Saturday, April 5, 2014

2014 COMC pickups #4: Tigers autos of yore (or the 1990s)

In honor of the Tigers' 4-0 start (which was fraught with plenty of danger), here's a couple autographs of players from...the 1990s when the Tigers were terrible?  Well, it's not the era I'm going for here so much as the players.  I didn't have hits of either guy, plus I was a fan of both of them during their stays in Motown, so when I found a couple nice deals on COMC, I grabbed them to add to my Tigers PC:

Tony Clark 1997 Donruss Signature Autographs auto
Clark is very well known among Tiger fans, and likely even many casual fans who watched baseball in the 90s and early 00s.  He was the second overall pick in 1990, right after Larry Wayne Jones, and was often the best offensive player on his team for the decade, not that that's saying much.  A California native, he debuted with the Tigers in '95, and stayed with the team through the 2001 season.  While his 1996-99 campaigns saw him hit .277 and average 31 HR and 98 RBI, his final two Detroit seasons were disappointments, and the team let the Red Sox grab him on waivers in late 2001.

After producing middling results with the Sox, Mets, and Yankees from 2002-2004, he experienced a resurgence, albeit brief (and fluky) with the 2005 Diamondbacks, hitting .304 with 30 HR and 97 RBI in just 130 games.  After two-plus seasons more in Arizona, he was sent to the Padres in 2008, then rejoined Arizona for his final season, 2009, although he played in just 144 games those last two seasons.

The Tigers had a lot of hope for Clark, who, for a couple seasons put up numbers that lived up to his draft status, but it was all for naught since the Tigers were downright awful during his tenure, going 471-644 (.422) and failing to surpass 79 wins.  His declining stats made letting him go a bit easier, though it was still sad to see a mainstay leave.  Fortunately, his post-playing career has been more positive, as he was recently named the permanent executive director for the MLBPA.  The highly-respected Clark was deputy to the previous occupant of that position, Michael Weiner, who passed away last year.  According to wikipedia, Tony is the first former Major League player in that role.  Based on that respect, plus many good memories from his playing days, I'm happy to add a beautiful on-card auto from the excellent '97 Donruss Signature set to my collection.

Mike Henneman 1996 Leaf Signature Extended Autographs auto
Henneman, a fourth-rounder in 1984, was a Tigers RP from 1987-1995, so unlike Clark, he at least got to experience playing on some GOOD teams, especially his 1987 rookie season when Detroit clawed its way to the playoffs before losing to the eventual champion Twins in the ALCS.  Mike was an incredible 11-3 with seven saves out of the bullpen that year, and he actually went 49-21 between '87 and '91, also tallying 80 saves.  With a few exceptions, he was pretty much the team's closer from '88 on, and do you remember when relievers used to pitch that many innings per game?

Detroit traded him to Houston late in '95 for 1992 #1 overall pick Phil Nevin, who wouldn't begin to live up to his potential for a couple more seasons, after he was gone from Detroit.  Henneman, meanwhile, finished 1995 with the Astros, then signed with the Rangers for the '96 season, piling up a career-best 31 saves, though he also went 0-7.  His only autograph would come in the form of the above card with Texas as he was included in 1996 Leaf Signature, along with like EVERYBODY else that year (but seriously, it's a landmark set, and one I still enjoy to this day), giving me a second on-card signature to enjoy today.

Mike also found his calling after he retired as he's now serving as the pitching coach for the West Michigan Whitecaps, Detroit's single-A team near Grand Rapids.  I attended a Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays affiliate) game last summer and caught a glimpse of the former bullpen ace.  I hope coaching suits him well and that he can work his way back up to the Majors, imparting advice from his 10-year career.

Stay tuned for more COMC Tigers pickups soon!

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