I have never seen the Detroit Tigers win a World Series. Their last championship came in 1984, three years before I was born. I was still a couple of months away when the Tigers stormed back to win the AL East in 1987, and by the time my baseball-conscious mind came to be, the Tigers were awful. They didn't make the playoffs until I was 18, and they didn't win a division title until I was 23.
Now, at 27, the "window" may be closing. The Tigers are unlikely to reach the postseason this year, and have a 0.2 percent chance of reaching the World Series. The future is uncertain as well, as there is plenty of work to do before we anoint them as champions of anything in 2016. Even without a championship, this has been arguably the most successful era in Tigers history.
Is it enough, though? Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs is conducting a straw poll on whether fans prefer long-term success or a one-and-done championship, no matter how bad the years surrounding that championship may be. His example for long-term success? The Tigers, naturally. For the one-and-done title run, Sullivan points at the team that may have cost the Tigers their best shot at a ring: the 2012-2015 Boston Red Sox.
The 2012 Red Sox were supposed to be pretty good. Same with the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Red Sox. Three of the teams have been colossal disappointments. It goes beyond just being underachievers; I’m not sure another team has more greatly underachieved. If, that is, you just focus on the three years.
But, as you know, there’s the matter of the fourth year. The year that everything clicked, and the year that’s keeping Ben Cherington employed.
Each year, the Tigers were recognized as one of baseball’s best teams. Each year, the fans got to experience following one of baseball’s best teams. Just about every game mattered, and if it didn’t, it was only because the Tigers were already assured of moving on. They won the Central in 2011 by 15 games. The next three years were closer, but the Tigers always won.
Sullivan's timing is perfect. Not only is the future in Detroit quite murky, especially after Dave Dombrowski's dismissal earlier this week, but the Tigers and last-place Red Sox begin a three-game series tonight. Another David Ortiz homer may serve as a reminder of what could have been for Tigers fans, while a couple more losses for Boston will further remind their fanbase of how much consistent losing sucks.
I'm interested in the results from our biased perspective. Was this era of Tigers baseball enough, despite not winning a championship? Or is the ring all that matters?