clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Top Five: Detroit's Most Popular Athletes

New, 10 comments

SB Nation Detroit ranks the five most popular athletes in Detroit as of right now. Who is No. 1? Hint: He wouldn't have even been on this list a week ago.

Each week here at SB Nation Detroit we will put together a new "Top Five" that looks at a variety of Detroit sports-related subjects from both the past and present. Some possible Top Fives with a history-minded approach could include the five most memorable games in Red Wings history or the five worst draft picks ever made by the Lions (actually, let's not go down that road again). Top Fives with a more current approach might look at the five best plays from the previous week of Detroit sports or break down the top five announcers in the Detroit area (I see ya, Rod).

Another example of a Top Five with a focus on what's happening right now is the debut of this series, which examines the five most popular athletes in Detroit. This type of ranking can change weekly or even daily, as the list will show you. While we all have our favorites from each team that transcend time and have a permanent place at the top of popularity lists, we decided to come at this from a power rankings perspective, meaning the list could change tomorrow if something happened to warrant a player's rise or fall in popularity.

The great thing about Detroit is that there are so many different sports figures and characters. Each team could produce a list of popular players by themselves regardless of if they are contending for a Stanley Cup or just trying to win a couple games. Another great part about Detroit is that with sports always going on in one way or another, this list can be very dynamic. It is always changing, as evidenced by the player at the top of this week's Top Five.

No. 1: Armando Galarraga

At this time a week ago, the righty from Venezuela was known only by Tigers fans, and even then he was known only as a pretty average pitcher. What caused his sudden jump to the top of the popularity list in Detroit? It's a pretty simple formula actually. Take one should-have-been-perfect game and combine it with 100 percent classiness and voilà, Galarraga is at the top of the list.

Simply throwing a perfect game would have done wonders for Galarraga's popularity, but the fact that he had that amazing achievement robbed from him in controversial fashion yet remained cool and collected the entire time speaks wonders about his character. Throughout all of this Galarraga has represented the Tigers and the city of Detroit in general with absolute class, and for that his popularity has quickly gone from nothing to something huge in a matter of days.

No. 2: Miguel Cabrera

I think Miggy's placement on this list can really be summed up in three words: Triple. Crown. Contender. No player has achieved the Triple Crown (league-leader in home runs, runs batted in and batting average) since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967, but Cabrera is a legitimate threat to make history. Yes, it is only June and there is a lot of baseball to be played, but Cabrera is first in RBIs, second in home runs (one back of Toronto's Jose Bautista) and fourth in batting average. Triple Crown talk aside, Miggy is the Tigers' best hitter and would be a familiar name at the top of this list throughout the summer.

No. 3: Nicklas Lidstrom

If Detroit were still playing hockey right now, Lidstrom would be one of a few Red Wings on this list. Even though the season is over, though, No. 5 comes in at No. 3 because he just recently re-signed with the Wings. There was a lot of speculation about Lidstrom's future and whether or not he would retire, but the Wings' captain decided to come back for at least one more season. Although it would have been easy to walk away, Lidstrom wants to win another Stanley Cup and add to his already illustrious career.

No. 4: Matthew Stafford

Calvin Johnson received serious consideration for this list, but at the end of the day it was obvious that the Lions' starting quarterback and face of the franchise was better suited for a spot in the Top Five. After all, what Stafford did against the Browns last year will forever be remembered by Detroiters. The grittiness and fight Stafford showed at the end of that game -- throwing the game-winning touchdown pass with a severely messed up right shoulder -- endeared him to the city and was the first chapter in what Lions fans hope is a long book of memorable moments. Megatron is great, but Stafford gained the respect of so many fans with that one play last season that he deserves a spot in the Top Five.

No. 5: Justin Verlander

I know, I know, this is the third Tigers player on the list, but it is baseball season. Just as Cabrera is the Tigers' star hitter, JV is the Tigers' star pitcher. Verlander has only been in the league full time since 2006, but already he has dazzled fans at Comerica Park numerous times and has become the ace of the Tigers' pitching staff. Nobody will forget the no-hitter he threw back in June 2007 against the Brewers, which took his popularity to another level. Now he is one of the few players Tigers fans can almost always count on to perform at a high level.


Agree or disagree with this week's Top Five? Have comments or a Top Five list of your own? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.