It's hard to root against guys on your own team. Looking back on my 20+ years of watching Tigers baseball, it's really hard to come up with guys that I just couldn't stand. (For possible exceptions, please see Inge, Brandon and Robertson, Nate) Whether they're good or bad, these guys start to become part of your everyday life. For some reason, you identify with some guys more than others. So, this is a list of my favorite Tigers players at each position that I've personally seen play. They might not have been the best...but they're the ones that I'll always remember. Here's the DesigNate Robertson All Time Tigers Team.
Mickey Tettleton, 1991-1994
When I was a kid playing in Little League, I started out as a catcher. Maybe that's why over the years, with the exception of the before mentioned Mr. Inge, I've always been a huge fan of whoever strapped on all the gear and called the pitches for our guys. Whether it was long forgotten players like Mike Heath, Dwight Lowery, and John Flaherty, the one-year-wonder known as Matt Nokes, or Tiger icons like Pudge Rodriguez and Lance Parrish, I just identified most with the Tigers catcher. But no Tiger catcher was like Mickey Tettleton. The Mick had the coolest batting stance that my 14 year old eyes had ever seen. You'd hardly ever see him without a golf ball sized wad of chew puffing out one of his cheeks. He was very durable for a catcher, playing in at least 152 games in each of his first three seasons in Detroit. The dude was a beast hitting 31, 32, and 32 home runs again those three awesome first years. His fourth and final season in Detroit saw him miss time and only play in just over a hundred games before moving on to the Rangers to finish out his career. He was also the first player that made me appreciate the art of taking the walk as Mick had over 100 walks five times in his career and another two times with at least 90. When people talk about Detroit catchers, Pudge and Parrish always get mentioned. (Freehan by guys older than me.) But The Mick will always be the man in the mask in my book.
Runner Up: Ivan Rodriguez
Cecil Fielder, 1990-1996
Miguel Cabrera will probably (and hopefully) take this spot a few years down the road, but for now, no one has been as memorable to me at first base than "Big Daddy". Cecil made people remember that there was still a baseball team playing in Detroit in 1990 when he belted 51 homers back when that was still a big deal. Cecil wasn't on steroids. He was on cheeseburgers, if anything. The big man came out of nowhere as the Blue Jays let him go after the 1988 season. He went to Japan to play and the Tigers took a chance on him when no one else wanted him. Cecil anchored first base for us until moving on to the Yankees for two years, Anaheim for one, and winding down with a whimper in 1998 for 14 games in Cleveland. His son, Prince, continues the family tradition slugging homers in Milwaukee today. The Tigers weren't very good in the early 90's, but they were fun to watch with Fielder, Tettleton, and other sluggers like Rob Deer and Pete Incaviglia swinging for the fences every time up.
Runner Up: Darrell Evans
Lou Whitaker, 1977-1995
"Sweet Lou" spent his entire career in a Tigers uniform and will always be an icon in Detroit. For his career, he hit .276 with 244 homers and 1084 RBIs. He wasn't the type of guy you normally would see leading off for a team, but he got the job done for us. Lou was remarkably consistant in the field with a career fielding percentage of .984. If you compare his career numbers to other second basemen in the Hall of Fame, Lou looks like an easy choice. However, Lou has never received any serious consideration, which I consider a shame. He was one half of the greatest double play combination of all time with Alan Trammell, and I look forward to the day when, hopefully, Lou and Tram get their numbers retired together in Detroit.
Runner Up: Placido Polanco
Alan Trammell, 1977-1996
Come on! Who else would it be? Alan Trammell's season in 1987 where he hit .343 with 28 dingers and 105 RBIs was what hooked me as a baseball fan for life. I still remember watching that season come to an end fighting it out with the Blue Jays as the packed Tiger Stadium crowd chanted, "MVP, MVP" whenever Tram came to the plate. He lost out on that award to Toronto's George Bell that year (b.s.), but he led us into the playoffs in '87 for the last time until we finally got back in '06. Only Alan Trammell could still be insanely popular in Detroit after leading the team to 119 losses as manager. He hit .285 for his career with 185 home runs and 1003 RBIs. Much like Lou, he doesn't get much consideraton for the Hall of Fame despite his numbers compared to other players in his era. If it weren't for Cal Ripken overshadowing him for most of his career, I think Tram would be remembered as one of the all time greats. I met him at an autograph signing when I was a kid and at that time, I think it was the highlight of my life.
Runner Up: Carlos Guillen
Tom Brookens, 1979-1988
Career numbers: .246, 71, 431. Not that impressive, I guess. But Brookens just made me smile when I watched him play baseball. He wasn't the best on the field, but he was fun to watch. I remember watching him make diving catches at the hot corner and trying to imitate him in the back yard afterwards. I'll never forget him playing catcher one game when we were out of bench players. Tom left in 1989 and played for the Yankees and Indians before retiring after the 1990 season. Not the best Tiger of all time, but one of my favorites.
Runner Up: Travis Fryman
Magglio Ordonez, 2005-present
Kirk Gibson, 1979-1987, 1993-1995
Bobby Higginson, 1995-2005
Clutch. That's what I think of when I think of these three guys. Maggs and Gibby with their postseason home runs will live on forever. Higginson is my personal favorite Tiger of all time for being the only guy on the team with any talent for a decade and still managing to put up decent numbers with no protection in the lineup. Toughness. That's the other thing I think of. All three battled injuries throughout their careers and kept coming back. None of them will ever make the Hall of Fame (will anyone on this list?), but Ordonez, Gibson, and Higginson ARE baseball to me.
Runners Up: Chet Lemon, Curtis Granderson, Dan Gladden
Jack Morris, 1977-1990
Frank Tanana, 1986-1992
Kenny Rogers, 2006-2008
Justin Verlander, 2005-present
Doyle Alexander, 1987-1989
The winningest pitcher of the 80's, three guys past their primes, and a kid. An odd group, to be sure. But these guys were/are fun to watch. Jack is known as a big game pitcher and will always be remembered for his 10 inning shutout pitched for the Twins to clinch the World Series. But I'll remember him for being the first "ace" I ever saw pitch for my team. With his big mustache and split-fingered fastball, Jack was the scariest pitcher I ever saw as a kid until watching Dave Stewart pitch for Oakland in 1989. I never saw Tanana in his prime when he was firing 95+ mph fastballs for the Angels. But in Detroit, he threw the nastiest breaking stuff that I have ever seen to this day. Kenny won me over for life in '06 during the playoffs with his intensity...I could care less if his hand was dipped in pine tar. Justin's the ace of the staff today and is the only pitcher I've seen throw a no-hitter from the first pitch to the last. Finally, Doyle's a sore subject in Detroit since we gave up John Smoltz for him. But in that '87 season, he went 9-0 for us to get us to the playoffs and I'll never forget that.
Runners Up: Dan Petry, Mike Moore, Bill Gullickson, Steve Sparks, Jeremy Bonderman
Mike Henneman, 1987-1995
Todd Jones, 1997-2001, 2006-2008
Jamie Walker, 2002-2006
Matt Anderson, 1998-2003
Joel Zumaya, 2006-present
I guess I like roller coasters. All of these guys had their scary moments, but all had their fun times, too. First up is Henneman, the first real closer after Willie Hernandez fizzled out. Henneman was the first guy with a three-quarters delivery that I had seen. And to an impressionable kid, that was cool. Jones, for all the frustration that came with him, wanted to be a Tiger more than any guy I can remember not named Whitaker or Trammell. Todd took pride in the Old English D and I'll never forget that. Being the team's all time save leader helps, as well. Walker makes the list because he was a solid lefty out of the pen and because he's probably the nicest and funniest Tiger that I've personally met. Anderson's career was a disappointment after being a number one draft pick, but he was the first Tiger I ever saw throw over 100 mph. He battled injuries his whole time in Detroit, but I really remember rooting for the guy. Zoom's kind of the same way. He burst onto the scene, but he's struggled to stay on the field ever since. But when healthy...that heater's unbelievable.
Runners Up: Willie Hernandez, Tim Byrdak, Bobby Seay
That's it. The DNR All Time Tiger Team. Together, they might finish around .500. But I'm a Tigers fan...I'm not used to winning teams. Go to a Yankees blog for that crap.