Jim Leyland also brings something special to the dugout, and that can't be understated -- the man has a magic touch. This, too, has to stand as his best work and there's nothing you can take away from the guy, including the World Series ring he won in Florida. He might join Sparky in Cooperstown, but for now he's a close second in this race.
We're talking 35-5 here, folks. The best start in history. That, after winning the first nine games of the season. They weren't quite as hot in the second half -- how could they be -- but they never lost more than four games in a row during the course of a 104-win season.
Not a shabby start in 2006, either -- 27-13 through 40 is nothing to sneeze at, and it was enough to vault the Tigers into first place in the highly competitive AL Central. But it got shaky down the stretch, with the Tigers going 19-31 in the last 50 and falling into the Wild Card slot, a luxury the '84 team didn't have.
Yes, there was a pitcher who won both the Cy Young and the MVP in the American League that year in Willie Hernandez. Yes, they had an ace at the top of the rotation in Jack Morris, who with 19 victories led four double-digit winners in the rotation. Yes, they led the AL in pitching. But ...
You've got three-digit radar gun power in young Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya and another young star in Jeremy Bonderman. You've got a veteran lefty in Kenny Rogers giving his finest performance at age 41, and a closer in Todd Jones doing the same at age 38. It's a great mix, and it gets a slight edge in a match of two teams that were the class of the league their respective seasons.
With Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell at the top, Kirk Gibson and Lance Parrish in the middle and a deep lineup throughout, the Tigers led the AL in hitting that season. They didn't have many of the top stats leaders in the league, but as a team they were the best offense.
Also a deep lineup with a powerful middle man in Magglio Ordonez and an exciting, though sometimes frustrating in terms of strikeouts, leadoff man in Curtis Granderson, the '06 Tigers have shown in the postseason they can make things happen offensively, be it from the bottom of the lineup or heroics from the middle. But they don't stack up with '84.
With Trammell and Sweet Lou up the middle, this was a strong unit. But it wasn't blessed with a key element for defense -- speed.
The '06 Tigers have an athletic easy glider in center field in Granderson, and they've managed to shuffle their infield around a bit during the ALCS without losing much.
Tiger Stadium was a venerable old ballyard but, let's face it, it was a shack compared to the modern ballpark nearby. Some might think this heresy, but Tiger Stadium was a great place only for the players and moments, not for the building itself.
Comerica Park is one of the best modern ballparks around, and it seems to be wearing well now that it's been through a lot in its seven years. Fan-friendly and pleasing to the eye, it's a gem in downtown Detroit.
They were the greatest team of their year, and perhaps of their decade. They had a Hall of Fame manager, and everything was set in perfect motion for their championship season. From beginning to end, it was a magnificent season capped the only way it possibly could have been -- with a World Series title. Bless You Boys, indeed.
This team has won seven consecutive games in the postseason heading into the World Series, something the '84 team obviously couldn't have done. Leyland's magic touch is remarkable, and the precise blend of youthful energy and veteran know-how is something to behold. They still have a lot of work to do to match their older brothers from '84, but they sure do have something going on this October. As great as the '84 team was, it's hard to not fall in love with this team, too.