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Published: Friday, 7/5/2002

Owner of Wings and Tigers can't be the same guy

Given the current state of his two sports franchises, the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers, I can only conclude that Mike Ilitch must have multiple personalities.

Ilitch is perhaps the best owner in the NHL. He also owns one of the worst teams in baseball.

How can the same owner be responsible for two franchises that are so vastly different?

One great, the other terrible.

You'd think that with all the good things Ilitch has done for the Red Wings recently, something positive would rub off on the Tigers.

Yet the Tigers are struggling more than ever under Ilitch.

Ilitch's Red Wings have never been stronger.

I have a theory.

Granted, it's a crazy theory. But it's beginning to look like Ilitch has a split personality.

Ilitch's current personality - call him Mikey - owns the Tigers.

Mikey hates spending money.

The Tigers have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

The Tigers struggle on the field as well as at the gate - attendance at 3-year-old Comerica Park has declined in each of the last two seasons.

Mikey is close-minded and stubborn. He doesn't take chances.

He won't fix his baseball team.

He refuses to pay top dollar for top talent, and he's quite content to put a team of below-average players on the field. He seems prepared to wait until the next labor agreement before making major personnel changes.

Mikey appears in April, May, June, July, August and September. He disappears in fall and winter.

Ilitch's other personality - call him Michael - owns the Red Wings. He's the dominant personality the other six months of the year.

Michael and Mikey are as different as the Red Wings and Tigers.

Michael is an astute businessman. He knows that you can't overpay top talent, that the best owners provide their teams with the best chance of winning.

But Michael isn't content just owning a winning team. He's driven to be No. 1.

Mikey suffers from an inferiority compex. He's the kid who lost his lunch money to the school bully. He wants to be liked and accepted, rather than feared and respected.

He treats the Tigers like a hobby, not a passion.

Michael's Red Wings have won three Stanley Cups in six years.

Mikey's Tigers have suffered through eight straight losing seasons, soon to be nine.

Michael is an open-minded innovator. Nothing's too good for his Red Wings. The Red Wings win lots of games, make lots of money.

Michael spends big bucks on his hockey team, which had the highest payroll in the NHL this season.

The Red Wings paid hired-gun Dominik Hasek $8 million, renting the goalie for one season to help win another Stanley Cup.

After Hasek retired, as expected, the Red Wings signed free-agent goalie Curtis Joseph to a three-year, $24 million contract.

Michael is one of the last of the big-time spenders.

Mikey still has the first dollar he ever made.

One owner.

Two teams.

Two personalities.


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