Detroit Tigers fans: Sorry, Victor Martinez has a point
By Matt Pelc
The date was Thursday, April 8, 2004. The setting was Comerica Park in Detroit for the 2004 Home Opener. The Detroit Tigers had clinched their AL record 119th loss just seven months earlier, yet 42,000 fans were deafening as their heroes in the Olde English D fought back from a 3-0 deficit to win 10-6 over the defending two-time AL Central champion Minnesota Twins.
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With that win, and a surprising three-game sweep to start the season in Toronto, it was hard to believe that this team had gone from 43-119 to 4-0. Perhaps the players fed a bit off the crowd’s energy on that day to beat a highly superior team.
This was a team that everyone in attendance knew was not going to contend that year–they ended up finishing in fourth place with 72 wins–but fans appreciated the effort that this team had risen from the ashes and perhaps better things would be ahead. Two years later, they won the American League pennant.
During that pennant-winning season, Comerica Park was an incredibly loud and tough place to play. Tigers’ fans had not seen a pennant race since 1988, and a playoff berth since 1987, so the excitement of that unfamiliar feeling immediately put baseball front and center on the mythical Detroit sports power rankings.
Fast forward to the lone playoff game in Detroit in 2014. Fans were quiet, listless, booed their own players and sensed a feeling of dread. A decade earlier, the players seemed to feed of the energy of the crowd and won against a superior team. On this day, they seemed to play as listlessly and uncaring as was the attitude of the 42,000 fans in attendance and were swept out of the postseason by a likely inferior team.
Enter Victor Martinez, who seemed to remember the atmosphere in Comerica Park that October afternoon that resembled less a playoff baseball game and more a funeral.
"“Last year was tough. We came home down 2-0 and the fans were really hard. Now they won’t be angry. There’s no October baseball. That’s why I say this season will be a lesson to a lot of people. (pause) You know, sometimes it’s a good thing. You need to take a step back to go forward.” Source: Detroit News"
He has a point. Certainly the Tigers underachieved in 2014, which partially led to this year’s train wreck. The disastrous bullpen meltdown in a game the Tigers’ controlled that turned into the 2-0 deficit was fresh in everyone’s mind, however when the players needed the fans the most, they were unable to ratchet up any emotion.
Fellow Tigers’ fans, we have become spoiled. We now demand perfection.
Certainly the glory years that will be this era from 2006-2014, more specifically ’11-14, will always have that invisible asterisk that notates a lack of a World Series title. That will always hurt fans, but when you take a step back you realize that they gave us an incredible run, previously unmatched in the 110+ year history of this club.
That run included five playoff appearances, four divisional titles, three MVPs, two Cy Youngs, a Triple Crown, six postseason series wins and two American League pennants. Not too shabby.
V-Mart nailed it when he said “sometimes it’s a good thing” to take a step back to appreciate what you had. It will make you hungry for it again.
Losing breeds hunger. Which is why you saw Kansas City Royals fans go crazy during last year’s postseason run following three decades of incompetence. It is why the Toronto Blue Jays’ tickets are a hard to find commodity as their longest playoff-less streak in the four professional North American sports leagues will end in a matter of weeks.
Winning over the last decade has helped to rebuild the previously dormant Tigers’ fan base into one of the largest contingents in the game. Go anywhere in the country or the world and you’ll see the Olde English D.
The Tigers still draw relatively well. Although attendance fell of a lot during the last home stand, the team was still regularly getting 30,000 fans in attendance in the month after the trading deadline deals.
Tigers’ fans often point at teams that don’t draw well and laugh at their misfortunes. The Indians, Rays, Athletics, etc. are pathetic because they never have fans at games, even in playoff runs. Okay, so fans show up at Comerica Park, but some should be called “passive observers” instead of “fans.”
But it is more about wearing the D and buying a ticket, you need to support your team. Be critical yes, but when you buy a ticket to the game, give them some support.
In the first three AL Central winning seasons, the Tigers were annually one of the best teams in baseball at home, posting a 151-92 record (.621 winning percentage) at Comerica Park. Starting in 2014, you could see that home field advantage dissipating and they are just slightly above .500 (78-74 with a 33-38 record in 2015) since.
Sure, the results on the field have also dissipated, but you sometimes see teams feed a bit off their crowd, something that had not happened at COPA in a long time. Would the Tigers be in the pennant race with a more ruckus crowd at home games this season? No, but they might have picked up a couple more victories at home this year. And with this season being so positively awful, a couple more wins would go a long way.
Fans are not happy with former fan favorite Victor Martinez for what he said, and other players like Miguel Cabrera agreed with him. They ridicule him and tell him to keep his mouth shut because of his horrendous performance (by his own admission) this year.
But like it or not, he has a point. V-Mart needs to be better next year as the Detroit Tigers look to rise from the ashes.
We also, as fans, need to be better next year.