Peterson: Today’s Tigers lineup a mystery
There was a time when I could readily tell you the starting lineup of the Detroit Tigers.
Take the 1968 World Series champs: Don Wert at third; Ray Oyler at shortstop; Dick McAuliffe at second; and Norm Cash at first base; Al Kaline, Mickey Stanley and Jim Northrup in the outfield; and Bill Freehan at catcher.
Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich were the pitching mainstays.
Or even the 1984 Tigers, one of the best teams never to repeat as champions.
But aside from Miguel Cabrera, who might or might not be healthy enough, at designated hitter, I really couldn’t come up with the rest.
Cabrera, a future Hall of Famer, is little more than a goodwill ambassador nowadays. His bat does little more than drive in a few runs.
New Detroit manager AJ Hinch talks hopefully about the upcoming season. But that’s a big part of his job — to spread some hope.
Granted, there are a couple of Tigers who could make it on another roster in the major leagues.
Jeimer Candelario hit .297 last year with some power. And outfielder JaCoby Jones has shown enough potential (before injuries) to be a solid contributor.
The rest of the lineup is filled with never-weres and wannabes.
Even highly touted pitchers Casey Mize and Tarik Skubel have been disappointing for the most part. Skubel did show some promise, however.
What the Tigers need in 2021 is the appearance of another Bob Hazle.
For younger (much younger) readers, Hazle was a guy who came up in mid-season for the 1957 Milwaukee Braves.
Hazle, whose nickname was “Hurricane,” hit .407 for the Braves and was one of the keys for a good Milwaukee team. He even had two hits in the game-clinching World Series game versus the Yankees
By the next season, Hazle was hitting below .200 and headed for the minors. He eventually ended up with the Tigers. He retired in 1960, his day in the sun long gone.
The Tigers may well improve this season and a fourth place finish is possible.
But unless there’s another “Hurricane” Hazle, they won’t contend.