The Tigers came within one game of the 1988 AL East flag, but folks who knew baseball and who were honest with themselves knew that while that seemed impressive, the Tigers had issues.
The team was getting old fast, and not enough young, quality players were being groomed in the minor league system. Yet few could anticipate how rough the 1989 season would be---on the players, the fans and, most surprisingly, on manager Sparky Anderson.
Returning was OF Fred Lynn, but the great Lynn's skills had eroded and, with the exception of some circus catches, he was only a shadow of the player he used to be in his heyday with the Red Sox and Angels.
The Tigers kept plugging in veterans, like Keith Moreland, Gary Ward, Tracy Jones and Ken Williams, but these were just Band-Aids; players who were over-the-hill and whose production was muted by age. The trend continued on the mound, with older pitchers like Doyle Alexander, Jack Morris, Frank Tanana, Charlie Hudson and Edwin Nunez dotting the roster.
The team got off to a bad start and by mid-June, the Tigers were 25-38, and the losing was getting to Sparky---more than even he expected. As a result, Anderson took a leave of absence for a few weeks, leaving coach Dick Tracewski to manage the team.
2B Lou Whitaker was the only Tiger who was really having a decent year; Sweet Lou's power numbers were up, and he was healthy after a 1988 season that saw him miss 47 games.
As a team, the Tigers batted just .242, compared to .274 for their opponents. Their team ERA was 4.53, compared to 3.47 for their opponents. They committed 129 errors, 20 more than they did in 1988.
The result? The Tigers finished dead last, with a 59-103 record, 14 games out of sixth place.
Ace pitcher Jack Morris won just six games. Frank Tanana led all starters with 10 wins. Alexander, one of the heroes of the 1987 season, lost 18 games. All told, the Tigers went through 22 pitchers during the season.
It was the team's first last-place finish in 14 years.By GregEno
- Charlie Hudson, Detroit Tigers, Dick Tracewski, Doyle Alexander, Edwin Nunez, Frank Tanana, Fred Lynn, Gary Ward, Jack Morris, Keith Moreland, Ken Williams, Lou Whitaker, Sparky Anderson, Tracy Jones