The Athletic Reporter
September 12, 2005 Sports News the Way You Want It. Completely Made Up. Issue 127
 
The Average Mulder
by Joe Mulder
Are We Going to Have to Worry About the Tigers?

66-96.

55-106.

43-119.

72-90.

Those are the won-loss records posted by the Detroit Tigers over the past four seasons, seasons during which the Tigers have languished near the bottom of the American League standings, never finishing better than 20 games out of first place. It's been a rough go for the storied franchise whose last winning season came in 1993, when an 85-77 record was good for third place in the American League West, 10 games behind the eventual World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays.

Things could be looking up, though, sometime in the not-too-distant future (in the immediate future, it appears that the Tigers will still be looking up at the Twins and White Sox), do in no small part to starting pitchers Jeremy Bonderman and Mike Maroth.

Bonderman made his big league debut for the Tigers in 2003, Maroth in 2002. Both suffered through dismal 2003 seasons as the Tigers set an all-time American League record for losses in a season with 119; Bonderman went 6-19 and Maroth 9-21, becoming the first Major League pitcher since 1980 to lose 20 games in a season.

This year, however, things are looking (comparatively, at least) up. The Tigers are 14-16, not a stellar record but an improvement for a team that has not even sniffed .500 in five years and has not reached it in 12. What's more, Bonderman and Maroth are coming into their own, each pitching genuine gems in Anaheim over the weekend. Bonderman is now 5-2, Maroth 3-2 after each pitched eight innings of one-run ball against the AL West-leading Angels. Both games were saved by new Tiger Troy Percival, the dominant closer who signed with the team in the off-season. This a year after former American League MVP and World Series champion Ivan Rodriguez signed with the team prior to the 2004 campaign.

It's early in the year, of course, and the Tigers are two games under .500. It probably won't happen this year, but there's every chance that sometime soon, the Tigers might be good again. After all. the Atlanta Braves suffered through seven losing seasons before reeling off 13 (and counting) consecutive division titles. The Minnesota Twins were all but given up for dead in the midst of eight losing seasons in a row before posting an 85-77 record in 2001 and then taking the next three (and counting) American League Central titles. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays... well, okay. Never mind.

I'm not saying I hope it will happen; as a Twins fan, I'd like to see the Tigers continue to struggle. But as one who can't help rooting for underdogs (an inclination that makes for pretty frustrating viewing during March Madness, I can assure you), I can't help thinking how nice it would be to see the Tigers -- the lowly Tigers -- back in contention one of these days.
Joe Mulder
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