#10-No More Mateen
The 2000 Michigan State Men's Basketball team was one of the greatest ever assembled. They had everything covered. They had guys who could shoot, they had guys who could pass, they had guys who could play defense, they had guys who could rebound...hell, they had guys who could probably start on the football team. And their coach, well, he needs no introduction. Tom Izzo is one of the five best, ever. I'll argue that one with anyone. Izzo is a mastermind, a mastermind who never had a leader like Mateen Cleaves (I love Draymond too, but he didn't raise the big banner). Mateen was the heart and soul of a team that captured everyone's heart. He was as entertaining as he was good. And then the Pistons drafted him?! A match made in heaven. Only problem is St. Peter was playing a joke on everyone, because Cleaves and the Pistons meshed about as well as oil and water.
If it were the Lions, they may have hung onto Cleaves, hoped he'd come around, and still now we'd be talking about what an awful decision it was. Instead, Joe Dumars pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Mateen Cleaves to the Sacramento Kings for fan favorite Jon Barry (and a first round pick). Barry went on to help the Pistons reach the playoffs a couple of times. And although he never won a ring with Detroit, Barry is recognized as one of the pieces that helped bring the team together. Mateen Cleaves went on to grace Detroit television with his presence, as he never did much of anything else in the NBA. However, Cleaves still is one of the greatest college players in Big Ten history, and one of the best leaders in NCAA history.
Doug Fister is one of those guys who will live in Detroit sports lore for years to come. His impact on the Tigers is similar to a guy like Dan Petry. Fister is a guy who isn't a number one starter, plain and simple. He's very, very good. He's very efficient and fun to watch. And the Tigers stole him away from the Seattle Mariners. Fister was traded for Charlie Furbush, Casper Wells, Francisco Martinez, and Chance Ruffin. Anybody know what those guys are doing these days? Me neither. Fister, however, has sparkled in the playoffs for the Tigers in the last two years. After joining Detroit on July 30, 2011, Fister went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in ten starts with the Tigers to close the 2011. Fister still has not been healthy for a whole season with the Tigers, yet somehow has managed to pitch brilliantly when it matters most.
For years, Chris Chelios was that guy. You hated him. You hated watching him, you hated the way he played, how aggressive he was. On top of it all, Chelios played for the Chicago Blackhawks. People in Detroit like Richard Nixon more than the Blackhawks. That didn't stop the best GM in sports from acquiring the gritty blue-liner, as Ken Holland sent Anders Eriksson and a couple of first rounders (eventually Steve McCarthy and Adam Munro...umm, who?) to Chicago for Chelios. What followed? Two Stanley Cups out of three trips to the finals, a great bar right next to Comerica, and a love affair with the city that Chelios now calls home. Winner winner, chili dinner.
#7-The Masked Man
Jerry Stackhouse was a good player with the Pistons. Nice player, nice game, a guy who could fill up the stat sheet (not with assists, though). Stackhouse's tenure in Detroit is best known for the trade that sent him away, as it should be. Another winner from Dumars, Joe D sent Jerry, former Purdue great Brian Cardinal, and Ratko Varda to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Bobby Simmons, Hubert Davis, and Richard Hamilton. Everyone else in the trade is irrelevant other than Stackhouse and Hamilton. Varda may have even been the dude in "Office Space"--Samir naga, naga, not gonna work here anymore, that's for sure. Hamilton, however, worked for the Pistons for quite sometime, becoming the second half of one of, if not the greatest backcourts in Pistons' history. Joe D and Isaiah may have something to say about that. Either way, both backcourts produced championships. Rip and Chauncey anchored the great Detroit teams of the 2000s, teams that went to six straight Eastern Conference Finals, winning a championship in the process.
|From left: Rip, Tayshaun, Rasheed, Chauncey, and Ben photo credit: tumblr.com|
#6-Say It Ain't So, Curtis
This trade ranks up there in terms of the most heartbreaking moves ever seen in Detroit. Curtis Granderson was as beloved a player the Tigers have had since Tram and Lou. However, from a baseball standpoint, he wasn't that good. Granderson hits home runs, sure. But if you hit left handed, you could hit home runs in Yankee Stadium too. He was a nice figure in a city that needed a representative. He was well-spoken, respectful, and enjoyable to watch. But the Tigers won in that trade, by a landslide. In December of 2009, the Tigers sent Granderson to the Yankees and Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks. In exchange, Detroit received Max Scherzer, Phil Coke, Austin Jackson, and yes, unfortunately Daniel Schlereth as well. I can live with Schlereth if it means we got the other three. Coke, Jackson, and Scherzer remain integral parts of a Tiger team that will challenge for and expect to win a World Series in 2012 and beyond.
#5-The Dollar Menu
To me, this may be the greatest steal in sports history. That's right, not just Detroit, but all of sports history. On June 30, 1993, the Detroit Red Wings made a trade that may never have been covered if not for the work ethic of one man: Kris Draper. The Wings acquired Draper from the (old) Winnipeg Jets for future considerations. The trade was nearly forgotten until the two sides realized they needed to complete the deal. So the Wings bought the Jets a double cheeseburger, er I guess McDouble now, and sent the Jets one dollar. One dollar for one of the best penalty killers ever. One dollar for a player who would go on to anchor the Grind Line, the most famous line in Detroit hockey since the Production line. Draper won four Stanley Cups in Detroit, wore the "A" on his jersey at times, and always worked hard. What else is there to say?
#4-Did I Say I Like To Hit??
I know, it should be higher on the list. He won a triple crown for Christ's sake, how can this be number four? Simple--win a ring, and it gets higher. Miguel Cabrera is a talent that has not been seen in baseball in a long time. The only thing this guy can't do is speak English very well. Oh well, I forgive you Miggy. Just before the Tigers shipped Granderson off, they made a blockbuster deal, sending A-list prospects Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin to the then Florida Marlins in exchange for Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. Willis never panned out. That's okay neither did Maybin or Miller; both are now playing outside of Miami, with Maybin in San Diego, and Miller in Boston. At the time the trade was questioned. Miller was directly out of North Carolina, a fireballing lefty drawing comparisons to Randy Johnson. Maybin could cover more ground than a cheetah in centerfield and hit for power. The guy took Roger Clemens deep in his second game for the Tigers. That would be about all he would do, for the Tigers or anybody else. Miller is now in the bullpen in Beantown. Willis is out of baseball. And Miguel, well Miguel is good.
|Miguel Cabrera photo credit: cbsnews.com|
#3-Ball Don't Lie
The Pistons had been there. They had been in the Eastern Conference Finals and gotten swept by Jason Kidd's New Jersey Nets. They were playing uninspired, so Joe D again struck gold, and pulled the trigger on Rasheed Wallace. In a three team trade, Detroit acquired Rasheed and Mike James, shipping Chucky Atkins and Lindsey Hunter (they got him back anyway) to Boston, and Zelijko Rebraca and Bobby Sura to the Atlanta Hawks. Rasheed made an instant impact.
Wallace was the final piece in one of the greatest starting fives in NBA history. That's not bias, that's true. Billups, Hamilton, Prince, Wallace, and Wallace went on to win a title, play in two NBA finals, and three Eastern Conference finals, in three years. The same starters the whole time, before Ben Wallace sold out. Rasheed remains one of the most entertaining sports personalities to ever play in Detroit, and one of the best power forwards as well.
In 1995, the Detroit Red Wings took the NHL by storm. Following the first of Gary Bettman's follies, the NHL returned for a shortened season of 48 games. The Red Wings went 33-11-4 in those 48 games, winning the Presidents' Trophy and besting the Chicago Blackhawks in five games before meeting up with the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Wings were heavily favored and the Wings got swept (sounds like another Mike Illitch owned team). The next year, the Wings won 62 games and tallied 131 points, again winning the Presidents' Trophy. They then lost to the Colorado Avalanche in the 1996 Western Conference Finals.
Just after the start of the 1996-1997 season, Kenny Holland pulled one out of a hat. He sent Keith Primeau, Paul Coffey, and a first round pick to the Hartford Whalers for Brian Glynn, and a player that would turn into one of the Red Wings' best: Brendan Shanahan. Shanahan was the Rasheed Wallace in Detroit before Rasheed got here. Shanny helped lead the Red Wings to Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998, as well as 2002. Shanahan immediately became a force in Detroit. When Shanahan retired, he had tallied 656 goals. He remains the only NHL player in history to record at least 600 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes, something that endears him to Red Wings' fans still to this day.
|Brendan Shanahan raises Lord Stanley's Cup in 1997 photo credit: nypost.com|
He was the best. He was the next Jordan. He was dominant. He could score, rebound, pass, defend, not to mention he played at Duke. Everyone loved Grant Hill. He was the face of the Pistons the minute he walked through the Palace doors in 1994. He won the Rookie of the Year award, sharing the honors with Jason Kidd, and became the first Piston to win the award since Dave Bing. Hill didn't love Detroit as much as Detroit loved him, though. When it came time for Hill to pursue the free-agent market, he wanted out. Thank God.
The Pistons granted Hill his wish, executing a sign-and-trade with the Orlando Magic in August of 2000. The Pistons would help Orlando become a hot-bed free agent market, a team that would eventually sign the likes of Tracy McGrady, immediately making the Magic a title contender. The Pistons got two scrubs in return: Chucky Atkins and some dude with big hair, Ben Wallace. Atkins was a perennial back-up in the league, and Wallace...well, Wallace was as offensively inept as a twelve year old. The two teams were heading in complete opposite directions of each other (opposite of what they thought, as well). The Pistons became the marquee franchise in the East, with Big Ben front and center. Wallace was phenomenal in Detroit, before he got greedy. You couldn't go in the lane without getting your shot blocked. And you were intimidated every single time John Mason announced Ben's name as you heard the original Big Ben chiming in the background. The Pistons won a lot with Wallace. Hill was never the same after he left Detroit. Bone spurs in the ankle diminished what could have been a hall of fame career. A shame, but not really.