Monday, March 19, 2007

Late Spring Training Trade In '84 Sealed The Deal For Tigers

The Tigers were toward the end of another spring training, the countdown to the regular season done in days now, instead of weeks. After a second place finish the season before, the same cast of characters, mostly, was being counted on to take the record and finish up one more notch.

Then a bombshell, of sorts.

It was late March, 1984, and the Tigers made a trade that interrupted the laziness and warmth of the Florida sun.

Gone to Philadelphia were outfielder Glenn Wilson and catcher/first baseman Johnny Wockenfuss. Coming to Detroit would be first baseman Dave Bergman, known as an outstanding fielder and capable hitter, and a relief pitcher named Willie Hernandez, who labored in relative anonymity with the Phillies and, before that, the Cubs.

Nobody knew it at the time, but GM Bill Lajoie had just locked up the pennant and the World Series with that deal.

Hernandez wasn't even considered the key acquisition; it was first baseman Bergman

Wilson was a decent outfielder with a little pop in his bat who had a strong upside. But he fell out of favor with manager Sparky Anderson, for whatever reason, and once that happened with Sparky, the move was irreversible. Wockenfuss had been a faithful Tigers veteran for ten seasons, a popular dude in Detroit.

Ironically, it was the slick-fielding Bergman who was considered the key acquisition at the time. The Tigers had signed free agent Darrell Evans, but he was slated to play mostly third base. Bergman would shore up the Tigers' defense at first base and maybe hit .270 or so as well.

As for Hernandez, he was to provide some bullpen depth -- a lefthanded foil to Senor Smoke, Aurelio Lopez.

Without Hernandez, who knows where the Tigers would have been in '84. And Bergman did what he was expected to do, including his memorable at bat against Toronto's Roy Lee Jackson on a Monday night.

Wilson went on to some good, solid years in Philadelphia before finishing with Pittsburgh in 1993. Wockenfuss played two seasons with the Phillies before retiring.

Hernandez would end up being booed out of Detroit by 1989, but for one season, he was untouchable, and won both the Cy Young and MVP Awards in 1984.

Sometimes the trades that wake up spring training can also reverberate through an entire season.


Blogger Ozz said...

It'll be interesting to see what kind of deal, if any, the Tigers pull off before leaving Lakeland this spring.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Alan M. said...

Ahhh, a beer at Theo's and the Tigers.... '84 was a very good year....

4:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home