With the MLB offseason rumor mill all but ground to a halt as we wait for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper to determine their respective futures, we have some time to kill before spring training. Our prospect coverage is in full gear — check out this year’s list! — but there is plenty else we can do.
Those who have been around here for a while may remember the 2013-14 offseason when we attempted to rank the best Detroit Tigers players of all-time. We relied on our readers to determine the list, voting for each respective candidate as we worked our way from one to 50 (we then added a few more the following winter). The countdown was a fun exercise, and one that got our dear readers involved in the process.
If you haven’t guessed yet, we’re going back to that well in 2019. This time, we want to rank the best Tigers teams of all-time. We won’t go 50 deep this time, but with 20-plus 90-game winners in Detroit’s 118-year history, we should be able to carve out a nice little list.
To get started, make sure you vote in the poll below. We will choose the best Tigers team of all-time today, and publish the first article sometime in the next few days. That post will contain the poll for team No. 2, and we’ll progress from there.
1909: 98-54, lost World Series
The 1909 Tigers were the last of the franchise’s three consecutive World Series losers in the early 20th century, and arguably the best of the bunch. They won more games than the 1907 and 1908 iterations, and took Honus Wagner’s Pittsburgh Pirates to the brink of elimination before ultimately falling in Game 7 of the World Series. Ty Cobb led the team in just about every important statistical category, per usual, while Hall of Famer Sam Crawford also chipped in with an .817 OPS (a 152 OPS+ for the era). George Mullin led the pitching staff with 29 wins and a 2.22 ERA.
1915: 100-54, 2nd in American League
Cobb and Crawford also led the way for the 1915 Tigers, who are one of five Detroit clubs to win 100 games in the team’s history. Unfortunately, they fell just one game short of the Boston Red Sox, who went 101-50 and won the World Series. Outfielder Bobby Veach burst onto the scene with a 141 OPS+ in 152 games, while Harry Covelski and Hooks Dauss shouldered the load for the pitching staff.
1934: 101-53, lost World Series
While they won the World Series one year later, the 1934 Tigers were statistically a much better club during the season. Player-manager Mickey Cochrane took his club to a decisive Game 7 before St. Louis’ Dizzy Dean blanked the Tigers to win the Fall Classic. Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg led the Tigers offense that year with his usual Herculean numbers, and fellow Hall of Famers Charlie Gehringer and Goose Goslin also played key roles. Six-time All-Star Tommy Bridges led the team in innings pitched, while Schoolboy Rowe won more games and posted a lower ERA.
1935: 93-58-1, won World Series
The ‘35 Tigers returned many of the same characters as the year prior, but were able to win the final game of the season and cement their place in history. Goslin drove in Cochrane to win the World Series, while Greenberg and Gehringer were their usual steady selves throughout the season. Outfielder Pete Fox also had a great year. And can you believe the names on this pitching staff? General Crowder, Chief Hogsett, Roxie Lawson, and Firpo Marberry are all real people who pitched for this World Series champion.
1945: 88-65-2, won World Series
The ‘45 Tigers are statistically the worst of the four Tigers World Series champions, but if you win the whole dang thing, you get to be on the list. Greenberg only played in 78 games for this Tigers team, but seven-time All-Star Rudy York and outfielder Roy Cullenbine helped shoulder the load. Lefty Hal Newhouser won his second consecutive MVP Award that year thanks to a 25-9 record and 1.81 ERA, good enough for a ridiculous 195 ERA+.
1961: 101-61-1, 2nd in American League
The 1961 Tigers are one of the best teams in MLB history to not make the playoffs, and one of three 101-game winners in franchise history. Norm Cash had an MVP-caliber season at the plate, and was worth 9.2 rWAR in 159 games. Hall of Famer Al Kaline was his usual perfect self as well, and Rocky Colavito had a monster season of his own with a team-high 45 home runs. Yankee killer Frank Lary was the staff ace, with a 23-9 record and 3.24 ERA. Don Mossi also had a nice year with a 2.96 ERA in 240 1⁄3 innings.
1968: 103-59-2, won World Series
You know the names. The year. The throw. The 1968 Tigers bulldozed the rest of the league, winning the pennant by 12 games. They were the only AL club to score more than four runs per game, and limited opponents to a league-best 3.00 runs per game. Denny McLain’s 31 wins will likely never be matched, and we’d be hard pressed to see another pitcher throw three complete games in the World Series like Mickey Lolich did. John Hiller, Norm Cash, Bill Freehan, Dick McAuliffe, Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley, and Jim Northrup are all household names among longtime Tigers fans.
They had the best record in franchise history. They won the division by 15 games. They started 35-5. They are the stuff of legend among Tigers fans, and let’s be honest, will probably dominate this vote. The 1984 Tigers need no introduction, so let’s just watch Kirk Gibson’s homer again (and again, and again...)
2006: 95-67, lost World Series
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The 2006 Tigers snapped a postseason drought bordering on two decades, and brought hope back to the Motor City. They raced out of the gate, but fell just shy of a division title before beating the Yankees and A’s in the playoffs to clinch the team’s first World Series berth since 1984.
Which team is the best Tigers team of all-time?
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