It’s been 27 years since a Detroit Tiger won the Cy Young award. Since the inception of the award, only two other Tigers have won: Denny McLain in 1968 with 31 wins and closer Guillermo (Willie) Hernandez in 1984.
Today we have Justin Verlander. Already a 2011 pitching triple crown winner (24 wins, 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts) this season, Verlander placed third in 2009 as the Kanas City Royals Zack Greinke won. Today he is the 2011 Cy Young winner.
Not to be outdone was Tiger closer Jose Valverde (49 for 49 in save opportunities in 2011). Papa Grande, as he is known by Tiger fans, also was considered for the CY Young. In the end, the man we simply know as “JV” won.
The 2011 season was magic for JV, and he is well on his way to becoming one of the most dominate pitchers of our era. His domination is what led the Tigers to a division title. In Motown, Verlander is what we call “must-see TV” — Tigers fans drop what they are doing to huddle around the television when he pitches, and the Detroit media pack the press box to start writing their stories on a possible perfect game. If he didn’t allow a hit through four innings during a start, people were talking. If the sixth inning was on tap and the scoreboard still showed zeros, the fans were silent in anticipation of what the last three innings might produce.
Throughout the years, the Tigers have had many pitchers finish in the top five spots for Cy Young voting. In 1971, Mickey Lolich finished second to the Oakland Athletics Vida Blue. Mark Fidrych was a distant second to Baltimore’s Jim Palmer in 1976. One of the greatest pitchers in the 1980s was the Tigers very own Jack Morris. Jack’s came close twice finishing third in 1981 and 1983.
The Tigers are getting fantastic recognition in the postseason awards: two Cy Young candidates, two players up for Golden Glove awards and potential MVPs at pitcher and first base. Would I dare say that Jim Leyland could win manager of the year? Let’s just say he took a team to a division title — a team picked to finish no higher than third — and one series away from playing in the World Series.
Winter meetings will surely bring the positional players this team needs to fill the void at second base. The Tigers will shore up third base and add that fifth starter spot that Brad Penny failed to fulfill. Will it be Jacob Turner? Will they go after a free agent? Time will tell.
So, what do Tiger fans have to look forward to in 2012? A World Series, of course.