The Tigers have won four championships over the years, but 2003 was one of the worst seasons in franchise history, and quite possibly the worst season in the history of baseball when they almost broke the all-time record for losses in a season with 119.
The Tigers are led by Alan Trammell for the second year. They moved into the spacious confines of Comerica Park in 2000, and it took some getting used to by all involved. There isn’t a free homer anywhere in sight at Comerica, with the shortest possible distance being 330 feet. Anything down the left field line has to be at least 345 feet to clear the fences.
Mike Maroth, a 21-game loser last year, will lead the staff once again. Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Cornejo, Jason Johnson, and Nate Robertson will round out the rotation. A solid committee of middle relievers will try to get newcomer Ugueth Urbina as many save opportunities as possible. Urbina comes from Florida with a World Series ring from last season, and he’ll look to guide the young staff through the summer.
Last year, the Tigers ranked near the bottom of the league in payroll, and that statistic enabled them to go out in the off-season and acquire all-star catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. Rodriguez fully expects this team to not only be competitive in the early season, but to possibly contend for a playoff spot in August and September, quite lofty expectations for a team known for its collective futility only a few months ago. Pudge will be joined in the lineup by young first baseman Carlos Pena, shortstop Carlos Guillen, and speedster Alex Sanchez. Sanchez stole 44 bases last year in limited playing time, and if he ever gets a chance to play a full season, he’s quite capable of putting up 70-80 steals or more.
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