If you read the pitching portion of the all-time post-Detroit team of former Detroit Tigers, you understand the format. Players are chosen only on what they did after they left Detroit, either by trade or free agency.
This is a 26-man roster – the 2020 rules – and these are the non-pitchers. This is set to be a team as it would be presented on the field, so the bench has to be able to complement the starters and be able to help with defensive flexibility.
And, of course, it needs a batting order, so let’s get with it.
Batting first: Tony Phillips, second base – .264/.388/.414/.803, 66 HR, 251 RBIs, 444 R, 51 SB
Phillips is a perfect fit, not only on this team but at the top of the batting order.
First, he can play second base, third base and in the outfield, so that versatility is a plus. He is a switch-hitter who can run, and he gets on base, as his .388 on-base percentage shows. He never made an all-star team, but he was a sparkplug for many of his teams.
The Tigers traded Phillips to the California Angels for outfielder Chad Curtis on April 13, 1995.
Numbers do not tell the entire story of Tony Phillips.
Batting second: Howard Johnson, third base – .247/.340/.453/.793, 209 HR, 691 RBIs, 687 R, 214 SB
Possibly the biggest mistake Sparky Anderson made in his time with the Tigers was trading Howard Johnson to the New York Mets. HoJo went on to an excellent career.
Johnson is the only player to hit 200 home runs and steal 200 bases in the major leagues after leaving the Tigers. He nearly became a 40-40 man in 1989 when he hit 36 home runs and stole 41 bases.
It is hard to imagine how Sparky ever put Marty Castillo at third base in the 1984 World Series, although Castillo delivered a home run in the Fall Classic.
The Tigers received pitcher Walt Terrell from the Mets for Johnson.
Batting third: Heinie Manush, left field – .333/.378/.480/.856, 90 HR, 999 RBIs, 902 R, 65 SB
After spending the first five seasons of his major-league career with the Tigers, Manush was traded with first baseman Lu Blue to the St. Louis Browns for Harry Rice, Elam Vanglider and Chick Galloway in December of 1927. It was not a good trade for the Tigers.
In his first season away from Detroit, Manush led the American League with 241 hits and finished second in the voting for the AL MVP Award. From 1928-34, Manush’s yearly batting averages were .378, .355, .350, .307, .342, .336 and .349. Most of those seasons were with the Washington Senators, who acquired Manush from the Browns in 1930.
Manush finished his 17-year major-league career with a .330 batting average and an OPS of .856. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964, and his name is on the right-field brick wall in Comercak Park in Detroit with other Tigers Hall of Famers.
Batting fourth: Luis Gonzalez, designated hitter – .294/.385/.513/.897, 247 HR, 889 RBIs, 880 R, 39 SB
No player ever hit more home runs after leaving the Tigers than Gonzalez, who belted a career-high 57 in 2001 when home runs were flying out of ballparks at a record rate. He spent only one season in Detroit and hit 23 home runs with 71 RBIs in 1998.
In one of their worst trades, the Tigers traded Gonzalez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Karim Garcia on December 28, 1998. It was practically a three-day late Christmas present to the Diamondbacks.
Gonzalez made the first of five National League all-star teams in 1999, and in 2001 he was a key to Arizona winning the World Series for the first time. He had one home run and five RBIs for the Diamondbacks in the World Series against the New York Yankees.
Gonzalez retired with a .283 batting average and 354 home runs. He hit 107 in his first nine seasons, including his only year in Detroit, and 247 in the next 10 seasons after leaving the Tigers.
Batting fifth: Vic Wertz, left field – .270/.354/.464/.818, 157 HR, 647 RBIs, 424 R, 4 SB
Wertz signed with the Tigers as an amateur free agent and worked his way through the minor leagues before reaching Detroit. In August of 1952 – his sixth season with the Tigers – he was part of an eight-player trade with the St. Louis Browns.
Wertz had been a three-time all-star with the Tigers and hit 20-plus home runs four years in a row and twice topped 100 RBIs in a season. He hit his peak with the Cleveland Indians in the 1950s. He was on the 1954 Indians team that won the pennant but lost to the New York Giants in the World Series, and he was the batter who hit the long fly to center field that was tracked down by Willie Mays, who made a memorable over-the-shoulder catch at the Polo Grounds.
Wertz had his best two seasons in back-to-back years with Cleveland in 1956-57. He hit 32 home runs with 106 RBIs in 1956 and 28 homers with 105 RBIs in 1957. The Tigers re-acquired him in 1961, but he was in the twilight of his career and hit just five home runs for Detroit in limited playing time.
He finished with 266 career home runs and an OPS of .833.
Batting sixth: Baby Doll Jacobson, center field – .312/.358/.451//809, 83 HR, 814 RBIs, 782 R, 86 SB
Jacobson had the toughest challenge in baseball when he broke in with the Tigers as a rookie in 1915. Detroit had one of the best outfields of all-time in Sam Crawford, Ty Cobb and Bobby Veach, ajd Jacobson had no chance to get any regular playing time. On top of that, he was a center fielder, and Cobb owned that position in Detroit.
The Tigers needed pitching, so they traded Jacobson and $10,000 to the St. Louis Browns for Bill James. It was a great trade for the Browns, just not instantly. Jacobson went back and forth from the minors to the majors for a few seasons before breaking through in 1919 with a .323 average.
Jacobson was never a power hitter as he reached double-digits just twice, but from 1919-26 he had batting averages of .323, .355, .352, .317, .309, .318 and .341. He scored more than 100 runs twice in a season, and he topped 100 RBIs twice in a season.
But the question on everyone’s mind certainly is why he was called Baby Doll. His given name was William Chester, and he had been known as Big Bill. He was in the minors in 1912, and on Opening Day, a band in attendance began playing a popular song of the day, “Oh, You Beautiful Doll.” Jacobson led off with a home run, and a lady seated behind the plate jumped up and yelled, “you must be that beautiful doll they were talking about.”
Beautiful was turned to baby, and Jacobson had a nickname that stuck for the rest of his career.
Batting seventh: Wally Pipp, first base – .281/.342/.408/.749, 90 HR, 999 RBIs, 971 R, 125 SB
Pipp is famous for being the first baseman Lou Gehrig replaced at the start of his consecutive-games streak, but the Yankees obtained him by purchasing his contract from the Tigers in 1915.
Pipp, a graduate of Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School, appeared in just 12 games for the Tigers in 1913. He was 5-for-31 but three of his hits were triples. After Detroit, Pipp had a 14-year career in the majors, including 11 with the Yankees. He hit .281 with 90 home runs in his post-Detroit career with a WAR of 31.2
He was the Yankees’ regular first baseman from 1915-24, and he spent the last three seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Reds. He had a career .281 batting average with 90 home runs and 1,001 RBIs.
Batting eighth: Chris Hoiles, catcher – .262/.366/.467/.833, 151 HR, 449 RBIs, 415 R, 7 SB
Hoiles is a clear-cut choice with a WAR of 23.5. No other catcher is higher than 10.0.
The Tigers took him in the 19th round of the 1986 draft out of Eastern Michigan. After hitting 45 home runs in three minor-league seasons for the Tigers, they traded him to Baltimore with two minor-leaguers who never made the majors for Fred Lynn at the trading deadline.
Hoiles, who never played a game for the Tigers, was Baltimore’s No. 1 catcher for eight years in a row (1991-98) and peaked in 1993 by hitting .310 with 29 home runs and 82 RBIs. He hit 14 home runs against the Tigers in his 10-year career, including two two-homer games at Tiger Stadium.
Injuries forced Hoiles to retire after 10 years, all with the Orioles, and he was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame. He also indirectly led Mickey Tettleton to the Tigers. When the Tigers traded Hoiles to Baltimore, they felt they had their catcher of the future in Matt Nokes. When Hoiles was ready for everyday duty in Baltimore, the Orioles had to trade a catcher, and they dealt Tettelton to Detroit.
Batting ninth: Maury Wills, shortstop – .280/.330/.331/.661, 20 HR, 458RBIs, 1,067 R, 586 SB
The Tigers had Wills from October of 1958 until the end of spring training in 1959. It was a conditional deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he was returned to the Dodgers on April 2, 1959. Big mistake.
Wills held his own as a rookie in 1959 and took over as the Dodgers’ regular shortstop in 1960. He was a slap hitter with a lot of speed, and in 1962 he became the first player to steal at least 100 bases in a season when he stole 106 to break Ty Cobb’s record of 96 set in 1915. Wills hit .299, won the National League MVP Award and received his second consecutive NL Gold Glove Award at shortstop that season.
Wills led the National League in stolen bases six years in a row and played 14 years in the majors. He finished with 586 career stolen bases.
Lance Parrish, catcher – .236/.307/.396/.703, 112 HR, 370 RBIs, 279 R.
Parrish was the first of the 1984 stars to leave Detroit. He left via free agency after the 1986 season and spent the next 10 seasons away from Detroit. He played for the Phillies, Angels, Mariners, Indians, Pirates and Blue Jays. The last three seasons were spent as backups.
Willy Adames, shortstop – .263/.328/.414/.742, 30 HR, 86 RBIs, 112 R, 10 SB
Adames was just 18 when he was traded to Tampa Bay as part of the package for starting pitcher David Price. He was a solid prospect at the time, but projecting an 18-year-old can be tough, so the Tigers let him go. Adames reached the majors in 2018 and hit .278 with 10 home runs in 85 games. Last year, he had his first full season in the majors and hit 20 home runs with 52 RBIs while just 23 for most of the season.
Adames seems primed for a long, productive career in the majors, and while he might not be the choice for this team as a starter right now, he will be soon enough.
Eugenio Suarez, third base – .267/.347/.486/.833, 143 HR, 407 RBIs, 373 R, 23 SB
Suarez spent one season in Detroit, and he hit four home runs in 85 games before he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for underperforming pitcher Alfredo Simon. It was a terrible trade. Suarez has developed into a middle-of-the-order slugger for the Reds, and he has combined to hit 83 home runs with 207 RBIs the past two seasons.
Suarez is just 28 years old and has hit 143 home runs since leaving Detroit, including 49 in 2019. It is only a matter of time before he breaks the record of 247 held by Luis Gonzalez.
Curtis Granderson, outfield – .236/.334/.455/.789, 242 HR, 648 RBIs, 782 R, 86 SB.
Granderson spent his first six major-league seasons with the Tigers before they dealt him to the New York Yankees as part of a three-team trade that brought pitcher Max Scherzer to Detroit. Granderson had a fine 10-year career after Detroit, mostly with the Yankees. He was a three-time all-star and had his best two seasons in back-to-back years with the Yankees in 2011-12. He hit 41 home runs with a league-leading 119 RBIs in 2011 and 43 home runs with 106 RBIs in 2012.
He finished with 344 career home runs.