In 2011, the Detroit Tigers won their first divisional title since 1987. They ended up losing to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS in 6 games, but the Tigers gave fans hope for a World Series.
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The Detroit Tigers then went and signed then free agent Prince Fielder to try to put the Tigers over the top and bring Detroit its first World Series Title since 1984. That year, the Tigers went to the World Series and were the middle victim to the San Francisco Giants’ even year magic.
The motto between the 2012 and 2013 seasons was, “just wait for Victor Martinez to return from his injury. The Tigers will be unstoppable! World Series or bust in 2013!” The Tigers then won the AL Central and defeated the Oakland A’s in 5 games for the second consecutive year. The Tigers’ season ended at Fenway with Torii Hunter head down, feet up in the bullpen after a grand slam from David Ortiz and Shane Victorino depositing another grand slam over the Green Monster.
The motto going into last offseason was, “Let’s get rid of Prince Fielder, retool, and we will be right back in the hunt. The Tigers’ window is closing, they will need to win the World Series before Max Scherzer is gone.” The attitude of World Series or bust revved up at the trade deadline when the Tigers acquired David Price.
The Tigers have busted the last three seasons and do not have a World Series to show for their efforts. Have the Tigers finally busted out? The window is supposedly closed now that Max Scherzer is (most likely) leaving in free agency. Victor Martinez may be following Scherzer right out that door.
The Tigers are at an impasse where they have three options: retool and try to make another run, blow everything up and try to rebuild in the short term with drastic trades and free agent signings, or blow everything up and start over again.
The Tigers have tried to retool the last few years and it obviously has not been successful. Adding a few free agents and making a couple of trades make teams seem stronger on paper, but it has not worked for the Tigers.
A combination of retooling along with blowing things up worked for the Boston Red Sox. In 2012, the Red Sox finished in last place in the AL East. The Red Sox traded Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto during the season. The Red Sox did not blow up their core of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and John Lester together. The Red Sox went and retooled by firing Bobby Valentine and acquiring John Farrell as their manager. The Red Sox then acquired Mike Aviles, David Ross, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara, Stephen Drew, Mike Carp and Jake Peavy to fuel their World Series run.
The San Francisco Giants were perennial NL West contenders in the early 2000’s behind Barry Bonds and a bevy of other players. The Giants had to regroup after 2004. They slowly blew things up and retooled through the draft and their farm club. The Giants tried to quicken the process by signing Barry Zito, but they formed their World Series core through the draft and minor moves.
The Giants developed Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt, and Tim Lincecum to create their core. The Giants added pieces like Jake Peavy, Hunter Pence, Michael Morse and more to build their championship team. The key is the Giants built from within and added tools along with even year magic to build their championship teams.
If the Tigers are going to have another World Series or bust year in 2015, they will have to do it with more than just retooling moves. The Tigers will have to make some drastic decisions that will reshape the team. The move could be signing a big free agent or making some sort of drastic trade to reshape the clubhouse. If the Tigers keep treading water, they will eventually drown. The Tigers will have to be smart with their moves. If they make the wrong moves, they could end up like the Detroit Pistons. If they make the right moves, the Detroit Tigers could become the Boston Red Sox of 2013 without the beards and win the World Series.