The Detroit Tigers are a Major League Baseball team, based in Detroit, Michigan, as their name would lead you to believe. The Tigers are the winners of four World Series titles and eleven American League pennants, but you'll probably know them mostly by their horrific reputation as the worst team in baseball, which they have rightly earned over the course of the the 1990s and early 2000s, at least until the 2006 season, in which they won 95 games en route to the World Series (they lost; see below). Below you'll find an abridged version of the team's storied history, sectioned into dated, easy-to-navigate blurbs about the Tigers in the various ages of baseball.
The Dead Ball Era
The Tigers' first official season was 1901, which they finished with a record of 72 wins and 61 losses, along with 3 tie games. This was, of course, before tie games were eliminated from professional baseball. That first season, while winning, and not altogether bad, may have been a sign of the mediocrity that would dominate future Tigers seasons. A 72-61 record is pretty good; it would equate to a modern record of 87-75, during a 162-game season.
The team was fairly average during their first years, and remained so throughout the Dead Ball Era, which featured perhaps the best player to ever grace the major leagues with his presence—Ty Cobb—who joined the team in 1905, and played every season thereafter with the Tigers until 1927. Despite Cobb's presence, the Tigers had really only a few outstanding seasons during his tenure. The team won the AL pennant in 1907, 1908, and 1909, and because this was before the introduction of the League Championship Series, they went to the World Series after all three of those seasons. They lost to the Chicago Cubs in 1907 and 1908 (the Cubs' most recent World Series victory as of this writing), and then lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1909. In 1915, they compiled a record of 100-54, their best yet, however, they didn't even finish the season in first place, which they relinquished to the Boston Red Sox on the last day of the season. Boston would go on to win the World Series that year.
The 1920s would pass the team by without much to talk about, although outfielder Harry Heilmann would win four AL battling titles between 1921 and 1927. The best the Tigers got in the 1920s was a second place finish (83-71) in 1923, under player-manager Cobb. A bevy of losing seasons, and seasons that the team finished only a game or two over .500 followed the Tigers through the 1930s, with two notable exceptions -- they won the AL pennant in 1934 and 1935, compiling records of 101-53 and 93-58, respectively, while winning the 1935 World Series against the Chicago Cubs. After their first World Series win, the team continued its mediocrity, the only bright spot being Charlie Gehringer's AL batting title in 1937.
Baseball's Golden Age
Things began picking up in the early-middle 1940s, with the team winning the 1940 AL pennant, and winning at least 85 games every season between 1944 and 1947, and along the way taking the 1945 World Series from the Chicago Cubs once again, which would be the Cubs' last World Series appearence to date. The last notable feat accomplished by a Tiger in the 1940s was George Kell's AL batting title in 1949.
The team kept themselves mostly respectable through the rest of the 1940s, and after a great 1950 season (95-59), they would begin a slide into abyssmal baseball that the team would come to be known for in later years, finishing with a record of 50-104 in 1952, although during that season there would be a couple of bright spots—pitcher Virgil Trucks, who finished that season with a meager 5-19 record—pitched a pair of no-hitters, the first on May 15 against the Washington Senators, the second on August 25 against the New York Yankees, both proving to be nailbiters, by scores of 1-0 both times. (Trucks would end up with the St. Louis Browns the following season.) The 1953 and 1954 seasons didn't prove too much better, although things started picking up again in 1955, a season which began a streak of seasons in which the Tigers won at least 71 games between the 1955 and 1975 seasons. The '55 season also marked the in-force arrival of outfielder Al Kaline, whose .340 batting average was good enough for the title that year. Kaline would not win another batting title, but he would became a mainstay in the Tigers' outfield, playing regularly every year until 1974, after which he retired, a stretch during which he collected 3,007 hits, 399 home runs, and a .297 lifetime batting average. He was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The Summer(s) of Love
The 1961 season brought the introduction of the 162-game schedule, and the Tigers ran through it with aplomb, finishing with a 101-61 record, but still, that was good enough for only second place to the steamrolling New York Yankees (who finished 109-53 that year, behind the strengths of Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, and Whitey Ford), whom the Tigers finished 8 games behind, despite their 101 wins. The Tigers, undaunted, ran through the rest of the 1960s with only one losing season, compiling a record of 882 wins and 729 losses between 1960 and 1969. The coup de grace, perhaps, came in 1968, when, under manager Mayo Smith, the Tigers took seven games to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The Tigers finished that season with a record of 103-59 (to date their second-best win-loss record ever). That year, Tigers pitcher Denny McLain won both the AL Cy Young Award, and the AL Most Valuable Player award, after going 31-6/1.96 with 280 strikeouts. He won the AL Cy Young Award in 1969 as well. It was quite a remarkable achievement, although '68 and '69 were the last two good years McLain would have, as he became increasingly surrounded by legal problems, disciplinary action, and difficulties keeping in shape—he called it quits after the 1972 season, at the age of 28, being, to date, the most recent 30-game winner in Major League Baseball. As far as accomplishments go, 1968 seems to have been the Tigers' all-around best season in their storied history. Though later successes would come, most Detroiters that follow the team consider 1968 to be the absolute litmus by which other Tigers teams should be judged.
The 1970s came and went, with few notable things happening with the various teams the Tigers fielded. They won their division in 1972, but were eliminated by the Oakland Athletics in the AL Championship Series. The 1975 season seemed to indicate that the team didn't know how to make up for Al Kaline retiring; they finished with a disappointing record of 57-102. They managed to rebound quickly from that tragedy, finishing 13 and 14 games, respectively, under .500 in 1976 and 1977. Mark "The Bird" Fidrych blazed onto the scene in 1976, going 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA, and winning the AL Rookie of the Year award, while finishing in second place for the AL Cy Young award. The 1978 season saw the team rise above .500 again in every season from 1978 to 1988, as well as the rookie season of second baseman Lou Whitaker, the 1978 AL Rookie of the Year. 1978 also marked the start of the 17-season-long partnership between Whitaker at second base and Alan Trammell at shortstop, one of the longest-enduring double play duos in baseball history.
Nearly The Last Curtain Call
Manager Sparky Anderson took the reins starting in the 1979 season, and the team spent most of the 1980s playing very good baseball. They finished 104-58 (their best record ever) in 1984, and won the World Series that year, downing the San Diego Padres four games to one. '84 also saw Jack Morris no-hit the Chicago White Sox on April 7, and when all was said and done at the end of the season, reliever Guillermo "Willie" Hernández had won the AL Cy Young award and the AL Most Valuable Player award, finishing with 34 saves (which was a lot back then) and a 1.92 ERA. (Hernández became ineffective after that season and ended up retiring in 1989.)
The Tigers posted a 98-64 record in 1987, on their way to winning their division. They won the AL East on the last day of the season from the Toronto Blue Jays, but they were then eliminated in the AL Championship Series by the eventual 1987 World Series champion Minnesota Twins. This would be, from then on until 2006, their last great accomplishment. In 1988 they barely finished over .500 and in 1989, they plummeted to the very basement in which they dwelled for the next 17 years, finishing with a dismal 59-103 record.
Wallowing in the Cellar
In 1990, Cecil Fielder came along and lead the league in home runs (51) and RBI (132), a feat he would go on to repeat in 1991 (44/133). Fielder was the first player to hit over 50 home runs since George Foster hit 52 for the Cincinnati Reds in 1977. He also lead the league in RBI in 1992 with 124, and finished second to Rickey Henderson in the 1990 AL MVP vote (chances are, he didn't win it because he played for a last-place team, unlike Henderson). However, with the exception of 1991 and 1993, when the Tigers finished 84-78 and 85-77, respectively, they had nothing but horribly lopsided losing seasons. After the 1995 season, beleaguered manager Sparky Anderson retired. Buddy Bell took his place, and in 1996, the team finished with its (then) worst record of all time—53-109. The following year they did alright, finishing in third place in the AL East with a record of 79-83, only four games under .500, and they did the same in 2000, also finishing in third place that year with the same record, though this time it was in the AL Central division (after the 1997 realignment), then under manager Phil Garner, who wasn't necessarily a poor manager; he caught on with the Houston Astros in 2005 and lead them to the World Series (which they lost), picking up the Manager of the Year award for 2005 in the process. The 2000-2005 seasons saw the Tigers return to their subpar ways, finishing 66-96 in 2001, and a godawful 55-106 in 2002.
The 2003 season was the Tigers' worst ever, and it was very nearly the worst season by any other team since the establishment of Major League Baseball in 1901. Before the 2003 season the team fired interim manager Luis Pujols (Garner's replacement; Garner, along with incompetent general manager Randy Smith, had been fired after the team started the 2002 season with a record of 0-6), and hired on former Tigers great Alan Trammell to manage the team. Though they finished the '03 season in a bit of a winning stride, winning five of their final six games (against Minnesota, who were playoffs-bound and resting their regular players in preparation for the post-season), they still finished the season with a record of 43-119. Their 119 losses were bad enough to become the new American League record for most losses in a season, eclipsing the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics' record of 117 (back in the 154-game season days) by two. However, they avoided matching the major league record for losses—120—held by the 1962 New York Mets, a team in its first year of play. Other notable achievements in ineptitude include southpaw Mike Maroth's 21 losses (he finished 9-21), the most losses by any major league pitcher since Oakland's Brian Kingman dropped 20 games in 1980. However, Maroth's win/loss record is more a result of poor-to-non-existant run support than an actual lack of talent. Maroth's teammates Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Cornejo had 19 and 17 losses each, respectively, and Adam Bernero had 12 losses before he was traded to Colorado at midseason. Only one Tigers pitcher, long reliever Jamie Walker, had a winning record -- 4-3. Leftfielder Dmitri Young lead the Tigers' modest offensive production by hitting .297 with 29 home runs and 85 RBI, which earned him an appointment to the AL All-Star team (though he didn't end up playing; thanks, AL All-Star manager Mike Scoscia!). Other than Young, there wasn't much to speak of as the team finished with a collective batting average of only .240, miserable compared to the rest of the league's .286 average. About the only bright spot in 2003, in which the Tigers finished a whopping 47 games out of first place, was the fact that their 197 double plays turned lead the major leagues. This is rather remarkable since their infielders were mostly untested rookies (SS Ramon Santiago and 2B Omar Infante) and average-at-best second-year players (3B Eric Munson and 1B Carlos Peña).
After a late-season Detroit News interview with owner Mike Illitch (who also owns the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and was at the time perceived to be preoccupied with running them) and vice president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers promised to actually sign some free agents and maybe make some trades during the 2003-04 offseason. This was an odd thing for them to say, as over the previous three offseasons, they'd signed only one major league free agent -- utility infielder Craig Paquette, during the 2001-02 offseason, who failed to hit even .200 in a season and a half with the team before they released him. After the 2003 season, the Tigers went shopping for some names: second baseman and multiple All-Star Fernando Viña, outfielder Rondell White, long reliever Al Levine, shortstop Carlos Guillen (in a trade for two no-names with the Seattle Mariners), starting pitcher Jason Johnson (who spent the 2004 and 2005 seasons with the team before being placed on waivers and picked up by a succession of other teams), closer Ugueth Urbina (who in 2006 was sentenced to a 14-year prison sentence for attempted murder in Venezuela), and catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who signed a 4-year $40M contract with the worst team in baseball based solely on the money. Among these players, only Rodriguez is a bona-fide star, probably the best catcher in the game when he's healthy, although since Guillen arrived he's improved immensely, and is now considered an above-average shortstop who consistently puts up very good numbers. While none of the rest of those players are or were superstars, it was a start, given the huge holes at all of the infield positions from last season and the sub-mediocre pitching staff that languished through 2003 with nary a win apiece to show for it.
Restoring The Roar
The 2004 season was a major improvement over the 2003 season. The Tigers finished 72-90, a 29-game improvement over 2003. They won their 44th game, eclipsing their 2003 win total, in late July, easily setting a new MLB record for fastest turnaround from a previous season. The team also set a new MLB record for most players with at least ten home runs apiece—eight—eclipsing the oft-repeated record of seven by one. Highlights included Rodriguez, who hit .334 with 18 HR and 86 RBI, and in a huge surprise, Guillen, who hit .318 with 20 HR and 97 RBI, nearly doubling his previous career highs in almost every offensive category, before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (a very common injury suffered by middle infielders) in early September while legging out a triple. Both players were named to the 2004 All-Star team (I-Rod was voted to start, Guillen was one of Joe Torre's reserve selections), the first time since 1991 that the Tigers had two players (the aforementioned Fielder and Trammell) appointed to the All-Star team.
After a nearly identical finish in 2005 (71-91), VP/GM Dombrowski promptly fired Trammell as manager the day after the regular season ended. He was replaced two days later by former two-time NL Manager of the Year Jim Leyland, with whom Dombrowski had won a World Series with the Florida Marlins in 1997. Dombroski's decision to hire Leyland was lauded as landing the right man to manage the team at exactly the right time.
At the summation of the 2006 All-Star Break, the Tigers were in first place in their division and owned the best record in baseball, 59-29. This is the first time since 1988 that they've been in first place at the Break. Three Tigers were selected for the 2006 All-Star Game: southpaw Kenny Rogers was selected by American League manager Ozzie Guillen to start the game; catcher and perennial All-Star Ivan Rodriguez was also a starter, and right-fielder and former Chicago White Sox standout Magglio Ordóñez replaced the injured Manny Ramirez, who declined his All-Star appointment. Rogers pitched the first two innings and gave up a run (a home run to the Mets' David Wright); Rodriguez played through the fourth inning, going 0-2; he was replaced (by the Twins' Joe Mauer) in the fifth inning, and Ordóñez pinch hit for Rogers in the top of the third inning—he was struck out by Houston's Roy Oswalt. The American League won the game by a score of 3-2, the AL's ninth consecutive All-Star Game victory.
The team won its 81st game on August 22, thus guaranteeing that they would finish the season in the black, with a record over at least .500 for the first time since 1993.
2006 also saw the rise of several prominent rookies in the Tigers organization, most visibly pitchers Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya. Ordóñez, himself a candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year award, and Carlos Guillen have led the way offensively, and veterans at the plate and on the mound have provided sound play. The Tigers won their 70th game on July 28; they won only 71 games the previous season.
All told, the Tigers finished second place in the AL Central Division, half a game behind the Minnesota Twins, with a record of 95-57, by far their best season since the magical 1984 World Series-winning season. They became the AL wild card and faced the heavily-favored New York Yankees in the Division Series. They shocked the world when they won that series, three games to one. They went on to face the Oakland A's in the AL Championship Series; the Tigers swept the series out from under Oakland, 4-0, sending them to the World Series, for the first time since 1984, to face the St. Louis Cardinals. After an even start to the Series at one win each, the Cardinals went on to win the next three games, capturing baseball's annual crown. Despite the loss, the Tigers appear to be ready to join the ranks of the perennial contenders again.
Following the 2006 season's conclusion, Verlander won the American League Rookie of the Year award; he was the first Tiger to win that award since Lou Whitaker won it in 1978. He went 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA and 124 strike-outs in 30 starts. As an aside, it should be noted that Verlander lost games 1 and 5 against the Cardinals in the 2006 World Series. Of the 26 ballots for voting on the RoY award, Verlander was ranked first on 24 out of those 26.
Jim Leyland won the 2006 American League Manager of the Year award, becoming the third manager in history to win it in both the American League and the National League (he won it in 1990 while managing the NL's Pittsburgh Pirates), joining Sparky Anderson and Tony LaRussa.
After the 2006 season, the Tigers didn't make too many moves, keeping their tight-knit winning team for the most part whole. Outfielder/designated hitter Gary Sheffield was acquired via trade with the New York Yankees. He started the 2007 season as the team's regular DH.
In 2007, the team lingered around the top of the AL Central division, but couldn't pull through to overtake Cleveland for first place or New York for the wild card, and as a result they missed the playoffs, finishing with a record of 88-74. Bright spots included Ordóñez's .363 batting average, which was the best in the league (and Ordóñez's first batting title), and Verlander's no-hitter against Milwaukee on June 12 (he finished the season with a record of 18-6 and a 3.66 ERA). Centerfielder Curtis Granderson became only the second player in MLB history to hit 20 home runs, 20 doubles and 20 triples while stealing 20 bases in the same season. The last time it was done was in 1957, by Willie Mays. Weirdly, the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins (the 2007 National League MVP) also accomplished this feat in 2007, so he may be the second person since Mays to do this, or the third, depending on who you ask.
The day after the 2007 World Series ended, shortstop Edgar Renteria was acquired via trade from Atlanta; he'll be the starting shortstop as Guillen moves over to first base. The week before, they exercised the team option on Rodríguez's contract for the 2008 season, his fifth in Detroit (though he was traded to the New York Yankees at the 2008 trade deadline, in exchange for Celebration, Florida resident and relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth). At the annual winter meetings, the Tigers pulled off a fairly blockbuster trade with the Florida Marlins; they received heavy-hitting third baseman Miguel Cabrera and former Rookie of the Year and multiple All-Star left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis in exchange for six players (four prospects, including the highly-touted outfielder Cameron Maybin, pitcher Andrew Miller, and backup catcher Mike Rabelo). Willis turned out to be a total disaster, spending much of his three-year contract on the disabled list. He appeared in only 22 games over the two and a half years he was with the team.
Despite the high expectations foisted on the team for the 2008 season, they managed to disappoint in almost every way possible by starting off the season with seven straight losses and then never really righting the ship. While Cabrera had a decent season (he led the American League in home runs), Willis absolutely floundered, spending most of the season in the minor leagues in an attempt to recapture his previous form, or on the disabled list with some freak injury, or making abortive attempts to pitch for the Tigers, each of which ended in disaster. The Tigers finished in last place in the AL Central in 2008.
In 2009, the Tigers finished in a first-place divisional tie with the Minnesota Twins, necessitating a one-game playoff between the two, which they lost. Justin Verlander was in top form all season, rebounding hugely from his disappointing 2008 season, going 19-9 while leading the league in strikeouts with 269 and finishing third to Kansas City's Zack Grienke for the Cy Young Award.
A rather shocking trade was made in January 2010 that sent outfielder and "everyone's favorite Tiger and the nicest guy in baseball" Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees. As part of a three-team trade between the Tigers, Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks, Granderson went to the Yankees, from whom the Tigers received pitchers Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth and outfielder Austin Jackson, and with Tigers' pitcher Edwin Jackson going to Arizona in exchange for pitcher Max Scherzer. Free agent outfielder Johnny Damon was signed to a one-year contract to add some oomph to the lineup and to allow Jackson to take over for Granderson in center field.
The trade turned out much better for the Tigers than anyone had probably expected. While Granderson had a mediocre season in New York, Jackson and Scherzer had great seasons and Coke was effective in relief for the Tigers. Jackson became the first rookie to have more than 180 hits since Ichiro Suzuki did in 2001. The rest of the team, or rather, the rest of the team not named Miguel Cabrera (.328, 38 HR, 126 RBI, 7.0 WAR, 2010 Silver Slugger award at 1B) or Justin Verlander (18-9, 3.37, 219 K, 4.1 WAR), finished the 2010 season at 81-81, thirteen games out of first place and out of the playoffs.
The 2010-11 offseason included the acquisition of relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit (free agent; played for Tampa Bay in 2010) and catcher Victor Martínez (free agent; played for Boston in 2010), starting pitcher Brad Penny (free agent; played for St. Louis in an injury-shortened 2010) as well as seeing Cabrera finish second to Texas' Josh Hamilton in AL MVP voting and seeing Jackson finish second to Texas' Neftali Feliz in AL Rookie of the Year voting. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta (acquired at the 2010 trade deadline from Cleveland), made a free agent at the conclusion of the season, signed a two-year contract.
Ow, that hurts!
June 2, 2010
On June 2, Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians—or at least he would have had first base umpire Jim Joyce not blown the call on what was clearly an out. With two outs in the ninth inning, the Indians' 27th batter, Jason Donald, hit a grounder to the right of first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who fielded it and then fired the throw to Galarraga, who was covering first base. The replay shows that Galarraga beat Donald to the bag by at least a step. After the game and after seeing the replay himself, Joyce realized that he blew the call and that Donald should have been called out, sealing the perfect game. Instead, this will be historically known as the "28-out perfect game". Donald's grounder was scored an infield single, thus negating not only the perfect game but also the no-hitter. To say that Detroit fans and baseball fans in general were livid would be an gross understatement. After MLB commissioner Bud Selig reviewed the case, he announced (in typical Selig wrongheadedness) that Joyce's call, though wrong, stood firm. Joyce was very distraught that he blew the call and thus the perfect game, as well he should be. Galarraga took it all in stride and said the following day that he's already moving on. In the ensuing media frenzy, Joyce announced during an emotionally-charged press conference that he blew the call. He even sought out Galarraga in the Tigers' clubhouse after the game to personally apologize to him, a gesture that I'm pretty sure was unprecedented.
There are, however, precedents for overturning an umpire's call: Pine Tar Incident, anyone? That call was overturned via a clause that states incidents "which do not violate the spirit of the game" can be reversed at the discretion of the commissioner. That's just one example. Look around and you'll find more; to describe them all here would be pointless. Try Google instead.
It would have been the first perfect game in Tigers history, which goes back to 1901. So sad.
Galarraga was traded to Arizona before the 2011 season.
On May 7, 2011, Justin Verlander pitched a second no-hitter, this one against Toronto at Rogers Centre. It came a mere four days after Minnesota's Francisco Liriano hurled the first no-hitter of the 2011 season.
Five Tigers players were named to the 2011 All-Star team: Verlander, Jose Valverde, Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta and Miguel Cabrera.
For the majority of the first half of the 2011 season, the Tigers trailed the Indians for first place in the AL Central division, but after the All-Star break, things rapidly changed. The Tigers took charge in September, at one point winning twelve games in a row, en route to their first division title since 1987. The twelve-game winning streak was the team's longest since the 1934 season.
Justin Verlander finished with a record of 24-5, an ERA of 2.40 and 250 strikeouts, giving him the American League triple crown and the Cy Young Award, which he won with a unanimous vote. He didn't record a loss at all in May, June, August or September, stringing together streaks of eight and twelve consecutive wins. He also won the American League Most Valuable Player Award, to become the first pitcher to win both the Cy Young and an MVP award in the same season since Dennis Eckersley (a closer) did in 1992, and the first starting pitcher to win both since Roger Clemens did so in 1986. Verlander's teammates Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila and Victor Martinez finished fifth, twelfth and seventeenth, respectively, in the final MVP vote.
Doug Fister was a brilliant trade deadline pickup for the team—he went 8-1 with a 1.75 ERA after being acquired from Seattle on July 31 and was one of the driving forces behind the Tigers' indomitable second half.
Jose Valverde set a new franchise record for saves with his 41st, attained in early September. He didn't blow a save all season long, going 49 for 49 in save opportunities, the most in the American League in 2011. Valverde finished fifth in the Cy Young Award voting after the season.
Miguel Cabrera hit 30 home runs and batted in 100 for the seventh straight season while winning the American League battle title with an average of .344.
In the American League Division Series, the Tigers defeated the New York Yankees. They faced the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series and lost the series 4-2, closing out the team's 2011 season. Can't win them all.
In January 2012, prime-time run producer Victor Martinez tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He missed the entire 2012 season as a result. For a week or so, rampant speculation was bandied about regarding who the Tigers would acquire to replace him. It turned out to be Prince Fielder, the #1 free agent on the market, who was signed to a 9-year $214 million contract. To say this was a shock would be an understatement. You may be wondering how the 1B/DH splits will look with both Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in the lineup. The answer: Cabrera is moving to third base and Fielder will play first.
Cabrera has been decent at third base this season.
Aníbal Sánchez, acquired from Miami at the trade deadline, was unremarkable for the first few weeks of his Tigers tenure, but was on fire in September and was definitely a good deadline pickup, although he'll probably sign elsewhere during the offseason, as he is a free agent after the 2012 season. Omar Infante, who came over in the Sanchez trade, was an immediate upgrade at second base, which had, until the trade deadline, been occupied by the black hole of suck that is Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago.
Justin Verlander (239) and Max Scherzer (231) finished with the most and second-most, respectively, strikeouts in the American League. Additionally, Doug Fister set an American League record by striking out nine consecutive batters against Kansas City on September 27.
The 2012 season ended with the Tigers winning the AL Central and with Miguel Cabrera winning the Triple Crown! He's the first person do to it since Boston's Carl Yaztrzemski did it in 1967. His Triple Crown line: .330 BA, 44 HR, 139 RBI. He also beat out Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels for the MVP award!
The Tigers faced the Oakland A's in the first round of the playoffs. They won the best-of-five series, three games to two. The played the New York Yankees in the ALCS and swept them in four games to reach the World Series against the San Francisco Giants, which they lost, swept in four games.
Verlander finished a very close second to Cy Young Award winner David Price, receiving 13 first-place votes to Price's 14.
Anibal Sánchez was retained with a new contract for five years at $80 million. The Tigers finished the regular season with their third straight AL Central Division title, but fell short in the playoffs. Miguel Cabrera won his second straight AL MVP award and Max Scherzer won his first AL Cy Young Award, going 21-3 with 240 strikeouts, a 2.90 ERA and a 0.970 WHIP. Long-time manager Jim Leyland retired following the season. After some time, the team announced former player (but never manager) Brad Ausmus as their new manager.
The deadline acquisition of 2013's AL Cy Young Award winner, David Price, from Tampa, was a big jolt to the team that propelled them into the postseason for the fourth straight year, winning the AL Central on the last day of the regular season on a strong start from Price.
In the end, it couldn't be done, and the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Tigers 3-0 in the American League Division Series, with Price pitching well but giving up two runs and taking the loss, therefore closing the season for the Tigers.
Off-season transactions include the addition of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in a trade with Boston in exchange for RHP Rick Porcello. RHP Alfredo Simon, a 2014 All-Star, was acquired from Cincinnati in exchange for a pair of prospects. Additionally, Alan Trammell returned to the Tigers as a special assistant to general manager Dave Dombrowski.
The Tigers' pitching staff suffered quite a blow on January 19, 2015, when 2013 Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer signed a huge contract with the Washington Nationals. This is not good, just in case you were wondering. He went on to pitch two no-hitters for the Nats in 2015, the first time a pitcher has done so since, incidentally, Tigers pitcher Virgil Trucks in 1952. The second no-hitter, which missed being a perfect game because of a defensive error, has been heralded as one of the most dominant pitching performances in baseball history—Scherzer struck out 17 during that game and allowed no walks or hit batsmen.
A few more words on the subject of the Tigers' pitching staff: for the past ten years, Detroit's pitching rotation was regarded as one of the best in the league, but at the same time, their bullpen was regarded very poorly. This one issue has blown so many opportunities for the team; they just can't seem to find reliable relief pitchers to sign or trade for. Not that they haven't tried—Jose Valverde was great for a season and a half before his pitching mechanics imploded; long-time Tigers nemesis closer Joe Nathan was signed to a two-year contract before the 2014 season and had an absolutely terrible year, losing his role as the closer less than halfway into the season. He spent all but one game of the 2015 season on the disabled list. After the 2015 season, the team declined its contract option on Nathan, whose career is probably over due to his age (41) and constant injuries. The rest of the bullpen has consisted of a whole lot of no-names, wash-ups, rookies and once-great pitchers who completely melted down, almost none of whom have been effective. One of the spare-parts players picked up in a mid-season trade, Alex Wilson, turned out to be a reliable and dominant relief pitcher and, after then-closer Joakim Soria was traded at the deadline, he assumed the closer's role. Barring a significant trade or free agent signing with the Tigers for 2016 and beyond, he'll probably remain the closer unless he, too, falls to pieces after a while. That seems to be the fate for nearly every Tigers closer over the past ten years, other than Valverde's outstanding 2011 season, which is an anomaly because of Tigers Closer Meltdown Syndrome. It's sort of the same situation here as it is with the Detroit Red Wings and their goalies, who have all been spectacular for long stretches, then crumble, are booed, ask for a trade or are released outright before the next star goalie joins the team.
Anyway, the 2015 Tigers were somewhat woeful, finishing last in the AL Central (after four consecutive first-place finishes) and ended up as sellers at the trade deadline, dealing away outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (who won the AL Gold Glove for left field despite being traded to a National League team at the deadline), closer Joakim Soria and star pitcher David Price. Superstar first baseman Miguel Cabrera missed much of the summer with a leg injury, which noticeably hurt the team's offensive capabilities. He accrued enough at-bats to qualify for, and win, the batting title with an average of .338. However, not all was bad; second baseman Ian Kinsler had a great season and right fielder J. D. Martinez had a breakout season, becoming a first-time all-star and finishing the season with 38 home runs and 102 RBIs. Staff ace Justin Verlander also missed significant time due to injury, contributing to the difficulties. Anibal Sanchez also spent significant time on the disabled list, further depleting the starting rotation. The most significant move, however, was probably team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski being fired late in the season. He'd been the architect of the winning teams the Tigers fielded from 2006-2014. Despite the regular season successes and two trips to the World Series, both of which the Tigers lost, the job just didn't get done. I can't place the blame on him, however, as he was/is a masterful general manager and almost all his trades over the years worked out in the Tigers' favor, but that long hoped-for World Series win never came. Dombrowski was almost immediately hired by the Boston Red Sox to fill the same position he had with the Tigers after Boston fired general manager Ben Cherington. Owner Mike Illitch, now quite elderly, is still chasing his dream of winning a World Series before he dies. Dombrowski's assistant GM, Al Avila, took over. Here's hoping he can bring it all together sooner rather than later.
After a last-place finish in 2015, the team has been active on the free agent/trade market during the off-season between 2015 and 2016. They have added pitchers Jordan Zimmerman, Mark Lowe, Mike Pelfrey, Justin Wilson and Francisco Rodriguez, as well as outfielders Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin, who has shuttled around the league for quite a while. This will be his second stint in Detroit and the plan for him is to platoon him in center field and left field with Anthony Gose. Switch-hitting backup catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, bearer of the longest surname in baseball, signed a one-year contract with the intention of backing up everyday catcher James McCann, who ousted Alex Avila as the everyday catcher once it became apparent that Avila's 2013 All-Star season was a fluke, as he was truly terrible in 2014 and 2015. He signed a free agent contract with the Chicago White Sox around the same time the Tigers signed Saltalamacchia (aka "Salty").
At the time of writing, which coincides with the annual winter meetings in early December that all 30 general managers attend, Avila has stated that he's not done making moves to improve the bullpen now that the starting rotation is more or less set, with projected rotation for opening day being, in order, Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmerman, Anibal Sanchez, and a toss-up for the final two spots being competed for by Shane Greene, Matt Boyd and Michael Fulmer, assuming another starting pitcher is not signed before opening day.
2017 and the future
Well, the wheels have finally fallen off again. The Tigers finished the 2017 season in the cellar, going a terrible 62-98 and in the process, off-loading quite a few of their star players—the most shocking of which was the waiver trade of Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros on August 30. He went on to win the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with the Astros. While I'm glad that he finally got to win a WS ring, it is bittersweet. The Tigers are in full rebuild mode now, lead by an ailing two-time former MVP Miguel Cabrera and Gold Glove second baseman Ian Kinsler, whose defense has been stellar as always but whose hitting is starting to regress. Miggy spent some time on the DL this season and had what was by far his worst professional season over the course of a 14-year MLB career. Anyway, none of this really matters anymore. Because...
Postscript: I'm not really following baseball anymore (or any other sports), so updates to this page will be infrequent from 2017 on. I will, however, make note of the fact that former Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame after his first time on the voting ballot. I-Rod played for the Tigers from 2004 to 2008, during the latter half of his career.
This FiveThirtyEight article by Neil Paine says it all, really. It's about the extremely awful 2019 Tigers team, and how they compare to the morass of the 2003 season mentioned above. It isn't particularly complimentary.
During the 2021 season, Miguel Cabrera hit his 500th career home run then followed it up with his 3000th career hit, a single coming against the Colorado Rockies during the early weeks of the 2022 season.
- Division titles:
- 1972 (AL East)
- 1984 (AL East)
- 1987 (AL East)
- 2011 (AL Central)
- 2012 (AL Central)
- 2013 (AL Central)
- 2014 (AL Central)
- Wild Card playoff berths:
- American League titles:
- World Series victories:
- World Series losses (aka American League pennant):
- 1907 (vs. Chicago Cubs)
- 1908 (vs. Chicago Cubs)
- 1909 (vs. Pittsburgh Pirates)
- 1934 (vs. St. Louis Cardinals)
- 1940 (vs. Cincinnati Reds)
- 2006 (vs. St. Louis Cardinals)
- 2012 (vs. San Francisco Giants)
- White/navy blue (home)
- Gray/navy blue/orange (away)
Note on stadiums: Navin Field, Briggs Stadium and Tiger Stadium are all the same place, just with different names.
Minor League affiliates:
Hall of Fame inductees:
* elected to the Hall of Fame as a manager.
+ Anderson's Hall of Fame plaque has him wearing a Cincinnati Reds hat. Though he spent most of his career managing the Tigers, most of his success came when he managed the Reds in the '70s.
# elected to the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster.
The team's owner, from 1992 to 2017, was Mike Illitch, who also owned the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and the Little Caesars Pizza corporation, as well as Little Caesars Arena. He purchased the Tigers from another pizza mogul, Tom Monaghan, then the owner of Domino's Pizza. Monaghan was eager to sell the team so he could squander most of the money he made from the sale in pursuit of bizarre, right-wing Catholic schemes (e.g., Operation Rescue).
Mike Illitch died, aged 87, in early 2017. By the end of May of that year, his son, Chris Illitch, whom I met once in the early 1990s while working at a Little Caesars in Grosse Pointe Woods as a teenager and previously a senior executive with Illitch Holdings and Little Caesars, has been unanimously voted by the other owners and the commissioner as the new controlling owner of the Tigers.
Perhaps out of pity, MLB commissioner Bud Selig announced during the 2003 season that the 2005 MLB All-Star Game would be held at Comerica Park. The American League won 7-5, making them 8-0-1 in All-Star games since 1996. The MVP was Baltimore's Miguel Tejada, who hit a 2-run homer to put the AL ahead. It was the first MLB All-Star Game to be held in Detroit since 1971, with the '71 game most often remembered for Reggie Jackson's mammoth home run (off noted acidhead Dock Ellis) into Tiger Stadium's right field light tower.
Thanks to these pages for help: