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For Tigers, 2020 was an irredeemable, almost forgettable slog [The Detroit News :: BC-BBA-TIGERS-SEASON:DTN]

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DETROIT – It rained on the last day of the regular season. Of course it was. How else would such a gloomy, sad baseball season end, but in an empty Kauffman Stadium after an hour and a half of rain delay with a Tigers line-up where seven players spent most or part of the season playing Intrasquad games in Toledo play and collect three hits in a 3-1 loss?

The last three outs of the season were strikeouts. That seemed poetic at the time.

There was very little to redeem that season’s 58-game slogan. From March 13, when the COVID-19 pandemic first sparked baseball activity, to the death of Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline, on April 6, to the sudden resignation of manager Ron Gardenhire, to that final strike in Kansas City, Missouri. , on September 27th – it was mostly a two-month misery drive with a few precious bags full of joy.

Ten players made their debut in the big league, including Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Isaac Paredes and Daz Cameron. That would probably be encouraging if another 10 players hadn’t debuted in 2019. It just seemed unnecessary.

– There have been some significant promotions on Miguel Cabrera’s milestone clock: He is now 31st among the game’s home leaders (477) and 477 on the hit list (2,866) – with 500 homers and 3,000 hits in his sights.

There were some other great memories in 2020:

– A couple of them happened at summer camp. Two previous No. 1 draft picks – Derek Hill and Riley Greene – took turns making highlight role catches. Hill made a spinning dive over his shoulder in the middle that made teammates hum for weeks. Greene jumped over the fence on the left to run away from CJ Cron.

The Tigers started the season seven times in a row, finishing four home races in the first inning in Pittsburgh on Aug. 8 before recording an out – franchise first. Niko Goodrum, Cabrera, Cron and Jeimer Candelario drove veteran Derek Holland deep into the depths.

When Cabrera hit in the first inning on July 28, the Royals positioned all seven field players on the field grass. The first 7-man outfield alignment. We would have loved to hear how Cabrera took it, but he didn’t allow Zoom interviews until the last week of the season, and only when Tigers’ interpreter Carlos Guillen interviewed questions from Beat writers. Suboptimal, but like the entire 2020 season, better than nothing.

– On August 8, Tyler Alexander made club history by beating nine Reds hitters – most of them by a Tigers reliever. He finished with 10 in 3 2/3 innings.

– Alexander was involved in another rarity on September 18th. He struggled with control in a goalless draw with Cleveland and had loaded the bases with two walks in the fourth. Jose Ramirez attempted a direct theft home with two outs. Alexander calmly stepped from the hill and tossed it on the plate.

“My first reaction was ‘thank you'”, Alexander said afterwards. “I don’t mean to say it was stupid, but it didn’t seem like the time was right.”

The Tigers kicked off a fourth inning with seven runs in Cleveland on Aug. 21 – crowned by Paredes’ first big league homer. The 5-10 win that day ended a 20-game losing streak against the baseball team formerly known as the Indians.

– Rookie infielder Sergio Alcantara’s first big league in the bat took place on September 6th in the target field against the experienced leftist Rich Hill. In seven minor league seasons with 631 games and 2,611 record appearances, he had only completed nine home runs. Guess what he did in the first seat he saw from Hill? Yes, Line Drive Home Run to the left panel.

– On September 11th, Mize gave a glimpse of his elite potential and threw five innings without hits against the White Sox.

———

But that smile was rare, often followed by another illness and defeat.

– It was just two days after the first inning of four home games in Pittsburgh. The Tigers were 9-5 and had a four-game winning streak when Cron sustained a knee injury at the end of the season.

You lost nine right after that.

– When they beat the Brewers 12-1 on September 1, they had a six-game winning streak. They had moved over .500, 17-16 and were half a game away from a placeholder. But in the sixth inning of that game, JaCoby Jones lost for the season when his left wrist was broken by a faulty fastball from Brewer’s rookie Phil Bickford.

The tigers went the rest of the trail 6-19.

On September 15, the Tigers scored a clean 6-0 win over the Royals at Comerica Park to give Gardenhire his 1,200. Bringing career manager victory. It would also be his last management win.

Four days later, Gardenhire and General Manager Al Avila appeared together in a pre-game Zoom chat to announce that Gardy is retiring with immediate effect.

Earlier in the day, Gardenhire was holding its daily press conference and there was no indication that it was coming, although there had been countless signs over the year that this would be his final season in Detroit. His contract was running and the stress and strain of this season in particular had affected his health.

A month earlier, Hall of Famer Jack Morris had popped up on one of the Zoom chats to tell him to stay there and take care of himself.

“For what it’s worth, I move for you, boy,” said Morris. “You just keep smiling. It’s a crazy world. Hold on.”

When asked about this exchange, Gardenhire tried to wipe it off.

“I’m a little tired,” he said. “Traveling gets you down and the thought of this COVID stuff – that’s very important to me. That being said, I can get started. “

Pressed further, he said:

“It’s very difficult. I love these guys here. They rely on them and my coaches to all do the right thing. You are all over the place with this COVID thing, you see what happened to other teams – it definitely is another year.

“It’s been a tough year and we’re just trying to make it through. I think this is about as good as I can put it. It is not easy.”

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When Gardenhire and Avila appeared at this hastily arranged videoconference on September 19th and heard the sadness in his voice as he stated that he had to leave now for health reasons, it was both a surprise and frankly not that surprising.

However, Gardenhire’s biggest worry that day was that his players would think he was jumping off a ship and giving them up. Nothing could be further from the truth, as confirmed by players for gamers in the days following the announcement.

“He’s one of my favorite people,” said Daniel Norris. “The biggest thing he didn’t need to say, but he repeated it a few times, was, ‘I hope and pray that you don’t think I’m going out on you. ‘And I can promise you we didn’t think so. No one thought of that. But that’s just proof of who he is as a person. “

The Tigers have since hit the manager lottery. Against long resistance, they hired AJ Hinch to put a 2017 World Series ring on his finger from his run with the Astros to get the organization out of the quagmire and back to fame.

But let’s not allow the excitement and optimism that comes with a new direction to dampen or reject the work of Gardenhire and its associates over the past three years. From the bottom rungs of the minor leagues, a foundation has been laid to play fundamentally solid baseball, play aggressively, be competitive every day, and most importantly, enjoy every minute that you are allowed to enjoy playing this game.

And that foundation was laid amid one of the most aggressive roster drop-outs in recent history.

What shone the brightest was the patient and relentless teaching and unwavering optimism that Gardenhire and its staff – pitching coach Rick Anderson, bullpen coach Jeff Pico, bench coach Lloyd McClendon, punch coach Joe Vavra, assistant punch coach Phil Clark, outfield coach Dave Clark and Infield – showed trainer Ramon Santiago – brought in every day.

© 2020 www.detroitnews.com. Visit detroitnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Dusty Kennedy