The 2014 postseason has progressed more than a full week without our beloved Detroit Tigers. While the initial shock has subsided and cooler heads have prevailed looking toward 2015, some fans are still beating the blow it up drum–that the Tigers should be blown up and their seemingly never-ending World Series search should start from scratch.
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Fans in this category want the team to wash its hands of veteran free agents like Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter. They’d be too costly to bring back, they say. Money that can be spent elsewhere. Or none of the veterans should be back and the Tigers should just begin a youth movement.
I can understand these feelings. The Tigers have been in the postseason five times since 2006, and had a chance to get there a sixth time in the 2009 163rd game. They have made the World Series twice, but never really competed in either one. So one could believe that this team does not have what it takes to win it all.
But be careful of blowing up a good team always on the fringes because you’re tired of marginal success. Two local examples show this is not always the best course of action.
2000 Detroit Lions
In 1999, the Detroit Lions saw their franchise player, Barry Sanders, retire from football. The team played fairly well early on, stumbled down the stretch, and made the playoffs, losing in the first round to Washington. One season later in 2000, all the Lions needed to do in the final game of the season was beat the then-woeful Chicago Bears in the Pontiac Silverdome to reach the playoffs for a second straight season.
Former Michigan State Spartan kicker Paul Edinger made sure that didn’t happen as his last-second game-winning field goal knocked Detroit out of postseason contention.
Lions’ fans were tired of this, losing in the first round of the playoffs or stumbling down the stretch to miss the postseason. Oddly enough, the 1990’s were probably the best decade for the franchise since the 1950’s glory days when they won three championships, including their most recent in 1957. During the 90’s, the Lions made the playoffs six times, but fans wanted more.
At the end of the season the Lions turned to Fox color commentator Matt Millen to take over the reigns of the team. The organization blew out many of the key figures in the front office that helped Detroit consistently make the playoffs in the just-completed decade.
The rest is history. Even though this is a Tigers’ blog, everyone is well aware of the failures of the Millen-era which ended with the humiliating 0-16 season in 2008 which finally cost Millen his job.
To this day, the Lions are still picking up the pieces from that era and struggle to maintain success even with a talent-rich roster. Part of that horrible run is because fans grew tired of simply making the playoffs. For Lions’ fans since 2001, wouldn’t it be heaven to make the playoffs 60 percent of the time?
2007 Michigan Wolverines
In 2006 the Michigan Wolverines played their best season since the undefeated split-National Championship of 1997. They suffered a last-second loss on the road to the #1 Ohio State Buckeyes to end the regular season. Many thought a possible rematch of that game for the national championship would happen. After all you can’t really fault the #2 team losing to the #1 team by such a small margin on the road, right?
Wrong. The polls picked an SEC team to face OSU, rationalizing that a team that didn’t win their conference couldn’t go to the title game. Of course, six years later this scenario DID happen when Alabama faced SEC rival LSU in the BCS Title Game. But okay, whatevahs…
Feeling screwed, Michigan went into 2007 with hopes of a real shot at a national title and then disaster struck. In the season opener, the team came out flat and unprepared against a little-known FCS school, Appalachian State, and lost. One week later, Oregon came into the Big House and absolutely destroyed the Wolverines, 39-7.
Though Michigan rallied to a decent 9-4 record, with a bowl win over the defending National Champion Florida Gators, fans wanted more. Head coach Lloyd Carr must have heard the clamoring because after the regular season ended, he decided to retire.
The Wolverines decided to go in a completely different direction and hire Rich Rodriguez of West Virginia. Rich-Rod was known as an offensive genius who would “revolutionize” Big Ten play by introducing the spread offense. Rodriguez lasted for just three seasons before he was run out of Ann Arbor for, among other things, not being a “Michigan man.” Four years later, Michigan is irrelevant as ever with Michigan man Brady Hoke at the helm.
Once again, if the fans clamoring for change in 2007 could see into the future and see what has become of Michigan football, would they have wanted the program blown up? Doubtful.
2014 Detroit Tigers
Tying this back to the Tigers, they just need to stay the course. Dave Dombrowski certainly has work to do this offseason, but he needs to do some pruning not dispensing napalm.
The postseason runs of the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants, the two wild-card game winners, are proof that all you have to do is get in. You get hot in October, you can win it all.
To have a shot at winning it all, you can’t lose 95 games annually. If the Tigers went toward a youth movement for next year (with minimal prospects in the system), it would be a disaster.
So be careful what you wish for because it can always get worse.