What the spoiled fans of the Detroit Tigers need to remember

10 years ago the thought of a Detroit Tigers' celebration with champagne was unthinkable.

10 years ago the thought of a celebration by the Detroit Tigers with champagne was unthinkable.

The point of this article is this:

You’re spoiled.

Let’s play a game. I’ll describe two baseball scenarios and you try to identify what they have in common.

Scenario #1: It’s the final Sunday of the regular season at Comerica Park and the Detroit Tigers are desperately trying to win a game against the visiting Minnesota Twins. They score seven runs in the 6th inning and pull away for an emotional victory. The fans in attendance give them a standing ovation. The players have big smiles on their faces as they leave the field and many of them circle the ballpark to literally give the jerseys off their backs to people in the stands.

Scenario #2: It’s the final Sunday of the regular season at Comerica Park and the Tigers are desperate to win a game against the visiting Twins. They score a pair of runs in the 8th inning to seal a victory that comes with plenty of emotion. In the final half-inning the fans are on their feet for every pitch and there’s much joy in the stands as the team celebrates the win on the field after the final out. Many players climb onto the dugout and thank fans for their support.

Can you picture those games? Fairly similar, right? In a few circumstantial ways, yes. But the situations were markedly different.

The first scenario played out on September 28, 2003. The Tigers entered the game with a 42-119 record. One more loss and they would tie the 1962 New York Mets for the most losses in a season in the modern history of baseball. The team was abysmal. They had lost the first nine games of the season and at the end of April they were 3-21. They had nine losing streaks that season of at least seven games. Their starting second baseman was a man named Warren Morris and the best starting pitcher they had was Nate Cornejo and he went 6-17 with a 4.67 ERA. Four of their starters had an ERA over 5.50 and the team ERA was 5.30. Read that last sentence again. And oh by the way, their top saves leader had exactly five saves. They lost 22 games in June, 23 in August, and 18 in September. They only missed losing 120 games or more by winning five of their last six games to avoid the embarrassment. Mike Maroth lost 21 games and Jeremy Bonderman lost 19. They weren’t sad sacks. Sad Sacks would have been an improvement.

The second scenario also took place on September 28th, except it was in 2014. The Tigers shut down the Twins 3-0 behind David Price and won the American League Central Division title. The win was their 90th of the season yet almost universally they were considered underachievers. They were a team that was supposed to win 95-100 games and in May when they were 27-12 everyone thought they were going to roll to the World Series.

Two games, 11 years apart, but they happened on the exact same field at the same time of the season and on the same date against the same opponent. After the first one the fans were almost overjoyed with relief. After the latter, the fans were thankful to have escaped with a narrow victory in the division race, but they were also excited to have seen history. The Tigers had won their fourth straight division crown to join only a handful of teams who have made the postseason in four consecutive years.

The feeling in 2003 was that the team had avoided embarrassment. But there was nothing beyond that relief. There was no hope for the future. All Tigers’ fans could really think about was the glory of the past which was quickly fading into the background. Oh, and by the way, there were about 18,000 people in the stands for that final game of the ’03 season.

In 2014 the team went to the playoffs with a roster full of superstars, including the best hitter in the game, three Cy Young Award winners, the best designated hitter in baseball, and one of the best second basemen in baseball. Admittedly the playoff loss was very disappointing, but at least they got to the dance. And the ballpark was 42,000-plus full for nearly every game.

But this offseason you’d think the Tigers were a failure. Yesterday the team acquired not one, but two All-Stars in headline trades. In what has become an annual December tradition, Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski made a splash by making deals to help the team win now. The Tigers are in the middle of the action every year during the Hot Stove League. Whether it’s trading for Yoenis Cespedes, signing Victor Martinez to a long-term deal, wrapping up Miguel Cabrera for the rest of his career, trading for Prince Fielder, or flipping Fielder for Ian Kinsler, the Tigers are relevant.

You’d think the Tigers were a joke based on most of the comments from fans this offseason. Dombrowski has a nearly pristine record as a wheeler-and-dealer (starting with the signing of Pudge Rodriguez after the 119-loss ’03 season). He’s made the Tigers into one of the best organizations in the game. He’s deftly handled the roster, shuttling in pieces and masterfully shipping overrated prospects out the door for more in return. He’s hardly ever been burned. (In about 45 major transactions during his career in Motown I’ll give you Doug Fister and maybe Matt Joyce as bonehead deals, and that’s it. Look it up). The guy brought Miggy to town, traded for Mad Max, got rid of Curtis Granderson and Prince at the right time, and all people can talk about is how his bullpen has sucked.

We are spoiled.

Ask fans of the Chicago Cubs if they’d trade their problems for ours. Ask the Twins’ fans or White Sox’ fans or fans of the Royals for that matter. Any of them would gladly trade places.

Since the debacle of the ’03 season the Tigers have been to two World Series and played for the pennant four times while making the playoffs five times. We’ve had three MVPs and two Cy Young Award winners. We’ve seen walkoff pennant-winning home runs, batting titles, no-hitters, future Hall of Famers, and seasons for the ages. We saw a Triple Crown for god’s sake!

Remember 2003? 119 losses? Warren Morris in the everyday lineup? Year after year of meaningless games after the All-Star break? Remember how hopeless this franchise seemed?

Now think about the last four years. Think about the magic of 2006. Think about Miggy, Must-See Jv, and beating the Yankees in the playoffs (three times).

Get it now? Are you ready to apologize? Stop being spoiled.