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Caputo & Fithian

Toughest Detroit Athletes And Coaches To Replace

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By: Jeff Riger

I’m sure by now you have heard about the comments from New York Yankees player Kevin Youkalis, who said on his way to Yankees spring training, “I’ll always be a Red Sock.”

“To negate all the years I played for the Boston Red Sox, and all the tradition, you look at all the stuff I have piled up at my house and to say I’d just throw it out the window, it’s not true.  Those were great years in Boston. One bad half-year doesn’t take away from all the great years I had there,” he added.

I have no problem with Youkilis thinking it — and even saying it — and Yankees fans should not care either.  If Youkalis helps the Yanks tread water until A-Rod comes back, if he comes back, then he will have earned his $12 million for the season and all will be fine.  No Yankee fan will ever boo Youkilis after hitting a bomb just because he said he likes the Sawx more than the Yanks.

Now speaking of Alex Rodriguez, Youkilis also talked about replacing the three-time MVP, saying, “I don’t think you look at it like that.  You can’t be thinking about shoes to fill, because I’ll never be Alex Rodriguez. I mean, Alex Rodriguez is one of the best hitters of all time. I’m not going to be that same guy. But I can be a good major league player who can help the team win.”

But what does this have to do with Detroit sports — that’s what you’re thinking, aren’t you? So let me tell you…

When Youk said he could not replace A-Rod, it got me thinking, who in Detroit is irreplaceable?

Below I have listed my top 5, plus some honorable mentions.

5. Chauncey Billups-

Yes, the trade made sense at the time.  Allen Iverson was an expiring contract and many believed that the “Going to Work” Pistons were done and had played their biggest games.  So, I was on board at the time.  But, in retrospect that trade was awful.  A.I. was a cancer and the Pistons wasted all their extra money on the likes of Charlie Villanuava and Ben Gordon.  The Pistons have never found anybody to replace Billups and they probably won’t anytime soon.

4. Jason Hanson-

Sure, there will be other kickers and people might have also even wondered who would replace Eddie Murray in his day but Hanson is legendary.  The only reason that Hanson is irreplaceable is because no other kicker will be able to endure all the losing while still wanting to play for the same team.  Most other kickers would have skipped town, Hanson has stayed for over 20 seasons and that is why we find him on this list.

3. Joel Zumaya-

“Zoom Zoom” was one of a kind and to this day Tiger officials and fans love to compare other hard throwers to him.  His rookie year he led the league in holds and was a crucial key to the Tigers going to the World Series and then the injuries started.  Whether it was a shoulder injury from allegedly moving boxes to a blown tendon in his hand, each injury was more agonizing for the fans and Zumaya himself.  Even if Bruce Rondon does throw over 100MPH on several occasions he will never replace the show that was Zumaya.

2. Tom Izzo-

By now one of Izzo’s many assistants that have gone on to have success could probably take over the program if needed but it would not be the same.  What you see in East Lansing game in and game out is a product of how hard Izzo has worked.  From the “Izzone” to the physical, rebounding, gritty play all are who the Northern Michigander is.  Jud Heathcote was a legend in the making when he coached, won a title and probably taught Izzo everything he knows but Tom has taken it to another level and would be almost impossible to replace.

1. Nick Lidstrom-

It’s impossible to replace the greatest defensemen ever to play the game!

Honorable Mentions-

Steve Yzerman, Isiah Thomas, Bob Probert, Calvin Johnson, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Barry Sanders.

So who did I miss?

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