Wednesday, December 14, 2005

How to ruin a professional sports franchise

Detroit fans have been blessed with two of the top franchises in professional sports in the Pistons and Red Wings. Unfortunately, Detroit fans have been burdened with the ineptitude of the Tigers and Lions. It almost seems like a deal was made with the devil (maybe by Coleman Young or Bill Bonds) a long time ago that included sacrificing two teams to ensure the success of the other two teams. The Tigers and Lions are the opposite of the Pistons and Red Wings in every conceivable way. The Wings seem to be the inverse of the Lions while the Tigers seem to be the inverse of the Pistons. The Wings have used smart drafts and sound front office decisions to bring three Stanley Cup titles to Detroit in the last ten years. The Lions on the other hand have gaffed their way to the worst record in the NFL over the last five years. The Lions have had the worst front office in the NFL for years. The Tigers have been just as bad as the Lions over the last 15 years in every measure. The Pistons and Red Wings are the envy of their respective leagues. The Lions and Tigers are the laughing stocks. In many cases, the difference between winning and losing has been one good draft pick or the lack thereof. Both the Lions and Tigers have had several chances to make the correct pick that would’ve altered the future of the franchise. Time and time again, they made the wrong decision. Here is a brief look at who the Lions and Tigers could’ve had and who they actually took over the last 12 years.

Detroit Lions

1993 Drafted: Traded pick for Pat Swilling

Could’ve had: Willie Roaf

1994 Drafted: Johnnie Morton

Could’ve had: Johnnie Morton

1995 Drafted: Luther Elliss

Could’ve had: Ty Law

1996 Drafted: Reggie Brown and Jeff Hartings

Could’ve had: Ray Lewis and Marvin Harrison

1997 Drafted: Bryant Westbrook

Could’ve had: Tony Gonzalez

1998 Drafted: Terry Fair

Could’ve had: Randy Moss

1999 Drafted: Chris Claiborne and Aaron Gibson

Could’ve had: Chris McCallister and Al Wilson

2000 Drafted: Stockar McDougal

Could’ve had: Keith Bulluck

2001 Drafted: Jeff Backus

Could’ve had: Deuce McCallister, Todd Heap, Reggie Wayne, Alge Crumpler, Drew Brees, Chad Johnson, or Kendrell Bell

2002 Drafted: Joey Harrington

Could’ve had: Quentin Jammer, Bryant McKinnie, Roy Williams, John Henderson, Dwight Freeney, Jeremy Shockey, Albert Haynesworth, or Ed Reed

2003 Drafted: Charles Rogers

Could’ve had: Jordan Gross

2004 Drafted: Roy Williams and Kevin Jones

Could’ve had: Roy Williams and Kevin Jones

2005 Drafted: Mike Williams

Could’ve had: Derrick Johnson

Detroit Tigers

1993 Drafted: Matt Brunson

Could’ve had: Billy Wagner, Derrick Lee, or Torri Hunter

1994 Drafted: Cade Gaspar

Could’ve had: Cade Gaspar

1995 Drafted: Mike Drumright

Could’ve had: Roy Halladay or Matt Morris

1996 Drafted: Seth Greisinger

Could’ve had: Eric Chavez

1997 Drafted: Matt Anderson

Could’ve had: Troy Glaus, Lance Berkman, or Jon Garland

1998 Drafted: Jeff Weaver

Could’ve had: Jeff Weaver

1999 Drafted: Eric Munson

Could’ve had: Barry Zito, Ben Sheets

2000 Drafted: Matt Wheatland

Could’ve had: Chase Utley

2001 Drafted: Kenny Baugh

Could’ve had: Aaron Heilman, Bobby Crosby, or Jeremy Bonderman

2002 Drafted: Scott Moore

Could’ve had: Scott Kazmir, or Jeff Francoeur

2003 Drafted: Kyle Sleeth

Could’ve had: Chad Cordero

2004 Drafted: Justin Verlander

Could’ve had: Justin Verlander

2005 Drafted: Cameron Maybin

Could’ve had: Cameron Maybin

(I realize that the first round of the MLB draft is a crap shoot for GM's but the Tigers first round performance mirrors their performance in the later rounds.)

To be fair, the Pistons haven’t exactly lit up the draft over the last 15 years but in most cases, they made the best pick available. Surprisingly, Jerome Williams, Scott Pollard, Theo Ratliff, Allan Houston and Bonzi Wells were the best picks available or very close to it. The Pistons were in the wrong place at the wrong time during the 1990’s drafts. In the latter half of the decade, the Pistons had late picks in drafts that featured only 10-15 worthwhile players. An example of this is the 1998 draft when the two picks before the Pistons were Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce. The Pistons had to settle for Bonzi Wells. In the early part of the decade, the Pistons were helpless due to the poor quality of the drafts. For instance, the combined talent of the 1990-1994 doesn’t even equal the talent in the 1996 draft alone. The 1996 draft featured; Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O’Neal, Stephon Marbury, Antoine Walker, Shareef Abdur-Raheem, Marcus Camby, and Zydrunas Illgauskus.

If you take a look at the history of the NBA draft, there is a noticeable upgrade in talent after 1996. The 1997 and 98 drafts were some of the best drafts on record. The 1999 draft might be the deepest draft in NBA history with Elton Brand, Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Wally Szczerbiak, Rip Hamilton, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Corey Maggette, Ron Artest, Andre Kirilinko, Manu Ginobli, Lamar Odom, James Posey, Kenny Thomas, and Gordon Giricek The 2001 draft was surprisingly deep as well. The 2003 draft could go down as the best ever when all is said and done. The 2004 draft was also extremely impressive despite only taking place a year and a half ago. The drafts in the early 1990’s were extremely bad. Thankfully the draft started to produce quality NBA players in the mid-90’s. I really have no idea why this happened but it’s a trend that seems to be continuing well in to his century.

The Pistons really only missed the boat on the 2000, 2001, and 2003 drafts. They picked Mateen Cleaves, Rodney White and Darko Milicic. They could’ve had Quentin Richardson, Richard Jefferson and Dwyane Wade. That hurts to read. But, Joe Dumars has made the draft just a complimentary piece of the puzzle rather than the primary mode of shaping the Pistons. To see how the Pistons fared over the years in the draft, check out's Draft History.

If the Tigers and the Lions are ever going to shake their losing ways, they will have to start capitalizing on the high draft picks that come with such ineptitude. The Lions just wasted two top five picks in the NFL draft in the last couple years. Joey Harrington and Charles Rogers have brought absolutely nothing to the team. NFL franchises can rarely afford to miss on high draft picks, let alone miss every year. The Tigers are in significantly better position than the Lions because they have put the focus on quality drafts and player development. Before either team can be respectable, they have to figure out how to bring in the best players through the draft. The Tigers seem to be turning the corner but the Lions have almost nothing to show for ten years of high draft picks.


Anonymous said...

Good article. The 1996 (Lewis and Harrison were both great college players) and 2001 drafts for the Lions are amazing and I think the 2005 will look that way later also. Everyone told the Lions to pick Derrick Johnson and they settled on the next Michael Ricks.

Baseball is a much bigger crap shoot but even so, the Tigers drafed horribly for years. But the Cade Gaspar pick really offests much of what they lost over the years.

Anonymous said...

White Sox just got Javier Vazquez. Wow. I really thought they would fall off next year but they've really made some great moves. They have to be able to swing players like that in the future but it seems Arizona was looking for solid veteran talent, which the Tigers don't really have.

Jake said...

Yeah, it was definitely good that the Tigers got Gaspar.

Am I the only one that isn't impressied with Vazquez? He was OK a few years ago but he has stunk the last two years. Steve Phillips just said on ESPN that he thinks the White Sox now have possibly the best rotation OF ALL-TIME since they added Vazquez! You have to be kidding me. El Duque was every bit as good as Vazquez. In fact, the Chisox might not have won the WS without El Duque. Given the choice, I would rather have Matt Morris or Kevin Millwood than Vazquez. Vazquez is an innings eater and he's still relatively young but most pitchers get better over time. He's gotten worse. Am I the only one that feels this way.

Anonymous said...

Any reference to Coleman Young alone makes it a good article.


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