Thursday's post about the AL Cy Young got me thinking about Tigers and awards. No Tiger has won a major individual award, of course, since Willie Hernandez pulled down both the Cy Young and the MVP in 1984 (Hernandez, by the way, had the sort of season that you just don't see from modern relievers: 32 saves, 140 innings of 1.92 ERA pitching). The last Tiger Rookie of the Year was Lou Whitaker in 1978.
That's not to say that no hardware has come the Tigers' way in twenty years. Just last year, Ivan Rodriguez won the Gold Glove, his eleventh, and the Silver Slugger, his seventh. Combine those with his All-Star starting gig in 2004, and you get the feeling that despite Victor Martinez's emergence, there was a pretty solid consensus that Pudge Rodriguez was the best catcher in the league last year.
Here's a question for you, though: can you name the last Tiger to win an individual award before 2004?
The answer is Todd Jones, winner of the 2000 AL Rolaids Relief Award. Jones had 42 saves that year in only 64 innings pitched, which means he must have been in the game EVERY time the Tigers had a 1-3 run lead in the ninth inning and ONLY those times, a far cry from Guillermo's 1984. Jones is in the middle of a surprise career year in 2005 -- a 1.64 ERA and 38 saves, even though he singlehandedly turned a Willis-Padilla pitching duel into a rout today by throwing just nine pitches.
Sure, Jones had a nice year in 2000, but the Tigers recognized that he was easily replaceable and traded him for Mark Redman a couple of years later, just like they did with Kyle Farnsworth and Ugueth Urbina this year. By another way of looking at things, however, maybe we should have expected that a Tiger would win the preposterously-named relief-pitching award. From 1989 until last year, a stretch of sixteen years, fourteen different pitchers won the AL Rolaids Award. The only repeater was Mariano Rivera, another sign of his greatness relative to peers declared superstars after a season in which they happened to finish a lot of games. The NL Rolaids Relief Award is no more consistent: from 1992 to 2004, the only repeat winner was Eric Gagne in 2002 and 2004, and we know he's not going to win it this year. 2005 looks like it'll be the Rolaid-year for Chad Cordero, yet another first-time winner. In the AL, where current Phillie Ugie Urbina leads the Tigers with nine saves, no Detroit player is in the running. The winner there should be either Bob Wickman -- yet another first-timer -- or the incomparable Rivera.