Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Looking Back At The 2003 Detroit Tigers (32-97)


August 18 to 24 (Weekly Record 1-6, Season Record 32-97)

On this week in 2003, the Detroit Tigers inched ever closer to clinching 100 losses. That’s bad enough, but the fact that they were about to clinch 100 losses in August was vomit-inducting. It was a particularly brutal week for Detroit. For the fourth straight week they won just once during the week and two of the losses were particularly gut-wrenching, including a 16-inning marathon loss to the Texas Rangers on Aug. 18.

As the week closed on Sunday, Aug. 24, with a rare victory to snap an 11-game losing streak, the Tigers were 4-20 during the month of August.

Painful Game of the Week–Aug. 23: Angels at Tigers

This game has personal painful meaning because I was at this Saturday afternoon game. It was the beginning of a sports trifecta for myself and my new bride (2013 marks not only the 10th anniversary of the 119 loss team, but also of my marriage) as we hit the Tigers game first, Hockeytown Cafe for dinner and then to the Lions’ evening preseason contest with the Cleveland Browns.

It looked like the day of sports was off to a great start as the Tigers roared out to a 5-0 lead behind two home runs from Craig MonroeNate Robertson was making just his second appearance in a Tigers’ uniform, and shut out the defending World Series champion Angels for six innings. But the bottom fell out in the seventh when “Gum Time” loaded the bases with no outs. Jamie Walker came on in relief and promptly allowed four runs.

Detroit extended their lead to two with a Carlos Pena solo shot in the bottom of the seventh, but the Angels scored three in the eighth to take a 7-6 lead. The Tigers retook the lead in the bottom of the eighth, but Chris Spurling would blow the save in the ninth. He, along with Wil Ledezma,  also allowed Anaheim to score six runs in the top of the 10th.

It was a very dispiriting loss, but par for the course of 2003. Hockeytown Cafe was great and the Lions, as they often do in meaningless games, won. So all was not lost on a personal level.

Final: Anaheim 14, Detroit 8 (10 innings)

Lousy Player of the Week: Nate Robertson

Nate Robertson pitched in the Texas Rangers minor league system this season. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Robertson came to the Tigers from the Marlins along with Gary “don’t call me Don” Knotts and Rob Henkel in exchange for Mark Redman and Jerrod Fuell. He started strong for the Tigers, throwing 8 1/3 innings against the Rangers on Aug. 18, allowing just two runs on eight hits in a no-decision.

He earned his first major league victory in the start following the Anaheim debacle, on Aug. 29.  Nate became a full-time member of the pitching staff in 2004, posting a 12-10 record with 4.90 ERA. He lost a career high 16 games in 2005, before going 13-13 in 2006 while posting a respectable ERA of 3.84.

During that season he came up with the Gum Time gimmick and it soon spread to the rest of the team. It became an unofficial motto for the team throughout the pennant-winning season. Robertson also started the first Tigers’ playoff game in 19 seasons when he took the mound for Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees (the only loss the Tigers suffered in that series).

To avoid arbitration following the disappointing 2008 season (when Nate went 9-13 with a 4.76 ERA), the Tigers agreed to pay him $21.25 million over three years.

That ridiculous contract may have hampered some of the money the Tigers had to spend in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and while it may have made Detroit give up on 2006 ALCS MVP, Placido Polanco too early, it may have been a blessing in disguise. In a “cost-cutting” move, they traded fan favorite Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson in the three-team package that brought Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke to Detroit.

Robertson wouldn’t stay in Detroit for the entire three years as he was dealt back to Florida in March 2010, but was released in July. He was picked up by Philadelphia and appeared in just two games, including his most recent big league game, on Sept. 8, 2010, against his former teammates in Florida. He surrendered six runs.

Nate continues to bounce around the minor leagues and was with the Rangers’ organization at the start of 2013. Over his career, he has posted a 5.01 ERA with 55 wins and 77 losses.

Tags: 2003 Detroit Tigers Nate Robertson