Who was the biggest disappointment in MLB in 2008? For most people that was the Detroit Tigers. After fielding projections that put the Tigers back in the World Series based on acquiring Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis (in particular), the Tigers fell flat on day one and never recovered.
The 2009 Tigers don’t appear much different. Age and injury still look to be prominent factors on the diamond, as Gary Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez still roam the clubhouse. The bullpen lost closer Todd Jones to retirement, and Father Time, Jim Leyland, is still at the helm.
Just two years ago, Magglio Ordonez finished second in AL MVP voting, behind Alex Rodriguez. Who was the last hitter to win an MVP for the Tigers?
The Tigers picked up able-bodies in free agents Adam Everett and Brandon Lyon, plus Gerald Laird and Edwin Jackson via trades. Each of the four major Tiger additions should bring some stability to question mark positions from 2008.
Questions surrounding the pitching staff are widely circulated. Can Justin Verlander bounce back to 2006-07 form and hold the team’s #1 starter spot? Is Jeremy Bonderman’s 2008 injury going to play a factor in his 2009 season? Can Brandon Lyon be an effective closer? Will Joel Zumaya or Dontrelle Willis ever be healthy again? Was Edwin Jackson’s 2008 a fluke year or a breakout season?
Developing a particular question about everybody on a pitching staff doesn’t generally bode well. The Tigers pitchers have all shown brilliance at one time or another. The question is whether or not they can rebound and all be great again at the same time.
On paper, the Tigers look like a contender yet again. The problem with that statement is that it’s “on paper.” There are sill way too many questions about the team’s injuries, age and makeup to predict this team as a true World Series contender. Of course, it’s not unfathomable to see everything coming together as it did in 2006.
Tigers hitters won 4 of the first 10 MVPs ever given out (between 1931-1940) but none since OF Hank Greenberg won in 1940. Tigers pitchers have won just as many since 1940 (4) Hal Newhouser (1944-45), Denny McLain (1968), Willie Hernandez (1984).
The Tigers are treading water. The questions aren’t disappearing anytime soon and the Tigers are too saddled with salaries to make positive moves for the future.
A high 5th place finish again in the AL Central, 75-87.
Magglio Ordonez – http://blog.mlive.com/state_sports/2007/09/tigers_13_white_sox_3.html
Hank Greenberg – http://www.personal.psu.edu/csr4/PSU3/Jewish-Americans/index.html