This was an odd year for Tigers fans. Early season struggles had many dismissing Detroit’s chances at battling for the playoffs. The team walked the wire between contending and going quietly into that good night. The late-season rush of solid play that had them on the cusp of a Wild Card spot. There were some good moments, and some bad.
Not everything that was written by yours truly was uplifting. There were some real downers, but the facts don’t really take that into consideration. Life happens, and this year was personally difficult for me. Without getting too much on a soapbox, my surgery/recovery and some other life events made covering the Tigers a challenge, more so than I would have liked to admit.
I did my best to bring y’all well-reported coverage of the team with unique stories, presenting the facts regardless of whether it profited any one party or viewpoint. I hope I accomplished that, and I know I learned a great deal from this year. With that said, these were some of my favorite stories to write, in no particular order. Not all bring up happy memories, but they were important nonetheless.
This was perhaps my favorite to write. Originally, it was going to be a much shorter piece, but in speaking with Alex Wilson, I learned his journey deserved a more in-depth focus. He graciously shared his struggles, and opened up about his life within and outside the game.
Plenty of fans said this was one of, if not the most fun game of the season. Justin Verlander was dealing a two-hit shutout until the ninth, but the offense hadn’t produced. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus called it one of the most memorable of the season. Down 2-1 in the ninth, the team tied the game and Jose Iglesias delivered a walkoff single with two outs in an 0-2 count.
Mid-September and the team is vying for a Wild Card. Cabrera, who rarely opens up for deeper insightful thoughts, had a moment of just that. For as much as the team was giving their all, both to each other and the fans, he didn’t think the fans had the team’s back. It was a matter-of-fact moment from his point of view.
Martinez had been absent from the team for an injury and had just returned that day. As he stepped into the batter’s box as a pinch hitter, Fox Sports Detroit’s Mario Impemba joked about Martinez hitting a home run. The stadium had gone wild upon his name being announced as a replacement.
Then, he homered into the bushes on the first pitch, and for the first time that night, the place was, as they say, LIT. Nick Castellanos, at the top of the dugout, was seen saying “that was f*cking sick!” That may be the loudest I’d heard Comerica Park to that point in the season.
As an aside, Martinez also made this game-winning throw from right field a few days later, continuing his memorable comeback from seven weeks on the disabled list for a fractured right elbow.
The Tigers had their inaugural event for dogs. I love dogs and baseball. This was a no-brainer of a story to write, and from what the fans said, they loved the event. It was quite the challenge for the Tigers to put together, but they did a fantastic job of coordinating the event. Man’s best friend and America’s Pastime? 15/10 Very Good.
OK, so this one wasn’t Tigers-centric, but this affected everyone around or a fan of the game. It was a difficult week for a lot of people, and that game just tore at your heart, regardless of the team you rooted for or covered. This was one of those stories that, while tough, needed to be shared, even in picture form.
Remember that rough period in early May when the Tigers lost a plethora of games and people were calling for Ausmus’ head on a spike? This was written about a month after all that took place, after the team had stabilized, and the manager famously went on an epic tirade against the home plate umpire because of the strike zone.
Perspective is everything, and a little over 30 days after it appeared all hope was lost, the Tigers went on to nearly overtake the Indians in the standings, had the first Wild Card slot at one point, and nearly nailed down the second on the final day of the season. This, all despite injuries and the team’s awful record against the Indians, with half the starting pitching roster in limbo for a good chunk of the year.
Oh, and Michael Fulmer won the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
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Since 2015, I’ve covered baseball beyond the Tigers. While that was somewhat hampered this year due to unforeseen circumstances, there were a few things that I particularly enjoyed writing, and not all directly involved baseball. If you didn’t get a chance to read them or missed them entirely, these were my favorite to write. Enjoy.
He nearly didn’t make the team to start the year. Halfway through the year, he was one of the best that Toronto had. In the end, Sanchez was the Blue Jays’ best starter. He finished No. 7 in the AL Cy Young voting, and his changeup made all the difference. And he’s only in his third MLB season.
Hailing from Flint, Mich., Shields was at Comerica Park to throw out the first pitch before a Tigers game. She spoke briefly about her Olympic experience, struggles, and going forward afterward, and it was a joy to be able to share that story. She exuded confidence with gracefulness, and is a wonderful example of never giving up on your dreams.
I wrote this in June, but at the time, Abreu was really going through it, offensively. The team wasn’t worried, but there were whispers of concern that he might have had his bright moments and fizzled out. He continued to have ups and downs, but the raw power was always there. Despite the contact, he continued to get on-base frequently and in the last two months was looking more like the Abreu of old. Whether that continues in 2017, no one knows.
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Whatever 2017 brings, never forget to love each other and be grateful for what we do have. Be kind to strangers and have a little more patience when you’re not sure you have it. Have respect for others and their opinions, and accept that everyone has one. If you disagree, that’s OK, too. Be there for each other, and have compassion on those less fortunate.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all ...” -Abraham Lincoln
God bless, and may your 2017 be infinitely better.