Detroit Tigers: Thankful for 77 wins and manager A.J. Hinch

Through May 16, 2021, AJ Hinch and Miguel Cabrera have combined for 3,092 hits in the majors. One of them MIGHT have contributed more to that total than the other.
Through May 16, 2021, AJ Hinch and Miguel Cabrera have combined for 3,092 hits in the majors. One of them MIGHT have contributed more to that total than the other. /

Yes…this is another “I’m thankful” Detroit Tigers piece written for Thanksgiving.

Hey…you can watch the Macy’s Parade and Lip-Synch Snoozefest, torture yourself by reading the Lions game day preview, or argue with your sister’s kid about politics while he’s home from college and hogging your couch if you’d rather. Your call.

Grateful for Hot Stove excitement

We don’t have to go back too far for something to appreciate. We’re living it! Each day we refresh Twitter knowing the Detroit Tigers just might strike for a big move at shortstop or another starting pitcher. Tucker Barnhart and Eduardo Rodriguez are already on board. This shi—stuff—is getting real!

The last few off-seasons have been about filling the roster with warm bodies as the rebuild dragged on in a dreary fashion.  Now it’s been about an upbeat introductory press conference of a legit free agent like Rodriguez.

It’s been about a power-breakfast photo of Hinch and Carlos Correa and what it all means. Or a very confident-sounding quotes from Chris Ilitch about putting a contender in place.

Nothing’s guaranteed. The Tigers may not strike gold this winter or win next year. But it’s starting to become evident they are trying again. After years lost in the wilderness, I’m thankful for these last few weeks.

Thankful because April looked bleak

I pegged the Tigers to finish 61-101 in the MCB preseason predictions. That ended up being well off the final record of 77-85. But it looked on the money for several weeks as the Tigers stumbled and bumbled to a 9-24 start into early May.

Detroit played a very competitive 68-61 from that point and it was an enjoyable time.

So you do have to admit, despite the many flaws this team wore all season, they scraped and fought for wins. They were never mistaken for a playoff-caliber club but they were a step and half above the 47-win overflowing litter box they were in 2019. It was as enjoyable summer as a baseball fan can probably expect from a 77-85 ball club.

Thankful for a lifetime of memories

Some will recall my father—a lifelong Tigers fan, an excellent amateur pitcher, a great dad and a good person—passed away not long before Opening Day. I’m grateful for all the baseball we watched. I wish I could have watched the Spencer Turnbull no-hitter with him.

I thank you all who read my piece about my baseball connections with him and the wonderful response it received.

The Rule 5 Side Dish

Akil Baddoo, like most Rule 5 selections, wasn’t very ballyhooed initially. But he started with a bang in the opener and just kept being a presence all season. Baddoo was simply fun to watch.

In a year where the Tigers offense was often looking to improve just to be called “moribund” in total, Baddoo’s timely hitting, breakneck daring-do on the base paths, and a dose of extra-base power was a truly unexpected treat.

Thank you, Jeimer and Miguel

Jeimer Candelario turned into a doubles machine for much of the year. He needed a solid season to show his 2020 mini-season success during quarantine was no fluke. A second straight “Tiger of the Year” award shows it wasn’t.

For Miguel Cabrera…the Opening Day “Snow Globe Homer” will never be forgotten. A classic Miggy-Moment harkening back to his days of dominance. The end is near…but endings are inevitable. Cabrera did just enough to occasionally be “the Man” in a tight spot. Be thankful for every moment left. Savor the ones you’re lucky to witness. It’s over soon enough. He’s a Hall of Famer toiling on for our entertainment (and $30M). We were able to see homer #500 this season and now 3000 hits will be an amazing countdown for “the Big Man”.

Grateful for minor leaguers

Every report of success for Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, and Ryan Kreidler among others was worth being thankful for…so much of the future is built on their young shoulders. The big league club needs the offense these guys can provide to surface soon.

While we’re talking about young guys let’s also commend Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal for getting through the year mostly unscathed and ready to try grow some in ‘22.

The AJ Factor

None of us are in the clubhouse or in the dugout. We can only speculate from what we see. Well…we all know what we saw.

The Detroit Tigers looked an awful lot closer to a professional baseball team with a nightly plan in place than they did at any point during the Ron Gardenhire administration. The difference was night and day.

I thank AJ Hinch for this. Chris Fetter with a strong nod as well.

Thank you for reading

I’m just a guy from Upper Michigan who lives in Iowa and tries to stay up on the Detroit 9. I’m amazed continually anyone reads this stuff. I appreciate it more than you know. Even the critiques and corrections are helpful. Thank you all.

Thanks to Rogelio Castillo and Chris Brown for leading the MCB charge and putting up with my need for post-publishing edits when I spot a typo I missed at 1 AM. They’ve also let me into their podcast world and it’s been so much fun I can’t describe it.

Thanks also to the other writers at MCB who keep it entertaining and make me think. Jake, Sebastian, Kellen, Dan-O, Kurt, a few others I’m missing, and the three new guys whose names I’m still learning but are killing it every day!

Happy Thanksgiving and hope for a short lockout!