Its hard to figure out exactly what direction the Pistons are going with their team after the past couple days.

The team has provided mixed signals by signing Tayshaun Prince to a  four-year deal worth $27 million, but then the next day proceeding to all together waive veteran Rip Hamilton.

The Pistons parted ways with veteran guard Richard Hamilton on Friday. Hamilton is the franchise's all-time leader in playoff scoring. (B. Calloway photo)

Hamilton and Prince join veteran center Ben Wallace as holdovers from the 2004 Pistons team that won the NBA title. They are on the back ends of their careers and aren’t long-term solutions for the team. That is why it was surprising that the Pistons would sign Prince to a deal, especially after he had attracted interest from contending teams and could have also been dealt elsewhere to address a need for the Pistons (i.e a decent center).

You could argue that Prince will provide leadership for the young Pistons, but why can’t they use Wallace – who was already under contract – to do the same things and improve by getting something for Prince?

Also Prince and Austin Daye, who will be entering his third season, have similar games. Both are long, lanky players that can step outside and hit the 3. Bringing back Prince could take away from the development of Daye because obviously he will take away some playing time from the third-year player.

The Pistons aren’t close to being a contender and it would be best to build around a young core of second-year big man Greg Monroe, rookie point guard Brandon Knight and Daye.

Getting rid of Hamilton did free up a logjam the Pistons had at guard, which was something that needed to be done. Hamilton also was a lockeroom problem last season so that could help in that regard as well.But the Pistons didn’t use the amnesty clause to get his contract off the books so its interesting to see if they do indeed use it.


The bullpen was an area the Tigers needed to improve this offseason and they did just that with the acquisition of veteran right-handed reliever Octavio Dotel.

The addition of Octavio Dotel should bolster the Tigers bullpen (Getty Images)

Reports indicate the Tigers signed the 38-year old Dotel to a one-year deal with the option for another. Dotel chose signing with Detroit over returning to St. Louis, where he won a World Series. He is the second Cardinal free agent the Tigers have signed this offseason (Detroit signed St. Louis backup catcher Gerald Laird last month).

Dotel gives the Tigers a strong option for the seventh inning and could give the Tigers a formidable back end of the bullpen with Joaquin Benoit as the eighth inning setup man and Jose Valverde as the closer. Dotel has struck out 10.9 batters per nine innings over his 13-year major league career. He spent 2011 with Toronto and St. Louis, appearing in 65 games and going  5-4 with a 3.50 ERA and 62 strikeouts and 17 walks. Opponents just hit .185 against him.

With Ryan Perry being inconsistent and Al Alburquerque struggling with injuries, the Tigers now have a veteran steady presence for the seventh inning. The Tigers also get flexibility and can alternate Dotel and the lefty Phil Coke for the seventh depending on matchups.

As it stands the Detroit bullpen will likely consist of Alburquerque, Benoit, Dotel, Perry, Daniel Schlereth and Valverde. David Pauley, Duane Below, Adam Wilk and Brayan Villarreal all pitched out of the bullpen in 2011 and could combine for the final bullpen slot, barring any other additions or trades. Below and Wilk also could be in competition for the fifth starter spot.

Dotel is the third offseason signing by the Tigers and all have addressed needs. Laird fills a need as a backup catcher, while allows Victor Martinez to be a full-time DH or spell Cabrera at first base. Detroit also re-signed utility infielder Ramon Santiago, who will likely split time at second base with Ryan Raburn in 2012.

The Marlins reeled in one of this year's top free agents in shortstop Jose Reyes, who reportedly has agreed to a six-year deal worth $106 million. Reyes, 28, led the NL with a .337 batting average and 16 triples in 2011. (AP photo)

The Philadelphia Phillies have been the class of the NL East of late with five straight division titles.

The Miami Marlins appear set on changing the landscape of the division and becoming a force to be reckoned with for the next several years.

The Marlins, who will move into a new stadium next season, have been the busiest team this offseason with the acquisitions of closer Heath Bell (three-year, $27 million deal) and most recently shortstop Jose Reyes (reportedly to a six-year, $106 million deal). It appears Miami isn’t done spending as it has reportedly offered a 10-year deal to free agent first baseman Albert Pujols and could be in the mix for left-handed starter Mark Buehrle, who first-year Marlins manager Ozzie Gullen coached in Chicago.

Albert Pujols appears to be the next target for the Marlins. Miami has offered the 31-year old All-Star first baseman a 10-year deal according to reports.

Keep in mind that the Marlins already had a shortstop in All-Star Hanley Ramirez, who likely will be forced to shift over to third base. If Ramirez cooperates with a move to third and doesn’t demand a trade, the Marlins shouldn’t have any problems offensively in 2012. Miami also has a talented young outfield duo of Logan Morrison (23 HRs, 72 RBIs in 2011) and Mike Stanton (34 HRs, 87 RBIs in 2011)

The NL East could become the toughest division in baseball with the Marlins spending spree. Division power Philadelphia could be losing Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, but still has a strong rotation anchored by Roy Halladay and has other pieces like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Hunter Pence.

Washington will get its first full season of pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg and has some young talent in catcher Wilson Ramos and shortstop Ian Desmond along with third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse. The Nationals also have some money to spend and have been linked to free agents such as Prince Fielder and Buehrle.

Atlanta, which just missed out on a wild card berth after its late season collapse, also has plenty of pitching with the likes of  Tommy Hansen, Mike Minor, Tim Hudson and closer Craig Kimbrel (the 2011 NL rookie of the year) and offensive players like catcher Brian McCann, first baseman Freddie Freeman, second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder Jason Heyward.

The Marlins spending spree obviously doesn’t guarantee they will be good, but the upgrade in talent will make them a threat in an improved NL East.

MSU had chance to claim what it deserved but faltered in closing minutes of Big Ten title game

Denard Robinson and the hungry Wolverines are back in the BCS of the first time since 2006 - earning a date with Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. (AP photo)

Before they even played a down in the Big Ten Football Championship Game on Saturday, the Michigan State football team knew what was at risk.

Win and they didn’t have to be at mercy of having to rely on others to determine their fate. Lose and likely get jumped by hated rival Michigan in the BCS rankings.

The Spartans didn’t take care of business on their end and now must deal with those consequences. Sure it can be considered unfair since the Spartans did win the Legends Division and beat Michigan head to head. But MSU had its shot on the big stage to stake its claim and what it deserved and came up short.

Their loss was Michigan’s gain in a spot in the BCS and a Sugar Bowl berth. It does no good for the Spartans to complain given how the BCS works.

The Wolverines were eligible, compiling the exact same record as the Spartans during the regular season. Michigan is a national brand and has more appeal nationally than an MSU program that is having one of its most successful stretches in program history. The fact is Michigan football sells and MSU doesn’t and the BCS comes down to money. When Michigan is eligible, the BCS is usually going to choose them.

This isn’t to say that Michigan was more deserving than MSU, but the Wolverines certainly did earn the right to be considered for a spot in a BCS game for the first time since 2006 after putting together the season they did. Michigan did go 10-2 in a schedule that included 10 teams that will be playing in bowl games (Wolverines were 8-2 against teams that will play in bowls). If you factor in their win over Eastern Michigan, which finished 6-6 but wasn’t bowl eligible due to two wins coming over FCS schools, U-M went 9-2 teams that finished .500 or better.

Michigan State players like quarterback Kirk Cousins complained about Michigan benefiting from sitting on the couch and doing nothing. Alabama got into the national title game by doing the exact same thing.

MSU was really in the best case scenario because it could control its destiny and didn’t capitalize. Michigan had to wait for the games to play out and have things go their way – which they did.

And that is why the Wolverines have a sweet feeling and are preparing to face Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3.

Aramis Ramirez is a possible addition that could help improve the Tigers in 2012.The 33-year old third baseman hit .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs for the Cubs in 2011. (Getty photo)

The Baseball Winter Meetings begin in a few days and that will give the Tigers an opportunity to address some of their needs either via trades or free agency.

The Tigers have made a pair of small moves with the decision to bring back utility infielder Ramon Santiago on a two-year deal, and signing free agent Gerald Laird as a backup catcher. Still, Detroit has plenty of other needs to address and could go a number of different routes to bolster the team for another run at a division title and World Series in 2012. Here are a few options.

  • Sign Aramis Ramirez as an everyday third baseman – As of now the Tigers would go into 2012 with Don Kelly and Brandon Inge splitting time at the hot corner. Inge, 34, struggled against right-handers and hit .197 with three homers and 23 RBIs in 269 at-bats and seemed to lose a notch defensively in 2011. He did hit .242 after the All-Star break while in a platoon with Wilson Betemit. Ramirez, 33, would certainly be an upgrade offensively. He hit .306 with 26 homers, 93 RBIs and 35 doubles in 149 games with the Cubs last season. The question on him would be his defense and how much money Ramirez, a career .284 hitter, would command. The Tigers likely only need him for two years because third base prospect Nick Castellanos should be ready by 2013 or 14.
  • Add an outfielder such as Yoenis Cespedes – Cespedes, 26, has been the hot name among international prospects and could become a free agent next week. The Tigers are among the teams to have shown the most interest in the Cuban outfielder, who has drawn comparisons to former Dodger Raul Mondesi.and former Kansas City Royal Bo Jackson. With many teams in on the bidding for the five-tool prospect, it will be pricy for the Tigers to make this addition. A signing of Cespedes likely means the Tigers could trade Delmon Young to address a need. The Tigers could also pursue a lesser name like Coco Crisp, who led the American League with 49 steals in 2011. His speed would be a welcome addition for a Tigers squad  that – outside Austin Jackson – doesn’t have much speed.

Andy Oliver was 0-1 with a 6.52 ERA in two starts with the Tigers in 2011. The 2009 second-round pick was 8-12 with a 4.71 ERA and 143 strikeouts and 80 walks at Triple-A Toledo. (B. Calloway photo)

  • Add a fifth starter – It is uncertain if Jacob Turner will be ready to step into the rotation so the Tigers would be best served to add another starter, and a lefty like Mark Buehrle could be a good option. Internal candidates include southpaws Duane Below, Andy Oliver and Andy Wilk for the fifth spot. All spent some time on the Tigers roster in 2011. Jair Jurrjens, a former Tiger who the Braves are looking to deal, also would be an interesting addition if the Tigers were able to make that move.
  • Make a run at an infielder like Martin Prado, Chone Figgins or Maicer Izturis – The Tigers could bolster second or third base with one of these three players. The Braves appear to be willing to trade Prado, who hit .260 with 13 homers last season. Figgins is in the midst of a  four-year, $36 million deal with the Mariners and hit .188 last season. He could be motivated by a change of scenery and would be appealing if Seattle – a common trade partner with the Tigers – was willing to eat some of his salary. Izturis, a  31, is a free agent and hit .276 with the Angels last season.

Winning has not been a term synonymous with Eastern Michigan football for most of the program’s history.

Ypsilanti has been a difficult place to win and many coaches have had their careers die after failing at a school that sits in the shadows of the University of Michigan.

Eastern Michigan's Ron English, who was named MAC coach of the year on Wednesday, guided the Eagles to their first non-losing season in 16 years. (Getty Images photo)

Yet Ron English, who just completed his third season, seems to have the Eagles flying in the right direction. English, who was named the Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year on Wednesday, guided EMU to a 6-6 record this fall – its best mark since going 6-5 in 1995.

Eastern went 4-4 in the Mid-American Conference and finished a win shy of  being bowl eligible.

While EMU was putting together its best season in 16 years, it still experienced some growing pains associated with a program learning how to transform into a winning one. The Eagles claimed the Michigan MAC title by beating rivals Central and Western, but dropped three of its final four games. EMU lost to Ball State on a field goal in the waning seconds and then suffered six-point losses to both Kent State and Northern Illinois in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Those close losses – which were by a combined 14 points – and a 1-5 record on the road are part of things a program has to overcome when trying to change its fortune.

All said,  6-6 is good progress for Eastern, considering the team went 0-12 in English’s first season and 2-10 in 2010. The six wins are more than the Eagles had from 2008-2010 combined and that kind of progress is encouraging for EMU.

The key will be taking the next step. The Eagles will have a senior quarterback in Alex Gillett, who also was the leading rusher for a team that ranked 15th nationally in rushing yards. They also return two-thirds of their running back by committee approach in Dominique White and Javonti Greene plus an All-MAC tight end in Garrett Hoskins.

An improving defensive unit that ranked 35th nationally and returns All-MAC linebacker Justin Cudworth and All-MAC corner Marlon Pollard also could help the Eagles take another step next season.

The Michigan football program was reeling after three seasons under Rich Rodriguez.

College football’s all-time winningest program had averaged just five wins a season over a three-year period and had gone from being an annual Big Ten contender to the bottom of the league.

Brady Hoke guided the Wolverines to a 10-2 overall record and 6-2 mark in the Big Ten in his first season in Ann Arbor. (AP)

In his first season leading the Wolverines, Brady Hoke has changed the program’s outlook, and his accomplishments made him a deserving recipient of the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year award on Wednesday.

Hoke guided the Wolverines to a 10-2 record and 6-2 mark in his first season in Ann Arbor. The 10 wins were the most by a first-year U-M coach and the six Big Ten wins matched the total number of conference victories the Wolverines had in three seasons under Rodriguez. He also guided Michigan to its first win over rival Ohio State since 2003 and has them in contention to earn a spot in a BCS bowl.

The Wolverines had a three win improvement over 2010 and much of that is the credit to improvements on defense. Hoke lured Greg Mattison from the NFL to take over a unit that ranked 110th nationally in total defense (450.7 yards/game) and 108th in scoring defense (35.2 points/game). In their first year under Hoke and Mattison, U-M ranked 16th in total defense (317.5 yards/game) and ninth in scoring defense (17.1 points/game).

Most people didn’t expect Michigan to have the success it did this season and expectations weren’t high with the Wolverines being in their first season under a new regime with new offensive and defensive systems in place. The Wolverines overachieved this season.

An argument could be made for Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio to be named the coach of the year after guiding the Spartans to a 10-2 record and the Legends Division title. But MSU also won 11 games last season and returned many key players from a team that shared the Big Ten championship with Wisconsin and Ohio State in 2010. The same is the case with Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema.