The news of the Tigers' trade to bring David Price to Detroit was exciting. Then Austin Jackson jogged off the field to a standing ovation from knowing fans. Suddenly the Price trade didn't feel so good any more. From excitement to the desire to throw up in a matter of minutes.
It wasn't a question of whether the cost was too high. Along with Jackson, the Tigers gave up Drew Smyly from the rotation and a minor league shortstop no one could name an hour before the deal. That's probably a fair cost for a season and two months for an ace left-hander like Price. Just wait till you see Detroit's rotation in the postseason. That's the payoff. So it's probably an acceptable cost when you're just looking at the names and numbers.
But why did it have to be Austin Jackson? It could have been nearly any other player and it wouldn't have mattered much. Instead, it was one of the small handful of players I would call "my" Tigers. It happened again.
This story goes back to Curtis Granderson, as it must. The worst thing you could say about the cheery, fan-friendly center fielder was that he did too much charity work. Oh, and he struggled against lefties. You could have sworn the "My Tiger" ad campaign was created with Granderson in mind, so often did his name come up when you asked someone for their favorite player on the team.
On a cold December day during the Winter Meetings, 2009, Granderson was suddenly traded. You know it's a business. You're not naive. This isn't an era when you expect players to remain on the same team for their entire careers. There had even been talk of the possibility in the weeks before. But the news hit like a haymaker. Curtis Granderson was traded to the Bronx. That was going to hurt for a while — and it did. Even if you looked at the players Detroit got in return — future Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer among them — it was hard not to feel a bitterness at what happened. And I did.
I had to find a new Tiger — but after Granderson I wasn't even looking.
It's said that sports fans root for the laundry. You like a player because he's wearing your team's uniform. That was probably an idea put forward by someone who's not really a sports fan. You'll almost always find one or two who mean a little something extra, players whose career you'll follow from team to team — or even if they aren't on your team at all.
It's hard to say what makes someone your player. Some would flock to superstars like Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander. Maybe they like a nice underdog story like Don Kelly. Maybe it's all about the glove. Maybe it's someone who reminds them of a neighbor. Maybe it's their Twitter account. Maybe it's Torii Hunter's smile and personality. It's probably different for everyone.
Jackson gave you a little bit of everything. He hit well, but not great. It never looked easy. Yet by his second season in the majors, he managed to hit double-figures in doubles, triples and home runs while stealing more than 20 bases. This was a feat he repeated a year later while also batting .300. In the field, Jackson was incredible. He has no Gold Glove awards to show for it, but he did earn a Fielding Bible award in 2011. That may not look as good on the trophy case, but it speaks highly to his ability in the field. Off the field he flashed the smile but didn't spend a lot of time in the press, which always seemed curious to me and only more so after speaking to him myself at spring training this year. Somewhere along the way, he became "my" Tiger. Couldn't tell you when. It just happened.
I rooted for Granderson after he was gone to New York. I will cheer for Jackson in Seattle. And I will gladly enjoy watching David Price pitch in Detroit.
But ask me right now whether I like this trade as a fan, and the answer is no. They traded my Tiger — again.