Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Who's my Tiger? These guys!

(Too hot to go outside so here's what I did this evening)

Just for fun (and for the sake of having something to post about), I decided to consider my favorite Tiger at each position (plus a runner-up for non-pitchers) with the limitation that they had to have played during my lifetime (since 1983).  As it turns out, I enjoyed doing so, and coming up with cards to represent each player:

Catcher:
What can I say?  The guy had one of the top five batting stances in MLB history!  He also had some great pop, even if he wasn't the greatest catcher ever

Top five reasons to like Parrish:  1.  1984 World Series champion catcher, 2.  Great power, 3.  Part of a great group of 1978 Topps rookies, 4.  His son went to Michigan, 5.  Hearing "LANCE!" makes me think of "Friday Night Lights"

1B:
"Swiggy" has had some drinking problems that I sincerely hope he resolves, but his baseball talents are unquestioned.  If Detroit lands another title, it'll most likely be due to another MVP-caliber season from this guy, the AL version of Pujols

A key piece of the '84 Wire-to-Wire champs during the latter years of his career.  Amazingly, he hit a league-best and career high 40 HR the year after, about 10% of his career total


2B:
Um, who else?  Easily one of my top five Tigers ever.  Sweet Lou + Tram = one of the greatest double-play combos ever.  EVER.  Just a pleasure to watch whether it was fielding, hitting or being my favorite Jehova's Witness/baseball player ever

A huge black eye on GM Dave Dombrowski's track record was letting this rocksteady 2B go (followed up by trading the next best option recently) but at least Tiger fans can remember the great years he was here.  Also his humongous head.  GREAT player

SS:
Um, who else?  part II.  It was Trammell for years and years, then nobody for a while, then the next guy.  I really do believe Tram deserves to be in the Hall (he shouldn't be penalized for the steroid-era stats put up by this generation's shortstops) but he can rest on some pretty nice laurels, including a World Series ring, lots of All-Star appearances and a should've-been MVP season in '87.  His managerial debut didn't start out so hot but in time he may work his way back up

Guillen earns this by default--I literally couldn't find anybody else--but he really did have some nice seasons at SS for a couple years before getting moved all over and succumbing to several injuries.  A steal of a trade for Detroit to be sure

3B:
Deano is my favorite Tigers 3B of my lifetime because for a couple years there he could mash.  Yes, it was during the steroid era, and yes his last few seasons were marred by injuries, but I enjoyed watching him play when he was at his best

Travis looked like he was going to be a Detroit cornerstone for a few years, and he was a pretty solid 3B for a bit, but he was eventually traded to Cleveland through Detroit, had a couple more decent years and then hung them up.  Still, he had a pretty nice career as a first-round pick (can you believe he was drafted in '87?!)

OF:
Definitely #1 and a guy I'm trying to super-collect (in terms of base and early inserts, not 2000s low serial number/relic/auto madness) and one of the few Spartan graduates I actively rooted for.  I've said it before, but as memorable as the '88 Dodgers World Series homer was for people, I've always cared 100 times more for the two he hit in the game five clincher for the Tigs in '84.  A hell of a player and competitor who never lived up to the ridiculous expectations and labels given to him as a rookie (seriously?  "The next Mantle?") but that doesn't matter because he was a winner, period

Chester was a Sparky Anderson favorite and did a great job in the outfield for the Tigers while earning that ring in '84.  This card is from '85 and likely depicts Lemon during the wire-to-wire season


I've explained before that I named this blog after Curtis more out of convenience because of a Simpsons joke than because he was my favorite Tiger, but he's definitely one of the ones I enjoyed watching the most recently.  He's kind of the Carl Crawford "Should I lead off and steal bases or hit in the middle and knock in runs?" type, though we know which one the Yanks ended up with in a trade I hated at first (and loathe slightly less now thanks to the way the other players in the deal worked out for Detroit).  Curtis seems like a guy that should have finished his career as a Tiger, but this true ambassador to the game will always be one to me

Brought over in one of Detroit's 6,000 deals with Houston or San Diego in the mid-90s, Hunter did one thing very well:  stealing bases.  But my favorite memory of him is every at-bat as he strode to the plate to "Money, Power, Respect" by the Lox/DMX/Lil Kim.  I don't know why, that just worked

Not a lot I can say that hasn't been said:  injuries sapped some of his effectiveness but he often came up big, including a pennant-clinching homer, and he was a big part of legitimizing Detroit as a free-agent destination again.  While it's kind of disappointing to see where he's at now, we have some great years to look back on

Runner-up:  Rob Deer, 1991-1993
I had a hard time finding a sixth OF I really liked, so I picked a guy who was great to watch because he was a prototypical 90s boom/bust guy:  he either struck out or homered like 300% of the time

SP:
Lots of wins, two no-hitters, a true ace...just ridiculously good and a part of the rotation for years to come (hopefully with another Series appearance)

Tons of wins, a no-hitter, a true ace...just the best pitcher of the 80s and a huge part of the Tigers' success in the middle of the decade (including a championship).  How this winner isn't in the Hall of Fame baffles me.  Detroit?  Wins a ring.  Goes to Minny?  Wins a ring in one of the top performances EVER.  Toronto?  They liked him so they put a ring on him.  His Similarity Scores on Baseball-Reference include Bob Gibson, Luis Tiant, Bob Feller and Jim Bunning!  Just for that I'm creating a "WTFHOF?" tag right now

This is mostly afterglow from the '84 Title, but Petry had some nice seasons from the early-to-mid 80s and was just a likeable guy

Porcello's this far down for now because he hasn't had a long career, but he's one of my favorite young starters.  I hope he can take things to the next level soon, but I'm glad we hung onto him instead of a guy like Andrew Miller, who's done nothing

Same deal here--Scherzer's Detroit stint has been brief so far, but it's been pretty encouraging too.  He was definitely a nice get in the Granderson deal and I hope he's piling up Ks for Detroit for years

CP:
Mr. Cy/MVP, Guillermo/Willie had a season to remember in '84, culminating in the final out of the Tigers' last championship.  Back when closers were CLOSERS the guy dominated and was a huge part of that title.  Not bad for a guy we got in a deal for John Wockenfuss...

Henneman was a pretty good closer for some pretty crappy teams.  I sure as hell wasn't putting Todd Jones on this list, Fernando Rodney was no better, and Jose Valverde hasn't grown on me yet, so Henneman wins mainly due to the nostalgia factor, but he was good in his own right so I feel ok picking him here

Manager:
It's not just that Sparky wins by default--I mean he does, but there's plenty of reasons to love the guy:  manager of Detroit's last title, managed here for years, first to win titles in both leagues and just an insanely likable but sometimes crazy guy.  Detroit's subsequent managers have been less than inspiring, most recently the destructive, chain-smoking Jim Leyland.  50 million bonus points to Sparky for being part of one of my favorite baseball memories (of a game I've seen on video--it was '84 after all):  his exchange with Kirk Gibson in the on-deck circle, game five, Goose Gossage, "He don't wanna walk you!  He don't wanna walk you!" (followed by a swing away motion), then BOOM--GIBSON'D.  Like many others I was crushed when Sparky passed away, and the Tigers will never be the same without him, but baseball was better for having him

That was definitely fun to put together, and a nice excuse to riffle through my stacks of Tigers.  I hope you enjoyed it and I'd be curious to see what kinds of all-lifetime teams some of you can come up with, especially since most of you are likely older than me and have more players to choose from, plus, having (mostly) different favorite teams will likely come up with some gems I wouldn't have considered.


1 comment:

  1. Cool post! How could Shane Halter not crack this list? ;)

    ReplyDelete