DETROIT (BVM) — Not many teams have as much history as the Detroit Tigers organization. In the 121 years of being a part of Major League Baseball, Detroit has been home to some of the greatest talents the sport has ever seen.
But who are the best to ever suit up for the Tigers? Here is Detroit’s all-time starting nine along with a starting rotation and bullpen:
C: Bill Freehan (1961, 1963-1976)
1B: Miguel Cabrera (2008-present)
2B: Charlie Gehringer (1924-1942)
3B: Dick McAuliffe (1960-1973)
SS: Alan Trammell (1977-1996)
This group is highlighted by “The Mechanical Man”, Charlie Gehringer. The six-time All-Star and 1937 AL MVP was one of the few no-doubters for a starting spot. He was a vital part of the Tigers’ 1935 World Series team, hitting .330 that season with an OPS of .911. Trammell would likely make the cut for Detroit’s Mount Rushmore thanks to his four Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers. Trammell led the Tigers to a World Series victory in 1984, taking home the World Series MVP.
LF: Hank Greenberg (1930, 1933-1941, 1945-1946)
CF: Ty Cobb (1905-1926)
RF: Al Kaline (1953-1974)
Here is the position group that will give Detroit the edge against other all-time teams. Cobb will likely never be passed as the greatest Tiger of all time. Cobb’s 144.9 WAR is 52 points higher than Kaline, who ranks second in franchise history. “The Georgia Peach” has the MLB record for career batting average with .366, a 1909 Triple Crown and a 12-time AL batting champion.
Kaline played 22 seasons in Detroit and was an All-Star in 18 of them. The 1968 World Series Champion is known as one of the greatest defensive right fielders of all time with his 10 Gold Gloves. After his retirement in 1974, he stayed with the Tigers organization, shifting to a role in the booth. He was a color commentator until 2002 before moving into the front office.
– Lou Whittaker, 2B (1977-1995)
– Harry Heilmann, OF/1B (1914, 1916-1929)
– Sam Crawford OF/1B (1903-1917)
– Norm Cash 1B (1960-1974)
– Ivan Rodriguez C (2004-2008)
Whittaker is the first name that stands out on the bench. Arguably a top-five Tiger of all time unfortunately had no room in the lineup with Gehringer. The 1978 AL Rookie of the Year manned the middle infield with Trammell for nearly two decades. While Trammell may get all the attention now from a national perspective, Whittaker is a star in every sense of the word. His resume includes five All-Star appearances, four Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves.
Cobb was not the only Tiger on those early 1900s teams that could hit. Heilmann was one of the greatest hitters of his era himself. Primarily a right fielder, he took home four AL batting titles, finishing his career with a .342 average. He is only one of six players in the history of the American League to hit over .400 in a season. Following his retirement, Heilmann did play-by-play for Tigers’ radio for 17 years.
SP1: Hal Newhouser (1939-1953)
SP2: Justin Verlander (2005-2017)
SP3: Mickey Lolich (1963-1975)
SP4: Jack Morris (1977-1990)
SP5: Dizzy Trout (1939-1952)
There may be some criticism for making Newhouser the ace over Verlander, but the back of the baseball card does not lie. The Hall of Famer is the only pitcher in baseball history to win back-to-back MVP awards. In his 1945 MVP campaign, he took home the pitcher’s triple crown, leading the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA. This is no disrespect to Verlander, but in a must-win game, Newhouser would clearly get the ball.
With that being said, Verlander put together a stellar Tigers’ career himself. There were high expectations for him being selected No. 2 overall in the 2004 MLB Draft and he quickly lived up to them. He took home the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2006 and followed that up with an All-Star appearance in 2007. Verlander made a total of six All-Star appearances during his time with Detroit, also winning the AL Cy Young in 2011.
P Todd Jones (1997-2001, 2006-2008)
P Mike Henneman (1987-1995)
P John Hiller (1965-1980)
P Willie Hernandez (1984-1989)
P Jose Valverde (2010-2013)
P Aurelio Lopez (1979-1985)
P Fernando Rodney (2002-2009)
P Shane Greene (2015-2019)
This group is led by the Tigers all-time saves leader Todd Jones. Jones was never really a lockdown closer, but he was able to get the job done for Detroit. 42 of his 235 saves with the franchise came in 2000. That year, he made the All-Star team, led the American League in saves and took home the AL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award.
Henneman was able to pick up saves for the Tigers, but he also was able to eat innings for them. He came up as a 25-year-old in 1987 and led the Tigers’ bullpen with his 2.98 ERA. He was an All-Star in 1989 finishing that season with 11 wins out of the bullpen.