In 2006, with the auto industry in shambles and the overall economy inching toward life support, Detroit enjoyed one last gasp of joy before nearly a half decade of inevitable sorrow would wash over it.
The Tigers, amazingly and unexpectedly emerged as early contenders in the 2006 season after nearly two decades of misery and failure. As the season wore on, the team wore down–only to come up for one last gasp of air in the playoffs and cruise past the New York Yankees and Oakland A’s to their first World Series appearance in 22 years. The Tigers, however, fell short at their ultimate goal, losing to the underdog St. Louis Cardinals in lopsided fashion.
After 2006, the Tigers and Detroit began to slip away. Both experienced too much heartbreak for one fanbase, one region, one state to endure. As GM, Chrysler and Ford fell into bankruptcy and/or serious financial turmoil, the state’s unemployment rate slipped past 14% at it’s peak in 2009. The Tigers, meanwhile endured massively disappointing seasons in 2007 and 2008, only to collapse as it’s kindred automakers did during 2009–blowing a 3 game division lead over the season’s final 4 games and losing a gut wrenching MLB Playoff play-in game to the Minnesota Twins to end their Championship hopes.
However, starting in 2010 life began to gradually improve for all parties mentioned. The Tigers began to acquire and cultivate young talent, the state has seen it’s unemployment rate dip drastically since it’s peak (currently around 9.5%) and automakers have rebounded from bankruptcy and enjoyed a rejuvenation period. The Tigers fortunes seemingly peaked with the Prince Fielder addition in January 2012, as they have firmly staked their claim as a contender in a crowed American League after falling only two games short of a return to the World Series last year. Despite the apparent fruitful times now, nothing has come easy for the automakers, the region or the Tigers. Each has meticulously re-built themselves to last for the long haul.
Now, it’s difficult to say that one geography or fanbase deserves a championship over any other. All of the other major contenders have terrific support–however none of them have seen the combination of failures that Detroit has in it’s baseball team and overall economic viability. Of the seven strongest contenders besides the Tigers, the Yankees, Angels, Red Sox, Cardinals, Phillies and Diamondbacks all have recent championships. The other, the Rangers, has seen heartbreak on the baseball field–losing two straight World Series–but more than any other state, Texas has continually flourished economically.
Generous owner Mike Ilitch, the fans of the Detroit Tigers and the great people of the state of Michigan could really use this. Not as a solitary ray of sunshine for a struggling group of people like the 2006 appearance was, rather as proof that sound planning, hard work and perseverance during dark days–whether on the baseball field or in daily life–always leads to great things.
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