Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 1-4
This Week: (9/15-17: at Tex; 19-21: at Cle)
Magic No. for a winning record: 4 (four losses and the Tigers will finish with a losing record for the 13th time in the last 15 years)

The above magic number is also the number of home runs Gary Sheffield needs for 500 in his illustrious career. Believe it or not, the Tigers, in their long history, have never had a player hit his 500th homer in a Bengals uniform. And since it's still possible that Sheffield will not be a Tiger next season (there are few "untouchables" on the roster right now), if he doesn't get #500 in the team's final 14 games, then the Tigers will still not ever have a player hit no. 500 while playing for them.

Actually, it's not all that ignominious of a distinction.

First off, only a few dozen players in MLB history have ever hit 500+ home runs to begin with. And the home run "era" didn't really start until the 1930s or so. And players who initially hit 500 home runs did it for teams that they'd played most of their long career with. So right there, you're eliminating quite a few scenarios.

Al Kaline is the Tigers' all-time home run leader with 399. It's been that way since Al retired in 1974. In fact, the Tigers have only had three players hit as many as 300 home runs for them. And as far as all-time HR sluggers who've spent most of their career elsewhere, i.e. Sheffield, the Tigers haven't had too many of those guys, either. Eddie Mathews comes to mind. He played for the Tigers in 1967 and '68, after he hit his 500th homer for the Braves. Other than that, until Sheffield this season, the Tigers haven't really even come close to having someone hit home run no. 500 in a Detroit uniform.

It's just one of those statistical oddities -- one that may change soon.


Speaking of Kaline, he could have been the first American Leaguer in MLB history to have both 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. But even though he got his 3,000th hit late in the '74 season (his last), Kaline remained stuck on 399 home runs when he retired. He hit no. 399 in Boston on September 18 (according to, with 13 games left in the Tigers' season. But 43 at-bats later, Kaline was shutout when it came to the longball. So it was Carl Yastrzemski, not Kaline, who got the distinction of being the AL's first 400/3,000 man.


The Tigers look like they'll finish in 4th place this season, and there's your ignominy right there. Fourth place out of five teams. And likely with a losing record. Wasn't supposed to be like this, was it?

The Tigers can try to avoid that by sweeping the third-place Indians in Cleveland this weekend. So there's your "big" September series!



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