By Ken DeLaat
Put a fork in them because they are unmistakably done.
Don’t get me wrong I love the Tigers and always have. Beginning at age 4 my childhood dreams were annually shattered by the dreaded Yanks who won 9 of 10 pennants those first years of my fandom before yielding to the Twins Orioles and Red Sox in the mid 60’s.
Then came ‘68 and the dominating team that screamed through the American League before staging a miracle comeback to steal a Series the Cardinals (hate that team) had assumed was theirs.
They hung around a few years, grabbing a division title in ‘72 when they lost to the A’s who were the star studded premier team of that era.
What followed was a lengthy drought as key players aged and the farm system needed to be rebuilt resulting in 11 years of unremarkable play before showing some signs of revival in ‘83 and then the magical first place from wire to wire ‘84 season that brought the second World Series title in my lifetime to Detroit.
The team stayed competitive for half a decade and lots of fun to watch, grabbed another divisional title in ‘87 then 2 years later once again allowed players to age out, lost some to free agency because they were too cheap to spend, made bad trades and even worse free agent signings while running through managers who were less memorable than the lengthy list of failed Lion coaches (if that can be imagined).
What followed was an unprecedented run of brutally bad baseball. Ineptitude lasting nearly 2 decades and featuring a 2 year record of 98-225 in ‘02-’03 an average of 49 wins a season and 112.5 losses.
Then in ‘06 Jimmy Leyland arrived, They got to the Series losing to the stinking Cardinals (hate that team) and contended all but one year during the run that culminated in 4 straight 1st place finishes in the Central and another Series appearance that ended in ‘14 a year after Leyland left.
While armed with talent they have reeked of mediocrity, been unable to put together a bullpen, displayed a dearth of spirit and today are simply not a very good team.
Again, as I said I love the Tigers, but this team this year is incredibly disappointing and not just for their spiralling tumble to the cellar where they will be competing with a rather hapless White Sox team to see who finishes there.
It’s more that with the exception of a couple of players who will soon be gone (JD and perhaps Kinsler) there is no fire on this team. They are lifeless at times and seem to be waiting for someone to do something.
And nobody does.
They are locked into some long term untradeable contracts with beloved players who have already had their best years and will be struggling to even come close to their former production.
And there is no immediate or even distant help down on the farm.
So hold on Tiger fans, it looks to be a long run of watching Cleveland, Houston, perhaps KC and nearly all of the teams in the East take part in the playoff fun we had become accustomed to.
While we watch the steady decline of a franchise that with a couple of changes might have continued to be a contender.
They likely won’t lose 119 games again as they did in 03, one game less than the record set by the first Mets team in ‘62.
But they are a long way from making us care about games in September.
So now, the Pistons are pathetic, the Wings have withered and then of course, there’s the Lions.
So sports-wise, if you're from around here there’s only one thing to say, I guess.