The 2003 Detroit Tigers, the team that quite possibly turned around the fortunes of the franchise, actually rode into the seventh week of the season on a high note. The prior week they finished with a winning record for the first time.
So would this be the turning point where the Tigers would morph from one of the worst teams in baseball history to just one of the lousy teams we had experienced on so many occasions since 1989?
Not so much…
May 12 to 18 (Weekly record 1-5)(Season record 9-32)
A six-game homestand brought in Oakland and Seattle. Detroit split the first two games with the A’s before losing the series finale on May 15. They would go on to drop all three games to the Mariners and experienced an epic fail of a homestand. Detroit finished 1-5, and was outscored 34 to 12.
The 2003 Tigers were back!
Painful Game of the Week: May 15-Athletics at Tigers
In 2003, the Oakland Athletics were a pretty good team. This was one year removed from the 2002 team that was featured in Moneyball, and won 20 straight games. The A’s would go on to win the AL West that season and came into the mid-May series nine games over the .500 mark. The first game featured decent pitching from Mike Maroth and Steve Sparks, but the bats were quiet as the A’s earned a 3-1 win. The bats stayed quiet, but a strong pitching performance from four Tigers’ pitchers (including Steve Avery–bet you didn’t remember he was on this team) helped the two Tigers runs stand up (the second run scored on a Brandon Inge sacrifice fly which scored Craig Monroe for a rare walk-off win).
On May 15, the Tigers were hoping that they could win a series at home for the first time and, with a 6-3 record in their last nine games, they actually had hope. The first inning ended all of that. The A’s scored six runs to start the game off Adam Bernero and, with the Tigers usual anemic offense, that was pretty much a death sentence. Oakland would cruise to victory and the loss would start yet another lengthy Detroit losing streak.
Final: Oakland 11, Detroit 2
(Lousy) Player of the Week: Craig Monroe
Craig Monroe came to the Tigers in 2002 off waivers from the Texas Rangers, the team that drafted him in the 8th round of the 1995 draft. He’d play just 27 games for the Rangers (all in 2001), making his major league debut on July 28, 2001, going hitless in three at-bats with a strikeout.
He became a full-time player in 2003 and had a breakout year. After just three homers in his career, Craig was second on the team, behind Dmitri Young, with 23 home runs. He was one of the catalysts in the club’s 2006 rebirth, hitting a career high 28 homers. He also hit five home runs in the postseason.
One favorite memory of Craig may have come in a July 2006 game with the Chicago White Sox. That season Chicago had dominated Detroit and were closing in on them in the AL Central. The Tigers trailed 2-0 into the sixth inning when Monroe hit a grand slam that gave the Tigers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, putting the defending World Champions in the rear view mirror (of course those pesky Twins didn’t go so quietly). When Monroe touched home plate and celebrated with his teammates, A.J. Pierzynski refused to back up from the plate, as catchers often do after homers, nearly causing a fight to break out when the two players collided. That was when the Tiger fans’ hatred of Pierzynski began.
After that magical 2006 season, it was hard to believe he didn’t make it through the 2007 season with the team. He struggled that year, hitting 10 homers with a .222 average. The Tigers traded him to the Cubs in August, and he bounced to Minnesota in 2008, and Pittsburgh in 2009, before being released on July 1 of that year.
Monroe is now back in Detroit, serving as the in-studio analyst for Tiger games on Fox Sports Detroit.