Doing the Top Ten Disappointments List, I couldn’t help but notice one thing in particular. The 1990’s were a rough decade for Tigers baseball. It wasn’t so bad at the start, but as it went on, it was clear that the Tigers lacked the talent necessary to win games on a regular basis. I mean some of the names I came across were not only difficult to remember, but had me thinking I should counteract the bad with some good. So, in a glass half full mini series here, I intend to highlight the good players from the 1990’s. I might have to get a little liberal with positions on the field, but hey, it’s my All Decade Team, so I get to take some liberties. Hopefully this will help people remember a little of the good from the 90’s.
Without further delay, I start with the pitchers and the catcher…….
This one was somewhat of a no-brainer. Looking through the decade, there was only two catchers that were even in the running, and one clearly stood out. Mickey Tettleton. Tettleton was with Detroit for four years from 1991-94, and had some very productive offensive years. Brad Ausmus was a consideration, as he was a considerably better defender than Tettleton, but I just couldn’t ignore the offensive production of Tettleton.
Tettleton in his four years with the Tigers never posted a batting average of more than .263. And while that isn’t impressive, the power numbers were there for Tettleton. He hit over 30 homers 3 times, and posted OPS’ of .878, .848, .864, and .882 in a Tigers uniform. No other Tigers catcher in the 90’s can match that kind of production. Tettleton in that four year span with the Tigers produced a WAR of 14.9.
Going through all the starting pitchers in the 1990’s was a rather depressing activity. I’m not going to lie. In fact, coming up with more than two is kind of a stretch, so I will just go with the two that had a couple of good years.
First is David Wells. Despite David Wells going on to win a bunch of games with the Yankees, and that famous still drunk perfect game he threw, his best years statistically were with the Tigers. “Boomer”, as he was affectionately called, was only with the Tigers for 2 years, and part of another. In that time however, he posted a W-L record of 26-19, and was one of the few starting pitchers for the Tigers in the 90’s to post an ERA sub 4.00. He posted ERA’s of 4.19, 3.96, and 3.04, before moving on to the Reds. Wells was only an All Star 3 times in his long major league career, and one of those came in a Tigers uniform. Given the lack of good starting pitching, that almost automatically puts him on the All Decade Team.
The second starter is almost known more for the hype surrounding him, and the unfortunate injury history that followed, but he did have a couple solid years for the Tigers. That pitcher is Justin Thompson. Thompson spent four seasons with the Tigers, two of which were of the full variety, before his last season was missed with some injury. But while people may remember Justin Thompson for being traded for Juan Gonzalez, he did give the Tigers two pretty fantastic seasons. In 1997 and 98′, Thompson surpassed 220 innings in each season. He went 26-26 for the Tigers on some teams that weren’t exactly the greatest, posting ERA’s of 3.02 and 4.05. His 1997 season was good enough to earn him All Star honors, and a spot on the All Decade Team.
Really, there was only one guy this could be, Mike Henneman. Henneman wasn’t what anyone would consider a dominant closer by any means, but from 1990-1995 he got the job done. He saved over 20 games all five of those years, and for his career, posted a respectable ERA of 3.21. Most of his career was spent with the Tigers before he was traded to the Astros in 1995. In the 90’s with the Tigers, he posted an ERA of less than 3.00 three times, despite not being a strike out pitcher at just 6.5/9 over his career.