Move over Red Sox-Yankees, baseball’s got a new rivalry that’s full of drama. The Detroit Tigers versus the Boston Red Sox. You might be thinking how is an AL Central team vs. an AL East team a huge rivalry? Well, there’s a lot of history to support this, but let’s begin with the most recent event. Longtime Tigers President and GM Dave Dombrowski was let go days after the 2015 Trade Deadline and eventually signed with the Red Sox to become their president. He’s provided the Tigers with plenty of success from a pair of World Series appearances in 2006 and 2012 and blockbuster trades that netted them MVPs and Cy Youngs. And now he’s with Boston, and his longtime assistant GM Al Avila has become the GM of the Tigers. Avila has worked for numerous years under Dave, dating back to their time with the then-Florida Marlins. And now it seems they’re competing with one another during the offseason. Let’s take a look at the past, present, and future of this Tigers-BoSox rivalry.
- The Tigers and Red Sox are two of four original teams of the American League that still reside in their original city.
- 1915: Despite winning a record 100 games at the time, the Tigers lost the American League pennant and chance to play in the World Series by one game to the Red Sox, who won 101.
- 1921: Legendary Tiger Ty Cobb achieved his 3000th hit against the Red Sox on August 19, 1921 at only age 34.
- 1949: Two Hall of Famers were going for the batting title in the last week of the ’49 season: Boston’s Ted Williams and Detroit’s George Kell. After going 2-for-3 on the final day, Kell’s .3429 average beat Williams’s .3427.
- 1967: Needing to play back-to-back doubleheaders over the final two days of the season and needing to win both on the final day to force a one-game playoff with the Red Sox, the Tigers failed to win the second game, eliminating them from the pennant race. They finished 91-71, behind Boston’s 92-70 record. Earl Wilson, who was acquired from Beantown in the year prior, led the Tigers’ staff with 22 wins.
- 1972: The Tigers won their first division crown (they were in the AL East originally) on October 3 against the Boston Red Sox, who they beat by a half-game for the division crown.
- 1996: In one of his final appearances as a Red Sox, Roger Clemens struck out 20 Detroit Tigers batters which tied his major league record.
- 2013: Advancing to their third straight ALCS, the Tigers won Game 1 and seemed to be on their way to victory in Game 2. They were looking to sweep the two games at Fenway Park which would’ve only required them to win 2 of the next 5 games in the series to vault them to back-to-back World Series. The Tigers had a strong lead in the late innings, but the entire momentum of the series changed with a single hit, which remains fresh in Tigers’ fans’ minds. Detroit could never regain its balance and lost to the Red Sox in six games, and the Red Sox eventually won the World Series :
With Dombrowksi, the Tigers and Red Sox have made some deals in the last couple of years. In 2013, at the Trade Deadline, the White Sox, Red Sox, and Tigers struck a three-team trade that netted the Tigers Jose Iglesias from Boston and Boston Jake Peavy from the White Sox. Last offseason, Dombrowski agreed to trade longtime Tiger Rick Porcello to Beantown in exchange for Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes and reliever Alex Wilson.
The Tigers currently employ former Red Sox players Alex Wilson, Victor Martinez, Mike Aviles, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Jose Iglesias. The Red Sox currently have former Tigers David Price and Rick Porcello.
When Tigers announced that Dombrowksi would be departing and Avila would become the new GM, fans often wondered if Dombrowksi is primed to make even bigger moves in the lucrative Boston market with an owner that’s as generous as Tigers owner Mike Illitch. They wondered whether Avila would make as big of a move that Dave used to make or whether he’d resort to making smaller under-the-radar moves. Well, let’s see what the two friends and competing GMs have done this offseason:
Bullpen: This was always Dave’s weakness while with the Tigers. Despite getting guys like Joakim Soria and Joe Nathan, the Tigers bullpen has been a mess for the past few seasons. Dave was determined not to let the same thing happen in Boston.
- On November 13, Dombrowkski made his signature blockbuster trade–trading prospects for an All-Star. He surrendered multiple top prospects in exchange for one of the best closers in the game, Craig Kimbrel.
- Five days later, it was Avila’s turn. Avila only departed with one prospect, #10 for the Tigers, to acquire one of the top closers in history, Francisco Rodriguez.
- On December 7, Dombrowski struck another trade: trading All-Star starter Wade Miley for back-end starter/swing-man Roenis Elias and budding young closer Carson Smith of the Mariners.
- Having to replace lost relievers (Neftali Feliz, Al Alburquerque, and Ian Krol), Tigers GM Avila signed reliever Mark Lowe to a two-year deal.
- Avila made one final move for the Tigers’ bullpen: acquiring Justin Wilson from the Yankees in exchange for a prospect Dombrowski received in last July’s Cespedes trade.
Rotation: Both teams were in need of some rotation changes both GMs delivered.
- Dombrowksi decided to exercise the team option on former ace Clay Buccholz for 2016
- Tigers made headline when signing Jordan Zimmermann to a five-year contract worth over $100 million.
- Dombrowski responded quickly and on December 4, he signed his former ace David Price for the Tigers to a seven-year contract worth over $200 million.
- Dombrowski traded away one of his starters, Wade Miley, to the Mariners in exchange for possible starter Roenis Elias and a reliever
- A day later, Avila signed veteran Mike Pelfrey to a two-year contract to solidify the back-end of the rotation along with Daniel Norris (who Dombrowski acquired in the Price trade).
Infield: Both teams didn’t need to make many moves to their star-studded infield. Dombrowski announced that Hanley Ramirez would move to first base along side Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, and Pablo Sandoval in the infield. The Tigers didn’t need to make any moves in the infield since they had Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, former Red Sox Jose Iglesias, and Nick Castellanos.
Outfield: The Red Sox had a projected outfield of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Rusney Castillo entering the offseason. The Tigers, after losing Cespedes at the deadline and Rajai Davis to free agency, had Tyler Collins, Anthony Gose, and J.D. Martinez in the outfield at the onset of the free agency.
- On November 20, the Tigers acquired a former player of theirs, Cameron Maybin, to spend time at center and/or left. Maybin was a key part of Dombrowski’s biggest trade, acquiring Miguel Cabrera in 2008.
- On December 2, Dombrowski decided to acquire a possible platoon player/fourth outfielder Chris Young on a two-year contract.
- On January 18, the Tigers shocked the baseball world by signing Justin Upton to a six-year contract worth over $130 million to become their everyday left fielder
Depth/Bench: Both GMs made plenty of depth/bench moves this offseason. Depth is key component of maintaining success over a long season.
- In December, Dombrowski made some key minor-league signings including a fomer Tiger of his and others: Brennan Boesch, Anthony Varvaro, and Sean O’Sullivan.
- In November, Avila signed former Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to be the backup catcher this season.
- In December, Avila signed former Red Sox to play some infield and outfield on certain days: Mike Aviles
- Avila also made a pair of depth OF moves late in the offseason by signing Nate Schierlotz and John Mayberry, Jr. to minor-league pacts.
With the future looking bright for both ball clubs, this rivalry is only going to get stronger.
The Tigers’ fan nation will forever remember that 2013 ALCS whenever they play the Red Sox, and it’s sure to be brought up when these two teams play against each other this year in David Ortiz’s farewell season.
David Price will eventually have to pitch against Detroit, who traded for him and traded him away in about the span of one year, and both moves were made by his current GM who signed him to a $200 million contract: Dave Dombrowski.
They first play against each other in late July at Fenway Park. They’ll play a four-game rematch at Comerica Park in mid-August. Of course, both teams have realistic chances of winning their respective divisions, so we could very well see a 2013 ALCS rematch. And surely everyone will discuss the Tigers vs. Red Sox, Avila vs. Dombroski, Friend vs. Friend, Padawan vs. Master.