The Tigers 2014 season ended, as it does for 28 other teams every year, in frustration and disappointment. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that this season, like so many seasons before it in this Golden Age of Tigers Baseball™, also provided fans with thousands of great opportunities to leave snarky comments on Internet forums predicting future frustration and disappointment.
So climb into the time machine with me (you can just toss those empty bags of beef jerky into the back seat) and we will travel back to the beginning of the season, as we make our way over the next several days down the hallways of recent memory to revisit the highlights and lowlights of 2014.
There was plenty to discuss before the season even started, although most of us were not in the mood to talk about anything baseball-related at this point, because we were busy trying to free our cars from the giant glaciers that had formed as the result of a particularly nasty winter that lasted approximately six years.
Prince Fielder had been traded to Texas for Ian Kinsler, the Tigers had signed a two-year deal with Proven Closer™ Joe Nathan, and Doug Fister had been traded in exchange for a pitching prospect, a left-handed reliever, a utility infielder, and a jug of extra strength windshield de-icing fluid. Thankfully, the trade worked out for all parties, and Tigers fans quickly forgot about the Fister trade with the help of tireless optimism and many, many shots of vodka.
Unfortunately, the Tigers also lost the fireballing Bruce Rondon to Tommy John surgery, left fielder Andy Dirks to back surgery, and shortstop Jose Iglesias to shin splints that developed into stress fractures just in time for the release of MLB 14: The Show on the Playstation — not that those things are in any way related.
In the face of such early adversity and gaping holes in the roster at left field, shortstop, and the bullpen, Dave Dombrowski acted quickly and addressed our deepest fears: he signed Miguel Cabrera to a contract extension that included hundreds of millions of dollars, many years of job security, and several private islands. He also dealt one of the Doug Fister trade pieces to the Orioles in exchange for the ALDS and shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who had technically passed away in the offseason, but who still projected to have more range than Jhonny Peralta.
On top of everything else, long-time manager and senior resident of Flavor Country, Jim Leyland, had stepped down as the team's skipper. After careful consideration of probably at least one other candidate, Dave Dombrowski handed the managerial reins over to Brad Ausmus, a former Tigers catcher and graduate of Dartmouth, where he double majored in Shirtless Surfboard Transportation and Apocalypse Identification.
And so it was that the team girded up its loins and raced fearlessly onto the field, and then just as quickly raced back into the heated clubhouse, because Old Man Winter was nowhere near finished having his way with Michigan. It was cold, the field was still partially frozen, and a family of arctic walruses had taken up residence in the bullpen.
In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to find out if any of those walruses could throw a slider, but we'll get to all of that and more in the next installment, when we take a look at the March/April part of the season and ask ourselves the burning question: who did murder Joe Nathan's arm?