Under the stewardship of manager Jim Leyland, the Detroit Tigers — despite losing to the Twins last night, 7-6 — look like an early force in the AL Central. The Detroit News’ Jerry Green suggests that Leyland’s predecessor deserves much of the credit.
Jim Leyland has long been a tactically successful, winning major-league manager. So with the Tigers he has been anointed as a magician or a genius — or both.
But there is one sad element — tragic in a way — to this baseball renaissance that Detroit needed so long to embrace.
The team that is winning now and attracting national notice is the team, basically, that Alan Trammell groomed and developed. For the most part, the athletes are the pitchers and the everyday players with whom he suffered through the growing pains. And when they matured as athletes, Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski had used Trammell up and dumped him.
Three years managing a ruin of a once-proud and prosperous franchise and endeavoring to revive it was much too short for any manager. They saddled him with an embarrassment of a team that lost 119 games his first season. It would play at a near-.500 level for most of his final season, until a September collapse for which he caught the brunt of the blame.
But in those three seasons of the maturation of a ballclub, Trammell was overseer of the development of most of the pitching staff that has been so successful this year.
Jeremy Bonderman (above) was a callow, green kid when he was rushed into the majors, underage, not yet ready. He became a bona-fide major-league starter under Trammell and his coaching staff.
Mike Maroth lost 21 games that first season, intriguing baseball America as the first 20-game loser in a couple of decades. He has been a stingy, baffling pitcher this year.
Nate Robertson was erratic and undependable. Now he is a winner.
Justin Verlander, a year out of college baseball, was brought in from the low minors to make two spot starts last season and was hit hard twice. Now, with the experience of his two trials, he is pitching decently in the majors in his true rookie season.
Trammell must receive some of the credit for the development of a young, scoffed-at pitching staff into a group that has been the marvel of baseball this season.
On the field, he was given Carlos Pena and Nook Logan as mainstay players. And beyond that, Trammell and the Tigers suffered severely last season with the injuries to Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez.
But then Trammell was never a magician nor a genius. And never was given the chance to become one.