"What does this city know about luxury, hmm? What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life? Well I’ll tell you. More than most. You see, it’s the hottest fires that make the hardest steel. Add hard work and conviction. And a know how that runs generations deep in every last one of us. That’s who we are. That’s our story. Now it’s probably not the one you’ve been reading in the papers. The one being written by folks who have never even been here. Don’t know what we’re capable of. Because when it comes to luxury, it’s as much about where it’s from as who it’s for. Now we’re from America – but this isn’t New York City, or the Windy City, or Sin City, and we’re certainly no one’s Emerald City. This is the motor city – and this is what we do."
Thanks for leading us in, Marshall. The usage of hard work and conviction perfectly describes the types of players that the Detroit Tigers have tried looking for in recent years, even if they've ended up with some busts along the way. From Miguel Cabrera to Justin Verlander, the Tigers have fielded some of the league's top players in the new millennia, though some haven't enjoyed the Motor City as much as others have.
Whether it's been because of management, fans that take things more serious than the players would like, or simply playing well, here's a look at eight players who enjoyed their time in Detroit and eight who wish they'd been anywhere else. For this list, we're only discussing players who have played in Detroit during the 21st century, though anyone who debuted with the team in the 1990s and played for them through the 2000s is eligible.
16 Loved - Max Scherzer
We start this list off with a player who, all things considered, may have had one of the greatest five-year stretches by a pitcher in franchise history after being sent to the minor leagues early on in his Tigers career. Acquired by the Detroit Tigers as part of the three-team trade with the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks, Scherzer made two All-Star Teams with the Tigers, twice led the American League in wins, and won the AL Cy Young Award during the 2013 season.
Since leaving the Motor City for our nation's capital, Scherzer has also credited the Tigers for helping him mature as a pitcher and, in his first start against Detroit during the 2016 campaign, tied a Major League record with 20 strikeouts in a single game. Not too bad, Maxie boy!
15 Hated: Gary Sheffield
Given Sheffield's history as a player with an attitude, this was to be expected following the Yankees' November 2006 trade with the Tigers. In his two years with the Tigers, Sheffield hit 44 home runs and even stole 31 bases, but his .247/.354/.433 slashline was less than stellar - though the guy was 39 during the 2007 season. Sheffield was cut on the eve of the 2009 season by the Tigers with 499 career home runs, a cold gesture that may have been the difference between needing a game 163 for the American League Central or not.
Interestingly, Sheffield hit the 250,000th regular season home run in Major League Baseball history when he was with the Tigers, crushing a grand slam off Oakland's Gio Gonzalez in September 2008. There's a neat trivia fact you can pull out at the dinner table.
14 Loved: Magglio Ordonez
Playing with the Tigers from 2005-11, Ordonez made three All-Star Games, a Silver Slugger, and led the American League in hitting with a .363 average in 2007; if not for Alex Rodriguez hitting 54 home runs and 156 RBI for the Yankees, Ordonez likely would have been a frontrunner for the American League MVP Award. Then, there was also a certain hit in a certain postseason to end a certain game...
When Ordonez retired in 2012, he was honored at Comerica Park prior to a game against the New York Yankees. Longtime manager and friend Jim Leyland, who would join Ordonez in retirement after the 2013 season, said the following about the fan favorite outfielder:
"I think the best thing that I can say to Magglio is, a manager has players over the years, and not all of them become friends, but you've become a friend. I thank you for all the wonderful things you did for me, all the respect you showed me and all the respect you showed your teammates. You'll be missed. I love you."
13 Hated: Juan Gonzalez
Remember when Juan Gonzalez was with the Tigers? No? Igor spent the 2000 season with the Tigers after being traded by Texas with Danny Patterson and Gregg Zaun in a massive trade for Frank Catalanotto, Francisco Cordero, Bill Haselman, future 'Idiot' Gabe Kapler, Justin Thompson, and Alan Webb. Gonzalez and the Tigers immediately got off to a bad start when the two-time MVP declined an eight-year, $140 million contract (keep in mind, this was when getting a contract over $60 million dollars was still astounding) and battled injuries to his feet.
The last straw came when Gonzalez said the only way he'd re-sign with the Tigers was if they brought the fences at Comerica Park - their brand new ballpark, by the way - in so he could hit more home runs. See ya, Juan.
12 Loved: Ivan Rodriguez
"This is an exciting day for me. I know they had a bad season last year, but I think this is going to be a completely different season."
When he spoke those words in February 2004, future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez had already become an icon in Detroit. Even after winning a World Series with the Florida Marlins and watching the Tigers go 43-119, Rodriguez still signed in Motown wanting to bring about change. Though Pudge is going into the Hall of Fame this summer as a Texas Ranger, his impact is most remembered by today's youth as a four-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glover with the Tigers.
In his first four seasons with the Tigers, Rodriguez hit .298/.326/.453 with 124 doubles and an 11.7 WAR, contributing to the Tigers' turnaround from American League doormat to World Series contender before being dealt to the New York Yankees in 2008. Who was he dealt for, you ask?
11 Hated: Kyle Farnsworth
Among players on this list, Farnsworth is one of the few who had two stints in Detroit and the first one was...actually pretty successful as the journeyman reliever pitched to a 2.32 ERA in 16 games for the Tigers in 2005, striking out 55 hitters in 42.2 innings before being dealt to the Atlanta Braves. Stint number two was less successful, though, as Farnsworth returned to the Motor City after three terrible years with the Yankees - seriously, not even Joe Torre is to blame for how badly Farnsworth pitched - and responded with 16 innings of 6.75 ERA ball for the Tigers in 2008.
Like in New York, the fans showered him with boos and like in New York, Farnsworth couldn't get anyone out. Of all the marginal players on the Yankees' roster in July 2008 the Tigers could have gone for - Darrell Rasner, Jose Veras, Shelley Duncan - they instead went for Farnsworth??
10 Loved: Sean Casey
Casey wasn't with Detroit as long as some of the other players on this list who loved the team and city, but his 196 games with them saw him slash .281/.334/.335 and play an important role in the franchise's 2006 run to the World Series. When it was time for Sean Casey to say goodbye after the 2007 season, 'The Mayor' handled it with class.
"I talked to both [Tigers manager] Jim (Leyland) and [Tigers general manager] Dave (Dombrowski). They let me know. I've had a great time with this team, the greatest year and a half of my career. It was great. But I understand the situation. I'll miss this a lot. I've played with a great bunch of guys, Detroit is a great city, and I had a great relationship with the fans. I'll really miss the fans. It's been an awesome experience."
9 Hated: Dontrelle Willis
When the Tigers acquired Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in a December 2007 trade, the hope was that they were acquiring an All-Star hitter and a former Cy Young contender who could become a legend in Detroit. Well, they got that with Cabrera, but unfortunately not Willis; the excellent control Willis showed in Florida was non-existent early on with the Tigers as he walked 35 hitters in 24 innings - and posting a 9.38 ERA - for the Tigers in 2008.
Come 2009, Willis was diagnosed with anxiety at the age of 27 and took time away from the team to learn more about the disorder, returning in May and not pitching any better than he had the season prior. It was easy for Tigers fans to dislike Willis and it was easy for him to not like the city at the time, but the two-time All-Star has softened his stance in recent years.
8 Hated: Brandon Inge
Inge is in a unique situation here because the fans were oftentimes mixed about him - some times, they loved him, but other times weren't the best. When things were good, Tiger fans voted him into the 2009 All-Star Game and watched him fail miserably in the Home Run Derby. When things were bad, they booed. But when the time came last year for the Tigers to honor Inge, the fans came out in full support and their former third baseman took notice.
“That was unbelievable. First of all, I’m a nobody when it comes to big names. I’m a no-name, clearly. I played as hard as I possibly could and maybe that resonated with some people, maybe that’s why, but I can tell you right now, that was flattering. It really was. I didn’t expect that kind of reaction. It was surreal. It really made me miss being here, I can tell you that.”
7 Hated: Prince Fielder
In Milwaukee, Fielder was a fan favorite known for monster home runs and unique celebrations, but that same magic never really got to happen in his two seasons with the Tigers. There were brief flashers of brilliance for the veteran first baseman, who slashed .295/.387/.491 with 55 home runs and 214 RBI in his two seasons in Detroit, but those were largely forgotten about after no home runs and one RBI in four postseason series after the 2012 ALDS win over the Oakland Athletics.
When asked by media after losing the 2013 ALCS about how fans would respond to him getting over the loss so quickly, Fielder didn't hold back.
"Because they don’t play, I mean if you have responsibilities … it should be, you know, you shouldn’t take your work home with you, you know. I still have to be a father and take care of my kids, so you have to move on. ... it was frustrating just because we lost I mean if we would have won, it would have been alright, but we lost so its definitely frustrating.”
Taking shots at fans? Not really caring - or even attempting to give a PR-friendly answer - about the team's loss? Yeah, Detroit made the right choice trading him to Texas for Ian Kinsler weeks after the 2013 season concluded.
6 Loved: Curtis Granderson
A member of the Tigers from 2004-09, Granderson made an All-Star Game in his final season and was a key contributor to the 2006 World Series team. When in Detroit, though, Granderson's success in Detroit wasn't only limited to the field as the All-Star created the Gran Kids foundation to raise money to benefit the educations of inner-city children around the country.
It was the Gran City Foundation that led Granderson to his final event in Detroit: a charity basketball game in January 2010, roughly a month after being traded to the Yankees. That day, Granderson was serenaded in cheers by fans and thanked the entire city when speaking with the media.
"This was also an emotional event on a personal level, as it will be somewhat of a goodbye from me to the fans and the city that have supported me so strongly throughout my career so far."
5 Hated: Joe Nathan
Would you have imagined Joe Nathan on this list, given how nice of a guy he is? A six-time All-Star closer with the Twins and a two-time finisher in the top five of American League Cy Young Award voting, Nathan was disappointing in his time with the Tigers, pitching to a 4.81 ERA in 58 innings during the 2014 season and offending fans with a rude gesture after a win.
Though Nathan apologized, saying that he was frustrated and needed to set a better example, it was clear that he wasn't a huge fan of the city and their fans. In a way, Nathan's Tommy John surgery that came about after saving Opening Day 2015 may have been a blessing, as it allowed the future Twins star to pitch with the San Francisco Giants - where Nathan first started out - and the World Champion Cubs.
4 Loved: Placido Polanco
One of the best defensive infielders of the new millennium, Polanco was always seen with a smile during his time in Detroit. Coming over from the Phillies in 2005, Polanco slashed .311/.355/.418 in four and a half seasons with the Tigers, adding 37 home runs, 139 doubles, 26 stolen bases, and two of his three career Gold Gloves. Though Polanco didn't have the name and brand of an Ivan Rodriguez or a Miguel Cabrera, he was still a fan favorite and remains one nearly a decade after his last at-bat in a Tigers uniform.
"Every time I come here, I feel like I come home," Polanco told Tigers broadcaster Dan Dickerson in August 2015. "I feel like I never left. Everybody's very friendly. I played in quite a few places, and this is the only one where we had a place. We even came here for Christmas sometimes. ... "I still miss it. Just coming back here brings all the memories, being in the clubhouse and walking down the tunnel."
3 Hated: Bobby Higginson
Who? For those who don't remember Bobby Higginson, he was a corner outfielder for the Tigers that entered at the end of the Sparjy Anderson era and left shortly before the Jim Leyland era. From 1995 to 2005, Higginson slashed .272/.358/.455 for the Tigers, hitting 187 home runs and 709 RBI in a quiet, slightly above average career. Even through the losing, Higginson remained in Detroit, though that's not to say he enjoyed his time there.
Dan Holmes of Detroit Athletic probably put it best last month when reminiscing about the former Tigers star:
"He pouted when he didn’t play well, barked when he disagreed with a call from the home plate umpire, and had a few run-ins with teammates, most notably Juan Gonzalez, who probably deserved it. Tellingly, despite working his way up the ladder of tenure with the club, Higginson never became a team leader. He was what they called in the 1950s, a “clubhouse lawyer.”
2 Loved: Jhonny Peralta
In his three and a half seasons with the Tigers, Peralta made two All-Star teams and slashed .275/.332/.433 with 53 home runs, 242 RBI, and a total 9.1 WAR. Unfortunately, Peralta's time in Detroit was marred by controversy regarding the Biogenesis scandal in which the veteran shortstop had to serve a 50 game suspension in 2013. When Peralta returned at the end of the season, he was moved to left field and went on a tear during the postseason, making fans happy and keeping his team in contention.
"I said to [GM Dave] Dombrowksi: 'Give me the opportunity to be here and show I can help the team,'" Peralta said following Game 1 of the 2013 ALCS. "They called me and they gave me the opportunity to be here so I try to work hard everyday."
1 Hated: Delmon Young
When Young was on his game, the guy could hit. Unfortunately, the former number one overall pick was more known for his attitude issues, including a 2012 arrest in New York City for a hate crime and yelling anti-Semitic threats. With nine career postseason home runs with the Tigers, there's no doubt that Young was dangerous come October, but he was too much of a loose cannon to really make a long-term impact.
Given that the Tigers would rather have had Andy Dirks as their starting left fielder for the 2013 season, that should tell you all you need to know about Young's time in Detroit. Still, the guy did have his moments, including winning the ALCS MVP in 2012 by slashing 353/.421/.765 showing two home runs and six runs batted in.
Which of these players did you most enjoy in a Tigers uniform? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!