The main reason for the sudden success is the man behind the scenes, Dave Dombrowski. The Detroit general manager has stockpiled the Tigers system with numerous young arms whose pitching could carry the Tigers into contention for the post-season for at least the next decade.
Still only 24, Jeremy Bonderman might become the best pitcher in baseball. If he ever perfects his changeup, he will be unhittable - a certain Cy Young winner. Some say 24-year-old Justin Verlander is the best Tigers pitcher. He was only Rookie of the Year in the American League last year. Flame-thrower Joel Zumaya is only 22 and consistently hits the speed-gun at 100 mph. The best prospect of all, lefty Andrew Miller, is only 21 and growing (66 210 lbs.) in the minor leagues for now.
On paper, the New York Mets and Detroit Tigers seem destined for a date in the Fall Classic. In the end, the Tigers pitching should prevail over the hefty Mets bats. Detroit over the Mets in the series 4 games to 2 with Bonderman MVP of the Series.
No one gets very excited anymore when the Red Wings come away as the best team during the regular season. What hockey fans really want to know is: can the Red Wings finally get past their recent habit of early exits in the playoffs? The answer is a resounding... maybe.
This team is definitely tougher up front with the addition of Todd Bertuzzi and Kyle Calder. The season-ending injury to Nicklas Kronwell is a setback for Detroits defense, though not fatal. If Henrik Zetterberg and goaltender Dominik Hasek are healthy during the playoffs, the Red Wings should win the Stanley Cup. If one or both cannot play in top form, it looks like a second round knockout for Detroit.
As with the Wings, Detroit fans hardly celebrate that their NBA team once again has the best record in the Eastern Conference. Post-season success is far more important. Last year I was blasted by Express readers for a column I wrote predicting the Pistons would lose in the first round to Milwaukee though Detroit had the best record in the NBA regular season. At the time, I sensed a problem because of the Pistons lineup seemed to lack depth.
Well, last year Detroit did beat Milwaukee in the first playoff round, followed by barely beating Cleveland in seven games. Miami finally wore the Pistons down on their way to the NBA title. Most observers agreed that, despite the Pistons sensational regular season, Detroit lost to Miami because their starters were worn out by playing too many minutes. I told you the Pistons bench was weak... I told you.
This year the story has changed. The Pistons now have decent depth. Carlos Delfino is growing into an NBA star. Antonio McDyess is playing some of his best basketball, young Jason Maxiell usually provides a spark off the bench. Lindsey Hunter and Flip Murray are capable guards, especially as backups.
Because of their improved bench, it is difficult to imagine how the Pistons will not make the NBA finals. In the end, though, Detroit will not beat the Western Conference representative. And the winner is... the Phoenix Suns. They win the crown because of perennial MVP guard Steve Nash and a healthy Amare Stoudemire.
Whatever the results, it should be an exciting spring for local sports fans.