The Most Elusive Player in Detroit Sports
By: Dan Hasty
Guys always want what they can’t have, right? Cars, women, their own “Man Cave” — but for one reason or another, we can’t have them. The same applies for how fans feel about their teams. For years, people have said “If ________ team can get ___________ type of player, they’d have the missing piece for a championship.” Sometimes, your team brings in Brendan Shanahan or Rasheed Wallace and wins a title. Other times, a team signs Scott Mitchell or Curtis Joseph, and all the team is left with is the bill. This makes me ask “What’s the most elusive type of player in Detroit sports right now?”
For decades, the Tigers were chasing a leadoff hitter. In case you forgot the revolving door of Brian Hunter, Kimera Bartee, Luis Polonia, and Nook Logan, the Tigers never seemed able to fill the top spot in their lineup. Curtis Granderson and Austin Jackson have since filled the leadoff void, but it took a long time to get there.
Before this season, the Tigers seemed unable to find a left-handed power hitter. Comerica Park has never been tailored for a right-handed hitter, yet the Tigers acquired players such as Juan Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, and Gary Sheffield, ignoring a left-handed slugger. A decade after the park opened, Prince Fielder solved that problem; becoming the first legitimate lefty in Detroit since Darrell Evans in 1984.
As crazy as it is, a dominant, shutdown closer qualifies as the most elusive Tigers piece for me. Sure, Tigers closers haven’t been terrible, but you wouldn’t know it judging how fans react. Even in 2000, when Todd Jones led the league in saves; or last season when Jose Valverde saved more games than anyone in baseball, fans wanted more.
As for the Red Wings, there are two types of players they’ve seemingly lacked. Perhaps it’s the physical, high-scoring forward they’ve been without since Brendan Shanahan left Detroit. Marian Hossa, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi may be talented players, but for various reasons never fit the profile. I think a better case for most elusive can be made for an elite goaltender. Few teams have Vezina trophy winners in goal, but Wings fans unfairly expect that type of result. The Wings haven’t had the league’s best goalie since Terry Sawchuk was playing at Olympia. Dominik Hasek and Curtis Joseph didn’t arrive in the prime of their careers. Even when the Wings were the class of the NHL, fans sought an upgrade over Chris Osgood, possibly the most underrated player in Detroit history. That’s an argument for another day.
Had I written this a year ago, a Lions franchise quarterback would have won by a landslide. Before Matthew Stafford broke out in 2011, Detroit had been without a franchise quarterback since the Eisenhower administration. This is most elusive player-type in Detroit sports history, but it’s not the most elusive today.
Right now, the most elusive Lions positional-need is a shutdown corner. Regardless of their struggles, the Lions haven’t been inclined to make filling the cornerback void a priority. For two years, we’ve seen the glaring holes in the secondary, while the team seems content to fill that position with late draft picks and castoffs from other teams.
Out of these four teams, the Pistons seem easiest to figure out. How long have we heard about how the Pistons have desperately lacked a dominant center? Even when the Pistons had Ben Wallace, the NBA defensive player of the year, fans felt they needed to pair him with a seven-footer. Maybe the Darko Milicic train wreck put this need under a microscope, as the Pistons still look for answers in the middle. We’re looking at you, Andre Drummond.
My question to you; what’s the most elusive type of player in Detroit sports today?