Help us, Detroit Lions: You are Detroit sports fans’ only hope right now – Detroit Free Press
Free Press Lions beat writer Dave Birkett answers your Twitter questions in a video mailbag June 26, 2017, before summer vacation.
Last January, we wrote that Detroit sports fans are experiencing the worst championship slump in decades.
We also wrote that the Detroit Tigers had “the best shot of the four teams (for now) to win the city’s next championship.”
Well, so much for that.
True, we’re not even at the halfway point of the baseball season. But the Tigers are 33-42. They just snapped an 8-game skid. They would be in last place in the American League right now if not for the ineptitude of the Chicago White Sox (32-42).
And if recent reports about the Tigers’ plans this summer are of any indication, this could mean a sell-off is imminent. Expiring contracts such as J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila would likely go first. Others such as Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler could be available, too.
In other words, don’t bet on the Tigers winning a World Series this year. And many fear – with good reason – that the window’s closed on this era of high-payroll Tigers baseball.
This pretty much leaves Detroit major professional sports in purgatory. Just take a look around.
The Detroit Red Wings – the team we could count on to win championships the past 3 decades – just missed the postseason for the first time in 25 NHL seasons. Their veterans are getting older, their younger players aren’t progressing and the most exciting aspect of the coming 2017-18 season is the new arena they’re about to play in (Little Caesars Arena).
Yes, the Red Wings had 11 selections in this year’s NHL draft and are planning toward the future. But here’s the bad news: Most hockey experts aren’t impressed with their picks this year. In fact, several of them put the Wings in the “losers” category, with one saying the Wings had the worst draft “by a landslide.”
The Detroit Pistons remain in the same boat as the Red Wings: A team with good young talent here and there, but no real prospects for a deep postseason run. And even if they did, they still have to go through LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers for likely another few years in the East, and that’s before getting to the Golden State Warriors, who will go down as one of the NBA’s all-time greatest teams.
No disrespect to Luke Kennard, the Pistons’ 12th overall draft pick last week, but he’d have to turn into a shooter of Stephen Curry proportions for this outlook to change.
All of this brings us to the most unthinkable part of this story.
‘In Bob Quinn We Trust?’
The Detroit Lions – the same Detroit Lions who have won one playoff game the past six decades – may have the closest shot at a Detroit sports championship over the next 2-3 years.
Try reading that previous sentence a few times without dry-heaving.
Of course there’s not a whole lot of reason to believe that’ll happen. The Lions just went 9-7 after blowing another NFC North division lead to the Green Bay Packers and got smoked in the NFC Wild Card by the Seattle Seahawks. Nobody’s picking the Lions to do much more than that in 2017, either.
But there are a few things the Lions do have: The quarterback, Matthew Stafford, who’s likely to get the biggest contract in NFL history this summer. An improved offensive line on paper, largely thanks to T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner (though they do have to figure out how to replace Taylor Decker). Solid young defensive talents in Darius Slay and Ezekiel Ansah.
And then there’s Bob Quinn. The second-year general manager may be the biggest glimmer of hope for Lions fans, and that’s largely because 1) he hasn’t had enough time, and 2) he’s not Matt Millen or a Matt Millen hire. But he has put together a couple solid draft classes and has worked to address some big team needs, particularly up front, so we’ll see where that takes them.
This poll may sum things up for you: More than 50% of Detroit sports fans on Twitter say the Lions are the closest Detroit sports team to a title.
Does that cover everything?
So this is where we are in Detroit sports these days: An expensive and underachieving baseball team, a washed-up hockey team mired in a long decline, a basketball team that may or may not be going nowhere and the city’s hopes at a championship in the near future riding on a historically bad football franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in more than a quarter-century.
But hey, at least Little Caesars Arena may look nice!
Contact Brian Manzullo: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrianManzullo.