By Mark Wilson
August 1, 2015

Come on. They gave you a dozen fun baseball seasons.

Now, it’s over.

Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski officially pulled the plug on Detroit Tigers baseball by dealing David Price, Joakim Soria and Yoenis Cespedes within 36 hours of the trade deadline. Cespedes was the last to go; dealt to the New York Mets for a couple of prospects.

You’re saying, “hold on a cotton pickin second there Wilson… how do you get a DOZEN seasons after just listing the latest three amigos to leave Motown?”

Think about it.

The 2003 Tigers lost 119 games. Arguably, it was the worst season by ANY franchise in American League baseball history. It was embarrassing for Ilitch and even for his president and GM, Dombrowski. THIS wasn’t what D.D. signed up for when coming from the Florida Marlins.

119 losses. The stench reached far and wide.

Ilitch told Dombrowski to do something about it.

On a golf course in early 2004, my neighbor overheard a conversation with someone in the know who said that the Tigers were “this close” to signing free agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez. He called me immediately to give me some “breaking news” for the radio show.

Thank you, sir. THAT was a good one.

February 6, 2004 Pudge became a Tiger.

Thus, it began. 12 years ago, the wheels were set in motion to bring the Motor City a baseball team its fans could be proud of for the first time in a long while. The plan was to head back to the World Series 20 years after the last appearance in one.

I contend that this run began… February 6, 2004.

Pudge signed, Magglio Ordonez came on board in 2005 and that was followed by manager Alan Trammell’s exit and the welcoming of Jim Leyland for 2006. Toss in Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, etc. and things started to gel.

162 regular season games, wins over the Yankees and A’s in the playoffs later and voila! Ilitch got his wish.

World Series 2006.

Maybe it came too fast.

When Sparky Anderson took over the Tigers on the field in 1979, he had a bonafide “five-year plan” to get to the post-season. He even vocalized it.

Sure enough, five years later in 1984, not only did the Tigers make the playoffs— they won it all. Right on schedule for Sparky. Three years later, in 1987, they made it back to the playoffs.

2006 was WAY too early to make the post-season.


Because now, expectations would be raised tenfold.

Instead of taking time to build, Leyland had made dreams come true in one fell swoop.

Losing that World Series in five games to the Cardinals was only the BEGINNING in the minds of Tigers’ fans.

2007 saw the team take a step backwards; going from 95 wins to 87. It went even further back in 2008 when, out of the blue, the Tigers finished dead last in the AL Central. It was a finish that I predicted on Opening Day during our radio show appearance downtown.

Go ahead, ask Rob Parker. He says it’s the best prediction I ever made.

He’s right.

Tigers’ peeps still believed in Leyland, Dombrowski and what the Tigers had going on despite the last place ending, 14 and a half games out of first.

A twelve game turnaround happened in 2009 and the season ended with the “163 game” vs. Minnesota. The Twins won it in a thriller to douse the playoff hopes but put the club back on track for the future.

2010 saw another setback. This time, back to .500 at 81-81.

Ilitch spent more money and instructed Dombrowski to “do whatever it takes” to get back to a World Series level. Spare no expense was the mandate. Pizzas were selling pretty well and Little Caesars was dominating the pizza chain market.

Spend that “dough!”

D.D. did and for the next four years, the Tigers couldn’t fail. They won four consecutive AL Central Division championships. Prior to the 2011-14 run, Detroit had enjoyed a TOTAL of THREE divisional crowns. Don’t forget, they got to the 2006 series as a wildcard team.

It all culminated with a second Leyland Tigers’ World Series appearance in 2012 against the San Francisco Giants.

When the Giants swept the Tigers in four games, it’s like a collective groan could be heard from Temperance to Escanaba. It resonated all over Michigan.

Two championship appearances and only one game victory to show for it.


That was Leyland’s record in two World Series wearing the Old English D.

Leyland departed after 2013 and Brad Ausmus was hired to keep the roll going. By this time, the purge had started.

Prince Fielder’s humongous contract was dealt to Texas and Doug Fister was traded to Washington.

Still, plenty of weapons were in the arsenal for Ausmus to win that fourth straight division title in 2014 and even included the addition of top lefty pitcher Price.

Now, at this point, let’s toss in the hockey rink.

I’ve written about it enough to know it matters.

Until someone in the Ilitch family, Olympia Entertainment, Little Caesars, Ilitch’s gardner, the pool man, the dude who washes his cars… tells me different, I believe the hockey rink is the reason why the baseball thing is over.

“District Detroit” is coming and YOU can’t stop it.

The Metro Detroit area seems iffy about this project.

I haven’t really heard people go crazy over the new hockey arena and surrounding entertainment/living space about to be built in the Foxtown neighborhood. People I’ve spoken with are pretty tepid about the deal. They go hot and cold on it; mostly lukewarm.

In any event, A LOT of Ilitch’s own money is going to this shebang. We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars. I don’t care how many pizzas you make, that ain’t going to pay the freight.

By the time “The District” is completed who knows, Ilitch could be on the hook for a BILLION dollars. He’s only getting so much from the state.

Baseball salaries? Big contracts?

Nah, those days are over.

We saw it with Fister and Fielder. It continued with Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.

What about Verlander and Miguel Cabrera you ask?

J.V. and Miggy had money coming to them. I believe Ilitch banked those two particular ridiculous deals knowing full well those would be the last of the “big ones.”

Anibal Sanchez and Victor Martinez got market bearing contracts that would now be considered astronomical in this fire sale that Dombrowski has just completed.

Oh, and how D.D. HATES that phrase.

Fire sale is the reason he left Wayne Huizenga in Miami.

He cringes at “fire sale” like President Obama cringes at “Republican.”

Or… “Donald Trump.”

Two weeks ago, I know some Tigers’ followers who were convinced that Dombrowski would be a “buyer” before this week’s trade deadline.

I said, “No way.”

Even Dombrowski finally had to admit this week that he would have basically everyone up for sale.

You don’t think they’d move Cabrera, V-Mart, Sanchez and Verlander if they could??

Think again, my friends.

Miggy and J.V. have unmovable contracts. Sanchez is giving up homers in record bunches for him and V-Mart is a shadow of his MVP runner-up ’14 campaign.

Not a lot of interest by clubs in taking on those pacts.

Oh and yes, I said Cabrera.

Miggy isn’t playing right now so he gets a pass from this mess.

Next year that incredible extension kicks in. It’s the one that pays Miguel a GUARANTEED $240 million through the year 2023 with two more vesting options after that. $300 million possible when it’s all said and done.

Holy molly.

Ilitch on the line for all that coin when his team might be dragging the bottom of the barrel the entire time.

Look at the Philadelphia Phillies.

They couldn’t wait to trade Cole Hamels, even after throwing a no-hitter at Wrigley Field of all places, and would dump big Ryan Howard if they could.

In short order, from winning the World Series over Tampa in 2008, the Phillies have become the worst team in baseball.

The Tigers are the Phillies… with all the trimmings.

Sorry, kids. They are.

Sure, they got some prospects in this wham bam of a trade week.

Daniel Norris, the dude that lives in a 1978 Volkswagen van during the off-season, makes his Tigers’ debut from the Price trade to Toronto on Sunday. He’s a hippie dippie. Who knows; maybe he’ll light it up and be the next… David Price.

Soria wasn’t here long enough to miss. I was just getting used to Cespedes’ bat.

Oh well. Too bad.

Obviously Ausmus is on board with the new wave. He’s still managing, isn’t he??

Could he be gone after this season?


To be frank, I really don’t see any direction here. Norris was the best of the prospects and he is walk machine. Yes, he strikes out a lot of guys but walks way too many.

The Tigers didn’t exactly get a plethora of Baseball America top minor leaguers.

Just like the Red Wings, the BIG spending is finished. No more.

Either win with what’s cooking or don’t. It doesn’t matter.

Ilitch is pushing 90. His legacy is going to be “District Detroit.” The fact that he didn’t get his precious World Series trophy is irrelevant now. Son Chris or maybe his wife Marian finally convinced him that he can get by without that ring.

I know it eats at him.

He’d trade at least TWO of those Stanley Cup championships for ONE ugly fall classic flag-covered trophy.

Hell, maybe three of them.


Probably time for Uncle Dave to move on to greener pastures. He has no dog in the fight. He was a hired hand to do a job and he did it admirably even if he didn’t bring home the grand prize.

The Angels and Blue Jays are two teams looking for new leaders.

How ironic would it be if Detroit lost BOTH Mike Babcock and Dombrowski to Toronto sports teams in a calendar year?

Los Angeles sounds like a more interesting place for D.D. Wife Karie Ross, the former ESPN anchorwoman, and the kids would love Southern California. Karie used to also work TV in Miami.

Then again, the Dombrowski’s have made a nice life for themselves in Bloomfield Hills. It’s really all their kids have ever known after 15 years in Detroit.

We could have a whole new brain trust here in Tiger Town.

Is there still some talent on this unit?


Jose Iglesias and J.D. Martinez were on the AL All-Star team. Ian Kinsler has the third most hits in MLB the past two seasons. Nick Castellanos shows flashes at times of being somewhat productive.

Problem is, the pitching staff— once considered the best in baseball as recently as two and a half seasons ago, is now depleted. The cupboard is becoming bare.

If Ausmus was able to take this group to that second wildcard spot, he should win Manager of the Year before getting fired.

Not likely however.

More probable is that what began back on a golf course with a rumor about a Pudge Rodriguez signing comes to a close July 31, 2015.

Sports media members have all but buried the Tigers now.

I had them buried in spring training.

It should be most interesting to see where this goes from here. What happens with Verlander and Cabrera over the next half decade will be a highlight. The battle of fielding a competitve baseball team with the building of the new hockey rink will be a thing until the Wings take the ice in a shiny new building sometime in the future.

Until then, don’t expect 90 win seasons. It will be a full on struggle.

But, it was fun watching this thing develop over a dozen baseball seasons. 119 losses seems like a lifetime ago but it was also the impetus to do this in the first place.

When Cespedes became a New York Met and comedian Jerry Seinfeld tweeted, “Cespedes for the rest of us” (very funny reference to an old Seinfeld TV episode) it was done.

Finished. Gone. So long.

Hello football season. We need ya right about now.