Saturday, September 09, 2006

ALCS -or- Bust

As a child I was never a strong supporter of my local sports franchises. The Red Wings were less than stellar in the early nineties, the Pistons were, admittedly, great, and I suppose I liked them quite a bit, the Lions were, despite Barry's best efforts, in the shitter, and the Tigers were the Tigers. What a lot of people have left out of the commentary on this season's Tigers team, I think, is the fact that, like the 1992 team, which went 75 and 82, finishing second to last in the American League East, and the 2003 team, which went 43 and 119, this year's team is still, quintessentially, archtypically, a Tigers team.

Just, as much, exactly as much, as the 2003 team was. They were fucking terrible. The ace of their staff, as you may already know, was 25 year old Mike Maroth, who went on to lose more games that season than any pitcher in over 20 years. Our lineup was anchored by the immortal Bobby Higginson, who boasted an extremely impressive arm from right field and batted .230 with 14 home runs in 130 games.

But these guys were amazing. Maroth was in his first full year out of triple a, and he was expected to head a pitching squad at the major league level. The guy did an incredible job. He went out, everyday and lost. And he didn't complain too much, he didn't ask for anything he wasn't getting, he was happy to be playing in Detroit, and, fuck, he didn't have any help on offense, that's for damn sure. It's hard to find a better rags to riches story in recent baseball memory, really. If he hadn't been hurt for so long this year, he could have won 21 games. The guy is a pro, and a Tiger if there ever was one.

As for Higginson, Christ, the guy was such a great punching bag. If there were to be an effigy of the 2003 Tigers for the city to collectively burn after this season, an idea which may very well come to pass, it would be in the laughably common image of Robert Higginson. Never an all-star, he was still the face of the ball club. He, like Maroth, represented the soul of the team: longsuffring, quiet, patient, static. Of course, Dmitri Young got the credit for anything that happened postively on the offensive end of the ball that year, which wasn't much, Higginson was the guy that took the heat, which, on a team that comes within games of losing a record-breaking number of games, is really what matters.

Those guys ought to be the heroes of this year's team, and the heroes of anyone who admires or supports this team, because it is upon the corpses of those such as Carlos Pena, Gay Knotts, and, as of very recently, Dmitri Young, that this team has been built. What I would really, really, love to see, come October, is Mike Maroth hoisting the World Series MVP trophy and proclaiming to the gathered masses of Detroiters, huddling under streetlights around radios at Michigan and Trumbull in the shadow of the old and useless Tigers Stadium, "I dedicate this achievement to me, Mike Maroth, 2003."

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