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5 Detroit Tigers Even for a team that lost 106 games last season, the worst may be yet to come

March 31, 2003
March 31, 2003

Table of Contents
March 31, 2003

Baseball Preview 2003

5 Detroit Tigers Even for a team that lost 106 games last season, the worst may be yet to come

Carlos Pena was oblivious to it all--the losing, the bickering,
the mental lapses, the booing. And did we mention the losing?
Even as the Tigers surpassed 100 losses and a ninth straight
losing season mercifully came to a close, Pena, the Detroit first
baseman, would come to work smiling. "Each day I thought we were
going to win," he says, unable to contain a laugh. "Maybe I was
deluded. I thought we had the best team in the world." On the
contrary, the Tigers' 106 losses tied for the most in the majors.
Pena was seriously deluded. And no wonder, given the way his year
started.

This is an article from the March 31, 2003 issue

As a 24-year-old with only 62 big league at bats, Pena was traded
by the Rangers to the A's in January 2002. His first assignment
with his new team: replace departed free agent and reigning AL
MVP Jason Giambi. The smooth-swinging Pena lived up to
expectations early on, swatting seven home runs in April. But
then he went hitless in 19 consecutive at bats, a slump that grew
to 4 for 37 before manager Art Howe benched him. For the first
time since he started playing ball as a youngster in the
Dominican Republic, Pena lost his confidence. By May he was
playing at Triple A Sacramento.

That's where he started to turn things around. In a little black
book that he still carries with him wherever he goes, Pena began
documenting the details of every day of his life. He monitors
everything from his diet ("Popcorn and Coke. Horrible!!!") to his
sleeping patterns ("Woke up at 7:15. Very bad") to his batting
technique ("Be more patient!!!"). He also rereads passages from
another book he's never without: Og Mandino's motivational guide,
The Greatest Salesman in the World. The book became so worn ("I
will persist until I succeed" is marked as his favorite line)
that it needed to be re-bound.

Then on July 5 Pena was dealt to the Tigers in a three-team trade
that sent Detroit ace Jeff Weaver to the Yankees. "All that
matters is how I feel about something on the inside," Pena said
at the time. "That's what I concern myself with, and I feel good
about this trade. I think it's a good thing for my career. I'm
looking forward to being a Tiger." Two days later, in his first
major league game in a month and a half, Pena went 3 for 4 and
had the game-winning hit. "You think it was because all of a
sudden I learned how to hit?" Pena asks. "No, it was because my
mind was finally right. It had nothing to do with mechanics." In
75 games with the Tigers, Pena hit 12 home runs and drove in 36
runs. "I couldn't have been happier," says Pena, who also
finished with the AL's second-best fielding percentage (.996)
among first basemen.

Pena's optimism will be put to the test again this year: Detroit
is going to get worse before it gets better. The Tigers, who
scored a major-league-low 575 runs, lost their team leaders in
RBIs (Randall Simon, in a trade) and runs (Robert Fick, a free
agent). The bullpen lost saves leader Juan Acevedo, another free
agent. Replacing Weaver as the No. 1 starter is lefthander Mike
Maroth, who was 6-10 with a 4.48 ERA last year. Worse yet, the
crop of prospects in the farm system is underwhelming: Only two
were among Baseball America's Top 100.

On the bright side, first-year manager Alan Trammell, the former
Detroit shortstop who succeeds the fired Luis Pujols, has
injected new life into the club. "Past managers let things slide
and left us alone to figure it out," says second baseman Damion
Easley, who's playing for his fourth manager in eight seasons but
was relegated to the bench this spring after losing his job to
Ramon Santiago. "Now the mentality is, Maybe you don't know, so
I'm going to show you." In one of the team's first workouts, new
bench coach Kirk Gibson, another former Tiger, was demonstrating
how to break up a double play when he nearly took out Trammell
with a slide at second. Then third base coach Juan Samuel ran the
bases so hard, his helmet nearly flew off. "We look at them,"
says Pena, "and think, Man, we have to work hard. They don't have
to say anything. We'll just follow."

Detroit has its work cut out for it just to avoid another
100-loss season. Meanwhile, Pena is spreading his gospel. Copies
of The Greatest Salesman in the World are circulating in the
clubhouse. If they can't win, perhaps the Tigers can at least be
happy. --A.C.

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERTO BOREA/AP HOME AT LAST Traded twice in six months last year, Pena gives Detroit a young, talented slugger to build around.COLOR PHOTO: RICK STEWART/GETTY IMAGES GERMAN

IN FACT
Last season the Tigers committed 142 errors, the most in the
league since the Indians booted 148 balls in 1993.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Tigers

"They're awful, and if they hadn't made the Jeff Weaver trade,
they'd be worse.... Their best pitcher is a 20-year-old who
pitched in Class A last year, Jeremy Bonderman. He has a 95-mph
fastball, a hard slider with a good downward angle, good mound
presence. The way he's outshone everybody in camp, he's making it
difficult for Detroit to send him to Double A, which was the
plan.... The rest of their pitching is brutal. Mike Maroth is a
middle-to-bottom starter, but he's their ace. Steve Sparks hasn't
gotten anybody out all spring; he's out there to eat innings....
At least their bullpen guys, Franklyn German, Oscar Henriquez,
Julio Santana, throw hard. Whether they can pitch is another
thing.... Brandon Inge can't hit, but he can catch and throw.
He's in the wrong league.... Eric Munson was a great college
hitter--it's called aluminum. Guys with good fastballs blow them
right by him.... Bobby Higginson is their best guy, a good
defender with an accurate arm, but you don't want to hear about a
corner outfielder's arm. You want to hear that he can hit 40
homers with 110 RBIs. He'd be a functional third outfielder on a
good team, but he's making $11.8 million."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2002 statistics

BATTING ORDER

CF Torres
LF Kingsale
RF Higginson
DH Young
3B Palmer
1B Pena
C Inge
SS Infante
2B Santiago

ANDRES TORRES* (R)

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 251 .266 4 42 42

GENE KINGSALE****[#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 230 .283 2 28 9

BOBBY HIGGINSON

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 119 .282 10 63 12

DEAN PALMER**

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 210 .222 11 40 4

CARLOS PENA

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L 172 .242 19 52 2

BRANDON INGE

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 323 .202 7 24 1

OMAR INFANTE* (R)

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 306 .268 4 51 19

RAMON SANTIAGO

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 269 .243 4 20 8

BENCH

ERIC MUNSON* (R)

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 248 .262 24 84 1

SHANE HALTER

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 299 .239 10 39 0

DESIGNATED HITTER

DMITRI YOUNG

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 183 .284 7 27 2

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

LH Mike Maroth 132 6 10 6.1 1.34 4.48
RH Jeremy Bonderman***(R) 221 9 9 5.8 1.27 3.79
RH Adam Bernero 214 4 7 5.8 1.56 6.20
RH Nate Cornejo 287 1 5 5.6 1.62 5.04
RH Steve Sparks 183 8 16 6.0 1.61 5.52

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Matt Anderson 59 2 1 0 2.27 9.00
RH Franklyn German*(R) 128 1 1 13 0.97 1.59
LH Jamie Walker 313 1 1 1 0.93 3.71

[#]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Triple A stats **2001 ***Class A stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 157)
****Combined AL and NL

2002 RECORD
55-106
fifth in AL Central

MANAGER
Alan Trammell
first season with Detroit