For the past couple of years, the Tigers were changing their roster and their leadership, both in the dugout and in the front office. As the 1998 season dawned, there was an even bigger change in store.
The Tigers announced plans for a new ballpark, to be ready in time for the 2000 season. It would be built off the Woodward corridor, across from the Fox Theatre off Montcalm Street.
Baseball had been played at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull since the early 20th century, with the current structure debuting in 1912 as Bennett Park. It became Navin Field, then Briggs Stadium, then Tiger Stadium.
The announcement meant that the Tigers would play just two more seasons at Tiger Stadium before moving into their new digs.
The other change of note was the Tigers' moving from the AL East to the AL Central, where they'd compete with the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins. The move was necessitated by the arrival of the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who took the Tigers' place in the AL East.
Buddy Bell began his third season as Tigers manager with high hopes. He had a young core of talent, ranging from 1B Tony Clark to 2B Damion Easley to SS Deivi Cruz to CF Brian Hunter to LHP Justin Thompson. Bell also had some grizzled guys like newly-acquired OF Luis Gonzalez (free agent) and 3B Joe Randa, acquired for Travis Fryman.
Brian Moehler provided a solid right-handed arm to complement the southpaw Thompson. The bullpen contained lefty specialist Sean Runyan---who would appear in 88 games but pitch only 51 innings---and the closer was reliable Todd Jones. Bell definitely had some pieces in place.
Unfortunately, the Tigers never realized their potential as a team and as a result, Bell lost his job.
The end for Bell came on September 1, with the Tigers 52-85 and playing uninspired baseball. Bell was replaced by his bench coach, Larry Parrish, himself a former Texas Rangers third baseman. The Tigers finished the season 13-12 under Parrish, but it wasn't enough to avoid a last place finish in the AL Central.
Clark had 34 HR and 103 RBI; Easley slammed 27 HR with 100 RBI; Bobby Higginson had 25 HR and Gonzalez hit 23 four-baggers. Hunter slipped to 42 stolen bases and 67 runs scored.
Pitching-wise, Moehler led the Tigers with 14 wins, while Thompson won 11 games. But they were the only two pitchers to win as many as 10 games. Jones saved 28 games.
After the season, it was announced that Larry Parrish would return to manage the Tigers in 1999.By GregEno
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- Bobby Higginson, Brian Moehler, Briggs Stadium, Buddy Bell, Damion Easley, Deivi Cruz, Joe Randa, Justin Thompson, Larry Parrish, Luis Gonzalez, Sean Runyan, Tiger Stadium, Todd Jones, Tony Clark