The Tigers are in first place. In fact, for the first time in months, Detroit’s baseball fans can breath a little sigh of relief. On this off-day, the Tigers sit 4.5 games up in the A.L. Central division. That doesn’t mean that things are going to get easier, but for once, fans can relish in the fact that we will lead this division all the way into September.
On this off-day, as I look back at all of the times I have stated that this team doesn’t, I’m starting to realize that I might just be wrong. Only time will tell. Especially after this upcoming series with Tampa Bay.
Today, as I lie back, listen to some sports radio and read my latest book “Bless You Boys” by Sparky Anderson, I am realizing how special the 1984 season was. From the personalities, to the performances, 1984 was something special. Sparky and his staff put together a solid starting rotation. The bullpen was nearly perfect most of the season. Willie Hernandez was a CY Young and MVP out of the pen. Auerlio Lopez, also known as Senor Smoke, put together 12 wins on the year. His 14th saves as a backup option to Hernandez was tenth best in the A.L.
Dan Petry and Jack Morris were considered by Sparky Anderson as the best one-two punch he ever managed. Morris had an extremely strange season. First he throws a no hitter, then he takes the ball to help set history in a 35-5 start for the Tigers. By the middle of the season, Morris was shunning away the media. His struggles continued, and despite not wanting to talk to the media, he did it for his manager. Arguably the best ever to manage the game.
What is so special about this team though is not individually driven. This club won seventeen straight road games. Something that only 2009 Tigers fans could dream about. After forty ball games, as we all know, the Tigers were 35-5. They almost one 70 of their first 100 games. This was a club that never left first place in the standings.
No sleepless nights, hair pulling, or last minute prayers. The breaks fell their way. And they played the game hard every time took the field. Nobody believed outside of Michigan that this team was for real.
Until the final Sunday of play, when Lance Parrish drove home run into the Tiger Stadium bleachers and the Tigers clinched a world title at home for the first time since 1935.
When Sparky Anderson took on the task of leading the Detroit Tigers, he promised that by his fifth year in 1984, that he would lead the Tigers to a World Series title. Let’s just say George Anderson is a man of his words.
1984 was something really special, that I was I could of been a part of. This was a team that not only had success, but drew a city together. Over two million attended home games in 1984. That’s more than what showed up at Comerica Park during the 2006 World Series campaign. For the fans that witnessed it, it was a different type of game played.
One that Sparky Anderson engineered.
Think about it. In this modern game, who has one a world series without a player who had 35 homers. What about somebody in the lineup without 100 RBIs? Keeping that in mind, the 1984 Tigers led the league in runs scored. On the mound, Detroit didn’t have a pitcher on the mound who went over 250 innings. There was not one starter that had over twenty wins. Yet the Tigers still led the league in ERA, despite playing in Tiger Stadium.
That’s is good old fashion baseball. And though I never witnessed the clutch Kirk Gibson, the smooth fielding up the middle, the blazing speed of Chet, or the wheeling and dealing of Jack Morris and Dan Petry. And though I got to see Sparky Anderson manage in Detroit years later, It probably isn’t the same.
With that being said, we still have something special brewing in 2009. Something that can’t be taken away. As much as we bash it, or don’t think it is going to be 100% fulfilling, as fans we should cherish it. Not often do competitive Septembers roll around.
Who Knows? Jim Leyland says this is the best bunch chemistry wise since he has been here. When it matters most, the Tigers are stepping up their game. They have proven that it is possible to win on the road. Nate Robertson will get his chance on Saturday to prove he can still be an effective starter at this level. Like 1984, this season has definitely been one of the stanger ones in Tigers history.
I just have a feeling this summer night, that something special is brewing in front of us. This whole season, I have believed that this team can’t compete with the big boys. That they don’t have the offensive power to do so. Here’s to hoping I am wrong.
As the leaves already begin to change color in Michigan, so does my optimism. This team still has something left in the tank, and I am excited to see the throttle wide open as the Detroit Tigers head to the finish line.