Tigers' run remembered for personal glory, not team
Detroit — As the Tigers and their second-year general manager, Al Avila, ponder the potentially painful short-term future, fans will look back on the last decade or so as a run of individual triumphs rather than team glory.
And that's unfortunate, given all the money that was spent; all the stars that were signed, traded for or — in more-rare cases — groomed; and the two World Series they appeared in, only to get absolutely blown off the ballfield.
The Tigers remain without a World Series since 1984. The White Sox, Red Sox and Cubs, for crying out loud, now have won world championships since Detroit last did.
And who knows when the Tigers will get their next shot at the crown, given Avila has sounded the alarm that things are about to change with the over-the-top budget, potentially with a massive sell-off of names like Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and J.D. Martinez.
As the Baseball Writers' Association of America's award season kicks off Monday — with two Tigers, Verlander (Cy Young) and Michael Fulmer (rookie of the year), potential favorites to take home some hardware — it's appropriate, if uncomfortable, to point out that the Tigers have been kings of the trophy-hunting, but not kings of the hill.
Since 2006, when the franchise stunningly turned around with a trip to the World Series, the Tigers have made the playoffs five times, but failed to accomplish the ultimate goal.
During that same span, the Tigers have won 25 major awards. That includes three MVPs, two Cy Youngs, one rookie of the year, one manager of the year, six Gold Gloves and 12 Silver Sluggers.
Throw in Cabrera's magical Triple-Crown season of 2012 — another year the Tigers made the World Series, only to get swept — and 38 All-Star appearances, just for good measure.
That's mighty impressive, to be sure.
And, if you're a fan, mighty depressing, as well.
All that talent, all that potential, all that wild fanfare, and the only trophy that got away is frankly the only one that really matters.
Here are my picks for this year’s major awards:
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
■ AL: Michael Fulmer, SP, Tigers; Tyler Naquin, OF, Indians, Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees.
Outlook: There's an interesting and intense debate here — how much should a player have to play to be a legitimate candidate for this award? Sanchez came up late in the season, and played just 53 games. But what a stretch it was — with 20 homers, 42 RBIs and an OPS over 1.000. Fulmer, meanwhile, was in Detroit most of the season, nearly won the ERA title and was a prime reason why the Tigers even sniffed a chance to make the postseason.
■ NL: Kenta Maeda, SP, Dodgers; Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers; Trea Turner, OF, Nationals.
Outlook: This one seems pretty cut-and-dry. Maeda actually had numbers similar to Fulmer, and was a significant reason why the Dodgers were able to make the postseason, despite the long absence of ace Clayton Kershaw during the regular season. But Seager was incredible, and gets the nod because he's an everyday player. He had 193 hits, including 26 home runs, at the pivotal defensive position. That all added up to an incredible WAR of 6.1.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
■ AL: Jeff Banister, Rangers; Terry Francona, Indians; Buck Showalter, Orioles.
Outlook: A loaded list of finalists here, each of whom guided a team to the playoffs that few saw coming at the beginning of the 2016 season. Banister and Showalter both got it done with thin-as-can-be rotations, whether because of injuries or simply lack of talent. But Francona showed his chops again, guiding an Indians team and its baby-faced rotation to a stunning AL Central title, despite missing Michael Brantley almost all year.
■ NL: Dusty Baker, Nationals; Joe Maddon, Cubs; Dave Roberts, Dodgers.
Outlook: Remember, these awards are voted on before the start of the playoffs, so a Maddon victory may not be so clear-cut. And Roberts, in his first year on the job, is a strong candidate. That said, Maddon remains the favorite, given the Cubs spent 180 days in first place — and one day out of first place. Sure, it was a stacked roster, but a young one, too, and the ship stayed afloat despite the lofty expectations that intensified by the day.
■ AL: Corey Kluber, SP, Indians; Rick Porcello, SP, Red Sox; Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers.
Outlook: This is a two-horse race (thanks to the unforgivable snub of Orioles closer Zach Britton) between a Tiger and a former Tiger — Verlander vs. Porcello. Porcello finally came of age, after a brutal first season in Boston. He led the majors in wins (22), but his peripheral stats were excellent, as well. He wasn't just a product of great run support. That said, Verlander returned to his dominant form, leading the league in K's for the first time since 2012 and WHIP for the first time since 2011.
■ NL: Kyle Hendricks, SP, Cubs; Jon Lester, SP, Cubs; Max Scherzer, Nationals.
Outlook: Like in the AL, this would appear to be a battle of two — and it's also similar to the AL in body of work. Hendricks plays the role of Porcello, great year if not flashy, and Scherzer plays the role of Verlander, much more dominant. Hendricks led the league in ERA and, more importantly, ERA-plus (adjusted for the players' ballpark). Scherzer, who won a Cy Young with the Tigers in 2013, led the league in wins, strikeouts and WHIP.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
■ AL: Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros; Mookie Betts, OF, Red Sox; Mike Trout, OF, Angels.
Outlook: A fascinating list here, given two of the players' teams didn't make the playoffs — which, in the past, has been a big factor in handing out this award. Trout had the best WAR (10.6), of 10.6, but Betts wasn't far behind, and also netted a Gold Glove for right field — and the Red Sox, of course, made the playoffs. It's close. Either way, Trout is about to continue a remarkable streak — first or second in MVP voting five straight years.
■ NL: Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs; Daniel Murphy, 2B, Nationals; Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers.
Outlook: All respect to Seager, but the rookie is a distant third here. It's Bryant vs. Murphy, and it's closer than you'd think. Murphy proved last year's playoff breakout performance was no fluke, and he went on to lead the league in slugging percentage and OPS. Bryant led the league in runs, and added 39 homers, 102 RBIs and an OPS not far back of Murphy's. If voters factored defense, the edge goes to Bryant, whose versatility was huge.
A look at the Tigers' individual award-winners since the franchise turned around in 2006:
Justin Verlander, 2011
Miguel Cabrera, 2012
Max Scherzer, 2013
Rookie of the year
Manager of the year
Jim Leyland, 2006
Pudge Rodriguez, 2006
Kenny Rogers, 2006
Placido Polanco, 2009
Yoenis Cespedes, 2015
Ian Kinsler, 2016
Magglio Ordonez, 2007
Placido Polanco, 2007
Alex Avila, 2011
Prince Fielder, 2012
Torii Hunter, 2013
Victor Martinez, 2014
J.D. Martinez, 2015
BBWAA award winners will be unveiled this week, at 6 p.m. on MLB Network:
Monday: AL, NL rookie of the year
Tuesday: AL, NL manager of the year
Wednesday: AL, NL Cy Young
Thursday: AL, NL Most Valuable Player