After about a decade and a half of complete futility, the Detroit Tigers shocked the baseball world in 2006.
Their improbable run to the World Series kicked off a run that lasted eight more years and included two American League Pennants (2006, 2012) and four consecutive division championships (2011-2014).
While the Tigers still have not brought a World Series title back to the Motor City since 1984, the run from 2006 through 2014 was a period of time unlike any other in the club’s 118-year history.
So, if we were to condense these teams into one 25-man roster, what would it look like? I decided to take a swing at it.
(Note: this team won’t be made up by the “best” players, just the ones Tigers fans will find the most memorable)
Manager: Jim Leyland (2006-2013)
Is it a coincidence that Detroit’s return to relevance immediately began the year Leyland was hired, and then ended as soon as he retired? Nope.
Catcher: Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez (2004-2008)
This Hall of Fame backstop’s career was one for the ages, and his prime came in a Texas Rangers uniform, but his decision to sign with the lowly Tigers put them back on the map.
This drew other stars to the club in the coming years, catapulting the Tigers into the powerhouse they became.
Also, why don’t we talk more about this game? Yes, you’re reading that right.
First Base: Miguel Cabrera (2008-present)
One of the best right-handed hitters the game has seen in a long time.
Cabrera has been in Detroit for 10 years. In that time frame, he has won two MVP awards and won the elusive Triple Crown.
Second Base: Placido Polanco (2005-2009)
Acquired for some spare change and a bag of balls (Ramon Martinez and the long-imprisoned Ugueth Urbina), Polanco was a leader on and off the field for Detroit.
Polanco went a span of 186-consecutive games without making an error in 2006 and 2007 (a Major League record). He was also named MVP of the 2006 American League Championship Series.
Shortstop: Carlos Guillen (2004-2011)
Some fun facts about Guillen: he led the historic 2006 team in WAR by a whole point, hit the for the most recent cycle in Tigers history in 2006, and in his eight seasons with the team, he started at least one Opening Day at each of the four infield positions.
This moment, however, was his greatest as a Tiger.
Third Base: Brandon Inge (2001-2012)
A sentimental favorite in the hearts of so many Tigers fans, Inge had been through thick and thin with the team.
He may not have been the most talented hitter out there, but Inge was a fantastic defensive third baseman and proudly wore the Old English D for 11 seasons.
Even six years after his final game with the team, one would be hard-pressed to attend a game at Comerica Park and not see a fan wearing Inge’s No. 15.
Left Field: Curtis Granderson (2004-2009)
Left field is a tough position for this article’s purposes, as the Tigers had a different starting left fielder on Opening Day every year from 2007 through 2016.
Granderson was almost exclusively a center fielder in his time with the Tigers, but technically, there are two center fielders who belong on this list and zero left fielders. Plus, the “Grandy Man” played a bit of left field at the beginning of his career.
Even nine years after playing his final game as a Tiger, he still has a special place in fans’ hearts due to his infectious personality and contributions as the leadoff man during the 2006 run.
In 2007, Granderson became just the third player in MLB history to record 20 home runs, 20 steals, 20 doubles and 20 triples in one season.
Center Field: Austin Jackson (2010-2014)
Jackson was a bit more reserved than Granderson, but he also had a personality (and a knack for making spectacular plays in center) that was loved by all Tigers fans.
While he was a bit maligned by fans for his heavy strikeout total (particularly in the 2013 playoffs), Jackson’s career as a Tiger will be remembered from this moment as a rookie all the way to his final seconds with the team.
Right Field: Magglio Ordoñez (2005-2011)
Winning the batting title in 2007 by hitting .363 (!!!) and also driving in 139 runs was impressive, but…
Well, here you go.
Designated Hitter: Victor Martinez (2011-present)
Tigers fans are getting a bit sick of still seeing a crippled V-Mart’s name on the roster (and for good reason), but in his earlier years with the team, he was an absolute force.
Martinez has been Cabrera’s protection in the lineup for the majority of his tenure in Detroit, and has for the most part done a splendid job.
2014 was his best year with the team, leading the American League in on-base percentage at .409 while also hitting a .335 clip, drilling 32 dingers and driving in 103 runs. He also stole three (!!!) bases!
Alex Avila (2010-2015, 2017)
The son of the general manager Al Avila, Alex was behind the plate for all four of the Tigers’ division titles from 2011 through 2014.
He was known to belt some clutch home runs, most notably this one in the heat of a pennant race.
Don Kelly (2009-2014)
One of the most lovable Tigers of all time. “Donnie Kelly Baby” was known as one of Jim Leyland’s favorite players and played just about every position on the field – even though he never had much success at the plate.
Still, he was responsible for one of the greatest playoff moments in Tigers history. This dinger was pretty great, also.
Omar Infante (2002-2007, 2012-2013)
Infante was a regular for the Tigers at second base and shortstop in 2004 and 2005 and served as a utility man for the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
He was welcomed back in a 2012 trade with Miami to fill a hole at second base and performed well, hitting .318 in his final season with Detroit in 2013.
Jhonny Peralta (2010-2013)
His PED suspension in 2013 caused the Tigers to trade for Iglesias and make him expendable, but Peralta was a solid hitter at the shortstop position for the better part of four seasons.
This home run made up for the suspension he served earlier in the year.
Delmon Young (2011-2012)
Delmon Young couldn’t play in the field to save his life, but his consistent bludgeoning of the New York Yankees in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs helped the Tigers eliminate their rivals. He also took home MVP honors in the 2012 American League Championship Series.
Starting Pitcher #1: Justin Verlander (2005-2017)
What more can be said? Two no-hitters (nearly plenty of others), a Cy Young, an MVP award, a Rookie of the Year Award, countless clutch playoff performances…
Justin Verlander may be the greatest Detroit Tiger of all time. It was bittersweet watching him finally get his World Series ring last year with the Houston Astros, but he more than deserved it.
Starting Pitcher #2: Max Scherzer (2010-2014)
He struggled at first as a Tiger, but one quick trip to Toledo to work on some things and suddenly Scherzer became one of the top pitchers in the game.
He may be at the height of his career now with the Washington Nationals, but his years in Detroit’s rotation (or…bullpen?) were certainly memorable.
His 2013 Cy Young-winning season saw him finish with a 21-3 record, 2.90 ERA, 240 strikeouts and a WHIP under one.
Starting Pitcher #3: Kenny Rogers (2006-2008)
Rogers finished his 20-year career with Detroit, serving as the team’s ace and veteran leader in 2006.
He dominated the Yankees in an iconic performance during Comerica Park’s first-ever playoff game, and was the starting pitcher for the only World Series game Detroit ever won during its remarkable run.
Starting Pitcher #4: Doug Fister (2011-2013)
Acquired for a handful of Triple-A players before the 2011 trade deadline, the Doug Fister deal was one of the best during Dave Dombrowski’s tenure.
In 11 starts down the stretch after the trade, Fister went 8-1 for the Tigers with a 1.79 ERA. He continued to prove his value that postseason, pitching a gem in the decisive Game Five in Yankee Stadium.
He also set a new American League record in 2012, striking out nine Kansas City Royals in a row.
Starting Pitcher #5: Anibal Sanchez (2012-2017)
Sanchez came over with Infante in return for Jacob Turner, another great Dombrowski trade.
He unfortunately saw his effectiveness dip in his final three seasons with the Tigers, but Sanchez’s performance from 2012 through 2014 was remarkable.
He won the American League ERA title (2.57) in 2013, and followed up by allowing just four home runs all season in 2014.
Sanchez’s top moments include a Tigers-record 17 strikeouts against the Atlanta Braves in April 2013 and a 12-strikeout, hitless performance over six innings in Game One of the 2013 ALCS.
Joel Zumaya (2006-2010)
His career was short-lived, but when Joel Zumaya was healthy, he was one of the most exciting pitchers in the game. His rookie season of 2006 was his best, finishing the year with a 1.94 ERA, striking out 97 in just over 83 innings.
Jose Valverde (2010-2013)
“Papa Grande” may have overstayed his welcome in Detroit, but he was truly an icon. From his dramatic entrances to his emphatic celebrations, Valverde was the epitome of excitement.
Oh, and let’s not forget his incredible 2011 season, in which he successfully converted each of his 49 save opportunities (and three more in the playoffs) and finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting despite being a reliever.
Todd Jones (1997-2001, 2006-2008)
Bringing in closer Todd Jones for his second tenure in Detroit was one of just two additions (the other being Kenny Rogers) that Dave Dombrowski made before the improbable 2006 run.
Jones was another reliever who fans got a bit sick of, but he tallied 37 saves in 2006 and 38 in 2007.
Fernando Rodney (2002-2009)
Rodney spent the first seven years of his career in Detroit, but his best seasons remarkably came after he left.
Still, Rodney was part of the team throughout its transformation into a contender, serving as the closer in 2009 and blowing just two save opportunities. Unfortunately, one ended up being the infamous Game 163 in Minnesota.
Joaquin Benoit (2011-2013)
Unfortunately, Benoit will always be remembered in Detroit for giving up a 2013 playoff home run that we will not talk about.
Nevertheless, he was easily the most consistent arm in the Tiger bullpen in the three seasons he spent in Motown as a setup man and, for a brief period, closer.
Benoit’s final ERA over his three years in Detroit was a solid 2.89. His WHIP was an even more impressive 1.08.
Phil Coke (2010-2014)
Coke’s regular seasons as Detroit’s “lefty specialist” were largely forgettable, but his performances in October 2012 were enough to get him on this list.
After Jose Valverde lost the closer’s job, Coke took over during the ALCS after pitching through some clutch situations in the ALDS.
He mowed down his former Yankees club, tossing 5 2/3 shutout innings during the series and picking up two saves.
Honorable Mentions: 1B Prince Fielder, INF Ramon Santiago, OF Ryan Raburn, OF Torii Hunter, SP Jeremy Bonderman, SP Rick Porcello, RP Bobby Seay, RP Jamie Walker, RP Al Alburquerque