Motor City Clunkers: The 10 Biggest Disappointments in Detroit Sports History
For all its problems, the City of Detroit is and has always been one of the premier sports towns in the country.
Detroit is home to four major professional sports franchises, all of which have won a championship at some point throughout their respective histories.
Yet with longstanding tradition also come inevitable disappointments. The following is a list of the biggest letdowns in the history of the Motor City sports scene.
10. Joey Harrington
At first glance, it's fair to assume Joey "Blue Skies" Harrington should be higher on this list. Much higher.
But let me say, it wasn't his fault. It wasn't his fault. IT WAS NOT HIS FAULT.
Harrington was drafted by a team with no weapons. No support. He was told to play for coaches, Marty Mornhinweg and Steve Mariucci, who wanted nothing to do with him. He was asked to lead a team that could not be led.
Having said that, he was still a bust. A major bust.
But I feel bad for Joey.
It's hard not to think that his career might have turned out differently had he been drafted by a different organization.
Now, the former third overall pick is a 30-year-old third stringer with the New Orleans Saints.
9. Curtis Joseph
With great success come great expectations. In Detroit, Curtis Joseph never lived up to the expectations that came with him from his glory days in Toronto.
Joseph signed with the Red Wings for the 2002-2003 season, one year after Detroit won the Stanley Cup. Although the Wings did win a division title with “Cujo” as their starting goalie, they were eliminated in the first round of the NHL Playoffs.
Joseph's second season in Detroit saw even more turmoil.
The Red Wings tried to trade him after Dominik Hasek came out of retirement. But Joseph had $8 million remaining on his contract, making him hard to move.
Joseph remained in Detroit as Hasek's backup and also spent some time in the minors that year. An injury to Hasek put Joseph back in the starting role, and he played poorly once again in the playoffs.
Detroit lost to Calgary in the second round.
He left the team following the 2003-2004 season. I think it's safe to say his presence has not been missed.
8. Chris Webber
Webber may be a Detroit City kid, but he is far from one of Motown's favorite sons.
Yes, C-Webb did play an instrumental role in leading the University of Michigan to back-to-back NCAA National Championship appearances in 1992 and 1993. But he also singlehandedly blew the Wolverines' championship game against North Carolina with his infamous timeout call.
That brain-dead moment, combined with his role in a recruiting scandal that left the Michigan basketball program in shambles, left him no friends in his home state.
In the later stages of his NBA career, Webber had a couple of chances to redeem himself to Detroit sports fans.
He could have signed as a free agent with the Pistons in the summer of 2001 during what was a crucial rebuilding stage for the team. Instead, he re-signed with Sacramento.
In 2007, the Pistons called on Webber for help once again. This time, Webber signed with Detroit for the stretch run.
The hope was that he would push the Pistons over the hump and back to the NBA Finals. He did not.
On behalf of Detroit sports fans, I think I can accurately say, thanks for nothing.
7. Juan Gonzalez
Gonzalez, or “Juan Gone,” came to Detroit via a nine-player trade prior to the 2000 season.
During the '90s, he was arguably the best player in baseball. He drove in an average of 117 runs between the 1991 and 1999 seasons and also won two AL MVP awards during that span (1996, 1998).
At the time, he seemed like the perfect big-name acquisition to help the Tigers open Comerica Park at the start of the new millennium.
Yet the relationship between Juan Gone and the Tigers went downhill immediately.
Gonzalez turned down an eight-year, $140 million contract from the Tigers before playing a single game in Detroit. He complained about the dimensions of Comerica Park being too large, coasted through a very unproductive season, and left Detroit to sign with division rival Cleveland after just one season.
Although his stay in the Motor City was brief. Detroiters' hatred for Gonzalez lives on to this day.
6. Dontrelle Willis
As individually horrible as Willis has pitched in Detroit, he also played a major role in what was arguably the biggest team disappointment in the city's history.
The 2008 Tigers were the runaway favorite to win the World Series. They finished last in the AL Central. Certainly not all the blame belongs to Willis, but he did not help Detroit's cause.
Upon arriving in Detroit, Willis signed a three-year, $29 million contract extension. He is 1-6 with an ERA of 7.49 as a Tiger.
As of right now, the Tigers paid $29 million for one win.
Willis is currently pitching for AAA Toledo. He is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA.
5. Charles Rogers
Rogers was a local product from Saginaw, MI and had a record-setting career at Michigan State. The Lions selected him as the second overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.
He drew comparisons to the likes of Randy Moss and Jerry Rice.
During his brief NFL career, he was an injury-prone, substance-abusing criminal.
Rogers was recently released from prison and is attempting an NFL comeback, despite an already failed career in the CFL.
A nice kid, but he couldn't shake his bad habits.
4. Ozzie Smith
Ozzie Smith never played in Detroit. He had a Hall of Fame career elsewhere, primarily with the St. Louis Cardinals.
"The Wizard," as he was known, is in my mind the best shortstop of all time.
And he should have been a Tiger.
The Detroit Tigers drafted Ozzie Smith in 1976. He wanted $10,000 to forgo his senior year of college and join the organization. Detroit, however, wouldn't budge from its offer of $8,500.
In an era where the Tigers have spent more foolish dollars than Barack Obama, it's painful to accept the idea that the very same organization once let one of the game's greatest players walk over a measly $1,500.
Just downright painful.
3. Steve Mariucci
The Iron Mountain man was brought back to his home state to win—and more importantly, to change the culture of Michigan's lovable losers, the Detroit Lions.
Mooch was 15-28 as the Lions' head coach and was fired in 2008 after a 27-7 loss at home on Thanksgiving to the Atlanta Falcons.
He certainly is not the only Lions coach to leave with a dismal résumé. But he was the first Lions coach to join the organization with an already proven track record.
Mooch won everywhere he ever coached except here in Detroit.
2. Darko Milicic
The name Darko will haunt Joe Dumars for the rest of his NBA executive career, and potentially his life.
The Detroit Pistons had an opportunity most NBA franchises never get, and they wasted it. Big time.
In 2003, Detroit had the second overall pick in the NBA Draft despite finishing as the second best team in the Eastern Conference the previous year.
Not only did Dumars waste a first-round pick on Milicic, but he also wasted the second overall pick in what was arguably the most talented draft class in NBA history.
Milicic's direct impact on the Pistons proved to be irrelevant, as Detroit won the NBA Championship in 2004, his rookie season.
However, it's the thought of “what could have been” that still agonizes Pistons fans.
Players selected after Darko in 2003 include Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Kirk Hinrich, Josh Howard, David West, Leandro Barbosa, and Mo Williams.
1. Matt Millen
Matt Millen was the worst general manager in the history of professional sports. Period.
Oh, and his parting shots mocking the collapse of the Detroit auto industry and former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's scandal didn't help his cause.