Can you believe it?
It doesn't seem that long ago that the Tigers made their fourth consecutive postseason. But this year marks four years since the Tigers were last in the playoffs, and judging by back-to-back 98-loss seasons, nobody can say — at least not with a straight face — when the heck they'll be back.
But, as has become the norm in recent years, as first Dave Dombrowski and then Al Avila have peddled off the team's biggest names, several former Tigers will play October baseball in search of that Holy Grail, the World Series championship, which Justin Verlander won with the Astros a year ago, and just might do it again in 2018.
Some 20 players who formerly called Detroit home, as well as several current managers and coaches, are participating in this fall's postseason.
Here's a look at all of them:
Boston Red Sox (AL East champions)
►Ian Kinsler, 2B, 36: Second base has been a trouble spot pretty much all year for the Red Sox, starting with the injuries to staple Dustin Pedroia, and then Rafael Devers. So Dombrowski reunited with Kinsler in July, acquiring the veteran from the Angels. It's been a struggle for Kinsler, who started going downhill in 2017, his last season with the Tigers, continued the decline with the Angels, and has posted one just one home run and a .604 OPS in Boston.
►J.D. Martinez, DH/OF, 31: If not for the switch to DH — Boston's outfield depth is an embarrassment of riches — Martinez would be more squarely in the mix for the AL MVP, after blasting 43 homers to go with a career-best 130 RBIs and 358 total bases. It was just what the doctor ordered in Boston when they signed Martinez in February, with spring training already well under way, to a five-year contract worth $110 million.
►Rick Porcello, SP, 29: It's been an every-other-year run of hits and misses for Porcello, who just finished his 10th season in MLB, despite not even turning 30 yet. He struggled his first year in Boston, then won a Cy Young, then had another clunker, and is back on the good side this year. His WHIP is down to 1.176 and his strikeouts are up to almost one an inning. He's in the postseason for the seventh time in his 10 years.
►David Price, SP, 33: As awful as last season was for the lefty — on the field, when he only made 11 starts, and off the field, when he was picking fights with team broadcasters — this year has been exponentially better. He looks like an ace again, and appears to have settled nicely into the fabric of Boston. We'll soon learn if that's actually the case, as he'll soon decide whether to opt out of the last four years of his $217-million contract.
Cleveland Indians (AL Central champions)
►Rajai Davis, OF, 37: He darn-near became a Cleveland immortal two years ago, when he blasted a home run in Game 7 of the World Series, only to watch the Cubs win the game and the title in extra innings. He left in 2017, but returned this offseason. It's been a rough year, with a career-worst .559 OPS, but he's still valuable in the clubhouse and as a pinch-runner (21 steals, 28 attempts). A roster spot isn't a certainty, though.
►Leonys Martin, OF, 30: This roster spot is a certainty — he won't have one, because of a scary blood infection that landed him in the hospital last month and had team officials cryptically urging fans to pray for Martin. He pulled through, but doctors benched him for the rest of 2018, a tough break for a shrewd pickup by Avila last winter who was off to a red-hot start with the Indians, with two homers in six games before it was over.
►Andrew Miller, RP, 33: He'll always be an ex-Tiger, even if it's been more than a decade since he wore the Old English D. The lanky lefty was the star of the 2017 postseason, as the Indians came within one win of the World Series title. He wasn't quite as effective last year, and this year has been one to forget. He's battled injuries, and has been hit around a bit, a sign that perhaps all those innings are catching up with him.
►Coaches: Terry Francona (manager), Carl Willis (pitching) — Francona was a coach with the 1996 Tigers before landing his first managerial gig, with the Phillies in 1997, while Willis pitched in 10 games for the 1984 Tigers.
Houston Astros (AL West champions)
►Justin Verlander, SP, 35: Someday, when he steps to the stage in Cooperstown, N.Y., he'll look down at his plaque and see an Olde English D cap staring right back at him. That's why Tigers fans instantly became Astros fans last August, when he was dealt in a last-second deal to the Astros — and went on to help Houston to its first World Series championship. The Astros are favorites again, with Verlander no small part, behind his career-best 290 strikeouts.
►Coaches: A.J. Hinch (manager), Gary Pettis (third-base) — Hinch, a former catcher, played in 27 games for the awful 2003 Tigers, while Pettis played in Detroit in 1988-89, winning two Gold Gloves in center field.
New York Yankees (AL wild card)
►Luis Cessa, P, 26: He's not likely to be pitching for the Yankees in the postseason, especially after he lasted just a third-of-an-inning in the regular-season finale, allowing four runs on five hits before he was pulled. He's been mostly minor-league depth with the Yankees each of the past three years, earning callups this season in five different months, but never really piecing together any run of sustained success.
►Chad Green, RP, 27: It's been a whole different story for Green, who came to the Yankees along with Cessa in the December 2015 trade for Justin Wilson. Green has been one of the best relievers in baseball the past two years, particularly last year, when he posted a WHIP of 0.739. He hasn't been quite as lights-out this year, as strikeouts have dipped a bit, but remains a critical piece of a bullpen that is absolutely loaded.
►Coaches: Phil Nevin (third-base), Marcus Thames (hitting) — Nevin, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, played for the Tigers from 1995-97 and recently managed in their minor-league system, while Thames was a popular Detroit slugger from 2004-09.
Oakland A's (AL wild card)
►Mike Fiers, SP, 33: Another one of those Avila offseason moves that drew chuckles at the time, but worked out. The veteran had a 3.48 ERA in 21 starts with Detroit before being shipped to Oakland, where he started 5-0 before running into some turbulence lately. He lasted just four innings three starts ago, and in his final scheduled start of the regular season, he was absolutely shelled, costing him a shot at the wild-card game.
►Edwin Jackson, SP, 35: It's been nearly a decade since his one season with the Tigers, which actually was his best year in the majors (13-9, 3.62 ERA) — until this year in Oakland, his 13th club. He started the season in the minors before a June callup, and he quickly opened eyes, proving he has some left in the tank. But the last month hasn't been pretty, particularly with control, the reason he never became a legit ace.
►Matt Joyce, OF, 34: The veteran outfielder, drafted in the 12th round by the Tigers in 2005, was a regular last year for the A's, posting a mighty-fine .808 OPS. This hasn't been his best, though, in large part to a lower-back injury that shelved him for several weeks over the summer. He has been limited almost exclusively to pinch-hit duties lately, with four hits in 20 September plate appearances.
More: Mensching: Tigers' future doesn't look too bright
►Fernando Rodney, RP, 41: I remember sitting at lunch with Jim Leyland back in December 2010, as he wondered aloud why nobody had signed Rodney, the eccentric reliever coming off a pretty tough season in Detroit. Many thought he might be done; Leyland sure didn't. Turns out, he was right. Rodney signed later that month with the Angels, and has been an impact arm for several teams since, with 255 saves since 2010. He's a setup man with the A's, and a decent one.
►Coach: Bob Melvin (manager) — A catcher, he played 41 games for the 1985 Tigers, the start of a 10-year career.
Atlanta Braves (NL East champions)
►Anibal Sanchez, SP, 35: There have been fewer surprises among the ex-Tigers roll call than Sanchez, who was absolutely brutal his final three seasons for the Tigers — when he was even healthy enough to pitch. He's proved an excellent addition to a young Braves roster, and has posted a 2.83 ERA (his best since 2013) and 1.083 (the best of his 13-year career) in 25 appearances, including 24 starts. He is said to be pondering retirement, but why?
►Coaches: Chuck Hernandez (pitching) — He was Leyland's first pitching coach in Detroit, on the job from 2006-08.
Chicago Cubs (NL wild card)
►Justin Wilson, RP, 31: The lefty was the go-to reliever for the Tigers in 2016 and 2017, until his trade last July to the Cubs, where he was absolutely — and stunningly — brutal. Joe Maddon only went to him once in the postseason in 10 games, a sign of how little faith his skipper had in him. Things have gotten a little better this season, with 69 strikeouts in 54.2 innings, but he still allows too many runners for Maddon's liking.
Milwaukee Brewers (NL Central champions)
►Curtis Granderson, OF, 37: There are few more popular ex-Tigers than Granderson, who still gets huge ovations in Detroit, despite not wearing the Old English D since '09. The Brewers are his sixth — and possibly last — major-league team, and he's made the playoffs with six of them. He's proven a quality bat off the bench for Milwaukee, which is set for outfield starters. His value is almost certainly as a clubhouse presence.
►Corey Knebel, RP, 26: The 39th overall pick by the Tigers in 2013, he is one of the rare Dombrowski prospects who went on to star elsewhere. He was one of the game's elite closers a year ago, but this year a hamstring injury laid him up early. And when he returned, he wasn't right, and even earned a demotion to the minors in August. Knebel returned in early September and is back to his old dominant self, albeit as a setup man.
►Hernan Perez, UT, 27: Raise your hand if you envisioned Perez going on to become an impact player post-Detroit. Liar! He never got a long look in Detroit (66 games over four years). The Brewers liked him, though, and he's played in 391 games over the past three seasons. He can play — and has played — just about anywhere on the diamond, and even has showed some pop, 36 homers since the start of 2016.
►Joakim Soria, RP, 34: Soria's time in Detroit never will be looked at fondly by fans, given the implosion in the 2014 ALDS against the Orioles, who unbelievably swept the Tigers and their three-headed rotation of Verlander, Price and Max Scherzer (Porcello, scheduled for Game 4, never got to start). He's not the dominant closer he used to be, but he still knows how to pitch, and got a big strikeout in the tiebreaker with the Cubs.
►Coach: Darnell Coles (hitting) — He played parts of three seasons with the Tigers (1986-87, 1990), even hitting 20 homers in 1986, and spent a year in Detroit as an assistant hitting coach in 2014.
Note: The NL West-champion Los Angeles Dodgers don't have any former Tigers, nor do the Colorado Rockies, one of the NL wild-card participants.