Rebuilding the Detroit Tigers

Written by :
Published on : July 7, 2017

 

 

It’s no secret that the 2017 Detroit Tigers are pretty awful. As they sit right now, they are 38-46 and have shown nothing that says they have a chance to contend for the AL Central title or an AL wild card spot. The team’s performance this season, and recent seasons for that matter, has left fans in the Motor City frustrated and ready for a change. But just how much can this team change? And is it even possible to blow it up completely and start a full scale rebuild?

 

The first, and most important, thing the team can do is part ways with manager, Brad Ausmus. He inherited a title contender in 2014, and since being swept out of the ALDS in that season, his team’s performance has steadily declined. While he can’t be totally blamed for the team’s roster and much of the blame lies with the players themselves, this team has not grown under his watch and his all star type players haven’t been able to reach their full potential. For that, he should be given his walking papers and certainly will unless the team wants a fan revolt on their hands.

 

 

On the other hand, team president, Al Avila’s job should be safe for at least one more season. With the recent death of longtime owner, Mike Ilitch, it’s hard to believe the team will want to cause anymore of a stir in the organization. With Avila probably safe, you have to wonder what players, if any, the team will be able to trade away for assets in this coming team rebuild.

 

Miguel Cabrera isn’t going anywhere. His contract is insane (he will make at least $30 million annually through 2023) and he’s an icon in Detroit. It would be nice to be able to send him on his way in search for another ring and get something in return for the future hall of fame slugger, but it’s not happening. Being saddled with that contract for years to come hurts but it can’t hurt fan, or organizational, morale to have (arguably) the best player in the team’s history retire wearing the old english D. It’s a nightmare of a contract but there was no other option for the team at the time and that’s just the way it goes.

 

Justin Verlander is almost as iconic as Miguel Cabrera, and for good reason, but the team must ship him off if it can. The trade might not even be possible because of the amount of money that Verlander ($28 million a year through 2019) is owed over the coming seasons. It’s another case of a franchise icon getting paid what they have rightly earned but hamstringing the team with an enormous contract in the end. At 34-years-old he isn’t having the greatest season, but he is coming off of a Cy Young caliber season in 2016, so a contender with money to spend might be willing to risk it. If that happens, the Tigers would be crazy not to pull the trigger and shed that enormous salary.

 

Most likely is a scenario in which Verlander and Cabrera stay in Detroit for years to come. That JD Martinez as arguably the most likely player in the league to be traded to a new team, and he will fetch a nice return for the team. The Tigers have no indication that they wish to re-sign him and add to their already bloated payroll, and his bat would immediately help any team that he went to. So he’s gone.

 

 JD won’t be a Tiger for long.

 

Other trade-able pieces include Jose Iglesias, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Nick Castellanos, Alex Avila and Anibal Sanchez (that’s right, Anibal Sanchez). Upton’s contract probably makes a trade unlikely, but everyone else should draw some amount of interest. The team has Dixon Machado as the shortstop of the future so Iglesias should be gone too, and Alex Avila has been playing great since the team brought him back so he could see himself traded away by his own father. How much the team can get in return for any of these players remains to be seen, but you can’t imagine getting any team’s top few prospects for anyone on this roster.

 

With it being unlikely that the Tigers are going to get any world beaters in a trade, it looks like they’ll have to do this thing the old fashioned way and start drafting and developing players in the system. In recent year’s, they have traded away all of their top prospects for big names in the interest of winning now and getting that elusive World Series title. But that never happened and now the team is getting old and is considerably overpaid.

 

It’s going to be a rough few years but it’s time to stop putting it off and get serious about changing this team in a fundamental way. Al Avila has made it clear that the days of spending huge money are over. Even though they will have to simply ride some of these bad contracts out, they can and must trim their salary and build from within. There are some good young pieces on the roster in guys like Michael Fulmer. If the team is smart with their money, with a little luck they could be a contender in a few more seasons. A new era of Detroit Tigers baseball is imminent but it could be a painful journey to get there.

 

 


The Red Wings need to bring Steve Yzerman home

Written by :
Published on : April 24, 2017

 

 

“Come Home Stevie! Come Home Stevie!”

 

That’s what a packed house at Joe Louis Arena was screaming as Steve Yzerman walked away from the podium during the closing ceremony for the Detroit Red Wings home for the last 38 years. Yzerman is a hall of famer who wore the winged wheel across his chest for 22 years. His #19 jersey will hang in the rafters of whatever home the Red Wings have from now until eternity, never to be worn by another player on that team. He was the captain for 19 seasons and he’s still known simply as “The Captain.” He is Hockeytown and it’s time for him to come back home and lead the team he loves.

 

 

This is a scenario that makes too much sense to not happen. Following his retirement from playing in the NHL in 2006, the Red Wings made Yzerman team vice president. In that position and through his stint running team Canada, he was groomed for the position of general manager. Under Ken Holland, the Red Wings current general manager, he learned the tricks of the trade and was part of another Stanley Cup championship. There was even an attempt to make Yzerman the GM before he eventually departed for Tampa Bay, but Ken Holland declined a promotion that would have made room for Stevie Y in the front office.

 

In the time since Holland obstructed Yzerman’s path to his rightful place at the helm of the organization, the Captain’s Lightning have won 1 Stanley Cup and the Wings have none. This isn’t to insinuate that Yzerman is necessarily a better GM than Holland, but after some bad contracts and steadily declining performance of the team in recent years, Holland seems to be on his way out after an illustrious career in Detroit. The time is now to get the band back together. Holland has two years left on his contract and Yzerman only has one, that seems like a deal that is more than doable.

 

 

There are whispers that perhaps Steve Yzerman and Chris Ilitch, son of former owner Mike Ilitch and the guy currently signing the checks, don’t have the same type of relationship. Mike Ilitch only ever cared about giving the people of Detroit a winner and because of that, he will always be remembered fondly by fans in the Motor City. Rumor has it that his son is much more concerned with the bottom line and is not as willing to spend endless amounts of money just for the chance to win big. With a reputation for being tighter with the money, it’s also said that he is a much more hands-on owner and because of that Stevie Y might want to avoid giving up the good thing he has in Tampa Bay. I call bullshit.

 

Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings go together like peanut butter and jelly. He belongs in Detroit where he made a career and turned the Red Wings into a dynasty. He laid the bricks that built Hockeytown and it’s hard for me believe that he hasn’t simply been waiting for his chance to return. The fans in Detroit should be forever grateful to Ken Holland for the teams that he built but it’s becoming clear that he doesn’t have the same success in the salary cap era as he did before it. Holland’s time is ending and that will leave the door open for Stevie to come home, just like the fans want. Chris Ilitch should make sure he doesn’t let this opportunity slip away. His dad sure wouldn’t have.

 

 


Joe Louis Arena was more than just a building

Written by :
Published on : April 13, 2017

 

 

On Sunday April 9th, 2017 the Detroit Red Wings played their last game at Joe Louis Arena, signaling the end of an era. For 38 years Joe Louis was the heart and soul of Hockeytown, and the list of players who graced the ice in that building is a who’s who of hall of famers. It is one of the most iconic places in hockey, even for those who don’t support the winged wheel. Everyone respects the history but for some of us, Joe Louis Arena is more than just a building where our favorite team played, it’s hallowed ground. It’s like a part of the family, a piece of our sports culture. A piece of Detroit’s culture.

 

JLA is a monument to a time before corporate sponsorship of stadiums. When places that represented a people were named in honor of the greatest champions among those people. The Red Wings new home, Little Caesars Arena, inspires considerably less Motor City pride. Joe Louis Arena was too old, too small, too ill-equipped to handle the needs and desires of today’s sports fan. Because of that, it was time to move on, but damned if it wasn’t a great place to see the game. That place was always rocking and the atmosphere was always electric. Four Stanley Cups were won by the Red Wings during their time in that building. The team was built into a dynasty during that era; they were royalty, and Joe Louis Arena was their castle.

 

 One of 31 octopi that were thrown on to the ice during the Red Wings last game at Joe Louis Arena.

 

The Red Wings are missing the playoffs for the first time in 25 years and it almost seems fitting that in the same year we all said goodbye to beloved owner, Mike Ilitch, and Joe Louis Arena. This is the beginning of a new era for the franchise and all of its fans. What makes this franchise so special is that even though they are planning for the future they know they had to honor their past.

 

The Illitch family has always had a deep love for the city of Detroit and they know what that building and the team mean to the city. The organization recognized the meaning of that moment, and they knew that the fans in Detroit needed a chance to pay their respect to a place that means so much to them. In a ceremony that involved over 90 current and former players and coaches, the city and the team had a chance to process the moment and reflect on everything that had happened under that roof.

 

 Current and former players salute the crowd following the closing ceremony at Joe Louis Arena.

 

Steve Yzerman was in the house and was greeted by adoring fans who begged him to come back home to Detroit. Bob Probert’s widow spread his ashes in the penalty box, a place where he spent a considerable amount of time during his career. Guys that couldn’t attend, like Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan, sent in video messages. Hell, Wayne Gretzky did a video message, and he didn’t even play for the team but he wanted to be part of saying goodbye to a piece of history.

 

Joe Louis Arena was more than just a building. For some people, it was their earliest memory of going to a game. For some people, it was where they fell in love with the game. For some people, it was where they saw champions made. For some people, it was sports Mecca. For some people, it was home. As for me, it is the place where some of my fondest memories happened, and the best place to watch a hockey game on the entire planet.

 

 

 


Gordie Howe Arena or Bust!

Written by :
Published on : June 12, 2016

 

 

It seems like every other day we are losing legends. Last week we lost Muhammad Ali, a recognizable and influential figure the world over. Two days ago, it was hockey legend, Gordie Howe. The man known as Mr. Hockey is one of the most prolific players ever to play in the NHL. He is the only person ever to play in five different decades, appearing in his first game in 1946 and ending his storied career in 1980.

 

Fellow Hockey Mt. Rushmore faces like Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr consider Howe to be the greatest player ever. He won four Stanley Cups, six scoring titles and six MVP awards. When his career ended he was 52 years old, making him the oldest player in the history of the league. With his 22 seasons of 20 goals or more, he is the kind of player that could do it all. He could score on you and beat the hell out of you. There’s even something called the Gordie Howe hat trick, which occurs when a player scores 3 goals, gets an assist and gets into a fight.

 

 

Aside from his much-recognized greatness on the ice, Gordie Howe was a great man whose humility should be an example to anyone with that kind of fame. Growing up in the Detroit area, there were always stories of people meeting Gordie at a bowling alley or at the mall. The stories were always the same. He was nothing other than humble, gracious and eager to meet his adoring fans. He is perhaps the most legendary figure in the long history of Detroit sports.

 

It’s because of that fact that Mike Ilitch and the other big wigs at the Detroit Red Wings must name team’s new home Gordie Howe Arena.

 

 

When it was announced earlier this year that the Motor City’s new pro hockey venue would be named Little Caesars Arena, I was less than thrilled. After moving from a place that was named after such a historic figure as Joe Louis, it felt like a cheapening of a franchise with so much prestige. Even so, it made sense because the owner of the Red Wings made his fortune through his nationwide pizza chain, Little Caesars. But with the passing of Gordie Howe, and with everything he has meant to the city of Detroit, it would be a crime to not name this arena in his honor.

 

To refrain from giving the Red Wings’ arena corporate naming rights, even if the team and that company do have the same owner, would be a nod to the prestigious place that the Red Wings hold in the dogma of hockey. To name the arena after the one of the greatest in the history of the game and most legendary figures in sports history of the city of Detroit would show that Mike Ilitch cares about the city and its return to greatness.

 

I’ve already signed the petition to make sure that the Red Wings new home will be called Gordie Howe Arena. At that time there was almost 13,000 other signees. If you care about hockey, you should add your name to the petition and do your part to make sure that Gordie Howe is honored in a fashion befitting his contributions to the great sport of hockey.

 

 


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