It’s time to close the books on 2006. With any luck, I’ll be awake tonight at the witching hour to welcome 2007.
In the meantime, I thought I’d look back on a memorable season for Detroit Tigers fans. After much deliberation and flip-flopping of the order, here are my top-five Tigers moments of the year:
5. The Detroit Tigers: 2006 American League Champions. How is this number five? I don’t have a rock-solid argument for this one but considering that the 2006 season was one big domino effect â€” the hot start, Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya making immediate impact, Jim Leyland’s season-long magic touch, etc. â€” this one falls to fifth. American League Champs. Whoda thunk it?
4. The Development of Bonderman, Verlander and Zumaya. How often in baseball can you see the future unfold before your eyes and enjoy immediate success? Detroit Tigers fans got exactly that this year as the young arms made serious noise at the top of the rotation and in the bullpen. Bondo, Verlander and Zumaya got most of the ink but let’s not forget the contributions of Zach Miner and Wil Ledezma.
3. Kenny Rogers’ Performance in ALDS Game 3. It was the worst possible mixture of circumstances: Kenny Rogers, the New York Yankees, the postseason. Even those who had full faith in Jim Leyland‘s decisions questioned this one. A recipe for disaster was being cooked up before our very eyes. The only positive was that the game wasn’t in the Bronx. Even with all that as a backdrop, the Tigers still showed to play that chilly October night. Let’s look again at Rogers’ line from that game: Seven and two-thirds scoreless innings pitched, five hits, two walks, eight strikeouts. Talk about slaying the dragon.
2. Maggs Sends the Tigers to the World Series. My heart wanted to slot this one as the top story of the year and it very well could/should be #1a, but as you’ll soon read, without number one, this moment never happens. I was in Comerica Park for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series and it was the best sports moment I’ve ever seen in person. Magglio Ordonez, like Kenny Rogers the week before, takes his rightful place in Detroit sports lore.
1. The Tigers Eliminate the Yankees. For me, this was the pinnacle of the season. Yes, even more so than the World Series appearance. Very few people expected the Tigers to compete against the Yankees in the American League Division Series much less win the dang thing. Coming off a demoralizing final weekend of the regular season and a flat Game 1 of the ALDS, it looked like three and out for the Tigers against New York. Then the magic started kicking in starting with Kenny Rogers’ performance for the ages in Game 3 and Jeremy Bonderman following suit in Game 4. The on-field celebration will live on as one of the finest fan moments in Detroit sports history, I think. Just talk to anyone who was there.
Other storylines worthy of consideration: the Tigers getting off to a torrid start, Kenny Rogers’ discovering the fountain of youth, the Tigers’ abysmal performance in the World Series, Placido Polanco’s injury, losing the division on the last day of the season.
What stories would make your Top 5?