Thanks to Ken Burns and all of the sepia-toned history pieces we sit through during rain delays, we're conditioned as baseball fans and as Tigers fans to always look back into history for the "Golden Era" of our franchise. It's often not until we look back that we recognize just how good things were at any given point in time.
That's why I want to ask the question: Is this, right now, the Golden Era of the Detroit Tigers?
At the ultimate level of measurement, World Series championships, the answer is clearly "no." The Tigers' four World Series victories came in '35, '45, '68 and '84. By default, we tend to look at those teams and anoint them as the best, whether it's the Hank Greenberg/Charlie Gehringer/Mickey Cochrane '35 squad, Greenberg and Hal Newhouser in '45, the post-riot '68 team or the Bless You Boys crew of '84.
It's especially difficult to compare teams from different eras, given expansion, realignments, divisions and wild cards. But the fact remains that the modern version of the Detroit Tigers under Jim Leyland's leadership have reached at least the ALCS three times in seven years, which is arguably up there with the other four great Tigers eras. Since MLB created divisions in 1969, no Tigers team had repeated as division champs until 2011-2012.
We also, critically, have to look at the players for whom we're cheering. Is there any doubt that, should we be so fortunate as to keep them in Detroit for meaningful portions of their careers, that we'll some day be looking at Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera statues in left field and retiring 35 and 24? The last time the Tigers had back-to-back MVPs, it was Cochrane and Greenberg in '34-'35. The last Tigers batter to win a Triple Crown was Ty Cobb in 1909. We're cheering right now for two no-doubt Hall of Famers, plus we have the addition of a potential dark horse candidate in Prince Fielder.
This incarnation of the team will keep on going not only deeper into the current playoffs, but into at least next year as well. Depending on Dave Dombrowski's skills and Mike Ilitch's wallet, it could go even further -- outside of ancient Octavio Dotel, no player on the roster is older than 34 and no everyday position player is older than 30. Many key players like Austin Jackson, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Andy Dirks and Al Alburquerque are just starting to hit their stride.
There's arguments to be made for any of the Tigers' eras of success throughout history, and at the end of the day the idea of trying to identify the "best" era may be completely meaningless and impossible given the changes to baseball over the decades, but in my mind, the important thing for us to do right now is to be able to look back at retrospectives of this team in the years and decades to come and be able to tell ourselves that we weren't so caught up in the past that we didn't realize that history was being made in front of our eyes.
If this isn't <i>the</I> Golden Era of the Tigers, it's certainly <i>a</i> Golden Era. Enjoy it while it's happening.