The Tigers went into the 2007 season as defending American League champs for the first time since 1985. It was an un familiar feeling, to say the least.
But unlike 1985, when the Tigers pretty much stood pat, roster-wise, in 2007 GM Dave Dombrowski got aggressive.
The first thing he did, not long after the Tigers lost to the Cardinals in the World Series, was acquire veteran slugger Gary Sheffield, likely a Hall of Famer, from the Yankees.
Sheffield's big right-handed bat appeared to be a good fit as the Tigers' new DH. He was 38 years old and injured a lot in 2006, but he still managed to hit .298 in 39 games. In 2005, a healthy Sheffield had 34 HR, 123 RBI and batted .291.
Dombrowski also retained the services of 1B Sean Casey, who had been acquired at the trade deadline in 2006.
The hope was that the addition of Sheffield and the retention of Casey, in combination with the veteran bats of Magglio Ordonez, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlos Guillen and others, would enable the Tigers to take the next and ultimate step.
Things looked good---for half a season.
Despite Sheffield's slow start personally, the Tigers as a team sprinted out of the gate. A seven-game winning streak gave them a 45-29 record and a two-game lead in first place on June 24.
Everything stayed good through the All-Star break; then Sheffield got hurt. He originally injured a shoulder diving for a ball in one of his rare starts in left field, and after the break the soreness flared up.
Sheffield was hitting above .300 before the injury. Then his bat speed and power diminished, and as his batting average sank, so did the Tigers.
On July 21, Sheffield was batting .306 and the Tigers were 58-37. Less than four weeks later, Sheffield had dipped to .279 and the Tigers had gone 9-18, dropping into second place.
The second half fade continued. The Tigers stayed on the fringes of Wild Card contention into early-September, but even that slipped away before long.
The Tigers finished a disappointing 88-74 and in second place, eight games behind the Cleveland Indians. After the All-Star break, the Tigers went 36-40.
But there were some good stories.
The biggest was Ordonez, who won the AL batting crown with a .363 average, the first Tiger to capture the honor since Harvey Kuenn in 1959. Ordonez had a league-high 54 doubles and 28 home runs to go with 139 RBI.
Center fielder Curtis Granderson paced the league with an astounding 23 triples, to go with 23 homers and 26 stolen bases. Four Tigers scored 100+ runs (Sheffield, Granderson, Ordonez and Placido Polanco).
Justin Verlander went 18-6, but wily veteran lefty Kenny Rogers was limited to 11 starts due to injury. As a team, the Tigers posted a mediocre 4.57 ERA.
Instead of taking the next step forward, the Tigers regressed, missing the playoffs altogether.
Dombrowski went back to his lab to whip up a new concoction.By GregEno
- Carlos Guillen, Dave Dombrowski, Detroit Tigers, Gary Sheffield, Harvey Kuenn, Ivan Rodriguez, Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, Magglio Ordonez, Sean Casey