Now that 2012 is in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2013. In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I’d like to share some wishful thinking for Detroit for the upcoming year.
Not all these things will happen, but any one of them could, and that would be a great thing for the Detroit sports fan.
1. Tigers taste champagne and end championship drought
It’s now been 28 years since the Detroit Tigers won a title – that’s the longest drought in team history since they won their first World Series in 1935. The team has been to the threshold three times in recent seasons, winning pennants in 2006 and 2012, and reaching the ALCS in 2011. The talent is there in the form of baseball’s best pitcher, baseball’s best hitter, and one of baseball’s best leadoff men and supporting rotations. Owner Mike Ilitch desperately wants to hoist a World Series trophy and place it alongside his Stanley Cup hardware. In his 80s, he’s running out of time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he opens up his wallet and lures more talent to Detroit before the off-season is over. A World Series title would validate this Tigers team as one of the best in franchise history, and now that it’s been almost three decades since they last won the whole enchilada, the Tigers have a generation of fans to whom ’84 seems like ancient history. They will be one of the favorites to win it all in ’13.
2. NHL hockey at The Joe
You’d think the NHL owners and NHL players would have learned their lesson. It was just a few years ago when they cancelled an entire season when they couldn’t agree on a new labor contract. Fans feel it’s a case of billionaires fighting with millionaires, and they’re correct. Unfortunately, the NHL is not a strong enough league to survive these types of labor problems without suffering sever repercussions. Detroit is Hockeytown, so for the most part the sport is safe here, but other cities may lose their teams and certainly risk alienating their fan base. The Red Wings are a young team in transition, and a year ago they were bounced from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round by Nashville. Nashville! This is not the time to be wiping away a full season, not with the Michigan economy still sluggish, and the fans anxious over the prospects of a rebuilding phase. Owner Ilitch also wants to see a new arena built in downtown Detroit for his beloved Wings, but it’s going to be difficult to get the city and state to fork over some of the development cost and the land if the NHl continues to hold temper tantrums between owners and players.
3. Lions clean house and get back on track
Where do I start with the Lions? Making small changes at this point would be like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s doomsday, folks, the time is ripe for a full housecleaning. Ideally, we’d all love to see the Ford family sell the team, wouldn’t we? The 2012 season marks 40 years that the family has had control of the franchise. In that span the team has won one playoff game. One friggin’ playoff game. In four decades under the Ford’s they’ve had 14 winning seasons and 26 losing seasons. They went 0-16, they had five coaches in a six-year span, lost a record 26 straight games on the road, and have lost 21 straight to the Packers in Green Bay. This current bunch, who seemed like they might shed the loser’s garb and turn things around a year ago, have set an NFL record by blowing 10-point leads in three straight games, have lost most of their games in the fourth quarter, and their head coach lost a game when he challenged a ruling without knowing the rules. Yikes. To paraphrase Dutch Reagan: Mr. Ford, tear down this wall and sell this team! Absent that bold move, the Lions need to fire Jim Schwartz and bring in a headline coach with credentials like Bill Cowher, to change the losing culture that stains this franchise. Back up the brinx truck and pay Cowher whatever he wants, but get him or someone with similar championship street cred into the Honolulu Blue. It’s been 55 years and counting since the Lions won an NFL title, and they’re one of the only franchises to never appear in a Super Bowl. Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and the defensive line are good enough to build a championship team around. But right now, no one in the front office has a clue as to how to get there. If the Lions won a Super Bowl the city of Detroit would go absolutely batty. It’s time for this team to reach the promised land.
4. Steady improvement from the Pistons
I don’t need to see 50 wins or a playoff spot out of the young Pistons, but steady improvement from their core of young players would be fine for the 2012-2013 season. Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, and the promising Andre Drummond are stars in the waiting. Rookie Kyle Singler has impressed. Supporting players like Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva are smart basketball players who can distribute the ball and score. Now the team needs to gel and switch some of their focus to defense. You remember defense right, guys? Stop the other team from outscoring you. If the Pistons can cultivate their young core and add some more pieces, Deeeeetroit Basketball will be back in Motown soon in the form of a playoff team.
5. Return to form from VMart
In his first season with the Tigers, Victor Martinez quietly had a brilliant year, helping to protect Miguel Cabrera in the Detroit lineup. That role is handled capably by Prince Fielder now, but after missing all of 2012 with a serious injury, VMart will be back to add depth to the Tigs lineup. He’s a professional hitter, and if he can just deliver somewhere near his career average of .303/20 HR/104 RBI, the Tigers will be back at the top of AL Central and in the running for another pennant.
6. Another no-no from Verlander
Every year since his second season in 2007, Justin Verlander has flashed the type of nasty stuff that could lead to a no-hitter. He tossed his first in 2007 and added another in 2011, when he nearly fired a perfect game. Last season he came within two outs of throwing his third no-hitter. He’s at the top of his game and in the prime of his career, and Tiger fans would love to see JV throw another no-no, preferably at Comerica Park. If he can do it, it will help pave his way toward Cooperstown.
What would you like to see as a Detroit sports fan in 2013? Tell me in the comments section below.