It’s been a rough few weeks for Detroit Sports. The Lottery Gods didn’t smile on the Pistons, the Red Wings lost their captain and the Detroit Lions reputation perhaps took a minor hit. And then there’s the Detroit Tigers, or “The Walking Wounded.” Unfortunately when it comes to this year’s version of the Tigers, we’re running out of scapegoats and out of opportunities to say, “It’s still early”. After a promising sweep in Minnesota, the Tigers jumped right back to their remote control chucking ways, losing the first three games in Boston in sloppy fashion. However, as much as I hate to say it — I have to believe it IS still early. To call the Tigers start a disappointment is a given. To call them a disappointment overall, you have at least until the White Sox clinch the division to declare that.
Here’s each of the major professional Detroit teams recent version that was like watching a recent Tim Burton movie – highly anticipated, utterly confusing and completely unfulfilling.
2008 Detroit Tigers – 74 wins, 88 loses 5th Place AL Central
This is a season that will reside in that ugly place in the back of Tiger fans minds. The place where they’d store things they hope to forget, but will likely call upon it from time to time when they get too excited or too disappointed about the current season’s team. The Tigers entered the 2008 season as favorites to win the World Series but never recovered from their 0-7 start. 2008 wasn’t a total loss as Dave Dombrowski did acquire Miguel Cabrera — still the only Tiger that can hit. However, Dontrelle Willis had to come to Detroit with him—and not only did they deal Omar Infante and Jair Jurrjens, but they had to actually take the guys they traded them for—Jacques Jones and Edgar Renteria. Probably the best news for the 2008 Tigers season is that it might have a new season of ineptitude replace it if this year’s Tigers don’t get it going.
2004 Detroit Lions – 6 wins, 10 losses 3rd Place NFC North
It seemed that this was going to be the year the Lions got it turned around. Instead we had to suffer through another 7 seasons before the Lions would get rolling. Steve Mariucci sophomore season seemed to have a ton of pieces in place. We didn’t yet know how much Joey Harrington sucked after a promising start to his career, the Lions were aggressive in free agency picking up Damien Woody and Fernando Bryant and a double dose of offense in the NFL Draft’s first round—WR Roy Williams and RB Kevin Jones—seemed to have the Lions on the right track. The season started good as the Lions rolled to a 4-2 start after a win at the New York Giants, however the effortless Lions lost their next 5 and 8 of their last 10 as Mariucci looked clueless. It also marked the first major piece of evidence that Matt Millen had no clue.
2008-2009 Detroit Pistons – 39 wins, 43 losses 3rd Place Central Division
2008-09 was a transitional season for the Pistons organization—unfortunately they transformed to garbage. After being among the league’s best teams for the better part of a decade, Joe Dumars was faced with two options—either ride out the current roster or begin the rebuilding process using a large amount of cap space to get back to the top quickly. However, Dumars failed to recognize a third option—one the San Antonio Spurs have used successfully—keep the core intact while periodically adding talented pieces along the way. The Pistons started 22-12 in 2008-09 but an early season move for the cancerous Allen Iverson destroyed any team chemistry. The Pistons lost their heart in Chauncey Billups, shipped out their backbone in Antonio McDyess and managed to disgruntle their remaining stars—Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace. Rodney Stuckey failed to develop as hoped and their free agent jackpots in the offseason—Ben Gordon and Charlie Villenueava—ended up being booby prizes. This is the season that destroyed the Pistons franchise as we knew it.
2011-12 Detroit Red Wings 102 points 3rd Central Division
Labeling any Wings team as disappointing is incredibly difficult since they’ve made the playoffs every year since the Roosevelt Administration—Teddy’s—and they’ve finished with more than 100 points since every season since 1998-99. However, I have to go with this past season’s version which finished lower than second place in the division for the first time in 21 years. Although they were marred by injuries, the Wings set high expectations for themselves with a tremendous first half of the season. They looked average at times and awful at others during the second half and succumbed quickly to a Predators team that were quickly ousted themselves by the Phoenix Coyotes in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not only did the season end poorly, but team captain Nicklas Lidstrom announced his retirement Thursday perhaps capping off the end of an era for the Red Wings.