We all know that in his enthusiasm Sparky Anderson is prone to making ridiculous statements. How about this one: "The 1984 Tigers wouldn't belong on the same field as this 1986 team." In case you have forgotten, the 1984 Tigers won 104 games and whisked through the playoffs and the World Series, winning seven out of eight games.
Anderson argues that the '84 team "caught the full impact of a miracle," and that it benefited from once-in-a-lifetime contributions from players who "didn't belong in the big leagues." The Tigers allowed the miracle workers to carry over into 1985, but by midseason Detroit had fallen back to earth. So general manager Bill Lajoie has, without giving up one player in the club's plans, acquired two veteran lefthanded starting pitchers (Frank Tanana, Dave LaPoint), signed a veteran setup relief pitcher (Bill Campbell), and picked up speed (Dave Collins), a promising third baseman (Darnell Coles) and a pure hitter who can also catch (Dave Engle).
"Pitching wins this division," says Anderson. (Indeed, only once—1982—in the last nine years has the AL East winner not led the division in earned run average.) The staff begins with the two constants of the '80s, Jack Morris and Dan Petry. Morris is baseball's winningest pitcher of the decade, while Petry had 93 victories before he turned 27 last November. Then comes 15-game winner Walt Terrell. The only real question seems to be whether Willie Hernandez will have his third straight 30-plus-save season.
Collins gives the Tigers needed speed—they rose from 187 to 202 homers in 1985 but dropped from first in the AL in runs to eighth. The Tigers also have skill in the middle (Lance Parrish, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Chester Lemon) and power (Parrish, Gibson, Whitaker, Darrell Evans and Mike Laga).
There are concerns, however. One is Trammell's shoulder. Another is Gibson's shoulder. Then there's Parrish's back. "If we're healthy, we should be very good," says Petry. When the health plan includes Parrish, Trammell and Gibson, that is a significant if, even though Sparky may soon declare that the '86 Tigers are better than the '27 Yankees.
THE ELIAS ANALYST:
Same RBI total as '84 despite drop in runners in scoring position at bat, from 220 to 189.
Last year hit the most homers ever by a Tiger second baseman.
Can break Mark Belanger's AL fielding pct. record (.9769) if he handles first 42 chances.
Starting his 12th big league season with 7th different team; the record is 10 teams.
Over the last four seasons, he has six stolen bases, 18 caught stealings.
Hit 90 points higher (.314-.224) against righties than against lefties.
At 38, the oldest AL player ever to hit 40 HRs, breaking the Babe's mark (age 37 in '32).
Only pitcher to win 100 games during the 1980s; he has 102, Ron Guidry has 95.
One of two pitchers to win at least 15 games in each of the past four years. Morris is the other.
Ranked 5th in AL with 6.66 strikeouts per nine innings, his highest mark since 1977.
Allowed one HR per 25.4 innings last season, 2nd best rate in the AL.
Allowed 11 homers in late inning pressure situations last year.