Editor’s Note: The following is a piece written by The Broken Cowboy. It was corrupted by some 400 plus backtalks that were simple links to buy watches, of all things. I had to delete it, so I wanted to re-post it for posterity. Sorry, Hank.
The New York Yankees travel to Detroit today for a four-game series with the Tigers. The series will feature one team with a patchwork pitching staff and a decimated lineup, and another team with the best record in baseball — basically the same storyline that’s accompanied numerous Tiger-Yankee series over the past decade. Now here’s the interesting part: the team with the best record is not the Yankees.
The Yankees enter play on Monday with a respectable 28-20 mark, but Detroit is far clear of them and everyone else at 35-15. It’s been more than twenty years since the Tigers last enjoyed such success this late in the season: they were 36-8 on May 28, 1984 and on their way to the World Series.
All of which got me to thinking… when was the last time these two teams faced off with the Tigers having the better record? Well, it’s been a while.
The date was June 26, 1995, and the baseball world was a different place. The Detroit Tigers brought their 28-28 record into Yankee Stadium for a three-game series against the Yankees. The Bombers’ 24-29 mark told the story of a mediocre team that still didn’t seem to have recovered from the disappointment of the previous year, when their outstanding season had been lost to the 1994 strike. It had been fourteen years since the Yankees had last played meaningful games in October, and in late June — almost exactly a third of the way through the season — it didn’t look like this once proud franchise would be seeing the postseason anytime soon. (Actually, they would ride a blistering 21-6 September to take the American League wild card before succumbing to Edgar Martínez and the Seattle Mariners in a classic five-game series.)
The Tigers, meanwhile, were playing over their heads. Over the rest of the season they’d win only thirty-two games while losing fifty-six, and over the next decade they would field some of the worst teams in recent memory.
That series eleven years ago was only mildly interesting except for a few details which highlight how much time has passed. The Yankees won the opening game behind the pitching of a rookie named Andy Pettitte and then came back win the next day with the victory going to someone named Bob McDonald. The Tigers managed to salvage the third game, perhaps because Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, and Lou Whitaker all appeared in the lineup. Yes, it was a long time ago.
Since the end of that series in 1995, the two teams have obviously had radically different degrees of success. The Yankees have been in the postseason every year, and the Tigers haven’t been close. Take a look at the cumulative records since then, through 2005:
Yankees: 1035-669 (.607)
Tigers: 684-1022 (.401)
The good news for the Tigers, though, is that today none of that really matters.