Tigers in the 2010s: Top stories from the past decade

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit News sports writer Chris McCosky ranks the most notable events during the past decade for the Tigers:

1. Armando Galarraga’s Imperfect Game

It was June 2, 2010. Galarraga put down the first 26 Indians he faced that night at Comerica Park. With two outs in the ninth, Jason Donald hit a grounder to the right of first baseman Miguel Cabrera. He fielded it cleanly and threw to Galarraga, who beat Donald to the bag — except first-base umpire Jim Joyce called him safe. Instead of it being the first perfect game in Tigers franchise history, it ended up being a one-hit shutout and more importantly, a tribute to human compassion and sportsmanship. Joyce was utterly despondent, admitting after that he “kicked” the call. Galarraga handled the situation with class, almost comforting Joyce. The next day, manager Jim Leyland orchestrated a meeting at home plate between Joyce and Galarraga. Joyce wept as the crowd gave him a standing ovation and he and Galarraga hugged.  

Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga smiles as he walks away from first-base umpire Jim Joyce, who called the Indians' Jason Donald safe at first base with two outs in the ninth inning of a game June 2, 2010. Galarraga lost his bid for a perfect game due to the call.

2. David Ortiz's slam in Game 2 of the ALCS

On Oct. 13, 2013, the Tigers were up 5-1 with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning, four outs from taking a 2-0 lead back to Comerica Park with Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez lined up to start. In what may be one of the most excruciating moments in Tigers history, Ortiz, who was 0 for 6 with four strikeouts, smacked a first-pitch change-up from closer Joaquin Benoit on a line into the Red Sox bullpen in right-center field. The shot of Torii Hunter flipping over the fence and the Boston policeman with his arms raised has become iconic. It also proved to be the death knell to the Tigers quest to win a championship for Mike Ilitch. They ended up losing the series 4-2 and haven’t won a playoff game since.

Red Sox fans and Boston police officer Steve Horgan celebrate as Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter falls over the right-field fence into the bullpen trying to catch a grand slam hit by Boston's David Ortiz during Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS.

3. Miguel Cabrera wins the Triple Crown

The look on the slugger’s face on that Oct. 2, 2012 day in Kansas City when Ramon Santiago ran out of the dugout at the start of an inning to replace him was priceless. He had no idea that he’d locked up the Triple Crown, but manager Jim Leyland did and he wanted him to get the ovation he deserved — which he got from the classy and appreciative Royals fans. Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to lead the Major Leagues in home runs (44), RBIs (139) and batting average (.330). 

Miguel Cabrera

4. Justin Verlander wins 2011 Cy Young, MVP

He was the 10th pitcher to win both awards in the same season. Three of the 10 were Tigers — Denny McLain and Willie Hernandez being the other two. He led baseball with a 24-5 record, a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts. Also that year, he notched his second no-hitter, blanking the Blue Jays in Toronto on May 7.

5. Mike Ilitch dies

It was Feb. 10, 2017. His baseball team was about to report for spring training when news broke that Ilitch, at age 87, had died. He’d owned the Tigers since 1992, built and moved the team to Comerica Park in 2000 and spent lavishly in pursuit of the only goal that ever eluded him — to bring a World Series title to Detroit. “Mr. Ilitch never fell short of making every effort, every attempt to put a world championship team on the field,” former manager Jim Leyland said. “We got close a couple of times and I know it broke his heart. Everybody, from the manager to the coaches to the players, clubhouse people, front office, the men and women who worked in the organization — everybody wanted that world championship for one reason, that was to give it to Mr. Ilitch.”

On his way to the pitching mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, former Tigers catcher Pudge Rodriguez leans over and touches the "Mr. I" logo on the field to commemorate late Tigers owner Mike Ilitch.

6. Tigers trade Verlander

What a crazy night. Aug. 31, 2017. With the midnight waiver trade deadline fast approaching, the Tigers and Astros had agreed on a trade that would send Verlander to the Houston for three prospects — catcher Jake Rogers, pitcher Franklin Perez and center fielder Daz Cameron. But inside their home in Birmingham, Verlander and then-fiancée Kate Upton were torn between the opportunity to win a championship with Houston and his loyalty to Detroit and the Tigers. Around 11:45, the deal was off. Verlander said he would remain a Tiger. But 10 minutes later, he changed his mind and, with minutes to spare, the deal was put through. A few months later, Verlander pitched the Astros to a World Series title.  

Justin Verlander

7. President, GM Dave Dombrowski fired

It was Aug. 4, 2015. The Tigers had just returned from a long road trip where they went 4-6 and traded three of their best players at the deadline. Owner Mike Ilitch rather curtly announced that, because he didn’t win, Dombrowski was being relieved of his duties. Under Dombrowski, the Tigers went to the World Series twice, and won four straight Central Division titles. Al Avila, who had been Dombrowski’s assistant general manager and right-hand man since the two came to Detroit in 2001, was named executive vice president and general manager.

Dave Dombrowski

8. Trade deadline, 2015

The Tigers were two games under .500, 11.5 games out of first place in the Central Division, but only four games out of a wild card spot on July 30. Regardless, Dombrowski reversed course and traded three of the team’s best players — David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria. Those trades, the first time Dombrowski was a seller at the deadline, netted the Tigers pitchers Daniel Norris, Matthew Boyd and Michael Fulmer, plus center fielder JaCoby Jones and was a precursor to the full rebuild that would come two years later.

Michael Fulmer

9. Tigers win Game 5 vs. Yankees, Oct. 6, 2011

It was their first playoff series win since 2006. They had a chance to clinch the series at Comerica Park, but the Yankees shelled Rick Porcello in Game 4 to send the series back to the Bronx for a winner-take-all Game 5. Don Kelly and Delmon Young homered off Ivan Nova in the first inning to vanquish any momentum the Yankees had coming in. Closer Jose Valverde, who was a perfect 49 of 49 in save opportunities, got Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez to preserve the 3-2 win.

10. Tigers sign Prince Fielder

It was Jan. 24, 2012. The Tigers were reeling after it was learned that Victor Martinez needed knee surgery and would be lost for the year. General manager Dave Dombrowski figured the price tag for Prince Fielder was too high, but owner Mike Ilitch said to go get him. The Tigers did, on a nine-year, $214 million contract. Fielder played every game and was an all-star in his two seasons with the Tigers, hitting 55 home runs and knocking in 214 runs. He was traded to Texas for Ian Kinsler before the 2014 season and, because of a neck injury, was forced to retire in 2016. The Tigers will make their final $6 million payment to Fielder in 2020.

The Detroit Tigers and owner Mike Ilitch introduce new first baseman Prince Fielder on Jan. 26, 2012.

Complete decade look-backs

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Twitter: @cmccosky