Mark my words. Two years from today, in August 2005, we will be able to sit down and agree that the Detroit Tigers are entering a golden era of success.
Heh, heh, I know what you are thinking. “Would I like to put my money where my big mouth is?“ Only the chances of achieving peace in the Middle East or maybe Gary Coleman becoming the next governor of California seems more remote than the Tigers becoming a baseball dynasty anytime soon.
Yeah, yeah - as the butt of jokes for futility nationwide, the young Tigers appear light-years from respectability. If you even follow the team anymore, it seems they lose day after day after day after day..... It has been cause for celebration this season after the few times Detroit won two games in a row.
Statistically, the Tigers may actually become the worst baseball team in modern major league history (beginning around the year 1901). Detroit is currently on pace to break the record for losing set by the 1962 New York Mets - and that New York team was a first year expansion team. The Amazin‘ Mets lost 120 games with a style that bordered on little league level. For example, after the dust cleared on one play - three Mets‘ baserunners ended up on third base. They were so bad that tens of thousands of New York fans came to the games if only to hoot at their futility.
How could such laughing-stock status have happened to our Detroit Tigers? From Cobb to Kaline, Newhouser to McLain, and Greenberg to the Bird, Detroit has a rich baseball tradition, second only to the Yankees. This sad result is because Detroit is a minor league team in terms of talent. The team was gutted by mismanagement before Alan Trammell took over as manager this season. Most Tigers‘ players should be playing at the AAA minor league affiliate in Toledo. The few veteran players on this team have all suffered major injuries, season- long slumps, or both in 2003.
Yet, the Tigers do have reasons to be optimistic. I like their team - for next year. First of all, the pitching staff has been respectable despite having a shocking lack of experience. No starter had as much as a full year in the major leagues at the season‘s start. 20-year old Jeremy Bonderman has already made the fans forget former Tiger pitching ace Jeff Weaver. Bonderman is short on wins this year but long on confidence and pitching talent.
Carlos Pena will become the leader of this team. Already one of the best fielding first-basemen in the league, Pena‘s hitting potential proved near fruition when he hit three homers in one game earlier this season. Pencil him in the lineup for the next 15 years.
Despite his team‘s woeful record, I believe Alan Trammell has done a good job of managing in his inaugural year. Always overmatched by opposing teams in talent, Trammell never seems to lose patience with his young players. His teaching and ferocious competitive spirit have to rub off on the young-bloods. This undermanned team may get beat often, but rarely quits. With Alan Trammell at the helm of the ship, the chief ingredient in a Tiger recipe for success is in place.
The Tigers may end up with the worst season statistically in history but watch out for them in 2004. With the experience the youngsters gained this year, Detroit may be just one key player (an all-star outfielder who hits right-handed) from becoming a .500 team next year. If they can uncover this last piece to the puzzle, no one will be laughing at our Tigers for many years to come.
If passing near Comerica Park, listen closely. Before long, you may hear the purring of pussy cats changing to the grrrrrrrrrr of the maturing Detroit Tigers.