What should've been: Three-fifths of Tigers' 2012-14 rotation is in the World Series
Detroit — It's 35 years and counting since the Detroit Tigers won the World Series, which now is the longest championship drought in the franchise's 119-year history.
But those ex-Tigers?
Well, they're racking up rings in bulk these days, and the collection will grow in the coming week-and-a-half, regardless of whether the Houston Astros or Washington Nationals are left holding the Commissioner's Trophy.
In fact, three-fifths of the Tigers' rotation from 2012-14 are in this year's World Series.
There's Justin Verlander with the Astros, of course. He wasted little time getting his ring after leaving Detroit, helping Houston to its first World Series title in 2017, less than two months after the Tigers dealt him away in a cost-cutting move that was finalized just momemts before the August waiver trade deadline.
Then there's Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez on the other side, helping the Nationals stun the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round, then roll past the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.
Scherzer and Sanchez, for all their individual success — Scherzer has three Cy Young awards and two no-hitters in that career that's looking increasingly Hall-of-Fame worthy, Sanchez has an ERA title and a no-hitter of his own — are looking for their first World Series championship.
Scherzer and Sanchez have appeared in one other World Series, with the Tigers in 2012. That was a four-game sweep by the San Francisco Giants.
One would argue, however, that the best Tigers team of the team's longest sustained period of postseason success, 2006-14, was the 2013 squad. That team had the Boston Red Sox on the ropes in the American League Championship Series until David Ortiz's crushing homer in Game 2 turned all the momentum.
Also in that 2013 rotation was Rick Porcello, who collected his first World Series ring last year, with those same Red Sox.
The Tigers last made the playoffs in 2014, and another member of that team, David Price, also got a ring with the 2018 Red Sox.
The Tigers were swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the first round of the 2014 playoffs, despite Detroit throwing Scherzer in Game 1, Verlander in Game 2 and Price in Game 3.
Verlander, 36, says he wants to pitch until he's 45, and nobody would argue with that was a distinct possibility given another great season. He was 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and 300 strikeouts in 223 innings, and threw his third career no-hitter. He posted a career-best WHIP of 0.803 in what, statistically, was his best year since 2011, when he won both the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards.
Verlander could collect his second career Cy Young, or his fourth career runner-up finish. His teammate, Gerrit Cole, is his chief competition.
Scherzer, 35, who left the Tigers after the 2014 season to sign a seven-year, $210 million contract with the Nationals (he turned down the Tigers' six-year, $144 million offer), didn't have one of his best seasons, but still was plenty excellent, with 243 strikeouts in 172.1 innings. His season featured a broken nose and back issues.
Sanchez, 35, might be the best story of them all, because he was healthy the whole year, and thus pretty darn good, too. He showed signs of getting things straight last year with the Atlanta Braves, earning him a two-year, $19-million contract from the Nationals, which has paid immediate dividends. He looked absolutely toast in his final three years with the Tigers, allowing 85 homers from 2015-17, but now looks far from finished.
Sanchez actually flirted with a no-hitter in Game 1 against the Cardinals, taking the bid into the eighth inning. That was followed by Scherzer's bid in Game 2; he went into the seventh inning. Sanchez and Scherzer were the second set of teammates to take no-hitters into at least the sixth inning in back-to-back playoff starts. And the first set? Sanchez and Scherzer, as well, back in the 2013 ALCS.
Scherzer almost certainly gets the ball for the Nationals in Game 1 on Tuesday night, while Verlander is probably going to start Game 2 for the Astros.
That likely puts a pin in the hopes of fans hoping to see that Verlander-Scherzer showdown in Game 7.
Not sure Tigers fans could handle that scenario, anyway.
This World Series, with three-fifths of that 2013 Tigers rotation, is probably tough enough to stomach.
By the way, there's one more former Tiger in this series, looking for his first ring. That's reliever Fernando Rodney, who's in his 17th season in the majors, and pitching for his 11th team, but is making his first World Series appearance since 2006 with Detroit.
HOUSTON VS. WASHINGTON
All games at 8 p.m., on Fox
Tuesday: at Houston
Wednesday: at Houston
Friday: at Washington
Saturday: at Washington
x-Oct. 27: at Washington
x-Oct. 29: at Houston
x-Oct. 30: at Houston