Monday, May 24, 2010

Best Detroit Team?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I'll never forget the first time I saw my name get published.

In 1979, my close friend and adopted brother George Eichorn asked me to write a few paragraphs commenting on what was wrong with all of the Detroit teams because at that time they were all struggling.

Eichorn was asking me to do him a favor and I did it.

A week later, "He Kept His Word" by publishing those comments that appeared in the Detroit Monitor and I was extremely excited!

By keeping his word, that taught me the one core value that has served me well in my lifetime and has built an unbelievable relationship with undoubtedly the closest person in my life!

Now 31 years later, we've seen the Detroit Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings win titles. The Lions haven't made it to a Super Bowl, but thanks to them and Eichorn, I've been to four.

Back in 1979, the economy was in lousy shape and nowadays, the Detroit area has been slowed due to the recession.

With that said, it's time to look at what Detroit team is headed in the best direction as I did in 1979 when I was an intern working with Eichorn at WXYZ Radio.

Despite their ouster in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Red Wings have been to the post-season 25 of the past 27 years, plus won four championships in 11 seasons. The Red Wings have made the playoffs for 19 straight years.

As evidenced by the contract extensions to General Manager Ken Holland and his assistant Jim Nill, the Red Wings are in excellent hands with their front office.

In Ken Holland, we trust.

If the NHL hadn't incorporated a salary cap, who knows how many more titles the Red Wings would have won? We know that Owner Mike Illitch has deep pockets and has used his checkbook well to acquire the necessary players to make the team winners on the ice as well as marketable on NBC plus a popular draw at opposing arenas around the country.

The Red Wings did win a Stanley Cup after the salary cap was implemented and reached the Finals in a tremendous two year stretch facing the Pittsburgh Penguins and star Sidney Crosby.

But as long as Detroit has Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and rookie goaltender Jimmy Howard matures with experience to compliment the teams core players, the only problem the Red Wings will have is finding a first class facility to play their games. This is why former Pistons executive Tom Wilson was hired to coordinate this project and he'll continue to hire his former teams administrators to handle things in a first class manner.

After the departure of Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco, I thought the Detroit Tigers would have a tough season.

But with the acquisitions of Austin Jackson, who has replaced Granderson in centerfield, Johnny Damon, Phil Coke all former New York Yankees, to compliment Miguel Cabrera, Brandon Inge, and Justin Verlander, there should be competitive baseball at Comerica Park this summer.

When the Tigers (25-19) signed Jose Valverde to replace Fernando Rodney, I knew this was a major upgrade.

As long as Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland remain in charge, the Tigers should be fine.

They looked good winning five of seven games during a recent home stand against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. It helps that they play in the AL Central Division and not the AL East where they'd have to face the Yankees, Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays 18 times each.

When a team gets rid of its popular public relations director as it did with the recent dismissal of Matt Dobek, that's bad!

But the Detroit Pistons, coming off a 27-52 record and no playoff appearance, have some major work to do on and off the court.

This years draft figures to be interesting.

Former Coaches Flip Saunders and Doug Collins have the top two draft choices with the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76'ers respectively. It's obvious that they'll draft a player the Pistons need.

Joe Dumars can't afford to make a mistake with the seventh overall pick. There can't be a repeat of not taking a Carmelo Anthony in favor of Darko Milicic.

If the Pistons regress further, it will be a sad sight to see the Palace of Auburn Hills 50% full. It's sad even thinking that there would even be discussions of them leaving this first class facility to move downtown. How do you leave a first class venue?

This team needs to be sold to an owner that cares ASAP!

If Dumars wants to keep his job, there better be some significant improvement immediately.

With the declining condition of the franchise, the new owner should be able to get a bargain basement price for the team and the Palace.

Late Pistons Owner William Davidson must be turning over in his grave at Clover Hill Park Cemetery.

Two victories in 32 games is embarrassing.

Despite the enthusiasm of the past two drafts, once these draft choices mature, plus Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz perform their "Complete Makeover" of the franchise, there will be reasons to be excited about the Detroit Lions.

If the Lions win at least five games, then the crowds will be 80-90% full.

Thankfully they're in Detroit because in any other sports market, their futility would lead to crowds of 50-60% attendance and a lot more local blackouts.

The Lions have to be fortunate that they at least are featured on Thanksgiving once a year and that this game hasn't been taken away because they started this tradition when no other team wanted it. But if they want to keep the game, they better improve and be competitive on this holiday.

More importantly, if they ever want to see more national telecasts on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights, things have to change to get consideration from NBC, ESPN and the NFL Network.

Being one of four teams to not reach a Super Bowl plus having just one conference championship appearance in franchise history will hang over their heads until fortunes change.

For Detroit fans, hopefully it changes quickly. The Michigan Wolverines and MSU Spartans have shown over the years that Southeastern Michigan Gridiron Fans flock through the turnstiles.

Once upon a time, Barry Sanders and company filled the Pontiac Silverdome's 80,000 plus. It's time to see Ford Field get jammed and nobody will care about traffic on the Lodge Freeway, I-94 and I-75.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen on www.scottsports33.com.

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