The Tigers have the day off and they’re currently 68-33. If they go 37-24 (.607) the rest of the way, they’ll finish with 105 wins, a franchise record. They’ll also finish with a .648 winning percentage, which would put them in third place all time behind the franchise best 1934 Tigers (.656) and the hard luck 1915 Tigers (.649). Ironically, neither of those two teams won the World Series. In fact the 1915 Tigers finished 100-54 (the first ever 100 win team in franchise history) yet they finished one game behind the first place Boston Red Sox in what was Babe Ruth’s first full season.
Let’s get really optimistic, and assume that the Tigers win 105 games this year and then go on to win the World Series. Where will the 2006 Tigers rank amongst the best teams in the franchise’s history?
The Tigers have really only had one dynasty. In the twelve seasons from 1934 through 1945, the Tigers won the pennant four times and won the World Series twice. After that, each of the good Tigers’ seasons were pretty much isolated. They never made the World Series or playoffs in back to back seasons, and their tightest stretch was when the went three years between 1984 to 1987. So while the Tigers have had some really good teams since 1945, they’ve always been islands.
In looking at the team, you have one bonafide Hall of Famer in Ivan Rodriguez. After that, they have some good players, and they also have a lot of good young players, so I think that’s the tricky part. If Justin Verlander wins 18 or even 20 games, it’s hard to compare him to Tommy Bridges or Hal Newhouser or Jack Morris knowing the shelf life of starting pitchers these days.
If I had to pick the greatest Tiger team, I’d have to go with the 1934/1935, which was essentially the same team. The 1934 team fell just short in the World Series, losing to the Cardinals (the classic Gas House Gang team) in seven games but then came back and won it in 1935. These teams were stacked though. Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane and Charlie Gehringer are all top 10, if not top 5, at their position all time. Goose Goslin is also a Hall of Famer and you have a very good rotation with Tommy Bridges (who should be in the Hall of Fame), Schoolboy Rowe and Elden Auker. You even had the first real closer in Firpo Marberry. Marberry held the single season save record from 1924 until his mark of 22 saves was broken in 1949 by Joe Page.
After that, it becomes a little more difficult. I think the 1984 Tigers and 1968 Tigers are about a draw and both were very good team. The 1940 and 1945 teams were both very good as well. And don’t forget the three consecutive pennants the Tigers won from 1907 through 1909 (falling short of winning it all in each one). And finally, you have the 1961 Tigers, which won 101 games and finished well behind of one of those great teams the Yankees fielded.
I think it’s the fact that the Tigers came out of nowhere this year and took everyone by surprise that I can’t put them in any of those team’s league. Yet. The season isn’t over with though and I think how they do over the next couple of years will also factor into things. Is the 1934 my best team if they don’t win it in 1935? It’s hard to tell. If the Tigers go on to win three World Series over the next five years, that would affect my thinking as well.
So what do you think?