Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tigers Have Made Waiver Deal Spashes, Too

The non-waiver interleague trading deadline is next Tuesday. Simply put, it's called "THE" trade deadline because teams can deal freely. Any trades made after July 31 have to involve players being put through waivers first -- an extra step that has stonewalled deals in the past.

The Tigers, for the second consecutive year, figure to be placed under the heading of "Buyers" -- that category of teams who are looking for players to boost their playoff runs. The "Sellers" are the teams either hopelessly out of contention, or too cheap, or both. Even when the Tigers were Sellers, rarely was anyone buying what they had on the lot. The Tigers had Edsels for sale in a market full of Corvettes.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at some trades the Tigers have made in pennant races of the past -- the ones that occurred AFTER the non-waiver deadline.

1967. The Tigers snag Hall of Fame slugger Eddie Mathews from the Braves. Mathews, already over the 500-homer mark, sticks around past the '67 pennant disappointment and is a member of the 1968 champs.

1968. Two veteran pitchers join the Tigers. Don McMahon comes over from the White Sox in late July, and one of my all-time favorites, Elroy Face, is acquired from the Pirates on August 31. I like Face because he is the author of one of baseball's great anomalies. In 1959, Face went 18-1 as a reliever for the Pirates. But as a 40-year-old with the Tigers in '68, he gets into just two games for a total of one inning.

1972. Lots of acquisitions by GM Jim Campbell. Lefty Woodie Fryman, catcher/outfielder Duke Sims, and first baseman Frank Howard are the biggest names. Fryman goes 10-3 down the stretch, Sims contributes power and a .300+ average, and Howard cracks a couple of homers in September. Howard, incidentally, joined the Tigers too late to be included on the playoff roster, so Hondo -- who always played on bad teams in Washington -- had to be a 6-foot-7 cheerleader in the heartbreaking ALCS. The Tigers lost the series, 3-2, and Howard may have been able to make a difference. But he was ineligible.

1984. Nothing earth-shattering here. The big move that year came in spring training, when Bill Lajoie swindled the Phillies for Willie Hernandez and Dave Bergman for John Wockenfuss and Glenn Wilson. The Tigers acquired lefty reliever Bill Scherrer in late August.

1987. The John Smoltz year. Need I say more? Smoltz-for-Doyle Alexander won the division for the Tigers. You know the rest.

1988. The Tigers finish second, but on August 31 they make a flurry of moves, acquiring Fred Lynn from Baltimore, and pitcher Ted Power from Kansas City. It's a crazy day. For Lynn and Power to be eligible for playoff rosters, they have to physically be in the same city as the Tigers are as of midnight on the 31st. Power makes it to Chicago easily, but Lynn's plane touches down right around the witching hour. It's determined that if the Tigers win the division, a special meeting will be convened by MLB to decide Lynn's fate. The Tigers finish a game behind Boston. No meeting needed.

1993. The Tigers finish a distant second this time, but they are on the fringes of contention when they trade for Eric Davis (Dodgers) on August 31. Davis swats a homer in his first Tigers game, but is injured (again) in 1994 and is out of baseball in 1995. He returns in 1996.

2006. I'm watching the Tigers on a Friday night in mid-September and all of a sudden I see Matt Stairs pinch-hitting. I didn't even know the Tigers had acquired him. Stairs plays the last couple of weeks, and contributes a game-tying, ninth inning homer in the season finale, but the Tigers lose the game and the division anyway.

2007. We'll see if the Tigers feel they've addressed their needs sufficiently enough at the July 31 deadline without having to make any waiver deals afterward. Who's going to be the Todd Bertuzzi of baseball?


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