1996 was definitely a year of change for the Tigers.
Gone were Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson and Sparky Anderson---iconic Tigers who could never be truly replaced in the hearts of the fans. On the way out would be Alan Trammell, who announced that 1996 would be the last season of his brilliant 20-year career.
There was a new GM---Randy Smith, the 32-year-old who came over from the San Diego Padres.
The new manager was Buddy Bell, the longtime third baseman for the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers. Bell became the first manager not named Sparky Anderson to lead the Tigers since 1979.
The Tigers' new 2B was Mark Lewis, who had been a rookie sensation with the Cleveland Indians in 1992. The Tigers were also grooming tall, slugging 1B Tony Clark, a switch-hitter who was the team's first round draft choice in 1990. Incumbent Cecil Fielder was 33 and the Tigers were looking to the future.
Pitching had been the Tigers' biggest concern in 1995, by far. It was hoped that a new manager and a new coaching staff (the new pitching coach was former big league pitcher Jon Matlack) would help remedy that.
For 15 games, the Tigers stayed respectable. They were 8-7. But that was as long as respectability would last. The Tigers would lose 39 of their next 44 games, a freefall that was directly connected to their woeful pitching. In those 44 games, the Tigers surrendered 10+ runs a staggering 15 times, including a 24-11 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
At the July 31 trade deadline, Smith traded Fielder to the World Series-bound New York Yankees for veteran OF Ruben Sierra.
It was a very forgettable season. The Tigers finished 53-109, buried in last place. The team ERA was 6.38 as 27 men tried their hand on the mound. Matlack was fired during the season and replaced by Rick Adair. Fittingly, the season ended with a nine-game losing streak.
Offensively, 3B Travis Fryman had 22 HR, 100 RBI and batted .268. In his final season, Trammell battled a leg injury and appeared in just 66 games, batting .233. Clark showed potential by slamming 27 HR in just 376 AB---but he struck out 127 times.
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- Alan Trammell, Buddy Bell, Cecil Fielder, Detroit Tigers, Jon Matlack, Mark Lewis, Randy Smith, Sparky Anderson, Tony Clark, Travis Fryman