Friday, January 26, 2007

Nurturing Our Young

Last season was a wonderful, magical year for the Detroit Tigers. I knew it was for real when I read a baseball column in the New York Post over last year’s Memorial Day weekend that said, “Talking to AL executives, they say while the Tigers are a big surprise, they are no fluke.”

I guess it was hard to notice in 2003 as they lost game after game, that they were playing the youngsters that would lead them to an American League Championship in 2006.

The good fortunes of the Tigers and the Red Wings have been possible because of the talent they have drafted and developed. The Tigers exodus from winning baseball for the 12 seasons before their World Series appearance was the direct result of not drafting well and not developing their talent. Now that they are back on top, they are back to their old proven ways.

The Pistons have been winners too but have historically acquired their players though trades and free agent signings. While they did draft the anchor of their first championships (Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars) they traded for Bill Liamber, Rick Mahorn, Vinnie Johnson and Mark Aquire. Even now, with their All Star starting five, the only player they drafted was Tashyn Prince. Their second overall draft park Darko Milicic, after three pissy years in Detroit, turned out to be a bust and was traded (about the time they really needed him.) It has worked out well for the Pistons and the NBA is a league where you can trade yourself into contention, or as the case is with Isiah in New York, trade yourself into oblivion. (Let’s hope that the Pistons develop some of their new young players like Jason Maxiel and Amir Johnson.)

The Wings, though they did have the rent a high priced veteran method for much of the pre-lock out NHL, were able to do this even as they traded high draft picks because of their outstanding European scouting. The players the Wings have acquired via trade or free agency have always played a supporting role to their core group players, whom they drafted and developed. And it has had an international flavor. The Russian Five have been replaced by the Swedes as of late, but the result is the same. The Wings keep on winning.

Then there is the Detroit Lions. This pathetic franchise has done a poor job drafting and developing their own players, hence their horrible performance as a competitive professional football enterprise. And in professional football, you have no other choice. You can not build through free agency and trades and the Lions have proved this again and again through their horrible free agency signings. The Lions, as always, a disgrace to Detroit Sports City.

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