Growing up in Michigan in the 1980s was a treat.
As a kid, the Tigers were good every year, winning the World Series in 1984. The Detroit Pistons grew into the Bad Boys and won back-to-back championships, Michigan won the 1989 basketball title and in football was in the Rose Bowl frequently.
But because of that, I am completely spoiled when it comes to sports.
The reality check came in the 1990s as a Tigers fan when the team’s postseason chance was gone by the All-Star break practically every year.
But the Pistons, Detroit Red Wings and Michigan football won championships in the 1990s, while the exciting Barry Sanders era took full force for the Detroit Lions.
While that success was going on elsewhere, it was inconceivable that the Tigers could be that bad. And they would only get worse, setting the American League record for losses with 119 in 2003. That team was Dmitri Young and a bunch of Triple-A players that were either young and inexperienced (Omar Infante, Carlos Pena) or too old (Bobby Higginson, Dean Palmer, Craig Paquette). Same with the pitchers as Nate Cornejo, Mike Maroth, Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson were all 25 or younger.
We’ve all tried to forget those days, but I find it pertinent to remember them on a regular basis.
Whenever I find myself complaining about the Tigers missing the playoffs or underachieving in the playoffs or getting swept in the playoffs, I need to remember that playoffs was not a word in my vocabulary for more than a decade.
Now it has been for a decade.
The Tigers made it all the way to the World Series in 2006, starting one of the best 10-year spans in team history. Detroit has won four American League Central Division titles since then and finished second four more times, including this season.
Two appearances in the World Series and four in the ALCS allowed the Tigers and the city of Detroit to be showcased on the national level.
Players started to want to come to Detroit, as the Tigers landed Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter, David Price and Justin Upton, among others, during that time.
The Tigers have finished lower than second in the division just three times since 2006, though two were last-place finishes. Those were the years we were all grumbling about their chances of ever being good again screeching to a halt. It happened in 2008 when they finished last. But the team bounced back for a second place finish in ’09 (nearly winning the division on the last day of the season) and two years later, started a string of four consecutive division titles.
It happened again last year with the Tigers crashing and burning in the second half, but here they are again fighting for a wild card spot the following season.
It has been a pleasure and a blessing to watch the Tigers in the playoffs and the World Series, but the real blessing is knowing they have a chance every year.