Whenever Tiger fans around my age look back, 1984 is obviously the year that’s cherished. But only three years later, in 1987, the Tigers would make another great run. Best known for the final week of the season, the Tigers were down to the Toronto Blue Jays by 3 1/2 games going into the final 8 games of the season. By winning 6 of their next 8, including sweeping the Jays in a weekend 3 game series, the Tigers would go on to the ALCS.
Of course they lost. So it’s not 1987, but 1984 that’s looked back upon. I actually remember more of 1987. The final week of the season was intense, and I was glued to the TV that last Sunday of the season, watching the Tigers win 1-0 in a nail biter.
Of course Tiger fans of the previous generation look at the 1968 season with a nice gleam in their eyes. But it was only 7 years earlier, in 1961, when the Tigers made their first real run at winning the pennant since the teams of the mid-40s.
The 1961 Tigers won 101 games that season, which tied the franchise record. Unfortunately they finished second to the Yankees, who behind Roger Maris’ record breaking 61 homeruns, and a great year by Mickey Mantle, won a mind boggling 109 games that year.
Going into a weekend series against each on September 1, the Tigers stood a mere one and half games behind the Yankees in their quest for the pennant. But after that time, the two teams would take pretty much different paths. The Yankees went on to sweep the Tigers, and go on to win a total of 13 in a row from that point on, while the Tigers would lose their next 8.
The 1961 team also had some great individual performances. It’s the only time two Tigers hit more then 40 homers in the same season (Norm Cash and Rocky Colavito), and Norm Cash would go on to win the batting title with a .361 average, the last time a Tiger has won it. Equally impressive about Cash’s season was a led the league in OPS, beating out both Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Also, three of their starters (Mossi, Lary, and Bunning) all had ERA’s below 3.25 and pitched in over 240 innings.
And with that, Tigerblog is happy to announce that they’ll be sponsoring the 1961 Tigers page on Baseball-Reference.com. If you’ve never visited the site, make an effort to. Between that site, and Retrosheet, you should be able to find just about everything and anything you’ll ever need.
I’m happy to welcome Steve B. to the Tigerblog staff. Steve’s first piece takes a look at the controversy surrounding A-Rod winning the MVP.
The Most Valuable Player Awards seem to stimulate a lot of debate each year and this year is no exception.
The American League MVP voting was very close with Alex Rodriguez receiving 6 first place votes and both Carlos Delgado (2nd overall) and Jorge Posada (3rd overall) each receiving 5 votes. Shannon Stewart received 3 first place votes and finished 4th overall and David Ortiz received 4 first place votes finishing 5th overall.
Not one person can call into question Alex Rodriguez’s statistical output or integrity as a baseball player. Yet, many people will debate his receiving the award because of Texas’ last place finish. If you see Jayson Stark’s most recent article and Rob Neyer’s rebuttle, it will give you the parameters of that debate. The irony of Rodriguez receiving the award during a time when there are many trade rumors surrounding him is not lost on me. If he were truly the Most Valuable Player, would the Rangers be trying to liquidate his contract? In his time with the Rangers, they have had to continually cut payroll and have attempted to build a respectable team after a series of poor moves and an overall lack of pitching talent. Rodriguez himself has been linked to the Rangers overpaying for Chan Ho Park as a free agent (Park and Rodriguez have the same agent). One has to feel sorry for A-Rod (excluding his bank account, of course) because he has quickly established a Hall of Fame caliber career, but among baseball fans seems to be losing respect for his accomplishments, even though they are still as eye-poppingly gaudy as they are.
Personally, if I had been able to vote I would have been split between Shannon Stewart and David Ortiz, ultimately voting for Ortiz. Ortiz was a valuable clubhouse presence on a playoff roster who was discarded in the off-season by the Twins and was able to resurrect his career in his new environs. His stats were comparable down the stretch to A-rod’s (again see Jayson Stark’s ESPN.com article) and his salary will not be the one that limits the Red Sox ability to make off-season acquisitions. Ortiz is a good baseball story and hopefully he will be able to replicate this year’s performance so that he will be considered for the award in future years. Stewart appeared to be the catalyst for the Twins successful run down the stretch, but that could be equally attributable to the fact that the AL Central is the worst division in baseball and the Twins finally emerged from their early season coma.
Ultimately, the bearing this has for Tiger fans is somewhat limited, I would like to picture what Dmitri Young’s stats would have been like had other members even had a pulse performance wise this season. The fact that only 6 players even had an OBP above .300 (none above .332) makes Young’s performance that much more remarkable.
As the off-season rolls on, I find myself with less and less time to not only write some of my bigger entries, but to also keep up with things on a daily basis. So with that, if anyone is interested in writing for the site, feel free to drop me an email. Whether it’s a random entry here and there, or an established column, feel free to let me know what your thoughts are, and I’ll give you a public forum to express them.
For now, send me an email stating your interest and what you’d like to write about. Although I write predominately about the Tigers, I sometime deviate and write about what’s going on in general. This would be acceptable, but the more Tigers, the better.
While listening to AM 1270 tonight, Doug Karsch made a statement saying that the Tigers announced they would attempt to pursue Vlad Guerrero or Miguel Tejada as free agent signings.
Needless to say, this would be huge. Karsch lost some credibility in my eyes by saying Tejada would be the better signing of the two, but needless to say, either one would be a major coup for the franchise.
Of course I’ll see it when I believe it.
Roy Halladay won the Cy Young. No surprise there, and the guy I would have voted for. He led the majors in innings pitched, and could possibly be pitched as an MVP candidate as well. Although my vote there would go to A-Rod.
Baseball season has been done for a little over two weeks.
I miss it.
I was down in Florida this weekend, and although I was in Tampa, I noticed very few Marlins shirts from the locals. I’m not sure if it’s team loyalty to the Devil Rays or what, but you’d think they’d get a little more excited about a World Series down there. Maybe if I had made it down to Miami I would have seen more.
Angel Berroa and Dontrelle Willis are your Rookies of the Year. Berroa I like, because he had a great season. Willis had some great moments, and the good start, but really looked mortal by the end of the year. Brandon Webb had in my mind a better year in a hitters park, but chalk one up to the hype machine. This makes me think Pujols is going to win the MVP over Bonds.
There have been some seasons where the lineup for the Rookie of the Year voting was stacked, and then some that you had to look long and hard to find someone to even claim the award with some degree of decency. And sometime these even happen in consecutive years. The 1987 AL ROY, although the first place votes were swept by Mark McGwire and his 49 homeruns, had a great field. The Tiger’s Matt Nokes came in third, despite playing catcher and hitting 32 homeruns. Devon White set a career mark by hitting 24 homeruns in his rookie season while stealing 32 bases. These good numbers only garnered him a fifth place finish. Runner up Kevin Seitzer had 207 hits, hit .323, and scored a 105 times. Any one of these guys could have won it this year.
And then you have the 1988 ROY. Walt Weiss dominated the field by hitting only .250 (and a .633 OPS, but he can play defense). Runner up was Bryan Harvey, who had some pretty good seasons as a reliever for the Angels, and then would play on the very first Florida Marlins team.
So this category is really hit or miss. The infamous Jose Canseco won the award in 1986. He did by having the lowest batting average of any hitter who would win the award, hitting a paltry .240. The 33 homeruns definitely helped.
The free agent market officially opened today. ESPN has their Top 50 List. I was a little surprised to see Colon so high on the list, but I guess he is the best pitcher available, and is still only 30. One interesting prediction had Keith Foulke going to the Braves. Unless they move Smoltz back into the rotation, you’d be looking at the best one-two relief punch in the game.
I know the predictions are just guesses, but the most discouraging thing was ESPN not thinking any of the Top 50 would come to Detroit. Not that I’d want Jose Mesa (listed at number 50), or even Brian Jordan (number 49), but it shows the so called experts don’t think Dombrowski is going to get anyone to come to Detroit.
Way back in March, I was approached by the Baseball Hall of Fame to write a story for their website as part of a World Series special they planned on putting on. It was supposed to commerate the 35th anniversary of the 1968 Tigers Championship Team, and it centered around Mickey Stanley’s move from the outfield to the infield.
For whatever reason, the story never was put up on their website, and I’m not sure if it’s ever going to be. So, I’m going to put it up here for your enjoyment. Constructive criticism is welcome.
I’d like to thank Dan Holmes, who gave me the assignment and is in charge of the Hall of Fame’s website. He was a big help, and is a good guy. Also, my Uncle David (an English teacher) proofed it for me and helped get it most of the way there for me. Something about the second paragraph bugged me, and I couldn’t quite get it right. But here it is…
Short at Short – Mayo Smith’s World Series Gamble
The City of Detroit had gone 23 years without a Tiger’s team even playing in the World Series. In 1967, the Tigers missed out on a chance to win the pennant by the slimmest of margins. Could Mayo Smith bring his team around and challenge for the pennant again in 1968? Many thought the Tigers were the better team in 1967 despite coming up short, so the 1968 team had a lot to prove going into the season and down the stretch..
The 1967 American League pennant race was regarded as one of the closest pennant races of all time. Four teams, The Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Minnesota Twins, would still have a shot at the pennant going into the final week of the season. In the final game regular season game against the California Angels, the Detroit Tigers finished by losing the second game of a doubleheader. In the final at-bat, Tiger’s infielder Dick McAuliffe grounded into a double play with runners on first and second base with the Tigers down by three runs. This was only the second time in 675 plate appearances that McAuliffe grounded into a double play during the entire season. A victory in that game would have forced a one game playoff with the Boston Red Sox for the AL pennant. Unfortunately, this Tiger team would have to wait one more year to get their chance in the World Series.
1968 has been coined the year of the pitcher. Between Bob Gibson’s 1.12 earned runned average, Denny McClain’s 31 victories, and Carl Yastrzemski’s .301 batting average, the lowest ever to win a batting crown, the league would eventually lower the pitchers mound from 15 inches to 10 inches. 1968 was also the final year before going to a divisional format and the institution of a playoff system to get to the World Series.
The Tiger’s clinched the 1968 American League pennant on September 17, 1968. From the time the Tigers clinched the pennant to the time they squared off with the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, one of the more unusual managerial decisions in baseball history would be made and eventually validated.
Throughout the season, Mayo Smith shuffled his four exceptional outfielders, Willie Horton, Jim Northrup, Mickey Stanley, and the future Hall of Fame player Al Kaline, in order for all of them to receive playing time. Al Kaline would eventually end up on the disabled list, limiting him to 102 games during the season. Mayo Smith was also plagued by poor hitting from his shortstops. Roy Oyler played the majority of the time at shortstop. Oyler was an exceptional defensive shortstop, but he hit only .135 during the season. Tom Matchik (.203) and Dick Tracewski (.156) also played shortstop as Mayo Smith struggled to find someone who could provide offense at that position.
With the season coming to a close, Mayo Smith moved his Gold Glove center-fielder, Mickey Stanley, to shortstop while allowing his other three outfielders to start every day. Mickey Stanley had only played infield sporadically during the year, with most of his time at first base. Smith was hoping that Stanley, one the best pure athletes on the team, would be able to fill the spot. In the remaining six regular season games, with the American League pennant already clinched, Mayo Smith played Stanley at shortstop to see if he could play the position.
The experiment got off to a rocky start. Stanley made two errors in that first of six remaining regular season games, but Smith’s decision begun to bear the fruit of validation. In the final five games of the regular season, Stanley went on to start all five, not making an error in any of them.
In Game One of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Mayo Smith, with the advice of Tiger’s general manager Jim Campbell, started Stanley at shortstop. Stanley went on to be the starting shortstop in all seven World Series games, and made errors in only two of those games.
The 1968 Detroit Tigers had many heroes in their come from behind seven game series with the Cardinals. Most notably would be Mickey Lolich’s three complete games victories. Although it’s hard to evaluate exactly what Stanley’s move to shortstop made on the overall makeup of the World Series, the Tigers offense definitely came up big when they needed it. Stanley went on to hit a modest .214 in the World Series, but Horton (.304 batting average, 6 runs scored, and 3 runs batted in), Jim Northrup (.250 batting average, 4 runs scored, and 8 runs batted in), and Al Kaline (6 runs scored, 8 runs batted in, and a team leading .379 batting average) made major offensive contributions during the series. It was the Game Seven starting centerfielder Jim Northrup, playing in Mickey Stanley’s usual position, who hit a two run triple in the top half of the seventh inning to put the Tigers ahead for good. It was also Al Kaline, the starting right fielder in Game Five that saw the Tigers down three games to one, who hit a two run seventh inning single, that gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead, allowing the Series to continue on for one more game. Whether Kaline would have even seen much time in the Series would have been in question had Stanley played centerfield.
The end result was the first Tiger’s championship since 1945. Mickey Lolich went on to be named the series most valuable player, but, it’s another Mickey who went on to make an interesting footnote in one of the most dramatic World Series’ to date.