Former Tigers stars and prospects, local players chase postseason glory
Sadly, it's come to this, like checking in on the ex on Instagram a little too often.
The Tigers have missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, their longest drought since before they burst back onto the scene with a trip to the 2006 World Series. This year also marks 35 years since the Tigers last won a World Series, the longest drought in the franchise's 119-year history.
All there was to root for this season was avoiding bad history, like most losses – which the Tigers skirted around. They did, however, lose 59 games at home, tying a record. They also gave up more homers than ever before, and struck out more than any team in major-league history.
Several former Tigers, though, are gearing up for the Major League Baseball postseason, which begins Tuesday and Wednesday with the league's wild-card games, with the league's division series starting Thursday and Friday.
There aren't as many ex-Tigers in the playoffs as recent years, thanks to the Boston Red Sox, or the Tigers East (J.D. Martinez, Rick Porcello, David Price, etc.), fizzling out one year after winning the World Series — and costing old friend Dave Dombrowski his job in the process — and with the Cubs (and Nick Castellanos) missing out on a ticket to October.
Still, there are 15 former Tigers or former Tigers prospects who are on playoff teams, plus several others with local ties.
Here's a look at the impact they've made, or could make, as 10 teams chase that elusive ring.
NL wild-card game
Milwaukee at Washington, 8 Tuesday, TBS
►Hernan Perez (Detroit, 2008-14), IF: It's pretty crazy to think he couldn't ever get more than a cursory look with the Tigers, then he goes to the Brewers and averages well more than 100 games a season while providing solid offensive production (13 homers in 2016, 14 in 2017). This year was more of a struggle, though, with a .228/.262/.379 slash line.
►Fernando Rodney (Detroit, 1999-2009), RP: Just when you think Rodney finally has lost it and has an eye on retirement, the cocked-hat right-hander catches on elsewhere and resurrects his career. He was awful in Oakland to start the season, then latched on with Washington, where he made 38 appearances to the tune of a 4.05 ERA. The 42-year-old is with his 11th franchise.
►Anibal Sanchez (Detroit, 2012-17), SP: Here's another guy we thought was done, at least when he left Detroit, but not so fast. The veteran right-hander righted the ship last season with Atlanta, and has been almost as impressive this season with Washington (11-8, 3.85 ERA). If the Nats get past the wild-card game, Sanchez could be moving to the bullpen.
►Max Scherzer (Detroit, 2010-14), SP: So many of the Tigers stars from the recent heyday have gone on to win their World Series rings elsewhere (Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Rick Porcello, etc.), but Scherzer still is searching. To no fault of his own. He posted another great season (243 strikeouts), and gets the ball in the wild-card game against the Brewers.
AL wild-card game
Tampa Bay at Oakland, 8 Wednesday, ESPN
►Willy Adames (Detroit, 2013-14), IF: The shortstop never played for the Tigers, and only briefly played in their minor-league system before he was shipped to Tampa Bay in the three-way trade that brought ace David Price to Detroit. It took him a bit to get to The Show, but he's now making up for lost team, posting a career-best (minors or majors) 20 home runs this season.
►Michael Brosseau (Oakland University), IF: This guy was quite the story this summer, getting the call up to The Show after he went undrafted out of Oakland. The Indiana native played in 50 games for the Rays and posted a mighty respectable .781 OPS, which even included a walk-off hit against the Tigers.
►Avisail Garcia (Detroit, 2008-13), OF: "Mini Miggy," as he was called during his tenure with the Tigers, has had a hard time living up to great expectations, especially during a six-year run with the White Sox. They finally gave up on him, the Rays offered him a shot, and the results were a career-high 20 home runs to go with 72 RBIs and a .796 OPS.
►Mike Fiers (Detroit, 2018), SP: The veteran right-hander got his career back on track during his brief stay with the Tigers last season, then has continued to be an impact pitcher with the A's. This was one of his best seasons yet, with a 15-4 mark, plus a 3.90 ERA and 1.186 WHIP. He also threw his second career no-hitter and sported one hell of a unique beard.
►Joakim Soria (Detroit, 2014-15), RP: The veteran right-hander isn't a closer anymore, like he was during his final year with the Tigers, but he's still getting it done 13 years after making his major-league debut. He posted a 1.029 WHIP, which is right on par with the kind of numbers he was putting up when he was an All-Star with the Royals.
NL Division Series
NL wild card at L.A. Dodgers, starts Thursday, TBS
St. Louis at Atlanta, starts Thursday, TBS
►Rich Hill (University of Michigan), SP: It's been a frustrating season for the man fans affectionately call "Dick Mountain" (get it?), with injuries and whatnot. He's been limited to just 13 starts, and just three since mid-June. His three starts in September were abbreviated ones, too, but he allowed just one hit over those 5.2 innings, possibly earning a postseason role.
►Andrew Miller (Detroit, 2006-07), RP: All that usage in the playoffs with the Indians perhaps has caught up to the lefty, who was the Tigers' sixth overall pick in 2006. Last year with Cleveland and this year with St. Louis, he's posted ERAs over 4.00, including 4.45 this season. Still, he had 70 K's in 54.2 innings, and will pitch in the playoffs for a fourth different team.
►Shane Greene (Detroit, 2015-19), RP: The right-hander is the most-recent of the former Tigers to make the playoffs, having been dealt to the Braves ahead of this year's trade deadline. He stepped right in as the Braves' closer, but that was a disaster, and now is a setup man. That's gone much better, with a 2.61 ERA and .192 opposing batting average since Aug. 13.
►Matt Joyce (Detroit, 2005-08), OF: Gotta give this guy credit. He never was a big-time prospect, as a 12th-round pick in 2005. But he's put together a very sold major-league career, which now is in its 12th season, as he's on his sixth different team. This wasn't one of his better years (seven homers), but he still posted an .858 OPS. He's still a weapon off the bench.
AL Division Series
AL wild card at Houston, starts Friday, FS1
Minnesota at N.Y. Yankees, starts Friday, FS1
►Justin Verlander (Detroit, 2004-17), SP: Another amazing season for the veteran right-hander, who might just go down as the greatest pitcher in Tigers history. He was 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and 300 strikeouts – and surpassed the 3,000-strikeout mark for his career. And yet he might finish runner-up in the Cy Young voting for the fourth time, this time to teammate Gerrit Cole.
►Randy Dobnak (United Shore Professional Baseball League), SP: This bespectacled right-hander made some history this season, becoming the first alum of the USPBL – the four-team independent league that plays out of Utica – to make it to the major leagues. And he did quite splendidly in his nine games (five starts), posting a 1.59 ERA and a 1.129 WHIP.
►Ryan LaMarre, OF (University of Michigan): Just a little cup of coffee this season for the utility outfielder, who played in just 14 games (after playing 76 last season, for the Twins and White Sox). He probably doesn't make the postseason roster, but at least was a part of history. He accounted for two of the Twins' major-league record 307 home runs.
►Luis Cessa (Detroit, 2015), RP: The right-hander wasn't in the Tigers system for very long, having stopped at Toledo between stints with the Mets and Yankees. He was dealt to the Yankees as part of the Justin Wilson trade, and has been a solid if not spectacular member of the bullpen in the Bronx. This season, he pitched in 43 games and struck out 75 in 81 innings.
►Chad Green (Detroit, 2013-15), RP: An 11th-round pick by the Tigers in 2013, he never did pitch in Detroit, having been dealt for Justin Wilson in December 2015. He became a serious weapon in a Yankees bullpen that has had a whole lot of them, but this season wasn't one of his finest and he could find himself working as an "opener" during the postseason.
►DJ LeMahieu (Birmingham Brother Rice), 2B: Pretty amazing the Rockies never even initiated negotiations to keep LeMahieu in Colorado, so he took an early offer to join the Yankees (two years, $24 million) and New York sure is glad he did. He had a career-high 26 homers and 102 RBIs and batted .327, finishing just shy of winning a second batting title in a second league.
►Cameron Maybin, OF (Detroit, 2005-07, 2016): A tough start to the year for the former first-round pick of the Tigers, who was charged with DUI in the spring and released by the Giants. A stint with the Indians was over before it started, and then the Yankees offered a life line. That's worked out much better, as he's posted an .858 OPS and nine stolen bases in 82 games.
Tony Paul’s predictions
►AL wild card: A's over Rays – And the loser has to fill the winner's soda machine for a year.
►ALDS: Astros over whoever in three, Yankees over Twins in five – Over-under on Twins-Yankees homers, 30.5.
►NL wild card: Nationals over Brewers – Eventually, the loss of Christian Yelich has to catch up with Milwaukee.
►NLDS: Dodgers over whoever in four, Braves over Cardinals in five – Clayton Kershaw and Matthew Stafford went to high school together. Just sayin'.
►ALCS: Astros over Yankees in six – Over-under on Yankees ejections (players and coaches), 30.5.
►NLCS: Dodgers over Braves in four – Bet you can't even name Atlanta's manager.
►World Series: Astros over Dodgers in six – A rematch of the 2017 World Series, and a replay of the result, too.