Detroit Sports: 2013 Year-in-Review

contributions by Roger Castillo (@RogCast81) and Mike Morland (@MikeMorland)

What an incredible ride 2013 has been. Whether it’s been the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings or Pistons, Detroit sports have been anything but dull in the last calendar year.

Although Detroit sports fans are still waiting for the first major championship since 2008, lets take a look back, team-by-team, at 2013:

LIONS

By Mike Morbeck (Flickr: Ndamukong Suh) via Wikimedia Commons

By Mike Morbeck (Flickr: Ndamukong Suh) via Wikimedia Commons

The Detroit Lions had one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory, which is impressive since this is the same franchise that went 0-16 in 2008. SRD’s own Ben Szilagy predicted a 5-3 start to the season and the Lions didn’t disappoint. Heading into week 14, the team stood at 7-5 and in complete control of their playoff destiny. With games against the struggling Eagles and Giants, along with a Monday Night Football matchup against the Ravens, the Lions appeared to be on the path to their first division championship since 1993.

However, with a second half collapse against the Eagles (20-34), a last minute field goal loss to the Ravens (16-18) and an overtime loss against the Giants (20-23), the Lions found themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in as the injury ridden Bears and Packers closed out week 17 battling for the NFC North division title.

With Matt Stafford’s struggles at quarterback and the team’s inability to make in-game adjustments in 2013, many football insiders feel head coach Jim Schwartz has gone from the hot seat to one foot out the door in Detroit. Despite two years left on his current contract extension, the Detroit Lions may be looking for a new head coach in 2014 after a disappointing season.

RED WINGS

By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Red Wings missed out on the Zach Parise/Gary Suter sweepstakes during the summer of 2012; combined that with the the losses of Brad Stuart and Nick Lidstrom, the 2013 lockout shortened season flirted with disaster. It took the Red Wings the entire 48 game schedule to secure a playoff birth as the seventh seed in the Western Conference and extended their playoff streak to 22 years.

As the seventh seed, the Red Wings upset the Anaheim Ducks in seven games and advanced to the western conference semi-finals against the number one seed, Chicago Blackhawks.

It was in this series where Red Wings fans felt a wide range of emotions. Although the underdog in this series, the Wings jumped out to a 3-1 lead against the Blackhawks. Needing just one more victory to reach the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2009,  the Wings lost three straight games, including a game seven overtime, to the eventual Stanley Cup champions.

In the summer of 2013, the Red Wings signed future Hall of Famer Daniel Alfredsson  to a one-year contract worth $5.5 million and center Stephen Weiss from the Florida Panthers. Both of these moves were praised by fans and media alike, where many expected the Red Wings to contend for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

However, with a season plagued with injuries (Jimmy Howard (sprained MCL), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), Jonathan Ericsson (broken ribs), Johan Franzen (concussion), Daren Helm (shoulder), Henrick Zetterberg (herniated disc), Justin Abdelkader (concussion) and Gustav Nyquist (groin), just to name a few), the Red Wings should consider themselves lucky that they’re even in playoff contention (seventh in the East) at this point.

TIGERS

By Keith Allison on Flickr  [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

By Keith Allison on Flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0]

The Tigers started the year with high expectations but ended the season with two blown games in the ALCS against Boston and Jim Leyland walking away from baseball at season’s end.

Now, the Tigers have a rookie manager in Brad Ausmus and various off season moves that supposedly have made the team stronger. Although that has been up to debate for a month and a half, here’s a look at the off-season moves around the American League Central.

Trades:

1B Prince Fielder to Texas for 2B Ian Kinsler
This trade will save the Tigers approximately $138 million. Fielder didn’t appear  that he wanted to be in Detroit and it showed towards the end of the Boston series, including his comments after the series.

Fielder felt the fans were a bit harsh on him but with a .225 batting average in the postseason with no home runs and critical base running errors in tight games, it’s enough to make any fan mad.

Overall, the Tigers found a second baseman in Ian Kinsler  that can help them win now. He hasn’t hit well in Comerica Park throughout his career (.200/.298/.329, 3 HR, 18 RBI in 140 at bats) but that all could change in 2014. Overall, the Tigers saved money by unloading Fielder’s contract.

The other question looming is: “Will this move cost Miguel Cabrera’s numbers in the long run?” Cabrera won a back to back MVP’s and a Triple Crown with Fielder in Detroit, but only time will tell.

RHP Doug Fister to the Nationals for infielder Steve Lombardozzi, left-hander Ian Krol and minor league lefty Robbie Ray.
Most Tigers fans reaction to this deal can be summed up in one word, outrage.

This isn’t the first article to suggest this was simply a payroll cut, but to many, this is exactly that. However, if you examine the deal, there is some upside to it. Lombardozzi can play third base, just in case Nick Castellanos doesn’t adjust to the big leagues right away. Krol can fill the void in the bullpen as Smyly moves to the rotation. Robbie Ray will head to the minors and gives the farm system much needed depth.

With the additions of Rajai Davis and Joe Nathan in free agency, 2014 will definitely be a season where Tigers fans have Dave Dombrowski under the microscope.

PISTONS

By Greg_Monroe_Jared_Sullinger.jpg: mariselise derivative work: Steffaville [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Greg_Monroe_Jared_Sullinger.jpg: mariselise derivative work: Steffaville [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Detroit Pistons may have been the most confusing of Detroit’s professional sports teams in 2013. After dealing  the final piece of their 2004 championship team which saw Tayshaun Prince go to the Grizzlies and Jose Calderon join the Detroit Pistons, the team finished with a 29-53 record (11th in the East) and no clear direction for the franchise.

Following the 2012-13 season, head coach Lawrence Frank was fired after two losing seasons in Detroit. Pistons owner Tom Gores then hired NBA coaching legend Phil Jackson as a consultant; eventually leading to the hire of Maurice Cheeks as the next Detroit Pistons head coach.

During the summer of 2013, the Pistons signed potential all-star Josh Smith, Piston fan favorite Chauncey Billupsand the Italian league MVP Luigi Datome. In addition the free agent signings, the team agreed to a sign and trade with Brandon Knight, sending Viacheslav Kravtsov and Khris Middleton to the Milwaukee Bucks for point guard Brandon Jennings.

Despite early season struggles, the Detroit Pistons are hanging on to a near .500 record that shows promise and potential for a late season run at a playoff spot in 2014.