Looking Back At The 2003 Detroit Tigers (31-91)


Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

August 11 to 17 (Weekly record 1-6, Season record 31-91)

The dog days of August hit the 2003 Detroit Tigers, and thus far in the month they fittingly dogged it. On this week 10 years ago, it was no different as the team put together its third straight week with just one victory.

The Tigers hit Arlington to face the Texas Rangers and on to Anaheim to face the Angels, and won just once.

Through the final game of the week, on Sunday, Aug. 17, Detroit had gone 3-13 in August.

Painful Game of the Week–Aug. 15: Tigers at Angels

Aside from their one victory this week–on Tuesday, Aug. 12, a 7-4 win against the Rangers, the Tigers were just blown away. In five of their six losses, they were on the short end of a collective score of 44-22. The one game where they looking like a halfway decent baseball team was this Friday night, series opener in Anaheim.

Of course, even though they may have looked like a halfway decent baseball team,  they still looked like garbage at the plate. The Angels added single runs in the first, fourth, and eighth inning. The offense was M.I.A., notching just one run, a solo shot by Bobby Higginson in the ninth inning. No Tigers’ hitter had more than one hit, including Carlos Pena, who went 1-for-3 with a walk and strikeout.

The lack of run support spoiled another decent effort from Nate Cornejo.

Final: Anaheim 3, Detroit 1

Lousy Player of the Week: Carlos Pena

Carlos Pena was a first round draft pick of the Rangers in 1998, and made his ML debut on Sept. 5, 2001 after being part of the September roster expansion. He was traded twice in 2002–first to Oakland in January, and then again to Detroit on July 6.

This trade, part of the three-way deal with the Yankees, A’s and Tigers, sent Pena, Franklyn German, and a player to be named (which became Jeremy Bonderman) to Detroit; Ted Lilly and a few others to the A’s, and Jeff Weaver to the Yankees. Pena made quite an impression on his new team when he arrived, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and a pair of RBIs. He would hit 12 homers the second half of the season, giving Tigers’ fans hopes that they had a diamond in the rough.

Pena earned an everyday spot on the roster in 2003, becoming the team’s starting first baseman. His mystique grew even more in a May 19 game against Cleveland where he hit three homers and notched 7 RBIs. Of course it was still 2003 and, despite his effort, the Tigers still lost the game, 10-9.

Carlos Pena was recently released by the Houston Astros. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There was no question that Pena had promise and power, but his average was consistently low and he struck out frequently. As a full-time player for the Tigers in 2003 and 2004, he struck out 269 times and posted averages of just .241 and .235 respectively.

One thing that was maddening about Pena’s time in Detroit was his slow starts. It seemed he would always struggle during the cool months and come alive, at least from a power standpoint, mid-season. The Tigers weren’t waiting for it to come around in 2005 when they sent him to Toledo after 40 games in Detroit with a .181 average and three homers. He came back up in August, but was released during Spring Training of 2006.

Pena bounced around to the Yankees and Red Sox in 2006, but found a home in Tampa from 2007 to 2010, posting his best season in 2007 with a .282 average, 46 homers and 121 RBIs. His average would dip, but his power would remain with the Rays, hitting 31, 39, and 28 homers before departing for the Cubs in 2011, where he hit 28 big flies. He returned to Tampa in 2012, and spent 85 games in Houston this season before being released on July 31.

In 13 seasons, Pena has posted a .233 average, 285 homers, 816 RBIs and has fanned 1,563 times.