Welcome to The Stew’s annual team elimination posts. Like our video-game posts of last year, these are best done in theme. This time? We’re going with “Game of Thrones.” Each eliminated team will join the “army of the dead.” But we won’t just talk about their demise. We’ll also highlight some positives, pick out a memorable moment, tell you their biggest need and let you know when the club might be good again.
Sorry, Detroit Tigers, but you won’t sit on the Iron Throne this season.
It was a rough year in Detroit, starting off the field when longtime owner Mike Ilitch died at the age of 87 in February. Ilitch was known for pushing the Tigers to win and spending the money he thought was necessary to get the World Series win he so desired.
So, in more ways than one, 2017 was a new era for the Tigers. Not only was Ilitch gone, but the team entered into rebuilding mode by midseason and on Friday, they announced Brad Ausmus won’t return as manager in 2018 either.
Let’s further break down the season that was in Detroit:
UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN (aka WHAT WENT RIGHT)
The Tigers have finally fully embraced the idea of rebuilding, which should help speed up the process of turning the franchise around. Trading veterans like Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton is obviously bittersweet, but it’s necessary for the greater good. In focusing on the future, the Tigers seem to have found a new closer in Shane Greene. The 28-year-old right-hander has excelled in the role and could become a fixture moving forward. (Mark Townsend)
THE RED WEDDING (aka WHAT WENT WRONG)
This Tigers team simply couldn’t compete with the Indians, which has become the theme of the past two seasons. After winning just 4 out of 18 matchups in 2016, the Tigers won only 6 out of 18 in 2017. In the bigger picture, the Tigers aging roster caught up with them. In addition to notable players going through significant declines, including pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, injuries and unexpected ailments have been a problem as well. Detroit recently lost Victor Martinez for the season as he addresses a heart issue, while Michael Fulmer underwent ulnar nerve transposition surgery in his right elbow. The season can’t end fast enough in Detroit. (Mark Townsend)
THE NORTH REMEMBERS (aka MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT)
In a year where not a lot went right, one of the days the Tigers were able to turn the lemons into lemonade was an Aug. 13 game against the Twins. Things started great, with a five-run first inning, but then the Tigers let the Twins come back and take an 11-6 lead. This one wouldn’t be another disappointment, though. The Tigers scored one run in the seventh, three in the eighth and then won on a two-run walk-off homer by Upton.
WORDS ARE WIND (aka MOST IMPORTANT THING TO FIX)
The good news here is that the Tigers have finally moved into rebuild mode. And that’s where the good news ends, because the Tigers are where the Phillies were about five years ago: old, with several declining players signed to expensive contracts and a weak farm system. There’s a major uphill battle ahead as they try to restock their farm system and build a team that can compete sometime in the future. They need to make some clever and canny trades this offseason (and beyond), capitalizing on what talent they do have to bring in young guys who could help them down the road. That’s a lot to do, and it’s going to take awhile. But there’s one thing that can come off their plate: with the team destined to have another few down years, there’s no reason to worry too much about Miguel Cabrera or Jordan Zimmermann. They’re expensive, signed forever, and not likely to be traded for anything of value (or even traded at all). There are plenty of other things to fix in the meantime. (Liz Roscher)
A DREAM OF SPRING (aka HOPE FOR THE FUTURE)
With the Tigers rebuild underway, there’s a renewed focus on their minor league system and in particular their pitching prospects. There’s reason to believe Detroit is putting together a pretty solid core of young pitchers that could help sooner than we think. That group includes 2017 draft pick Alex Faedo and Franklin Perez, who was acquired from Houston in the Justin Verlander deal. They join Beau Burrows and Matt Manning as arms that could serve as Detroit’s foundation. While it may take awhile to put the whole thing back together, it at least gives them something to build on and feel good about. (Mark Townsend)
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