Today is yet another Detroit Tigers’ off-day, but tomorrow they come back home to a suddenly wintery Detroit for the first of a three-game set with the Cleveland Indians (weather permitting).
Every Tigers’ fan and every Indians’ fan remembers what happened in last year’s season series between the clubs—Detroit won 15 of the 19 games played, something that is tough to do and not likely to be duplicated this season.
Which got me thinking, who is the Tigers arch nemesis? The Red Sox have the Yankees, the Giants have the Dodgers, Cardinals/Cubs, etc. etc. But who do the Tigers have? To have a great rivalry, you often need history, proximity, and for both teams to be competitive. Certainly sometimes one of these factors can be waived, but usually elements of two or three exist in the greatest rivalries in sports.
So who do you think is the arch rival of the Tigers? Vote below and then read a history of recent Tigers’ rivalries, including who I believe is their most bitter foe.
Throughout the 1980’s, the Toronto Blue Jays were Detroit’s main rivals. Toronto was an expansion team in 1977, but started putting together decent pieces to build a competitor by the mid-1980’s. They were good enough to be in the same area code as the Tigers in the 1984 AL East standings, but ultimately finished in second place, 15 games behind.
The rivalry rose to a new level in 1987. It looked all but certain the Blue Jays would win the AL East, up by 3.5 games with a week left. The Tigers fought tooth and nail to salvage the final game of a four-game series in 13 innings at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium to avoid a sweep. A week later, the teams met in a season ending series at Tiger Stadium with Toronto up by a game. Detroit swept them, avoiding a one-game playoff, in the regular season finale with a 1-0 victory.
The Tigers/Blue Jays rivalry continued to be pretty hot through 1993, but as both teams struggled post-1994, much of the luster was lost and was all but killed when Detroit moved to the AL Central in 1998.
In their early AL Central years, the Tigers were pretty awful. Probably their biggest rivalry in those years was the Kansas City Royals because those two teams often traded finishing in the division basement.
When the Tigers started contending again in 2006, the defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox seemed to be the team standing in Detroit’s way of claiming the AL Central crown. They had some contentious battles that season.
The Tigers had the best record in baseball through most of ’06, but one team had their number—the White Sox. Fortunes turned in a July game when a Craig Monroe grand slam gave the Tigers a lead. Upon coming to home plate, A.J. Pierzynski refused to back away to allow the opponents to celebrate, as is customary, causing some harsh words/feelings between the clubs. The Tigers turned the tables on the White Sox in recent years and stole the AL Central away from them in 2012.
That rivalry would have been especially noteworthy had the Tigers won the division that year. Instead, the Minnesota Twins came out of pretty much nowhere and stole the division. That was repeated in 2009 in one of the most gut-wrenching days I can remember as a Tigers’ fan—the 163rd game.
The Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers haven’t been historically good in the same seasons, at least up until recently. Prior to 2007, the teams had never finished 1-2 in any incarnation (American League pre-divisions, AL East, and AL Central). Since then, they’ve finished 1-2 three times (2007, 2011, 2013).
Personally, I feel the White Sox are the Tigers’ top rivals. The games usually seem fairly chippy, one team usually takes turns dominating the other—which ratchets up the hatred in both fan bases. The cities are close and Detroit-Chicago has a rivalry that runs through every sport.
That same argument could be applied to Detroit-Cleveland as well. Of course, the states of Michigan and Ohio don’t really have a great affinity for each other for anything, especially sports. I have lacked an intense hatred for the Indians—I’ve always thought of them as more pest-like, kinda like an annoying fly buzzing around your head.
The Minnesota Twins have tormented the Tigers over numerous occasions, robbing them of division titles in multiple years, but even when they were doing this, I always felt the Twins were a respectable team with guys that you couldn’t easily “hate.”
The Kansas City Royals just haven’t been good in a few decades to move the needle for me or most Tigers fans.
So what say you? Please be sure to vote above and if you voted “other” name that team in the comments section below.