Before the 2006 season, the Detroit Tigers hired Perrysburg, Ohio native Jim Leyland to lead the Tigers out of the basement in the American League Central.
Detroit had been perennially under .500, including in 2003 when they were an MLB worst of 43-119. As far as Tigers fans were concerned, it couldn't turn out any worse.
What a welcoming party the Tigers were brought to. Being led by a manager who seemingly pushed all the right buttons, the Tigers took a Cinderella ride all the way to the World Series.
They rode their pitching all season. Their rotation was the only rotation in the American League to have a combined ERA under 4.00. They had all the pieces in place even though they went on to lose to the Cardinals in five games.
Then they lost their bite.
The Tigers' front office decided to begin sending key members of the bullpen out the door, one by one.
Jamie Walker was sent to the Baltimore Orioles after having an ERA under one, quite arguably the best left-handed reliever in baseball that season.
Then they traded Wilfredo Ledezma to the Atlanta Braves, getting rid of yet another left-handed arm, this time one with a 97 mph fastball.
They continued to send players out until they left that bullpen in shambles. Then to make matters worse, starting in 2007 they began messing with the starting rotation by giving several players from the Tigers' triple-A team in Toledo spot starts in the rotation.
Zach Miner and Chad Durbin saw consistent time in the rotation during a portion of the season because the Tigers were looking for some added help to try and counter the problems they had created for themselves.
The pitching staff under-produced, the team didn't perform, and as a result the Tigers missed the playoffs.
Then, in 2008, the Tigers made a blockbuster deal for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in exchange for many of their young prospects in hopes that Cabrera and Willis would put the Tigers over the top in the American League.
The season started and they went the wrong way.
The Tigers started off 2-12 and couldn't get anything going, struggling all season long with consistency. Also, the struggles Verlander went through, combined with injuries to Jeremy Bonderman, Fernando Rodney, and Joel Zumaya didn't leave the Tigers with a whole lot of options.
They seem to be trying to put things back where they were because this offseason they announced that Brandon Inge would be back at third base full time in 2009.
Since they traded All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez to the Yankees, the Tigers need to find a suitable catcher, among other things.
Their main problem is finding a bullpen they can stick with. They make too many moves throughout the season, but don't give the changes they make enough time to pan out. That is why they haven't had a bullpen as dominant as the one from 2006.
Where our bullpen was once a feral beast, it is now a domesticated house kitty.
It's only been two seasons, but 2006 looks like ancient history to Tigers' fans.