him on the field late in the game as a defensive substitute.

Ramon Santiago, 2B/SS If Jim Leyland plays Ramon at second more often than he plays Raburn there, I wouldn’t be surprised or unhappy. I would prefer Raburn starting there, but Ramon has paid his dues as a Tiger and is very reliable at the plate and in the field. If I had to guess, I’d say Santiago is the least polarizing Tiger on the entire roster – I don’t know anybody that hates him, and I don’t know anybody that loves him. He’s just there; he does his job as a backup, hitting at a .263 clip since the start of 2009 and minimizing mistakes in the field.

Danny Worth, 2B/SS/3B
Fellow PAW author Dan Stone wrote a fantastic article on Danny Worth earlier this week; I’d like to echo his sentiments. For that last positional spot on the bench, let’s compare Worth and Brandon Inge. Worth has demonstrated his ability to play 3 positions on the infield; Inge can definitely play third base, and he threw his token hat in the ring to try and play second – a hopefully futile attempt to keep his roster spot. Advantage: Worth. This spring, Worth is hitting .286 in 35 at-bats; he hit .270 in 37 at-bats in 2011. This spring, Inge is hitting .180 in 50 at-bats; he hit .197 in 269 at-bats in 2011. Advantage: Worth. In terms of age, Danny Worth is 26; Brandon Inge is 34. Advantage: Worth. You can see where this is headed, right? I have to end on a pun – putting Worth on the 25-man roster will prove Worthwhile. Boom.

Author: Joe Cook


Billins and Motte Advance to the Frozen Four

It’s always nice to see local kids making big impacts. In this case, we have two great hockey players from this area in the Frozen Four of college hockey. Both Chad Billins and CJ Motte play for Ferris State University and will be playing in the Frozen Four against Union College next Thursday. Ferris State at one point was ranked #1 in the country and have been playing very good hockey.

The (25-11-5) Ferris State Bulldogs have been led this year by their captain and Marysville, Michigan native Chad Billins. He has had an incredible year, and as a defenseman ended up 3rd on the team in points with 29 points. I was fortunate enough to play two and a half years with Chad, and even though we were only 14 years old, you could see how good Chad was. He was a great teammate on and off the ice. To this day I tell people that he is the smartest hockey player I have had the pleasure of playing with. Chad has played with a lot of great teams in the state of Michigan. He quickly went from a state champion Blue Water Wild team to Detroit Little Caesars AAA hockey club.  The very next year moved to Alpena in the NAHL and another year later to Waterloo in the USHL. It happened so fast for Chad and within a few years saw himself in a Ferris State  uniform where he has thrived. He still has at least 1 and at the most 2 games left with Ferris depending on if they win their semifinal matchup with Union College, but Chad’s hockey days will not end there. Right after the season is over NHL teams can sign seniors playing college hockey. Without a doubt the future is looking bright for Chad and should be signed and end up in either the NHL or the AHL after the season is over.

CJ Motte has to be happy with his decision to go to Ferris State University. His first year with the team and he is already on the verge of playing for a national championship. He has played outstanding in the 12 games he has started and posted a 1.98 Goals Against Average and .925 save percentage during the regular season. CJ is also a local hockey player, and grew up in the city of St.Clair, Michigan. CJ also played AAA hockey for Honeybaked. Although it was just after Chad had left Waterloo for Ferris, CJ Motte also played for Waterloo last year. CJ is not the only one in the family with hockey skill either. He has a younger brother who currently plays for the US Under 17 NTDP. He played for Honeybaked AAA last year and has already verbally committed to the University of Michigan. This means we could potentially see a matchup of brothers in a few years if their 2 teams meet. The futures of all 3 local hockey players are very promising and it’s exciting to see these great people on and off the ice succeed as they are.

If you’re interested in watching CJ and Chad play, tune in to ESPNU at 4:30 PM on Thursday April 5th. They will be taking on Union College in the semifinal. The final will be played on Saturday April 7th at 7:00 PM and can be found on ESPN2. So tune in, and support these local athletes as they strive to achieve greatness in the form of a national championship.

Author: Anthony Walker

Welcoming myself to the Blog-o-sphere

I’m pretty bad at blogging. I know this because I forgot my password for WordPress two days after I created an account and had to spend 30 minutes entering random names from my life (always the best passwords, ask your bank) along with my old high school jersey numbers until I picked the winning combination. I also know this because I started my first-ever blog post with “I’m pretty bad at blogging,” the ultimate hook for potential readers. Yet here I am, already writing for a blog that is the 18th item that pops up when you Google “put away the whistle,” just below an article from sports illustrated on Omar Moreno “the swift centerfielder with the whistle-tooting wife.” If I could ever be described as a swift anything with a whistle-tooting wife (whatever that is), my life will officially be complete.

There we are!

Ever since I was offered a contract by Put Away the Whistle, I have engaged in lively self-debate over what my first blog post should focus on. The heated internal debates usually go something like this:

Me: “You could write about … sports …

Me: “That’s too predictable, what about Omar Moreno?”

Me: “Wait, the centerfielder with the whistle-tooting wife? That’s great!”

After this mental struggle, I usually fall asleep on the couch watching another episode of the Highlight Express on ESPNNews (which is much better than any other programming on the 4-letter network). Well, today was different, because today I finally decided on what to write about – a topic that will galvanize readers and excite the youth, a topic too poignant for Tom Rinaldi, a topic even bigger than Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin combined – I’m talking, of course, about fantasy baseball.

I recently became an “ESPN In-sider,” proving that I can come up with the most creative avenues to waste $3.33 a month. I now have access to some of the best articles on the internet that I will never read, such as “Samardzija a good rotation gamble,” and “Previewing El Tri’s match vs. Canada.” As I was sifting through this Eden of sports-writing, I noticed that “in” recommended that I become the proud owner of an ESPN Fantasy Baseball franchise. I figure that if Magic Johnson can pay $2 billion (what a steal!) for a team as bad as the Dodgers, I can sign up for a public ESPN Fantasy Baseball league. So without giving it a second thought, I selected the first public league with a draft post 11 am. The league is named “CLEVE’S LEAGUE,” which I’m guessing pays homage to Cleveland, cleavage, or both. I should let everyone know that I have zero experience with fantasy baseball, and only signed up because my caffeine-charged eyeballs noticed the flashing advertisement on the computer screen (I probably would have signed up for fantasy gardening if there had been a similar flashing advertisement). With a few easy clicks, I joined the ranks of teams with names like “team cleondre brosefs” (whose owner I would be scared to meet in an alleyway), and “JC Seam Heads” (whose owner I could beat up in an alleyway).

After I signed up, I was immediately asked for a team name. This posed the first big problem of the day (the second problem occurred when I realized that I now play fantasy baseball), as my team name would either strike fear into my opponents hearts, or cause them to leave the league because “Oscar Meyer Wieters” had joined. After realizing that the other members of CLEVE’S LEAGUE could see my location in Michigan, I decided on a crowd pleaser: the “Miguel Cabreras.” This was my attempt to make everyone think “wow, he’s from Michigan and he likes Miguel Cabrera! What a great guy!” I didn’t want to pick any name that would reveal my true baseball allegiance to the Yankees, such as “Hip hip, Jorge!” or “Mark Teixeira sucks in April.” I truly believed that a Yankee-themed name would cause everyone to think “wow, he’s from Michigan and he likes the Yankees! What a jagweed!”

After exploring the team I would begin to ignore after the second week of April (when baseball get’s boring again), I realized another predicament: my avatar, the picture my league-mates would see each time they clicked on my team to laugh at my roster, was horrifying. ESPN provided me with a gray baseball cap in front of a gray background – literally the worst thing I have ever seen. What would team cleondre brosefs think? Would I be cast out of the fantasy baseball society back into the world of normal, successful Americans? My current avatar looks like this:


My goal before the league draft (3 days, 16 hours, 18 min, and 53 seconds until I forget that is happening) is to find the best avatar to let these guys know that I mean serious fantasy-baseball business. I’m thinking something with Omar Moreno’s whistle-tooting wife.

Author: Dan Etz

Former CCHA stars suiting up in the NHL.

If you are a local hockey/college hockey fan you probably heard the great story of how Shawn Hunwick went from lying in his bed prior to class to backing up for the Columbus Bluejackets last night. Today Hunwick signed on for the remainder of the year with the Blue Jackets. It is a great accomplishment for a kid who had to walk on to the Michigan hockey team and earn his time in net. Congratulations and the best of luck, from a Spartan.

Torey Krug left Michigan State last week to sign with the Boston Bruins in hopes to gain some experience for upcoming NHL seasons. It looks like the time for Krug to play has come sooner rather then later as he has impressed the Bruin’s staff enough to suit up for tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals. I, along with the rest of MSU will be rooting for Krug and hopefully finding a television with the Bruins-Caps game on.  Krug did dress for the game tonight and participate in warmups, but is listed as a scratch. Hopefully we can see him in action this season, although it seems unlikely.

Best of luck on the next step Gentlemen.

Author: Wil Hunter

Shaking Down the NHL Playoffs

The NHL playoffs are arguably one of the greatest events in sports. 8 seeds upset 1 seeds, such was the case in 2006 when the Edmonton Oilers upset the mighty Detroit Red Wings, and it doesn’t shock you. Anything can happen in a 7 game series. A goalie can get hot at the right time and shut down an entire team, one bounce of the puck can change the momentum of a whole series. The greatest thing about the NHL playoffs is the unpredictability of it all. With that being said, I now will try to give you a rundown of who the contenders are, who the pretenders are, and who just might shock the world and be the next 2006 Edmonton Oilers or 2003 Anaheim Mighty Ducks by reaching the Stanley Cup Finals as 8 and 7 seeds in the West.

When I look at how the playoff situation is looking right now, I see 3 contenders in the east. I see Boston, New York, and the team I consider the favorite to win it all, the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the west I see only 2 true contenders and those would be the Vancouver Canucks and our own Detroit Red Wings (barring any major injuries entering playoffs).  The pretenders I have chosen this year are the number 1 seeded team in the NHL in the St. Louis Blues as well as the 3 seeds in the east and west in the Florida Panthers and the San Jose Sharks. I have 2 dark horses chosen and both happen to be the 5 seeds. I think the Nashville Predators in the west and the Philadelphia Flyers in the east are 2 teams who can be very scary for any of the top tier teams in this league and just might have what it takes to make a Stanley Cup playoff run.

For once, I feel as if the top teams in the east are superior to those in the west. Although Pittsburgh as of now stands as the 4th seed in the east due to their divison leader being a very strong team as well, they are the team to beat in the NHL right now. With their offensive firepower they have, even before Sidney Crosby came back, they are able to score at will. The proof is in the pudding. They currently have 2 of the top 4 goal scorers in the NHL. Evgeni Malkin is 2nd only behind the one and only Steven Stamkos with 46 goals and teammate James Neal comes in at 4 on the list of top goal scorers with 37. Not only do they have great offense, but they have something that every Stanley Cup Champion needs…..a great goalie. Marc-Andre Fleury currently leads the NHL in wins with 41. There’s not much else to say about them. The stats don’t lie, they are the number 1 scoring team in the league, they are a top 10 power play team and a top 5 penalty kill team and have the 4th most points in the NHL. They did this without having their captain for a majority of the year. All of those factors including having won a cup once already before makes them my favorite to win the cup this year.

Other teams who can make a run in the east are the two original six teams, Boston and New York. Out of these 2 teams I give the advantage to the Rangers because of goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist is a top tier goalie and has played outstanding this year with a 1.93 GAA and an outstanding .932 save percentage which is good enough for 3rd in the NHL. I think they are a hungrier team than the Boston Bruins who come off a Stanley Cup winning year in 2011. The Bruins shouldn’t be counted out either. If they get good goaltending, they could easily run the table and win the cup. They’re top 5 in both goals for and goals against this year. They have amazing depth on both the offensive and defensive side of the puck. One name jumps out at you and that’s Zdeno Chara. Other than that, a lot of people don’t care or know about Rich Peverley, Krejci, Horton, Lucic, Seguin, Corvo and all the other solid players on their roster. Just because a team doesn’t have a Datsyuk, Malkin, Ovechkin or Crosby doesn’t mean they can’t win it all.

The contenders in the west scare me because these teams both hold a lot of unanswered questions. We don’t have to say anything about the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings. Both are highly skilled great all around teams. However, each team holds it’s own set of problems. With Vancouver i think it’s simple. It’s all psychological. Can they get over the hump and get it done? They are a lot like the San Jose Sharks in the fact that both simply cannot win it all. Both San Jose and Vancouver fall to pieces when it means most. Detroit has a different set of problems. Can Detroit get healthy before playoffs and can they stay healthy throughout the playoffs? If the wings stay healthy, I say almost no team can beat them and I can see them making it to the finals for round 3 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. That is only if Jimmy Howard is in net and not letting the “softies” go by him.

I have already given a reason for why the Sharks are chosen as a pretender, but both San Jose and Florida share other reasons why both can be called pretenders in this year’s playoff. San Jose and Florida both play in the weakest division in their conferences. This means San Jose and Florida get to beat up on their division foes all year and automatically receive at worst the 3 seed because they are a division leader.  Another reason for Florida being a pretender is the lack of experience. Florida being in the playoffs is a surprise, but being on top of that a top 3 seed is just ridiculous. Home ice is a non factor seeing as no one wants to watch a hockey game down there. I just don’t see how either of these teams could make a run. Along with these 2 I chose the St. Louis Blues as a pretender. As much as I like the young talent they’ve assembled there, I don’t know if they can keep it up. None of the players have enough experience to know what it takes to win in the playoffs. I see this team being great in a couple years, but for now I just don’t see it. I mean honestly, how long can Brian Elliot keep stopping the puck like he has been? Only time will tell.

Now for my 2 “sexy” picks in the mix for a Stanley Cup. In the east it’s the “broad street bullies” Philadelphia Flyers and the Nashville Predators. If you’re looking for underdogs to root for this year, here you have them. They’re both the 5th seed in their conference and both have potential to even meet up in the Stanley Cup Finals. With Philly, they have just about everything except goaltending. Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky have not played to their potential this year and if they’re going to have any chance to win the cup, then Bryzgalov needs to step up to the plate and be the guy for Philly. They have a good mix of veterans and young guys and a ton of skill on offense with Claude Giroux leading the way. The team is 3rd in the NHL in goals per game, but 20th in goals allowed per game. If that doesn’t set of an alarm in your head, I don’t know what will. The good thing is they have size on defense in guys like Coburn as well as skill on defense such as Timonen. On offense they have a great balance of grit and skill. These things are huge when it comes to playoff hockey. Let’s just hope Bryzgalov returns to old form.

As for Nashville, they weren’t threatening until around the trade deadline. They have made so many great moves and have really come into their own. They made 4 significant moves that vastly improved the makeup of their team. It starts with Hal Gill. Their strength was defense and they added to it with Hal Gill, a big tough D with a ton of playoff experience. He is the perfect D-man for a playoff run. They also added firepower on offense by trading for Paul Gaustad from Buffalo and Andrei Kostitsyn from Montreal. Kostitsyn doesn’t just add firepower, but great chemistry seeing as he became reunited with his teammate and brother, Sergei Kostitsyn. It didn’t just stop there. They went out and grabbed a player from the KHL. Alexander Radulov, the 25 year old who played in Nashville for 2 years, made the jump from Russia back to the NHL. He is the KHL’s all time leading scorer and holds the record for most points in a season. He averaged over a point per game over there. Not to say that’s surprising, because he faired well in the NHL too for those 2 years and in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) he posted an astounding 61 goals 91 assists and 152 points in just 62 games. With these additions to an already solid team with a great goalie like Rinne and a top defenseman like Shea Weber, I can see this team being a tough potential matchup for the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.

As of now, the playoffs are still a work in progress as teams on the bubble try to make it in. Teams who have clinched are trying to get home ice advantage, or play for a more favorable matchup. Unfortunately right now, it looks like all roads will lead to the Pittsburgh Penguins who really look unstoppable in a 7 game series. I can’t wait for playoff hockey and to see which team gets the lucky bounce that brings them the Stanley Cup.

Author: Anthony Walker

Trust Me, It’s WORTH It!

Brandon Inge remains one of the most controversial topic’s in Detroit sports, and it seems like everyone has an opinion on whether Inge should be a part of the Tigers or not. To me it’s time for the Brandon Inge saga to finally end, and it’s best for both sides to move on. The guy is a career .235 hitter, and his struggles have continued this spring, posting a .174 average. Manager Jim Leyland has made it clear that Cabrera won’t be replaced late in games for defensive purposes. With that being said, Inge’s value drops dramatically because his defense has probably been the one thing that has kept him on the roster. Inge finally saw the writing on the wall, and decided to throw his hat in the ring at 2nd base. This gives him more value, but Ryan Raburn has been one of the hottest hitters in spring training and doesn’t seem to be giving up his spot. Ramon Santiago is going to be on this roster without question because of his ability to play 3 infield positions and ability to handle the bat from both sides of the plate. The guy who I see emerging as the candidate to replace Inge on the final 25 man roster is Danny Worth.

Danny Worth has been on the Tigers MLB roster a few times in the past and has seen his fair share of big league pitching. Worth has proven this spring by batting .313 with five doubles and one homer in 32 at-bats.Worth is a guy who can play 3 infield positions and might have best hands on the team. Danny Worth could be valuable piece in the long 162 game season for the Tigers.    This spring Danny Worth has proven that he has earned the job over Inge and Inge has done nothing to say otherwise.

Brandon Inge is the longest tenured Tiger, he has been here when the team was dreadful, losing 106 games, and he was here when the team went to the World Series. Jim Leyland has shown his loyalty Inge by giving him as many chances as he can to earn the job outright this spring. He has given Inge 46 at-bats, and also has batted him up in the lineup to get more chances to swing the bat and get back on track. For a team that is not only competing for the Central division, but a World Series, the ultimate goal is to assemble the best 25 man roster to get the job done. This decision will be a tough one for Jim Leyland personally, but Danny Worth has flat out earned the spot over Inge and has proven to me, he truly is WORTH a spot on the 25 man roster.


Author: Dan Stone

The Not so Saintly Saints

As we look forward to another season of NFL football, we’re in the most unpredictable time in recent NFL history. The Saints, in 2006, were a team that was looking for a new identity, and they were trying to find that identity during a time of chaos and uncertainty. Hurricane Katrina had just devastated the city of New Orleans, and some were looking to the Saints to be a bright spot in an otherwise hopeless environment. During that time, the Saints acquired new head coach Sean Payton, and became exactly that. The Saints looked promising, with their high octane offense that featured the electric Drew Brees. However, despite their explosive offense, the Saints were unable to solidify their reputation as an elite team, largely due to their struggling, “soft,” defense. To fix those negative defensive perceptions, the Saints decided they needed a new Defensive Coordinator, one that would bring an attitude of toughness to the team, and that man was Gregg Williams.

Sean Payton wanted Williams so badly that he actually paid for part of Williams’s contract out of pocket. Good thing too, because the fit was perfect. The Saints became a blitzing machine and were soon 2nd in the league in turnovers. This new, aggressive defense, accompanied by the already explosive offense, led the Saints to a Super Bowl Championship over the Colts in 2009. The future of the Saints looked bright and Gregg Williams seemed to be the man that could finally pull the Saints defense together.

But then, rumblings of a bounty system came to the media’s attention, and the Saints’ world would never be the same.

The Saints were accused of having a system that encouraged players to intentionally injure some of the NFL’s top players, through monetary rewards. They even had a reward for a “cart off,” which is when a player is so badly hurt that they can’t leave the field under their own power, and thus have to be taken off in a cart. This gives you an idea of how committed Williams was to changing the perception that the Saints had a “soft” defense. When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell first heard about these allegations, he was quick to try to find answers. He met countless times with the Saints, and warned Sean Payton that there can be no more reward system. Unfortunately, Sean Payton did not heed the Commissioner’s advice, and as a result, the Saints were hit with penalties that were among the harshest in NFL history.

Roger Goodell made it clear to the Saints and other NFL teams that they were not to “cross the boss,” and he struck with an iron fist. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton was given with a 1 year suspension and would lose out on around $5 million dollars. The team was fined half a million dollars, and their two second round picks for the next two seasons were revoked. The General Manager Mickey Loomis was also suspended for 8 games. As for Gregg Williams, the man who is considered responsible for the Saints bounty system, he faced most severe punishment of all. Williams was suspended indefinitely, and there is the possibility that he may never again work in the NFL.

The Saints were the ultimate underdogs, they came from a city of dispair and rose above it to become 2009 Super Bowl Champions, and a beacon of hope for New Orleans. Now, the future of the Saints looks uncertain, at best. It will be interesting see how the Saints handle the absence of their leader on the field, Head Coach Sean Payton, and the absence of their leader off the field, General Manager Mickey Loomis. There are rumors of former coaching legend Bill Parcells, who coached teams such as the Giants, Jets, Patriots, and Cowboys, coming in for a year to help the Saints. I believe this would be a good fit because of the friendly relationship and experiences that Sean Payton and Bill Parcells have together.  As an NFL legend, Bill Parcells would bring stability to a team that right now is anything but stable. However, even a coach like Parcells would have a hard time finding success considering the harsh environment that is surrounding the Saints organization. Also, things could get a whole lot worse if the talked about suspensions of players who had a hand in the system end up being carried out. The Saints seem to know that something big is coming with the signing of former Atlanta MLB Curtis Lofton as a potential replacement for Jonathan Vilma if he ends up getting suspended.

There is no question that the NFL is a physical league and I am sure that the Saints weren’t the first team to have a bounty system in place, but that doesn’t make it ok, and the NFL needed to make an example out of them as a warning to other teams. I applaud the NFL’s aggressive approach and feel like they did what was necessary  in order to send a message that they will not tolerate lying and intentionally trying injure players. With all the research on concussions and the lasting effects football injuries can have, we’re in an era where safety needs to be a priority in order to ensure the longevity of the National Football League.

Shocking audio from Gregg Williams, likely crushing their chances at any appeal:

Author: Dan Stone

What should we take away from Tiger’s win at Bay Hill?

Regardless of World Ranking, Tiger is currently the best golfer in the world – Tiger’s convincing win at Bay Hill catapulted him to #6 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Why don’t we take a look at whose ahead of him, eh?

  • #5, Steve Stricker – Mr. Consistency in the golf world, Stricker always seems to be in the top-30 on the leader-board on Saturdays and Sundays. Wait a minute, though…how many majors has he won? That’s right, a whopping ZERO.
    Comparison: Tiger >>> Stricker.
  • #4, Martin Kaymer – Hailing from Dusseldorf, this determined German came onto the golf scene strong in 2010, winning the PGA Championship and finishing top-10 in the U.S. and British Opens. However, since his big win at Whistling Straits, Kaymer has failed to get into the win column in a PGA Tour sanctioned event.
    Comparison: Tiger >> Kaymer.
  • #3, Lee Westwood – I’m just gonna get this off my chest right away – I HATE LEE WESTWOOD. However, I’ll do my best to ignore my biases and render a fair judgment of this doucher; he can sure play some golf. He’s in the same boat as Stricker, having never won a major championship. However, he’s come tantalizingly close to winning all four. Westwood is playing some good golf this year, and he’s had success at Augusta before. If you tell me that Tiger doesn’t win The Masters this year, I’ll put my money here.
    Comparison: Tiger ≥ Westwood.
  • #2, Rory McIlroy – I envy him, but it has nothing to do with his golf skills. I think maybe it has something more to do with Caroline Wozniacki being his current flame. I mean, come on, really??
    This guy:   is with
    this girl: 
    Either he’s got a lot of confidence in himself, or he’s packin’.  For the sake of speculation, I’ll assume it’s more the former. On a serious note, this kid has the chance to be a new generation’s Tiger by dominating golf for years to come, and he believes he can do it; I’m not sold yet. 
    : Tiger > McIlroy.
  •  #1, Luke Donald – Is anyone really impressed with this guy? Whenever I watch him play, I find myself wondering how the World Golf Rankings operate, considering they have this man ranked as the best golfer in the world. You show me Luke Donald, and I’ll show you the least intimidating top-20 golfer on tour.
    Comparison: Tiger >> Donald.

The switch to Sean Foley has finally paid off – Anyone else think that it’s ironic that Tiger’s first win on tour since that fateful day in November came on the release week of the book on his own downfall? The name of the book is “The Big Miss,” by former swing coach Hank Haney. I think “The Big Miss” is what Haney is feeling now that Woods demonstrated he is going to be successful in resuscitating his golf career. Tiger’s ball-striking consistency has improved under Foley’s tutelage; it just took him a while to get his putter working. Now he’s put it all together, and the golf world is taking notice. That offers a wonderful segue into the fact that….

Tiger is still intimidating on Sundays – Let’s not kid ourselves; Tiger’s play during the weekend at Bay Hill wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring. He shot a 1-under 71 on Saturday and 2-under 70 on Sunday, carding 5 bogeys in comparison to the whopping 1 bogey he had between Thursday and Friday. I think the more important observation to take away from the weekend is that golfers on tour are still very much intimidated when Tiger heads into Day 4 atop the leaderboard. What big names were in contention going into Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational? How’d they score? Let’s take a look: Graeme McDowell (+2, 74), Ian Poulter (+2, 74), Bubba Watson (E, 72) and Ernie Els (+3, 75). That’s right, ladies and gentleman, the big name players all crumbled under the pressure that emanates from Eldrick’s aura. Tiger is back to stay, and the new odds-on favorite to win at Augusta in April. The rest of the players on tour better grow some cojones if they want to go head-to-head with him in a Sunday duel.

Author: Joe Cook

The Outcome in New Orleans

All four teams peaked at the right time and all have that go-to-guy when the game is in its closing minutes. For each team, this guy has the ability to create plays and put his respective team in the position to win. These guys are as follows: Peyton Siva for Louisville, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for Kentucky, Tyshawn Taylor for Kansas, and William Buford for Ohio State.  Watch for all four to play a huge role for their team in upcoming games.


A Look at the Games:

Kentucky vs. Louisville

For the second consecutive year, a team from the Big East, Louisville that is, has won the conference tournament, and followed it up with a deep run in the NCAA tournament, with one player carrying the load for the team. Peyton Siva is playing the role of “Kardiac Kemba” throughout both tourneys this year. With him having to carry the load, and Kentucky playing tremendous defense, look for him to struggle, especially with Anthony Davis in the middle preventing him from getting to the rim.

With Kentucky, look for them to play how they usually do. They will prevent Louisville from getting into the lane, controlling the boards and doing what they do offensively. It’s hard to predict who will have the “best game” for them, but in order for them to be successful Anthony Davis will have to be the best player on that team. He will have to do the dirty work, rebounding, blocking shots, and preventing any easy looks at the basket in the paint.

Outcome: : It will be a close game in the first half, but with Kentucky’s depth, size, and shooting ability, they will eventually give Louisville fits. If Davis plays well, Kentucky will win. If he plays poorly and ends up in foul trouble, look for the game to be close, with Kentucky winning in a squeaker.


Ohio State vs. Kansas

Ohio State had an up and down season with injuries and the usual “dog days” struggle that most teams have.  Already having played Kansas once (without Sullinger due to an injury) should be a huge factor in Ohio State’s game plan. If  Buford can get hot early, and Craft can lock down, while Taylor and Sullinger can hold Thomas Robinson to single digits or get him in foul trouble, then should have a successful game and be playing on Monday.

Kansas is a team that has arguably one of the most under-the-radar players in the past decade – Tyshawn Taylor. He has been one of the few guys to have played all four years of his college career and be successful in doing so. This helps Kansas tremendously in having a true PG that has seen pretty much everything in the game of basketball. He has struggled shooting the three in the tourney this year, and according to ESPN, he has never made a three point shot in a dome in his college career. If he can get it going, look for them to be playing Kentucky on Monday night.

Outcome: This one is a tough game to predict, but it is going to come down to the Big Men down low. If Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey can dominate the game, Kansas wins. If Sullinger dominates the game down low, OSU will emerge victorious. Look for the experience at the Guard and Center positions to help Kansas in this game; they have been in big games like this before. Kansas wins in a close one.

Author: Zach Tanton

My First Mock Draft (It’s Great)

This is a terribly boring sports day and I feel like writing, so here is my first NFL mock draft. I’ll probably do another right before the first round. I need to grow out my hair and do something dumb with it first. I hear this is the best way to correctly speculate on the NFL draft. I feel like correctly speculate is a contradiction. Anyways…

1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck QB Stanford- Will challenge Eli for most times drooled on one’s self this year.

2. Washington Redskins – RGIII QB Baylor – Poor guy.

3. Minnesota Vikings – Matt Kalil OT USC – Christian Ponder’s prayers have been answered. Well sort of. He’s still in Minnesota.

4. Cleveland Browns – Trent Richardson RB Alabama – Does anybody even want to get drafted by Cleveland anymore?

5. Tampa Bay Bucs – Morris Claiborne CB LSU – Ronde Barber is old. Claiborne isn’t.

6. St. Louis Ram’s – Justin Blackmon WR Ok. State – Best offseason ever in St. Louis? Yeah.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Melvin Ingram DE South. Car. – Perhaps a weapon for Chad Henne? No. There’s a reason the Jags aren’t very good.

8. Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill QB – Again…Poor guy.

9. Carolina Panthers – Dontari Poe DT Memphis –  A video of Poe running his 40. (skip to 3:10)

10. Buffalo Bills – Quinton Coples DE UNC – Bills correct themselves after first trying to draft Harrison Barnes.

11. Kansas City Chiefs – Michael Brockers Dt LSU- Kansas City becomes convinced after Brockers bench presses whole team.

12. Seattle Seahawks – David Decastro G Standford – I have nothing funny for this one.

13. Arizona Cardinals – Reiley Reiff OT Iowa – You need all the o-line help you can get when John Skelton looks to be your best option at QB.

14. Dallas Cowboys – Mark Barron SS Alabama – I owned this defense for part of my fantasy football season. They need help.

15. Philadelphia Eagles – Fletcher Cox DT Miss St. – Great name. Should help fill that giant hole the Eagles called their defense.

16. New York Jets – Andre Branch DE Clemson – Solid rusher. Rex Ryan thinks he has great feet.

17. Cincinnati Bengals – Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama – Lol. Pacman Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick. Word.

18. San Diego Chargers – Jonathan Martin OT Stanford – I can never think of jokes for Stanford linemen. They’re perfect. Norv Turner.

19. Chicago Bears – Whitney Mercilus DE Illinois – (Insert Ron Zook punting joke here)

20. Tennessee Titans – Chandler Jones DE Syracuse – Titans had 6.5 sacks last year. I’ll pause so you can think about that.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Courtney Upshaw OLB Alabama – The Bengals might will be pretty good.

22. Cleveland Browns – Michael Floyd WR Notre Dame – Yay! More weapons that won’t get used!

23. Detroit Lions – Janoris Jenkins CB North Alabama – The lions? Red flags? Character questions? Pshhhhhhh

24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Adams OT Ohio St. – Anyone else feel like the Steelers always get this pick right?

25. Denver Broncos – Jerel Worthy DT – Since Tebow is no longer leading the defense, a big tackle should help.

26. Houston Texans – Kendall Wright WR Baylor – I’m not a fan, but it’s better then (checks roster) Kevin Walter.

27. New England Patriots – Stephon Gilmore CB South Car. – Julian Edelman likes this pick.

28. Green Bay Packers – Peter Konz C Wisconsin- He’s bigger then anyone they have on their line now.

29. Baltimore Ravens – Luke Kuechly ILB Boston College – The slide ends here. I wouldn’t mind learning from Ray Lewis though.

30. San Francisco 49ers – Brock Osweiler QB Arizona St. – Probably won’t happen, but boy would I laugh.

31. New England Patriots – David Wilson RB Va Tech – Patriots like that he occasionally runs for -20 yards on plays. I don’t know why.

32. New York Giants – Dont’a Hightower ILB Alabama – I misspelled his name like 6 times. Should enjoy his life behind that D line.

Author: Wil Hunter