By Ken DeLaat
50 years ago Monday the Detroit Tigers while on their way to their first World Championship since 1945, a drought of 23 years, clinched the American League pennant when Don Wert singled in Al Kaline (subject of a kind of shrine in the downstairs bathroom of N3 World Headquarters….Kaline, not Wert) giving them a record of 98-54 or 44 games above the break even mark.
On Monday the current Tigers will have won roughly (depending on the next two games) 60 gamess and currently stand 28 game under the break even mark.
Meaning they would be just 38 games removed from first place had they been playing the same year.
Back then there were 10 teams competing for first. Just two leagues and no divisions nor wild card entries. Two team went to the Series. One from the American and one from the National.
When the 84 Tigers won there were four divisions of 6 teams each. Four of 24 teams got to extend play those years.
Now we have six divisions with 5 teams each and two wild card entries so 12 of the 30 teams get into some semblance of playoffs.
Ok, so it’s still not the NHL where the teams play from October to April to eliminate just under half of the league from postseason action or the NBA when after a grueling 82 game season just 14 of 30 teams get sent home but it’s a lot closer than a 1 in 10 shot they had in ‘68. In fact only 60% of the baseball teams don’t get to play in October.
And the Tigers are one.
This is not to disparage the men who wear the Olde English D these days. It’s a rebuilding year, right?
“Don’t expect much folks”.
And there wasn’t.
There have been a few bright spots along the way. The infield sports a new look with some players who, while still pretty raw, show some ability and there could be a player or two among the outfielders who would later fit into a higher caliber team. Few seem to have any current capacity to get on base with any regularity but they could get better. The pitching is… well…. the pitching is suspect as always particularly the bullpen where ‘closer’ Shane Greene is often dreadful, but there exists a bit of young talent here and there.
And besides, there are those of us who remember the ‘rebuilding’ year of 2001 when they won just 66 games. The following year of the ‘rebuild’ they won 55. And then came 2003.
While our current Tigers have won 60 contests thus far that ’03 team? On September 17th? The day the ‘68 team posted win number 98? To clinch?
They stood at 38 wins and 113 losses enroute to another 6 losses and one away from the worst record ever.
Just 75 games from the break even .500 mark.
Take heart Tiger fans. Take heart and hunker in.
It just might be a bit of a stretch before game tickets become hard to get again.
Oh, and for those interested in a butterfly update?
As of Sunday 9 of the winged wonders have ‘hatched’ and been set free. The discussions about the impending future move toward an expansion of services continues, though ‘discussion’ generally entails a two sided talk and these have had more of a decree kind of flavor.
Nonetheless it has been an interesting run and though we have both hung around (some of us recruited) in hopes of witnessing one bust through the crystallises the little buggers seem to realize it and and even the most momentary reconnaissance sabbatical can result in an emergence.
But we (loose use of the term ‘we’) will undoubtedly keep trying. There are still 9 more of the jade colored jewels to transform and a week or two before the cages, plants, and other paraphernalia get retired as does the relative freneticism of the past few weeks.
Until next year, of course.
Thanks for asking.
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