Salt in the Wound


The San Francisco Giants wrapped up their first World Series title since 1954 with their victory last night over the Texas Rangers. My favorite part of the series, apart from the outstanding pitching, which I loved, was watching as the Fox network showed shots of Tim Lincecum in the dugout during the ninth inning.

As Brian Wilson was busy closing out the series, “Big Time Timmy Jim” was obviously excited and nervous. Standing next to him was Barry Zito. Despite being the highest-paid Giant, Zito was left off the roster in all three rounds of the playoffs. He was still there with his teammates, showing no sign of disappointment at all. Zito was among the first Giants out to the field to celebrate with his teammates. He didn’t have to be there, but he was. And not being on the roster didn’t appear to take any of the joy out of the moment for him. Nor should it have.

Along the way to their victory, several former Tigers played huge roles in getting the Giants to, and ultimately in winning, the championship. None of those players were ever superstars in Detroit. In fact, all of them were quite disappointing in their time in Motown.

The 2003 Tigers were a horrible team. Even on a team that lost 119 games, Andres Torres and Cody Ross couldn’t get on the field much. Torres had made his major league debut for the Tigers in 2002, but saw action in only 19 games, posting a .200 average. In ’03 Torres wasn’t much better. He didn’t see much time thanks to Alex Sanchez in centerfield, who would later go on to be the first ML player to be suspended under baseball’s steroid policy. Torres hit .220 in 59 games for Detroit, clubbing the only home run of his career. Until he finally resurfaced with San Francisco in 2009.

Ross, like Torres, hit his first major league home run in a Tigers uniform, a grand slam against Cliff Lee, then of the Indians. Ross’ time with the Tigers was short, he played in only six games in 2003 and was traded away following the season for a left handed pitcher named Steve Colyer from the Dodgers. After bouncing then to the Reds briefly, he made a nice career for himself as a Marlin before the Giants claimed him this past August. The rest is history.

While neither Torres nor Ross did anything spectacular with the Tigers, their time will be remembered by fans in a far better light than the others. There’s plenty of venom surrounding Aubrey Huff and Edgar Renteria in these parts.

Renteria played all of one year with the Tigers, 2008, when the team that was expected to score 1000 runs and run away with the division crown instead fell flat and wound up dead last in a weak AL Central. Renteria was coming off a 2007 season that saw him .322 for the Braves. The Tigers dealt away a minor league outfielder and Jair Jurrjens to acquire the then-30-year-old shortstop. Renteria responded by posting the second-worst offensive season of his career to that point. He batted only .270 and had an OPS+ of just 83. To make matters worse, his once excellent defensive range seemed to disappear upon his arrival in Detroit. Though he was a Type-A free agent following that season, the Tigers wouldn’t risk having to keep him for another year and declined to offer him arbitration, letting him walk away for nothing.

As much as the sting is still there every time Jurrjens pitches well, it hurts just a little bit more when you think of how badly Huff flopped with the Tigers.

As Detroit struggled to hold off the Minnesota Twins in 2009, Huff was brought in via an August trade with the Orioles to solidify the five hole in the batting order. Brett Jacobsen, a hard throwing minor league reliever, was the price that Dave Dombrowski paid for a two-month rental of the left handed slugger. Despite a track record showing Huff as an RBI machine over his career, he did virtually nothing to help the Tigers. He played in 40 games for the Tigers and hit all of .189. He provided only two home runs and 13 RBI. His OPS+ was 48. That’s sub-Gerald Laird levels.

Those four former Tigers combined to play in 265 games with Detroit. They hit a combined 14 home runs, drove in just 75, and contributed a .244 batting average. In their own way, each player contributed to some of the most disappointing Tigers seasons in recent memory.

This season for the Giants, Huff lead the team in homers and RBI, providing a veteran leader in the clubhouse. Torres might have been the team’s MVP with his emergence as the everyday centerfielder. Ross came out of nowhere to almost single-handedly provide just enough offense to defeat the Phillies in the NLCS. All Renteria did was belt two home runs, including the game winner in Game 5, en route to taking home World Series MVP honors.

All this from four guys the Tigers couldn’t seem to get rid of fast enough. In fairness, Ross was never really given a chance, but he didn’t stick with the Dodgers or Reds either and the Marlins gave him away.

On the bright side, I guess, as bad as these guys were for the Tigers, at least they didn’t stink as much as this guy.

Thank you to Gillette for sponsoring this post.

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