Contraction, Contenders, Champions

In November of 2001 baseball’s owners voted 28-2 in favor of contracting two teams from the league. It was never specified which two teams, but many speculated the down trodden Tigers were headed for the ax.

Detroit had seen one winning season in the previous 10-years, the in-between was mostly garbage…92, 96, 97 & 109-losses, and most fans, understandably, didn’t care to watch the debacles first hand. A mighty damper was hanging over mo-town and the league had its own ideas how to make it go away.

As we know, baseball didn’t contract the Tigers, or any team for that matter, after striking a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. The league moved on and so did the Tigers–albeit in the same hapless direction.

Detroit lost 106, 119, 90 & 91-games in the following four seasons, enough misery for Tiger fans to wonder “hey, about that contraction stuff..?”

But it all changed in 2006, five years removed from dodging the supposed chopping block. Under new manager Jim Leyland the Tigers won 95-games, took the wild card and stormed through the playoffs reaching the World Series, which they lost to St. Louis 4-1

Nevertheless, since then the Tigers have seen but one losing season. They’ve reached the LCS in back-to-back years, lost to Texas last season, but easily swept the Yankees out this year. Now it’s back to the Fall Classic.

I thought about all this yesterday watching the Tigers celebrate the AL pennant. What a turn-around this has been…contraction…to contenders…to sitting on the door step of being champions, and all done in the decade since Detroit’s darkest hour.

Kind of makes me hopeful as a Cubs fan. Maybe reaching a World Series on the North Side isn’t as far off as it often appears. Would you take two World Series in the next decade following this 101-loss season? Yeah, I’d take that deal, too.

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