C: Gerald Laird
This is a guy that went to consecutive World Series in 2011 and 2012 and won it all with the '11 Cardinals. Still, while with the Tigers he stubbornly refused to hit. Some fans cited his rapport with the pitching staff as a positive, but he was such a black hole at the plate that I couldn't fathom what kind of dirt he had on Leyland to get so much playing time. For me, the lowest point will always be "Game 163," the one-game playoff with Minnesota for the last AL spot in the 2009 playoffs. Laird wasn't the sole cause of the embarrassing loss that capped off another signature Leyland second-half collapse, but his 0-6 day that included two strikeouts was huge in a one-run loss. Now that he's no longer an automatic out for the Tigers, I wish him well with this year's Braves team that's doing very well.
1B: Randall Simon
I was born early enough last century to have lived through plenty of awful Tigers teams to the point where I remember when the word "competitive" didn't exist in Detroit's vocabulary, much less "playoffs." Teams stocked with scrubs like Simon are symptomatic of the dark ages from which the Tigers didn't emerge until 2006. A former Braves "prospect," Simon bounced around a bit before getting into 211 games with the 2001 and 2002 Tigers. He somewhat suspiciously belted 19 homers in 2002, and his batting average and OBP weren't that bad, but this was not the guy you wanted starting on a team hoping to go anywhere. He played for a total of six teams in eight years, if that gives you any indication. Needless to say, after guys like Simon, I realize how spoiled I am to have TWO all-star first-basemen on my team.
2B: Neifi Perez
Perez came over to the Tigers in a late-season waiver deal with the Cubs in 2006. To say Perez took the AL by storm is putting it lightly as he rained on the Tigers' quest for the AL Central crown, hitting .200 in 21 games for a team that once again Leyland-ed the 2nd half and backed into a playoff berth thanks to the wild card. He failed to record a hit in five ALCS plate appearances and mercifully didn't get any ABs in the Cardinals' World Series drubbing. Neifi did manage to outdo his 2006 campaign the following year by totaling just 11 hits in 64 at-bats over 33 games, and while he made a key play in Justin Verlander's no-hitter that year, he erased any good will that might have built up by becoming quite possibly the least likely player to be caught for amphetamine use, THREE TIMES. Like Laird, he's no longer in a position to continue damaging Detroit's otherwise potent offense, meaning I can sleep better at night.
SS: Adam Everett
It's nothing personal or anything, but this guy flat-out couldn't hit. Maybe 20 years ago you could get away with that at short as long as you were a good enough fielder, but Everett wasn't even that. Signed in 2008, he played in 138 games the following year, and his abysmal .238/.288/.325 slash surely led to some key losses that forced what should have been an unnecessary game 163 to occur. In 2010, he was hitting .185 after 31 games when the Tigers mercifully cut bait. A mediocre 34-game run in Cleveland the following year proved to be his swan song. The former Boston first-rounded just never lived up to his draft position.
3B: Dmitri Young
Young is probably one of the guys on this list who's here not so much for statistic reasons as personal ones. A former #4 overall pick that the Tigers got from the Reds in a deal for Juan Encarnacion, Young hit .279 with 82 HR and 267 RBI over five seasons in Detroit. But he had a number of personal and legal issues that held him back from what should have been a more substantial career. I can't say I was sorry to see him get released before the playoffs back in 2006. Still, since his retirement he seems to have gotten things together, and he's an avid card collector, which is cool.
OF: Bobby Higginson
First of all, I have to say that I chose this card to exemplify just how horrifically bad the Tigers were in the early 2000s--think of Higginson's teammate Shane Halter here as those teams' version of jack-of-all-trades-that-aren't-hitting Don Kelly. I don't drink but seeing this card makes me want to.
Anyway, Higginson could have become one of those lifetime Tigers that become fan favorites. He started his 11-year career fairly strongly, especially the three seasons after his '95 debut. Then he went through an off '99 campaign before putting up fantastic numbers in 2000. That turned into an extremely ill-advised five year, $35 million deal that the Tigers quickly regretted for a LONG time. That was mostly due to his speedily declining hitting skills, and nobody was too broken up after he was let go, then retired, after the 2005 season. Considering his overall negative effect on the team, it's not extremely shocking how much the Tigers improved the following year.
OF: Jose Macias
Macias only appeared in 248 games for the Tigers over four seasons (1999-2002), but considering his middling talent, and the fact that the Tigers were starved for good players during those seasons, I just don't understand how he lasted that long in Detroit. Even worse, he appeared on cards like the above, plus a much rarer parallel that I pulled and practically couldn't GIVE away, much less sell. Guys like him have led me to create a brand new tag for this post: "Early 2000s Tigers SUCKED too."
OF: Wendell Magee
Magee was with the Tigers for 278 games between 2000 and 2002. Like Macias, he was part of those crappy teams that were crappy because of crappy players like him. His #2, 8, and 10 Baseball-Reference Similarity Scores are Felix Pie, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, and Ruben Mateo, which would be amazing if this was the year 2000. I'm so glad that things look much rosier in the outfield these days, especially with Austin Jackson, not to mention other guys that also aren't no-talent assclowns.
DH: Ruben Sierra
Sierra was a Tiger for 46 games in 1996, coming over to Detroit from the Yanks in a deal for fan favorite Cecil Fielder. Since it wasn't the 1980s, he didn't do much of anything, then the Tigers dumped him to the Reds in an offseason deal. Fielder, meanwhile, enjoyed playing for a contender, homering 13 times for the Bombers before getting his first taste of the playoffs, which proved to be delicious as New York won it all for their first title in years. I figure the card above, from 1997 Topps (one of my favorite sets of theirs, incidentally) depicts him flailing and missing at yet another pitch. Thanks again, Randy Smith.
UTIL: Don Kelly
Kelly has a knack for chipping in a few key hits sometimes, but that's probably because he gets so many freakin' chances as manager Jim Leyland's teacher's pet. A guy with a career .232 average and .292 OBP, his versatility earned him a somewhat understandable super-sub role for the Tigers; his bat, however, has never justified his insane amount of playing time. Hell, the other day, with Miguel Cabrera dealing with a lingering injury, Leyland gave Kelly the start at 3B. That was all well and good, until you did a double-take looking at the lineup and saw that Kelly also assumed Miggy's 3-slot in the lineup. WHAT WHAT WHAT?! Like the cat that came back the very next day, I've enjoyed some wishful thinking that Kelly was a goner, but he just keeps coming back, like a stubborn STD.
SP: Nate Robertson
Hey, remember when the Tigers were in the playoffs in 2006 and Nate did the "gum time" thing and everybody loved it until the Tigers ran cold in the World Series? Yeah, that's about the highlight of Robertson's career. With Detroit he had decent seasons in 2004 and 2006, but over his seven seasons with the team, he went 51-68 with a 4.87 ERA. He...just wasn't that great, even as a bottom-of-the-rotation guy. I pretty much cringed every time his turn came up in the rotation, and his eventual conversion to the bullpen, which he shockingly didn't appreciate, went about as well. Fortunately, the Tigers dumped him back on the Marlins in 2010, and things have been pretty good for the Detroit rotation since.
RP: Ryan Perry
Perry is a classic example of a first-rounder that just couldn't put things together. He was the 21st overall pick in 2008 out of Arizona, one pick after the Mariners nabbed fellow college closer/bust Josh Fields. Considering the volatility of relievers, especially closers (who in some ways rival NHL goalies in that respect), I just don't understand wasting first-round picks on them. Many of your best stoppers are converted failed starters who have the right combination of pitches, heat, and attitude. Just three and a half years after being drafted that high, the Tigers flipped him to the Nats for Collin Balester--yes, THAT Collin Balester. The Tigers have drafted pretty well recently, but it's safe to say that Perry was a HUGE miss.
CL: Todd Jones
Jones and his stupid redneck mustache made two separate appearances for the Tigers, from '97-'01 and again from '06-'08. After the Tigers got him from the Astros in '96, he closed out 226 games until he was flipped to the Twins for Mark Redman in 2001--the Mark Redman that was eventually sent to Florida in a deal for...ugh...Nate Robertson, which is one strike against him. Another 93 saves followed during his second tenure, but his effectiveness dipped in his final two seasons, and he retired after being let go in 2008. While you might have expected to see more recent examples of annoying roller-coaster-type closers here, such as Jose Valverde, Jones was the original, and stomachs across the state were at risk of knotting every time he stepped on the mound. Although he finished his career with more than 300 saves, he's easily my least favorite Tigers closer since my birth.
MGR: Jim Leyland
How do I defend disliking the guy that's taken the Tigers from awful to two-time Pennant-winners, not to mention shepherding the '97 Marlins to an upset victory over the Indians? Mainly, I've rarely seen anybody do so little with so much. The Tigers' turnaround since the start of the 2006 season came courtesy of more spending, spending SMARTER, much better drafting, and bold moves like trading for Miguel Cabrera. Leyland, meanwhile, has taken some extremely talented teams and often managed to be underwhelming. Until recently he had a justified reputation for managing teams that went into catastrophic second-half swoons, especially the aforementioned 2009 squad, or the 2006 team that barely squeaked into the playoffs. It took until 2011 for the Tigers to once again finish atop their division, a feat he fortunately repeated last year and may reprise once more. This is especially due to his stubbornness and refusal to part from by-the-book matchup splits thinking, which has hurt the team far too often. Witness productive players like Matt Tuiososopo getting pulled game after game for Don "The Ghost of Gerald Laird" Kelly and his noodle bat. See him fail to pull fatigued pitchers while having a quick hook for ones that are cruising. Don't harbor any illusions that the turnaround in Detroit is mainly thanks to the Marlboro Man; there's a reason I'm reusing my "Jim Leyland is terrible at everything except smoking" tag.
With all those pent-up negative feelings out of the way, I'll be back to fun new stuff the next time I post. Until then, go Tigers! (yes, even Don Kelly and Jim Leyland)