After a bit of a weekend break (and getting adjusted to a new home office) we’re back at it again with the first round of Best-Loved Detroit Tigers. Things have gotten pretty interesting with the previous two groups of four and we’re looking forward to seeing how it plays out with the rest, as we hurtle towards round two next week.
This week we see a mix of classic heroes, as well as one current Tiger who has been a shining light in dark times these past two seasons.
Before we get into the specific players we’re featuring though, a reminder of the bracket.
Today we’ll see Marcus Thames take on Chet Lemon, and Willie Hernandez square off against Matthew Boyd. Let’s jump right into it.
Marcus Thames vs. Chet Lemon
Marcus Thames may have book-ended his career with stints with the Yankees, but for six of his ten major league seasons, he was a Tiger. He may have never made an All-Star team or collected some of the major awards some the others on this list did, but he was with the team during their run to the 2006 World Series, and was a major factor in how they got there.
Where Thames really stood out was his home runs. In that World Series season, he hit 26, a career high, and to this day still has the Tigers record for average at-bats per home run (14.8). In 2008 he had a streak where eight consecutive hits all went for home runs.
Also if you’re a relatively new Tigers fan and wondered how Rod Allen got the phrase “Country Strong” it was in reference to Thames and his breakout 2006 season.
Chet Lemon is likely a much better known name for the Tigers. A three-time All-Star and member of the 1984 Tigers World Series-winning team, Lemon is high on the list of best centerfielders in Tigers history. He started his career with the Chicago White Sox, but ended it with nine seasons in Detroit. During the 1984 season (his only All-Star season as a Tiger) he hit for .287/.357/.495.
A slightly odd distinction for Lemon was his incredible ability to get hit by pitches. He was the AL HBP leader for a whopping four seasons, topping out at 23 in 1983.
While I can’t find a video of his Game three throw to the plate, I did find this amazing 1984 team promo.
Thames vs. Lemon
This poll is closed
Willie Hernandez vs. Matthew Boyd
Without a doubt, Willie Hernandez had the best seasons of his career during the six years he spent in Detroit. The lefty pitcher joined the Tigers in 1984, and Willie appeared in 80 games that season, closing 68 of them, amassing 32 saves, and maintaining a 1.92 ERA. In an almost unheard of feat for a reliever, Hernandez won the 1984 AL MVP award and the AL Cy Young award, and became only the third player to ever win both awards and a World Series in the same season (another Tiger, Denny McLain, did it in 1968, and Sandy Koufax did it in 1963).
For anyone watching in those mid-80s seasons, Hernandez definitely left an indelible mark.
A more modern player who has stood out as a bright beacon during uncertain times is current starter Matthew Boyd. While his career numbers are obviously impossible to view overall (give the man some time!), he has consistently gotten better and better in Detroit, taking on the defacto ace role.
Boyd, who with his wife Ashley runs an organization called Kingdom Home in Africa to help save girls from sex slavery, cemented his place as a rising star for the Tigers when he took a no-hitter into the ninth on September 17, 2017.
What makes Boyd a unique character is not only his openness with press and commitment to charity, but also his willingness to try just about anything to improve his pitching game, from herbal supplements to offseason training, he will always go the extra mile to get better, and the results have started to show on the field.
Hernandez vs. Boyd
This poll is closed