October Surprise: Tigers and Jays Battle for ’87 Division Title

ViewFromOutfieldXSmall.jpgOver the next week, we’ll watch the Tigers and Twins play head-to-head to decide the American League Central.

While this plays out, let’s look back at the final two weekends of the 1987 season when the Tigers and Blue Jays squared off for seven heart-pounding, one-run games that would ultimately decide the American League East title.

Today, Part 1.


“I’m telling you, everything is going to come down to our seven games with Toronto.” — Tigers Manager Sparky Anderson, Sept. 21, 1987

Entering the 1987 season, little was expected of the Detroit Tigers. Just three seasons removed from a wire-to-wire championship season, the Tigers were considered mere also-rans in a division filled with potent lineups, solid pitching and the defending League Champions, the Red Sox.

Adding to an already challenging divisional landscape, the Tigers faced life without their All Star catcher and cleanup hitter, Lance Parrish. The Big Wheel rejected the Tigers’ two-year, $2.4 million contract offer and instead signed a one-year $800,000 deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

That’s why in the first weeks of the 1987 season the story in baseball was not the Detroit Tigers. Hardly. The Milwaukee Brewers’ 13-0 start captivated the baseball world. After 13 games the Tigers had a less-imposing 6-7 record. Twenty games into the season Milwaukee had stormed to 18-2, four games ahead of New York, followed by Toronto (12-8), Baltimore (9-11), Detroit (8-12) and Cleveland (6-14).

Continue reading “October Surprise: Tigers and Jays Battle for ’87 Division Title”

Wednesday Walewanders: Fisticuffs Edition

spaghetti.jpgSo where does last night’s dust-up rank in the annals of Tigers bench clearers?

Hmm.

Well, it wasn’t as interesting as the 1980 Tigers/White Sox brawl (a.k.a. Cowens v. Farmer Grudge Match), nor as violent as Tigers/White Sox circa 2000. Here’s a refresher on that one:

Sixteen players, coaches and managers suspended. Nine others fined. It was, MLB said, “the biggest mass suspension ever.”

That was the end result of two brawls that erupted at Comiskey Park, one in the seventh inning, the other in the ninth. In the sixth, the Tigers Jeff Weaver hit Carlos Lee with a pitch. In retaliation, Chicago’s starter, Jim Parque, plunked Detroit’s Dean Palmer in the top of the seventh. Palmer charged the mound, throwing his helmet at Parque before the real action started.

…And it wasn’t as wild as Tigers/Twins in 1982, which featured Dave Rozema‘s flying-kung-fu acrobatics on Twins’ John Castino.

What do you think? Take this week’s Pulse Check –>

Continue reading “Wednesday Walewanders: Fisticuffs Edition”

A Smoltz Return?

Lynn Henning reports from the Winter Meetings that John Smoltz is interested in rejoining the Tigers organization — three score 20 years after he was traded away.

Smoltz, 41, a free agent who has spent the past 21 years with Atlanta, is recovering from surgery that ended his 2008 season with the Braves. But the Tigers have been privately interested in medical reports on Smoltz’s future and would consider an incentive-laden contract that doctors are suggesting Smoltz can consider as he prepares for a possible return early in the 2009 season.

— snip —

The Tigers are shopping hard for bullpen help and would almost certainly consider adding Smoltz — if his potential for a comeback is convincing and his interest in Detroit remains strong.

If Smoltz is interested, by all means open the discussion. I’m a softie and would love to see what he’d look like in a Tigers uniform.

What do you think? Smoltz in the bullpen or at the back-end of the rotation?

Update: The Free Press story.

Double-D Cookin' Up Some Hot Stove Fun

Are you kidding me?When Mike first broached the possibility of Dave Dombrowski‘s blockbuster this afternoon late this morning by forwarding me Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal I thought it must’ve been some posturing and cheap talk.When I nosed around ESPN.com and saw Peter Gammon‘s blog entry saying there was some validity to it I let my mind wander a bit as to what the lineup would look like.When fellow teacher and baseball coach Paul Diegel e-mailed with news his buddy told him the deal was happening (Maybin and Miller straight up for the two), I knew it was too good to be true, and put those pipe dreams to bed.By the time I left work this evening and turned on sports yappers it was apparent there was still some smoke billowing up from these smoldering trade talks.And finally, when I heard Steve Phillips on WXYT say it was pretty well done I darn near drove off the road.I do realize the ramifications of this deal – a farm system left as barren as an 85-year-old post-menopausal woman – but I also realize this deal isn’t quite the same as that Smoltz-Alexander deal of 20 years past. For starters, Dontrelle Willis (25) and Miguel Cabrera (24) are nowhere near as long in the tooth as Doyle Alexander (37) was in 1987.Sure, the Tigers gave up a ton of prospects, but they did so for two bonafide Major Leaguers who haven’t yet reached their prime.I got no beef with the deal especially since it probably means Brandon Inge is on his way out of town. You aren’t really going to pay him $6-million+ a year to be a super-utility guy, are you? But hey, it’s not my money. If Mr. I gives the greenlight to this, then have Inge work as a catcher every chance he gets so he can take over for Pudge Rodriguez next year. With the offense that would be around him, Inge can return to his light-hitting catcher role for all I care.For his next move Dombrowski will no doubt try to move Inge, Marcus Thames, Chad Durbin, and Ryan Raburn for whatever prospects he can find. Certainly he needs to reload his minor-league pitching somehow.Of course my main questions walking away from this deal are as follows:Are there any other Dombrowski-era Marlins worth acquiring (what with Gary Sheffield, Nate Robertson, Edgar Renteria, et al)?How many times will Willis (a .508 sluggling percentage last year) pinch-hit this year?