“Better in a Tigers kind of way.”
Jayson Stark names the Mariners the AL’s most improved team. Don’t get too comfortable, though, folks: it’s just to set you up for this zinger.
Of course, all that just makes these Mariners better in a Tigers kind of way, as opposed to a win-the-World Series kind of way. But you’ve gotta start somewhere.
Does anyone else feel a chill? Because that seems cold. At first, anyway.
As miserable as last year was for M’s fans, Detroit was historically bad two seasons ago, a forehead-slapping 20 games worse than the 99-loss 2004 Mariners. Since hope is like a tulip bulb — you can’t stop it from blossoming in the spring — I should mention that the Tigers did improve by 29 games between 2003 and 2004.
That probably won’t happen, of course. That type of improvement has only happened twice in the AL since the 1961 expansion. But improbable does not mean impossible.
Pursuing the path of irrational exuberance a bit further, consider that Detroit’s centerpiece free agent acquisition, Pudge Rodriguez, was a veteran right-handed bat who had an injury history and was entering a spacious pitcher’s ballpark. Red flags? If you were a bull, that signing would’ve looked like a matador. To a Mariner fan, maybe it compares to the deal given to a certain slugging first baseman. Richie Sexson is a different type of player, but it’s nice for those of us that just hit 30 to remember that players north of that number can still perform at an elite level.
That probably won’t happen, of course, since career arcs generally follow similar patterns of descent.
A lot of other cosmic tumblers fell into place for the Tigers, too, most notably Carlos Guillen’s agreement with Mr. Applegate. For all Bill Bavasi has done right this offseason, trading Guillen ranks as his biggest gaffe. To be fair, no one foresaw the Venezuelan shortstop making such a leap. If your team is going to improve nearly 30 games from one year to the next, though, a few serendipitous events have to occur.
Enough serendipity probably won’t come the Mariners’ way to equal the Tigers’ improvement. But if they did pull off such a match, they’d finish 92-70.
However improbable, would anyone not take “better in a Tigers kind of way”? I’m certainly warming to the idea.