The Detroit Baseball Resurgence: 2003 to 2013

The Detroit Tigers finished 43-119 in 2003, the second most losses by a team since 1900. The 2013 Detroit Tigers finished 93-69, lost to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, and won the American League Central crown.

In 10 years, Detroit experienced revitalization in baseball. The team went from having three pitchers combine for 57 losses in 2003 to having three combine for 49 in 2013. Comerica Park would attract hardly over 10,000 fans per game in 2003, while it routinely sold out in 2013 as the fans flocked to support their own. Even with the dreadful 2003 season, the Detroit Tigers were still one of the most successful franchises in the last decade.

The 2003 Season of Sadness

The 2003 season saw the entrance of new manager and Tiger great Alan Trammell, but also the departure of much of the team’s talent in 2002. Damion Easley, Jeff Weaver, and Robert Fick, all key performers for 2002’s Tigers, all left during the offseason, leaving a void to be filled by the Tigers’ young talent.

The talent never quite emerged. The Tigers struggled, hitting .240 as a team and accumulating an astronomical 5.30 team ERA, both Major League worsts. They finished the season 20 games behind the next worst team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Even through a dismal season, a few bright spots emerged. First baseman Dmitri Young proved to be a switch-hitting slugger, hitting .297 with 29 home runs, while reliever Jamie Walker appeared in 78 games (second in the Majors) and charting a 3.32 ERA.

The biggest bright spot occurred in the last week of the season, though. The Tigers finished their final week 5-2, avoiding breaking the 1962 New York Mets’ record for most losses in a season. The team was cheered off of the field while the tune of “Celebration” played over the speakers. They finished the season one loss shy of the most in the modern era.

The Revitalization of the Tigers

The 2003 offseason was key for the Tigers to reestablish the club as a force and not as an embarrassment. To do so, owner Mike Illitch needed a spark. He got it.

The Tigers made a splash, bringing all-star free agent Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez to Detroit, shocking the baseball world. Pudge wasn’t the only addition though, as Mr. I was integral in landing shortstop Carlos Guillen from the Seattle Mariners and signing outfielder Rondell White. Behind the strength of 11 players hitting 10 homeruns each, the Tigers improved to 72-90 in the 2004 season.

The 2005 season saw the addition of another major free agent: outfielder Magglio Ordonez. Ordonez was looking to reestablish himself after a knee injury derailed his 2004 campaign, and the Tigers were looking for a premier corner outfielder. Kismet.

Even with the addition of Ordonez and a midseason trade for second baseman Placido Polanco, the Tigers scuffled to a 71-91 finish. This prompted Tigers management to make a change. It also involved luring a big fish out of retirement.

The Jim Leyland Era

The Tigers managed to lure skipper Jim Leyland out of retirement in 2006. They also bolstered their rotation with the addition of southpaw Kenny Rogers. This season also saw the emergence of a new core of young talent, featuring the likes of Curtis Granderson, Marcus Thames and 2006 AL Rookie of the Year, Justin Verlander. Led by a core of stars, an impassioned Leyland, and a pitching staff that led the league in ERA and shutouts, the “Boys of Summer” were back. The 2006 team went on to earn their first playoff appearance since 1987, but fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

The next few seasons saw a consistent Tigers teamed buoyed by an influx of veterans, the emergence of young talent and a steady hand in Leyland. Arguably the biggest move was the 2007 acquisition of infielder Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins. Adding Cabrera to an already potent lineup made the Tigers offense one of the most dangerous in the league. Cabrera also became the face of the franchise for a new generation of Tigers fans.

Miguel Cabrera

In 2011 the Tigers finally broke through and won their first American League Central Division Title since joining the league in 1998. This team also sent five players to the All Star Game, including newly acquired Victor Martinez and youngster Alex Avila. Ace Justin Verlander finished the season as the unanimous Cy Young Award winner, finishing with 24 wins and a 2.40 ERA. The Tigers went on to lose in the ALCS, though, falling to the Texas Rangers 4-2.

The 2012 season saw the arrival of a prince. Slugger Prince Fielder signed a massive contract with the Tigers, replacing the injured Victor Martinez in the cleanup spot. This season saw the Tigers repeat as AL Central Champions. It was marked by a less common occurrence, though: Miguel Cabrera winning MLB’s Triple Crown (leading the league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs). The Tigers also advanced to the World Series, but were swept by the San Francisco Giants four games to none.

The 2013 season marked 10 years since the disastrous, almost catastrophic 2003 season. The Tigers entered having signed veteran outfielder Torii Hunter, traded Fielder for second baseman Ian Kinsler, and locked up pitchers Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez to long-term deals. The team continued their dominance in the AL Central, earning their third consecutive division title, while Miguel Cabrera won the MVP award and Max Scherzer brought home the AL Cy Young Award. The “Boys of Summer” advanced to the ALCS, but were beaten by the Boston Red Sox.

What’s Left?

After years of toiling at the bottom of the division, the Tigers had finally become a powerhouse. Earning multiple division championships, notching multiple World Series appearances, and having players bringing home consistent individual awards, they’d established themselves as a top organization. Through all of these successes, one thing still has eluded the Tigers, though: a World Series Championship. At the rate the wearers of the “Old English D” have been advancing, though, it’s easy to see how one could be in the near future.

Is Jose Iglesias Human?

We’ve seen it before. We’ll continue to see it as long as Jose Iglesias is in the league. He’s a defensive magician.

After making another great spinning play in last night’s 6-4 victory over the Royals, the questioned has to be posed: is Jose Iglesias a real human being, or some sort of baseball fielding cyborg?

Jose IglesiasEver since being acquired from the Boston Red Sox in 2013, Iglesias has dazzled onlookers and frustrated opposing teams with unbelievable plays. We’ve seen him run down fly balls that Usain Bolt couldn’t get to and make throws that made physics look like gibberish written on a restaurant napkin.

Given the evidence that we have available to us, I’m convinced that Iglesias is in fact a terminator…or some sort of grass connoisseur that hates baseballs denting the finely manicured baseball grounds. The latter describes why he would keep making sensational grabs like this one:

Educated theories or not, one thing is for sure: Jose Iglesias can play defense. He’s proven to be a defensive asset and so far this year, a decent stick at the plate. As his mission on Earth continues to evolve and we learn about Iglesias’ true calling as a defensive terminator machine, we can only hope he continues to dazzle us like he has so far.

If the Detroit Tigers Were ‘The Office’ Characters…

Disclaimer: I love baseball…almost as much as I love The Office.

I view the Detroit Tigers and The Office as two of the greatest things that God has ever created…also up there with Vanilla Java Porter and my dog. Intertwining these two things was only a matter of time, so without further adieu…

Brad Ausmus is…Michael Scott

Michael is Dunder Mifflin’s fearless leader, as is Brad Ausmus to the Tigers. While Michael’s tactics are different and sometimes ridiculed, his office always gets the job done. Ausmus had an interesting first year at the helm of the Tigers, but I still firmly believe he’ll get the Tigers where they need to go.

Yoenis Cespedes is…Ryan Howard

No…not that Ryan Howard. Ryan was once a promising prospect, a top performer, a lowly bowling alley employee, and now, a contributor in the office again. Cespedes has had his ups and downs, but this year seems to be his time. Both do feature a decent amount of flash as well…

J.D. Martinez is…Jim Halpert

Ever the slacker, Jim Halpert has always had potential, it just needed to be unlocked. J.D. Martinez joined the Tigers after being cut from the Houston Astros last season and exploded onto the scene. Potential finally unlocked, J.D. is ready to sell some paper…or hit baseballs really, really far.

Ian Kinsler is…Dwight Schrute

The ever serious, always intense Dwight Schrute is key to the sales of Dunder Mifflin. Ian also brings intensity to the lineup and is a huge part of the Tigers. While both joke in their own right, the seriousness, drive, and passion for what they do make them perfect comparisons.

Dwight Schrute memeAlex Avila is…Creed Bratton

Poor Alex has been hit in the face so many times that I’m convinced he doesn’t know where he is 87% of his life. Creed “allegedly” smoked himself silly in the 1960s and is a little whacky now…therefore they’re basically the same person.

Hard-headed or Old Fashioned: Protective Hats in Baseball

It seems more and more frequently that pitchers in baseball are being struck in the head by line drives. From Brandon McCarthy last season to Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians last night, pitchers have been brutally injured by these comeback line drives, prompting some to call for protection for pitchers.

The most common idea: a protective, kevlar cap. Prototypes have been released and some pitchers have even adopted the new gear. A recent MLB report stated that this season, six new pitchers have adopted the padded hats.

Early versions of the cap looked big, bulky, and inhibiting. They weren’t well received by players or MLB staff, but some still opted for the extra padding.

Alex Torres, then of the San Diego Padres, was one of the first to adopt the kevlar protective caps

Newer versions of the padded hats aren’t gigantic and are much more functional. Hector Noesi of the Chicago White Sox is one of the new converts to the padded caps, but chose a much slimmer, more traditional looking version.

Hector Noesi of the Chicago White Sox wearing his padded cap

While eventually these caps may become the league standard, for now, they’re prototypes. Something for players to use at their discretion to make themselves, their family’s and their fans feel safer. But as pitchers continue to take liners in the head and suffer serious injuries, so will the call for protective caps. Coming as hard and fast as a Miguel Cabrera shot up the middle.

What We Learned From Opening Day

With Opening Day 2015 in the books and the Tigers standing at an astounding 1-0, it’s important to remember that there’s 161 games left in the season.


1. David Price is really, really good.

David Price pitchingPrice hurled a gem in his first Opening Day Start for the Tigers, coming up an out short of the complete game shutout. He proved he’s the top-of-the-rotation guy that the Tigers thought they acquired in last season’s trade.

2. J.D. Martinez is still a beast.

J.D.’s first at-bat yesterday was something to behold: a monster opposite field bomb to kick off the scoring for the Tigers. He looks to be a staple in the fifth spot in the lineup and should have another monster year.

3. Yoenis is good at the baseball.

So Yoenis Cespedes not only has a dragon for a car, but he also doesn’t like to hit singles…he’s too busy hitting extra base hits. Cespedes had a double and a triple in his Tigers debut yesterday. Oh, and this:

4. Joe Nathan is un-hittable now!

Alright, we all know this is a bit premature, BUT HE STRUCK OUT TORII HUNTER TO END THE GAME. HE’S BACK! OH THANK GOD HE’S BACK!

Alright, he’s probably not back, but a guy can dream, right?

Yeah, maybe it’s a little early to be making predictions, but one thing’s for sure from yesterday: this Tigers team is still fun to watch.

Brad Ausmus: the Man, the Myth, the Manager

As Brad Ausmus enters his second season at the helm of the Detroit Tigers, it’s almost impossible to look past the lofty expectations before him. A lineup loaded with talent, fire breathing Lamborghinis, and a possibly still concussed Alex Avila, runs should be coming faster than me to a fresh Guinness (let me tell you, that’s fast).

Ausmus had a relatively successful first season, leading the Tigers to an AL Central title before bottoming out in the playoffs. Thanks in part to his more aggressive strategy (and movie star good looks), the Tigers managed to steal more bases last season than the previous two seasons combined. J.D. Martinez also joined the team, sucked down some of Michael Jordan’s “Secret Stuff” and became a hitting machine to complement Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. Oh, and the Tigers acquired David Price (and his dog Astro) to bolster their rotation in the middle of the season.

David Price and Astro

Brad definitely has some work ahead of him, though. The Tigers’ bullpen is more screwed up than your friend on their 21st birthday, and lineup anchors Cabrera and Victor Martinez are both coming off of offseason surgery. The Dartmouth graduate seems up to the task though, taking challenges in stride, joining Twitter (I still can’t believe it), and slyly smirking when asked a dumb question in an interview.

This season will probably be make-or-break for Ausmus with the Tigers. If he can bring home another AL Central title and a playoff run, he should be sitting pretty. If not, Alan Trammel will have a new friend on the list of short-term Tigers’ managers.

Who’s On First? What’s On Sec…Oh Wait, That’s Ian Kinsler

Remember, remember the 20th of November.

That fateful night, the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers swapped key cogs in their respective lineups, hoping these would be the final pieces to championship lineups. The Rangers sent second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Tigers for slugger (and Chevrolet’s best singer) Prince Fielder…oh, and $30 million.

Courtesy of Getty Images

The trade had mixed effects in its first season. Fielder was injured early and missed the remainder of the season for the Rangers, while Kinsler’s first half of the season was hotter than John Stamos on Full House.

Kinsler’s second half of the season was down, but his presence was always felt. He did everything the Tigers needed out of their second baseman: great defense, swiping bases, and keeping healthy. He was exactly what the Tigers needed.

With the 2015 season kicking off in six days, Kinsler is ready for another big year wearing the old English “D.” Joined by returning shortstop Jose Iglesias, the tandem is expected to be one of the best fielding duos in the majors. Kinsler’s bat is expected to remain potent, too, hitting in a lineup that features Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, the resurgent J.D. Martinez, and newly acquired Yoenis Cespedes. He’ll likely hit in front of those behemoths, meaning if he gets on base, he’ll be scoring a ton of runs.

Kinsler’s first year with the Tigers was a success. He hit. He fielded. He led. This year is a new chapter, but we should expect more of the same from the Tigers’ second baseman.