By: Jeff Riger
I’m a big Torii Hunter fan — He’s been consistent his entire career, he’s coming off one of the best seasons he has ever put together, he’s great defensively and he is a great clubhouse guy. Plus, he wants a ring, could play right field every day and would be a great mentor to some of Detroit’s younger players. Also, the guy is a great quote and while probably nobody reading this blog cares about that, I do, so that and the many reasons we have already talked about is why I would welcome Hunter signing with the Tigers.
Of course there are down sides, too, as Hunter is nearing age 38 and you never know exactly when a player will just lose it (i.e. Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield or Pudge Rodriguez.) Hunter also played on that awful artificial turf at the Metro Dome the majority of his career, so you have to wonder what kind of damage that has done to him as well?
Overall, considering everything, I would say Hunter would be a good fit in Detroit, especially if the contract is only for a couple of seasons.
But this blog is not about just Hunter, it’s about every free agent that I wanted a Detroit team to sign but never did. You see, I wanted Hunter to be a Tiger back in 2007, when he officially became a free agent and it was very apparent that the Twins were not going to re-sign him. I thought at the time Hunter would have been a great fit in Detroit and especially in the outfield, considering it’s so damn big at Comerica Park. But the Tigers then were not the Tigers you know now. There was no way Detroit was going to ink Hunter to a five-year, $90.5 million deal then, just was not going to happen. I don’t even remember Detroit being interested.
But you know the old saying…”better late than never.”
So in honor of Torii Hunter possibly becoming a Tiger and all the other free agents that somehow alluded Detroit, I have decided to list my top four free agents, one for each local team that never came here but I always wish did.
This one is hard… There have been so many players that have hit free agency that I thought could have really made a difference for the Tigers but the team was usually so bad that they didn’t really have a chance to sign any of them. However there was one that I had wished came here more than the rest and that was Miguel Tejada. It was 2004, Detroit just had lost 119 games in 2003 and was looking for a player that could not only put butts in the seats but could actually be counted on to turn the organization around. Sure, the Tigers brought in Pudge Rodriguez that season but Tejada would have been bigger at the time.
I remember screening calls for a Detroit Lions postgame show when I heard the rumor that Detroit had a chance with Tejada. I was shocked! Now thinking back on it, I realize that the Tigers were probably never truly serious about the shortstop but at the time I was excited that Detroit’s name was even mentioned. Tejada chose to sign with the Baltimore Orioles and only made a whopping 5 million dollars his first season as he drove in a league high 150 RBI and hit 34 homers with a .311 average. Tejada also played in every game that season. Meanwhile the Tigers signed Rodriguez and paid him 7 million dollars in his first year.
Now I know that Rodriguez turned out to be a great Tiger and was very instrumental to the team turning things around while Tejada saw his numbers decline rather quickly so things turned out ok! But I still wonder how that 2004 season would have been if the Tigers would have been able to land Tejada?
Unlike the Tigers, the Red Wings have always been very successful in signing whatever free agent they had their mind set on. The money and the winning were all that the organization needed. Even in the “salary cap” era Detroit was handed Marion Hossa, the games top free agent at the time as he inked a one year- unthinkable deal. So while there were no doubt players that I really wanted the Wings to ink but never did, their track record spoke for itself and it was very hard to get hung up on one player. That, of course ended this previous offseason when the greatest defenseman ever to play the game retired.
I think 2012 will be remembered for more than the lockout for Detroit fans. I think it will also be remembered as the moment where people realized that the Wings didn’t have that “get anything they want” power anymore. I know it seems like a long time ago, but surely you remember the pursuit of Zack Parise and Ryan Sutter? I never believed the Wings would have been able to get both guys, but I thought one or the other was a given. I was convinced of that!
I was wrong and disappointed just like everybody else!
There is no telling how both guys will work out with the Wild, hell there is no telling when we will actually see hockey again, but both Parise and Sutter are the players that I wish could have come here but never did. Shane Doan is also right up there!
When I think about Pistons free agency, I think about recent players that Joe Dumars decided to acquire and how those players may have forced Detroit to miss out on some better guys down the line. Yep, you guessed it; I’m talking about Ben Gordan and Charlie V. Gordon inked a 5 year deal worth 55 million dollars with Detroit while Villanueva signed on for 5 seasons and 35 million. Both guys came to the team in 2009.
I know that there was no chance Detroit would have been able to sign Lebron, Bosh or any of the other great free agents the following year. However not spending money on Villanueva and Gordon could have helped the Pistons sign a longer term solution that could still be here, helping the team get a single win. Gordon of course was traded away to Charlotte after having one memorable game in his Pistons career while Villanueva is still on the team but can’t get off the bench…at all. Both those guys were big time free agent busts and while there is no guarantee that the likes of a Carlos Boozer, Tyson Chandler or Joe Johnson would have been any better or would have even come here, it would have been nice to still have had the money to find out.
This free agent not signing with Detroit did not hurt the Lions at all, but it hurt me at the time. It was 1996 and I remember hearing about a meeting with linebacker Bryan Cox and the Lions. Things reportedly went so well that Cox was a sure thing to sign with Detroit. Of course, Cox’s agent did not know that and signed his client to a contract with the Chicago Bears instead. I remember how livid I was thinking not only did the Lions miss out on a solid LB but that he also went to the rival Bears.
Of course Cox was far from the same guy that he was with the Miami Dolphins so I’m over it. But back then I was sure that was a big free agent loss for the mighty Honolulu Blue and Silver.
So, who did I miss?
Let me know on Twitter @riger1984 or in the comment section below…