Since the “team of destiny” in 2006, the Detroit Tigers shifted to “win now mode” which has escalated to “World Series or Bust” since 2012. The 2015 season was supposed to be a final effort at a World Series with a number of expiring contracts, but those hopes are dwindling as the season continues. This roster could have an outside chance to make the World Series on paper, but the Tigers’ roster is not as strong as it was from 2012-2014 are not playing at a playoff caliber level.
The Tigers’ performance in 2015 has been coming for a few years, and would be more forgivable if the brought home a World Series title in the last nine years, but they have not, which makes this season more disappointing. The Tigers had three legitimate shots at winning a World Series since 2007, but came up empty in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
The 2012 Tigers made it to the World Series and were swept by the San Francisco Giants. That season, they were missing Victor Martinez due to his ACL tear, but Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown carrying the offense, with Prince Fielder hitting behind him. The starting rotation had Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer pitching well at the front end of the rotation with Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello to round it out. On paper, they were better than the Giants, but once Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1, the Tigers folded.
2013 was the year the Tigers looked like they put it together and would win the World Series, but they were bounced by the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, in the year of the soul-crushing grand slams. They had the best lineup, adding Martinez and Torii Hunter. Max Scherzer had won the Cy Young Award, Anibal Sanchez won the ERA crown, Verlander regressed a little, but was still reliable, Rick Porcello was solid for a fifth starter, and Doug Fister was brilliant. The bullpen could not hold leads and were once again the bane of the Tigers’ existence.
2014 showed some regression, but the Tigers still were favorites to win the American League after they acquired David Price. Scherzer, Price, Sanchez, and Verlander were the best 1-4 rotation in baseball, but the Tigers once again came up empty when they were swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS where they completely collapsed.
Now in 2015, the close calls have faded away and the Tigers have skittered into third place, just above .500 mark. They traded Doug Fister for what has turned into Shane Greene and Ian Krol. The lack of funds and fear after Justin Verlander’s contract led to the departure of Scherzer who has thrived. Torri Hunter’s clubhouse leadership and solid bat is gone. Nick Castellanos has regressed in his sophomore season. Injuries are plaguing the Tigers and they are not thriving through them.
What we are seeing now could be a road through rebuilding to get back to those World Series teams. They have the talent on the roster, but the players are not playing up to that talent. You can blame the manager, but the players still have to play. Firing Brad Ausmus will not net in a gain in the middle of the season, because Gene Lamont would more likely than not take over as manager.
Right now, it is on the players to play and bring this team to the postseason, because if the window has not closed yet, it closes after October 2015. They may not have as much talent as the 2012-14 teams, but this team is better than how they are playing now. 2015 may be the last bust in the World Series or Bust before the rebuild.