Since the Detroit Tigers have been in the game of baseball, the team’s rivals have not changed much. During the early years, the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, and the St. Louis Cardinals brought the most trouble to the Tigers. Now, the rivals are the teams in the American League Central Division, especially the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals. With the changing of the guard in the central offices in Detroit and Boston, a new rivalry is brewing between the Tigers and the Red Sox. This developing rivalry will be interesting to watch.
Jul 26, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias (1) throws to first over Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli (12) to complete a double play during the second inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Fans in Michigan are used to rivalry situations between the Spartans and Wolverines, Broncos and Chippewas, and the Bulldogs and Lakers. Even at the high school level, there are several long-lasting rivalries that keep teams in fighting shape. Michigan residents are also used to other professional sports rivalries between the Lions and the Packers as well as the Red Wings and Avalanche and the Pistons and the Bulls. What they are not used to is a Red Sox and Tigers rivalry. Anyone who has been to Fenway Park knows that the Red Sox take their rivalries very seriously, and the fans do not treat their rivals with any kind of respect especially if they are from New York. It is common for billboards around Fenway to openly insult the New York Yankees, the biggest rival in Boston.
The new rivalry between the Red Sox and Tigers began the moment that Dave Dombrowski was hired by the Red Sox. When the 2015 season was over, it was clear that Dombrowski needed top-rate pitchers in the rotation and the pen. He started the Hot Stove season by signing Craig Kimbrel and trading away four prospects (in true DD fashion). Avila countered by signing Francisco Rodriguez, but only trading two players. Then, he signed an affordable, first-tier pitcher, taking Jordan Zimmermann off of the market and giving him a five-year deal. Dombrowski quickly countered by signing David Price to a deal that tops the GDP of a few small countries. For years, Avila has been in the shadow of Dombrowski and now, he appears to be out-dealing his former boss.
In the 2015 season, it seemed that Mike Ilitch and Dombrowski were on different pages. For years, the Tigers were known for signing the best of the best like Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, David Price, Jose Iglesias, and J.D. Martinez. But in 2015, Alfredo Simon joined the club and so did Neftali Feliz, both for prices that were ridiculously higher than they were worth. It was clear that a playoff berth was not in the cards. Then, in August, Dombrowski was let go and Al Avila took his spot.
Just this week, Mike Ilitch held a press conference announcing his decision to spend as much as is needed to bring a championship to Detroit. This statement could create a wider rift between the Red Sox and the Tigers, as it did not seem that the same pocketbook was given to Dombrowski in his last season in Detroit. Now, it appears that Dombrowski wants to prove that he can build a team that will out-spend Ilitch. With the signing of former Tiger and fan favorite David Price, there could be discomfort between the teams when they meet in 2016.
Even though more than 90 percent of the current Tigers team was built by Dave Dombrowski, it is clear that Al Avila will get the credit if the Tigers do go deep into the playoffs in 2016; especially if they beat the Red Sox. After all, it was the Red Sox and David Ortiz that destroyed Dombrowski’s 2013 team filled with all-star players. With the Hot Stove Winter Meetings approaching next week, all eyes will be on the veteran and the rookie to see who brings the best deals to their respective teams. Here’s hoping Avila wins the meetings and the trades.